Part 23: The Threat
It was three days before Christmas. Three weeks until the wedding. Hunter had barely been able to contain his anticipation of finally marrying the girl he’d always loved, even when he was a boy. But now he was beginning to feel nervous ever since the fairies visited him a second time to inform him there would be consequences for defying fate.
But he was the king. What could happen to him?
He called on Emerald to see him, as he usually did in the morning, and she quickly arrived at the throne room with Janus shadowing her as usual. He still was not certain how to feel about assigning Janus as her guard, but he was effective. She never ran off anymore. But was that a good thing? What could she be doing with him behind his back?
He mentally chided himself as Emerald stepped up to the throne and curtsied. Emerald would never cheat on him. He knew that for certain. And he knew Janus couldn’t care for her in that way, not when he was so cold towards everyone around him. He only accepted the position as her Guard so he could be closer to obtaining a spot among the Knights of Dusk.
“Hunter?” Emerald asked, her expression uncertain. “You seem troubled.”
Hunter realized he had been staring into space for too long. “Oh…it is nothing,” he said, pushing himself off the throne. He descended the short stairway to where Emerald was waiting and took her hand to kiss it.
She smiled in the sweet way she always did — the way that always made his heart race. She stood on the tips of her pink slippers and kissed his cheek. “It must be the stress of the wedding. I know it has been getting to me.”
“Then perhaps we should find a way to relax,” Hunter said, smiling down at her. Out of the corner of his eye, he spotted Janus go tense where he stood a few feet away. “How about a walk to your favorite place?”
Her eyes sparkled. “Could we have a picnic there, Hunter? Oh please say we can!” She was clasping her hands like an excited child, and it made him laugh.
“Anything you wish, Love,” Hunter said softly. “But isn’t it snowing?”
She paused. “Well…perhaps we could have it in the sunroom?”
He smiled down at her. “I suppose that could be arranged.” He ran the tips on his fingers across her cheek.
A light blush rose on her face as she closed her eyes and leaned into his touch. His heart leapt. He knew that she hadn’t entirely loved him when he asked her to be with him, but had that changed now? She had been spending more time with him than ever before. And it was different from before, when they had simply been friends. It made him hopeful that they could be happy together.
“I’ll go get ready,” she said, pulling away.
“I’ll come to get you in half an hour,” Hunter said.
She smiled up at him, then turned to leave the throne room, Janus trailing behind her.
~ ~ ~
Janus stood outside Emerald’s dressing room with his hands clasped behind his back. Watching the king be so intimate with the princess had grated on his nerves more than he would have liked to admit, yet it was his job to stand and watch. Silently. Without complaint.
Yes, he did appreciate his position as Emerald’s Guard. He took it very seriously, and wouldn’t dream of quitting. Well…maybe he would, but he’d never actually do it. He wanted Emerald to be safe, and if his twin sister was still out there somewhere, Janus was the only one who could protect the princess from her.
“What do you think of this, Janus?” Emerald asked when she emerged from the dressing room with a pink cloak. “The sunroom is half outdoors, so it might be colder.”
“I think it’s lovely,” Janus said in a flat tone, though he wasn’t really paying attention.
Emerald twirled around, making her skirts billow out around her. “I wish it was springtime. Then we could have the picnic outside.”
“I’m sure you’ll have many chances to do that with His Majesty.”
Emerald caught the lack of enthusiasm in his voice and looked up. “Does that not please you?”
“It does,” Janus said hastily. He sighed and ran his fingers through his hair. “I assure you, I don’t have much thoughts on the matter.”
“Of course,” Emerald said, smirking. “So you always say.” She stood by the vanity to mess with her hair for a moment, then nodded in satisfaction with her appearance. “Now I’ve just got to wait for Hunter to come get me!”
Janus fiddled with the top button of his uniform as watched Emerald seat herself in a velvet armchair.
It was only a few minutes before Hunter came for her, and Janus followed them to the sunroom. To Janus’ annoyance, Hunter raised his hand to stop him from entering.
“She’ll be well enough with me,” he said in a cold, hushed tone. He clearly meant for Emerald not to hear this side of him.
Janus narrowed his eyes. “I am her Guard. It is my sworn duty not to let her out of my sight.” Even as he spoke, he let his powers fill Hunter with that uneasy, chilling dread.
Hunter’s eyes widened ever so slightly at the feelings, but a second later he was that much more irritated. “Be careful what you do, Janus. You may have saved Emerald’s life, and you may be bound to protect it, partly because I said you may, but I am the king. I do not appreciate you toying with my emotions.”
Janus held his tongue, knowing full well Hunter could have him executed if he pleased, but also knew he was far more powerful than the king could imagine. Instead of arguing, he bowed. “Of course, Your Majesty. My sincerest apologies.” He couldn’t help the bit of sarcasm and mockery that leaked into his tone.
Hunter held his gaze a second longer before shutting the door of the sunroom and closing himself up with Emerald, leaving Janus out in the hall to brood.
~ ~ ~
I have to admit, I think the most fun I have writing this short story is when Hunter and Janus bicker! I hope you enjoyed this part, and thank you so much for reading it!
God bless y’all and have a wonderful weekend!