Chapter 2

A Delicate Matter

I hear a knock at the door to my study and frown. I look up from my book and call for them to enter. A servant walks in, bowing before she speaks.

"Master Reaver has arrived and has asked for you." I groan and she leaves hastily. I'm pretty sure that my staff is terrified of me. I stand up, closing my book and walk towards the door. I head to the entry hall and see that Reaver is waiting for me. His possessions were brought here earlier by some of his servants and were taken to his room. The only thing missing up until now was him. I rather wish it could have stayed like that.

"Greetings Reaver." I say formally. I'm wearing my simple princess outfit and my hair is in a high pony tail. It's long and falls to the middle of my back, though a few strands have escaped it and frame my face. I walk down the stairs and start to extend my hand but stop, remembering the last couple times I tried that. My hand remains by my side and he smirks, having noticed my unease.

"It really is a lovely castle, but not as lovely as it's Queen." He eyes me and I sigh heavily. I shake my head at him and look him in the eye.

"Your advances are getting you nowhere, and I ask that you refrain from such a frivolous manner of speaking while you are here." My tone is not sharp, but tired. I have had a lot to deal with as of late, and I am scrambling for money. I have heard of a demon door in Sunset House that is said to contain some gold, but I don't know if it will be enough. I can't imagine that it has enough to suit my needs. In fact, I am quite sure it doesn't.

"My dear you look so tired! Perhaps I could help with that..." He trails off and I turn around. I try not to let my agitation be as evident as it would normally be.

"I'll lead you to your room." I say, walking away irritably. I head up the stairs and towards my own room before opening a door, revealing a richly decorated guest room containing Reaver's belongings. He walks in and I stand at the door. My room is not far from this one, and I desperately hope I won't regret that.

"If you need anything ask a servant. If they can't help you ask me." I leave, heading towards my own room. I close the door and flop down onto the bed, overcome with exhaustion. I am asleep within minutes.

When I wake up, I realize that I forgot to ask Reaver about his first donation. I groan and stand up before brushing my hair and walking to his room. It's late afternoon and I feel quite refreshed. I knock on the door and about to leave when he bids me to enter.

I open the door to find him lounging on couch wearing pants, only pants. His coat is hung carefully on the bedpost and his shirt is lying on the desk. I feel myself blush as I take in the sight before me. He is well formed and muscular, with smooth, unblemished skin and defined muscles. His abs, I hate to admit, are incredible and he stands, making his muscles move beneath his perfect skin. A thin line of dark hair trails down into his pants and I try not to stare. I meet his eyes and watch as he smirks deviously. The bastard planned this. I'll not give him the satisfaction of the desired effect though.

"Reaver, when will I be receiving the first donation?" I ask, forcing my voice to remain even. He seems to have expected me to behave as I have, and I hate him even more for that. I try not to let my eyes move down his body but it's hard. I didn't expect this.

"It's already been added to the treasury." He replies smoothly. When he is focused on business, I admit that he becomes quite serious. His work seems to be the only thing of value to him at times. That and admiring women.

"Thank you." I say curtly before turning an leaving his room. As I'm leaving I feel a hand on my shoulder and I pale. He turns me to look at him, having moved much closer in order to stop me.

"Stay my dear! I'd be a poor house guest if I didn't offer you a drink or something to repay you for allowing me to stay." From someone else I would have nodded and agreed quickly. Except from Reaver I knew better than to think he is doing this just to be nice. Reaver doesn't do things just to be nice. He all but drags me back into his room and sits me down on the couch. He grabs a fine white shirt and throws it on, though he doesn't button it so I can see quite bit of his body. He grabs two glasses and a fine brandy from a cabinet. He has obviously made himself quite at home. I cross my legs as he sits, scooting away from him slightly. I accept the drink gratefully and take a sip. I can just finish the drink and leave.

"Silence doesn't become you my dear, your voice is far to lovely." I hold back a groan and sit in silence. I don't want to deal with Reaver right now, but I can't politely leave. I consider being impolite but I know that doing such things will only make it that much harder to deal with him later.

"Why are you here? You have a nice estate in Millfields and yet you want to stay here. Why?" It wasn't the most tactful way to say it, but I suppose it gets my point across. He swirls the contents of his glass before thoughtfully responding.

"Well my dear, you aren't nearly as experienced as your brother with finances. I am sure you have other talents" He pauses, letting his words sink in. "but I thought you might need help managing the finances of the kingdom. If you don't manage them correctly, then we will die. I simply cannot have that. I have come too far to simply be killed or have my property destroyed." I suppose it makes sense, and what he said is simply a more in depth version of what he told me before.

I nod, deep in thought and take another sip. It has a strong flavor and I quite enjoy it. Brandy, wine, and rum are generally my favorite alcoholic drinks. I am also quite fond of champagne though, and rarely turn it down. Reaver talks animatedly for awhile, throwing in some innuendos here and there. I focus on the flavor of the brandy, and idly wonder what Reaver would taste like if I were to kiss him after drinking it. I realize just what I was thinking and nearly choke. I cough and splutter , horrified.

Suddenly he's by my side, patting my back firmly while I cough up the brandy. The smell of aftershave, cologne, and vanilla linger still, mixed with the smell of the brandy. As he sits by my side I try to remember how cruel he is. He is cruel. He is cruel. He may be attractive and smell amazing, but he is still evil. Very evil. I finally stop coughing and look over at him realizing just how close he's gotten. His dark eyes meet mine and I see the hunger there. It's been years since I met him and he hasn't aged a day. How does he do that? I stand, excusing myself before practically running out the door, leaving the brandy on his desk. I retreat into my room and summon Sarah.

"Court attire." I say breathlessly. Nothing calms me down like boredom. If I recall I have to rule on the fate of Aurora. I get dressed up in my elegant but incredibly heavy court attire. I changed the colors, going with dark red and purple, just like my brother. He and I are alike when it comes to our taste in clothing. We both enjoy particular color schemes, and don't like lace or frills. We both dislike wearing thick, heavy clothes when we don't have to, but we both admire the way they look. I miss Logan, and intend to visit him soon.

Sarah finishes with her preparations and then I set to work o brushing my hair. I put it up in a bun before grabbing my crown off its pedestal. I set it on my head just as Hobson knocks on my door.

"My Queen, your presence is required to rule on the decor of the castle." I nod and stand. I will definitely be bored. I walk towards the throne room and prepare to enter. There will be cheers, there always are. I walk in and the cheering immediately starts, just as I knew it would. I sit on the throne and watch as two people are escorted in. There is a man dressed in pale colors, and a woman dressed in dark colors. The man talks about good decor, while the woman talks about evil. As they talk, a tall man steps into the room, joining the crowd. I know it's him as soon as he enters, and I sit up a tad straighter.

He isn't wearing his hat, which is strange, though now he is less noticeable. His eyes meet mine and there is a dare there. Images of his bare torso and eyes work their way into my mind. I find myself thinking about the little heart by his eye, and then his strong jaw line. My thoughts work their way down to his lips which are inviting and often pulled into a smirk. I try to refocus, but when he isn't acting like the evil man he really is, it's easy to forget. I pull my eyes away from him just as I am asked to decide. Despite my goodly nature, I cannot help but like the darker colors and themes. I don't want to intimidate the people, but then again, this is my home.

"I choose the darker decor. Court dismissed." I stand and leave as the people disperse. I have a few hours until I have to rule on the status of Aurora, so I will try and relax until then. I walk towards the library and open the door. I absent mindedly wander over to the fantasy section, glancing over them. There is this one in particular that I enjoy, and I debate picking it up. I decide not to, and pick up an old favorite. It is about my mother and her travels. There is one companion of hers that is only briefly mentioned that I cannot help but wonder about, though I can find no record of him anywhere.

I look down at the book as I make my way back to my room. I collide with something hard and fall, bringing it down with me. I look down at it and am shocked to discover that it is a he, and he is Reaver. I'm lying atop him, book still in my hand. I blush horribly and stand hastily.

"Well, that isn't the approach I would have taken, but it works none the less. Though if you wanted to be on top you could have just asked." I stutter for a moment as he stands up, chuckling.

"You... you pig! I fell! I want nothing from you!" I say, my emotion taking the form of anger. I glare at him in anger before turning on my heel and storming off. I can practically feel his smirk, and I enter my room. I close the door and collapse on my bed for the second time today. I want to scream with frustration, and decide that I need to leave the castle. I draw upon my Will and teleport to the Sanctuary, taking Jasper by surprise. I don't say anything but head to the clothing room. I change into my practical princess outfit. I return to the main room and look over at my dog, who is lying in his bed.

"Do you want to come Leo?" I ask. He stands and wags his tail. I name him Leonidas after the fearsome king from a book I once read. Leonidas was a brilliant fighter and a strong king from an imaginary land. He was killed in battle, and though it was sad, it was fitting that he die in battle defending his home.

I look down at the map and focus on Brightwall. I teleport to the outskirts of town and smile, enjoying the feel of the cool, fresh air. It's pleasant, and for a moment I can just forget about my troubles. I walk to the town and am showered with gifts. I accept them graciously, and head straight to where I know he'll be. Ben told me he was going to visit Brightwall to get away for a bit, and I need to talk to him. He and I are extremely close, and he understands me quite well. Not as well as Logan, but Logan asked that I give him a few months to be alone. He promised me he'd be ok, and I promised that I would not disturb him. I head to the tavern and find Ben, like I knew he would. He stands and hugs me, and I cannot help but smile.

"Rina! What are you doing here?" He offers me his signature grin and I laugh. Few others can make me smile so effortlessly. I look around and ensure that we aren't overheard and lean closer to him.

"I need to talk to you, it's important." He nods and I take his hand, leading him from the tavern and away from prying eyes. I take him to a small pond that I often visit, and drop his hand, turning to look at him.

"What's wrong? Are you alright?" I sit down, looking out over the water. He sits beside me and I sigh. I look at him, and all the weight from before comes crashing down on me. I can handle confrontation, or physical disputes. Internal problems on the other hand, are the most likely to bring me down.

"What if I were to, er, care for someone. And that someone wasn't exactly... well, isn't exactly the best person." Ben listens intently, serious because he knows I need him to be. I am thankful for him every time he does something like this. He's become like a brother to me, and I a sister to him. My affections lie elsewhere, and he is infatuated with Page, so there is no tension, no edge to our friendship. I am grateful for that as well.

"As long as he isn't an absolute scumbag or Reaver, it's fine." He replies. Well that does nothing for my mood. I take a deep breath.

"Well Reaver is staying at the castle and I can't deny he's attractive and he's a really good dancer and we had a drink after Iwalkedinonhimshirtless and he wasn't as bad as he normally is, But then I accidently fell on top of him and he was infuriating but then again it's just-" It all comes out in a rush, and I watch as Ben's eyes widen as he takes in what I'm saying.

"You what?! You're kidding! No way. I'm not that drunk Rina." I shoot him a glare and he just shakes his head. "Girl, you are the most confusing woman I have ever met. You had to go and develop feelings for the most wretched bastard in Albion, and then afterwards you realize he's a complete jerk." He rants for a moment before stopping suddenly, his eyes wide.

"Wait, he's staying at the castle? You walked in on what?" If it wasn't such a serious situation I would be in hysterics at the expression on his face. It's somewhere between shock and utter disbelief. I blush, and hate that I don't know how to deal with this. Growing up, there was only Eliot. Sure, I liked him but everything was simple. Now I'm the Queen and I'm supposed to be defending Albion but I have a mild attraction to the enemy of the kingdom, essentially. Why the heck must everything be so complicated.

"Because we made a deal. He donates two hundred thousand gold every month, and I do several things for him. He wants to keep an eye on the finances, and before you say anything, I know that he probably has ulterior motives. And I wanted to ask him about the first donation and he bid me to enter and I did and then I... well, he was..." I trail off as the image resurfaces in my mind. I cannot help the shiver that races down my spine at the thought, and I know he would be laughing if he could see me now. I groan in agitation and look at Ben. He just shakes his head.

"Look, just avoid him for a couple of days. Maybe this little crush will go away." He sounds tired and I feel bad for troubling him. I give him a hug and stand before helping him to his feet.

"Thanks Ben. I'd love to stay but I have to go. Queen stuff, you know?" He nods and with a final smile I teleport to the Sanctuary. I change back into my court attire and place my crown atop my head. Ben's idea was good, and it shouldn't be too hard. I'm busy as it is, I should be able to avoid Reaver. Piece of cake.

I return to the throne room and sit on the throne, listening to the cheers. Kalin and Reaver are escorted in, and I do not dare look at Reaver. I keep my eyes fixed either on Kalin or the crowd. I wait for them to fall silent, and then listen to each side plead their case. Kalin asks that I keep my promise to Aurora and help them rebuild. It would cost seven hundred gold, and after I earned all my money from my various real estate purchases over the last week, I deposited the earnings in the treasury. I have around 1,250,000 in there at the moment, and that's not nearly enough. Reaver suggests that I break my promise, and reopen the mine. It would earn me 500,00 gold, but I cannot betray the people who saved my life like that. Kalin was good to me, and I must return that favor.

"Aurora will be rebuilt." I say loudly, internally cringing at the substantial drop in money. Reaver's eyes meet mine and I can see the disapproval there. Kalin thanks me and I rise from my throne. The crowd disperses, and all save Reaver and Kalin leave.

"My Queen, my people should like to hear the news from you. Perhaps you can accompany me to Aurora?" Kalin is kind, and I would be happy to accompany her. I also like Aurora, because it is far more than it appears to be. I nod.

"Of course Kalin, I'd be happy to." I give her a genuine smile that she returns. Though I have taken a substantial financial hit, I can recover it over time. I also intend to check out Sunset manor.

"I should like to go as well. My company will of course be assisting in the rebuilding of Aurora, so I would like to know what it is that I'm funding." Reaver speaks up, and I swear my heart stopped. I nod almost imperceptibly and try not to give away anything.

"Of course." I say, as though it makes perfect sense. I'll have to be on a ship. With Reaver. Oh my. This will be interesting.

Hehe, what do you think? I like where this is going. Will our tough but tender hearted heroin manage to ignore the incredibly handsome Reaver? I know I wouldn't. Ah, Aurora, that was actually one of my favorite places in the game. Thanks for reading.

Goddess out.