Something was very, very wrong...

Chapter 77 – I'll Do It – Raine's POV

Alaric hadn't referred to the King as his father. Instead he called him by his first name, and there was no warmth in it at all. Abruptly, I remembered Talia's words, "King Quinn is not sadistic; however, he is neither gentle nor kind. He rules with a firm hand, never showing mercy and always exacting due punishment when earned. Do not make the mistake of crossing him, because you will regret it."

And General Raed had reinforced Talia's assessment, "The King is not a lenient man. The penalty would be harsh if you tried to escape, exactly the same as if you defied a direct order from Armand. These men are ancient kings. They have not held their power for so long by withholding earned punishment."

My heart galloped in my chest. I hadn't just tried to escape, I had succeeded in escaping. But surely the King would understand my reasoning!! However if there were any truth in Talia's words, then my reasoning would be irrelevant. It wouldn't compensate for my actions. I stared at Alaric with wide eyes and whispered, "Why?"

He didn't answer, effectively confirming my fear.

When the van stopped and I stepped out, I found we were standing outside of a building I had never been in. I had always assumed it was related to the animals, because it flanked the expansive barn and animal enclosures.  When I entered, cold blooded fear coursed through my veins, to find shackles hanging from the ceiling, and red stains on the cement floor!

My eyes cut around the room anxiously. King Quinn stood to the side, along with several of his security detail. I was surprised to find General Raed already there. I guess I shouldn't have been. He had taken a much faster route by running. He met my eyes. There was sympathy there, but resignation.

I trembled.

Quinn abruptly got right to the point and asked, "Do you know why you're being punished?"

I was terrified at the look of calculated intent in his eyes.

Alaric snapped angrily, "Father, you know this is ridiculous! She did not run from you or me! That fucker manipulated her into believing Armand had finally agreed to a deal. You know that would be a fate worse than death for her! Fuck, I would've run too, if I had been in her shoes!"

Quinn's cold response eliminated any hope I had for his understanding and mercy, "Then you would have been punished as well. My rules are not negotiable! One phone call from her would have cleared the misunderstanding, but she chose not to. As a result, I have determined that her punishment will be ten lashes."

I couldn't seem to catch my breath, and struggled to stay on my feet as I understood his words. I had seen Ivy's back after her punishment, and that was after she had been healed. My body healed faster than a normal human, but I had no idea how long it would take me to recover from that kind of torture.

Alaric growled, "No!!! I refuse to let you do this!!"

Apparently, Alaric did not defy his father often because Quinn's expression turned terrifying. His voice was deadly calm as he said, "The punishment will proceed."

Alaric clenched his hands into fists and hissed, "If you must have punishment, then inflict it on me, not her!"

I looked at him in shock, but it was clear he was absolutely serious.

However, his words only seemed to infuriate Quinn further. The King's lips curled into a cruel smile as he said, "It is obvious to me now that I have failed to teach you the necessary character that a King requires. As such, you will learn a lesson today. I have reconsidered her punishment and am willing to give her two options."

That sounded like a step in the right direction, but Alaric's expression of alarm made me wonder if things were going to get much worse. I just didn't realize how much worse until the King purred, "She will receive twenty lashes from the security member of my choosing..."

I gasped. We were clearly not going to the right direction.

Alaric spat furiously, "She isn't even a vampire! You know twenty could kill her!"

Quinn did not acknowledge his words. Instead he just continued with a smirk, "OR she has the option of receiving ten lashes from you. Which will it be?!"

Alaric looked horrified and breathed, "No! I will not do that!!"

"Is that your final answer?" Quinn asked.

Alaric's eyes narrowed as he looked around the room in cold calculation. I knew what he was doing. He was evaluating his chances of forcibly removing me from the situation.

But I knew it would never work. He couldn't overpower Quinn in addition to his multiple security guards, even if General Raed decided to assist, which from the expression on his face, I doubted he would.

There was also no doubt in my mind that the King would consider Alaric's act high treason. And since he didn't waver in his rules of punishment, for all of Alaric's fierce effort, in the end, he with likely lose his life over it.

I couldn't allow that to happen!

Too many people had already given their lives on my behalf. I would be damned before I allowed Alaric to die for me! I turned to him and fisted his shirt tightly, startling him. I rasped, "I want you to do it!"

He looked down at me with tortured eyes, and groaned, "I cannot hurt you like that."

Quinn interjected, "Since I am in a giving mood, I will allow you to heal her once you are done."

Alaric looked at his father and then back down at me.

I didn't dare tell him the truth. He was already struggling. If he knew I had to heal on my own, I was fairly certain he would take his chances on attacking everyone in the room. And that would be a death sentence.

"Please," I whispered brokenly.

He stared at me intently for a long moment, and finally replied gruffly, "I'll do it." And then the expression on his face turned from agony to completely blank, void of all emotion. I knew he was shutting out his pain in having to hurt me, in order to get through it.

I desperately wished I could do the same.

But I would feel every last bit of my pain...

.

Next chapter coming fairly soon...

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