Xaria couldn’t understand a single thing that was happening as she prepared a slice of cake for the intimidating man in the room with her. Something was tingling in her brain, and when she finished setting the cake slice up, the tingling went away, making her scowl as she looked at him.
“What did you do to me?” she asked him.
He raised an eyebrow at her. “What are you talking about?”
“I specifically told you that we’re not open, and next thing I know, I’m preparing this slice of cake for you,” she replied.
Gabriel cocked his head to the side, taking her in. He looked into her eyes and found that his compulsion had worn off, something that shouldn’t have been possible to begin with. He was truly curious about her then.
“What did you do to me Gabriel?” she repeated her question.
He was caught off guard by the use of his first name. “Not even some of the closest people to me call me by name.”
“You’re out of your mind if you think I’m going to call you Mr Jankovic. I do not owe you that kind of respect,” she stated before her eyes widened.
The words had just rolled off of her tongue.
Gabriel found himself amused more than anything. “Are you going to give me the slice of cake? Or should I come and get it myself?”
She knew that there was a deeper meaning to his words, so she walked over to him. “You’re a stubborn man.”
“And yet you haven’t exactly kicked me out,” he argued.
She scowled when she realized that he had a point. “You did something to me. I just know it!”
“I did nothing to you Miss McLeod,” he replied.
“How do you know my last name?” she asked defensively.
He laughed, sending an unexpected chill down her back. “Calm down. I’m just observant and your last name is on the wall behind you.”
“Oh, right,” she said, blushing. Gabriel had to fight off reacting the way he wanted to at the sight.
He’d never seen a more enchanting sight.
“So Miss McLeod, are you joining me or are you just going to stand there and watch me?” he asked her.
“You shouldn’t even be sitting down in the first place,” she retorted.
He shot a smile that made her feel funny. “And I’ll remind you that you haven’t kicked me out.”
She frowned for the second time at the realization.
“Aren’t you some busy man who probably has somewhere to be?” she questioned.
“Are you trying to get rid of me?” he asked amusedly.
“Well yes. I wasn’t even supposed to be here. I just came to check on the shop and make sure that everything is ready for tomorrow’s high tea,” she found herself informing.
“Then maybe it was fate that we had to meet this way,” he offered, only to have a wave of acceptance rush through him as his primal side confirmed his words.
It was his turn to scowl as he looked at the woman before him. The longer he stared at her, the more enamoured by her he became. He’d never before thought of what he would want in a mate, and yet she stood before him, a perfect vision.
Except she was human.
“GABRIEL!” she shouted, snapping him out of thought.
“What’s got you so riled up Miss McLeod?” he asked.
“I’ve been trying to get your attention for five minutes now,” she huffed, making him smile to himself.
He must’ve spaced out.
“Well, you have my full attention now,” he told her.
“I asked if you wanted coffee or not,” she repeated.
“Does that mean I’m staying?” he asked amusedly.
She rolled her eyes. “It’s not like you actually had any intentions of leaving.”
“I’d love to have coffee, but only if you join me,” he said.
She huffed and headed behind the counter to prepare two cups, as well as some cake for herself. “Fine, I’ll join you, but I’m still curious about why you’d want to be here of all places.”
“I was driving past and realized that I’d never been in here before. When I saw the light on, I was curious, and I’m glad I did,” he replied.
“And?” she pushed.
“And what?” he asked, eyebrow raised.
“People like you don’t get easily distracted Gabriel. Don’t you have somewhere else to be?” she questioned once more.
“Actually, tonight I don’t. I had a hell of a crappy day and I just want to forget it ever happened,” he told her honestly.
She was taken aback by his response. She knew that he wasn’t being entirely honest with her, but the last thing she expected him to tell her was that he had a bad day he wanted to forget all about. She was even more confused by why she wanted to help him forget in the first place.
“My mom has always told me that the best way to deal with a bad day is to talk about it. Since you don’t want to leave, and you want me to join you, would you like to talk?” she offered as she carried the tray with their goods on it over to where he sat.
“Talking? Does that really work?” he asked. He’s never been one to talk about his feelings.
“You’re not one for sharing feelings, are you?” she asked knowingly.
He shook his head. “With who I am, I’ve always been taught that expressing or talking about feelings is a sign of weakness, so I’ve never done it.”
“You’re a CEO. I highly doubt talking about your feelings will make you weak,” she argued.
He smiled a little. “That’s just one of the things that I am, and it’s not the title that I’m protecting.”
“You mean there’s more? What more could a man in your position handle?” she asked.
“A man in my position?” he questioned.
She nodded. “Well yeah. I mean, I know from the media that you’re already a busy man who has his fingers in a little bit of everything. With that kind of life, one wouldn’t expect you to be taking on more.”
While he never thought about it, her confusion made sense. Vampyres don’t sleep though. They do need to rest, but even then, it takes a lot to actually tire them out, so he’s able to juggle the two lives he lives easily.
“Let’s just say I’m a man with a lot of energy,” he offered.
“Alright, let’s say I believe that. What’s the all important title you’re protecting?” she asked.
“I’m a prince,” he informed.
She laughed. “Yeah no. No amount of energy in the world can allow you to juggle being a world renowned CEO and a prince at the same time. That sounds like an insane life to live.”
He was still entranced by her laugh to notice that she’d basically called him a liar. He didn’t like what was happening inside of him. His thoughts were being consumed by her, and every little thing she did caused some kind of reaction in him.
And he knew he couldn’t act on his thoughts because he couldn’t even understand the situation before him.
“I’m telling you the truth though. I am Crown Prince Gabriel Jankovic of Trachba,” he said proudly.
She bit her lip, clearly amused. “That totally sounds made up.”
“Except it isn’t. It exists. The world is a big place Miss McLeod. You cannot possibly tell me that you know every single corner of it,” he challenged.
“I don’t need to know every corner of it to know that what you’re saying sounds other worldly, so unless if that’s what you’re hinting at, then I don’t believe you,” she replied.
“So you would believe me if it were other worldly?” he asked.
She nodded. “It’s definitely better than believing that there’s a place called Trachba on this earth.”
“And do you believe in the supernatural?” he asked curiously.
“I don’t particularly believe or not believe. I mean, I’m a believer of things I see with my own eyes,” she explained.
“But your vision can be altered Miss McLeod. What does your brain say?” he asked.
“My brain says that perhaps there are supernatural beings and things out there, except my vision isn’t the only thing that can be altered,” she argued.
He nodded. “Touché.”
“So, what supernatural being are you?” she asked, making him choke on his coffee.
“What makes you think I’m a supernatural being?” he asked.
She smirked. “I was actually going off of a hunch since you seem to be defending supernatural existence, but your reaction to my question just nailed it.”
Gabriel couldn’t believe that he’d allowed himself to be so easily tricked by the mortal woman. She looked satisfied at having achieved such a feat too, and that’s when he realized that for the first time since his mother’s death, he’d let his guard down.
“You seem really shocked that I figured it out, so I’m going to guess that you’re a vampire,” she said.
“How do you arrive at that?” he asked.
“Well, I don’t know if humans have it correct, but based on their descriptions of vampires, I’m going to match what I already know about you. You’re ice cold, you move at unimaginable speeds, and I’m pretty sure you compelled me into getting you the slice of cake,” she explained.
“You’re very smart, I’ll give you that,” he commented.
“So I’m right?” she asked.
He nodded. “You’re also onto something that the humans don’t have it completely right about us.”
“What are the differences?” she asked.
“Well for one, we’re not always as evil as they make us out to be,” he started off.
“That much I already figured out. I mean, no race of anything is entirely evil just because of what a few of them did,” she agreed.
He was surprised by her response, especially given the situation he was in. His entire kingdom had been banished to a dark world because of the sins of one man, and he’d never met anyone who saw things the way that she did.
“Precisely. Secondly, not all of us particularly enjoy being around mortals. While you’re probably the easiest specie to control, some of us just don’t find any entertainment in it,” he said.
“Are there a lot of you around?” she asked.
“We’re everywhere around the world, but like I said, not all of us like being in the presence of mortals, so a lot of the times we switch between worlds,” he explained.
She was really intrigued. “And do you have to go through a portal or can you get there from anywhere?”
“We have portals in every city, and then if you’re like me, they understand that I need access to more than one portal, so I have one in my office, at my apartment and at my house,” he replied.
“Why do you have a house and an apartment?” she asked in confusion.
He thought of the situation he was currently in. “Sometimes I need to escape my house due to unforeseen pains in the ass.”
She laughed at that. “So that’s why you’re really sitting with me right now. What pain in the ass is in your house right now?”
“A woman my father and his wife are telling me that I have to marry because I haven’t found my mate,” he informed truthfully.
Xaria felt something in her react badly to his words. She didn’t like that he was supposed to marry someone else. It unsettled her more than the fact that she was comfortable enough to sit down with a man who had just admitted to her that he was a vampire.
Gabriel watched her carefully. He knew she was deep in thought about something, and if his primal side was right about her being his mate, then he could only imagine that she was bothered by news of him having to marry someone else.
Before he came to the bakery, he was pissed off about the news himself, but as he sat across his supposed mate, he couldn’t help but wonder if marrying her would be better than marrying Olga. A mating between a human and vampyre is unheard of.
This led his thoughts to another theory.
He couldn’t sense or scent any magic on her, which either meant there was none, or it was hidden very well. While a human and vampyre pairing is unheard of, cross matings amongst supernatural beings is possible. It’s not common, but it is possible.
This left him wondering what kind of supernatural being she was, and why she didn’t know what she was.
He didn’t need to question the fact that she has no idea that she’s a supernatural being just based on her reaction to him being one, but it was also just how well she was handling the fact that supernatural beings exist to begin with.
“How old are you?” she finally spoke again.
“One thousand and fifty years old,” he replied, making her choke.
“For a moment there I thought you said one thousand,” she commented.
He bit the inside of his cheek to keep from laughing at her. “I did.”
“You don’t look a day over thirty!” she exclaimed.
“While we’re not immortal, we can live up to one hundred thousand years,” he replied.
“Holy crap! What’s a mate?” she questioned.
“A mate is the equivalent of a soul mate in your world, except the connection to a mate is deeper than that. Based on the strength of the mating, mates can go as far as being able to read each other’s thoughts and feel each other’s emotions. Your mate is the one person made for you by fate and they complete you. It is said that when you meet them, they consume your every thought, and everything they do fascinates you,” he explained.
“And you haven’t met yours in one thousand and fifty years?” she questioned.
“Fate is playing games with me, trust me,” he said, not really answering her question.
She didn’t miss that fact either. She knew that there was something he wasn’t telling her, but she couldn’t figure out how she knew. She felt strange as she watched him watching her. They were staring into each other’s eyes, each not saying anything.
“What’s so terrible about the woman they’ve chosen for you to marry?” she questioned.
He scoffed. “She’s Olga Saunders. That is enough on its own.”
Her eyes widened. “Olga Saunders is your betrothed?”
He nodded. “I know she’s already come to see you. She told me. I guess it’s another reason why your bakery stood out to me tonight.”
“You can’t marry her,” she blurted, before covering her mouth.
He raised an eyebrow, amused. “And why not?”
“Well, you obviously don’t love her, and she definitely doesn’t love you. All she could go on and on about was how grand the wedding would be and how she would finally have everything she’s ever wanted,” she explained.
“She’s already seeing herself as Queen,” he said knowingly.
“I’m sorry but it doesn’t look like she’ll make a great Queen,” Xaria argued.
“Right? I wish my father could see that, but his dying mind has been poisoned by his wife,” he replied.
“Your father’s dying?” she said softly.
He was taken aback by how sincere her concern was.
He cleared his throat as he nodded. “Somebody poisoned him, and try as we may, we haven’t found anyone to heal him, which is why they’re forcing me to get married now. My kingdom needs me to take over before he dies or else there will be a war for the throne.”
“Surely no one would challenge you?” she said.
“How are you so confident that they wouldn’t?” he asked.
She smiled. “Look at you Gabriel. Based on the kind of CEO you are, I can tell that you’re just as fierce a prince.”
“Well, your belief in me isn’t misplaced. They call me the Dark Prince, so anyone who challenges me would be unwise to do so,” he commented.
“Why the Dark Prince?” she asked.
“I have done many things, many horrible things in my life so far and I guess that’s the name they saw fit to give me,” he replied.
“Well, I still don’t doubt for a moment that you’re going to be King just fine, but I’m curious about why it’s taken you so long to find your mate. Have you even been looking for her?” she asked.
He shook his head. “No, I haven’t.”
“Why? Don’t you want that special someone in your life? I mean, from what you’re telling me, having a mate sounds amazing,” she questioned.
Before that moment, he hadn’t wanted a mate, and neither had he wondered what life would be like with a mate. However, as she sat before him, he couldn’t help but think that maybe having a mate wouldn’t be such a bad thing.
He already enjoyed her company more than he could say for most people in his life.
“When I was two hundred and sixty five, my mother was brutally murdered before my very eyes. I still haven’t been able to avenge her death, but I saw what it did to my father. He became a shell of himself, and he was that way for a long time. I can’t stand his wife, my stepmother Tonya, but I’ll admit that she helped him heal. She too had lost her own mate, so they were second chances to each other. Anyway, I’ve seen what having a mate can do to you, and what losing them can do too. I don’t know if it’s worth it,” he admitted.
She cocked her head to the side. “So if you met her, you wouldn’t want her?”
Gabriel didn’t know if he was being tested or not, but he knew that he had to choose his words carefully. “I wouldn’t reject her, but I’m not sure if I would be the kind of mate she needs from me.”
Something about his answer both satisfied and worried Xaria, but she wouldn’t be able to explain why. Many things about how the night was turning out were confusing to her, but she knew one thing for sure.
She enjoyed Gabriel Jankovic’s company.
“Why tell me all of this?” she asked curiously.
“It baffles me too, but you’re very easy to talk to. Is that something you get told a lot?” he asked.
She nodded. “I’ve always been an extrovert, though my boyfriend figures I’m too forward sometimes, and-”
She was interrupted by the unexpected growl from Gabriel’s chest. “You have a boyfriend?”
“Uh, yes? You’ve met him actually. His name is Miguel Palmer. He came to present his software system to you about a month back,” she informed.
Gabriel sat there trying to remember who Miguel was. With how many people he encounters on a daily basis, it was harder to remember people’s faces. After a while he finally got it and he frowned in confusion.
“The guy who’s an independent developer?” he asked.
She nodded. “That very one. He’s still very much hurt that you wouldn’t even listen to his idea.”
“I’m a busy man, and if you don’t capture my attention within the first ten seconds of speaking, I lose interest,” he confessed.
“Ten seconds Gabriel? That’s barely enough time for people to gather their wits around you. I would know,” she said, blushing.
“I can’t help it. I don’t mean to come off as rude, but you said it yourself. I live an insane life juggling two worlds, so I barely have time to listen to bumbling idiots the whole day,” he defended.
She laughed a little. “Your kind doesn’t sleep do they?”
He shook his head. “We can be energetic for really long periods of time, especially if we’re not doing anything laborious. We do need to rest after a while, but in general, we’re on the move more than any other creature.”
“And what about the whole blood thing? Is it true that human blood gives you more power or something like that?” she asked.
“Not power, but energy. Yes, human blood is high up there, but it isn’t the most sought after by us. There are other creatures whose blood is more appealing to us,” he responded.
“So you don’t go around killing humans?” she questioned.
“No Miss McLeod, I don’t particularly participate in such,” he said with a smile.
She nodded in understanding. “Am I the only human who knows what you are?”
“My assistant is the only other human who knows,” he replied.
“And how did he take it?” she asked.
“He panicked because he was both afraid and fascinated. He’s always believed in the supernatural, but he didn’t expect any of what I told him. He was also afraid that I’d kill him,” he recalled amusedly.
“I’m sure some sadistic part of you scared him on purpose,” she said knowingly.
He laughed at the memory. “I let my primal side take over for five seconds and made it seem like I was going to kill him. Best five seconds of my life.”
She laughed along. “That is wrong on so many levels Gabriel.”
He shrugged, still grinning. “Eh, I don’t get to experience a lot of fun, so I take the little chances I do have.”
“And what is your idea of fun?” she asked.
“I don’t think I have one. I don’t have a lot of fun, therefore I don’t know what I enjoy,” he explained.
She shot him a look. “Surely there’s something you enjoy doing.”
“Well, I do enjoy visiting one of the carnivals in the Faerie Kingdom. They have some of the most exquisite art and entertainment,” he said thoughtfully.
“The Faerie Kingdom? I can only imagine! There must be lots of colours and it must be so whimsical there,” she said dreamily.
He smiled. “The carnival is whimsical, but the kingdom in itself isn’t always afforded such peace, as is the case I’m sure with any other kingdom.”
“I guess you make a point. I’d like to go one day though. It really sounds magical,” she said.
“There’s a carnival coming up next weekend. We can go if you’d like?” he offered.
She beamed. “Really?”
He nodded. “I wouldn’t mind taking you.”
She was about to reply when her mind travelled to Miguel. As it is, he was mad at her because of a comment she made regarding the very man she was currently sitting with. Dread suddenly filled her when she realized that she was sitting with Gabriel Jankovic, the man who before that day, she’d been crushing on from afar.
Gabriel watched her, curious about what she was thinking. He tried to read her mind, even if they hadn’t mated yet. He was taking a chance and got a glimpse of Miguel from all her panic. It irritated him that that’s what had her so panicked.
“Miss McLeod, it would seem I’ve overstayed my welcome, so I’m going to head out to the destination I intended on heading to in the first place,” he said as he stood up. They’d both long finished their coffee and cake.
“Wait!” she said. He turned to her expectantly, except she wasn’t saying anything.
While Xaria was panicked about the time she’d spent with him because of what Miguel would think, watching him walk away from her didn’t sit well with her. She wouldn’t know why she’d stopped him though.
“Yes Miss McLeod?” he probed when she wasn’t saying anything.
“Trachba,” she stated.
He frowned. “What about it?”
“Can you take me to see it?” she requested.
“Now?” he asked, surprised.
She nodded. “I also tend to have a lot of energy and I know that this will be one of those sleepless nights for me.”
Gabriel was definitely stunned by her request. A part of him had somewhat thought that she didn’t believe any of the things he’d told her, and that she was only entertaining him, and yet there she stood, wanting to go to his home.
“Do you want to go by car or would you rather I carry you and run the whole way there?” he asked.
“Which is way is faster?” she counter asked.
“My carrying you,” he responded.
She shocked him further by taking his cold hand in her warm hand. “Then let’s go.”
He cleared his throat, shaking his head of the shock. “You might want to lock up first.”
“Right!” she said before doing just that.
He waited patiently for her as she checked on things and made sure that everything was fine before locking up. When she was done, she hesitatingly stepped up to him and squeaked when he picked her up bridal style.
“You’re so cold,” she whispered.
“Hold on tight,” he told her before he took off.
She could only see a blur.
She closed her eyes when she realized that she risked getting something in them. She could feel the cool night air as Gabriel ran all the way to his apartment. When they arrived, he gently put her down and let her gather her wits while he unlocked the door.
When she was steady, they walked in and he locked the door before heading to the lounge to open the portal. Xaria watched on, wide eyed as the portal began to open. When it was fully formed, she could see the other world clearly.
“Are you sure about this?” he checked.
She nodded. “I want to see where you come from.”
He stepped over and held out his hand. “Well come on then.”
She took his hand and stepped over before the portal closed behind them. The first thing she noticed was how dark it was in comparison to her world. The skies were dark and filled with clouds, but she didn’t get to admire it for long as she started to sway.
Gabriel immediately caught her as she went down, before being stunned by the next word that left her mouth. “Mate.”