The next morning, I woke up after a restless night.
One could assume, that by now I had gotten used to the constant changes, which seemed to steer my life into an increasingly bad direction. But this wasn’t the case.
Sunbeams peeked through the slit of the curtains and birds chirped happily, to greet the new day.
I put my hands in front of my eyes, to block out the beautiful morning sunlight.
For the first time in my life, I didn’t feel like bathing in the warm rays of the sun and listening to the soothing sounds of the birds.
My heart felt tight, lost, and betrayed.
Until now, I had suffered a lot of disappointments and defeats in my life and it always seemed like I didn’t mind.
Niklas’ little games, Adrian’s betrayal ... my life was built on a huge lie.
Leaving Adrian, had hurt. Finding out that this hadn’t been necessary, because Niklas had lied to all of us, had hurt too.
However, it paled in comparison to the pain I felt, when I saw Daina come out of James’ private quarters, happy and slightly deranged. When Malachy followed her half-naked, and I could comprehend the full extent of the situation, I thought my heart would burst.
I trusted him from the start, felt free and invincible around him – even gave myself to him completely...
How naive and stupid I was.
Again, I noticed tears gathering in my eyes.
Enough of this. I had cried all night. The weeping had to stop.
I slowly took my hands off my face and sat up straight in my bed.
It was one thing to cry like a lovesick teenager all night, but the night was over.
At any moment, a maid or another servant of the castle, could come into my rooms to wake me up, or to prepare my bath or whatever...
Resolutely, I wiped the tears from my cheek and took the covers off of me.
I knew our marriage was an arrangement - a political contract for the good of all.
It provided me with many conveniences, that a lot of aristocrats would envy me for. Daydreams and a ‘They lived happily ever after’ had not been included in this contract...
I brushed the dark strands of hair off my face and got up from the bed. Then, I went to my closet and put on a pair of jogging pants and a hoody jacket.
Jogging a few laps would help me wake up, and the physical exhaustion would keep my negative thoughts in check.
I tied my hair into a ponytail, put on headphones, and turned on music before leaving my room, so I could run without being disturbed.
After my now regular run, I walked down the hall to my rooms, being out of breath and sweaty and felt a little better.
Running in the cool, fresh morning air had helped me sort out my thoughts.
As I stepped further into the room, I saw a note draped conspicuously on the small table in front of the sofa. I went to the sofa, took the note and read the message.
It was a message from Malachy. He expected me at nine for breakfast in the large dining room.
Great. I didn’t really want to run into him, this shortly after the unfortunate incident...
Just the thought of it scared me. How should I face him?
Since I had enough time, I decided to treat myself to a long, hot shower to relax my muscles and calm my nerves.
As I showered and made myself presentable, I continued my motivational monologue from this morning.
A confrontation with Malachy was inevitable. Under no circumstances, did I want to act like a stupid little girl. I was a young, educated woman of twenty-six years and I should be strategic about all this and keep my emotions in check.
Malachy gave me power, security, and access to all his and Clan Stuart’s. There was never any talk of love and loyalty.
If I looked at it closely, I also had to blame myself a little, for this uncomfortable situation, we were in now. Why had I never considered, that Malachy and Daina were more than just Regent and advisor?
When I saw them together for the first time, I was convinced that they were perfect for each other – a match made in heaven.
And even if there was nothing between the two of them, all you had to do was to look at Malachy: he was sexy and seductive, indescribably beautiful and also unbelievably powerful and rich. What woman didn’t want him to herself?
I still owed him an apology.
Which was the reason, for me standing unannounced in front of his door yesterday and had gotten me into this unpleasant situation.
I had exposed him in front of the most important members of Clan Romanov - I literally cut him short.
He would have had the right to call me to reason in front of the assembled team, but he didn’t.
I don’t know, if it hadn’t better, to have been put in my place. The reaction I got for my behavior, was so unusual for the Malachy I fell in love with...
When I was standing fully dressed in front of my mirror in the bedroom, I had gathered enough courage to appear confident at breakfast with Malachy.
I nodded to myself one last time and went into the living room to get my cell phone.
I was just about to put my cell phone in my jeans pocket, when I accidentally touched the display and noticed that I had received a message from Darius.
I unlocked my phone and read the message. It was already sent yesterday evening.
Darius informed me, he was going to take the documents, regarding the stolen diamonds, to the police station in Atonia and that I owed him for this.
He also wrote, that my blood-vial was missing from the safe in Ignis and wanted to know, whether I had brought it with me to the castle...
I was puzzled.
I could rule out that I had taken the vial to castle ‘Green Willow’.
In fact, I was very sure, that I had put the vial in my jewelry box, along with the diamonds, in my apartment in Atonia after the Debutant Ball.
The same box, that had been opened at the break-in and had it’s contents spilled all over the floor.
At this point, I couldn’t tell whether the vial was there or not, as I had completely forgotten this not entirely unimportant detail. So there was a very good chance, that my blood serum vial had also been stolen.
I shook my head briefly to get back to the more pressing problem: my meeting with Malachy.
I pushed this potential problem aside for now, by writing back to Darius and postponing the blood-vial topic to a later date.
“Hey Bro! We’ll come to an agreement. Sorry that I’m only getting in touch, now. I didn’t see your message earlier. I’ll have breakfast with James in a few and will get in touch with you later about the blood-vial! :-* Maggie”
Then, I put the cell phone in my pocket and made my way to the dining room.
My cell phone beeped as I walked down the long corridors of the castle. It was Darius.
“Wow! No sooner than you are engaged, you have got no more time left to spare for your brother! My heart is bleeding :(! Seriously - get in touch as soon as you can. The lack of an aristocrat’s blood-vial is something you don’t joke about - especially not if it’s azure coloured... xoxo D”
When I entered the dining room, Malachy was already sitting in his place, reading the newspaper with a scowl.
In accordance with the new seating arrangement, which I was very happy about just recently, my seat right next to him was set.
I walked towards the table and cleared my throat loudly - partly to announce my appearance, partly out of sheer nervousness. The latter had caused a lump to form in my throat.
When I had taken my seat and put on a friendly, slightly mask-like grin, Malachy put the newspaper aside and gave me an indefinable look.
I felt like an insect under a magnifying glass.
“Good morning, Maggie!”
There was no other way to describe the mood, than uncomfortable and cold.
Who would have thought, that I would miss the old seating arrangement on the opposite ends of the table after such a short time...
That we were still sitting so close to each other, could have but two explanations.
Either Malachy had forgotten to inform the staff about the change in the seating arrangement, which was very unlikely. Or, what was much more likely, that etiquette would be respected.
It would be strange, if we were seated far apart from each other, just a day after our official engagement.
And let’s not fool ourselves.
Even if this information was initially only intended for Clan Romanov, the news would spread like wildfire in the castle.
Because of my lack of reaction to his greeting, Malachy slightly raised an eyebrow and looked at me with a curious, piercing look.
This put me out of stupor and I replied, slightly embarrassed: “Good morning!”
I couldn’t say more than that.
Should I have asked him, if he had slept well or how his night was? The cynicism of those words, almost made a real smile appear on my face, hadn’t it been so sad.
I cleared my throat, again.
Now or never.
I came on a mission and I would fulfill it!