It was the tiny stone on my anklet that bound me to him. I wasn’t sure how he had done it, but somehow he had managed to curse the stone. No matter how hard I tried, I could not remove it and could not escape him. This tiny drop of amethyst held me tightly to him. I was his captive – subject to his every command.
“My dear girl, do not fret – it is not very becoming on you,” he murmured, barely looking at me. “A lady of your stature should be keeping house and attending balls, not sulking in a corner.”
“Perhaps I would not be sulking if I were free to do as I pleased,” I ventured, knowing full well that backtalk could lead to some serious repercussions. He had never once laid a hand on me, but that didn’t mean the threats weren’t there. I was his and he was evil. Anything was possible.
“Would you like to accompany to the Shadow Ball tonight, my lady?” He extended one hand to me as he carefully asked the question.
“This time I am,” he said, raising an eyebrow in challenge. I recognized that lift in the brow – it meant he was looking for a fight. He was hoping I would refuse him.
“I would love to accompany you,” I cooed the words as best I could. He was not going to win this time. I would not give him the fight he wanted.
“I’ll have a dress tailored to your size then.” If shaken, his voice didn’t reveal it to me. It was as calm as ever. “What color shall I tell the dressmaker?”
“Why don’t you choose?” I asked, throwing all control into his court. I had learned weeks ago that the one thing he loved more than being in control was facing resistance. It was easier to give in to the control than to resist. Either way he won.
“Midnight blue – it’s only suiting on a night such as this,” he said, waving a servant away to convey a message to the dressmaker.
“A night such as what?” I asked. It was my nature to be curious and question what I shouldn’t. I still hadn’t found a way to control my inquiring mind or keep my mouth shut.
“Such as this one,” he commented, turning his back to me. He was dressed from head to toe in black and his back was more menacing than his front. At least when he faced me, I could read his expressions. His shoulders and backside did not give enough body language for me to read.
“What is special about this ball?” I asked, giving him what he wanted. He wanted me curious.
“This night is the one that’ll change our relationship,” he said, turning to look at me. “Tonight is the night you’ll finally be free – free to make your choice.”
“My choice?” I asked, puzzled once again by his riddles.
“Your choice of husband of course,” he said, gazing at me. “You didn’t think I could keep you forever, did you?”
“Well…” My mind was reeling. I could barely form any words. I wasn’t ready to marry a stranger – not now, not ever.
“Law says that you have to give girls up at eighteen and allow them to marry.” His voice was cool and calm, never showing an ounce of emotion. “You turned eighteen a week ago. This is the first ball and therefore the night you must choose your suitor. All the men will turn up – that I’m sure of. But, it’ll be you who chooses.”
“I will no longer belong to you?” I asked, extending my leg to show the gem on my anklet.
“You will no longer belong to me,” he said, turning his back to me once more. His voice was quieter. “Unless you choose to belong to me.”
* * * * *