A/N: Thank you all for your kind words and condolences. I hope this chapter makes up for my absence.
Rated M for language.
Hunter continued to stare at me like I was worth a billion Dollars.
'My parents were advocates of racial integration. They wanted to live and interact with humans. They even tried to escape through the portal but they were caught and sentenced to a year in jail.' He said with a hint of melancholy in his voice. 'They believed in a myth called the Lost Queen. She was half-human and so very powerful. Someone worthy of Poseidon's Throne.'
"Sorry to burst your bubble, Hunter, but powerful doesn't exactly describe yours truly."
"Nope. I'm not a betting gal. Besides…" He suddenly tugged on my hand and dragged me down a sun-kissed corridor with beautiful amethyst columns supporting a high glass ceiling. "Hey! Where are you taking me? Jacob's wing is in the opposite direction."
'I know.' He nodded, urging me to walk faster with his other hand.
We rushed past a series of portraits featuring the former kings and queens of Atlantis. They all looked regal and ethereal, unlike me.
One of the painting caught my eye just as we were about to exit the wide corridor. It was painted in a Renaissance- Leonardo Da Vinci style and featured a brunette Queen wearing a crown of diamond and gold roses.
"Queen Mariel of House Pleione." I read the inscription below said painting. "Wow. She looks so much like my mom."
Hunter released my hand and studied the painting as well. 'She does.' He remarked. 'You have Mariel's eyes though. I could get lost in them all day.'
His reverent tone combined with the way his mint eyes practically worshipped the portrait made me feel slightly uncomfortable.
I was so not worthy of this unadulterated admiration. It was too much.
"Hunter, you can't say stuff like that! Putting me on a freaking pedestal is not going to make me some sort of savior or whatever."
'Who said anything about a pedestal? It was a fucking compliment, Bella. You can either take it or leave it.' He grunted, folding his arms across his chest.
I sighed, combing my fingers through my damp hair. "Sorry. I'm just so…overwhelmed. If my great grandmother was a Queen, then this makes Juliana The Lost Queen. Right?"
'No. The order of succession is irrelevant.' Hunter explained. 'Besides, your mom is too selfish and materialistic to be our Queen. We need someone who's brave, honest and loyal. Someone who can challenge the elderly council.' He added. 'You're going to kick some major ass, Princess.'
"Oh stop it!" I elbowed him in the ribs. "Seriously, Blondie. I'm no Supergirl."
'Shut up, Swan.' He grabbed my arm and led me down a marble staircase, away from the portrait hall. His long strides were hard to keep up with so I ordered him to slow down. "Where on earth are you taking me?"
'I'm going to sneak you into the underground vault.' He revealed.
'You'll find out soon enough.'
Reaching the underground vault was no picnic. It was heavily guarded and needed more than one security clearance. Luckily, Hunter was good friends with the twin brothers who were on vault-duty that day. They happened to owe him a favor so they were eager to pay their debt, no questions asked.
Adam, the nosy brother, gave me the once-over while Hunter was busy chatting with his twin. I raised an eyebrow in response, silently challenging him to a game of Guess Where I'm From?
'Holy Artemis. You're Prince Jacob's human, aren't you?' He beamed, looking extremely proud of himself for recognizing me.
I wanted to bitch slap him so hard for referring to me as Jake's Human. I was my own person, thank you very much.
"Yep." I said through gritted teeth. "The one and only."
'Are all humans this tiny?' He curiously asked, assessing me with his beady eyes.
"Nope. We come in different shapes and sizes."
'Sweet!' He grinned enthusiastically. 'I've always wanted to meet a human female. It's on my bucket list, you see.'
"Well, now you can cross it off your list."
He chuckled heartily, rubbing one hand over his protruding belly. 'Will do, Miss…?'
"Bella." I quickly introduced myself. "Bella Swan."
He shook my hand, surprising the hell out of me. 'Pleased to meet you, Miss Swan.'
"Umm…you're the first friendly guard I have ever encountered in this castle, so thanks for not giving me the stink-eye."
Adam gave me a sympathetic smile while adjusting his heavy-looking armor. 'Most of the guards here were raised by close-minded parents. I was lucky enough to be part of a progressive family.'
"Good for you. Prince Jacob will be pleased when he hears about this."
The guard's eyes lit up like Christmas lights at the mention of Jake. 'Please send him my warmest regards. I'm looking forward to his coronation.'
I nodded and smiled politely, unsure of what to say next.
There was this dangerous part of me that was seduced by the idea of being Queen. It was a very tempting notion. It was also terrifying, knowing that all this power could be mine.
'Bella. Come here.' Hunter motioned for me to step closer to the vault's iron doors. They slowly slid open to reveal a dimly lit room the size of a large basketball court.
The air was stuffy within its sandstone walls, and I could feel it crackle with electricity the moment I stepped over the threshold. Hunter followed, sliding a protective arm around my waist. "You brought me all the way here to stare at an empty vault?"
'Come on, Bella. You know better than to judge a book by its cover.' He smirked. 'There is more to this vault than meets the eye.'
It took me a few seconds to catch on.
'The Royal Family keeps some of its heirlooms inside this secret vault, including something that once belonged to your great grandmother.'
"How do you know all this?"
'This is just the tip of the iceberg, Princess.' He said, guiding me away from the entrance. My leg bumped into something invisible but Hunter moved with ease. He knew exactly where he was going. 'Besides, I can easily tell you what's in here because I helped put it there. Mariel's section is right around this very corner.'
Hunter used his mighty ring to uncloak House Pleione's section. The spotlights shone brighter as two glass-case displays suddenly appeared out of thin air. The first one showcased a familiar crown adorned with sparkling roses whereas the second one displayed a beautiful jewelry set and a bronze unicorn figurine.
"Oh my God." I stood there, all stunned and bedazzled. The precious stones adorning my great grandmother's necklace winked at me. They were unlike anything I have ever seen.
'Surprise!' Hunter exclaimed from beside me. He gently squeezed my hip before guiding me closer to the nearest glass case. 'Now give me your left hand.'
'Do you trust me?' He asked.
I craned my neck to look up at his now-serious expression. His emerald eyes were begging me to say yes. "Of course I do. You saved my life."
'And you saved mine.' His lovely melodic voice was laced with gratitude. 'So as a token of my appreciation, allow me to give you what is rightfully yours.' He said with a nod towards the golden crown.
"You mean…" My voice trailed off. "But…we can't. The crown technically belongs to Jake."
'No. It belongs to you.' He argued.
"Hunter, we are playing a very dangerous game here." I warned. "If word gets out that I'm the so-called rightful heir to the throne…"
'Bella, you are the rightful heir to this throne.' He deadpanned.
"Shhh…lower your voice." I hissed. "Jesus, you are about to commit treason. All because of some stupid prophecy."
'Oh but Princess, it's no longer a prophecy.'
Hunter suddenly grabbed my hand and pressed it to the cool glass of the display case. The glass next to my hand transformed into something similar to a fingerprint scanner.
'Press your thumb here.' He instructed, ignoring my puzzled look.
The fingerprint device pricked my poor finger.
"Ouch. What the hell was that?"
'That was the vault's intelligent operating system taking a sample of your blood. If your DNA matches House Pleione, the system will allow you to remove the crown.'
"Shit. We're so screwed." I rubbed my thumb while shooting daggers at the confident Son of a Gun. "Now I know why they call you the Dark Knight. You're certifiably crazy."
'Yeah. I'm crazy about you.' He quipped, platinum hair falling into his eyes, making him look utterly adorable.
"Shut up." I rolled my eyes, hoping he'd stop flirting with me. "By the way, what happened to your legendary fan club? I thought you had like, a zillion girls throwing themselves at you left and right."
'Don't know. Don't care.' He answered nonchalantly. 'Why? Are you interested in becoming a notch on my bedpost?'
Hunter cocked a suggestive eyebrow and licked his lips. He really was unbelievable.
"No. And if I were you, I would watch my pierced tongue."
'Sorry.' He quickly backtracked. 'That was kinda out of line.'
"You bet your ass it was."
'Fuck. I do need to get laid.' He scrubbed his face with one fine-boned hand.
"Yes you do." I tapped my boots against the granite floor, anxiously waiting for the result.
A small, white-haired merman suddenly appeared right in front of us. He looked like a tiny Santa Claus with a shimmery mermaid tail.
'Blood sample matches Her Highness Mariel Pleione's DNA. Access to display case number 213 granted.' He announced in a robotic voice.
The glass surrounding the crown vanished along with the old merman.
'Congratulations, Princess.' Hunter whispered.
I took a step forward while feasting my eyes on the delicate tiara. The diamond rose petals were intricately placed amongst the golden leaves to form a beautiful rose vine.
'Go ahead. Take it. It's yours.' He encouraged me.
I reached out with both hands and touched my great grandmother's crown for the very first time. It was an amazing feeling.
"I think I'm in love."
The precious gold felt cool beneath my fingertips as I lifted the crown from its velvety cushion. Each rose was uniquely designed to resemble the different stages of blooming. There was also an inscription in the inner rim of the tiara. "Born to blossom, bloom to perish." I read it aloud. "Nice."
'Yeah.' Hunter said distractedly. 'Come on. Let's get out of here.'
He asked me to hide the crown under my shirt and we both exited the vault with matching poker faces.
"Oh my God. You're such a bad influence on me."
'Shhh…less talking, more walking.'
The second we said goodbye to Adam and his brother, we happily skipped down the long winding corridors until we reached the eastern wing of the palace. Hunter laughed and twirled me around the deserted corridor. 'We fucking did it, Princess. Come on, put it on.'
"But…what if someone sees."
'Relax. No one will ever know about our little trip to the vault. If anyone asks where you got it from, just tell them it was a gift from Diana.'
Hunter leaned against an onyx column and watched me put on the lovely tiara. The moment it touched my hair, I felt this massive wave of pleasure crash into my body. It was almost like a mini-orgasm.
It turned my knees into jelly, and made me cry out in shock.
'Bella. Are you alright?' Hunter rushed to my side and offered his arm for support. My spine was still tingling from the pleasurable sensation.
"Whoa. I-I'm not sure."
'Do you need to lie down?' He asked, guiding me towards an alcove furnished with comfy looking chairs. I exhaled and sat down.
"No. It's ok. I'll be fine in a minute."
Hunter still looked unconvinced. 'Bella, if anything happens…'
"Chillax, Blondie. I'm not a fragile China Doll, so stop worrying about me. Jeez." I rolled my eyes and activated my diamond ring, summoning Pearl who was dressed as a mini cupcake.
"What's with the outfit, Mermaid?"
'Oh. Hello, Miss Bella.' She blushed, her tail peeking out from under the chocolate cupcake costume. 'I was designing costumes using the information that I have collected inside my database. Would you like to see more?'
"Umm…maybe later. Could you please turn on the virtual mirror?"
She nodded and disappeared with a bubble-like pop. "Well, that's new." I commented. "Is she in love with your merman or something? Because she's been acting strange lately."
Hunter shrugged. 'Pearl and Caspian are very intelligent. Our top team of computer scientists and engineers programmed them. Caspian is very sensitive and loyal. Maybe your mermaid is into that.'
My lovely virtual mirror allowed me to finally see my reflection. The tiara made me look so regal. It also added a healthy glow to my face.
"My cold is officially gone. Look! My nose no longer feels like it's stuffed with cotton-balls."
'Yeah. I noticed.'
"Cool." I smiled at my own reflection. "It must be my Atlantean genes kicking in."
Hunter chuckled and crouched in front of my chair. 'Good. The more you stay here, the stronger you'll become. My only concern is your safety, and the fact that somebody knows about your heritage. Somebody who wants you dead.'
"Shit. We need to find Charlie and fast." I rubbed a hand over my face. "God. I sound like a broken record. My poor dad could be anywhere…cold, hungry…"
A flashbulb suddenly flickered to life inside my head. "Hunter? What if Cora tricked me into believing that he was trapped in an underwater dungeon?" I mused. "What if it was all just an…illusion?"
'In order for Cora to create a convincing illusion, she would need magic. Powerful magic.' He explained. 'There are only two people in this Kingdom who are capable of such sorcery. One of them is a woman who's responsible for keeping our islands invisible. Some say she's as old as the pyramids of Giza.'
"What's her name?"
"Strange name. What does it mean?"
Hunter pulled me up effortlessly from my chair, tucking my right hand under his arm. 'Anuket was the ancient Egyptian goddess of the Nile. Our ancestors helped build a temple in her honor.'
"Interesting. How soon can you get in touch with her?"
He froze mid-step, his wide eyes flickering to my face. 'Are you fucking insane? Bella, no one asks Anuket for any favors. She's famous for being dangerously temperamental.'
"So what? I need her to find Charlie, not diffuse a ticking time-bomb."
Hunter sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. 'She is a very reclusive woman. You might wanna ask Jake to summon her on your behalf.'
"Fine. I'll ask him."
'Good luck with that.' He snickered.
'No. Absolutely not.'
Jake's reaction was the same, if not worse.
'My men are working really hard to find your father. They are following a trail of evidence left by Cora. We think she might have relocated him to another island.' He stubbornly said.
"Jesus. Another island?" I groaned. "This shit could take ages!"
'Sam and Tristan are going their best, Bells. You have my word.'
"Honey, Sam and Tristan were playing chess practically all afternoon in the courtyard. If this is what 'doing their best' looks like, then I'm going to have to take matters into my own hands."
'They were probably taking a break.' He reasoned. 'Please, let me do this for you. Don't get anyone else involved.'
It was hard to say no to Jake when his lips were on my neck. He wrapped his arms around me and pulled me to his still-bare chest.
"Fine. I'll give you one week. One, Jake."
'Thank you.' He kissed me, his left hand trailing down my shirt. 'By the way, I have a surprise for you.'
"What is it?"
'You will found out tomorrow.'
The next morning, Diana dragged me to a dress fitting for said coronation. Jake had already gone to his own fitting so I was left in the company of his grandmother and a bunch of giggling beauties.
I felt like a Hobbit in their presence. They were long-legged, exotic and had fabulous bone structure.
'Bella! Tell us all about your homeland.' Melody, a strawberry blonde Atlantean and shoe enthusiast asked while we were being fitted by the seamstress.
My surprise for the day turned out to be a gift from Jake in the shape of a low-cut evening gown the color of sapphires. The fabric clinched at the waist with the help of a diamond-encrusted belt.
Yes. They were real, princess-cut diamonds.
The upper bodice was made of delicate paisley lace with a revealing v-cut neckline that showed off my collarbone. It hugged my hips and flowed all the way down to the floor in a mermaid cut.
I took a sip from my excellent coffee and gave Melody and her friends a brief summary of my life in Paris. They listened intently, asking me about junk food, shopping malls and Kim Kardashian.
'You are so lucky, Bella.' Lorelei, the brainy member of the group told me once we were done with the fitting. 'You get the best of both worlds while we are trapped in this realm alongside our potential to become more than just the surviving legacy of Atlantis.'
'She's right, you know.' Melody nodded, tossing back her flawless curls. 'Our energy's wasted on this sardine can of an island.' She chimed in. 'We graduated from the best university on this earth yet here we are, working as ladies-in-waiting and being pressured into getting married by our families.'
'Our dwindling population is shaped like an inverted pyramid.' Lorelei filled me in. 'Our elderly citizens make up the base of this pyramid. The younger generation represents the very narrow tip. It's no wonder the elders have been in control for so long. There is no one to represent us. Not one single individual below the age of thirty!'
'Prince Jacob needs to dissolve the Elderly Council as soon as possible.' Melody proposed. 'He needs to bring in young blood to the court.'
'Ladies! Do not trouble Isabella with our current age-gap crisis.' Diana interrupted out little chat with a disapproving frown aimed at the girls. 'Have faith in the future. A new dawn is upon us all. Just be patient and stop complaining.'
'Apologies, Bella. We did not mean to burden you with our problems.' Lorelei said, fiddling with her long fishtail braid. Her hair was the color of sunset, complimenting her spring green eyes. She was so pretty, yet so humble and shy.
"Oh don't be sorry. It was nice getting to know you, girls. I miss having a group of girlfriends to talk to. It's…been a while."
'Aaaw, it's our pleasure, really.' Melody grinned, pouring us more coffee. 'Now drink up…'
She was rudely interrupted by a sharp knock on the dressing room door.
'Who is it?'
'It's Hunter. May I come in?'
Sabrina, who was dozing off on a nearby chaise lounge, bolted upright at the mention of his name. She was the laziest one in the group, opting to sleep the moment she was done with her own fitting.
'Come in, Hunter.' Diana addressed the door while sitting elegantly in her glossy armchair. She placed her teacup on the coffee table and clasped her hands together.
The girls giggled simultaneously when the blonde knight entered the room. He was dressed in a charcoal grey shirt and black leather pants. The dark ensemble made his snowflake hair standout.
'May I have a word with Bella?' He requested, his cool mint eyes scanning the floral-themed room until they found me.
'Yes you may.' Diana answered distractedly while examining her lavender coronation gown.
Melody, Lorelei and Sabrina watched me make my way to the door. The three of them looked like Barbie Dolls in their respective pastel dresses.
Hunter acknowledged their presence with a polite smile before ushering me outside and shutting the door behind him.
'Nope. No updates.' He replied. 'How about you? Did you show Diana the Crown of Roses.'
"No. The crown is still our dirty little secret. I honestly don't trust the quirky old lady, Hunter. She may be everyone's favorite grandma, but she's still a stranger to me."
'Care to elaborate?' Hunter prodded, watching me intently.
I grabbed his arm and pulled him further down the corridor. "So far, Jake has been hurt and manipulated by his mother. And now, his own grandmother is putting his future at risk thanks to the prophecy. Where is her loyalty to her own flesh and blood?"
'Maybe you should ask her that.'
Hunter's jaw twitched in response. 'Jake also deserves to know about your real ancestry. Honesty is the best policy, or so I've heard.' He suggested in an irritated tone.
"I plan on telling him everything after the coronation."
'Yeah. I figured you'd say that.' He bristled, fixing me with a stony glare. 'He already knows you're supposed to be Queen, but imagine his shock when he finds out the inconvenient truth.'
"The truth won't change anything. He'll still be King."
'Unbelievable.' He muttered angrily. 'So you're simply going to give up your birthright…your destiny, for him?'
"Hey…" I fisted his shirt when he tried to turn away from me. "What's with the hostility? Last time I checked, you and Jake were besties."
'Yeah well, not anymore.' He replied while glaring at the paneled wall. 'I don't think our friendship is going to survive this shit-storm.'
"It will. He's just mourning Cora…"
'I'm not fucking talking about Cora!' He hissed. 'We had an argument last night.'
The door to the dressing room suddenly swung open and Sabrina's cotton-candy hair popped out, effectively putting an end to our conversation. 'Bella! You need to pick your shoes and accessories.' She shouted from across the hall. 'Hurry. We need to get ready in one hour tops!'
"Ok. I'm coming." I faked a smile before glancing at Hunter who had fished out a cigarette from his pocket. "We'll continue this later."
'Later.' He repeated with a curt nod.
It was a shame not being able to pair my diamond tiara with the coronation's sapphire dress. They would have complemented each other perfectly.
Melody volunteered to do my make-up and ended up going overboard with the red lipstick. Lorelei, on the other hand, styled my hair into an elegant French twist.
The girls were discussing the coronation, which apparently was being rushed. It usually took place several months after the death of the previous monarch. 'Rumor has it that Cora's cousin is behind this rushed coronation. He came all the way from our sister island, Murex to attend her funeral earlier this morning. It was a very short service.'
"Yeah. I heard."
Sabrina, who was now sporting pastel-blue hair to go with her quirky feather dress, insisted on painting my nails. She was a quieter, laid-back version of Gwen Stefani. 'Bella, I also heard a rumor that you were staying in Prince Jacob's wing. Is that true?' She asked, wiggling her eyebrows suggestively.
The girls giggled, gathering around me in the airy dressing room. Sabrina's nosy question brought a smile to my ruby lips. I really did miss having January around. "Yes. It's mostly due to safety reasons though."
Melody's hazel eyes widened beneath her thick lashes. 'Oh do not take this the wrong way. We're not here to judge you. Sabrina simply wants to know if you plan on becoming our Queen. If Jake asks you to marry him, that is. There is talk about you becoming his royal consort.'
"Consort? Who exactly told you this little tidbit of information?"
The girls exchanged subtle glances before Lorelei smoothed down the chiffon fabric of her lilac dress and spilled the secret beans. 'Please, keep this between us. We umm…secretly want you to be our reigning Queen.' She confessed, dodging my question.
"Oh no. Not you too." I groaned, rubbing my newly manicured hand over my face.
'Bella, you can use the prophecy to your advantage. Our generation is dying to explore the rest of the world without rules or boundaries. If you become Queen, you can be our gateway to endless possibilities.'
"Ladies, are you even listening to yourselves? You are openly asking me to challenge Jake for the throne!"
'We said no such thing. It's simple math really.' Lorelei argued. 'House Pleione ruled the five realms for hundreds of years. The House had one last remaining heir: Princess Mariel. After her father's death, she became reigning Queen and ended up marrying an atrocious man who later hijacked the throne. This man was none other than Cora's father, Dylan.'
"Wait a sec. Cora's father was King Dylan?"
'Yes. He was the Queen's Royal Consort.'
"W-who else knows about this? The -throne hijacking- part, I mean."
'Diana gave us a brief history lesson before you showed up.' Melody revealed. 'But we were not supposed to share with you that very last morsel of buried history. It's considered treason to speak of such things.' She said, elbowing Lorelei in the ribs. 'Right, Lori?'
"No worries, Girls. My lips are sealed." I said, getting up from my stiff armchair. "Besides, all this talk about thrones and birthrights is fruitless. I have no intention of becoming a ruler anytime soon."
'But...' Lorelei pouted but I interrupted her incoming argument. "No! No buts. This conversation is officially over."
The onslaught of horrid revelations was adding fuel to my internal fire.
Cora's family apparently had a dark history of kidnapping and violence. Of course, Jake played no part in those atrocities, but knowing that he was blissfully ignorant to the real truth made me want to smack his royal butt.
The coronation surprisingly took place on the beach. The palace had its own outdoor ceremonial area and it was huge. The pristine sand was covered with some sort of transparent tile, enabling us to walk comfortably in our high heels and fancy dresses.
The decorations were minimal, probably due to Cora's funeral earlier that day. Overall, the mood was non-celebratory and many people were dressed in black. I suddenly felt self-conscious in my eye-catching dress but Diana offered me a warm smile. She insisted of escorting me to the beach alongside Hunter who was clad in leather armor.
"Wow. Look at you, all dressed up in medieval swag." I commented on our way to the beach. "Is that a real sword?"
'Of course it is.' He smugly replied. 'It belonged to my father.'
"Oh. It's so..."
'Hard?' He snickered. 'Long? Impressive?'
"No, you perv. I was going to say pointy."
A small crowd had already gathered around the pearl-encrusted throne. It was mounted on top of a massive block of honey onyx stone. The onyx seemed to glow in the warm sunset rays. It was strategically placed with the ocean in the background.
'Going ahead with the coronation was a terrible mistake.' Hunter muttered, scanning the chatty crowd of tall and proud Atlanteans. Some were oblivious to my presence while others were blatantly staring at me with a mixture of curiosity and distaste in their eyes.
"Why?" I faked a confident smile, watching Diana greet a handful of women who were holding radiant blue roses.
'The timing is wrong. I'm pretty sure that Osiris is behind this somehow.'
"Who the hell is Osiris?"
'Mr. O is Cora's cousin.' Hunter said, keeping a protective arm around my bare shoulders. 'I keep on getting this oddly sinister vibe from him, and it has nothing to do with his name.'
I was on the verge of asking more questions about the mysterious Osiris when Diana practically yanked me out from under Hunter's arm and introduced me to the league of grannies. They were an awfully nice group of ladies (and Prophecy advocates) who were often shunned for believing Diana. I was so touched when they all presented me with the lovely blue roses.
'Whoa! Give me those.' Hunter demanded, snatching said roses and examining them closely. 'Sorry. I need to secure them first.' He apologized, earning a few grumpy sighs from the ladies.
"Hunter, is that really necessary?"
He nodded. 'Better safe than sorry, Princess.'
I rolled my eyes at his overprotective bodyguard antics and waited for him to finish 'clearing' the roses. Diana laughed in amusement but her laughter quickly faded when a tall, bearded man graced us with his sinister presence.
Hunter immediately stiffened and handed me the delicate roses.
'Lady Diana.' The bearded man said in greeting, offering her a brief nod filled with arrogance. He had lizard-blue irises and a caramel complexion; a rare combination that brought out those cool, calculating eyes into focus.
'Lord Osiris.' Diana clasped her hands together and greeted him stiffly. She obviously disliked the guy and it showed. 'I hope Murex is treating you well. It is, after all, an island built by power-hungry lords with too much time on their hands.'
Osiris lifted one aristocratic eyebrow at her remark. 'Contrary to your belief, lords such as myself barely have time to shave their beards.' He responded. 'We are simply too busy to sit and fabricate lies and prophecies in order to attract attention and alleviate boredom.'
If looks could kill, then Diana would have definitely murdered him on the spot. 'Be careful with your words, Lord. The palace has very sharp ears.' She warned. 'I would hate for you to end up on the wrong side of a blade for insulting an elder.'
Wow. I had no idea Diana was capable of such a bitchy comeback.
You go girl!
Hunter disguised his chuckle with a cough while I tried not to snicker but failed miserably. Osiris merely blinked at the insult-death threat combo. 'I will heed your warning, Lady Diana. However, rest assured, no one is going to die on my watch.' He said. 'The King has offered me an esteemed position in his court and I intend to make this palace a safe haven for everyone.'
'Marvelous.' Diana muttered sarcastically.
Lord Osiris shifted his unnerving gaze to me. I clutched the roses tighter to my chest and met his gaze straight on. 'And you must be Isabella Swan. My cousin Cora spoke highly of you.' His deep voice dripped with sarcasm.
I clenched my fists and resisted the urge to punch his face. "I'm sure she did, Lord. Words cannot express how sorry I am for her loss. She was the epitome of sainthood."
Hunter coughed again.
Osiris attempted to stare me down with his lizard eyes. I could almost hear him curse me on the inside. 'I heard you were feisty.' He smirked. 'No wonder Jacob was eager to bed you.'
Hunter stepped forward, his hand flying to his sword. 'Do not speak to Bella like that.' He said through gritted teeth.
Diana was about to intervene when the loud sound of trumpets drowned us all out. Everyone stopped chatting at once, turning their attention to the main event. Hunter tugged on my hand and moved us both away from Lord Osiris. We ended up standing next to the onyx platform alongside Jacob's family.
I recognized both Sam and Tristan, but the man sandwiched between them was unfamiliar. He looked like an older version of Jacob with long pepper hair and a charismatic smile.
All three men were dressed in embroidered ceremonial robes with intricate threads of silver and gold. Their robes were nothing in comparison to the main attraction though. Jacob was a sight to behold in a midnight blue leather armor with a platinum silver breastplate. His loose, silky raven hair flirted with the ocean-themed breastplate, framing his handsome but tired face. The ocean theme continued with his boots that had the same fish-scale design as his leather gauntlets.
Two older men accompanied him. The man on his right was carrying a heavy-looking crown adorned with red rubies and a glowing blue stone. The second man was delicately holding a long cloak made of crimson velvet.
The trumpet music stopped the moment he reached the platform. People began whispering in awe as he gracefully turned around to greet his brother, father and cousin. I flashed him a smile when our eyes met but the smile soon faded when Lord Osiris stepped forward with a smug smirk on his face.
'Prince Jacob. Allow me to give you an early coronation present.' He spoke in a loud pompous voice, capturing everyone's attention.
Diana scoffed, shooting daggers at the Lord. 'This is hardly the time or place for presents.' She muttered.
'On the contrary, Lady Diana. This is the perfect setting for my gift.' Jacob looked puzzled as Osiris snapped his fingers, ordering two large men to go fetch him his prisoner. Hunter shifted uncomfortably next to me. He had a firm grip on his sword and so did Tristan , who seemed apprehensive by this sudden announcement.
'Last night, we found a man hiding in a cave in Murex. He had blood splattered all over his clothes; Cora's blood.'
Hunter and I exchanged shocked glances.
People gasped and conversations erupted. Jacob stood speechless as Osiris took center stage. He glanced at me briefly before addressing the lively crowd. 'I have brought him here so you can all bare witness to his execution. It will take place tomorrow morning.'
'Who the fuck died and made him King?' Sam hissed. 'This is madness. Absolute madness.'
We all watched as the Lord's men dragged in the so-called murderer. He looked worse for wear, unshaven and oddly familiar.
My blood ran cold when the men hoisted him off of the floor so we could get a proper look at his face. He was unconscious, but even with his eyes closed I was able to recognize my dad.
It was Charlie!
My hands started shaking. I could hear Osiris talking but it all sounded like gibberish to me.
'Bella. Are you okay?'
Diana gasped. I could tell that she had also recognized him.
"That's my dad." I told Hunter, reaching out to grab his arm for support.
'Are you sure?'
"Yes. I'm sure!"