Bound by Duty

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Duty vs. Love

“Your Majesty, no, the other majesty, if you could please turn a little to the left... that’s right... that’s a great angle... if you could sit down... yes, that’s it. Your Majesty should hold her by the shoulders... perfect... yes, okay.” The photographer gave instructions as the couple changed poses and appeared as loving mates.

The shoot was taking place in a huge room which they called the Velvet Room. There were many long windows across the room, making it well-lit. The walls were also decorated tastefully, making this room ideal for photo shoots. In the centre was a grand-looking chair, the main prop for the shoot.

Danielle had finally decided on her own about putting up her profile on the royal website, instead of taking part in an interview. She felt it was more appropriate if she gave an interview as a coronated queen. But when the royal photographer came, she didn’t realise that she had to take pictures with her mate too. She thought she could just pose and be done with it, but it was a long-drawn process with a lot of specifications for posture.

It was torture.

To just sit still while feeling the soft touches of Alex’s hands was tempting her to howl with delight; to kiss him senseless and beg him to mark her immediately. Her self-control was slipping.

So, the moment the shoot was done, she quickly gathered her dress, turned on her heels and got ready to leave. But she felt a powerful tug at her hand which made her slide towards Alex and fall on his warm, powerful chest. She gasped, struggling to get out of his hold. “Let it be, Dani. My, oh, my! Isn’t he delicious!” Lupa exclaimed in her head.

Lupa’s constant encouragement wasn’t doing her any good. Her strength was on par with her mate’s, but when he was being purposeful, she couldn’t get out without a fight. “A fight is also unnecessary. Just kiss him!” Lupa urged.

She sighed and gave up, staring at his chest and refusing to meet his gaze.

“Look at me,” he demanded. She closed her eyes, disobeying him. “Look at me, damn it!”

Her eyes snapped open and she looked up to stare into his eyes. He rubbed her cheek with his thumb and with that little gesture, she could feel his endless affection.

Having lived for two centuries, he was able to be less petty and more patient. Time did that to a person. He didn’t want to lose out any time with her because of a little disagreement which didn’t even matter in the larger scheme of things.

“Dismissed,” he said brusquely at the audience they had gathered. They all scurried away quickly like mice.

He then held her at arm’s length so that he could look at her properly. “I should never have tried to mark you without your permission. For that, I’m sorry.” He said, his face so sincere that she had no choice but to believe him.

She looked at him, her features softening. She gave him a small smile and nodded, accepting his apology. “I was upset and tried to provoke you again and again. I shouldn’t have done that, so I was wrong too.”

“And for a wolf as old as I am, I should have had better control over my anger.”

“It was my fault for even suggesting a... separation.”

Alex growled again about being separated from his mate. He felt a sharp pain in his chest at the thought of being away from her.

Seeing this, she leaned in and pecked him on the lips. But before she could pull away, he yanked her back, kissing her as if he were swallowing her as a whole. When they broke apart, they were both gasping for breath. A slow smile appeared on Alex’s lips. “So we’re good, then?”

Still gasping for breath, she said,“Oh, yes.”

It was lunchtime and as usual, there was a large spread for the royals. There were four places set for them, but currently, only two were occupied.

“Twenty years. Twenty years that I haven’t seen you! No calls, no emails, no contact with the pack, no contact with your brother." Helena berated her second son endlessly.

Andrew had stuffed his mouth full and he looked at his mother with puppy dog eyes. She just smacked him on the head inelegantly, waiting for him to chew and swallow. “Nearly two centuries and you’ve still not learnt your table manners.” She paused, “In fact, I have never had such an expectation of you as long as I can remember.”

Andrew rolled his eyes. “Mum, your expectations dried up when you poured them all on my big brother.” He said blandly. “I could never decide whether I was jealous of him or relieved that I don’t have that responsibility.”

Helena looked at her outspoken son with mixed emotions. It was true that she had not given him as much attention as his brother. But wasn’t it time to get over those issues? Did they linger for this long? It wasn’t as if he was ill-treated or even neglected. She had paid attention, but just not enough.

Archer, on the other hand... he had been great with the boys. They never felt anything but confidence when they were with him. Oh, Archer.

Andrew’s face fell looking at his mother’s changing expressions. “You’re thinking about dad again. And you’ll feel sad about it for the next hour. And I won’t get to talk to you properly because of that.”

Helena smiled softly. She was beyond crying and grieving for her mate. Although it hurt every single day, she had only fond memories left which kept her heart warm at night. “No, no. Come, tell me about your so-called adventures.”

“Oh, is Andrew here, too?” A voice came from the entrance. The king and the queen entered the dining hall. Reflexively, Andrew stood up. His wolf didn’t allow any disrespect to the couple. Alex looked at him exasperatedly. Danielle was bewildered.

“Sit down, Drew. I can’t believe you still do this.” Alex muttered. “It was bad enough when I had just become king. But still?”

Andrew scratched the back of his neck embarrassedly. “It’s a habit. And Rey doesn’t let me be seated.” Rey, his wolf, was a stickler to rules. He turned to Danielle and stretched out his hand. “Andrew Remington, my lady. When I saw you yesterday, I knew immediately that I liked you.”

Danielle shook his hands with a smile, as Alex paused slightly at the reminder. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Andrew. I think we’ll get along famously.” She gave him what could only be called a wicked grin.

To Alex, she seemed so easy and open and free at that moment. ”She is never like that with you.” Lycan snarled at him in his head. ”She doesn’t want you the way we want her. Do something about it!"

In Alex’s head, the blame fell entirely on the Wanderers. They had destroyed his family and now destroying his mating. Even he didn’t want to imagine the consequences of his misplaced anger.

Danielle noticed that Alex was being strangely silent and she looked at him quizzically. Instantly, his face brightened and he plunged himself into the conversation. She gave him an odd look and began participating in it herself.

“Darling, the coronation is two days away and you haven’t had your last round of fittings, yet. And you too, Alex. You need fittings for your robes on the day.” Helena urged them both. Both of them muttered their assent.

“What I find interesting,” Andrew began with a mischievous gleam in his eyes, “is that suddenly, the queen is darling while the king is Alex. How, I wonder, did this happen?”

Helena merely hmphed. Danielle laughed and Alex looked as if he was just realising it. “Don’t try to sow dissension, Andrew,” Alex glanced at his brother while taking a bite of his food. “Mother has accepted her as a part of the family, and now it’s only right that she treats her well.”

“Oooh,” Andrew drawled still smirking. “So what would have happened if mother hadn’t accepted her, brother?”

Alex frowned. Why was his brother trying to create trouble? “That’s a hypothetical question, which I don’t need to answer.”

Andrew chuckled. “Sis-in-law, he already refuses to take a side. Imagine your life for the rest of your existence!”

By this time, their lunch was coming to an end. Danielle wiped her hands with a napkin and stood up, going over to where Andrew is seated. She leaned forward and whispered, although everyone could hear her, “I think it’s best if you don’t take out your frustrations on your brother.” She said sternly. Then she softened. “You can always tell me, we can think of a way to sort it out.”

Andrew froze in his seat, as did Helena. Everyone forgot at that moment that the queen was only twenty-one years old. She had much less experience than those sitting there, but by making that statement, she showed exactly how mature her thinking was, how good her instincts were, and how intuitive she was.

Andrew cleared his throat uncomfortably. “Will do, my queen.” He said quietly.

Danielle glanced at her mate from across the table only to see his eyes swirling gold with his wolf at the surface. She finally acknowledged the restlessness Lupa had been experiencing. She had to shift. If she didn’t, Lupa would fight back viciously, giving her a headache.

“Alex,” she said tentatively. He looked at her askance, his eyes returning to green. “How about I meet the pack tonight? I want to go for a run, so I think it’s a good idea to run with everyone.”

Alex’s brows furrowed. “Are you sure you’re ready?” He asked. She shrugged.

“Ready as I ever will be, darling. What preparation do I need to meet them?” She raised a brow.

As they spoke, Helena and Andrew silently exited the room.

“I just thought you needed some time to get used to this, that’s all.” Alex insisted.

Danielle walked to him and placed her hands on his chest. “Love, I think it’s sweet that you’re taking so much care about how I progress, but you have to understand that I have already accepted this. My role as your mate and as queen. I am ready to do whatever I have to and I don’t need to wait. So.” She blew air on his ear, smiling. “Can I meet the pack tonight?”

Alex put his arms around her and pulled her into a hug. “You can do whatever you want as long as you smile at me like that every day.”

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