The chauffeur pulled the limousine to a stop and quickly got out, offering his hand to Angela. She took it, gracefully stepping out of the limo and staring up at a high rise with blue, sparkling material on the outside. She didn’t recognize the building material, but that wasn’t surprising, considering her background. Gander came around the limousine and joined her on the sidewalk.
“His Royal Highness keeps the top three floors as an apartment,” Gander told Angela. “He’s already had the east side cleared out, so you’ll be able to decorate the area however you see fit. Come.”
Gander led Angela inside, past two doormen who respectfully nodded their heads as they opened the doors. Gander walked right past the front desk, not even glancing at the opulent lobby Angela was trying not to gawk at. He used a fingerprint scanner to open the doors of a private elevator.
“The staff has already received your name and picture, so you’ll be able to come and go as you please,” Gander said, ushering Angela into the elevator. “We only ask that you’ll allow security to accompany you if you do decide to explore. Once word of your presence gets out, every titled family with eligible daughters will be trying to cause an ‘accident’.”
Angela paled, worry crossing her face, but Gander gave her a brief, reassuring smile.
“You are safe here, Miss Winslow, please don’t worry. His Royal Highness’s head of the household will finish all of your security checks for the building, including fingerprint and eye scans.”
Angela shivered slightly at Gander’s matter-of-fact tone over security concerns and potential ‘accidents’. Angela might be able to out-think everyone who decided to attack her with words, but she’d be utterly defenseless against a weapon.
The elevator doors opened, revealing an elegant and tastefully decorated foyer. A severe older woman dressed all in black, with her silver streaked brown hair pulled back into a tight bun on her head, was standing in front of the elevator, frowning at Angela like she had just licked all the silverware, then set it on the table out of order.
“I take it this is the…human?” the woman said, grimacing at the word ‘human’.
“Yes,” Gander said, politely ignoring the woman’s attitude. “Mrs. Cotterhill, this is Miss Angela Winslow, Prince Exalon’s ABA match. Miss Winslow, this is Mrs. Cotterhill, His Royal Highness’s head of the household.”
Mrs. Cotterhill sniffed, looking Angela up and down and clearly finding her lacking.
“It’s good we called the stylist,” Mrs. Cotterhill said to Gander, completely ignoring Angela. “His Royal Highness could never be seen out with her like she is.”
Angela ground her teeth together, but refused to rise to the bait. Mrs. Cotterhill was clearly trying to get a reaction out of her and Angela wouldn’t give her the satisfaction. Gander nodded approvingly at Angela before lightly grasping her elbow.
“I’m afraid the stylist will have to wait a bit longer,” Gander said, trying to maneuver Angela around a stubbornly planted Mrs. Cotterhill. “His Royal Highness was quite clear that he wished to meet Miss Winslow as soon as she arrived.” Mrs. Cotterhill looked horrified and lurched forward.
“Surely she can be better dressed when she’s presented to His Royal Highness! She looks-”. Gander politely cut her off, leading Angela further into the apartment.
“I’m afraid she was requested immediately, but please see that the stylist is made aware that Miss Winslow is here. Thank you.” Gander walked quickly through the halls, not giving Angela a chance to look around.
“I apologize,” Gander said to Angela. “Mrs. Cotterhill is extremely loyal, but she can be fastidious about proper protocol. Try not to let her get to you. Ah, here we are.”
Gander stopped in front of two massive, intricately carved doors. Angela began to feel nervous again, something that had disappeared during the insanity of the past hour. Gander gave two sharp raps, then opened one of the doors, gently pulling Angela inside when all she wanted to do was run and find a safe place to hide for six months.
“Ah, Gander, good,” a deep, melodious voice said from inside the room. “Is the human with…”. The voice trailed off as Angela set eyes on the most attractive man she had ever seen. Thick, golden hair was stylishly cut above his ears and his trim, broad-shouldered body was dressed in a perfectly tailored Axion suit. His golden eyes seemed to gleam as they stared at Angela and his mouth was partly open, seemingly in shock. Angela felt an almost physical bond between herself and the man, something that had never happened before.
All of a sudden, the entire room seemed brighter just because this man was standing in front of her. The carpets seemed richly colored and the room was more beautiful than any place she had ever seen, even though it was just a well-furnished study. Angela unconsciously took a step toward the man, noticing he took a step toward her as well. Their eyes were locked on each other, and an almost magnetic pull towards him and the feeling of safety he seemed to emit made Angela take another step forward, the man mirroring her movement.
Suddenly realizing what she was doing, Angela blushed and took a step back towards Gander. She didn’t realize he was looking between the two of them, trying to hide a broad grin.
“Your Royal Highness,” Gander said with a slight bow, “please allow me to introduce Miss Angela Winslow. Your matched mate.”
Prince Exalon was frozen, still staring at Angela as his shock quickly turned into amazement. Angela, for her part, was utterly stunned. She felt as if she couldn’t breathe and didn’t understand the emotions running rampant through her body. She had never felt such a strong connection to another person, as if she had found a part of herself she didn’t even know was missing. Prince Exalon walked forward, stumbling slightly in his rush to get to Angela.
“You’re…”, Prince Exalon paused, trying to gather his thoughts. “You’re Angela Winslow?”
Angela just nodded, not trusting herself to speak. Prince Exalon reached forward, gently grasping her hands, and a shudder went through Angela’s body at the contact. They both were staring deep into each other’s eyes, unaware of their surroundings. A soft click of the door closing, signaling Gander’s departure, snapped Angela out of whatever trance she was under and she pulled her hands back, blushing. She gave a slight, awkward curtsy to the prince and glanced around the room.
It was as tastefully decorated as the rest of the apartment, although there were obvious masculine touches to the decor. Dark seats and sofas, dark wood for the desks and bookshelves, and navy curtains pulled back from the windows basically screamed, “Male space, no florals or trinkets allowed!”.
The room also seemed more lived in than the brief glances Angela had seen of the rest of the apartment. There were stacks of ancient books, papers, different electronic communicators and digital storage devices strewn throughout the room. It was obvious the prince used this as an office and equally as obvious he was a hard worker.
“Uh, would you like something to drink?” Prince Exalon asked, clearly thrown by Angela’s presence, though she had no idea why. “Or, um, eat? I know I have a profile around here somewhere about human dietary needs.” He clearly didn’t know how to act around Angela and it was obvious he wasn’t used to being in situations where he wasn’t in control.
“No, I’m fine,” Angela said, equally as confused by her reaction to him. “Um, thank you, though, Ex- uh, I mean, Your Royal Highness.”
Prince Exalon turned back to Angela, abandoning his search for human food profiles, and grabbed her hands again. It was strange, but it almost felt as if his skin was meant to touch hers. It seemed almost wrong, somehow, when they weren’t touching. Angela couldn’t figure out this need she had to be near the prince and it was making her uncomfortable and, yet, she also felt almost ashamed at feeling uncomfortable.
“Please, call me Exalon,” the prince said, squeezing Angela’s hands reassuringly. “I realize it might not be entirely proper yet, but…”.
“It just seems right,” Angela finished for him. Exalon met Angela’s eyes and smiled, his entire face lighting up, making her heart pound.
“Yes,” he said, giving her hands another squeeze. “Yes, it just seems right.”