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Kimberly Loth Books

King of the Stars

King of the Stars

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 325 reviews

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The new prophecy promises more death…

And Zwaantie is sick of it.

Every choice has been taken away from her. In the depths of her despair she finds the one thing she never expected.

Love.

She must once again decide if she's going to step up and do the right thing or follow her heart.

Deceit, love, and betrayal will take you on an emotional ride through this exciting third installment of Stella and Sol.

Synopsis

The new prophecy promises more death…

And Zwaantie is sick of it.

Every choice has been taken away from her. In the depths of her despair she finds the one thing she never expected.

Love.

She must once again decide if she's going to step up and do the right thing or follow her heart.

Deceit, love, and betrayal will take you on an emotional ride through this exciting third installment of Stella and Sol.

First Chapter

Lights shone above Zwaantie’s head. The music
started again in earnest. The room felt infinitely smaller than it had moments
earlier when the Old Mother had told Zwaantie she was responsible for every
death by viper.

Ari put his arm
around her as they inched toward the doors. Ari—the boy who told her she was
his soul mate. Her head spun. This was too much.

People swirled
around them, all heading the same direction. No one shoved or pushed. Everyone
was happy and giddy. Everyone except Zwaantie. Discs flashed in her direction,
and she tried to keep a smile on her face. The room was too hot with the
cooling potion in Zwaantie’s veins having worn out. She felt lightheaded and
nauseous, desperately wanting to escape everything around her.

An arm snaked
through hers. Sage laid her head on Zwaantie’s shoulder. Zwaantie didn’t know
what to do. Everything felt surreal.

Leo could come home
now. There was no reason for him to continue the investigation. She pressed her
hands against her stomach, fighting to keep down the bile.

He’d spent all that
time searching for the reason why vipers were killing people, but Zwaantie was
at fault. She didn’t love Leo enough. How did one force love? She couldn’t
magically change her feelings, though she wanted to.

“Come on, it’s
after six. We can go home and sleep in our beds,” Sage said, tugging Zwaantie
around a group of laughing Stellans.

At least Ari had
been the only other one who heard she was murdering the people of Sol by not
giving her love to Leo.

“Let’s go home,”
Ari said. He put a hand on her back and led them both outside. They staggered
out onto the street, and Zwaantie struggled to put one foot in front of the
other, her heart heavy with guilt.

“Are we taking a
carriage?” Zwaantie asked. She brought death to the people of Stella. The
responsibility placed on her wasn’t fair. She never asked for this. Her stomach
rolled.

Sage shook her
head. “We’re close to the castle. We only took one last night to make an
entrance.” Sage handed her the cape Zwaantie had worn last night. “Here, put
this on and put the hood up. We don’t want Ticker pictures before we’ve had
time to clean up.”

Zwaantie did as she
was told, grateful for Sage’s foresight. Dealing with the heat was better than
having to stop and deal with people.

Sage held
Zwaantie’s hand and led her along, so Zwaantie didn’t have to think about where
she needed to go. On the building in front of her, the Ticker played lots of
pictures of her, Ari, and Sage arriving to the lock-in. Was that only a few
hours ago? It felt like years.

They were stunning
in their black and red outfits, but she was sure she appeared pretty rough now,
not having slept. She stared at the current picture of her standing in the
middle of Sage and Ari with a wide smile on her face. She tried to focus on
herself, but all she could see was Ari.

When those pictures
were taken, she bore no responsibility for the deaths of the people of Stella,
and Ari hadn’t yet proclaimed she was his soul mate. Things had been
complicated before, when she had to worry about Phoenix and marrying a man she
didn’t love, but this was so much worse. She’d never have peace.

Zwaantie risked a
glance to Sage’s other side. The draw to him was almost overwhelming. Ari
strolled along with his hands in his pockets. His face was serious,
contemplative, and devastatingly handsome as usual. Zwaantie wanted to know
what he was thinking. Surely he had an opinion about what she said.

The Old Mother.
Wilma. Zwaantie’s mind struggled to make sense of how those two could be the
same woman. She’d worked alongside Wilma for years and even spent the night in
her cottage a few times when a birth went too long. Next to Luna, this woman
had been her best friend. Why would Wilma want her dead? The betrayal was too
much. Could Zwaantie have misunderstood? Maybe Wilma was under the influence of
the Voice as well.

There were too many
unanswered questions. Though they didn’t really matter. Friendships were a
luxury she couldn’t worry about. What mattered was what Wilma said. The wedding
wasn’t enough. She had to love Leo. She didn’t even
know how to begin. He wasn’t around enough for her to love. All those deaths
were her responsibility, and if she didn’t start loving him soon, more people
would die. The wedding wouldn't change anything.

She let out a
breath. The good news was that the only other person who knew was Ari. Thank
Sol for small blessings. Zwaantie needed to talk to him about it. Maybe he
could help her. But then the truth slammed into her. She couldn't talk to him.
Not ever. Not since he’d told her she was his soul mate.

Her insides
squirmed. Those words had touched her in ways she couldn't even understand,
making her want Ari in a way she’d never wanted anyone. But she couldn’t be
with him. She had to learn to love Leo. Ari should’ve kept his mouth shut. It
wasn’t fair of him to put her in this position. She had to love Leo, and Ari
would be a distraction.

The smart thing
would be to forget the words and focus on Leo. It’d be much easier if he were
here with her. There had to be a way to get him to return. The truth about her
role in the viper deaths would be the easiest. But also, the hardest.

Leo knew she didn’t
love him, but how could she possibly call him up and say, “All those people who
died. That was my fault. You need to come home so I can learn to love you.”
He’d probably send her back to Sol.

The crowd pressed
in around them, but thankfully there were no screams about princesses and no
discs were flashing. Zwaantie wanted to blend in for a bit and not worry about
things. Once she got home, she was going to hide in Sage’s room and take a nice
long nap.

A woman leaned into
her side and whispered, “Baby killer.”

Zwaantie jerked her
head around, but the woman was already gone. Had she imagined it, or did
someone else know? This wasn’t possible. No one could have heard. The Old
Mother had talked to her and Ari alone. Doubt wiggled in. Perhaps someone was
listening after all.

No, her mind was
overthinking things, working too hard. She must’ve imagined it. That was what
she was though, wasn’t she? A baby killer.

Ari gave Sage a nod
and dodged into a small alley with no people. Sage followed, dragging Zwaantie
along. Zwaantie stumbled over her feet.

“We should stop and
get pastries before we return,” Ari said.

Sage clapped her
hands. “Oh, yes. Let’s go to the Little Kitten.”

Zwaantie glanced
away to avoid Ari’s eyes, which had strayed to her. She’d never be able to meet
them again. Maybe the castle wasn’t so safe after all.

She wanted to go
home, go to bed, and try to make sense of what happened. Alone. Because she
couldn’t tell anyone, and talking to Ari was out of the question.

“We are not going
to a cat café. They always try to drink my coffee. How about the Minty Road?”
Ari asked. Zwaantie’s heart beat a little faster at the sound of his voice.
This was absurd. She couldn't even listen to him talk without reacting. She
spun around and tried to watch the pictures on the Ticker, which was worse
because half of them had Ari in them. His shaggy brown hair and piercing gray
eyes made her swoon.

“No way. That place
reeks of bad dates. Please, can we go to the Little Kitten? I want to get
pancake balls,” Sage said.

“It’s way out of
the way. At least the Minty Road is on our way. Zwaantie, what do you want to
do?”

“Hmm?” She’d been
trying not to listen, but the sound of her name on his lips sent shivers down
her spine. She didn’t care what they did. She had monumental weights on her
shoulders, and here they were arguing over where to eat. She longed for that
kind of carelessness.

“Where do you want
to eat?” Ari asked, his voice sweet. Oh Sol, he needed to leave the city.

No, leaving the
city wouldn’t be enough, he needed to leave the country.

“It doesn’t matter.
You two decide,” Zwaantie answered, her eyes trained on the Ticker so she
didn’t have to look at him.

“Fine,” Sage
grumbled. “We’ll go to the Minty Road.”

They plunged into
the people surging on the street, and Zwaantie welcomed the distraction. The
street grew more crowded, and Zwaantie had to pay attention to where Sage was
going. People jostled around her as shop doors opened. A particularly fat woman
shoved in between them to get to the fruit market. Zwaantie had to let go of
Sage’s hand and then couldn’t find her again.

Zwaantie shrugged
and continued on her way, needing to think. A walk would do her good, and when
she was done, she could find a carriage to bring her to the castle. At least
now, she could think outside of Ari’s influence.

All around her,
buildings lit up. Bright greens and blues were common, but most colors were
represented. Down an alley she spotted a shimmer like the one Leo brought her
through on her first day in Stella—the one that turned into a forest in the
middle of the city. She made a left and stepped into the shimmer, hoping to
find another forest—a place where she could sit and enjoy peace and quiet.

A bright sun hung
in the corner. Fields of tulips spread out as far as the eye could see. The
scent was not quite the same as the fields at home. A small sign was perched on
the edge of the field. “Field of Lovers. Step through for the memories.”

This wasn’t what
she was hoping for, but she reveled in the sun. She wandered through the pink
tulips first and caught a whiff of Phoenix. The field smelled of trees and
grass. Memories of their time near the pond surged in her mind. Her heart ached
knowing their relationship was over—had been a lie, really. Not real. At least
Ari had given her someone else to pine over so the pain of Phoenix wasn’t so
fresh.

The flowers shifted
from pink to yellow, and Phoenix’s scent disappeared, only to be replaced by
salt, sand, and coconut. Leo. She was supposed to love him, and every part of
her wanted to. Except the part that longed for Ari. The fate of Stella rested on
falling in love with Leo, but for some reason, she couldn’t do it. Leo was
comfortable. Warm. Friendly. He’d make a spectacular husband, but he didn’t
ignite her soul.

She told him about
her love for Phoenix, and he was angry, but that would pass. Given enough time,
she could learn to love him.

She wandered
farther into the field and found herself among the red tulips. Ari. His scent
overwhelmed her. Oranges and sandalwood. The almost kiss tickled at her lips.
She remembered the way her body felt pressed against his. Desire like she’d
never known filled her stomach. She nearly stopped walking. Was this love? Or
lust? She had no idea. As long as he was around, she’d never be able to love
Leo.

Without warning,
she stumbled out of the illusion. The intense feelings of desire disappeared.
Everything was dark. She waited a second for her eyes to adjust. When they did,
she noticed she’d come out on the other side of the alley.

The darkness seemed
oppressive somehow, and she was ready to go to the castle and sleep. Fear snuck
into her chest because she had no idea where she was. She crept out to the main
road and searched for a carriage, but could find none. She wandered a few more
blocks, keeping her hood up and head down.

People still rushed
around, the illusion still haunting her. She’d have passion with Ari, but she
couldn’t give up on Leo. Not now. Ari would lead her to the same choices she’d
had with Phoenix. Honor or love. It always came down to those two choices but
there had never been a real choice. Her mother had been right. Honor was more
important.

She was done being
a child, but she couldn’t be an adult with either Ari or Sage around. Ari for
obvious reasons, and Sage because she was reckless and irresponsible, even if
she were Zwaantie’s guard. Besides, where Sage went, Ari did too. If Zwaantie was
to fulfill her duties, she would do those things her mother would do. She
needed to act like a queen and learn how to love Leo. Maybe she’d even be able
to prevent a few deaths.

Instantly, she felt
better. Everything would work out because she was making the right choice.

The street cleared,
and she found herself in what was undoubtedly the poor part of town. In Sol, it
would’ve been the slave district. The houses were run-down, and the streets
smelled of refuse. The lights were faded, and buildings crowded in oppressively.
Thank goodness this part of town had yet to wake up because she feared what the
people might do to her. She needed to find a carriage.

A hand gripped her
elbow. A tall thin man with light skin held her. He wore a hood, and she
couldn’t see his face clearly, but a dagger glowed blue in his hand.

Before Zwaantie
could get out a scream, he growled and thrust the knife straight at Zwaantie’s
heart.

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