No. Lord Bancroft could not be thinking about making me his bride. How could he think about marrying someone who he despised? I believed you should only marry the person you loved, not someone you enjoyed tormenting. So, Lord Bancroft could not marry me.
“Well, I pray for the sake of the King that the day comes soon where he would marry the woman he loves,” the maid said. The servants here were so loyal to their King, it astounded me. They wanted their King to be happy and it seemed their King’s happiness was the reason for theirs.
“I agree. Rumor has it that the late Queen prophesized about Lord Bancroft’s bride, but I do not know if it is true,” the second maid said.
“Could it be that the new woman is the same lady the late Queen talked about?” The first one asked, disbelief lacing her words.
“I know not, but only time will tell. Like I said, it is only a rumor; how much truth it contains, I do not know,” the second answered.
“Mayhap the Queen can tell us herself,” the first one suggested. Her words shocked me. Was the Queen alive? But everybody, including Bancroft believed her to be dead. What was she talking about?
“What in God’s name are you talking about? The Queen had been laid to rest years ago.” The second maid chided, as if what the first one said was a disrespect to her.
“I am merely suggesting that we call her spirit and ask her who is destined to be the King’s bride.” Why in the world would they call the Queen’s spirit? Was that even possible? Were these maids into witchcraft?
“You must stop this nonsense at once. Surely you do not believe in such things. The Queen is dead and there is no way she will come back, in spirit or otherwise,” the second maid stated and I could not help but agree with her.
“There is no harm in trying. A distant relative of mine can contact spirits and ask them questions regarding important matters. However, you must not tell this to anyone else.”
The entire conversation between the two servants would result in me fainting. First, the shock of potentially being Bancroft’s bride nearly had me losing clarity and now this talk of awakening the dead was making me shudder. What was wrong with these servants? And did I dare to tell Lord Bancroft about what they were planning to do?
You have to look at the late Queen’s room. Do not waste your time!
My inner voice was right, but I did not know where her chambers were. Mayhap these maids would go to her room and I could follow them. But no, they would see me and tell Bancroft; I had to do this alone.
Not wanting to waste another minute, I slipped out of my hiding place and quickly made my way to the second set of stairs which led me up the floor. Upon arriving, I couldn’t help but wonder just how long it had been since anyone had come up here.
The paintings and antique vases looked as if they had not been cleaned in years and the pathways seemed to be filled with all sorts of chests which contained God knows what.
After surveying my surrounding, I came to the conclusion that this place was for things which were no longer in use, or things which were too old to be kept around but too precious to be thrown away. There was no way I was going to find the chambers of the late Queen here.
Sighing in disappointment, I trudged down the stairs, ignoring my curiosity which wanted me to see what those chests contained and what other precious secrets were hiding on that floor.
As soon as I came down the stairs, I gasped in surprise when I saw Lord Bancroft standing there with a frown on his forehead. Oh drats! What was he doing here? Was he angry that I dare to venture up the stairs?
“M—My Lord? I thought you were busy addressing the needs and queries of your people,” I said, trying not to appear guilty.
“Yes. That is what I should be doing. But while I was sitting there, listening to my people, I realized that I am unable to focus on what those people were saying to me,” he said, taking a step closer to me.
“Wh—Why not? Is everything all right?” Was he unwell? What could I do to make him feel better? Oh no, what was I thinking? I was thinking about tormenting him and here I was worrying about his health? God, what was wrong with me?
Lord Bancroft nodded which strangely put my heart at ease. “Everything is fine, my beautiful rose. It is just that…” he closed the distance between and took my hand in his. “You were not there with me.”
My heart danced a sudden rhythm upon hearing his words, which had me cursing silently. Lord Bancroft was affecting my heart and I could not let him do that. He had to suffer before he could rule my heart.
“What does me being there have to do with anything, my Lord?” I asked, ignoring the warmth spreading throughout my body at his mere touch. I could not let this change me.
“It has everything to do with it, my fierce nymph.” He gave me a tender kiss which made me yearn for more of him. “I realized that I need you to be with me wherever I go.” He paused and I could see his eyes hardening with conviction. “And I will make sure you stay with me forever. I will never let you go.”
Before I could respond, Lord Bancroft gripped the back of my head and kissed me like his life depended on it. He bit my lip before slipping his tongue in my mouth and possessing me in ways no man had ever dared to. No, no, I could not let him take over my heart and mind. I was not ready to relinquish power so soon.
He pushed me until my back hit the wall and then moved his hand down until he cupped my breast. I moaned as pleasure shot through me with the force and speed of a fire arrow, igniting my soul, making it crave for carnal sin.
“I—need—you—so—much,” he said in between kisses as he left my lips to kiss my neck.
My eyes closed as I lost myself to the sensation of his lips on my skin, forgetting the fact that in just a few days I would shove a dagger in his heart and make him bleed. Could I really do it? Could I hurt the man who was holding me so tightly as if he would die if he let me go?
“W—We have to go,” Lord Bancroft stated, abruptly pulling away from me. He grabbed my hand and dragged me all the way back to our chambers, not caring about the maids who stopped to bow as he passed by them.
“What is wrong?” Why was he in such a hurry? What was so important that he was dragging me to it?
Lord Bancroft did not answer me, even when we reached our chambers. Instead he threw me on the bed and quickly climbed on top of me and begun kissing me with fervor.
His behavior puzzled me. What had happened to him all of a sudden? It seemed as if that cruel monster would no longer torment me and had been locked up tight. Lord Bancroft was no longer the man I feared and it was strange how coming to Sodora had changed him.
When he finally pulled away, we both were breathing heavily. His green eyes had darkened to resemble jewels and I could see the desire shimmering in them.
My heart shuddered in pleasure when he cupped my face so gently as if I was made of glass. “My beautiful rose…”
“My Lord? What is bothering you? Are you all right?” Two days ago, his health or sanity would not have concerned me as I was thirsty for his blood.
The change in his eyes was clear. Upon my question, the desire in his vanished and was replaced by what I could only decipher as guilt and remorse.
“You are so beautiful,” he said which had me frowning. “You…I have done the most terrible things to you.”
Holy God, was he regretting his past actions? No, he was a King, why would he ever regret anything he did?
“My Lord? What are you talking about?” I questioned, not wanting to hope in the fear that my hopes would be shattered.
He caressed my face with his thumb. “You did not deserve the pain I caused you.”
I couldn’t speak. Was this real or a terrible dream? Lord Bancroft was actually feeling remorse over tormenting me?
Oh God, please don’t let this be a dream.
“I—I—“ I tried to say something but nothing seemed to come out. Shock had stolen my ability to speak and all I could do was gaze up at the mighty King who was feeling regret over his actions.
“You were innocent, and so pure. And I caused you pain when all I intended to do was the opposite,” he muttered, placing a tender kiss on my forehead.
“Then why did you?” I couldn’t help the bitterness seeping in my words. What had made him realize that he had been hurting me for these past few weeks? He was so proud of his power over me that it made him cruel.
Lord Bancroft closed his eyes as if it caused him physical pain to even think about such a thing. This was not fair. He was not allowed to feel pain over something I was sure he took joy in doing to me. And if he thought I would forgive him, then he had to think again.
“I wanted you to know that you belonged to me, now. I desired your submission in every way. I was angry with myself for leaving you in that harem for so many years; I should’ve taken you the moment I laid my eyes on you. But I thought to exercise patience, and later realized that it was a huge mistake,” he admitted. Every word he spoke fueled the fire blazing inside me. He was angry with himself and he took it out on me. He forgot about the fact that I was a human being and could feel pain. No, he would not be forgiven.
“Why was it a mistake?” I queried, even though what I really wanted to do was scream and hit him with the beautiful vase which was sitting on top of the chest in one corner of our chamber.
“Because I allowed you to stay and grow up in that harem, where all sorts of vile men came and did things to you that make me thirsty for their blood. They touched what is mine and I allowed that to happen. It is all my fault. I should’ve protected you, but I left you there to suffer,” he said, his voice thick with remorse.
“You could have taken me away and protected me when you came and claimed me as yours. You chose to inflict pain on me, every day. You made me wish for death because I was in so much pain all because of you.” I didn’t realize I was crying until I felt moisture on my cheeks. I was furious and I thirsted for revenge, now more than ever.
“Yes, my rose. You are right to blame me. I have no excuse for what I did; no explanation to justify my behavior. You fled Quopia because you were so afraid of me. I understand now that you fled because you wanted to feel safe because I failed to make you feel that way. I made you think that you shall never be safe with me, even though, in my mind I believed I was trying to make you understand that I was everything to you from now on and you must hand over the control of your life to me,” he answered.
I’ve had enough. I could not bear to listen to any more of his excuses. What he had done to me did not deserve forgiveness. I would make him understand just how much I suffered because of him.
“So why now? Why are you feeling remorse over your actions now? Why not before? What changed?” I questioned.
He sighed, still keeping a firm grip on my body. “A woman came to me. She complained about her husband abusing her. And as she was talking, I could not help but think about how I have been hurting you since the day I met you. And you cannot begin to imagine the regret that is eating me alive right now, my beautiful rose. I have been the most terrible to you.”
“But you could have chosen not to feel remorse. Why are you telling me all this? What is the purpose behind all this?” I asked. If he thought I would forgive him now, he was mistaken. I would not stop until I had him bleeding on the grounds of Sodora, regardless of what my heart wanted me to do.
“It is because I need your forgiveness, because I cannot move forward without it. I have been a monster to you in the past and I realize that now. What I was trying to achieve has failed because I was employing all the wrong strategies for it. The time has come for me to repent for my actions and I need you to forgive me, my fiery nymph,” he stated, wiping the tears that fell from my eyes as my mind and heart warred over what to do. My heart was eager to forgive the man who had ensnared it, while my mind wanted justice.
“Why do you need my forgiveness now? What significance does it hold for you now when my words never mattered to you before? When I was begging you to spare me, to have mercy on me, you did not care. So why now?” I demanded an answer.
I could see that my words were hurting him, but it was nothing he did not deserve. “Because I intend to make you my Queen. And for that I need your forgiveness so you can stand by my side and rule this Kingdom with me. I need your forgiveness so you can be my equal, so you can be the Queen you are destined to be.”
For all his words and explanations, I only had one word to say. And it should be enough for him to know that a few words were not enough.
“I shall never forgive you.”