I open the doors and slip in, closing one of them behind me. I bow respectfully to my father, who sits at his desk. "Father."
He nods and gestures to one of the chairs in front of his desk. Dark circles ring under his eyes, evidence of a sleepless night. And I feel my curiosity grow. Taking my seat, I fold my leg over my right knee, crossing my arms.
Father looks up from his laptop for a moment, observing me. "Is there something you wish to say?" His voice lingers for a moment, hinting.
He doesn't know about Josie, does he?
Then again, Charis saw her only yesterday. She may have told him my 'cousin' arrived. Shit, if so then I'm screwed already. So much for my flawless plan. But I keep my poker face on. "Yes.. I wanted to request something."
Father shifts in his chair. "What is it you wish for?"
I lift my chin, squaring my gaze. "Yesterday morning I left with Xavier to meet a friend. I was out for the rest of the day and came back late last night.."
I study my Father, who looks the same as usual. Maybe it really wasn't anything suspicious, I could be wrong about the whole scenario. But my gut tells me otherwise, and as wrong as it sounds, I trust my gut more then my Fathers words. "I saw you walking around the corridors late. I didn't ask since it was late and I was tired, but I'm just curious.. what was it you were doing?"
My Father has been known for his lighthearted personality. But the look on his face seems as though he has committed murder. He hides it very well though. "I didn't see you last night. You could've walked up and bid me goodnight, why didn't you?"
The question is easy to dodge, but I know his ulterior motives. He must be suspicious as well. I can only hope Charis hasn't said anything. "As I mentioned before, I was tired and ready to go to bed. I was just curious what you were doing..?"
"Well if you must know, I was coming back from the library after some late night reading." He brushes it off with a non-nonchalant smile.
Too aloof if you ask me. He has plenty of books in his office. I've hardly ever seen him in the library. Still, it could be possible. I open my mouth to speak but he cuts me off.
"So, about your fiance.. Josie." He changes the subject, but I feel tense just hearing it. "The date for your wedding has been set."
My eyes widen slightly. I had completely forgotten about our engagement. "I see.. and what will it be on?"
Father clasps his hands and leans forward. "The Council reached out and announced their decision. They believe that next year, December 12 will be best."
One whole year with this girl. One whole year I will be labeled as her fiance. I don't feel terrible about it though. If anything it's as if I heard we're having dinner tonight. No emotion, no surprise.
Is this a good sign? "Yes. Of course."
Father's eyebrows shoot to his hairline. "Of course? So you admit you love her?"
I scowl deeply. "No, no! Never. But I.." I hesitate. "I don't hate her." My last words are so soft he barely catches it. But it doesn't stop the barreling smile he gives me. "Great! Good! The sooner the better!"
I don't need to ask what he means.
"Also, we have been invited to the White's cocktail party." Father pulls open a drawer and hands me an invitation in white and gold lettering.
The White's cocktail party. "The White's?" I ask.
"As in, Natasha White?"
Father nods again, pointing his finger at me. "Your old secretary you fired."
I huff and scan the contents. No doubt Natasha wrote this personally. I thought I was rid of her for good.
It would be my absolute privilege and honor to invite you to our gathering this weekend. We are hosting a cocktail party to celebrate our realms anniversary this New Year's Eve. We would be so grateful for you to grace us with your presence. Of course your family is invited, and a plus one is a given. On behalf of the White's we thank you for all you have done for us, this is the least we can do.
In respect to his Majesty, The White's.
This weekend. That's four days away. I forgot all about New Year's Eve. I almost scoff at such words. 'She's such a suck up. She doesn't care about my family, she just wants me.'
No doubt she wants an explanation as to why I'm getting marr-
I freeze my thoughts, and for a second my face pales. Natasha White is an infamous gossiper. If news gets out that I'm married to Josie James.. it will be a downfall. Charis will no doubt look her up and discover she's 'Jojo the beer tester from Madfert'.
It will be a scandal. The whole realm will know she is here and. And.. Josie will pay the price, as well as me and Xavier. I won't be seen as fit to rule, keeping secrets from his people. Xavier will lose his job as an enchanter, and with his reputation maybe an eye as well, and Josie..
I feel a cold shiver run through my blood at the thought of it. The people will rebel, storm the castle, demand for her blood..
My hand shakes as it holds the invitation. I wouldn't wish that upon my worst enemy. She will be tortured, skinned, electrified, possessed, stripped of her title and her power.
Killed if she doesn't get to the Heaven's before my people reach her.
Call us barbarians, but that's how divided we are. That's how much hate seethes between us. No wonder my Father and his Majesty want peace. It's a river of blood that separates us.
Father chuckles, "Are you that scared to see Miss White? You look as though you've seen a ghost."
I force my Father a false smile. "No, of course not. She is h-horrendous." I shove my thoughts at bay. All I can do now is keep her safe. Jerny entrusted her to me, and I am not one to let people down. But I've dug myself into such a hole..
"Horrendous is a strong word." Father grins.
After a moment I set the invitation back on Father's desk, bowing to him. "I will take my leave. Thank you."
Father nods to me, when suddenly the doors to the office open.
We both look to see a guard in the doorway, his face whiter then a sheet. Charis stands beside him, horrified. "Your Majesty."
I feel my heart skip a beat.
Father furrows his brow, standing slowly. "Whatever is it?"
The guard doesn't hesitate. "We have just been reported. A maid was found dead by the library five minutes ago."
I swallow thickly. The fuck?
"Dead?" My Father asks. He too is horrified. "From what?!"
The guard shakes his head firmly. "We don't know."
Father hurries from around the desk. "Where are my sons?"
Charis pipes in. "They were seen heading towards Jabeth's quarters your Majesty."
I'm too worried to make a mental note right now about her calling me by my Christian name.
Father points to the guard, his voice low and authoritative. "Close all the exits to the mansion. No one leaves, no one enters."
"Yes sir." The guard bows and starts away, Charis stays in the entrance.
I don't look at either of them. But I can feel suspicion and worry flood through me. Without another word, I dash around Charis, who reaches for my sleeve. "Mr. Blackwell-"
But it's too late, the pounding of my pulse drowns her out. I am sprinting down the corridor, at great speed. Heading for the West Wing.
Josie. Thaddeus. Henry. Xavier.