Hidden 11 days ago Post by Hashih
Raw
GM
Avatar of Hashih

Hashih

Member Online

Maybe there was a miscalculation, it must be easier to order Sebastian’s arrest and then leave him into the capable hands of the Defense Ministry than deal with the reasoning of his betrothed. “Precisely.” Sighing was the next best to gritting his teeth and grinding out the syllables. He forced a smile, hoping that it was enough to cover for the annoyance that momentarily flashed in his eyes. “I don’t see any contradiction, just a stubborn lady whose lifegoal is to go against anything and everything I say. There are enemies inside the palace, which is why it is important to me that you always keep this attached to you. Besides, who said anything about sequestering you at the palace? You are free to wander around the capital. Callie will most probably harass you into joining her in attending to her ‘commitments.’”

When the princess said she had commitments, it was supposed to mean an official business like attending a formal function, representing the queen in an important cultural event, or other boring stuff that she hated. The truth was, when Callie said she had commitments, it was rarely those things. The word took to mean that she was going out with her friends, that she said yes to an invitation to a party, or that she was busy socializing and growing her network of friends. Unlike her older brother, she showed no interest in governance. The queen’s only daughter had always been a soft and sweet girl; unfit to rule, because her heart was too big for the throne.

“Regardless of what Sebastian says, we are cutting the tour. I’m sure that the team will think of other projects to keep you busy, but it has to be inside the capital.” The support to the crown was strongest in the capital, even Luke knew that. Though it was not as safe as he had thought, it was probably the safest place she could be while the faction of the resistance that wanted her dead was being sorted out. He hated to sound like his mother, but he hated losing to his enemies more. “You can travel all you want after things have calmed down.” Perhaps she could pick up hints, or he would be as successful in enticing her to help him as he was in convincing her to concur to the doctors’ prescribed procedures when she was poisoned.

He followed her gaze out the window as the plane glided over the unfamiliar landscape. As a prince, he grew up surrounded by glass walls, tall skyscrapers, technology, cars, and hovercrafts alike. Nature was a luxury he seldom experienced. There was his favorite island, and some other remote locations which he discovered while flying surveillance drones, where he would retreat to when he needed a break from being Prince Alessandro. Time, however, was a precious commodity he could not afford to spend on relaxing and taking in the beauty of nature. His mini getaways, like the afternoon he brought her to the island, were always brief. Rhiane, on the other hand, grew up surrounded by so much nature. He wondered what it was like growing up in a farm, free to choose who she wanted to be. His eyes wandered to the outline of her profile.

When she leaned in, he fought against the urge to lean back into his seat and away from her. It should be easy, but his emotions were getting in the way. He advised her not to let her emotions sway her, but he was allowing his to influence his decisions. That he consciously welcomed her closeness in public, when there was no need to act as if they were in love, was a huge red flashing warning sign that spelled ‘DANGER.’ Still, a slow smile slowly lit his face.

He was doing it to manipulate her into submitting to his plans, was what he told himself to justify not running away.
“It will be just for a week, woman. But we must do something about those certain needs.” His voice was low, but his grin was as playful as hers. “And make sure they are met in the fullest so that the hours we are apart will not be too many to count nor too long a wait. So, I will not have to worry that you will turn to someone else while I’m half-way around the world.” He leaned in so their lips touched without regards to the passengers that shared the flight with them.

The captain managed a smooth landing, but Luke felt it when the wheels touched the airstrip. He lifted his face a few inches from hers, asking in a low voice, “What do you want to do today, princess?”

“Alright, we have arrived!” Anelle announced brightly even before Rhiane could respond. The plane had not yet fully stopped and she ought to be still strapped in her seat, but the count’s daughter was standing in her six-inch stilettos, sporting a bright smile. “Because of the sudden inclusion of this stop, we haven’t had the time to build a place where our crown prince and his betrothed could comfortably spend a few nights. We are, however, going to be setting up in a nearby city. It is not too far away and can be reached through land travel.”

The captain’s announcement that it was safe to unbuckle the seatbelt interrupted Anelle. More seatbelts were undone, some even prepared to deplane.
1x Like Like
Hidden 10 days ago Post by Syrenrei
Raw
Avatar of Syrenrei

Syrenrei

Member Seen 40 min ago

Disappoint flashed over Rhiane's features as Luke again refused to consider letting her finish the tour by herself. No amount of reassurances that she would travel again in the future could truly pacify her. She knew that what her betrothed might wish to have happen and what the crown would pragmatically allow were far different beasts. There was every possibility that once she was sent back to the palace that they would determine that the threat of the rebellion was too great, the danger too her life too significant, and that her focus would need to be narrowed to producing an heir as quickly as possible. The wedding would still take place, of course, with copious amounts of celebration, broadcasting coverage, and interviews with reputable reporters that would edit the footage favorably, but her chief duty besides providing a positive image for the royalty was procreation. Queen Camilla would consider this concern when reviewing travel plan requests.

What the prince perhaps did not appreciate was how much his lover adored the journey. When out in the public she flourished, her charisma even more contagious and endearing than when digitized on a screen, and skeptics were won over every minute she spoke. She was warm, understanding, encouraging, and did not flounder under difficult questions, critics, or difficulties. For her it was not a begrudging responsibility that she was forced to accept. Every event made her glow with joy and pride, made her smile larger when recounting the day, made fond memories she would forever cherish no matter how exhausted she was immediately after their activities. The Rhiane that had been at the engagement ball was a positive tool for the monarchy to use. Only a week after she had been set 'free' to roam the country she had become more invaluable and beloved, but she had also thrived unexpectedly, brilliantly radiating a sense of fulfillment that had not been there before. The derelict corners of the empire and the decadent estates were equally prized. To imagine having it ripped all away caused her physical pain.

The light at the end of the proverbial tunnel was his throwaway comment that Callie, her future sister-in-law, might try to convince her to attend 'commitments' with her. Rhiane brightened slightly at the prospect as she asked, "Do you really think she'd take me with her?" From what little she knew of Luke's younger sister, she had a feeling that they would be fast friends, as the woman was the only one besides Tobias who had not exhibited a bias towards her due to her previous commoner status. That there was anyone that would want her company was exciting. Her fiance had been with her mostly due to obligation, the solitary bodyguard that sincerely cared for her was too reluctant to admit he craved her presence, her family was regrettably estranged, and she did not have close platonic relationships of which to speak. A small smile tugged at the edges of her lips when she thought of all the fun she might have with the only daughter of the sovereign.

What reservations she had about the device he insisted she wear melted away when he leaned forward to kiss her. She relished in the idea of him worrying about her attentions turning towards another man (though impossible). Rhiane's countenance reflected her excitement when he alluded to meeting her needs. In her mind they were reaping the benefits of this arrangement, the endorsement of their trysts, and they need not be ashamed. It had, however, developed into something more. Already she was envisioning what sort of messages and images she might send to torture him so he could think of nothing but his return. This had gone beyond the satisfaction of urges. As their lips met he felt the passion behind the gesture. The same temper that had burned so hotly in jealousy, that made her so prone to simmering in fury, fueled her in different ways when she was not distracted.

While she had honestly not meant to make either Annelle nor Tobias envious, at least the latter of the two was. He suppressed the scowl of disapproval he would have worn if it was appropriate. Lia and Octavia raised their eyebrows at each other, finding it somewhat scandalous but not terribly surprising two highly attractive people were being affectionate, even if it was abnormal for a royal and their future bride. By now it was no secret the pair had progressed to intimacy. The frequency- twice in one day- had been more shocking than the display on the plane. Then again, the chemistry would be to their advantage later as if was genuine it would exponentially more compelling for a televised story.

"Fine, I'll wear it," she conceded, "but one two conditions. One, you carve out some time for me this evening that won't interrupt your work where you can put it on me," the princess elect said in a suggestive whisper that made it clear she would otherwise be in a state of undress, as would he. "Two, you make sure the witch doesn't get ahead of herself and try to buy the ring. I know it's not something you'd purchase personally, and I was fine with Luce selecting on on my behalf, but I don't want to wear a piece of jewelry for the rest of my life that an ex of yours picked out. And don't say it's something she wouldn't do. For precisely that reason she would 'help' and back me into a corner where I'd have to accept."

Taking a deep breath she rose from her seat. Instantly the mask she wore at functions had slid back into place along with her pristine composure. Anelle was the enemy, or at least distrusted enough she earned herself the 'stranger treatment' from Rhiane. There was a blatant lack of amiable familiarity as she exhibited with other staff. "I'd like a few minutes after we deplane to make a statement to the press. Can that be arranged?" she inquired without disclosing what she intended to discuss.
1x Like Like
Hidden 8 days ago Post by Hashih
Raw
GM
Avatar of Hashih

Hashih

Member Online

As far as Anelle was concerned, Rhiane’s value was far less than the sunglasses perched on the former’s elegant nose. Her hazel eyes sized up the brunette standing by the window seat while the prince freed himself from the seatbelt. Not a single word in her contract said that she was supposed to take orders from a woman of low birth, especially not before her staff and the royal guards. When Anelle said yes to the assignment, all that was in her mind was the possibility of rekindling old flame. Maybe with Sophia Keller out of the prince’s life and him being stuck with a woman without class, he would finally realize the value of the lady he once turned his back on. It was a pleasant surprise to have witnessed their elitist crown prince displaying affections for a nameless woman. The Luke she knew wouldn’t even spare a glance at the common people if he could help it.

Perhaps Rhiane Black, despite her humble roots and charming smile, was an expert when it came to seducing men. She was beautiful for one who was born and raised in the countryside, but not even the most expensive clothes and jewelries could cover the mud on her cheeks and the scent that reeked of poverty. Whatever talent she picked up from her farmer friends in the country, Luke would surely get tired of it soon enough. Someone like him just would not settle for a woman without class.

Whatever ran in her mind did not show on her face. It was an art she mastered – painting an earnest smile on her face even when she could not stand to look at the other person’s face without emptying the contents of her stomach. “I’m sure we can make some time for a short chat, Rhiane. I would not dare ask what it is that you need the press to hear, just don’t embarrass yourself out there.” She told a staff to pass on the message to the waiting and armed media some meters from the air strip and close to where their rides were parked, then her smile turned sympathetic. “Would you like to stay inside the plane while Rhiane speaks to the waiting reporters, Luke?”

Well, it was a tempting idea. He disliked the cameras and its judgmental lenses, the solitude that the empty plane offered was enticing, but then again there was something Rhiane could do for him which was why he put an effort to not antagonize her that day. “It’s fine, I need to stretch my legs anyway.” He put on his wayfarers then offered his arm to her.




The sun greeted the couple and their entourage. Nolan, Tobias and the rest of the security team were in their black uniforms, armed and alert as the VIPs climbed down the steps. It could have had so much green surrounding the runway on springtime, but the leaves had long fallen off the twigs to color the earth with their fiery hue. Beyond the concrete was the waiting crowd. Cameras flashed; unrest was visible among the people. It was not everyday that the crown prince paid a visit to that parts of the kingdom. In fact, it was the first time in a very long time that a member of the royal family had set foot in their humble little town.

Luke scanned the faces of the men and women behind the line set by the local security forces. The craned their necks, went on tip toes, in an effort to catch a glimpse of the couple. Rhiane’s hometown did not have its own airstrip, it was a much less developed farming community farther south. Anelle had intended the couple to spend the night in that town and travel only to Rhiane’s home when necessary, but Luke had other plans. Plans which did not include the media on their heels to film their every movement and criticize each perceived error.

Anelle waved at one reporter eagerly, though one would have to guess whether she meant the eagerness or not. “Take your time to think your statement through, Rhiane.” So she wouldn’t embarrass herself and Luke in the process, she wanted to add, looking over her shoulder at the farmer.
1x Like Like
Hidden 8 days ago Post by Syrenrei
Raw
Avatar of Syrenrei

Syrenrei

Member Seen 40 min ago

Although Luke had cautioned Rhiane against ignoring Anelle, that was precisely what she did when the so-called Image Manager made her rather patronizing remarks dressed as concerned warnings. The princess elect was far too focused on the task at hand to let an ex-lover's petty jabs be a distraction. "Trust me," she whispered into her betrothed's ear as they approached the line of reporters and gawkers. Tobias stood resolute from his position in front of and slightly to the side of his charge. Had it been appropriate to do so she might have laughed at how even the most eager correspondent gave the tall, stoic man a wide berth. The crown prince's cousin has a handsome face, but the display of affection on the plane had left him in a poor mood, and the foreboding aura around him dissuaded anyone from getting too close to him, much less either of the royals that had approached. Quietly she wondered if his protective streak was purely platonic.

"It is nice to some familiar faces," she said as her gaze drifted over the crowd. Her congeniality was a stark departure from how most of the aristocracy treated broadcasters like vultures. Rhiane's warm disposition towards them was not without it's benefits; many of them were reluctant to paint her in a negative light, not only because she was a charismatic beauty they personally liked, but because harsh critics might have less cooperation and access. They all understood she was being more generous with the press than was required or necessary. "Ah, Mr. Ricci," she said remarked at one gentleman in particular. "Didn't I just read you celebrated a twentieth wedding anniversary? My congratulations to you both." People smiled, the crowd of commoners excitedly whispered to one another, and her excellent memory started the impromptu meeting with a positive impression.

"I have to admit that I was looking over the commentary from yesterday," she began, "and I realized I owed you all an explanation. In the morning and afternoon I wore a dress... well, I'm sure you all recall, it was quite memorable, wasn't it?" This elicited nods and a few grins. The way she wove a story was not so casual that it was improper, but also was not so detached that it felt like a prepared transcript. "After lunch I was quite cold, even after Prince Luke generously lent me his jacket," she explained elegantly, "I was so excited to wear something new I did not consider the weather, and he rightly was frustrated that I didn't select clothing that would keep me warm throughout the day, especially with my recent health. We had no time to discuss the matter and we knew the tour was an important commitment, so we carried on, though it did not escape your collective notice we were not ourselves. I did not intend to tell all of you this, but I could not bear the thought of rumors making rash assumptions, especially when it was all over a very beautiful garment that has poor insulation," she said with a flashed smile.

It was nothing short of amazing how Rhiane could tell the truth and yet expertly mislead her audience. It was true that Luke lent his jacket and that he was annoyed she was half-frozen in the ride to the farms, but she left out how he'd prefer she endure over changing into peasant attire. By steering around this fact and instead navigating towards other genuine statements she fell onto her proverbial sword, presenting herself as innocently enthusiastic about her new life and thus unintentionally careless, with the heir to the throne a gleaming example of an ideal partner. With one fell swoop she had erased the blemish on their record and reinstated their fairy tale fantasy. The nobility would not have an avenue with which to mar their reputation with gossip; after all, in their eyes she was only a tool and property, and they could not fault him for wanting to keep her in 'good condition.'

"And you've talked things over now, Ms. Black?" one bold correspondent called out from the back.

"Well, I'm not wearing a sleeveless dress with a skirt above the knees today, am I?" she joked. "I have learned my lesson. I underestimated the chill of the higher elevation in the mountains," she added sincerely, "and I could be barely coaxed out of my hot bath last night. Today I am introducing Prince Luke to my family, so it was important to dress more conservatively, or else my father would disapprove on principal," Rhiane told them with such an effervescent charm that they now appeared more like jubilant fans than cunning journalists looking for an angle. It was hard not to like the princess elect; she was relatable on both sides of the poverty line and knew how to present herself without loosing this appeal.

"We have to be off to meet my family," she continued "both the living and the deceased, so I hope you will honor our request for privacy today."
1x Like Like
Hidden 7 days ago Post by Hashih
Raw
GM
Avatar of Hashih

Hashih

Member Online

Shutters clicked and cameras flashed, eagerly capturing photos from the princess elect’s smiles to her fiancé’s cool detachment. Luke would rather ignore the still growing crowd, but when Rhiane asked him to trust her, he did not argue. Telling her how it was a waste of time to talk to the journalists, for they would rather speak of false news that would reap ratings than publish the boring truth. The two of them would be judged no matter what she said, so what the hell.

“It’s not just the weather,” he added. If Rhiane was full of warm smiles and friendly commentaries, Luke was and had always been straightforward. He did not bother to try to be charming or pretend that he cared about any of the people in attendance’s recent personal milestone. “I don’t like how that grin looks.” He subtly tilted his head to the direction of the men, farmers and not, who Luke guessed envisioned Rhiane in her controversial dress. Smiles faltered and whispers hushed. “There are sights I rather not share with anybody. Moments as well. Rhiane asked kindly, but I will not. No media presence shall be tolerated within five hundred meters from her home. The coverage will resume tomorrow under the supervision of Anelle Tuscano. You may coordinate with her team. Have a good day." Anelle held her head high and proud.

Luke nodded to Nolan, who led the couple to the vehicle assigned to them. Unlike their daring ascend up the winding mountain road, the prince made no request to drive. Nolan opened the door for Rhiane and once she was comfortably settled in, Luke rounded the shiny black car to the rear passenger door where he was intercepted by their Image Manager.

“She has not given me anything to work on,” Anelle complained, though even as she sounded thoroughly irritated, her lips were smiling and her gestures light. There was not an ounce of anger that any outsider would be able to trace. “My staff needs to survey the locations, coordinate with the camera crew, and arrange for the logistics of the equipment. Maybe she does not understand, but there are several elements to consider in organizing a broadcast. I will not be faulted for poor lighting or the lack of a good footage.”

“We will meet her family, then I am going to ask her to prepare a list. I know what you’re doing, Anelle. Stop baiting Rhiane, because I have enough to worry about without your issues.”

Once inside the car, Nolan informed Luke that they are waiting for clearance to proceed to the site. An advance security party was dispatched in advance to ensure the safety of the perimeter of Rhiane’s old home. Those of the advance party were also tasked to ensure that no media personnel were present to sneak a video recorder or a camera. He did not doubt that the reunion may turn sour, and the screaming she described was a possibility between daughter and father. Shouting his point was not his style, even when he was stressing a point to his mother, but the ways of life was different in different social strata. Scandalous behavior must have been normalized in that part of the kingdom.

“Site has been cleared,” Nolan was telling Tobias, who was in the driver’s seat.

Luke turned to Rhiane. “You're such a creative liar, Ms. Black. I hope you’re ready to see your family again.” He reached for her hand as the vehicle followed the cemented country road.
1x Like Like
Hidden 7 days ago Post by Syrenrei
Raw
Avatar of Syrenrei

Syrenrei

Member Seen 40 min ago

"I didn't lie," Rhiane protested, which was factually true upon review of the exact statement she had given. "My comments were honest, they just were arranged in a way that might have misled, but the fault remains with them if they draw the wrong conclusions." It was a tactic that mitigated, or perhaps absolved, her of blame if later something was divulged by a third party that was more forthright or added a damaging amount of clarity. Some of the aristocracy was purposefully deceptive. Other members of the nobility refused to answer questions. Even Luke had to utilize social sidestepping in delicate situations; but while his audience was limited to New Rome's elite, she did not have luxury of ignoring the public. The princess elect had to be open, but not offensive, kind, but not a bleeding heart, compassionate, but able to be composed at any time. Luke had more responsibility than she did, but she had equally impossible expectations for behavior, all while knowing she'd still be killed and forgotten one day, and the upper echelon of the society would scorn her irregardless of her performance.

With a heavy sigh she took his hand, interlacing her fingers, and stared out a window at the landscape. Though there was still a short drive ahead of them, and they were not technically in her home town quite yet, the area was still familiar, as occasionally she had traversed this same route to get supplies from the nearest city. Rolling hills gave way to a seemingly endless expanse of flat plain perfect for farming. Houses were spaced farther apart and periodically dwarfed by large barns for a green sea of pasture. She recognized properties of her former peers, former trade partners, former one-night stands, and acquaintances that would frequent the same bar she did after a long day of toiling in the fields.

Rhiane remembered during an interview during the contest that a reporter once told her that her talent had been wasted in the countryside. At the time she had taken the compliment and thought little of it. Now she pondered whether she had ever belonged in the rural outcroppings of the nation. She had felt she had applied her skills well in saving her business from the verge of collapse, in managing her father and brother, in keeping a household intact, and giving more than she took. Becoming the princess elect had spun all of it on its head. To say that she was happy in the castle would be wrong, but on the tour she began to feel she might belong there one day, that in applying herself on a larger stage she was securing a legacy that would endure beyond one family. There was a small chance she could improve everyone's lives.

"I don't know I'll ever be ready for this. I had hoped if left alone they'd calm down in time for the wedding," she murmured in contemplation. Considering that the wedding had yet to be officially scheduled, it was a generous window of time, months in all likelihood. "If you really meant what you said back there about the dress, that's the sort of thing that will leave a better impression with them. They'd think more highly of you if they thought you worried about me attracting or having unwanted attention." Both men had at one point tried to chase away 'unworthy' men that tried to make a match with the willful Rhiane. They might never see Luke as deserving, but they'd be slightly less skeptical if they saw him as possessive, as that would indicate he cared enough about her to be unwilling to share his prize.

Her grip slackened slightly as she began to doze. The interlude at the spa was meant to give her rest after a restless night and taxing day, but her romp with Luke had not been brief. Unfortunately, she also was not able to sleep in late, as they had to catch a plane early to make this impromptu visit. Rhiane had slept deeply when she did, but she was lulled into a sense of security while Luke held her hand, and the nap was sorely needed if she was going to keep having her evening hours interrupted by more sensual needs and urges being fulfilled.

----

The Black Farm had a small stone sign at the end of a long gravel driveway flanked by leafy shrubs. Rows of crops, most harvested but with some waiting to be plucked, stretched out on both sides of the path that functioned as a natural divider. As the SUV turned and began to rumble towards the house they could see neat sections devoted to the produce and vegetables that were sold in bushels and crates by the farming family. Trellises of grapes rose out of the earth the closer they drew to the building ahead. Ripe purple and red bunches glistened with dew as the sun crept higher into the sky. It was true that farms were dirty, evidenced by the dirt that coated the lower half of their vehicle, but it was remarkably picturesque, due in no small part to the slumbering brunette who had organized it with carefully planning and a critical eye.

"Do you want me to wake her?" Tobias asked as they came to a soft stop. Ahead lay a two-story residence with a pale yellow stucco and clay tile roof as was the traditional architecture of the area. It was bigger than others in the area, though not at all comparable to the mansions with which Luke was accustomed. When Rhiane had vaguely alluded to it she had described as 'small' and 'humble,' but a cursory glance suggested it had enough rooms for everyone living inside to have their space and not need to share beds. The Black family had been poor, and in debt, but the home itself had been built by previous generations, and their success had left the current occupants with a better house than they could have otherwise afforded.
Hidden 5 days ago Post by Hashih
Raw
GM
Avatar of Hashih

Hashih

Member Online

The road was made for one vehicle each way, but even then, the drivers had to exercise caution when the SUV met a smaller car along the way. The colors of autumn bled from the abandoned branches of cypress and pine trees standing like sentries at either side of the path and into the ground. Beyond the trees were open fields as red as the color of the remaining leaves on trees. Luke smiled as his eyes watched the scenery unfolded on the windshield of the SUV as if he was watching one of his favorite movies. The capital was a comfortable place to live, but he had to admit that the countryside had a charm of its own. Especially with the clear morning sky hanging above the bold display of colors. It made him want to slow down, kick off his shoes, sit under a tree with a hard-bound book, and watch the day waste away.

“I find your sense of truth disturbing.” Maybe it was the welcome change of sights, something he did not have time to enjoy at the mountains because of the heart-racing, hair-raising, driving skills of his betrothed. It quashed his otherwise over-eagerness to raise an argument, making his tone was light.

Without reviewing her background, her family, and her history, Luke had no way of understanding where that heavy sigh came from. His own family was not ideal. The relationship that he and his mother had could have been much better. The queen and his eldest constantly tested each other’s patience, but at least they had not yet resorted to screaming at each other’s face and consequently walking away for good. “If there is one thing you are better than me at, this is it – making your own family disown you.” She was not technically disowned by her father, or at least she had not told her that her relationship with her kin was irreparable.

Nolan smirked, and when he did, he made sure Luke heard him. Their eyes met briefly on the rear-view mirror. It was not easy to raise a spoiled prince, and it was especially challenging to raise an unwilling heir with a knack for getting himself into different kinds of sticky situations. The royal guard had been Luke’s loyal companion and accomplice for years that he could testify how much of a troublemaker the young heir was when he put his mind into it. If not for Luke's undeniable talent and dedication, which his allies in and out of the kingdom praised and trusted, the queen might have been forced, through the pressure of politics, to exile her son a long time ago.

“Not that my mother doesn’t threaten to disown me because it is easier than cleaning up after my mess, she just couldn’t bear the thought of not seeing me make a fool of myself.” He turned to Rhiane, feeling her grip weaken. It was not a surprise to find her head leaning against the backrest, eyes closed, breathing evenly. The overnight at the spa meant that they had to wake up extra early to be able to keep up with their schedule. She must have been more tired than she let on, but it was amazing how easily she could doze off. “I thought I told you not to fall asleep while I’m talking to you,” Luke added softly. He lifted her hand to his lips and kissed her knuckles softly.




The rest of the way was quiet. Luke turned his comms device on selective mode, where only urgent messages and calls would be entertained. He watched the view unfolding, a view that he did get to see every day. Until the vehicle slowed down and finally stopped in front of a property larger than most they passed by. He leaned against the window, lowering the glass to let in the fresh morning breeze. “Is this it?”

“This is where the navi brought us. Should I knock and ask if this is the correct residence?” Nolan unbuckled his seat belt and prepared to step out.

“Then this must be her father's house. It is better than I imagined,” Luke mussed. But when Tobias asked if he was going to wake Rhiane up, Luke shook his head. “Let her sleep a little longer. Nolan, let’s have a look around.”

Because of the lack of advertisements and the sudden change in plans, not many knew about the arrival of the royal. Though perhaps rumors had spread that a VIP was visiting the town, the residents had no idea where and when the said VIP would come. But still, the perimeter of the Black farm was secured by Royal guards. Anelle and the rest of the staff, however, stayed behind to plan and coordinate with the media.

The prince stepped out of the SUV. He was dressed sharply, as usual, in his tailored gray jacket and white oxford shirt. Sunglasses protected his blue eyes from the bright morning sun. With a single glance, one could tell that he did not belong to the dirty, dusty, farm. With the confidence of being raised knowing that one day he would be king, Luke followed the dirt path that led to the door. Nolan, who was ever Luke’s shadow, stepped before the prince to knock at the door. “Are you sure about this?” he asked. Luke shook his head.

“It is the first time that I will talk to the father of the woman I am in a relationship with. I don’t really know why I am doing this to myself.”

Nolan grinned, then knocked again.
1x Like Like
Hidden 3 days ago Post by Syrenrei
Raw
Avatar of Syrenrei

Syrenrei

Member Seen 40 min ago

Fortunately for royal poised on the doorstep with his bodyguard, it was neither the ill-tempered Hubert Black nor his irascible son Gerard Black that answered the knocking, but the latter's life partner, Sebastian. It was immediately apparent that man was an immigrant or the son of one. His hair was long and pale blond, his shoulders broad, and his features unmistakably from the northern reaches of Europe, beyond New Rome's borders. He was also tall and muscular, measuring a few inches above six feet in height, and powerfully built from his years spent toiling on the fields. This might have made him an intimidating figure had it not been for the calm demeanor evident in both his expressions and his body language. Sebastian was slow to anger, relying on his strength only when willfully provoked, and was otherwise called a "big teddy bear" by Rhiane. Arguably this what made him function so well in a family with short fuses. They all took his frustrations more seriously, since it flared so infrequently, as they respected the gravity of the cause.

"I didn't expect you would actually come, Prince Alessandro," he admitted. "Where is Rhi?" His gaze traveled over towards the parked SUV. The windows were tinted but he could surmise that she was inside, though he'd prefer to hear it from the lips of his guest rather than relying on the assumption she was here and safe. "We shouldn't go inside until she's ready. They hate the monarchy, it's why they're estranged with Rhi, so taking you to them would be like lobbing an incendiary round. She can control them better than I can alone," Sebastian explained as he stepped outside and closed the door behind him softly. There was no hiding Luke's arrival, but he could at least keep the parties separate for a short amount of time. There was a slim chance, although extremely small, that the other two might cool down instead of stew in righteous fury.

With a wave of his hand he gestured towards the side of the building where there was a short stone fence. He neither lead the way nor strayed behind, walking comfortably near and almost beside the prince, assuming the heir to the throne joined him. "We can talk in Rhi's garden," he told him just as they arrived at the wooden gate for the enclosed space. Gently pushing it open, and holding it for Luke, he glanced over the flowers wistfully. The garden was filled with carefully tended plant beds, brilliant brooms bursting out of the ground. It had been designed so that there was always something in season- the winter would bring primrose, pansies, and jasmine. Since Rhiane had left for the contest it was Sebastian who had taken responsibility for its upkeep and management.

The casual way he referred to the future queen by 'Rhi' made it clear how close they were. As of yet not even Tobias had been encouraged to call her anything except her first name, which was indicative of the walls she kept between herself and those at the palace, and how she realized that they were not at the same level of friendship. Sebastian, her father, and her brother would die for her, but the castle would have her die for them, a sacrifice for the stability of their country and to keep the social structure intact. It was this difference that had prevented Rhiane from divulging that anyone shortened her name in affection. Luke had slept with his fiancee, but his relationship was not as strong as the blonde foreigner that stood beside him patiently.

"What really brings you here? Rhi would have never volunteered a visit, and you have more things to worry about than trying to make a good impression or convince them to reconcile... unless the rumors are true and you have honestly taken to each other," he mused aloud. Sebastian did not hate Luke the way his lover did, but he was also not a fun of the sovereign's eldest son, instead withholding his judgment entirely. His chief concern was how Rhiane herself was affected. If she was happy and content then he would be as well, but it was hard to imagine that any aristocrat, much less a member of the royal family, would sincerely care for a peasant, and he knew the complications that the former farmer brought to the table all too well. She threw up barriers, held nearly everyone at an arm's length, and pursued a fevered dream of retaining perfect agency over her own mortality.

Sebastian walked to a bench in the center of the garden and sat down heavily. His button down shirt was rolled halfway up his forearm and his dark colored trousers were made of a thick, tightly woven fabric that made them resistant to damage and ideal for labor. Off a belt looped through his trousers hung a communication device and tools including shears for trimming shrubs, a utility knife whose blade had worn down considerably, a flask for water, and a large keychain. Before they knew that the plane would be landing they had already been walking the rows of crops and examining their harvest, returning only to the house when it became necessary.
1x Like Like
Hidden 2 days ago Post by Hashih
Raw
GM
Avatar of Hashih

Hashih

Member Online

What Luke told Nolan was partly true, that he had no idea why he was doing what he was doing. It was not in his character to stoop so low as to knock at a peasant’s door and hope that somebody would be kind enough to open the door for him. No, it was usually the other way around. He could have secretly ordered the arrest of Sebastian and have a team interrogate the man until every secret was unearthed, but there he was standing at the doorstep of a patriarch who, if given a chance, would love to bruise Luke’s royal face using his dirty fist just because Luke was a prince.

“There’s still time. Just say the word and we’ll raid this property to get you whatever it is you came here for.”

Luke sighed. “It’s too late. She’s definitely going to make my life miserable if I did that.”

Just then, the door cracked open revealing a foreign face that was neither Hubert nor Gerard Black. Nolan tensed, finding comfort from the cold metal of the gun. The surviving family members were easily searchable from the database, so was Sebastian. The latter looked a bit rougher than his photo, but it was unmistakably him.

“I did not wake her up. Don’t worry she’s well-guarded,” was his response when he asked about Rhiane’s whereabouts. “We have been traveling and interacting with people a lot since the tour began. I’m afraid that Rhiane hasn’t been getting enough rest so I let her sleep whenever she finds time to do so.” It was both the truth and a slightly modified version of it molded for his purpose. The princess elect advised that Sebastian was full of principles and empathy, that he was a man who listened to his heart perhaps more than he did the logical voice of his brain. Disclosing Luke’s decision to allow his betrothed to rest and not force her to work for his plan hoped to convey the message of how both he and Sebastian cared for the woman. Rhiane was the only bargaining chip he had, and the sole connection he knew that both males could bond about. If all went well, it too could help sway Sebastian to Luke’s favor once they met with the rest of the Black family.

Consequently, he followed Sebastian to the garden without protest. The grim looking Nolan was a few feet behind, but he entered the garden when Luke did.

It was a small piece of land that was spared to grow the flowers she must have liked. The colors complemented each other and the way she arranged the plots was like an abstract painting. If Sebastian was paying attention, it was difficult to miss the amusement on the royal’s face as his blue eyes scanned the garden as if memorizing the names of the flowers for future reference. “Which is her favorite?” He asked before answering his questions or confirming the speculation.

“Rhiane did not know until this morning that I had plans to visit her family.” Luke remained standing near the gate, not trusting the bench to be clean enough to spare his pants from unwanted stain. “She was not entirely happy when I told her about it. Your guess is correct. I do not care about making a good impression or meddle in her family affairs.” His eyes narrowed and his voice a little less friendly. “Tell me more about that rumor you heard.” Because although they shared the same room since the day after the engagement ball, it was just recently that he and Rhiane shared a bed in a meaningful way. Whoever was the source of the rumor he was talking about must be closer than he thought. “It is actually you who I wanted to meet. You have connections in the rebellion and that is exactly what I need to protect Rhiane, my sister, my brothers, and the queen.”
1x Like Like
Hidden 2 days ago Post by Syrenrei
Raw
Avatar of Syrenrei

Syrenrei

Member Seen 40 min ago

Sebastian sighed at the questions posed to him. His eyes wandered back towards the corner of the building that obstructed his view of the SUV that contained his beloved sister-in-law, though legally they were not bound as family in any way, as Gerard had been reluctant to wed when he was unable to provide a proper ceremony. He appreciated that the crown prince was letting his fiancee sleep, as he could only imagine how exhausted she was from all her responsibilities, but he selfishly wished she'd wake soon so he have her companionship. They all missed her hugs, her chastising tirades, her cooking, her witty sense of humor, her shrewd commentary on their fellow villagers and the world at large. It was not until someone was pulled out of one's life that they could see the true value of the individual.

"Before she left for the contest she had a few marriage proposals," Sebastian began, crossing one leg over the other thoughtfully. He knew that Luke had a wealth of information at his fingertips, but there were many things that had not been observed and recorded, and which Rhiane would not disclose of her own volition. "Other farmers and merchants that were acquaintances made offers, but they weren't exactly... romantic. I don't think she's ever had anyone give her flowers. She's talked about growing roses, but the last bush she planted died. Of the ones she has been able to grow, she likes the peonies." It was the best advice he could give the royal. Because she had never wanted a relationship, and rebuffed anyone who showed the slightest bit of amorous interest, it was hard to exactly gauge what might help win her over now that she had entered in a formal political engagement.

"The rebellion is nervous about you and Rhi getting close. For those of them that want to make her into a martyr, they know it will be next to impossible to frame you and the queen if she becomes pregnant, as that's the goal of this arrangement. Many of them will refuse to kill her if there's a chance that she's carrying child since that is a boundary they are unwilling to cross morally. For those of them that want to turn her to their side, they know if she gets attached to you she'll be more reluctant to join their cause, and that becomes infinitely more complicated if she conceives. The world would be less sympathetic if they thought you were be kept from your own child." He fell quiet for a moment to let his words sink in for the other man. It was unlikely that the couple had been making these calculations when they shared a bed and sought out each other physically. The possibility of pregnancy had been ever-present, but he doubted they had anticipated how dramatically this changed their situation, and how permanently it would affect everything.

"If I can be frank with you," Sebastian said, glancing at the unfriendly face of Nolan, before looking at Luke directly, "I don't think the rebellion is interested in anyone except you, Rhi, and your mother. The people like Princess Callista, and they don't see your half-brothers as a threat. I don't know that it is possible to prevent them from getting to Rhi. I don't know who the insiders in the castle are, just that they are close, and they are growing more desperate to rescue her from you. It might not be a matter of stopping them from taking her, but asking yourself what she will do when it happens." He leaned back and contemplated the scenario himself. On broadcast the princess elect was charming, warm, and caring, but in private she was fearless and determined. Already he could imagine her giving the revolution's members a tongue lashing for their mishandling.

But no matter how much Luke might protest he could keep her secure, that he would not fail, that the rebellion would not have a victory over him, there was no guarantee his success would continue. Ultimately it would fall upon the sultry brunette to make the pivotal decision about to whom she owed an allegiance. "The rebellion's already sent Hubert anonymous offers to help him relocate, to give him the financial security that the queen's stipend provides," Sebastian admitted. "He's refused, but..." He shook his head. If the chief reason that Rhiane had volunteered herself as a candidate was removed, and her family was no longer a factor, it came down to feelings. She would either side with the revolution's ideals, their protection, their acceptance, their liberty, or she would side with Luke because she loved him, believed in change, and was willing to have a premature death while surrounded by sneering aristocrats. Sebastian was not bold enough to say it aloud, but the scales were not tipped in the favor of the monarchy.
1x Like Like
Hidden 10 hrs ago 10 hrs ago Post by Hashih
Raw
GM
Avatar of Hashih

Hashih

Member Online

“I had no idea that it was the first time that somebody gave her flowers,” he mused aloud, suddenly a bit guilty that the gesture was not even sincere. The lights had just dimmed that night. The staff and crew of the production were busy dismantling the setup, packing up the equipment, and talking about how the camera angles worked for the Princess elect. Luke was not at all happy about how his night turned out. He was stuck with a farmer while his lover walked away in his brother’s arm. Later on, the younger prince confessed that the actress promised to arrange a meeting with a foreign model in exchange for escorting her into the palace to personally talk to Luke. But the crown prince didn’t know that. He was infuriated by the fact that he was the brain behind major decisions that steered an entire nation’s fate, but he was deprived of the choice to pick whom he would give the bouquet to.

“Then afterwards, she repeatedly rejected me. I may be able to sympathize with those fools who thought they knew what they signed up for when they proposed to Rhiane.” She used to blush a furious shade of red then run away from him whenever he got a little touchy. Luke found it cute. Little did he know that the gesture was her last stand against the unwarranted emotions sneaking its way into her fragile heart. As if she was too sure that he would one day break it. Or perhaps she was as afraid to feel for her betrothed as he was. “Peonies,” he nodded, watching the flowers dance at the prompting of the gentle breeze.

However, when he said something about the “boundary they are willing to cross morally,” Luke scoffed. “Yet they are eager to sacrifice her, to paint her as a martyr, in order to disrupt the government. I was not yet ten when an attempt was made to my life. The rebellion claimed the deed, saying that my mother should take it as a serious warning, that she should listen and stop supporting a policy that lowered the tariff for some imported crops.” His eyes met Sebastian’s. If Luke was correct and the rebellion was more than just an army of unsatisfied peasants, the same ruthless rule that executed the maidservant who was convicted for the attempted murder of the young crown prince would be the very rule that the rebellion would place on the throne. A different House and a different name. A start of a new dynasty, perhaps, but nothing would change. The investors, the noblemen, the foreign forces funding the operations would take the vacated seat of power and then everything would be as they were.

“They twist morality to fit their intent. I doubt that an unborn child will stop them or their benefactors from destroying my family or from hurting Rhiane.” And just like that, he was hiding with Rhiane inside the cramped cubicle of the comfort room again. “The men who attacked us in the clinic made the same claim – they came to rescue her – but in the end, one of them pointed his rifle at her. If it wasn’t for Tobias,” Luke shook his head, refusing to imagine what could have happened if Tobias and Nolan came a few minutes late.

If their bodyguards came in a few minutes late, Luke would have taken the bullets for her. That was the thought running in his head when the door slammed against the wall. Self-preservation fled as the barrel of the rifle stared at the two of them as if picking its next victim, protecting the woman was all that went on in his head. It was odd for the spoiled and self-centered Luke too. His voice was sober when he next spoke. “I will stop at nothing to keep her and my family away from the rebels. I believe you will do the same in order to protect the persons you love.”

Call it greed, call it whatever it may be, but so long as he was in power, Luke was not going to let them take her away from him. He did not plan on being in that situation where she was being tempted to join their cause and become his enemy. That was among the many reasons why he sought Sebastian out. “To get the names of traitors in the palace is not what I came to talk to you about. My people will have to do the leg work, but I will need you to get them into position. This is not about arresting your neighbors and friends, neither is this about suppressing the rebellion. I am asking for your help as a son, a brother, as…”

As what? What was he to Rhiane? He just realized that he would give up his life to protect her, but the rational side of his brain screamed how wrong he was. How wrong it was to endanger his royal self for the sake of a commoner.

“Don’t you wonder where the funds come from?” Luke steered the topic away. “How the rebellion, who are allegedly farmers, miners, laborers, commoners, fund a widescale offensive against the crown and at the same time offer the same benefits that the crown gives to the Black family.”
1x Like Like
Hidden 6 hrs ago Post by Syrenrei
Raw
Avatar of Syrenrei

Syrenrei

Member Seen 40 min ago

Sebastian watched the crown prince talk. It was not the words the royal used so much as the way he said it, the sentences he avoided, the proclamation he felt almost fell off the other man's lips. He could tell from watching the broadcasting footage that Rhiane was developing feelings for her future husband. When she had left for the capital she had been absolutely insistent that she would not be a fool falling in love with an aristocrat that had no hope of reciprocating her feelings. At the time she had walled off her heart successfully and kept her intimate life purely physical- something he suspected was the basis for her marriage proposals. To the merchants and farmers of this town she was an ideal candidate: not seeking romance, sensual, financially successful, able to keep and run a household on her own, open to satisfying them sexually without needing real affection, with no divorces or illegitimate children to worry about. There had been no reason to suspect that Rhiane would change, and yet she had. Sebastian could see it in her subtle glances and body language during the daily reports on the tour. It would not be long until others could as well.

But what was more surprising than the stubborn brunette harboring an infatuation was that he thought Luke genuinely cared for her. He did not admit it outright to Sebastian, but he alluded to it, and the very way he referred to her made it seem as if the pair had already exchanged their vows. Something in the heir to the throne's disposition struck him as protective and possessive as a man speaking of his wife. This was no longer a discussion purely about the rebellion. Luke wanted to shield the princess elect with the same determination and fervor as his sister and mother. Perhaps Rhiane did not see it yet, but this was proof the engagement had transcended beyond political arrangement.

"The rebellion may be united against the crown," Sebastian said slowly, "but there are factions within it, I agree. It is suspicious that it's so well-funded," he conceded, "but I am not a member of the so-called revolution, Prince Alessandro. When Rhi still lived at home she refused them what must have been a dozen times," he elaborated, not realizing that this was news to Luke. His lover had suggested she had been visited, but had purposefully withheld how many overtures were made. "Hubert and Gerard followed her lead. After she left, they didn't want to be part of a movement that went against her, even if her joining the contest was the reason for their estrangement. As much as they hate the monarchy right now, they love her, and don't want to endorse a group that has anyone in it that wants to make her a martyr."

He leaned back against the back of the bench. "No matter what we do, there will probably always be someone who wishes her harm. I'm telling you, from what I do know, the rumor you are sleeping together is having an affect. Consider the logic," Sebastian urged. "If there is someone behind it, someone who does not care about the common folk, one of their chief motivations for killing her is to frame the royal family. How well could they convince the world you'd murder someone carrying your child? Or the queen would? The nation would unite in sympathy and outrage. It wouldn't galvanize the people against the crown, it would make them more loyal." For a moment he paused. Sebastian hesitated to speculate even mentally, but if Queen Camilla was having doubts about her future daughter-in-law, she could assassinate her valuable pawn to try to capitalize on the fame. It was a risky gamble, but one she could take if times were desperate.

"In a single day, I've been told some of the most vocal proponents for Rhi's death have stepped back," the blonde advised, "much to my relief. Unfortunately, this has also increased support for kidnapping her before things become more complicated. This morning's statement and your trip here will have them more panicked and desperate than last night. I would stop them all if I could, but my contacts are outliers, people who read the exchanges but don't participate in any of the plans. Quite honestly, my concern is what Rhi would do. She's always..." he drifted off.

There was no kind way to say that Rhiane had an unhealthy fixation on her own demise. From her perspective, it could be an opportunity to die while she still had control, before her life spiraled into misery. It was easy for Sebastian to imagine a scenario in which she'd seize upon the chance to meet a premature end before enduring a relationship that would only end in tragedy and one-sided heartbreak, and before she was weaponized against Luke, assuming Sebastian was not mistaken about the blossoming romantic feelings. He leaned forward and rubbed his face before running his hands through his hair. Quietly he resolved to ask her what her thoughts were about the rebellion to gauge her potential response to an abduction.

A soft pinging alert went off on Luke's device- a message from Tobias. She appears to be having a nightmare. Wake her up now? it asked. Without Luke's reassuring presence, it was not a shock that the still-traumatized woman was struggling in the land of dreams, plagued by her recent memories.
1x Like Like
↑ Top
© 2007-2017
BBCode Cheatsheet