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Authors: Marianne Curley

Fearless (4 page)

BOOK: Fearless
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Far below is the massive white brick wall that surrounds the entire palace grounds, while further out are tidy streets with houses, apartment buildings and stores. And just beyond the housing area are skyscrapers in more densely packed streets, the river with paths alongside it, and angels rushing around, doing their business, whatever that entails here in Skade's capital, along with the much smaller souls scurrying behind them with their heads lowered.

Mela indicates a set of double doors on the glass wall side. ‘Your apartment is a corner suite,' she explains. ‘It has seven rooms that I hope you'll find comfortable.' She then points down the corridor to another corner suite at the opposite end. ‘Those doors lead to the king's suite, known as the royal apartment.'

‘Oh. Well, thanks for that.' Counting four sets of doors on the opposite wall between his apartment and mine, I take small comfort from the knowledge that there are others on this floor. ‘Who stays in those?'

‘No one,' she says, a hint of pity in her voice. I catch her eye and it happens again, a sense of familiarity, this time stronger than before. Who is this woman? She's not an angel, I can see that, but neither is she … ‘King Luca doesn't like guests near his private rooms.'

‘Oh, goodie, just him and me and an entire floor to
ourselves.' I point to a set of double doors midway along the glass wall.

‘Balcony,' she says, raising my curiosity. ‘It overlooks the main square.' And seeing my surprised face, she adds, ‘It's not an escape route, Ebony.'

Not until I can fly
, I correct her quietly.

Mela reaches past me to the gold door handles to my apartment, opening both doors simultaneously. ‘Shall we go in?'

‘I suppose you're coming too?'

She nods and withdraws her arm, her exposed skin ina
dvert
ently brushing the back of my wrist. My breath catches at her touch and my pulse skitters. Tingles hit the back of my neck with pinpricks sparking all over my scalp, as if the very air itself is electrocuting the cells at the roots of my hair, all sensations I would normally associate with my Guardian bond springing to life.

Zavier spoke highly of Mela. He must have known her before Luca banned him from Skade. He gave me the impression that I could trust this woman, and I'm starting to believe he was telling me the truth.

Oblivious to my reaction, she motions for me to enter. I take a deep breath before I step into the room that is going to be my prison for as long as I have to live here.

But any resemblance to a prison cell is laughable. It's large and light and airy, a contemporary designer style with a running theme of white, chocolate brown and red with elegant furnishings, including a dark leather sofa that could fit two of me lying head to toe. This sits at a right angle to a roaring fire contained behind glass, with two matching
armchairs in front of it. Large protruding windows give extensive views over the city.

A hallway on the right leads to several more rooms. Mela opens the door to one she says is my bedroom. A great big window is the first thing I see, with another view across the city towards the river and mountains beyond.

The bed has a modern, glossy, white wood frame, a mattress covered by a luxurious white quilt, a stack of red, brown and white pillows laid perfectly across the head. Crystal lamps sit on bedside drawers of the same polished white wood and against the opposite wall there's a dressing table with a frameless mirror. A chocolate-coloured leather armchair sits in front. Jewellery boxes, hairbrushes, combs, clips, perfumes, all seemingly brand new, lie on the white wood top.

There's a fire in here too, also enclosed in glass. So now I know where the warmth is coming from and I pull off the cloak, which Mela takes and hangs in a wardrobe, which she enters by a door in the far wall.

I walk over to the dresser and run my fingers over the items spread along the top, catching my reflection in the mirror. My eyes are glassy and bloodshot, grey smudges underneath giving them a sunken look. My skin is pale, nothing like my normal bronze. My hair is a tangled dark red mess I'd like to forget. I hardly recognise myself. My mouth is hanging open so I shut it with what little energy I have left. And, yes, I'm tired. I'm exhausted, but part of this weariness is mood-related. And that's not going to go away with a few hours' sleep.

‘Your wardrobe is full of new clothes you should find
adequate until …'

At her pause I catch her eye in the mirror. ‘Until what?'

‘I was just going to say until you settle in, but thought the remark a little insensitive for your first day.'

‘You would be right.'

She points to the back wall. ‘Your wardrobe and bathroom are through that door. There is another bathroom off the living room, and a kitchen.'

She pulls a dressing gown from my wardrobe and hands me two lilac towels. ‘By the time you've showered, our meals will have arrived.'

‘I'm not hungry, Mela. You go ahead and eat without me. I'll shower and go straight to bed.'

‘As you wish. I'll see you after your shower then.'

When I've washed my hair and all traces of blood from my skin, I put on a pair of jeans and a jumper I find in the wardrobe. I want to be ready when Nathaneal breaks me out. Over my clothes I slip the dressing gown on, wrapping it tightly around my waist with the sash.

I spot the bottle of wine on a side table as soon as I walk into the living room. Mela goes over and pours me a glass. I take it from her hand and sip it, surprised to find it tastes really good. I gulp half of it down in one go, then the rest and put down the glass. ‘I'm done in. I'm going to bed.'

She holds out a bottle of pills but I shake my head. ‘One glass of wine will be enough to put me to sleep today. You can leave, or stay, or do whatever you want now. I'm not waking for hours.'

She follows me into my bedroom and pulls back the quilt. My temper flares, not because she's fussing, but because
I'm tired, my heart is broken and I want to cry in private, not in front of anyone who lives here and obeys Luca's commands. ‘I can do that, Mela. Why don't you go and have your dinner?'

‘I don't mind, Ebony. And our meals haven't arrived yet, so if you're feeling more like you can eat something –'

‘Stop!' I don't mean to yell at Mela. She's only doing her job, and so far she's been nothing but thoughtful and kind. ‘Look, um, can you just go for a walk until the meals arrive. I really need to be alone right now.'

She sighs. ‘I'm sorry, Ebony, but I'm not allowed to leave you unattended.'

‘What?'

‘I'm under orders.'

‘Ah, so you're really not a
handmaiden
but a
prison guard
who happens to be good at making beds and untangling knotted hair. Are you packing a weapon somewhere under that dress?'

‘My role is to keep you company,' she explains calmly, ‘and to ensure you have everything you need at any time.'

‘Will you be sleeping with me too?'

Her face goes red.

Damn it.

‘No, my lady, I didn't mean to infer –'

‘Mela, you seem like a lovely person, but as my good friend would say, this is bullshit
.
'

‘Ebony, two highly trained soldiers are outside your doors right now, guarding this apartment.'

‘I have guards outside my door? They weren't there when we arrived.'

‘They are there now, and I guarantee neither of them can untangle hair, or do any number of other things I will be doing for you. Would you rather one of them was in here attending your needs and helping you adjust to your new environment?'

I stride up to the front doors and throw them open, both at once. Two Throne soldiers in their full black armour, helmets on, weapons at the ready, swing round to face me, their movements lightning fast and deathly silent. I look up, and up, to silver eyes peering at me. Mela comes and stands beside me, and when I don't say anything but just gawp and stare, the guard shifts his gaze to Mela. ‘Is there something we can do to assist, my ladies?'

With an open palm Mela points to the guard who just spoke. ‘Ebony, this is Captain Elijah.'

‘At your service,' he says, bowing his head.

Mela points to the other one. ‘This is Captain Lhiam.'

‘It is an honour to serve you both, my ladies.'

‘Uh-huh.' They stare at me with slightly puzzled expressions, as if they're trying to get a read on me. I point to one, then the other. ‘You two look alike.'

‘We're brothers,' Captain Elijah says.

‘Oh. Well, thank you, captains, but, ah, Mela is looking after my needs adequately.'

The meals arrive. Mela wheels the trolley inside and closes the doors with some murmured words to the guards, but I'm not listening. My head is spinning.
How do I get out of here now? How is Nathaneal going to find me? I'm eight floors above the ground, with Throne guards everywhere, even outside my door.

A sense of desperation is making me nauseous. I need to
rest. I'll think about it all tomorrow. I start moving towards the bedroom when Mela points with her elbow to a door on the other side of the living room. ‘My room,' she says, carrying her tray of hot food
.
‘In case you need me.'

‘Fine,' I mutter, lifting a limp hand and giving her a weary wave, noticing how it's growing darker outside. Night is falling quickly.

I walk into my room, curl up in the foetal position on my bed and watch Mela through the narrow gap of my open door. She puts the tray on the edge of a low table in the living room. When she stands up, she bumps it with her knee and it falls to the ground. Food spills out as china breaks. I would get up and help her clean the mess, but I'm bone weary and call out instead, ‘Are you OK, Mela?'

‘Clumsy, that's all. I suppose it's just as well you didn't want a meal.'

Her joke is lame but still helps me to crack a small smile. ‘I don't want to be disturbed tonight, Mela. Can you do that for me?'

She comes to my door. ‘Ebony, I can't stop him. If he wants, he will just walk in.'

Which is exactly what he does, and the first thing he sees is the mess in the living room. He turns on Mela, who's still standing at my bedroom door. ‘What happened? Did
you
do this? After you convinced me you were the best choice f
or th
is position? Are you going to prove yourself useless on the first day?' He lifts his hand as if he wants to slap her. Mela flinches to the side as if bracing for it. The slap doesn't come, but the fear in her eyes tells me that if it had it wouldn't be the first time.

‘Stop yelling at my maid, Luca.
I
made that mess.' I pull myself into a sitting position. ‘Mela was about to clean it up, but helped me into bed first to make sure I was all right.'

Mela slowly turns her face to me, and while she doesn't say a word, and neither do I, in that moment we make a connection. The Guardian bond springs into life and I realise, now that I've figured out exactly who Mela is, that the feelings of familiarity I've been getting around her have nothing to do with Zavier. His trust in Mela, his belief that I will be safe in her care, is not what has gen
era
ted this powerful sense of kinship. Apparently a Guardian
autom
atically connects to members of their Charge's family. In this case, being Jordan's Guardian has linked me to his mother.

Luca looks at Mela, then at me. He probes the outer ridges of my thoughts, trying to get in. I don't let him. I can't, or he'll know I just lied to him. Angels can't lie, but here I am lying with ease. What's with that? I hazard a guess it has something to do with my Guardian bond and the connection to my Charge's closest family member. Protecting her gives me licence to do what is necessary to keep her safe.

Dismissing Mela, Luca steps into my room. ‘Your training will begin only once I decide you've had enough time to settle in,' he says.

‘My training?'

‘You want your wings to develop, don't you?'

So I can fly away, straight out of this world, as soon as no one is looking.
‘Sure.'

‘I have placed guards at your door. But since you've met them already, I can dispense with introductions.'

Good. Now you can leave so I can dream I'm in Nathaneal's arms.

‘For now you will not leave this apartment. When the time comes that I allow you to venture outside the palace, you will have a team to protect you. Do not speak to them. They will have a job to do, and distracting them will only work to your detriment. Do you understand, Princess?'

‘Sure. I have prison guards that I can't talk to, I get it.' Tears are starting to well in my eyes. It's the reality of my new life sinking in a little bit further. ‘Mind if I sleep now?'

‘I thought you might have a few questions.'

I drag myself into a straighter sitting-up position to feel less vulnerable. ‘Yeah, actually I do.'

He pulls up the closer of the two armchairs and sits. ‘Go ahead.'

‘When do I get to go home? It's not like you can keep me here against my will. Clearly soldiers at my door indicate I'm not here of my own volition. And I happen to know the Free Will code is one that angels live by. In fact, it's a universal law.'

‘The guards are for your protection. They will attest to that under oath if they have to. Ebony, laws are open to interpretation no matter where you live. Coming from Earth, you should know that.'

‘And you would manipulate the law to suit yourself.'

‘I do what is necessary.'

‘Just wait until Nathaneal gets here. You should start running now, Luca, faster than you have ever run before. You won't have one unbroken bone left in your body by the time he's finished with you.'

BOOK: Fearless
7.86Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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