The Crown and the Arrow (The Wrath and the Dawn 0.5)(3) by Renee Ahdieh

Who is this girl?

She was small of stature. Not an immediate cause for concern. At least at a distance.

Her hair was long and dark. Unruly. The damask of her mantle gleamed in flashes of silver and gold. As she walked, the fabric unfurled around her like wings.

As she drew closer, Khalid realized he might have been mistaken.

For this girl was anything but delicate. Her fists were tight at her sides. Her head, high. Proud.

Her eyes did not waver. They pierced through him like arrows.

Arrows dipped in honey and poison.

As she moved closer, Khalid realized just how mistaken he had been.

She was indeed small of stature. But not a girl to be dismissed. Not at all.

A pert chin. A sneer held barely in check.

A face seething with emotion.

The girl stopped before the dais. She looked up, fearless, before stepping onto the raised platform, her expression unguarded. Unmoved.

Beyond his control, Khalid’s eyebrows curved high on his brow. He returned her hot gaze, trying to appear unaffected by her presence. By her bravery.

He could not afford to care.

Khalid reached a hand out to her. The girl took it, remembering to bow only at the last instant. As though Khalid did not merit such respect.

Would never merit it.

The truth in her gaze leveled him.

She dipped low in undeserved deference, the color rising in her cheeks.

When the girl looked up again, Khalid faltered. The thrum of his thoughts coiled through his chest, tensing in recognition—

Hate.

This girl hated him with all the violence Khalid felt in his heart. Hated the very sight of him. Hated everything he was with everything she had.

Her hate was a thing of glory.

She was not afraid.

Why isn’t she afraid?

His curiosity teemed beneath his skin. Khalid blinked once, banishing it away.

Failing miserably.

“Wife,” he said in a low voice. A voice he did not trust. Khalid nodded once, acknowledging their union before the city’s magistrate.

Sealing her fate.

“My king,” the girl replied with clear conviction. A conviction Khalid could not begin to understand.

A conviction he could not begin to ignore.

A girl willingly donning a crown of death. A small girl with immense courage.

Immense hate.

Why did she hate him profoundly? It could not be a result of the rumors swirling about him. Had to be more than the sum of his recent actions.

Her reason had to be personal.

But no other girl in the al-Khayzuran family had been taken from her home and brought to the palace to await her death.

Jalal would not have allowed such a thing. It had been one of Khalid’s first directives—two girls could not be lost from the same family.

Two girls in one family could not be lost to the same curse.

So then from where did Shahrzad al-Khayzuran’s animosity stem?

Why would such a girl have cause to hate Khalid with such fire?

The fire of a rising sun.

Even before he whirled away from the dais, Khalid knew he had to discover why.

Though it might cost him what little remained of his sanity.

He would learn the truth.

Tonight he would flout his own rules. Meet the girl alone.

Ask her a single question.

He could afford that.

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