Page 56 of Corrupt Kingdom

I lean closer to the table and then arrange the pieces. “Do you know anything about chess?” She shakes her head. “Each chess piece can move only a certain way. For example”—I lift the pawn in my hand—“a pawn can only move straight ahead and can only attack on an angle, one square at a time. Make sense?”

“No. But I’m a fast learner.” She winks, and so I continue my tutorial. I teach her about every piece. Every rule and I’m sure I’ve lost her, but she’s a good sport. Lifting her coffee up, drinking but never letting her gaze leave mine.

“How did you learn so much?”

My throat closes up, but I push back the emotion threatening to expel. I don’t do emotions. “My father taught me.”

“Oh—”

“No, oh. He was a bastard. He taught me nothing. This is the only thing positive I took from his whole existence.” My jaw clenches. Thinking about the bastard always makes me angry. “Now, if you think you understand, let’s play.”

I’m surprised when she doesn’t press, but thankful. “Okay.”

She nibbles on her lip as she moves her pawn to f4, opening up her king without realizing it. She’s created a weakness; I’ll take advantage of.

“In chess, every move has a purpose.” I move my pawn, opening up a space for my queen and bishop. “Think of it like life. Every move you make can either bring you an advantage or a disadvantage.”

She watches me with narrowed eyes, trying to learn as she goes, but it’s too late as she moves her pawn yet again. She’s put herself in more danger. Her move allows me to bring the queen diagonal.

“Check.” My lip tips up into a grin.

Her king has no safe space. There are no pieces that she has that can capture me.

I’ve captured her piece in two moves.

29

Ivy

A day has passed since Cyrus tried to teach me chess. Something I should never do again, being with him, and seeing him like that is dangerous. Thoughts grew in my mind like English Ivy, covering the walls, grasping on tight, and block the view and smothering other plants.

He’s not that bad . . .

Smart. Witty, and most of all insightful.

As he spoke, it reminded me of the many layers of an onion. There are too many layers of this man to count, but for some reason, I want to.

Shaking my head, I make my way to the kitchen. The place where I know I’ll probably find him. As I step inside the room, my hands and arms stretch up into a long-drawn-out yawn.

“Morning,” Cyrus’s husky voice calls from a seat at the table. His eyes trail down my chest to my bared abdomen. I relish at the idea that I’m able to affect the hard man in front of me. Licking my lips, I then pull the bottom one into my mouth because I’m thinking about such inappropriate things way too early in the morning. I have several hours to get through day, and if I want to keep my dignity, I need to avoid him.

Jeez. I’m so pathetic. Does it really come down to avoiding him and hiding in order to calm down these ridiculous thoughts going through my brain?

Yes.

Apparently.

“I was thinking we could spend the day together, again,” he suggests, and I cringe at the implications of spending the day with him when I’m already keyed up. Okay, who am I kidding? Butterflies are flying in my stomach, and my heart is beating so fast I swear I might pass out.

What has gotten into me? I’m acting like a hormonal preteen. Also, a very confused one, apparently, with multiple personalities. One minute, I hate him, and the next, I want to hump his leg.

Maybe it’s his promises mixed with the fact he hasn’t hurt me.

The truth is, despite the whole kidnapping thing, he hasn’t done anything to give me a reason to hate him or not to trust him. He’s said on multiple occasions that he had to take me. I can’t claim to understand why, but for some reason, I believe him. Right or wrong, I believe he acted out of a sense of need. The reason? I still need to know that. Perhaps spending the day with him can get me the answer to that question.

“What were you thinking today?” I ask, grabbing a cup of coffee and sitting in my spot.

“Up for another game?”

I want to say no, strictly because watching him play chess was an aphrodisiac, but I don’t.

Instead, I smile wide, hopefully hiding the inner turmoil inside me.

“Sure, why not.”

* * *

A week has passed, and Cyrus seems to be walking normally again. I’m surprised he hasn’t left, supplies and food were dropped off, but he stayed with me.

We have spent the last seven days in his office, with him teaching me every possible thing I will ever need to know about chess, but I have also learned so much more.

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