Bound by Duty

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The Race to the Crown - 1

“There are three parts to your preparation,” Alex explained. “The first is purely academic — you will have to study the landscape of the entire kingdom and our borders. You will also have to be prepared with the basic knowledge for being queen.”

Danielle blinked. Then she waved her hand, asking him to continue.

“The second is about etiquette and protocol. You will have a tutor come and teach you about royal etiquette, mainly ceremonial etiquette for your coronation ceremony.” He walked towards her, coming closer.

“Okay, what else?” she asked. Things seemed fairly simple so far.

“Finally, you should partake in training — physical training,” he said, looking at her apprehensively. Danielle did seem rather headstrong but he didn’t know if she was a fighter.

If Danielle had heard his thoughts, she would have laughed. From which angle did she not look like a fighter? What would have given her the confidence to defy the king then?

She nodded seriously since she considered training to be an important part of her routine too. By now, Alex had reached within an arm’s distance of her. His hand twitched. It rose a few centimetres but fell back again. Danielle didn’t notice this.

He made up his mind, though. He raised his hand and cupped her cheek, his thumb stroking her soft skin gently. Looking at her, his heart was full — of affection, concern and endless attachment. She looked so adorable with that serious and committed expression. Her blue eyes were like two gems looking back at him, clean and free of any impurities.

He couldn’t do without her. Not since she had returned his humanity to him on a platter. She was going to be a permanent fixture in his life, and he in hers come hell or high water.

Danielle quashed her instinct to jerk back. Seeing his heavy expression, her urge to get away from him, from the roles he brought with him, faltered. He was sincere. He was genuine. That much she could glean from what little they had interacted. He was nothing like the stern and unsmiling king she had heard so much about.

Tilting her head to the side, she leaned into his hand. Alex stepped even closer. One hand of his slid around her waist and with a tug, he pulled her against him. She went along with what he wanted, softening towards him. As their bodies touched, sparks reignited, sending a thrum of excitement through their bodies.

That was the mate bond, hurrying things along.

He leaned to her side and caught her earlobe between his teeth, biting down on it not hard enough to make it bleed, but enough to leave a mark.

Alex’s sole desire at that moment was to leave his mark on her.

She didn’t wince even once. With his tongue, he soothed the hurt by running his tongue down her ear. Now she shivered. Pleased at that reaction, Alex hummed. He left a trail of kisses down her neck from her ear until her clavicle. He took his time, teasing her slowly with his teeth, lips and tongue.

When his mouth neared that sweet spot between the base of her neck and her collar bone, he paused. She froze. She could feel his hot breath on her skin, stimulating her. Her breath hitched. This response positively egged him on. Time stood still.

Danielle quickly regained her calm. She was ready to push him off if he even tried to mark her. But it turned out that that wasn’t necessary. Giving that spot a tender kiss, he pulled back quickly, letting go of her. He took a few more steps back, putting a distance between them.

“Mark her mark her mark her mark her” Lycan babbled incoherently, completely surrendering to his instincts. From within, he was clawing at Alex, pressuring him into letting Lycan come to the fore. Alex swallowed. He knew this would have a bad end.

“Go, go far away, now!" He urged his mate.

Turning around, he sprinted away from her; the urge to mark her was too intense. Finding an opening, he ran out of the door and leapt, shifting into Lycan mid-air. Still retaining control, Alex drove his limbs to the limit until they were far enough that he couldn’t hurt her.

‘Everything is still okay,’ he thought. ‘I haven’t been a bastard. Yet.’

As Alex had explained to her, Danielle found herself plunging into all the three activities immediately. Alex and Helena had made arrangements, hiring strictly, with high standards for her tutors. Naturally, she got the best.

The classes for etiquette and protocol were held in one of the ballrooms. It was named unimaginatively as the Grand Ballroom. She sat in the study assigned to her, meddling with her phone when the guards knocked and entered. “Ma’am, the tutor, Mrs O’Neal, is waiting for you in the Grand Ballroom.”

She nodded and walked behind them quickly as they led her to Mrs O’Neal. When they saw each other, the latter bowed her head to show her respect. Danielle accepted it like it was natural and nodded, smiling at her politely. The door closed behind them and the class began.

In his office, Alex was unable to concentrate on anything he was doing. In fact, he didn’t even know what he was supposed to be doing. All his thoughts were on his mate and how she was dealing with her tutor. It was silly, he knew that too. But he couldn’t help but be worried about at what point she would call for a stop to any effort towards fully being his mate. Etiquette was the most monotonous and tedious subject to study. He should know, he had had lessons since he was a boy.

For Danielle, it was supposed to be in six sessions of two hours each. A crash course, so to say. This was the very first session. The first few minutes would be spent on building a rapport, he knew. Then, Mrs O’Neal would begin with the basics such as posture and gesture and what not. Then...

Alex’s mind trailed off unceasingly, counting the minutes until she came out. He sat staring into space. Forty-odd minutes later, he heard a pair of hurried footsteps. He could also sense his mate coming towards his office. Unable to bear the suspense, he rushed out of the room and looking at the pair of tutor-student with a raised brow.

“Well?” he inquired.

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