She came out of the throne room looking worried and possibly scared. I didn’t want to talk in the hall where anyone could hear us, so I silently grabbed her arm and pulled her along with me back to the room. She got the message and remained quiet. Once there, I pushed her to her mat and checked to make sure no one else was nearby. She settled down on the mat I had rolled out for her while she was dizzy, her doe eyes watching me as she hugged her knees.
Finally, I asked. “What did he want?”
“He told me not to tell you, but I will listen to you over him. Do you want me to go against your king and father’s wishes?”
I waved a hand in the air, telling her that I didn’t care.
“Very well then. He said that since my job is to get rid of dangers to you, I should help you hook up with Mira in order to get rid of the danger I present.”
I continued pacing, letting a scowl contort my face.
“What danger?” I asked, just to be sure.
“The danger that your legitimate children will be half human.”
My scowl deepened. “No one believes me, do they?”
“I think he believes that we haven’t done anything but we will. Apparently, I am, in his words, attractive and any male who does not agree is homosexual. He thinks that I am tempting you.”
I stopped. Do I tell her? Do I not? Why not, if my dad already spilled the beans?
“You do.” I said, simply.
She blinked rapidly. “Wait- what? I’m lost.”
“You get lost easily. You are beautiful and sleeping in my room. It’s kind of easy to be tempted by you.”
That cute little pink blush grew over her cheeks, and she hugged herself harder.
“That’s great,” she said sarcastically. “Just great. And to top it all off, her brother was staring at me like some piece of meat.”
I ran a hand through my hair. “I wasn’t paying attention to the nobles. Your impressions?”
“Well, most of them think of you as an upstart boy. None of them know you well enough to respect you. Mira wants you badly. The king thinks you’re still wet behind the ears.”
I chuckled dryly. “Yah, I got that one. Who’s the biggest threat?”
“In my opinion? Mira’s brother. But that’s a threat to me, not you. To you, probably the worst is the woman who sits to the king’s left, one seat down.”
“Diana? She’s Mira’s mom.”
“Yah, she was glaring daggers at you the entire time.”
“Well, I know why that is...”
“Her name is Diana?”
“That’s what I said.”
Diana was her middle name, and she thought it might have some significance similar to mine. I had to dispel that thought from her mind. Her heritage was beginning to make itself apparent, but I didn’t want her to have any clue.
“It’s just a coincidence, Sunshine. There are plenty of humans with that name.”
She sighed. “I know, but I’m used to grasping at straws that aren’t there. I don’t need to anymore.”
My stomach growled, so I started to see if there was anything in the pantry. Of course not. This was a spare room, why would it have food?
“Why don’t you?” I asked, already knowing the answer.
“I don’t need to know my parents to find meaning. I have meaning in life, you.”
That statement made me happy, even though I had basically coached her into saying it. It also made me cringe inside, but only slightly.
I looked over to her, and her eyes were shut, resting her head on her knees.
“Have you slept, Sunshine?”
“Not since we left your former section.”
“Then sleep. I will find some food.”
She nodded and lay down, not even bothering to unpack the blanket. I had my hand on the doorknob, ready to leave, when the door opened of its own accord, and my name was squealed.
“Dirg! Dirgy! How are you?” She didn’t even wait for me to reply, she just came straight at my lips.
I wasn’t really surprised. She’d been doing this since I became a man. I found it disgusting for several reasons. I pushed her off with a growl, trying to make it obvious that I didn’t like that.
She pouted at me with those full, heavily glossed lips. “The nice thing to do would be to kiss back.”
“No, the nice thing would be to warn me before you try to steal a kiss.”
“But then you wouldn’t let me take it.”
I pushed past her and started towards the store.
“What is your problem, oh high and mighty Dirg? I’m your betrothed for goodness sake! We should have at least one kid by now, but you avoid me like the plague!”
I made sure my voice was cold and emotionless. “I do not avoid you.”
“Then what are you doing right now?”
“Getting food. I’m hungry.”
“You are hungrier for food than for a woman?”
“Yes, I’m not interested in that right now.”
She got in front of me and put her hands on my chest, pushing to stop me. I obliged, and she looked up at me through long eyelashes.
“Not with me, you mean. I’m sure if you could, you would bed your pet. What does she have that I do not?”
I scowled. I was not very fond of this line of conversation. “Why does everyone assume I want to have sex with Sunshine?”
“She’s stinkin’ hot, you idiot!”
“Yes, but so are you, and no one is assuming I want to lay with you.”
And I meant it; she was drop-dead gorgeous. She was tall even without her heels and had a perfect hourglass figure with legs that went on for days and breasts I was sure were bigger than her head. Her hair was died black with red along her bangs and messed up in just the right way to make her look undeniably sexy.
I gave her that compliment to shut her up, but my strategy didn’t work. She was wearing a tight, unbuttoned tan shirt and a tiny little miniskirt, and she undid yet another button, revealing a bit of her midriff. I glared into her dark grey eyes, making sure not to look too long any lower at those tempting, luscious curves.
“You think I’m hot, do you? Prove it.” Her voice lowered into a guttural, lustful growl as she pulled her shirt further apart. “Touch me.”
“No. Mira, this is exactly how to turn me off, not on. Stop it, you look desperate.”
“I am, Dirg! I am the one you belong with! Before now, I had no competition and I wasn’t worried, but now, there’s Sunshine! You say there’s nothing, but what did you think would happen when you claimed a female?”
I learned a few things in dealing with Sunshine. Females needed placating or subduing when they were too riled up and angry. Subduing her didn’t sound like a good idea because her parents would take revenge on me if they didn’t like it, so I stepped forward and gently put my hand on her face.
She gasped in surprise and stepped away slightly before accepting it and leaning into me.
“I thought I was claiming a pet, not a mate. You are right; I was pledged to you the day I was born. We grew up together and you came to me to cry when you lost your virginity. I’m just not ready yet, Mira. I have things I need to do before I can take care of a wife and kids.”
Her eyes narrowed. “How do I know you aren’t lying? That you aren’t just trying to manipulate me?”
“You don’t know. You can’t know.”
She sighed and curled into my chest. “You don’t need to have a wife and kids. Just assure me that no other woman will be by your side.”
I didn’t want to, but I put my arms around her and held her close. “I promise that you and you alone will be my wife. Is that satisfactory?”
“No. Lay with me. Just once. If I have a kid, I won’t even tell you until you want to know.”
She looked up at me with such longing and desperation; it looked rather pathetic. I tried to stifle my frustration with her, with this whole situation. It took all of my willpower not to roll my eyes. A courtier was walking down the hall and shot us a glance before picking up speed to give us privacy.
“Can’t my word be enough?”
“No,” she growled, her eyes starting to show pent up rage. “It can’t.”
I inwardly sighed and steeled myself. This was going to be painful. I pressed her in closer with my arm already on her back and leaned in quickly, catching the surprised gasp as it came from her mouth. I picked her up, cradling her body into mine as she opened her lips and welcomed the kiss. Her hands ran along my back and into my hair, where I could feel her grip tighten.
I knew what would end this, so I pushed her up against a wall and held her there with my body, still making out with her. I put my forearms flat on the wall above my head and balled my hands into fists, the only physical sign of my anger at her forcing me to do this.
It’s not that I didn’t like the kiss. It wasn’t that I wasn’t lusting for a woman. It wasn’t even that I found Mira boring. Mostly, my problem was that this was way too easy. This make out session was a show that I was putting on for the benefit of her and anyone who might happen by, and Mira fell into my arms too readily.
Everything in my life had been a challenge, except for her. People hated me because I was a lightheart. Some disrespected me because I was going to be king. My mother raised me, but she never showed that same easy love to me that she did Fon and Tain. I had to work hard to make her smile. It usually took three days to convert a pet, but Sunshine took a whole week and letting her escape. I met my father at age 20 and had the threat of him killing me hanging over my head since I was born.
I could get Mira to sleep with me simply by grinning at the wrong moment. I hadn’t done anything to earn her. I had never chased her, let alone chosen her. That was one of the reasons I stressed to Sunshine that I chose her. It meant something to me, even if it wasn’t much to her.
I parted my lips from Mira’s and pressed my forehead to hers, our breaths mingling dangerously. She grinned at me.
“Does that mean yes?” she asked.
“No. That means wait. That’s as much as I will give you right now.”
Her eyes left mine, and she must have realized what position I had her in. She frowned and tried to struggle out, but I held her easily. I smirked at her look of consternation.
“Let me go, Dirg!”
“Or what?” I taunted. “If you don’t want to get burnt, don’t mess with fire.”
“You are way too overbearing.”
“I know. Sunshine makes sure I hear that daily.”
“Get off of me!” she growled.
“Make me.” I smirked.
She tried to punch me in the face, but I caught her hand.
She wiggled and tried to knock me off, but I just pressed against her. After two minutes, she quit and looked at me again, clearly highly annoyed.
“How do I make you get off of me?”
“Believe me when I say that you will be my wife.”
She glared at me and then kissed me. She used her grip on my hair to move my head, her lips digging into the skin by my ear. She nipped my earlobe, but I did not move.
“I could do so much worse to you, Mira. Just believe me and we can go our separate ways.”
She growled. “I will not back down. You will lay with me.
My stomach rumbled. “Not today. Insist any further, and our betrothal will be off.”
She gasped. “You can’t do that!”
“I can. I can remain a virgin for the rest of my life.”
“But then you won’t have an heir!”
“I can pick one of my nephews to be my heir. I’ve thought this through, dear Mira. I could utterly reject you, and if my mother approves of my reasons, I can find someone else to be my wife.”
“I’m the last unclaimed of the purelines! There is no one else!”
“Ah, but there are those with only a fraction of a fraction of human blood. Their wings are still mostly black. And I’m sure any would jump at the chance.”
She let go of my hair, her gaze defeated. “I believe you, then. I will be your wife.”
I backed up, giving her back her personal space. She breathed deeply and glared at me. I turned back on my path and wiped my mouth as I walked away.
“You’re cruel, Dirg.” She called after me.
No one could see my face, so I let my wicked smile shine forth. “Girl, you’ve got no idea.”
I gained quite a few provisions for our week’s stay at the castle by raiding the storage. No one dared try to stop me, for those I passed were either light gray winged guards or slaves.
To my surprise, when I got back to the room, Sunshine was sitting up on her mat, staring off into space. She flinched as I came in but seemed surprised that it was me.
I glared at her over the food in my arms. “Since you’re up, help me get this stuff in the pantry.”
She quickly stood to do as told, and I kept an eye on her as we worked side by side. She was quiet. She wouldn’t say a word, and she looked troubled. I noticed a tear in the corner of her eye and frowned. Someone was definitely here while I was gone, and whoever this someone was had hurt my Sunshine.
When the food was in place, I grabbed her chin and tilted her face to me. Usually, she would look me in the eye, but this time her gaze remained to the side.
“What happened, Sunshine? You were supposed to be sleeping.”
“I couldn’t sleep. I grew restless, so I was drawing a little.”
I gripped her harder and let a growl infuse my voice. “You know not to lie to me.”
She still wouldn’t look at me. “I’m not lying.”
I hesitated for just a moment. There was the last time I had wrongly accused her, but this time I was pretty sure something was wrong. I let go of her chin, and she stepped back, looking back down to the floor. I swiftly kicked her in the chest, sending her flying back into a wall. She folded in on herself before she hit the wall with a loud thwunk.
“Don’t lie to me!”
She sucked in breath and hiccupped it out, curling up into a ball. I stalked towards her and picked her up by her hair. Tears flowed out of her eyes, and she still wouldn’t look at me.
“What happened while I was gone, Sunshine!”
She managed to choke out, “Nothing happened! I promise.”
I squeezed harder on her hair, making her wince.
“You are lying! Why else would you be crying?”
“You’re hurting me,” she whimpered in a pathetic answer.
“I know I am,” I growled straight in her face. “And you aren’t telling me the truth. It will only get worse if you do not speak!”
“Nothing happened, Dirg!”
I could tell she was lying. Her eyes didn’t leave the ground. There was no panic, just a calm fear. She knew she wasn’t supposed to lie to me, and I knew she was trying to make me think I was wrong. I inspected her face further and noticed the red mark on the right side. I hadn’t hit her in the face yet, but there was a darkening under that eye.
“Someone came in here while I was gone and hit you.” She tensed with a sharp intake of breath. “And whoever this was you feel the need to protect. Who do you belong to?”
“I belong to you, Dirg. You know that.”
“But do you?”
I put my hand on her hip, and she shivered slightly. She looked up and kept my gaze for a second before looking back down.
“Yes I do.”
“You have ten seconds to try to explain to me your silence before I assume you have betrayed me and take precautionary measures.”
She remained silently crying.
Her eyes flicked up to mine. “Why don’t you believe me?”
I gently slapped the side of her face.
“I didn’t hit you there recently. Three.”
She flinched away and seemed to think as I counted to eight, slowly strengthening my grip on her. At eight she got panicky.
“I didn’t do anything, Dirg! I swear!”
“You didn’t, but someone did something to my pet, and you know what it is. Nine.”
She whimpered, her hands grasping at mine, trying unsuccessfully to loosen my grip.
“Dirg, please. Please,” she begged.
She wasn’t going to say. I could only assume one thing: she had betrayed me. She betrayed me. She must have seen the hatred in my eyes, for she shrunk in fear. She was still saying please when I punched her in the gut. She tried to double over but I held her up and quickly punched her a few more times. I dropped her and kicked her repeatedly. She curled into a ball and started sobbing when she managed a breath.
I told her exactly what I thought of traitors in crude language as I kicked her again and again, my boot connecting with her soft gut or her ribs or even her head. She just cried and took it, curling into a ball as if that could protect her from me. After I was tired of just kicking her, I went down and picked her up by the throat, squeezing her esophagus so hard that I knew she couldn’t breathe. Her neck was wet with tears, and she moved her mouth helplessly.
I held her by the throat off of her feet until she sagged in my grip. I draped her over my shoulder and walked out, barely feeling her chest rise and fall. I put her in the dank dungeon in a cell with no toilet or bed or straw. It was just a stone room with a barred door. Once I locked her in, I stayed there staring at her crumpled form, trying to reason through what had happened.
She hadn’t said a word other than please. Who could she possibly wish to protect? Miss Sparnage? But no, she wasn’t in the land of eternal darkness. I was all Sunshine had, that was one of the reasons I picked her. She had no family, and the few friends she had before she lost when I claimed her. Who else would she let hit her? I taught her self-defense and she was pretty stinking good for only having learned two months before.
Maybe she was trying to protect herself. Though that meant I was right. She had betrayed me. Or maybe... She was trying to protect me. I mulled over this as I watched her crumpled body move slightly with each breath. What would she think she needed to protect me from? What could she learn in the ten minutes I was gone that she would rather let me beat her and possibly kill her than let me learn?
That was assuming she hadn’t betrayed me. Even then, I was sure that she would have told me with the threat of my wrath hanging over her. I prided myself on being able to read her like a book, and there was no hatred in her silence, just fear. Fear that I would learn what she knew. Fear that I would hurt her for not hurting me.
I snorted and turned to leave. I’d leave her in there for a day or two and see what excuse she could come up with. If she continued her lies, I would kill her, plain and simple. She at least had to tell me why she was hiding something from me. Something in my chest twisted as I remembered my promise to trust her. Something in my gut fell when I saw her fear in my mind’s eye. I glanced down at the ring on my hand and stilled all such thoughts. She was my pet. Her face shouldn’t affect me so.
I went back to the room to make some food, shoving all thoughts of my pet out of my mind.
I went back to the cell I put her in barely a day after I did so. When I approached the cell to where I could see between the bars, all of my resolve to beat the truth out of her melted to the point of almost non-existence. She wasn’t wearing a shirt and leaning against the wall at the back of the cell. She was frozen, her hand on a large bruise on her stomach. She slowly looked up to me, a blush turning her cheeks a deep redish brown color. My eyes didn’t stay on her face long, though.
I had not yet seen her shirtless, and this was intriguing. She still had pants on, and for that I was grateful. If she let me see any more skin I would probably break my new promise to Mira. Sunshine broke out of her freeze scare and rolled to her shirt a foot away from her, turning her back to me. She stood with the shirt starting to come across her shoulders, but I got in there quickly and grasped the back of her neck. She froze again.
“Drop it.” I snarled.
I squeezed and she dropped it, whimpering. My gaze flew over her back, registering the bumps that hadn’t moved since last time I saw them. I frowned as realization dawned upon me.
“The person who talked to you and hit you while I was gone yesterday, it was a parent, wasn’t it?”
I could feel her shaking in my grip. Her head fell, making her golden hair cover her face.
“I didn’t want you to know.”
“So you chose to be beaten instead of telling me a parent found you?”
“Can I put my shirt on?”
I shook her slightly. “Answer me, Lucy.”
She winced. “She cussed me out and called me useless. Said she should have killed me when I was a baby. She said-”
I cut her off, fully annoyed at this person because I had to take it out on her. “I don’t care what she said. Why did you not tell me?”
She stayed still and silent. I grabbed her shoulder and turned her around. I tried to keep my gaze on her face. I kept her from putting her shirt on not to satisfy my lust, though that was an added bonus. I did it to keep her feeling vulnerable. I needed her vulnerable.
She didn’t answer immediately, so I pressed myself closer to her. She tried to get away, but I held her by sliding my arm behind her shoulders. My lips skimmed along her brow and her shivering intensified.
“Why did you not want me to know you met a parent? Tell me now.”
She murmured incoherently, so I squeezed her even closer into me. Her hands came to my chest, gently applying pressure to try to separate us.
“Because she is a darky.”
I scowled. “What proof did she give you that she is in fact your parent?”
She looked down. “She knew my full name. She said Miss Spranage used to be her pet, and she said that the basement room was reserved for whenever she wanted to visit, that’s why it existed and Miss Sparnage never used it.”
“She could have just cased out your old home,” I speculated.
I didn’t want this to be true, even though I had seen it coming. It couldn’t be true. There was no way she had a darky parent. If she did, I should be able to summon her wings, right?
She shook her head. “She also told me where my birthmark is.”
She cleared her throat. “The one on the inside of my thigh.”
I spun her around quickly and pressed my hand to the top of her spine, pushing her against the wall. She whimpered slightly, mostly to herself. I glared at her back as nothing happened. The bumps didn’t move. She relaxed a little, but still her back remained exactly the same. Wings should be sprouting out of her back. If she had a darky parent, as a pureline I should be able to summon her wings. I felt a sweat drop form on my temple as five minutes passed and still nothing.
If she really had a darky parent, then this was bad. This was downright terrible.
“Do you want wings?” I asked.
The eye that I could see from the left side of her face focused on me. “Yes.”
Still, nothing changed. I growled and she flinched in fear. Ten minutes passed when I finally stopped trying to summon her wings. I pressed my forehead against the wall next to her head.
“You’re not a darky.”
It was a simple statement of fact, no emotion attached.
“Can I put my shirt on?”
She sounded hesitant, scared. I planted my hands on the wall in either side of her, pinning her but not as effectively as I had Mira.
“You’re not a darky,” I repeated. “But if you really have a darky parent, you are something much worse.”
She shrunk as much as she could, trying to get away from my touch. I was sure she was trying to figure out what was worse than a darky. I pushed away and started pacing back and forth. She kept her back to me and retrieved the shirt, pausing before putting it on. Then she faced me, her eyes following me.
This realization was dangerous. She was a dark light, part darky and part lightsy. It would take both a darky and a lightsy to summon her wings, but that wasn’t the dangerous part. The last dark light had looked and acted more like a darky and ended up almost annihilating the lightsies. The details were lost in history, but that meant that whatever happened was so bad not even my kind wanted to remember it. She acted like a lightsy. She looked like a lightsy.
Sunshine was smart enough not to talk or move. I was contemplating killing her or not. Or giving her to the lightsies, but no, I couldn’t do that. They couldn’t know there was another dark light. For all I knew, they would kill her.
I stopped pacing, looked her in the eye and announced, “You’re part darky and part lightsy.”
She nodded, not overly shocked. “Why is that dangerous?”
“You’re what’s called a dark light. I will not explain further.”
“You don’t need to know. All you need to know is that no one else can learn of this. If they do, you will die. Do you understand?”
I walked towards her and grabbed her neck gently, towering over her and spreading out my wings.
“I’m doing you a favor by not killing you, Lucy.”
She winced at the use of her actual name.
“However, whatever you are, you are still mine. You are still my Sunshine. Who were you trying to protect when you wouldn’t tell me you met your mother?”
She looked down. “I didn’t want you to know I was part darky because that might mean I could no longer be your pet.”
I could feel my insides melting. She didn’t want me to get rid of her. She wanted to be with me. I took my hand off of her neck and gently cupped her face. Her eyes flicked to mine before going back to the floor. I could see her desire but she caged it. She knew I was unavailable to her. Following some base desire, I let my other arm snake around her back. She seemed to melt into me, her eyes meeting mine before they dropped to my lips. I slid my hand into her hair, and her breath caught. I leaned forward-
Sudden pain from my wing. I winced and my vision turned black as one of my feathers came across my eyes.
“I’m not worth it, Dirg.”
I growled and took it from her with the hand that had been in her hair, but I still held her. I spun it between my fingers, thankful that she had either the foresight or luck to pluck one of my downy feathers instead of an oh-so-important flight feather. I sighed and let go of her but not backing up.
“I did tell you to do that, didn’t I? Good girl.”
She must have noticed the annoyance I was trying to hide, for she looked away with a little blush.
I grabbed her chin and made her look at me. “You are my Sunshine, no matter if you’re human, a dark light, or a wookie.” That surprised a grin out of her. “And I want you to know that I trust you.”
Her tiny happiness fled. “If you trust me, then you won’t beat me when I’m trying to keep a secret.”
That truth sliced through me like a red-hot razor. “How bad is it?”
She shrugged, looking away. I saw her lips curl slightly at the pain of the shrug. “Not too bad.”
I gripped her chin harder. “Give me a full report.”
“It’s not that bad,” she insisted.
I felt anger well up within me before it deflated with understanding. She was testing me. Can I really trust her? Can I believe that she didn’t plot some demise of mine with her mother? That the red mark on her face wasn’t a trick to make me believe the meeting went wrong? That she would never take advantage of my trust to stab me in the back?
It felt like losing a battle, but I slowly nodded and let go of her. “Okay.”
She nodded. “Okay. I am going to need some ice though.”
“My head. I think I have a concussion.”
In my head I corrected her. I gave her a concussion. I nodded and turned, scooping her into following me with my wing. I walked slower than usual, catering to the injuries I gave her. For the rest of the week I treated her like delicate china, mostly keeping her under my wing. It was my way of making up to her the fact that my distrust caused her a beating worse than any I had yet given her.