Let the Games BeginAlthea used her fork to move food around on her plate since she had suddenly lost her appetite. Fighting with Arles always did that to her. The whole table was quiet as they ate, but Arles cleared his throat and just like the others, Althea looked to him with a question, “My king, my sister and I must leave today for urgent business. Is it alright if we do so?” Arles asked and Althea immediately dropped her fork.
“My king, only my brother will be leaving today.” Althea argued and Arles stared her down with his radiant eyes but this time those eyes did not stop her. She was too determined.
She frowned to Arles and put her arms across her chest as she leaned back in her chair, “If I had known this would come of your return, you might as well have not wasted your time coming here.” She spat back and he almost hissed at her as the king put up his hand to stop them.
“What is the matter with you two?” The king asked, “Yesterday all you could talk about was seeing each other and now you are yelling.”
“He won’t drop this stupid argument.” Althea protested and stared down her brother like he did to her.
“That is because this has to be dealt with, Althea! You can’t run from it anymore, now your future depends on it!”
“What are you two talking about?” The king demanded in a sharper tone than he meant to use, but it still did not make the two children stop glaring at each other.
“Sir, I must apologize for my sister.”
“She has not been completely truthful to you, but neither have I. Before I left I was planning to tell you, my king, but Althea insisted she would do so.”
“Well go on. Tell me what you must.” The king said and Arles cleared his throat again.
“Althea and I are truly the second royal children of the southern country of Selia. Usually being the second royal children would not matter, but as you know, my king, there are very many more princes than princesses right now and anyone with pure blood is being searched for. This problem does not conflict with me personally, but Althea is to be a gift from Hera for one of the many princes of our countries,” Arles now had the attention of everyone, but they all looked to the annoyed Althea with disbelief, “But my sister has hidden and been very successful in diverting the attention of any of the princes her age, but a few months ago, when I was in the country of Nyarius, as by your orders sir, the great Prince Danarius asked to receive the gift of Hera from my sister and we are to meet him today.”
There was an eerie silence that sat heavily on Althea’s shoulders as she felt the gaze of everyone, but she did not move her gaze from her lap, “Althea, why did you not tell us?” The king asked her and she rattled her brain for an answer.
“I didn’t want anything to come from that stupid title, sir. I have and never want to be a princess and do not want to marry to any man,” Althea pushed her chair back and stood. She bowed to the king, “Please excuse me,” She said and then walked out. She could hear someone following her so she quickened her steps and went to the front of the castle. She sat down on the porch step and looked up as Arles stopped before her. That was the last person she wanted to see, “Can’t you give me a break over this, Arles! You didn’t have to see our dead family like I did yesterday!”
Arles sighed and sat down next to Althea. He gently set her head on his shoulder and wrapped his arms around her body. She knew he did not want to do any of this to her, but that did not make her less angry about it. Truthfully she was not mad at Arles, she was just angry all together, “I know you saw tough things yesterday, dear Althea, but that is why I am strongly urging this.”
Arles looked into Althea’s eyes and showed no sign of weakness. He knew what he was doing. “I’m worried about you, Althea. Even though I don’t want to leave you again, you and I both know I will have to at some point,” He said and Althea knew he was right, “And when that day comes I don’t want to leave you alone. The only way I can assure your safety is to have you marry someone I know will protect you. If I don’t have you a stable home, then I will become worried sick about you every time I leave your side like I am right now.”
“I could stay here with the king and Cilia.” She suggested but her brother shook his head.
“Cilia will be getting married soon enough, Althea. And so will her brother. Then what will you do?” He asked as he looked to her and she had nothing to reply, “I know you have feelings towards both of those guards that protect you so well, but you cannot marry them, Althea. You and I know you can’t. Now that the royal families are trying to find any woman of pure blood you must marry a prince sooner or later and I want to know you are stable and safe before I leave again.”
“Can’t we fight this, Arles? Can’t we talk to the royal families and tell them the circumstances? I’m sure your father of blessing will help us.” Althea asked as she pressed her hand on the middle of her brother’s chest where she knew a black star was tattooed that symbolized his blessing.
Arles sighed and looked to Althea, “There is something I found out on my way back here, sister,” He said and she gave him a look to say go on, “You are the only pure blooded woman that is not a princess and is still alive. There were two other girls but they have both died of natural causes since I left.”
Althea felt tears in her eyes, but held them at bay, “Then that means there are eight princes and only six princesses. Then one prince will not have a pure gift of Hera,” She thought for a moment and realized the full truth of the matter, “All of the princes have become engaged or are promised the marriage of a princess except for Prince Elius and Prince Danarius. And I am the only pure blooded woman left.”
“That is why Prince Danarius is trying to marry you before Prince Elius has the chance to.”
Althea felt an evil smile working its way to her lips, “Then Prince Danarius should come here.”
“Who says I want to marry him? Prince Elius has come here to meet me, I think, so why should I have to leave for Prince Danarius? He should come to me.”
Arles felt the evil idea creep from his sister and to him. He hated that this idea was so cruel but knew it was their advantage in this game of cat and mouse created by the problem. This could work in their favor and make it so Althea held the control of the Prince’s game and could not be manipulated by anyone. This was the only way to ensure Althea gained control of her life. This was their plan, and oh! How evil it was!
They went back into the castle hand in hand and went right to the breakfast room and sat back into their seats. Everyone was curious why Althea kept looking to Arles, and when he would look up she would give an almost evil smile and then resume looking at her plate.
Elius watched her and noticed her eyes seemed to spark a deeper blue than usual when she would look to Arles. But, Elius was caught off guard when her maniacal glace did not go to her brother one of the times. It went directly to his eyes and sent a hot flash through his spine and to the rest of him. Her eyes seemed to read his inner thoughts and for a moment he wondered if Althea was lying to everyone again. If truly she had a tattoo of a swirl to represent the goddess of thought and that she could read all of their minds at this very instant. But then how could she not tell why he was really here? How could she have not figured out that he was trying to win her heart in order to marry the only eligible wife left for him? Immediately Althea’s smile changed as she looked up to him again. Her eyes locked on his and the corner of her mouth moved up slightly. She did know! But why had she not asked him anything? Did this mean she has already chosen to marry Prince Danarius? Her eyes seemed to change from power to seduction. He felt aroused just by her eyes and he wondered why? Was he actually falling for this beautiful killer? He was slightly intrigued to the thought of her mysterious mind. Elius decided right then that he would do anything to unravel her protective shield of armor and see the true woman in front of him. He wanted to sneak in on this animal and make Althea his. He wanted to find her weaknesses and use them to steal her heart. Elius knew right then he was going to stop at nothing to make this captivating woman fall for him like he was falling for her.
In an almost seductive way he winked to Althea to try to catch her off guard, but it did not work. She giggled at the gesture and then looked back to him. Her gaze told him exactly what she wanted to tell him and when she turned to Sir Epirus and set her hand over his under the table in a way that only Elius could see it he knew he had read her silent message correctly. Let the games begin, Althea, he thought back.