“I thought we’d have some fun!” Stellan smiled, leading Raina to the pool in the lower catacombs. “Everything has been so uptight lately.”
“Agreed.” Raina said, taking a deep breath. Everything had been entirely too heavy lately, and it was taking a toll on the girls. “It amazes me that the less girls in the competition, the more drama there’s been.”
Stellan laughed. “I hadn’t even thought about that! Drama just seems to follow us, doesn’t it?”
Raina nodded as she accepted the drink Stellan mixed for her. “It does. Which is incredible, considering all the girls left are so nice.”
The two moved to sit on the edge of the pool, personally mixed drinks in hand.
“I swear to plum if I ever have to taste another Wrench…” Raina trailed off, thinking back to the bar-tending challenge.
“Don’t worry. It’s just dim and gustys for us today,” Stellan smiled, pecking Raina on the cheek. Raina blushed prettily as she grabbed Stellan’s hand. The two sat in companionable silence, watching the water undulate around their feet.
Eventually, Raina squeezed her eyes tightly. “I’ve been thinking about what you said before. About me not maybe wanting to be a Queen.”
“That conversation was interrupted.” Stellan conceded, thinking back to Simcess’ sudden arrival and the news about Kara. “And it really worried me. I know it’s something we really have to discuss.”
“So let’s,” Raina smiled. “I’m not afraid to talk about the tough aspects of our relationship.”
“Tell me a little more about what makes you feel that way,” Stellan said, floating in the water.
“Well, I guess it starts with Kiaro and Enzo – my parents. My father was a rajah, so I grew up in the lap of luxury.”
“I can relate,” Stellan said, recalling his own childhood.
“Then you must know the emptiness that comes with it,” Raina said, looking down. “Sometimes it just feels…”
“Hollow.” Stellan finished.
Raina nodded. “It’s a horrible feeling, really. Knowing you have more than everyone combined, and yet you feel left out. You can run in the palace, but it’s never as freeing as the kid’s I would watch run outside.”
“But now I feel even worse,” She continued. “My kingdom was ripped from us, and I haven’t made one move to go back and save it. All those people – my people. Those kids I used to watch run are my age now, probably struggling under the weight of slavery to the crown. And here I am, complaining.” Raina huffed in frustration. “And I don’t even know how to help them! I learned nothing about politics or even war in my studies. I can do some math problems and point to things on a map – whoop de doo!” She practically yelled, throwing her hands in exasperation.
Stellan’s eyes grew wide. Realizing he was still there, Raina looked away as shame crept up her back. She had let her emotions control her, and had exploded right in front of the prince!
“Hey,” Stellan said soothingly, placing a hand on her knee. “It’s good to see you so upset.”
It was Raina’s turn to look shocked. “What?”
Realizing his own words, Stellan laughed. “I mean, you’re upset because you care. That’s amazing.” Stellan reached up to wipe a tear off of Raina’s face. She hadn’t even known she was crying.
“Raina,” Stellan said, pulling himself up to sit beside Raina again. “Whether we marry or not, I promise you that if you want help taking back your kingdom, I’ll be there with the reinforcements. If you don’t, then you don’t go back. It’s all your decision.”
Raina’s smile wobbled as she tried to control her tears. The man in front of her – or, beside her – was willing to help in any capacity, whether they end up together or not. She felt love truly settle on her shoulders, and knew this could only be the very beginning.
“You said you want to learn more?” Stellan asked, pulling Raina to her feet. “Then why don’t we read in the library?”
Upstairs, the mysterious note still laid on one girl’s bed. The rose had began to wilt slightly, and the bottle had grown lukewarm.
Lyric entered the room to grab a new bow for her violin when she saw it.
Forgetting what she initially came for, Lyric raced over to her bed and skimmed the note.
Observatory, this evening?
She squealed in delight at the thought of seeing Stellan. He must have set this up personally – it was informal…spontaneous, even! There was still a few hours before the sun would set, but Lyric charged up the stairs anyways.
He was there.
“I somehow knew you’d be wearing black,” He smirked. “Though I’m surprised the kid isn’t with you. I wanted to finally meet him, Kara. He’s got my eyes.”
Lyric’s eyes widened as she took a step back. He wasn’t Stellan, and she certainly wasn’t Kara.
“Cat got your tongue?”
Lyric could practically hear the smirk in his words as she stood as silent as a stone.
“Salem sure is cute.” Lyric said, watching Luke jump as he realized who she was. “But I thought that was because he was Stellan’s.”
It took Luke only seconds to regain his composure. “Lyric!” He smiled, coming to stand near her. “How are you?”
Lyric put her hands on her hips, squinting at the man. “I’m fine, thank you. But I wonder if you are.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“I’m not here to play games, Luke. There was a note on my bed. Now I know it was from you.”
“I didn’t send any note.” He sniffed.
“Of course you did! And you thought Kara would receive it, but why?” Lyric asked. Genuine confusion washed over her. “But you don’t know, do you?”
“Kara’s gone,” Lyric shrugged. “She was eliminated a few days ago.”
That got him. Luke felt his fragile hold on the situation snap. “You’re lying! Stellan would have told me.”
“Maybe you’re not as close as you once thought.”
Luke rolled his eyes but had no retort. It was true – Stellan had been keeping a safe distance from him ever since Salem was born, but he ignorantly chalked it up to his friend being busy.
Finally, the realization dawned on Lyric. “Oh my plum. You’re Salem’s father.”
Luke rolled his eyes. “Of course I’m not! The kid is blonde, Lyric. There’s no way he could even be my son.”
“And like you said earlier, he’s got your eyes!” She fired back. “So there’s no way he could be Stellan’s!”
“You’re delusional!” He yelled back, getting in her personal space. “And I’ll make sure everyone in this damn world knows it!”
“You’re the one that’s delusional!” Lyric spat. “You invited Kara here, you wanted her! Don’t play dumb with me – I know men like you – too many men! You’re careless, and a liar. You should have owned up to being a father – Salem needs one! I should be screaming down the halls about what you’ve done.”
“And who would believe you?” Luke chuckled darkly. “You’re no one in this world. A little girl with a knack for hitting piano keys. That’s it. Before you even set foot in this room, I already arranged for my butler to go clean up the note. I’m Prince Luke Lockwood, Stellan Knight’s best friend since childhood!” He barked. “It’s your word against mine, sweetheart. So sit down, shut up, and maybe I’ll let you stay.”
Lyric held herself together until Luke stormed out of the observatory. She was devastated by the news. Luke could ruin her entire life with a single sentence uttered to Stellan. She would be sent home and all of this would be a dream.
Lyric made her way to the only thing that would make her feel better – the piano. However, all she could do was sit. She felt numb inside. A shell of herself.
For the first time in her life, Lyric had no music within her.
Stellan walked out of the library, happy with the way his date with Raina had went. He stopped in his tracks when he heard the soft sobs of a familiar girl.
“Lyric?” He called, stepping around the corner. He approached her gently, trying not to startle the saddened lady. “What’s wrong?”
“Stellan!” Lyric gasped, sniffling like mad as she stood up. “Nothing, nothing.”
“Something’s bothering you,” He said, wrapping her in a hug. “You can trust me, Lyric.” He whispered as she clung tightly to him.
Lyric looked him into the eyes.
“Lyric, what’s wrong?”
Vote for who should go home and who Lyric should tell about Luke Here