Where Flowers Don't Belong

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Painted Tiles

The king went straight to the stairs after leaving the kitchen and continued up them, flight after flight, until he reached the top floor where his suite was. I wondered if he was getting tired of carrying me. Lord knows I had far too much fat on me. This is why I believed Madame Melinda had kept me on a diet my entire life. When the other slaves received soup and bread, I would only receive bread. When the other slaves would be asked to run a mile in order to keep up our strength, I was told to run three.

I had never minded the way my body looked the few times when I would get to see it in a mirror while I was cleaning a bathroom or passing my reflection in a window. But if Madame Melinda said that I needed to lose weight, then I believed her.

Ugly. Fat, the voice in my head echoed.

Finally, the king stopped in front of the grand entrance to the biggest suite in the entire packhouse, built specifically for the king’s visits. My body shook more, knowing these would be my last few moments on Earth.

I hadn’t even realized that I was crying until the king whispered, “Shh... Please stop your crying. You’re okay now.” His voice was calm but still held enough authority to scare me shitless.

He was right; I needed to stop crying. I was stronger than this. I would not spend my last moments alive crying my eyes out like a baby. Through sheer will, I was able to stop my tears through calming, deep breaths.

The king said nothing else as he opened one of the two large doors and walked into his suite. I was tempted to look around but kept my head down. I had only heard stories about how magnificent the king’s suite was, but had never been allowed in here myself. Well, until now.

The king finally stopped his walking in a large bathroom, setting me down on the counter. I sucked in a breath. A bathroom was a good place to kill someone. Easy clean-up.

The king paused for a second and I felt his eyes scan over me. “I will be right back,” he said after a moment. He left the bathroom.

Once he was officially gone, I finally allowed myself to look up. The bathroom was enormous, far larger than any other bathroom in the packhouse. It was even bigger than the slaves quarters that I shared with fifteen other girls. It was mostly white with gold details and, what seemed to be, hand-painted tiles. There was a huge bathtub, a shower big enough to fit ten people, and a counter with four sinks that I was currently sitting on. I had never been anywhere so nice. I almost felt lucky to have my death occur in such a beautiful place.

Hearing the king’s footsteps approaching, I quickly hopped off the counter and went back to my knees, wincing as my bruised and bloody knees made contact with the cold tile. I brought my head to the ground, hearing Madam Melinda’s voice in my head.

“You must always drop to your knees and bow your head at the presence of a werewolf no matter the circumstance,” she had always said. Perhaps if the king saw that I was trying my hardest to be respectful, he would make my death less painful.

When the king came back into the bathroom, his feet stopped in the doorway. I imagined him chuckling and telling me that nothing would save me now, not even groveling on my knees, but he didn’t do that. Instead, I heard him sigh. Only a second later, I felt his hands on my waist for the third time that night. I flinched away, thinking that he was trying to hit me, but he ignored me and lifted me off the ground. He placed me back on the counter gently.

“Please stay here. Alright, little one?” he asked me. He didn’t remove his hands from my waist, his thumbs rubbing circles over my dress.

I nodded my head once, communicating to him that I understood. I stared down at my lap.

“You can look at me,” he said smoothly.

I didn’t respond. Nope. Nuh-uh. I wasn’t doing anything else tonight that was against the rules. I wasn’t going to fail any more tests, determined to follow the rules that I had been taught since I was young perfectly. Even though I knew it was impossible, I still had hope that I would make it out of here alive. Maybe with multiple broken bones and a barely distinguishable, bruised body, but alive nonetheless.

The king stepped closer to me. “You can speak to me too. It’s alright,” he said.

I nodded once again but kept my mouth sealed shut. Weak humans like myself should not even be in the presence of the king, let alone be speaking to him.

“Will you tell me your name?” the king asked, now running his hand up and down my thigh over my skirts. Even through the fabric, I could feel the warm, comforting sparks that appeared wherever the king touched me due to his fire powers. Confusion arose in my chest. I almost... liked him touching me, as shameful as that was. No one had ever touched me in such a gentle manner. And no one’s touch had ever felt so warm and comforting.

Again, I did not speak. The words “not worthy” kept repeating in my head.

He sighed again. “I’m sorry, love. Know that it does not please me to do this,” the king said, “but it seems as though this may be the only way to get through to you.” He paused for a second and I prepared myself for the worst. “As your king, I command you to tell me your name.”

I felt the authority of his command wash over me. He was using his alpha tone on me, a tone in his voice that made anyone ranking below him immediately follow his orders. I had never quite understood the use of the tone. It had never actually worked on me the way it was supposed to. I had seen my alpha use it on others, watching in fascination as they scampered to do whatever he told them immediately after his order left his mouth. But whenever it was used on me, it just washed over me without affecting me, like a wave in the ocean. I had always assumed it was because I was human instead of a werewolf.

That didn’t stop me from following his order though. “I am slave number twenty, your majesty,” I said quietly.

The king growled gently, obviously not liking that response for some reason. My heart jumped. “No. No, I don’t want the number you were given. In fact, I don’t ever want to hear you refer to yourself as such again,” he spat angrily. He stepped away from me. He was breathing hard, making it plain that his wolf was trying to take over again. “I want your name. The one you were given at birth.”

Oh, god, I had done another thing wrong. I had made him upset yet again. I could already feel the tears reappearing in my eyes. My brows knit together as I thought harder about it. That was the title I was given at birth. I had never been referred to as anything else. I had always been slave number twenty.

“I-I am very s-sorry, your majesty,” I apologized, although I didn’t truly understand what I had done wrong. “I g-genuinely do not remember ever having been called anything else. I am so sorry.”

“So you’re telling me,” the king said, his tone deathly calm. He placed his hands on the counter on either side of my hips as he asked me this, leaning down so that I could feel his breath on my hair, “that you have never been referred to as anything other than a fucking number your entire life?”

Tears were beginning to form in my eyes again at his harsh words and tone. I tried to discreetly wipe them away with my shaking hands, reminding myself that the king had just told me that to stop crying. What was wrong with me? Why wouldn’t my tears stop?

I shook my head. “Yes. I am s-so sorry, y-your majesty,” I said in defeat.

I wasn’t sure why it was such a big deal to him. No one had ever had a problem calling me twenty before, but the king seemed downright furious to call me this. I must have done something wrong in not seeking out a different name that I would be called under such circumstances like this one. Thoughts surrounding names must be different in the royal kingdom. Perhaps they used letters for their slaves.

“I was given the number twenty as slaves are not worthy of names. I know this, sir. There is no need to test me on it as I promise I was taught this rule well. But you may call me whatever you want!” I said, hopeful that would make up for it. Yes, that was good. He could give me whatever name he wanted. “Please call me whatever you deem best and will please you the most.”

In a flash, the king was no longer in front of me, but on the other side of the bathroom. I had to keep myself from looking up in both fear and shock when I heard him growl furiously and slam his fist into the wall.

Yep, I was about to die.

I shrunk in on myself, trying to appear smaller while the king took his anger out on everything and anything in the bathroom. Every time he came near me, I expected him to punch me or throw me onto the ground, end my life then and there, but he never did. To my utter surprise, he never even came close to touching me or causing me harm during his rampage.

I pushed myself into the corner of the counter, bringing my legs up to my chest and hugging them tightly. I began to sob silently into my knees. Why did I have to be this way? Why did I have to always be messing something up?

After a few more minutes, the alpha king finally stopped (or ran out of things to break). The room became silent except for my loud sobs that I could no longer hold back.

Without warning, I felt his hand grasp onto my leg gently. I hadn’t even realized he was in front of me again. I jerked back and sobbed louder.

“Oh, no, I am so, so sorry, my love,” the king’s deep voice said. “Please, please do not cry. Neither my wolf nor I can handle seeing one more tear spill from your beautiful eyes. I didn’t mean to frighten you. I just-I can’t-” He sighed. “Will you please look at me? I am not sure what I or my wolf will do if you refuse to look at me any longer. Please.”

The king was begging me. Me. A lowly human slave. He said please. He called me love. And beautiful. No one had ever called me anything like that.

Not being able to resist looking at his eyes again, especially when he asked so nicely, I raised my head. I was met yet again with those beautiful turquoise eyes. And just like last time, my world seemed to stop and nothing else seemed to matter except staring into his eyes for the rest of eternity.

But, unlike last time, I didn’t stop myself there. I let my eyes roam over the rest of his face as well, taking in his straight nose and plump lips, his strong, sharp jaw, and beautiful golden, curly hair. He was absolutely breathtaking, truly perfect in every way. He fit the title of the king.

His eyes studied me too, traveling over every aspect of my face, inspecting my facial features that I was sure could come nowhere near the same level of beauty as his. I almost dropped my gaze when I realized how thoroughly he was studying me. My insecurities were coming forward at full force, reminding me of how ugly and unworthy I am.

Ugly, stupid, human slave.

I didn’t know how long we stayed like that, just staring at each other, when the alpha king suddenly brought his hand up and cupped my cheek. My breathing hitched, but I was somehow able to stop myself from flinching away.

He ran his thumb over my cheekbone in a caring way that I had not been expecting. I winced slightly when he made contact with the bruise there. I had completely forgotten about it.

He frowned deeply. A small growl left his lips. “Who hit you?” he asked in a gentle but low tone.

I didn’t want to tell him. One of the guards had hit me yesterday when he found out that I had taken food from one of the other slaves. The slave had offered it to me after seeing that I was not to be given food for dinner as I was on a diet that never seemed to end. I was so hungry and couldn’t stop staring at her food as she sat across from me at the small table in the slave’s dining hall. It was only a small piece of bread that she offered me and I had assumed that I would be able to eat it fast enough so that nobody would notice. But I was wrong. I had gone to bed that night with a black eye and bruises all over my stomach to prove it.

I couldn’t tell the alpha king this. For some reason, I didn’t want him knowing I was going against the rules, trying to eat when I so obviously needed to lose weight. I didn’t want him to think less of me.

“I did something bad and broke the rules. I-I deserved it,” I said softly.

He growled softly. His chest was rising and falling again with the presence of his wolf. It was as if every time I spoke, his wolf would appear, angered by my words. Why could I never say the right thing? I wished I could go back to not speaking at all. It was so much easier.

The king suddenly leaned forward slowly and gently placed his forehead on mine, staring into my wide, frightened eyes with a pensive expression. His arms wrapped around my waist.

He sure was touchy. Not that I minded. I like being touched by another person after being by myself for so long. I especially liked the feel of his sparky skin against mine and the warmth it brought me.

“I seriously doubt that you did anything to deserve that. Nobody deserves that,” he growled out.

“I broke the rules,” I repeated, somehow finding it a tad bit easier to talk to him. “I did something bad and had to face the consequences. That’s how it works. I definitely deserved it,” I said without any hesitation in my voice.

The alpha king’s frown deepened causing my brows to come together in confusion. Shouldn’t he be happy that he had a slave under his authority that knew her place and was willing to take punishment without resistance?

“I am going to dedicate every day of my life to showing you exactly what you deserve,” he said.

Now it was my turn to frown. I already knew what I deserved. I deserved to be punished and die. He didn’t need to prove it to me. And it wouldn’t take his whole life. It would only take him one second and I would be dead on this very floor, my soul off in a better place.

Perhaps he meant he was going to torture me for the rest of his life until I knew my place. Terror filled my chest. That would be worse than death.

He leaned back. “You will tell me how you got the bruise later,” he said.

I nodded quickly, scared out of my mind.

The king sighed again. Then his nose lifted to the air and sniffed. He was smelling for something. One of his hands lifted off my waist and then, very slowly, moved down my legs until they were at the bottom of my skirts.

My breathing hitched, wondering what he was doing but not daring to stop him.

He looked up at me, his expression softening when he met my eyes. “I just want to check something,” his deep voice said. “Don’t worry, darling.”

He slowly lifted up my skirts, dragging his hands up my bare legs until my knees were showing. He stopped there, staring down at my beat-up knees that I had injured earlier in the kitchen. He growled.

“I thought I smelled your blood. You’re hurt,” he stated.

I wasn’t sure how to respond. I kept my mouth shut.

He stepped away and grabbed a metal container on the counter next to me. That must have been what he had left the room earlier to get. He opened it and took out a bottle and a cloth, then came back over to me and poured some of the clear liquid from the bottle onto the cloth. It looked like water but definitely did not smell like it. I had never smelled anything like it before.

He looked at me and, for a second, I forgot to drop my gaze. Immediately, I lowered my eyes to my lap, mentally chastising myself for looking at him without his permission.

“No,” he said. He gently cupped my cheek again and lifted my head so that I was looking at him once again. Why was he always so gentle with me? I didn’t deserve it. ”Always meet my eyes. Please. It calms my wolf and myself to see you looking at me, to see your gorgeous eyes. Don’t ever lower your gaze when it comes to me. Okay?”

I sucked in a breath. His words made absolutely no sense. Calmed his wolf? My gorgeous eyes? Everything he said just made me more confused.

However, I reminded myself that I hadn’t been punished for meeting his gaze yet. Therefore, I couldn’t see a reason not to look at him.

I nodded my head slowly in response, meeting his gaze.

A wide smile took over his face that made my heart flutter. I found myself liking his smile. I hoped I would get to see him smile more before I died.

Seemingly pleased with my response, he looked back down at the cloth in his hand and then at my beat-up knees that were all bloody from scraping them on the kitchen floor. “Please stop dropping to your knees when you see me. Just seeing your face bruised and scraped knees is enough to make myself and my wolf go ballistic.”

Choosing not to question what he says anymore, positive that I am just bound to never truly understand why he says what he says, I nod my head yet again. I would just have to agree to anything he asked me to do. It was the only way to make it through this situation without going insane from all of the confusion running through my mind.

You? Follow orders? Yeah, right.

He brought the cloth down to my left knee but stopped right before it touched my skin. He looked at me with soft eyes. “This is going to hurt, but bear with me.” He squeezed my hand gently. “It’s going to be okay.”

My breath caught in my throat. So this is how it was going to start. He was going to torture me by applying pain to my already open wounds. It made sense. It was surely the best way to cause the most pain. He was smart.

I squared my shoulders slightly, ready for the pain. I could do this. I was strong. I was ready to face my last moments bravely.

When he didn’t say or do anything for a few seconds, I slowly raised my gaze to his face. He was studying me. And he was smiling slightly, pleased. Had I done something to please him? Or was he happy to finally start my punishment?

I didn’t have time to wonder what he was thinking about for much longer. The king looked back down at my knees and then gently placed the cloth on the wound with much more care than I thought he would. I tensed slightly at the sting that resulted from the liquid, shutting my eyes tightly as he wiped the rag over my blood. To my surprise, it wasn’t bad. It wasn’t bad at all. I had endured much worse than this. I waited for the pain to worsen but was shocked when he just lifted the rag and then moved it to the other knee and did the same there. And, yet again, it barely hurt at all. The pain from whatever he put into my wounds was gone by the time he took the cloth away.

I watched him closely, trying to decipher exactly what he was trying to achieve. Perhaps he had used the wrong liquid. Should I tell him? No, that would be stupid. I couldn’t correct the king.

Perhaps this was some sort of slow-acting poison that would take a while to kill me, starting out as nothing and then building until I died of pain. Yes, that must be what he is doing. The pain would surely be starting again soon and then increase with vengeance.

After he closed the bottle of poison and put it aside, he reached into the tin box again and pulled out another small bottle. From this bottle, he squeezed some sort of white, gooey substance. He again put this on the wounds on my knees and, just like with the liquid, it hurt a little bit at first contact but was gone just as soon as it appeared. What sort of poison was he using?

Next, he placed a cloth over the wound on each of my knees and then wrapped another, longer piece of cloth over that one and around the back of my knees to hold it in place. Ah, so this would make sure the poison stayed there until it had done its job of killing me.

When he was finally done, he stood and nodded as he examined his work. He looked back at me. I had to remind myself that it was okay to meet his gaze.

“Don’t take these off until I tell you to, okay?” he said.

I nodded my head quickly. Duh.

He narrowed his eyes a bit. “I like when you speak, remember? Use your words.”

I was already failing with that simple instruction. “Of course, your majesty.”

He smiled a bit in approval and examined me some more. His gaze stopped at my still exposed legs.

I felt myself blush when I realized that you could nearly see my undergarments due to my lifted skirts and parted legs. What the king must think of me right now! No man had ever seen this much of my bare skin.

I moved to shut my legs quickly but was stopped when the king suddenly nudged himself between them, placing his large hands on either side of my hips. I gasped at the intimate position.

Maybe...maybe that was what the king wanted. Madame Melinda was always telling us slaves that she was preparing us to be companions to a wolf. Although I wasn’t positive as to what that meant, I knew that it had something to do with sex. Someday, I assumed she was going to give me away to a werewolf from another pack, just like she had done with so many other slaves who had been at the packhouse for too long. My job would be to do chores, make meals, and please the man in bed.

My alpha had told the king to do with me as he wishes. Could that mean that the king wanted to... sleep with me? Could that be why he was being so nice to me?

“And another thing,” the king said, snapping me out of my terrifying thoughts, “please stop calling me ‘your majesty’. I truly hate it. Call me Elijah.”

My brows furrowed. Was that his name? Like, his real name? I couldn’t call him that. No one but his family was allowed to call him that. Was this another test?

But it was the sincerity in his voice and the softness in his eyes that made me think that maybe he really did want me to call him that. Maybe this wasn’t a test. Maybe he liked the women in his bed to call him that. Yes, that had to be it. He would surely order me to stop after I had finished pleasing him.

“E-Elijah?” I asked quietly.

He breathed in deeply and shut his eyes as if he was savoring the sound of his own name. I could see why, it was a nice name. “Yes, little one. Elijah.”

Knowing I shouldn’t question him, I just nodded my head. “O-okay.”

“And soon I will have a name in which to call you,” he said. “But for now, we will go to bed.”

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