MAJOR SPOILERS FOR THE BLOOD TRAITOR! Do not continue reading if you haven’t finished The Prison Healer series!
Below is a small excerpt from the Caldon bonus scene featured in the small-format paperback of The Blood Traitor (which, for a limited time, you can purchase as a signed/personalised copy with global shipping from here).
After the excerpt, you’ll find the super adorable comic artwork that @yeollie.hvirus has created for this piece.
Please do not share any of the following over social media!
Despite the Matron Healer’s promise, Ashlyn wasn’t beside Cal’s bedside when he next woke.
But someone else was.
Cresta sat in the chair Ashlyn had vacated, bathed in moonlight spilling in from the window. Unlike Ash, whose posture had held an air of concern even when relaxed, Cresta had the seat tipped back and her feet were resting casually on Caldon’s bed, seemingly uncaring about anything—or anyone—as she reclined there, cleaning her nails with a dagger.
Caldon, however, knew differently. He watched her through his lashes, using the moment before she realized he was awake to take her in, noting the partially healed wounds on her exposed flesh, and the weight that seemed to have lifted from her shoulders.
Along with the new weight that had appeared there.
It was a weight Caldon was familiar with, having been born to it—just as she had been.
Finally, he spoke. “What, no crown?”
Cresta didn’t jump at his words, indicating that perhaps she had known he was awake. Instead, the only part of her that moved were her hazel eyes, which lifted from her dagger to meet his.
“It clashed with my hair.”
Caldon snorted at the lie, since her twisted red locks would only look more magnificent when topped with gem-encrusted gold. Even so, he played along. “And they call me vain.”
“They call you lots of things,” she returned. “Vain is the least of your worries.”
Caldon’s lips twitched, but he didn’t reply, since he knew she was deliberately stalling.
When his silence became too much for her, Cresta huffed out a breath and lowered her feet from his bed, sitting up straight. Her gaze turned serious as she asked, “How long have you known?”
“Long enough,” Cal answered honestly.
She frowned. “Why didn’t you say anything?”
Caldon shrugged, then winced as he was reminded—painfully—of the venom still working its way out of his body. “I figured it was your secret to tell who you wanted, when you wanted.” His mouth quirked up as he added, “And I also wanted to avoid you threatening to kick my ass if I breathed a word to anyone. Besides, it was more entertaining this way, seeing how oblivious everyone was—and watching you trying to keep it that way.”
Cresta looked away from him, her frown deepening. He wasn’t sure if he’d angered her with his admission—he never knew which way her emotions might land, given her fiery temperament. That was another reason why he hadn’t confronted her: because he’d feared risking what had been slowly growing between them by forcing her to put up her walls and push him away. He didn’t regret his choice, even if it meant he was now waiting with bated breath to see how she would react to learning that her secret hadn’t been a secret—at least, not to him.
But instead of being mad, when she turned back to him, there was something unexpected in her eyes.
“I should have told you,” she said softly. “I should have trusted you.”
Caldon reached out and took her hand in his, careful of her still-healing cuts and scrapes. “I don’t blame you, Cres. You seemed pretty torn about it all. My guess is you weren’t even sure up until the very end whether you were going to do anything about it—am I right?”
Surprise lit Cresta’s eyes, as if she hadn’t anticipated his insightfulness, and she slowly nodded. “I was wrestling with the decision for weeks, but it wasn’t until I was standing in front of my brother that I truly understood how much Mirraven would be better off without him as its king. Once I realized that . . .” This time it was she who shrugged. “I did what I had to do.”
“And now you’re their queen.”
Cresta cringed, the expression making Caldon bark out a laugh, then grimace from the ache it caused.
“Don’t look too excited, Your Majesty,” he drawled.
A dangerous smile touched Cresta’s lips as she leaned forward and said, “Call me that again, and I’ll make sure your stay here is permanent.”
If Caldon had been a fearful man, he might have shivered at the threat in her voice. Instead, he just grinned. “Liar. You’d miss me too much.”
“Your body, perhaps,” Cresta allowed, her gaze heating as she took in his shirtless, bandaged torso, lingering on where the blanket had fallen down to his waist. “Pity the rest of you has to come with it.”
Caldon’s grin only widened. “A pity, indeed.” He patted the space beside him, then invited, “Why don’t you come up here and remind me exactly what it is that you like about my body? Feel free to show rather than tell.”
To Cal’s frustration, the heat vanished from Cresta’s eyes, though a smirk grazed her lips as she said, “Nice try, princeling. But you’re on strict bed rest orders.”
“I’m resting, and in bed,” Cal pointed out, patting the mattress again.
Cresta’s smirk grew. “If I were to join you, there wouldn’t be any resting involved.”
“I don’t have a problem with that,” Caldon said. “In fact, I fully support that idea.”
A quiet laugh left Cresta, her features softening as she shook her head at him, her eyes bright with humor. “Points for trying.”