Recent Statuses

1 day ago
Current I usually get ads for local Mexican restaurants or weird, horny anime comics. There is no in between.
1 mo ago
I've done the same with one of my partners before. It kind of feels like meeting a pen pal you've been getting to know for a long time. Definitely something I want to do again if I have the chance.
1 mo ago
Just found out the creators of Jurassic Park used the sound of mating tortoises as dinosaur noises and now I can't take those movies seriously anymore
1 mo ago
65mph wind today and crazy blizzards. I know I complained about not getting any snow for the first part of winter, but now it feels like mother nature is overcompensating.
2 mos ago
Christmas came early for Uber drivers in my city. Posts may be delayed as I spend the day taking advantage of surge pricing because of all the snow that dumped on us last night.


Personal Profile

Name: Taylor
Age: 21+
Relationship: Married (happily, I might add)
Time Zone: Arizona (we hate daylight savings, so it's either PDT or MST depending on the time of year)
Writing History: I've been on a number of different roleplaying websites for over a decade
Hobbies: Writing, drawing, graphic design, piano, hiking, camping, traveling, anything NEW (can be convinced to try almost anything if I know I'll come away with a good story)
Roleplayer Profile

Format: 1x1s
Posting Speed: Depending on my schedule, I can often post at least a few times per week
Favorite Genres: Historical, Romance, Action/Adventure, Horror/Dark, Fantasy, Slice of Life, Dystopian, can be convinced to write some Sci-Fi
Hard 'no's: Fandoms. Sorry, but I can't maintain interest in characters/worlds I didn't build with my partner
Template: Public threads or PMs. I prefer to keep all my RPs in one place, so no emails or G-docs or the like
Rating: Comfortable with 18+ content, but it's not a necessity and I prefer not to center a RP on explicit scenes
Level: Advanced. Will consistently provide around 400-700 words per post, but can occasionally leap to 2000+
Character preference: One main character, but large side casts are greatly enjoyed. Because I write long posts, I prefer not to double
Gender preference: Male. You'll be hard pressed to convince me to play a female that isn't just a background character. It does happen but very rarely
Romantic Relationships: MxF or MxM (currently prefer MxM)
Character Images: Faceclaims or detailed descriptions only. I envision the characters like real people in my mind, so I can't take anime seriously
OOC chat: Yes please! I'm a total extrovert who loves to get to know the amazing minds behind my partners' characters
Ongoing Roleplays

Let Me Steal Your Heart - Medieval saga going 7 years strong with @BuzzingBee
Match Up in Malibu - Reality show SoL set in California with @Bee
Amnesia - Modern dystopian romance with @sukikyoufu
Also shoutout to @Syrenrei @meyerlemontree @Angel Vicky @blindwoofer @Aalakrys & @Tlstiffl who are wonderful writers of the PM land

Most Recent Posts

It was almost torturous to watch the raids from a distance. Caspian chewed anxiously on the inside of his lip as he watched the screens that had been set up for him in the palace’s security office. He wished he could have gone with Jacob to make sure they got Iris back unharmed. He may not have had experience with this particular kind of mission, but he’d been to the districts before and had survived practically on his own. Was it really so much worse to go back with a fully equipped military unit?

Team one is approaching the target.

The crackled sound of the team commander’s voice over the comm device pulled him out of his moping, and he sat up straighter, his eyes flicking to the live feed on his left. The drone was hovering over a row of dilapidated buildings at the end of a cul-de-sac, above which a transport vehicle was lowering itself to deposit seven armed men and women in the street. The king could feel his heart thudding in his chest, and he leaned forward in his seat, as if he could get closer to them if he only pressed himself nearer to the screen.

As he watched, the team jogged toward the first building and jimmied the door open—since they were small groups, they didn’t want to draw attention to themselves by being too loud—before they slipped inside with their guns in their hands. The soldier piloting the drone steered it lower to follow them at a distance, so Cas could see as they explored every part of the house and eventually declared it abandoned. From there, they did the same with the rest of the buildings on the street until they could confirm that there were no members of the rebellion hiding in the area. The only people around were poor civilian families, whom the team left alone.

Hawthorn Circle is clear, the commander reported as he led his team back to their hovercar.

Copy. Team two is descending on Parkside now.

This time, it was Jacob’s voice that Caspian could hear over his earpiece, and he turned to the other screen in the office. This one had to be it. If his security guard was right that Iris could only be in one of these two neighborhoods, then the houses the second team was approaching were the only possible places left. He felt a rush of nervousness and excitement, and he brought a hand to his comm device. “Make sure our target stays safe. That’s top priority. We’re bringing her back alive.”

Yes, sir, Jacob replied. His eyes flicked to the drone hovering beside the transport vehicle before turning back to the houses below. The image of Iris’s heavily wounded body was still ingrained in his mind, but he kept to himself his doubts that they would find her alive. He just wanted to bring her tormentor to justice, even if she was dead by the time they found her. With that plan in mind, he switched the safety off on his rifle and led the way down to the street once the craft was low enough that he could jump out, jogging quietly up to the first house on the block with the rest of his team close behind.
Over the next five hours, the palace turned into a madhouse as every man and woman available was assigned to last minute jobs. Between Jacob and Cas’s leadership, there were multiple teams operating to investigate the cell phone, the rebels who held Iris captive, and the other security systems in place that may have been breached by the Scourge. The king had wanted to be in charge of the search task force of course, but Jacob pointed out that that fell in his wheelhouse, so he took over that role while Cas received reports from the other military leaders who were running sweeps of their software coding for traces of invaders.

It was mind-numbing work to comb through everything, but everyone was diligent in their efforts, uncovering a few pieces of evidence that rebel hackers had been inside their system. They even found clues that one of their own men had been feeding information to an outside source, and another team was dispatched to have the culprit arrested at his house and interrogated to find out who he had been communicating with.

Through it all, Caspian felt sick. While the royal security made progress on improving their firewalls and removing spyware that would better protect the military, they had yet to figure out exactly where Iris was located. The carrier for the phone that had sent the texts was identified and ordered to hand over everything it had on the device’s owner, but it was clear from a glance that the user was working behind a fake identity—not uncommon for a member of the Scourge. They weren’t sure if the address on file was accurate either, so the only option left was to search the photos in the text thread for details that would allow them to narrow down the location.

That was where Jacob came in. Before he’d taken over as the head of security, he’d developed his skills as a talented tracker, among other things, so he scoured the pictures Ethan had sent for over two hours, taking down notes and assigning other security workers to research information about specific districts that the rebellion controlled. With his expertise, the team was finally able to narrow down their parameters to just one district not too far from the place he’d dropped Iris off the last time they’d crossed paths.

It was then that Cas came by to check on their progress, and the guard beckoned him over with a wave of his hand.

“Do you have something?” the king asked hopefully, leaning over to see all the haphazard papers the other man had been working with. There were scribbles and pins and lines drawn across pages, all interspersed with scratch marks where Jacob had ruled out the places she couldn’t be located.

“I believe she is most likely in this neighborhood here…” the older man nodded, tapping a finger against a digital map that zoomed in over a satellite view of a few houses. “Or here.” With a swipe, he brought the view to a different street in the same district, about five miles away from the first.

“Send a team to each one,” Cas nodded, his heartbeat quickening with excitement. They were so close. “You can head one and I’ll take the other. Between the two of us—” He faltered when the guard held up his hand, shaking his head.

“I’m sorry, Your Majesty, but I must insist you stay here,” Jacob frowned. “Aside from the fact that you don’t have military experience, I’m certain that the man behind this is using her to lure you out. I cannot allow you to make yourself vulnerable by walking into a trap.”

“You seriously expect me to stay here and wait around?” Cas scowled.

Jacob held his ground, unperturbed. “It’s your responsibility, Your Majesty. However, if it would make you feel better, we can bring along two drones to record everything, so you can watch the raids from the safety of the palace.”

Cas shifted his weight from his left foot to his right. He didn’t like the idea of being so uninvolved, but he could tell his guard wasn’t going to waver on this. And, as much as it pained him to admit it, the other man was right. “Fine,” he grumbled, turning his head away. “Do it.”

And with permission given from the Aspirian king, two teams of seven were established, and the troops were dispatched by air to search both neighborhoods for the kidnapped girl.
The next day, after a night of getting no sleep at all, Cas headed to Jacob’s office early in the morning to catch him before they both got swept up in other responsibilities. Well, before the guard did. Since the texts had come through, any chance of him getting any work done had been thrown out the window. He couldn’t think about anything other than Iris, and he wasn’t going to rest until he made sure she was safe from Ethan. There was a good chance that he was the only one who knew where she was and what he was doing to her, after all, so it was on him to help her.

Knocking on the office door, he could only hope his guard felt the same way.

“Come in.” Jacob’s voice rang through the wood, and the king stepped inside to a surprised looking head of security, seated behind his desk. It was only a quarter past five in the morning, and Cas usually slept in until at least seven, so the other man hadn’t been expecting him to make an appearance when the sun had barely risen outside. His bemusement was reflected in his tone as he asked, “Your Majesty, is there something I can do for you this morning?”

“Yeah, actually,” Cas nodded, taking a breath and sitting down across from the guard with his arms folded over his knees. “I… got a message from an unknown number last night.”

“You did?” Immediately, Jacob’s brows furrowed with concern and he leaned forward in an urgent posture. “What did it say?”

“Whoever it is said he has Iris.” Despite his best efforts, Cas couldn’t stop the note of worry from slipping into his voice. “He demanded that I step down as king or else she’ll suffer… and he sent photos.”

Jacob pursed his lips. “Did you respond?”

“I did, but I told him I wasn’t going to give in to his demands. He sent another photo after that.”

“Do you mind if I look?”

The king nodded. He dug his phone out of his pocket and pulled up the text thread, winced at the sight of the photos, and slid the device across the desk for the other man to take. While Jacob reviewed the messages and attached pictures, he went on, “I think I know who sent these, because he called her ‘my girlfriend.’ Before she came to the Capital, Iris was with this crazy guy… the same one who shot me while I was stuck in one of the districts. I wouldn’t put it past him to do all of this to her, even though he talks about her like he still has feelings.”

“And I’m guessing you’re showing these to me because you want me to get the military involved?” Jacob arched his brows.

“Well…” Cas shuffled his feet underneath the desk.

“Your Majesty,” the guard sighed. “I understand your worries, but to be frank, I’m much more concerned about the fact that this man got ahold of your personal number. I don’t like that one bit, and I think it’s more important that I spend my time investigating how that information was leaked—”

As he was speaking, the phone in his hand buzzed, and Jacob looked down at it with a frown as he saw that the same unknown number had just sent a new message. This one, a video. His eyes flicked back up to Caspian, who was mirroring his confused expression, before he turned the phone’s volume all the way down to zero and pressed play. Holding it at an angle to conceal the contents from the king, he fought a grimace as he watched the man on the screen bury a knife in Iris’s torso while he kissed her. Cas’s theory about a deranged ex was definitely looking possible.

He also felt a stab of anger within himself that caught him off guard. He wasn’t close to Iris by any means, yet watching someone torture her like that made him grip the phone tighter and clench his jaw. A wound like that was no joke either. If there was no one around to give her medical attention, she wasn’t going to survive it, and he suspected that was the point, since the sender had indicated that he wouldn’t hold back if the king didn’t adhere to his conditions. The man behind this ploy was wicked.

“Did he send something else?”

Caspian’s question tore Jacob out of his red haze, and he looked up again, calculating. “Yes,” he answered honestly after a pause. “But I don’t think you should look at it. He’s just trying to torment you.”

“Why? What did he send?” Cas paled slightly, extending a hand to take the phone back.

“I’m sure you can guess, given the photos he sent last night,” Jacob replied, though he didn’t move to hand over the phone right away. “For your own sanity, you should let me delete this one.”

Cas pursed his lips. “She’s… still alive in the new photo… right?”

Jacob nodded. “I’d also like to keep this for a while, if you’ll allow me. The men in software security need to analyze it, so we can find out if it was hacked.”

“Okay,” the king frowned again, bouncing a leg restlessly. So far, the conversation wasn’t going his way at all. He’d come to Jacob in the hopes of getting something done about Iris, not his cellphone. While the latter was important too, since it was a matter of national security, he cared more about the person who was potentially at risk of losing her life. And he wasn’t going to leave until he got a straighter answer.

“You can do whatever you want with the phone. I don’t care, but Iris matters to me, Jacob,” he said forwardly, his fear transitioning into a more serious expression. “Can’t you spare at least a task force or something to help me find her and bring her back? I can’t just leave her out there with that psycho. He could actually kill her.”

Jacob remained quiet for a moment, his eyes dropping to the screen again with the macabre thumbnail for the video he’d just watched. Iris’s captor may have already killed her. However, he still found himself nodding as he lifted his gaze to the king’s face once more. After seeing what was being done to her, he had to agree with Caspian, albeit reluctantly. Even if it was too late, they would have both hated themselves for not trying.

“Fine,” he conceded. “I’ll put together a team to see if we can find out where she is.”
Well, it wasn’t surprising to find out Madison was planning to recycle a role she’d been assigned before in order to get through a talent competition. Jett wondered if she took the reality show they were on seriously at all. To be fair, he didn’t know what to think about it yet either, but he was still making an effort to be nice to the other contestants and participating in their conversations without acting all high and mighty just because half the cast wasn’t famous.

Taking a bite of his dinner, he thought to himself that if they were all going to be voting on a person to send home, Madison didn’t stand much of a chance at making it through the first round. Not with all the enemies she was probably making with her better-than-thou comments.

For the rest of the evening, they continued throwing out ideas and preferences for the next challenge of the show and getting to know each other a little better. The cameramen circled the yard like sharks, capturing everything on film to be sorted through later when they narrowed down what would make it into the final cut of the pilot. Eventually, everyone’s attention was grabbed by the host, who gathered them together by the fire pit for another planned event.

While they headed over, Jett fell in step between Anna and Bella and asked quietly, “How much you wanna bet they’re going to have us rank each other or something?”
For the rest of the night, sleep was an impossibility. Cas couldn’t stop replaying the text conversation in his head over and over as he tossed and turned in his bed until, sometime after four a.m., he gave up and climbed out to calm down with a warm shower. After the last message he’d received, it had been hard to keep the panic at bay as he worried about what the sender was doing to Iris. He couldn’t stand the thought of anything else happening to her, especially because of him. He could only hope Ethan had been bluffing about continuing to hurt her after he’d refused to agree to his terms. The guy had called her his girlfriend in the first text, so maybe somewhere in his twisted heart, he cared about her wellbeing too. The thought made Cas feel nauseated, but it was better than the alternative. The broken arm in the last photo had nearly made him lose his dinner.

When he got back out of the shower, he felt slightly more settled about the way he’d chosen to respond to the man holding Iris hostage though. Lying would have only gotten him so far, since he was sure the rebels would keep an eye on the news in wait for an announcement that he was stepping down as king. It had been better to set proper expectations up front and pray that the woman he loved wouldn’t suffer further as a consequence.

The only question that remained was how he was going to get her back from Ethan.

Now that he knew where she was and felt convinced she hadn’t left him of her own volition, he wasn’t just going to leave her in the clutches of the Scourge. Even though he already knew Jacob would disapprove, he needed to do something about this situation. If that meant leaving without the permission of his security team, then that was what he would have to do.

Wringing the excess water from his hair with a towel, he traipsed back into his bedroom and picked up his phone to look at the photos Ethan had sent again. There had to be something in the background that he could use to narrow down where the rebel was hiding. A window, a specific kind of architectural feature, maybe a sign from Iris. However, after staring at it for half an hour he couldn’t find anything useful, so he set the device back down with a frustrated sigh. As much as he loved detective shows, he things he saw on TV rarely translated to real life. He didn’t have the know-how to find someone with just a couple pictures…

But Jacob did.

Cas pressed his lips together, drumming his fingers contemplatively against his pant leg. He was hesitant to tell the guard anything, because he knew how the other man would react, but he also knew he couldn’t handle this by himself. Last time he’d tried, he had ended up practically alone in the outer districts, fighting for his life in a warzone. He couldn’t risk that again—not when he knew the entire kingdom would suffer if something happened to him.

So, pressing back against the frantic voice inside of him that urged him to throw caution to the wind and go after Ethan without getting anyone else involved, he took a slow breath and made up his mind. Iris deserved his best, and his best was Jacob. In the morning, he would share the news privately with his guard and hope the other man would help him bring her back. It was his only option.
Cas could hear his heartbeat in his ears as he stared, unmoving, at the texts on his phone. He didn’t understand what was going on. Why was someone texting him photos of Iris? Why now? He’d finally started to move on from her disappearance, and suddenly everything he’d thought he knew was being thrown into question. He wondered with horror if she hadn’t left him intentionally but had been abducted by her lunatic ex-boyfriend. If so, he had no idea how the rebel could have gotten inside the capital without alerting the border security.

But then again, he also couldn’t fathom how the other man could have gotten ahold of his personal cell phone number, so anything was possible.

His head felt like it was swimming, and each second felt like an hour. Finally, a response from the original sender came through, but it did nothing to reassure him of the situation. Instead, he read the blackmail on his screen with a sinking stomach. Someone—probably Ethan—had Iris and was using her as leverage to force him to abdicate the throne. Of all the possible scenarios that could have come along with her absence, this one had never once crossed his mind.

He should have gotten Jacob involved. There was still time to tell the guard about what was going on, but he already knew what the other man would say. His reign as king and as the only living successor to the crown was more important than a common girl from the outer districts. As soon as the guard caught wind of what was going on, he would double down on security throughout the capital to make sure no one got in or out of the city. There was no way he would risk sending any of his men to rescue Iris when someone was threatening Aspiria’s monarchy.

Then the second text followed the first, and Cas felt his throat tighten. Ethan was insane. Was he going to torture Iris if he refused to step down? Reading the words dazedly, he raked a hand through his dark hair. He didn’t know what to do. Whether he wanted to or not, he knew that giving up the crown wasn’t on the table, so he couldn’t comply with the rebel’s demands. However, he also couldn’t go about his days with the knowledge that somewhere, Iris was suffering because of his decision.

When he’d thought she had left him of her own free will, he’d been able to slowly move on with his life, but now, he felt convinced that someone else had taken her. He had to get her back. Wherever she was, she clearly didn’t want to be there, and it was likely that he was the only other person who knew she was being held captive. The thought of going after her alone, returning to the districts beyond the capital, made him feel dizzy, but what other choice did he have? He’d drive himself mad if he pretended like he hadn’t read those messages. Even though he had responsibilities as king, he also had responsibilities to the woman he loved. He had to save her from her lunatic ex-boyfriend.

He also couldn’t let Ethan know what he was planning, so with a steadying breath, he typed back a carefully worded reply:

I will not step down, so you might as well give up on that angle. It isn’t going to work. I’ll also be disconnecting this phone’s service first thing in the morning, so don’t bother trying to send more photos to this number. It was a nice try, but Aspiria will always come first. As long as I’m king, I’ll do everything in my power to keep this country safe from enemies like you.
In the weeks that had followed Iris’s disappearance, it had become easier for Caspian to think and talk about her to other people. Of course, he still missed her like a lost limb and felt the familiar tightness in his chest whenever her face appeared in his mind, but the passage of days replaced some of his sadness with more palatable emotions like frustration, bitterness and even a little indignation that she had chosen to leave him without so much as a goodbye. Even though things had soured between them, he felt like he was owed at least that much.

He’d gone out of his way to protect her from the military and had stayed completely loyal even when his relationship with her was to his own detriment. He had promised her that he wouldn’t go anywhere even when it was difficult for them to see each other in person. And although he knew he had been selfish at the end of it all, not all of their problems had been his fault. He couldn’t control his own schedule anymore, yet he’d still followed through on his promises to her—even if they had happened on a delayed timetable.

All of his emotions stirred up like dust as he filled Jay and Miles in on everything that had happened since they’d last seen each other. For their part, his friends listened patiently and didn’t interrupt. He could see the empathy on Miles’ face while Jay nodded along with his arms crossed over his chest and a deep frown on his lips. There wasn’t time to give them every detail of his relationship with the former rebel, but it still felt good to have some support from more people than just his bodyguard. As much as he appreciated Jacob’s attempts to help, the stoic man wasn’t the best shoulder to lean on while he was going through the thick of the breakup. Most of his solutions to deal with the hurt ended in a bottle of liquor or more tasks on his to-do list, so he would be too busy to think about his girlfriend.

When he finished catching them up, there was a short silent pause before Miles shook his head. “Well… I guess on the bright side, things can’t get worse than they are now, right?” he offered, propping an elbow on the table to rest his chin in his hand. “You’re gonna be on the up and up from here, man. No more girls to drag you down.”

Jay knocked him in the shoulder. “That still sucks though. I’m sorry she bailed on you, Cas.”

“It was going to happen eventually,” Cas lifted his shoulders, swirling the remains of the whiskey in his glass. “I think Jacob was right. It’s better that it happened now than it would’ve been if she broke up with me after everyone in Aspiria knew we were together… I was really close to making it public knowledge. Removed her criminal charges and everything the same day she left.”

“Yeah, you dodged a bullet there,” Miles agreed. “So… are you gonna reverse the charges again to put them back on her?”

“No, I’m not that petty,” Cas managed a smile. “I don’t like how things ended, but I still believe Iris is a good person. She doesn’t deserve to go to prison just because she broke up with me on a piece of paper.”

“You’re a better man than I am,” Jay quipped.

Cas and Miles laughed and the three friends fell into a more lighthearted conversation that was relieving to the king now that he’d gotten the worst part out of the way. They watched the game he’d put up on the TV, downed a few more cocktails and cracked jokes at one another’s expense like they always had before Atlas had passed away. The night helped to take his mind off everything that had been stressing him, and by the end of it, he could even say he was in a genuinely good mood for the first time since he’d found the executive suite empty.

Around eleven, he walked his friends to the door and then headed up to his room to get ready for bed. Fortunately, he didn’t have much scheduled for the next day, so he could set his alarm late and sleep off the alcohol that still lingered in his system. With a plan to do just that, he showered and went through his usual hygiene routine and then climbed under his duvet, plugging in his phone on the side table to charge overnight.

He had just gotten it put away and rolled over to sleep when he noticed the screen light up with an incoming message. He shook his head to himself. Assuming Miles had left something behind at the palace, he turned back over to skim the text—and then promptly sat up on his bed as he read it again.

Girlfriend? The color drained from his face, and he opened the message fully to find an attached photo of the last person he’d expected to appear in his inbox. His hands shook, and he swallowed hard, his mind racing as he labored to put together the pieces of what was happening. Was it a sick joke? Who would have even sent the text in the first place? He knew of one person who would call Iris his girlfriend, but how could that man have gotten ahold of his personal number? It didn’t make any sense.

With a tremor in his fingers, he typed back furiously:

Who is this? What happened to Iris?

In the back of his head, he knew it would have been smarter to alert Jacob immediately. Someone had gotten his contact information without the security team’s permission, and he didn’t know exactly who he was speaking with. However, the sight of Iris, beaten and bloodied on the ground, had swept away all sense of reason. The only thing he cared about was getting answers.
Three more days passed since the night Jacob visited Cas in his room. Trying to stay true to his word, the king put more effort into his work as it came up. During his scheduled meetings he was less distracted, and outside of the prewritten agenda, he started requesting documents to skim through as he finally took steps toward figuring out how to solve Aspiria’s economic disparity.

Ever since he’d been abducted by the rebellion, the image of the districts’ poor condition had been seared into his mind, and he was starting to find his determination to correct it again. He wanted to be the leader he’d promised he would be on his coronation day. Iris’s disappearance had put a halt to that for almost a month, but just because things didn’t work out between them didn’t mean he could forget about the other common people who needed his help. He wasn’t so petty that he would take out his disappointment with her on every non-highborn citizen in the kingdom, after all.

The additional work kept him busy, but he knew he needed to ground himself in something other than his job, so over the weekend, he asked Jacob to change the security parameters around the palace, so he could invite his friends, Jay and Miles, to visit him for an evening. The guard obliged without the need for any convincing—he was just happy to see his monarch finally returning to normal—and passed the word along to the men who were stationed to watch the front gate.

Once Cas was finished with his tasks for the day, he headed to his in-home bar to set up a game for them to watch on one of the TVs while he sipped at a whiskey sour. Even though the sting of the breakup hadn’t dissipated yet, preparing to spend time with two guys whose company he enjoyed was a strong step toward moving on. For just a moment, he could picture his life the way it had been before he’d met Iris. Hanging out with his friends, going out to late night parties, tracking his favorite teams each sports season and enjoying a few drinks at the end of a long day. Some of those things would never quite be the same since he was crowned king, but thinking about them helped him take his mind off things. Right now, that was what he needed.

And he didn’t have to wait long before a guard stopped by to let him know Jay and Miles had arrived, then the two in question caught up with him a few minutes later.

“Look who it is: His Royal Highness, King Caspian,” Jay grinned at Cas and leaned over in a mock bow as the former prince slid out of his booth to greet both of his friends with firm hugs and slaps on the back.

“Shut up,” Cas gave the other man’s shoulder a shove, though a smirk arched on his lip. He’d forgotten how much he had missed their jokes and ribbing. Lately, it felt like he had to be on his best behavior for all the older men and women he met with to discuss political issues. They all treated him like his father, with stiff manners and humorless attitudes. He may have become king, but he was still only halfway through his twenties. Sometimes it was nice to let go and forget about appearances for a few hours.

“Dude, we haven’t seen you in forever,” Miles jumped in as they headed over to the booth closest to the TV Cas had set up. “How’s life going for you as the most powerful man in Aspiria?”

“Um, not as amazing as you probably think it is,” Cas admitted, taking a seat across from his friends.

“What do you mean?” Miles frowned.

“Well, for one thing, my dad is dead and I’m being drowned in all the work he left behind,” he lifted his shoulders. There was a sting in his chest at the mention of Atlas’s unexpected passing, but he swallowed the emotions that rose up with it. Now that he was the new leader of the country, he was learning that if he didn’t temper his feelings, other people would think he was weak or unstable, so it was becoming a habit to keep the pain of his loss private. “But aside from that… there’s also something I need to fill you guys in on.”

Jay and Miles exchanged a glance. “Is it something to do with Iris?” Jay asked tentatively.

“Yeah,” Cas sighed, taking another pull of the drink he’d left on the table. “She left.”
The next few weeks felt like wading through deep waters to Caspian. Every meeting was slow and forced, and whenever he had time to himself, he was too lethargic to do anything other than lay in bed or watch absentminded TV. Jacob did what he could to offer the monarch company, but most of the time, Cas wasn’t interested in talking. It was the first real heartbreak he’d ever experienced, and he couldn’t take his mind off the pain of the breakup no matter how hard he tried.

Which meant Jacob’s other job was coming up with excuses to get the Aspirian king out of last minute responsibilities and appearances. Anything that hadn’t already been on the schedule before Iris had disappeared stayed in place, but the security guard recruited the help of his PR agent to keep from adding anything new to the agenda for a while. Aside from Caspian’s own emotional recovery, it would have been bad for the kingdom if they pushed their ruler into making public appearances that he wasn’t prepared to handle. The rest of the Aspirian people—especially the rebellion—didn’t need to know what poor shape he was in.

However, everyone also knew that Cas couldn’t mope forever. The country could only run smoothly for so long before his lack of motivation started to affect things. So, as they started into the third week of the king’s new, reclusive habits, Jacob decided that it was time to set him back on course.

Lately, the monarch had been spending all of his spare time in his room, so the security guard knew where to find him without any effort. He headed up to the top floor of the palace and knocked on the oversized doors that used to belong to Atlas. Stepping back, he waited for a few beats before he heard a muffled response from within that he assumed was permission from the occupant to enter.

“Good evening, Your Majesty,” he said as he headed into the room. Unsurprisingly, he found Caspian lying half dressed in his bed. The younger man was sporting bed-messy hair and was scrolling through posts on social media, though it was questionable if he was comprehending what he was even looking at. “How are you doing today?” the guard asked on his way over to the bedside.

“How do you think?” Cas replied dryly without looking away from the screen of his phone.

“Fair enough,” Jacob lifted his shoulders, slipping his hands into his pockets. For a moment, silence fell between them. It was obvious that the king wasn’t in the mood to chat, but the guard wasn’t going to leave without addressing the long overdue conversation that needed to be had. He’d given the ruler time to grieve, but now he needed to start getting back on track. Staying where he was, Jacob went on, “How much longer are you planning on hiding away in your room?”

“As long as it takes,” Cas answered noncommittally.

Jacob sighed. “I know you don’t feel like getting up, but you’re not going to move on from Iris until you stop letting her affect you like this,” he said frankly. “You have a duty to your people and purpose in bettering their lives. Don’t let one girl take that away from you.”

“I’ll still go to all my meetings,” Cas muttered, finally letting his phone drop on the mattress to cast his guard an impatient look. “I’m doing my job, so what’s your point?”

“My point is that there’s a lot more to being king than attending meetings,” Jacob folded his arms. “You’ve been doing the bare minimum ever since Iris left you, and people are going to notice that your heart’s not in it if you keep this up. Laying around in bed isn’t going to bring her back either. She’s gone, Caspian, and sooner or later, you’re going to have to go back to your life without her in it. For your own sake and everyone else’s, let that lesson sink in before you have to clean up another mess.”

At that, Cas stayed quiet. He knew Jacob was right. Iris was gone, and he couldn’t contact her when he had no clue where she’d went. However, even though he understood it logically, he couldn’t convince his heart to get on board. “It just sucks, you know?” he exhaled, dragging a hand over his tousled hair. “I want to move on, but it still hurts. I think about her a lot, and every time, I just want to climb back into bed and be alone… How long does it take before that part goes away?”

“It will go away faster if you force yourself to stay busy,” Jacob assured him. “Get back to normal and let other people and responsibilities keep your mind occupied. I promise it will help, and you’ll eventually be able to think about her without the pain.”

Cas nodded halfheartedly. “Okay… but not today,” he compromised, picking up his phone again to unlock the screen. “I want one more night to be selfish about it, and tomorrow, I’ll try your idea.”

“That’s all I can ask for, Your Majesty,” Jacob bowed. “Have a good evening.”

And with his goal accomplished, the guard left the king alone, hoping that he would stay true to his word. The sooner he moved on from Iris, the sooner they could progress on establishing him as the new authority figure in Aspiria. There was still much work to be done on that front.
“I just don’t get it.”

“Your Majesty, please sit down.”

Jacob frowned as he watched his king pace in the living room of the executive suite. Not long after the reality had set in that Iris was gone, Caspian had switched from shock to what look like a mixture of frustration and denial. The young monarch was frowning at the floor, wracking his brain to figure out when things had gone wrong as he clutched Iris’s note in his closed fist. The last time he’d seen her, he’d thought they had been on the same page. She hadn’t been happy in the resort, but he’d told her he was going to fix it. So why would she disappear on him? It didn’t make any sense.

“How do we even know she actually wrote this?” Cas stopped pacing just long enough to hold up the crumpled paper between his fingers. “What if someone found her and took her? She wouldn’t do this. Iris wouldn’t have just walked away like this. Besides, where would she even go if she did leave? She doesn’t know her way around the city, and she couldn’t have gotten out without someone seeing her—”

“Your Majesty, breathe,” Jacob stopped him. “I understand that you’re upset, but you might be overthinking this just a bit…” He held up his hands innocently when the king shot him a glare. “Really think about it. Who would have taken her? If someone from our military had discovered her hiding here, I would have received a call about it, and I’ve heard no reports about any breeches in security at the border. No one has come into the capital who isn’t supposed to be here.” He lowered his hands. “As much as it pains me to say it… I believe Iris left of her own free will. I’m sorry.”

Cas held the other man’s gaze for a moment longer before he lowered his with a defeated sigh. “I know,” he shook his head, numbly reading the note in his hand one more time. “I just can’t believe she would do this to me. I… I told her I loved her, and she said she loved me. If she wasn’t lying, then why would she just vanish like this?”

“I can’t answer that,” Jacob stepped closer. “But if you want my honest opinion, I think this is for the best. If Iris wasn’t as committed to the relationship as you were, then it was better for the break to happen while the repercussions only affect the two of you.”

Cas nodded wordlessly, still reeling from the shock of his discovery. He didn’t want to believe that Iris had left him, but all the evidence pointed in that direction. She was gone, and she’d left a note specifically for him. For whatever reason, she’d decided to end things between them, and now he was left standing in an empty room, wondering if there was anything he could have done to prevent her from leaving.

“Maybe I deserved this,” he murmured after the silence had dragged out for a few minutes. “Honestly… she was miserable with me. I tried to make it better, but I couldn’t give her the time and attention she deserved. I think I was being selfish when I assumed we could make it work even when I was always working and barely had time to talk with her for half an hour every night. She probably got sick of waiting for me to be a better partner.” He rubbed one eye with his fist as he felt his emotions threatening to boil over and then blinked as he felt a hand on his shoulder.

“You did nothing wrong,” Jacob disagreed. “You’re the ruler of an entire country, Caspian. By choosing your people over one relationship, you made the right decision. Even though it may hurt now, all of Aspiria will be better off because of your dedication.”

“I know,” Cas sighed, stuffing Iris’s note into his pocket after one last glance over. “But it still doesn’t change the fact that I feel like my heart’s been ripped out of my chest.”

Jacob nodded, “Breakups are a bitch… But in any case, we should go back to the palace. There’s no point in lingering here any longer than we need to.”

“Sure,” Cas replied noncommittally. “I’ll need my schedule pushed back tomorrow morning though. I’m not going to bed until I find the bottom of a whiskey bottle.” With one last look around the messy suite, he let out his breath and followed his security guard back to the hover car, managing to keep his composure until they were inside the vehicle, and the deep ache that gnawed at his stomach finally took over. Hot tears rolled silently down his cheeks, and he stared blankly out the side window, wishing he could have done something to keep Iris from walking away and wondering where she had gone.
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