William Creen was working late that night, or perhaps it was early this morning, he wasn't sure, his work had made him lose all track of time. A knock at the door startled him, and he glanced at the clock on the wall, 4am, who the hell would be knocking at this hour?
"Come in" he called out, the door creaked open.
He stood up instantly when he saw who the visitor was
"Your majesty" he exclaimed "Is everything alright? What can I do for you at this hour?"
Jeret raised a finger to his lips to shush William and quietly shut the door.
"I want your advice" Jeret explained.
"Advice my Lord?"
Jeret raised an eyebrow "You are my advisor are you not?"
"Oh yes of course I am my Lord, it's just at this hour, well I wouldn't expect…"
"I couldn't sleep alright?" Jeret interrupted impatiently. He did look tired. His hair was messy and ruffled and there were heavy dark shadows under his eyes. He sat himself down on one of the comfortable chairs by the fireplace and stared into the last few remaining embers.
William walked round from his desk and sat in the other chair opposite Jeret.
"What is it I can help you with my Lord?" he asked cautiously.
Jeret didn't say anything for a few minutes and William knew better than to push his King into talking when he didn't want to. Ages seemed to pass and the dying embers were now nothing more than a few speckles of orange in a heap of black in the fireplace.
"I think I have feelings for her" Jeret announced out of no-where.
"Feelings? For who?" William asked
Jeret rolled his eyes "You're not the brightest sometimes Creen, think about it"
William thought, it only took him a few second before he made an 'o' shape with his mouth.
"Oh, you mean, Maria, my Maria?"
"The very same" Jeret sighed.
"How has this happened?" William mused to himself, Jeret raised an eyebrow and sighed again.
"I thought this would have been what you wanted to happen, you're the one who flung us together"
"Yes but what?"
"I just didn't expect, so soon…" William began tapping his fingers and biting his lip.
"Is something wrong Creen?"
"No sir, just, I'm worried about her"
Jeret almost burst out laughing "You're worried? About your daughter? About the girl you sent away from her family to another country and then gave her to your king as practically a present, ripping her away from her husband and friends, yeah, you're a model father being concerned for her"
"Well, if you think like that why don't you send her back to her husband?"
"Don't speak to me in that tone Creen, plus, you're the one who has done this to her, don't even think about putting this one on me."
William lowered his head and they were silent for a few minutes.
"So, I need your advice" Jeret finally said.
"I don't know"
"You're her father, you should have some idea on how to, I don't know, woo her"
"As you said, your majesty, I sent her away, I ruined her life. I don't even know the girl" William said sadly, staring into the now completely black fireplace.
Jeret turned to leave "I'll figure it out by myself then"
Maria hadn't slept. Well, maybe an hour or so of broken sleep but other than that she'd been awake thinking. Her mind was a mix of images of her brother, of Jack, of Danny, of her father, and way too many of Jeret.
The tweeting of a bird outside reminded her it was daytime, she could get up, if she wanted to. Kelly and Nora had each been in twice to ask her if she wanted to get up and dressed, and she had said no every time. What was the point if all she was going to do was sit in this room all day anyway?
But soon after came a hastened knock at the door, and Kelly tiptoed in, on seeing that Maria was awake, she edged closer to the bed.
"Erm, the King wants to see you, as soon as possible"
Maria groaned and rolled over "Did he say why?"
"Something about an apology"
Maria lifted her head and raised an eyebrow. "What… as in he wants to apologise to me?!"
"I believe so"
She pondered for a minute, while Kelly shuffled on her feet awkwardly waiting until a brown head of tangled hair appeared from the sheets.
"Probably another trick but at least it will be something to do" Maria mumbled before sliding out the bed.
Forty-five minutes later Maria was heading downstairs escorted by one of the guards that were usually stationed outside her room. Kelly and Nora had tried to properly dress her up but she refused, instead she was wearing a plain cream dress that was tied with a sash around the waist, and her hair was just down. She thought it would put Jeret off, not being dressed up to the nines with make up and jewellery, but as she walked through his office door and saw his face as he stood up to welcome her, she thought maybe it would have been better.
"You look beautiful" he said without thinking.
She turned to leave but he was there in a second, taking her arm.
"Please" he said "I'm sorry, I didn't mean it, well I did, but it just came out, please, let me talk to you"
Maria didn't say anything, she just walked to the chair he directed her to and sat down, pushing her soft curls away from her face.
"What?" she demanded
"I wanted to apologise" he said as he sat opposite. He went to put his feet up on the table next to them but thought better of it and instead leant forward towards her.
"For… whatever you were annoyed about yesterday?"
"You don't even know!" she scoffed
"Well, we'd been getting on fine and then you just kind of turned on me"
Maria pursed her lips and thought carefully about her reply "I was reminded of where my allegiances lie"
He sighed and stood, making his way over to his desk and sitting down.
"What do you want me to do?" he asked quietly.
"Guess" she snapped.
"Maria, I can't"
"Maria if I send you home then…"
"Then I won't have you here"
She didn't have a reply to that, she tilted her head a little and just looked at him, curious.
"What do you mean?"
"Nothing, I just, never mind"
A few minutes of silence passed and eventually Maria stood up to leave.
"Wait a minute" Jeret said looking up. "Can it go back?"
"Back to what?"
"Can we just, spend some time together? Believe or not I enjoy spending time with someone that doesn't just pretend to like me, you aren't afraid to show your hate!" he laughed, then added "Plus, you can get out of that room"
She thought for a minute "Fine, but just, nothing forward please, you have to remember after all this I do intend on getting back to my husband"
"How could I forget?"
She scowled at him again and he pretended to be wounded by her glare and she found it very difficult to suppress a grin, but she just about managed.
"Oh dear sweet Lord above Rellis, what is it now?" Jeret moaned at the tall demon whose slave Maria had freed the other day.
"I wish for more funds to expand my lands"
Jeret nearly choked. "I've already given you 4 million!"
"I need another million… or two" Rellis replied.
"Absolutely no way"
Rellis started to explain the 'advantages' of what he could do with the expansion and Jeret zoned out and looked at Maria, who was listening intently. She really did look so beautiful like this, natural. She'd been making an effort not to dress up too much when she saw him, hoping it would keep him away, unfortunately for her, it had the opposite effect. The simple dress she wore hugged her figure perfectly and with her hair down she just looked so… irresistible.
But it wasn't just about sex anymore. Sure, when she had first came it had been about sex, someone new to lay. But now, it was different.
They'd been 'getting on' well now for just over a week. And he had been so good. Not forward, not provocative, just nice. He kept the compliments to a minimum and just tried being friends with her, which she seemed to appreciate.
He did most of the talking, she did a lot of listening and wouldn't really let him in. A big part of her still seemed to hate him, and he didn't blame her, but he just couldn't let her go, he still wanted her too much.
Rellis had finished his speech and Maria was questioning him about the wages he would pay his workers and how it would affect the local community. She'd make a brilliant leader, she cared about people and thought hard about any decision. Rellis was clearly lying through his teeth in answer to her questions and she knew this, she looked back to Jeret.
"Well your highness what do you think"
He smiled and forced himself to look away from her to Rellis, who was looking hopeful.
"Seems Rellis, you haven't answered this lady truthfully, and you should know by now how much I value her opinion"
Rellis scowled and shot a hateful glare towards Maria "Yes I have experienced it first hand"
"Well then" Jeret smirked "Lady Mardley, what do you think?"
Maria stopped herself from grinning and sat up straight. "Lord Rellis" she started "It seems that you have been lying to me, I do not believe you care an inch for your worker's rights or how your expansion plans will completely destroy the surrounding village, and if it were up to me I would reject you proposal"
"It is a good thing then that it is not up to you" Rellis seethed and looked to Jeret "My Liege?"
Jeret stood and beckoned over the scribe that would note down and document any of his official decisions and Rellis looked hopeful.
"Seems, Lord Rellis, that I am rather inclined to agree with the young lady, so I will state that your proposals for expansion are rejected AND all monies you are receiving from me will be halted until you can prove you can treat your workers well"
Rellis' eyes widened in shock, and he stormed over to Maria. "Watch yourself girl" he said pointing a bony finger at her "You will live to regret this"
Jeret looked towards his guards "Escort him out" he ordered.
After Rellis was dragged out and the activity in the great hall had died down Jeret looked to Maria again. "Sorry about that, you ok?"
"Fine" he shrugged "But a little bored now, we done yet?"
"No, but we can be" Jeret smiled and looked to the scribe and gave him the nod that meant the session of court was over.
"Fancy going to the garden?" he asked "I'll make you another drage in the water" he teased.
"Sure" she laughed.
The urge to reach out and put his arm around her as they walked through the gardens was almost too much to resist. She was distracted by a the sunset, watching the oranges and pinks disappear behind the distant mountains.
They walked to, what he referred to in his head as, their pond. And as soon as they reached it he flicked his fingers and made a tiny water-made dragon splash out of the surface and fly around her head.
"Your getting me wet!" she laughed as a few droplets landed on her hair. He laughed as well and sent the dragon back to the water where it merged in with a plop.
"How is it you do that?" she asked as they sat on the bench just by the little fountain.
"I've always been able to" he explained, "It just happens, it's the same for when I turn to my second form, I think it and it happens, though occasionally it can happen through my moods"
"Yes I found that out before" she mused.
They sat that a little longer, she watched with interest as he made more shapes and figures out of the water. When it began to get cold he escorted her back to his room and said goodnight, she noticed how he made every effort not to touch her.
That night as she lay in bed she thought about no matter how hard she tried, no matter what he had done or was doing to her, she just couldn't hate him. Spinning her wedding ring around her finger she thought of Danny, of her brother, and most of all, of Jack, how just getting along with Jeret alone was betraying him. But she couldn't help it, she liked spending time with him. He was funny and charming and just that little bit immature that amused her. Jack had none of these qualities, he was always serious, and never completely happy.
She mentally slapped herself for thinking this way. Jack was, after all, her husband, and it was because she was away from him that she was acting like this. Her and Jeret would remain, friendly, because it couldn't hurt.
There was a ball in a few days, some celebration of Jeret's reign. Charles and Danny would be there, and that would help her, seeing them would remind her it was only a short time until she would be back with them. Until they stormed the palace, took over and…killed Jeret.
That thought bothered her way too much. So much it brought a tear to her eye. But it was either them or him. The only way she'd get back to them was if the revolution won, she couldn't have it both ways.
Her choice was obvious. Obvious.
A/N - sorry this chapter is a little slow, but I just needed some time for characters, things (should) pick up in the next one. Review and love me!