Dainara woke up and stretched on her bed. She tried to open her eyes but they felt so heavy; all she felt like doing was sleeping and remaining on this comfortable mattress covered with soft silk sheets.
- "Nana must have bought new sheets"- she thought as she turned around on the bed- "They are so nice…"
Suddenly, a noise on her bedroom startled her. She opened her eyes slowly and saw a figure of a young man standing nearby.
- "Lucious…"- she whispered happily, closing her eyes again.
Lucious was there with her, in her room…Everything was fine. She hugged her pillow tightly and felt the strong aroma of a man's perfume which she had never smelled before. Or had she? Somehow, she had the feeling this perfume belonged to someone she knew…
Dainara opened her eyes quickly and sat up on the bed, gasping loudly. Reaver was standing in front of a mirror beside her, buttoning his black shirt. He turned around and smiled at her.
- "Good morning, my sweet"- he said cheerfully- "I trust you rested well".
Dainara looked around and found herself in a big bedroom decorated with fancy wooden furniture and elegant exotic lamps. She was inside a big bed which covers had the logo of Reaver Industries embroiled in golden thread…She was in his bedroom. Suddenly, she got pale. Had they…?
- "What am I doing here?"- she asked nervously.
- "Oh, dear, do you mean you don't remember the little scene you made last night in my foyer?"- he said, still getting dressed.
Dainara remained thoughtful for a moment. Yes, she remembered going to his manor…but everything seemed very confusing inside her head.
- "I…I remember coming to your manor"- she said- "But what am I doing in your bedroom?"
Reaver finished tying his belt and looked at her.
- "Well, I couldn't leave you in the office's sofa, could I?"- he took his coat and wore it- "I'm a gentleman, I always make sure that my guests feel as comfortable as possible".
Dainara touched her head, which hurt quite a bit. Why had she drunk so much? She really hoped that nothing regrettable had happened…
- "Did we…?"- she started asking shyly.
Reaver looked at her and raised his eyebrow.
- "Did we what, my dear?"
Dainara sighed. Why was he making it so difficult for her?
- "I mean if we…You know what I mean!"- she said angrily.
- "If we made love last night?"
Dainara nodded, feeling her heart beating so fast inside her chest.
- "And what if we did?"- he said teasingly- "Would it be that terrible for you? Would it be that unbearable to know that you have made love to your husband?"
Dainara felt like she was going to faint any minute. They had slept together…He had taken advantage of her!
- "How could you do it? Do you have no shame? No honour at all? I was drunk! You basically raped me!"- she shouted- "You are not my husband! He would have never done something so lowly!"
Reaver raised his eyebrow and crossed his arms.
- "Are you quite done insulting me?"
- "I can't believe I ever came here…"
- "Look at yourself"- he interrupted her.
- "What do you mean by that?"- she asked angrily.
- "I mean look at yourself…Look at your lovely body".
Dainara felt so confused. She looked down and realized that she was still wearing the beautiful green gown she was wearing the previous night.
- "I'm…dressed"- she said, hardly believing it.
- "Indeed you are, my dear"- replied Reaver with a smirk- "It was not the most appropriate attire to sleep in but I just couldn't get you undressed…It would have made it very hard for me to refrain from touching you".
Dainara felt ashamed. Maybe she shouldn't have jumped to conclusions so quickly.
- "So we didn't sleep together?"- she said, blushing.
- "Not even in the literal meaning of the word, my darling"- he turned around and pointed at a red velvet sofa- "I slept in that elegant but unfortunately not so comfortable sofa. I didn't want to have you so close to me all night…So very tempting".
Dainara looked down, finding it hard to believe that he hadn't even tried to touch her in her vulnerable state. That would be what Lucious would have done; maybe he still…
- "Disappointed, my dear? There's no need for that…We didn't make love last night, but now that you are awake we could remedy that if you wish…."- he said seductively.
Dainara frowned as she could feel her cheeks blushing.
- "Of course not! I'm actually quite glad we didn't do anything"- she said nervously.
Reaver chuckled and approached her.
- "Come, my dear, let's have breakfast together"- he said, reaching for her hand- "You must be ravenous".
Dainara got out of the bed and walked away from him.
- "I'm not going to have breakfast with you"- she said firmly- "I'm going back to the Castle, the Queen must be very worried about me".
Reaver approached her slowly.
- "Darling, after all the amount of alcohol you ingested last night, I believe you really need to eat something".
Dainara's stomach hurt almost as much as her head and she knew that he was probably right, but just the thought of having breakfast with him while all the servants that had witnessed her scene the previous night looked at them made her feel terribly embarrassed.
- "I'm fine…I'm not hungry".
As soon as she finished her sentence, her stomach growled loudly. Reaver smirked, understanding what the problem was as he noticed her cheeks blushing.
- "Would you rather have your breakfast here?"- he asked her- "I do not mind, my dear".
- "It's ok…"- she said as her stomach growled again- "Well, maybe just a little bite".
Reaver chuckled, amused by the scene. He turned around and opened the door, stopping a young maid who was carrying some dirty laundry to wash.
- "Will you please ask Mrs. Norrington to bring breakfast for two to my room?"- he asked her charmingly.
The young maid smiled and nodded in acknowledgement before running down the corridor towards the kitchen.
- "Couldn't you just go to bring me something to eat?"- asked Dainara, not very happy about the idea of one of the servants seeing her in his bedroom.
- "Do not worry, my sweet. Mrs. Norrington is not the gossiping sort, she's not going to mention anything to the rest"- he replied.
- "Is she that used to see women inside your bedroom?"- she said, scoffing.
As soon as she heard herself, Dainara regretted saying it, but somehow the words had escaped from her lips. She couldn't be jealous…She couldn't let him know she was jealous.
Reaver smirked and approached her.
- "I see that your inebriation has disappeared but not your jealousy".
- "I'm not jealous!"- she said angrily.
- "Oh, is that so? And then what shall we call what you feel? Dislike for other women sleeping with me? Is that better, my dear?"- he asked teasingly.
Dainara crossed her arms and turned around, looking at the beautiful Bower Lake from one of the room's windows. Reaver approached her slowly from behind and caressed her arm.
- "I love seeing you jealous"- he whispered to her ear, making her shiver- "You look absolutely ravishing when you are like that".
Dainara turned around quickly, facing him.
- "Is that why you took your girlfriend to the party? To make me jealous?"- she asked defiantly.
- "Maybe"- he replied seductively.
- "You just took her so that you had someone to sleep with after the party, don't try to fool me"- she said bitterly- "You didn't even know I was coming".
- "And what if I did know?"- he said with a smirk- "I know a lot of things…"
Dainara looked at him and remained silent. They were so close to each other, so much that she could feel his breath, the warmth of his body. His face was very pale and his eyes looked so tired, but his look…She could feel a tormented Lucious looking at her through his eyes, like a soul trapped inside the wrong body.
Reaver raised his hand and caressed her cheek as he approached his lips to hers slowly. Dainara wanted to move away, but her whole body seemed to be frozen in that position.
When he was about to kiss her, a knock on the door interrupted them.
- "I'm bringing you what you ordered, Master"- a soft female voice said from the other side.
Reaver sighed, slightly annoyed by the interruption.
- "Come in".
Mrs. Norrington opened the door slowly and entered the room carrying two silver trays filled with delicious food and two little porcelain teapots. She approached a wooden table and left them on top of it.
- "Is there anything else you need, Master?"- she asked him.
- "No, I think we are fine for now"- he replied coldly.
She then turned around to Dainara and smiled.
- "And do you need anything, miss?"- she asked politely.
- "Oh, no…I'm fine, thank you"- she replied kindly.
Mrs. Norrington bowed her head to them and left the room as Dainara looked at her. She seemed a very nice and kind woman, and Dainara hoped that Reaver was not mistreating her like the rest of his workers. Unconsciously, she started caressing the brooch she had tied to her dress…She didn't really know this woman, but somehow she reminded her of Nana.
- "Come here, my dear"- said Reaver as he sat by the table- "Let's have breakfast at last".
Dainara turned around and frowned.
- "You don't need to be here, you know?"- she said in an annoyed way- "I can have breakfast by myself".
- "Darling, I would never miss the opportunity to spend some time with you"- he replied, taking some delicious toasts with jam- "Come on, join me, you are wasting your precious time standing there".
Dainara sighed and approached the table, sitting down on the opposite side.
- "That's better"- he said smiling- "I really prefer eating in good company to eating alone".
- "Do you generally have breakfast with all your lovers?"- she asked bitterly as she took a freshly baked croissant from her tray.
- "Of course not, I always find them boring and uninteresting once the night is over".
- "Oh, really? Both the men and the women?"
- "I see you are well informed about my sexual life".
- "Oh, just out of curiosity, you know…It's not that I really care for it"- she said, trying to hide her anger unsuccessfully.
Reaver left on the table the cup of tea he was holding and reached for her hand.
- "I thought you were dead, I thought I had lost you forever"- he said earnestly- "I was devastated, I didn't know…"
Dainara pulled away her hand quickly.
- "You don't need to give me any explanation"- she interrupted him, not daring to look at him directly- "You are nothing to me, you can do as you please".
Reaver stood up and sat closer to her.
- "But deep inside you know that's not true"- he said sweetly- "This is why you got insanely jealous last night, why you came here asking for an explanation".
Dainara looked at him and frowned.
- "What happened last night was a mistake; I should have never come here, I was just drunk".
- "Sometimes inebriety makes us see things clearer than sobriety, my dear".
Dainara scoffed and got up from her chair.
- "I must leave"- she said firmly- "The Queen must be worried sick".
Reaver looked at her and also got up.
- "You don't need to leave if you wish. This manor could be your home".
- "Goodbye, Reaver"- she said, turning around and making her way towards the door.
Dainara left the room and Reaver followed her quickly.
- "What can I do to make you accept me?"
- "There's nothing you can do to make me accept you"- she replied, walking along the corridor.
- "Everyone wants something, my dear, and I'm sure you are no exception. What could I do to change your negative perception of me?"
Dainara went downstairs and turned around.
- "Hire back the sick workers, pay them fair wages, stop enslaving them"- she said firmly.
- "Come to live with me".
- "I'll never do that"- she replied defiantly.
- "Oh, well…No payment, no reward then, I'm afraid".
- "I would rather call it blackmail…It suits it better"- she replied angrily.
- "Such an ugly way to say it"- he said teasingly- "It doesn't really fit you to speak so harshly, my darling".
Dainara opened the main door and looked at him one last time. If Lucious was still inside of him, he was sure dying by the poison this man had inside.
Dainara left the manor's premises quickly and made her way towards Bowerstone Castle, hoping that the Queen would forgive her for what she had done. When she was getting close the Castle's gates, a guard approached her hastily.
- "Are you Dainara?"- he asked her.
Dainara nodded, getting concerned as more guards approached her.
- "Come with us, please".
She followed them, not really understanding what was happening. Were they going to arrest her? Could it be that the Queen had found out where she had spent the night and now mistrusted her? Dainara sighed…Maybe she deserved this, she shouldn't have abandoned the Queen in the middle of their mission.
The group reached the main doors and opened them, entering the Castle and making their way towards the War Room. A lot of servants looked at her, and Dainara would have sworn that they were happy to see her, bringing back memories of her own servants in Oakvale.
The guards opened the War Room's doors, where Queen Nichole, Page and Ben were discussing something with worried expressions.
- "Your Majesty"- said the guard, bowing to her- "We found her".
The Queen looked behind him and smiled happily as soon as she saw Dainara, running towards her.
- "Dainara!"- she said, hugging her tightly- "Oh, by the Lights! I was so worried about you!"
Seeing the Queen so relieved to see her there made Dainara feel so bad for what she had done to her.
- "Are you alright? What happened to you?"- asked the Queen nervously.
Dainara noticed that the Queen's eyes were so tired, as if she hadn't slept well the previous night…She couldn't lie to her, she deserved to know the truth, or at least part of it…
- "I'm fine"- she said, forcing a smile.
- "I looked for you everywhere! I created a search party to look for you all around the area…I was expecting the worst!"- said Queen Nichole, her eyes full of tears.
Dainara looked at Page and Ben, who observed the scene from inside the room.
- "Can we talk somewhere else?"- said Dainara.
Queen Nichole nodded and turned to her guests.
- "I'll be back in a moment".
The two women went to Dainara's room and closed the door. Dainara started walking around the room nervously.
- "What's wrong?"- asked the Queen.
Dainara took a deep breath.
- "Your Majesty, I wish I could just forget about what happened last night, but unfortunately I can't"- she started saying- "And I think you deserve to know the truth".
Queen Nichole felt so confused.
- "Where were you last night?"
Dainara remained silent for a moment.
- "I was in Reaver´s manor".
- "I know that, we went together…I mean after that".
Dainara looked down, ashamed.
- "Oh…I see"- said the Queen, feeling so shocked.
- "But it's not what you think!"- said Dainara immediately- "We didn't…do anything".
Queen Nichole nodded still so shocked and unable to speak.
- "Will you please tell me exactly what happened last night?"- she asked after a while in silence- "When I left from his office I was unable to find you there".
Dainara turned around and looked through the window. She couldn't tell the Queen the whole truth, she would never trust her again…
- "After talking to him in the party, I got infuriated to see how ruthless he is towards his workers, so I just left the manor"- she said, unable to look at the Queen- "I'm very sorry I let you down, Your Majesty".
- "That is not important now"- she interrupted- "Go on".
- "I was so angry that I wanted to forget about the whole conversation, so I got drunk in a little cave nearby"- she continued- "Later, in my inebriation, I decided to go back to his manor to insult him for his attitude…And I fell asleep on his office's sofa. That's all".
Queen Nichole frowned.
- "You were already getting drunk before even talking to him"- she said.
- "I…Your Majesty, you know that I hate him and seeing him brings back a lot of painful memories".
- "The curious thing is that what seemed to bother you the most was not seeing him as such, but seeing him with another woman"- said the Queen crossing her arms.
Dainara turned around.
- "That's ridiculous! Why would I mind that?"- she said loudly.
- "I was hoping you could answer this question for me".
- "Your Majesty, that man destroyed everything I held dear, everyone I loved! He killed my husband! I despise him with all my heart".
- "Do you?"- said the Queen, showing a hint of sadness and disappointment.
Dainara took a deep breath and touched her forehead.
- "I'm very tired, Your Majesty"- she said- "I'd like to rest".
Queen Nichole nodded and looked at her one last time before leaving the room. Maybe Page was right, maybe she didn't know her that well.
She made her way towards a long corridor and went downstairs until she reached two huge wooden doors, which she opened quickly, finding herself surrounded by thousands of books, ledgers and documents.
- "Oh, good morning, Your Majesty!"- said Mrs. Grace, who was reading a thick book which was open on her desk.
- "Good morning, Mrs. Grace"- said the Queen- "I need you to look someone up in the Archives".
- "Of course, Your Majesty"- she said, getting up immediately- "Who may I look up?"
Queen Nichole sighed. She didn't like doing this, but there was no other way.
- "Dainara…Dainara Willingham".