Prince Alexander sat in the throneroom, listening as one of his counselors droned on and on about what to do with the girl who had shed blood on the sacred grounds. It would seem that no matter where he went, Alexander was plagued by the fiery Sara.
The throneroom doors were shoved open as Adrian entered, his face filled with concern. "I'd like a moment with the prince," he said. Glancing at the attendants, he clarified himself. "Alone."
At Alexander's agreement, the attendants scattered. They all knew they could trust Adrian. And even if they'd thought Adrian would bring harm to the prince, Alexander knew they wouldn't care. Nobody cared about him. And it was his own fault, considering the disgrace he'd brought down upon his head.
"I think it's a bad idea," Adrian said, not waiting for Alexander's greeting. "And I think you know that it's a bad idea."
Alexander was irritated. Not so much by Adrian, but by everything in his life. "How did you know what I was thinking?"
"I know that look in your eyes. I can tell when the Alexander I'm close to gets replaced by the Alexander who cares more about satisfying his own desires."
"It's a good thing you're my friend, Adrian, or I'd have you punished for saying that."
Adrian raised his eyebrows. "I'm not going to lie to you, Alexander. Asking Sara to be your mistress is the worst idea I've ever heard. Have you so quickly forgotten what happened with Tia? I hate it when your judgement is tainted by hunger."
"Oh, I suppose having a mistress is worse than my father's harem?" Alexander exclaimed. "For all my faults, Adrian, you must admit that I'm alot more moral than most other men in my position."
"Are you really that heartless?"
The words took Alexander by surprise. Disturbed, he stood, facing Adrian. Finally, he said in a voice hoarse from weariness, "Can't you see all I search for is fulfillment, Adrian? But, no. You can't know what I'm saying. For all your chivalry, you have never loved a woman as I have. Do you know what it's like to love and be loved by a woman who, in your eyes, is more beautiful than the starriest night? Do you know what it's like to have someone love you as though you're more valuable that all the finest gold in the world? Do you know what it's like to hold her in your arms and promise her the world?"
"So it's love you're after, not relationships you pursue just for the challenge and satisfaction of it?"
"One might say that."
"Well, my liege, let me tell you something. If it's love you're looking for, you won't find it in asking Sara to be anything less than a wife. She won't agree to it, and you know it's no way to love anyone. I strongly advise you against it, Alexander. Not only for your sake, but for hers, too. If you truly want to love Sara, then don't follow through with this."
The prince felt the same old soul sickness clench his heart, and he turned away, hopeless. "You're right," he said quietly. "I won't say I won't do it, but you're right." He closed his eyes. "Is there no beauty left for me in this world?"
"Perhaps your vision of beauty is skewed."
"What I wouldn't give for something to drink right now."
Adrian stiffened. "Alexander..."
Scowling, Alexander turned back to Adrian and shook his head. "I'm not saying I'll follow through with it, Adrian. After all, I did give you the key to the wine cellar. How pathetic that I can't even trust myself." Exiting the throneroom, Alexander paused in the doorway and met Adrian's eyes. "I'm tired of searching for beauty, Adrian. So if I can't find beauty, then I'll find fulfillment. I will stop at nothing to attain it."
He headed in the direction of Sara's prison cell.