The iron plated entrance to the castle, stretched high above my head, dwarfing me even further than the freakishly tall demons flanking me on each side, already were.
With Cairo to my left, and Ilias at my right, Ilani trailed behind us. Muttering something about not trusting me at her back.
Oh well, all the better for me. I might be tempted to snatch that pixie bob right off her scalp if she sashays in front of me.
What? She would have had it coming.
I can’t really argue with Circe’s skepticism.
My ire is possibly a tad more excessive than the situation calls for.
But the woman rubs my nerves like a brillo pad.
Nerves that I’ve only just gotten under control.
So yeah, bite me if I’m salty.
As we near the doors, they swing open on their hinges, banging against the polished walls. The sound ricochets for a moment, before all falls silent.
And then, stepping from the shadowy doorway, another demon emerges.
He is similar in build to Cairo and the others.
And with his dark features, he also looks like he was plucked straight from the pyramids.
His most distinguishing feature however, is his long dark braid, stretching past his waist, with golden bands spread out down the length of it.
The bling doesn’t match the rest of his attire, a pressed black suit, with intricate silver embroidery along the sleeves, fixed by diamond cuff links.
He bares the same color eyes as Cairo, and I can’t help but to draw parallels between the two.
This man is an older version of Cairo.
I suddenly feel foolish for not immediately realizing that they are related.
And I wonder who this man is to the king.
All these royals look so damn youthful, it’s hard to pinpoint an exact age.
He could have been his brother, or grandfather, for all I knew.
“Cairo, my boy! You’re back early.” The man exclaims, clasping his hands over Cairo’s shoulders.
“Hello, uncle. I apologize for not contacting you ahead of time, but I ran into an unexpected opportunity that required my utmost attention.” Cairo replies with a grin.
His uncles eyes travel to Cairo’s hand, and in that moment, he intertwines our fingers.
My whole body tenses in response, and I almost pull away in surprise.
Sensing my unease, Cairo smiles down at me, before giving our hands a small squeeze.
“I see.” His uncle steps back, eyes taking me in...sizing me up.
A shiver runs through my spine, like a ghost of a finger is trailing up its length, slowly.
This guy gives me the creeps.
He feel’s dangerous, keep your eyes open.
You don’t have to tell me twice.
“She smell’s...odd.” He finally says, after what feels like an eternity of staring.
Ilani scoffs from behind me, and my irritation spikes, but I don’t give her the satisfaction of turning around.
Cairo inhales, ready to reply, but I beat him to the punch.
“Do you use that line on all the ladies, they must be knocking your door down, huh?”
Cairo and Ilias crack up in unison.
His uncle however, is not amused.
His eyes shoot to them in a narrow glare, causing Cairo to cough on his laugh.
Ilias only shrugs,
“I think that’s our que to go, c’mon Ilani.” He snickers.
Grabbing his sister by the arm, he hauls her inside the castle.
Her complaints can only be heard for a moment before they too, disappear.
“Uncle, this is Samaria.” Cairo introduces me in an attempt to diffuse the tension.
“She is a G-”
“Guest. His blood tie to be exact, that’s probably why I smell off.” I interrupt him.
For some reason, I don’t want this man to know that I’m a Ghoul.
And I find myself again thankful, that after my feeding, my looks don’t immediately give me away.
Cairo shoots me a questioning look, but doesn’t correct me.
“A blood tie?” His uncle’s eye brows shoot up in surprise, before twisting into a knot of doubt, wrinkling his forehead.
Cairo’s shoulders broaden as he puffs his chest out in pride.
A bright, wide smile splits his face.
“Yes, my blood tie.” He confirms, tightening his grip on my hand.
Small sparks of electricity shoot up my arm, but I resist the urge to yank my hand away.
“Well. Well. Well. I’ll be a demons uncle, it’s about time, boy.” His boisterous praise, felt forced.
But if Cairo noticed, he didn’t show any sign.
He’s so fake, I can almost smell the plastic.
I know, Cairo seems to be taken with him though, and they are family. It’s not our place to say.
Oh, look at you, mature, and lecturing me. Has hell frozen over?
Har dee har har.
I’m serious though, something is not right about him, I can’t explain it. But he’s unsettling.
Before I can reply, Cairo’s uncle sticks his hand out.
“It’s nice to meet you Samaria, my name is Osiris. I hope that you come to love this court as much as we do.” His smile doesn’t reach his eyes.
Instead, it seemed that he was annoyed with the whole situation.
I stare at his outstretched hand warily for a moment.
Seeing my hesitation, Cairo nudges me with his shoulder gently, squeezing my hand encouragingly before releasing it.
Reluctantly, I grab his hand, shake once, and release it quickly, fighting the urge to scrub my palm clean of his touch.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, as well.” I say through a forced smile.
There is a strange look in Osiris’s eyes...contemplating, as he stares at the hand I’d just released.
“Yes.... well..” he clears his throat and gives his head a quick shake.
“I have urgent business to discuss with you, Cairo....In private, of course.” He glances at me once more, before focusing on his nephew.
Cairo stiffens, and I cant blame him.
The way Osiris said “urgent”, didn’t sound promising.
“I will meet you in my study after I show Sam to her room.” He nods to his uncle, grabs my hand, and pulls me into the castle.
Osiris’s eyes burn holes in the back of my head as we retreat.
Cairo’s castle is far more traditional than the dragon court’s.
Gold lined tapestries, and curtains fill the walls and windows of the corridor, we are currently walking through.
Various portraits, that I assume are of Cairo’s ancestors, catch my attention, as we walk down the red velvet carpet.
The people in the first half of portraits are clothed like modern royals.
Silk gowns, dapper tuxedos, and formal military wear, adorned them in their timeless poses.
But as we neared the end of the hall way, the portraits took a notable turn.
Gone were the modern men and women, and in their place stood pharaohs.
Bare chests, adorned with broad collared, gem embedded necklaces.
Beards wrapped in gold, and heads topped with brightly colored nemes.
A few female pharaohs were also present.
Glorious in their proud stature, with hair at black as night, and just as smooth.
They wore golden bands across their foreheads, featuring a cobra, it’s eyes made of glaring rubies.
Each and every portrait had one thing in common.
A wall of amber, watching silently, as we pass.
This isn’t creepy.
Not a bit.
“So, your ancestors were like Pharaohs or something?” I ask, eyes locked on the wall.
“Which ones are your parents?”
Even with my attention divided, I didn’t miss Cairo flinch at my question.
“No, they were vain, disrespectful, and liked to play dress up when in the human realm.” He replies bitterly, his jaw set in an obvious display that he didn’t want to discus it further.
But curiosity is my middle name.
I’m about to press him further when Circe intervenes.
Drop it. The men and women in those portraits are the reason our kind have suffered for so long.
Circe’s voice is tight, strained with emotion.
Did you remember something?
No. It’s common knowledge.
Her tone is flat.
I flinch at her outburst.
Circe never snaps.
“And your parents?” I ask, noticing he’d avoided that part of my question.
I instantly regret asking, as a shadow falls over his face.
“They died when I was a baby, I don’t remember them.” His voice is barely above a whisper.
“I’m so sorry, I-” I pause, catching myself before I reveal something that I have no desire to discuss at length.
He doesn’t need to know that my parents have passed away too.
“I’m sorry to hear that.” I say instead, biting the inside of my cheek and avoiding his eyes.
I fall back a few steps.
“It’s fine, You can’t miss what you never had, I suppose..”
“Anyways, here we are.” Cairo comes to an abrupt stop, and I run into his back.
I’d been so caught up in my thoughts, that I hadn’t realized we’d come into a hall filled with rooms.
And we are currently standing outside the largest door, at the very end of the hall.
Cairo turns to look down at me with an amused smile.
“Sorry..” I begin.
“Don’t apologize, you can bump into me anytime you want.” He says with a wink.
“You are such a flirt, you can’t help yourself, can you?” I smile, as he opens the bedroom door and we step inside.
The scent of fresh linen instantly fills my nose, the smell is powerful, but not overly so.
A large king size bed, sitting within a dark mahogany frame, sat in the center of the right wall.
It’s head board carved into several intricately detailed roses with vines connecting their separate bodies, rested flush against the wall, showing the light grey/blue wall paper through the carved out sections.
A bad ass bed to boot.
The grey comforter, and darker matching pillows, call me like a sirens song.
Sweet baby Jesus, I’ve died and gone to heaven.
Cairo draws my attention back to him, as he speaks.
“When it comes to you? No, I can’t help myself.”
He steps towards me, backing me against the wall, while maintaining a respectable distance.
“So, what was that about saying you’re my blood tie?” He asks, his tone low and laden with desire.
That irritating fire sparks in my core again.
And I press my knees together in an attempt to reign in the flood gates that are sure to follow.
“Well, I am your blood tie. And I don’t see any reason to let the cat out of the bag about my ghoulishness. Unless I have to.” My breath catches in my chest as Cairo watch’s my lips move.
After a tense moment, where I’m sure he is going to swoop down and capture my mouth with his, he sighs.
“I’ll respect your wishes, though I do hope that you come to trust my uncle. He is the only family I have.”
Shh, you’ll ruin the moment.
He just did. Right when it was about to get good too.
If you’ll shut up, it might still.
“I can’t make any promises. I’ve not had the best experience when I comes to trusting people.”
To my disappointment, Fayah flashes through my mind.
I’d trusted her.
Trusted her to tell me the truth, especially where it concerned my safety.
And she’d let me down.
I love her like a sister, and I always will.
But a part of me knows that we will never be the same.
I will never be the same.
My aunt Alli suddenly comes to mind.
God, I miss her.
But she can never see this side of me.
She had worked with me through all of my other problems.
My depression and survivors guilt after my parents died, and the accompanying Ptsd, anxiety, and self harm, that followed hand in hand.
That I still struggle with...
She’d pulled me out of myself countless times.
But I can’t ask her to follow me into this chapter of my life.
“That’s fair, I suppose he will have to earn your trust.” Cairo reaches out, and brushes a stray lock of hair out of my eyes, before tucking it behind my ear.
He doesn’t ask if I trust him, which is a relief.
Because the answer scares me.
“Now, about the blood tie...Have you changed your mind, or am I harboring false hope?” He closes more of the distance between us, and my pulse picks up in response.
I look up into his eyes, and freeze.
I’m caught, trapped by his heated gaze, filled with anticipation.
“I-” I search for the right words.
Ones that won’t break his heart.
I can’t be with him, for so many reasons.
But the one that stood out the most to me...is also the reason I’d never pursued a relationship with anyone.
Cairo is sure to want to start a family with his mate.
But countless doctors, and failed fertility injections, had long since killed that dream in me.
Romance lost its appeal, when the end game would always be the same.
Even if my partner were ok with my inability... I’m not.... I’ll always want more.
So I never dated, never opened my heart to anyone..And I thought that I’d accepted I’d never be a mother.
But staring now, into Cairo’s hopeful gaze.
My heart begins that familiar ache, anew.
“I... I’m sorry for getting your hopes up... I really did just want to keep my identity hidden.” It’s the best answer I can give.
But it fails in one huge area.
It breaks both of our hearts.
Pain fills Cairo’s face, but he nods all the same, backing away from me as if I’d struck him.
“I see... I will respect that too.” He bows slightly, “Excuse me, It seems that it’s slipped my mind that my uncle requested my presence.” And with that he slips out the door, closing it behind him softly.
But the light click of the wood sliding into place, slams against my ear drums all the same.
Well, that took a quick turn for the worst.
Not now Circe.
Feeling more tired than I had ever been, I walk to the bed, and fall onto it on my stomach.
It’s not as comfortable as I thought it would be.
And my chest constricts as I realize why.
I’d rather be in a nest of furs, with a certain demons arms holding me tight.
I groan, punching my plush pillow in aggravation.
And even though it’s only mid day.
My exhaustion gets the best of me.
And nightmares, which had been chased away by Cairo’s presence the night before.
Return with a vengeance to claim my world.