I was never one to get all excited when it came to parties and occasions or anything that involves relating with people outside my small circle, events happening within the palace or anywhere for that matter, which was why I had tried to convince mother that I would not be able to attend but today I had no choice. I could not request to sit this one out, mother, and most especially father would hear none of it.
"You need to and you should socialize more,” mother had advised when I walked up to her after the announcement father had made at the dinner table a week before. “This is a good opportunity to get to know your age mates and find a new crush.” Mother joked, winked and then laughed. I had just smiled.
“Am I to find a crush or a soul mate, mother?”
“A crush, a soul mate, whatever it is, you are turning eighteen next week and at that age, you get to find your soul mate. Are you not excited?” Mother asked, pulling me to sit in front of the mirror while she loosened my hair.
I gave a sigh of relief as the hair pins came off, I had felt them trying to pierce into my brain all throughout dinner and there way no way I could have shown up looking all shabby and “un-princess-like” at the dinner table because the Duke of Brigham had shown up, unannounced late in the evening and he had brought along his eldest son. Father had said it was impromptu and unarranged but I had been much wiser than that, I knew it had been for an alliance marriage but to which of the princess? that I could not tell, but one thing I knew was that it had better not been a marriage to me.
The young man, Eric Dumieres, was handsome, to say the least but he was chubby and I knew that he had felt uncomfortable in that armor he had on throughout dinner and he sweated a lot. He was a daunt, I could tell but he had stolen glances at me a lot during the meal, which had made me uncomfortable as he had made it very obvious but I had sent him my own stares which told him to back off. I did not like him. And then father made it much worse.
“Eric, I can see that you like my daughter?” He had asked. “You have been stealing glances throughout dinner.”
Eric had choked instantly on the mashed potatoes and I had frozen, exchanging glances at my two sisters also seated at the table. Mother chuckled and placed a hand on father’s.
“Now, now. Don’t frighten the young man.”
“Are you by any chance proposing a marriage Your Highness?” The duke had asked, smiling widely and shaking his son by the shoulder. Eric kept his head low and chuckled nervously, he looked up and met my angry stare which made him put his head back down. It did not help the matter that I had to be sitting opposite him.
“Marriage hmm…?” Father seemed to contemplate, then he smiled to mother and back at the duke. “Doesn’t seem like a bad idea to me.” Then they laughed.
I fisted my palms under the table, I knew they would plan my marriage to this… man if it were possible, but it was not. It would not happen anyway.
“Why plan a marriage father?” I had spoken up, stopping the men from laughing. “We find our soul mates at the age of eighteen so why plan a marriage if it would not happen?”
My question had subsequently ended the chatter about marriage and the two men had gone on to discuss other things more political and less involving marriage.
“Excited?” I asked mother as she pulled away the hair pins. “I am excited to turn eighteen and find my soul mate but excited about marriage to Eric? No. In absolutely no way can I be excited mother.” The last of the pins came off and mother sat beside me.
“What if he turns out to be your soul mate? Would you still be able to reject him?”
“The gods are not so cruel mother.”
Now standing in front of the century old mirror a week after and wearing the ridiculous red dress that Gwyn had forcefully picked for me, I could not help but feel stupid. I felt that I and Gwyn looked like lost twin princesses wearing the same outfit, which in the actual sense was not totally wrong, since we were both princesses and we were sisters, but the dresses were of different colors.I glanced at Jenny through the mirror sitting on the bed, make that three lost princesses.
“I look stupid.” I commented, turning left and right and staring at myself in the mirror. “Is this not a bit too much Gwyn?”
“A bit too much?” She asked, walking up to me from behind and admiring me in the dress through the mirror, she was ten years younger than I was but seemed to be wiser than me when it came to dressing up and looking good. A shame on me, yes.
The dress was fitting, a dangerous colour of red. It hugged my upper body tightly, outlining my slim waist and cupping my full breasts, mother had said I had developed early. The lower part of the dress was loose and not full, with a split by the side that came all the way up to my thighs, exposing a large part of my legs.
“Jenny?” I called my youngest sister who was sitting on the bed to ask for her opinion. “What do you think?”
She looked up from the book she was reading and I felt her six year old eyes roam all over my body once, from my perfectly made hair, down the dress to the shoes I had on. “Perfect.”
The party was well on the way and I had done all I could to escape from the sight of my father after I had sighted him talking to the Duke and his son. What mother had said to me came to her memory again;
“What if he turns out to be your soul mate? Would you still be able to reject him?”
Since the party was being hosted for me to find my soul mate, I had to interact with the young men at the party, occasionally having to dance with some of them whom I found to be attractive and whom I wanted to be my soul mate but neither of us did feel any kind of connection. Eventually, I was getting tired of having to dance and meet others. And the the Duke arrived, coming in with his son.
No, I was not going to do this any longer.
Finding ones soul mate was like clicking onto a connection, both would feel it and if at all Eric was destined to be my soul mate, then I would by all means avoid us meeting today. I slipped out of the hall quietly and without being detected and went exploring around the castle.
This place was over a hundred years old, being passed down from generation to generation of royal lineage, from king to crown prince who would eventually become the next king. I had lived in the castle all my life, for eighteen years and there were many places within these very walls that I had not seen. Today I would kill time by doing that.
As I walked the dim hall ways, a particular painting caught my attention. It was the painting of a handsome Prince in his royal regalia. 1800AD, it read on the plaque below, but something about the painting was off.
At first I thought maybe it was just my imagination, but the painting moved. Its eyes followed my every movement. For a while, I stood there below the painting, mesmerized by the weirdness.
No. I shook my head.
I looked at the painting again and jumped back with a yelp when it winked at me, my back colliding into the chest of a young man who wasn’t there a second ago.
“Woah there, easy red.” He chuckled.
I pushed away from him in fright and turned to face him. The corridor was dim but I could see him clearly. His well defined features glowed. I stepped away from him so that my back touched the wall.
I studied him, his skin was pale white and his lips, a tempting shade of red, his long hair cascaded over his shoulders which seemed wet and shiny. He was taller. Much taller and muscular and I found him irresistibly charming.Some how, he did look just like the man in the painting but this man in front of me was attractive. He was much more attractive.
“You’re a long way away from the party. Did you get lost red?”
I could not take my eyes off his red lips as I watched them move as he spoke. I felt the urge to reach out and touch them, he was mesmerizing and yes, intoxicating too. How would it feel to have them on mine?
“I... I’m.... I don’t know?” I stammered, a bit of fear somewhere at the back of my mind.This was my palace, my castle and some one could have just waltzed in here without being noticed? His bright red eyes was intimidating.How was he able to get into this part of the castle and that too undetected?
“You shouldn’t fear....” He smiled and stretched out a hand toward me, I flinched and pressed my back into the wall, my eyes on his hand as if warning him to stay away. He chuckled, smiled and cocked his head to the side.
“Trying to merge with the wall red? I’m not going to bite you...” He paused, licked his lips letting his eyes travel down my body, I literally felt his gaze on my exposed leg, cool and chilling, causing goose bumps to form and I instinctively drew the dress to cover it. I knew this dress was stupid. His eyes lingered a while and then back up, locking eyes with me then he frowned. “...yet.”
I swallowed. “Yet?” my fear returning.“Who are you? And how did you get in here?”
“Ryder,” A voice boomed from the darkest part down the corridor. “I see you have brought a snack.”
My head snapped. “Snack?”
“She is not!” he yelled, almost like a growl and then more calmly, he continued.“She is mine.” The man, whom I now knew as Rider, grabbed me by the arm and pulled me to him, gripping me by the waist firmly.
I sucked in a quick breath. “Yours?!”
Shocked by the sudden action, I tried to push away from him but his grip was surprisingly strong that he did not even budge. I looked up to him but his gaze was fixed towards the dark corridor like he was looking at someone standing there. I followed his gaze and saw nothing, but the voice that boomed assured me that someone was there. I held on to Ryder. Strangely, I felt safe in his arms, in the arms of this odd man who had appeared from no where.
“She is free Ryder. I can smell her.” The person growled.
Ryder faced me, the anger on his face softened when he leaned in to whisper to me. His breath fanned my ear and I felt goosebumps form on my skin.Whoever this man was, he sure did know how to awaken some strange feelings in me.
“I need you to trust whatever I do, can you do that red?”
I placed the flat of my palm against his chest to push him away, shaking my head negatively. My feeling safe in his arms did not guarantee that I should trust him.
“Wha… what do you think you are doing right now?” I asked, shaken to my bones but still trying to put up a bold face. But Ryder had not requested, it was a demand.
With his other free hand, he reached up and stroked my face, my eyes following his hand. His touch tingled, he placed his fingers on my forehead, drawing it down slowly to my cheeks, down to my chin and my neck. I swallowed when he kept going lower and closed my eyes.
“Stop.” I whispered, not actually wanting him to, then he bit lightly into my neck.
I screamed and grabbed at his shirt, felt his teeth sink deeper, tearing into my flesh and his grip on my waist tightened, like he was squeezing, pulling me into him. The pain only lasted a second then I felt his teeth pull out of my neck, felt him lick the spot and I felt numb, my head began to spin.
“Red is a dangerous color on you Lyra .” I heard him say before I passed out.Start writing here…