The King watched their entire interaction. Her lips, soft as peony petals, moved with ease. Her eyes glimmered, much like that night as she breathed out his name. A thrill unlike any other jolted through him. He wanted to have his way with her, for as long as the night would last, and that was precisely what had happened.
Adeline was so frail, that he wanted to cherish her dearly. He did not forget how she tasted and felt. Just being near him was enough to overwhelm his senses. She was delectably sweet.
The beautiful flutter of her lashes when she was shy, her startled gasps that quickened her breathing, and the tremble of her fingers. He desired to possess her, bewitch her even.
"Such a naughty little prey," he mused.
Yet, there she stood, rosy cheeked and wide eyed for a man that was not him. That was fine. Soon, he would have her begging for him.
He licked his tongue over a fang. He would have his way with her body and soul. He would make certain of it.
- - - - -
"Who was that, Adeline?" Asher questioned.
His face was nonchalant, despite the storm brewing in his gaze. All he did was turn to retrieve a plate of cake for her. The next thing he knew, she was gone. He had searched high and low for her. His heart was in his lungs when he couldn't find her
Without warning, some gentleman brought her out to the dance floor. He could not imagine the scene, not once in his lifetime.
Adeline Rose was easily one of the most beautiful women at the ball. At least in his eyes. From her cascading locks of chrysanthemum hair, to her verdant green eyes, she resembled a rare blossom in a meadow of flowers that desperately attempted to mimic her. Alas, none could compare.
"I don't know," Adeline lied. She smiled up at him, knowing he was only concerned for her wellbeing.
Asher was her bodyguard. He had every right to question whoever accompanied her. He needed to ensure her safety, even if there was no one that would ever target her. It was a silly job, really. Why would someone care about a no-name woman like herself?
But he insisted.
Even after the death of her parents and her banishment from her city, Asher followed her. He was her shield and sword.
"Adeline," Asher sternly spoke, like an older brother chastising his disobedient sister. "I swore to your parents I would keep you safe. You must tell me his name."
Adeline flinched at the mention of her parents. It wasn't a conventional death. Even as a child, she knew it was plotted murder. A decade had passed since their demise, but she could never forget their bloodshot eyes and drained, purple skin.
"Adeline Mae Rose," he deadpanned in a deeper voice.
"I truly don't know." Adeline loudly sighed. "I wish I did."
Asher's hand twitched. An ache gnawed at his chest. She was intrigued by another man. It was an occurrence that had never happened. For as long as Asher could remember, she was always caught up within herself.
Adeline had just turned twenty. It was natural for her to finally be interested in men. Yet, for some reason, his heart did not cooperate. The entire time she danced with that stranger, he felt a strange bitterness. He had an urge to kill.
The bloodlust was strong, but he concealed it. His thirst for blood was always strong, though, whenever it concerned Adeline.
For the sake of his beloved flower, he hid everything from her.
"That's alright," Asher finally said. "I crossed the line, Princess. I'm sorry."
Adeline frowned with guilt. She uncomfortably shifted in her shoes and tucked her anxious fingers together. She didn't like to hear that title. It did not belong to her anymore. Regardless of the Royal blood running through her veins, she was a nobody now.
This continent was dominated by a sole King, His Royal Majesty. Everyone else that governed over the cities, apart from the capital, were mere Crown Princes or Crown Princesses, and nothing else. They could never become King.
"Everyone was watching you, Princess," Asher commented.
Adeline gulped. She had tough skin, so she was used to the stares and whispers. It had happened for years following the poisoning of her parents. Pitiful smiles, worried eyes, they angered her. There were not many things that got on her nerves, but fake sympathy certainly did.
"You know I don't like that title," she griped, her voice no longer meek and kind.
Asher paused and studied her expression before making his next move. Her soft brows were creased, a fiery look in her gentle eyes, her lips thin.
'I see,' he thought to himself. 'She's upset.'
Asher supposed it couldn't be helped. Regardless, she had displeased him today. It was only fair he returned the favor.
Asher had crossed the line. It was written all over her face, which was an open book to him. Though, he preferred for other parts of her to be opened.
Like her heart.
"I apologize, Adeline. However, I am your bodyguard, not your friend," Asher slowly uttered. He chastised her out of love, not anger. "You must understand I care for your wellbeing the most."
Adeline was hurt. Her heart was stabbed by his painful words—not a friend. How could she forget? No matter the past between them, their relationship had diminished to a meager friendship. She did not hate it. She was used to it.
Despite her sullen mood, she forced a smile. Although, in her eyes, it came out as a grimace. She did not wish to upset him in such a festive place, with hushed chatter and elegant music.
Adeline quickly searched for something to distract them from the awkward conversation. Aunt Eleanor was nowhere to be found. However, she would rather not bring that up.
Eventually, she spotted something interesting.
"What's that?" Adeline asked.
In Asher's hand was something that looked out of place—considering his size and nature. He was well-built, with muscles from constant exercise. Seeing a grown man like him holding a plate of cake humored her to the extent of widening her smile. Eventually, her happiness became genuine.
"A piece of cake," Asher shyly said.
Suddenly, Asher's frustration was forgotten. Enamoured by her dazzling charm, he was reduced to a fumbling mess. He couldn't help it, she always brought out this embarrassing side to him.
"For me?" Adeline breathlessly asked, her eyes growing larger.
There it came, her child-like wonder. He was momentarily mesmerized by her soft, beautiful features. The air was stolen from his lungs.
"O-of course." At the stutter, Asher inwardly cursed. He would never swear in front of her. Goodness no, he would never taint her ears like that.
Asher cleared his throat. "I know Viscountess Eleanor placed that horrendous diet on you, but she's being distracted by a group of gossiping elderly women. Thus, I found your favorite cake."
It was clear as day. Adeline's somber mood was gone, as if it was never there in the first place. When she was truly happy, her eyes would lighten in shade, until it resembled soft, plush grass on a rainy day.
He was captivated. Bewitched, even.
"Can I have it?" Adeline requested excitedly.
Asher swallowed. Hard. When Adeline peered up at him like that, he wanted to hide her from everyone. He wished to bring her, far, far away from this continent. Maybe then, she would always smile like this.
"Of course," Asher said. "Who else would I give this lemon meringue tart to?"
Adeline extended both of her hands. They were cupped together, as if she was going to receive the national treasure. Her heart was pitter-pattering with joy.
She was starving. The whole morning and afternoon, Aunt Eleanor had deprived her of food, just so she could fit into the body-hugging, ivory ball gown. Everyone there was dressed in majestic colors. The ballroom resembled a rainbow, but Adeline preferred plain and simple.
It was what her mother enjoyed. Thus, she enjoyed it as well.
"Thank you," Adeline gratefully said.
Adeline took the dessert fork from his other hand. It was small and no longer than a man's finger. She eagerly stabbed the utensil through the juicy pastry.
Adeline brought the fork into her mouth, tart and tangy flavors bursting on her tongue. She closed her eyes and moaned in relief. It was delicious. Her shoulders relaxed in pure ecstasy.
"It's delicious," Adeline wistfully sighed.
Ever the innocent woman, she was not aware of the burning eyes watching her every movent. Nor did she fathom the thoughts that ran through their minds. Four people had fixated their attention on her.
Adeline was completely oblivious. Especially towards their unruly intent of undressing her right then and there.