First Sign Of Betrayal
Matteo had taken me back to my room. He had held me in his arms until I had fallen asleep. Promising this time to leave before the sun rose. When I woke in the morning he had kept that promise. I felt disappointed finding him gone in the morning. How confusing all of that is. I don't have time to consider everything when i need to be downstairs for breakfast. Dressing quickly in a pale blue skater dress. Above knee and long sleeved with a deep plunge line.
I walk inside and greet everyone. Sebastian is no longer with his family and stands up with a seat next to him. My heart falls to my stomach when I see Matteo is not here. Alessandro is sitting next to princess Sofia who seems to be ignoring him as best she can.
"You look lovely this morning." Sebastian leans over his chair to say to me.
"I hope you have recovered from your headache."
Matteo arrives just before breakfast is served. Walking in and searching the room his eyes land on me. They light up and then the spark goes out when he sees Sebastian still talking close to my ear. Not that i can hear him. I shake myself from the daze and give my attention back to him.
"I'm sorry what did you say?" I ask.
"I said that you have another month and almost half here. I could always come back to see you."
"I wouldn't want to inconvenience you." I say politely.
My cheeks heat up when Matteo takes the free chair next to Alessandro. Opposite me.
"It is not an inconvenience. We should get to know one another better do you not think?"
"Sebastian. My time here is to isolate away whilst my coronation is announced and things are settled."
"Yes with the help of my father."
I turn to face him now. Confused.
"Excuse me? Your father is helping?"
"Yes. It was agreed that France would help the spanish with the rebellion. Making efforts to show our union."
"But i have not agreed." I say rather loudly. Shocked to my core. That father has allowed them to help. To make it seem that I am promised to someone. If i was … What I did last night was a complete betrayal. But what of my fathers betrayal. His word I had time to make a choice.
"Your father seems to believe you will. As does mine. It makes sense for the union of us both."
"I'm sorry. Please excuse me." I stand up my chair toppling over loudly. "Sorry." I stutter out a few more times to the waiter ready to pick my chair up.
"Isabella." Sebastian says taking a hold of my wrists. I flinch. Unsure as to why because both Matteo and Alessandro have touched my wrists and not once, never have i flinched at their touch.
"Let. Her. Go." Matteo says standing up. His voice is demanding and rough. Punctuating every single word like a command. His eyes on fire with rage.
Sebastian releases my wrists. Looking between me and Matteo. I see the puzzle clicking into place. Alessandro stands up now.
"No need to rush Bella. I just remembered the promised walk to feed Zeus. He does like to keep to a schedule." Alessandro says smoothly. Slinking from his chair with a smile on his lips. "Excuse us mother. I had forgotten to mention it."
"Of course. Have fun." Corrina says. Her smile practiced. Her eyes filled with concern as she looked at me. Almost remorseful.
I walk from the room as quickly as I can. Alessandro hot on my tail. Finn striding just behind.
"Bella. Slow down."
"Because if i don't run i'll never get to." What am I even saying? I feel tears prickling at my eyes.
Has my father promised the french king already? Deep down I've always known if the choice was equal that Matteo would be the only one. But it felt the scales weighed towards Sebastian before. Now knowing his father is helping to sort my country out.
Alessandro puts an arm around each of my shoulders pulling me into him. Not caring that we are in the middle of the large corridor. I let the few tears fall silently into his t-shirt.
"When you ride. You let them be free for that hour. Knowing it's the only freedom they'll have."
"Everyone deserves freedom." I whisper against his top.
"Then why are you crying?"
"I cannot explain."
"You don't want to." He responds quickly.
Moving from his embrace I turn to Finn.
"Did you know the french are currently helping my father?"
"I did not. Though it makes sense. I have heard this morning that any rebellions known of have now been neutralised. Your coronation is going to be announced at the end of the month. A month before you return home and two months before you are crowned." Finn explains.
"I feel like i have no control. Not even of my own life." I feel myself falling apart. The last threads ready to snap at any moment. I turn to Alessandro. "Thank you for getting me out of there. I need to be alone though. That includes you Finn. I will remain on the palace grounds. If you must watch from afar."
I have never spoken to him with a command. But this is. I straighten my shoulders and walk away from them both. I can feel them watching me. I turn many times walking the endless halls and high ceilings. Until I walk towards the stables. A young stable boy is inside grooming Bravo.
"May i?" I ask. He inclines his head with a bow and passes me the brush before hurrying away. I watch as he moves to another horse.
I don't hesitate. Holding Bravo's thick hair I jump and throw myself onto him. Rearranging my dress. Giving him a tap he begins to move. Just as we exit the barn I rip at the necklace around my neck. The tracker I have never minded. Feeling it beneath my palm just before I throw it behind me. Holding Bravo's thick hair I kick until he is running full speed. Leading me away. Taking me away from everything. I have no idea where we are going. Nor in this moment do I care.
I felt like a storm was coming, I hadn't realised it had already been let in. Taking over without my knowledge. I had some silly hope that my father would honor his word. If i had my phone right now i would be ringing him. Screaming at him. Throwing a tantrum like the eighteen year old girl I am. Instead I am riding away. Losing sight of the magnificent castle as we move into some trees and down a trail I haven't been to before.
I ride until my legs ache and I need to stretch them. Bravo on the other hand could keep going. I can feel it in his tense muscles ready at any moment to follow the command and gallop again. Instead I brought him to a stop and climbed off.
"Do you know where we are?" I whisper to him. Smiling to myself for talking to a horse. Feeling some weight release from my chest. I lead him off the trail and towards the sound of water. Hoping it is fresh so he can drink. Twigs snapping beneath my feet and when finally a small clearing comes into sight. Sure enough there is a stream. "You are such a handsome stallion."
I stroke him as he leans down drinking from the stream. Eventually finishing. The sun is beginning to fall. Yet I don't want to return. Not just yet. Soon I promised myself. Instead Bravo lays down and I cuddle into the large stallion. Looking up at the small white clouds that float by. Listening to the peaceful noise of the stream and birds.
"How is it possible to have misplaced a princess?" Matteo says looking from me to Finn.
"We did not misplace anyone. She wanted some time alone." Finn says glaring at Matteo.
That comment seemed to work until dusk came. I found Finn speaking with every guard and walking whilst scanning through the security system, on his phone.
"The stables?" I ask Finn.
"She went there within an hour of leaving us. She took your brother's stallion."
"Well that is good then i bet she is grooming him."
"No. She has not returned and on her way out she removed this." Finn says holding up a delicate white gold chain. With a small bird pendant. I've seen her wearing it. In fact I've never seen her without it. "I have begun a search including your guards. Your mother is making excuses to everyone else."
"She cannot be far."
"Why wouldn't she be? Because she has a lot to come back for." Finn shakes his head. "Excuse my rudeness."
"No, I prefer you being upfront. Has it always been like this for her?"
"I became her guard when she was five years old. At the time I assumed I would only stay a year or so. I never really wanted to work for the king. Thirteen years later I find myself hating the idea of ever retiring." He sighs. Closing off his phone. "She would study. Tutor after tutor for twelve to thirteen hours of the day. Never complaining. Only allowed two days off. In those two days she would be a normal little girl. Play with the animals. Help the staff. She has always been kind. To kind. As she got older her days off would be spent with planned visits to cities and villages. Her father of course has never approved of how she is but neither has he declined. I would go to him with a request from her. He would accept without even hearing a briefing. She was a tool to be a heir. He didn't expect to get a cancer diagnosis. So his last months will be spent trying to control everything once he is gone."
"So that is why she is so comfortable with you. Because you have been more like a father to her."
"I have been a substitute to what she should have had." He checks his watch and furrows his brows in anger. "I need to go and check on the progress of what grounds have been searched. If you find her …"
"We will and I'll be in touch."
I watched the huge giant man I once thought scary walk away. His bald head and broader shoulders are still intimidating, but I see the other side, he worries about her. Not because he has lost the princess. But because of his concern for Bella. Her not because of what she is.
I find Matteo in his room lying on his back on his bed. Long legs still hanging to the floor.
"Has she asked to see me?" He sits up looking at me. I want to chuckle but now is not the time.
"No. Actually it's being kept on the hush over lunch and dinner but she hasn't returned."
"Hasn't returned?" He stands up quickly nearly knocking me out the way.
"She also took Bravo."
We walk to the stables as I explain about the conversation I had with Finn. Matteo listening but muttering rude words in Italian throughout. We arrive at the stables to find Finn raising his voice at some of our guards. They all move away quickly not meeting our eye.
"Shouldn't you both be inside. If either of you go missing i'm not freeing up your guards to look for you."
I chuckle. "Thanks Finn but we thought we could head off in separate directions to look for her. We know this land like the back of our hands."
"Fine but you take your phones and ring me if she is found?"
We both nod. Zeus is brought out ready for me. Matteo climbs onto a light brown stallion that hasn't been with us long but is well trained. He doesn't even moan that it isn't Bravo. Who i know he is attached to. We nod at each other kicking off and heading in opposite directions. Let's bring the Spanish princess back and make her have something worth coming back to.