My eyes danced with wonder and amazement, all around the room, drinking in the view of the décor, the furniture and the table laden with foods from all around the world.
There were different types of cooked meats, potatoes, vegetables, fruit, pies, cakes, rice dishes, and different types of finger foods. The smell alone was wonderful. It drew me towards it like I was under some hypnotic trance.
My stomach growled in protest whilst my mouth salivated, just by the sight and smell alone. Just one taste, one mouthful, if I dared to risk it, and I could be savouring seventh heaven.
I stepped hesitantly towards the table. The sight of the steaming hot roast chicken and vegetables was making me salivate with longing.
The cakes looked delicious and perfectly decorated, like miniature works of art. I reached out a shaky hand to take one.
Just one taste. It couldn't hurt to sample just one of the delicious treats.
They looked so harmless and enticing. Just a mouthful and I would be sustained for a little while longer.
I looked once more around the room, scanning for any sign of danger. It felt as if I was standing in the most extravagant palace in the world, and this was the grand feasting hall, with me as its only guest.
I could imagine King's dining here, drinking from the golden goblets that were stacked in a pyramid formation on the end table. They were all filled with what appeared to be a fine red wine. It was such a shame to see all this effort wasted.
My fingertips brushed the edge of the closest chair in front of me, tracing the intricate pattern that had been expertly crafted out of what appeared to be solid gold. Each dining chair was embellished with the most beautiful rubies, emeralds and sapphires, that all glittered in the candlelight.
I struggled to pull out one of the heavy chairs, using one hand. I succeeded using both hands, applying a little more effort. Before I had even realized what I was doing, I had found myself seated at the table.
I placed the shaving knife down in front of me, keeping it within grabbing distance.
I then reached out to pile my plate high with food, pouring lashings of gravy over the meat, becoming drunk on the delicious scent and no longer concerning myself with the consequences.
I closed my eyes as I inhaled, swallowing once more as my taste buds started to get ready for the treat that was to come. I picked up the golden cutlery that lay beside the plate, in size order, then started to cut into the chicken and potatoes.
The moment I raised the fork towards my open mouth, a hand appeared from behind me, slapping it away, just in time, for me to witness it turn rotten before my eyes.
I gasped in horror, pushing myself away from the table as I watched it all spoil. It withered and wrinkled, then a covering of green mould crept over it. I almost vomited at the sight of maggots that had started to crawl out from inside the meat.
I placed one hand over my abdomen, whilst one hand covered my mouth, gagging and heaving, as the smell turned from delightful to putrid in a matter of seconds.
I had almost eaten the food. It had lured me in, enticing me with the sight and smell, and I'd stupidly fallen for it. This was a test, and I'd almost failed, hands down. Too easily seduced by nothing more than another optical illusion.
Perhaps the food was already rotten, and I only saw what I wanted to see. That was a possibility, but it didn't matter now.
The labyrinth could very well be playing on my weaknesses. I watched revolted, as the rotten food cracked and crumbled, before turning to ash before my eyes.
As soon as I had started to come to terms with what had just happened, the more pressing matter of my saviour came flooding back to the forefront of my thoughts.
I panicked, looking around for the shaving knife. Only to find that it had vanished from the table.
"Looking for this?" A deep, masculine voice spoke from behind me.
I spun around, backing away around the table. "Please don't hurt me," I begged.
I watched as the dark-haired warrior, threw the knife in the air and effortlessly caught it again.
"If I wanted to hurt you, I would've allowed you to sample the food. Are you really that hungry, that you would be willing to eat food that was crawling with maggots?" He wrinkled his nose and shuddered.
"It wasn't like that when I came in here, it looked delicious," I explained, defending my actions.
He advanced towards me, and I held out my palm. "Stay back, please, don't come any closer."
"Hm, as you wish," He muttered, without care.
I gulped, feeling as though my heart was going to burst free from my chest.
"Look, I'm not interested in becoming a Lycan bride. I really need to find a way back to the mainland. Not that you care, but my brother is dying, and I don't have much time. I need to make sure he gets the medicine he needs before it's too late," I explained.
I had no idea what to expect from him, or if he would even show me a single ounce of consideration, but those were my circumstances and he would have to respect my wishes, take it or leave it.
"You see, we have a common problem. I have been forced into this situation by my father. I have no intentions of being mated and tied down, but these are my customs whether I like them or not," he mumbled, bitterly.
My heart leapt with hope, feeling the need to seize the wonderful opportunity that had arisen before me.
"So why don't we help each other?" I asked, hopefully. "I don't want to become a Lycan bride, no more than you wish to be mated. So if we work together, then maybe we could get out of here in one piece?"
He narrowed his eyes, observing me for a second before making his decision. "What is your name?" He inquired.
This question threw me off guard slightly. But I remained certain that he was going to answer my question, positively.
"Amara, what's yours?" I asked, being polite.
"Rhett," he replied.
His brown eyes bore through mine as he mulled something over. No doubt deciding whether or not he could trust me.
"Well, Amara. It appears that you have yourself a deal," he answered once more, holding out his hand for me to shake.
I breathed out a relieved sigh, smiling wholeheartedly. My heart skipped several beats per second, feeling so overjoyed at the prospect of going home, that I could've jumped up and down with happiness.
I reached out with enthusiasm and grasped hold of his hand, only to jump back startled as electric shocks ran up and along my arm. He must have felt them too. He had flinched the same as me, the instant our skin made contact.
"Impossible," he muttered under his breath.
The look of aggrieved conflict swamped his features. His jaw pulsed as he inhaled through his nose as if clearly annoyed with something.
"I'm sorry," I apologised. "It's so important that I get back to Petr. He will die without the medicine, and I'll never get the chance to say goodbye." My voice broke as the tears began to fall freely down my cheeks.
I heard him exhale a heavy sigh.
"Then we must find the way to the centre, before sunrise," he responded, with optimism.
"Where did that door come from? It wasn't here before," I announced, walking towards it in confusion.
Rhett followed, reaching out a hand at the same time as me, to try and turn the handle. As soon as our skin touched again, I felt the same jolt of static electricity, sending a tingling sensation across my skin.
The feeling seemed to bother him, however, I found it to be rather pleasant.
As soon as we stepped through the door, we found ourselves in what appeared to be a well-tended garden. The maze was made up of neatly cut privet hedges. Calm and peaceful, such a change to what I'd experienced here, so far.
"Careful, Amara, you must always approach with caution. Things aren't as they appear to be, you must have realised that by now," Rhett warned.
I found myself thinking of him as beautiful. He was incredibly handsome and exotic. His eyes were of the darkest brown, almost black, and his long raven hair was tied loosely and hung halfway down his back. He was taller than Konrad, standing before me almost seven feet high. His broad, muscular frame loomed over me, and I found myself drowning in lust, romancing about something that wasn't meant to be.
"What are you looking at me like that for?" He asked, cocking his head to one side.
Heat scorched my face, and I blinked rapidly, clearing my thoughts.
"Nothing." I excused. "I wasn't thinking about you." I lied, shamefully.
"Hm." He made a sound in the back of his throat, pondering me for a moment. "You say one thing, but your eyes speak differently." He smirked, much to my embarrassment.
"I have to admit, I find you rather beautiful." I began to explain. "I mean the Lycan race as a whole, of course." I used my hands to gesture, trying to make my words seem less awkward. "When you look as you do right now, and not in the form of a beast, I mean."
He chuckled, finding my comments amusing. This reminded me so much of Konrad. He even had similar characteristics when he smiled. It made me wonder if Rhett was the brother he mentioned.
"Help! Please help us!" A child-like voice cried out.
I froze to listen, hearing the strangest sound of a child crying out in anguish.
"Please help! I'm so afraid!" It cried out again.
"Did you hear that? It's a child crying out for help." I stilled with a pointed finger, raised in the air.
Rhett shook his head from side to side. "No, I heard nothing, Amara."
More disembodied anguished sobs filled the air.
"There it is again," I walked around, turning a full circle, whilst straining to listen.
"Amara, I assure you there are no children here in this labyrinth. It's a trap, don't listen to it," he warned, trying to reassure me that, I was indeed, imagining things.
"Not everything is as it seems, Rhett. What if it's genuine, and we do nothing? I'm going to see for myself. Feel free to remain here if you wish, but I cannot, and will not ignore it," I argued.
If a child was indeed in some kind of danger, those thoughts would haunt me for the rest of my life. If they had stolen women and brought them here to the island, then why not children, too?
"Please! Help me!" The shouting became more urgent, followed by a gut-wrenching scream.
I darted off into the maze, without a moment's hesitation, leaving my new found companion behind.
"Amara! Wait!" Rhett called after me.