I wake up the next morning in my mother’s bed. Correction, my bed. In my new room… What is it going to take before whatever or whomever this is to stop and leave me and Aquebonica alone? What else can they take?
Heart suddenly cold with fear, I fall out of bed and run to the next room where Derek’s staying. I quickly open the door and see him sitting in a chair by the window, polishing his sword.
He looks up with an amused grin on his face. “Everything alright, Alyessia?”
“I wanted to make sure you were still here and that nothing had happened to you, too.”
Derek sets his sword aside and crosses the room to me. “And the fear that I could have left you caused you to leave your chambers in this?” he asks, still wearing the amused grin.
I look down at my nearly sheer nightgown and blush. “Oh…I, um…”
Derek laughs and slips off his jacket and drapes it around my shoulders. “I’m still here, Alyessia, don’t worry. I’ll get Verlaine and you can get dressed.”
“I dressed myself just fine for four years while I was gone, Derek. I don’t need your mother’s help anymore.”
Derek smiles again. “That was when you were in hiding. You’re queen now, and you need to start dressing like one again.”
I look down and blush.
“Have you thought more about last night?” he asks softly as he gently lifts my chin.
“Which part? Many things happened last night,” I say softly, knowing which one he’s mentioning.
“The part after you won Chariot and…” his voice trails off as footsteps quickly walk down the corridor, hard leather slapping painfully loud against the marble.
“Crown Princess Alyessia, a message for you,” says a page as he hands me a yellow scroll.
“I’m not sure, your majesty. It was at the page’s station with your name on it,” he says as he fully takes in me standing in my nightgown.
Derek noisily slides his sword into its sheath, a subtle threat. The page’s eyes immediately leave my apparel and settle on everything else in the corridor.
I unroll the scroll and look over the fancy cursive script.
If it would so please Queen-to-be Alyessia, I am having a banquet and ball in her majesty’s honor three days hence. If the lovely queen-to-be would attend her lowly servant’s banquet, I would be most honored.
I flip the scroll around, searching for a signature, or anything to help identify the sender. Nothing.
“What does it say, Alyessia?” Derek asks, glaring at the page.
“We’ve been invited to a ball, but I’m not sure where.”
“Is there any way to find out who sent this?” Derek asks the page.
“Well, I could always check the fralkains, but it would cost you extra.”
“You’re keeping your life after what you’ve just done, page. Find out who sent this and come report back to me.”
The page nods, his face pale and eyes wide, and my face the same. I’ve never seen Derek this angry before. What did the page do to enrage Derek? The page scurries away, and I gently put a hand on Derek’s shoulder, making him face me.
“What was his crime, Derek?”
Derek shakes his head. “Something you shouldn’t hear. But if I ever catch anyone looking at you like that again, they’ll be lucky if they die soon.”
“Derek?” I ask with concern. “Is everything alright?”
He sighs. “Alyessia, you know I love you. Is that not enough?”
I blink. “What? Derek, what does that have to do with anything?”
“You might as well know what my parents and I keep talking about.”
Suddenly, everything fits together and for the first time, I see the full picture. “Derek, this…I just…”
He leans closer, forcing me to stand against the wall as his forehead rests against mine. “I know that things have been rushed since you came back, but let me be the stability in your life, Alyessia. Please.”
I don’t have time to respond before he presses his lips against mine. He deepens the kiss and pushes me back against my door, the gemstone handle pressing hard into the small of my back.
“Alyessia…” he whispers as he gently brushes his lips against mine again and down my neck to rest at the hollow in my throat.
“Later today, Derek. That’s when I’ll give you my answer. But whoever is behind this has already taken away my sisters, my childhood, and my mother. I don’t want them to take you away, too. That’s something I couldn’t stand if they took.”
Derek reaches behind me and opens my door. “I shall fetch Verlaine for you, Princess Alyessia.” With a stiff bow, he turns on his heel and walks away. I close my door and lean against it, still tasting Derek’s kiss as the dream voice mockingly taunts me.
How long does it take to die from a broken heart?