Chapter 14

Looking around the entrance hall of the castle, Celine frowned. It was not out of frustration that she made such a facial expression, but rather because she was trying to acclimate herself to her surroundings. Everything looked different now, knowing this was officially her home.

Brave face or not, the hurt that Celine felt swirling around in her heart blackened it painfully. Not even from her sisters had she expected such an outrageous act. But from her own father? To him, she truly was nothing but a pretty possession.

If this had happened any earlier than now, Celine feared she would long to return to her father, to beg him to take her back. But not now, when she found her strength laid in Zuriel. Still, she wished there could have been a less deleterious way to have done this.

Adjustment was a fairly easy thing for Celine, but she had been forced to adjust so many things during the past few fortnights, she was unsure if she could keep up with it all anymore.

And then… Zuriel, blessed Zuriel, turned around. He was only steps ahead of her, making his way towards the grand staircase so that they may go to the drawing room and spend a bit of well-earned time together.

He could not read minds, and Celine was often a confusing creature, but somehow he knew what to do to comfort her in that moment. Flashing her a mischievious grin, as if he had just won the highest of prizes, he held out his hands to her and beckoned her to his side. Shaking her head at his ever bold ways, Celine joined him, a smile playing on her lips and erasing all distraught emotions from her delicate features.

………….

The rest of the day passed uneventfully. The couple dined together, relieved to be home even after so short an absence. The castle truly was its own village. Being parted from it was difficult, thanks to its unique beauty and charm.

After a few hours of silent mourning over the loss of her family, Celine was able to appreciate the changes that had taken place over the past two days. Seeing the servants, no - friends, that she had come to know and love was the greatest luxery she could have asked for. Amara's beauty was one that shoen from the inside out, and Celine found it even more conforting to be in her presence now that she could see her kind, understanding eyes.

It was Amara that was serving them their meal tonight. She bragged, with a wink, about some of the cakes she had made. The colorful desserts littered the table like a rose garden, their tinted frostings shimmering in the candlelight.

The meal helped Celine to forget about the day's events. Her mind was beginning to clear and it was now easier for her to see that all that had taken place was a good thing.

Zuriel had been careful with Celine since they had returned to the castle. He had always been hesitant to touch her in any way, but after all that they had been through together as of late, a simple kiss seemed innocent enough. Still, Zuriel knew how fragile her emotions were, and he did not want to confuse them further by provoking physical contact when she may not want it.

Now, however, with them both having eaten their fill, and with the castle quiet and peaceful, he decided Celine was stable enough to receive a hint of the physical manifestation of his love. He rose from his seat across from her, happy that the servants had retired away from them for the night and they were now alone.

He kneeled down beside her and reached over to stroke her hair. She smiled sweetly, and leaned her cheek into his palm. He was gentle with her. He twisted a few of her curls around his index finger, smiling at how soft they were against his skin. He began to lean forward slowly then, intent on claiming her lips for the second time since the ball.

Celine's breathing deepened, and she closed her eyes as a sort of permission for him to do what he wanted to do. His lips came within a breath away from hers, when a noise sounded from the first floor.

Celine jumped and gasped, and Zuriel frowned, knowing immediately that something was not right.

A scream met their ears. It sounded like one of the female staff.

"Get away!" A male this time. Zuriel recognized him to be one of his knights. He cursed under his breath, knowing whatever was happening, it was dooming, if it was out of the hands of his tiny army.

"Stay here, my love," he said softly, quickly, and with that, he was gone, leaving Celine shocked in her chair. Her hands were gripping the bottom of her seat, and her knuckles had turned white. What was going on?

Hesitating only a moment, she rose, disobeying Zuriel's orders but hardly giving it a second thought.

He was already halfway down the hall before she managed to catch up to him. She followed him quickly down the grand staircase, to the source of the commotion.

At least twenty servants, including some of Zuriel's knights, formed a wall between Zuriel and the main entrance. And directly in front of that entrance stood Lord Colne,Roland's father, as well at least thirty hired soldiers, bearing the crest of the King.

"Step aside, damn you!" shouted Colne. "You have no right to disobey my orders!" His words were loud, and boomed throughout the hall. But his face was calm, his expression carefully calculated. His blue eyes peirced through Celine's with a glare.

"Ah! There you are, Celine," he said to her.

Everyone was stilling now. They all turned to look from Colne to Celine, realization dawning on them all that the man could be here to take Celine back.

"You will not touch her," said Rhys, who stood just feet from Zuriel and Celine.

"I can do whatever the hell I please. However, it is not for her that I am here today" He smirked devilishly, looking around the room as a dramatic pause ensued.

"What, then, are you here for, Lord Colne?" asked Zuriel after a moment. His facial expression was blank, and somehow this made him seem more dangerous than Lord Colne. Celine scooted closer to his side, trusting in his protection over her and his castle.

Colne smiled for a moment, his toothy grin far from boyish. "You."

Celine's eyes widened and she threw herself instinctively in front of her lover. She said nothing, but her heaving chest and her wide, glassy eyes said everything her lips could not. She was frightened.

She straightened her back and pressed herself against Zuriel, determined to save him somehow. She waited for him to command his soldiers to defeat Colne's. She waited for him to defeat Colne himself. She waited for him to transform into the beautiful beast she knew lay in wait inside of him.

He did nothing. Instead she saw his eyelid twitch ever so slightly as she stared up at him anxiously. A "click" was heard from behind them both, and Celine whireled around to see what it was.

Zuriel's wrists were bound in iron shackles. Somehow one of Colne's men had managed to sneak around during their brief verbal exchange and capture Zuriel.

At first, Celine was calm. He could break free from those, she though. Then, it dawned on her that if he transformed now, the bones of his wrists would be crushed in the process before the iron could be broken.

"Oh no" she whispered so softly no one could hear.

The chaos errupted then. Zuriel's men tried to use the moment to defeat Colne's. Within seconds, swords drawn and all, they had Colne and his soldier's back up against the enteryway door. Their decades of expertise were no match for the mere soldier's of Avilbane. However, the man that held fast to Zuriel's bindings had him back up against the door along with the rest of Colne's men before anyone could notice it.

Celine cried out, fear seeping in to her very bones.

"Why are you doing this?! Let him go!" she screamed, causing some of the fighting and shuffling to cease. She took a few steps forward, but not before Colne could yank a knife from somewhere within his cape and point it at Zuriel's neck. He grabbed Zuriel and pulled him tight against his chest, forcing Zuriel's head back with the knife.

No matter how quickly Zuriel's wolven heritage could help him recover, if his neck were sliced, he would die before he could even begin to heal.

"Because he killed my son." There was no remorse in Colne's words. No hint of mourning. Only a vengeful tone that chilld the air in the room.

Celine swallowed, silent and guilty. She had nothing to say in return to his comment, because it was true.

Tear-filled eyes searched the belts of the soldier's for a key to Zuriel's shackles. Her heart sunk lower when she found none.

She turned to Rhys, who's face was red with anger. His swoard was pointed at the neck of one of Colne's men, but because any move he might make in offense would risk Zuriel's safety, he and his comrades were quiet and motionless.

One of the younger of Zuriel's men made a move to play the hero. With a loud battlecry, he swung his sword above his head and slashed at one of his opponents. Everyone else was still during the scene, save for Colne, who, with a sneer, plunged the silver knife at Zuriel's neck into his side.

No one noticed at first, save for Celine, who's eyes only briefly left Zuriel's. She screams and fell to her knees, woe overtaking her strength. She dared not breathe, for fear that any sort of movement on her part might cause another upset.

She knew little of werewolves besides what knowledge Zuriel had thus far bestowed upon her. But, lover of fairy tales, she had learned one

With a wry half-smile, Colne turned to leave. His men swung open the doors, and the ominous creaking sound they made echoed throughout the hall and in Celine's ears in as sinister a fashion as the crack of a whip. Celine's mouth opened and closed as she fought to choke out something, anything, to save her lover. Zuriel looked at her bravely, knowing full well what she did: he could not transform, and this spelled out his doom.

Lord Colne eyed Celine through the fading crack between the doors as they shut. Her arms were wrapped around her stomach, and it was all she could do to hold in her sobs until he was gone.

He felt no pity for the girl. She had chosen her own pained fate the moment she decided she was too good for his son. Her mother was a whore and Celine would never be any better, and if it took her deepest sorrows to put Colne's mind to rest, so be it.