Chapter Six - Dangerous Proximity

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Lucian dispised the leeches that paraded around him in fine clothes. Each interaction demanded pleasant talk and empty promises. He wanted to leave, but he couldn't ditch a party thrown in his honor. For the longest time he'd been trying, and failing, not to look in a certain direction.

On the far side of the ballroom Princess Persephone strode in a flowing gown of black and purple. Her eyes were dusted a shimmering purple, her lashes thick and lips black. Where she walked stares followed. He noticed the bachlors of the court flocking in her direction. Close in company stood Myla, Persephone's new lady-in-waiting and ever the pain in Lucian's backside. When Myla saw him glaring she grinned and waved her fingers at him.

Rather than give Myla the satisfaction he turned away, avoiding her altogether. But every so often, he'd find himself watching Persephone. How much did she hate him? He'd lost his temper with her, unwilling to revisit the memories he struggled with daily. She called him a devil. She wasn't wrong. Lucian knew he could never take back the things he had done, but he didn't have to ruin the one chance at happiness he might have left. If this marriage was going to be forced upon them both, the least he could do was put his best foot forward.

When Persephone made a quiet retreat from the ballroom, he followed after her. She sat on a stone ledge overlooking the gardens below.

He stood back by the doorway. "I often come here to clear my head."

She turned around. "Lucian."

He cleared his throat. "Forgive me, I hadn't had a chance to talk to you alone since... I wanted to apologize for my behavior."

Persephone brushed a hair from her face. "All is forgiven."

Lucian shook his head. "You don't have to pretend with me, Princess. I know what I am. I know in any other life, you would not have chose this."

When her lips parted, no sound came out.

Lucian glanced at the stars. "I know I am a monster. I won't pretend to be otherwise. But I can promise you this," he held her gaze. "I won't ever harm you. You will never suffer at my hand, even if others do. I am not... cruel."

She turned her head away. "Why do you do it?"

Lucian knew what she meant, she didn't have to say any more. "There was a time I refused... and the King, well... the King didn't take kindly to that." He bit the inside of his mouth, willing himself to continue. "He hurt someone I cared about very much. That's when I realized it's much easier not to resist. In the end I will right the wrongs of my father, but for now I try to make the best of things... just as you are."

He couldn't quite read her face, it had gone blank. Did she assume he enjoyed the evil things he did? Did she expect a son just as cruel as his father? He was certain his relevation had shocked her.

"What if..." Her eyes flickered back to his. "What if it didn't have to be that way? What if you didn't have to hurt anyone?"

Lucian looked away. "A plesant dream... but a dream it is."

"But if you had the chance would you take it back? Would you take back everything you have done?"

He paused. "In a heartbeat."

The Princess stood up and walked over to him. "If it is alright with you, I would like to start over."

He offered her a small smile. "I would like nothing more."

She returned his smile and an odd feeling swelled in his chest.

"Would you like to dance?"

He held out his palm. Persephone took it and allowed him to lead her back inside. They took to the floor where other couples cleared upon seeing them. All eyes were on them as they began. Lucian pulled her close, one hand laid on his shoulder and the other on his bicep. He held both side of her waist, following the soft notes of a piano.

When the tempo fastened, deeper and more potent, he spun her around. A breath escaped her lips. He never took his eyes off her, admiring every inch of her face. Could he be happy? Was such a thing allowed for a man like him? By the end of the dance they were breathless, and Lucian thought for a second, maybe she wanted to be happy with him too.

"I'm sorry, I have to go." She blurted. "Thank you for tonight, it's been lovely."

He watched her go, Myla hurrying to catch up with her.

"My Prince," one of his father's servants bowed. "Your Father requests your presence in the drawing room."

"Of course he does." Lucian brushed off his disappointment and followed the servant.

"Lucian, excellent performance tonight with your betrothed." The King chuckled from his desk.

"Did you need something, Father?" Lucian scowled.

His father slammed a black leather-bound book on the desk. "Our men discovered something in the ruins of Griffinfort."

Lucian came closer to examine the book. He didn't recognize the language, but gold runes made up the title on the front cover. The leather was worn, peeling off and in some places ripped off. "What language is this?"

"We aren't certain. Our sources say it's a book on witchcraft... curses in particular. Our scholars are working on translating it, but it appears Griffinfort intended to use this against us if they had been given more time."

Lucian's heart pounded in his chest. The book contained information about curses. He'd never been this close to finding information about his abilities. His father never thought of the why behind Lucian's mysterious powers. He was pleased enough not to question it, but Lucian never stopped wondering.

"There is one section they did manage to translate." His father drummed his fingers, a bad sign. "It says there is a way to heighten the abilities of a cursed one."

"Highten?" Lucian repeated, horrified. "Father, why would we want to highten this evil? I'm strong enough already. There isn't a Kingdom that would dare challenge us."

The King slammed his fist on the wood of the desk. "I say what we do, Boy! If I want to make you stronger then stronger you will be! This is true power, Lucian! You're not thinking big enough!"

Lucian shook his head. "I want no part of this, Father."

"You act like you have a choice."

They stared each other down.

Lucian squared his jaw. "Will that be all?"

"Get out of my sight."

Lucian stormed from the drawing room, slamming the doors as he went. He was certain of one thing; his father would never stop. His greed was too great. He would never change and Lucian would forever be a means to an end. He had to stop this from happening, before it was too far out of his control. Before it's too late to turn back.

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