It wasn’t possible. The scent, why was it here? I was no longer in Fern Creek. I breathed in deeply, closing my eyes. There was no doubting that it was the same scent. I found it intoxicating and sweet, I was drawn to it. I walked along the length of the terrace, letting my nose guide me. I found myself walking down the marble steps into the garden, I slipped my heels off, leaving them on the stairs and picking up the bottom of my gown.
A breeze loosened the hair around my face and had me instinctively turn my head to the left. The scent was stronger there. I tucked my hair behind my ear and headed towards the celestial aroma. The grass in the garden was lush and felt nice and cool underneath my bare feet. I could hear the trickle of running water, like maybe a creek or small river was nearby.
I looked back in the direction of the dining room, I knew I should go back. I closed my eyes and breathed deeply again, the scent beckoned me forward, ushering me deeper into the garden.
I pushed between a couple of palms and moved the hanging vines out of my path. The garden was quite dense here and it was obvious that this space wasn’t where people were suppose to walk. After making my way a bit further I noticed a soft light ahead, I could see it wasn’t just moonlight so I continued further until the garden opened up into a small clearing.
It was beautiful. A small fountain stood in the middle with an exquisite turquoise panther in the centre. I followed the stepping stones until I came to the edge of the fountain. It was full of Koi, all different colours and sizes.
Sitting on the side of the fountain, I ran my fingers through the water, giggling as the fish nibbled at them. I closed my eyes, inhaling the scent again as if it were a drug; trying to decipher the direction it would take me next.
“What the fuck are you doing here? Mutt”
My eyes shot open, the scent had vanished. Standing in front of me was a man...a panther. He looked at me in disgust, an anger in his eyes that made my skin crawl.
“I...fresh air...” I stammered.
His emerald green eyes were locked on to mine, I couldn’t look away, I couldn’t move as he held me there with his stare.
“No...what are you doing here, at Panthera?”
He had a level of anger in his voice that made my heart rate quicken. He wasn’t raising his voice but the tone was enough to have my ‘fight or flight’ reflex kick in and at this stage it was leaning towards flight. I couldn’t remember the last time my instincts had told me to flee, the feeling was uncomfortable and unnerving.
“I was invited...”
“You shouldn’t have come” he spat, eyeing me up and down in disgust, making me defensively cross my arms over my chest.
My initial response of fear was quickly progressing into anger. I could feel Rogue stirring inside me, her mixed emotions combined with my adrenaline almost giving me a sense of lightheaded-ness.
“Mind your own fucking business” I hissed.
His nostrils flared and I looked down at his clenched fists. I needed to get out of here. If this panther went me I knew I would tear him to shreds, probably not the best first impression to make in the palace gardens.
I stood up from my seat on the fountain and straightened my dress, holding my head high in an attempt to bluff my way out of the situation I’d found myself in.
“Who do you think you are?” He growled, stepping towards me.
I stepped back as his intimidating size dwarfed my own, kicking myself for not standing my ground. The panther smirked, his evil glare revelling in the fact that he was able to throw me off.
“You will leave in the morning. If I see you again I won’t be held responsible for what I do to you...mutt”
I held my breath as the panther leaned into me, breathing in my scent. My knees felt weak, my lips trembling. I closed my eyes, waiting for him to make a move.
Instead, there was nothing.
I opened my eyes, the panther was gone. I let out the breath I had been holding and looked around. There was no sign of him, I was alone.
I lay in bed and stared at the metres of beautiful violet silk that hung in drapes from the canopy above. I couldn’t sleep. Every time I closed my lids I saw those evil, emerald eyes. Did he know who I was? Did he know what I was? Was I in danger?
I remembered his words ‘you will leave in the morning. If I see you again I won’t be held responsible for what I do to you...mutt’
He had spoken with such hate, such conviction. Who was he? Was I even safe staying here this long?
I stepped out of bed and walked into the ensuite. I turned on the basin tap, splashing cool water over my face. I looked up at my reflection in the mirror, my cheeks were flushed, my lips swollen from biting them.
I knew what I had to do. I would meet with the King and Queen after breakfast and we would discuss matters, then I would leave.
I yearned for my mate. I needed to get home to Jayce. Any resentment that I’d held towards him was gone. I loved him, he was my other half; my better half. I needed to feel his arms around me, his skin against my skin, his lips against my lips. I was craving his touch and knowing that I couldn’t have him right now was only fuelling the fire within.
I rubbed my thighs together, the friction only making me feel more uncomfortable. I was burning up, what was happening to me? I was acting like a horny teenager, having naughty thoughts about a boy in class.
If Jayce was here I knew he would look after me, he would service my needs until sweat dripped from my body and I screamed his name for the whole kingdom to hear. I looked towards the bed and sighed, I knew what my body needed to allow myself to fall asleep. Unfortunately it was just going to be me and my hand tonight.
“Did you sleep well?” Onyx asked, as we sat in the dining hall, eating breakfast.
I choked on a blueberry and took a mouthful of fresh orange juice to wash it down. Obi shot me a quizzical look and a stuffed my face with more fruit, feeling my cheeks redden.
“Yes. Very well” I answered after swallowing my food and regaining composure.
Onyx smiled and finished her chocolate croissant.
“Mum and dad were going to join us for breakfast but something came up. They asked that we join them in the throne room when we’re finished”
I nodded and sipped my juice. The sooner we got this meeting over and done with, the sooner I could get out of here and go home. I didn't want to risk seeing that panther again from last night, his face surfacing in my dreams several times causing me to awake in cold sweats.
“When it’s time for me to leave, how do I get back to Fern Creek?” I asked.
“I’ll take you back to where we came in. You pretty much do exactly what you did yesterday, just in reverse. You’ll be able to feel the energy of your home, your mate...and once you visualise it, it will manifest” Obi answered.
“You’re staying tonight though aren’t you?” Onyx asked, her pitch rising as she looked at me with pleading eyes.
I tapped a lone blueberry around in my bowl and shrugged my shoulders.
“I don’t think so. I should really get back to my pack” I answered.
I could almost feel the panther princess pouting.
“But...I’ve organised something. You can’t leave today, please! Just one more night, you can go home in the morning”
I sighed and looked up at the Onyx. Both her and Obi were looking at me with puppy dog eyes.
Kitty cat eyes?
“Aghhh” I groaned, “I’ll think about it”
Onyx squealed in excitement as if I’d said yes. Surely if I stayed inside the palace and didn’t naively wonder off again then I would be fine. I just had to avoid Mr. Green Eyes and then return safely home in the morning.
Onyx, Obi and myself looked up as the butler from last night entered the room.
“The King and Queen will see you now” he announced.
The ginormous doors to the throne room opened and I stepped inside. Obi had stayed behind but Onyx walked ahead of me, to take her spot next to the Queen I presumed.
I smiled at the King and Queen as I approached the marble platform. My eyes then trailed to the right and my stomach fell.
There he was, sitting in pride of place in his throne, next to the King; Mr. Green Eyes.
Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.
I was frozen to the spot. The air around me thick, the tension palpable. His emerald orbs pierced me, his gaze tormenting me, his stare killing me. I felt sick. I felt my knees buckle, what was happening?
“My dear, Quinn. Are you alright?”
I snapped out of the fog, my eyes darting to the Queen. She looked as though she was about to spring from her throne to run down to me.
“Sorry. Yes, I’m fine” I cleared my throat and stood up straight, “Still adjusting to the humidity I think”
The Queen frowned, perhaps not buying my lie. I kept my gaze ahead, not wanting to look in those emerald eyes. I could still feel him though, seething, hating me.
“Very well” the King answered, “Quinn, I’d like to introduce you to our son, Prince Kyanite of the Panthera Kingdom, heir to the throne”
I kept my gaze on the King, too scared to dare lock eyes with the prince. Onyx cleared her throat, I looked to her, she raised her brow as if asking ‘what are you doing?’. I bit the inside of my cheek, slowly turning my head until my line of sight fell on the prince.
“An honour to meet you Luna. Welcome to the Panthera Kingdom”
What? The prince spoke warmly. The evil glint in his eyes was gone, instead replaced with...nothing, I couldn’t read anything behind those dark lashes.
Seeing him sit next to the King and Queen, it was easy to see now that he was their kin. He sported the same curls as the king but in the same shade of black as the Queen and princess. His eyes were identical to his mother’s but lacking the warmth her’s possessed. The royal family was definitely an attractive one, they were all striking.
“An honour to meet you too, Prince” I lied.
I swear I saw the corner of his mouth twitch at my reply. The bastard was playing with me.
“Kyanite is not only the Prince of Panthera but also one of our most prized fighters. He has fought many battles against wolves and bears alike. When we mentioned that you were here to potentially assist us with creating peace between wolves and panthers...he insisted on meeting you”
I raised my brow ever so slightly, looking back to the prince. His face gave nothing away.
“My son will be King one day” the Queen added, “because of this we have decided that he will work alongside you in discussions to bridge this divide. A Prince and a Luna, two royalties, working hand in hand to create a safer future for both species...”
My stomach turned. Me work alongside him? The notion made me sick. He was bad news. I remembered Onyx saying that her brother was a jerk, everything suddenly made sense. I shook my head and looked to the Queen.
“Your majesty...Astrid. I fear I have already been away from my pack for too long, they will be wondering where I am. I really need to return. I can come back though...after speaking to my Alpha”
The Queen opened her mouth to speak but the Prince cut her off.
“Return to your pack? Why? So you can tell them all our secrets and therefore put my people at risk? Not a chance. We will send Obi to pass a message to your Alpha and you can remain here to do what you promised my sister you would do”
Are you fucking kidding me?
I looked to Onyx, who looked down at her feet. Then I looked to the Queen.
“I think what my son is trying to say...is that we are more than happy to notify your Alpha of the proceedings. It will save you the journey home, only to have you come back again. You’re in safe hands, my dear, Kyanite will ensure that”
I clenched my fists, my gaze returning to the prince. This time there was no mistaking the twitch at the side of his evil mouth, he was smirking at me.
“There are no safer hands than my own” he drawled.