Bound by Duty

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The Race to the Crown - 2

The flushed Mrs O’Neal managed to regain her calm when in front of her king. “My king,” she paused, glancing at Danielle, “It is not in within my expertise to teach Her Majesty any longer.”

Alex was puzzled. Not within her expertise? Was... was she trying to say that his mate was not teachable? Had he hired someone who was like Richard, making a judgement without thought? Red hot fury flowed through his being at the thought of his mate being insulted. Mrs O’Neal was seconds away from facing the wrath of one angry king when she saved herself by speaking up.

“The young queen’s memory and grasping power are extraordinary! Even before we began, she knew most of what I was going to teach her. And what she didn’t know, she picked up within seconds! From now on, who can be her equal?” the tutor lamented. “I can vouch for her, Your Majesty. The queen is ready for the coronation tomorrow. It’s best if she spends her time learning other things.”

Alex’s mouth was open in shock and it didn’t show any signs of closing. He was stupefied, to say the least. Seeing this, Danielle smiled a little. She put a hand on his jaw and closed his mouth. He then snapped out of his daze.

“Okay,” he said finally, “okay. You’re dismissed.” He sent Mrs O’Neal away. When he turned towards her, Danielle saw the joyful glint in his eyes. The hardest parts of her heart began to soften. He closed in and wrapped his arms around her, hugging her tightly. “There was not a lot that I expected from my mate, aside from existing,” he whispered. “But you make me want to hope for a better, happier life.”

It felt like something was stuck in Danielle’s throat. She couldn’t respond to his heartfelt wishes. A strong sense of guilt welled up in her chest. She couldn’t feel the same way about him. Not yet.

Sighing, she lightly put her arms around him too.

An hour later found her in her study. She asked the guards she had been assigned, Ryan and Terrence, to help her bring in some files related to the alliances and treaties in the kingdom from the king’s office and the library. For the evening, a knowledgeable person having a far relation with nobility was there to guide her through the masses of information available to her.

“This is the territory of the Sapphire Pack and it borders the territories of four smaller packs. Adjacent to them is the Opal Pack. Bordering the Opal Pack here are the Nimish Woods and on the other side...” the man who looked to be in his thirties explained the geographical terrain of the kingdom patiently.

She too listened patiently, not wanting to tell him that this was all a waste of time. She had been an heir-apparent, not a commoner. Besides, that wasn’t the reason she knew every and more detail about what he was saying.

When he finished explaining once, he looked up at her with a trace of impatience on his face at teaching something so basic. “Did you understand, Ma’am?” he asked.

Smiling, she looked him in the eye for two seconds. The man was forced to look away at the intensity of the stare. She opened her mouth and began reciting everything he said, word to word. The man’s eyes grew wider and wider. His lips parted in shock and his hands began trembling. He just stared at her monstrous ability not knowing how to react to it.

“...and finally the Amethyst Pack is located here, surrounded by three smaller packs on the north-east, south-west and east. Have I understood it well enough, instructor?” she smiled sweetly.

“M-ma’am, y-y-yes ma’am!” he answered with lightning speed, albeit with the stutter. Her smile widened. He shivered at that smile.

Sure enough, he was soon sent packing. “I didn’t like his attitude,” Danielle told Alex later.

Once he was gone, she spent some time sorting and reading the files, papers and books, absorbing the information. She was so focused that she didn’t see or sense Alex coming close and watching her work. In his eyes, she looked the most beautiful when she was working with such dedication. He leaned against the doorframe and watched her back moving around the table, picking up and dropping files.

Danielle had a habit of frowning hard whenever she was doing something with full concentration. With her brows knit, she continued working as her thoughts drifted to places which they shouldn’t. No one would believe her if she said that she already knew all that she was reading. She had everything memorised. As she saw the sunset through the window, her thoughts drifted and her fears acted up again.

The knowledge she held and the power she could potentially wield were things to be feared. These treaties, alliances, workings of the royal household, factions in the kingdom, history and politics of werewolf nobility — she knew everything and in all their glorious detail.

Sometimes, it frightened her.

Not because she knew, but because a slip of tongue, a casual remark somewhere, a tiny mistake could trap her. Literally, bind her in chains. Knowledge was power. It was also dangerous. And she was mated to the most dangerous and astute mind in the kingdom.

For now, he was blinded by the mate bond between them but soon, he would start noticing. This combination kept her always on tenterhooks. She wasn’t one to get pressured so easily. All her life, she had kept secrets and hidden things from the ones that mattered. But now, when it was most important to continue keeping and hiding them, it seemed as if she couldn’t pull through. It was taking a toll on her every minute she spent with Alex.

She was just trying to do some good. Why was it so hard?

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