I sat in silence as I listened to the sounds that surrounded me. The wind was blowing, kissing my skin as it moved through my hair. The birds glided through the air, some sat silently on the branches above me, watching me with curiosity.
I welcomed the cold wind as I sat on the bench in the park watching the few townspeople stroll through. It was the early evening, children were being rushed inside by their parents, while the adults continued to take their time getting home.
I sighed and shoved my hands into the large pocket at the front of my sweater. I stretched my legs out in front of me and tipped my head back. I closed my eyes and wished that when I opened them I would be back in the lumpy mattress with my coworkers in the rooms next to me.
“He’s an idiot.’
I sighed, not wanting to talk with anyone. I rolled my head back up and opened my eyes.
“No way! Really?” Sarcasm poured out of my mouth like water pouring from a tap.
Nix smiled at me and sat down on the bench next to me.
“He’ll come around. It’ll work out.” She reached out and squeezed my knee.
“No.” I shook my head. “It won’t. He’s hot and cold, yes than no. I’m done getting hurt by him.” I shook my head. “I’ll do what he wanted. I’ll be the Princess that I’m supposed to be.”
“Ariella.” Nix sighed next to me. “That’s not what you want and you know it.”
“Of course it’s not what I want!” I raised my voice. “What I want is to be with that stupid man that refuses to fix things so we can be together!” I rubbed my hands over my face.
“So that’s it?” Nix stood up from the bench and looked down at me. “Just like that, you’re done?”
I could feel all of my anger boiling over, I stood up and looked her straight in the eyes. “Don’t you dare put this on me.” I kept my voice low. “I gave him a chance, I gave him the choice. He’s the one that told me he was done, that I should live my life without him.” I scoffed. “So I’m going to do just that. What he wanted.”
I turned away from her and made my way down the path towards the castle, a large empty building that I was now supposed to call home. I wrapped my arms around myself as I tried to push all thoughts of Rupert out of my mind.
The halls were dark and empty. The only sound that echoed off the walls of the castle was my footsteps. I stopped in the main walkway and looked around me. The walls held a few lights that glowed low and warm. They cast a shadow across the wall.
“Sneaking out or sneaking in?” A voice said from behind me.
I turned to the voice that was speaking to me. He was leaning against the door frame that leads into the study.
“Neither,” I replied. “What are you doing here?”
“Believe it or not, I do spend a lot of time here.” He shrugged before he moved towards me.
“Because you want to or because you want to make sure my parents stick to their word and make sure that this wedding is going to happen?” I crossed my arms over my chest. His golden-brown eyes followed my movement.
“Neither.” He smirked. “Can’t I just be here to get to know you?” He smiled.
This charming son of a bitch. I rolled my eyes.
“You are the most arrogant man I have ever met, yet somehow you think your sweet talk will work?” I let out a small laugh.
“Oh, I know my sweet talk will work.” He smiled. “Eventually you’ll learn to love my arrogance.”
I laughed and smiled at him. “Isn’t that part of the deal? Being a wife you put up with your husband’s terrible flaws?” The words tasted like acid in my mouth.
What the hell am I doing? I mentally slapped myself.
“It won’t be such a terrible flaw once you get to know me.” He winked. “Let me take you somewhere tomorrow.”
“In what world do you think I would go anywhere with you?” I narrowed my eyes. “Are you going to try and force me like you did last time?”
His smile slipped from his face before he caught himself and put it back on. “Damn.”
“Us women never forget.” I teased. “Goodnight Gaston.” I walked away from him.
“Oh, I’m well aware.” I smiled over my shoulder. “I’ll meet you here in the morning after breakfast.” I waved over my shoulder and left him standing there alone.
As I walked away from him, I could hear Rupert’s voice in the back of my head asking me what I was doing.
I’m just doing what you wanted.
I made my way down the steps to meet Valerian on the main floor. I moved quickly, not wanting to be seen. The fewer questions from Grace and Kallum, the better. I brushed my hair back from my face, pulled my jacket over my chest and clasped the buttons closed.
As I looked up, I slowed my walk. Valerian stood in the middle of the foyer. His casual dress was surprising. He wore a plain pair of jeans, a black v-neck shirt under his leather jacket. His jacket and shirt hugged his chest, making his shoulders seem wider and his chest bigger. His jeans hugged his hips, making everything about him seem taller, wider - just all around bigger.
My eyes travelled up his body and over his face. He had yet to notice me, he was lost in thought as he looked at the large painting on the wall. His hair wasn’t styled back, it was left in loose waves at the top of his head.
Dear God. I bet this man could make a woman’s knees quiver. I thought as I took him in. Until he opens his damn mouth.
“Shall we go?” I spoke as I moved towards him.
He turned to look at me, his eyes travelled over my body, just like I had been doing to him seconds before.
“You look nice.” He smiled.
“Don’t push it,” I said. “Let’s just get to know each other.” I could hear how awkward I sounded.
Valerian didn’t respond. He just nodded his head and walked in step with me as we made our way out of the castle doors.
We walked in silence for a while. He kept his hands in his jacket pockets as we walked through town. Many stopped to look at us as we walked by, confused as to why I was walking with him. A few that I recognized said hello, but I didn’t miss the look of surprise on their face that it wasn’t Rupert next to me.
“Do they always look at you this way?” I asked as we passed a group of women that looked like they were a second away from fainting at the sight of him.
“Always.” He looked up and smiled at the women.
“You love it.” I shook my head and rolled my eyes. I felt like by the end of the day my eyes would be stuck at the back of my head. “I’ve never met someone so cocky.”
He looked down at me and smiled. “Well, you know what they say. Men that are cocky always have -”
“Small dicks?” I cut him off. “Yeah, I’ve heard that a few times.” I laughed.
“My God. You’re a ruthless woman.” Valerian shook his head as he laughed. “This way.” He said as he began to walk off the sidewalk and down a dirt path leading into the thickness of the forest.
“You’re not going to murder me are you?” I said, instantly feeling a sense of deja vu.
“Nah,” He smiled. “Not today.” He teased.
“Oh, well thanks for letting me live one more day.”
I followed him down the path. The sun was peeking through the tops of the trees, the breeze was cool. I was thankful for the warmth of my jacket.
“So where are we going?” I asked.
“Through the veil.” He replied.
“I’m sorry, through the veil?” I picked up my pace to keep up with him. “Like back to my world?”
“Wait, you’re taking me into my world?” I stopped walking, surprised at what I was hearing. “Why?”
“Because I know that you miss it.” He turned back to look at me.
I looked at him, no words were coming to mind. I was left speechless. How could someone be so arrogant and rude but do something so kind?
He continued down the path, after a moment of watching him, speechless, I caught up with him and followed him down the path. After a short while, we came up to a wooden arch. The trellis was covered in ivy. Large green leaves twisted and curled around the wooden arch, the trees around it kept it sheltered from the harsh weather that hit every season.
Two men stood in front of the arch, the place that I assumed was the gate leading into the world that I so dearly missed the last few weeks. The two men saw us coming, they nodded towards Valerian before they turned and began to open the gates.
I watched as the magic created a golden shimmer inside the trellis. Valerian turned back to me, he pulled his hands from his pockets and reached his hand out towards me.
“Ready?” He asked.
I looked down at his hand, I hesitantly pulled my hand out of my own pockets and grabbed onto his. A shiver rolled down my spine, my heart fluttered while my stomach curdled. Ignoring the feelings I softly smiled and nodded my head.
“Ready,” I replied before I stepped through the veil with Valerian by my side.