He left before I woke up. Only the faint smell of him on the sheets and the soft imprint of his body remained on the bedsheet. I sat by the window seat with my legs curled up. My arms wrapped around them as I looked out the window.
Today, was different. I woke up with something new and I decided to dress in a red velvet silk chest wrap and sheer glittered red skirt to compliment it. My mind was reeling with last night. I can still feel his every touch, breath, and kisses. It has imprinted itself into my mind and now I can no longer forget how it felt to be underneath him.
I feel that what we did yesterday, we have dug ourselves a deeper hole. My mood is conflicting but there was one thing I knew for a fact and it was that I didn’t regret it. There was no guilt, just confusion. I didn’t know what our next step will be.
To add gas to an already raging fire, I woke up and noticed that the mark that was on my body had grown into a full-blown fierce looking red dragon. Its eyes were intelligent and powerful. The scales on its back were red as blood while its underbelly was black as the night. It wraps itself around my torso as if protecting me from harm.
I was now his completely and yet I felt sad. Last night, Raiden seemed desperate—almost like he was afraid, and it hammered my heart into a million pieces. I wanted to soothe his worries and reassure him. However, what can I do? I am a human and did not belong next to Raiden.
I heard a soft knock at the door before it opened and Aika came in carrying a tray of rice porridge. She set it down on the small round table close to where I was sitting. She touched my shoulder to obtain my attention.
“Milady, I brought you breakfast.” She announced. I didn’t miss her eyes lingering on the mark on my body.
I turned away from her and looked out the window, “I am not that hungry.”
“You have to eat.” She insisted, walking to the table to pick up the bowl of porridge before walking to me. She handed it over and I had no choice to accept it.
“Thank you,” I murmured.
She placed her hands back at her side and waited for me to take a bite. I picked up the spoon and scooped up some of the thick rice porridge onto the spoon before putting it into my mouth.
She sighed before speaking again, “I guess it is true. Prince Raiden has finally claimed you as his chosen mate.”
My eyes fluttered to hers, “What do you mean?”
“The palace is in total chaos. The news is traveling fast and now everybody is questioning who the mysterious human woman was.” Aika explained.
“The Ministry is upset and demands an explanation from the King and Prince Raiden. The Royal consorts are furious with the decision because more than half of them were vying for Prince Raiden’s attention.” She continued. “Then there is another rumor going around that Duchess Tuyen’s daughter was caught crying and fleeing the palace with her mother hot on her heels. Duchess Tuyen isn’t happy and demands rectification for her daughter’s pure image.”
That last sentence caught my attention and I sat the porridge on the window seating. Before I stood up and took a step toward Aika.
“What does she want?” I asked in curiosity.
“She asks that Prince Raiden mate with Song for the damages he has done to her reputation,” Aika explained with a huff, clearly displeased with the thought.
I smirked at her reaction but then it dropped when I swiftly realized what this meant.
“So, Prince Raiden will have to mate with her?” I asked, feeling my heart was going to shatter from the impact of hurt flowing through my body. It riddled with goosebumps at the thought of even sharing Raiden with another woman.
Aika gave me a sorrowful smile, “I am afraid so, milady. In this realm, a woman’s reputation is important. They have to pure and untouched, this is especially strict with a woman that has a high prestige bloodline as Duchess Tuyen’s daughter.”
“Will the Prince agree?” I asked meekly. The amount of pain I was feeling was so intense, I can feel it to the tips of my hair and crawling all over my skin.
“The mating will begin in five days last I heard,” Aika said.
My eyes watered and stung. I didn’t realize I had stopped breathing until Aika took a concerning step towards me and touched my arms.
“I told you this, but it might even be true. Gossip travels around the palace like fleas. They might not even be true. Please calm yourself.” Aika urged to comfort me but it didn’t help.
“I-I think I need to be alone,” I mumbled, blinking rapidly. I brushed passed Aika and towards the bedroom door.
Flinging it open, I fled the bedroom in haste. I heard Aika’s voice behind me, but I didn’t care. I only knew I needed to be alone. I found myself standing in the middle of Raiden’s garden. Only when I was alone, I released a sob from my body. Shocked at my inability to cover up the pain that was killing me inside rocked through my body and I collapsed onto the ground.
I didn’t realize the extent of my love for Raiden until now.
How did I get here?
The pain was excruciating that I wanted to curl up and shrivel away. Tears blurred my vision and streamed down my cheeks.
I feel helpless and out of place.
I do not agree with what was happening. It was making me feel. I was dying inside with each breath I took.
I heard faint footsteps down the hall and immediately, I moved to a dark corner of the garden and hid. Curling up and allowing the flowers to hide my form.
I heard the footsteps neared the garden. It stopped right outside the entrance before it entered the garden. Between the flower bushes, I saw that it was the man from the banquet hall. He and Raiden bore similar features but are not alike in many ways. There was a darkness in this man’s eyes that Raiden doesn’t have.
What was he doing here?
He stopped in the middle of the garden next to the fountain. His eyes scanning the bushes before it lingered where I was hiding. He blinked and looked away.
He started whistling and began touching the flowers before him, inching closer and closer to where I was hiding. I have a feeling he knew where I was. Something was wrong. It was like he was toying with me. A second later, his hand reached out and into the brush, grabbing a hold of my left arm he lifted me out from my hiding spot.
I struggled in his grip, but it was useless. This man was strong and literally immortal compared to me. I was breakable and could die in his hands within seconds. He held me in place firmly. His eyes scanning my body and hovering over Raiden’s mark.
He smirked, “I see that his mark is completed.”
“What do you want?” I found my voice, pushing against his chest. His fingers dug into my arms and I wanted to weep from the pain he was inflicting.
“Isn’t it obvious? I want a taste of what Raiden has been hiding. He always shares his toys with me. What’s the difference if he shared you?” He chuckled darkly before yanking me to his chest. He wrapped one arm around my waist to trap me and the other to yank my hair back to expose my neck. I felt his lips and I started screaming.
“Help!” I screamed. “Somebody help me!”
That seemed to have pissed him off and he pulled back, yanking on my hair harder.
“Be quiet!” He growled. “Or I will hurt you in so many ways, you won’t be able to move for days.”
His lips came smashing down on mine and I grew angry. I bit his tongue that was forcing its way into my mouth. He let out a yelp before pulling back.
He touched his tongue that was bleeding before he backhanded me. I fell to the ground instantly from the impact. My vision blurred, and I struggled to crawl away.
“Somebody help me! Please!” I screamed.
“I see why Raiden is so infatuated with you. You are a wild cat.” He laughed before grabbing onto my ankles.
He pulled them out from underneath me and back to his body. I slapped him and dug my fingers to his neck. He snarled before raising his fist to hit me again. I closed my eyes and waited for the impact, but it never came. Instead, his body was lifted off from me.
I heard grunts and my eyes opened to see Raiden pummeling his fist into his brother’s face. There was a dark look on Raiden’s face. It was cold and dark. A look I have never seen before on his face. His eyes were red with rage.
Raiden beat his brother until he was unconscious. Blood splattered everywhere. His fist was painted in his brother’s blood. I crawled on my feet over to him.
“Raiden,” I shouted. “stop. You are killing him!”
Raiden continued beating his brother into a mess. I grabbed onto his arm and his eyes snapped to mine. The look in his was wild and animalistic that I released his arm and stumbled back. Raiden watched me recoil and I saw the tension leave his body. Slowly, the crimson glow in his eyes disappearing. He released his brother with a shove, dropping his unconscious body.
“Anna...” He said slowly, his voice strain and his body still shaking. However, his eyes returned to normal. I stopped crawling back and he fell to his knees next to me. I flinched when he tried cupping my cheeks.
His eyes flashed with hurt and instantly I felt bad for recoiling. I cleared my throat before speaking.
“Thank you,” I whispered.
He moved to stand up and I felt him pulling away from me. Instantly, my hands came out and grabbed onto his hand that was at his side. His eyes flickered back to me again.
“I didn’t mean to flinch when you touched me. You just scared me a little.” I told him.
He sighed and ran a hand through his hair in frustration. Without another word, he crouched down and scooped me up in his arms. I wrapped my arms around his shoulders. I glanced in his eyes and like last night never happened, they were again indecipherable.
This was his mask. He wore it to cover his emotions. Last night was rare. I saw a part of him that he showed no other.
“Did he hurt you badly?” Raiden’s arms tightened around me. His voice tense with barely controlled anger.
“He didn’t hurt me. You got to me before he could- “I trembled at the thought of Raiden not coming in time.
He hugged me tighter and nuzzled his face into my neck.
“Don’t leave your room from now on. It is not safe. I’ll have Daisuke and General Takashi take turn guarding your room.” He said softly. “I need to know that you are safe when I am not with you.”
He made a turn down the hallway of our bedroom. Once inside, I noticed that Aika was gone. He settled me on the bed, tucked me in, before walking out of the bedroom without a word. I heard him talking to someone and the word garden and Ronin passed through the door before Raiden returned.
He walked over and pulled a chair to the side of the bed. He looked me over once more before his eyes swept over his dragon mark on my body. The gold band around his irises glowed and I saw him swallow the lump in his throat before shifting in his seat.
“Where were you this morning?” I asked, breaking the silence.
“I had some things to take care of.”
“What kind of things?” I questioned.
He crossed his arms over his chest and leaned back slightly in his chair.
“Is it about Song? Are you going to mate with her?” I blurted. His eyes widened in surprise before he shook his head.
“Was it Aika?” He ignored my question.
“It doesn’t matter who told me,” I replied, and he exhaled slowly, again, running his fingers through his hair in frustration. His eyes flickering to the window briefly before returning to me.
“I won’t mate with her, Anna. It will always be you.” He answered finally.
I have doubts. I don’t know how much Raiden is willing to sacrifice and if I am willing to allow him to sacrifice all that he has for me. I am nothing but a human. I’m normal and have no distinctive leadership knowledge. I went to school for architecture. I was born in a small village. Song was born in a prestige family. She’s a female dragon. She knows this realm when I am a trespasser.
Raiden heaves a sigh and crawled into bed next to me. He pulled me close into the crook of his body.
“Don’t worry, Anna. I will love no other. Only you.”
I hugged him tighter. Just the thought of losing him was terrifying. I feel like this was a fate I couldn’t alter even if I tried. It felt like it was inevitable and that scares me.