Days had passed after the ceremony and yet no word had been given out. Some of the kings closest allies had been on him to pronounce Aris obeying the prince's wish which was apparently the right thing to do. But my mother contended with it, disuading the king everytime not to do as they demanded nor give into their pressure.
So many times she had invited me to her chambers pleading and coercing me into having a rethink but everytime my answer remained the same. She had even being having closed door meetings with duchess Isabella Arygos and I kept wondering what plans they were working on.
Today the citizens had to do a peaceful protest especially from the Islandes demanding that Aris be declared the princes bride since the rumours that the crown is about nullifying the princes choice spread throughout the kingdom.
Speaking of Aris, twice Charles had set up a meeting with her but she continually kept turning down my proposals so I decided to bury myself in work today distracting myself from every ongoing hassle.
Seated at my desk studying the numerous proposals that had been submitted for the project, going through them one after the other and taking notes of the very impressive ones, when Gauis walked in taking a bow "Lady Gemma is here your highness" without even finishing his speech, my door opened and Gemma walked in.
"Thank you Gauis" she said taking a seat infront of me , then Gaius gave me a 'should I stay and will everything be fine' look. I waived my hands at him signalling that I will be fine then he walked out.
We started talking almost at the same time before I paused and beckoned on her to continue.
"How are you Troy?" She asked me not exactly the question I expected.
"Truth - I'm not fine" I answered rubbing the back of my neck.
"Why? Is it because you embarrassed me or because your so called choice has rejected you?" She spoke bluntly in a harsh tone.
"And who told you I was being rejected?"
"Oh! Come off it" she said raising her hands in the air with a smirk across her face "Well the news is everywhere. People are saying that's the reason for the delay of the announcement"
"What?" I asked confused bursting into laughter. "Really!" I laughed some more tearing up a little. "Okay, thats the most absurd thing I've heard all week. Please who told you this exactly?" I probed further staring at her face which was beginning to turn lugubrious.
"Troy the only reason I'm here is to hide the shame you brought upon yourself. I mean its unusual and shameful for a crowned prince to get rejected by the woman he chose. So let me help you. I'm willing to do that for you"
"Do what exactly?" I demanded to know.
"Be your wife....." she stressed smiling and rose to her feet gliding forward toward my chair and stopped only when we were inches apart. "Please Troy, give me a chance and we will be happy together I promise you. We've done stuffs together in time past and they were successful. If we both rule this kingdom, our reign will be one that will remain in the mouths of people for a very long time....... Please think about these things" she whispered staring deep into my eyes and slowly closing the gap between us.
Before I could understand what was going on, her lips crashed onto mine and with one strong force, I pushed her away from me causing her to crash into the coat hangar that stood beside.
Jerking up from the chair with every energy in me I yelled at her. "Have you gone crazy Gemma? Do you know what you just did is punishable offense by law and I can make you pay for it?"
"But you wont Troy! You wont" she shot back raising her voice sounding quite confident. "And you know why? Because you're weak... you've always been a weakling Troy. Getting married to you is a favour I'm about to do for you!" She scoffed. "You had the effontery to push me away. I hope you dont regret this" shaking her head and helping herself up she walked out of the office.
I just stood there speechless and shakened at the kind of harsh words Gemma just unleashed at me from her mouth. Was I surprised? Ofcourse I was so surprised. What was Gemma turning into? This was not the girl I knew atleast few days ago. Why was she making me feel that there was more to this than just making her my bride?.
Two weeks has gone by and yet nothing had been said to the people who were growing impatient and anxious with each passing day.
Also, Since Aris has refused to accept meeting me, I decided to visit the Islandes with the excuse of inspecting some sites which might come in handy in my feed and fund project using the opportunity to try and see her.
Words were sent to the duke and duchess before time as usual to make the necessary preparations. Thankfully, the king hadnt the slightest idea but believed only what I told him.
It was going to be a three days journey which meant I will spending three good days there and I intended to make the best out of it.
Arriving at the Islandes, the people were naturally warm and welcoming. They were basically farmers and were into large commercial farming thus one of the major exporters of cash crops in the nation boosting the economy by forty five percent.
The duke and duchess were there to welcome me with a little reception where there was a showcasing of some of their cultural heritage through dance and song. After which I was ushered into the royal suite that has been prepared for me and royal entourage. Gaius was always with me whenever I travelled together with my two personal body guards - Xenon and Aether and of course Charles. Adrian has been away on conflict resolution trip immediately after the ceremony.
Guards of Islandes were also attached to me for my period of stay. Seated at the dining table for dinner was everyone except of course Aris. I wanted to ask about her whereabouts but kept in for later. But then Charles couldnt just keep his mouth shut because he knew of my plans.
"Your grace" he turned to the duchess.
"Yes lord Charles" she responded.
"Haven't seen lady Aris Aris around" he spoke avoiding any contact with me because he knew what he was doing.
"I'm sorry about that. She took a trip to see her aunt lady Veronica of Verona some days ago" she apologized turning to me" Though she was informed of your visit but could not make it back today. Hopefully she will join us tomorrow" she let out a small smile.
"That's okay, provided she's here before we head back to the capital" I smiled and everyone laughed as we continued eating.
The next day had alot of activities lined up for me coupled with fact of meeting Aris and speaking to her one on one for the very first time. The thought of it was making me nervous to meet her.
"Good Morning your highness!" Gaius greeted placing a tray with a hot cup of tea ontop the table. This was my routine every morning so even travelling does not affect it.
"Thank you Gaius, but can I speak to you briefly please" I asked him and he obliged me as I offered him a seat.
Gaius, fifty years of age was a family man with a wife and two children. Like I earlier said, he was made my attendant since I was two and so knows practically everything about me. I would also say, he raised me up even though my parents were there. Any information one wants about me, he can provide it correctly. That's how close we are so I also see him as a father. Some of the things I can't talk about with the king or queen, i easily converse with him..
And since this whole ceremony chaos began, I've not been a to talk to him about how disturbed I am but i was ready to have that talk now. Gaius was a great listener and adviser with so much wisdom.
"Gaius, I know you must have noticed how mentally unstable I've been these past weeks and I know you know why. I wouldn't say it's been easy for me but I have tried to pretend that it's all fine when in the real sense it's not..... Perhaps you dont know but what happened the night of the ceremony - I still lack the explanation to it all but what I know is that I am drawn in every way to lady Aris. Over the weeks I've also tried to talk to her about that night but she's been obviously avoiding me which was one of the things that necessitated this trip" I breathed heavily and continued. "However, she will be returning back today from Verona. I want to meet her but then I dont know if it's the best thing to do. So this is where you come in. What do I do?" I looked at him as he listened keenly.
"U....uhmmm" he cleared his throat. "One thing I am happy about your decision is that you're gradually becoming a man who makes his own decisions whether good or bad. I wouldn't deny the fact that I never saw the king and queen preparing Lady Gemma for you all these years as your bride but seeing them take it to this level even after you've made your choice is disheartening" he shook his head wearing a sad expression. "I understood what happened to you that night" he confessed.
"You do!" My eyes widened while my ears were excessively opened as he nodded affirmatively.
"You fell in love Troy and it was love at first sight. It rarely happens but that's exactly what you felt". He said so softly and calmly that kept me staring at him, confusion plastered all over my face. Love! That was a strong word to describe that electrifying force of pull and energy I felt that day.
"Gauis, are you saying I maybe in love with Aris?"
"Yes your highness" he smiled widely "And it's a good thing that you aspire to want to meet her. Being nervous is part of the feeling but after you both get to know each other and begin to feel comfortable around each other, that anxious feeling would gradually fade away"
"So what do I do?" He looked at me with a smirk on his face.
"Meet with her. If you need all the time, I could go inspect the lands and sites on your behalf" he encouraged and suggested.
See me smiling sheepishly at what he said. I loved the fact that he's always got my back.
"One more thing, see how you could keep persuading the king to make the declaration of Lady Aris. I like her and hopefully she would make a good wife and queen" he stood up and slightly patting my shoulder. "Get dressed Troy, There are lots of things to be done today" and walked out.
Having skipped breakfast because I wanted to eat in one of the finest restaurants in the town. I've heard so much about it especially from Adrian wanted to feed my curiosity.
He always spoke highly of it whenever he visited his special friend here- whom I'm yet to meet.
We were taken a tour of the town especially to the places I had not visited as this was my second visit to the Islandes. After the tour and meeting some very fine humans and seeing some lovely sites, I decided to go have lunch at the diner.
As tradition demands, wherever the crowned prince of the nation was specifically when it has to do with public spaces, no other person should be allowed there until he was done with his business for security reasons.
So everyone was asked out of the diner because of me which I objected to since most of them were already there when I got in. It would have been different if there was a pre information given to them prior to my coming but nothing of such. The only thing I instructed was no other person should be let in until I was done.
I was starting to confirm all that Adrian has been saying as I ate together with Charles. Dont get me wrong, I'm not saying the palace food wasnt delicious but this right here was on a whole new level. We were barely ten minutes into the food when words reaching me informed me of Aris's arrival.
The moment I arrived home, my mother was all over me telling me how wrong my behaviour of avoiding the prince was and it was all about the prince.
"For Gods sake mother, you haven't even welcomed me home properly" I yelled softly changing into more comfortable clothing.
"Aris my dear, I'm sorry but I've been so anxious about whats going on in the prince's head" she admitted cheaply.
"And how does that affect me?"
"Aris, all I'm saying is that I'm very sure you're the reason for this trip he made here. So please make it worthwhile for him. Besides you're his chosen bride" she remarked.
"Chosen bride" I scoffed shaking my head. "Nah I dont think so"
Just about finishing my sentence, we heard conflicting voices outside like something was wrong so we both ran out to see what was wrong.
Taking in the scenario, my eyes fell on him with the same cold shiver running through my body and my feet unable to move. My heartbeat was racing almost exploding inside my chest yet my eyes were still fixed on him not wanting to be moved.
What was the meaning of all these? I hated the way his presence made feel moreso his eyes, they were the most sexiest eyes I have ever seen - deep blue, hot and sexy. They could drown one. He kept staring at me with his slightly parted lips and there was a repeat. Neither of us was moving nor saying anything.
Then my fathers yelling voice brought us back to reality that was when I had a picture of the scenario before me. Two guards were standing infront of the prince like preventing any harm from coming to him. I assumed those were his royal guards because of their uniforms. Then a man who appeared more like a beggar was kneeling down with a sword pointed at his neck by another guard which happens to be an Islandes guard.
"What is going on here?" The Duke's deep voice filling the air as he approached where the prince stood. "I'm very sorry your highness for the commotion" he bowed down apologising followed by the other Islandes gurads.
The whole thing was getting me confused but then my mother had to pull me forward so we could join in the apology that I had no idea of what happened. We knelt down before the prince still in apology.
"Its alright, please you all should get up" he instructed us and turned around from his left to his right. "Please no word of what happened here today should get to the king!" He warned slightly angered and walking away.
My father was very mad at the gate guards and ordered they should be locked up together with the man who caused the chaos yet I still knew nothing about what happened even when I tried asking, i wasnt getting a favourable answer. All they said was that the prince was almost attacked and that alone was something serious. If the king gets to find out that the prince was almost hurt here in our town, it could attract a grave punishment especially at a time like this.
Hours later still unpacking my bags, my room door opened and my mother came in again with a mischievous grin over her face. "Take this to the prince, he's asking of you" she handed me a bottle of wine.
"And why would I offer him wine?"
" To pacify him my dear and take his mind off what happened" she explained as I digested in her words.
I knew exactly what they wanted to achieve so I didnt argue rather I carried out their wish. I dont know why but I chose to shower first thereafter wearing a long wine sleeveless gown, letting my long hair fall to my back, I put on some nice cologne. Picking up the bottle of wine, I strolled toward the royal suite.
There were guards standing out front. So one of them chose to announce my arrival. "Your highness, Lady Aris is here?" He shouted a bit too loud.
I was nervous but pretending to be calm as I kept inhaling and exhaling air continously. Then they opened the door for me and I stepped in. It's been a while I was here so everywhere looked changed. Not wanting to act disrespectful, I remained standing till the prince came out of the bedroom into the living room with every avoidance of eye contact, he offered me a seat.
I curtsied before sitting down mumbling the words "Thank you". For ten good minutes none of us said a word and I was starting to feel really uncomfortable. The room was becoming intensely hot and unbearable for me to sit in. Its either I start the conversation or excuse myself.
Critically thinking, option A is better so I started a conversation "Uhm" I cleared my throat swallowing hard "The duchess said you wanted to see me".
"Hi mi lady! I am Prince Troy Eridian Vernadoz and I would love to know you" he spoke so softly to my surprise with his voice sounding so deep and sexy smiling at me revealing his perfect set of teeth.
Not really what I was expecting, I stuttered for words. He was so forward not beating around the bush so I followed his steps first handing over the wine to him but he insisted we drink it together and brought two glass cups, setting it on the table he opened the wine and poured into them handing a glass to me while sipping on the other. I wasnt one who drank but I couldnt turn him down because I didn't want to upset him again.
"Aris Floros, twenty two years old. Graduate of historical and modern Art. I love reading, politics and travelling. Love nature and music". I introduced myself to him with a small smile.
Slowly taking my hand in his, he spoke "Its a pleasure to meet you Aris" kissing the back of my hands, he looked at me deeply his eyes hovering over my body as he closed his eyes breathing softly and then opening them again.
"What have you done to me Aris seriously? Please I need an explanation. Since that night at the ceremony, I've been lost and so unstable" he confessed exhaling deeply.
Wasnt the prince acting so vulnerable right now? I didn't know what to answer because that was the way I felt even more. I noticed that running away didnt even help matters.
He was still staring at me if only looks can kill waiting for an answer. "I dont know your highness, I'm sorry I made you feel that way. But honestly......, I kinda feel the same way about you and I'm sorry for turning down all your proposals" I pleaded adjusting myself on the chair so I could face him properly.
"I think we're in love with each other" he said without even mincing words.
The prince was too forward with words seeing the way he said the l-word so easily.
I coughed hard withdrawing my hands from his to enable me calm myself down then he stood up, moved away and came back handing me a glass of water. "Thanks" I accepted it and gulped down all of its content at once.
"Nah' I'm better now" I lied abruptly as he placed his hands on my back patting it lightly to ease the chokes.
It felt kinda good having him rub my back that way. We stayed that way for few minutes before I told him I was good and he withdrew his hands.
We got talking more deeper explaining all of our childhood experiences up till the later. At some points we laughed out hard when the scenario was funny.
Gradually we were becoming relaxed and more comfortable around each other while sipping our wine Ofcourse not realizing we had emptied the whole bottle till he raised it to refill my glass and nothing came out.
Then he brought a second bottle and opened it as we continued our discussion. The he made a formal proposal to me. I was shocked when he said "Lady Aris Floros of Islandes, would you be mine?"
Staring at him helplessly with so much going through my mind at the same time and weighing the gravity of those words he just said, my eyes became teary and I didnt know why maybe I was being too emotional but then I accepted his proposal because I liked him but I didnt take it serious because traditionally it is meant to be an open proposal not a hidden one done under the influence of alcohol.
But since there was no ring yet, he removed his necklace from his neck and wore it on me. One which represents only the prince. "Please do not take it off because it looks beautiful on you" he said admiring me more. I held the pendant in my hands taking in the beauty of it and wondering why he would give me such a priceless piece?
We continued chatting into the late night that by the time we felt we had exhausted our agenda, we were both highly intoxicated but still in control of our sanity.
I didnt want it all to end. Watching him talk, laugh, smile was an adorable sight to see. It felt we've known ourselves all our lives the way we flowed with each other but then not wanting to give room for anyone to think otherwise, I decided to take my leave with the hope that tomorrow will be better for us.
He offered to walk me down to my room which I didnt object to. Just as I stood up struggling to find my balance I saw myself falling but then he caught me before I got to the floor. Still in his arms blushing, he leaned forward toward my face, with one hands behind my back to hold me in place, his other hands caressed my cheeks softly, slowly moving to my eyes down to my nose, he drew his hands gently to my lips, stroking it from one end to the other.
I closed my eyes taking in a deep breath as my body was responding to his touch, slightly parting my lips to take one of his finger between my lips, he raised me up to my feet moving away and turning his back at me like he just committed a crime, he ran his hands through his hair mumbling. "I'm sorry about that" he apologized.
Why was he doing that? We did nothing wrong. Without turning back at me, I walked toward the door, alerting the guards that I was coming out when he ran and held my wrists. "I told you i would walk with you" he reminded me and firming his grip on my hands, we left the room.