There was no going back now.
Zahra tiptoed down the hallway, careful to keep her footsteps from echoing off the walls. If there was anything she knew how to do, it was walk without making a noise. Ever so cautiously, she followed the footsteps of the prince. Was she stalking him? Yes. But only because she got the feeling that her fate was directly dependent on his.
Ducking behind a corner, Zahra could practically feel the prince's suspicion. What would he do if he found out she'd been following him? Perhaps he'd kill her. Yet somehow, deep within her bones, Zahra knew the prince just wasn't the killing type.
Peeking around the corner, Zahra saw that Prince Alexander was holding a key that caught the drafts of light and sent them to the walls.
And the door Alexander was unlocking with the key had the words "Wine Cellar" carved into it.
Not knowing how she knew, Zahra was chilled to the bone at the realization that for some reason, she just knew the prince shouldn't be there. Stepping from the shadows, Zahra watched as Alexander hesitated, then feverishly jammed the key in the lock.
The door creaked open.
Zahra hadn't expected such words of respect to pour from her mouth, but they had. Awkward, she braced herself for another yelling.
But the yelling didn't come. Still turned away from Zahra, Alexander stopped, shoulders heavy. For a moment, Zahra wondered if he'd heard her. And then, he whispered quietly, "Don't you know when to leave a man alone?"
"Yes, and I can tell that this isn't one of those times," Zahra replied, surprised at the way her tone didn't portray bitterness of any sort. "I know I'm barging into business that isn't my own, but do you think you should really be here?"
"I have every right to be here."
"That wasn't my question."
Sighing, Alexander turned to face his stalker. "What, pray tell, do you want? Say the word, and I'll fetch it for you. I've no mind to argue."
"I didn't come to argue." Zahra advanced toward the prince, determined to speak her mind.
"Then what did you come here for? Certainly, you didn't come to watch a man in his weakness." The words were spoken with an unexpected tinge of self-loathing.
"I don't know why I came," Zahra confessed. Then, she held her head higher. No use looking like an old fool. "I was curious to know what is going on. If I'm to be held captive by a prince who doesn't know how to control himself enough to properly run his kingdom, then I'm going to find out why he's acting this way. Offense completely intended." There. At least now the prince would know she wasn't offering him a makepeace or anything.
"No offense taken, since said prince is completely misunderstood by said captive."
"Well, said captive thinks said prince is too caught up in his own selfishness that he doesn't even care about what said captive is feeling about the whole situation."
"Confound it all, Sara, do you ever give up?" Alexander exclaimed, but there was the slightest hint of a smile in his tone.
Smiling ever so slightly, Zahra put her hands on her hips. "Said prince is irritated, is he?"
For a moment, the prince's eyes danced with mischief, but before he could say anything, he was overcome once again by his own weaknesses. Zahra's heart pounded as she watched him reach for a wine bottle. Would he really succumb? "So, who's Tia?"
Alexander lost his grip on the bottle. It crashed to the floor, causing shards of glass to fly every whichway. He cursed loudly, then half-shouted, "You know better than to ask that!"
"Did you love her?"
Whirling around, Alexander stepped toward Zahra. "Let me tell you something, woman. I am not loved, and I do not love. Let there be no mistaking that."
"Whoa, whoa, whoa, there! Hold your tongue, Alexander. Ah, Your Highness. I think I deserve to know what's going on."
"You deserve to know nothing." Reaching for another bottle, Alexander waved Zahra away. "You've said quite enough."
"For crying out loud, Alexander, don't drink that!"