A soft knock woke Clarice up from her peaceful sleep with a small groan.
Her eyes fluttered open and she sat up with a yawn while stretching her limbs - her whole entire body ached, and she flinched when she heard her bones crack before sighing in relief at the pleasure it brought.
“It is me Clarice. Rettacus.”
She pushed the satin blanket off of her before hopping out of her bed - she was clothed in a loose t-shirt and an old pair of sweatpants.
She opened the door to her room with a smile on her face - her eyes instantly connecting with Rettacus.
“Good morning Claire.” He greeted happily, his eyes taking in her bedhead and the sparkle in her green orbs.
“Morning.” She greeted back, her hand still on the knob as she held the door open.
Rettacus placed a hand on his hip, “I came to your room last night, like I had told you I was going to, but to my surprise you were asleep. I apologize if I took too long, but you must know that you never have to skip any meals. You are welcome to join the men during dining times whenever you please. Do not fear anyone.”
Clarices cheeks reddened at the memory of last night before she swallowed roughly - trying to compose herself.
She shook her head, “no it’s okay Rett. I freshened up a bit last night but I was too tired to leave my room, so I fell asleep. I apologize if I made you wait outside the room too long.”
Her growled jokingly, “what did I say about apologizing?”
She chuckled while shaking her head and rolling her eyes teasingly.
“Alright, now to remember what I came here for...” he paused to jokingly purse his lips and tap his chin as if he was deep in thought making Clarice laugh loudly at his antics, “...ahhh yes, I came to escort you to the dining room for breakfast. But my little dearie, I highly doubt you want to go without freshening up a tad.”
Clarice chuckled at the way he mocked an elderly voice before shaking her head once again, “you are far too much.” She told him while faking a posh accent.
He chuckled before shooing her off and she nodded while shutting the door.
She smiled before turning around and walking to her wardrobe - she opened it and pulled out a gray long sleeved shirt and decided to keep the sweatpants she had on, on.
She shut the wooden doors before trailing to the bathroom.
A couple of minutes later, her hair was brushed and pulled back into a tight pony tail, her teeth and face were clean, and she had changed her shirt.
“You clean up nice.” Rettacus said with a friendly smirk as Clarice shut the door to her room behind her.
She smiled, “thank you.”
He threw a hand around her shoulders making her chuckle loudly and his lips etched into a wide smile - he was shocked at how fast they managed to become friends, and how fast Clarice had grown to like his presence.
But the main reason he had done this, was so that his scent was on her and they could walk into the dining room touching - this way, he could hopefully spur a reaction from the King.
“After breakfast, let us go do something alright? I will take you to the battlegrounds if you wish. I heard you love training.” Rettacus told Clarice as they walked down the stairs - his strong hand still situated around her shoulders.
She raised a brow, “I do... but how on earth did you know that?”
Rettacus sent a her look when they reached the bottom of the stairs before saying, “sweetheart, I know everything.”
She erupted into a fit of laughter as they neared the dining room and Rettacus could not help but watch her with narrowed eyes - she was warming up, slowly but surely, she was most definitely warming up. To everything.
“Ah, look what the cat dragged in.” A familiar voice drawled out making Clarice curl her lips up - her reaction made her feel confused.
Usually she would flinch or lower her gaze whenever these men spoke to her - but now, something was different.
She could feel anger and disgust start churning inside of her stomach, and she could not keep her gaze from turning into a glare as she stared at the man that sat to the right of the King - Avon.
Rettacus could feel as the air around him and Clarice thickened, and his brows furrowed when he sensed how angry she had gotten.
His gaze traveled to the two slightly healed punctures located on top of her collarbone and his lips nearly etched into a smirk - he had a small feeling that her change in emotions were due to that mark, and he was excited to see what freshly marked Clarice had up her sleeve.
Rettacus removed his hand from Clarices shoulders and could feel the Kings intense glare burn his skin but avoided looking directly at him as he pushed back the chair for Clarice and motioned for her to sit.
She sat down, not once noticing the deadly look in the Kings eyes as her own remained glued on Avon.
Aurelio and Marcello sat awkwardly while watching this situation unfold before them with furrowed brows - then they looked at each other before shrugging.
“So Rettacus, finally decided to stop pinning the pup to the King and marked her as your own?” Avon asked with a slight smirk, his gaze glued with Clarices.
Her eyes narrowed and her lip curled up, however before anyone could say anything the King beat them to it with a warning growl.
He was struggling to compose himself and Rettacus noticed - he watched as the King tried his hardest not to sniff the scent that mingled in with Clarices, Rettacus scent.
The Kings eyes darkened and his hand clenched around the utensil inside of it - his knuckles turning a pale white.
“Take a seat next to the pup Rettacus.” Avon stated, the taunting smirk still on his lips making Clarice swallow back a growl.
Rettacus went to sit but froze when Clarices voice echoed in his ears - a lot deeper than ever, and with more power than he ever remembered her having.
“Clarice.” She spat out, her brows furrowing downwards as her glares intensity increased.
Everyones confused gaze snapped onto her - including the Kings.
Avon raised a brow, “so she speaks? I liked it far better when you were mute pup.”
Her body moved on its own accord when she snapped out of her chair, and slammed her hands on the table abruptly - the sounds of utensils clattering echoed in the silent room and Rettacus had to bite back a chuckle.
“My name is Clarice. You will call me as such when you speak to me or about me.” She growled out, her eyes were wide and crazed - it made all four of the men nearly recoil.
The look in her eyes matched their Kings. It held the kind of darkness only he could possess and it made their brows furrow in wonder.
“And who do you think you are.” Avon stated before snapping out of his chair himself - meeting Clarices intense glare head on.
The King watched Clarice intensely and nobody noticed the ghost of a smirk on his lips when he noticed the way her shoulders squared and tensed slightly - she reacted to disrespect now the way he would, and for some reason it made his chest puff out proudly.
“I just told you who I am Avon.” She said in utter disgust while raising her nose.
“Need I remind you what happened the last time you tried to act up? Or shall I just give you another remake of it?” Avon asked with a dark chuckle, Rettacus let out a small growl while glaring at Avon but both Avon and Clarice were too busy glaring at each other to notice what any of the other men at the table were doing.
Clarice chuckled, the sound of her humorless laugh managed to get darker and darker until her eyes matched the color of her hair - Aurelio and Marcello widened their eyes as they gazed at her.
“Try. I dare you to try.” Her body was on fire and the closeness of the King and his strong scent made it burn more and more - everything was setting her off but only one thing could cool her down.
Avon smirked before pushing his chair back with all of the strength he could muster - sending it flying behind him, but nobody paid it any mind even as it thudded on the ground.
He turned to the side and went to walk closer towards Clarice before the King shot up out of his chair and in the blink of an eye had his large hand wrapped tightly around Avons throat - shocking absolutely everyone, including Clarice.
A low growl emitted from the Kings throat and everybody remained silent - none of the men could interrupt, especially if the King was involved.
Avons faced was slowly turning a shade darker as the King squeezed his throat tighter - his knuckles paling.
Clarice watched as the Kings head tilted, however, not once had the crown on his head dipped to the side - it stayed put.
She watched as his shoulders tensed and swallowed roughly - everything about this man made her body burn, and she did not understand why.
The sound of Avon gasping for air made her quickly snap back to reality while furrowing her brows - she took in the horrific sight before her as if seeing it for the first time with wide eyes.
She looked at the other men - including Rettacus - who just stood there and stared helplessly before frowning.
She could not bare hearing Avon gasp for air, that was her excuse as to why she hesitatingly pushed her chair back, then moved closer towards the enraged King.
She stood with her front to his back before placing a hand on his large forearm - the arm that he was using to choke Avon with.
She could feel the sparks that erupted under the palm of her hand and when she felt his bicep flex she knew he felt them too.
“Let him go. He is not worth it.” She whispered to him, not caring about all the looks she was getting from the rest of the men.
The King tensed but did not let go of Avon whose eyes were struggling to stay open.
“Please let him go.” She whispered again, this time pleadingly and she was sure he heard her.
She felt as all of his muscles relaxed under her touch before he threw Avon back with all of his strength - making his back roughly connect with the wall that was located across the room.
Clarice flinched and struggled to watch as Avon groaned in pain, his hands rubbing his bright red neck whilst his chest rose and fell rapidly - she knew he was struggling to breathe.
The Kings shoulders were also rising and falling rapidly but she knew it was due to his anger - however, she was not afraid of him, even though she knew she should have been, for some odd reason, she just could not bring herself to be afraid.
“All of you men. Leave the room.” The King ordered darkly in between pants - his back still to Clarice.
She noticed his clenched hands and gulped when she heard the men begin to disperse and leave - however, Avon was struggling.
“Leave.” He repeated, his voice darker than ever and echoing in the room making Clarice hold back a small jump.
When Avon scurried out of the room between stumbles they were finally alone and Clarice could feel her brows begin to furrow.
Her eyes were still on the Kings back and she glared at it - her lips curled up and she tried her hardest to hold back the growl that emitted from her throat.
For some reason, ever since she left the hospital, she knew something was different. And she knew she had to expect a lot of changes throughout this period of her marks healing process.
“Would you like me to leave?” She asked curiously, she was unsure of why he made the men leave but not her - especially if he was going to make her look at his back as he threw his little tantrum.
He growled lowly, “I said men, did I not?”
She chuckled dryly, “then turn around when you speak to me. I refuse to speak to your back.”
She watched as his shoulders began to twitch and flinched when the sound of his maliciously dark chuckle echoed in her ears - he suddenly sounded so monstrous, yet it only peeked her interest more.
In a swift second he spun around and bent his head down to glare at her - she noticed that deadly look in his eyes, the look that screamed death, but met it head on with an intense glare of her own.
He smirked at her display of courage before his calloused hand slowly trailed up the length of her arm - the long sleeves on her shirt made it hard for her to feel the skin, however, she could still feel all of the sparks that erupted throughout her body and it nearly made her eyes flutter shut.
Her breathing picked up as his fingers began to reach her shoulders and the King narrowed his dark glare as he watched her.
When his fingers reached the area where his mark was located he stopped and her lips slightly opened - his eyes glued on her mouth and a low growl emitted from his throat.
Clarice felt her legs wobble but she stabilized herself instantly while gazing directly at him. His intensity made it hard for her to breathe and she loved it.
Unexpectedly she felt the King grip her chin tightly and raise her head so they were eye level - the strength he used had strained her head and made her gasp, but other than that she gave no frightened reaction.
“Have you suddenly grown courageous sweetheart?” He asked her hoarsely, his voice low making her brows furrow.
She did not know how to answer, she just gazed at him curiously.
He gripped her chin tighter - his fingers making her lips press together tightly and her eyes widened in shock.
“Then watch how you speak to me and my men. You are still nothing around here. And you will act respectfully.” He growled out angrily before ripping his hand away from her.
Clarice blinked while struggling to process his hateful words, it took her a second, but when she did, it made her heart plummet down to her stomach.
She swallowed roughly to hide her hurt and she knew he was expecting a reaction - she just refused to give on to him, especially whilst he glared intensely at her.
“You are correct. I apologize, your Majesty, I do not know what took over me.” She stated before lowering her gaze and showing him her neck - she hated having to do this, it broke her heart, but she would only succumbed to her tears when she was alone and away from him.
She refused to cry in front of him. Or any of these men for that matter. And she would stand by that forever.