A Way With Words
Still using Roehn as an excuse to put on a show, Sajyn and his staff were gracefully efficient at getting the newly arrived Dragons set up with their meals. Brejeir scarcely waited for them to finish, before getting right down to business.
“So, what’s the verdict?” he asked Arcylaen.
“Lord Haraj’s request was first, and no surprise,” he answered around eating.
“I still say it was your phone call,” Rohen muttered between her own bites of soup.
“What phone call?” Brej asked, but wasn’t the only one who perked up, intrigued.
Arcylaen gave her an exasperated look, before telling them about the call he’d used as a ploy during the Gala to send the Griffin on an unnecessary errand. “That doesn’t change the fact that he was already interested and would’ve submitted a request with the Council, anyway.”
Daelyn snickered at Arcylaen’s defensiveness, who scowled in return.
“The other request was from Lord Gwyn of House Oryth,” Arcylaen continued, causing all of the Dragons to look at him in surprise.
Brejeir sat back in his chair, drumming his fingers on the side of his wine glass. “What interest would the Ravens have in this?” he wondered aloud. “The House of Cayen?”
“Possibly,” Arcylaen replied.
“What about it?” Roehn asked, displeased with the idea of them keeping pertinent information from her.
Especially, when it pertained to her own house. The two eldest Dragons appeared reluctant to share.
“Historically, the Ravens were always the most loyal to both the Black Dogs and the Wolves,” Ryver spoke up, looking at her from across the table. “About a quarter of a century ago, a falling out occurred and the Ravens removed themselves completely from any association with House Cayen. They remained quite detached from all the drama that followed, siding with no one during the struggle to remove the Cayens from power.”
“What if the Black Dogs took something that belonged to them and now they want it back?” Grevys asked.
“They would’ve filed a grievance with the Council just like everyone else did five years ago. There would be no need for them to invoke the Warden Rites over Leandra,” Arcylaen growled. “Please, look into it.”
“Of course, brother,” Ryver nodded.
“Speaking of grievances,” Brejeir interjected. “You know the two losing Lords are going to be filing their share first thing in the morning.”
“Don’t worry, I’ve already contacted Metka. At this very moment, he’s working up dismissal orders for anything the Lords could possibly attempt,” Arcylaen replied, speaking of his attorney, Roehn presumed, since he’d already mentioned taking that action to Councilwoman Thaya. “The Rite won’t be overturned.”
“Are you sure?” Daelyn questioned, looking between him and Roehn with concern. “The order of submission–”
“Doesn’t mean a thing when Leandra’s Echelonite has already made its choice,” Arcylaen cut him off, succeeding in shocking everyone at the table, except Brejeir.
Roehn’s cheeks reddened, dumbfounded at how easily Arcylaen could just blurt such a major incident like it was a common, every day occurrence.
Daelyn’s grin was slow and wide. “Well, okay then,” he celebrated.
Roehn offered him a weak smile, but couldn’t muster the same excitement. It was bad enough the situation made her feel grateful for Shursja’s rash behavior, knowing she very well could’ve ended up at a completely different table tonight.
The entire ordeal was infuriating, because Roehn didn’t want to feel grateful, anymore than she wanted to be bound to the Dragon’s Head. Her plans were edging toward complete ruin, thanks to some barbaric tradition!
“You know, you could just put a stop to all of these ridiculous laws, then no one would have to worry about rushed ceremonies, filed grievances or contacting attorneys,” she grit out.
When Arcylaen looked at her, she held his gaze with an arched brow, daring him to say she was wrong. He knew damn well she was right. They all did. Even the Council knew she was right!
“Those aren’t the only laws that need adjusting,” Daelyn added.
Arcylaen rolled his eyes. “We’re not turning dinner into a political campaign,” he stated with finality. “We have enough to worry about at the moment and by morning, those problems will undoubtedly be doubled. We need to stay focused on what can be handled right now, rather than in the future. Laws cannot be altered or eradicated overnight.”
“You’re the boss,” Daelyn sighed.
The rest of the meal was spent mostly with the others chatting amongst themselves about current events, while Roehn listened curiously and Arcylaen ate in silence, brooding.
Afterward, he led Roehn upstairs to the west tower, where her new room waited for its reluctant princess. It was another enchanting motif done in sunset shades of pinks, oranges and yellows with a touch of dusk blue. Arcylaen stood just inside the door, watching her inspect the hand carved furniture and fourposter bed. She lingered at the arched windows with stained glass depicting brilliant suns, dragons, castles and nature scenes. It was too dark to see what kind of view she had otherwise, but Roehn didn’t doubt it would be both breathtaking and of no consequence.
She would still feel like a prisoner.
“Since we’ll need to authenticate the artifacts again, we can all ride to the museum together in the morning,” Arcylaen said, when she faced him.
“Okay,” she accepted.
“The en-suite bath should be fully stocked with everything you need,” he said, as if searching for a reason to stay. “But if by some chance you need something, there’s a phone next to your bed that will connect you to Lyva or any of the household-”
“Arcylaen, I’ve been taking care of myself for a long time, I think I can manage,” she cut him off.
“Of course,” he smiled slightly. “Well, I’ll let you get some rest, then.”
Roehn nodded, wondering when their relationship had turned awkward. Suddenly they didn’t know how to be in the same space together? When he crossed to the door, she followed so she could close it behind him. It all felt so mechanical, yet neither of them seemed to know how to make it stop.
“Goodnight, Leandra,” he said, pausing with his hand on the knob.
Holding her gaze for a moment longer, he finally released the handle and turned out of the room. Roehn exhaled a long sigh, then started closing the door, when Arcylaen’s hand stopped it and pushed it open again.
“Just one more thing,” he muttered.
She hadn’t realized how disappointed she’d been, until he crossed the threshold with golden eyes churning in desire. He wrapped his arms around her and lifted her from the floor, bringing her mouth to his.
It shouldn’t keep getting better. Roehn’s mouth should be getting used to his kisses, not feeling them more vigorously. The texture of Arcylaen’s lips were more defined and persuasive against hers. His tongue hotter, stronger and more demanding. His confident fingers kneaded the tension from her muscles, while his mouth threatened to leave her in a puddle of melted, needy goo.
Roehn gasped into his hungry mouth, when he cupped her ass and pinned her even tighter against his body. The hard line of his arousal was clearly defined against her lower stomach, launching her desire into a whole new orbit. Heat fused with her cells, creating tiny solar flares all through her veins.
A tiny moan escaped her and Aryclaen devoured it, grew hungrier for more. Roehn’s mind spun happily, like a child making themselves dizzy just for the sensation of it. For the sheer free-fall joy of it. That’s what giving into her lust with the Dragon would be; Freeing. But at what cost?
They came back to their senses simultaneously, though neither were ready to break apart completely. The intensity was gradually reined in, the kisses melting into a smoldering warmth, edged with the promise of future combustion. It had to be enough. Roehn couldn’t allow herself to accept more yet. She still needed time to settle with the idea that it would happen. There was no point in denying it, she wasn’t that naïve or, apparently, strong-willed when it came to her desire for him.
There was too much riding on the present to be worried about the future, at any rate. Arcylaen’s hand slid into her hair, cradling the base of her skull and Roehn leaned into it. Reveled in the feel of his masculine strength, while he rested his forehead on hers.
“That’s how I meant to say goodnight the first time,” he smiled a little smugly.
“Definitely a better choice,” Roehn reciprocated. “Maybe you should practice, so you don’t forget next time.”
He chuckled, placed a soft kiss on her lips, then spanked her bottom playfully. “Go to bed, kitten, we have a busy day tomorrow.”
In a blink, Roehn forgot everything she’d been thinking or feeling, overcome with the singular need to obey Arcylaen’s words. Her arms fell from him and she stepped back, her entire body possessed by an invisible force. It might have stemmed from her bond with Shursja, since the panther woke with a start, fully alert.
Roehn turned and approached the side of the bed, her fingers working the buttons undone down the front of her blouse. She needed to get undressed and into her nightgown, so she could brush her teeth and hair. Afterward, she’d go through her nightly process of washing her face and applying an overnight moisturizer. Then she could go to bed. She needed to go to bed.
Right before she could peel the blouse from her arms, strong hands clamped around them to stop her. She had no idea who it was, nor did it matter. She only had one objective.
“Leandra, what are you doing?” A male voice asked, his tone both surprised and aroused.
“I have to go to bed,” she replied hollowly, the only thing she could think of, a single-minded obsession. “I can’t stop, until I go to bed.”
“Stop!” he demanded, his voice hard.
In a snap, Roehn felt the unknown force release her body and mind. Under the influence of the Warden power, she hadn’t been able to feel or think beyond Arcylaen’s command, but there was nothing stopping the shock from hitting her in the aftermath. Her mouth popped open, breath sucking in sharply.
Heart pounding, she looked down at her shirt hanging open, her black lace bra and cleavage fully exposed. It felt like someone punched her right in the gut, the air exploding from her lungs.
“Aaah!” she started, grabbing the material and quickly closing it over her chest.
Embarrassment, shock, fear…fear was the biggest, slammed into her like a bullet train.
“Fuck, I didn’t mean-,” Arcylaen roughed out, but Roehn instantly shied away from him when he tried to touch her.
The ramifications were instantaneous. She hadn’t even had the chance to process what had happened, yet her first reaction was mistrust and it effected them both horribly.
“You need to leave,” she whispered, unable to look him directly in the eye. “Please…get out.”
“Leandra,” he held his hand up, as if he wanted to touch her, but he didn’t. He backed away from her slowly, his expression dark and horrified. “I’m so sorry.”
He was out of the room before Roehn could even clear her vision. She sank down onto the bed in a daze of confusion, as the hurt began seeping through the filter of shock. Still clutching her shirt closed, Roehn curled into herself as tightly as possible, because she started trembling uncontrollably.
Betrayal sliced through her, tears filling her eyes. Her mind simply couldn’t accept the truth and the more it tried, the more it hurt. She never would’ve expected to get her first taste of the Rite’s real potential from Arcylaen, himself. Not physically. She’d chosen him, because she’d trusted him with her body. Had known that he’d never make her do anything against her will.
The worst part was knowing it had been completely unintentional, because that left no one to blame. No outlet for the anger that quickly rose up to outmatch the heartache. For hours, Roehn worked through a gamut of emotions. All of the reactions she’d been forced to keep bottled up since leaving work to find Ilydan waiting for her. The apprehension, fear, outrageous disbelief over being forced to enter into a binding ritual she’d never wanted, the injustice, being denied her own home and privacy.
The more she relived the events which had unfolded over the course of a single evening, the angrier Roehn became, until it was the only thing left. She grabbed hold of it, because anger was better than heartache in so many ways. It allowed her to view Arcylaen as her equal in the incident, rather than the antagonist. The Rite had victimized both of them, created an outcome against both their wills and no amount of knowledge or understanding could erase that. Nothing could take it away. The traumatizing moment was forever etched into her brain, her soul and it was a fate she wouldn’t wish upon her worst enemy. No one should ever have to endure having all control of their own thoughts and body taken away like that!
Cauldex desperately needed a complete overhaul of their outdated traditions and laws. There was only one surefire way she could see that happening. Arcylaen needed to step up, become the official leader of Skaulling, and Roehn needed to put her position as his unofficial business partner to much better use. She couldn’t be just a conservationist and thief anymore. Those were only bandage solutions, she understood that now.
The world needed an engineer of change.
© A.C. Melody
♥ Thank you for reading! Need to start the story from the beginning? You’ll find all previous episodes under the Wicked Web link on the menu above. Up next, Episode 18.