Chapter 2: Strange Man
There was no denying that Lord Aridor was handsome, but what was deep inside a person’s soul was what mattered to me. His heart had been tainted black. No man should ever treat a woman the way he treated me today.
My soft cries were muffled by the feathered stuffed pillow I had smothered my face in. The soft tickles of Serena’s fingers running up and down my spine comforted me while her gentle hushed whispers soothed me, as she was letting me know that she was there for me.
Aya didn’t dare step in my chambers, not that I was angry with her. It is not her fault that Lord Aridor is a ignorant swine. The high hopes I was beginning to have for him in the gardens had dispersed along with any respect for the man. It was hatred that was growing in my heart, but the wound that was inflicted is greater.
“My lady...” Serena trailed off not finding the words to reassure me everything was going to be okay, because it won’t.
In two days, Lord Aridor plans to take me to his lands. We will be wedded under his jurisdictions, in his royal court, and in the palace that he grew up in. It was all decided today, they plan to ready my things tomorrow while Lord Aridor and I get to know one another.
Then on the second day, we leave bright and early in the morning to travel through the mountains and across the plains. It would be a blessing to see parts of my country, but I’ll probably be kept in the carriage tucked away so that not a single soul would see me.
Once the preparations are final and we arrive in the Kingdom of Aridor, I’ll be marrying him. I’ll be pronounced, Queen Artemis Aridor. What an awful name! My fists slammed down onto the mattress causing it to bounce and startle Serena.
She worriedly grabbed my shoulders for support as I began sobbing once more. I clenched my teeth together, fighting the waves of nausea as I thought back on today’s events. The worst had not happened today, but it will come. He mentioned it as he toyed with me in that room.
“I’ll be back my lady,” Serena said and the bed that was dipped in from her sitting position popped up. I didn’t care to look where she had gone off too, nor did I care to ask.
The blanket that was tightly wrapped around me was warm, but the fire that was lit on the other side of the room was calling to me. My feet had found their way to the floor from the tall bed and I shuffled my way along the wood. The brown blanket dragged behind me noiselessly as I made my way over to the warmth.
The window of my room was wide open blowing a cold breeze in, but I left it alone because the stars were their brightest tonight. They glimmered in the open dark sky, scattered about like randomly splashed paint on a canvas.
It was a beautiful night for such a tasteless day. Tomorrow will only begin to get worse, it would be time to gather my strength up and mentally begin the war between the Prince and I.
The hinges on the door squeaked loudly pulling my attention away from the stars and towards the door. Serena was walking in balancing a tea cup in her shaking hand. She carefully tiptoed over to me watching the tea cup like it would fall from her hand at any moment.
“I’ve brought you some tea my lady, to ease your conscience,” she said with a bright grin on her chubby cheeks.
“Serena...” My words trailed off as she passed me the cup of tea. The warm feeling from the ceramic on my hands sent a shiver through my body.
“No need to thank me!” Serena sang and twirled the pretty light blue dress she picked out for herself. It made her once dull blue eyes sparkle with delight.
“You’re beginning to get comfortable around me, it makes me very happy.” I tell her and her grin widens more.
“Here,” Serena whispered and kneeled down to hand me something.
“It’s called chocolate, the Prince brought it from his country and shared it with us,” she said and opened her hand for me to see the dark brown lump.
“I want you try it,” she adds and extends her hand closer to me.
Picking the hard cold piece from her hand I observed it carefully. It was shaped and cut into a perfect square. What kind of treat was this?
Without another second wasted, I stuck the tiny square into my mouth. In an instant the flavor coated my tongue in a smooth and creamy way. The taste was slightly milky, but bitter. It was semisweet, like a bittersweet taste. The flavors were perfectly balanced and it was delicious!
“I’m not sure I could get enough of that,” I say to Serena who looks pleased with my reaction.
“It’s addicting, you’ll be craving more later. Luckily, the lady will be leaving with the man who brought the chocolate.” Her eyes lit up at her own words.
“Yes, I will be.” My words weren’t as happy as hers, but I did not want to tell her how cruel that man was. I’ll let her continue to believe what she wants to believe.
“I know, you are scared to leave with him. It is so sudden, but the thought of him whisking you away like he were a knight in shining armor makes him more dreamy!”
I watched her as she started dancing around the room happily talking about how she can’t wait for a man to come in her life. Her giggles filled my ears as she told me stories of the townspeople and how they wish to meet me. It was right then and there that I had realized that I envied Serena.
Morning came too soon for me, but I had woken up before everyone else with a determined mindset. Today, I would make my own decision of what dress to wear. The color of the soft fabric was fierce, and the right aggression that I wanted to display.
Two can play at this game, burn my books and paintings. This time that I wasn’t going down without a fight. There wasis no bending me to his will, it was either equal or nothing at all. If he wanted something exhilarating, then a show wasis what I was going to give him.
I was going to be a royal brat.
On that specific day of the week, I was allowed to roam the castle and do as I pleased as long as it wasn’t outside. The place I always escaped to was the large library that no one ever used.
It was a place that allowed me to enter the never ending world that existed only in books.
One day, I’ll reach my goal in reading every single book in this library. Or maybe even the world. I pledged to myself.
Last night I requested Serena to inform the cooks to have my breakfast sent over to the library. They could scold me for not showing up for breakfast but I refused to sit at the same table as him.
It was still dark in the castle and yet I had made my way effortlessly to the library. I was going to hide in there until they all realized where I went.
“Good morning, Lady Artemis.” One of the guards told me as he walked by.
“Good morning Fredric,” I reply nicely, and he smiles. They all found it sweet that I could remember their names. It was important for royalty to remember the names of their people, no matter how many they were.
Opening the doors to the library the scent of the musky old pages greeted me. The walls were high and the books filled the shelves all the way to the ceiling. The table across the room had become mine, all sorts of books had been neatly stacked on top of it. Ones that I had read and were ready to be put away and others that I picked out recently to read.
In the corner of the room, by the window, was my easel along with the jars of different colored paints. Last time I had been painting I had to leave in a hurry, so my apron wasn’t hung on the hook. The picture I had been painting was left unfinished and the brushes were left in the murky water.
The left side of the room had a fire place which had been lit already. Strange, did Serena have them light the fire for me? Turning away from the mess I walked over to the crackling fire. It wouldn’t hurt to sit for a bit and warm up before I started my day.
Nearing the sofa, I noticed a dark figure sprawled across the white cushions. The breathing was deep as if the person was still asleep. The arm that hung from the sofa was thick and muscular indicating that it was a man.
A deep breath was inhaled and a heavy drawn out snore froze me in my spot. The man turned from laying on his stomach to his back. The dark raven black hair clung to his pale face. The fire glowed shading parts of his strong features and his red lips were parted open. Even in his laying position I could tell that he was tall and the shirt that was pushed up from him turning over told me he was built to fight.
The door to the library opened with Marco strolling in with a cart of breakfast. His smile didn’t fade as he rolled the cart towards the small table by the fire.
“My lady, you have a guest?” Marco looked down at the strange man who was still sleeping as he placed the tray of food onto the table.
“Unexpectedly, yes. Do you happen to have an extra set with you Marco?” I asked while I stared down at the man who had made himself comfortable in my study. Did he come with Lord Aridor?
“Always do,” he said and took an extra set of food from the tray and placed it beside mine.
“Thank you, Marco.”
Marco nodded as he bowed his head and quickly left the room. Taking my seat I lifted my warm cup of black coffee to my lips while I waited for the man to wake up. My eyes closed savoring the warm bitter taste of the coffee. It just needed some cream and it would be perfect.
“You know, I didn’t think the princess of all people would be the type to grab breakfast with a stranger.” A man says with amusement lacing his voice.
“I didn’t think that stranger could easily walk through the castle without a single guard noticing him. You must be pretty important,” I reply to the man. My eyes opened as I set my coffee down onto the table. His rough dirty hands were picking up a piece of toast.
“That’s where you are wrong sweetheart,” he said while my eyes followed his hands bringing the toast to his red lips. The edge of crust stopped right there and the corners of his mouth turned up into a grin. Not just any grin though, a wicked one.
It was predatory, like a feral snarl. This man did show off some importance, but not ranked for royalty. His strong demeanor and by the way his hands looked he had to be a man engaged or experienced in war.
“I could be your assassinator and here you are feeding me.” He takes a bite from the toast and crunches it in his mouth.
My eyes drift up from his lips to his eyes, they were the color of the dark green forest I’ve always wanted to venture through. What flashed in them though was dangerous, like something dark and untamed.
“I do not fear what I seek,” I tell him truthfully and his eyes grew unpredictable.
“Is death what you seek princess?” The tone in his voice was menacing. The once devious grin plastered on his face turned into unseemly smirk.
How was it that this man had the authority to walk in here, fall asleep on the couch, and speak to me like he had the key to the world. Did he not fear the wrath of the Prince who will eventually be King? I didn’t answer him though, I couldn’t let him see through me like an open book.
“Death is not what you seek, you wish to be set free from your restraints. It’s clear in your eyes that you don’t want any part of this life,” he answered for me.
A soft laugh escaped from my lips, he was right. How was it that everyone could read me so easily? Was it because of my lack of social skills that I couldn’t contain a poker face?
“I suppose I’ve made that obvious,” I admitted to him and he leaned back against the couch with a cheeky grin.
“It was just a hunch, you just confirmed it for me.” He threw his head back and laughed. The laughter was a pleasant sound to me and I couldn’t help but notice how handsome he looked when he smiled like that.
Now that I had really looked at him, he was more attractive than the prince himself. Yet, he still seemed dangerous like he had witnessed the cold hard life of death. He slowly stopped laughing and looked at me with those green vibrant eyes that were so refreshing.
“Who are you anyways?” I finally asked.
“The name is Clyde.” He says while standing up from the white couch and stretching his toned arms out with a deep yawn.
“What is your position, Clyde?” I was still curious to know how he ended up in this library. No one ever comes here, especially people who are new to the castle.
Clyde stepped forward until he was in front me, he leaned down resting his large hands on the sides of the chair. He lowered his head down until he was eye level with me. The wicked grin decorated his face once more. His closeness allowed me to see his features clearer than before.
His black eyebrows were thick, his nose was sharp, and his jawline was very defined. His strong features pronouncing his high cheekbone structure, making him look manly.
His lips curved up higher in his wicked grin like he had received some kind of response he expected. He breathed in then breathed out heavily making his nostrils flare.
“My position is for me to remember, and for you to never find out,” he said lowly in a dark voice. It was like his eyes were hiding something deep within, it was treacherous.
“Very well, at least give me an explanation of why you were sound asleep on my couch snoring away,” I demanded and he raised an eyebrow. He sat there for a moment and he brightened up when it finally occurred to him.
“I had too much to drink last night, not sure how I ended up in here though. You didn’t take advantage of me, did you?” He gasped placing his hand on his chest and looked at me, appalled.
“Of course I didn’t. Who’d want to touch a dirty man like you? Besides, I’m a lady. Not a whore at some brothel for you to stumble in on.” I snapped, insulted by his ridiculous question.
“You’re right, if this were a brothel you’d have a bigger chest and a nice bosom,” he retorted and swiped the cup from my hand.
I watched him with wide eyes as he downed the rest of my coffee. His adam’s apple bobbing as he swallowed the bitter drink. He let out a satisfied gasp and set the cup onto the table. With his feet firmly pressed together, one hand in front of his chest and the other behind his back, he bowed.
“Thank you, my lady” A hint of sarcasm was definite in his voice, and he winked.
Clyde took long strides towards the library door without turning around again and he left, just like that.
Next time I’ll dream sweeter🌹
Please vote and comment❤️