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Fated Love (4)

A twist and a turn! Enjoy!
*Juliet's POV*

And so the week passed, the next one passing in the same fashion. I saw the Queen only during meals or sometimes she'd take a short walk with me, showing me various things in the palace. Stephan claimed to be busy and I only saw him after lunch when we spent the afternoon in the gardens. He would stay with me for an hour, sometimes longer, but that was it. And when he was with me, he didn't let anybody disturb us, cut the time short unless his mother called for him.

I started liking him more with each day and respected him all the more. Liked him in the way as a person, a friend, nothing more. Sometimes, as I lay in bed at night, I tried to find anything to convince myself I more than just liked him, but I never found anything, so I let it go. Maybe I wasn't meant to love.

I learnt a good deal about him everyday. He liked music, enjoyed it very much actually. He'd always wanted to travel and he was left to do so but after his father's death, he hadn't left the castle save for business purposes. He liked reading, but enjoyed plays more. His favorite color is green. He loves horse-back riding and hiking. He loves the outdoors in general actually.

And in turn, I told him things about me, my hobbies, some of my dreams, a few odd things maybe nobody else knows. When I talked, he gave me his full attention, listening to everything and actually remembering them. Like the other day, he remembered that I love lilies and when the gardener had come to ask him something, Stephan had told him he wanted some lilies in the garden and then pointed at me, saying he was to go to me about all matters concerning gardening.

Dad had sent me some books I'd asked for and when Stephan had to leave, I'd get my book from my room, find a shady spot in the gardens and read to my heart's content.

And this was exactly what I was doing, a little more than two weeks of staying in the castle later, when everything changed.

It was a normal day, I'd had lunch with Queen Fleurice and Stephan. We'd only talked for an half hour though because he had to leave since his mother was calling him. I'd wandered back to my room, had a chat with Nancy, and the taking my book and come back to the gardens, looking for a place to peacefully enjoy my book.

I'd found a comfortable spot beneath and apple tree that was blossoming. It was a little ways away from the fountain but there's still a refreshing breeze blowing towards me.

I'm busy reading my book when voices start coming closer to where I'm sitting. I ignore them at first, but as I start catching a few words here and there, I sit up straight, my heart starting to beat faster.

"So where is she?" One of them asks.
"We're not sure but the Queen wants her dead."
"What?!" The first one gasps. "Why?"
"Not sure but they are her orders."
"What about the Prince?"
"He doesn't know and he is not supposed to find out."
"But why would she want that?"
"We don't know and we have no authority to question her orders." The second one answers, sounding annoyed.
"I know, I know. I'm just asking. So what do we do?"
"Spread out. The search for her is going to start in another fifteen minutes."
"Shame though. Instead of killing her, couldn't we have her?"
The second one chuckles, "She is a looker."
"Oh I agree with you. Always in her books though."

My mouth hanging open, I slowly get to my feet as the voices start to fade. The book is slippery in my hands as they get clammy. Taking in a deep breath, I slowly peek around the tree and see the guards walking away. But one suddenly turns around and I duck back behind the tree. A few seconds later, I slowly creep out, my mind working a billion times faster, my heart beating so fast. I'm about to drop the book by my feet, not caring what happens to it at the moment but then suddenly something occurs to me.

When they're looking for me, they'll see the book. Wouldn't it then be obvious that I know?
Because there isn't anyone else in the castle they could be talking about. Other than the... Queen and Stephan, it's just me.
Why does she want me dead?!

I shake my head. Not the time. I need to find somewhere to hide, for the moment at least. The gardens will probably be the first place they'll look.

Taking in a deep breath, I slowly come out from my hiding place and make my way towards the fountain, the direction the two guards disappeared in. I drop the book underneath a tree directly opposite the tree and quickly turn the other way.

I make my way, walking as fast as I can, towards the end of the gardens. There's a small thicket there which I think lead either to the castle's pastures or the back of the castle. I'm not sure. Just as I step through the garden's gates, I hear voices. Looking to my right, I see about four guards a long way down the path. Praying that they don't look in my direction, I pick up my pace and quickly walk towards the trees for cover.

Hearing a shout, I glance over my shoulder and see one of them pointing at me. My breath gets stuck in my throat for one dreadful second, but as they all turn towards me, I quickly duck into the darkness provided by the trees. Lifting up my dress so that I don't trip, I start walking quickly but hearing footsteps behind me, I start running. A glance behind me does nothing to ease my fears.

The foot falls behind me subside, but I carry on with my pace. My dress is slipping from my hands as they've become clammy, my hair pins have all come out and my hair's flying loosely behind me. I let my dress go for just a second but then it gets caught in the roots of a tree. Gulping in some air, I glance around, trying to keep my breathing quiet and tug at my dress.

Come on!
It comes loose just as I hear a noise nearby and I quickly start running again, seeing sunlight ahead.
Almost there. Come on.

Panting, I break through the trees, hoping there aren't any guards waiting for me on the other side. There aren't any and I breathe easily.
I'm at the back of the castle.
I look around and spot a familiar figure near the castle walls. Walking quickly, I recognize Stephan as I near him.

"Stephan!!" I start running towards him as he looks up. His expression is shocked as he gets to his feet.
What's he doing here anyway?
"What is it?" He looks shaken at my sudden arrival.
"The guards.." I pant.
He looks behind me, his expression confused. "What?"
"The guards are chasing me. They were talking about the Queen wanting me dead." I manage to gasp out as he reaches for my arm.
"What?! You must have heard wrong! That's ridiculous!"

"Really? Then why are they chasing me?"
"Juliet, there's no one..." He looks behind me.
"Stephan, you have to believe me! Why would I make it up?!" I exclaim, tears welling in my eyes.
"Okay, okay." He nods, even though I know he doesn't believe me.
"Hey!"
I quickly turn around, hearing a shout and back up, standing next to Stephan. He frowns and slips his hand into mine.
"Come on."

He starts walking quickly towards a door and I do my best to keep up with his pace. He opens the door and steps back, allowing me inside before him. The room's filled with smoke and I start coughing, waving a hand in front of my face.

"Duck down for a second."
His hand is in front of my face as he leads me through the room, coughing himself.
"Here. Stand up."
I straighten and look around. "Where are we?"
"The main kitchen."
"Wow." I watch the people rushing around. The room's filled with noises and interesting and weird smells. "It's big!"
He nods, leading me, his hand still holding mine, "All the food for everyone in the castle is cooked here."

We reach a circular thing... If it was outside the castle, I'd call it a tower, in the kitchen, I'm not so sure what it is. Stephan bends down in front of it and start moving the bags of flour and rice like as if they weigh nothing. I reach forward, tugging at one, and to my embarrassment, it doesn't move, trying to help.

"Don't." His hand covers mine and he moves it away, glancing up at me. "I'll do it. They're heavy."
I watch as he moves the last two bags and then reaches down and pulls out two of the gray concrete bricks that make up the wall.
"How did you do that?" I ask, surprised. He grins up at me, "They're loose. I'm not all that strong!"
Smiling I watch as he places them on top of the bags and turns to me. "Ready?"
"For what?" I asked, confused.
He smiles and holds out his hand for mine, gently pulling me down behind him. "Follow me."
He sticks his hand into the hole and then in the blink of an eye, he's gone.
"Stephan?" I ask slowly.

His hand comes in from the hole and he beckons me with his finger.
"How did you...?" I trail away, staring at the... wall.
"Come on Juliet."
"I don't think, I can fit through that!"
"I'm bigger than you! Come on, give me your hand."

I slip my hand into his and he pulls it in and I feel something wet on my fingers. A second later though, I'm sitting beside him on the floor, on the other side of the wall.

"What? How...? What?" I turn to him, shocked and confused and... I don't know.
He smiles and points at something by the hole. I lean in and see a small trickle of water continuously going down the wall.

"That helps you get through."
"But how? Did I become smaller or the hole bigger?"

He chuckles, "No idea but it does the work." I watch the water and look down to see that there's no puddle on the floor. Shaking my head, I allow Stephan to help me up.

"Come on." As he talks, the hole is closed. He leads me towards a staircase and we start climbing up and up and up and up.
"Where does this take us?" I finally ask.
"To my room. Sssh. We're there."

He comes to a stop in front of a stone wall and his fingers work over the stones until I hear a click. The wall in front of us moves and we're then facing something. I frown, trying to decide what it is just as Stephan turns to me. He holds a finger to his lips and points at me and then at where I'm standing. I nod. As he pushes it, I realize it's tapestry, probably hanging on that wall. He glances to his left and then right and slips out. He reaches back to tug at my hand and pull me out, making me stand behind the tapestry. As he starts walking down the hallway, the wall behind me closes.

"The Queen wants to see you in the..." He hesitates for just a second, "Grand hall."
"Yes sir." The guard gets up from the stool he was sitting on and I watch as he disappears down the hallway.
Stephan hurries back to where I'm standing and pulls away the tapestry.
"Come on."

He leads me to where the guard was sitting and pulls out a key from his pocket. He inserts it into the keyhole and throws open the door a second later, standing back to let me enter first.
"Welcome to my humble abode." He says, closing the door behind him.
"This is your room?" I ask, turning around to look at him. He nods, watching me.

I look around. It's like my room, a parlor in the front but his room is decorated in a dark blue shade. The sofa in the middle of the room along with the two matching chairs, the dark brown coffee table. The coat of arms is hanging on the wall just opposite the door. An Oriental carpet is lavishly spread across the floor.

"I like it."
He gives me a brief smile. "Now, why where those guards after you?"
I repeat everything to him, from where I was sitting, to what I heard. Everything. Stephan doesn't say anything, just nods quietly.
"Okay, you stay here while I go see what exactly is going on." He says, a frown on his face. He looks kind of scary. I haven't seen him so serious.
"Are you sure?" I ask, scared of being left alone.

He nods and meeting my eyes, smiles. "I'll lock the door from outside. No one can get in here. So don't worry." He points towards a door to his right. "That's my bedroom, you can rest if you like. My study's over there." He points to the door on his left."

I smile, nodding. "Okay. Thank you."
He nods and turns around, leaving me alone, locking the door behind him.

*Stephan's POV*

My steps are heavy, my mind clouded as I let myself into my room.
How am I going to tell her?

Swallowing the panic rising in my throat, I glance around the room, finding it empty. I walk over to my bedroom, expecting her to be asleep but my bed is untouched, my room empty as well.

Taking in a sharp breath, I hurry over to my study and through the half-open door, she buried in a book.

Of course. Why did I not think of that?

Knocking softly on the door, I step inside as she turns around.
The last few weeks have been... amazing. I am not sure if I love her, but I enjoy her company and love seeing her smile as she talks.

I really do not know how I am going to tell her.
"Hey." She says softly, a small smile still on her lips from whatever she was reading. But suddenly she sits straight, her eyes alert. "What happened?" She closes the book, getting to her feet.

"Are you enjoying the book?" I ask, anything to not answer her question.
"Yes," she glances down at the book in her hands. "It's very good. Stephan?"
"I don't know how to say this Juliet. I am really sorry, but Queen Fleurice had really sent the guards to get you."

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Chapter 2

Aashi - Thanks so much! I'm really glad you like it!
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Published: 6/15/2012
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