(SM) owns Twilight.

(CozItRunsInMyBlood) owns the plot.

(RobzBeanie) is a lifesaver and she beta this.

(GrandeDame) is my soul-mate and per-reader.

Chapter 17

Isabella Marie

I was fighting myself to keep on showing how angry at him I was, but I was still confused; my emotions were confusing me. Anger aside, I kept thinking of other scary things that I was feeling, and those things – those feelings – shocked me into an almost frozen state. I found that I had suddenly stopped the yelling and my sarcastic replies, worn the robe without first asking why he wanted me in it, then asked the why later with a quiet voice. It was strange, really strange. But what was inside of my head was even stranger.

The fact that I was blushing at his comments and smiling at his playful remarks, that my heartbeats were racing each other when I thought about how good it felt for him to think I was attractive or for him to be attracted to me … It was scary. Why was I finding it so appealing?

It was scary that I wasn't finding it scary.

I mean, I was alone with him in this room, at the very least for the rest of the seven days. I was supposed to be his wife. Why wasn't I scared of what he might do now that he found me to be attractive or sexy? Why wasn't I thinking that he might take advantage of me?

Why wasn't I paying any attention to all of this and only thinking – wondering – what it'd be like to be touched by him?

What was wrong with me?!

"Sneaking out?" My eyes widened. Excited but disbelieving.

"Uh-huh," he said, tucking a wayward golden lock inside of my hoodie.

"To where?" I asked.

"Somewhere," he smirked, earning a glare from me in response.

The prince chuckled lightly and walked away, grabbing an apple from the fruit basket that had been placed once again on the round table. My guess was that Mona had come in when I was asleep and put it back, more likely when the prince came back from outside.

"Eat this," he offered me the apple.

"I'm not hungry."

"You can't not be hungry. It's almost two in the morning and we had lunch eleven hours ago."

"I really don't want to eat."

"You have to eat it and take another capsule of your medication, or else we are staying inside. The weather out there is nothing like the sunroom and you will get sick even more your without medication – I'm not risking that."

I huffed and took the apple from him, causing him to smile before he grabbed one for himself and started to eat it while gazing out of the window. I did the same when my legs took me to stand beside him, and when I was finished with both the apple and the pill swallowing, he asked me if I was ready. My heartbeat sped up and I nodded frantically, so eager to leave the room that I almost forgot that I was barefoot.

When I put the heeled sandals back on, the prince offered me his hand. I took it and then he led me out to the living room. I thought he was going to lead us out the main bedroom door since that was where I'd come from on the wedding night and it was the door he'd left from a few hours ago, but I didn't question him. There were more doors and exits in this place than people who lived in it, and it was seriously disturbing.

"God! Do I need a map for this palace!" I said to myself when the prince opened a hidden door.

He chuckled, "I could get you one, but it'll be useless when it comes to secret doors."

Of course!

"Why do you need so many secret doors, anyway?" I wondered when we left an elevator that wasn't the same one I'd used before to get to the wing. We used this one to go down to some floor that was pretty much underground, then went into some kind of an alley that looked like it wasn't a part of the palace due to the lack of decorations and elegant paintings that were always on every wall I'd seen since I came here.

"Security reasons," he replied, opening yet another hidden door that led to a different alley.

Duh!

"I know that," I said. "I meant: why so many?"

"Time."

"Time?"

"Yep." He stopped walking and turned to look at me. "It's a known fact that every palace – especially the ones belonging to royal families – has secret doors. Having so many of them gives us time to flee when needed by distracting the attacker."

Huh!

"That's smart," I told him as we walked again. "But, why would anyone attack the palace? Or the royal family? There are no wars here or anything."

"That's a story for another day, Princess."

I didn't push.

The second alley looked like a never-ending one. It went on forever, and it started to become trying, especially with my ridiculously long robe that was way longer than floor length. I kept most of it fisted in one hand in order to be able to walk at all and not just trip on it and fall on my face.

After what felt like two weeks of walking, and because I was the luckiest girl on earth and all, my heel decided to break. "Oh, snap!"

"What's wrong?!" the prince asked, holding me by the waist to his side when I stumbled.

"My heel broke," I whined, bending down and holding my foot a bit up to look at the damage. If I broke the other one I wouldn't walk any better since the front was way higher than the heel when broken.

This is why I want my freaking clothes and my freaking shoes; those sandals are not to be worn outdoors!

"Take it off," the prince suggested.

"And then?" I asked, annoyed. I didn't want to go back after I'd already walked that far, but I didn't want to walk barefooted either.

"And then …" he said, releasing my hand. The next thing I knew, my feet had left the floor and were being held almost at the same level as my head as the prince put one hand behind the back of my thighs and the other on my back and lifted me up, carrying me bridal style and carrying on with walking, smiling smugly when I squealed in surprise.

"You can't carry me the rest of the way!"

"Yes, I can."

Smug jerk!

"You still won't tell me where we're going?"

"We'll be there soon."

I sighed. "Are we still in the palace?"

"Not really."

"Where are we then?"

"You see, Princess, secret doors could lead you to other rooms or other wings, but the ones leading you to elevators take you out of the palace."

"How come?"

"The elevators open to tunnels. Each one takes you to a different place, miles away from the palace."

"Wow!" I said, fisting his shirt. "How do you know where to go or which one to choose?" It sounded really complicated to me.

"I've had it memorized since I was a little kid; my mother taught me."

"The Queen?" I asked. Didn't she have anything better to do? Like threatening others with death and giving them deadly glares? I could only imagine how many doors and how many alleys … tunnels, or whatever.

"Only the first royal family know of these tunnels, Princess. My parents, my siblings, and now you," he smiled.

I smiled a small smile. But then remembered, "How about your sister-in-law?"

"Wives are not supposed to learn of the tunnels until after they bring an heir to their husbands, in case they were intruders."

I frowned.

"But – I'm here, now." I didn't bring him an heir, I wasn't even … Why would he do that?

He just smiled.

"What if the palace was attacked? Your sister-in-law could be the first victim!"

"God forbid," he said. "I'm sure she would be fine," he paused, "Just like you would."

It took me a moment to realize what he meant by that.

"Your brother taught her?!"

He looked deep into my eyes, "When it comes to love, Princess, rules blur and traditions fade."

~BK~

"We're here," the prince announced, putting me down and keeping me in front of him after I took off the sandals.

"What are we doing?" I wondered. We were just standing in front of a wall, not doing anything.

"Look closely."

I did.

"Can you see it?"

I nodded.

"Touch it."

I did.

"Press."

When I pressed the square figure that was barely noticeable on the wall, it moved to the side, revealing an electronic board with ten numbers, from zero to nine.

I turned my head to look at the prince, and he told me to look at it again. His voice was very quiet and very close to my ear. "Do you remember which secret door we took after we left the living room?"

I closed the distance between my eyebrows in concentration. "The first?" I asked.

"Correct," he said. "Press one."

I did.

"Do you remember the number of the floor I pressed on the elevator?"

"Fourteen."

"Press one then four."

When I did, he asked, "How many tunnels did we take?"

"Two."

"Very good, Princess." I could hear the smile in his voice. "Two is the last number."

I smiled at my accomplishment and pressed the number, gasping and flinching, then taking a step back when I heard the loud bang caused by the wall moving up, only stopping when there was a decent gap for us to pass through to the other side.

"Do you want me to go first?" he asked.

"No, it's fine," I said, taking the few steps to the other side, finding my legs leading me to a ladder. I fisted the robe in my hand and climbed, pushing a wooden board when it blocked my way.

A cool breeze hit my face and my hoodie fell as I looked up at the dark sky, taking in everything around me. It looked like a giant garden, almost as big as the one I could see from the window in the bedroom. This one, though, had more flowers and was surrounded by tall trees. The feel of the cool grass underneath me was just as good as the sight. Refreshing and freeing, and it was only then I was glad my heel had broken.

Well, aside from the prince carrying you, holding you so close, and you getting to smell him and hear his heartbeat along with feeling his broad chest and tig-

Shut up!

"This way, Princess," the prince told me, his hand gesturing to the right while the other touched the small of my back.

"Where are we going?"

"I'm taking you to meet the love of my life," he smiled.

My breaths hitched and I stopped in my tracks, looking at him in disbelief, feeling hurt and humiliated at the same time.

How. Could. He?!

"My whores."

That was it!

I turned to leave, my blood boiling and my heart clenching, my eyes burning with unshed tears that made my vision blur.

The prince's hand gripped mine and he pulled me back. I didn't turn around and struggled with him to let my hand loose.

"Let go!" My voice was full of hurt and my legs were shaking.

"Princess!"

"Let go of me!" I screamed.

My scream was met by a loud noise that sort of scared me. I looked around to where the noise had come from but I still saw nothing, though more noises made me sure of what they were and what they were coming from.

It was a horse neighing.

Oh!

I looked at the prince with traitorous tears wetting my cheeks. His eyes were watching me and he offered me a small, sad smile. "Do you need me to spell it, Princess?"

I looked down.

"It's H.O.R.S.E, Jealous, Jealous Princess," he said, taking my face in his hands and wiping my tears with his thumbs just like he had done before.

"I'm not jealous," I whispered, still looking down.

"Come."

I let him lead the way again as he kept his hold of my hand and started walking to where he'd pointed a minute ago. A short walk later, the grass underneath my feet turned into sand as we passed through a small fence that circled the garden, and it wasn't so hard to tell we were standing in front of a stable. A ridiculously huge stable.

"Salma is in number forty-one." He pointed to the doors with numbers on them.

Salma is a horse?

Huh!

Wait, wait, he left the room, without explaining, and stayed away for hours… for a horse?

"Um, please don't make any sudden moves or try to touch her; she's a bit sensitive and insecure," the prince said, and I nodded, even without knowing what that meant and with a hundred questions forming in my head.

When we entered 'Salma's room' I was surprised to find a little horse – not a newborn horse, colt or a pony. She was just a little one, short, almost my height. Her coat was colored light brown and the hair on her head and tail was a darker shade of chestnut; it looked so soft. I wanted to touch it.

"Princess, this is Salma," the prince smiled while looking at her. I could see how he truly loved her just by the look in his eyes. He took a few careful steps to stand beside her, then slowly raised his hand to touch her neck, causing her to make a low, but strong neighing. I stayed back.

"She's beautiful," I said in a quiet voice, watching his hand as he moved it up and down her neck slowly while looking at her face.

"She is," he smiled, not stopping with his soft rubs over her brown coat or with his loving stare. "I met her a few months ago, right after I came back from the UK. She was being sold at a horse marketplace for such a cheap price, it was shameful," he sighed. "Salma is an original Arabian horse. Her kind is sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars, especially at her young age – she's only six," he paused then looked at me. "S. I. X." He grinned, causing me to blush and look down, trying to hide my wide, bashful smile as I remember my embarrassing freak-out moment the other day.

The prince chuckled, but then continued after a moment, "They told me she was aggressive and hard – almost impossible – to tame, that's why her price was very low. From only looking at her picture, I wanted her, because I like a challenge," he winked.

My stomach flipped.

"I met her for the first time when she was brought here, and …" He looked at her for a moment then turned to look at me again. "It was love at first sight."

My chest tightened.

"Her eyes … they captured my heart like I could never explain. They were fearful, but loving at the same time." He locked his eyes with me for a moment. "She looked like she wanted to be close, but her mind stopped her from taking a step without being out for the kill."

The prince sighed again, touching her with both hands now. She bent her head and rubbed it on his chest, causing him to smile big and move his hand through her hair.

"Salma was born for a farmer's family, and he used to put so much weight and pressure on her that he almost broke her spine," he said with bitterness filling his voice. "When she got really sick, the lowlife burnt her to force her into working."

Oh, no!

The prince pointed to her scars, and when I followed his hand, my heart broke for her.

The poor thing …

"But my baby here was so stubborn, she wouldn't do what he was trying to force her to do, and when it got really serious and he burnt her badly, she taught him how it would feel to have a broken spine – because now he has one," he said with pride in his voice.

"I did everything I could to get her to like me, but she wouldn't even let me near her," he said. "I tried some more, bringing her the best food and trying to feed her myself. I treated her well, very well, I tried teaching her that I wasn't him, but nothing … she wouldn't trust me.

"She barely ate anything for weeks and I lost any hope that she would ever be mine, no matter how hard I tried.

"I loved her so much, and I wanted the best for her … so I let her go."

"You did what?" Even with the shock that was filling me, I still kept my voice quiet. For her.

"It was one of the hardest things I've ever done in my whole life," he said. "But it had to be done."

"Why?" I asked, not able to understand why he would do that or how he could. He seemed to be really attached to her.

"Don't you know that saying, Princess?" He looked at me. "If you love someone set them free. If they come back they are yours; if they don't – they never were."

I just looked at his gloomy eyes with my sad ones. Sad for him.

"And I loved her so much, I wanted her to be happy – even if it meant that her happiness would be in being away from me."

I swallowed.

"When she left, it was my turn to hate food; I was really depressed. I knew she'd be okay. She could protect herself, and there is a forest few miles away where she could live in if she wanted, but I was selfish enough to wish she would just come back.

"Weeks passed and she didn't come back, and I lost hope once more, because I knew that if she came back, it'd only take her five days or a bit more. I was wrong, though – it took her two months because my baby is really stubborn that way," he grinned. "She only found her way back home tonight."

His grin was infectious. I grinned back and wondered how it would feel to be loved that much by him, or … touched that caringly by his hands.

~BK~

Only one reviewer (Team Marylou) was able to guess who Salma was the chapter before the last. *Bowes head* But after the last chapter 60% of you were sure she is a horse. You guys are awesome!

Reviews are better than Prince Mazen taking you out to meet his whores … er, horse. ;)