I made the trek from the gazebo to my Uncle's office. Over the years, I slowly memorized the entire house and all of it's maze-like corridors.
As a child, I would often sneak to my Uncle or Dad's office to listen in on some of the meetings they had. While I couldn't understand most of their conversations, it made me feel like a spy.
I knocked a couple times on the large oak door and waited. After a few moment's it swung open and someone stepped out. A strange looking man with an even stranger expression on his face.
"Princess Arabella." The man nodded, and I looked at him curiously. His light blue eyes trailed over my face slowly, and I felt like an exhibit on display. There was something in his gaze that made me uncomfortable.
He had light colored hair that swooped over his head in a single directon. His matching colored beard hung down to his adam's apple. I couldn't recall ever meeting him before.
"Hello, sir." I nodded my head and gave him a small smile. I was always told to treat strangers as if they were royalty, always make a good first impression.
He nodded and turned, walking down the hallway I had just come from. My Uncle stuck his head from his office and gave me a smile, but it looked forced.
"You called?" I smirked, stepping into his office.
Uncle's gaze flickered to Viktor and finally my own.
"You can wait outside, Viktor." Uncle said almost coldly, which was a strange tone coming from him. I frowned, and looked at him in confusion. Wasn't he the one who said I needed to accept having a bodyguard?
I sighed and turned from my uncle, "It's okay, Viktor. I'll be out in five minutes."
Viktor nodded once, his eyes locked on my own. His dark eyes looked irritated, maybe even angry. I'm sure he wasn't comfortable leaving me alone when he was tasked with being my bodyguard.
He kept his dark eyes on my own and tapped on his watch.
"Five minutes." I nodded, not quite sure how I understood him.
He stepped from the room and I closed the door behind him.
I plopped down in one of the chairs and gave my Uncle a strange look.
"Sorry, Arabella. I'm unsure who to trust these days." Uncle brushed it off with a chuckle.
I frowned, "Why did you call me here, Uncle?"
Uncle Jaspar sighed and clasped his hands, he seemed to be struggling with what to say. My eyes flickered to the whiskey glass sitting on his desk and the half empty bottle of amber liquid.
"Your father and I are at a bit of an impasse. He want's to protect you, but I think there are some things you need to know." Uncle Jaspar sighed.
"If I'm going to take over someday, I need to understand what's happening." I frowned.
Uncle Jaspar nodded, "I agree. Your father on the other hand does not wish to upset you."
"Well lay it on me." I crossed my arms. It was strange how Uncle Jaspar was almost trying to throw Dad under the bus, but I wouldn't let this affect my relationship with Dad. He's one of the smartest men I know, and everything he does for me is out of love.
"First, it seems the town and mansion are quite safe. There were a few attacks a month ago, and we were unable to discern if it was rogues or simply your father's enemies. It seems they have all left, and the attacks have stopped." Jaspar nodded, and my breath caught in my throat.
My memory flashed back to my mother and the wolf that tore her throat out.
My mouth was dry, and I didn't trust my voice but I nodded for him to continue.
"Your father still insists on keeping Viktor around as a precaution, but it seems like everything is safe now. Your father and I placed new security measures as well, specifically for your birthday." Jaspar nodded to himself.
I frowned, my birthday was going to be a task in and of itself.
Jaspar sighed, his silver eyes roaming over my face. "As for your birthday, I'm afraid it's going to be more complicated than what we spoke of at dinner."
"Complicated? How?" I grimaced. Just another thing to look forward to.
"The rulers from other packs aren't too concerned if you're their intended mate or not." Jaspar frowned, but I only felt relief.
My head tilted in confusion, "And why is this a bad thing? It sounds good to me."
"This is a very bad thing. They aren't concerned because their determined to win you over regardless." Jaspar grimaced at the bottle of amber liquid on his desk.
"Let those idiots try." Aela growled.
I frowned, "We at least need to play nice, Aela."
"Fine, but if they touch us I'm breaking their hand." Aela shrugged.
"Deal." I nodded, in full agreement with my hot-headed wolf.
I nearly choked on my own breath and stifled it with a cough, "Excuse me?"
"Exactly, Arabella." Jaspar frowned, "Your father treats mates as though they are sacred, but many other packs do not share your father's views."
Jaspar's grimace made me wonder what he believed. Did he believe the same as my father?
"I don't understand." I shook my head, "How can you just toss away your goddess given mate?"
Jaspar looked haunted in this moment, "People will do what they must for power, Arabella. Make sure you remember that."
I crossed my arms and my face took a stubborn pout, "They can try all they want, Uncle. If I'm going to accept any man, it'll be my mate." I growled.
"So much like your mother." Jaspar let out a huff and shook his head.
I nodded, "She was a smart woman."
"Brilliant, actually." Jaspar grinned. "But Arabella, you also need to consider what's best for this Kingdom." Jaspar frowned, and I instantly rejected his words.
"Uncle, you make it sound as though I should accept one of these men." I grimaced into his silver eyes.
Jaspar frowned, "If you feel inclined to accept one, your father and I will support that."
"Very well." I growled, standing from my seat. His five minutes were up.
Jaspar stood at the same time as me, "One last thing, Arabella."
"Yes, Uncle?" I said stiffly. I definitely needed some fresh air.
Jaspar frowned, but something else lingered in his eyes. "Do you know the identity of your body guard?"
"He's Viktor?" Again, I was confused.
Jaspar frowned, he looked as though he were thinking hard about his next words. "It seems your body guard miraculously appeared when your father needed use of him. I'm just curious as to who he is."
"I have no clue, Uncle." I shrugged. While his words only added to my curiosity, I didn't feel like Viktor was a threat. If anything, Viktor made me feel safe and almost untouchable.
Jaspar replaced his frown with a lopsided grin, "Do let me know if you find out."
"Of course, Uncle." I nodded, leaving his office.
Viktor stood against the door, his muscular arms crossed against his chest. He lifted a single eyebrow at me and I could almost see the questions swimming behind his obsidian gaze.
I was sure I looked a flustered mess. My face felt heated while my eyes were large with too many emotions to process.
"Later." I exhaled, "I need some air."
I walked down the hallway and up the stairs. I wanted to go somewhere I wouldn't be bothered. At random, I opened one of the many bedroom doors and stepped inside. Viktor shut the door behind me and followed me to the balcony.
With a frustrated huff, I plopped down in one of the chairs.
Viktor stood off to the side of me, his eyes locked on my own.
"You can sit down, y'know." I raised my eyebrow at my extremely attractive bodyguard.
I wasn't surprised when Viktor remained quiet and simply shook his head "No".
"Suit yourself." I sighed, resting my head on my hand as I looked down at the gardens below.
As if Viktor was a magnet, I found my gaze constantly flickering back to him.
I let my eyes roam every strand of his hair along with the arch of his full eyebrows.
One of his eyebrows lifted and I realized I had a scowl on my face.
"Just a lot to think about." I sighed.
My father and mother had always raised me to respect and cherish the mate bond. After all, how could you toss away your soul mate? The one destined to be with you the moment they were born. It just sounded so wrong to me, but Uncle Jaspar was almost encouraging it.
As far as I knew, Uncle Jaspar had never met his mate. Maybe he simply just couldn't speak from experience. If he had what Mom and Dad had, he wouldn't be so quick to set the mate bond aside.
"Can I ask you something?" I found myself absentmindedly speaking to Viktor. "I know I won't get an actual response, but you can nod." I sighed.
My eyes trailed over the mask that covered the lower half of his face. I wonder what his lips looked like.
I was brought back to reality when Viktor nodded "Yes".
"Do you have a mate, Viktor?" My voice came out soft and thoughtful.
I lost track on how long his dark eyes burned into my own. He shook his head again for 'No'.
"Neither do I." I sighed. Would things be easier if I had found my mate? Most likely.
"If someone told you to toss your mate to the side for more power, what would you do?" I found myself asking, even though I knew he wouldn't answer.
I could feel my face heat under his gaze. His eyes seemed to be roaming my face, searching for something.
"Fuck power." Viktor's deep voice replied, nearly making my jaw drop. His voice held a slight accent, something rough and guttural. It only added to intense attraction I seemed to be feel towards him.
A string of giggles emerged from my mouth before I could clamp my lips shut.
Something flickered in Viktor's eyes as I laughed, but he hid it too well.
"Thank you for that." I nodded, giving him a genuine smile. "That puts some things in perspective."
I was almost positive none of the other ruler's would gain my attraction, but for my Dad's sake I would keep an open mind. But, I would most certainly not let these men walk all over me. The thought put a strange knot in my stomach, and I felt even more confusion when Viktor's face continuously came to mind.