I hear the King walking away from me and taking a seat across the room. But I keep my eyes down and my hands clasped in front of me. It’s all I can do to stimulate the shaking my body is putting forth. I’m alone in the room with the man that killed my entire village on his own. The King of the Beasts.
He still won’t say anything and I can’t help but wonder why he made me stay.
“Come here,” He says. I mentally force my legs to move as I make my way towards him. I’m standing in front of him when he decides to speak again.
“You can look at me.”
His voice is soft, but I can also hear the taunting in it. He’s playing with me. I slowly raise my gaze to take him in. He’s sitting at the small table with food laid out on it. I almost sigh in relief when his eyes are focused on the spread in front of him. Looking into his gaze takes more out of me than I care to admit.
As if sensing my thoughts he raises his gaze looking me directly in the eyes. My breathing halts in my throat as fear comes over me. Our close proximity doesn’t help me calm down any more than I try to. And he knows it. He smiles at my reaction. It makes me realize how much I hate his smile. It’s something that will give me nightmares. Right next to the soulless depths of his gaze.
“You were much more vocal at the entrance to the palace.” He says with an amused grin. I don’t have a response for him.
“Are you hungry?” He asks. I look at him in confusion. I don’t know why the King of the Beasts would care whether or not I eat or starve. Especially since he’s the reason I’m here in the first place.
“You have an issue with answering questions,” He says in irritation. I think back to the first time I saw him across the river. He was asking me where I came from and I refused to answer.
“I’m sorry...” I whisper dropping my gaze, “I am hungry.”
Silence washes over us and he gets up from his seat.
“Look at me.” He says. I slowly raise my eyes looking into his. They’re the strangest eyes I’ve ever seen. He gestures to the table behind him.
“You can eat,” His fingers travel down my throat, resting around the necklace my father gave me, “If you tell me where you got this from.”
I feel my heart hammering against my chest from his close proximity. His scent is intoxicating as his presence is fearful. He carries himself with such an intimidating confidence, it’s no wonder he is the King.
“It’s a family heirloom.” I whisper. I don’t know if he noticed it because it looks too valuable for a human to have, but I hope that he won’t take it when he hears how important it is to me. I recall my father’s words as he handed it to me in a panic.
“Never take that necklace off. It is your protection against them.”
His eyes are intensely focused on it.
“A family heirloom...” He murmurs. He finally lets go and steps to the side.
“Eat,” he says. I look at the abundance of food on his table and slowly step back shaking my head.
“It isn’t my place,” I whisper hoping he’ll let me leave. But he doesn’t. He walks around me, inspecting my body as he does so.
“Your majesty.” He says.
“Wha-” He roughly grips my chin raising my gaze to his.
“You have the manners of a bilge rat. When addressing me, you will say ‘your majesty’,” He says in irritation. I quickly recover.
“Yes, your majesty.” I whisper.
“It would seem you are smart as well,” He says. Silence washes over us as he stands quietly in front of me.
“Turn around,” He murmurs. I slowly will my legs to move, turning so that my back is facing him. I hear him standing from his seat, moving to stand directly behind me. The heat his body emits is strong. I feel his fingers pulling at the strings of my dress until it falls loose around my shoulders. Tears fall down my eyes and I squeeze them shut trying to reign in my emotions.
Electricity ripples through me when I feel his fingers lightly brushing against my flesh. I suck in a shaky breath. He chuckles softly.
“Calm down, human. I won’t touch you in that way to sully my reputation. For you are but a slave. And I am the King. You’re no better than the dirt beneath my feet,” He says in amusement. I hate to admit it but his words hurt. I was raised around men that adored me and felt I was the light of their lives. To hear I am nothing more than dirt chips away at me.
I jump when I feel his fingers brushing over my wound.
“I was wondering how you were still alive.” He murmurs. I feel his palm against my back, pressing against the wound he gave me. Suddenly, a wave of energy washes over me all heading in one direction. I cry out from the pain that instantly turns into a pleasurable warmth.
As quickly as I feel it it’s gone. I stumble forward out of breath, turning to face the King in confusion. His eyes are dark as he looks at me. He’s studying me. But he won’t reveal his thoughts. He turns away from me plopping back down in his seat.
I take that as my cue to pull my dress up over my shoulders. He watches me as I do so, popping a piece of fruit in his mouth.
“What is your name?” He asks. I blink in confusion.
“Annalise, your majesty.” He smiles at me remembering to use his title.
“Annalise,” He repeats. My name rolls off his tongue with ease.
“Annalise, I am assuming you were assigned to the kitchens?” He asks without looking at me.
“Yes, your majesty.”
“Hm.” Is all he says before going back to his food.
Time passes as he silently eats in front of me. I keep my eyes down and my mind clear, trying not to think of the painful hunger that’s constricting my stomach. My mind wanders to how Dimitri is doing. I hope he can hold on. I don’t know where we are in the war, but maybe we’ll be saved. Maybe someone will come through for us.
“Annalise.” I look up at the sound of my name. The King is looking at me with a blank expression.
“Tell me about your village.” He says. I blink in confusion trying to decipher the situation. He clearly knows something that I don’t. He’s been interrogating me on things that I haven’t the slightest clue about.
“What about it, your majesty?” I ask. He picks up the glass of wine taking a small sip.
“Why was a small village that managed to stay out of the war housing and feeding soldiers?” He asks. I have to think long and hard about my answer. I don’t want to say anything that will ruin humanity’s chances.
“We would never turn our back on our own,” I whisper repeating my father’s motto. The King smiles taking a sip of his wine before setting it back down on the table. He looks at me for a moment before standing.
“Your village was an enemy of the empire. Not only were you aiding soldiers, you were housing weapons that were meant for our destruction,” He says walking towards me. I’m shocked to hear that bit of news. My father always said we were a peaceful village. We wanted no part in the war. My eyes widen as the King approaches.
“Of course you don’t. You’re nothing but a naive girl that knows nothing of the war or people for that matter around you. It’s clear to me that you are no threat,” He says. He pauses looking at me.
“Though I can’t say the same for your father.” He adds. I perk up at his words.
“My father?” I ask. He smiles, happy that he caught my attention.
“Yes. He and few others were the only ones that managed to give me any pushback,” He says eyeing me. I can’t believe it. He fought my father. I think about his words opening my mouth to ask.
“How do you know it was my father?” I ask. This earns a smile from him. He brings himself closer to me, his nose hovering over my throat.
“You smell similar.” He murmurs. Tears spring into my eyes and I take a step back from him. His smile is completely gone as he towers over me.
“Take that necklace off,” He says. His voice is cold and threatening as he glares me down. A sob escapes my lips as I immediately reach up, clasping it in my hold.
“Please... it’s the last thing he gave me,” I manage. My pleas don’t face him though. His eyes flash as a darkness I saw when he was fighting the army in our village appears behind his eyes.
“Take it off.” His voice leaves no room for argument. I think about my father’s words to me and squeeze it tighter. It will either protect me, or I will get myself killed trying to protect it. Either way, I win.
“No,” I whisper. He doesn’t react, but only tilts his head slightly.
“No?” He says. He chuckles bending so that he is eye level with me. His smile disappearing in an instant.
“No?” He asks again. I’m visibly shaking and he can see it. He holds his hand out to me.
“Take it off, or I will snap your lovers neck.” He growls out. I drop my head in defeat, slowly reaching up to untie the necklace. I stare at it one last time, taking in the ridges and textures of it. I hold it out in front of me, setting it into his palm. His hand closes around the stone and he stands up straight.
I whip around, trying my best to speed for the door when there is a rough yank on my hair. I cry out in pain.
“Bow before leaving your superiors, slave,” He growls into my ear. I immediately turn, my tears falling fast and hard as I bow before leaving the room.