Read Claimed by the Elven King: Part Three Online

Authors: Cristina Rayne

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Claimed by the Elven King: Part Three

BOOK: Claimed by the Elven King: Part Three
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CLAIMED BY THE ELVEN KING

PART THREE

 

 

CRISTINA RAYNE

 

 

The characters and
events portrayed in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons,
living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.

 

Copyright © 2014
Cristina Rayne

All Rights Reserved

 

No part of this book
may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or
by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise,
without express written permission of the author.

 

 

 

CHAPTER ONE

 

 

The three elven women found me sitting stiffly at my dressing table, a
brush in hand and staring off into space as though deep in thought when the
truth was my performance had already begun. It was only sheer will that was
keeping my nausea down to a manageable level at this point. I knew there was no
way I would be able to eat breakfast without puking right now, so rather than
force myself to try, I needed to show them my very real anxiety of meeting
Sethian again after such a long absence.

The best lies were the half-truths we told.

One of them placed a hesitant hand on my shoulder, and I purposely
jumped a little before slowly turning to face them.

“Is everything all right, Emily?” Lariel asked, a slight frown already
beginning to stretch her lips.

I nodded and gave her a tiny smile. “It’s nothing. I’m just being silly,
really.”

“About…?” Rinwen prodded, her eyes briefly darting to first my hands,
then to my midsection.

I cringed inside. She always did that whenever the subject of my
imminent pregnancy came up. It was like she expected me to inadvertently give
my pregnancy status away by cradling my belly or rubbing it or something. I was
beginning to suspect that she was even more excited about the prospect of a
royal baby than even the baby-obsessed Lariel.

“About seeing my lord husband again,” I replied with a sheepish shrug.
“I haven’t seen him in so long, so…” I looked down with what I hoped was a shy
expression and shrugged again.

“Ah,” Saeria said sagely. “It’s easy to forget that you are still very
young, even by human standards. Come. You will feel better after you have eaten
something.”

The mere mention of food made my stomach turn, and I quickly shook my
head. “I tried eating some grapes earlier, but I really don’t have an appetite
this morning. Let’s just have some tea and chat out on the balcony. I could use
some fresh air.”

“Are you sure you are all right?” Rinwen persisted. Was that suspicion
in her eyes? “Your face looks a little pale this morning…”

My throat tightened briefly in panic. Why was it always the quiet ones
who caused all the trouble?

“If you are not feeling well, just tell us,” Lariel added, a grin
suddenly threatening to split her face in two even as her eyes lit up as if the
sun had just risen within them. “Don’t feel as though you have to keep quiet
until you see His Majesty this evening. I promise we won’t tell him that you
told us first. He probably even expects it.”

For a split-second, I stared back at Lariel in shock before I covered
my face in my hands with a groan and exclaimed through my fingers, “It’s not
what you think! I’m just—” My mind was suddenly coming up quite empty on
excuses, nearly causing me to have a full-blown anxiety attack right then and
there until one thankfully popped into my head before my pause could become too
awkward. “—just
scared
to see him again!”

“Scared?” Lariel echoed, sounding utterly surprised as she gently, but
firmly pulled my hands away from my face. She kneeled down before me and
squeezed my hands between her own. “Whatever is there to be scared about?”

“That he’s changed his mind about me,” I blurted out in my panic and
wished at once I could take it back. That was one truth I had never wanted
anyone to know, least of all the three women before me.

Lariel sucked in a sharp breath. “Why would he do that?”

“I’m just an ordinary human,” I answered miserably.

If I was going to stick my foot in my mouth, might as well swallow the
whole leg and be done with it. The way my stomach was churning right now with
more than just morning sickness, I would probably just puke it up later,
anyway.

“I can’t for the life of me understand why an elven king chose
me
out of billions of other human women to have his children. What if the reason
why he’s stayed away for so long is that he’s having second thoughts about me?”

“But he hasn’t been away overly long at all,” Lariel insisted. “Oh, you
poor thing! You should have told us you were still having these fears sooner.
It’s no wonder you have no appetite; you have worried yourself sick!” The
concern in her eyes abruptly melted into sadness. “My earlier misunderstanding
must have been terribly troubling, as well. Forgive me. It was never our
intention to put so much pressure on you concerning a royal heir.”

If I wasn’t already feeing so ill, then her words would have definitely
made me feel sick to my stomach with guilt. At that moment, I wanted to tell
them I thought I was pregnant so badly. It would have been such a relief, but
in the end I just couldn’t do it. I trusted that Lariel had meant every word of
her promise not to tell Sethian that I had told them about my pregnancy, but
what I couldn’t trust was their ability to lie to their king if he flat-out
asked them.

Even though I had only lived within the elven realm for about a month,
the information I had absorbed from my many discussions with the three elven
women made me understand that the king’s word really was law in the strictest
sense of the word. I was already acting selfishly as it was; I wasn’t about to
endanger the lives of my only friends for something as petty as easing the
guilt I was feeling. The guilt I
should
be feeling.

I needed to keep this secret for as long as possible. The performance
had
to continue…

“You haven’t,” I assured them. “This is just me being stupid, I guess.”

“We just haven’t explained things well enough,” Saeria said firmly. She
reached down and tugged on my arm. “Come. You need fresh air and sunshine. We
cannot let His Majesty see you so pale and distraught.”

I grimaced. “Yeah, I don’t want him getting mad at any of you because
of something that’s totally my fault.” I considered the state of my stomach, what
standing would do to it, and then added tentatively, “You might need to help me
up. My stomach’s so tied in knots right now that I’m not sure I can do it
without making it worse. The last thing I want to do is puke all over the
floor.”

Even with both Lariel and Saeria’s help, the moment I stood, my stomach
cramped badly, and I very nearly started to retch again. Only the fact that
both women were supporting the majority of my weight saved me from that
indignity as it allowed me to completely concentrate on controlling the urge to
gag. The smart thing would have been to just have them rush me to the bathroom
and just be done with it now that I had given them a very good reason for being
nauseous, but once my stubbornness kicked in, it was like all my good sense
took a vacation.

“You need to practice” my mind kept telling me, and like an idiot, I
listened.

“I’m—okay,” I said after a long pause, opening my eyes to three nearly
identical skeptical expressions. What they must think of the weak human now…

“Perhaps it would be better for you to just return to bed,” Saeria
said. “I know so little about the intricacies of human illness. It has been
centuries since a human was last brought to the realm, thus the study of them
by our healers has only just resumed in response to His Majesty’s decree that
human women may once again be invited here after an heir is born.”

Curling up in a warm bed sounded heavenly at the moment, but I knew I
would just fall back asleep. Lariel would probably let me sleep until this
evening, and the last thing I needed to be was groggy
and
sick when I
was with Sethian.

I managed a tiny smile. “Talking with all of you over a cup of tea never
fails to calm my nerves. If I go back to bed, I’ll just worry myself sick again
with a bunch of ‘what ifs.’ Besides, I really want to be able to greet my lord
properly in Elvish when I see him tonight, and we all know that my accent is
still awful!”

Lariel laughed. “I don’t think he will mind it as much as you seem to
think.”

“Even so, I don’t want to embarrass myself,” I insisted as we moved as
three slowly towards the door, Rinwen a silent shadow at our backs.

I felt the tension in my shoulders start to relax as I listened to my
friends chat about a mishap involving spilled water on the floor and a ladle
Rinwen had just witnessed in the kitchen that had even me giggling half-hardily
after a while. One minefield evaded, but with a sense of bone-deep weariness, I
knew better than to think the next one would have such a good outcome.

After all, my life had always been filled with half-empty glasses.

CHAPTER TWO

 

 

By the time the sky started to darken, I
was once again a ball of nerves despite my friends’ best efforts to keep me
relaxed and laughing all day. Although my nausea had thankfully subsided to a
much more manageable level, it was still very much present, a bomb with a
tripwire nestled in the pit of my stomach just waiting for me to make the wrong
move. As such, I was glad to hand over hair duty to Lariel and Rinwen for once,
not even protesting when they wanted to pin my hair back in an elaborate style
they said was currently popular within the court in preparation for my evening
with Sethian.

I was holding my hand mirror up, staring at
my reflection in a bit of fascination as the two women twisted and folded
sections of my hair elegantly around several silver hairpins, when Sethian
abruptly appeared in the mirror behind us like some kind of ghost. I was so
startled that I dropped the mirror, the sound of it hitting the floor preternaturally
loud even over the girls’ chatter.

My stomach heaved unpleasantly as I turned
sharply to look over Lariel’s shoulder, half-expecting to see nothing but air,
but there the elven king stood in what was probably his full royal regalia of a
delicate, almost insubstantial silver crown that seemed composed of little more
than light and layered, silver and navy-blue robes that made him look twice as
wide. He met my gaze with a slight smile of amusement, the bastard—like he
hadn’t even been gone for a
whole freaking month
!

“Visitors usually come through the front
door,” I found myself saying almost sternly as I tried to calm my suddenly
racing heart without letting any of my distress show on my face. I was
dangerously close to tripping the wire, and damned if I was going to lose the
game
now
after everything I had already been through that day.

No, not a game
, I thought in
something like despair as I was struck once again by his
too-unbelievable-to-be-real beauty just as powerfully as I had been on that first
night.

This was the rest of my life.

If anything, Sethian’s smile widened at my
words. “It seems I caught everyone unawares,” he said, nodding to both Lariel
and Rinwen, who in turn, bowed deeply and stepped away from me in order to fade
into the background. “I thought perhaps we could take a short walk through the
garden before dinner.”

My heart clenched. Not for the first time,
I wondered if Sethian could really read my mind. It was either that, or I was
so hopelessly transparent that I might as well have been shouting out my
deepest thoughts to him every time I looked at him. Either way, it didn’t bode
well for me making it through the rest of the day with my humongous secret
intact. In fact, it could very well be the reason why he had suggested the walk
in the first place—giving me the chance to tell him away from gossiping ears.

My thoughts briefly turned to the
conspicuously absent Saeria in sudden suspicion. She had left a bit earlier to,
in her words, “oversee” the dinner preparations. At the time, I hadn’t thought
much of it, figuring she was just trying to help me and my nerves out by making
sure at least the dinner part of the evening would go off without a hitch. One
less thing for the nervous Royal Wife to worry about. What if she had gone to
Sethian, instead, and told him, if not everyone’s suspicions about the real
reason I was nauseous, then at least their concerns about the cause of my sudden
illness?

If everything I had endured up until now
turned out to be for nothing, then maybe I should have just gone back to bed
and refused to come out of my room at all, never mind what the king wanted.

Even so… “A walk sounds great,” I said with
as much of a genuine smile as I could muster.

If the king of the elves wanted to fulfill
one of my more cheesy fantasies of a “romantic walk,” then I wasn’t about to
say no. Maybe this time we would actually get to really talk about things. By
now, my list of questions for him had grown into the thousands. At the very
least, talking would help to keep my mind off my queasy stomach, and who knows?
Maybe I would actually get a better feel for his true feelings about me, and I
would be able confess that I thought I was pregnant.

Sethian offered me his hand, and I rose
with some trepidation, relieved beyond measure that my stomach took pity on me
and decided to behave. Also, Sethian’s touch always seemed to have a calming
effect on me, and thankfully, this time was no different. A rush of warmth
washed through my body the moment he clasped my hand tightly, easing my upset
stomach until I could barely feel any discomfort at all, and I knew then that
he was indeed using his elven magic or whatever it was on me.

However, that fact only served to make me
even more suspicious of how much he actually knew about everything. Memories of
that strange incident that Sethian had been reluctant to talk about when we had
seemed to physically share each other’s emotions once again flashed through my
head, and I wondered if we were still connected in that way and if Sethian
could still sense what I was feeling.

Giving my hand a squeeze, he turned to
Lariel and Rinwen and said, “You both may take your leave for the rest of the
day. I will call for you in the morning.”

And damned if I didn’t blush and my pulse
start to race when he said that. He may not have meant anything by that, but my
attention-starved body suddenly tightened in anticipation.

My friends bowed to him again, then a
second time to
me
to my dismay, and swiftly left the room. I now found
myself alone with my husband for the first time in a month. Suddenly feeling
painfully shy, I started to lower my head, but Sethian would have none of that.
He pulled me into a tight embrace and planted a soft, though lingering, kiss
onto my slightly-parted lips.

He pulled back and raised a hand to my
cheek, gently rubbing his thumb back and forth across my skin.

“You have a little color in your face now,”
he said with satisfaction. “You were as pale as a silvery moon when I first
arrived.”

“I didn’t sleep well last night,” I
admitted. The best lies were half-truths…

He tilted my head up and looked at me with
a critical eye. “You are unwell,” he said after a long pause. It wasn’t a
question.

It really was a miracle that I didn’t
flinch. Here it was. The moment of truth. He clearly knew something was up with
me. Should I continue this farce, or just admit defeat and let the chips fall where
they may?

“I’m okay,” I heard myself say as if I were
listening to our conversation from another room.

No—I couldn’t lose my resolve here, not
when I didn’t know anything for sure.

When Sethian continued to stare down at me,
his expression unchanged, I hastily added, “I was anxious to see you. We
haven’t really had much chance to talk since our wedding night, and I
guess—I—got overly worked up about it since yesterday when Rinwen told me you
would be coming. There’s so much I want to talk with you about—”

The crush of his lips abruptly cut me off,
and just like that, every one of my thoughts and worries disintegrated as my
head suddenly began to spin as though I were extremely buzzed. His tongue slid
almost lazily against mine, coaxing it into a sensuous dance, and my mind
fuzzed out even further. I moaned and pressed myself harder against his body,
clutching a fistful of his elaborate robes tightly as a feeling very much like
relief washed through my entire being.

I was finally where I belonged.

I don’t even remember shutting my eyes,
just that the darkness I now found myself within had become a little less dark
and the air surrounding us slightly cooler. Sethian pulled away with another
soft caress of my cheek with his fingers, and I opened my eyes to the exquisite
sight of the elven king against a backdrop of several flowering trees of
lavender, pink, and cream-colored blossoms and the setting sun.

I knew this scene well; I had imagined it
hundreds of times over the past month. He had magicked us to my garden and
inadvertently fulfilled another of my cheesy wishes. My chest tightened with
emotions I rarely allowed myself to feel at the beauty of the moment, then
Sethian spoke, and his words made my heart skip a beat with something other
than admiration.

“No one will overhear us here,” he said.
“Speak as freely as you wish.”

Blunt and to the point. Unfortunately, I
was still feeling the dizzying aftereffects of his hello kiss, and that
frankness only served to completely fluster me. His earlier touch may have
eased my nausea, but my nerves were certainly doing a good job of resurrecting
that hateful churning in my stomach.

Suddenly unable to face the intensity of
his gaze, I buried my face into his chest before I mumbled the Elvish “welcome
back” phrase I had been practicing with the girls, stalling for time. It
sounded as atrocious as I had feared. No matter how hard I practiced, I just
simply could not duplicate the smooth cadence of a language that seemed to be
composed of mostly vowels and sighs of breath.

“I am here,” came the custom reply in
Elvish, definite amusement in his tone.

Yes, but for how long?
I thought
dejectedly. That thought was enough to clear out the lingering haze blanketing
my mind.

I looked up into his dancing eyes with a
new determination and said, “Let’s walk for a bit. I have some questions…”

Sethian nodded and released me from his
arms. Before I could chicken out, I boldly grabbed one of his hands and pulled
him after me as I started to walk in the direction of a pond deep within the
garden. There were a couple of stone benches situated along the water’s edge
that would be ideal for the
long
conversation I intended us to have.

Dinner could wait.

BOOK: Claimed by the Elven King: Part Three
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