Chapter 19. Wicked Garden
King Richard Blair’s Rest
The cold night air blasted against Alanis’ face as she ran down the darkened walkway. If not for her continuing sobs, the tears that clung to her cheeks would have froze. She ran until fatigue struck, stopping her in front of Richard Blair’s fountain, at the center of town square.
Idiot, she whispered while wiping her tears away with her shawl. I’m such an idiot.
Slapping the prince was a cowardly action. She could see that now that she was enveloped by the cold. Its frigid grasp had snapped her back into the reality she had escaped from while she had danced with him.
She had let her guard slip, and in turn let herself become emotionally effected by what he did. Knowing him, that kiss was most likely a step to one of his plans. What that was, she could only guess. Faris had always done what he wanted, when he wanted, so why did his actions surprise her the way it did tonight?
Of course she knew the reason. It was so clear, yet so impossible for her to admit. Even sitting alone, in her own little world, she couldn’t admit those truths to herself, because she couldn’t do anything about them.
“Thank gods,” a heavy pant cut through the silence, forcing Alanis to lift her head towards the darkened street ahead of her.
She watched as the shadow met with the surrounding lamplights.
"James," she whispered, “What are you doing here? You should be with your wife.”
“I should, but she insisted,” James replied while taking a seat beside her. They sat quietly until he worked up the nerve to speak, breaking their silence with an inappropriate joke, “I know I told him to keep watch over you, but I think he misunderstood my request.”
She buried her face into her hands and shuddered, ”Oh, great..."
He had seen so there were likely others.
“You’re holding back feelings for that guy, aren’t you?”
Her hands dropped to her side and she looked up at him in a dumbfounded state that had her at a loss for words.
Holding back feelings for that guy, who did he think he was talking to? He sounded like he was about to give her a trove of unwanted advice.
“Get real,” she scoffed, crossing her arms at her chest. “You have no idea what you’re talking about. Just mind your business and butt out of mine.”
“Get serious, Alanis. The longer you avoid my question, the more time we’re going to waste sitting here. I’d like to get back to my wife before night ends.”
“Then go. I’m not stopping you.” Alanis stood and turned her back to him in a childish display that earned a sigh from him. “When I ran from the hall, did you hear me calling for help?”
“Stop acting foolish and listen to what I have to say. You know a man can’t help the reputation he’s been given when he decides to change. If you’re worried what the others will think, don’t.”
If it were only that, she sighed and lowered her head along with her crossed arms. She grew past those insecurities and quite frankly didn’t give a damn about how the others would perceive her after their kiss. She was angry with him for other reasons, reasons THEY only knew.
She mumbled, ”I know that..."
“He has feelings for you, you know?”
"Feelings..." She bit her lower lip and looked up into the night sky.
“Yeah, you should have seen the look on his face when you ran out.”
"I’m glad I didn’t," she whispered to herself feeling ashamed by his statement. It hurt her heart to think that he felt the same way. If he did, then she just made him look like an ass in front of everyone, thus fueling the negative persona that surrounded him. “It was never my intention to react the way that I did. It’s just... there are things playing out that make this so damned complicated.”
“Well, why don’t you talk to him about it?”
“Because...” What did it matter, in the end she’d never be able to keep him, she realized while musing over James’ question. “There will come a day that I will have to leave Ati Harei.”
“Don’t worry about that, he’ll follow you. I know he will.”
She turned to James. “Why would you say that...?”
“Cassandra told me about the prince’s late night visit while he was singing at the piano. She also told me about the conversation you guys had following his visit.”
"Oh," she huffed into the cold, recalling his earlier speech and how it was almost on par with the advice Cassandra gave the night before.
"Yeah, oh," he replied sarcastically. “Later, when she spotted the both of you dancing, she suggested there was something more going on. I asked her how much she had to drink and she continued to argue her point, that was, until he kissed you.”
“Yeah, so...” Alanis countered hoarsely, “It was just a kiss, in case you’ve forgotten we’ve kissed once before, so your theory proves nothing.”
“That may be true, but the kiss between you and the prince opened my eyes to all of the events of the night and it happened to stir up a memory of something you once said to me.”
“And what was that?”
“That you could tell I was still in love with Cassandra by the way I looked at her,” he replied, forcing her to slink away from him as she recalled their past conversation. “The way he looked at you while he sang, it was like, well, like every word he sang was meant for you. You must realize it, he’s in love with you.”
"Stop," she whispered while quailing into a shadow to hide her face. “I don’t want to talk about this anymore.”
James joined her in the dark and took her into his arms. “The pain you’re feeling won’t stop until you tell him,” he commented while circling her back with his hand. “I should know, from experience and all.”
“What if it all falls apart? What if my journey endangers him or I? I can’t put him through that, I can’t—” She shook in James’ embrace knowing she couldn’t guarantee Faris the normal life he was in search of, that he deserved.
“Our futures aren’t set in stone, so there’s no use beating yourself up over something you have no control over. It’s pointless and in the end you only end up with nothing but regrets.”
“Do you believe that?”
“I do and so should you,” he replied lifting his arms from her shoulders. “You know, if it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t be a married man tonight. I’d be in Barbara’s Tavern getting pissed with Andrew, or someplace else equally as pathetic. So I say to you, as someone who’s travelled down that long and lonely road, to let go of your fears and stop wasting your time worrying about losing the people you love.”
Royal Guest House
Alanis made her way back to the guest house to change into something warmer. It was her intention to find Faris and confront him before he departed back to Ati Harei.
Her search didn’t last long. As she opened the door to the house, her eyes caught the whereabouts of the prince almost immediately. He was seated in front of the fireplace, with eyes lowered to the floor, where his dress cloak splayed in a crumpled mess.
"You’re here," she confirmed lowly as she stepped around the door.
Faris lifted his hand to the lantern that sat beside him and dimmed the flame before replying, “You serious? You think after that little fit you threw I would be welcomed back to the castle to bunk?”
She lowered her eyes as her hands pushed the door behind her. The heavy wood let out a groan as it met the frame. Honestly, she didn’t quite think that over. Her worries were on catching him before he made his escape.
Alanis fell against the door with her back and let out a heavy sigh, “So... they saw?”
Her eyes lifted to gauge his reaction and caught the start of a smirk that crept across his lips. Instantly her stare withered to the floor as her fears were confirmed.
Everyone must have seen, why else would he be here?
Faris stooped forward with a metal fire-poker in hand. He worked at the dying fire until it was apparent his actions would remain fruitless.
“Don’t worry, no one saw what happened, but there were some witnesses to your outburst, including my sister,” Faris finally answered, “Luckily she figured I was drunk and had said something to upset you.”
“You weren’t?” Alanis blurted. She thought for sure he had been drinking. Yes, there were several times throughout the night that she had seen him with a drink in hand.
He let the metal rod fall from his hand and sat back in the old armchair with a laugh. Though the tone of his chuckle was lighthearted, the emotion that resided in his eyes led her down a path she didn’t want to visit.
He was hurt and it was clear her actions were the cause.
“I’m sorry, I just thought you were.” She pushed from the door then walked to the fireplace. Her eyes looked to the wicker mat expecting to see several logs to feed the fire, but there were none.
Go figure, she thought and took a seat on the stone platform in front of the prince.
“Don’t worry about it.”
She sat forward and folded her hands on her lap. “Was it true, what you said earlier?”
“I have no clue what you’re going on about,” he grumbled. His empty stare was directed at the dying fire beside her.
“Your reason for kissing me.”
He laughed, “It was a mistake, obviously. Just let it go.”
"Oh," she said hurt. Her eyes lowered to the fabric that was twisted in her hands just as tightly as her insides were. Why was she expecting anything out of him after what she did? “I’m sorry I reacted the way I did. Letting my anger get the better of me doesn’t excuse what happened, but I’m sorry all the same.”
“Like I said, don’t worry about it. I’ve got a long week of travel ahead of me, so if you don’t mind—” his already lowered voice tapered into an agitated whisper while he looked her in the eye, “I’d like to get some sleep.”
“I’d like to explain—”
“And I told you, I don’t want to hear it.” He lifted from the chair and walked towards the door with his cloak in hand.
"A-Alright," she stammered in surprise while watching him fasten his cloak. Her heart clenched and her chest cramped when she realized he was about to leave, forcing her to stand to her feet. “I’ll leave you alone. Just... don’t leave until you’ve rested. Okay?” She blinked, noticing the tears that had caught on her eyelashes then swiped them away before he turned to her.
The length it was taking him to respond made her nervous he was going to refuse.
“Okay,” he answered finally. “I’ll leave at first light.”
She walked to the bedchamber door and pushed it open. She stood still there for a moment thinking over the time she spent with him in Ati, and the things he taught her. If anything, she was grateful for the lessons she learned, than the grief he caused.
“Thank you,” she said while turning from the door. “I appreciate the time you spent helping me. If circumstances were different—” she stopped midway through her speech. She needed to stop, or she’d push him out that door for good. So she left it at that and closed the door, leaving him behind.
She shivered with her back against the door and peered out into the dark room. Her eyes scanned the nightstand beside her bed and soon spotted the silver lantern that gleamed in the moonlight. She pushed from the door and made her way to it. After lighting it she gave her room a look-over. The chill in her room had her eyes wandering to the stone hearth. Luckily, someone had stocked her room with supplies while she was out.
While walking to the fireplace, to the stack of cut logs towered near the hearth, she played out the remaining conversation she had wanted to have with him in her head, then laughed at herself when she realized how pointless it would have been.
If circumstances were different what did it really matter? If things were different they would have never met, she wouldn’t have travelled to Ati, or even known about the world outside of Larska. For all she knew, if circumstances were different, she’d be dead, or bonded into one of those settlement experiments.
So what good was it to wish, or want for something so unpredictable, and dangerous?
She threw an armful of timber into the mouth of the fire-pit then set the fire. I need to get to sleep. I’ve got a lot of planning to do tomorrow, she thought as she watched the fire climb through the cut wood. She watched deep in thought for several minutes then let out a frustrated groan.
Like hell I’m going to get any sleep tonight. There’s no way I’ll be able to sleep, not while he’s out there.
After she snapped out of her inner thoughts, she walked to the bathroom and sat by the tub. Her hand lifted to the brass lever and twisted it, forcing the pump to unlock and fill the marble tub. While the water was running she poured in a capful of lavender essence hoping the calming scent would ease the tension she was under. When the tub was half-way full she pulled on the lever and locked the pump.
Her eyes lowered and examined the bath while she undressed. The water looked like a black abyss under the pale light of her lamp. As she sank her feet into the water and slipped into the tub she imagined that her body was being eaten away into that dark nothingness—slipping away, never to be seen again.
It would have been nice to slip away, to not have any troubles, or responsibilities. Sure it would have been the coward’s way out, but who was she kidding, she had always been a coward, even now.
She propped her head on the lip of the tub and tilted her head back. For the longest time, she stared at the ceiling watching the lamp-light flicker against the large painting that hovered above her.
"Birds," she whispered, remembering how excited she was the night Alexander had gifted her the guest-house. She loved all of the lovely paintings and wood carvings of birds in flight that decorated the house, but now she was feeling as trapped as they were.
The prince had once told her that she was in control of her destiny, that she had the power to choose her fate, but ironically, he was keeping her from following it. The more she thought about it, the more it felt like he was not only protecting her from being caught up in King Stronghold’s plans, that he was pushing her away from him, trying his damnedest along the way to make her hate him.
She slapped her palm against the water.
What the hell, why can’t he just admit it?
Why can’t he just come out and say how he really feels instead of being a jerk about it?
Why do you have to leave?
She felt hot tears on her cheek and decided to sink further into the tub, submerging her face under the water while she began to weep. She could cry as loudly as she wanted to beneath that dark, muting veil. So she did, crying out her frustrations so loudly that the water sloshed with each of her sobs.
When the need to resurface struck, the silence that greeted her there was as hard to take as it was before she let go. It mocked her by whispering back her inner most desires.
"I don’t love this man, I can’t," she said on a breath that fluttered in time with the lamplight. But the sight of the dancing flame made her stop and say, ”But I do... I love him.”
Her taut heart eased when she heard those words out loud. As simple as it was, hearing them said, made her realize nothing she could ever do or say would make that fact any less true. The way she felt about him made her go crazy when she thought about him leaving without her.
There was no way of knowing what obstacles the future would bring, but knew she’d be making a horrible mistake if she turned her back on him and let him go.
Before she knew what she was doing, she had pulled out of the tub and dried herself while searching for her robe. After dressing in the silk cover, she stood by the door and waited while she gathered courage to do what she was about to do.
I can do this.
She opened the door and searched the dark room. Her eyes soon stopped on him. He stood near the window, his shadow streaked across the room disappearing into the angry red glow of the dying embers.
“Faris,” she said, beckoning his attention.
“What do you want? If it’s to tell me off, save it, I already know what you’re going to say, so spare me and leave,” he warned, but she proceeded to walk towards him. She stopped in front of him and took his eyes into hers.
“I have nothing to say,” she answered softly while in fact she had a many things she wished to say to him.
She wanted to apologize for their earlier misunderstanding and tell him that she was in love with him, but knew her words would only push him further away, so she held them back.
“Then leave me be, I’ll be gone in the morning.”
“No,” she replied while her hands tugged at the belt of her robe, freeing it from her waist, it fell to the floor silently. She then eased her shoulders free of the silken cloth then let it fall to her feet with a step forward.
“Why are you doing this?” he asked hesitantly while he looked over her bare body, he was troubled, but his eyes gave away how badly he wanted her to press forward so she did.
He lowered his stare and ran his hands into his hair. ”I can’t..." he muttered in a cursing tone that yielded under his inner frustrations. “I can’t promise you—”
“I don’t care about that,” she interrupted before he could continue. “It’s what I want, if you want it too. Tonight, I’m not asking you to promise me anything, nor do I expect some sort of grand gesture out of you. I just want... you.”
She stepped forward, this time pressing her bare body against his. The cold studs that adorned his leather doublet brought goose flesh to her bare skin, but it was his eyes, as they met with hers, that caused her tremble.
“It’s cold out here, come with me,” she said, noticing how dry her mouth was.
Was he right, did I fully think this through?
Is this something I truly want?
Yes it was.
Her hands lowered to capture his, to guide him to her bed, but before she could grasp them he stopped her with a kiss fueled by fervor. It was so intense it almost stalled her movements to the room.
His lips parted as he kissed his way to her ear, where he proceeded to tease her earlobe. Again, she almost forgotten how to move, lost in a trance as the prince flicked his tongue against her lobe that was now pinched between his nipping teeth.
Somehow, with his breath in her ear, she managed to work on the leather thong that secured his doublet, stripping it free to the dress shirt beneath.
He bit down on her ear, just enough to stifle her actions and force her to moan under his. Gods, he knew what he was doing, and it was clear he took pleasure in the fact.
His hands released her to work at his shirt, unbuttoning it halfway before she ripped it open with abandon, exposing his sculpted chest.
She paused briefly while she examined him, memorizing his features before she lifted her hands to touch him. Her fingertips traced his lower abs to his pectoral muscles. Her eyes closed as she caught his pulse, beating as wildly as hers.
"I feel it,” she whispered between her breaths, feeling his heartbeat on her fingertips between them. “I can—”
She was silenced by him as he teased her bottom lip with his tongue, she soon joined in allowing him to plunder her mouth, so she could drink him in. Meanwhile, while all of this was happening, the prince managed to easily usher the pair into the warming bedchamber, to the foot of her bed.
"Are you sure," he said huskily between their kiss, ”that you’re okay with this?"
She pulled away and sat on the bed, watching as he fought to remove his belt. His urgency told her he was worried that she’d change her mind, but by the time she finished her short musings he had managed to free it.
“I am,” she said fighting the urge to reveal anything more.
He looked up from his hands, that were still working on removing his clothes, to where she sat. Her hazel eyes caught his and forced him to acknowledge the want within them.
“What else is there?” he asked while positioning himself between her and the lamplight.
She peered up at him, not knowing how to react to his question. It was likely a trap set by him to foil her plans, to trip her up and push him further out of reach.
“What is it?” he repeated, this time in a more demanding tone.
Call his bluff, her heart clenched. It was her only option.
“I just wanted to tell you I—”
"Shhh..." He put his finger to her lips stopping her from continuing, “I can’t hear those words, not yet...”
She pulled her head back and looked up at him with a furrowed brow.
“What?” she snapped, somewhat annoyed. He had asked her what was on her mind and now he didn’t want to hear it. She was going to be tired of all of his mind-games before their foreplay ended. “I was only going to tell you that I’m not giving up on my task. I’ll be going back to Ati, to aid in the rebellion, with or without your consent. If you must shout my plans from a mountain, do so, it won’t stop—”
He silenced her with another kiss as he crawled into bed to join her.
“I figured as much,” he said coolly while pulling away from her lips, a look of relief glazed over in his darkened eyes.
"Well, as of now, what other plans do you have to keep me away?" she whispered up to him, feeling her body flush with his touch.
“None, I’m afraid that was the last.”
"Oh, good," she shuddered in response to the sudden tingle that rushed from her inner thighs and tightened in her stomach. Between them, the prince’s skillful fingers traced circles around her naval to her thigh.
“You were right,” he commented, letting his fingers glide to her cheek.
“About what?” She lifted under his looming body only to be trapped within his arms.
“That kiss, the first one we shared... I wanted it,” he admitted as he laid her on the bed beneath him. His fingers stroked the length of her collar to her neck.
“So did I,” she replied writhing from his burning touch. “I thought I was teaching you a lesson that night. But I learned a thing or two myself.”
“What was that?”
“Things are not always what they seem,” she said while running her fingers across the valley of his chin. It made her happy to touch him so gently, after wanting to for so long. “And that you’re a good kisser.”
He smiled and grasped her hand. ”Just good...?"
"Yes," she taunted hoping he’d give her what she wanted, more.
“Those women... I was never with them in the way—”
“I’m not stupid. They’re part of the settlement rebellion. Like you said before, you were only funding them. Besides, it’s none of my business who you’ve been with. The past is the past, right?”
“I suppose so. I just wanted you to know, this isn’t something I do without thought,” he said as his hand reached her breast, smiling as she trembled under his touch. His rough fingertip met with her nipple, stiffening it with its subtle touch.
His head lowered and he took her sweet, taught flesh between his lips while his other hand slipped between her legs. They parted instinctually at his touch, as the secret want between them ached to be released. He soon found the peak of her valley, hot and swollen—and ready. Careful not to send her over the edge, he touched her there softly, his fingers circling slow.
In return, she lowered her hands to her thighs, where his hardened manhood pressed. She took him in her hand carefully, with intent to explore him more thoroughly than she had with her past lover. Then slowly pumped her hand, feeling the hard, silky flesh twitch within her grasp.
He rasped a word against her breast as she continued, in time, matching her strokes as he slipped a finger inside her.
“Kiss me,” she breathed between moans, wanting to taste him again.
Faris lifted his head from her breast, his breath hitched as he caught sight of her beneath him. There was a shared moment between them as they gazed into each other’s eyes, realizing they weren’t acting on mere desire, that they were making love.
Together, they slowed their advances, savoring the moment in its entirety.
When the time came he slipped into her easily, their bodies fitting perfectly as one. While they made love, the world around them ceased to exist. Every hope, and fear she had for the future was lost while he was inside of her. Being with him was the only thing that mattered—that could ever matter.
If only he could bury himself into me forever, she found herself greedily thinking while she rested against his chest after they made love. She was still unable to sleep, even after everything that happened, afraid she’d wake up and it would all have been a sweet dream.
"Lanis, you awake?" he questioned softly. She could hear his words as they rumbled through his chest.
“Yes, your highness,” she said turning her head up in time to see his lips dressed with a relaxed smile.
“If you’re coming back to Ati with me, then there’s something you’re going to know.”
She lifted and craned her neck to plant a simple kiss on his inviting lips before she replied, “If it’s that you’re a stubborn asshole, save your breath... I already know.”
He chuckled while pulling her into another kiss that stole the playful smirk from her face. It was so soft and carefully placed that it made her pull away so she could look into his eyes. When she did, there was an unexpected tenderness that swam within them that made her tear-up.
"What...?" she questioned as he swiped his thump over her cheek to catch the stray tear.
“I am the most loyal person you will ever know,” he responded gently. “And if I’m to follow you into battle I will require some rest, being that I’ll have to look out for you.”
"Thank you," she whispered then placed a kiss on his neck before making herself comfortable.
She sighed and listened to the prince’s rhythmic breathing. After a while, she could tell he was sleeping and her worries of him changing his mind eased. Her friends were right, as was the faith she had for him in her heart. She should have listened to it sooner, he was worth it, she mused as sleep took her in.
The next morning when she awoke she found the bed empty beside her. Her heart thumped wildly as she jumped from the bed. Behind her, trailed the sheets they had slept on together.
Where is he?
“Faris, Faris Stronghold!” Alanis shouted at the top of her lungs before she met with the door.
“Yes, Oraur Lahre, we have company,” he declared just as loudly.
Alanis stopped and stooped over in relief for a moment, until she realized—
Wait, did he say WE have company?
She pinched the sheets under her arm as she poked her head through the door to see what was going on. There in the kitchen, sat the prince in conversation with Amelia. Alanis was safely out of sight, the young maid had her back to the door, but Faris noticed almost instantly and offered a cocked brow in protest of her choice of clothing.
She closed the door and scurried to her belongings, throwing open a leather satchel holding her clothes. She dug through her riding clothes and plucked the most worn pants in the bunch, her favorite pair. They weren’t attractive, but didn’t chaff her thighs or backside as badly as the others.
“Thought I left earlier, didn’t you?” Faris playfully stated over her shoulder causing her to trip as she was slipping her foot into the pant leg.
She regained her balance and buttoned her pants before looking back at the prince. His devious smile made her want to smack him. Instead, she crossed her arms against her bare chest.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she replied while strutting past him to the pile of clothes at the end of the bed. She threw on the first top she came across in a hurry.
He laughed. “Oh, so that wasn’t you screaming my name earlier?”
She could feel her cheeks turning red as she turned around to reply, but he beat her to the punch by giving her a kiss.
Please take the time to heart my story if you haven’t, I’d appreciate it. If you have any questions or comments, please by all means ask. I’ll be more than happy to reply.
-I wanna drink from your naked fountain
-I could drown your sorrows
-I’m gonna burn, burn you alive now
-Out of the chains that bind you
Stone Temple Pilots - Wicked Garden
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