Aliana waited until Milos had gone under the bedcovers before she came out of the study. He was lying on his back with his chest proudly on display. And from what she’d seen, his body was indeed something to be proud of. Lean muscles rippled down his arms and chest. His abdomen was sculpted in a curious V which from which she observed, narrowed the further—south her eyes travelled. There were sprinklings of dark hair on his chest, but on his belly, it narrowed to a thin line which seemed to continue—south. She had glimpsed men without their shirts before, but this was the first time ever it seemed to have this impact on her.
“Are you going to ogle me all night or are you coming to bed?” he said without opening his eyes.
“I am not setting foot in that bed while you are naked.”
His eyes opened and he smirked. “I am not naked.” he said throwing off the covers revealing that he was wearing loose cotton pants. “Satisfied?”
“Where’s your shirt?” she said as she walked around to the other side of the bed and climbed under the sheets.
He turned to face her. “It gets hot and if I am hot, I get naked, so I thought that this was a good compromise.” he smiled.
“You really are enjoying make fun of me?”
“Actually, I find your innocence endearing wife.” he stopped smiling but there was a lingering softness in his eyes.
“The start of our marriage might be unconventional, but I am willing to make it work.” she said she turned towards him. His expression turned serious as he watched her. He wasn’t expecting this sudden turn in the conversation. “My father might be difficult but growing up I saw that he loved my mother and that she him. Your mother said that love might not be present at the beginning of marriages such as ours, but that it is possible if I am open to it. I am open to it. For that to happen I think that we should at least try being friends.”
“My mother seems to have told you many things.”
“Yes, she is a good listener and very easy to talk to.”
“So you don’t hate me for doing this to you? I have put you in a very difficult situation. Associating with me has marred your reputation both here and in your home. Do you really think that we can be friends?”
Minerva was right, his father and the court had really taken a toll on his confidence. She could hear the hurt behind the question.
“I don’t hate you, at least most of the time, as you have your moments.” he smiled. “If I remember correctly, I was the one who followed you on a horse and eventually dragged you back to Turion when all you wanted to do was disappear into the Ashlands. If you can forgive me for that, then I think we can be friends.”
“I forgive you.” he said.
“That was easy,” she laughed which suddenly morphed into a giant yawn.
“Go to sleep wife,” he said closing his eyes.
“Goodnight husband.” she says closing her eyes and she slipped into a peaceful slumber.
“It is time for the claiming.” whispered a voice in her ear.
“No, I didn’t make a deal.” she said as he fanned the whisper away. She was in a world surrounded by blackness and wind.
“You did and I am here to claim my price.” her eyes popped open of their own accord. She scanned the room. She could make out Milos sleeping form on the other side of the bed. She put away the covers and started walking.
She tried to stop herself, but it was if her body no longer belonged to her. “I want blood, king’s blood.” It whispered as she led her into the study. She watched herself light a lamp and then walk over to the weapons display. She took down a curved dagger.
“Aliana what are you doing up?” said Milos as she appeared into the study.
She turned to him baring the dagger. “Blood king’s blood.″ said the whisper.
“Milos no!” she wanted to say but her mouth was paralysed. Tears streamed down her face as she was spirited towards him. “No, stay back!” she wanted to scream.
He approached her cautiously. “Aliana, put the knife down.” he had his hands out in front of him.
“I can’t! I can’t!” she wanted to scream but only tears came.
“Blood,” screamed the whisper. She raised the dagger and thrust it at his heart.
He caught her hand and twisted the blade from her hands. He tossed it on the other side of the room. She kicked him away and then dove across the billiards table to retrieve the weapon. He was quick on his feet and managed to grab her around the waist pulling her back.
“Blood!” screamed the whisper. She felt it burying itself further into her being. It was trying to ignite her fire. It was going to let her burn Milos. She tried to push him off, but he held her closer. It tried to ignite the latent magic but it failed. It didn’t know that her trigger was anger, but all she felt right now was fear. Fear that she had no control of her body and that it might succeed and let her kill Milos.
“Whatever you are, get out of my wife and back to that bitch queen that sent you.” he growled in her ear. She shook him off but he held her closer. “Aliana I know you are in there, so you have to try and fight the whisper.”
“I am trying to!” she wanted to sob out.
The whisper was stronger, “Not before claiming my price. Blood! My price is blood. King’s blood.” it said in her voice.
“Then settle for mine.” he said as he dragged his hand against the metal edge of the table. Blood pooled in his palm. He grabbed her arm smearing the blood on her skin. “You have your blood now leave.”
“Bloooood!” it screamed. Her back arched and she felt as the phantom pulled out of her. The lamp in the room dimmed as for a moment a single cloud of blackness floated in front of them. ”The price is paid. The deal is done.” it said as it floated out the window
Aliana crumpled as her limbs were again her own. “Milos, that wasn’t me” she croaked out and turned to him.
“I know. It’s okay Aliana. It is gone now.” he said as he pressed her face into his chest. “It got its blood now it won’t come back. Just don’t go making any more deals with whispers.”
“Stop making jokes, I nearly killed you.” she said pulling away so that she could punch him in the shoulder.
“Ow,” he smiled and then folded her back in his embrace. “I won’t allow anyone or anything to hurt you Aliana. It is gone now.” he whispered in her hair.
“But who will protect you?” she said as she looked up at him.
“I can take care of myself.” he said.
“We will have to protect each other Milos.” she amended. “You aren’t alone anymore,” she said stepping away from him and took his hand. “Do you have bandages in here?”
“In the bathroom.” he said.
“It is a good thing I know where that is.” she said as they went together to the bathroom.
“Now look at who is joking.” he smiled.
“Not joking, gloating as you get to see the usefulness of the husband-ly lessons.” She cleaned and bandaged his hand. She then kissed his palm when she was through. “That is to take the pain away. My mother did it for me when I got hurt. Strangely it always seemed to work.” she said blushing as he was watching her.
“Thank you,” he said looking at her. She got up and went to wash his blood from her arm. Her nightdress was not so lucky though. He must have noticed her staring at it. “I will get you something to wear.” he said getting up. She followed him into the room.
“Your wardrobe hasn’t been completed so a shirt will have to do.” he said handing it to her. “I will give your privacy.”
“Stay, I don’t want to be alone.”
“I’ll turn around.” he said. As soon as he did she shifted out of the bloody dress and into the shirt.
“I am done.” He turned around and his eyes lingered on her exposed legs. She shifted uncomfortably as pulling at the hem of the shirt.
He walked over to the bed and pulled the covers and waited for her to climb in. He then came in after her. He settled close to her and draped his arm around her waist. “Go to sleep.” he whispered.
“I have been thinking about that and I don’t want to.” she said turning to face him.
“It has been a long day and after all that you’ve been through...”
She placed her fingers over his lips silencing him. “I don’t want to sleep Milos.” she said hoping to convey what she meant with her eyes. His brows furrowed. Men could be so dense sometimes. She tried again. “I have been called many names since I got here, some of them undeserved. Anything can happen tomorrow or the other day. Everyone expects me to be carrying your heir, I think that we should at least make that a possibility.”
“We don’t have to...”
“But I want to.” she brushed a small kiss over his lips and looked at him. She was nervous as this was the third time she’d ever kissed a man. From his past comments, she didn’t do it properly.
“Are you sure?” she said as his breath caressed her face. She nodded.
“Good, because being in the same bed with you and not being able to touch has nearly killed me.” he said as crushed his lips against hers.
“Bad anecdote,” she gasped as he brushed kisses down her throat and down her chest. Her skin went up in flames.
“The story may have started that way, but I sure like where it has led, and I am looking forward to the ending.” he said as he hovered over her.
“Then stop talking,” she said as she wound her finger through his hair and pulled him towards her. She didn’t understand this. This was not who she was. He was her husband but still stranger to her in many ways yet she was allowing him to touch her this way. Maybe it was fear driving her to this as she didn’t want to be alone. But as his lips moved across her skin she forgot that theory. She was being driven closer to him by something deeper. She didn’t know what it was, but it was there.