"Ah!" I hiss in pain as the servant lightly dabs my back and arms. She clicks her tongue in irritation.
"Hush. You should count yourself lucky. No one has ever survived the lashings. Let alone a slave. You should be glad you're being treated at all." She growls pressing the cloth roughly into my open wounds. I have to bite my lip so not to cry out in pain.
Servants look for any excuse to punish or kill slaves. This one is no different especially from the way she roughly scrubs my back.
"Those two servants were foolish to offend the King. Yet he let you off with lashings that didn't kill you." She chuckles bitterly roughly digging the cloth into my back. I bite my lip even harder, the taste of blood filling my mouth from trying not to cry out.
"He should just kill you. The village you came from was a dangerous one. You're a risk to us all. You probably bewitched him... Maybe I should do him the favor of breaking the spell-"
"Brigida." The servant steps away from me, bowing slightly as the Overseer steps into the room. His eyes roam over me in disdain and he looks back to her in irritation.
"The King is here." I flinch, looking away as he strikes her across the face.
"Don't be so foolish as to think you are above his rule." He growls. Brigida holds her face in pain, but stays kneeling.
"I'm sorry, please forgive me..." Silence washes over us but he finally relents.
I hear her footsteps scurry away, and the Overseer walks away without another word, heading to the door. He pushes it open.
"Your majesty." He says as the King walks in. I hear him coming towards me, and close my eyes in fear.
"Leave us." His voice echoes across the chamber and the Overseer slowly bows before backing out of the room, leaving me alone with the King.
Cyrus is silent as he looks over my back. I flinch when I feel his fingers lightly tracing the gashed wounds.
"You are lucky," he says. I want to scream at him, but I know I can't. I cannot offend the King. Each time I close my eyes, I think of the horrid death that awaited those two servants. The gruesome brutality of it all was incomprehensible.
Watching him gouge their throats out with his bare hands and teeth... I shudder at the memory.
"Tell me what happened," He says. His fingers are still roaming over my back.
"I don't understand-"
"Why were you drunk in my chambers with servants?" He asks. His voice is strangely soft.
"They... offered me-"
He chuckles out loud, grabbing my hand in his he slowly helps me up to a sitting position, and I have to hold the torn blanket over my naked chest. His eyes visibly dilate as he watches me, but he pauses, a frown appearing on his lips. His eyes are focused on my lips and he reaches for me.
I flinch, closing my eyes, but feel his thumb rubbing lightly over my bottom lip. When I open my eyes, he's looking at the blood on my mouth with a strange expression.
"Your Majesty..." I murmur. He finally looks back to me.
"Anna. I know you didn't drink that of your own free will. There's no use in lying to me. Those servants have paid for their mistake with their lives. And you have paid with your flesh. So, make it easy on yourself, and answer me truthfully."
I keep my eyes trained down, but feel his finger under my chin. He lifts my gaze to meet his.
"Look at me." His dark eyes are swallowing me whole, making me shake. I clench the blanket closer to my chest. His gaze is intimidating and demanding all at the same time and I can't stop the words from coming out of my mouth.
"They... wanted to try the wine... I was doing my duty, cleaning the chambers, and they decided to use me as the scapegoat if they got caught... because I would be killed for it once you discovered the wine missing and a drunken slave." I whisper. His eyes roam over my face.
"That wine could have killed you, Anna." He says in irritation. My lips are moving before my brain can stop it.
"Why do you care? I'm only a slave. I should have been dead months ago." I say. Cyrus's entire demeanor changes at my outburst. If anything, his eyes grow darker than I've ever seen.
In an instant, his hand is around my throat, instantly cutting off my air supply. I immediately reach for his hands, trying to pry them away but can't. I can even feel the pressure of my bones threatening to crack underneath his hands.
He doesn't say a word. Only glares at me, watching me fight for my life. A small smile creeps onto his lips as he watches. My world dims, fingers growing cold. And just when I think he's going to end it, he lets go of me.
I lean forward, coughing and sputtering, trying my best to breathe and soothe my throat at the same time. His hands roughly thread through my hair as he yanks me up.
"I can still have you around with your tongue cut out, slave. Do not mistake my amusement of you for kindness. Do not forget that I am first and foremost your King." He hisses. He lets go of me, storming out of the room.
The King is back to his old ways.
I stand in the corner of the room, a tray of food in my hands as he has his pleasure with a woman. She is in front of him on her hands and knees as he thrusts roughly in and out of her, her moans of pleasure filling the room.
I do wonder who these women are to be so readily available to have sex with the King. The King that has a fiancée. It makes me even more curious about the Beast society. It seems all of his subjects are terrified of him.
The sound of choked gurgles fill the room and I look up to see the King with his hand around her throat. He's choking her. Her eyes are wide and full of fear as she tries to pull his hand away from her throat. He has a look of irritation on his face as he looks at her, and his eyes slowly rise, meeting mine across the room.
His hand tightens around her throat, and it's silent. The only sound is of Cyrus still fucking her body, but she's slowly growing unconscious. I don't know if I should say anything, or let him be.
"Your majesty..." I murmur. I take a small step forward. His eyes are still focused on me. He seems to be in a trance of some kind.
"Your majesty." I say louder.
"You're killing her, your majesty."
He chuckles softly, his eyes moving away from me as he leans down, placing a kiss on her cheek.
"Am I?" He asks. He glares at me, waiting for me to respond but I don't. I know I've angered him. So I drop my head, stepping back. He finally lets go of her throat, and she falls forward in the bed, unconscious. I let out a soft gasp as the King gets up from her, pulling his robe around his shoulders.
"Come." He says walking towards the door. I move to follow him as we step out of his chambers. He doesn't look back to the guards as he speaks.
"Have the palace doctor take a look at her once she awakens."
"Anna... you look frightened."
I look up from my corner in the steaming room, and Cyrus is smiling at me in amusement. He decided he wanted a bath. A late one, that requires no one but me. The room is filled with steam from the heat of the water. His hair is down and his naked body is submerged in the heated water. Even though it's warm in here, I'm shivering from fear.
"She's alive, if that's what you're worried about." He says.
"Yes, your majesty..." I whisper. I still have the bruises from him choking me earlier, and he didn't do it until I passed out. I couldn't imagine how she feels. I slowly look up at Cyrus. He's still watching me with that strange expression. It's the same expression he's had since he came back, and I don't understand it. Or him.
"How is your body?" He asks. He smiles as he says it. I don't sense real concern coming from him.
"It's fine, your majesty. Thank you for your concern." I murmur. He chuckles.
"Come. Join me."
My eyes widen at his command. He knows I'm about to refuse him, because he interrupts me.
I slowly move towards the bath, placing the tray on the ground next to it.
"Remove your clothes." He says. His eyes never leave mine. I take a deep breath.
"Your majesty, please-"
I shakily reach behind me, unlacing the dress. It grows slack around my shoulders and I hold it there, not wanting it to fall any lower. Cyrus's eyes dilate to that terrifying hue as he watches me. He rises up from the water, standing at the edge of the pool.
"Anna. If I have to take that off of you, you will have nothing to wear. And how will you explain your nudity to the overseer?" He asks. I slowly remove my hands, letting the dress fall.
"Now, come here."
"Your Majesty, my back is bloody. I will surely-"
"Annalise." He snaps. I immediately shut up, making my way to the water. It's hot, but feels soothing against my aching body. Cyrus watches me with an unreadable expression.
"You are so shy of such a body." He says in amusement. His eyes move over me, taking in my naked form. Something that I never wanted any man to see other than Dimitri.
"Were you planning to be this bashful with your lover?" He asks as if reading my thoughts. I squeeze my eyes shut letting the tears fall. He laughs even harder.
"Tell me Anna. Do you think he wants your virginity at this point in his life?" He asks. He uses his hands to guide me so that my back is facing him. He slowly traces my wounds with his fingers.
"Answer me." He says.
"I have no dreams of him anymore, your Majesty. I don't envision any future plans with him," I whisper. He places his flat palm against my back and I feel warmth spreading over me. My wounds tingle for a moment, before the pain vanishes.
He runs his palm over my back, and there's no pain. I turn around facing him.
"What... did you do?" I ask in confusion. He doesn't respond, only moves to take a seat, once again submerging his body.
"What do you envision, then?" He completely ignores my question, poising his own.
"Nothing..." I whisper.
His eyes roam over my face, taking in my answer.
I will my legs to move through the water. Once I am close enough to him, he reaches for my hand pulling me closer. I gasp but he doesn't let go. He keeps his eyes trained to mine as he pulls my hand lower, and lower. Fear rocks me as he puts my hand over his erection. I try and pull away but he holds me tight.
"Do you feel that, Anna? Do you see what you caused? I didn't finish earlier because of your concerns..." He has a sinister look in his his eyes as he speaks, and it terrifies me.
"You have no idea, the trouble you cause Anna. You have no idea, what has already happened in this palace."
He pulls me in closer to him, his hand brushing over my breast and coming to a rest around my waist. I whimper in fear but try to contain myself. He's angry. And I am the only one at the mercy of his wrath.
"If you ever interrupt me while I'm with another woman..." His grip tightens so much, that I feel a small pop in my wrist. I cry out in pain, but he still doesn't let go. "You will be her replacement until I am sated. Remember these words, Anna. My patience with you has run out."