Several Steps Away from the Sickroom...

Alexander really had no right to judge the situation between Adrian and Annalise. For all he knew, the terminated relationship was just as much Adrian's fault as it was Annalise's. Adrian had never been completely open about the secret love between himself and the lady, probably because Alexander's own personal battles had begun to escalate around that particular time.

But the Lady Annalise was acting downright rude, and no mistaking! Why, if Alexander had been any less chivalrous, he'd have shaken Annalise by the shoulders and told her what he really thought of her.

But, no. There would be time for that later.

Alexander noticed a small droplet of sweat trickle down Annalise's forehead. Well, good. At least she wasn't as cool and composed as she appeared to be. Maybe she would turn out to be human, after all - though he highly doubted it.

Alexander's heartbeat sped up with every step he took toward the sickroom. What if Adrian didn't respond well? What if his illness was only worsened at the sight and sound of the woman he had once loved? What if the shock was too much for him to bear? What if...and Alexander felt the familiar fiend of the need for alcohol wash over him. Again.

Slowing his steps slightly, Alexander let out a long breath and set his jaw. No time for that. No time for that at all.

But goodness knew how much good just a brief trip to the wine cellar would do...

The sound of Annalise clearing her throat broke Alexander's thoughts. Stopping, he turned and realized that his guest had fallen quite a ways behind him. "Are you alright?" Alexander inquired.

"Yes, of course," Annalise replied, and she resumed her walking.

But Alexander wasn't convinced. "You're worried," he said slowly. Alexander, you fool! You're so wrapped up in your own thoughts that you aren't paying attention to the needs of your own guest!

"I guess I'm a little nervous," Annalise whispered, and it was then that her true feelings began to show. Ceasing her steps altogether, the lady buried her head in her hands and let out a long groan that was followed by a torrent of tears.

Completely taken aback, Alexander hesitated, then did the only thing he knew to do. If a woman cried, it was his job to comfort, wasn't it?

Apparently, however, Annalise didn't agree, for the moment Alexander's hand touched her shoulder, she wrenched herself away and removed her hands long enough to cast a disgruntled glance in Alexander's direction. At a loss, Alexander stepped back.

"Are you going to need a moment?"

"What do you think?" Annalise sniffed from behind her hands.

"I'm sorry, Annalise. I really am. If this was any less important, I wouldn't have forced you to come."

There was no response, only the sound of muffled crying. Alexander bit his lip and looked at the floor, uncomfortable. Well, what was he supposed to do? Let Annalise have her way?

Let Adrian slip away?

Not likely! Annalise could have her time to weep, but now was simply not that time. "Annalise, do you want to tell me what's wrong so that we can figure out what to do?"

"Fine, I'll see him," Annalise choked out. "Just don't expect me to be alright."

"I would never expect that of you," Alexander replied.

Clearly, Annalise interpreted the Prince's words in a way that hadn't been intended, for she set back her shoulders, looking extremely miffed. "Fine, then! I'll go. Now, in fact."

Wholly unprepared for Annalise's mood swings, Alexander stared after Annalise as she made her way down the hallway. What sort of hurricane had he unleashed in his castle?

The End

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