My eyes fluttered open to darkness.
Someone was lying beside me, their chest rising and falling with each breath that they took. I remembered the events from last night and groaned inwardly. If anyone ever found out about this, especially my father..
'Urgh,' I muttered, sitting up. Heavy curtains were drawn shut which explained why the room was immersed in insipid golden light. My dress from the previous night lay crumpled upon the floor, Harry's formal white shirt laying beside it. As I began to root through my wardrobe for a suitable outfit, the figure on the bed stirred.
'Good morning,' I replied without turning round. Finally pulling out a pristine white dress with embroidered flowers round the scooping neckline, I slipped it easily over my head.
Harry began to dress silently and I waited until he was finished before turning to face him.
'You should go. If anyone sees you leaving my room though, I'll be in trouble.'
'Yes well. Thank you for last night.' With that pathetic last line, he left me alone. I slumped on the bed, my head between my hands and sighed at the regret that wasted no time in settling within me. Why did I always let myself down like that? Surely I was better?
'Miss,' Mary knocked at the door. 'Are you ready?'
'Yes Mary,' I called, standing up and smoothing my dress. She had opened the door when I noticed a black sock curled up on the ground. I kicked it under my bed just as Mary appeared.
'Your father is requesting to see you.'
'Thank you Mary.'
I followed her out of the room, along pretentiously overdecorated hallways with wallpaper striped in red and gold and past black candelabras perched on expensive wooden tables. The large glass window at the very end of the hallway allowed the bright sunshine to stream through, almost guiding our way.
My sister emerged from her room with immaculate timing.
'Father wants to see me?' she enquired.
'Yes, he would like to see both of you.'
As we both trailed Mary, Madeline leaned in to whisper to me.
'I didn't see you last night. Where did you disappear to?'
I blushed furiously, refusing to look at her. I hoped she wouldn't notice. 'I wasn't feeling too well so I went to bed early.'
'Oh,' she frowned. 'But you're better now?'
Our father was waiting for us in the garden. As we passed giant marble statues and hedges carefully shaped into various designs, I noticed our father was not alone. He was stood with another male, dressed all in dark colours, looking particularly smart. As we approached further, I gasped involuntarily at his handsome features. Eyes that I could only describe as an intense shade of gold stared inquisitively at us. Black hair carefully combed fell just short of his ears and as he tilted his head, catching the sun at just the right angle, I could have sworn I saw a streak of red in there as well. I estimated him to be six foot tall.
I felt my sister gasp beside me also, probably taken in by his looks like I was.
'Natalia, Madeline,' our father spoke fondly. 'There is someone I would like you to meet. Due to the recent circumstances of people mysteriously disappearing, I have hired a castle for the guard. He will be in charge of investigating the disappearances as well as protecting you two for when I am not around. This is Mr Brink Ereon.'
'How do you do,' he took a small bow. We both curtseyed in response.
'These are my daughters. Madeline is nineteen and is due to be wed and Natalia is seventeen.' I felt my sister bristle at my father's mention of her arranged wedding. I knew how much she abhorred the idea.
'It's a pleasure to meet you,' Brink murmured.
Brink. There was an unusual name. I wondered briefly where it had originated from.
'I shall give you a tour of the castle, make sure you know your surroundings,' father turned back to the newcomer. 'If you'd like to follow me.'
After another little bow, Brink turned to leave. I stared after him, curiously.
'I wish father wouldn't mention my arranged wedding,' Madeline hissed. 'It makes me so angry.'
'Why? You do not know this Brink fellow.'
'I know, but perhaps I should like to.'
'Madeline! You cannot do that. You are getting married. I, on the other hand...'
I laughed as she glared at me.