Chapter dedicated to ElgeanEran. Thanks for reading and voting! You are quite lovely to do so!

Chapter 81 – Explanations – Cage's POV

It was all I could do not to roar and destroy everything around me. Instead I clenched my fists, and focused on keeping myself from moving.  After a moment, they walked out, leaving Raine alone with Armand and me. Armand began tightly, his tone not allowing for disagreement, "Tell me what happened."

She looked scared. She bit her lip and finally replied, "Marku told me that you had finally agreed to a deal to trade me to him. I ran."

His expression was hard as he said, "You should have known better."

Her eyes opened wide at his response. She clenched her fists, her anger evident as she accused him, "How was I supposed to know any better?! You hesitated...You clearly contemplated his offer! Hell, all of their offers! What was I supposed to think?!"

"Daughter, I know you are wiser than that. I know it, because you demonstrated it in a stunningly effective manner when you relieved Marku of $500K. It is a game that we play. A bluff. They need to see me more as a King than they do your father. Because if they see my emotion, then they will know you are my weakness. And they will exploit it. Marku took you because he wanted to have you for his own. But there are many others who would take you if they felt they could manipulate me in doing so. It is not wise to reveal everything that you feel." He waited for her to acknowledge her understanding.

Tears streamed down her cheeks at his profession. Frankly, his words shocked the hell out of me as well. Armand was not a man of emotion, nor was he usually transparent. It was the first time I had seen him act or say anything remotely like a father. And maybe even more startling was the manner in which he spoke. He was teaching her.

"Yes, Father," she whispered.

Then he shocked the hell out of me even more, when he leaned and kissed her forehead. As he sat back, his voice was stern as he said, "However, I cannot tell you that I disagree with Quinn's punishment."

Her face fell as she understood his words.

He continued, "You allowed yourself to be manipulated by Marku, when you had already been shown the depth and potential of his deception. Had you simply been obedient, none of this would have happened. You do bear some responsibility in this decision. It would be unrealistic and untrue to deny it. Your actions do not just impact you. Your decisions can start wars. Had Alaric not recovered you, there would have been a very significant shift in the balance between my kingdom and Quinn's because you did not honor our agreement. Alliances are not built in emotion. They are built in honoring one's duty."

Her lip quivered and more tears fell down her cheeks as she whispered, "I don't know how to do this. Your world – my world – is so foreign to me, that it feels impossible for me to trust the rules that are set in place. Particularly when I am frequently being hurt by them."

Armand did not miss her reference. He replied, "I bear regret that you were hurt as a result of my not knowing your true identity. However, had you actually been the daughter of a Hunter, I would never regret my decision to punish you in the most severe way I am capable. I am who I am, and that is a man of war."

She shivered.

"As my daughter, you must employ more wisdom in your actions. And we both know you are capable of such," he admonished.

"Yes, Father," she whispered again. It seemed as if she was genuinely contemplating his words, and he had done more than I expected in revealing his affection for her.

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