✍️✍️✍️✍️ The Crown's Obsession Chapter 11 - 20 ✍️✍️✍️✍️


Behind the pillars

Madeline looked at Mr. Heathcliff with an expression of surprise as she hadn't expected to see him here. He had told Beth and her on how he hadn't received an invitation from the King that had her wonder how he had come here.

"Miss Madeline," Mr. Heathcliff gave her a bow and Madeline returned it, "You look beautiful. I knew the dress would suit you well," he complimented her, and she had to hold in the blush so that it wouldn't reach up to her cheeks.

"Thank you. You look well yourself," she thanked him.

"You must be surprised to see me here. Lady Catherine asked me to accompany her here," so that's how it was, thought Madeline to herself. For a moment she had wondered if Mr. Heahtcliff had entered the castle without an invitation, "She went with a gentleman to speak over the lands she bought that's having disputes. I thought I would come to look for you," his pale green eyes looked down at her.

"You found me," she said, and he gave her a nod.

"I did," he said, unable to take his eyes off of the girl who stood in front of him. Madeline felt the tiny spark of joy that ignited in her chest, and she was somewhere happy that Mr. Heathcliff took an interest in her. She shared an affinity towards the man and to hear that he came looking for her.

"Are you enjoying your time here?" Mr. Heathcliff asked her, his eyes turning away from her when two guests were passing through the corridor, and he moved back, giving her the space to move towards the wall for people to walk.

"I am. It is a beautiful castle," she replied to him before silence filled between them as she didn't know what to say. The night was cold, and the light in the corridor was soft and gentle on the things around it.

Madeline might not have been to the par of her sister when it came to beauty, but she was pretty enough to hold a man's interest when one took heed to her. But the young daughter of Harris knew the amount of competition when it came to men and women; therefore, she had kept her conversation always to be polite and minimum.

"Lady Catherine might wonder where you are if she were to find you missing," Lady Catherine was one of the women who belonged to the higher society. She dropped by the tailorman's store often enough to see him, which made it quite evident that the lady was interested in the man.

"That's alright. It was important to find you," he said, and Madeline's eyes met his who was looking at another person walking by.

And while Madeline had stepped away from the ballroom, Calhoun had left the room shortly, unable to get her scent out of his head. Like a bee finding the flower that was the sweetest in the garden.

On stepping out of the room, he met his friend Theodore who was with a woman. Theodore whispered something in the woman's ears that had the woman smile and leave his side to get inside the room.

"Did you have your dance already?" Theodore asked Calhoun who happened to look to his left, taking a deep breath he realized he had lost the flower.

"I did. I am looking for something."

Theodore tilted his head to the side to ask, "Hm? You could ask the guards to find it unless you lost it."

"A King never loses what belongs to him. He finds it himself," Calhoun's eyes had a glint that had Theodore give him a look of curiosity. It didn't take the man to know what the King was on about. It seemed that someone had caught his fancy, thought Theodore to himself, "Anyways, you shouldn't keep the lady waiting unless you want to see her dance with another man."

"I am sure she can wait," answered Theodore looking towards the doors of the ballroom and then looking back to say, "I heard Marcel is planning to attack you in the court tomorrow."

"And how is he going to do that?" Calhoun started to walk away from the ballroom to be accompanied by Theodore, "He's already lost the favour of the church. Even if he appeals in the court, he needs a majority of votes to sway the decision. He should know better than stand against me unless it's his last dying wish to spend his time locked in the prison."

With the mask that Calhoun wore, only Theodore knew who was behind it, which made the men and women in the corridor walk past them without stopping to bow. That didn't mean the people didn't take a second glance at him as no one else wore a silver mask that covered the entire face.

Theodore couldn't stop the chuckle that escaped his lips, "That might be the reason, but rumour has it that he found the body of Miss Lipton."

"Miss Lipton," Calhoun remembered the young woman.

She was the daughter of Duke Lipton in the East side of the land. She was a voracious girl who had been too eager when it came to the matter of his business and him. Enough to see what she was not supposed to that led to her demise.

"Wasn't her body buried away?" he asked.

"It was. It would be hard to find her. Marcel must have created a body double to make it look like it was Miss Lipton," answered Theodore dutifully as he was the one who had made to sure to have her body hidden safely. It was nearly three months since that time, "What would you like to do about him?"

Calhoun and Theodore were still walking through the corridor when Calhoun's steps paused. He looked at the other side of the hallways, which was parallel to where he stood. If it weren't for the flowers and other plants that partitioned the two corridors, one could easily look who was standing on the other side.

He looked at the girl who had caught his attention, standing in front of a man who wore a mask that covered his eyes.

"..I have something I have been meaning to ask you," Madeline furrowed her brows at his words, "I have liked you for some time now. Would you like to go out this Sunday?"

Madeline hadn't expected a request like this from him, not that it was bad, but she hadn't been prepared for it.

"I-I have to accompany my sister. We are going to visit my uncle's house."

"That's alright. Maybe some other day," the man laughed with the quick refusal.

Calhoun, who was on the other side, listening to their conversation where even Theodore had turned his head in the direction where the King was looking. He noticed how the girl parted her lips, her eyes looking up at the man in a way that had Calhoun's eyes narrow subtly.

Madeline could tell that it was an unfortunate plan that had been made. If she were to know that Mr. Heathcliff was going to ask her to meet him, she would not have agreed to go with her sister. The man didn't seem to find another date and had only said 'some other day'.

"I should get back," said Mr. Heathcliif and Madeline agreed to it.

She didn't know if she was sad that their dates didn't match or if she was happy that he had asked her. And then he did something more unexpected by taking her hand that was resting at her side, leaning forward he kissed the back of her hand and then pulled away, "I will see you tomorrow," Madeline was too stunned to speak, and she saw him leave her side to go back to Lady Catherine.

"Find out about the girl. Also, the man" came the order.


Madeline stood there alone in the corridor, seeing Mr. Heathcliff leave who had left the back of her hand tingling with a kiss. She had never been kissed on her hand before, and though it was a simple and familiar gesture, it had left her heart beating in her chest. She knew Mr. Heathcliff was a gentleman, which was why the man had not pressed for another day right away.

At the same time, she realized he had come here with Lady Catherine, who was the one who had invited him here. She started to walk away from there, deciding to continue to look for her parents.

As she walked in the castle, her shoes softly clicked on the marble floor and her dress swept on the already clean floor behind her. Her brown eyes were looking at the pillars, walls, paintings that hung on the wall and the ceiling that was built up and high. All these years, she had heard only words and stories about the King and the castle, and now that she was here, she understood the madness of wanting to be here. Only the fortunate were able to witness a night like this so magnificent.

Madeline walked far away from the ball, and she wasn't sure if she was looking at the castle or looking for her parents anymore as her fascination grew in watching the paintings. She didn't realize she was going farther and farther away from the ball where the guests were and further towards the den of a predator that was watching her from afar.

She continued to move, and as she moved, a shadow continued to walk to move along with her. Far away from the crowd now, she pulled the ribbon that was tied behind her head to let loose of the mask to fall from her face that she caught in her hand.

When she moved forward, the fire in the torches suddenly blew out because of the strong wind that passed through the corridor in and around her, turning everything dark. She turned her head to notice the dark empty hall, and she started to walk back, unaware of the time she had spent looking at the castle and things that decorated it.

She thought she knew the way, but the castle was big enough to have anyone lost in their first visit.

Her eyes looked at the corridors that led to two different way, and she could only hope that she was in the right direction. Madeline had taken the wrong passage, and she continued to walk, her heart feeling slightly unsettled with the quietness that surrounded her. From a distance, she heard a wolf-like a howl, and she didn't know if it was because there was no one here, but she felt a sliver of worry run down her spine.

She stood unmoving to hear a deep voice speak right behind her,

"Haven't you wandered far into the castle?"

When Madeline turned around, she met the person who wore the silver mask on his face who she had danced with a while ago.

"What are you doing here?" he asked her. Even with the lack of light around them, Madeline could see his eyes clear because of the proximity they shared.

Madeline didn't know how they ended up together now, all alone. Where did he even come from?

"I was looking at the paintings," answered Madeline and then asked, "What are you doing here?" her brave question had the man chuckle.

"Looking. I don't think there's a restriction to look," he said. He took a step forward, and she took a step back, but he didn't stop. He continued to walk forward to have her back hit the cold wall. A small gasp escaped from her delicate lips that had the man's lips pull up slowly. He placed one hand on the wall next to her, "I don't think you are ready to hear that yet, Madeline." The atmosphere around them and in the castle where there were no lights turned darker, and she said,

"I should get back," she said, finally breaking eye contact with this daunting man, but when she turned another hand came to be placed on the other side of her.

Calhoun enjoyed the way she had been staring at the paintings, one after another so far as to she had got lost in the castle. It was the time of night, and it was a new place. Getting lost was inevitable.

He could tell that she was growing scared, not to forget the fact that he hadn't pulled away the mask he was wearing. He had been watching her all night, and he could barely resist not to get close to her. One part of him wanted to take her to the darkest corners of the castle, and he wanted to have his way, but another part of him wanted to keep her safe in a glass cage.

Madeline didn't hide away and instead looked right into his red eyes. She was trying to hold her ground without letting a tinge of a fear show on her face when in truth, her knees would soon give away if the man continued to daunt her.

"I wasn't done with you, sweet. So much hurry," his words were kind and calm for her ears, but Madeline was no fool to believe that. Calhoun remembered her talking to the man and the way she smiled that had him move closer to her.

"What do you want?" she asked him. He was a night creature and she knew not to cross one. The stories about the night creatures were never pretty and were rather gruesome.

"If I ask, will you give it?" there was something very dangerous the way he asked her. Madeline didn't answer, not knowing what exactly the man was looking for. He finally dropped his hands that were holding her prisoner, "Go," he said, having the fill of his amusement.

She gulped, taking one step away testingly as if the person would pounce on her, she took another step away with her front facing him. She held the front of her dress with both her hands, quickly turning around and ran away from there before she would be caught in the web.

Calhoun's eyes trained on the girl who ran away to disappear behind one of the many walls of the castle.

He finally pulled up the mask he had been wearing to reveal his handsome face who looked nothing less to the devil's incarnation. His lips that were parted, he ran his tongue over his fang, a small chuckle escaping his wicked lips.
Watching you

She didn't just run, but Madeline fled from there away from the man, taking the other corridor this time hoping she wouldn't get lost and she didn't. She couldn't help but turn around, looking in the way she had come from. Her brown eyes looked frantically to see there was no one. Her breath slightly harsh, and she tried to calm it down.

When she reached the ballroom again were more men and women had started to take part in the dance, Madeline decided to take a back seat, and she excused herself so that she could walk through the people to reach the wall and she found her sister who was dancing with another man now.

On the other corner, her eyes fell on Mr. Heathcliff, who was dancing with Lady Catherine.

"Madeline!" she heard her mother's voice, and she felt a sense of relief to have her family close to her, "What are you doing standing here by yourself?" asked her mother slightly worried. Her youngest daughter looked beautiful tonight not that she didn't before, but she had expected bachelors to swarm around her.

"I thought to rest."

Her mother looked at her in horror, "Rest? This is no time to rest, child. You can rest all you want going back home. Go on, enjoy the ball."

Madeline smiled at her mother's efforts in getting her to be noticed by men in the room. She knew her mother only meant well and was making sure her daughters got the best and didn't have to suffer a life where they would have to work to meets ends.

"How was your trip around the castle?" Madeline changed the subject, and her mother's eyes lit up.

"It is beautiful. Looks like heaven everywhere but we didn't get to all around. I mean it would take us more than a day to go, but the guards have restricted the guests from going any further than the premise here and around," her mother went on to speak about the vase and plants she saw. In that time, Madeline couldn't help but question how easily she got further into the castle that she earlier failed to notice that there had been no one but her who was walking in the halls,

"And then you know what we saw, there was this enormous fountain that has water coming out from the mouth of the fish."

Madeline met her father's eyes who smiled at her, "You should take a look around," he said after noticing how Madeline had chosen to stand near the wall while Beth was on the dance floor dancing.

"No, I think I am fine," Madeline could still feel the tension she had felt when the man in the silver mask had stepped up close in front of her. Remembering his eyes looking at her, the thought had her look away towards the people.

As if what happened wasn't enough, the silver masked man appeared again, but he didn't walk to where she was. Her eyes tailed him, seeing him go to one of the most beautiful women who was decked in luxurious silk and jewels around her neck. He leaned towards the side of the woman's head who happened to have a broad smile over what he said to her. He walked towards the dance floor along with the woman who trailed behind her.

The woman being a beautiful one, and many eyes followed her along with the man who had asked her for a dance. Madeline who was watching them quietly heard her mother tap on a man's shoulder,

"Hello I am Mrs. Harris, and this is my husband and my young daughter Madeline. Did you get to have the opportunity to talk?"

"Mother! What are you doing?" Madeline whispered to her mother, closing her eyes and trying not to feel embarrassed for what her mother was doing. The man thankfully picked up, and he didn't take it badly. Instead, he offered Madeline a smile.

"Hello, I am Fergus Hane," he introduced himself.

Madeline awkwardly smiled back at him, "Madeline Harris."

"Would you like to dance?" he asked her politely. Tonight, given the opportunity, any man would ask her to dance with the way Madeline looked.

"Okay," she replied, believing it would be ruder to refuse when it was her mother who had asked the man and started the conversation.

Truthfully, she didn't want to be here. There was Mr. Heathcliff, who was dancing with Lady Catherine with his arms around her waist, but he wasn't the main reason. It was the man in the mask that intimidated her. As she made her way to the floor, she felt like the man looked at her, but his gaze didn't stay on her for more than a second as he went to look at the woman in his hands.

Madeline felt an invisible sweat break on her forehead before an inaudible sigh of relief passed through her lips.

"I am sorry about my mother," Madeline apologized.

"Don't be," said the man with a polite smile, "I wouldn't have had the chance to dance with a beautiful maiden like yourself," he flattered her and she smiled. Mr. Hane had his hand on her waist and he danced with her with the rest of the couples who were dancing.

She noticed how the music had gone back to the one she had danced before. As the music was played and they moved, a point came where the person who was in the silver mask was right behind Mr. Hane, facing her with the woman in his hand having her back facing Madeline. Both of them happened to be speaking to each other about something.

"Is this your first time attending the ball here?" asked Mr. Hane.

"Yes. Is it obvious?" she asked him.

"No," he shook his head, swaying and moving her, "I don't think I have ever seen you here before," as she gave her dance partner a nod, her eyes by mistake fell on the man who was dancing in front of her to realize he was looking at her with his dark red eyes.

Returning back

IMPORTANT-**To learn about the King's background (prequel) please read a few chapters of volume 2 that starts from chapter 561**


She didn't know why, but Madeline found it hard to tear her eyes away from the man. Though there were no chains or ropes that bound her, strangely she felt captive under his eyes. Like an iron being attracted to magnets, she finally felt herself relax when the woman who was with him spoke, taking his attention but not all of it.

Madeline tried to not look at the man and instead at the person who she was dancing with. She couldn't help but wonder who he was, someone like a phantom who had taken her name but had not returned it with his.

"Who is it?" she heard Mr. Hane ask her.

Her light eyebrows drew together, "What?"

"You are here, yet you are not at the same time. I believe you must be thinking of someone," said Mr. Hane, his expression lax, looking at the crowd around them before his eyes fell on hers, "Pardon me for my directness," he apologized quickly.

"No, that's alright," she pursed her lips, "I am not used to attending balls or anything close to this," she made the reason to see him smile as if he bought it.

"I can tell that. If you don't mind my asking, where do you live, Miss Madeline?" he asked her. Her hand was in his hand, up in the air as they took two steps front and one step back now.

"In East Carswell. How about yourself, Mr. Hane?" she inquired.

"I am from Holt. It isn't far from the castle. I work here for the King," he added as it was a feather in one's cap to be under the favour and work of the King.

"It must be nice serving the King," she commented on seeing the man smile who took pride in his work.

When Madeline reached close to where her sister was, dancing with the obvious handsome man as the mask that he wore barely hid his face, she heard her sister speak to her,

"Where did you go earlier? I tried finding you in the room," said Beth and Madeline wondered if her sister even stepped out of the dance room.

There were plenty of men who were eyeing Beth and wanted to have her dance. Beth attracted a lot of attention with the ease she moved and talked; it was elegant and ladylike. Her sister was ambitious, wanting a better life for herself while Madeline didn't mind having the same life she had now. A small house, a small family who loved her and she could love back. It was the most she could ask for herself, and her ambition didn't even reach half of what Beth had. From a young age, Beth had grown up by aiming for a better life which was away from the village and her family supported her in it.

"I went for some air," Madeline answered, "Mother and father said the castle is beautiful, but they didn't get to look all."

"Would you like to take a tour around the castle?" Mr. Hane asked Madeline that had even Beth's eyebrows raise as her partner had not requested to any such offer. For a spare moment, Madeline's eyes shifted to look at the man who wore a silver mask who was still listening and humouring the woman with him.

"I wouldn't want to impose on you," Madeline quickly answered before her sister would agree to Mr. Hane's request. And as expected Madeline's words were ignored as Beth said,

"I am sure one walk wouldn't matter, Maddie," Beth turned to look at Mr. Hane with a laugh and said, "Madeline is a village girl who is used to cows and sheep. She hasn't seen the castle well to know how fascinating it is. She doesn't know what she is saying so don't mind her. Do you know the way around the castle?" she asked Mr. Hane.

"I do, milady," answered Mr. Hane in a polite tone.

"Oh, that's great. Maybe one of the days's in a possible future I will ask you to accompany me," Beth gave the man a look and a smile. The couples had to switch positions and move away from each other.

Madeline felt slightly awkward with the way her sister had spoken about her interests. Mr. Hane seeing the girl quiet, didn't ask about what Beth said right away. Not because he thought Madeline was a village girl but because he could sense she wanted to step away from the dance floor.

"Elder siblings can be pushy at times, isn't it?" Mr. Hane tried to break the ice of quietness Madeline had placed around her. She met Mr. Hane's gaze, where he was smiling, "I have a distant cousin who is older to me."

"Beth is good but sometimes she can get..."

"Pushy and taking attention?" asked Mr. Hane to see Madeline smile, "If you're still willing to look at the castle, I will have the permission taken so that you can have sightseen. It is a beautiful castle."

"Indeed, it is," she answered, thankful that the man had been understanding but she didn't reply to his offer to look at the castle.

When the dance was over, she was glad, and she returned to her parents while Beth continued the night, showing how well she could dance. Some, looked at her with envy in their eyes while some didn't like how a new woman had come to take place on the dance floor.

Though there were some men who eyed Madeline, no one took the courage of going to walk towards her and request her for a dance.

When Beth arrived finally, leaving another couple to take the empty spot she had left, Mrs. Harris said,

"Mr. Gavell came looking for you with other two men, Beth. He had nothing but praises for you," Madeline could tell that her mother was pleased with the number of suitors who were planning to come to visit their home to ask Beth's hand.

"He is charming, isn't he, mama," Beth agreed, turning her head and looking at the crowd. She took the handkerchief in her hand and dabbed her forehead, "He said he has two houses. He's working under the court, and he told me he travels to other lands."

"Well, that's good," her mother couldn't be any happier, but Beth still didn't look satisfied.

Beth's eyes searched for one person, hoping it would be a King or one of the men she had danced with would be the King in disguise, "Did you see the King, mama?" asked Beth.

"I don't think anyone announced about his arrival," Madeline was the one to answer. The King had created enough intrigue to have people hoping they would catch a glimpse of him.

"A shame that we didn't get to see him," murmured Mrs. Harris.

Beth, who was high with excitement in the ball and having spent time with men flattering every few minutes, said, "Maybe he is scared to be here," she laughed.

"Beth!" her mother immediately shushed her. If word was to reach about what Beth said to the King, she would be punished for speaking ill of their King.

While some of them continued dancing in the ballroom, most had gone to eat and the people from the village ate everything and anything as a lot of things were new which they would not be seeing unless there would be another ball which was not going to be held anytime soon.

When the time came to leave the castle, Madeline's eyes looked at the building that stood tall and proud before she stepped inside the carriage after her sister had gone to sit. Her eyes looked out of the small window, and she continued to watch.

"What are you searching for outside?" It was Beth who questioned looking at her younger sister who appeared to be nervous every now and then until they had got inside the carriage.

Madeline turned back, "Nothing."

The carriage finally started and left the castle far behind when Beth, who had been curious about something, asked, "Who was that man who danced with you?"

"Mr. Hane?" asked Madeline, "Mama was the one to ask him," she shook her head, remembering the time it had happened.

"He was a good man! He was tall, polite, kind and I could tell you had a good time dancing," her mother gave her knowing look which was not true, but she didn't have the heart to break the bubble, and she went along with it.

"No, not Mr. Hane. The first one was it? The one with the full mask," Beth inquired, her curious green eyes looking at her sister.

Beth was interested in knowing who it was because the man had not once come to ask her for dance even though there were many openings for him to ask. He was one of the few men who had not danced with her. It made her hand grip the bottom of her dress that Madeline had been asked, while the same man didn't ask her. Not to forget, her sister had gone missing for some good time from the ballroom.

Madeline, on the other hand, didn't know how to go about it. She could still feel the way his eyes had looked at her, studying her face when she removed the mask from her face.

"I didn't catch his name because of the music. He spoke very low. I didn't get somethings he spoke to me," Madeline gave out a small laugh. She could feel Beth's stare when she looked outside the window with a look of suspicion in her eye.

Beth knew that was not true. When Madeline had stepped on to the dance floor, her eyes had followed her sister to see who the man was who was dancing with her. And by the looks of it, she doubted her sister was lying.

Sisterly affection

Upon returning home, Madeline removed the dress that she wore and the pins that were pushed into her hair, freeing her blonde hair where she weaved her hand through to comb it. The dress was neatly folded and placed at the side so that she could return it along with the other dresses her family had rented from Mr. Heathcliff.

Taking the brush from the dressing table, Madeline started to brush her hair when she heard her sister Beth say,

"Lady Catherine must really like Mr. Heathcliff, isn't it?" Beth was still looking at the red dress that she had worn, which was sad that she would have to part from it tomorrow morning.

Madeline, who was moving her hand, removing the knots of her hair, said, "Is it because she invited him to the ball?"

"Of course, why else would a woman of her status ask a man who belongs to the middle class," asked Beth tearing her gaze away from her dress and standing up from the bed to start folding it, "If I am not wrong, I heard from Mrs. Lanton that there had been many suitors who have been showing at her doorstep. She could have picked one of them, but instead, she picked Mr. Heathcliff."

Madeline continued to brush her hair, "Mr. Heathcliff is a good looking man. He has a decent job."

"I would agree on him being good looking, but being a tailor is barely a job, Maddie," said Beth, waving her hand, "We know he works for the King and his subjects who live in the castle but if he were that important why did the King miss to send an invitation to him?"

"Maybe the person who was dealing with the invitation forgot to put his name?" Madeline did find it to be strange that Mr. Heathcliff didn't receive an invitation tonight but thanks to Lady Catherine he did get to attend the ball.

"Hmm," Beth made a disagreeing sound with her closed mouth, "Maybe he did something disagreeable. Did he dance with you?" Beth knew he didn't because the man had undoubtedly only danced with Lady Catherine and no one else.

Madeline shook her head, looking at her sister through the mirror, she said, "He was busy. It would have been rude to leave Lady Catherine's side when she was the one who invited him," she mustered a small smile.

Beth seeing the look on her sister's face, placed the dress next to Madeline's dress before going to stand behind her sister, "I know you like Mr. Heathcliff, and the man gives you eyes, Madeline but a man who couldn't even ask you for a dance, do you think he shares the same feelings as you do? I am sure men and women have danced with more than one partner tonight," she placed both her hands on Madeline's shoulders, "I don't mean to discourage you, but the man needs to know to take the initiative. I don't know what prevented him from asking you to dance, and you look beautiful tonight."

"Thank you, Beth," Madeline placed one of her hands on Beth's hand that was on her shoulders.

Madeline, who was about to tell Beth that Mr. Heathcliff had asked her out, decided not to speak about it for now. After all, they were going to their aunt's house that day. Maybe when the day would arrive, she would let her sister know.

At the same time, she knew what Beth meant and somewhere she agreed even though her heart wanted to ignore it. Men and women had indeed danced with more than one partner. There had also been a time where he wasn't dancing but standing idle, giving her a smile from a distance which she had returned with a polite one.

Madeline then changed the conversation to say, "The food was delicious, wasn't it? They had these beautiful cakes."

"Expect nothing less from the King's hospitality," Beth replied, "There were so many chandeliers I think I stopped counting once we reached the ballroom. Mama kept speaking about this fountain, and now I wished I had stepped out of the room. If it weren't for the number of men who kept asking me to dance with them," Beth shook her head that made Madeline smile.

"That is what happens when you're beautiful, isn't it," to Madeline, her sister Beth was the most beautiful one in the village. It wasn't that Beth was only beautiful, but the way she spoke, she could charm a person by her words.

"Oh, hush," Beth leaned down and kissed her on the side of her little sister's head, "Only you and mama praise me."

Madeline couldn't stop but smile, "You are my sister."

"And you are mine," Beth responded with a smile, squeezing Madeline's shoulders gently to let it go finally.

"Did you like anyone? Anyone who caught your fancy?" Madeline asked, eager to know as it was hard to please Beth. She had turned herself to see Beth taking both their dresses to place it in the cupboard.

Beth had a thoughtful look on her face, "Hmm, I think Mr. Danvers was interesting. He appeared to be smarter than giving me a love-struck expression. I mean the other is good that he travels, but I think it would turn out very lonely. Better to have someone who is around you."


Madeline, who had finished brushing her hair, placed the comb on the dressing table to hear her sister say, "It is a shame though that the King didn't appear. I heard from a lady that he was away from the castle; therefore, he had people from the village invited because he wouldn't want to mingle with us, but then another said that the King would appear later. But you know, later never appeared."

With their clothes changed and everything put aside that had been used, they got inside the bed getting ready to sleep. The house of Harris wasn't big but had two rooms, one hall and one kitchen. Madeline blew the candle that was on her side of the bed and placed her head on the pillow.

She was glad that the night was done. As beautiful as the castle and other things were, she couldn't help but think about the silver masked man she had come across.

Suitor at house

When she fell asleep, Madeline found herself back in the castle—walking in the empty corridors that were not restricted by any guards. There was no one there but her. She could hear the sounds of the crickets coming from the garden as she walked on the clean cold floor. There were no shoes on her feet, and her footsteps made no noise.

Madeline was in the beige dress that she had worn for the ball, the ends of it trailing behind her. She continued to walk until she came upon a door that was slightly ajar. She pushed the door and stepped into the big room that had large windows with grills that were built in designs. The night outside was cloudy, hiding the stars and moon behind it and when she turned to look to her right, she saw a man stand.

His silhouette was lonely because of the lack of company next to him.

"Hello?" Madeline called the man, wanting to go back home.

As if on hearing her, the man turned around to look at her, "Wandering by yourself again?" asked the deep voice, and she recognized this voice.

When a thunderstruck in the sky, Madeline's eyes flew open and she looked up at the wooden ceiling of the room.

She could feel her heart beating in her chest over the dream she just dreamt a few seconds ago. Her eyes slowly adjusted to the darkness in the room where she could see things much more clearly now.

Turning her head, she noticed her sister Beth was asleep. In her very own dreamland which Madeline believed was less haunting than what she had experienced. It seemed that the halls of the castle had come back to her because of what happened. Those eyes that had looked at her were dark red, keeping her captive.

Madeline had grown under the shadow of her sister which was why she was not used to the attention she had received tonight. At least not so intensely. She didn't mind the shadow because it gave her more room to breathe.

Like what happened in the ball today while both she and Beth were dancing, Madeline observed the already known facts about her elder sister. Beth enjoyed and basked in the limelight. She loved the attention she received, but that was how she had grown up, unlike Madeline who had received less attention. Beth liked being hovered and asked, to be given importance even when it came to her sister and Madeline didn't mind it. She let her do what she wanted, not wanting to upset her sister.

When the next day arrived, as expected, Beth had a visitor who had come looking for her and Mrs. Harris got the man to sit in the hall of their house and Beth was seated opposite to him. Though she was not dressed in a gown like last night, she still looked stunning compared to the pale walls and furniture that the family-owned.

Mr. Harris had gone out to work while Mrs. Harris and Madeline were in the kitchen with the doors closed. The older woman stood next to the door listening to them.

"I think Mr. Danvers likes her very much," said Mrs. Harris, moving away from the door with a pleased look on her face. Beth had indeed done an excellent job in finding a good man. The woman somewhat felt relieved that the money they had used for the clothes and the carriage along with the coachman would be covered. At least it didn't go waste, thought Mrs. Harris.

"Anyone will fall in love with Beth, mama. You don't have to worry about it," said Madeline picking up a fruit from the basket and taking a bite from it.

"That is true. If Beth gets married, it won't be difficult when it comes to your wedding. Who was that man yesterday?"

"Mr. Hanes?" asked Madeline.

"Yes, yes. That one. How did it go last night?" asked her mother, curious.

"He knew how to dance," Madeline said with a thoughtful expression, "And that is all it was," her mother gave out a sigh.

"You should put yourself out there more, Madeline. Do you know Mrs. Boyers' daughter is still unmarried. A spinster's life and no one wants to marry her because of how she looks," her mother shook her head.

"Mama, you worry for nothing. Your daughter won't die alone."

"Really?" came a sign of hope in Mrs. Harris eyes, who asked, "Did a gentleman ask you to dance then? Perhaps invite you for tea?"

Madeline pursed her lips, her foot tapping softly and she said, "I was thinking about Mr. Heathcliff," she noticed her mother's eyebrows furrowing. It wasn't that Madeline was in love with the man, but she found him to be nice.

"James Heathcliff?" her mother verified.

She smiled, "Yes. James Heathcliff. He asked me to accompany him in one of the following days. He is a good man." She liked the man for his simplicity, and he indeed was one of the few decent looking men in their village.

"Isn't he going out with Lady Catherine? Well, he is a good looking man," her mother agreed, "I did not know you fancied him. When are you going to meet him?" asked her mother, and Madeline smiled at the thought that her mother approved of Mr. Heathcliff.

"I am not sure about it. I refused him as Beth and I are going out to Aunt's house-"

"Why would you do that?" her mother asked with her eyes wide, her hand on one side of her waist.

"Because Beth will need-"

"Beth will be fine. She can take care of herself," said Mrs. Harris. Madeline wasn't as expressive as her elder daughter and if she liked someone decent, Mrs. Harris didn't see any harm in it. Beth would be getting married in a wealthy household while Madeline would be in a kind and humble home. It was also what would suit Madeline in a good way, "You can go meet him but not too far. Your father and I would want you to be happy."

"What will I tell Beth?" asked Madeline as she had promised to go with her.

"I will tell her that you have an errand to complete," that would be better, thought Madeline to herself. She didn't know what Beth would say, especially when she had looked down upon Mr. Heathcliff's profession.
The order

Seeing Mr. Danver speaking to Beth for more than an hour now, Madeline decided to slip out of the house with dresses in her hand. Walking up to the shop, she saw Mr. Heathcliff, who was taking the measurements of a brunette woman who had come to stitch a dress. She waited until the woman finally left to be noticed by Mr. Heathcliif.

"Good afternoon, Miss Madeline," he greeted with a smile forming on his lips.

"Good afternoon, Mr. Heathcliff," she greeted back with a polite smile, "I came to return the dresses borrowed," she said that she had carried from her home to give it back. The man took the bag and then handed it to his assistant, "You can check for any wear and tear, but there's none," she assured him.

Mr. Heathcliff said, "I believe you. I don't know if I said this, but you looked beautiful last night," he did tell her, but Madeline took his compliment.

"It is because of your dress. They just happen to be pretty."

"I doubt as pretty as the girl who wore and brought out its charm," Mr. Heathcliff responded to her spontaneously, and Madeline's cheeks turned warm.

"You are too kind with your compliments, Mr. Heathcliff," she bowed her head in gratitude.

She wondered how to go about in telling him that she was going to be available as she didn't want to appear to be too forward in front of him. But somewhere she wondered if it was Mr. Heathcliif who she wanted to settle with.

Mr. Heathcliff noticed that she wanted to say something and asked, "Is something the matter?"

Madeline shook her head.

It was him who said, "You said you weren't free on Sunday and I failed to ask you, if you could spare some time on Saturday," Madeline blinked her eyes, "I hope I am not coming to be too pushy," he gave out an awkward laugh that had her smile.

"No. I mean, yes, I can make time on Saturday," Mr. Heathcliff gave her a nod.

"Nice. Okay, then."

Madeline gave him a bow, and he returned it, "Have a good day, Mr. Heathcliff."

"Have a good day, Miss Madeline."

Far away from the villages and towns where the forests were thick with trees, the castle stood tall and proud. A place where the lower beings were not allowed to step in and were to only look from afar, they had finally been invited last night to attend the ball of the Hallow, a celebration which was often called as Halloween by the lower class people.

Even though no one had dared to break into the castle, guards stood at every end of the corridor. Servants moved to clean the floor, walls and the ballroom spotless.

In the main room, the King sat with his back against the cushioned throne that was fixed on a raised platform. He sat leaning to his left, one elbow resting on the armrest with his hand that was supported by his index finger. A maid sat down at his throne, massaging his leg with his shoe that was placed on her thigh.

"My King, I assure you the rumours you have heard is untrue," a man had sat down on one of his knees with his head bowed, "It must a falsified statement to put me up against you," the man had a mixture of black and grey hair on his head. A square face that had turned old in time that he appeared to look in his fifties. Four men stood behind him, his trusted men,

The man then looked up at the King who was looking at him with, unsmilingly,

"There must be many enemies of yours to spread rumours like that," said Calhoun with a leisure tone and he picked up the glass that another maid was holding in her hand, "How unfortunate that an old man is being seen as a threat, Marcel," he hummed, his eyes looking at the man with amusement in his eyes.

Marcel's eyes hardened by the King's words, but he didn't speak a word. Instead, he smiled to have the King smile back at him,

"I am not going to perform treason. Not against your highness who is smart and intelligent-" said the man who got cut off by Calhoun, who said,

"If you and the others understand it, we shouldn't have a problem," said Calhoun with a smile were his lips pulled wide, as if to mock at the man who kneeled in front of him, "But then it makes me question where the rumours spark from. Don't you question it yourself, Marcel?" he moved his finger around the edge of his glass without taking a sip from it.

"Milord, they are trying to set me up. I have no motive to do it," the older man continued to pledge his loyalty.

Calhoun didn't bother to hide his thoughts, and he said, "Only time would tell of how loyal of the man you are, after all, you have been serving the King for far too long. The previous King. Without any intention, of course, I value a subject as yourself," he smiled before raising his hand to dismiss the man.

When the man left, Theodore who had come to stand next to Calhoun, said,

"We caught the man who was helping Marcel in selling information about the military to the next kingdom. Marcel has not only been trading information to dethrone you but he's trying to win the favour of the other lands to replace you."

Calhoun took a sip from the glass, his voice calm, "I hope you are being hospitable with the man," and in the King's words, it meant courting traitors in the dark dungeon who were tied and twisted, tortured to the point where they wanted to die.

"Yes, milord," answered Theodore, "Just as you would want them to be treated. I also received information about the girl and the man you asked."

"Tell me," ordered Calhoun, a glint of interest flashed in his eyes on hearing about the girl he had met.

Uncontrollable thoughts

Since last night of the Hallow ball, Calhoun couldn't get the girl he had met out of his mind. He had thought he would forget her, but she never left his mind. The more he thought about her, the more he wanted her. Wanted to have her.

He had met and touched plenty of women and girls who were much more beautiful to look at. He had bedded attractive women had and been pleased with before letting them go but this girl, there was something about her. He moved his head back, his thumb running on the corner of his bottom lip,

"What did you find about her?" he asked Theodore who was the one who had brought the information.

"Madeline Harris, she lives in one of the villages in the West with her parents and one elder sister who is yet to be married. Her elder sister has been receiving proposals and is fairly popular-"

"What about the young one," Calhoun didn't care about her sister when he was interested in Madeline.

Theodore answered, "Not as many suitors as the elder one. She hasn't been associated with any man. The man who was with her last night was James Heathcliff, who owns the dress shop in their village. It is where they rented the clothes," it seemed that the village girl had caught the King's eyes.

Calhoun hummed hearing this. Rented. It meant they weren't able to afford dresses and that the girl came from a poor background which would only make things that much easy, thought Calhoun to himself with a smile, "How much does the carriage service cost, Theodore?"

"For a family with a poor background, it would be too much as the cost of carriage is as good as the dress rented. With the waiting hours in the castle, it would put a stretch on the family," answered the man. Theodore noticed how Calhoun continued to smile, which was in no means looked kind. It was a smile which meant something evil was being schemed. He then proceeded to say, "The assistant said he heard the girl and the tailor speak about meeting."

"Did they now," Calhoun turned his head to look at Theodore, "Send an invitation to the Harris. Tell them that they are being invited to lunch in the castle," saying this, he moved his leg from the maid's thigh who was massaging his leg. Standing up, he said, "Don't forget to add that if they fail to make it for lunch, they will have to face the consequences. Also, send them a carriage."

Theodore bowed his head, obliging the King's words and inquired, "When would you want to have lunch with the Harris?"

Calhoun gave it a quick thought, "Tomorrow. Why wait when things can be done right away," saying this, Calhoun walked away from the central court to go to his room.

When he reached the doors to his room, the guards opened the doors for him and closed it once he had stepped inside his grand room.

When he had first set his eyes on her, Calhoun had thought it was him taking a mere fancy towards the girl, which would go, but it didn't. He had held her hand and waist, felt her heart beating, and her hands palpitating, which he couldn't help but savour. The more time he spent apart from the girl, thinking about her, her words; it heated the blood in his veins.

She had been close yesterday, and all he wanted to do was bring her to this room, but noticing the fear on her face which she tried to cover up by showing she was brave, he had let her go.

His mind drifted to her brown eyes and soft pink lips that had moved to reply and question him. Her frame was perfect. Her delicate shoulders and her petite waist that curved towards the bottom. His thoughts were interrupted by the maid, who arrived at his room to bring him a glass of wine.

Calhoun's eyes opened, and from where he sat on the edge of the bed, he saw the maid enter the room.

"Your majesty, I have brought wine," she informed him. Calhoun raised his hand and moved his fingers in a come-hither motion. Her eyes were cast down as she walked slowly and steadily towards him.

The maids in the mansion were pretty but not as beautiful as the girl he was looking forward to meeting. The girl had consumed his mind, and even though he could have had her, he didn't. When the maid placed the wine to his side and was ready to leave, he pulled caught hold of her wrist to stop her from walking.

"I didn't ask you to leave now, did I?" said the King, noticing her blush and the eyes she gave him, he said, "Remembering what happened a few days ago?

Calhoun stared at the girl to hear the maid speak nervously, "Milord?" It wasn't the first time this maid had spread her legs therefore he didn't see the point of her acting coy now. He got up from sitting on the edge of the bed, to stand tall in front of the maid. The maid looked up at him, her tongue coming out to wet her lips.

He looked at the maid with no expression on his face, waiting to finally have the maid start removing her clothes. Seeing she was taking her very own sweet time, Calhoun pushed the front of her body towards the couch that was on the side, bending her down while bunching up her skirt to bare her bottom to him.

Though the maid's initial behaviour was reluctant, her body moving along with him wantingly. Though it was the maid who was in the room, he could feel his hands on Madeline's waist. The maid's lips moved and the way she looked at him, had him pushing further into the maid.

Calhoun didn't want to ruin the flower he had finally found but thinking about her was driving him to an edge he had never imagined. When he was done with the maid, he waved her away even though the maid wanted to linger longer in his chamber.

Once the maid was out, he fell on his bed with his hand over his eyes before moving it and his eyes opening, "Madeline."

As ordered, a letter was sent out to the Harris which was received by Mrs. Harris with trembling hands because she didn't know why they would receive a letter from the castle. As it was the time of the evening, Mr. Harris who was present in the house took hold of the letter to read,

"Mr. and Mrs. Harris.

We thank you for attending the Grand ball of Hallow that took place in the castle yesterday. We would be pleased to say that the King was pleased with your daughter and would like to invite the family to the castle for lunch tomorrow."

Beth and Madeline were standing near the bedroom door after hearing their mother shriek out of surprise because of the deal on the letter.

Beth quickly raised her hand to cover her mouth, "Oh my God!"

"The King has called us to join him for lunch?" asked Mrs. Harris with a shocked expression on her face. Madeline raised her eyebrows hearing this.

Mr. Harris read the letter one more time, this time in his mind, "It seems to be so," he said reading the last line which he had skipped to read to his family that spoke about treason if not joined tomorrow.

"Oh dear! What am I going to do?" asked Beth in shock, "I didn't know the King noticed me! What am I going to say to Mr. Danver?" the letter was automatically misunderstood by the family that 'the daughter' was Beth.

"It is the King," said Madeline shrugging her shoulders, "Mr. Danver will step away hearing the King likes you," Beth hugged Madeline and the younger one hugged her back, none of them knowing what was going to happen tomorrow.

Doubting the invitation

Madeline and Beth wanted to take a look at the contents of the letter, but their father put the message into the pocket of his coat. Mrs. Harris looked at Beth, to ask, "Didn't he give you his name?"

Beth shook her head, "The men I danced with last night had given their name, but none of it had the King's name. I didn't know I danced with him," her brows drew close in thought while trying to remember which out of the lot was the King.

"Maybe he didn't give you his actual name and gave a wrong one to hide who he was?" proposed Madeline because that appeared to be the more probable answer.

"It could be," Mrs. Harris agreed, "Good job, Beth," she couldn't tell how happy she was that Beth was able to gain their King's attention where the man had gone as far as to place a lunch to eat with them. It was a privilege to a family like theirs who had nothing to offer.

When both Mr. and Mrs. Harris retired to their room, the man couldn't help but go through the letter that had the King's seal on it. The letter had mentioned about the King being pleased by his daughter, but there was no mention of which daughter he had danced with. Somewhere it worried him with the thought that the King wasn't speaking about his older daughter, but the younger one.

He was holding a small book in his hand, but instead of reading he was staring at it, "What do you think the King wants from us?" asked Mr. Harris to his wife who was closing the windows because the night had turned cold and they didn't have enough logs of wood to use as they had to use it sparingly.

"Beth caught his attention. He might want to know about us, and maybe if things went well, he would ask for her hand in marriage," answered Mrs. Harris coming to sit on the bed, "What is it? Are you not happy about it?" his wife asked, looking at the pensive expression on his face.

Mr. Harris sighed.

"No, it is not that I am not happy about it, but the King didn't mention which of our daughter's it was. What if it is Madeline?" Mr. Harris was not supposed to have favourites, but he had a soft corner for his youngest child, knowing well how she was often shadowed under Beth's presence. But at the same time, it was what Madeline liked.

"Madeline barely danced with anyone, Mr. Harris. You and I saw her standing at the wall without talking to anyone," Mrs. Harris reasoned with her husband, "And even if the King is speaking about Madeline, we can always decline by saying she is going to be engaged soon."

The man gave his wife a look, "The King is no fool. He will find the lie the moment you utter about it."

"It isn't a lie. Madeline mentioned about Mr. Heathcliff's interest in her."

"The dressmaker?" asked Mr. Harris, "Why am I hearing this now?"

Mrs. Harris smiled. Getting into the bed, she fluffed the blanket and put it over her legs, "I heard about it today. Mr. Heathcliff is a good man, and he suits her," she said to him, "Madeline prefers a simple life, unlike Beth. If the King asks we will tell him that we have promised her hand to Mr. Heathcliff as they like each other."

When the next day arrived, the Harris family didn't have time to pick up dresses from the shop, therefore they wore the best clothes that they owned. With Beth who had woken up early to dress and look pretty, she had the top of her black hair tied while the rest was left open.

Beth had later tied Madeline's hair similar to how she had done hers, combing her sister's blonde hair to finally say, "Everything done," Madeline could tell that Beth was in a perfect mood. Her sister had wanted to see the King, and now he wanted to see her and her family.

Madeline didn't know if it was good news that they had been invited to have lunch with the King as not everyone had the luck to share a meal at the same table as the King, as he was someone of the highest standing in their lands. Beth was eager, so it was alright, thought Madeline to herself.

Once they were ready, Madeline was the first one to step out of the room. Hearing her father ask for a glass of water, who was sitting in the hall, she quickly went to the kitchen to fetch a glass of water and returned to her father's side.

Mr. Harris noticing his younger daughter who had dressed similar to Beth, after a sip, he said, "The weather outside is windy. Your hair will be all over your face and will need to be combed again," Madeline was blossoming slowly, and Mr. Harris knew one day his youngest daughter would surpass her elder sister in terms of beauty, "Maybe tying it will avoid the need to comb again."

Madeline smiled at her father, "Yes, papa."

The carriage from the castle had arrived to pick them, and Mrs. Harris was the one who shouted, "It is here. Come on, everyone!" she made sure her hat that seated on top of her head was tied with the satin ribbon that went to be tied under her chin. Madeline was the first one to step out of the house with her hair that was braided and tied securely.

Her father, who saw her place a kiss on the side of her temple. Madeline was young, and he felt the need to protect her, just so that the King wouldn't look at her but would focus his attention on Beth who looked like a doll when she stepped out their house. Having spent enough time in the circle of the posh people in the other towns, Beth knew how to carry herself like one of the social elites.

Mrs. Harris was quick to lock the front doors of their house, and the family stepped inside the carriage that was made of rich wood and metal that shined without a speck of rust on it.

It had attracted and gathered attention from their neighbours and people who were walking past their house, making them wonder what the carriage that belonged to the castle was doing here.

The carriage finally started to move, to travel to the castle.
Meeting him

Frances Harris sat in the carriage with her family, a carriage that was sent from the castle to pick them up. She had been married to her husband Mr. Harris for many years, a marriage she was happy with even though the neighbourhood they lived in was in poverty.

Though she told herself to be content about what life had given her, she couldn't help but hope that her daughters would be married into a better house condition that what they were in. She had been looking outside the little oval window of the carriage when she heard her elder daughter Beth ask Madeline, her younger daughter,

"Why did you tie your hair?" Beth looked at her sister with a small frown.

"It is too windy today. I was worried where my hair would be all over the place. You know how hard it is to brush my hair again," Madeline smiled at her sister's words, "Do I look so bad?" she asked looking at herself from the reflection of the window.

"You look fine, Madeline. I just thought you looked better with your hair, half-open," replied Beth. Beth couldn't stop but make sure that she was looking good and Mrs. Harris could see the eagerness in her daughter's eyes.

One would think of her badly if they were to know that she often pushed Beth forward for marriage, but there was a reason for it. While Beth enjoyed the luxury being a rich man's wife, Madeline didn't share the same interest as her. Though Mrs. Harris would love nothing but have Madeline pursue her elder sister's footsteps, she didn't want to force it upon her.

Mrs. Harris had a sister who had been first in line for marriage. Her parents had given her hand to a wealthy man, but things had not gone well. In two years, her sister was found in the river as she had committed suicide. Unable to cope with the sudden changes of the living style. God forbid, she wouldn't want something like that to her daughters.

Beth was more ambitious when it came to placing herself a better man's attention on her. She wished to live in a mansion, buy expensive items and move in the high society. She craved and dreamt for it, and her mother noticed it.

Though the letter had not mentioned which daughter of theirs did the King fancy, Mrs. Harris had taken it was Beth as she had been dancing all night while Madeline had been the wallflower who wouldn't have taken the initiative to look for a dance.

"Now, girls. Make sure you are at your best behaviour in front of the King," said Mrs. Harris.

The carriage continued to ride the same distance and maybe a little faster than the carriage they had hired for the ball. Madeline's eyes traced the edges of the carriage from inside, noticing how the wood was carved and given importance like a door. The cushion they sat on was the softest they had ever had the pleasure to sit in, and it was much more spacious. It made her wonder how the King's own, personal carriage would be if the carriage they were using was like this.

When they finally arrived at the castle, the Harris' family stepped down from the carriage to stand in front of the castle's entrance. Now that it was day, one could tell that the castle was more prominent than they had seen during the time of night which was covered in shadows.

A servant man stood outside waiting for them, "Please follow me," the man bowed his head and started to walk inside the castle.

Madeline, who was walking behind with her sister Beth looked at the walls that were painted white in colour. The chandeliers continued to hang up in the ceiling, this time without lit candles. There were paintings up in the ceiling which Madeline had not realized during the Grand ball.

"How many people do you think live here," her mother whispered to her father who couldn't stop looking at the walls and their surrounding in awe. Madeline herself was surprised that the night they were here, she had failed to capture the beauty of the mansion.

As they continued to walk further and further inside the castle, Madeline noticed her mother, who had been speaking earlier now had turned quiet, her hand holding her father's hand as if for courage.

Madeline herself walked apprehensively, not knowing where exactly the servant was leading them.

They were finally taken to double doors of carved wood, that was pushed in for them to step inside the room.

"Please take your seat here and the King will see you soon," said the servant bowing his head and leaving the four of them alone in the room.

The door was soon pushed forward and in came a man who was tall and fairly good looking. He had brown hair that was combed to the side, his eyes red that had everyone look at him and they bowed.

"I am Theodore Chauncey, the King's close attendant," said the man with a polite smile, looking at each one of the Harris' family, "Please sit," he offered by waving his hand towards the chairs.

"Thank you, Mr. Chauncey," her father was the one to reply for the kindness offered to them and they moved to take their seats next to each other.

"I hope you didn't have any trouble on your way here," asked Mr. Chauncey and they all shook their head.

Mr. Harris said, "Thank you for sending the carriage for us. We had a pleasant ride."

"It's good to hear that you had a safe trip."

When the double door to the room opened again, Madeline who was sitting with her back facing against the door heard Mr. Chauncey say,

"Milord," she saw the man who was with them bend and she quickly turned around along with Beth to bow her head and offer her respect to the man.

Madeline spent a second more before she raised her head to look up at the person.

Her eyes had started from the expensive shoe that covered his feet that moved up to the sumptuous looking clothes that was on his body before her eyes fell on the man.

When Madeline had imagined about the King, she had thought about a man somewhere in his late forties but she should have known better.

This person here had his pitch-black hair was combed back, his cheekbones defined and his lips were pale pink in colour. His shoulders were broad that wasn't covered with a coat as she had imagined. Blood red eyes under his eyebrows that were looked as if they were slightly raised to demand attention while exuding the status that he owned.

When her eyes met his, there was something very dangerous that lurked in his eyes and he offered a charming smile.

The King was here.