Malich couldn’t help but notice Arya’s absence during mealtime. Normally she’d accompany him and answer the barrage of questions his aunt Asherah would lob at her. Asherah wanted to make sure Arya was future queen material. Malich allowed the inquisition because any objection from him would only make the situation worse. Also, Arya seemed to be handling it better than expected. Her temper hadn’t flared up once.
“I was not a fan of your future bride at first, but I believe she is growing on me,” Asherah smiled.
“It means a lot that you approve.”
“Something tells me if I didn’t you’d marry her anyway.”
Malich chuckles, nodding. “Good observation.” She was right. He loved Arya beyond words and since she refused to say the same, he could only hope his sentiment was reciprocated.
“My only worry is the tight leash you keep her on nephew. Domineering is a good quality in a ruler, but in a husband…lets just say I wonder if she might feel a bit like a prisoner rather than your beloved.”
“Arya is not my prisoner,” Malich waved off the thought.
“It sure looks that way to me. And because I love you, I’ll leave you with this bit of wisdom. All leashes break eventually. If you want her respect and you want her to remain, allow her to choose? Leave the chicanery to the royal courts. Win her heart, not her obedience.”
Malich glanced sidelong at his wise aunt. They’d only been at the Spring Court for two turns and she’d already observed so much. He could lie to her but she’d see it as an insult to her intelligence.
She was right. He’d commanded Arya’s obedience, but her heart was a different story. Her heart was still torn. To risk it all in the hopes she would choose him, however, he couldn’t fathom the possibility of losing her. He’d never loved anyone as much as he loved her. He never wanted to. Until Arya he was content sticking his cock into whomever he chose and would leave like a thief in the night, never giving any of his conquests a second thought.
“Exactly what are you suggesting?” Malich asked.
“I’m suggesting you allow her to explore her emotions freely and without coercion or punishment. Let her come to her own conclusions and make up her own mind.”
“Who says she doesn’t?”
“She does what you want her to do because she loves you, but there is a rebel in that girl. If you continue to clip her wings she will eventually fly away and I know that’s not what you want. It may not even be what she wants, but you have to give her time to see that for herself.” Asherah spoke wisely.
“I love her,” Malich sighed, “If she were to…if she were to choose another…I don’t know if I could live with that.”
“Love doesn’t bind nephew, it liberates.”
Asherah rose from the tufted high-back chair she was sitting in and left Malich’s chambers. She meant well, but still he couldn’t fathom it. What if she ran to him? What if she didn’t come back?
Malich stood and walked over to the bed he shared with Arya. Her clothes were still on the marble floor beside the bed where she’d left them. She was an incredible slob. He called for a servant to clean the room then walked to the alumni camp to talk to her. He wanted to make things right and confess what he’d done before she found out from someone else.
Navi ran the training regimen in Ihsan’s absence and from the looks of things she was doing a damn good job. “Majii,” Navi inclined her head to him.
“I’m looking for Arya.”
Navi became nervous and the room grew quiet. Something was wrong. He pinned Navi with a glare and she immediately broke down. “She went after Ihsan. She’s worried he’s-”
Malich didn’t let her finish her sentence before he quickly exited the training camp in search of Dax. He found him barking orders at a few of the guards he had posted around Asherah’s estate. “Your highness?” Dax inclined his head, surprised to see him.
“Arya is gone. She went after Ihsan.”
“Yes, I know.” Dax admitted.
Malich cocked his head to the side, temples flaring. “You know? Why wasn’t I informed?”
“Forgive me for saying so, but we need her out there fighting whatever this is and she cannot do that from your bed.”
Malich took a deep breath and in the next moment his hand was clenched around Dax’s throat, lifting him up off the ground. “If anything happens to her…”
“That girl has defied the odds of death Malich. You’ve been looking for answers to the nightmare creeping through the planes, well I’m sorry to tell you, but the answer has been in your bed all this time.”
Malich released him and he fell to his knees. He could kill Dax for allowing her to simply walk away, but he wouldn’t. These were hard truths, but truths he needed to hear. Dax was right…his aunt was right…everyonewas right. Arya blinded him from his objectives. He allowed her to. He wanted her so badly that he willingly compromised himself for her. He held her back and he tried to make her something she is not.
Arya is wild, untamable, and a force to be reckoned with. She’s a finely crafted weapon, forged by his hands and whatever God saw fit to give her the gifts she has.
Taking a deep breath, Malich extends a hand to Dax and helps him up. “You’re right. She is more valuable to me as a weapon than a wife, but why can’t she be both?”
“It is unconscionable. Our assassins are successful because of their anonymity. She is by far one of the best I’ve ever seen your highness and we need her on the field, not the sidelines. On the field, she will hand you kingdoms. One the sidelines, we both know she will be a thorn in your side. She is not the sort to be kept.”
“You’re suggesting I put an end to our relationship.”
“Forgive my saying so, but it is what’s best, for everyone. Arya included.”
Malich stood, pensive. He needed to clear his head. If Arya came back alive, he needed to be sure of what he wanted to do, of what would be best for them both. He nodded to Dax and started to leave when Dax stopped him. “Is there more?”
“Yes, your highness. I’ve received a report that suggests Ihsan has returned home and reclaimed his birthright. Wherever Arya is headed, she won’t find him, but she may come across the threat.”
Malich nodded. Of course he’d gone home to claim his birthright. He’d pushed Ihsan to the point of no return, sending him on dangerous charge after dangerous charge hoping someone would do him the favor of killing him so he wouldn’t have Ihsan’s blood on his hands. He knew Arya would hate him for it. Another blindly ambitious move provoked by his love for the assassin in his bed. “Keep an ear to the ground. Let me know how she fares.”
He walked back to the palace where he poured himself a stiff drink and knocked it back. Several drinks later and he could barely stand. After hours of pouring over his situation, and pouring several glasses of wine, he knew what he needed to do.ns22.214.171.124da2