Chapter 46 - Things That Go Bump in the Night
Shiny golden hair in a perfect updo, exposing those high cheekbones and narrow jaw. Cold green eyes appraising me from across the room. She looks more like Caspian’s older sister than his mother. Queen Sophia is beautiful. There’s no doubt about that. I can see where Caspian got his look from.
I got a warmer response from King Alexandros than from his wife when I was introduced to them a few minutes ago. King Alexandros is tall and handsome with dark hair and golden brown eyes. I can see Caspian in the chiseled jaw, the imposing height, the wide breadth of his shoulders, and the upward curve of his lips when he smiles.
Right now there is a slight dispute over the seating arrangement at the dinner table. Apparently, Caspian is to be seated next to his father and Lady Celeste is to sit next to him. I’m supposed to sit at the very end of the table right next to a gentleman, a royalty - Caspian’s second cousin twice removed or something like that, whose name I don’t remember.
True to his nature, Prince Caspian does what Prince Caspian wants. He never lets go of my hand. He takes the seat next to me where the other man was supposed to sit. The man whose name for the life of me, I can’t remember, shuffles on his feet. He looks left and right for another available seat, and finally, hesitantly, sits next to the King. Poor man, he hunkers down as if he’s trying to make himself invisible. His face looks green as if he’s going to be sick at any moment. Well, I’m glad I’m not sitting next to him.
Caspian gives my hand a squeeze and I sit up straight, tipping my chin up. Queen Sophia is trying to show me my place by placing me at this end of the table. I will not bend to anybody. My Nana didn’t raise a coward. I look everyone in the eye. Proud and defiant.
The Queen’s lips are thinning as she burns us with her stare. The whole table seems uneasy except for my lycan family. Even Lady Celeste is oddly quiet. I catch Constantine smirking while Lazarus seems oddly proud. Darius is as unmoved as usual but I know, without a doubt that he has my back. Genesis, as a princess, since she’s married to Prince Constantine, is sitting close to the Queen. She’s trying hard to look serious though she furtively flashed me a tiny smile earlier like a mental high-five. A soft little smile is playing on Serena’s lips. Penny, for the first time, seems timid but there’s a wicked gleam in her eyes. She confided in me just yesterday that Queen Sophia intimidates her. Penny feels her dominance as a queen. Strong and overwhelming. Me? I don’t feel anything.
When Queen Sophia raises a delicate eyebrow our way, I wonder if she’s using her power of dominance on me. Well, she needn’t bother. I’m so insensitive, as blind as a bat to anyone’s energy. Nobody’s power is dominating me in any way. Not even King Alexandros’s.
It’s a silent struggle of power, right at this grand Royal dining table. At least I’m aware of that. The room is beautiful beyond anything I’ve ever seen in my life...the whole Palace is. Richness and wealth everywhere I look. I’ve no doubt, the food is delicious, prepared by the best chef the world could offer. But they could’ve served us cardboard box, for all I can tell. The conversation around the room is subdued. The level of hostility so high, everything I put in my mouth tastes like dust. I’m glad both my cousins are not at this table. I bet they’re having a better time at the guest’s quarters.
I don’t remember how many courses came and went. I might not feel anything but still, I feel depleted towards the end. I feel so tired. I feel like I’ve fought so many battles just by sitting at this table. If not for Caspian giving me strength with his presence and his hand on my thigh or tangled fingers underneath the table, I’d have deflated by the third or the fourth course.
Caspian told me before that his parents tend to be laxed with the protocol during informal dinner but we still have to be on time and shouldn’t leave the table before the king and the queen. It seems to take forever for them to finish dinner.
I feel like jumping up and dance on the table when King Alexandros stands up. He nods to Caspian and a few others at the table. “I will see you gentlemen in my office soon,” he says.
Queen Sophia who’s standing beside him announces, “You will stay in the Gordovina Room in the West Wing where the guests reside. The guards will escort you there.”
My head snaps up when I realize that Queen Sophia was addressing that statement to me.
“No, she will stay with me,” growls Caspian. “And she will not be taken anywhere like a criminal.”
The Queen narrows her eyes before she starts to spew words in Russian through gritted teeth. I have no clue what she’s saying, but I caught Lady Celeste’s name being mentioned and her fingers jabbing my direction once or twice. With each word, the heat in my chest increased.
“Enough, mother!” yells my mate, getting to his feet.
“I will not be disrespected like this!” she hisses back. “You will do as I say!”
“I will not. I will not have my mate be disrespected in any way,” Caspian returns. His body is leaning forward like he’s ready for a fight, his hands are bracing the table. My chest is blazing red-hot from his fury. His eyes are turning black. He’s losing his control fast. This dinner is going from bad to worse.
Constantine tips his head while fixing his stare on me. I stand up and immediately cup Caspian’s face in my hands, bringing it down to me. “Come with me,” I tell him as I look into his cold black eyes. I didn’t expect him to do as I ask him so easily but when I grab his hands in mine and tug him out the door, he comes with me without a word.
I cup his face with my hands once again as soon as we’re out in the hallway and the doors are closed behind us. His glittering black eyes are like an empty black abyss, staring back at me. Fierce and intense.
Serena warned me that Caspian and Queen Sophia can’t be in the same room for too long. Caspian has a deep resentment towards his mother. Indeed, he’s different in his mother’s presence. He’s not his playful annoying self when she’s around. I didn’t realize how easily he could lose his control with her.
I stroke his beautiful face and he closes his eyes. I kiss his cheeks, his eyelids, his forehead and back to his cheek. When his eyelids flutter open again, inhumanly vivid green eyes are gazing back at me. “Quincy,” he breathes, nuzzling the tip of his nose along my cheek.
“That’s okay, baby. I’m here,” I tell him. We stay like that for a bit longer. “Listen, let me stay in that room...wherever that is. We can do this. I don’t mind.”
“But I do mind. I want you where I can see you. I want you where I can keep you safe.”
“I’ll be safe. There are guards everywhere,” I reason.
“No,” he says.
“We pick our battle. It’s okay if we give this one up but win the one that counts,” I tell him. “Besides, some easy, quiet time by myself without your annoying self would do me good.” I give him a teasing grin.
He sighs and presses his forehead to mine. A tiny smile touches his lips briefly. “Just for tonight. You’ll be there just for tonight. I have a meeting anyway. I’ll be in my father’s office with our men probably all night. Tomorrow morning, I’m coming for you. Tomorrow night and the nights after that, you’re sleeping in my bed. You belong next to me.
“I’m going to have my own guard at your door. My very best and most trusted. I don’t trust anyone here.”
I toss and turn on the big four-poster bed. The fire is roaring in the fireplace facing the bed but I feel cold and alone in the huge, strange room. I can’t relax. I can’t turn my brain off. Besides, I hear strange noises - creaking sounds on the ceiling, rattling in the walls, peculiar whispering and moaning sounds from nowhere. Oh, my God, it’s haunted! This old Palace is haunted!
I’m not scared. Not really. I’m just...unsettled.
Okay, maybe a little bit scared. Just a little bit.
Maybe it’s not an alone, quiet time by myself that I need. I need some alone, quiet time with Caspian. Only he can make me feel whole and safe. It’s pathetic but I can’t sleep without my mate.
I’ve parted the heavy damask curtains earlier. The half-moon is bright in the night sky, illuminating the room with its pale light.
I imagine I hear some more creaking sound. On the floor this time. “Psssttt...” My heart jumped out of my chest. I swear it did. “Pssstt...Quincy?”
I jump out of the bed with a shriek. What the heck? “Penny?” I squeak. “What...How? How did you get in here? What are you doing?”
“Oh, Thank Goddess I got the right room,” she says. “I was so worried that I came to someone else’s room. Can you imagine---”
“Penny!” I call out, then I glance at the door. It’s still closed. I bet the guards are still outside.
“Oh, ummm..what?” she asks.
I still can’t believe Penny is standing right in my room in her pink silk kimono wrap and a pair of matching pink fuzzy slippers on her feet....unless she’s a ghost.
I lift a finger and poke her cheek with it.
“Owww...what are you doing?” she yelps, slapping my finger away. She's looking at me like I’ve lost my mind.
“Just checking if you’re real, Ghost Penny.”
“I’m not a ghost, you silly! I see Caspian’s crazy has rubbed off on you,” replies Ghost Penny. Her ghost is as sassy as she is.
“If you’re not a ghost, how did you get in here then?” I challenge Ghost Penny.
“I got here through the tunnel, see?” She points toward the wall.
Wow, a tunnel? The moonlight is very muted. I can see a dark gaping hole in the wall where a floor to ceiling dresser used to be but I see nothing else beyond that.
“Okay then,” I say, still skeptical. “So...what are you doing here?”
“Just roaming around,” she answers, jumping on the bed.
"Riiight...a roaming ghost. Haven't heard of that one before." I take a step away from her.
"Just cut it out, will you? I'm not a ghost!" she insists. "Wow, this bed is soft."
“You can’t sleep either, huh?” I ask her when I remember that Darius is in the King’s office along with Caspian and the others.
“Pathetic, huh?” she says.
I grin at her. “Yeah, I guess...but I bet they can’t sleep without us, either.”
“Oh, yeah. Darius totally can’t sleep without me. I chase his nightmares away. I’m like his dream catcher or something,” announces Penny, sounding quite proud of her mild superpower. “Now let’s go explore the tunnel. It’s like we’re explorers or something, right?”
“Yeah, or spies or secret agents,” I say though I’m eyeing her in her silk kimono and fuzzy pink slippers doubtfully. Her hair is in a ponytail. Cobweb is twisting in it. She certainly isn’t dressed like an explorer.
“Yeah, spies or secret agents sounds better. I like that. Like Charlie’s Angels, with only two angels though.”
“Or devils...depends on who you asked,” I say and she grins mischievously. “Where’s Genesis and Serena?” I ask her.
“Genesis is too scared of spiders. Serena is too classy for things like this. But you. You, I know would enjoy this as much as I do.” She is so right.
“I can’t wait! Let’s go,” I say. “Oh, wait a sec,” I lift a finger up before I run into the closet where my clothes are already hanging neatly. On one of the hangers is the Hobo Hoodie. If we were to be spies, we’d better do it right. I guess I brought the hoodie with me because I was feeling sentimental. But now I’m glad I did for another reason.
“What is that?” asks Penny, staring at it, looking aghast.
“Penny, meet Hobo Hoodie,” I tell her. “If we’re secret agents, we need this. Too bad I only have one.”
“Thank goddess you only have one! I draw the line where I have to wear ugly hoodies...I’m saying this with the utmost respect to the hobo hoodie. I don’t want to hurt its feelings but truth has to be told,” she says with a straight face. “So...we have to wear an ugly hoodie to be spies? Your logic escapes me.”
“Smell it,” I tell her.
She brings it to her nose, sniffs it and frowns. “It smells like something,” she says. Then she takes another sniff before handing it back to me. “Strange. It smells like something but not really anything.”
“Exactly!” I say. It’s funny that the hoodie that I thought smell so bad when I was a human doesn’t smell bad at all now that I’m a lycan. It now smells like something, but nothing significant. It’s a strange smell that a lycan or a werewolf would just dismiss. Now that Penny just confirmed it, I’m sure everybody in this palace would react the same way.
“Well, come on then, partner,” she says. “Bring your ugly cloak of invisibility.”
“Stop dissing Hobo Hoodie,” I tell her as I put my sneakers on. “Now you’re hurting its feelings.”
She snorts. “I’m so deeply sorry, Hobo Hoodie,” she says, totally not meaning it. “I’m sorry that you’re ugly.”
It’s chilly and the air is stale in the tunnel. It’s dark too. It’s so dark that even with our superior eyesight, we need the light from Penny’s phone to help us find our way through the unknown passages. We go through the twist and turn, and steps going up then down. Some part becomes so narrow that it fits only one person through at one time. We stumble upon secret openings to the music room and several unoccupied bedrooms.
We’re careful not to talk too much and keep our eyes and ears open just in case.
Suddenly, Penny stops walking and I bump straight into her back.
“What the hell,Penn---” I start but I got her hand covering my mouth.
“Shhh..” she says before letting go. “Did you hear that?” she whispers.
I put my ear to the cold, stone wall and hear some muffled voices. It’s probably just a couple of the Palace’s workers or guards but my heart starts beating faster. Some action. Finally! We’ve been walking along the tunnel long enough not to see any action. There’s only so much of non-action for one night a spy could take.
Penny shines the light of her phone around and I spot a stone slab that looks different from the rest, further ahead to my left. I point toward it and Penny nods her head. We both put our ears to the wall again. I hear nothing. The stone slab is heavy. I doubt a grown human man or even a male werewolf would be able to move it, but together, we probe the stone slab and manage to pry it apart.
I poke my head through the small opening to a dark cavernous hallway. I have no clue in which part of the palace we’re at but I’m pretty sure we’re not supposed to be here.
“I don’t think we’re allowed in this part of the Palace,” whispers Penny behind me, confirming my suspicion. “See anything?”
The hallway to my left is a long and endless darkness, while the pale moonlight steals in through a huge, arched window at the far wall about 50 feet away to my right. The statues littering the hallway by the walls are mostly in shadows. I catch a faint, familiar scent lingering in the air.
“Nothing,” I whisper back.
“Where are you going?” whispers Penny when I slip out.
“Stay here,” I tell her. “Just give me five minutes.” I’m curious about the smell that I caught a moment ago. I hope Penny knows better than to come out and risk leaving her scent in the prohibited hallways.
“Quincy!” she whispers urgently but I ignore her as I walk into the darkness. I’m trying to keep close to the wall, hiding behind the looming shadows of the statues. The thick, luxurious carpet runner that covers the whole hallway helps muffle the sound of my soft footsteps.
My heart beats faster when I spot a tiny movement of a shadow. A shadow of a big person. No, not a shadow of one person. It separates into two then coming together again - two lovers fused together. A soft gasp and a moan seem to echo in my ear. The pale light falls on them as they stumble forward and I’m transfixed, unable to move, breathe, or blink. My heart is thundering in my chest. No, no no...this is not possible. No!
*My next update will be next Tuesday evening (est). I'm sorry for the cliffhanger. So sorry that I'm working hard right now to update faster than Tuesday. Oh yes, Lord Archer's story will be available on Inkitt before New Year. So, yay!
Have a wonderful week, everybody!