Six months later …
Flashes of pale white skin flicker back to life under the pale moonlight. Panting, I dart behind tree after tree, anxiety strangling my throat. Dogs howl in the distance and my mind fills with images of snarling muzzles and gleaming teeth ripping apart my flesh.
He stands at a fork in the road, screaming my name. His horse jerks his head, tugging the reins in Prince Edward's hand with each syllable uttered. The whites of his eyes are blinding beneath the moonlight, enlarged much more than my sister's or his brother's. One winding trail beside him leads east, the other trails west. The small village I grew up in lies in the east. And west …
I'm unfamiliar with the towns of the west.
"I hear the royal hounds howling in the distance," Prince Masen murmurs, his voice carrying over my panting breaths. "Someone must have seen us escape." The steed he sits upon neighs and paws at the ground. Marie shifts on the saddle behind the prince, her arms wrapped tightly around the man she loves. Terror grips her face and shivers seize her body. Whether it's from the fear of being caught or riding the great beast, I do not know.
"Run,"I scream. "Head west."
Prince Edward catches me as I stumble. His fingers grip each side of my waist and he hoists me onto his horse.
Trepidation plays across his features and now myheart is the one stumbling. Taking the reins from his outstretched hand, I open my mouth, ready to question the hard line of his lips. Before I speak a word, he yells out into the night, slapping the horse on his rear.
We take off into the darkness, the prince's steed and me. Leaning forward, I clutch the reins, the force of the night air stinging my eyes. Tears do not hinder me from glancing over my shoulder. Marie and Prince Masen gain speed and canter past me. My steed follows the trail without my assistance, for I am left worthless and empty. I watch Prince Edward over my shoulder until the night swallows him whole.
I never see him again.
I smile in the darkness, refusing to open my eyes. He's come for me, I think to myself. He's calling my name. But the voice transforms into one less masculine … Actually feminine. Dream Edward fades away, just as he has for the past six months. In his place is the voice of my sister, shaking me awake with the shrillness of her tone.
"Let me be," I mumble, pulling the covers over my head.
"It is midnight, dear sister." Excitement edges her voice, a newfound emotion since honing in on her powers. "And the moon is fat and orange. A blood moon, Alice calls it. We must go."
"Perhaps I shall join you later. As of now, I feel quite ill."
Marie smiles the same complacent smile that's dawned on her face for half a year now. "Dreaming sweet dreams of Edward again?"
"I do not wish to speak of Prince Edward." I turn up my nose, staring stubbornly down the arch of it. "One does not dream sweet dreamsof one's mortal enemy."
"You were moaning his name," Marie says, cocking her head to the side in amusement. "You love him still, do you not? Admit it! After all this time, after all the things we've heard about witches being slaughtered on his quest to find you, you continue to love him."
"I feel nothing," I reply. "Nothing but pain."
Marie does not respond, but she does touch my hair. She runs her fingers through the loose curls, remnants of a braid I will wear nevermore. There is little left of the Isabella I once was, in appearance and otherwise. Months spent fleeing for my life has changed me.
My coven has changed me.
"You should not listen to the gossip of the townsfolk here in Frok, Isabella. Stories of witch hunts are spun out of control. None of our coven is familiar with any of the alleged names of those whom Masen and Edward have allegedly slain. For all we know, these supposed witches being massacred are non-existent."
"Why do you continue to protect them, so?" I ask. "Are you so blinded by love that your common sense has gone askew? I murdered the king, Marie. I am certain Prince Edward isn't seeking me out for that last kiss I promised him."
Marie sighs and I can practically hear the sadness expelled from her heavy breath. "Prince Edward endured more heartache at the king's hands that I'm sure even you are aware of. Have faith, my sorrowful sister. Forgiveness is an intelligent play, given to others from those who were once dealt a bad hand."
Floorboards of the old house creak as she crosses the room away from my bed. Groaning, I remove the covers from my face and catch a glimpse of my sister before she steps out of the doorway. The skirts of her dress flutter and drift to the floor, revealing her bare legs. Completely nude, she leaves me with one curling smile on her face before ducking outside into the darkness.
Heaving a sigh, I sit up on the bed. Even after all these months, my body isn't accustomed to sleeping on anything other than hay mattresses or the hard, packed earth. Stretching, I take a moment to admire the room around me. Pale, pink wallpaper and frosted sconces with flickering candlelight, velvet wingback chairs and a subtle, wooden vanity … These are the things that fill my room, a far cry from the bare bedroom and minimal belongings I was once accustomed tobefore.
Before meeting my coven and before meeting Prince Edward.
The mere thought of his name sends me falling back against the soft mattress. I close my eyes, the past several months playing behind my lids: months of hiding in the west woods, wading through creeks and clinging to my sister for heat, in comfort from the cooling climate months of the unknown, months of witch hunts led by Prince Edward himself.
Tears of betrayal weld in my eyes and I laugh at my own hypocrisy, for I am the one who initially betrayed him. Those tears spill over the edges, leaving a cold, tickling streak behind. I brush them away and sit up once more on the edge of the bed, staring through the nearby window. Beneath the trees, in the light of the moon, Alice follows a worn path leading to a flaming circle a great distance away from the home we all share. Voices bounce off the trees, spoken from the naked bodies of our modest-sized coven chatting easily to one another. They are happy. Happy we found one another while hiding from the King's army, led by the King himself.
Standing in front of the open window, listening to the chat dying away and the chanting as it begins, I slip out of my gown. Warm air rushes through the window, yet a chill wracks my bones. The sensation cascading over me has nothing to do with the climate or season. A door creaks behind me and my body goes rigid. Fear envelops me.
"You thought you could outrun me, witch princess? I would spend an eternity destroying heaven and earth until I found you again."
Pinpricks of intensity creep up my body, from my ankles to the top of my head. Covering my breasts with one arm, my sex with my other hand, I turn. Faintness spirals over me, dizzying and clouding my mind. The king stands before me, tall and agile, his rusty-colored hair unkempt and overgrown. Unshaven shadows line his stern jaw. In one hand, he grips my dagger, the other his sword. Crimson stains the blade of the dagger—it is his father's blood. This man will surely kill me. I fall to my knees and rest my head on the floor in honor of the king. Cold metal taps the crown of my head.
"Isabella," he murmurs. "I finally found you. Tell me, dear witch, is this the blade you used to murder my father?"
"Yes, your majesty," I mumble to the floor.
"Sit back on your knees, Isabella. Look me in the eyes when I question you."
I raise my head and straighten my back in obedience to the king, my arms and hands still hiding what little decency I have left, reminding me of when I first met the members of my coven. They had smiled at my shyness, whispering words of encouragement the first time I joined them without a stitch of clothes on my body. Nudity soon became second nature to me, as it should. Nudityisa part of nature and it is nothing to be ashamed of. My hands and arms fall limply by my sides and I hold my head up high. Staring him in the eye is like staring at the sun. Tears form, soreness stabs my irises, pain throbs at my temples.
"When did you conspire against me and my family? Was it that first day in the woods, when you shot the arrows? Or was it when I called you my butterfly and wanted nothing more than to spend the remainder of my life here upon this earth, loving you? Was there a tiny shred of time we spent together that you truly felt something for me?"
"Your Majesty, Your Highness," he snarls. "PrinceEdward. Sire. Never, not once, did you call me Edward. Is that how you distanced yourself from me? By remaining so formal even after I confessed my fondness of you?"
"I used those titles out of respect, not to keep my distance. And no, I never conspired to murder the king. Not until I set my eyes upon my sister. Years were stripped away from us— years we should have spent together. Hatred filled my heart in that moment and I struck him like a snake."
The dagger hovers near my head, mere inches from my throat. I raise my hand, wrapping my finger around his wrist and bringing the blade to my throat.
"End my life here, my Lord. I beg of you, do not hang me from the gallows as you have so many others in your quest to find me, for I finally have everything I want in this one place: Alice, my mother and brother, Marie, and now you. I will die happy here tonight; and by your hand, as I so deserve to die."
The blade pierces my skin.
Blood trickles down my chest, between the slopes of my breasts. One drop falls, yet it drips so steadily. Expecting more, I take a deep breath and close my eyes, shielding my view from his enraged gaze. I accept my death. More than that, I embrace it, so long as it is by his hand and not my own. The blade I force against the hollow of my throat cuts superficially. His grip is strong as he attempts to pull the blade away, but I've grown strong as well since we last met, and the blade does not move. Alice will bury me in the woods and I will return to the earth, just as I should. Unlike my grandmother, I will not live a thousand deaths, nor do I want to. But to die just one, worthy, valiant death … The idea is grand.
"I've hung not one soul from the gallows, Isabella. You now believe me to be a monster?"
Hurt pains his face. Sorrow floods my soul for believing the idle gossip I once normally shunned. No wonder names of the persecuted witches were never mentioned as townsfolk spoke of Edward's desperate search to find me. It was all rumors spread by ignorant people. Rumors, as my sister suspected. Rumors as unwarranted as those of old women with warty noses swooping across the night sky on their brooms.
"You are no monster, Sire." I release his wrist and lower my gaze, ashamed. "I am the monster, the devil. End my life now as I ended your father's."
King Edward curses and moans. Metal strikes the wooden floor beside me. Fresh blood and dried blood mix, forming an eerie sight. The king's boots pace back and forth before me, the stomp of his heels causing me to jump each and every time.
"How can I end your life," he cries, kneeling in front of me. "When I only began to live when I first met you?"
He reaches out and I shrink back in fear. Recognition and heartache seizes his face, but his hand is unwavering. Cupping my face, his thumb strokes the incline of my cheek. I lean into his large palm, closing my eyes and wanting nothing more than for this man to love me.
"I've denounced my throne," he whispers, startling me from my thoughts. "Masen was next in line, but he denounced it as well. I'm but a poor pauper, Milady and no longer a king."
"Why would you do such a thing? Giving up your lineage ..."
"You once told me you would not sacrifice your body for the servitude of your country. Pray tell me, will you sacrifice your heart, body, and soul for the love of the pauper kneeling before you?"
His words wash over me like warm milk in a bath. His hand abandons my face. It slips down my neck, down the lean muscle of my arm, and tickles the skin above my wrist. Lifting my hand, he places a kiss on the necklace wrapped around my wrist. The butterfly dangles unsteadily from my arm. The flutter of the wooden wings pauses in mid-flight, captured between his fingers just as he's captured me inside his heart.
"Butterfly," he whispers, weaving his fingers through my hair, cradling my neck. "I forgive you. I forgive you for what you did to my revengeful father. Stop flying away from me."
Swallowing a sob, I lean forward and press a kiss to his lips. The taste of his mouth is sweet, like mead and mint. Craving more, I tease his tongue with mine and he complies, stroking his tongue in and out of my mouth. Taking my hands in his, he stands, bringing me up with him and kissing me with fiery passion. The brush of his thumb against the peak of my breast sends an unfamiliar thrill through my bones. I moan into his mouth and he increases the pressure of his thumb against the pink nub, twisting it lightly between his fingers. Wetness trickles between my naked thighs and I press my knees together to alleviate the needy want between my legs.
"I'm miserable, Sire," I whisper. "Squelch this torment you inflict upon me."
Chuckling, he leads me to my bed. He perches on the edge, guiding me between his parted legs. His eyes hold mine for a moment before slowly traveling down. Although I've stood nude before him all this time, this is the first time he's gazed at my naked body. Shame doesn't find me, for the lust in his eyes brings forth a sense of pride I've never experienced before. Glancing up at me once more, he kisses my belly, dipping his tongue inside the tiny indentation. I close my eyes and gasp as his fingers skim the wet flesh between my legs.
"This tiny cleft throbs against my thumb," he says, awed. "I can't help but wonder …"
Pressing down against the foreign, little bump, he elicits a passionate cry from deep within me. He massages the nub, lightly circling the wet bulge with the flat of his thumb. Circling my hips, I become desperate for the friction.
"Lay down for me, Butterfly. Let me make you soar," he whispers.
I comply, resting against the mattress and slightly parting my legs. I find that I can't keep my eyes away from him and the pleasure he inflicts as his hand returns between my legs. He continues massaging that blessed place with his thumb, dipping a finger inside my core. I tense, awaiting the pain I've heard women have when a man enters a woman's body, but all I feel is the blissful pleasure of his fingers stretching and filling my womanhood.
"Allow me to please you," he whispers.
"You please me," I pant. "You please me a great deal."
The stroking between my legs ceases. Edward drags his fingers across his lips, tasting me. The sight makes me squirm with awed excitement and desire.
"Allow me to please you, the way a husband pleases a wife."
A teasing grin breaks across my face. "But you aren't my husband, Sire."
Edward cocks an eyebrow and smirks in return. "No, I am not your husband. But I will be. You will marry me, Isabella. You will marry me and love me for the rest of our lives. And after our death I will continue to love you, in whatever realm we may reside."
Edward's smile turns taunting as he takes his time unbuckling his britches. Once he stands before me naked, teasing smiles and goading statements are a thing of the past. Gripping the base of his manhood, he strokes the length of his shaft and crawls onto the bed between my parted legs. Red moonlight spills into the room, washing his body in a strange glow that matches the dried blood between my breasts. Each plane and hard dip of his body darkens in shadows and then alighting in the rosy glow of the moon. Chants from a far-away fire circle, echo into the night, the voices drowning out my loud moan as Edward's manhood eases inside of me.
Once fully sheathed, he releases a shuddering breath. Discovering that small, wanton nub of mine again, he works it back and forth until I'm arching my back, forcing myself upon his unmoving shaft. Pain pricks at me, but it is brief and fleeting, overshadowed by the pure pleasure of his length driving in and out of my sex.
Stickiness covers my thighs and his hips sliding between my legs feels so sinfully delightful. I scratch at his back, wanting his mouth upon me as I toss back my hair. He licks at my nipples, rolling his tongue around the rosy buds and sucking them delicately between his teeth. Each flicker of that devil tongue sends a wave of fluid pulsing between my throbbing legs and I scream. Violent spasms overtake my core. Sighing and shuddering, my head falls back against the bed and I close my eyes. The rise and fall of my hips as he continues to mount me remains steady. The desperate cry that fills the air next is not my own. He calls out my name, shuddering above as he spills inside me. Body limp and exhausted, he drops down beside me on the bed, as our legs still intertwined.
"Marry me," he whispers. "Marry me, marry me, marry me. Marry me a thousand times. Marry me ten thousand times."
Hope flutters inside my chest, but it threatens to fly away as questions encase me. "Where will we go? Where will we live? People will know who you-"
Edward presses his finger upon my lips. "Marry me."
I kiss his finger, all my questions and worries fading away with the honest devotion in his eyes.
"Yes," I whisper. "Yes."
And they all lived happily ever after.
Ali, I love you! Can't wait to hang out with ya at the TFMU and drink all the alcohol. Hope this wasn't too angsty for ya. You know I suck at fluff. :/ Still love me?