Serenity’s voice shook when she asked, “Was that all you wished of me, King Melchior? A legal marriage and nothing else?”
“My intentions were to solidify the peace, nothing else. You said on our wedding day you understood marriages of state, Serenity.”
“I understand a loveless marriage where heirs are still expected,” Serenity replied in a breathy voice. “I understand a marriage of convenience to unify two kingdoms into one. I do not understand why I needed to leave my home. I do not understand my place in this kingdom.”
“Cheslav is more inclined to keep and maintain the peace so long as you reside in Nexeu.”
“I’m a hostage.”
“If you choose to see the situation that way, then so be it. You are my wife and you are queen because of it.”
“I am only the queen of Nexeu because Queen Asha was killed before you wed me. It is within your power to take the title away from me and grant it to your second wife, when you marry her. You will marry another, I know that. Nexeu needs an heir.”
Melchior moved away from his desk, turning his back on Serenity. He sat in his chair but didn’t look at her. “I will not speculate on the future with you, Serenity. Ruling my kingdom and ensuring your safety have kept me from considering another wife.”
“What is there to consider? I’m sure Keran will say yes the moment you ask her. Traditionally, the king would wait for his first wife to bear him an heir before wedding another, but this is an untraditional marriage. There is no need to stand on ceremony in this—”
“Stop, Serenity! Even if I planned to marry another tomorrow, Keran would not be whom I chose.”
That surprised her. “She is your current favorite and she occupies your bed almost every night. The whole of the palace thinks it’s only a matter of time before you make her your wife and then queen shortly thereafter.”
Her gaze searched his for some hint that the rumors were true. She only saw his annoyance.
“The people of the palace also think you go against my orders and take Hell Hound Chigaru and Hell Hound Haige to your bed. The change in the color scheme of your wardrobe—” he gestured to her orange dress, “—concurs with their suppositions. Shall I believe them in this as you do in the other?”
“It would be the truth if you allowed me to take a lover.”
“My answer remains no.”
“Why?” Serenity yelled.
Melchior yelled back, “Do not question me in this, Serenity. I have told you already you will not be allowed a lover. Do not mention it again. Ever.”
“Then I wish to return to your bed, Melchior.” Her statement was bold and it shocked her that she had said it aloud. She hadn’t meant to say the words, but there they were.
Melchior seemed as shocked as Serenity. He stared at her.
Serenity took his silence as incentive to continue. She moved closer to him and clasped her hands in front of her in a pleading manner. She whispered, “I love you, Melchior. I want to be with you. I’ve always only wanted you.”
“That is a lie. Your requests for a lover are proof of your lie.”
“I thought to make you jealous. I thought if you knew another bhresya male wanted me then you would return me to your bed…that I would become attractive to you, as well.”
Melchior said nothing.
“I know I may never arouse you as Keran does, but I also know with time I could learn to satisfy you. Please, Melchior. I want only to be with you again.”
He closed his eyes and Serenity thought he might actually be considering her words. Instead of roundabout tactics, she should have confessed herself from the start. Had he known of her emotions for him she could have enjoyed his touch all the sooner.
“I will not take you to my bed, Serenity.”
“I cannot return the feelings you think you have for me.” He opened his eyes and looked at her.
“I don’t think I have feelings for you, Melchior. I know I do.”
“Yes, I can!” she yelled over his words, hurt by his insult and finally showing it.
Melchior replied in a calm manner, “You cannot love me, Serenity. Your ability to lie, even to yourself, hurts you with each passing moment you give this falsehood credence. You haven’t known me long enough to love me.”
“I feel as though I have known you forever. I knew it from the moment I looked into your eyes.”
“Love is not so quick.”
“It was for me!”
He gestured to her. “This is my point. You do not love me but an image of me you made up based on information your Hell Hounds imparted to you over the years. You prepared yourself to love me as a way to cope with the new life that would be soon forced upon you.”
While his words made sense, Serenity refused to believe them. She hadn’t imagined the spark of recognition, the meeting of two souls that happened when she met his gaze for the first time. His touch felt familiar to her and she knew his feel even before he introduced himself to her. She knew Melchior to be hers with every fiber of her being. There was no way he hadn’t felt the same. She thought she saw it during their wedding ceremony and didn’t understand why he denied it.
She said, “Destiny placed us together because she knew of the love we would have for one another.”
“Your obsession with Destiny is the reason you cannot grasp reality, Serenity. This emotion you claim to have is not based on any truth. You do not know me.”
“Love cannot be rationalized or measured in time.”
“Love also cannot endure when it is false. Time is on my side. When enough of it passes, you will come to realize your feelings were nothing but a delusion.”
“The only person in this room who is deluded is you, Melchior.” She spun around and stormed out of the room.
Their uneasy alliance could lead to love—if the demon will allow it.
Melchior, King of the Bhresyas, is quickly growing tired of the war between his kind and the humans who view them as demons. He proposes a peace treaty with the most powerful human kingdom. His only stipulation? Once she comes of age, the human queen’s daughter must be his bride.
Serenity has spent her entire life preparing for her role at Melchior’s side. Other women might be frightened, but she embraces her destiny, knowing in her heart that she and Melchior have been twined together by fate.
While he wants cooperation between their two peoples, his union with Serenity cannot and should not lead to love. The more she tries to bring them together, the harder he pushes her away—until she lands in the arms of those who would do her harm.
Love is the answer. But before Melchior admits to his, it may be too late.
A Gezane Universe Novel