Following the guard down the hallway, Amadeo racked his brain for who might want to meet with him. Who was requesting a meeting? Could it be that Lemuel Morris? No, he was away at the castle.
But when Amadeo reached the one who wanted to see him, he instantly remembered.
It was the man who had stolen Cassandra away from the King, claiming the broken-eyed girl for his own.
The man was waiting for Amadeo with a cruel smile on his face. "So we meet again," he said, voice low and masking a deep level of anger. "You might remember me. I'm the one who holds the heart of the wretch you think you're madly in love with."
Amadeo was irked, but he knew better to give the man the reaction he wanted. "I do remember you, yes," he allowed.
Nodding, the man laughed. "I'm Hadrian. You might want to remember that."
"I wasn't planning on forgetting."
Hadrian's dark eyes spoke the hatred he was not admitting. "And you, being the King, assume that you can steal my woman's heart in an instant, don't you?" he hissed, voice dropping to an enragedly low pitch. "I swear, if you think you can take her from me, you're completely wrong. She belongs to me."
"She isn't merchandise to be owned, Hadrian. You know this." Amadeo struggled to contain the animosity he felt toward this man whom he hardly even knew.
"All I know is that you're trying to steal her, but you'll be unsuccessful," Hadrian said, recovering his calm and raising his eyebrows. "What makes you think she'll want to see you? You represent everything she's running from. I found her when she collapsed from her horse on her way back from the castle. For all she knows, I saved her."
"You saved her, but for what? For a life of brutality? You only saved her because you want her for yourself."
"She doesn't need to know that."
Swallowing his frustration, Amadeo set back his shoulders. "I think she already does."
Pointing a dirty, craggy finger at Amadeo, Hadrian shook his head. "You think you can whisk her away, but you can't. Just try. I dare you to try." He tipped his head back and laughed. "Oh, yes, I dare you to try! We'll find out just who Cassandra really is. It ought to be entertaining."
And then, Hadrian left the room, his laughter ricocheting off the walls. It was all Amadeo could do not to follow him and show him just what a King could do.
But, no. Hadrian was Cassandra's choice to make.