Chapter 5: Blackmail
JAMES Romans, a man in his mid-twenties with a successful career as a pastry chef, is also the co-owner of the famous ‘Le Manger’ restaurant which he and his older twin brother managed worldwide.
Tall, with lighter brown skin, James had a soft facial structure that looked very much like his mother and possessed a pair of beautiful Amber eyes that matched perfectly with his short and somewhat messy dark brown hair.
He had arrived home a couple of hours earlier after spent nearly ten hours flying across the country. As soon as he opened the front door of their apartment, James was instantly greeted by the young feline, before slumped himself on the nearby sofa in the living room with Casey purred loudly on his chest, and he fell to sleep instantly.
It was a couple of hours later James found himself waking up from his deep slumber when he heard the front door was being unlocked and three figures stepped into the house.
Rubbing his eyes tiredly, James was about to greet his baby sister whom he had not seen in years due to work commitment when his eyes strayed at the two male figures behind her.
What the fuck?
Anya could not get those three words repetitively out of her mind. The moment when she stepped into the house and saw his figure slumped on the sofa, her mind turned a total blank.
Anya finally snapped back to reality when she felt a pair of strong arms pulled her into a tight embrace.
How long had it been since he last seen her? Two and a half years? James pondered while hugging his baby sister tightly in his arms.
They have been awfully busy managing the restaurant that they hardly keep in touch despite the advanced technologies nowadays. The least they did through communication was via social media and instant messengers.
James sighed deeply. Dean was right, I really need to take time off from work and returned home often.
“...James...Breathe... JAMES!” Anya quickly pulled away from the older man and fend her hair from being ruined.
“I missed you so much, little brat! I missed how your nose flared up when you’re angry and even the stupid look on your face when you’re upset!”
“I’m flattered, James. What brings you home all the sudden?”
While she may appear calm and annoyed, internally, Anya was having an incredibly hard time not to freak out when a sudden sharp pain stung on her forehead.
“What? I can’t come back home and visit my baby sister anymore?”
Owh. You know that’s not what I meant,” Anya replied, rubbing the spot where he had flicked her forehead.
Crossing his arms and smiled smugly at her, James only noticed the two gentlemen who remained still by the door.
“Oh, I’m sorry. You must be the new guys currently working at Homez. I’m James, Anya’s older brother. Sorry I didn’t recognise you, lads, earlier. Thanks for sending her home safely, though. Hope she didn’t cause you any troubles,” James approached and exchanged handshakes with them.
“You’re not answering my question!”
“Right, right. So, I’d called Mum the other day just to see how she’s doing. She told me she’d be out of town for a Bakery Conference for the whole week. Since I managed to get two weeks off from work, so I thought, why not come home and babysit you? I didn’t come back home last year, after all.”
James turned the doorknob and opened the front door, subtly indicated them to leave.
“Anyway, it is really late, fellas. I appreciate you lads accompanying Anya’s home safe and sound, though.”
“Not a problem at all!” Duke laughed nervously as he and Aidan stepped outside of the door.
The door was shut and locked tightly before the Prince, nor his Butler could do or say anything else.
Sighing tiredly after a long and hard day of travelling, James turned to his sister who stood still and gasped at what he had just done. Just when he was about to ask her what was wrong, there were few knocks on the front door.
“Oh? Who could that be at this late hours?” James unlocked the door and opened it.
“Hello!” Duke greeted cheerfully.
“Oh, hi. You must be Auntie Penny’s sons, Duke and Aidan, right? Mum has already informed me that you’ll be staying with us for a while. Come on in!” James opened the door for them to enter.
“Thank you for your kindness, Mister James. We’re terribly sorry to intrude your humble home with our presences.”
“Eh, don’t worry about it. Auntie Penny is a longtime customer of ours and a good friend of mum. Help yourselves at home. You’ve met Anya earlier today, right?”
“Yes. Miss Anya has kindly taught us what needs to be done at the cafe earlier,” Aidan grinned mischievously, turned to look at the horrified young woman.
Her eyes drifted to Duke who was talking animatedly to James, to the man still with a mischievous grin — Aidan.
Meanwhile, Aidan returned her gaze with a wink. He then put one finger on his lips and whispered one word that made her cringed. Magic.
All three heads instantly turned to Anya.
“You’re okay, kid?” James asked, frowning slightly.
Realising what she had done, Anya laughed nervously and shook her head.
“No. Uhh. Steve and Emma are just messing with me in a group chat so... You know what, I’m just too exhausted. I think I’ll head straight to bed now after a nice hot shower.”
“Okay, then. Good night, sis.”
MINUTES after Anya had refreshed herself and relaxing on her bed when there were a few knocks on the door.
The door opened with a burst, caused Anya to jumped from her bed instantly when she saw James carried a mattress into her bedroom.
“What the hell, James?”
“I’m sleeping here,” James laid the mattress on the floor and collapsed on top of it, huffing slightly.
“No kidding,” Anya glared. “Why?”
“Because my baby sister, we have male guests in the house and therefore, I’m not sure I can trust them.”
“What? You think I can’t take care of myself around the guys? I’ll beat the crap out of them if they ever lay a finger on me. You know I will. Go and sleep in your own room and take the mattress with you.”
“That being said, it is still inappropriate for a young woman to live together with strange men. Besides, I’ve already told one of them to take my room. While Mum is away, I will sleep in your room to make nothing happens to you, youngsters. Understood?”
“That’s double standard bullshit! I’ve slept over at Steve’s place many times before and you never once seemed to have any problem with it!”
“Steve is a family,” James replied in a neutral tone. “Besides, he’s smart enough not to do anything to you. Between Emma’s wrath, Josh, myself and not to forget, Dean, will beat the crap out of him if he ever think about touching you.”
Anya snorted loudly and rolled her eyes.
“Listen, if it worries you so much, just sleep in the living room. That way you can keep watchful eyes on them, right?”
“Let me tell you something about men — even the nicest men you meet can turn into sluggish pigs. I’m just trying to protect you.”
“You’re a man too. What makes you any different than them?”
“Unlike them, I’ve seen you butt-naked when you were just a baby. Believe it or not, sis, you’re not exactly my type.”
“Get out!” Anya bellowed, her face covered in red. “You are not sleeping in my room!”
Ignorance of her words, James laid his head on the pillow and covered himself whole with a duvet.
“I’m too tired to argue with you, Anya. Let’s just sleep on it tonight, okay? Shut the light too, will ya?” Not sooner as those words left his mouth, the room filled with soft snorts came from the man.
Anya growled softly before she switched off the light and climbed onto her bed.
As much as she felt annoyed with James for barging into her room unexpectedly with a mattress, Anya could not help but to smile and felt a warmth spread all over her chest as she watched his broad back.
James’s here. He’s finally home.
AT three o’clock in the morning, a tall silhouette figure suddenly turned the knob to the youngest Roman’s room and stepped in, very carefully not to do anything that would give away his presence.
Once he reached the end of the bed, the said man watched the youngest Roman sleeping peaceful and briefly wondered why couldn’t she behave more like a lady? Maybe then, he would be more than willing to be polite to her.
The man placed one hand on Anya’s mouth while his other hand pinched her arm gently before he gradually increased the pain.
Anya’s face retorted uncomfortably. She tried to wave whatever it was that caused her so much pain on the arm. Eventually, after a round of turning and tossing in her sleep, Anya abruptly woke up and gasped when she saw someone was sitting beside her on the bed with his hand pressed against her mouth.
"Shh. you do not wish to wake up your brother especially in our current compromising position, do you?”
“Aidan,” Anya hissed and roughly pulled his hand away from her mouth. “What the hell do you want? Do you have any idea what time is it now?” Her face flushed darkly due to their closeness.
“It’s three fifteen in the morning. Come along, Miss Romans. There is something that I must show you, ”Aidan got up and was ready to leave but stopped abruptly when instead, the young woman rolled in a fetal position and covered herself again with a blanket.
“I’m tired. Can’t it wait?”
Seconds later, Anya felt something cold, and sharp at her cheek. Eyes widened, she felt her blood drained when he spoke the next words very quietly in her ears.
“Come obediently with me, and we can spare the long explanation to your brother why there are trails of blood on the bed, or I’ll drag you off your bed regardless, waking up your brother from your screaming and finally having to force to kill him. Your choice, Miss Romans.”
“Are you threatening me again? You won’t dare,” Anya growled lowly.
“There are a lot of things you do not know about me or what I’m capable of doing, Miss Romans. I prefer to keep it that way.”
Knowing all too well that she would lose in this battle, still covered in blanket Anya dragged her feet off from the bed while swearing underneath her breath.
“Uhh. Why we in front of Dean’s room?” Anya asked suspiciously once they have gotten out of her room safely.
“You’ll see soon enough. Come now, Miss Romans,” Aidan opened the door.
Before James sudden return, the two Excalibellians had bunked in the latter’s room despite being told by Anya that they could sleep separately in the twins’ room.
Aidan had responded by saying it would make things easier for them to share a room and for him to protect Duke should the unexpected were to happen.
Ever since the encounter with the Demon King’s son, Zenon, they had been on high alert and taken extra precautions to avoid any unnecessarily encounters with him.
Not bothered to turn on the light, Aidan walked straight in the darkness until he reached to a wall beside the study table. Anya followed behind him, as she watched with curious eyes.
Aidan lifted his right hand to the wall and immediately, it started to glow in dark blue before a secret passage suddenly formed on the wall before them.
Glared at him with both awe and highly suspicious, Anya forced herself to swallow the bitter taste of her saliva knowing he had again used magic in the house — without her permission!
“Ladies first, ”Aidan stepped aside. With a charming smile, he gestured for her to walk into the secret tunnel passage.
Anya stepped into the dark passage and waited for the Butler lead the way, with arms crossed.
“There’s no need to fret, Miss Romans,” Aidan chuckled deeply. “His Royal Highness is waiting for us inside.”
The two continued to walk through the dark passage until they reached the end of the journey where a bright blue light welcomed them.
Anya swallowed hard. Her palms were sweating and her heart thumping wildly against her chest as she proceeded cautiously.
The first thing that came to her sight was a gigantic flat screened monitor attached with a few modified keyboards at the centre.
Rubbing her eyes not believing what she saw, Anya looked up and immediately met with Duke’s gentle gaze.
“Are you alright, Miss Anya? I hope this does not frighten you too much?”
“I-I’m fine. It’s just... Ahem!” Mika quickly composed herself and cleared her throat. “Exactly where the hell am I and what is that gigantic thing?”
“Please allow me to explain and apologise to you first and foremost for waking you up in early hours. It is absolutely not my intention to be rude, and I certainly hope Aidan did not wake up Mister James earlier?”
“James still asleep. Your butler however, threatened to murder him if I didn’t come along.”
Duke glared at the butler who busied himself with the monitor.
“I shall have a word with him. For now, though, there’s someone who would like to meet with you urgently. Please do not scream and freak out, Miss Anya.”
Anya raised an eyebrow. “Why the hell would I want to —”
“Is this the commoner you were talking about, Duke?” said a deep grouchy voice came from a full-screen monitor.
The blanket that was wrapped around Anya instantly slipped down to the floor.
Anya gawked with an opened mouth at the big and intimidating muscular bearded man with sharp olive eyes and braided grey hair staring back at them on the screen.
It took her a minute for her mind to connect the resemblance between the gigantic man and the young Prince holding onto her tightly as her knees gave away, with much concerned.
“Don’t tell me...”
“Yes. Please allow me to introduce you to the supreme ruler of Excalibell: my father, King Edwin XII.”
TIME seemed to have stopped moving as Anya remained still with sweats running down her spine with the most horrified look on her face.
Her mind told her to run away and wake up James, but her legs were not working at the moment.
Calm down, girl. This must be a dream. There’s just no way in bloody hell a king from far away land would be talking to her through the monitor-
A loud cough snapped out of her daze. Anya instantly met with Aidan sharp gaze pierced on her while he stood slightly behind her.
“Has anyone ever taught you any manner when dealing with people?”Aidan whispered lowly. “Behave yourself in front of the King.”
Aidan turned over to the monitor, lowered his head and went down on one knee.
“My apologies for the rudeness shown by this commoner, Your Majesty.”
“It’s fine, Aidan,” King Edwin waved a hand then pointed his finger at Anya. “You, child. Step forward so that I may see your face clearly.”
Anya moved nervously with small steps. Behind her, Duke and his butler watched her moved, equally nervous. A minute of awkward silence passed by between them before the King cleared his throat.
“I am King Edwin Excalibell XII, the Supreme Ruler of the Kingdom of Excalibell, as prior stated by my idiotic son over there.”
Duke flinched at the sharp tone of his voice when he mentioned the word ‘son’ after gotten his arse chewed by his father for his recklessness that led them to this disastrous event.
“It is nice to finally meet with you, Miss Anya Romans.”
“T-The pleasure is a-all mine, Y-Your Majesty!” Anya berated herself internally for appear weak and stuttered severely in front of the king.
“My son has already informed me everything that happened thus far — including the fact that he is now working in your family’s coffee shop as a way to repay his debts for letting them stay over at the comfort of your home. Is that true, Miss Romans?”
“I see. Then let me ask you this, you are aware of the fact that he is indeed a Prince and that what you are doing, is in fact, a big crime? Forcing the future King of Excalibell doing commoner’s bidding is a serious crime that could lead you to a death penalty, even.”
“Father! Miss Anya has never forced us to —”
A hand lifted in the air and refrained the Crown Prince to talk any further.
Anya slowly lifted her head and looked at the King firmly.
“With all due respect, Your Majesty. I have never forced the Prince nor his butler to work at Homez. They volunteered to work there as a way to repay their debts to me for providing them shelter and food. Furthermore, the way you say about them working at Homez really annoys me. It’s as if they’re working at a brothel. It’s disgusting to hear how you belittle us common folks working our arses off each and every day just to put food on the table.”
Duke quickly pulled his butler away and shook his head, refrained the man from interrupting.
“What’s more, your son really enjoys working at Homez. Did you know he’s excellent and creative at decorating and frosting the cream tops? It took me two years to master a good technique, and he does it within ten minutes! That’s natural skills, I tell ya! And furthermore—”
“Miss Anya, I think my father understood what you’re trying to say,” Duke quickly cut in and covered her mouth with one hand.
While Duke tried to calm down the now enraged young woman, King Edwin kept quiet the whole time and observed them. His eyes moved from the young woman and his son to the lonesome butler who glared dangerously at the young woman.
A smirk appeared suddenly across the king’s lips.
“Yes, father?” Duke turned to his father immediately and held onto his breath.
“Please escort this young lady back to where she came from. Aidan, stay. I would like to speak with you for a moment.”
“Yes, Your Majesty.”
“But...Very well, father,” Duke bowed deeply.
Without a word, he pulled Anya back to the dark passage while Aidan stayed behind. Once those two left, Aidan sighed deeply.
“Your Majesty. Please forgive that commoner’s lack of manners. I—”
“She’s quite all right.”
King Edwin sighed with a tiring smile.
“Too bad my idiotic son has already chosen his bride. Otherwise, I would have pushed him for it. That commoner would make a great Queen.”
“Sire, forgive me for my lack of manners, but what made you suddenly speak highly of that uncivilised woman?”
The king roared with laughter. “Now, now Aidan. You shouldn’t run your mouth about women like that, lest they run away from you! Then again, it’s not really your fault for acting the way you do...” King Edwin gave a pitiful look.
“Strong, bold and outspoken — those are traits that are not easy to be found in the women of our time. It takes guts for a commoner to say those words upfront to a King. Furthermore, she reminded me a lot of my Edna when we were younger.”
Aidan kept silence and contemplated what had been said by the King.
King Edwin rarely talk about his beloved Queen who died during childbirth. Many have believed the reason why the king never took a consort was that he’s still very much in love with her even after all these years.
An eternal love — a subject which Aidan had never understood nor did he bothered to care ever since he had taken an oath as the Gran Mago and dedicated his life to protect the Prince.
After a moment, Aidan cleared his throat.
“Is there anything else you wish to speak, Your Majesty?”
“Yes. Regarding the topic that we’ve discussed earlier, do not let the Prince knows no matter what. I shall inform you when to tell him. Understood?”
“Yes, Your Majesty. You have my words.”
THE second time Anya woke up after three hours of sleep, she was convinced it was all just a dream. Yawned and stretched her arms, she recalled meeting with a substantial bear-like man who claimed to be Duke’s father.
It must be a dream. It has to be. There’s no such thing as a gigantic monitor in a secret passage, and a king appeared on the said screen.
Anya thought for a moment and eventually shook her head. Eyes gazed down, Anya saw James’ figure still bundled up in his duvet with only his messy hair popped on the surface.
Decided to let him be, Anya grabbed her towel and was about to head to the bathroom for a nice hot shower when her smartphone suddenly vibrated.
Unlocking her phone, Anya read through an email from the Shield Academy informed the whole class that class is cancelled due to the professor being hospitalised for food poisoning. Instantly, Anya threw her towel, dived into the comfort of her bed and continued her slumber.
About an hour and a half later, Anya was once again rudely awaken by James who shook her to get ready for school. When she told him about the good news, James still did not budge and informed her to help him out at Homez.
“Leave me alone! Let me sleep in peace!”
Annoyed by her childishness behaviour first thing in the morning, James yanked her blanket and kicked her out of bed. He even threatened to splash her with a bucket of icy cold water if she still refused to get up in time.
Fifteen minutes later, Anya now dressed in a simple white blouse long sleeves and three-quartered black pants, walked toward the living room. Her hair tied up in a simple ponytail.
Upon arrived in the living room, Anya was surprised to see breakfast was already served.
“Good morning, Miss Romans. You look pleasant today,” Aidan poured her a cup of coffee with a polite smile that made her shivered.
“English breakfast? Really?” Anya raised an eyebrow at the dish served.
“Indeed. His Highness the Prince requested to have English Breakfast this morning.”
Nodded awkwardly, Anya murmured ‘thank you’ and enjoyed her meal. A minute later, Aidan unhooked the apron he was wearing and hung it on the wall.
“I’ll be leaving now, Miss Romans. Mister James has requested for me to assist him at the Cafe before the opening hours. Although reluctant, I shall leave His Highness in your care,” Without another word, Aidan left the kitchen.
Exactly ten minutes later, Duke walked into the living room dressed in a fitted plain white shirt and black jeans.
“Good morning!” He took a seat beside her and smiled.
“Did you sleep well last night, Miss Anya?”
“Uh, yeah... I think I did,” Anya answered back, uncomfortably.
“Good! I was really concerned that my father might have scared you away!”
“Wait! You mean it was not a dream? That huge bear-like of a man on the monitor screen this morning was really your father!?”
“Of course,” Duke nodded slowly. “Is something wrong? You look rather pale. Are you not feeling well?”
Duke reached out and touched her forehead with the back of his hand when Anya slapped his hand away.
“I’m fine!” She picked up her fork and resumed to eat the rest of her breakfast.
Duke shrugged after awhile and ate his breakfast.
“Has Mister James already left for work? I haven’t seen him this morning.”
“Yeah. James said he’ll be going ahead and open the cafe. He’s expecting us to show up before ten though.”
“You know, your butler sure can cook. He makes a decent house- husband, if that even possible.”
Duke choked on his meal while trying to control his laughter.
“I’ve told him that many times! There is nothing that Aidan can’t do. Being a Gran Mago has made him a force to be reckoned with. As a matter of fact, he hardly uses any magic, unless it is necessary.”
“Really? I find it very hard to believe seeing as he constantly uses magic in this house,” Anya replied bitterly.
“That is to protect you!” Duke laughed nervously which earned him a glare.
Duke cleared his throat and the thick air around them.
“As long as he doesn’t use much of Offensive Magic, he should be okay.”
“What’s wrong with using Offensive Magic?”
Anya looked from her half-eaten meal to the Prince sitting opposite her.
“Well,” Duke swallowed the food in his mouth. “Magic isn’t all just for fun, Miss Anya. There’s always a price to pay as Magic consumes one’s life force. Of course, simple magic doesn’t cost a thing, but powerful magic, like Offensive and Defensive types consume a lot of life force. Which is why magicians from the Magic Guilds take years to be able to master the magic abilities alone, and they take long years to earn the highest title, the ‘Gran Mago’. Which was why they called Aidan a genius of his generations when he managed to obtain the title at thirteen years old.”
“Mmm. I see. It’s no wonder that he’s able to pull things out of thin air like it was nothing. Does this means you know how to cast some magic spells too, Duke?”
“Yes, of course,” The Crown Prince nodded. “Before Aidan became my butler, he was my Magic Instructor. Though I was personally trained by the great Gran Mago himself, my magic abilities aren’t just as powerful as the man himself.”
Anya said nothing more. She gathered her plate and cup to the sink and washed them before putting them away to dry.
Soon after Anya and the Excalibell Prince have eaten their breakfast and ready to leave the apartment, while locking the front door, Duke cleared his throat.
“There have been challenges in the past. Contenders who seek the title ‘Gran Mago’ must challenge the current holder. We often received challenges all year around with Aidan successfully beat them each time. It was truly remarkable to watch, Miss Anya.”
“Is that right? I found it hard to believe. You don’t sound very enthusiastic like always, Prince.”
Duke lowered his gaze. When he lifted his head up again, with a gesture of his hand, the household keys that Anya was holding suddenly disappeared.
“Hey! What the-”
“Powerful magic consumes a lot of one’s life force. Though Aidan may be a powerful Gran Mago, he is still a mortal like the rest of us.”
Duke showed her his left palm and the household keys reappeared. He lifted Anya’s left hand and gently placed them on her palm.
“JAMIE, darling. Where art thou?”
Anya called out her brother’s name cheerfully soonest as they arrived at Homez.
“Took you two long enough to get here,” James chided from the kitchen. “Give me a hand over here, will you?”
Nodded, the trio immediately went over to help him bring cupcakes on strays to the front counters.
“Have a taste,” James offered them the red velvet cranberries cupcakes. The design was simple; creamed cheese toppled with various decorations on top.
“This is so good!” Anya licked off the creamed cheese on her fingers.
“Indeed! This tastes wonderful!”
“It is delicious.”
Satisfied with the comments given, James grinned broadly.
“All right! This will be our special promotion for today. We’ll serve these cupcakes to the customers for free just to let them have a taste. If they want more, then we’ll charge them. I’ll write it down on the board here. Understood?”
With a firm nod from everyone, they quickly finished eating their cupcakes and prepared to open the cafe.
IN another part of the city, a man with abnormally blue skin dressed in a flashy stripped orange suit with a yellow top hat, walked casually on the pavement like he owned the place. The thick Gothic makeup he wore was enough to make every fashionista in the world cringed with bleeding eyes.
Despite the stare he received, the confident man continued until he arrived at his destination: Homez’ Cake House.
Smirked to himself and adjusting his suit and hat, he pushed the door and walked in.
“WELCOME to Homez! How may I—”
Anya’s cheerful greetings stopped midway when her eyes met with the new customer. Gasped loudly, the empty tray that she was holding slipped from her grips and fell on the ground in a loud bang.
Oh, God. Why? What is he doing here?!
Many thoughts ran through her mind as she locked eyes with the Demon’s Prince. Before any of them could speak, steady footsteps followed by a familiar voice greeted the customer.
“Welcome, Sir. Where would you like to be seated?”
Professionally as always, Anya thanked the Heavens that Aidan stepped forward with a slight bow and an icy smile.
“I’ve heard rumours this place sells extremely delicious savouries and decided to find out myself.”
“Indeed we do,” James replied and proceed hastily from the counter.
“I’m James Romans. this is my sister, Anya. We’re co-owners of this family cafe. Please, allow me to escort you to your table, sir. This way, please.”
Zenon followed James to his seat. Upon being seated, the chef served him a complimentary coffee and a red velvet cranberry cupcake.
With the cafe’s cheerfulness returned once again, Anya stood nearby the coffee machine with arms crossed on her chest and eyes glared at the back of their new customer.
“I’d thought demons are supposed to be allergic to sunlight,” Anya gritted her teeth as she spoke.
“How could we not able to detect his presence earlier? Aidan would never let him get any closer otherwise,” Duke whispered beside her.
Anya massaged her forehead. She could feel waves of a migraine hurting her head.
With a deep sigh, she asked. “So, what now? Should we wait for Mr Fancy-Pants here to leave or—”
“Excuse me!” Zenon waved a hand in the air. James who was at the counter immediately went over to his table.
Anya watched closely the exchanged words between her brother and the Demon Prince. James’ facial expression made various changes, from polite to worry and concern. He raised his hands and shook his head a few times and finally, he dropped his head in defeat and walked away.
Anya hissed in frustration for unable to listen to the conversation closely. Her heart felt uneasy with the way the conversation had taken place.
Waiting for James felt like a lifetime. When he finally walked over to them, his face was blank with worried.
“James! What happened?”
James scratched the back of his neck. With a heavy sigh, he pulled Anya into the kitchen.
“We need to talk.”
TWO college students were ogling at Aidan, who smiled courteously as he served their meals before walking away. Not less than two steps away from the counter, the butler heard a booming stretchering voice came from the kitchen.
“I have to what?!”
“It’s only just for a day!” James quickly assured her. “Please Anya. would you go on a date with him?”
“Are you kidding me!” Anya bellowed. “Why the hell would I want to spend time, let alone go out on a date with that...that fancy pants?!”
“I too am against the idea of having a random guy taking you out on a date. But what choice do I have when he’s actually the world-class food critic, Jules Eugène!”
“I’m sorry. Am I supposed to CARE if he’s a world class food critic?” Anya scoffed.
“He does have an odd hobby of dressing up,” James coughed and cleared his throat. “Nevertheless, he is one of the best food critics in the culinary industry. All of his reviews have been used in every culinary school. If he writes bad reviews about Homez, what do you think would happened to us?”
Anya groaned heavily, tearing her hair.
“Anya, there are times where a sacrifice is needed when the business is at the stack. Moreover, he has made a promise to me nothing bad will happens to you while you’re with him. He said that he’s bewitched by your beauty. Hence, he would like to get to know you better.”
James made a face at her. “On top of it all, if you agree, he also promises to purchase every slice of each cake and every cupcake that we have, in cash!”
“So in other words, you’re willing to sacrifice me, your one and only baby sister, for the sake of profits? Brilliant,” Anya groaned. “Fine. I’ll go along to this stupid date for Homez’s sake. In return...”
Anya poked him hard on the chest.“You sleep in your own room or in the living room. Deal?”
Meanwhile, Duke waited anxiously at the counter and barely could wait any longer when the Romans siblings emerged from the kitchen.
“I’ve decided to go on a date with him. Though it is very much against my wills,” Anya glared sharply at her brother.
“Thanks, Anya. I know he said he won’t hurt you but if anything and I mean anything that he does makes you feel uncomfortable or even threatened at the slightest, do not be afraid take him down. I know with your black belt in Aikido, you can take him down enough to escape and find help.”
Anya mutely nodded.
“I’ll go and tell him. You go ahead and change.”
Zenon beamed brightly after James delivered the news to him. “As promised, please pack me a slice of every cakes and cupcake that you have in store.”
“Very well, Sir. Also, as you’ve promised me, you will not allow any harms come to my sister. Is that correct?”
Zenon nodded firmly. “You ain’t got to worry a thing. As a member of the Athanasios family, we value and honour promises above all. To dishonour a promise is to sin and that will lead to most direful and horrible consequences.”
Though James was confused by his words, he nodded mutely and left the table to pack the cakes and cupcakes.
While finishing up his cup of coffee, all the sudden, a table knife fell on his table and nearly missed his thigh by merely a couple inches away, before it hit the hard floor.
“Ah. Do forgive my clumsiness, Sir.”
A familiar voice caused Zenon to almost choke on his drink as Aidan got on one knee and retrieved the table knife.
“Just exactly what are you planning?” The butler whispered quietly.
“Hmm? Am I detecting jealousy coming from you, servant? Please. This is very much unlike you. Why would you care about a mere mortal anyway?” Zenon grinned wickedly.
Aidan glared narrowly at him. Without a word, he excused himself and made his way back to the counter.
A small shadow overlooked him caused Zenon to look up. Instantly, he has forgotten all about the Butler and gave a handsome smile.
Anya stood beside the table with a hand on her hip. She changed back to her attire earlier, and with help from Duke, donned her hair into a beautiful Dutch braid.
Narrowing her eyes, she kept glaring at Zenon as he got up and smiled.
“I’ll go and pay the bills. Wait here,” Taking her hand unexpectedly, he kissed softly on her knuckles much to Anya’s horror.
While waiting for Zenon to pay for the cakes, Anya desperately tried to ignore the stares and whispers from the customers when her cell phone suddenly vibrated.
It was an instant message from Aidan.
The first thing Anya did after they have sealed their agreement was to purchase the Prince and Butler each a cheap smartphone and taught them how to use it.
’Miss Romans, under His Highness’s direct order, I have cast a protection spell on you to ensure that should Zenon dares to cause you any harms, you would mostly be protected. Bear in mind, he is a cunning fellow who loves to scheme. Seeing as how gullible you are, that makes you an easy target to dig some information about the Prince and I.
I do hope you do not give away any information on us no matter what — least you value your brother’s life.
Regardless, should the unexpected change for worse, simply pressed the gem on the bracelet and I will try my best to get to you soonest as I can.′
Anya gripped her phone tightly. With a gritted teeth, she turned to look at the butler who was in the middle of serving a customer’s drink.
Even at this crucial moment, he dared to threaten her with James’s life? Heartless bastard.
Anya’s fingers quickly replied the message before she closed her phone. Huffed, she watched Zenon made his way toward her and offered his arm.
“Shall we, Princess?”
James waved his hand and sighed hardheartedly. He watched his sister being escorted by a man whom he barely knew but had heard a lot about. A celebrity in the culinary world.
Not far away from where the older Romans was standing, Duke watched forlornly before making his way to where his butler was standing at the counter, who was checking on his phone.
“Has Miss Anya response to your message yet, Aidan?”
“Certainly she has, Your Highness.”
“Well, what did she say?”
Aidan frowned. “She response with foul wordings which I will not show you as it is not befitting for a member of the Royal Family to see.”
Duke pouted but decided to let the matter go.
IF this was not a blackmailed date, Anya Romans would have been thrilled and enjoyed riding a Lamborghini throughout the rural highway outside of the city.
When they had left the cafe, Zenon had taken her for a walk few blocks away from Homez’s to where he had previously parked his Lamborghini.
Anya sighed. He had been driving for an hour to God knows where in silence. Stretching her arms, Anya decided to start a conversation.
“So, where are we heading?”
“Don’t know,” Zenon replied mildly.
Anya resisted the urge to smack her forehead. “What do you mean you ‘don’t know’? You’re the one who wanted to go on this date!”
Zenon ignored her and focused on the road ahead.
Rolling her eyes, Anya let her eyes strayed at the scenery outside — nothing but trees everywhere.
“You know, when a man asked a lady out for a date, the least he could do is to take her out for a meal. You’ve been driving for an hour. Aren’t you hungry? I know I am.”
Soonest as those words came out from her mouth, Zenon pressed the accelerator hard he could, caused the young woman beside him to yelp.
Twenty minutes later and to Anya’s utter surprise, she found herself in a small noodle shop beside the road, with a steamy beef bowl noodles served in front of her.
Blinked her eyes a few times at her date, who sat on the opposite side and already digging into his meal like nobody’s business with great pleasure.
With a shrug, Anya began to eat her meal.
ONCE again, Anya found herself sitting inside of the Lamborghini, with a full tummy and no actual destination.
Yawned tiredly, she almost bites her tongue when Zenon suddenly pressed the break and pulled over at the side.
“What the hell, man!” Anya snapped.
Wordlessly, Zenon switched off the engine.
Anya’s heart dropped to her stomach as she realised the situation she’s in. With no cars around and literally out of nowhere, he chose to stop here of all place.
Wait. What if he decides to do something after all?
Anya gulped. She kept glaring at the man who gazed ahead with a hard and unreadable expression on his face.
If he dared to do anything, she would beat him within the inch of his life. Demon Prince or not, she wouldn’t give up without a fight.
All the sudden, Zenon opened the driver’s door and stepped outside.
“I’m going to smoke for a while. Be a good girl and stay in,” He then shut the door before the young woman could utter a word.
“The hell was that about?” Anya muttered lowly, breathing in relief. She wiped her damp forehead with the back of her hand before reached out for her smartphone.
Keeping watchful eyes on the Demon Prince who was still smoking outside, Anya dialled a speed-dial number and waited.
Three beeps tones later and she was immediately greeted by a loud voice belonged to a familiar male recipient.
“Don’t shout!” Anya hissed.
“My apologies, Miss Anya. I’ve been so worried. We all have been since you’d left Homez hours ago.”
“How’s everybody doing? How’s James doing?”
“Mister James... Well, he went home an hour after you’d left. He said he couldn’t concentrate on work today and told us to close up early at three o’clock. When Aidan and I got home, we found a half bottle emptied of Whiskey on the kitchen floor and Mister James sobbing on the phone, talking to a very confused Mister Josh on how he’d let his late father down by selling off his one and only baby sister to an unknown man.”
“What?!” Anya bellowed. “This is bad! This is really bad! James is a very light drinker! He couldn’t even handle a white wine let alone a hard liquor like Whiskey!”
Duke’s voice cracked a bit. “Understanding the situation, we’ve tried to, uh, minimise the damage. Please don’t get mad at Aidan, Miss Anya, but I ordered him to cast a spell on both Mister James and Mister Josh. They won’t remember what happened!”
There was dead silence on the other side while the Excalibell Prince hanging on to the phone like a lifeline.
A deep breath on the other side was all that Duke needed to know the line was not being cut.
“This time. This one time, I’ll allow it. But if you dare to use your hocus-pocus magic on any of my family members again, so help me, Duke, I’ll-”
The line went completely dead.
He did not just hang up on me.
Anya glared murderously at her phone which she clenched so tightly. She was so pissed she didn’t even notice Zenon returned to the car until he shut the driver’s door.
The car started moving again, but this time, Anya didn’t give a damn where. All her anger was channelled to the Excalibell Prince who hung up on her for whatever reason.
Zenon, on the other hand, who had been mostly silent during the whole date, stole a glance at the young mortal. The look on her face was enough to make even him, the Demon Prince, shivered.
DUSK finally settled in when Zenon pulled his Lamborghini to a stop in front of Anya’s apartment. He watched amusingly as Duke who was waiting impatiently at the front lobby like an overprotective mother hen, rushed over to greet them.
Anya took off the seat belt and opened the door when she stopped. All the while, she debated in her mind if she could say something to him.
Thanks for the date! It wasn’t her choice in the first place.
It was fun! Hardly. They hardly even converse for the last hours.
Well, I guess see you around! No. She never wants to see him ever again.
In the end, Anya couldn’t find the right words to say. As she was just about to get off, suddenly a strong hand pulled her shoulder. Even Anya could act, she found herself staring into Zenon’s deep red eyes as his hands cupped her both her cheeks and brought her face closer to his.
Eyes widened, Anya’s breathing hitched as her mind went completely blank. Their faces were so close she could practically feel his breath on her face.
Their lips were mere inches away when someone opened the passenger’s door and pulled her out of the car before slamming the door loudly that the entire Lamborghini shook.
Duke snarled lowly as he watched Zenon speeding on the road and out of sight, all the while, he kept his arms wrapped over-protectively around the still in dazed young woman’s waist.
“Miss Anya. Can you hear me? Miss Anya!”
The dazzling spell broke like glass and Anya struggled and shove the young Prince away.
“Get away from me!”
“It’s me, Prince Duke!” Duke tightened his grip on her waist with one hand cupped her right cheek.
“Miss Anya, it’s okay. He didn’t get to you. You’re safe now.”
Anya breathed in slowly, calming down the rapid beating of her heart. Her entire face still warmth moments of almost being kissed by the Demon Prince.
Anya snapped out from her thoughts and meeting his worried gaze.
“What happened to me, Duke? I remember being pulled back while trying to get out of the car when my mind suddenly went numb...”
“Zenon hypnotised you,” Duke hissed lowly. “It was a harmless spell, which I was able to break with a counter-magic. He did it to irk me. The nerves of that imbecile.”
Duke released her and breathed in deeply. “He didn’t hurt you before you came, did he? Because if he did —”
“He didn’t. We barely talked the whole time he was driving to God knows where.”
“You must be exhausted,” He offered her a wary smile as they walked toward the elevator.
A Lamborghini stopped under the bridge of a highway and Zenon stepped out for some fresh air and stretched his limbs. He lighted the cigarette he popped into his mouth while gazing at the dark skies.
Forcing to go on a date with him and watched how the horrified look on the Excalibell Prince’s face had made his day.
Zenon had grown tired of his father nagging him to take his role as the Demon Prince seriously and was in need of stress release. What’s a better way to do so than to irk his mortal enemy, the Prince of Excalibell who’s currently trapped in the Other World?
What’s more, the mortal woman with whom the Excalibell Prince befriended with, seemed to be an easy target. Maybe he could even screw her mind this time into doing his bidding.
It was then Zennon came out with a terrific plan, one that he knew for certain neither the Prince nor his repulsive butler could reject his proposal.
As much as Zenon loved to watch the Excalibell Prince torn to pieces, he certainly did not expect it was someone else who took the cake.
Oh, certainly not. Zenon smirked.
He remembered while driving on the rural highway heading to nowhere in particular, he saw something appeared like a shadow. It appeared and left as quickly, on the rear view of his car.
It was the damned Butler, and he looked every bit pissed.