They had moved their small reunion to the corner.
“Clarice, my beautiful baby. Where have you been? What happened to you?” Kim cried out, her slightly malnourished body trembling before Clarice who gazed at her pitifully.
She absolutely hated seeing them like this.
She took in the dress her mother had on, it was one Clarice remembered that she had worn before but this time, it was a lot looser on her body than normal.
She looked at her father who was gazing back at her in utter disbelief through his tearful eyes.
“Nothing. Nothing happened to me, what matters is that you found me. That you know I am alive.” She told them, trying her best to conceal the pain in her voice.
Oh how she would love to vent to them about everything but she held back.
She knew that all hell would break lose and she would not allow that. Not now, in front of all these bystanders.
“Nothing? You silly girl, feel free to tell us! We have been worried sick about your whereabouts! We could not find you anywhere!” Her fathers angered voice made her flinch in shock - however not in fear, she was definitely not scared of him.
But the way his tone was raising unnecessarily made her insides stir and she knew what was about to go down.
She shushed him and watched as both him and her mother recoiled in shock - even through their flushed cheeks and tearful eyes.
“You are causing a scene. I will tell you everything but now is not the time, please I beg of you do not yell.” Her eyes drifted to the Kings who was sitting on his large throne by the side of the ballroom and she could feel his eyes that were glued on them from a mile away.
Nathaniel curled his lip up and wiped his cheeks before turning his head to see what had caught his daughters attention before he growled lowly.
“Did he do something to you?” Nathaniel asked in distaste while stepping closer towards Clarice.
Kim raised a brow worriedly and Clarice noticed the way the King was clenching his fists tightly - she knew he could hear everything that was being said.
“Did that wicked man do something to make you fear speaking out? There must be a reason we found you here. We had only come expecting to speak to him to help us find you, not to realize that you were in fact with him.”
Clarice recoiled from her fathers touch while growling, her eyes swirled and changed into a darker color and both of her parents noticed.
She opened her mouth but her mother cut her off, “Sweetheart, we are your parents. Did they brainwash you? Why are you pulling away from us? Just tell us the truth.”
Clarice shook her head, “but this is the truth. Please believe, he did not do anything to me.” She lied, through her teeth she lied.
Nathaniel pulled his hair in frustration while letting out a strangled sob, “they brainwashed you.”
Clarice inhaled deeply, trying to tame the wildfire that was growing inside of her.
“Maybe what she is saying is the truth. Maybe the King found her and saved her from whatever had happened Nathaniel. We can not automatically assume that-”
Nathaniel spun to face his wife before pointing a finger wildly at her - his eyes wide and full of rage that was foreign to Clarice.
“You shut your mouth.” He growled out at Kim making her instantly lower her head in submission.
Clarice covered her mouth with her shaky hand and eyed the crowd, thankful that the loud classical music and chatter was enveloping what was going on here.
“Daddy?” Clarice called out in shock, his demeanor was one she had never seen before and it surprised her to see him this way.
“You will not speak on things that you do not understand. I know that that wicked man had taken her and I will get down to the bottom of it. But right now, you will enjoy this ball until the end, and when it is done we will be taking you back to your rightful pack, you do not need to stay here any longer by his force.”
Clarices wide eyes sought out the Kings who was glaring intensely back at her - his jaw was clenched tightly and she could sense he was holding himself back, she was thankful that he had yet to come here.
Kim shrunk back but nodded nonetheless, her sad eyes glaring at her flats making Clarices face fall.
“I can not leave.” Clarice stated softy, trying not to anger her father anymore.
Nathaniels wide eyes found hers and when she saw how feral they were, she recalled him missing that familiar warmth even earlier, when he had hugged her in front of everyone.
“And why is that?” He gritted out, his hands clenching by his sides and she instantly saw her mothers eyes snap up - her bottom lip quivering as she fought to speak up but Clarice shook her head subtly, telling her it was best if she stayed silent.
“Because I have business to finish here.” Her eyes - as if on cue - found the Kings and she watched as he analyzed them curiously, anger still lingering in his aura.
Nathaniel scoffed, “business?”
Clarice nodded, snapping her gaze back to her father and willing it to stay there - she could not give herself away that fast.
“And by business do you mean whoring yourself to the King?” He asked disrespectfully and the suddenness of his foul words made Clarices eyes widen in shock.
The King nearly stood from his seat on the throne but held himself back - he was giving her a chance to fix her situation until he deemed it right for himself to intrude.
Kims eyes were also wide and full of disbelief and she tried to stumble deeper into the corner - hoping that nobody was able to hear her husbands cross words.
“How dare you?” Clarice asked, her voice not entirely her own as she glared at her father - she was in utter disbelief, she can not understand how the man managed to change so much.
Nathaniel scoffed, “how dare I?” He asked, as if Clarice was the one acting out unnecessarily.
“How dare you?!” He retorted angrily while stepping closer to his daughter and getting in her face.
She raised her chin and held back a growl - she could not allow her other side to control her now, she just could not, but she can not help it.
“You have never spoken to your father in this way and seeing you walk down the steps with the King stuck to your side like a leech, it has shown me enough to believe that he has made you his very own mistress!”
Clarice nearly hung her head in shame but due to the storm inside of her, she could not do anything but growl.
“You watch how you speak to me.” Her voice was deeper than normal, and full of power that her parents have never heard her possess.
Her voice made her fathers knees wobble and she curled her lip up in distaste.
She could feel her mother place a hand on her shoulder and allowed her gaze to find hers.
Clarice looked at her with wild eyes.
“Alright, enough of this, we have brung enough shame upon ourselves. We will continue this conversation later, Clarice why don’t you join me at the buffet table?” Kim whispered sadly, her eyes wavering from Clarice to her angered husband and back to Clarice.
Before Nathaniel could open his mouth Clarice nodded, “understood.” And her words did not leave room for discussion.
Her father glared at her before he pointed a finger at her, “this conversation is far from over. You will be leaving this castle. As long as I am alive, you will be leaving and I will bring you back to your home.”
With that he turned around and stormed away, Clarice shook her head sadly before looking at her mother who was silently crying to herself.
Clarice placed her palms gently on her mothers sunken cheeks before wiping away all the tears on her soft skin.
“Do not cry. Please.” Clarice begged her, her voice cracking, she hated seeing her mother cry.
“I apologize that you had to see him like this Claire.” Kim stated breathlessly, her voice barely above a whisper and that made Clarices heart swell.
“Do not apologize to me. Never apologize to me.” She told her mother while shaking her head, her eyes strongly holding hers.
“He-he does not mean bad.” Kim stated gently, her voice cracking due to the strain of crying.
Clarice nodded, “it is alright. I understand. Just please, do not waste your time crying over this mother. It is pointless.”
Kim nodded while inhaling deeply and trying to calm herself, the second she did Clarice pulled her hands from her cheeks and smiled weakly at her.
“Now, do you mind telling me when he got like this? As far as I know, he never raised his tone at-”
Kim cut her off sadly, “the second you were gone, he changed. I noticed it right away, but I did not dwell too much on it until it got worse. But please, do not question me further, let us enjoy this reunion. Especially on your birthday my sweet child.”
Clarice recoiled in shock before chuckling to herself, “is it really my birthday?”
Kim chuckled despite her sadness before nodding her head, “how did you forget, my beauty? Today is your birthday, you are officially eighteen.”
Clarice smiled widely and she could feel her eyes drift to the Kings who was gazing at her heatedly with his dark eyes - her toes nearly curled in her tight heels.
“Happy birthday baby.” Her mother stated before leaning to give her a gentle kiss on the cheek and a comforting rub on her forearm.
Clarice felt her eyes water but she began to blink rapidly to keep the tears from falling, “I am so happy you are here.”
Kim closed her eyes at Clarices words before inhaling deeply - those were words she longed to hear leave her daughters lips and now that she has, she never wants to be away from her again.
“I am equally as happy. Now, let us go see Alpha Mattel and Beta Laurence. They missed you dearly.” Kim stated making Clarices ears perk up excitedly, she nodded eagerly and allowed her mother to guide the way.
His eyes watched her the entire night.
She had spent most of her time reuniting with her mother, their newly appointed Alpha, and the old Beta.
Even though the way those men hugged her utterly angered him to no end, he refrained from using violence tonight - he could not.
His men tried to gain his attention at times but when he raised his hand in a stop motion, they instantly walked away from him - not bothering to try to convince him to stand and mingle with his people.
He kept his eyes trained on her father at times as well, the words that that man had used to address the King - himself - made him enraged.
His eyes narrowed when he remembered Clarices father stating that she had been whoring herself to him and it made his chest rumble once again.
He was holding back his claws from elongating and keeping his canines from baring and seeking out the neck they so badly wanted to sink into in front of everyone.
Even throughout all of the chatter, the classical music and all of the clattering of utensils and glasses, he could make out her angelic voice as she spoke to her family.
She portrayed herself so nicely and he enjoyed watching her.
She looked powerful and it made his stomach churn - he felt hot all over, and he craved the feel of her skin against his.
He watched as her lips opened up to allow some liquid from the round glass to moisten her throat and felt his eyes narrow intensely.
His eyes followed her throat as she swallowed and felt the fire inside him awaken wildly - flames engulfing him.
He was too entranced by his mate that he had yet to notice the ginger that was standing before him.
Her hair was curled wildly and she was dressed in a bright red dress with a plunging neckline that left nothing to the imagination, with a slit that started mid-thigh.
She cleared her throat, and he carelessly gave her his attention.
She was smiling seductively at him but to her surprise, he still continued to glare at her with a deadly look in his eyes.
“My King, would you care to join me for a dance?” She asked, making her voice sound sultry but instead she sounded like she was growling.
He thinned his eyes into slits before leaning back into his throne - raising his head, and allowing his crown to glisten under the bright lights.
“The King does not dance, rid yourself of his presence.” Avons voice stated from behind the Kings throne and the girl flinched in shock.
Their voices were a lot darker and deeper than regular males, it was always frightening for she-wolves to hear them speak.
“I had not asked you, I asked the King. I am sure he can speak for himself.” The girl stated proudly, recovering from her moment of fear.
Cerberus raised a brow while glaring at the girl that could not take a hint.
Avon growled at her disrespect, “you stupid she-wolf, rid yourself of his presence right this moment.”
The girl twirled the ends of her hair before chuckling, “my name is Ava.”
“Leave.” The King suddenly ordered, his voice loud and clear, and full of warning as he glared intensely into her wide brown eyes.
She jumped in shock before turning around and scrambling away - nearly tripping in her overly high choice of footwear.
“I do not know how you do it. But you do it.” Avon muttered in disbelief before tapping the King on his shoulder in respect and walking away from him.
The King did not bother to respond before he allowed his eyes to find Clarice again.
Much to his surprise her eyes were already on his and she was slowly making way towards him - leaving her family behind.
They had not noticed she had left them, that or she made a valid excuse to leave, but nevertheless, she was gracefully making way towards him and he found himself getting restless.
People moved out of her way and she paid them no mind - her strong gaze was glued on him as she walked through the crowd.
Her dress was trailing behind her and power radiated off of her in waves - he knew they were all questioning who she was, but he loved that she was a mystery to them all.
The second she had reached him, a smile grew on her lips and his heated gaze roamed down her figure - she looked magnificent and he could not remember if he had told her that or not.
Her cheeks flushed due to his proximity and his intense gaze and it amused him.
“So, are you enjoying this ball?” He asked her, eyeing the crowd behind her that went back to doing what they had been doing.
She shrugged, “I have yet to get the full experience.”
The music in the background changed, and it sounded a lot slower than it had been.
Clarice turned around and noticed as everyone shifted, taking their partners and moving to the dance floor to dance.
She eyed as the mates began to slow dance in wonder before looking at the King whose eyes were already solely on her.
She gulped lowly.
“What do you mean you have yet to get the full experience?” He questioned while shaking his head, she rubbed the back of her neck nervously.
Suddenly she looked too anxious to talk to him and that made him all the more curious to hear what she had wanted to say.
“Do you care to dance?” She suddenly asked, her words leaving her lips abruptly making her face flush red.
She cleared her throat, “with me?”
His fists clenched tightly and he could not help but look at the dancers behind her.
He always refused every woman that had asked him, the girl from earlier being a prime example, but for some reason - he could not refuse Clarice.
Especially as she gazed at him with those doe-like eyes expectingly and her fingers nervously twiddled before her.
He inhaled deeply, “sure.”
Her eyes widened, “sure?!” She asked, hoping she heard him correctly.
He nearly rolled his eyes in annoyance, he hated repeating himself but he did anyway, “sure.”
He rose from his throne gracefully before stepping closer to her, the tips of her ears turned red and he nearly chuckled.
When he stood by her side, she turned to face the dancers as well and could feel as he placed his large hand on the small of her back one again.
She leaned into his touch and he could not help but puff out his chest at that.
Sparks shot all around them and she could not keep her lips from etching up into a small smile.
Slowly, he stepped forwards and guided them towards the dance floor.
The second his foot hit the ground, everyones attention flew to them.
Clarice nearly lowered her head and he noticed, his hand pressed deeper into her back reassuringly - telling her without words to keep her head raised.
A woman like her should never lower her head, for anyone.
His beast had long awoken during the length of the ball but he was holding him back and keeping him from making an appearance no matter how hard it was.
People moved out of their way in shock and the King could feel even as his men gazed at him with wide eyes.
Nobody expected this from him. Hell, even he was confused.
Clarice inhaled shakily when they stopped and felt as his hands turned her to face him.
He made sure her front was close to his, and could feel as her warmth radiated onto him.
His eyes would have fluttered shut if he had no pride - but he did.
He used his hands to take hers and guide them to where they needed to be - around his neck and thanks to her choice of footwear, she was a lot taller than usual, so she managed to reach his neck easily.
He basked in the feeling of her bare skin touching his before he placed his hands around her small waist - he could feel her shiver and it made the air around them a lot hotter.
They ignored the curious chatter that erupted instantly around them and allowed themselves to focus on the music.
He watched as she leaned her cheek onto his chest and he knew she could feel as it rumbled approvingly.
“You do not dance, why did you say yes to me?” She asked softly, her voice barely above a whisper as their bodies moved gracefully.
His chest rumbled, but this time it was due to the chuckle that emitted from his throat.
She looked up at him curiously, and much to her surprise his heated gaze was already on her and that was enough for her to forget about all of the other eyes that were watching them.
Everything and everyone disappeared and it felt like it was only them two.
Even Cerberus could not deny the sudden pull and how he no longer felt suffocated by all of the bodies and chatter - now he felt content and at peace.
His body moved gracefully with hers and their legs danced properly - following each others steps so strategically.
“Happy birthday.” He whispered to her and she could have sworn the sparks around them erupted into fireworks.
His intense eyes were stuck on hers and even though she so badly wanted to look away, she did not.
She strongly held his gaze with equal amount of admiration and it made his stomach churn.
He could not help but pull her closer and due to the feel of her chest pushing into his, she could not help but look around - reality instantly finding her, making her cheeks flush in embarrassment.
“Cerberus everyone is watching.” She whispered while trying to put a respectful amount of distance between them.
The gazes they were getting were all mixed - some people looked curious, some happy, some angered and some looked at her in disgust.
“Of course they are. Let them.” He stated carelessly, his large hand finding her chin and bringing her eyes back on his.
“You look at me and me alone. Not them.” He ordered and she nodded in understanding, with that he moved his hand from her chin and put it back in its rightful place on her waist.
And then they danced.
Their other two hands found each other and they interlocked them properly before stretching their hands out so they could dance the right way.
Foxtrot. The dance he made them do was foxtrot and it was the one ballroom dance he knew best.
She gulped at the sparks that pranced on her skin and basked in the feeling of his warm and large hand that was enclosed around hers happily.
She followed him as he moved and neither of them noticed that everyone else that had been dancing left the dance floor - leaving just the two of them to dance alone.
They were too busy gazing deeply into each others eyes to realize that the music had also finished, but due to the King being the person on the dance floor, the band instantly started playing again.
“You are beautiful.” He whispered breathlessly to her whilst dancing, she gripped his hand tighter while smiling.
He loved the affect he had on her.
“Thank you... And you are handsome.” She replied, her words making her eyes look down before she instantly raised them once again.
He held back a smile but he knew that she knew he was going to smile.
He knows that she understood him.
And with that they fell into a silence whilst continuing their dance - leaving everyone in awe.
She pressed her hands to her cheeks - trying her hardest to cool her skin.
She knew that she looked like an utter tomato but she could not help it.
She had danced with the King.
With her mate, in front of everyone.
And he called her beautiful.
She could not deny how happy she was.
Now it was nearing the end of the ball and after the dance, she had tried to avoid her parents and her Alpha and Beta.
She was utmost positive they saw their intimate dancing and she knew her father would be angered.
And she had not wished to deal with him again.
But the sudden hand that grabbed her from behind and began to tug on her made her body swiftly turn and a growl escape her lips.
She was a corner and a wall away from everyone in the ballroom - so she was thankful nobody could see this.
He bared his canines at her, “so I had been correct.”
She furrowed her brows while tugging her arm away from him roughly, “about what?”
He licked his licks before glaring intensely at her, “you have been whoring yourself to the King!”
She gasped loudly before recoiling, “no I have not, how dare you continue to assume that about me! Do you not know me?”
“I thought I had known you. But after seeing you enter with your body pressed against his and dance with little to no space between each other, clearly I was wrong!” He responded in disgust, his words hurt her but she could only make do out of the anger that swirled in the pits of her stomach.
“It is not what it looks like, there is nothing going on between the King and I!” She stated strongly while glaring intensely at her father.
She had yet to notice the large body that lingered near the door that had been where people enter and exist from the castle - and it was in earshot.
“If that is true then why do I see you both together whenever I look at you, and why will you not leave this Godforsaken place!?” He asked, his eyes wide with question and his body trembling in rage.
She inhaled deeply, she wanted so badly to tell him the truth but she could not. She had to lie, she had to tell him that the King means nothing to her, and it had to be a good and believable lie.
“Daddy. I am always near him because he is my friend. He saved me. I owe him.” Clarice started, furrowing her brows as she gazed at him for a reaction.
When he stayed quiet, she knew she could continue.
“The King means absolutely nothing to me. We are nothing-”
“If you are mates Clarice, you can tell me. If he wants to hold you as a hostage, you can tell me.” He suddenly stated, his words felt like a punch to the gut and she hated that she still had to lie.
She could not tell them anything until her mate was by her side and ready. Until their bond was complete.
She could not do that to him.
“Do you see a mark on me?” Clarice asked softly, making her fathers eyes frantically roam throughout her neck before his face fell in defeat and he shook his head.
Clarices heart clenched and she could not deny how badly she wanted to yell that he was her mate - but they were taking slow steps.
“Exactly. I have yet to find my mate. The King is just my friend whom I owe everything to. I can not leave until my debt is repaid.” Clarice continued, trying her hardest not to grit her teeth because she hated what she was saying.
“He means nothing to me. I am not his mistress, nor am I his whore and I never will be. I do not love him, I have just grown a tolerance to him.”
Her father listened intensely and she watched as his shoulders fell in relief.
“Now father, you go enjoy the ball and I will meet you there.” Clarice stated, no longer wanting to prolong this horrible conversation that made her want to sob out loud.
Her father nodded before turning around and walking away from her.
Clarice felt her knees wobble and had to turn to place her hand on the wall - she needed to steady her body.
She was tired. Tired of it all. Tired of lying.
She could suddenly feel something pulling her eyes to look up to the area by the door and could feel her stomach churn rapidly.
With a deep breath she looked to the side and her eyes widened in despair.
For the King was standing right by the door, with his hands clenched tightly and his wide eyes glaring at her in betrayal.
Her heart plummeted to her stomach and she quickly pulled herself away from the wall while shaking her head.
She had not expected him to hear her, and now that he had she needed to instantly explain.
But the way he turned and opened the door aggressively before storming outside did not even give her a chance to.
She sobbed out before picking up her long dress and chasing after him - tears brimming in her eyes.
She hated herself now more than ever.