Chapter 51 - The Twisted Triangle
“This is private. It’s a family discussion,” says King Alexandros while we’re standing just outside the doors of his office. His golden brown eyes that, I realize now, are so similar to Æmilius are trained on me.
I’m hanging on to Caspian’s arm. I sense that he needs me as much as I need him and I’m not going anywhere unless he tells me to go.
“She’s his mate,” says Queen Sophia haughtily before anybody could say anything. “She has the right to be where he is. She should know how twisted and depraved this family is,” she continues as she walks breezily past him into the office.
The king clearly doesn’t like her remarks or to have me as an audience to the family discussion but he swallows his argument and follows his mate into the privacy of the office without another word.
The heavily ornate doors are firmly closed behind us as we move to a group of chairs and a sofa by the windows and a fireplace. Queen Sophia sits regally on a wingback chair near the window. King Alexandros takes another chair next to her. Caspian chooses a loveseat directly facing his father, pulling me to sit next to him.
For a while, everybody just sits there. Nobody says anything. I clasp my hands together in my lap, trying not to fidget.
Caspian is the only one who seems to make himself comfortable. His body posture seems relaxed, lazy even, as he leans back in the seat with his feet apart. His need to be touching me has one arm resting on the back of the loveseat with his fingers lightly touching my shoulder. He seems so relaxed that it’s bordering on insolence.
I know enough to know that with Caspian, what you see on the outside doesn’t reveal what he truly feels inside. At times, he seems most relaxed when he’s angry or looks bored when he’s poised for a fight.
“Were you ever going to tell me?” he asks quietly. His voice is very measured.
“I don’t have to answer to anybody. Not to my son,” announces King Alexandros. “What happened was between your mother and I. It had nothing to do with you.”
Caspian’s body tensed. “Nothing to do with...” he can’t even finish the sentence. He ground his teeth and his hand curls around my shoulder. His voice is very low but menacing when he says, “You claim that it has nothing to do with me after tonight? Is it not my life that’s on the line tomorrow? Is it not my mate that I stand to lose?”
Queen Sophia gets up from where she’s sitting to stand by the window. Her face is impassive, which reminds me of my mate. She’s a concrete wall. She’s an impenetrable barricade. She’s impossible to read when she chooses to not show any emotion.
The king sits tall and proud but he remains silent. The tension in the room is tangible and suffocating and I remind myself that I’m here for my mate.
“I met her after I marked your mother. Surely you understand the bond of a mate and the pull of an erasthai?” says King Alexandros. “It’s my burden to bear, not yours.”
Caspian nods his head. It’s strange how that tiny movement is laced with pain. He straightens up and removes his arm from around me as if he’s afraid that he’s going to hurt me. “So you kept me in the dark. I have a half brother I didn’t know about. A brother who despises me so much that he’s very eager to destroy me.
“Still, that’s not even half of it, is it father? All these years, you knew that he and Katya had something to do with the rising rebellion. They were destroying packs and killing the innocents yet you did nothing. Nothing! You were protecting them, were you?”
“I know none of such things,” growls the king. “I’m your king and your father, watch how you’re talking to me.”
“You must have suspected that it was them,” continues my mate, undeterred. His voice is rising. Hurt, anger, and a thousand other emotions are swirling inside him. “You were warned by one of the commanders about the Royalty’s betrayal. He told you that it was an inside job yet you ignored it. You ignored the death of the innocents, your subjects, for them!”
I grip his tight fist to remind him to calm down but he continues on, “Did you know that that commander and his mate died that week? Are you even aware of how many of our good men and women died because of the action of those two? Do you even care?”
“I said enough!” roars King Alexandros. His eyes are shiny black onyx when he stares at his son. “If you weren’t my son, I would have killed you for your insolence,” he snarls before he storms out. My heart clenches and burns. Something inside me hates his words and wants to come out.
Caspian pulls me to stand up with him before he gathers me into his arms. He presses his nose to the side of my head and takes a deep breath before he whispers, “Don’t go after the king, my love.”
Now that he mentions it, it does sound ridiculous. Immediately I imagine a puny little me going after King Alexandros, the lord of all werewolves and lycans. Ughh! I bury my face in Caspian’s chest.
He pushes me back and cradles my face in his hands. “Only you, my love,” he says. I can’t read his feelings. They’re all jumbled with mine, creating confusion at this very moment but the way he’s looking at me shows how much he adores me. “Let’s go, Moya Printsessa.”
I glance back. Queen Sophia is now standing alone by the window, staring outside with her back to us. A lonely figure. Her posture straight and regal, showing her aristocracy upbringing.
I cover Caspian’s hands in mine. “I’ll see you in a moment?”
He studies my features before his gaze lingers on his mother. Finally, he looks at me again and he nods his head. He kisses my forehead before he lets go of my hand and walks out, closing the door behind him.
The queen turns to face me. I glimpse a flash of vulnerability on her face before it’s replaced by the usual coolness.
We stare at each other for a moment. Studying, measuring each other.
“You knew they were planning this. That’s why you wanted him to mate Lady Celeste so badly and claim the throne,” I state calmly.
“No, I didn’t know they were planning this. All I knew was that Katya wanted her son to rule. It’s her revenge. If she couldn’t be queen, she wants her son to take the reign.”
“How do you live like that?” I blurt out. I squeak out an apology right after those words came out of my mouth. I didn’t mean to ask that question but it’s been in my head for a while. I mean, if Caspian did that to me, I’d kill the other woman for sure...right after I kill him (maybe). Then I’d die. I internally shake my head at my morbid thoughts.
Instead of getting mad as I expected her to be, Queen Sophia waves away my apology and moves to take a seat on the chair she abandoned earlier. She signals me to sit on the chair previously occupied by King Alexandros.
“I have a feeling, you don’t usually mince words, Quincy St Martin - Romanov,” she says. “I don’t expect you to start now because I don’t intend to either.”
Okay, that’s good, because I have a feeling I might end up in the dungeon tonight if I can’t speak freely. I’m bad at pussyfooting. I have a broken filter.
“Let me tell you about my upbringing,” she says. “I grew up knowing that I would be the mate of the future king one day. It was decided for me since I was a baby. I was brought up with this thought in mind. I didn’t have a chance or a choice to even think whether or not that’s something that I want for my life.
“We mated when it was time for Alexandros to be crowned king. I felt no love for him in the beginning. Later, I learned to love and respect him and I assumed, him, me. I thought we were happy. There was never anybody else for me.
“Three decades, five years and six months, I had him all to myself. Then he met her. Katya. He’s instantly consumed by her. There’s nothing I could do. We still had the mate connection. He couldn’t deny me yet he’s obsessed with her. He blatantly installed her in the nearby residence. Have a son with her. Plays a happy family with her. It always feels like I’m in a competition with her. A competition that I was always a few steps behind.
“When she had her son, I was frantic to have a son too. I was obsessed with the thought of having a son until I had him. My Caspian.
“So, how do I live like this? Trapped in a gilded cage and oh, what a cage. A wonderful life for a queen.
“I grew to resent him, my mate...to resent them. Some days when I knew he just came back from being with her I couldn’t even look at him. If I could get out of this triangle, I would,” she says. “But I also want to win,” she adds with a rueful smile. “A queen doesn’t give up her position unless it’s for her son and his mate.”
“If you can’t stand the triangle, why haven’t you taken her out of the equation yet?” I ask her the question that has been nagging at me. Surely, she must have thought of that.
“Alexandros,” she says without hesitation. Meaning, she would have killed Katya in a heartbeat if King Alexandros wasn’t in the way. “The same reason why she hasn’t gotten rid of me yet.” She raises an eyebrow and smiles at my curiosity. “Anymore question?”
“You knew that Æmilius is the king’s son. Why...why..” I can’t find myself to say it.
“Why I slept with him?” She smiles. Wicked and bitter. “To get back at my mate,” she states simply. “If it were any other men, Alexandros would have killed them before the sun rises. No matter what happens, I’m his mate and he’s very possessive. Surely you know that by now. My son would have killed anyone who touches you.”
It sounds like a warning but I just nod and she continues, “Æmilius was the only one who isn’t scared of him and who’s as equally motivated to raise his ire. The one he wouldn’t kill even for soiling his queen for fear of upsetting his erasthai.”
“Does it help to make the king favor his golden son over his backstabbing son or that he wouldn’t mind as much if the backstabbing son is killed one day?” I ask her.
Queen Sophia’s vivid green eyes flicker up to look at me closely. The corner of her lips curls up into a tiny smile of respect and strangely, pride.
I return her smile. Rightly or wrongly, I admire this woman.
Queen Sophia is a very dangerous woman. She’ll cheat, lie, steal, and kill to get what she wants. She recognizes herself in me and she’s not wrong. I’ll do anything for the people I love and I’d kill with a smile on my lips if that’ll get me what I want. The only other thing that makes me breathe easier is the fact that she loves her son fiercely and destroying me would be destroying her son. Isn’t it funny how her son falls for someone who is exactly like her?
“I chose Lady Celeste for him because she’s easy to control,” she says. I don’t miss the flash of wickedness and self-deprecation in her eyes. “If you weren’t his erasthai, I wouldn’t have chosen you. There’s not a single subservient bone in your body. You look sweet and innocent, but really, you’re not. You’re so young but you’re already very strong, clever, and dangerous. But now I’m glad that he mated you. I’m looking forward to seeing how much more dangerous you’ll grow to be.”
“Is that why you were against us before? You wanted somebody you could control?” I ask her.
“That and I didn’t believe that you two were real mates,” she answers. “Can you blame me? The last time he claimed to be mated, it was to his pack mate, Persephone who’s already mated to Commander Darius.
“I didn’t want to be fooled again. I could see the difference with you but I had to be sure. After last night when I saw you two bloody from the fight and the way you cling to each other, I know for sure.
“No, I wouldn’t have chosen you but I can see now that you’re what he needs. He’s a different man with you. He’s the man that I wished he’d grow up to be.”
“It only took him a couple of centuries,” I quip.
She smiles. “It took him the right one. You.”
“I think he’s already great before he met me, he just hid it well.”
“Loyalty and honesty. I like that,” she says. “Beware of Æmilius. He’s consumed by his jealousy for my son. If he gets the reign, he won’t let my son live. He’ll take everything he regards as rightfully his or should have been his, including you.”
“You know that would never happen. If he killed my mate, I will use my last breath to destroy him.”
She nods and says, “I expect nothing less from you.”
“And now I know what to expect from you,” I reply.
I smile at her as we reach an understanding. Queen Sophia isn’t somebody who trust easily or whom I could give my trust easily to but right now we’re fighting on the same side.
When I get up to leave the room, she once again stands up to look out the window. A beautiful lonely figure staring out into the darkness.
Günter is waiting for me outside the door of the king’s office. His solid hulking figure follows me silently as I walk the long, massive hallway back to our wing. My steps grow faster as I think of my waiting mate. The urgency to be with him intensifies as I think of tomorrow.
I feel a lot better, safer when we reach our part of the palace. Our sanctuary.
Caspian is sitting at the reading nook by the bay window in our bedchamber, waiting. He had already discarded his jacket, waistcoat, and bowtie. The top of his snowy white dress shirt is unbuttoned and the sleeves are rolled up to his elbow. His impeccable hair is now all messed up. My heart aches at the sight of my beautiful mate. I try to push the thought of tomorrow to the very back of my mind for the moment. He needs me and it won’t do us much good if I think about it now. He sits staring at me for a while, the next second, he’s on his feet and standing right in front of me.
His hands come up to cup my face while his eyes intense, studying my face like he did before he left me with his mother. I feel his tentative touch in our bond as he’s trying to sense my feelings.
“You’re worried about me.” I look up into his eyes and cover his hands with mine.
“My mother is a manipulative bitch,” he says.
I stand on my tiptoe and kiss the tip of his nose. “I know, but I like her,” I tell him before I pull back. Those electric green eyes follow me as I walk into our closet to change. “We have a lot in common.”
“Pray tell, what is it that you have in common with my mother.” His voice comes close from behind me, whispered into the cool skin of my neck. The tips of his fingers skim the top of my bare shoulders.
“We both love you something fierce,” I tell him. I feel his smile against my skin. “Now help me undo these buttons.” My fancy ballgown has a thousand tiny buttons at the back.
“I’m lucky to have the love of two most powerful and dangerous women I know,” he says as he works on those tiny buttons. Once in a while, he stops to kiss my exposed back, leaving a wet trail that makes my skin tingles.
His patience with the buttons only lasts a few more seconds. He rips the bodice apart then he lets it falls in a pool of light blue silk at my feet. I’m surprised he lasted that long.
“Did you scare away the maids who were supposed to help me undress?” I ask him. I try to look serious but fails when my lips tilt up into a smile.
“Yes, I did,” he admits without any shame or remorse. “I know I’m fabulous, but I have no patience for silly, tittering women.”
“Good to know your ego is still big, healthy, and thriving, my love,” I say and his lips curl up into a wicked smile. Maids in this palace are mostly werewolves from the nearby packs. Indeed, they blush, giggle, and sometimes even drop things whenever Caspian, Constantine, Lazarus, or Darius is around.
He turns me around and covers my lips with his. I reach up to grab a fistful of his silky golden hair and run another hand over his chest and the back of his strong neck. His warm, firm, but soft lips feel amazing against mine. His incredible scent alone dulls my ability to think. I forget my worries when he’s kissing me like this. He reluctantly pulls back when I’m about to deepen the kiss. “We have a meeting with the pack in five minutes,” he says regretfully with his forehead pressed against mine.
I pull on a pair of jeans with a tank top and add a comfortable hoodie on top of it. We walk hand in hand to the media room where everybody is already sitting, waiting for us.
The atmosphere is grim. They’re not poking fun at each other or making silly jokes. Darius is looking especially formidable. Penny is perched on his lap with her arms wrapped tightly around him.
We take a seat next to them and Constantine.
“So...tonight was very unexpected,” says Constantine. “They’re very clever to issue the challenge during the ball tonight. They needed the audience to tie our hands behind our backs.”
I hear everybody’s collective agreement and I tighten my hold on Caspian’s hand.
“Lady Celeste came to ask for Jorden’s protection earlier tonight. We have Jorden and Lady Celeste heavily guarded,” informs Lazarus. “The king has sent the army to the Northern Region and some of the other parts as well.”
“From what I gathered, they’re responsible for a lot of rebellious acts from way back. Probably partly responsible for Milan’s attack on Genesis as well. Manipulating Milan for his end game since King Alexandros was threatening to replace Caspian with Constantine as the Crown Prince,” adds Darius.
“And the killing of your Commanders and their mates?” says Caspian.
Darius gives a jerky nod of his head. I can sense the fury coming out in waves from him.
Penny puts her hands up to cradle his face. “One thing for sure, he’s not going to be alive to rule as our king or to get his hands on Quincy. Never,” she vows. “Even if it takes all of us to do it.”
“I fight till my last breath to make sure that none of you will die in his hands,” says my mate. I bury my face in his chest and wrap my arms tightly around him. I feel his hand gently cradling the back of my head. “Now, let’s get some rest. We have to be up at dawn tomorrow,” he says.