There were absolutely no words to describe the King's castle. The grandeur Cassandra had seen when she had come to Marcos' and Gabelle's anniversary celebration had only been a small glimpse of the glory of which King Amadeo was capable. Everything, from the tapestries to the floor designs to the lamp fixtures, was exquisite. But the best part was the ballroom.
Opening the door for Cassandra, the King watched with pleasure on his face as Cassandra surveyed the room. Jaw dropped in awe, she spun around to take in the full beauty of the place. Turning to the King, she smiled. "This is perfect," she said, voice trembling from how much she meant the words.
"Do you really like it?" the King asked, genuinely excited.
He is desperate for my affection and admiration, Cassandra realized. No, he doesn't need either my affection or my admiration, but...he wants it. The thought was enough to cause Cassandra's heart constrict in...in...
No. It couldn't be. There was no way that love could be involved in what was unfolding.
The King had watched the myriad of thoughts flicker in Cassandra's eyes. Stepping forward, he gently placed his hand on her shoulder. "Are you alright?"
Cassandra looked away. "I was just...I was just thinking..."
The King waited patiently, that beautiful face of his openly displaying his heart.
"You...you really want me to be here."
"Yes!" King Amadeo exclaimed, eyes filling with tears. He put his other hand on Cassandra's other shoulder and shook her ever so slightly - not out of frustration, but out of an excitement so pure and true that Cassandra couldn't help but laugh, delighted. "Yes!" he said again.
And then, something changed.
The smile slowly faded from the King's face as he searched Cassandra's eyes. As he brushed Cassandra's hair back, an expression of sadness filled his eyes. Cassandra wanted to ask him what was wrong, but she already knew.
"Do you want to stay here?" the King asked.
Cassandra began to nod, but then, she lowered her head. For even though she wanted to stay with the King and make him happy forever, she knew the truth. Something within her was already missing Hadrian's presence.
"What does he have that makes you want him so?" the King whispered.
"I don't know," Cassandra whispered. And it was true. In that moment, she honestly couldn't fathom why she still wanted Hadrian...she just did.
"Do you doubt me?"
Shaking her head vigorously, Cassandra immediately replied, "No! No, I don't doubt you at all, Amadeo, I just - "
In that moment, Amadeo's eyes brightened, and he gave a soft laugh of utter joy. He grasped Cassandra's hand and held it tightly in both of his own.
"What? What is it?" Cassandra asked, wondering what had occurred.
"Nothing. Nothing, it's just..." Amadeo laughed softly. "That's the first time you've called me 'Amadeo.'"