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Chapter 12

The morning starts fresh and smells like spring. I only learn it’s distinctly real when I wake up and I see brand new pots of daisies growing in the window sill.

As for last night, it had been one hell of a slumber and I had only awoken when the ropes around my ankles had been loosened and removed – by maids.

It had been embarrassing to be awoken that way, but even after I shouted at them to leave the room, the maids could not listen as Zarcar had demanded they clean the place first.

So, I stood awkwardly in my transparent crimson night gown by the daises as they removed the bath, made the bed, swept the floors and dusted a few things while also replenishing the fireplace with fresh wood.

The final touch is the watering can one maid leaves next to the pots, while murmuring something about Zarcar gifting it to me.

“Are you done?” I ask the last maid and servant of Zarcar, a young woman, who nods at me and shyly reaches into a back pocket on her multilayered work dress. I narrow my eyes as she walks forward and hands me a note before running off in fright as the skin of my hand brushes against her fingers, “Close the door... please,” I call out and the maid shuts it for me before I finally let out a sigh and turn back to the bed.

I put down the note without opening it and turn to the wardrobe instead. I pull out the bottom draw and grab a bronze dress, nice and loose. It floated to my ankles while having a deep cut through my breasts. Believe it or not, it was more acceptable attire than my usual choices, but today I choose it just because I like it. Not because of him.

I grab a black ribbon that goes along with it and tie it around my waist, around and around like a corset. I finish the tie with a bow at the back.

I turn towards the bed now and the note. I was trying my best to ignore the new addition of plants in the window sill.

I think about ignoring the note but my fingers itch with curiosity. Sighing heavily, I pull myself onto the bed and pile up the pillows on the headboard so I can lean back into the mini nest of softness. I bring my knees up and rest my forearms on my knees as I hold the note.

I quickly sniff it to see if there are any strange curses upon the paper.

It was clean.

I snap open the note and instantly scowl.

Two stupid words.

Your reward.

I scrunch up the paper and then glare at the pots of white pretty flowers.

“Chyronex,” I nearly jump out of my skin as I glance up to see Holden peeping through the door as he holds it open a crack, “Morning.”

“Come in,” I try to compose myself as Holden cheerfully flings open the door and steps into the daylight.

“Do you like them?” Holden nods to the daisies, “They suit you –”

“What do you want, guardian of my body and soul within this tower?” I ask with a sickly sweetness.

“A request, actually,” Holden shyly coughs and avoids my eyes as he looks at his shiny brown boots, “I’m to take you into the city to watch Zarcar train.”

“Why would I want to do that?” I ask.

“To get some fresh air.”

“Has Zarcar gone mad since he fell in love with me?” My play on words shock Holden into gaping and snapping his chin up.


“I kid,” I drawl, smirking as he blushes, “But please, inform Zarcar I will not...” I snap my lips shut, “Uh...I’m ready now,” I make a bold decision to jump up off the bed and grab Holden’s outstretched arm.

“O-oh,” Holden is thoroughly confused, “I expected resistance.”

“You have none. But I am curious how you were to persuade me?” I inquire.

“I can not say...”

“Of course you can!”

“I... I was to offer you a chance to go shopping through some nurseries where you might like to buy a few more plants for your collection,” Holden shrugs.

“Well, we shall do that too,” I smile thinly, “Let’s go.”

Holden nods, a bit flustered, but he takes me anyway.

I’m just glad he doesn’t notice the fact I’m barefoot.

It’s my little victory for the morning.


I sit on a bench with Holden and behind us was a marble fountain. And in front of us was a passing crowd watching Zarcar train his soldiers.

I might have only agreed to this outing to see more of Zarcar’s friends and to determine who he was closest too. I might have also gone out of my way to see if Zarcar would indeed keep ‘rewarding’ me for ‘good’ behaviour.

But who was I to say exactly why I sat here, swinging my bare feet, gazing at Zarcar who has not noticed us yet. I can see his sweat dripping down his bare back as he teaches his soldiers how to swing a long, heavy sword.

Passer’s by nod at Holden and seem to make light talk as they recognise him. I assume they are simply praising him for taking care of a dirty priestess like I.

Although after that bath...

My core heats with a wave and I frown it away.

I may be in a bit of denial, but I didn’t want to admit in anyway that Zarcar was... growing on me a tiny bit. In uncertain terms...

“Holden,” a higher tone from a female general seems to capture my guard’s attention fully and I am jerked out of my never ending mucky pool of depraved inner thoughts.

Now, I am simply thankful Holden has turned his back far enough towards me that I can get some breathing space.

I slide my feet up onto the bench, stand up silently and then hop over onto the side of the fountain behind our humble little bench.

I walk through the shallow water and then grab a hold of the tree sculptured from marble. I climb up the marble branches and wind my way through archs and bends until I reach the top.

I settle on a curve and let one leg sway and push the hair out of my eyes as the sun beams down on me. I look around and see a few passer by’s watching me in confusion. Most ignore me, but Holden most definitely loses his nerve when he sees I’m not there.

"Chyronex!" Holden screams my name, so loud I catch onto the panic and so does everyone else. I hold my breath, completely confused by the alarm in Holden’s tone – like he had just lost the only map in the world to the largest and grandest treasure chest. I’m mostly irate, however, as his pathetic screaming of my name, has everyone turning and catching note of where I am.

It also alerts Zarcar, who’s head snaps to Holden. My captor’s eyes blaze with questions and a sudden rage when he witnesses that I’m, indeed, nowhere near dear Holden.

“Up here, you turd!” I yell out to my guard and civilians laugh, except for Holden who spins around and his high handed female friend, keeps her thin lips even thinner.

I cannot ignore the usurper forever, so after I’ve gloated down at a blushing Holden, and waved at a few civilians, I finally make eye contact with Zarcar. He has already dismissed his training and is currently stalking his way to Holden.

Zarcar says nothing as he halts by the bench and raises a hand, curling two fingers at me to suggest I get down immediately. Zarcar’s lip curls at the end, but it’s not a smile. It’s impatience. When I do nothing but smile haughtily, I see his eyes flash with humiliation.

I was disobeying him in public.

However, I didn’t want a spanking again anytime soon, so I decide to end his suffering quickly.

“Lover!” I call out to Zarcar, in a sing song tone with my hand on my chest, “I wish but to watch you from these romantic heights, while you command and teach your wisest learnings, upon your armies. Please, continue as you wer-”

“Sweetheart, get down before I come up there and force you down onto my knee... right now, Chyronex,” Zarcar’s tone is foreboding.

I snap my lips shut and nod quickly.

I had been wanting to obey this morning but this public attention was too much fun.

I swing down one marble branch and then another, doing a few acrobatic moves before I gracefully land on my feet in the water... on the other side of the fountain.

I hurry to the edge, I jump up and I slowly walk around the rim of the pooling fountain water, my hands behind my back, my eyes shining with cheeky intentions as I indeed provoke a very predictable response out of Zarcar.

He runs forward in a few lunges around the crowd, assuming I have attempted to escape.

But Zarcar pauses too fast, looking quite huge and awkward when he realises I am walking towards him along the fountain’s edge and closing the distance swiftly.

My warlord barely has time to consider how to react to my mischievous eyes as I reach his side and slip a hand through his hair, down his neck and onto his shoulder as I jump down and press myself flush against his naked and sweaty torso.

“I would never run from someone so handsome,” I whisper, biting my bottom lip to stop myself from bursting out laughing in his face.

Zarcar knows I’m playing him but the crowd has no idea.

“...interesting choice of words...,” Zarcar forcefully growls out the response in a whisper before grabbing my elbow and pulling me back to Holden, “Tower. Now.”

“Agreed,” Holden nods and reaches out to grab my hand – a bit roughly.

“You and Zar’s games,” the high handed woman is still around as she dismisses Holden with a scowl, “All this better be worth it!”

“Keep it in for later, Neri,” Holden dismisses her and pulls me through the crowd while Zarcar returns to his soldiers; pretending I don’t matter that much.

Unlike my desire to talk before, now I keep my words to myself.

I am silent as Holden returns me to the tower.

I don’t resist as he takes me up the spiral stair case quickly and straight to the bedroom. He shuts the door as he farewells, “Just stay in here, okay?”

My feet are heavy as I walk to the bed and fall on my back, spread eagled.

Now, I purse my lips.

Joy and unease were filling my veins.

It had started off as a harmless game then it had truly angered Zarcar and Holden.

That was the unease.

Could no one take a joke from their culture, or was I bound to receive due punishment for what I did?

My mind was muddled. Because now I think about everything Zarcar and I did last night in the bath. Some kind of strange naked bonding without any sexual stuff.

I had no words for it.

I still hated Zaracr, I still had to kill him and I wasn’t sure why I also felt another thing... a slither of anticipation.

I wanted to see what he would do. So, uncharacteristically, I lie there and wait for Zarcar to return. Which was stupid, but I couldn’t acknowledge it openly at this time – that I cared what he thought.

I guess I can attach it to my investigation of Zarcar’s limits. His anger. His patience – and impatience. Hopefully as I ‘researched’ I didn’t push him too far.

But at the same time my instincts were laughing at me, whispering in my ear... push him, irritate him, annoy him, frustrate him.

Maybe it was the witch side of my priestess nature in me coming out to play.

But Zarcar was awfully likened to a new toy... and while I enjoyed learning from books... I guess he was just another book for me to read.

All these excuses fly through my curious mind.

But all of it was dishonesty. Avoidance. Of the obvious.

I didn’t mind Zarcar.

In fact, I kind of enjoyed his company and I enjoyed rubbing him up the wrong way.

Could you blame a girl?

I may have tempted him to bathe with me, but he knew how to tempt me into sparring with him. It was a dangerous path – but I simply couldn’t help myself.

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