“Hope you like it,” Jonathan said as he offered me a tray with food. After the incident in the building, Lorcan and Alastair with Liliths disappeared. According to Jonathan, they were handling something important, and they would be back. But it’s been a day, and neither of them has come back.
I smiled wryly. Did something serious happen? Lorcan, Azriel, or Liliths wouldn’t leave me alone for over four hours, so why are they not coming back?
Sighing, I eat when the door to the bedroom opens. I barely glanced when I saw Maximus walking in. He had a rose bouquet in his hands.
“Maximus?” I whispered as I set my teacup down.
“May I come in?” Maximus asked, meeting my eyes. I nodded and started eating again. Maximus walked over and sat in the armchair next to mine. “This is for you.”
I stared at the white roses.
“Thank you,” I whispered as I grabbed the bouquet. “Why are you here?”
“I came to see you,” Maximus mumbled as he looked at the floor. “Are you feeling better?”
“Yes,” I said, looking away. Noticing us, Jonathan greets Maximus.
“Allow me to take that,” Jonathan said and excused himself.
Toying with my hands, I looked at Maximus. He was staring back. I couldn’t read his expression.
“Amari, could we talk about us,” Maximus mumbled. I averted my eyes from him. Nervously, I cleared my throat and smiled.
“There’s nothing to talk about,” I said, standing. Looking outside the window, I watch the birds and butterflies fly by. It was a sunny day. Feeling him behind me, I glanced over my shoulder. “Maximus, please.”
“Just hear me out. That’s all I’m asking Amari to hear me out,” Maximus said, almost begging. “You don’t need to answer. Not even look my way. But all I’m asking is for you to listen.”
Putting my hand on the window, I stare outside. I didn’t utter a word back and just stayed still.
“I know… I know that you want nothing to do with me. And I understand,” Maximus whispered, “But I want you back.”
I gulp as I hear him.
“All this time, I’ve missed you. I have, and I’ve realized that the more you’re absent. I know we didn’t spend too much time together. But I can say you’re the one for me,” Maximus said as I feel him get closer.
“Stay there!” I said, gripping the window.
An awkward silence fell as I looked outside. The sun’s rays hit my pale skin.
“I’m sorry…” Maximus breathed. He was feeling flustered. “I’m sorry I hurt you. I’m sorry I raised my hand to you. But I won’t ever do it again.”
“Do it again?” I scoffed. Those were lies. If he raised his hand to me once, what made him so sure he wouldn’t do it again?
“I’m… believe me,” Maximus said as he stood behind me. Putting his hands on my shoulders, he leaned. “Believe me, please. I won’t ever lay a hand on you.”
“I’m sorry, but I can’t believe you,” I said, pushing his hands away. Turning serious, I keep my eyes outside.
“Is it because you love someone else?” Maximus suddenly asked.
“Love someone else?” I said, turning around. Eyes wide, I look at him. Maximus looked hurt.
“Yes… is it Azriel?” Maximus said, looking down. His long black hair was covering half of his face. I closed my eyes, feeling sad by how he looked.
“Azriel…” I whispered. I like Azriel but not as someone I would spend the rest of my life. And Azriel and I are not mates, that is clear. “Azriel and I are… I just see him as a brother,” I sighed.
“Then Lorcan?” Maximus said, looking at me. His red eyes were piercing my blue ones.
“Lorcan?” I said, smiling. I know Lorcan liked me. He told me, but I felt nothing for him. “You know, I don’t like Lorcan. But if I had to choose,” I said, looking at him again, “I would choose him over you.”
Maximus flinched and took a step back. Head down; he fists his hands.
“Amari, I know I’m not the best of men. But saying you chose Lorcan over me? Do you even know him well?” Maximus asked, getting angry.
“No, Maximus, I might not know him well, but I’m sure he would treasure me more than you do,” I snarled, “all of them have shown me, love, that they care for me. That they would do anything just to keep me safe, but you what have you done? Since the moment I arrive, you degrade me. You hit me; you insult me. You even planned to use me and get me killed.”
By the end of my words, I was panting. I felt angry that Maximus was pointing fingers at Lorcan.
“I thought that maybe, just maybe, you could change,” I mumble with my head down. Deciding not to let this make me feel bad, I raised my head and looked at him. “I have feelings for you. There’s this undeniable attraction between us, and I know it. I don’t know why, after all, that has happened. But I have feelings for you.”
“It’s called mate bond,” Maximus whispered, making me frown.
“What?” I said, confused.
“That feeling? Is it the mate bond? I’m a dragon, and I need a mate in my life,” Maximus explained, “At first, it made me feel confused, but I recently found out what a mate bond was and how it felt. It is also new to me, Amari. That is why I ask you; please stay with me. Come back home.”
“I don’t have a home Maximus,” I said, backing away, “My home is not with you.”
“It is…” Maximus breathed, “It is since the moment you came. It’s been your home.”
“I never felt at home,” I spat back. Maximus looked taken aback. Smiling sadly, he ruffled his hair and started backing away.
“You are right. I’m sorry,” Maximus laughed, “I’m just persistent because I hate seeing you around more people, especially Azriel.”
“What are you talking about?” I asked.
“I hate Azriel, that bastard. I hate him. I hate seeing him too close to you, Amari. I’m jealous of not only him but Lorcan. I know that you might think I will never change, but I can,” Maximus said, grabbing my hand, “I’m in love with you, and I’m jealous of all of them. They get to hold you when I don’t even have the chance.”
Maximus had his head lowered. Putting my hands on his forehead, he closed his eyes.
“I want you back. I will do anything you tell me. I will change; just give me another chance,” Maximus begged. “One-second chance. If I fail, I promise to let you go.”
My heart beat fast. Maximus words repeat in my mind. I opened my mouth to say something, the bedroom door opened. Azriel looked at us with a scowl passing across his face.
“Why are you here?” Azriel asked, walking up to me and pushing Maximus’ hands away. “I warned you, King Maximus, stay away from her.”
“Azriel,” Maximus said as he looked at him sternly.
“Your Majesty Azriel for you,” Azriel spat. It was the second time I was seeing him act like this. An overbearing aura was coming from him. Just by his body language, you could see he was beyond angry. “Amari wants nothing to do with you.’
“This has nothing to do with,” Maximus spat back, “It’s between her and me. You stay out of it.”
“I won’t!” Azriel hissed, “She’s mine.”
“Yours?” Maximus laughed, “She’s not even your mate!”
“I don’t need her as a mate to make her mine. All I need is for her to accept me,” Azriel argued, “I won’t force her to love me. All I want for her is her safety, and she’s not safe in your arms.”
“You have no right!” Maximus growled.
“Enough!” I said, stepping in front of Maximus and Azriel. Putting a hand, I push both sides lightly. “Please, Azriel. Let me take care of this.”
“Amari!” Azriel hissed. His white pearly fangs shined on his chiseled face.
“AZRIEL!” I said, annoyed, “Back away! This is my business!”
Azriel flinched to my words. Realizing I had slipped, I tried to apologize, but Azriel shook his head and glanced at Maximus.
“You hurt her; you will pay,” Azriel whispered and left the room, slamming the door behind.
I tried the following, but I had no time to waste.
“You know, Azriel taught me a lot. Not only him, but the four of them also did. But what they showed me more was how they care so much for the person they love,” I said with my back to him. “All these past months, they taught me how to be strong, bold, and not let anyone trample me. Even on my weakest moments.”
Turning around, I looked at him. Maximus watched me with his tall, muscular figure.
Approaching him, I smiled.
Raising my head, I look at him: every little detail, every tiny scar. Moving my eyes, I stopped when I noticed the scar on his chest. The one scar I always wonder who did it. Moving my hand, I softly caress his scar. Maximus shuddered under my touch.
“You know I always wondered who did this to you,” I whispered as I felt his eyes on me. “Who hurt the mighty dragon king? You who look strong enough to stop anyone.”
Maximus gulped. Smiling, I raise my head. I had forgotten how tall he was.
Feeling tiny next to him, I lowered my head and kept staring at the scar.
“Tell me, Maximus,” I whispered.
“Amari, that…” Maximus whispered, grabbing my hand. I scoffed while smiling.
“You won’t tell me, right?” I said, pulling away. I felt tears on my face. Shaking the feeling away, I take a deep breath and nervously smile. “And that’s how you want me to trust you? To give you a chance? You can’t even be honest with me and tell me about you. You have this wall…”
I was feeling suffocating.
“I’m sorry, but I can’t. I can’t go back,” I whispered. Moving slowly back, I recall that it’s useless. It’s futile to give Maximus a chance or even to give myself a try.
Why have hope when I know I soon will die?
“Amari, wait,” Maximus said, grabbing my hand.
“Let go, Maximus,” I whispered as a tear fell on the floor. I had my head down. My hair was covering my face. I hated crying in front of him.
“Please don’t leave me,” Maximus whispered. I could hear the pain, the begging in his voice.
“It’s best if we just go our ways,” I said as I dried my tears using my other hand. It hurt saying it, but not because of Maximus because I knew of my destiny.
I couldn’t change destiny or fate. Everything got sealed since the moment I was born.
“Please, Amari!” Maximus said a bit louder. His grip getting tighter around my slim hand, “PLEASE!”
Shocked, I look at him. His body trembled as his other hand reached for my arm. Worried that I got him mad, I started backing away, but he pulled me, making my face hit his chest. I groan slightly at the abrupt movement.
“Please, please, please. Tell me what I have to do for you to stay,” Maximus said, choking. I could feel his heart on my face. It beats fast, just like mine.
Feeling this warmth coming from him, I relax. I raised my hands but dropped them, closing my eyes. I couldn’t let him be close.
It would only make it worse.
Pushing him, I look away. My chocolate brown hair covered my face. Without a word, I ran out of the room, leaving his miserable self waiting for an answer.
I walked with tears down the enormous garden. Since the ball ended earlier, everyone has been leaving the palace grounds. Hugging myself, I smile at some girls that passed by.
“Amari?” a familiar voice called. Stopping in my tracks, I stay with my head down. “Amari,” Azriel said as he put his hands on my shoulders. Turning around, I hugged him. Crying loudly, I feel him hug me.
“I’m sorry,” I said between sobs.
“It’s ok. I should be the one apologizing,” Azriel whispered, kissing the top of my head. “Cry all you want, but before you do,” Azriel whispered, lifting my head. My tears and snot covered my face. Moving my hair strands away, Azriel smiled down at me. “Come here,” he said, lifting me. I hugged him, hiding my face in his neck.
Bringing me to the quiet side of the garden, he sits and puts me on his lap.
“Amari, look at me,” Azriel whispered worriedly. I was still sobbing. “Look, I know I have no right to tell you what to do or not. But I hate seeing you like this, suffering.”
“I… I just don’t know what to do,” I said.
“You do what you feel in your heart,” Azriel whispered sweetly, “But I have something I want to tell you as well. I want you to be with me, Amari.”
Cleaning my tears, I stop and look at him.
“I know you don’t feel like I do,” Azriel said, smiling sadly.
“I’m not your mate,” I spilled. Azriel nodded, smiling sadly.
“I know, and I hate that. But I’m asking you so I can save you,” Azriel whispered, making me confused.
“What did you just say?” I asked, stuttering.
“Save you, Amari,” Azriel said, putting his head on my forehead, “I know you’re dying.”
Surprised, I stand up frightened. Why was Azriel saying that?
My body started trembling. A choking sensation reached my throat as Azriel stands and looks at me. His pitch-black eyes gave nothing away, so it’s hard for me to understand or know what he is thinking.
“Surprising, right?” Azriel said, smirking. A shiver ran down my spine as he stared at me. Why was I so uncomfortable?
“Don’t ask me how I found out. I want you to tell me,” Azriel said, reaching for my hand. I pulled away, frowning.
“Lies!” I whispered. My hands started shaking. He couldn’t have found out, right?
“I’m not, and you are dying. Slowly, but you are. All this time, you’re secret has been that, right?” Azriel said, making me scoff.
“I… I’m not,” I gulp.
Azriel shook his head and smiled. Approaching me, he pulled me over and gripped my chin. My neck hurt from the pressure he was putting on me.
“Curse,” Azriel whispered, making my eyes go wide. My breathing became erratic as I looked at him, “they cursed you.”
“NO!” I yelled, pushing him hard. “I’m not!”
“When are you going to stop lying?” Azriel said, yanking my arm. “Can’t you see I’m worried for you!”
My lip trembled as I tried to form words. But nothing could come out even if I opened and closed it many times.
“How did you know?” I asked, slumping my shoulders dejectedly. “Tell me, Azriel! You tell me, and I will tell you if it’s true or not!”
Sighing, Azriel closed his eyes. He looked like he got older in the past few days.
“I investigated your family. Those scars, I know they torture you. Your father is a demon, a bastard who hides his sins under a face who shows mercy to his people. But there’s no mercy against his flesh and blood,” Azriel mumble, pinching his nose, “I’ve been curious about you, that rune. I had people know, and we got someone who opened her mouth quickly.”
“Who?” I asked curiously.
“Your sister Celine. Celine was the one who tried to murder you the night of the party. The one Maximus thought he could use you. But he got it wrong. His enemies didn’t chase you; they kept chasing him. But your sister’s hate for you made me realize there was more to it. So when Maximus let her go, I had men capture her. She spilled everything when she saw me,” Azriel said, laughing, “That little bitch had every little bone of hers broken for everything she did to you.”
I stood stunned.
“She is barely alive, if you’re wondering. I torture her personally,” Azriel smirked as he looks lost in thought.
“She told you?” I mumble after a while.
“Yes, she told me they cursed you. The reason, she didn’t mention; but she kept repeating that all their tragedy was thanks to you. It was all your fault,” Azriel said, shaking his head, “but I know you have nothing to do with it. You,” Azriel whispered, lifting my chin, “You’re just an innocent bird who got tortured in a cage. Locked away from the world, locked away innocently.”
Feeling overwhelmed, I close my eyes. Resting my head on his chest.
“Now tell me, is it true?” Azriel asked so low that it sounded like he was in pain. Like he feared to listen to the answer. I didn’t know how to utter the words. I felt conflicted, my feelings a complete mess. Everything I tried to hide all this time got out. I’m supposed to have that to myself. Be the one to carry it. It’s my curse, not his. “Amari, answer, please.”
Sighing, I grip his shirt.
“I am,” I mumble. Azriel’s hands hugged me tighter. A slight tremble passed through his entire body as I heard him hissed. “Please don’t tell no one.”
Azriel tensed up.
“Excuse me?” Azriel said, pushing me so he could see my face, “You expect me to stay quiet?”
“Yes!” I said with a grim face, “no one should know of this.”
“You fucking crazy?” Azriel snapped.
He moved away, hand in his hair. He started pacing the place. “You want me to keep this away from everyone? Especially Lorcan?”
“Yes!” I said with a bitter voice, “No one Azriel, no one but you know of this. Don’t you dare mention it? This is mine to bear, not you or Lorcan or even Maximus!”
“WHY?” Azriel retorted, “Tell me! Why Amari!” he was shaking my entire body. He looked at me. A scowl passed his face before he let go. “I give you two days to think about it. Decide if you tell them, or I open my mouth, and you won’t be able to stop me.” bumping into me, Azriel left.
Feeling my knees give out, I fall. I cover my face as I angrily sob. Why was this happening to me?
I didn’t need someone to find it. No one, absolutely no one, should know of it. Uncovering my face, I look to the forest. I had to leave; I needed to get away from here before things got complicated.
Standing, I fix my clothes. Using the back of my hand, I dried my last tears and headed back inside. I couldn’t let them know. So before that happens, I would leave without no one knowing.
I drank the entire bottle of wine. Feeling dejected and hurt was the worst feeling I had in my life. I tried to make Amari stay with me, but why didn’t she want to?
If she asked me anything, I would do it, especially realizing that she is my true mate.
“You know she’s your mate, right?” a voice said from behind. Maximus laid on the library sofa as his old, but a good friend gave him some lessons on mates.
Grumbling, Maximus looked up.
“Could you please stop it? I feel worse,” Maximus growled.
“Do you? Because it didn’t look like it at first. When I saw you both at the party, I felt something was off. Now I realize that my hunch was right,” the man said, smiling.
“Tariq, stop it,” Maximus snarled. Sitting back up on the sofa, he sighed. He felt his world crumbling.
“Tell me, why didn’t you give that to her earlier?” Tariq asked as he looked down at Maximus’ hands. A small black box was tightly getting gripped.
“I did,” Maximus whispered as he sighed. Opening the small box, he stares inside, “I just didn’t say the words.”
“You didn’t say them? This is not the Maximus I know,” Tariq mentioned, standing and fixing his suit, “The Maximus I know fears nothing, so why did you when it comes to women? No, to her?”
Maximus looked at him. Dejectedly, he lowered his gaze and pulled the ring out of the box. He looked at the unique moissanite halo ring in his calloused hands. It shined as the fire flames hit him.
He has been carrying the small box in his pocket since the small library encounter.
“She didn’t recognize me,” Maximus breathed, gripping the ring in his hand, “She looked at me like a stranger. How could I then?”
Tariq sighed and moved next to him. Sitting down, he put his feet on the wooden table and stared at the fire. The flames danced gracefully from side to side.
“How long has it been?” Tariq asked as his eyes followed the flames.
“Long in what?” Maximus asked, frowning his way.
“Long since the last of your descendants passed away?” Tariq asked, looking at Maximus.
“Long enough to forget,” Maximus whispered. Tariq smiled and nodded. The old mage smiled. Closing his eyes as he remembers his long life.
“I think it’s time for you to change. Amari is the one you’ve been waiting for. The one is given to you by destiny,” Tariq said, reaching for Maximus’ shoulders. Smiling to the king, he squeezed his shoulder. “A mate is someone you can’t live without. She is your pillar, your other half—the one who will keep that damn temperament in check. So don’t give up. Show her you can change and don’t make the same mistake you did centuries ago.”
Maximus flinched at his friend’s last words.
“And remember, friend, even though it may be hard. Never give up. And make sure she knows you love her. Tell her your feelings and give her that ring your mother left years ago.” Tariq smiled, “Also, you’ve been looking awful, so get some rest.”
Maximus smiled and nodded to his friend. He laid back, covering his face with the quilt.
Pulling out the small box, I stare at my hand. I wanted to give Amari this today. To let her know I was honest, that I wasn’t playing. That I wanted her as my fiance, my queen, but she didn’t even spare me a chance.
Groaning, I throw the bottle, shattering on the wall. What did I need to do to bring Amari back?
Hearing someone knock on the door, I ask who it was. The person didn’t answer. Instead, he opened the door and walked in.
With a stoic face, Lorcan looked my way. He had blood on his face and clothes.
“Who got on your nerves, leech?” His disrespect annoyed me.
“Some trash that needed to get cleaned,” Lorcan said, grabbing a bottle of wine and taking a seat.
The old seeker looked at me, raising an eyebrow.
“A ring?” Lorcan asked.
“Yes,” I said, putting the box on the table, pushing it towards him. Lorcan grabs it and opens the box. Raising his eyebrows, he looked at me.
“This,” Lorcan said, “This belonged to your mother.”
“Yes, I know,” I whispered, leaning my head on the chair.
Even though Lorcan and I were in arguments and fights right now, we still were friends. Lorcan has been friends with me since four centuries ago. It’s been a long time.
Looking at the ring, he brings it close to his face.
“It’s truly a unique one,” Lorcan mumble, “You planned to give it to her?”
“I will give it to her,” I said with eyes closed.
“You know Amari wants nothing with you, right?” Lorcan spat.
“Likewise,” I said, smiling. Looking at Lorcan and showing him I wasn’t joking, Lorcan turned serious.
“She hasn’t said a word about it,” Lorcan said, glowering.
“I know,” I mutter, shrugging my shoulders. A smirk spread on my face. “You shouldn’t worry about me, but about your brother.”
“Azriel?” Lorcan asked.
“Yes, he already threatened me. And for what I saw earlier, he is quite serious about Amari,” I said, scoffing, “I won’t let him have his way with her.”
“Which part don’t you get? Amari doesn’t want anything to do with you?” Lorcan said, standing. The chair made a screeching sound. Getting annoyed, I look at him.
“What part don’t you understand I won’t give up?” I said, standing, “I won’t let no one take her away. She’s my mate.”
“Mate?” Lorcan whispered in surprise, “She’s your mate?”
“Yes,” I said, turning away, “I found out too late, but not late to give up. Amari is my mate and only mine.”
I said, growling at him.
Lorcan looked at me. A conflicted look passed across his face. Turning away from him, I walk to the bed. Grabbing my cloak, I hear a banging on the door. We both looked at each other and then at the door.
“Who?” I asked. The room’s doors got thrown and with a pissed face walked in the black rose of the seeker’s family Liliths.
“Sister?” Lorcan said, surprised.
“Amari,” Lilith breathed, looking at both of us, “Amari is gone.”