The Kingdom of Archer Book I: Bloom

By J.Rose All Rights Reserved ©

Fantasy / Scifi

Reunion

(Lyric)

I’d lie if I said I had a peaceful night’s sleep since my torturous days with my father. Still, there was something about finding my soulmate that brought more fear and sleepless nights. Finding him, not knowing who he was or what we’d be caused turmoil inside my heart and my stomach to churn like a washing machine on high. I’d tossed and turned for what felt like endless nights in my bed after the DNA test. Each night I’d stare at the exact spot where the nurse had drawn the blood. Somehow I found myself hoping that his name would suddenly appear on my arm and that I’d know exactly who he was. I hadn’t quit my job yet as a teacher because I didn’t know if I’d have to leave or not. Chances where however that I would.

Hearing my alarm clock beep, I sighed sitting up on my bed and rubbing my eyes. The exhaustion from lack of sleep was evident. Still, sleep was something that did not come easily to me when I worried.

“No school today,” I said to myself before heading to the bathroom. My mother had already left for work and I was quick to shower letting the cold water wake me up. Sighing, I tried to stop my racing heart that only increased the more I worried.

“He’ll love you no matter what,” I tried to convince myself but too many doubts filled my head. I’d let my thoughts drift for too long. By the time I was out of the shower my hands looked like prunes.

Heading toward the kitchen I poured myself some cereal and milk and I contemplated how much my life would change. There was so much that was about to change and I wasn’t sure I was ready for it.

The sound of the doorbell was heard then, with a sight I headed towards the door but not before grabbing a quick spoonful of my cereal.

“Yes,” I questioned confused. There was a man standing in front of my door. The look on his face was blank and for lack of a better word he looked official, dressed all in black from head to toe.

“DNA Lab,” He finally spoke, handing me a large manila envelope.

“Thank you,” I whispered before he nodded and left. Closing the door behind me I leaned against the door unsure as to what was going to happen. Would this be okay?

Taking deep breaths, I tried to calm down as I clutched the envelope in my shaking hands. I knew what would await, no face, no name, no pictures, just a city. An unfair rule whereas Nova men seemed to be the ones that could know absolutely everything about you the moment they received their own letter.

“Just open it you can do this Lyric,” I said to myself before opening the envelope. But upon looking at the city, the name of it written across there I felt myself reverting back. No longer was Lyric the woman standing there, but Lyric the broken, fragile, insecure girl I was five years ago.

“Archer. Capital,”

“I have to go back to Archer,” I heard myself say.

It was like thunder had struck my world and I was once again pulled into the large hole I had slowly climbed out of. Flashes of my father, of Scott, Parker. Everything seemed to come back wave after wave, flashback after flashback, nightmare after horrible nightmare.

***

How long had I been there? Crying my eyes out. Minutes…. hours…. days... It felt like years to me. How much longer would my past come back to haunt me?... To cause me pain?... How much longer would it follow me?

Hearing another knock on the door I tried to wipe my tears. I knew I couldn’t hide the fact that I’d been crying as my eyes were bloodshot. Even so, I would try my best to calm down and conceal my feelings. Sniffling one last time and taking a deep breath I opened the door.

“Jane. Andrew”

Looking at my friends made my emotions rush back. There was a flicker in Andrew’s eyes as he gazed back at me though Jane was oblivious to my sadness.

“We want to go have dinner together the three of us,” Jane began to say hugging me tightly and smiling. The moment she noticed my tears, however, her expression quickly changed.

“What’s wrong?” Andrew asked. Concerned he walked over to me, however, Jane picked up the envelope that was on the floor and recognition was clear in her eyes.

“Archer Capital. They’re sending you back to the mainland’s,” Jane spoke.

“Archer,” Andrew spoke looking at me.

I could see it in his eyes the pain. Knowing that we were not meant, realizing where it was they were sending me.

“I’m scared,” I heard myself admit and Jane immediately hugged me tightly. Andrew, however, seemed to distance himself at that moment unsure as to how to react.

“You won’t be alone,” Jane spoke.

“It’s why we wanted to celebrate. I received my DNA results. He’s in Archer Capital too,” Jane spoke, offering me a smile and wiping my tears away.

“You’ll have me there and you’re always talking about your friend Crystal,” Jane answered.

“We’ll be there for you no matter what. That’s what sisters are for,” Jane said before hugging me.

***

The movers arrived earlier than expected. I’d been given a week to arrange everything for the move which included quitting my job. An unfair compromise that unfortunately every girl made and yet, happiness was all they were within months of being with their mate. Knowing this did not lessen my worries any less.

“Is that it?” My mother asked me.

“I don’t have much, just clothes. I was told I wouldn’t need anything else” I told her quietly. Looking at me, her eyes were sad as she reached to touch my cheek gently.

“I’m not comfortable letting you go back there on your own,” My mother spoke gently.

“But whoever he is. He’ll make sure that you’re safe,” My mother said smiling. Looking at her, the hope in her eyes I didn’t have the heart to answer her back with a question of “How do you know?”. I couldn’t understand it. Why she was so optimistic for me when her own soulmate had died and she’d been paired off instead to my own father?

“You’ll write to me?” She asked hopefully.

“Every day,” I said to her before she hugged me.

“Jane and Crystal. Stick with them,” My mother said gently before I nodded.

“Come on Lyric. We have to go. We have to get on the road before it gets dark,” Jane said.

“Coming,” I managed to say.

“Wait!”

Turning to look at Andrew I couldn’t help but smile. He hadn’t spoken to me since finding out I was leaving but the sad yet genuine smile on his face told me we’d be okay as friends.

“Here,” He said handing me a notebook. I knew exactly what it was. Our journal, songs, poems, anything we ever wanted to talk about, get off our chests that’s what that book represented, our growing friendship. It was one of the many techniques Andrew had used to get me to open up to him and Jane when he realized talking was not my forte.

“I want you to keep it okay. Hold on to it,” Andrew said.

“I know we’re not meant to be,” He spoke, his eyes sad.

“But all you need to do is call me, and I’ll be there for anything you need,” He said. Hearing his comforting words, I found myself smiling at him.

“Come on Lyric we’re going to be late,” Jane said a smile on her face as she looked in between Andrew and me.

“Keep her safe firecracker,” He said, causing Jane to smile at him brightly upon using his nickname for her.

“Always,” She said before getting inside the car.

“Stay safe,” Andrew said hugging me tightly.

“And don’t let anyone make you feel like you’re not worth anything because you’re worth more than they know,” Andrew whispered kissing my cheek.

“Bye,” I whispered to him.

“No. See you later,” He said before I got in back of the car with Jane. The driver at the front quiet, somehow he seemed familiar though I could not place it.

“Are you ready Miss. Mason?” He asked.

“Yes,” I managed to say before the car took off. Quiet ensued the rest of the way and I realized then and there my destiny had now become unknown.

***

We’d been traveling for two days in the large, black, spacious car. Throughout our travels, there weren’t many stops with the exception of a few rest-stops here and there. I didn’t really mind the long ride. The open road seemed to clear my head somehow. The peace of the quiet road made me think about so many things and possibilities. But the closer we got to Archer Capital, the more I felt my heart sink. I could see the large castle in the distance once we approached the Archer Gates. Jane was sleeping comfortably on my shoulder but all I could do was clutch that single letter from anonymous in my hand reminding myself that I was different. I had changed. They could not break me.

“I’m not broken anymore.”

“I’m not broken anymore,” My mind seemed to chant.

We were halfway through Archer Capital when the driver stopped startling Jane awake.

“Who is it? Me or you?” She asked sleepily rubbing her eyes as she woke, stretching like a Cheshire cat.

“I don’t know,” I repeated quietly, though I hoped it was her because I wanted to prolong my meeting with my soulmate.

“Miss. Jane,” The driver said quietly. Smiling at me kindly she hugged me.

“I guess this is my stop. Your soulmate’s the one with the money then. Good luck,” Jane said winking before going to the trunk to pull out her suitcases.

“Have fun,” She said to me before closing the trunk of the car and just like that we took off again.

The deeper we entered the city, the more my heart raced. My mind running a mile a minute with a hurtful past of people. Scott. I hadn’t thought about him in a while. While I had been afraid for Parker to know my secret, I was absolutely terrified of Scott. Scott was a monster. Parker had never laid a hand on me, never truly made me feel like I was nothing. Scott. Scott was an entirely different story. I knew where we were headed. The best part of town where the rich and spoiled lived. I knew it was ignorant to believe it but I’d only known one single type of guy like Scott and Parker. Both of whom had always had things handed to them ease. The only one I knew was an exception had always been Spencer and finding a guy like that was like finding a needle in a haystack.

“Where are we going?” I wanted to ask the driver but I could not seem to find my voice.

“Please not Scott, anyone but Scott,” I chanted in my head, hands shaking as I held them tightly together in my lap.

The farther into town we went the fewer houses I saw. It wasn’t until I saw that single Castle in the middle of Archer Capital that I felt my heart drop.

“Parker...”

“Miss. Mason. We’re here,” The driver said before the gates of the castle opened and we were let in.

*Bump Ba-bump, Bump Ba-Bump*

There it was again that familiar feeling of not being able to breathe, my knees growing weak and my stomach plummeting over and over. How could this have happened? How could this have been my fate?

(Parker)

Sitting in my room I couldn’t help but feel angry at myself. “How could I have fucked this up so badly?”

She was my soulmate, the girl that I’d tormented, broken, and hurt. She was mine, and I had taken part in her pain. Remembering what Crystal and Spencer had said I couldn’t help but wince at my own stupidity.

***

For what seemed like hours, no one spoke. We couldn’t. The realization of what they were seeing, the sick twisted irony of it all made my head reel.

“Parker.”

It was only when I heard my name being called that I turned to look at them. Crystal offered me a sympathetic smile and picked up the picture of Lyric from the ground.

“She’s different. Better,” Crystal spoke, handing me the picture of Lyric.

Looking at the photograph I couldn’t help but stare. She was far more beautiful than I remembered. But her eyes, those chocolate eyes that I could never forget filled with pain seemed to be staring right back at me. They were different. No longer was the pain so deep that her turmoil seemed to penetrate your soul and hit you like a thousand daggers to your heart.

Still, the undertone of it remained in her eyes that it was hard to look at it without fighting back my own tears.

“She’s your soulmate,” Crystal said to me, a hint of amazement in her voice as she spoke.

“And I hurt her,” I heard myself say. Once again silence seemed to fill the room while Spencer and Crystal both exchanged looks amongst each other.

“She’ll forgive you Parker. It was a long time ago,” Spencer said, offering me a warm smile though his eyes were filled with pity as he looked at me.

“We all know that’s not true,” I say to him.

“Parker,” Crystal speaks up. “Lyric’s not a resentful person. She’s changed, Parker. What happened to her wasn’t your fault. Everything that happened to her was beyond our control. Believe me, if I could have helped I would have she’s my best friend,” Crystal spoke softly, her eyes flickering with pain.

“But I-”

“I know you hurt her too,” Crystal says cutting me off.

“But she’ll forgive you. You saved her Parker. You were able to help her when we couldn’t. She’ll forgive you,” Crystal said.

“You were never good with feelings,” Spencer says, and I find myself feeling like an idiot again. At the same time, I also realize that my own heart had known what my eyes and my mind had not wanted to see.

***

As much as I wanted to believe she would forgive me I knew it wasn’t possible. Had I been in her position I would not be able to forgive myself. I still hadn’t. My father had been more than happy to know the news as to who my mate was. In fact, everyone seemed to have that reaction. Still… no one really knew what happened five years ago. Preparations had been made the entire week for her arrival. Still, that clenching in my chest continued as the week progressed. I was aware she didn’t know it was me who was her mate. Thinking of her rejection only added to the pressure I felt from all this. What worried me the most was not her rejection, I’d been able to live with it and understand that it was more than likely to happen. What worried me most was her state of mind. The last thing I ever wanted to cause her again was pain, for her to revert back to that girl she had been in high school. That look of pain in her eyes, the look of being lost. There was nothing more that I wanted than to erase all that pain she’d felt and replace it with love.

“I’d give anything in the world for one chance. One chance to prove to you that I can be what you need.”

***

It’s dark again. I’m surrounded by murky water. I know this dream. I’ve had it for so long that I know every single frame that happens after this like the palm of my hand. She’s floating in the middle of the dark water. Lyric. Only this time she’s not the Lyric I knew, she’s the Lyric of now. Her eyes are still void, and there is no type of movement indicating that she’s alive. Like always as much as I try to reach her I can’t. The more I swim the farther from me she gets. I can’t call out to her, I can’t reach her, and then she looks at me.

“Why did you do this to me?”

“Why can’t you leave me alone?”

Just like that, I wake up every single time. Only this time I don’t wake up. Instead, I find myself sitting by the tree again. Angel is sitting there frozen in time the way she died five years ago. She looks at me and her eyes are filled with understanding.

“It’ll be fine Parker. She’s better now,” Angel says, her voice soft and comforting.

“I know you don’t believe me but things will turn out just fine,” Angel says.

“How? I don’t know how to fix this,” I say causing Angel to smile.

“Prove to her that you’ve changed. Show her you love her. More than anything, make her feel safe. Coming back here is going to hurt her,” Angel speaks sadly.

“But you have to make sure to fix it, fix her. Just because the pain in her heart lessened doesn’t mean it went away. So make it go away…”

***

Two days. It was like a ticking time bomb just waiting to go off. Part of me wanted nothing more than for her to walk through that door. The other part didn’t want her to come back at all. I’d given her up five years ago because I didn’t want her to keep hurting. Now because of me, she’d been pulled back into the nightmare she escaped from.

“Hey man!”

Looking at Brad I couldn’t help but shake my head.

“Isn’t your soulmate arriving today?” I questioned. He’d gotten his soulmate’s file 3 months ago but wasn’t allowed to see her. Brad had been caught by Nova officers with another woman three years ago.

“She is but I don’t think she wants to see me. She made that perfectly clear,” Brad said causing me to chuckle at the memory.

Given the circumstances of Brad’s situation, the Nova Labs sent Brad’s soulmate a letter specifying why she would not meet her soulmate yet. Needless to say, she was angry. In fact, the girl wrote a letter right back and insulted Brad in more ways possible than anyone could imagine. Thinking back to my own behavior, I had not considered the fact that Lyric knew my… colorful past with women. I hadn’t been caught by Nova officers like Brad had been. However, I can count more than one occasion where I’d walked down the hall past Lyric with a girl on my arm.

I wondered if she’d care, but that was the least of my worries. Looking around, I could see dozens of people gathered in my house. My father being King and me being the successor made Lyric the future queen of Archer. This was something that I knew would only add pressure to this already complicated relationship, if there would ever be one. The type of girl Lyric was I knew she did not like attention or crowds. Not that I did, but given the circumstances, part of me was glad we wouldn’t be alone. Not yet at least. As much as I’d thought the situation over a thousand times in my head I could never find the right words to say to her. I could never find the right way to apologize to Lyric.

From a distance, I could see Crystal and Spencer both of them chatting by the window though I could see Crystal’s eyes occasionally drift to look outside.

“You nervous?” Brad asked.

“You’ve met her before there’s no need to be,” Brad shrugged. Part of me wanted to point out exactly how it was I met her, but I was already stressing enough about this as it was.

“Parker!”

Running toward me Crystal grabbed my arm pulling me toward the door.

“She’s here,” Crystal said, smiling with excitement.

Looking out the window I could see the car pulling up. It was almost ironic the way my heart began to beat. I’d been so stupid and blind to not see back then why my heart reacted to her.

*Bump, Ba-Bump, Bump, Ba-Bump, Bump, Ba-Bump*

Crystal didn’t wait much in fact as soon as Neil opened the car door for Lyric to get out Crystal ran out of the mansion and toward Lyric.

“Lyric!” Crystal yelled with excitement as she embraced Lyric in a tight hug.

I could see the distress in her eyes as she looked around in a panic until finally, those chocolate brown eyes met my gaze. It was like breathing fresh air and being punched at the same time. She was so beautiful. Her hair was let down like it had been so many years ago, visibly it had grown longer. Though her hair was no longer covering her face but cascading down her shoulders. She was wearing a simple white summer dress and a light sweater that covered her shoulders. There was nothing more that I wanted than to embrace her. The fear in Lyrics eyes kept me paralyzed and stilled my wishful thinking. I knew she was afraid to be here in front of me. No matter what I said or did it was not going to take away what she felt at the moment. With a single glance at her I knew, she didn’t wish to be here, much less to be around me. Even as I looked at her I knew that what my gaze reflected could not be seen by her eyes. Not when I was sure her mind was only focused on the past. and I could not blame her.

“I’m so glad you’re here! You are going to be my maid of honor okay.” Crystal said, her voice filled with excitement. Lyric’s gaze never leaves mine, not until Crystal pulls away from their hug and smiles at her. Lyric doesn’t smile back. If anything she tenses when Crystal pulls her past me and towards the castle doors. Behind them Neil follows with Lyrics luggae. She doesn’t say anything to me as she walks past me not do I speak to her. I don’t want to frighten her more that she already is.

“It’ll be fine. Relax” Spencer says before walking over to Lyric and Crystal nodding at Lyric who only offers him a soft smile back.

Once inside it’s like a whirlwind and I can only watch in the back uncomfortably. Lyric is introduced to everyone in the castle, family, friends, and a few people of the kingdom. I can see an overwhelming feeling settle in her eyes though she offers people smiles.

“Relax man,” Brad says, walking over to me and handing me a glass of champagne.

“No thanks,” I tell him, trying to hand the alcohol back to him. The last thing I want to do in front of her is drink my mind flashing back to five years and all the bottles of alcohol I had seen at her house on that day.

The last thing I wanted to do was make things more uncomfortable for Lyric. For now, I’d keep my distance. But I knew that before tonight was over not only would we be alone, but we would also be sharing a bed.

“We’re doing a toast man. Everyone’s drinking,” He pointed out, motioning his head to Lyric who looked uncomfortable taking a glass of champagne that was being offered to her by my father.

“I’d like to thank everyone for being here,” My father spoke up, causing the room to silence.

“This will be a new Era for Archer. In honor of that, I’d like to make a toast to new beginnings for both my sons,” My father speaks, while everyone else raises their glasses up.

“Cheers!” My father says proudly.

“Cheers!” The room of people chants back happily.

Looking back at Lyric she offers awkward smiles to anyone that looks in her direction as she grips the glass of champagne in her hands tightly. I could see Crystal chatting away at her though she seemed to be lost in her own thoughts. Occasionally, someone would come up to her and make conversation but she only ever answered politely. The night went on like this both of us on opposite sides of the room being offered congratulations. Talking to people, making small talk while smiling awkwardly never once approaching the other.

Finally, once everyone had left, and the room had cleared leaving only Crystal, Spencer, and my father with us. I realized in that moment there was no such thing as avoidance anymore.

“You two might want to catch up now. With everything that’s gone on today, there’s hardly been a chance for you two to talk,” My father said.

“Goodnight. We’ll see you tomorrow,” Crystal speaks up, hugging Lyric before taking Spencer’s hand and walking away as did my father, finally leaving us alone.

*Bump, Ba-Bump, Bump, Ba-Bump, Bump, Ba-Bump*

The silence between us was thick. Neither of us seemed to be able to say anything. While I found myself looking at her, all she could do was look down at her hands. The glass of champagne tightly being held in her hands with such force that I feared she’d break it and hurt herself.

“You can put it down,” I heard myself say, my voice sounding strange to my own ears before reaching for the glass which she let go of slowly. As our hands brushed together a shock ran through my entire body and a small gasp escaped her lips that caused me to look at her. There was confusion in her eyes and something I could not decipher in them that made my heart clench in my chest. Looking away from her I placed the full champagne glass on top of the fireplace where my own flat champagne glass now sat. I didn’t know what to say to her, and I didn’t know how to apologize.

“Lyric I.”

Turning to look at me once more her eyes silenced me making me unable to finish what I so desperately wanted to say.

“Our room,” I heard myself say.

“We should go upstairs,” I tell her, but she doesn’t reply to my answer. For a moment, I felt like we were back in that hallways with her ignoring me.

She’s quiet, unable to say anything and I don’t want her too, given our situation. Instead, we both remain silent and she follows me upstairs to my room. Her suitcase set on the bed already and she simply stands to the side silently observing.

“I won’t stay here if you don’t want me to. I understand,” I tell her quietly, hoping that she’ll feel safe around me. Her eyes drift back to me and she shakes her head once more her expression unreadable as she speaks.

“It’s alright,” She says, her voice barely above a whisper and I realize by her tone she’s afraid. Though my heart tightens, I try not to dwell too much on my own feelings and concentrate on her. Her eyes drift across the room, cautiously until they set on the piano by the window and she seems to drift toward it like a moth to a flame. For the first time, I see a genuine soft smile on her lips as her eyes begin to light up in a way I had never seen before.

She timidly reaches for the keys of the piano touching them softly a soft tinker flowing through the silent room.

“Crystal says you like to play,” I hear myself say and she looks at me and offers me a soft smile that makes my already speeding heart race further.

“Thank you,” She says quietly.

“I didn’t do anything it was all Crystal. She knows you better than anyone,” I tell her. Something flickers in Lyric’s eyes while she looks at me though I can’t describe what that is. My palms begin to sweat and I can feel awkwardness continue to creep between us. It was as if a cloud of thick smoke was slowly starting to settle between us. Lyric continued to look avoid my gaze, hugging herself closer both shyly and nervously. I didn’t need to look into her eyes to know that she feared me. I realize that she must hate me and that I made her feel uncomfortable with my presence. As much as I would like to stay with her and make her feel welcome I couldn’t. Not when I’m not welcome in her world. But now, for whatever reason, life had created this bond for us and we must face it. Tonight, however, she did not need me to be with her. There was too much from our past still lingering between us. Trusting me would take time I didn’t know how long that would be. For now, I would let her calm down and give her space.

“You must be tired, you can use the shower. I’ll just use the one down the hall,” I say to her before she nods and I leave the room closing the door behind me. For what felt like hours I remained outside her bedroom door pondering what will be of both of us. Confirming now mor than ever that mistakes can cause you a lifetime of regrets.

“I have to make it better. And I have to live with what I’ve done,” I think to myself.

“Parker.”

Hearing Crystals voice makes me turn to look at her. She’s standing at the end of the hallways in a soft sky blue nightgown. There’s a gentle smile on her face, while Spencer stands next to her in a pair of red plaid pajamas and a dark shirt.

“Come on we’ll talk downstairs,” Crystal says, before heading downstairs with Spencer. No one says a word until we’re all seated in the living room.

“How is she Parker? Really?” She questions.

“My presence makes her uncomfortable,” I tell them, offering a wry smile that tastes bitter in my mouth and is hard to swallow.

“Parker. It’ll get better,” Crystal comforts, a look of sympathy in her eyes. “You shouldn’t feel bad for me. This is all my fault after all. If I had just-” Stop dwelling on what if’s because you have to live with what you have.” Spencer speaks up.

“Look man I get it.”

“No, you don’t,” I wanted to say to him. Maybe Crystal understood what I wished to say because she took hold of Spencer’s hand and silenced him.

“Maybe we don’t but. Things will work out Parker. You and Lyric are bound together for a reason. And it has to be more powerful than hurt don’t you think?” She questioned.

“Think about it,” Spencer says to me, taking Crystals hand and leading her back upstairs leaving me to think about today, tomorrow and yesterday’s time.

“Maybe,” I thought to myself wanting to amend what I had done. But how could I when I couldn’t even get myself to apologize properly? Maybe it was the night that gave me strength but I needed to at least speak of what I felt to her. Just once tonight I wishes to speak to her. Selfishly in hoping to lessen some of my own pain.

Opening the room door there is silence. I can see her on the bed sleeping quietly and soundly. Her face serene and calm almost making me believe that things are okay between us that she somehow feels okay here in Archer. I don’t want to bother her. The last thing I want to do is wake her. Still, I can’t help but make my way toward her. Reaching to touch her face I caress her cheek gently.

“I’m sorry,” I whisper.

“I know I have a lot to make up for. And I’m a coward because I don’t have the courage to say it to you yet. But I promise I’ll make things better,” I say, kissing her forehead. Turning the light to the room off I simply head to the door, closing it behind me and head towards the study. The night is restless as is my mind.

(Lyric)

Have you ever had an out-of-body experience? It’s mind-numbing. Your heart races and you find yourself unable to move. For a moment it’s as if your soul leaves your body. It was like being in a dream where you could not control the outcome of what was to come. In that moment, all you can do is wait. You wait for the finale that would make this a sweet dream or a blood-curdling nightmare, and this was exactly that.

There I was sitting inside a car in front of the house of a man I’d wanted to forget for so long. A man that had seen every single part of my life. Someone that I had been afraid of. Someone who could see past my charades and past my facade.

“Lyric!”

I don’t register much from shock but before I knew it I was already being embraced tightly by Crystal. Even when I wanted to be happy and hug her back, my body remained still.There was a knot in my throat and my face felt as if it were being scratched off in desperation by an unknown thing. My emotions felt jumbled and at the same time, my heart began to scream out the way it always did when he was approaching.

*Bump, Ba-bump, Bump, Ba-bump*

It was almost like time stood still as my eyes met his. There he stood in front of me his expression unreadable. Parker Archer.

His eyes conveyed nothing as to what he was thinking or what he was feeling. But his gaze seemed to penetrate my own like a knife to my back. I wanted to look away. I wanted to stop my open book eyes from revealing my insecurities in front of him and yet, I couldn’t seem to look away. For years I’d wondered who would be my soulmate. That one person I could not live without and now that he stood in front of me I wanted nothing more than to run. I desperately wanted to ease away my insecurities and have this all be a nightmare.

Parker hadn’t changed much. There were subtle hints of change from what I do remember of him. His dark hair was now shorter and combed in a side-parted way that still felt wild and rebellious. His features that had once been man boyish were now rougher. There were traces of a five o’clock shadow, his jawline had become squarer. Five years didn’t feel like such a long time. Mainly because his eyes brought me back to the past. This moment was my cruel reality once again. I’d learned long ago how cruel life could be to someone and yet part of me still hoped for a better tomorrow. How naïve of me to think this way. Not only had I fallen flat on my face but the irony of who this man had been in my life was not missed.

“You’ll be my maid of honor okay,” Crystal speaks.

Her words finally make me pull my gaze away from him, snapping me out of this wretched spell that this trauma has caused. Though I don’t want to go inside his house, I can’t say anything. Freewill is no longer mine this much I know, simply because he and I will be together now. Do I want this?... No.

“But it’s something you’ll have to live with,” I say to myself.

In that moment part of me wishes that I would be with Andrew. That the DNA results came back with comfort, stability, someone I knew. Though I’d known Parker from my years of torment, I knew nothing about this man except one thing. He hated me.

One look at the Parker of five years ago told me so much. He thought of me as nothing but a nuisance. Someone who he could squash like a bug. I was nothing to him nor would I be someone today or ever.

“Why? Why?” My heart seemed to scream. Was I given strength for the past 5 years only to have it ripped away in a matter of seconds?

“Relax it’ll be okay,” Crystal whispered, squeezing my arm gently as we stood in front of the large living room. A beautiful crystal chandelier dangling from the center of the room sparkling like diamonds. The furniture modern and beautiful matching the soft custard yellow painted walls. Waiters surrounded the large get together offering appetizers and drinks.

Over a dozen pairs of eyes were looking back at me. They showed smiles, others disdain, while others merely gave one single glance. They were people of society and money and it was like being in high school again. I felt so small, so unprotected almost as if I’d been laid bare for everyone to see and to judge the person I was.

“It’ll be fine I promise,” Crystal spoke. But as I looked back at her, I couldn’t believe her. Her eyes still remained warm throughout the years. However,Parkers presence around us no longer seemed to faze her. I couldn’t stop the feeling of betrayal which came with that knowledge of Crystal. It was as though she had forgotten the past or had learned to move on from it. It was something that I had been unable to do as of yet.

Just like in the past, if only for a second I wished I was Crystal again. To be carefree, to be lucky enough to fall for my best friend and to have a life like hers that appeared to be magical and perfect.

Looking up at Parker from across the room he seemed deep in his own thoughts. I wondered just how he felt to know he’d be trapped with me. How much hate would he feel toward me now? Had he known all along? All those years ago somehow seemed to make sense with him.

“He’ll never accept you,” My mind spoke, and I knew it too.

“He hates me so much,” I thought to myself only realizing I’d spoken out loud when Crystal turned to look at me her eyes showing sympathy.

“Lyric. You’ll be fine with him trust me. He’s not the same guy he was back then,” She whispered. Still, my mind could not stop the self-doubt. How could she know? How could she even understand what was going through my head in that moment? Nothing she could say or do would ease my panic.

***

How many people had I been introduced to? I had met members of the council, diplomats of the kingdom, family members, the more people walked over to introduce themselves, the more pressure I felt. Not only had I been mated with someone that I knew would never love me. But now I would be faced with duties I did not know how to handle. Queen. How could I be a queen of a kingdom? I knew my personality through and through and I knew I was easy to falter. I’m far too weak, far too naïve, far too fragile to handle a kingdom. I didn’t need to be told that I would have to quit my career as a school teacher. I loved children, and it is why I loved my job. I didn’t want to revert back to this ... insecure being that I once was. Turning to look at Parker our eyes met once more, a look in his eyes that I could not recognize. Why was he looking at me that way?

There was something deep in my soul and in his eyes that told me he could see it and he knew very well what I was feeling. My fear, my insecurities, Parker could see it all. Deep down we both knew the truth of this cruel reality, I was not fit to be a queen.

“Lyric.”

“What?” I asked Crystal turning to look at her while she offered a bright smile.

“Champagne,” Spencer spoke, walking to Crystals’ side and placing an arm around her waist. Smiling Crystal moved closer to Spencer and offered him a loving smile. Taking the glass from Spencer’s hand and clinking it against his own. The look in their eyes was that of love and so much more it felt too intimate to look at and had me looking away.

“Lyric,” King Thomas spoke politely coming towards us and offering me a glass of champagne.

“I don’t drink,” I wanted to say. However, I was unsure if it was polite to refuse the king. Feeling pressure and without a choice I took the glass of champagne from King Thomas.

“Thank you,” I told him quietly to which he offered a smile and I forced one of my own. The King like everyone else was in a formal suit. His hazel colored eyes reminding me of Parker’s and I found myself thinking of the phrase “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree”

“I’d like to thank everyone for being here,” King Thomas spoke, his voice passive but at the same time, it held an air of authority.

“This will be a new Era for Archer. In honor of that, I’d like to make a toast to new beginnings for both my sons,” King Thomas spoke.

A New Era? ... Was that what this was?… It was certainly a big change for both Parker and I. It represented being trapped with someone we did not love nor cared for. Had our lives been different, then maybe the end result would be too. Turning to Crystal and Spencer who were smiling and gazing at each other lovingly I could help but feel jealousy deep inside my heart.

I’d always longed to have someone love me as much as Crystal was loved. But when I looked at Parker, I couldn’t see that in his eyes. I knew he’d never look at me the way Spencer was looking at Crystal. But just like Crystal was looking at Spencer I found it difficult to look at Parker or anyone for that matter in that same way, love. Love was much more to me than being mates. It was about looking at someone, knowing how they are and accepting them completely with what they were. All the flaws, the imperfections, every single thing that made the person who they were. But Parker? Parker had seen all that I’d been as I had seen him. In that moment, I knew we could never fully accept each other or if we ever could.

“Cheers!” King Thomas spoke, raising his champagne glass up and breaking my train of thought. Forcing a smile, I had no choice but to raise my own glass even if I did not take a sip. The feeling of dread continued to settle in my chest along with what I knew would be my demise.

“Cheers to that,” I thought to myself.

By the time night had come, and the guest were long gone leaving Parker, King Thomas, Crystal, Spencer and I to remain in the large living room. I could feel my heart racing faster and faster knowing what was to come next. How would I face him? What would I say to him?

“You two might want to catch up now. With everything that’s gone on today, there’s hardly been a chance for you two to talk.”

*Bump, Ba-Bump, Bump, Ba-Bump, Bump, Ba-Bump*

Hearing those words from King Thomas only made my heart race. This had been what I had been dreading since arriving.

“Goodnight. We’ll see you tomorrow,” Crystal spoke up, hugging me and leaving with Spencer. I couldn’t understand it. The way Crystal behaved so relaxed almost as if she had forgotten what happened in the past. It was almost like the moment I left was the moment everything was forgotten and part of me felt hurt and betrayed.

*Bump, Ba-Bump, Bump, Ba-Bump, Bump, Ba-Bump*

We were finally alone and all I could do was look at the ground. It was almost like being in that hallway again afraid to look at anyone. How much smaller could I feel at that moment? The more I thought about it the more I wanted to run. I knew what would happen next. He would scream at me. He would tell me how worthless I was. How much he hated me. Would he hit me? Would he treat me the same way my own mother was treated?

“You can put it down.”

Looking up at him I wasn’t sure as to what he was referring to his voice sounding soft and gentle. Something that felt strange to me coming from him. Reaching his hand out to me I could feel my heartbeat in my ears and I felt fear. It was only when his hand reached the glass of champagne I had forgotten I’d been holding so tightly that part of me felt relief. He took hold of the glass and felt myself let go of it only for our hands to brush against one another. It was like feeling tingles all over my body a single shock running through my veins and directly to my heart.

My physical reaction triggering a gasp from my lips. How could this be? How could one single touch cause this? He’d never laid a hand on me, not since the day he carried me out of that burning place I called home. Had my reaction been the same?… I did not know. I’d been far too afraid of what would happen after to even acknowledge anything else that happened that day.

But I was looking at him now and he was looking back at me. I couldn’t understand why he wasn’t looking at me with hate. Why his gaze seemed to flicker with so many emotions I could not describe. Finally, breaking our gazes he set the glass down and I found myself looking down at the ground.

“Lyric I.”

Turning my gaze back up to him I tried not to show my fear.

“What do you want from me?” I wanted to ask him so desperately but I could not seem to find my voice either. I saw something flicker in his eyes before quickly disappearing just as he spoke.

“Our room,” He says.

Our room? It hadn’t dawned on me until that moment that we would be sharing a bed together. The fear of knowing this only causing my own insecurities to rise. I was not ready for anything. Was this how he would show how much he hated me?

“We should go upstairs,” He says before he begins to head down the hall and though I’m afraid I know I have to follow him. Once again I have no choice as to what my life should be or what direction it will take. My heart drums in my ears and I can feel panic settle in my chest as we head up the stairs and down several confusing halls. My heart stops only for a minute only to continuously pound against my chest in panic when we reach a single room at the end of the hall.

The room is exactly what I expected a royal bedroom to look like. A large bed that seemed to run for miles. A beautiful view of the garden from out the window. The curtains were of the softest earth brown I had ever seen. The air inside the room a soft peaceful crisp summer night glow that felt relaxing but at the same time made me feel out of place. I was a duck out of water here and all I could do was stand awkwardly next to the bed where my suitcase had already been laid out. With each moment of silence that passed the tension and panic inside my own heart increasing.

“I won’t stay here if you don’t want me to. I understand,” He says, breaking the silence with his words. Turning to him his eyes showed sincerity and yet I could not understand it. Why was he saying this to me? Was this a trick? Or had Parker Archer changed like Crystal had said?

“Don’t fool yourself Lyric. People don’t change. Especially wolves,” I thought to myself, thinking back to all those years of torture my father had caused.

It was clear to me what the laws of the Nova were and what those laws stated. Even if I wanted nothing to do with this man and even if I refused to share a bed with him. It was something I could not decide.

“It’s alright,” I heard myself say before looking away from Parker unable to face him anymore, my eyes landing on a piano that was across the room. It was like magic. Glistening and calling my name. Being filled with pain and so much agony through the years my only release aside from writing had been the piano. It was the only way I was able to convey freely what I was feeling.

“Music connects your soul, your heart, and your thoughts. Pulling all emotions to your fingertips and flowing out in harmony,” I heard Andrew say, as I tinkered with the piano keys softly. The beautiful sound of each key sounding off in my ears and reaching my heart and my soul like a breath of fresh air I had been longing for.

“Crystal says you like to play,” Parker spoke, breaking me out of my trance.

“Crystal?” I thought to myself wondering why this man had talked to my friend about me. Looking at him the expression in his eyes incomprehensible I couldn’t understand him. Why had he brought a piano up to his room just for me? Though so many questions ran in my head I found myself smiling at him in gratitude for the smallest amount of kindness. At least some part of myself would be able to find joy here even with this piano.

“Thank you,” I whispered to him.

“I didn’t do anything it was all Crystal. She knows you better than anyone,” Parker says, and once again I feel small again.

Was this his way of letting me know he didn’t care? Was I so unimportant to him that he did not care nor would he ever care about me?

“You must be tired. You can use the shower I’ll just use the one down the hall,” He says, once again breaking my train of thought. I don’t have time to say anything other than nod and just like that, he’s out the door leaving me alone in my golden cage. Sighing I walk back toward my suitcase that’s laid on the bed and take out my soft pink pajamas. Sitting down on the bed I clutch them tightly feeling my hands shaking but I refuse to cry. Not now, not when he could come back at any second and speak the vile words I knew were coming out of his mouth sooner or later. Hate. With that I felt myself shaking with sadness that I could not comprehend and a weakness I could not shake.

Wanting and needing strength I set my clothes down in my lap before rummaging through my belongings and finding that anonymous letter. Clutching it in my hands tightly I wished that it was him instead of Parker. That somehow the he that had written this letter was my soulmate. Only then would I feel loved instead of insecurity.

“You have what you have, deal with it,” I say to myself, hiding the letter in my journal once more and heading to the bathroom to shower.

Letting the hot steam consume the bathroom as I undress I sigh when the warmth of the water hits my body. Warmth. Would this be the only time I feel warmth? Would I be returned to the cold left to die of sadness once more?

“You start with nothing you end with nothing.”

Before long I can feel the tears in my eyes as my body begins to shake and though I don’t want to cry I know I have to. All I can do is stand there feeling broken once more while tears run down my face. Covering my mouth with my hand to stop the sobs from being heard.

“Please don’t let him hurt me. Please,” My heart screams, though I know no one can hear me, part of me hopes that someone will. I hope Parker will hear me and let me go because I know the more time I spend in Archer the more I’ll break.

***

By the time I’ve calmed myself the water has gone cold. I am no longer shaking from the fear but the ice cold water that hits my body, that has once again gone numb. Getting out of the shower wrapped in nothing but a towel I gaze at my reflection in the mirror and cringe.

“You’ve worked so hard to hide your pain and in one day he destroys all that once again. Why is it that he can look past all of it?” With a single look, Parker Archer could easily destroy you,” I think to myself, looking at my right shoulder. Once again I’m reminded of my past in Archer. That one single burn on my right shoulder reminding me every single day that my nightmare had come to life. How worthless, fragile and unworthy of anything I had been back then. How unworthy of anything I still was.

I’d fooled myself into believing things would get better, that things would change. However, the cruelty of fate had once again put me back in this place and shifted me back to how things originally were. I knew thinking like this again would only cause me pain and suffering but Archer was a bad place for me.

“They’re wrong about you. Don’t let them win,” I told myself. Wiping a few stray tears away from my face and trying to ignore the bad voices in my head as I got ready for bed.

Once I was out of the bathroom and back in the empty room, I felt at peace to know Parker was not there. I didn’t know if he would come back or not but I tried not to dwell on it too much. I wasn’t sure how muh more my mind could take. The day had been physically and emotionally draining for me and I just wanted a moment of peace. Getting into bed I turned off the lamp light on the nightstand and tried to sleep, but the more I tried the less my mind seemed to let me. My insecurities seemed to be louder than my own voice. Closing my eyes, I tried to relax myself to sleep only to hear the screeching of the room door opening.

“Parker.” I thought to myself, as footsteps approached the bed.

*Bump, Ba-bump, Bump, Ba- Bump*

This was it. The moment I was dreading. Was he going to kill me... hit me… rape me? So many thoughts were running through my head and yet my body seemed to lay frozen.

*Shock*

Feeling a hand on my cheek I felt a small shock and my body seemed to relax. Why was this familiar? Why did this feel like Déjà Vu?

“I’m sorry,” Parker spoke his voice soft.

“I know I have a lot to make up for. And I’m a coward because I don’t have the courage to say it to you yet. But I promise I’ll make things better,” He whispers before he grows silent once more and I feel soft lips press against my forehead. Just like that he leaves, closing the door behind him.

I don’t move until I know he’s gone and all I can do is sit up in confusion. So many things seemed to resonate in my mind. Was he sorry? A coward? Would he make it up to me? There were so many things that confused me so many things I wondered but only one question seemed to sum everything up.

Was this really Parker Archer?

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