Chapter 5 - Lockdown
He thought it would be better to talk when we reached the castle and so, I waited. My mind is running chaotically and I can’t seem to sit still. It’s only when we start on a long, stone path to the biggest castle I’ve ever seen do I perk up in interest. The building is made entirely out of stone with evident Romanian influences in its architecture. Tall towers stand proudly, coated in black at the very top. Evergreen trees surround the castle but the gardens lined with stone walls are plain with no flowers or plants. I doubt much would grow with the lack of sunshine here.
Asher parks the car by the arched doorway, taking my hand and guiding me up the steps. The two guards salute him before opening the doors, letting us inside. The interior isn’t cosy and bright, instead it’s dark and antique. Traditional furniture meets my eyes with portraits on the wall, encased in gold frames.
I don’t have much time to look around further when Asher pulls me into what seems like his personal study. I’m greeted by one dominant color; brown. There’s a dark wooden desk with a computer and stationary on it, bookshelves lining the whole room. I see a window on my far right with two grey armchairs near it, a wooden coffee table sitting between them. Black and grey accents run through the room and everything gels well together, but it’s very traditional at the same time.
“You’re not going to like this.” He states with a heavy sigh, pushing me to sit on the armchair. “I have banned everyone from traveling or using their gifts so until I lift it, you cannot go back home.”
“Why?” I whimper, dread filling me at the thought of not seeing my parents.
“My cousin was dating a powerful witch but cheated on her, and now she’s out for revenge. She’s hurting any person she comes across whether that be in person or while they are using their gifts. Until I take care of her, I can’t let you leave.” He explains gently, stroking my hair.
“Just take me to a portal or something. Please Asher, I –”
“Darling, try to understand –” He starts, crouching so that he’s eye level with me.
“Please Asher, please just let me visit my parents.” I tear up, begging at this point.
“Ayla,” He murmurs brokenly, wiping my tears as he picks me up and takes my seat, placing me on his lap. “The entire kingdom is on lock down. Nobody can travel, magic or no magic. I’m sorry but it’s extremely dangerous. She’s already killed a lot of people.”
“I’m so scared, I just want my parents.” I mumble tiredly, resting my head on his chest in exhaustion.
“I know, sweetheart. I know.” He whispers, rubbing my back soothingly. “I’m trying my best to find her.”
We sit in silence for a while and I take comfort from his warm embrace. However, I’m slightly distracted by the tingles dancing on my skin as he trails his fingertips up and down my arm. Shivering at the feeling, I involuntarily cuddle up to him. His hold tightens on me in response as he presses a lingering kiss to my temple.
“It’s not so bad. We can use this time to get to know each other before your dad murders me.” He chuckles, making me pull away to look at him.
“Asher...” I murmur, cupping his cheek. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to make you feel like I’m not happy to have found you.”
“I know.” He smiles, squeezing my hip in reassurance. “You’re in an unknown place, far from home. I understand how scared you are.”
He pulls me up, saying how I need clean clothes to change into and it’s only then that I realize I’m still in my pink pajamas with slippers. Mortified, I follow behind as he guides me up the stairs and to the end of the hall. I step into the room and look around discreetly while he disappears into a walk-in closet.
The theme involves navy, grey, black and white and I find myself loving the change from the traditional interior of the castle and his study. It’s slightly modern in a way. There are two white armchairs by the balcony doors, a flat screen TV hangs on the wall and there’s white wood furniture placed throughout the room such as a chest of drawers, a desk and decoration pieces.
“I think my clothes would drown you so, why don’t you take a shower and I’ll see what I can find for you to wear in my sister’s closet.” He grins, using his speed to disappear before I can even get a word in.
Sighing, I step into the spacious en-suite bathroom. It’s a mixture of black and white marble with two sinks, a large tub and shower. Locking the door, it takes me some time to work out how to turn the water on, but I manage to get it to work. Stripping, I step under the warm spray and sigh in contentment. I find Asher’s shampoo and shower gel and use it to clean my body, the smell of citrus fruits filling the bathroom. It reminds me of his scent; the sharp smell of an orange but his is laced with a hint of chocolate. Nevertheless, it’s a heavenly combination for me.
I bite my lip as my thoughts wander, thinking about my mate. I have finally found him and he’s been the sweetest person. Asher has kept me calm and soothed away my fears, and I couldn’t be more grateful. Thinking about how hysterical I was to get back home, I ended up making him feel that I didn’t want to be with him. Knowing that he will help me to reach my parents, I make a promise to myself to remain patient and use this time to get to know my mate and start a life with him.
Feeling clean and refreshed, I turn off the water and grab the white fluffy towel. Drying myself off, I step over to the sink and find a spare toothbrush, using it to brush my teeth. I peek out from the door to see a pile of clothes waiting for me, along with a brush and hair tie with Asher nowhere in sight. Smiling, I get dressed in the pastel purple sweater and light blue jeans, slipping my feet into the pair of flats that were surprisingly my size.
In the middle of getting dressed, I notice a note on the bed and pick it up, realizing it’s from Asher. He tells me to meet him in the kitchen with directions of where it is, making me quickly brush my hair and leave it open to dry. I step out of the room and start making my way down the hall with the note in my hand, following the directions.
But suddenly, I’m shoved up against a wall which makes me cry out in surprise. A man wraps his hand around my throat, squeezing just enough for me to struggle with breathing. He covers my mouth with his other hand before I can even scream for help. I kick and punch as hard as I can, but it doesn’t seem to phase him at all. Instead, it makes him grab my hands and hold my wrists in a tight grip.
“Where did a pretty thing like you come from?” He smirks, taking a deep breath before his red eyes brighten. “And with such sweet blood too, I’m going to enjoy you.”
I try to tell him to get off me but it comes out muffled. Thrashing in his hold, I manage to slam my forehead against his when he leans closer, pain coursing through my head. Instead of becoming angry like I thought he would, he smiles manically.
“Hmm, I love it when they struggle.” He chuckles darkly, pulling on my hair.
As soon as I catch sight of his fangs drawing nearer to my neck, I pull my knee up and kick him between his legs, screaming for Asher as loud as I can when his hand uncovers my mouth. He appears in an instant, a frown on his face which immediately turns into a menacing scowl as he takes in the situation.
“What do you think you’re doing, Brett?” His voice booms in the empty foyer, sharp and cutting.
“M-My King!” Brett turns around in alarm. “I-I...I found a snack for you! Her blood smells the sweetest, just for you my lord.”
I’m shoved forward, making me cry out but Asher catches me in time. After scanning me for any injuries or bites, he tucks me into his side and focuses his angry glare on Brett once more. He’s cowering before us, shaking in fear as he stares up at Asher with pleading eyes.
“How kind of you to bring my beloved to me.” Asher drawls sarcastically, making me wince at the undertone of rage in his voice.
“Yes, yes – wait, what?” Brett falters, his shaky smile dropping.
“Sweetheart, why don’t you wait for me in the kitchen?” Asher gently guides me away yet his smile is tight and his eyes reflect anger. “Tell the cook what you would like to eat and I’ll join you soon.”
My gaze flits from him to Brett as he begs hysterically for Asher to forgive him. “Okay...”
I slowly make my way through the door, glancing back one last time only for Asher to send me a warning look. Sighing, I close the door fully and turn to see an older woman kneading some dough on the counter. Her bright blue eyes meet mine in barely concealed surprise and a warm smile graces her lips as she dusts off the flour from her hands. She emits a motherly vibe with her soft features and petite build. Her honey blonde hair is in a tight bun, but small baby hairs curl around her forehead.
“Hello there darling, I’m Grace. What do you need?” She grins, gesturing for me to take a seat by the kitchen island.
“Hi, I’m Ayla. I’m looking for some food.” I smile sheepishly, my fingers clenching the hem of my shirt in nervousness.
“Well, we’re going to fix that right away! What’ll you have? Chicken sandwiches sound good?” She asks, crouching as she looks in the fridge.
“Sounds great, would you like any help?”
“Not at all! You sit right there.” She orders, a playful gleam in her eyes.
In no time at all, she places a plate of sandwiches in front of me and I thank her with a smile. I dig in immediately, not having anything to eat for the past day has my stomach growling embarrassingly loud every now and then. Complimenting her on how good it tastes, I agree to answer her questions while taking a sip of water.
“I’ve never seen you here before, did you just arrive at the castle?” Is her first question as she wipes her hands on a towel before taking a seat opposite me.
“Yes, I was brought here this morning.”
“Oh! You must meet the King then, dear. He always checks in with new people at the castle.” She replies, making me shake my head.
“Asher is the one who found me.” I smile, starting on my second sandwich.
Her eyes widen but then she frowns in confusion. “You’ve already met him?”
“Yes, she has. And you are talking to my beloved and Queen, Grace.”
Both of us turn to see Asher enter the kitchen, a happy smile on his face as he gazes at me with tender eyes. I blush fiercely, turning back to my sandwiches immediately to hide it. Hearing him chuckle huskily, I relax when his hand rubs my back as he takes a seat beside me.
“W-What...y-you two...oh my goodness! Why didn’t you tell me, child?! I could’ve made something proper, not silly little sandwiches! Oh, forgive me your highness.” She panics, bowing slightly.
“Oh no, it’s okay Grace! I love chicken sandwiches so I’m really happy you made me them, thank you.” I smile kindly, watching her relax.
“Oh alright,” She sighs, the conflicted look in her eyes vanishing. “Congratulations to you both, this is certainly exciting news!”
“Thank you, Grace. I’m happy to have finally found her after all these years.” Asher replies, pressing a gentle kiss to my temple.
“I’m happy to have found you too.” I smile shyly, blushing yet again when Grace lets out a loud “Aw!”
“You treat her well now, Asher. I won’t be happy if I ever see her upset.” She warns, making us laugh.
“I promise, I’ll do my best.” He grins, making her nod in satisfaction before muttering that she needs to go check on the maids.
I watch as she disappears out the door before finishing my sandwich. Asher sits beside me quietly, refusing when I offer him one. I smile sheepishly when he reminds me that vampires don’t eat, his eyes twinkling with amusement as I apologize.
“What did you do with Brett?” I ask hesitantly, regretting it when his mood turns sour.
He doesn’t reply and instead meets my gaze with a hard stare. I suddenly realize what he’s done. Although I am aware of the kind of punishments doled out by people of authority, it’s also no secret to me that leaders are known to kill people as punishment.
“That’s wrong, Asher.” I whisper, sighing.
“No. What’s wrong is what Brett was about to do to you.” He seethes, sighing when he meets my curious yet frightened gaze. He leans forward and grips my chin gently, catching my attention. “You’ve had a long day, Ayla. I’m not going to put you in any more distress but know that if anyone dares to hurt my queen, I will not let them roam my kingdom freely.”