After Elena finally walked away, Shannon let out a sharp breath of her own.
"Definitely worse than her daughter." Shannon huffed, shaking her head. "Their the third largest Kingdom, just so you know."
"Great." I sighed. I wondered if I could possibly sleep tonight with all of this new information rolling around in my head.
"There's something weird about that August guy." Aela commented, feeling just as confused as I.
"What did you think about August?" I spoke quietly to Shannon as we walked over to one of the service tables.
I gulped down some cool water, only wishing it were some strong wine.
Shannon hesitated for a minute, her honey eyes clouding over in thought.
"I saw this cat once. It was living out in the woods and hated anyone that came near it. It wasn't mean or anything, but it was scared and constantly on guard. I brought some food out and it just fell in love with me. It just needed some help." Shannon shrugged, nodding to herself.
I definitely needed some wine now.
"Shannon, that make's no sense." I sighed, gritting my teeth together.
Once I became Queen, there was a high chance I would also become an alcoholic.
Shannon rolled her eyes, "August has the same look in his eyes as the cat did. I think he's scared and constantly on guard. Maybe he just needs someone he can trust."
I pursed my lips together. After all, what she said did make sense. But at the same time, she sounded insane. How reasonably sound was this weird gift of hers?
"Don't you go looking at me like I'm crazy, Arabella." Shannon glared at me, her sharp eyebrow raised in my direction
In spite of the long night I was having, I couldn't help the massive grin that formed on my face.
"You might be a little crazy, but you're my assistant so it doesn't matter." I shrugged, flashing her a grin.
Her hardened eyes turned soft and I knew I got her.
"And don't you forget it. You hired me, and don't you dare go tryin' to get rid of me. Princess or not, I'll sick my momma on you." Shannon raised her eyebrow as I turned pale.
I shook my head, "I would never risk the wrath of Sheila."
Shannon's mom was a complete force to be reckoned with. I swear, she could overthrow an entire Kingdom all by herself.
Shannon seemed satisfied with my response and grabbed herself some wine.
She noticed the dreamy look on my face as I glanced at her wine and smirked, "These Royal's won't let you drink now, huh?"
"Can't have a drunken ditsy princess." I rolled my eyes.
Each of the Royal families were Lycan's. They were well aware it would take nearly a dozen bottles to get drunk, but it still looked bad. That little tidbit only applied to the females.
"I found out earlier who your Dad was talking about." Shannon pursed her lips.
Confusion was evident on my face, "What?"
"When he was mad as all hell earlier cause that family showed up unannounced." Shannon gave me an impatient look.
My mouth popped open, "Who were they?"
"Well you've already met the three biggest Royals in the world, Erik's Kingdom taking last place." Shannon stopped to sip her wine, "That Duboi boy is the fourth, the weird twins are third, and the family that came unannounced was second."
"I've never heard about the second largest Kingdom." I frowned. I might have been taught it as a child, but the only Royal I had met until now was Erik.
Shannon shook her head, "It seems like your family and theirs don't get along."
Shannon leaned in real close and said something loud enough for only Viktor and I to hear.
"If there's a war brewing with your family, by best guess is that other family has something to do with it." Shannon spoke lowly, her golden eyes flicking around suspiciously.
I wanted to laugh at her paranoid behavior, but I couldn't blame her judging from the few Royal's I had met.
"Arabella." My Dad's voice called out from behind me.
I knew without turning he was either stressed out or pissed the hell off.
Shannon and I turned around, my lips turning down in confusion.
Dad was definitely pissed off. His face was set in a scowl and his fingers tapped hastily at his side.
"What's wrong, Dad." I frowned, taking a step towards him.
Dad sighed, and tried to run his hand through his salt and pepper hair. The large crown on his head stopped him and he touched it gingerly.
"There's another family here for you to meet." Dad said through clenched teeth, "We're not on good terms, but you deserve every chance at finding your mate."
I frowned at my Dad, "Why haven't you told me about them before?"
Dad sighed, looking more tired than ever. "I tried to keep all of this from you. All I did to protect you has just left you unprepared."
The look on my Dad's face twisted my stomach into knots. I couldn't stay angry at him, no matter how hard I tried. It was a miracle he hadn't lost himself when Mom died, he did what he thought was right at the time.
I sucked in a sharp breath and put on my game face, "Let's meet them. But I expect an explanation later."
I gave my Dad a stern gaze. My lips twitched when a relieved yet exasperated look formed on his face.
"Of course Alpha Queen." My Dad's lips twitched in amusement, but the stress lingered in his eyes.
Something swelled inside of me when he called me by my future title. It felt like something was happening within me. Uncertainty subsided and meshed with something different, and that something felt like strength and confidence.
This was the beginning of something. Something that would hopefully turn me into the ruler I was destined to become. Someone my Dad and Mom could be proud of.
Dad extended his arm and I looped my own through it. I followed Dad through the mess of people, Shannon and Viktor hot on my trail.
"Stay very close to her." I heard my Dad mumble to Viktor.
We ended up on the outskirts of the large crowd of guests, standing by the ten foot tall window. I glanced out the window and got a good view of the ballroom gardens. The entire garden was covered in twinkling lights, marble fountains, and large rose covered benches. It looked like something out of a dream.
I could easily make out Uncle Jasper as he weaved through the crowd, a couple unfamiliar faces hot on his trail.
The unfamiliar face in the front had me pausing to catch my breath.
The man looked like an angel. His skin was a flawless ivory painted over his large and muscular build. He looked maybe a year or two older than myself, and yet he looked completely ageless. His hair was a rich chocolate brown and fell to his shoulders in gentle waves. His chocolate hair framed his chiseled and defined face perfectly.
He wore a simple fully black suit, the only hint of color was the scarlet pocket square on his suit.
"Very very bad news." Shannon whispered lowly in my ear.
I strained to hear her words, and nearly jumped at the sound of her voice.
I stifled the urge to turn and ask he what the hell she was talking about. Uncle Jaspar and the other unfamiliar faces were much too close now. There was no way I'd be able to whisper to Shannon without them hearing.
"Shit. He sure is gorgeous for being someone that's bad." Aela sounded confused.
I nodded, "He looks kind of familiar, doesn't he?"
"I think so." She replied.
My necklace heated and buzzed as my eyes ran over the man. The necklace was beginning to frustrate me. It acted strangely, and almost served as a second intuition but it refused to reveal it's gifts.
Uncle Jaspar had a tight lipped smile on his face. He looked just as stressed as Dad did.
I pulled my arm from my Dad's and patted his hand gently when he was reluctant to let go.
I approached insanely attractive and somewhat familiar man with a clueless smile plastered on my face. I could feel Viktor's dominating aura lapping around me, giving me a sense of safety.
The strange man was accompanied by a younger version of himself, along with an extremely large older man and a dainty older woman.
I could feel the man's dark and calculating eyes on my face. The necklace was practically buzzing as I only stood a few feet away. I was surprised that no one else could feel it practically humming with power.
"The beautiful and alluring Princess Arabella." The strange man hit me with a dazzling smile, making me question why Shannon was so weary of him.
How could someone who looks like this be a terrible person?
"We can only see his outward beauty, Arabella. We have no clue what he looks like on the inside." Aela's voice murmured in my head, sending realization down on me like a cold splash of water.
Wiping the emotion from my face was simple, but it was hard concealing it from my eyes. Eyes were the windows to the soul, and they couldn't be fooled so easily.
I let my eyes widen slightly and stared at the man in confusion.
"I am Arabella, but I'm afraid I don't know who you are." I gazed up at the man, attempting to portray innocence in my gaze.
The man's eyes were hard, but flickered with some unseen amusement. I had the feeling he was seeing through my little innocent act.
"Nikolai Aslanov, my dear Princess." The man nodded his head, a dazzling smile still painted on his ethereal face.
"Is this your family?" I asked politely, turning and smiling at the rest of them.
The dainty woman shot me a grim smile, while the older man nodded quite frigidly. The younger version of Nikolai shot me a wide but sly grin.
"My father Dmitri, my mother Katina, and my brother Ivan."
The names stood out in my mind, and sounded quite unusual. I knew I would've remembered them if I had heard them in a different setting.
"And is this your family, little Princess?" Nikolai smiled and something within me shifted at his words.
The way he called me "little princess" felt wrong, almost like a taunt. He knew exactly who my family was without asking.
"This is my father, the Alpha King." I enunciated my Dad's title proudly, "My Uncle Jaspar, and my assistant Shannon."
Thick amusement clouded Nikolai's eyes as his dark gaze flickered from me to Shannon.
I could feel her stiffen at my side under his darkened gaze. I wondered what she was thinking in this moment. Did she have any more information on him?
"The little Princess already has an assistant?" Nikolai grinned, letting out a chuckle.
To anyone else, he looked flawless and angelic. He looked like an inhuman being that radiated confidence and ease, but something felt off about him. He knew the game he was playing, and from the looks of it he was heavily involved. It wasn't only that fact that threw me off, he seemed to genuinely enjoy the game he was playing. A true expert.
"And who might this be?" Nikolai's gaze flickered to the towering form behind me.
I refused to let my eyes flicker back to Viktor, or to reveal the fondness I felt for my silent bodyguard.
"This is my bodyguard, Viktor." I struggled to keep my words even through my hammering heart.
Something flashed through Nikolai's gaze, but he kept it tightly contained. It seemed as though he were convinced for the time being.
"Who would dare hurt someone as angelic as yourself?" Nikolai's voice was tinged with sympathy. He played the emotion extremely well. I could easily find myself fooled by his soft gaze and the frown that formed on his plush lips. If I hadn't known about the game these Royal's play, I would've found myself easily dazzled by Nikolai.
"A few specific name's come to mind." Aela growled.
I held Aela back, but I could feel her dislike for the man standing before us. Wolve's had very strong instincts and her's were saying one thing; Predator.
"One can never be too safe." I let a small yet knowing smile play on my lips. It was a risky move, but I decided to take my chances.
Nikolai read my gaze as though it were an open children's book. I unfortunately, was not as skilled as him. Something flashed within his gaze, but I couldn't place what it was.
"You are certainly right, Princess." Nikolai returned my smile with one of his own, a much more convincing smile.
Nikolai extended his hand and I gritted my teeth against what I had been dreading the most.
"This guy better not be our mate." Aela growled, pacing around in my head.
I stepped closer to Nikolai and trapped my emotions deep down as Viktor took a step with me.
Nikolai's eyes never left my own as my small hand was placed in his large one.
I held my breath and counted the seconds. Over ten seconds passed until Nikolai's lips turned down and disappointment flashed in his eyes.
The emotion looked strange on him. He looked disappointed, but there was no surprise there.
"I don't suppose I could sway you to my side regardless, little Princess?" Nikolai beamed down at me and the action had me struggling to catch my breath.
Any other girl would be putty in his large hands.
A hostile growl sounded from behind me, and my eyes widened. I hadn't heard my Dad this mad in my entire life. His growl silenced many of the guests lingering around. They looked at the Alpha King with a mixture of shock and fear.
Nikolai however, was unfazed. A charming smile played on his full lips as he looked down on me. He hadn't even acknowledged my Dad's furious outburst.
"Unfortunately, I have to decline your generous offer." I gave Nikolai a smile of my own. I tried to remain innocent with my smile. Nikolai was by far the hardest Lycan and Royal to fool, but I was determined to play this game.
"Pity. Such a pretty face." Nikolai looked genuinely disheartened as he released my hand.
"A pretty face?" Aela growled, "I'll ruin his pretty little face."
"Now's not the time, Aela." I hushed her.
As much as I wished I could, the words escaped my lips before I could clamp them shut.
"A pretty face, a pretty Kingdom. It's all the same isn't it, Nikolai?" I let his name roll off of my tongue slowly, almost sensually.
Something different flashed across his dark gaze, and even his own brother's eyes widened in the slightest.
I had definitely let too much slip. I made it all too clear that I was much more than some ditsy little princess. They knew I was all too willing to play their little game. A new player was like a piece of juicy bait to men like them. The necklace hummed as the words left my lips.
The strange emotion only lasted half of a second until Nikolai's face turned up in a knowing smile.
"Do enjoy the rest of your birthday, little Princess." Nikolai grinned at me, "Until we meet again."
Nikolai and his family turned and left through the crowd. I could hear Dad tell a few of his men to escort them out safely and without a scene.
Quickly the gentle music had resumed, and the weary glances of the guests quieted and stilled.
"What the hell was that, Bella?" My Dad was the first to speak up.
I couldn't tell if he was furious or impressed with what had happened.
I looked at him innocently, "What do you mean?"
Dad rolled his eyes, yet still looked exasperated. "Don't try that with me. I'll never underestimate you again."
"Risky move, Bella." Uncle Jaspar's lips twitched as he fought the urge to smile.
"No kidding." Shannon murmured and I shot her a curious look.
Her eyes flickered from my Dad to my Uncle and she mouthed the word, "Later."
Shannon, Viktor and I traveled over to the service table. I managed to sneakily sip some wine as I munched on some of the food.
Shannon refused to say anything about the Aslanov family, particularly Nikolai. I had just brought the glass of wine to my lips when a sharp and insanely loud noise pierced my ears.
It was that moment that all hell had finally broken loose.
Every single window in the ballroom shattered, spraying a sea of glass over the three of us and any guests standing too close to the windows.
Everything seemed to go to hell in an instant.
Through each shattered window, a masked figure entered.