Chapter 26: Cain

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He was gorgeous. No, in fact, there were no words to do justice to his stunning appearance, the personification of dark seductiveness.

By a few inches, the man was even taller than Rowan. His tanned skin possessed a golden, other-worldly glow in the sunlight that poured in from the large windows behind us. It formed a stark contrast with the pure black of his hair, which fell on his shoulders in thick waves and accentuated the shape of his high cheekbones and razor-sharp jawline. His amber eyes followed me as I shuffled closer to Rowan, who lay a warm, protective hand on my lower back. The man's long, black cloak dragged across the ground as he strolled toward us.

"Cain, I presume?" Rowan said, tightening his grip on my waist.

The man's eyes grew colder as they skimmed Rowan's face. "Naturally," he replied in a deep voice. His icy tone froze the blood in my veins. Rowan's fingers dug into the fabric of my dress, his jaw set with suppressed anger in reaction to Cain's coldness.

Cain's amber gaze glided to Ellie and Larry, who were standing on Rowan's other side. Ellie had adopted a wider stance and she puffed up her chest whilst her brown eyes stared the Sorcerer down. The corner of his mouth twitched upward at her bravado. "Strange friends you have." Although he didn't look at me directly, I knew that he was addressing me. "Dwarfs ... You don't see much of those around."

Ellie already opened her mouth, probably to make a snide remark. Cain raised an expectant eyebrow, challenging her, but after a moment's consideration, she pressed her lips together into a thin line. He smiled at her, though the smile didn't reach his eyes. "Good girl. We wouldn't want to start off on the wrong foot, now would we?" She bristled, but wisely refrained from replying.

Cain's attention shifted back to Rowan and he took another step closer, until his face was only inches from the soldier's. The way his lips curled up spoke of cruelty, and my chest heaved as my breathing sped up. My body was pressed so hard against Rowan's that I no longer knew whether I was seeking protection, or I was trying to shield him from the evil standing before us.

"You know, when my Sorcerers searched for you in Anthrali, one of my commanders was murdered," Cain said in a low voice. Every word that rolled over his tongue was like poison, a silent promise of pain, suffering and death. "They found his mutilated body in the woods; some of his limbs had partly been eaten away by animals. Upon closer inspection, my men spotted a severe injury in his chest, not unlike one that could have been inflicted by that fine spear on your back." He leaned even closer, the air that left his lips ruffling Rowan's hair. Rowan didn't flinch. "My guess is that you are indeed the one who killed him."

Still no visible reaction from Rowan. He merely stared at the other man, defying his piercing gaze. Next to him, both Ellie and Larry tensed, their hands lingering near their weapons, ready to attack if necessary. Adrenaline pumped through my veins while my eyes flicked from them to Rowan to Cain. My head spun in an attempt to come up with a decent plan to get out of this hell-forsaken place.

"And you," Cain continued, turning to me. I held my breath and braced myself. "You robbed me from yet another valuable warrior. My fellow Sorcerers told me how you slaughtered Amanda. I must confess that I'm impressed with your skills." His flame-like eyes lit up with genuine admiration. "Since you're still so new and inexperienced in the world of Dark magic, I'm willing to turn a blind eye for once. Nevertheless, your friend here, as an elite soldier of the Brunwill Academy itself, knew perfectly well what he was doing the moment he stabbed my commander's heart." His mouth contorted into a snarl, the fire in his eyes burning with rage as he glared at Rowan.

"I only did what I needed to do to keep Kenna safe," Rowan hissed through gritted teeth. His entire body trembled under the palms of my hands, as though it took every piece of his willpower not to charge at Cain. "Your commander was threatening her."

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