Nancy played the scene over and over in her mind as servants dressed her in a daringly low cut, off-the-shoulder silk gown of brilliant green. She wore no makeup as a virginal bride to be and that heavy monster of a crown sat on her head. By the time she was escorted to the library to meet her betrothed, Nancy was ready to face him. Naturally he would expect her to be chaste, docile and soft spoken. Nancy had to smile. Much to her debutant mother’s dismay, she had never been any of those things. She also knew the king expected her to be dumb as a stump and intended to impress her with his own extensive knowledge, which is probably why he had chosen the palace library for their first encounter. Had this been his own castle, King Iskander would no doubt wish to meet her in his trophy room, its magnificence a hopeful distraction against any physical shortcomings.
The massive doors closed behind Nancy as she stepped into the room and marveled at the rows of books lined up from ceiling to floor. As in the ballroom, the ceiling was made of clear glass, revealing a multitude of constellations in the night sky. The floor was made of marble so polished it acted as a mirror, making Nancy feel as if she was walking amongst the stars. There was a long, highly polished wooden table surrounded by chairs and partly covered in maps and papers. Against a nearby wall was a large desk on which sat a strange looking globe, and in the far corner of the room several overstuffed leather chairs were positioned before an enormous fireplace. Leaning against the mantle, staring into the fire stood a tall man. His sandy hair fell just to his shoulders beneath a gold circlet. A violet colored doublet stretched across his massive frame, the top open just enough to reveal a plume of down on his broad chest. The doublet was belted at the waist and brushed against a pair of well-muscled thighs clad in lavender hose to the knee where his plum leather boots started. He looked up as Nancy came towards him and though his gray eyes seemed to dance as they took her in, his wide jaw remained set.
“Queen Valeska, I presume?” He inquired in a deep velvety voice as he straightened. “I am Iskander, King of Shayn’del.”
Nancy threw her shoulders back, thrusting her breasts forward and causing the king’s sight to shift downward briefly. “Call me Nancy.”
Iskander smiled. “Why would I do that?”
Nancy smiled back. “Because that is my name. It has been my name for the last 20 years.”
“That was in the Mundane. You are back in Baelcrest now.”
“Nevertheless, my name is Nancy.”
The pair stared silently at each other for several moments before Iskander chuckled softly. Glancing about the room he remarked, “I see you were admiring the library.”
“I was, it’s very impressive.” Nancy replied.
“Not as impressive as the library in your own palace, though most of the books have since been sold or destroyed in the war. Your parents were avid readers and kept quite a collection.”
Nancy was taken aback. She did not expect to get information about her birth parents so soon.
“Did you know my parents?” She asked softly.
Iskander shook his head. “Not personally, no. I was but a child when the war started, but I know of them. They were good people, beloved by all. Once we take back Rune I will set about reestablishing your library, perhaps as a wedding present?”
Nancy swallowed. He was being so nice to her, she hated to break his heart, but she was determined to control her own destiny. “While I appreciate the sentiment, Lord Iskander, and I’m sure my parents would as well, I can’t marry you.”
Iskander placed his hands on his hips, an expression of amusement playing on his face. “You can’t? Are you already married?”
“No, there is no one in my life back home but…”
“Then why can you not marry me?”
Nancy sighed, set her jaw and tried again. “Lord Iskander, the fact of the matter is, I won’t marry you.”
He folded his massive arms and leaned against the wall. “Well, that is altogether different. Why, pray tell, will you not marry me?”
“Well for one thing I don’t know you. I know our marriage has been arranged and that’s what you do here, but where I come from people marry for love, not money or convenience.” She began to pace. “I’m not like the women you have here. I’ll warn you right now, I am not meek. I do not hold my tongue and I will not be subservient to any man.”
She stopped pacing and rounded on him. “I am a woman in my own right. I do what I want when I want and how I want. I will not have my life dictated by any so called mythical prophecy, nor by any man.”
Her eyes scanned his body, taking in his powerful chest, his rippling abs, the impressive bulge above his toned thighs. Nancy swallowed and shook her head before concluding, “No matter how large.”
Iskander’s face remained stony but a smile played with the corners of his mouth. He was laughing at her!
“What about the Alliance?” He asked quietly. “They need the power of our combined countries to defeat the enemy.”
“To Hell with the Alliance!” Nancy shouted, then stopped and shook her head. “No, that’s not what I mean. I get that we all have a common enemy and for my parents’ sake I have to get my country back, but surely we can join forces without having to be bound together for life?”
Iskander regarded her silently for several moments before nodding. “Alright, you are free.”
Nancy blinked. “What?”
“You are correct. We do not need to be man and wife to fight together against our common enemy. Besides, I do not want a viper such as you in my bed. I prefer maidens who keep their mouths shut and you look the type who would hound me with instructions.”
“Maybe if you knew what you were doing you wouldn’t need instructions.” She sniffed.
Iskander pushed off from the wall and backed Nancy up against a chair so fast her breath caught. He wrapped her braid in his fist, pressing their bodies together so that she could feel his steely girth against her and leaned in so his lips were just inches from her own. The fingers of his other hand lightly traced the contours of her cheek and jawline, down her throat and along the curve of her breast to the edge of her gown, sending delicious shivers through her body. Her mouth suddenly went dry as her heart pounded in her breast and she licked her lips, drawing his eyes to them momentarily.
“Believe me, milady, I know what I am doing.” He murmured.
Their eyes locked and he brushed his lips against hers causing shocks of electricity to flicker into her limbs. Nancy’s breath quickened and she felt herself become moist pressed against his body. Then as suddenly as it started it was over. Iskander released her and went back to the mantel to stare into the fire. Nancy stood there a moment reeling from a mixture of anger, confusion, and lust before stomping out the door.
Iskander sat in one of the oversized chairs, chuckling. Queen Valeska sure was something else. It was a shame that such a gorgeous creature would have a mouth on her. Her ruby locks waved gold in the firelight as she moved and her eyes flashed like a pair of the richest emeralds during her little diatribe. The blush upon her cheeks was a charming complement to her porcelain skin. He had marveled at its softness, his own pulse quickening as he caressed her. Memory of the woman’s lithe body pressed against him made him hard again. Despite his claim of not wanting her in his bed, he suspected time with Valeska would be quite a delightful little romp. Still, the woman did not have the demeanor, nor the upbringing, necessary to be his queen. Iskander needed a queen who was graceful and elegant like his mother had been. His future wife would stand by his side and tend to his needs when he was feeling low. She would listen quietly as he vented about anything that might be troubling him and offer solace but not opinion. Most important, she would come to his bed whenever he wished and bear him a long line of strong sons. Valeska might make a good queen and ruler of her own kingdom based on the strength and stubbornness she had exhibited. The gleam in her eyes as she surveyed the library gave Iskander the impression that she, too, was a lover of books and had intelligence like her parents before her. He was certain that she had a good heart but was just as certain she would make some poor bastard a lousy wife. So when she refused to marry him, why did he not feel relieved?