(Note: This scene takes place after Mia has been taken to the Underworld by Brian and Jacoby)
How am I supposed to tell him that I lost his only daughter? How could I have made such a reproachable error? This is utterly my fault. I have no one to blame but myself. I never should’ve let it go this far. I knew, I know, she is off-limits to me. I should’ve known better than to let my feelings for her distract me from my task.
My feet feel as though I’m trapped in cement as I cannot force myself to take another step. What am I going to say to him? After everything Alberico has done for me, this is how I repay him? By falling in love with his daughter to the point where all logic ceases to exist and I only exist…for her? I pound the stone wall with my fist in frustration. I will never forgive myself.
But I know I cannot delay any longer. No matter what fate awaits me once Alberico knows the truth, I have to hurry. I have to find a way to get to her.
I take a deep, jagged breath to steel myself for what looms ahead and knock once on the thick mahogany door leading into his private chamber. Unease consumes me. This isn’t going to be easy.
“You may enter.”
I knew he wouldn’t be sleeping despite the fact that he left the ball several hours ago under the pretense that he was tired and ready for bed. Alberico actually suffers from insomnia most nights and while Ljósálfar balls go well into the morning, he always left early because he prefers his solitude to the noisy crowds.
I swallow the lump that has formed in the back of my throat and push through the door. It’s time to face the consequences for my unforgivable behavior. I deserve nothing less than the worst imaginable punishment.
When I open the door I find him so enthralled with a puzzle he is working on that he doesn’t even look up at the sound of my entrance. His Majesty has always had an affinity for puzzles.
“Your Majesty,” I clear my throat nervously and cast my eyes downward. I cannot bear to look at him just yet.
“Good evening, Greyson. Or I guess I should say Good Morning,” he chuckles as he puts the last piece of his puzzle together and finally looks up at me. “To what do I owe—“
His amused expression falters.
“What happened to her?” His demand comes out as barely a whisper, but that can’t hide the fear in his voice. I pick up on it clearly because it is the same fear that had been constricting my heart since the moment I realized I never should have let her go into the house alone.
I explain to him that Kate had called to tell Mia that Maddie was sick, how she wanted to rush to the hospital to heal her and how I stupidly agreed to take her there.
“And you allowed her to enter the house alone? She was never to be left without protection. You know that Dugan is after her. What were you thinking? It isn’t like you to make such a mistake.”
“I wasn’t thinking, Your Majesty.”
“You weren’t thinking? Protecting her has been your job for the last seventeen years! How did this happen?”
I flinch. The fear that had been present in his voice just moments before is replaced by anger and I don’t blame him. I am quite angry with myself.
Alberico has been my family for as long as I can remember. When both of my parents fell during the first war between the Light and the Dark, Alberico gave me a job in his castle.
He deserves to know the truth. I cannot hide it from him any longer. He needs to know the reason I failed him.
“What I’m about to admit to you is in no way a justification of my mistake. I never should have left her alone and I know that. But I need to tell you the truth. I am in love with your daughter, Sir. I was distracted tonight. If I didn’t have these feelings for her, I never would have made such an error in judgement. I cannot begin to express to you the depth of my sorrow. I will not rest until I safely return her to you, I swear.”
The anger slipped from his face, unexpectedly softening his eyes.
I was expecting him to burn me alive or something equally drastic when he learned of my affection for her, assuming that my admission would anger him. She was his daughter. His seventeen-year-old daughter and while I may look her age, I am over a century older than she is. She is a mortal and by all intents and purposes, I am not. She will grow old and weary, while I remain the appearance of a youthful man. It would never be fair to her.
She thinks she loves me too. I know she does, I can see it in her eyes. But I know that this will never work out for us. It is better to end things now before it becomes too difficult to bear. As if it isn’t difficult enough already to keep my feelings for her in check.
Of course, now it might be too late. What have I done?
“You love her?” Alberico stares at me intensely like he is trying to peer inside to the very core of my soul to see the truth for himself.
Alberico sighs as he tilts his head up towards the ceiling.
“I understand I can never have her. But please believe me when I tell you, I will get her back.”
“It’s impossible,” he shakes his head slowly.
“What do you mean? It can’t be impossible! I will, I have to, save her. I’m not afraid of the Dökkálfar.”
“I don’t doubt whether you are brave enough. I know that you are. But the Underworld is constantly changing, it’s never the same and you are aware of the Limitations of Transporting. Unless you’ve been there before—“
“You cannot transport there,” I finish for him.
“So what do we do?” I ask of him, not quite ready to accept defeat.
I was not going to lose Mia this way. I couldn't lose her. We may not have a future together but I want her happy; I want her safe. I want to see that smile in her eyes that makes her entire face glow. That couldn't be the last time I saw her. It just couldn't be.
But there is a look in Alberico's eyes that is more than a little unsettling. It only takes me a moment longer to figure out that the look is one of hopelessness.
“We wait and hope against all hope that she escapes.”
(A big Thank You to Komal Kant, Heather Sloan, Maya Bentley and Heather Strafuss for helping me edit. You ladies rock!)