The flight had been two hours, and Malia’s nerves had shot up when they’d entered another limo to get to the palace.
She glanced at Raiden, who was completely relaxed, humming a foreign tune and tapping his foot to the beat. On the other hand, Malia’s hands were sweaty, and her knuckles were white from clenching her dress.
“There’s no need to stress. Everyone is going to love you.” Raiden tried to get the princess to calm down, but she only shook her head.
“Easy for you to say, you’re their king,” she shot back, and Raiden only clucked his tongue.
“And you’ll eventually be their queen. The alliance will be sealed. This war must come to an end.”
“I know, I know, it’s just a whole lot of stress.” The transition from living the life of a loner to becoming a queen was a lot for Malia.
As the limo pulled up to the palace steps, Raiden reminded her, “Remember to breathe. There’s no need to freak out. You’ll do great.”
I’ll do great.
This was her mantra as Raiden helped her out, and they started to walk up the steps. Though the walk was short, it was agonizing torture to Malia.
The big doors were opened by the guards who stood at attention as Raiden passed.
Doubt was starting to creep in again, but they instantly vanished when she stood in front of an array of guests. Her eyes drifted over the people who had been invited and then stopped on two identical ladies.
Raiden walked towards them, and she shyly followed.
“My two favorite sisters, how are you?”
“Great Raiden!” One of them piped up.
“That’s nice to hear, Gwenyth. What about you, Cosima?” he asked the other sister.
“I’m doing okay.” Cosima eyed Malia, and she didn’t know what she’d done to earn the look.
“Move over, Raiden!” the one called Gwenyth pushed her brother out of the way to see Malia properly. “You must be Princess Malia.”
“And you’re Princess Gwenyth, right?” Malia hoped she’d gotten her name correct. Raiden’s sisters looked like the same person, and it was hard to differentiate the two.
“Yep. She’s lovely, Raiden. She can tell the difference between Cosima and me.” Malia blushed at the praise, and Gwenyth grinned. “I love your hair. It’s so pretty.” As Gwenyth praised Malia, the princess stole glances at Cosima, who was glowering to the side.
“Don’t you have other people to greet?” Cosima interrupted; she wanted to get rid of Malia as soon as possible. If this was the princess the Red Kingdom had been talking about, then Amaha didn’t stand a chance.
“We sure do.” Raiden, happy to finally be included in the conversation, placed his hand on the small of Malia’s back and guided her to the guests who were watching her every movement.
They’d been all around the ballroom when a lady dressed scantily came up to the two.
“Hello, your highness,” she purred, “I hope your flight back was well?”
“It was good, thank you.” Raiden pulled Malia in front of him, and she stumbled slightly as she stood in front of the Lady.
“Amaha, I’d like you to meet my fiancee, Princess Malia.”
Lady Amaha didn’t bow. Instead, her eyes hardened, and her features twisted into contempt. “Long way from home, princess.”
Malia was taken aback by Amaha’s tone and behavior. “Yes, but I’m also excited for a new beginning.”
Amaha rolled her eyes and walked past the princess, bumping into her slightly. The Lady moved to the man behind Malia.
Is this how they act in the Red Kingdom?
Everyone had been kind and polite, except for Cosima and Amaha, but what did she do to deserve that type of treatment? Malia didn’t know.
“Meet me at the usual after the welcoming ceremony,” Lady Amaha whispered to Raiden, who had watched but didn’t interfere. This is how Amaha acts with everyone. It was nothing new.
Amaha walked away, leaving a contemplating Raiden in her wake.
“What was that all about?” Malia asked, specifically about what Amaha whispered to him. She wanted to know why they were so secretive.
“It’s nothing, Malia, don’t worry about it,” he reassured her, but the princess was still skeptical. Her worries were pushed into the back of her mind, though, when she chatted with Gwyneth for the rest of the party.
Since she let her guard down, she didn’t notice Raiden and Amaha sending flirtatious looks at one another conspicuously.
“Today’s been tiring,” Anna commented. The maid had arrived a few hours later than Malia having to take a public flight to the Red Kingdom.
Malia reclined on her bed. “It sure has.”
The welcoming party was over, and Malia was in her new chambers. She and Raiden had split ways after the party, and he was very vague about where he was going next. “I need a good night’s rest to tackle tomorrow.”
“Same here.” Anna was unpacking Malia’s belongings and was halfway done. But she was tired and could barely keep her eyes open.
“Go to bed, Anna. I can tell you’re tired.” Malia snuggled into the covers and sighed as her muscles relaxed.
“Is it really that obvious?” Malia nodded with her eyes closed. “I’ll finish up tomorrow then.”
Anna shuffled to the door of Malia’s room. Closing the lights, she exited the princess’s chambers.
Malia sat upon her throne, next to Raiden’s. She felt the weight of something on her head and pulled it down so she could see it.
A crown glistened in Malia’s hands. The jewels a sparkling beauty, but the object seemed to dissolve until she was holding nothing. She felt the throne pulled out from under her, and she hit the ground.
Gritting her teeth in pain, Malia stood up and glanced behind her to see who had pulled the throne.
Instead, she saw that Lady from the welcoming party! Lady Amaha sat on the Queen’s throne Malia was sitting on a few seconds earlier. She was holding Raiden’s hand and in the other carrying a bundle.
Upon further notice, Malia realized it was a baby.
Raiden’s eyes locked with hers, and she could sense the scorn that filled his blue orbs. The image swirled to one of the twins. Her brown eyes held the same look Raiden had possessed.
“You don’t belong here. You’re not like us. You can’t be our queen.”
You can’t be our queen.
You can’t be our queen.
You can’t be our queen.
Malia woke up with a shout. The nightmare still crystal clear in her mind. Holding her hands up, she could still feel the weight of the crown in her palms.
Glancing at her windows, Malia noticed it was dawn and stood up.
Walking to the bathroom, she started a bath for herself. She needed time to think.
It was obvious that the earlier events of the day had affected her nightmare. But what had she done to receive the rude behavior from Cosima and Amaha?
Raiden woke up to something weighing down on his bare chest. As his eyes fluttered open, he glanced down. A mass of blond curls lay on his chest, rising and descending with his every breath.
Rubbing his eyes, memories of last night came back to Raiden how he’d been in a hurry to drop off Malia and to Amaha’s room, where he’d remained the rest of the night.
It wasn’t the first time he’d woken up in the embrace of Amaha, but it was the first where he thought if what he was doing was wrong.
He’s engaged. This shouldn’t be occurring, but what harm did it do till he was married?
It’s not like there was any romantic affiliation between him and the princess. Except for the first night they’d met, but Malia was drunk, she wouldn’t act that brazenly while sober.
Raiden took a minute to mull over what to do until he decided on an answer. After he and Malia consummate their marriage, he’d stop spending his nights with Amaha. And that was weeks away.
His thoughts immediately vanished when Amaha trailed an arm up his chest and around his neck. “What’s on your mind?” she questioned him. With her other hand, she lazily drew circles on his bare chest.
“Nothing,” he lied, but the Lady wasn’t buying it.
“It’s the princess, isn’t it?” Amaha wasn’t sure when she’d asked him, but the look on his face said it all. It was time for a distraction.
Pulling his head down, she kissed Raiden passionately, hoping the princess would be the least of his worries. He shouldn’t be wasting his time thinking about her. He was with her right now.
And that’s the way she thought it should be.
Malia bumped into Raiden in the hallway. “Good morning,” she greeted.
“Morning, princess,” he responded, skimming the papers he was holding. An entourage of advisors was behind him, talking to one another.
They respectfully bowed to the princess, and she gave them a nod. “Where were you last night?” Malia inquired, “You left abruptly, is everything alright?”
“Everything’s okay.” Malia could sense the coldness in his voice and withdrew away slightly.
“Oh, um, then I’ll be heading on to breakfast.” She made a move to sidestep him and continue down the hallway, but he intercepted her.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to say it like that. I’m just a bit worn out from work.”
Malia smiled up at him. “That’s quite alright. I know managing a kingdom can be stressful.”
“Thanks for understanding.” Raiden felt bad for lying, but he knew he couldn’t tell her the truth about his whereabouts last night.
“I’ll see you soon then.” Giving him a small wave, she continued her walk to the dining room.
Raiden sighed in relief. All he had to do was keep her unsuspecting for the next few weeks.
No problem, right?
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