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Chapter Seven

The strange woman’s voice was back, bidding me come into the forest whenever I began to drift off to sleep. Eventually, I found myself padding to Levi’s room and knocking on the door. He did not answer immediately, but when the door creaked open and he stood shirtless in the doorway, sleepily rubbing at his eyes and hair sticking up in different places, I felt more at ease.

“Hi,” He mumbled, blinking slowly down at me. His voice was laced with sleep. “Can I help you or something?”

Snapping out of my thoughts, I hugged my arms over my chest and glanced down the hallway where my bedroom door was wide open. A shadow passed through the doorway, causing me to edge closer to Levi. He gazed out into the hall, too late to see the change.

“Can I stay with you tonight?” I asked, gaze still focused on the light coming from my room. When I glanced up at Levi, he shrugged and let me in.

His room was exactly like mine with the same thick, dark purple curtains and desk opposite the bed. A candle burned on his bedside table, a book lying face down on the wood. His bed was an utter mess from his own tossing and turning. Maybe he was having nightmares too?

Levi went straight to his bed, climbing under the thick covers and promptly getting ready to fall back asleep. Hesitantly, I moved to the other side and lifted the covers. His eyes were sleepily watching me as he masked a yawn. Holding back one of my own, I got under the quilts, savouring the immediate warmth as I rested my head on the fluffed up pillow. Levi’s eyes fluttered closed. He looked cute when his features were relaxed. Getting comfortable, I allowed sleep to take me in hopes the voice had left me alone.

When I woke up, it was to the feeling of someone moving their fingers through my hair and the warmth of an exposed chest under my cheek. Remembering where I was, I stiffened, consciously aware of how the nightshirt had moved up to my thighs and how Levi’s heart was intimately beating under my ear.

“Finally awake?” His voice was husky, his hand stopping its movements. Nodding, I began to sit up, rubbing the sleep from my eyes. When I glanced down at him, I could see the full intricacy of his tattoo and scars littering his skin. I wanted to touch them, outline each engraving mark with my index finger and run my hand over his abs, feel his pecks, touch his neck-

“I should get going before Blaze comes,” I muttered, trying to clear my head of those thoughts. I was on the edge of the bed when Levi touched my arm.

“One more day then the event, maybe we should take today to get to know each other? You can choose the place and I’ll come,” He suggested, pulling his hand back. “And if you can’t sleep again, you’re welcome to disturb me in the short time I’m still in here.”

“Thanks.” Smiling, I hurried out just as Yuki entered my room and came rushing out. Sighing, I lied about being in the library as she ushered me into my room then the bathroom.

After breakfast, the day was filled with activity. Both Levi and I had to be measured once again for clothing, a suit and a dress representing our wedding attire before we were separated as Shimmer worked on an intricate bodice for the ball. As she worked, her tail swished gently against the floor, bumping against my ankles in her excitement.

When lunch came, I took my chances and asked politely that some dishes were to be taken to the menagerie and told the others to enjoy their meals as I escaped into the tower. Levi took that as his cue, joining me with two goblets and a bottle of spiced wine.

Stepping away from the window, I took a seat on a cushion. Someone must have said something because now the floor was cushioned and blanketed where the birds did not roost. Levi sat on the other cushion and poured a healthy amount of spiced wine in each goblet before handing one to me. Taking a sip, I wondered if my mother was the one to make the tower into a menagerie or if it was the first queen to step foot into the castle. Maybe it was a surprise created by the Lizard Folk for her marriage to the first king?

“Have you always been a nature girl?” Levi asked while glancing over the fruits, cheese and bread sitting on the platter.

“Not in the beginning, but when my father and I went to South Africa and saw the wildlife there, it became a quiet passion of mine,” I answered, picking up some strawberries and nibbling on one. “And you, nature or no?”

“Yes and no. I preferred the ocean and its mysteries over the jungles and deserts.”
“Preferred? Well, either way, it must have been fun diving around the New Barrier Reef.”

Levi was silent, picking up a hot bread bun as the cogs spun behind his lowered eyes. I thought I had ended the conversation by accident, but when I went to start a new one, he opened his mouth, the corners of it lifting in an attempt to stop a smile.

“Falyn and me, we used to go down to the beach every weekend when I was little. As soon as I touched the water, I had known I belonged in it but...” He fell short, beginning to answer my question. “It’s not like that now and won’t be ever again.”

“What happened to Falyn?” I asked as gently as I could, not wanting to disturb him from the memory that glazed his eyes.

“He got really sick and instead of looking for help, he spent the money on me. He paid for my bail instead of just letting me learn my lesson for six months in jail. We could not afford the medication and he lost his ability to walk. The sea became a distant thought after that.” Levi looked away, clearing his throat and slowly eating the bun before washing it down with the wine.

I debated whether to share my own sad story or try to change the topic of conversation as I had meant to, but I found myself uttering the words I’m sorry and I can relate.

“I had a good relationship with my father even though his job took us everywhere and I could not make friends. It was just us two against the world, like you and Falyn. Last year, however, he went off to a war-torn country, I was left behind. His cameraman came back, he did not. The company refused to pay out the money for his death and I threw myself to work, dropping out of college.”

We were quiet for a long time after that, only the subtle sounds of our eating and the cooing of the roosting birds preventing an awkward silence. The birds, colourful yet unidentifiable, watched us as the sun began to sink, signifying the start of the afternoon-evening switch.

“You know, you caught me out last night. I don’t like silence and I especially don’t like being by myself, that’s why I tend to follow you or Blaze around,” He confessed, drawing one leg to his chest to rest his chin on his knee. “And you like silence and most likely prefer being alone, like last night.”

“Bullseye,” I said, rolling my eyes. “I also enjoy reading and writing while you don’t like either.”

“It’s tedious, okay. If I read something, I like it to state the things needed right away rather than beating around the bush,” He snapped before tilting his head in thought. “I am a simple man.”

“With a complicated past, cliche.”
“Well, it’s more like an onion.”
“Why an onion?”
“Because of the-”
“Layers? You are so cringy.”
“Nah, just a genius.”

Giggling, I hid my smile behind my hand as Levi watched on unimpressed. An idea popped into my head, causing my smile to turn into a smirk and lean slightly forward. “So, I was right about what I said last night, you find me somewhat alluring and different?”

“Y-yes... I guess working in that coffee shop really helped with your people skills, but I can say something similar. You like what you see with the number of times I’ve caught you staring,” Levi stated, smirking as I clenched my jaw and leaned back. “That’s two bullseyes for me.”


“Queen Harper, sorry to interrupt, but Shimmer needs you for final fittings,” Came Yuki’s voice from the hallway. Rolling my eyes, I grabbed an apple and the last bun before leaving Levi with a wink and smirk.

We were around the table for supper, the talk of tomorrow’s festivities causing a buzz of excitement in the castle walls. The chef, a tall Lizard Folk man with light yellow scales and dark green eyes and little jewellery compared to Shimmer, had sat with us for a time discussing what he was to serve for the royal ball. Being humans from Earth, both Levi and I encouraged him to create dishes that were only found in Wylan and what his heart felt right to cook. He grinned, unchained inspiration gleaming in his warm eyes.

“The invites have been sent to each kingdom,” Kit began, glancing at us as they spiked lettuce with their fork. “With these other royals will come guests from their respected territories. Tomorrow will be the first time you meet the thanes of your territories, from this, you will be expected to have sent invites. I have already done so and each territory will send on a representative to have your back.”

“You three are not going to be with us, are you?” I asked, feeling a pang in my chest. It would be lovely to have them dressed up with us, enjoying themselves.

“Yuki will be with you, but Blaze and I will be working in the shadows. Someone has to command the staff and another help the guards position themselves,” Kit explained gently, the anger they had from earlier’s stress leaving. “You will be fine, I’m more worried about the kingdom’s reaction to there being no marriage.”

“Technically, we could elope and have you three as witnesses to it?” Levi suggested, nibbling on the grilled salmon on his plate.

“We could do it right now,” I joked before frowning as Levi gazed at me purposefully. “W-why don’t we?”

Kit was deathly silent, glaring down at their plate of salad. Their thoughts were running fast behind their eyes as they glanced up at Levi and me. Yuki touched my hand, giving Blaze a knowing smile.

“Let them do it while there is no rush,” Blaze said, bumping Kit’s elbow. “Tradition is meant to be broken now and then, Kit. Look at us, sitting right at the royal table, eating off the plates we used to admire. Think where we all came from. Tradition is meant to be broken even if you don’t like it and we have been doing it since the day we were born.”

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