Chapter Eighteen

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"So lovely..."

Treyan held Alex's hand, but there was something different about the roughness of the palms, the tightness of the grip. And his voice sounded deeper...

She opened her eyes to realize it wasn't Treyan holding her hand at all.

It was Reylor.

In a moment of panic, she sat up in bed, still naked after the previous night's endeavors. Modesty escaped her, however, as she attempted to pull her hand away from him, but Reylor's grip only tightened, pulling her closer to him as if she were no more than a rag doll.

"I wouldn't do that, Empress..."

Looking into those red eyes at such a close proximity made the man who possessed them so much more real, and Alex felt her blood turn to ice. She frantically looked around, attempting to make better sense of the situation, and that's when she saw Treyan. 

 He lay on the bed naked next to her, motionless but very awake. He was engulfed by a red aura, as if an unseen force kept him in place, which appeared to be created by the two individuals who surrounded him along their bedside.

Treyan had also noticed Reylor's presence, and in his eyes burned the darkest fury she had ever seen.

"Treyan!" she screamed, again trying to release herself from Reylor's grasp, but this time the Betrayer held both of her hands in his, and pulled her out of bed into a standing position, wrapping his unwelcome arms around her naked body from behind, his chin resting on her shoulder while they both looked at Treyan.

"Unfortunately, Empress, the Prince can do nothing for you now," he mocked into her ear.

Alex struggled against him, and an arm quickly came up to her neck in a choke hold. His voice turned harsh. "Enough of that, Empress, or the only one who suffers will be your Prince."

To emphasize his threat, he nodded to one of his mages, who in turn intensified the field around Treyan, causing him to let out a scream of agony in response.

"No! Stop!" she cried, and with another nod, the mage relented.

"I knew you'd see it my way."

He loosened the arm around her neck, but left it dangerously close to her exposed breast.

"I see the Empire has welcomed you with all of the formality expected of a predestined deity."

His other hand slid down her left arm, grabbing her wrist to hold up the ringed finger. She closed her eyes at his touch- her skin would have crawled off her bone if it were able.

"And the Crown Prince fulfilled his fated duty, it would seem..."

His hand on her chest squeezed her breast and pulled her tight against him.

"Did he at least make sure you were the Empress before he fucked you, or did he have the Council watch you to make sure?"

She let out a yelp of pain, causing Treyan to react in whatever way he could have that caused the mage to increase his power, again torturing him into submission.

She struggled against him again, now in anger as much as fear, but he began to walk her backwards, away from the bed, but ensuring Treyan could still see both of them from where he lay.

Reylor sat her down in front of the vanity's mirror where her naked, tear-stained reflection looked back at her, and behind she could see Treyan on the bed, still struggling to move while his silent death glare remained on his brother. Reylor came up behind her to block her view of Treyan, surprising her and he laughed at her expense.

"Don't worry, Empress, he won't be coming with us." He had picked up her discarded robe and draped it over her shoulders, only then noticing the jeweled crown sitting in its safely secured box. He reached over her and picked it up, examining it over in his hands.

Glancing back to his brother, a sly smile came to his lips. "Mother would be so pleased to see you kept it in the family." He returned his attention to Alex and gently placed the crown on her head. It sat there in contrast to the events at hand- the Crown Prince helpless in bed while the Queen Empress is accosted by the banished Lord Steward, but Reylor seemed rather pleased with himself.

"Now, we are ready to go."

Reylor lifted her from the bench and turned her to face him. His hand brushed her cheek with sickening sincerity and she turned away from him as much as she was able. As though amused, he only continued on as the hand ran along her jaw and down her neck. "It's been a long time, but now I'm with you, even after all these years."

He grabbed a hold of her neck and brought her lips to his in an extremely forced, almost violent kiss. "And Empress, if you even think about screaming for help..." He turned to his mages.

"Make sure he doesn't follow us."

In response, they immediately intensified their powers, and Treyan's screams burned into her memory.

	Alex could tell it was morning by the light that shone through the hallway windows, but the castle remained dark as though its inhabitants remained in a deep slumber

Alex could tell it was morning by the light that shone through the hallway windows, but the castle remained dark as though its inhabitants remained in a deep slumber. No guards stood watch, no help from the kitchen bustled about their daily duties- even the Council, who always appeared to be underfoot, were nowhere to be seen. Even if she dared scream, she wasn't sure anyone would rouse themselves fast enough to help her.

Reylor had a death grip on her upper arm that she knew would leave a bruise, but he cared not as he pulled her through the palace. As the palace was his childhood home, she assumed he remembered every passage and back hallway that would get him where he needed to go with the least detection, and soon he brought her to a dark unused stairwell that led down to an old wooden door.

Behind the door appeared to be a stable, and there his mages stood, holding the reins to their three horses. Reylor traded one mage Alex for the reigns of his horse. He jumped into the saddle first, and Alex was unceremoniously hoisted into the saddle in front of him. His arm wrapped tightly around her waist, securing her against his chest.

"Let's go home, Empress," he snarled into her ear as he kicked his horse into a gallop towards the Borderlands.

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