Chapter 47 - Things That Are Not As They Seem
I will the image in front of me to change, but no, it stays the same. Some parts of me want to confront the couple so lost in each other in front of me. Some parts of me just want to run away and deny what I’m seeing. Finally, I force my legs to move, walking slowly backward, slinking away from the scene before me in the cloak of the darkness.
Penny is still waiting for me by the opening, looking worried enough to want to kick me in my lady nuts.
“So what happened? Did you see anybody?” she asks me as soon as we moved the stone slabs quietly back into place.
If I didn’t acknowledge it, it didn’t happen. I shake my head. “I see nothing,” I tell her. My voice is flat. I walk quickly back the way we came from.
“Nothing?” she mumbles disbelievingly. “Are we going back now? I thought we’re going to explore some more.”
Oh, Penny. I keep walking and now she’s almost running to keep up with me while trying to keep the light from her phone app in front of me so I wouldn’t fall and hurt myself in the dark.
I feel the fire in my chest and the burn behind my eyelids. My heart is still thundering.
“Are you okay?” she asks, sounding concerned.
No. But I nod and say, “Just tired.”
“Okay,” she says, sounding skeptical and unsure. I feel bad for lying to her but if I stay longer in her presence, I might cry or worse, hug her and spill everything.
“Well, yeah, okay, so...I’ll see you in the morning?” she says as I enter my room.
“Yeah. Good night, Penny,” I reply, unable to look her in the eye.
As soon as we push the heavy solid oak dresser back into place and Penny disappears from view, I let my back hit the wall, then I slowly slide to the floor. My butt hit the floor with a thud. I’m pissed. I’m sad. I’m confused. I’m miserable. I’m a lot of things. What do I do now? I wish I didn’t see what I saw. I rest my elbows on my knees and sink my fingers into my unruly, cobweb infested hair.
This is how Caspian find me fifteen minutes later.
“Sweetheart? What’s wrong?” He’s kneeling beside me. “Tell me what’s wrong. Did anybody hurt you?” His fingers grasp my chin, lifting my face up, tilting it this way and that. His eyes are checking for any damage.
I stare up at him. “You’re here,” I say, feeling dazed. “Why are you here?”
“I sense your feelings. I got worried so I left the meeting early,” he answers. He runs his fingers along my cheek, then through my hair and raises them up to look at the cobwebs trapped between them. “Have you been roaming the tunnel? Did something happen? Talk to me, baby.”
I wrap my arms around myself and shake my head. No. I don’t know if I could tell him. I don’t want to.
He slips his arms under me and lifts me up. He lays me down gently on the bed and stretches his long legs beside me, resting on his bent elbow between us so that he’s facing me. “Talk to me, Moya Printsessa. Please.”
My eyes burn again and my throat becomes strained. “I don’t want to hurt you,” I blurt out.
His jaw becomes tight and his expression becomes wary as he regards me with intense eyes. “The only thing that can truly hurt me is if you told me that you don’t want to be with me anymore. Other things, I can deal with.”
His hand goes to my throat where his thumb slides to rest on the pulse that beats there. I blink a few times before I gaze up at him. “I always want to be with you.” Does he not know how much I love him? His eyes soften, his jaw and his body seem to lose their rigidness. He looks more relaxed but my heart breaks for what I’m about to tell him. “I went into the tunnel. I saw your mother...” I swallow hard. “With Darius.” I wish I could unsee the scene I stumbled upon less than an hour ago. Queen Sophia and Darius in a tight embrace...like lovers who know each other well. Poor Penny.
The rigidness returns to his jaw and shoulders. His eyebrows come down in a confused frown. “Darius? Are you sure?”
I stare up at him feeling even more confused. This is not the reaction I was expecting from him. He seems furious, but not surprised. If anything, he’s more concerned about Queen Sophia being with Darius than her being with anyone at all. Like he’s more concerned for Darius.
“Darius was with me the whole time tonight....up until I left him with my father and the others at my father’s office a few minutes ago.”
But that can’t be right. I saw him. Them. I saw them. I was hurt and disappointed and pissed off. I wanted to hurt him for what he’s doing to Penny and to us...because I was feeling possessive of him as part of my pack, at the same time, I wanted to drag him away from there and make him promise not to do it again- not to hurt Penny. Ever. I was torn between wanting to kill him and wanting to keep him protected.
All of a sudden, my mate’s expression cleared. “Did you catch her scent?”
“Yes,” I answer.
“Did you catch his?”
I frown, thinking. “I...I’m not sure.” Did I smell him? “But I saw him.”
“Sweetheart, things are not always as they seem,” he says. “Everything is going to be fine.”
“Really? How’d you know?”
“Because Darius would never cheat on Penny,” he says with certainty. “Besides, if he did, I’ll hurt him myself.”
“Promise?” I ask him.
“I promise. Darius and Penny are solid. Don’t worry about it.”
“What about your mother?”
His jaw clenches again and the coldness seeps into his expression. I sense anger coursing through my vein from him. “I don’t want to talk about it,” he replies.
“Okay,” I agree. I know when not to push my mate now. We’ll talk about it when he’s ready.
“Good,” he says, sounding relieved. “Now off you go.”
“Shower. I’m not going to snuggle with a cobweb brush no matter how beautiful she is,” he says with a grin.
Cobweb brush? I want to flick his forehead but my brain got stuck on the word snuggle. “Wait! You’re sleeping here?”
“You’re here. Where else would I be?” he replies. Then he picks me up and deposits me inside the ensuite bathroom. “Now, go take that shower. I have a couple of things to do.” He plucks the phone out from his pocket, taps on the screen and puts it against his ear. His eyes stay on me before he closes the door as he says something that sounds like a bunch of instructions in rapid Russian.
I stare at the gleaming white antique ceramic tiles and the luxurious bathtub and shower feeling very confused. What did he mean by “things are not what they seem”? It’s got to be Darius. I saw him! How could he do that to Penny? Poor sweet Penny...well, she’s not sweet but...how dare him. I am so going to kill him the next time I see him. I’ll punch him on the throat or maybe his junk first, then I’ll...Holy Cow! Is that me? I’m staring at my own reflection in the mirror. How could have Caspian touched me? How could he even look at me without falling off the bed laughing? I look way worse than a cobweb brush thingy. My face is covered in black soot like I just went down the chimney. Cobwebs cover most of my hair...and Hobo Hoodie. Oh, Hobo Hoodie. Penny was right. Hobo Hoodie is no beauty. Time for a shower.
Sitting across from me at the dinner table is a man who looks like Darius, but is not Darius. He sounds a bit different, smells very different, and acts totally different. His name is Æmilius. He is Darius’s cousin.
I glare at him and he smiles and winks at me. I don’t like him.
“You’re a gorgeous woman,” he says to me. What a snake.
His handsome, masculine face, his fair hair, and his build look very much like Darius. Other than that, he’s nothing like Darius. His eyes are golden brown instead of sky blue. His manner is cocky, flirtatious, and arrogant instead of serious and aloof like Darius.
His golden eyes seem strangely familiar. His manner reminds me of someone else.
“Æmilius,” says Caspian curtly. It sounds like a warning. He moves closer to me until our thighs are touching and his hand comes up to grasp mine on the table, staking his claim.
“Your Highness,” replies Æmilius. He sounds respectful but his eyes are challenging and brimming with amusement.
I flip my hand facing upward so that I can twine our fingers together. I squeeze his hand reassuringly and he squeezes mine back.
It’s clear that he doesn’t like Æmilius but invited him over to have breakfast with us to prove to me that it wasn’t Darius who I saw with the Queen last night. Well, considering the man was with his mother last night, I can’t blame him if he hates the guy.
Penny and Darius don’t seem to be too happy to see Æmilius at the table this morning either.
I turn my attention to the other end of the table where the Queen is talking to Genesis before delicately wiping the corner of her lips with the napkin. If she’s shocked to see her lover having breakfast with us today, she’s very good at not showing it. I have to admire her poise and acting skills. If I were her, I’d be shitting bricks at having my mate and my secret lover in the same room. No...not shitting bricks, probably worse. I think I’d have a bright pink neon sign on my forehead that blinks GUILTY. GUILTY. GUILTY.
After breakfast, we don’t linger. Everybody seems to have some business to attend to....except for me. Maybe I’ll go visit my cousins later.
“I have François moved all your stuff from the room to our bedchamber in the East Wing, Moya Printsessa,” Caspian tells me as the guards open the doors for us. It hits me with how busy the place is once we step out of the dining room.
The Palace is buzzing with activities. Workers and maids are everywhere, getting the place ready for the mating ceremony.
“You go with the girls to our suite. I have some things to attend to,” he says.
“When will you be back?” It feels like he’s always busy since we arrived here. I miss him when he’s not around.
“I’ll be back this evening,” he tells me. “Please don’t go wandering around on your own, my love.” He leans down and brushed his lips in a lingering kiss on my cheek. “Take my bodyguard with you wherever you need to go,” he whispers. He’s so stiff, formal, and always on guard here. I miss him being playful and annoying and mischievous. I watch as he saunters off with Constantine, Lazarus, and Darius. The maids curtsy, titter, and blush when they walk past.
“Come on,” says Penny, grabbing my elbow while trying to avoid walking into some workers.
“Our bedchambers are in the East Wing. It’ll be much quieter there,” says Genesis, looping her arm around mine on the other side. “We usually have breakfast and lunch at the dining room in the East Wing. I don’t know why Prince Caspian wanted to have breakfast here today.”
The Palace is massive. I’d get lost if I were to find my own way around here.
The girls inform me that we get the entire East Wing of the palace to ourselves. This part of the palace is left empty unless there are huge celebrations or parties being held and they need to use the rooms to house royal guests and dignitaries. Even then, our areas are still sealed and forbidden to others. There are guards placed to stop others from venturing into our private sections.
The girls seem to let out a sigh of relief in unison as soon as we walk past the guards who open the door for us to enter our private domain.
“This is the only place where we can act normal and be ourselves again,” says Genesis. “Being all formal, prim and proper is hard work.”
As much as that statement sounds funny coming from Genesis, I think it’s true. Keeping my guard up all the time is tiring.
The East Wing is actually very beautiful and enormous. The girls give me the tour. Our bedchambers are almost next to each other. We have our own media room, offices, drawing room, private dining room, studio, and training room which includes an indoor swimming pool.
Finally, we venture into Caspian’s bedchamber...I mean, our bedchamber. Mine and Caspian’s.
It is massive. It’s a double story room with a soaring domed ceiling. Everything is lavish and luxurious. The most amazing thing by far is the full wall of bookcase. It starts from the floor, going all the way up to the ceiling of the second level. There is a reading nook by a large arched window overlooking the garden below and the valley beyond. The opposite wall of the bookcase is a huge entertainment center complete with various gaming consoles. There is also a bar near a cluster of sofa and chairs. At the center of the room is a curving staircase with a wrought iron banister that leads upstairs where a huge bed, the biggest I’ve ever seen is at. A big fireplace with a blazing fire is by the wall near the bed.
The song Habanera (L’amour est un oiseau rebelle)is playing faintly in the background but it echoes through every corner of the room.
“Wow!” I say as I let my gaze wander from a big wrought iron chandelier hanging from the ceiling to...everywhere, trying to take everything in.
“I know, right?” says Penny. “That’s what I thought when I first saw this room. Your mate is a bit excessive. In everything.”
The four of us sit on the giant sofa with our heads resting back on the headrest, staring at the stained glass domed ceiling. We sit there and talk.
Serena tells me that the story that the Crown Prince might reject Lady Celeste at the mating ceremony has traveled fast. The news is buzzing beyond the borders of the Kingdom. Not for the first time, I feel a tinge of sympathy for Lady Celeste. At the same time, I’m worried about what she might ask of my mate.
*So, an early update! I enjoyed reading all your theories. Thank you!
My next update will be on the Friday Evening (est). I might be able to post the beginning of Lord Archer’s story before then.
Happy Holidays everybody!