One Last Chance
When I woke up, my body felt like it was soaked in a bucket of sweat. I peeled back the blankets that stuck to me like a second skin. My clothes felt like they were made of lead. I dragged myself to the bathroom to splash cold water on my face to wake me up, but it stung like the slap she gave me after I kissed her. A dream I’ve had ever since I hit puberty. She had been an awkward kid, had waddled around the glass palace sliding on in her socks, then ended up tripping over her long brown curly hair. Her high pitched screams echoed throughout the room. To be honest, I used to think she was only given the crown because she was so goofy.
There couldn’t possibly be anything else this clumsy princess could be good for, so they wanted her to feel special. It was also an added bonus to my four-year-old brain that it caused my cousin Ariadne’s face to glow as red as the peppers their grandfather loved to eat. Her black curly hair would blow up so she looked like an angry feather duster the servants could use to dust the entire palace.
I looked into the large mirror in my bathroom. I didn’t recognize the long-faced man in front of me. My normally bright green eyes looked as dark as the blood I always joked that my cousin drank from her victims. Only instead of using the neck as her source for blood, she decided to use the other head only males possessed.
She had plenty of willing victims though. It was the power of compulsion, the legends are true. I slapped my cheeks in order to put the life back in them. However, like my soul these days, my cheeks remained pale and colorless. The only color visible on my face were the large dark bags that had set up camp under my eyes for the past few weeks since I saw the rock glistening on her ring finger sealing her fate. Her dark blue eyes were icy like her glare.
She had passed me without a second glance.
Our fingers brushed secretly in the ballroom. The ballroom had a way of making me feel like a convict walking to his death. Every step echoed off of the stone walls. The day she accepted the proposal. I stood rigid against the wall. My hands folded calmly in front of me. I kept my eyes on the nearest stone pillar so I could not see the way the light reflected off of her ring. Her brown curls were in perfect ringlets that didn’t dare fall out of place. We stood a few inches from each other, but we were the farthest we had ever been. I heard a knock at the door which caused me to shake my head in order to shake the ghosts of memories from my brain. I gave my cheek one last slap, a guy can dream, right?
I straightened the wrinkles from my suit pants. Even though my life is ruined, I still had a family name to uphold. I breathed deeply before I opened the large door.
“Your Majesty, to what do I owe this pleasure?” I said, hoping I was doing a convincing job as the doting nobleman, the number one cog in the machine. The hope was that he never knew that I frequently pictured slicing his neck with my knife from dinner, or an unfortunate tumble down the stairs. I would let her grieve for a few days before offering my generous proposal to marry the princess.
James smiled at me his cold eyes looking me up and down. A small smile moved across his face before he met my eyes. “You clean up well for a guard,” James said, keeping his voice light.
“Well, I wouldn’t want to be underdressed for your big day.” I smiled because I imagined the large young prince taking a tumble down the stairs, his blood staining the large marble staircase which held led to the entrance of the court.
“No you wouldn’t want to disappoint your best friend,” he said, the smile still planted on his face. I now understood why he was called the Benevolent Barbarian. His charming smile could lure one into a false sense of security. You could think you were safe one minute and next thing you knew your head is being separated from your neck before you could even form a rejection. The truth is, though, that I had been studying the man in front of me for months.
I knew that the false sense of complacency was just a front to hide the psycho he kept locked inside. My brain swam with images of Ana being slammed on the bed as he pounded against her despite her screamed protests.
“She listens to you,” James said, the sweetness of his voice gave me a toothache.
His smile made my skin crawl. I wanted to crawl back in the shower and scrub myself. He arched an eyebrow as he leaned against the cold stone doorframe. What exactly was he implying? My mind flashed back to the night he left Ana’s room, his shirt soaked in sweat. He had looked so smug then with a large bulge in his pocket.
Did he know my hands has covered every square inch of her body? Could he tell she was out of breath when he knocked on her door later that night?
“I’m afraid I have some bad news. I would hate to start my new life with Ana on a bad note,” his blue eyes filled with mock concern. His lips protruded outward.
I scoffed bitterly. “There isn’t a way it could have started on a good note.” I returned a smug smile before James produced a yellowed envelope. My eyes felt like they were going to explode as I recognized the curvy handwriting that was clearly faded. I felt goosebumps form on my skin as my blood ran cold. As I reached for the letter my hands were shaking. I held my breath as I opened the envelope as if I were opening a very precious gift where someone wanted to keep the wrapping paper. I unfolded the letter carefully and sighed.
“My Dearest Ana,
It pains me to say that negotiations have not gone as I had hoped. This being said, your mother and I will no longer be able to attend your wedding.”
I rolled my eyes. Ana was going to freak out. She was already nervous about this alliance. How was I supposed to tell her that her parents won’t even be there to watch her sell her soul to her own personal devil? I brought my attention back to the letter.
“Don’t worry though darling. I have chosen Riley to walk you down the aisle, for he would do just about anything for you. I know you will make a lovely queen. I look forward to seeing some photos of your special day. I will see you as soon as I can.
I finished the letter. My heart pounding. “This is my chance. It’s showtime.” I thought to myself as I headed down the hall toward the main ballroom.