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Luke was not comfortable with how close the movement was to the Black family. Hearing Sebastian talk about how Rhiane, then afterwards her living relatives, being seduced by the rebellion with promises outweighing the benefits they are enjoying under the good graces of the crown was not good news. They both know that the reason Rhiane joined the contest was to give her brother and father a chance at a comfortable life even if it meant giving up her own. If by chance the rebellion succeeded in persuading the household, then it was as if he already lost the battle. Without the queen’s leverage, it would be foolish for Rhiane to choose to stand by her betrothed.

“It does paint a bad image of me, don’t you think? A man who will murder his own wife and child for whatever petty reason the rebels may propagate.” But the foreigner was correct. The palace can take up measures to ensure the princess elect’s security, but it was no assurance that the attacks would stop. He and his mother had made a number of enemies from across all walks of life inside and outside the kingdom. The ruling House may be supported by the majority of the ruling class, but history chronicled the rise and fall of dynasties triggered by a subtle shift in power that created ripples destabilizing alliances and dissolving ties. “If they can create a story to frame the queen while Rhiane is not yet with child, I don’t doubt they will be creative enough to orchestrate a ruse to make it appear that the queen and I are murderous despicable monsters who are unfit to rule.” He shook his head. “Carrying a child in her womb will not save her. You are correct, there will always be people who would wish for her to be out of the picture.”

What he decided not to express, nor did it occur to him until that moment, was how a pregnancy would shorten the time he was to spend with her. By encouraging intimacy between them, he unknowingly pulled the deadline closer.

The silver lining was the news Sebastian disclosed next. “You don’t have to try stop them on your own. I am here. I want the same thing that you do – to keep her safe and happy. Help me, Sebastian. Your contacts may be outliers, but my people are trained to track and trace.” The device around his wrist pinged once, but Luke ignored it. “I promise not to put you or your family or the Black family at risk, allow me to carry all the hazards. The queen will not even know about this.”

The second time the device pinged caught Luke’s attention. He glanced on the message on his wrist from Tobias. A slight frown appeared on his face then he was on the shared line of the royal guards. “You don’t have to ask permission,” he talked fast and in an even tone. Luke kept an earpiece in place for emergency calls so he may be able to move freely while talking.

Distracted and without excusing himself, the prince turned on his heels and was half jogging, half sprinting, towards the SUV. Nolan’s face remained blank, though immediately he checked on the other members of the team for any abnormal sightings or activities. Only when the team confirmed that nothing was amiss did the guard’s hand leave the gun alone in its holster. Following Luke’s lead, he jogged to the SUV.

The rear passenger door was unlocked. Luke easily pulled it open, but what he found inside did not make summoning composure easy. Between the time from receiving the message to reaching the vehicle, Tobias had found time to relocate himself to the backseat relatively close to the sleeping princess elect. It could be interpreted as goodwill to try to reassure her while she was asleep, but Luke only saw an opportunity to get close to Rhiane being exploited by his cousin. Her head was against his shoulder, a serene expression on her face as Tobias’ arm wrapped protectively around her shoulder. He was whispering reassurances to her, gently rocking the sleeping princess.

Luke stood frozen by an unwelcomed emotion that could only be illogically placed anger at his cousin. The man was just doing his job, but it felt as if Tobias had crossed the line. “Nolan, ask Sebastian if we can bring Rhiane to her room so she can rest better.” The cousins’ eyes never left each other the whole time as if either party was testing each other’s patience to see who would snap first. “I need you to step out of the vehicle, Tobias.”
“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.”
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.”

Name: Eloise Hale
Age: 25

Eloise was born to a family who has never known the word hunger. She could have lived her life comfortably spending her father's fortune and still be buried in a golden casket encrusted with precious stones. At a time when gold was monopolized by the noble lords and ladies, the patriarch of the family made a name for himself in manufacturing and distribution of the spirits -- ale, wine, rum -- that addicting and intoxicating liquid that burned the throat, clouded the mind, and made the unsuspecting victim spend every precious gold in his person for one last kick. Little did the general public know that the liquor business was but a facade to cover for the real source of the family's wealth.

Even though she was the youngest and the only daughter of her family, Eloise was well-informed about the business conducted by his father in the shadows, where no unauthorized ear was listening and no suspecting eyes were watching. The trade consist of substances, artifacts, relics, weapons and even creatures either banned by the king or generally unaccepted by the public. It opened her eyes to a world that existed just beneath the surface of normalcy. Her brothers might have to do with it, but the spoiled and willful girl craved for adventures that the four corners of her father's manor could never ever grant her.
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.
In The Betrothed 10 days ago Forum: 1x1 Roleplay
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.
In The Betrothed 11 days ago Forum: 1x1 Roleplay
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.
In The Betrothed 14 days ago Forum: 1x1 Roleplay
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.
In The Betrothed 18 days ago Forum: 1x1 Roleplay
Luke was wondering what Rhiane’s house looked like, if it was anything like the farm houses from the last village or did she keep a household that was homier and more cozy than those he had seen so far, when she offered to finish the tour’s itinerary on her own. His lips fell into a flat line and his eyes slightly narrowed at her. The woman was either thirsty for adventures outside her hometown or she was taunting trouble to find her. With everything that had happened to her since she earned the title princess elect – the attempts at her life, the trauma of witnessing somebody shot dead – it was amazing that she would propose to continue traveling the kingdom instead of retreating into the safety of the palace.

Most of the passengers were already strapped into their seats, except for Octavia, who remained lingering near the door and Tobias, who stood on the aisle a few steps from the female guard. Both stepped aside to give room for the couple to move.

“Yes, it is important,” Luke was telling Rhiane as he ushered her to the window seat. He spoke in an equally hushed tone, careful not to let the incredulity be heard in his voice. “Especially when I fly out of the country next week. Keep this so you can call me whenever you miss me. It will also tell the security team where you’re at in case of any emergency or whenever you raise a signal for help.” After what happened at the mountains, they would not take any chances. Her whereabouts had to be monitored and her perimeter secured. It was clear that the enemy conspired to harm the future mother of the next generation of royals, and fortunately they failed twice. There was no assurance that there would be no more third. The more she endeared herself to the public, the more the rebellion saw her as a threat to their propaganda. Which was why Luke could not believe how she could ask him to let her attend the rest of the stops without him.

She was an insightful human being, most of the time a little too insightful for his comfort. “But even with this device, I don’t like the idea of you being alone on this tour. Whether you like it or not, you have already made enemies. I trust my cousin to protect you, but… No, we’ll let the PR team handle the cancellations. You should go back to the palace.”

The queen would want her to proceed regardless. She was correct that they were supposed to honor their commitments. It was Luke’s personal rule and sticking to it earned him credibility to those who he had a chance of working with. However, allowing Rhiane to be on her own was too risky. There was a spy inside the palace who could very well pinpoint her location, identify her activities, and arrange for another assassination attempt. It would be easier for the rebels to get to her with only half of the security force present. Besides, he doubted she would be receiving the same special treatment from the palace if he was not with her.

Luke leaned so he was whispering to her, “Or would you rather try your hand at flirting with Anelle while I’m out of the country?”

Leaving the capital to roam around the kingdom, presenting themselves as star-crossed lovers from different social classes, was the consequence of an unfortunate event during their engagement ball. If it had not been for it, the two of them could have stayed the amenities of the palace much longer. Rhiane could have been in attendance of a private tutor who would teach her how to conduct proper etiquette in both a local an international function, public speaking, how to dress herself like a princess, poise, and all the other things that the royal advisors believed the princess elect lacked. The urgency to fix a broken reputation preceded all these. Yet, when Luke left for the summit in the far east, she would have time to finally catch up on her training as a proper princess.
In The Betrothed 22 days ago Forum: 1x1 Roleplay
Maybe it mattered to her, but to the kingdom and the world what he felt, if it had nothing to do with politics, economics, or defense, was insignificant. But Luke smiled at his fiancee. They were almost there, almost at the point where he wanted them to be. He could point out her prejudice against the upper class, most especially him, yet it was pointless. It was time to pull back, retreat, and enjoy the possible peace between them no matter how short it may be.

“If he did that, I’ll relieve him from his duties on the spot then have him assigned in the farthest reaches of the kingdom. Someplace neither you nor I will ever visit so that he will never ever have the chance to touch you again.” His cocky grin might have given away how certain he was that he had the authority and will to do just that. Once upon a time, Luke and Tobias were the best of friends, brothers even. Then somehow, somewhere, as the boys charted the path destiny had sketched for them, the bond weakened until they were no more than a character in each other’s far flung memory. But the fact that the guard was a part of his past and somehow shared the same bloodline as Luke made the crown confident that the former would never betray his sworn duty. It was precisely the reason why Luke kept Tobias close to Rhiane.

“Then your security retinue will employ only women.” A slight frown touched his brows the same time his arms fell to his side. “Or gay men. That should be safe enough.”

Those sentences could be interpreted as possessiveness. If she would read between the lines, it would seem that he had broken the promise he made them make the night of their engagement ball – that they would live separate lives unconcerned of the other. He was staking his claim, telling her, though jokingly, that he was not about to let any other man lay their lustful eyes on her. Despite his independence, Luke was a spoiled kid who always got what he wanted in life. He was the two-year-old he was describing who would not let any other kid touch his toys, much less his fiancee no matter how wrong it was in the eyes of those who mattered.

“I have not even a slight interest in her. She is just an employee assigned by my mother to look after us, like Luce. I will not let her unfortunate intrusion hold you back in any way.” But there was no way of telling why the queen planted her in their midst. Although, rumors travel at lightspeed, thanks to the advancements in technology. He wouldn’t be surprised if his mother knew about her son’s growing interest in the farmer and Anelle, a stark contrast of Rhiane, was a reminder of what he ought to aspire. Queen Camilla’s logic was simple -- Rhiane was a tool for succession, and Luke ought to not feel any attachment towards said tool.

Luke walked to the couch to pick up the box. “I have ‘secret sanctuaries’ other than the island. I understand that you don’t want the world to see yours as well. Leave it out, nobody will notice anyway. Just give the cameras something beautiful to shoot and the people something to talk about.” He carried the box with him and proceeded to unlock the door. “Let’s meet your family today and plan the places we will visit. That’s all. The rest will be time you may spend however it pleases you. I’ll talk to Anelle to maybe convince her to shave a few cities and towns off the tour.”

He glanced down at the package in his hand as the door slid open. “I can show you the basic controls, if you like,” Luke invited. He could show her as the pilot prepared to land the aircraft, if only to distract both of them from finding other issues to fight about.
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