A Game of Hearts

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Chapter 11- Like no one before

“Life is 10% of what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.”

-Charles R. Swindoll

After turning down another hall, I let Opal take the lead. I had no idea where Cane lived. I only wanted to get away from Olivia as quickly as possible.

We stopped in front of a beige door. I hesitated before knocking. Where would I start? What would I say?

Opal raised a brow. I hadn’t filled her in on the situation at hand. His identity would remain a secret until I knew more.

“Wait here, please,” I said as I knocked on his door.

Who would answer? I could never get a handle on his personality. At first, he was sly and mysterious then when I cut him as a participant he was warm and open. Who was Cane Goldrian?

Cane’s dark eyes met mine. “I’m surprised to find you at my door so late.”

“May I come in?” I asked, eyeing his buttoned-down dress shirt, revealing the muscle shirt beneath.

His head angled to the right as he considered my question.

“Okay, sure,” he said as he moved aside to let me in.

He waited to allow Opal in as well but she firmly shook her head.

He shrugged his shoulders before shutting the door behind us.

“Come to kick me out,” he said playfully.

I ignored his attempt at playful banter and walked around his room, soaking in everything he’d left out in the open. The table was just as filled with books and weird instruments as the table in the library had been. The books were more of the same as well.

Cane cleared his throat. I turned to face him. He was closer than I thought, leaning against the wall closest to where I stood. He bit his lip as he waited for me to announce why I was in his room in the middle of the night.

“Who are you Cane? Who are you really? And no lies.”

I’d decided to get straight to the point.

His eyes widened a fraction before returning back to normal. If I hadn’t been watching I would have missed it.

He stuffed his hands into the pockets of his dress pants and moved a bit closer. “What do you mean?”

I subtly felt for the small dagger I now carried everywhere I went. Feeling my fingers wrapped around the hilt provided a sense of serenity and courage. Cane now stood inches away from me.

Without another second to question what I was about to do, I tackled him but he was ready for me. We struggled around on the floor, trying to get the upper hand over each other. I managed to punch him, which caused him to lose some momentum, but he was quickly back on his feet. He lunged at me and pulled me into a bear hug, wrangling my arms at my sides.

“What are you doing? Stop this nonsense,” he huffed as he held me from behind.

I jerked my head back effectively loosening his hold on me. His arms around me loosened a bit as he cursed up a storm but he hurried to maintain his grip on me.

His hand accidentally squeezed my breast and I about died of mortification. I was about to stab him with the dagger I so desperately held when he let me go. I whirled around to face him, hand ready to throw my blade. His mouth was opened in the form on a large O and his blood seemed to all have converged in his face. He backed away from me with his hands in the air.

“I did not mean to do that,” he said hurriedly.

I fixed my blouse with my free hand and narrowed my eyes at the man in front of me.

“Who knew the King of Terra would stoop to such theatrics to touch a woman,” I seethed.

He floundered around like a fish out of water unsure of how to respond.

“What should I call you? Cane or Romulus?”

He finally managed to get himself together and regain his composure. “How long have you known?”

So, he wasn’t going to deny it.

“Not long.”

“Would you like to sit while I explain?” he asked.

“You going to touch me again?”

He rolled his eyes. “That was an accident. A rather nice accident but nonetheless an accident.”

He sat in one of the chairs surrounding the table full of books. “Sit, Penelope, and I’ll tell you my story,” he said with the tone of a king, his flirty intonation gone.

Instead, I took the spot he had vacated earlier against the wall, hand still armed.

He sighed. “My name is Romulus Cane Whitehill, King of Terra. I was here for the same reason you had a parade of men vying for your hand. I needed a queen. When I heard you were hosting this game I snuck in with the other suitors that had been picked by the Great Mother. There I was thinking I had deceived everyone when I was pulled into the hidden realm. The Great Mother didn’t take kindly to what I was trying to do but she found me worthy to take part and I became another man vying for your hand in marriage.”

My mind was reeling. “Why hide who you were?”

“Simple really. I wanted to find if you were worthy of being queen to my people and the best way to accomplish that was secrecy,” he said assuredly.

“And what did you decide?” I asked.

“That you would make a fine queen and any man would be damn well lucky to have you by his side,” he answered.

The naked honesty in his tone left me speechless.

“Was that the only reason?” I asked not trusting he didn’t have another motive.

He stood and walked towards me, leaned in and whispered in my ear. My hand tightened around the hilt of my weapon. “I understand the past you’ve had with some of the men in your life hasn’t been the most trusting but here me when I say this. I was and am only here for you.”

He leaned back, dark eyes on my own. He walked back a few steps before continuing. “And now that you know who I am, allow me to ask you this so as to clear up any lingering doubts as to why I am here. Marry me, Penelope. Be not only my queen but a queen to my people and yours. I will still accept the Crown Matrimonial. Let’s bring innovation and change to both our territories. We can make a difference for so many people. We can change lives like no one before. We’d be unstoppable.”

I exhaled a breath I’d been holding. There was no way that I had just been asked to marry the king of Terra.

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