I stand in front of the golden doors to the ballroom waiting for Marzia so that we can enter the ball together. I haven’t held one since my coronation five years ago. A coronation that was forced upon me after the disappearance of my father in battle. I refuse to believe he is dead. And with Anna’s arrival of a trinket that holds his power, my suspicions have been confirmed.
A bitter chuckle leaves my lips at the thought of Anna. I never would have thought lusting after a human would carry me this far from grace, but it has happened. If anyone found out about my little trysts with her, it would result in a massive scandal. At this point, there is nothing for me to do but embrace it until I grow tired of her. But it doesn’t seem like I am growing tired of her. Even now as I wait to enter the ball, I want her to be there as well.
I’ve come to realize that I enjoy looking at her. She is a beautiful woman there’s no denying that. And knowing that underneath the servant’s clothing lies a body I’ve claimed as my own over and over brings me a feeling I haven’t had in a long time. But she cannot attend the ball. It is for beasts only. No exceptions. There’s already been talk since I have her at my side constantly, but with no hard evidence, all they can do is speculate. Especially since I am the one personally bringing humanity to its knees.
“Your Majesty.” I turn around to see Marzia walking towards me in her gown. It’s a beautiful gown laced in gold. The colors coincide with mine as they should. Her hair is pulled up into an intricate updo, while jewelry adorns her throat and arms. She’s beautiful. But as I stare at her, all I find myself doing is comparing her to Annalise. I frown as the thought manifests itself.
Annalise is a body. Nothing more.
She takes note of my sudden shift in mood and falters in her steps. I quickly wipe my face of any emotions, offering her a smile. I dislike her, that’s no secret. But with the ball just beyond the door, I must at least pretend.
“Marzia. You look ravishing,” I say as I lean towards her. I take hold of her hand, placing a soft kiss on it. Her hands are shaking.
“I see the dress I sent perfectly matches you as well,” I say. She smiles dipping her head at my compliments. Originally, the dress I let Anna wear was for Marzia. But the longer I had it in my possession, the longer I felt Anna would be better suited for it. And I was right. I have to fight my inner thoughts at the erection threatening me as I think of her.
Her dark hair splayed around her shoulders, the red that beautifully contrasted against her skin matching that incessant blush on her cheeks. The way her eyes glaze over as pleasure courses its way through her system. And the way her body squeezes mine...
The doors open to the ball displaying the highest and most noble of the beast society. The crowd erupts in applause as we are introduced.
The night drags on and I find myself constantly drifting away from the moment. I wanted no part in throwing a ball but my council insisted on having one to reassure the people how well the recent battle went. And it went wonderfully.
Not only did we put a damaging blow in the human forces, but we found the stronghold that the Hunters use to create their weapons. I am confident my father is hidden there somewhere. Once we retrieve him and kill the humans King, this “war” will be over.
I look up as Felix approaches, bowing to me and Marzia.
“Are you enjoying yourself, Captain?” I ask.
“Yes, your majesty.”
“That makes one of us.” I mumble stepping away from Marzia. I gesture for the open floor, walking away before looking back to her.
“Enjoy the night darling,” I call to her. I don’t miss the look of shock and irritation on her face as she watches me leave, but she knows how I am and what I enjoy to do. Being around her isn’t one of them.
“I see you decided to leave the human in hiding,” Felix says with a smug grin. He’s the only one I would dare trust with my secret. He is still of noble birth, but cares little of what society thinks. He has that luxury being the captain of the guard and the successor of many battles. Not just against humans. No one blinks at his endeavors any longer.
“And you decided to leave your whore,” I say. Felix’s smile widens and he takes a sip of his drink.
“Yes, I felt it wouldn’t be best to bring him to such an extravagant event. But if you decide to hold a more private event, he will definitely be in attendance,” he says. I eye him curiously.
“So you still haven’t killed him? Even after he tried to attack me?” I ask. Felix shrugs.
“You and I both know he couldn’t do any damage. Besides, he’s too broken right now to go anywhere,” he smiles. I shake my head looking back over the crowd.
“You sadistic bastard,” I murmur.
“And what of yours? Now that you’ve gone down this road, you know the pleasure of a human.” He’s teasing me. I used to scold him on his behavior of messing with anyone from a slave to a beast. And now look at me. I’m no better.
“I plan on using her to infiltrate the Hunters camp,” I say. Felix’s earlier amusement disappears instantly and he faces me.
“Your Majesty... Are you sure that is wise?” he asks. I shrug.
“Whether or not it is wise is not my concern. I know the hunters are a dangerous group. I do not want to risk my men when I can simply send her in and break them down from the inside,” I say. Felix scoff.
“What makes you think she will obey? She could go into the camp and stay. She could help them against us,” he says. I shake my head.
“Whether or not she betrays me will decide her fate. I only said I do not wish to risk casualties on my side. But if she fails, I will have no choice. I will lead the attack myself and kill them all, starting with her.” Felix is silent as he mulls over my words. And finally he speaks.
“What if we sent someone with her?” he asks. I eye him in confusion.
“Surely you do not mean-”
“Yes. I do,” he says with a twisted grin.
“No. Absolutely not. They will encourage each other to try such a betrayal. And who knows what else.”
Felix chuckles next to me.
“You’re jealous of a half-breed?” he asks. I have to fight the sudden urge to wrap my hands around his throat.
“Felix,” I warn. I can feel my anger radiating off of me, and I know Felix senses it too. He bows his head slightly.
“My apologies. I did not mean to anger you. I know he will not betray me, your majesty. Nor will he let her betray you. As for your other concerns, I am confident that he will not touch her in that way. He’ll never touch another woman for the rest of his life.”
I think about his words, looking at him in confusion.
“Why do you want to send him with her on this mission?” I ask. He shrugs finishing the rest of his drink.
“The hunters will recognize him since they created him. It will be easier for them to gain trust. And much quicker as well.”
I think about his words, going over the plan in my head when the doors to the ballroom are opened. Felix looks up, immediately turning noticeably pale. I follow his gaze, my eyes immediately falling on the group of slaves that have been brought in just as Marzia speaks out over the room.
“The entertainment has arrived!”
My gaze narrows when I see the one woman I’ve been wishing to see in this setting. I let out a bitter laugh at the irony as I take in Annalise. She’s dressed in that filthy nightgown, her hair wild and her eyes wide with fear.
I look up at Marzia who is watching me with a beaming expression just as the crowd begins to circle the slaves. They point and laugh and whisper, taking in the filthy state of the humans. Humans that believe they should be a part of our society.
Usually, the display wouldn’t bother me in the least, but I know that with this event, and this group, none of them are going to make it out alive.
The last time I stood before the King like this was the night he held a private party and whipped some of us for entertainment. And now, as I look around the gloriously decorated room, I know that this is the same instance.
“Entertainment.” That’s what she called us. We are definitely going to die. I look around the room at the unfamiliar faces, pausing when I see Cyrus. He looks as regal as he did the first day I saw him in his palace. His clothes fit perfectly, his hair tied up and away from his face. He’s across the room standing next to Felix. His expression looks calm and indifferent, but I can tell by the whites of his knuckles as he grips his glass, he’s furious.
He makes his way towards the future Queen, a small smirk on his lips. I can feel the chill biting at me. I’m terrified. The last time I saw Cyrus, he told me if I didn’t do what he asked there would be consequences. Does that mean he decided to end my life?
I feel a rough yank on the chains as we’re all being dragged forward to the center of the room, closer to where the King and Queen are. There are bars sitting, waiting for us to be bound to. I look around at the slaves faces. Some are bawling while the others are too shocked to react.
I take note that Marzia has a strange grin on her face as we approach, though Cyrus does not look happy as he approaches her.
“What is this?” he growls. I know that tone. He’s very angry. His voice comes off as cold. Marzia steps closer to him adjusting his shirt.
“A little entertainment for the nobles of course. Your skills are legendary across the Kingdom, they all would love to see your skill with a whip,” she smiles. His eyes slightly narrow but she turns away from him.
She looks at us, smiling and immediately points to me.
“How about this one?” she asks. The guards step around me, pulling me towards the iron bar, and that’s when my panic sets in.
“No... No! No, please!” I begin screaming and struggling, causing the room to erupt in a fit of laughter and excitement. My heart is pounding in my chest as they lock my arms around the steel bar, forcing me to my knees.
I look to Cyrus, pleading with him. He’s watching me with a strange expression.
“Please, don’t do this. Please! I beg of you-AH!” I’m cut off as Marzia slaps me across the face. Blood fills my mouth from the force of her hand.
“Shut up, slave,” she hisses. She turns away from me and I see the guards walk past me to hand the whip to Cyrus.
“My King, you seem so hesitant...Oh, now that I think about it, this is the slave you favored as of late, right?” she says. She chuckles softly.
“My apologies your majesty, I know how attached you’ve become to the human so if you would like we can-”
“Strip her.” My blood runs cold as his voice easily carries across the room. I hear the sound of footsteps before my dress is ripped off of my flesh. The cool air hits my back, and I shiver.
“Killing her, wouldn’t be entertainment, my Queen. Though I appreciate your dim-witted effort to prove otherwise. Your lack of experience in the battlefield has given your station in life away, I fear. Do not worry. I will still make this entertaining for my people.”
Cyrus’s voice is all I can hear along with the chatter of the Beasts. They are enjoying the anticipation of what’s to come.
“Five lashes.” The room grows quiet upon his words.
“We shall see how many bones I can break, how much skin she can lose, and how deep I can cut, after five lashes.”
The room erupts into a fit of cheers and I drop my head, letting my tears fall. I am helpless.
He doesn’t offer me any words of comfort, or any warning of when he’s going to start.
I immediately feel the white hot sting of the whip, followed by the crack that ripples over the ballroom.