Suddenly Kieran appeared.
The soldiers looked alarmed and knelt on the ground, heads bowed. How many people were under his control? I wondered
"Miss Evee does actually have an invitation," Kieran announced, bewildering me. "And if she didn't, she would, of course, be my honoured guest and therefore the Queen's."
He controls the Queen? I thought, shocked.
Kieran produced a golden envelope from his pocket. "I was merely keeping this safe for her."
He handed it to me. I took it, not wanting to be thrown into a dungeon where my chances of escape would be almost nil.
The soldier who seemed to be in control of the others said "I did not realise, Sir Kieran. Do accept my apologies."
Kieran nodded slightly. There was no movement after this: the soldiers were obviously expecting Kieran to dematerialise.
"Shouldn't you be attending to your other duties?" he asked suggestively.
"Of course," the lead soldier replied hurriedly. There had been a hint of menace in Kieran's tone. The soldiers rose to their feet, bowed and turned around, almost running to get away from him.
"Er.. thanks," I said uncertainly to Kieran.
"You're welcome." He looked into my eyes for the first time since appearing. I tried to hold onto my thoughts but it was in vain.
"Cut it as close as you like this time," he said, with almost affection in his tone. But then he was kissing me and while I surrendered to the sensations, I realised (which took an immense amount of concentration) he was trying to make it easier for me to lose. I struggled to stop wanting to give in to him (which seemed oddly easier than it ever had before) and I eventually pushed him away.
Kieran looked startled. "You've never stopped the kiss before."
"Guess my will's gotten stronger."
Kieran looked confused but promptly disappeared, either satisfied with how much of my time he'd wasted or faced with the fact I still didn't want to surrender. I felt proud of myself. If I could get this far, I could get to the end of it.
I wondered how many levels there were. This third one wasn't my deepest fear, at least I didn't think so. But I had no time to contemplate that. In fact, I wished I did have some time outside of these situations in which I could think about Kieran's motives and perhaps steel myself for the next fear.
Kieran's voice floated in the air beside my ear, though he hadn't rematerialised.
"'I'll give you that ... in exchange for something else."
"What?" I asked.
He chuckled in my ear. Not answering my question, he said "Time's ticking."
I immediately ran forwards, through the twisting tunnels. How could I have let my thoughts wander when so much was at stake? Perhaps it was Kieran's doing again. At the end of these tunnels, I was horrified to find a solid rock wall. But then I saw a ladder propped up against the wall on the right which led up to a trapdoor which looked very out of place in the ceiling of the cavern.
I climbed up as fast as I could and yanked at the iron ring in the square of wood. The trapdoor opened downwards and I hoisted myself onto a wooden floor. I leant down to close the trapdoor, stood up and dusted myself down. I hoped I looked presentable because a dirty-looking girl might arouse suspicion at what must be a very formal event. I looked down, noticing a change in the feel of the material I was wearing. To my surprise, I was wearing an azure satin ballgown with sleeves beginning just before my shoulder and ending just below it on my arm in a large frill. The gown flowed right down to my ankles. Upon my feet, were matching open-toed heels.
Suddenly, Kieran materialised, almost giving me a heart attack (he'd done it so fast).
"Very fetching. Shame it's not more revealing."
I glared as he grinned.
To my great indignation, he stepped forwards, grabbed my hands (I had felt him gain control over my mind and suddenly become still) and waltzed me around the room, which appeared to be a small cupboard of some sort. Around us were tools which though looked quite old and mostly unfamiliar revealed that we were in a shed.
I looked up and lost myself in those black eyes. Kieran was smiling, evidently enjoying himself and I found myself smiling too. I was reminded of my desire to worship him.
"You wouldn't need to worship me," he murmured, lowering his face so his mouth was almost brushing against my ear. Internally, I trembled. "I wouldn't ask much of you. Just that you enjoyed my company."
I realised he was talking about what would happen if I gave in or lost.
"Look, can't you feel yourself sliding? Why hold on when it's so much easier - and so attractive an idea - to let go?"
His voice was drawing me further in. Distantly, I realised this was very dangerous but I couldn't seem to care.
Unexpectedly, he broke away. "I like this level. I may just join you for the dance."
He twirled on the spot and suddenly was wearing a black waistcoat over a white shirt and an amazing matching tailcoat. To complete the suit, he wore black trousers and a bow tie which was decorated to look like the night sky. He looked absolutely stunning. I found the sight of him standing there looking talll and magnificent took my breath away. He linked his arm with me and I found myself being led out of the shed. I didn't want to try to get away: I looked forward to dancing with him. And wow, how good did that make me look? To be dancing with Kieran? I was so not good enough for him.
"Oh but you are," Kieran said, responding to my unspoken thought. He smiled at me, and my heartbeat accelerated as I fell into the depths of his eyes.
He led me through a beautfiul garden where roses, marigolds, daffodils, lilies and all sorts of other pretty exotic flowers grew.
"We could have a garden like this one," he told me, sounding very much like a suitor discussing his future life with the woman of his dreams. "We could plant all your favourite flowers, with scents to excite your senses and colours to make you feel wild. I would chase you through it and we'd tumble upon the softest lawn you ever imagined and there we'd share sweet kisses."
He was facing forwards as he said these things. I looked up at his face. His expression was one of delight at the thought of such things. This troubled me. There was something about the way he was talking, the way his eyes shone, his relaxed air which made me question the nature of his intentions. At that moment, he didn't seem evil at all and had I met him like this, I would have laughed at the thought of him being the mastermind of the sort of game I was playing.
He led me through a glass door into a gigantic ballroom with mirrors all along the hallway on the wall facing us. Upon the ceiling were vast amounts of gold, shaped into animals' and people's heads, framing the paintings of cherubs and mythical figures. My neck ached after a while of staring up at these, so I looked back down at Kieran who was waiting patiently for me to finish my admiration. This was so unlike him.
Music started and I saw other couples around the room stand up from the tables around which they were drinking glasses of wine and champagne.
"Would you do me the great honour of dancing with me tonight, Evee?" Kieran asked.
I smiled and nodded. I completely forgot that I had a time limit or that there was anything dangerous about my situation. I even could ignore the fact that everyone else in the room was inhumanly beautiful and had predator-like grace.
Kieran led me out onto the centre of the floor and we began to waltz. Something inside me seemed to know what to do, and even though my feet were acting purely out of instinct, the waltz seemed to flow naturally and perfectly. It was as if I had been born to dance with Kieran. As we twirled around the room, I watched Kieran, completely absorbed in him. He returned my gaze, always smiling, always with light and warmth in his eyes. He held me gently as if I were delicate and precious. The whole experience really was bemusing. I found myself totally relaxed and content. I also found I didn't ever want this to end, which I realised when I looked back on it - since I couldn't think of anything during the dance - was exactly what Kieran wanted too. This is what he meant by me spending forever with him.