William arrives at my door the next day and throws his arms around me. “Oh dear, I’m so sorry.” His voice is genuine and I'm actually happy to see him. He seemed like he could've been a good friend if Daniel wasn't always so jealous of him or if I had more leisure time. Of course, now I have all the time in the world, so I'm hoping we can see each other more often.
I smile small when we break apart. "It's okay. Thank you."
William nods. "Of course. So, tell me, how have you been? Has the press found you yet?"
I roll my eyes and open up the cabinet that hold our cups. "Would you like anything to drink?" It's kind of surreal to see Lord William Morburn coexisting in my space instead of the intricate palace, but I shake off those feelings.
He nods politely. "Water please."
"I course, and to answer you're question, sort of. They definitely know I'm here, but I've kind of been somewhat of a recluse so they haven't gotten a clear shot of me."
I hand him the glass of water and he accepts it with a thank you and takes a sip before gracefully placing it on the breakfast bar with minimal noise. "That's good to hear, they can be quite persistent. I'm glad to see you're faring well, I mean, as well as someone can in your situation." He amends.
I nod. "Yeah, it's pretty crappy, but I'm coping." William doesn't know everything, all he knows is that things went south between us. I never told him of our contract, if that ever got out, Daniel would be ruined. As much as that thought satisfies a dark need for retribution inside me, it makes me feel more shitty. I don't want to hurt him-- pathetically, I want him to love me. Of course, I know that isn't possible so I'll do everything in my power to keep his secret.
He takes another royal sip of his water. "Of course. If I may ask, what are you planning on doing next?"
I raise a brow and lift my cup up to my lips. "What do you mean?"
He gives me a look. "Well, you're still legally married to him, and speaking of legal... there is the matter of that pesky contract."
Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be standing back in my parent's kitchen drinking a glass of water with a Lord of Verilia, and never did I think I would spit water across the breakfast bar at him and then erupt into violent choking.
But, I suppose there's a first for everything.
William's eyes widen and he springs into action. He wraps his arms around me and rubs circles into my back all while cooing and saying kind words. Occasionally, he'll hit in between my shoulder blades to try and get me to stop coughing. It's a nice gesture, to see that he actually cares about me enough to "get his hands dirty" and bypass that royal regality while I'm wheezing and hacking up my lungs. These royals keep seeing the worst side of me, it's actually kind of ridiculous.
Nonetheless, William keeps at it until I'm no longer dying. He turns to me sheepishly. "I'm terribly sorry, Annie. Had I know you would've reacted that way to me telling you I'm aware of your contract, I simply would've waited until you put down that glass of water."
I give him a wry smile. "Don't worry about it. If it wasn't water, I would've just choked on air. You can't drop a bomb like that without any explanation!"
He rubs the back of his neck. "Ah, about that... I do apologize for making it seem like I was in the dark." William looks me over, making sure I'm alright, before he takes his seat once more. "You see, I've known His Royal Highness since we were children and I'd like to say I know him very well. This also means I know when he's up to something. The Prince is a slippery one, known to cut corners, he's been that way since we were children, so when he suddenly had a finance after saying nothing of her I knew something was fishy." William takes another sip, ever the dramatic, before continuing. "Of course, The Prince isn't the only one with spies in the palace. I have eyes and ears everywhere and it was only a matter of time before I found out what was really going on."
I just sit there, in silence, staring at him. This is very uncharacteristic. I never thought he would have had spies watching for him. That seems like something Daniel would've done.
As I'm trying my best to figure out more about the man sitting in front of me, he laughs. "You look shocked. If shouldn't come as a surprise. The Royal Palace is a dangerous place and those who aren't informed will get crushed. You know about that more than others, I'd assume."
My chest feels tight and I absentmindedly reach up to touch my hair only to forget it was chopped off. I go higher and tuck a piece behind my ear nervously.
"I'm sorry, that was uncouth. May I ask what happened?" His eyes soften.
I nod and clear my throat, finding my voice. "I was stupid--foolish-- I did the thing I never should've done. I fell in love with him."
William closes his eyes and lets out a long sigh. "And he didn't feel the same." It's a statement, not a question. William knows full well how Daniel reacted based on inference. I nod slowly.
"Yeah. It went just as well as you could expect. I told him. He said he didn't love me. I left. End of story. And I'm not going back."
"I'm sorry. Unrequited love is never easy. Well, for what it's worth, he's an idiot." He smiles.
I find my own smile making it way to my lips. "Yeah, he is, isn't he?"
We both laugh and when the laughter dies down, I look at him and smile genuinely for what feels like the first time in years even though it's been days. Even though William is a reminder of something I'd rather forget, it's comforting to see a familiar face. Speaking of his face...
"I'm sorry my husband did that to you." I motion toward the bruise around the underside of his left eye. It's an ugly purple and yellow combination and it looks downright painful.
He shrugs. "It's ok. I'm just glad it isn't broken." He grins. "It would be a shame to mess up a face as sexy as mine."
I can't help but laugh and then I do something that wipes the smile right off my face. I roll my eyes. It causes me to freeze and before I know it, tears are streaming down my face. I expect a stern glance or to see Daniel approach me with that hungry, predatorial look in his eyes, but instead none of that happens, because he's not here. Daniel's not here in the kitchen, William is, and he doesn't care. He isn't going to stalk towards me and grab my face while his lips bruise mine. He isn't going to throw me over his lap and punish me for disrespect. And he isn't going to fuck me long and hard after.
And that's disappointing. I miss him. And that's even more disappointing. All it took was one stupid gesture, something I used to do every day, to reduce me to a blubbering mess, and that sucks.
William freaks out again and wraps his arms around me once more. I don't have the strength to fight him so I just let him offer me his comfort as I break apart to the sad inevitable truth that I'm not over Daniel. I love him with all my heart and I miss him more than anything. He might have broken my heart, but it still belongs to him completely.
Taking comfort in William's embrace isn't ideal. I don't know him as well as I know Aline or my other friends in the states, and there's one undeniable fact, he isn't Daniel. I would give anything to have Daniel be the one caging me in his arms right now. I think I would just about sell my soul to have him back and that's just sad. He was my tormentor. He forced me into a contract, punished me for stupid reasons, introduced me to a dark world that I'm obsessed with, made me fall in love with him, then shattered my heart without batting an eye. He doesn't deserve me. He doesn't deserve my love. Daniel doesn't deserve to be the one who gets to hold me.
Which is why I cuddle closer to William.
That makes me think. I mean, William is nice. So far he's been nothing but kind and supporting, and he's not stuffy and rude like the other royals. Maybe we could become closer and in time I could grow to forget and maybe love another and... to be honest... William isn't a bad choice. Sure, he's also a royal, and I'd still have to see Daniel, but isn't that just the icing on the top of the cake? That Daniel gets to see me on the arm of another? Someone he hates?
Just as quickly as that thought arises, it dissipates. I don't want that. I'm not even remotely ready to love again, let alone the man my husband knocked out cold. I need to focus on myself and forget about love for a while. I need to return to the Annie I once was, right after this comforting hug. I grab his arms with my hands and he starts to stroke my hair while saying sweet words. I feel safe... secure.
Before I even know what's happening, a loud bang echoes through the house. It sounds as if the door has been burst open on it's hinges and if I didn't know any better I'd say it was just kicked, but that couldn't be possible, right? I let out a little scream, causing William to hold me tighter. I'm facing away from the door but what I hear next makes every nerve ending in my body come alive in an intoxicating cocktail of fear and arousal.
"You have three seconds to remove your hands from my wife before I knock you on your ass. Again."
That's a voice that I'd recognize anywhere. It's deep and sounds more like a growl. The familiar timbre causes my heart to beat faster. It's him. He's here. He came for me. I should've known he wouldn't let me go that easily.
It's Daniel, my husband, and he sounds pissed.
No, scratch that, he sounds furious--absolutely enraged.
And he's here, in my kitchen, and so is William. And I'm in William's embrace.