I woke the next morning feeling a plethora of conflicting emotions. I was blissfully excited at the appearance of my mate, but confused on why he didn't reveal himself. It had to be someone already in the mansion, as I couldn't see how someone would get past the hundreds of guards my Dad had just employed around the perimeter of the city center. My options were quite limited, and yet I wasn't sure where to begin.
"Miss me?" Aela's familiar voice filtered through my head, and I couldn't contain the happiness I felt.
"I've missed you so much, Aela." I whined.
"It seems things have been..eventful in my absence." Aela murmured.
I closed my eyes as I lay in bed, relaying everything that happened within the time I had been conscious.
"Goddess." Aela groaned, "I couldn't have picked a worse time to be gone."
"If you recall, it wasn't exactly your fault." I gave her a kind smile.
Aela shook her head, "If I was conscious we'd know the identity of our mate."
"We can't dwell on stuff like that." I frowned, "You're back now and that's what matters."
"Do you feel that?" Aela murmured, lost in her own thoughts.
I furrowed my brows in confusion, pulling myself from the bed. "Feel what?"
"Shh, don't talk. Just open yourself up. Think about our mate." Aela murmured, and I did as she asked.
At first I felt nothing. I looking at the swirling colors behind my eyelids in confusion until something busted through. It felt like gentle prickles running along my skin. It took me quite a few moments before I could discern what those prickles were.
Emotions that didn't belong to me filtered through my mind. Disbelief, frustration, and longing all rushed through me. It was hard to explain, but I knew they weren't coming from me or Aela.
"Mate." Aela murmured, "It's our mate."
"How is that possible?" I frowned.
"The mate bond." Aela responded, "What he did last night activated it, brought it to life."
"So.. I can feel what he feels?" I asked in disbelief.
"It seems so.." Aela was lost in the emotions of our mate, "Once it strengthens you might even be able to talk to him."
"I wish I could do that now." I sighed.
I quickly threw on some clothes, desperately wanting to get out of my room for a bit. I was back to being stuck in the house, but I refused to be confined to a single room.
I threw on a light colored sundress I owned. It fell around mid thigh and hugged my curves perfectly.
Viktor knocked on the adjoining door, entering the room silently at my call. His obsidian eyes bore into my own and I found it difficult to keep his gaze.
I had found my mate, but why did I still find Viktor so intoxicating? This wasn't something my Dad ever spoke of. He never mentioned if he had feelings outside the mate bond. Was there something wrong with me?
Viktor's mask was back in place, and I truly wondered what the point of it was. I had already seen his face. What was there to hide?
"Dad, are you in your office?" I asked through the mind-link and waited for a response.
"I am." Dad sounded stressed and very tired, "I wouldn't say no to a visit, Bella. Today has been quite rough."
"Good, I'll be on my way shortly." I grinned, "And the day hasn't even begun yet, Dad."
"Do not remind me." Dad groaned, and ended the mind-link.
Before I could leave the bedroom, a knock sounded on the door. A smile formed on my face as Shannon entered. While her gaze flickered warily to Viktor, she tried to keep her eyes on me.
"A gift from my Mom." Shannon gave me a small smile.
My mouth practically watered as Shannon handed me a steaming muffin, "Your Mom is amazing."
"She figured you'd need one after last night." Shannon's tone was even, but her eyebrow was raised questioningly.
The muffin caught in my throat and I held back a cough, "Erm- What does she mean?"
Shannon shrugged, "Don't know. She just said you'd be having a long night is all."
Her honey colored eyes burned into my own and I swore I could feel her extracting the secrets from my mind.
"I assume the night was good at least." Shannon pursed her lips and crossed her arms over her chest.
"Yes, actually it was." I nodded tight lipped, "Have you seen Caroline?"
"I have." Shannon frowned, something was bothering her.
"Something bothering you?" I raised my own eyebrow questioningly.
"I thought I was supposed to be the know it all." Shannon retorted.
I shrugged, "I'm allowed to have a breakthrough sometimes."
"Caroline's just been actin' funny." Shannon shook her head.
"Funny?" I frowned, "I mean my birthday was pretty traumatizing for everyone."
"Nah, it's not that. Trust me, I'm traumatized but this is somethin else." Shannon frowned.
"Maybe somethings going on in her personal life." I shrugged. Caroline had a tendency to act over dramatic at times. It really could be nothing.
"You could be right." Shannon nodded, placated for the moment. "Heading to see your Dad?"
"How'd you know?" I smirked, "Another feeling?"
"No." Shannon shook her head, "Just figured he had some stuff to tell ya."
"Stuff? What stuff?" I frowned.
"Nuh uh." Shannon shook her head, her curls bouncing everywhere. "Not for me to tell."
"Come on." I groaned, "You brought it up. Just give me a hint."
Shannon pursed her lips and sighed, "Fine. But don't go telling your Dad I said anything."
"I'd never." I promised, "What goes on between my assistant and I, stays between us."
Pride flickered through her honey gaze and she let out a little sigh, "Fine. Don't be surprised if you see them red head Royals roaming around, or any of the other ones for that matter."
My teeth clicked audibly and I stared at her for a few moments, "Why would any of the Royal's still be here?"
"Nope." Shannon shook her head, "I'm not tellin' you no more. Go and talk to your Dad. He'll explain the rest."
"Shannon, I don't know what I'd do without you." I grinned up at her.
"Flattery ain't getting you anymore information." Shannon placed her hands on her hips, "But I still accept."
Shannon followed me from my bedroom and we parted ways at the end of the hall.
Viktor was completely silent behind me, but I was overwhelmingly aware of his presence. As much as I wanted to sit around and contemplate why I still held feelings for Viktor, I had other things to worry about.
It seemed almost counter productive to keep all of the Royal's in the mansion. If any were at fault for the attack at my Gala, keeping them here would only give them more opportunities.
I was halfway to my Dad's office when I ran into a familiar face.
Bryton Duboi was strolling down the hall, practically exuding arrogant confidence.
"Well, what a surprise Princess." Bryton flashed his porcelain teeth and gave me a charming smile.
"Hello Bryton." I forced a polite smile on my own face.
It was exhausting enough keeping up a facade at my birthday Gala, and now I'd have to keep one in my own home.
"I wasn't expecting to see you here." Bryton smirked, running a hand through his sandy blonde hair.
Bryton was dressed much differently from what he wore at my birthday Gala. Bryton seemed the flamboyant and extravagant type. His wardrobe was a testament to that.
He was dressed in a sky blue button down shirt, the same shade as his eyes. Every article of clothing he wore seemed meticulously chosen for him.
"I do live here after all." I forced a flirty giggle from my lips.
"I haven't been back for more than an hour and I already want to go back to bed." Aela groaned.
"You and me both." I huffed.
Aela was most certainly not a fan of Bryton Duboi, and I couldn't blame her on that front.
Bryton Duboi was carefully put together, and he was very skilled at maintaining the persona he had chosen for himself. But he too was deep in the game Royal's enjoyed playing. I wondered which team he was on.
"Have you thought more about my offer, dear Princess?" Bryton smirked down at me, giving me what he probably thought was a dazzling smile.
I stifled the intense urge to cringe and smack his hand away when he tucked a strand of hair behind my ear. The gesture might've given me butterflies if I wasn't already aware of his general personality.
"I'm afraid I haven't." I frowned, poking my lip out in what appeared to be a teary eyed pout. "I have been unconscious for a few days."
"So, I've heard." Bryton murmured to himself. "Why might that be? I can't see fear rendering you unconscious for days at a time."
Something in my stomach tightened, and the strange piece of jewelry around my neck began to tingle.
While I didn't get these gut feelings often, I was certainly getting one now. It was telling me to lie, to come up with any reasonable explanation on why I would've passed out for days on end.
"I was almost murdered you know." I kept my voice soft, letting fear seep through my words. "My wolf used all her strength to protect me."
"I see." Bryton murmured, he seemed placated for now. "And if you don't mind my asking, how are you still alive love? I cannot see someone as delicate as yourself surviving such a horrendous attack. It is such a blessing you have come out of this unscathed."
While Aela was absolutely seething at his borderline condescending words, I was listening carefully. Bryton seemed genuine in his words, no matter how much of an asshole he sounded. Either Bryton was very good at lying, or he truly had nothing to do with the attack at my Gala.
"Delicate". Aela snarled "I'll show him delicate when I rip his shrimp-"
"I really don't wanna hear the end of that sentence, Aela." I groaned, disturbing images filling my mind.
"I would not be standing here today if it weren't for August Halifax." I murmured appreciatively.
Apparently this was not the response he was looking for. Bryton's face turned sour, a scowl distorting his chiseled features.
"Halifax." Bryton practically spat, "You know I was almost set up with the sister."
"I did not know that." I murmured, feigning interest when truly I was wondering what vendetta he had against the Halifax family. From my own opinions, August wasn't bad. His sister and mother on the other hand, they were ones to watch out for.
"Lucky my Father was smarter than the lot." Bryton murmured proudly, "Declined the offer."
"Your father seems like a very wise man." I lied. In my opinion, any man who refuses their own mate is a fool.
"He is." Bryton nodded proudly, "Got our Kingdom where it is today. So, does this mean you're considering August Halifax as your intended?"
Bryton's eyes flashed murderously, his voice becoming a sneer as he said August's name.
"Oh heaven's no." I shook my head, sounding appalled at the thought. "The thought hasn't even crossed my mind."
"Good, good." Bryton murmured, his hand coming out to trace the line of my jaw, "Do keep me in your thoughts when considering. As I said, we could do great things together."