The grand reception always preceded every coronation, the reason most guests especially royalties arrive two days before the ceremony.
My parents as expected had already registered their presence at the palace since the event was now barely hours away but I was home alone at Rythfork.
I engaged myself in sets of activities here and around the castle to divert my thoughts from everything happening at the palace, but it seemed not to be working.
Depressing thoughts kept gripping me, fear and anxiety encapsulated me, and before long, I was shedding tears.
What did Troy really mean when he said 'I was the one and he choose me' when in the real sense, he was only toying with my emotions?
He said Adrian will hint you in on the plan but up till this very moment, I hadn't set my eyes on Adrian nor heard any plan whatsoever and tomorrow was the fucking wedding.......The fucking wedding!
Maybe this was it.... come on Aris, put yourself together it didnt work out, Gemma finally won and Troy was a scam.
The way my body reacted when it heard my mind utter her name was indescribable. Did I really hate Gemma like this?........Not really but do I detest her?.......Of course I did.
Furthermore, I thought of ways I could survive this heartbreak if it eventually happened again, maybe oblige lord Paris.... well, I could use him as my rebound.
Afterall he's been quite busy professing his undying love to me, sending me expensive gifts that always ended up in the trash.
The truth was, I felt bad for him, the way things are between us. He wasn't a bad person, irrespective of being an Arygos. He was a different specie from them.
How else do I make him understand that I don't love him, for Christ's sake, I was completely in love with Troy.
Now pacing around the room, apprehensive, my hands constantly raking through my hair while my body stiffened in anger.
The entire castle was quiet just sounds of chirping birds and footsteps of soldiers patrolling could be heard from outside.
Walking into my closet, I opened one of the drawers and brought out the necklace Troy gave to me the night he proposed.
With drifted thoughts, I went down memory lane, recalling he asked me never to take them off which I agreed initially, but after our breakup - I believe that was it, I locked it away in a box.
To me at that time, I'd closed that chapter of my life.
Now, here I stood gazing at it with keen admiration, running my fingers smoothly on its chain, I realized it was a rare pure diamond jewelry with an ancient emblem covered with the letter E as the locket.
My eyes flashed at it. This must be a family treasure of the royal family, why would Troy give this to me. Was this a sign that he really did love me, I pondered, still fully allured by the pendant.
Somewhere in my head, there was a growing excitement going on that I forgot the main reason why I'd pulled out the necklace - which was to reminisce about my journey with Troy, rather the pendant was intriguing and I studied it carefully, totally engrossed in it.
It resembled a symbol I had seen before but couldnt really place the scenario.
Caressing the pendant softly once more, I placed it on my chest briefly before putting it back into the box and into the drawer.
Suddenly, I got startled almost jumping out of my skin by a deep raspy voice coming from behind me.
“Hey baby, what exactly are you hiding?” The voice spoke and I turned around to see Adrian standing at the entrance of my closet with his two hands tucked in his pockets and a smile spread across his face.
My instincts were holding me back longer as they wanted to pretend to be angry but before she could take full control of my body, I launched at Adrian, jumping on his body and wrapping my legs around his waist and my hands over his neck.
“I missed you...... I miss him too.....” I cried out, sniffling in his neck where my facd was buried.
He let out a light chuckle as he comforted me, patting my back and then setting me down on one of the high stools that were in the room.
My legs parted, and he stood in between them, wiping the tears off my face whilst I wrapped my arms over his waist.
“Hey.... stop crying. I'm here for you” he kissed my hair and pulled me into his hard chest — one place, I find solace while his hands engulfed me, stroking my back gently.
We stayed in that position for a while before I decided to force words out of my mouth.
“What are you doing here, aren't you supposed to be attending the reception” I muttered, pulling away from him, so I could look at his face.
He sighed. “I am, but right now, I'm on a very urgent national assignment” he smiled, as I narrowed my eyes with raised eyebrows shocked at his comments.
“A national assignment......in my bedroom?” He gave me slight close- lipped smile and strolled to sit on my bed.
“Actually I'm here to escort you to court”
The words bounced and echoed over a couple of times in my ears. Escort me to court? I don't understand. Has the ban be lifted yet? Last time I confronted Troy about it, he said 'trust me princess'
I sat there gaping at Adrian in disbelief and confusion. “Don't play with me Rian because -” I warned him, as he wore his serious look.
“Come on, I'm not joking. This is serious. Troy asked me to bring you to court tonight” his tone stern and convincing.
“But.... why...... What about the reception?” I stammered, feeling agitated and scared but in my head, I was literally screaming out my lungs.
“You'll definitely get your answers when you arrive” He stated as I jumped down from the chair and strode to him, kneeling in between his thighs.
“Please..... Rian. Tell me! I'm afraid... I don't understand what Troy has planned and I-”
“Trust him, baby.... Trust Us....” he stopped me midway, lifting me up the floor. “Now go get ready, we've got limited time” and with that I disappeared into my closet again to prepare but all along I was in a deep nostalgic state.
Unlike my previous journeys to the capital, this was much faster because we travelled in the royal chopper.
It was my first time in it and I also just found out that only members of the royal family are permitted to use it.
So, for Troy to let Adrian take it to come fetch me, meant that whatever he had planned was definitely serious, and I grew anxious just trying to imagine things - what to expect.
Adrian laced our hands together, squeezing it tenderly when he noticed how nervous I was — I was literally shaking and my eyes darting from one window to the other.
“Relax baby... It's going to be fine” he assured me and I took in a long deep breath and exhaled, feeling a lot better.
And for once, I just forgot about the worries and uncertainties, relishing the beautiful moment of Troy, I was mentally painting in my head, when suddenly the pilot's voice jerked me back.
He announced that we had reached our destination and were about to land.
It was at that moment, all the traumatic events of the past months and my experiences in court replayed in front of me like I was watching a large screen.
The humiliations and disgrace the queen put me through up to when I was dismissed resurfaced anew.
My breathing became hitched and sharpened like one could actually hear the pounding of my heart in my chest.
Droplets of sweat were starting to form on my head, palms and feet making them wet.
As a matter of fact, my feet became so heavy that I could barely lift it up and all this time, the helicopter was descending and finally, it touched the ground and the engine was killed.
As Adrian appreciated the pilot, the door to the chopper was opened and lo-and-behold standing before me as I alighted the stairs was my prince charming.... my knight in shining armor..... the love of my life, ogling at me.
He dashed at me with so much anticipation, desire and lust and wrapped me into a tight hug that was almost suffocating, since it happened suddenly but I didn't care, as long as I was in the arms of my king.... the one my soul adores and cherishes.
His grips tightened around my body so much and I reciprocated while he went on mumbling 'I'm so sorry' in my ears. I figured out why he kept apologizing and my heart lightened just hearing his voice and those words that held more than apologies.
By the time we pulled away from each other, my face was wet with tears, and he kept peering at my face intensely, with burning emotions illuminating from our eyes and all the silent thoughts overwhelming our hearts before Adrian interrupted.
“I know you guys won't just stare at each other all day, we've got to move” he spoke with a hint of sarcasm in his voice and Troy held me again, his hands wrapped around my waist as my eyes fell on Gaius and Theon.
They gave me an impressive smile accompanied by a nod but reflex had me hugging Gaius much to his surprise and the amazement of everyone present there.
“It's so wonderful to have you back with us, My lady” he bowed lightly after hugging me and I just blushed.
There was no doubt I had missed the palace, my eyes travelled around my surroundings as we walked into Zirconsite - the prince's chamber.
I spent the next couple of hours in bed with the love of my life. We were practically just getting comfortable in each other's company, bringing up and settling pending issues and also savoring the moment.
I inquired about Troy's plans once again, but he dismissed my curiosity and rather replaced it with recent developments on his sister's search.
They were very close to finding her, and it gladdened his heart. In all of our closure, we were careful not to go beyond the boundaries we set for ourselves.
Moments later, Adrian appeared, all stylishly dressed in a gold and black suit and black shirt. He was really looking glorious and the next, someone came into view from behind him.
“Oh my God” I screamed and jumped up from the bed lurching toward her, I hugged her, and we both laughed excitedly. “I have missed you so much babe” I spoke as she patted my back lovingly.
“And I've missed you too so much, my lady” she inhaled with a shaky voice and next tears came streaming down her eyes and wetting my shoulder.
“Hey... Echo it's okay. I'm here now” I pulled aside and peered into her face, smiling and gently wiping away her tears before my eyes prowled through her body. Gold, black — oh my God, they were dressed to match. “You look stunning baby girl” I complimented her, and she smiled shyly and hugged me again, this time briefly before she greeted Troy, and I hugged Adrian.
“You look hot and sexy” I whispered in his ears, and he chuckled lightly kissing my cheeks.
“Troy, I think you should get ready, the occasion starts in forty minutes and you're the host. You don't want Gemma being anxious and creating a scene” Adrian uttered awkwardly, guilt swimming around him as my eyes darted between the three of them in the room.
There was something going on between them I suspected as I looked at Troy's eyes but I couldn't decipher. It was more like a strange aura that contaminated the room.
“I better get going before -” Echo spoke nervously unable to complete her statement when Adrian nodded, acknowledging her unspoken words.
Then she strode towards me and was about giving me a hug when I stepped away from her touch avoiding every contact. I was already feeling a load of anger rush budding.
My body stiffened at the mention of her name - Gemma and a frown quickly replaced the joy that was plastered on my face.
Without a second thought, I raced out of the room with speed though not ignorant of the footsteps following behind me.
Was this some kind of joke? What did Troy take me for? He was still attending the reception with Gemma, even with my presence here.
I mumbled, my subconscious cursing at him as I ran off through the living room door onto the balcony when he caught up with me.
“Aris..... Aris. Please talk to me” He grabbed my arms gently but I wriggled out if his grip, shoving him away from me.
My emotions were already getting messed up. Like my heart felt empty all of a sudden.
I collapsed onto the swinging chair that sat by one corner of the balcony with tears streaming down my eyes.
He tried to touch me again but I shoved him off and whisper yelled through gritted teeth “Don't....don't touch me Troy, You can save it for your bride” I snapped. I was barely holding on by a thread. I didnt want to cave in so,
I lowered my eyes, refusing to look at him as he stood inches away from me. Whatever he was going to explain to me was not what I wanted to hear.
Not any stupid explanation. They were not important. I could feel it in the air, something was not right. Why couldn't he just the needful?
I shut my eyes close again, almost feeling a second heartbreak when he slowly took another step close to me.
But before he could touch me, I stood up and walked away from him to stand by the left corner of the wide balcony.
I could hear his constant sharp exhaling and murmurings. There was no doubt he was confused and in pains.
Honestly I knew He was angry but for me I was furious and frustrated. Then he asked me a question that I've been preparing the answers for a very long time “What do you want Aris?”
“Princess, please talk to me. What do you want?” His voice rang loud from where he stood.
Please dont come any closer. Staying far away from him was the best.
I was trying so hard to act tough and kept ignoring his questions. My legs were wobbly but I didnt care. They wanted to use me again for the second time. Once beaten, twice shy. I wont let it happen again.
But then my mouth chose to betray me after all the hesitations and spoke before my heart even gave permission.
“You! You! and You alone” I cried out, turning to face him as I swallowed my pain.
Seeing my tears broke him further as his face twisted in pain. All he did was to stare intently at my face.
With slow deliberate steps, he got to where I stood, wiping my tears with the back of his fingers. After drying my face, he cupped my cheeks and peered deep into my soul through my eyes “You have me all to yourself princess. It's me and you alone" He whispered and I just gazed at him confused, shaking my head.
The words looked sincere but sounded unreal.
How could he confess that when by the break of dawn, Gemma will be his wife? He was going to fucking marry her tomorrow after asking me to the palace.
Oh God....why did I agree to come with Adrian. Was this the stupid plan he had? To ridicule me or what?
“No I don't and you dont get to say, Troy” I answered, stating the obvious.
“Yes you do. You know it deep within your heart” He protested, bringing our faces closer to each other but I didn't finch so our foreheads were now leaning on each other.
With our eyes closed and the rapid rising and falling g our chests, I gasped when he wrapped his arm around my waist, holding me still. In position.
Then slowly he moved his hands down to my hips bending it.
I shivered as our closeness kept sending cold electric signals throughout my body making me loose all form of concentration and anger.
The only thing on my mind was the sweet feeling of bring in the arms of my prince and relishing the moment.
We stayed in that position taking slower breaths, highly tempted to grasp each other lips but kept fighting the urge.
"Princess" I felt him take a deep breath and I gasped. "I'm sorry... I didn't mean to keep secrets away from you" he whispered, as his hands travelled up to my waist again, caressing the exposed skin just above the mini flared skirt I wore.
I just moaned like I understood when in the real sense I was enjoying the moment. Troy kept making it difficult for me as he spoke, his lips were barely inches away from mine, yet he brought it much closer, parting it slightly that I could feel the hot breath escaping from his mouth and grazing my skin.
My heart was racing at an unusual speed and this was because I was dying to taste his lips on mine, but he was holding back.
I was starting to hyperventilate.
Come on Troy, kiss me, my subconscious spoke. I wanted him to make the move but he stopped abruptly.
Sighing, he peeled his arms away from my waist, opened his eyes and pulled back. Took it as my cue to see what was going on, so my eyes opened too.
I knew disappointment gripped my face as I let out an exasperated breath and it felt like the anger resurfaced.
The reality returned as I clenched my fist by my sides “Are you going to tell me why you need to attend this reception without me?” I'd hoped he will give me a response.
But good, Gaius chose this very moment to disrupt our heart-to-heart conversation. “Your highness, I'm sorry to interrupt but it's time. Steflos is already panicking” and with those words, Troy kissed my cheeks.
“I will be back before you know it” He muttered.
“But-” I tried to speak.
“Don't worry about nothing, Ian would stay here with you but please don't leave the Zirconsite” He pleaded, smiled at me brushing my cheeks slowly with his thumb before abruptly walking away followed by Gaius, who nodded lightly before disappearing.
I stood there for a couple of minutes drenched in crazy thoughts. Why wasn't I allowed to attend the reception?
Wait- Does Troy want to make me his concubine or his second wife? Oh my God...... he does. I panicked, clasping my hands over my mouth, trembling as tears were welling up in my eyes.
Hell no! There was no way I was letting myself being ridiculed further by this family. I've had enough of them toying with my emotions.
Stepping back into the bedroom, I walked toward the prince's closet, searching for my small box, thankfully I found it, glad I hadn't unpacked.
I picked up my purse and strolled towards the entrance at the same time when Ian was walking in, and we almost bumped into each other as I halted in my track gazing at him.
He looked at me and bowed lightly then his eyes moved down my hands and back to my face.
“Going somewhere, my lady” he asked, still looking at the luggage in my hands.
“Yes” I answered deadpanned, staring at the door.
“His highness ordered me to watch over you and not let you out of here” he retorted
I huffed in unbelief, shaking my head. “So are you going to stop me?”
“I'm sorry my lady but I do follow orders” he said and grabbed unto my suitcase but I stiffened my grip on it, not letting go. He yanked it up, and I hauled it down, tightening my hold with every move.
We continued in our little exercise for some minutes before I gave up and let go of it. Feeling embarrassed for even struggling with Ian in the first place.
Once the bag was out of my grip and now in Ian's hand, I quickly opened the door and rushed out into the hallway, running past the guards that stood by the corners.
At that moment, all I wanted was to get as far as I can from the palace. From behind me, I could hear Ian's shouting with a commanding voice that the main entrance doors being shut against me and so it was, the second I arrived there.
Panting and breathing heavily I pleaded with the guards there, but they turned deaf ears and I just leaned on the wall, gasping for breath before Ian came into view nodding appreciatively at the guards that stood by the large door.
“That was one crazy stunt you pulled, my lady. The prince will not be happy about it at all” he scowled at me while I rolled my eyes at him, frustrated. My face clenched and furious.
None of the guards at Rythfork could act this way towards me. They respected me too damn much. Fuck. I groaned.
“You don't get it Ian, do you? You guys can't keep me here against my will”
“I'm sorry Lady Aris, but we will have to head back into the room. Any moment from now, the prince will be back, and he won't appreciate you roaming the hallway. Besides, I'm only obeying orders” he forced a smile while I frowned more at him.
“Whatever” I mumbled throwing my hands up in the air as I walked back in a slower pace into the room.
Lying on the bed, I started imagining all the things that were probably going on in the reception.
Maybe Troy would have to kiss Gemma. Wait...., has he even kissed her before? Funny, I hadn't even cared about such a matter until now.
Hmmmm, it's crazy and true when they say an idle mind is the devil's workshop. I would definitely ask him about intimacy with Gemma. And as I thought deeper, my eyes zoned out, and I dozed off.
“Hey princess” the voice and a kiss on my forehead had me opening my eyes, staring into those sexy grey eyes hovering over me, I forced myself to speak.
“You're back?” my voice low and obscure.
“Yes my love” he smiled “And I'm sorry for keeping you waiting” he kissed the side of my lips and I grinned.
His jacket was off his body and placed on the chair as my eyes moved around. He was wearing just his black shirt and the oxblood trousers. — They were the official colors of Doxa, gold inclusive and looked damn sexy and great.
“How was it?” I asked tucking my hair behind my ear.
“It was fine. Glad it ended, couldn't wait to be by you” he stated casually, pulling me up to sit upright, with my back against the headboard. No hint of emotions in his eyes.
“Did you have any issues staying alone?” He caressed my cheeks slowly and I blinked.
“No” I lied, and he smirked at me suspiciously.
Shit! I face palmed. How stupid! Of course Ian must have reported what transpired between us. How did I not know this?
Enough of this embarrassment, I mumbled under my breath and stood up from the bed whist he gave me a puzzled look in silence.
Looking away from him, I took the first step to move when he pulled me back by my wrist and next, I saw myself, colliding with him and collapsing on top of him inadvertently on the bed.
Our chests were against each other, I could feel his heart pounding erratically. I placed my hand on it to feel his heartbeat while he just stared at me with a hint of lust, mischief and amusement in his eyes.
With a smile on his face he searched and studied my eyes thoroughly as his both hands wrapped my waist tightly, locking me in that intimate position.
“I love you, princess.... I'm in love with you and I can't stop... Please marry me” his face became more serious and his voice austere. I gasped.
Another proposal? What? Was this how the men in the royal family proposed randomly?
I was forced to remind him of the previous one he did at Rythfork, but chose to keep shut, didn't want to ruin the moment. It was important to me and I was obviously enjoying it.
“Why? But you're getting married to Gemma tomorrow” I countered, teasing him, but he closed his eyes inhaling with a frown in his face like I said what I shouldn't say.
“Please, can we not talk about that for now” he rebuked me lightly, opening his eyes and staring into mine again.
“Fine” I said with a frown, whilst he chuckled, playfully licking his lower lip.
“Marry me Aris and make me a worthy king” he repeated his words again, but this time, he had a ring in his right hand right infront of me while his left clutched my wrist.
My eyes and lips widened, stunned. The diamond in the ring was so beautiful and glittering, too tempting to resist. Could I say no?
“But, my prince, you've given -”
“Forget about the necklace, Princess… It was a gift to you....but this is me giving all of myself to you” he dismissed, still looking at me with his hand hanging in the air impatiently.
“How long are you going to keep your king waiting?” He groaned and immediately I screamed out though lightly so as not to draw attention.
“Yes! Yes my love” Then slowly he slid the ring unto my finger, his eyes filled with joy and happiness and next I realized, his lips crashed on mine.
I felt like retreating but only the taste of his lips, my body completely betrayed me and gave in.
His kiss was hungry, his hands squeezing me gently.
I allowed him entrance as our tongues fought for dominance. This was my first proper kiss and it was with the man I loved. We deepened and prolonged the kiss, as none of us wanted to let go.
And finally, we separated from each other, gasping for air.
He was now on top of me, hovering and supporting his weight with his elbows while I lay with my back against the bed.
We were both smiling, savouring the intense moment we just shared. Gently, he pushed away the stray of hairs that were on my face before whispering..
“It's you Aris, it's always been you” and he kissed me again this time, more passionately......biting my lips.