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Thread: Beloved - NC-17 - Complete

  1. #1
    scifichick774
    Just a Guest!

    Beloved - NC-17 - Complete

    This one is already pretty far along, but I got a request to start posting it here as well.

    Title: Beloved
    Author: scifichick774
    Rating: NC-17
    Category: Drama/Romance/Angst/Supernatural
    Spoilers: Anything through the end of the second season is fair game - but since it’s all pretty much AU, don’t expect too many spoilers.
    Summary: Someone comes through an alternate reality portal to kidnap Chloe. Will she be able to adjust to her new life, or will she find a way back home? Chloe/Lucas Chloe/Lex much later on
    Disclaimer: Not mine, no infringement intended, please don’t sue.
    Feedback: YES!! REVIEW!! Geez, that sounded incredibly needy.
    Archival: Sure – just let me know where.
    Author’s Note: I’m writing this because my muse wouldn’t let it be. You should be warned: if you can’t stand to see Chloe with anyone other than Lex, then you shouldn’t read this. Seriously. Also, the alternate reality version of Lex in this story is kind of a dark character, so don’t expect a lot of mushy behavior coming from him. This first chapter scene jumps a little, but hopefully it won’t be too confusing.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    The hooded figure stood over the young blonde woman’s body and held his fingers out to touch her neck. His head turned slightly to look at the other man in the room and he shook it despairingly.

    “She has died, Carrado. What are we to do now?”

    Carrado frowned. The princess had been through so much, and although her apparent suicide didn’t surprise him, he was still disappointed. Quickly after the disappointment came the realization that the kingdom she was from and the one they were in would probably go to war with each other now.

    The two kingdoms had long been at odds, but the rulers of each nation thought they had come to a reasonable compromise when they agreed to arrange a marriage between the eldest prince of the house of Luthor and the only daughter of the house of Sullivan. The princess had been sent to their kingdom to fulfill the agreement, even though she had been completely against it. Her death would not be well received, and there was a very real possibility that suspicion would arise to whether it was actually a suicide or not.

    Carrado got a determined look on his face and gave the younger man a steely expression.

    “No one is to know of this,” he said in a gravely voice. The younger man looked surprised.

    “Surely we cannot hide her passing for long,” he said.

    “No one is to know of this, Nudd,” Carrado repeated in an authoritative tone. “No one.”

    “But ---”

    “There is a way,” Carrado said, getting a thoughtful look in his eyes. “We will replace her with another.”

    Nudd looked at the older man in disbelief. He certainly couldn’t be suggesting what he thought he was suggesting.

    “Her other self will never agree to it,” he argued. “And the people here will know it is not she.” He motioned to the body on the bed with his head and Carrado gave him a solemn look.

    “They will not. In the two days since her arrival here, she has not ventured beyond the walls of this room. Very few people here know her face, and fewer still with her manner,” Carrado said. Nudd let his eyes fall back upon the lifeless body and Carrado could sense his apprehension. “We have the ability to save so many. We must take our opportunity.” Nudd nodded his head sadly.

    “I’ll prepare what must be done.”

    ~*~*~*~*~

    Chloe stretched out her arms and yawned before climbing into her bed and slipping under the covers. It had been such a long last couple of days. Clark had basically used her as his own personal search engine again, Lana had been swamped at the Talon and had begged Chloe to help (which she only ended up agreeing to because her dad was in the room), and then one of the few reporters she actually had on the staff for the Torch had mysteriously disappeared. Chloe had spent the remainder of her time tracking down leads in hopes that they might lead her to a possible freak of the week article, but it turned out that the girl had just run off with her older boyfriend. And although she had managed to get through the last couple of days with a great deal of caffeine, her body was certainly feeling the after effects now. She snuggled her head into her pillow and let her heavy eyelids drift closed with no way of knowing what was to come.

    ~*~*~*~*~

    Carrado held the old book in his outstretched arms and read from it. His deep voice echoed in the princess’s bedroom and a large blue swirling circle of light appeared in front of them. Nudd took a deep breath and then released it as he picked the dead body off the bed. Carrado watched Nudd step through the portal first and he followed quickly behind him, only having a limited amount of time before the circle of light disappeared.

    ~*~*~*~*~

    Nudd’s breath hitched when he saw Chloe’s moonlit face. Her eyes were closed and her breathing was steady, and she looked identical to the deceased princess that he held in his arms. The portal closed after Carrado stepped through it. He was inwardly pleased that the spell worked and the girl in front of them looked so similar in appearance to the princess. The only thing that concerned him was the length of her hair. They could easily lie and say that the princess kindly cooperated with them by lending some hair for a ceremony or something, but the family and friends that this girl had would know that the corpse they were replacing her with wasn’t her.

    He took out a sharp blade from his sheath and took a few steps toward Nudd. The younger man’s eyes grew large until he realized what Carrado planned to do. Carrado looked back at Chloe and quickly judged the length of her hair before cutting into the princess’s longer locks. It took a good hour for them to alter the identities of the two young women. Although Nudd felt uncomfortable, they switched the clothing on Chloe and the princess and laid the princess’s body in the bed, covering her with the blankets that had been wrapped around Chloe when they first came in. Carrado thanked the gods that the princess’s double seemed to be a fairly sound sleeper.

    Nudd held Chloe’s sleeping form in his arms and Carrado began to read the chant from the book in a hushed voice so as not to wake her. The portal opened again, allowing them return passage to their own world.

    Nudd stepped into the circle of light first. Carrado took one last look at the lifeless female body lying on the bed. He had no doubt that her family and friends would be upset when they believed it was their own Chloe who was deceased, but he truly believed that they were doing what was necessary to maintain the very shaky peace between the Luthor and Sullivan kingdoms. With that one last thought, he turned and stepped through the portal.

    ~*~*~*~*~

    Nudd lay Chloe down on the princess’s bed and covered her with the blankets. She twisted and turned her body as she unconsciously sought to get comfortable again. Nudd turned to Carrado when the portal in the room closed and the only light that shone upon them was from the moonlight shining through the small slits between the stones that made up the window.

    “This was not right,” Nudd whispered wearily. “Her family ---”

    “Will grieve as any other when they have lost a child,” Carrado whispered back in an almost scornful voice, still trying to convince himself that they had done the right thing as well. “They will not start a war as the princess’s family would have.” Nudd bowed his head in defeat and let his eyes fall upon Chloe, who had finally gotten comfortable and had her legs curled up against her.

    “And what of her?” He asked quietly. Carrado came over to him and placed his hand on the younger man’s shoulder.

    “We will give her some herbs to help her forget her former life,” he responded, matching Nudd’s hushed tone. “And in time, she will adjust to this one.” He grabbed a satchel filled with a fine powder and pinched a little bit of it between his fingers. Carrado opened Chloe’s mouth ever so slightly and dropped the powder onto her tongue. Chloe yawned and then made a humming sound as she drifted further into her slumber. “Come. It will be morning soon and we will need rest ourselves if we are to help her adjust to her new life tomorrow.”

    Morning came and Chloe rubbed her eyes as she woke up. She swung her feet over the side of the bed before complete waking up, and was startled when she felt the cold stone floor beneath her. Chloe eyes shot wide open and she took in the scene around her with confusion. Confusion quickly turned to fear and her features contorted as she noticed the long night dress she was clothed in.

    “What the ---?”

  2. #2
    scifichick774
    Just a Guest!
    Chapter 2

    “Chloe?” Lana knocked lightly on Chloe’s door. “Chl-oe,” she said as her voice took on a teasing lilt, “I know you’re in there because your car’s outside.” There was still no answer from the other side of the door and Lana blew a puff of air upward in frustration. “Okay, I’m coming in,” she threatened. Still no response. Lana furrowed her brow and turned the knob. She saw Chloe lying on the bed under her covers, facing the other direction and she rolled her eyes. “I can’t believe you’re not up yet.” Lana walked over to the bed to shake her shoulder. “Chloe! Come on! You’re going to be late for ---” Lana’s lower lip quivered when she saw the color of the body’s lips and felt the cold skin under her hand. “Oh my God,” she whispered.

    Lana’s hands started shaking and she barely summoned the confidence to check for a pulse. There wasn’t one. Every nerve in her body seemed to go numb and she absently walked out into the hallway in a state of total shock. Gabe saw her on the stairs and smiled at her.

    “Good morning, Lana.”

    He frowned when she made no effort at giving a response, but just kept staring straight ahead.

    “Lana? Are you feeling alright?”

    She just barely shook her head.

    “Do you need me to call in for you?”

    She shook her head lightly again.

    “C-Chloe,” she rasped out before turning her head to throw up all over the second floor’s hallway carpet. Gabe winced and then went to get something to clean up the mess. When he got back, Lana was sitting on the floor with her back against the wall and her knees tucked up to her chest. Gabe looked at her sympathetically and knelt down to start cleaning up.

    “It’s okay, we’ll just call the school and tell them that you won’t be in today,” he said. Lana’s face slowly turned toward him and he saw the almost vacant look of shock in her eyes. He leaned his head to the side. “Do you want to talk about it?”

    “C-Chloe,” she half-whispered. Gabe turned his head and glanced at her quickly before returning to the task of cleaning up the stain.

    “Did you two get in another fight over the bathroom this morning?” He joked, trying to lighten her mood. Tears started to well up in her eyes and Gabe furrowed his brow in concern when he heard the first whimper come from her mouth. “Lana? What is it?” Lana started crying uncontrollably and Gabe figured he better see what was wrong. He got up and walked to Chloe’s room. “Chloe? You want to tell me why ---”

    Gabe stopped in his tracks when he saw the young woman he thought was his daughter on the bed, and from the lifeless appearance of the body, Gabe knew immediately why Lana had been in shock.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    Chloe’s gaze was drawn to the sound of the door opening and she saw a bowed head of red hair step in. Her demeanor changed into relief when she saw the woman’s face.

    “Mrs. Kent!”

    Martha looked up at the sound of Chloe’s voice, startled that the princess knew her name. Chloe padded over to her quickly, slightly hopping from foot to foot because of the cold floor.

    “You have no idea how glad I am to see you,” she said. Martha looked confused and shook her head.

    “Pardon, but h-how did you know my name?”

    Chloe gave her a strange look.

    “Mrs. Kent? It’s me, *Chloe*,” she said. Martha blinked a couple of times. “Sullivan?” Chloe quipped. Martha shook her head lightly.

    “I know who you are, majesty, but I ---”

    Chloe held up her hand and waved it back and forth.

    “Never mind,” she said. ‘I’m obviously having a really vivid dream or my body is lying in a coma in a meteor rock ravine,’ she thought. ‘Either way, I may as well play along.’ Chloe smiled brightly at Martha. “So, what are you doing in my room?”

    “I – I was sent to see if you were feeling well enough to join the court for meal this morn,” Martha said, returning Chloe’s broad smile with a shy and hesitant one of her own.

    “Yeah,” Chloe said with a shrug. Her feet were growing used to the temperature of the floor now and she wasn’t bouncing up and down anymore. “I feel fine.” Martha’s smile grew with Chloe’s friendly behavior.

    “Oh, that is indeed wonderful news,” she said.

    “Yeah, it’s pretty fantastic,” Chloe mumbled sarcastically.

    “May I inquire into something personal?” Martha asked. Chloe arched her eyebrow, but didn’t say no. “Why did you cut off all of your lovely hair?”

    “I ---”

    “She allowed us to take it,” Carrado said as he stepped into the room. Martha paled and looked down so she wouldn’t have to make eye contact with him. “Even in her weakness, Princess Chloe has demonstrated the peaceful will of her kingdom by allowing us to use her hair for an important ceremony.” Chloe narrowed her eyes at the man as he spoke down to Martha.

    ‘Okay, he’s the bad guy,’ Chloe thought to herself. ‘And if, by some fluke, this isn’t a dream – and I have a bad feeling that it isn’t – then he knows what’s going on. And I’m going to find out what it is.’ Chloe smiled reassuringly at Martha as the woman stole a glance at her. Martha looked back at Carrado.

    “Of course,” she said and gave him a politely forced grin. “Her highness said she is feeling well enough for breakfast today. Is that not good news?”

    “Very good,” Carrado agreed, but Chloe could tell it was only because Martha put him on the spot for the answer. Martha looked at the man expectantly and Carrado cleared his throat. “I will let you attend to her then,” he said to Martha. Carrado grinned at Chloe, although she thought that seemed forced as well. “If you will permit me some time later today? There are a number of things that we must discuss in the month’s time before the wedding.”

    “Wedding?” Chloe asked. Martha gave her a compassionate look and signaled Carrado to leave. Carrado frowned, but gave Chloe a small bow before leaving the room. Martha shut the door behind him and turned back around to face Chloe.

    “I know you were hoping that the arrangement between your parents and the prince’s would be broken, but they seem determined,” Martha said while she fetched some clothes out of a long wooden chest. “Now then, you would look lovely in this green dress,” she said as she held up an ornate dark green silk dress that Chloe could only estimate weighed entirely more than a dress should.

    Martha started to help Chloe get dressed, and was very pleased that the princess now seemed so friendly and, for the most part, in good spirits. Chloe’s parents had sent servants to attend to her since she had arrived, so Martha had been puzzled as to why she requested to only have one person from the Luthors’ own staff see to her, but she had complied. When she first saw her, she was terribly upset and within a short period of time she had fallen weak. There were even rumors that she would kill herself before the wedding, so Martha was happy to see the incredible change in her behavior.

    “Tell me about the prince,” Chloe said as Martha laced up the back of her dress. Martha’s face darkened.

    “I should not say,” she said quietly. Chloe turned her head slightly and raised her eyebrows.

    “What? Is he some sort of meteor mutant or something?” Chloe joked, but inwardly thought, “Well, of course he is.” She heard Martha suck in a deep breath.

    “All of the king’s sons are very handsome and very intelligent. I am sure that you will produce lovely offspring,” Martha said, dodging the question. Chloe snorted.

    “Yeah, cuz’ that’s gonna happen,” she said under her breath. She turned around and looked Martha in the eye. “Just tell me the truth.” Martha frowned.

    “The truth is that your husband to be has been considered nothing less than a monster by most,” she said quietly. “I thought you had already heard this. Is that not why you object to the union?”

    “I would have a problem marrying *any* guy I didn’t know,” Chloe said honestly. She took a deep breath and then released it. “Will he be at breakfast?”

    Martha shook her head and Chloe found herself inwardly cheering in relief.

    “He is away for the month, securing the lands on the other side of the kingdom, but he will be back for the wedding – the king will make sure of it.”

    “Goody,” Chloe said sarcastically. Martha gave her a questioning look, but Chloe misinterpreted it and smiled apologetically at her. “Sorry. Let’s just get this over with.”

  3. #3
    scifichick774
    Just a Guest!
    Chapter 3

    “Carrado,” Nudd said in a hushed voice, taking the man by the elbow to get his attention. “We may have a problem.” Carrado nodded in agreement, knowing exactly what the younger man was speaking of.

    “She still remembers her old life,” he said. Nudd looked surprised.

    “You knew?”

    “I went to see her earlier, but the matron who has been assigned to her was already there. She seemed ---” he paused while thinking of the right words, “somewhat unconcerned for someone who should have lost her memory. The only thing I can think of is that she believes she is in some sort of waking dream.”

    “Perhaps her world already knows of ours,” Nudd suggested. Carrado shook his head and had a stubborn look on his face.

    “Impossible,” he argued. Nudd fidgeted with his hands nervously.

    “What do we do? If the herbs didn’t work to erase her memory, she will tell the king and queen the truth, and we shall be slain.”

    Carrado shook his head lightly.

    “If she tells them, they will merely think she has lost her mind due to illness,” he said.

    “And we will return to the beginning,” Nudd said. “There will be no chance that King Lionel would allow his son to marry someone of mental incompacity.” Carrado frowned. Nudd had a point.

    “I need to look over my tablets. Perhaps I can find something.” Carrado drew in a sharp breath. “If not, then the kingdoms will war and we will die regardless.”

    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    Gabe was pale and shaking by the time the police and coroner came to the house and the new sheriff couldn’t help but feel bad for him. She gave him a sympathetic look and reached over to touch his hand.

    “I know this is hard,” she said, “but can you think of any reason this might have happened? Did she have any enemies? Had she gotten in any fights with her friends lately? Was she on any anti-depressant medication?” Gabe barely shook his head to all of her questions, but looked over at her from the spot on the wall where his gaze had been fixed with the last one.

    “N-no. Of course not. You think she did this to herself? She would never ---”

    “I’m just trying to do my job, and I wouldn’t be doing it if I didn’t explore all the options,” Sheriff Adams said. Gabe looked at her wearily and she ran a hand around the back of her neck. “And no, I don’t think she did this to herself. The preliminary forensics suggest that she was stabbed once through the heart and died somewhere else before the killer brought her body back here.” Gabe shuddered and Sheriff Adams frowned. “There would be blood all over her bed, or at least some in her room, if she was killed here.” She watched Gabe’s eyes close as he tried to make sense of the situation.

    “Who would do this?” He finally asked in a choked voice. “Who would do this to her?” Tears started to fall from his eyes and the sheriff felt her heart going out to him. She had seen some strange things since taking over Sheriff Ethan Miller’s position in the community, but this one made her sick to her stomach. There was a real psycho out loose in Smallville, and if it didn’t turn out to be a personal attack against Chloe, then she couldn’t rule out that it might happen again.

    “I don’t know,” she answered. “But we’re going to find out.”

    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    Chloe followed one of the guards down the winding corridor, while another followed behind her. The castle was cold, dark, and damp, and Chloe was starting to feel more and more uneasy. At first she had tried to go along with what she still thought might be a dream, but it was becoming more apparent that it was turning into a nightmare.

    ‘I really, *really* need to stop listening to Lana when she starts talking about how wonderful it would be to be a princess,’ she thought. She could see a better lit room at the end of the hallway, and there was chatter that she couldn’t quite make out coming from inside. Chloe’s gut twisted and she rubbed it absently with her hand. ‘Okay, time to wake up Chloe. Wake up, wake up, wake up!’ She even pinched herself on the off chance that it would work.

    ‘Fine. It’s not a dream,’ she thought and took a deep breath to try and calm herself. ‘It’s okay. Calm down. I was probably just taken by some meteor freak who has the power to put people in a hallucinogenic state. Yeah. That’s it. Ooh! That monk guy! I bet it’s him. Well, that’s the key then. He’s obviously put all these people into a weird state and he’s making them play out some sort of weird fantasy. But, then why wouldn’t he make himself king or something? Ugh! I need some coffee,’ she inwardly rambled.

    A man standing at the entryway to the dining room announced her presence and the few people seated around the table stood to face her. The wrenching feeling in her gut came back as she took in who they were. At the center of the table stood Lionel Luthor.

    ‘This is bad. This is very bad.’

    Next to him stood the woman who had insisted that Clark was her son and kidnapped Lex.

    ‘What was her name? Rachel something, right?’ She asked herself.

    She recognized Lex’s brother from when she had seen him at the Talon, and Lana was there as well. There were only a few other people around the table and she didn’t recognize them.

    ‘Maybe they’re from one of the other little towns nearby,’ Chloe thought.

    Lucas let his eyes drift leeringly over the young woman who was sent to be his oldest brother’s wife. It was the first time he had seen her since she had arrived at the castle, and although they had been informed that she had graciously lent her hair to Carrado for an important ceremony, he hadn’t expected her to look so good with shorter locks. He didn’t try to keep the smile from his lips and Chloe grinned nervously back at him.

    “Princess,” Lionel said and held his hand out for her to join them at the table. Chloe faked a smile, but it quickly fell once she sat down and her worries about how to get things back to normal returned. There were so many unanswered questions. For instance, why was she the only one who seemed to remember who she really was? Had the others had a stronger dose of whatever mojo the freak of the week had unleashed on them? And where the hell was Clark when she needed him?

    Chloe had chosen to sit down in the empty chair next to Lucas at the far end of the table for a couple of reasons. Primarily because he had actually smiled at her, and she thought maybe the glint in his eye meant that he remembered who he really was as well; but also because she wasn’t sure she could handle sitting next to Lana if Lana was supposed to actually be playing the role of a princess. It was enough to have to hear her talk about it, let alone watch her live it out. As if the girl didn’t get everything she wanted anyway.

    The food was served and Chloe stared down at it with a modicum of disgust lining her facial features. Lucas had to hold back his laughter, but he did lean toward her. The rest of the people at the table were engaged in some sort of discussion that Lucas really didn’t care about, and they were sitting a good distance away from him and Chloe, so he felt comfortable saying something to her in a hushed voice.

    “It’s not poisoned,” he said quietly. Chloe snickered and picked up a piece of ham off her plate.

    “I didn’t think it was,” she said, shaking her head a little. “It’s just – I’m not used to eating such a heavy meal for breakfast.”

    “What do you usually have?” Lucas asked, knowing that his father would send for whatever Chloe requested since the Sullivan throne and kingdom had more wealth and a mightier army than their own. Peace benefited both kingdoms, but the advantage clearly went to his father’s kingdom. Chloe shrugged.

    “Cereal or a bagel and coffee,” Chloe answered. Lucas looked at her questioningly.

    “Coffee?” He asked. He had never heard of such a thing, but figured it must be something that only grew in the Sullivans’ kingdom. Chloe’s eyes grew wide and her face took on a horrified look.

    “You don’t have coffee?” She watched him shake his head.

    “I have never heard of such a food,” he admitted.

    “Drink,” she clarified. “Hot, black, bitter, lots of people add cream and sugar ---” A distressed whimper came from her throat when she could see that he didn’t know what she was talking about and she turned her back to looking at her food. “This had better be a bad dream, or I am *so* screwed,” she mumbled under her breath.

    Lucas arched an eyebrow, but said nothing, turning his attention back to the rest of the family. He leaned back in his chair and observed them almost scathingly – especially Lana. Chloe grinned when she followed his glare.

    “You don’t like her?” Chloe asked. Lucas turned his head slightly to look at her.

    “Julian’s *betrothed*?” He asked in a nauseated tone and then scoffed. “The horses are smarter than she is.” Chloe choked on some of her food as the laughter started to overtake her body. She smiled at him after regaining her composure, and was thankful that no one else at the table seemed to be paying any attention to her or Lucas. He was pleased by her reaction. Most of the people around him usually either scolded him or had gotten to the point where they just ignored him. It was nice to finally meet someone who actually seemed to have a sense of humor, and the fact that she was pretty too didn’t hurt. Lucas’s smile fell when he remembered that she had been promised to his brother.

    “Something wrong?” Chloe asked. Talking to Lucas had been oddly comforting and she wasn’t sure she could handle the situation if it really wasn’t a dream, and Lucas didn’t remember anything either. Lucas pursed his lips as he thought about how to answer her question and then he leaned back in his chair and shook his head a little.

    “I was wondering how you felt,” he lied. “You were so ill from your trip that this is the first time I have seen you.” He watched Chloe frown and then bite her lip.

    ‘Okay, so he doesn’t remember. Crap. What am I going to do now?’ She thought to herself. “For not having my morning coffee, I feel fine,” she replied honestly. Lucas didn’t seem to look convinced, so she continued. “Healthy as a horse,” she said with a large and forced smile. Lucas beamed back at her.

    “And no doubt more intelligent,” he complimented. Chloe laughed loudly, drawing looks from the rest of the people at the table. The concern she felt over being there started to take the priority place in her mind again, and Chloe lost whatever little appetite she had.

    ‘I’ve got to find a way out of here.’

  4. #4
    scifichick774
    Just a Guest!
    Chapter 4

    “Oh, Gabe,” Martha said as she pulled the man into a tearful embrace, “I’m so sorry. We came over as soon as we heard.” She let him go and Jonathan gave him a quick hug as well.

    “How are you holding up?” Jonathan asked. Gabe lightly shook his head back and forth and then turned to walk back toward the living room.

    “Not good,” Gabe admitted. “I think I’m still in shock.” He took a chair and Martha and Jonathan sat across from him on the couch.

    “Is there anything we can do for you?” Martha asked.

    “I don’t think so,” he said. “But thank you anyway.”

    “How is Lana doing?” Martha asked, leaning forward in her seat. Gabe opened his mouth to speak when the doorbell rang again. He started to rise from his chair but Jonathan motioned for him to stay there.

    “It’s okay, I’ll get it,” Jonathan said. He glanced at his wife as he stood up. “It’s probably Clark anyway.” She nodded and Jonathan went to answer the door.

    He opened the door and wrapped his arms around his son. Clark got a confused expression on his face and he pulled back.

    “What’s going on, Dad?”

    “Your mother didn’t tell you?” Jonathan asked in surprise. Clark shook his head and shoved his hands in his pockets as he walked into the Sullivan house.

    “She left a message with the school telling me that I needed to come over here right away,” he said.

    “Hmm,” Jonathan said thoughtfully and then let out a sigh. “She probably thought you’d take the news better if it came directly from us.”

    “What is it?” Clark asked with a new level of concern lining his voice.

    “I’m not sure how to tell you this, Clark,” Jonathan said hesitantly. He placed his hands on Clark’s shoulders and looked into his eyes. “Chloe is dead, son.”

    The color drained from Clark’s face and he stumbled backward a couple of steps as his knees suddenly felt weak.

    “What?” He asked in little more than a whisper.

    “I’m sorry,” Jonathan said empathetically, trying not to let his own emotions come bursting forward. Someone had to be the strong one and he had a feeling it had to be him.

    “How – I mean ---” Clark trailed off. Incapable of forming a coherent statement, he just shook his head. Jonathan looked toward the living room for a second before turning back around and lowering his voice to speak to Clark.

    “I know she was your friend Clark ---” he paused when a choked up sound came from Clark’s throat. “But I think you need to let the police handle this one. You’re too close to it and your judgment might be clouded because of that.” Clark gave his dad a look that was pleading and distraught at the same time.

    “Just --- just tell me what happened?” He asked; matching Jonathan’s quieted voice. His father closed his eyes for a second and then nodded.

    “Maybe you should sit down.”

    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    After finally introducing himself, Lucas offered to give Chloe a tour of the grounds. His parents were less than thrilled with the prospect of Princess Chloe being shown around by the self-appointed black sheep of the family, but they gave in after Lucas agreed to let the guards follow them around for Chloe’s protection.

    They walked through the halls of the castle for at least an hour before they finally got outside and now Chloe’s feet were starting to hurt. She peeked back at the two large guards who were following them and then she let out a small sigh. Lucas raised a questioning eyebrow at her.

    “How discourteous of me, you must need a rest. I had completely forgotten that you have been ill. Please sit,” he said and motioned toward a stone bench that was pressed up against the wall. Chloe nodded and smiled gratefully, taking a seat on the bench. Lucas saw her glance in the guards’ direction again and he grinned at her as mischief lit up in his eyes. He leaned toward her ever so slightly; enough for her to hear him whisper, but not too much for the guards to think he was being improper. “Are you planning some grand escape?” Chloe couldn’t stop the half-chuckle that bubbled up from her throat.

    “Why? Are you going to help me?” She asked jokingly. His grin broadened into a smile.

    “Would you like me to?”

    “Yes,” she admitted. “But even if you help me leave, there’s no guarantee that I could get back home.” Lucas nodded understandingly.

    “War would most certainly be waged,” he said in what he thought was agreement. Chloe bit her lip nervously.

    ‘To tell him or not to tell him,’ she thought to herself. After a brief minute of deliberation, she decided to do it. ‘What’s the worst thing that could happen?’ She asked herself. Unfortunately, her mind provided an answer. ‘He could call you crazy and turn you over to the meteor mutant, who will, in all likelihood, *kill* you.’ She forcefully shoved the thought out of her head. She wasn’t about to go along with this charade one more minute than she had to, especially if it entailed marrying one of Lucas’s older brothers – who as far as she could tell included Julian, Tor, and Alexander. From what she knew of Lex’s family tree, Julian had died when he was a child and Tor hadn’t even existed; so she wondered why Carrado had gone to such lengths to include them in his little play. “Lucas, I’m not who you think I am,” she said carefully.

    “Who do I think you are?”

    “You think I’m a princess – you think you’re a prince – but you’re wrong.” She shook her head in frustration as he furrowed his brow at her. “I don’t know how to explain it, but I have a feeling this is all some elaborate fantasy cooked up by some freak of the week.” She inwardly cringed when she saw the concerned look on Lucas’s face. “And now you think I’m crazy,” she said observantly. He shook his head lightly.

    “I believe you have attempted to do too much before you have completely recovered from your illness,” he responded.

    “Great,” she sarcastically mumbled.

    “Come,” he said. “I will escort you back to your room and call upon Carrado to see to you.”

    “Carrado?”

    “He is a monk,” Lucas explained. “He has many ‘concoctions’ that should help you rest.” Chloe bit the inside of her cheek as she thought about it.

    “Monk, huh? Does he wear one of those hooded robes?”

    “Yes. Why?”

    ‘So that’s my freak’s name,’ Chloe mused to herself. “One of them came by my room this morning, but I didn’t get a chance to talk to him. I was just wondering if it was him.”

    “It is possible. He is in charge of most of the healing remedies and I know he has been seeing after you since your arrival here,” Lucas said. Chloe noticed that he was suddenly very proper and not at all like the impish, joking boy she had been speaking with earlier that day.

    ‘You probably scared him off and he thinks you’re a wack-job now,’ she thought.

    “I will send one of the guards to fetch him while I take you back to your room,” Lucas said. Chloe nodded and put on a weak grin.

    ‘Time to play this for all it’s worth,’ she thought. ‘If he wants to think I’m sick – I can play sick.’ “That would be nice of you. Thank you.” She swallowed and closed her eyes as she pretended to start to swoon. Lucas frowned and looked at her with worry. He stretched out his arm as it looked like she was going to faint.

    “Princess?”

    She placed a hand on his chest and another on his arm as she played the part of struggling to regain her balance.

    “I – I don’t feel so well,” she said. Lucas motioned to one of the guards who had been following them.

    “Bring Carrado here now!”

    Chloe closed her eyes again and had to fight down the grin that was curling up the corners of her mouth.

    “I’m sorry,” she said in a light voice.

    “It will be alright,” Lucas said, not even realizing that he had wrapped his arms completely around her now. He inwardly cursed his selfishness. If he had not encouraged her to go for a walk, then she would have been resting as she should have been.

    Chloe felt a little uncomfortable at how close she was to Lucas, especially since it was under false pretences, but it had to be done. Carrado came scurrying down the walkway with a couple of other monks and his face fell into an expression of deep displeasure when he saw the alternate world’s Chloe apparently falling ill.

    “We will escort her back to her room, my Prince,” Carrado said, giving Lucas a small bow.

    “I will come with you,” he said.

    “I assure you that it is not necessary,” Carrado said somewhat nervously. Lucas narrowed his eyes at him. Something was going on with him, he could tell that much.

    “I insist,” Lucas said. Chloe’s lips thinned in frustration. She was never going to get any answers from this Carrado guy with Lucas hanging around. Still, it wasn’t like she could throw a fit about it without giving away the fact that she wasn’t really sick.

    “I just need some rest,” Chloe said and flashed an unsettled grin at Lucas. “No need to fuss over me.” Carrado seemed satisfied with her answer, but Lucas wasn’t. First the princess started talking nonsense and implicating Carrado in something and now Carrado was indeed acting strangely --- Lucas squared his jaw, now determined to find out what was going on. He swiftly leaned down to pick Chloe up. He swept her legs out from under her, earning a squeak of surprise from her lips, and he couldn’t help but grin at her response.

    “As I said; I insist.”

  5. #5
    scifichick774
    Just a Guest!
    Chapter 5

    Alexander looked out at the outstretched land in front of him. It would have been a beautiful sight had it not been marred with the blood and bodies of soldiers from both kingdoms. A small regency had tried to take the upper corner of the Luthor kingdom and he had gone there to defend it. He was successful, as usual, but the knights from the other kingdom had been well trained and the battle had unexpectedly cost him the lives of several of his men. Alexander gritted his teeth and his nostrils flared at the smell of death hanging in the air.

    He had fallen into a deep depression when his mother died and despite all efforts, he had been unable to pull out of it. He refused to wallow in self-pity though and had just hardened his demeanor to the point where he was sure nothing could penetrate his heart again. That’s why he didn’t mind going out to battle. He was perfectly happy playing the warrior and not the politician. At least being a warrior brought some hope that death might come and relieve him of his inner misery. Being a politician and having to spend time with people only added to it.

    “The area has been secured, your highness,” he heard a slightly out-of-breath man say. Alexander nodded his head once without looking over at the soldier. “We triumphed earlier than expected. All of the men will be happy to return to their families.”

    “Mmm,” Alexander responded noncommittally. The man gave him a half-smile, determined to make small talk with the prince so he could try and ignore the horrors that their battle had left behind.

    “Do you think your wedding will be moved up?” he asked. Alexander looked over and gave the man a warning glare.

    He didn’t want to marry the Sullivans’ daughter. Truth be told, he didn’t want to marry anyone. He inwardly sighed. It had to be done. He would have to take the role of politician so their kingdom would not be destroyed by his betrothed’s family. A sudden thought came to his mind. There was an added bonus to the arrangement, because the Sullivan family had no male heir. The throne would most likely be promised to his future wife’s cousin, but Alexander had no doubt that he could convince them otherwise if he and Chloe had a son soon after their marriage. When King Gabriel stepped down, Alexander could take over the throne until his son came of age. Alexander noticed the man in front of him squirming under his harsh gaze.

    “Shall I inform our troops to begin the journey home?” he asked. Alexander gave him a curt nod in affirmation, no longer dreading his upcoming nuptials as much as he had been.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~

    Lex sped all the way to Gabe’s house, still in shock and disbelief that his plant manager’s daughter, not to mention one of Clark’s best friends, could be dead. He hadn’t gotten any details from his secretary, who had been the one to inform him of the reason that Gabe wasn’t coming into work that day, and his mind was running rampant with the possibilities. He knew Chloe had a tendency to get in bad situations while she was ‘in the line of duty’ with a story, but he couldn’t imagine anyone actually wanting to kill the girl. And although she could be emotional, he would never believe that she would kill herself, so that ruled out suicide.

    His heart sank when he realized how bad Gabe must be feeling. The man had been through enough in the past couple of years just with the different times Chloe had been hospitalized, and then Lionel’s attempted take-over of the plant. Lex groaned. He hadn’t even thought about that possibility. He had overheard his father complaining that Chloe was getting entirely too close for comfort, and if she knew what was good for her that she should back off. He even heard him say something about giving her a warning. Lex shook his head as he pulled his car to a stop along the sidewalk outside of Gabe’s house.

    ‘What am I supposed to say to him? I’m sorry you lost your daughter? And even sorrier that her death probably had something to do with my dad? Great, just great,’ he thought.

    He walked up to the house and rang the doorbell. Clark answered the door and a silent exchange of facial expressions was all that was necessary to convey what was going on. He doubted it would be that simple with Gabe. Clark stepped aside and let Lex pass by him into the house.

    “I’m sorry,” Lex said. Clark nodded.

    “Yeah.”

    “How is her dad doing?”

    “Not good,” Clark answered. Lex nodded. He was expecting that.

    “And Lana?”

    Clark shook his head and gave Lex a strange look that Lex couldn’t quite interpret.

    “She found her,” Clark said quietly and then swallowed, trying to choke down the emotions that were coming up with his words. “She went to wake her up and --- I can’t believe she’s really gone.” Clark’s eyes watered up and he turned his face away from Lex to hide it. Lex gave him a second to calm himself before speaking again.

    “Do they know what happened?”

    Clark sniffed and tilted his head to the side to speak in a whispered voice.

    “She was – stabbed – once through the heart.”

    Lex felt the color drain from his face with Clark’s words.

    “The sheriff thinks she was killed somewhere else and then brought back here and redressed.” A small cry came out in Clark’s voice. “They – um – they think that it might be a crime of passion because of how she was killed. But I don’t know anyone who could do this, Lex. Who would do this?”

    Lex turned his gaze toward the entrance to the living room, not used to seeing Clark so emotional over anything. He wasn’t used to seeing *anyone* so emotional over anything. That’s how he had been raised after his mother died. Emotion equals weakness. But now he had friends and was in a house encompassed in grief, and the knowledge that his own father may have had something to do with it made the situation almost unbearable. Lex felt a tug at his own heart and then cleared his throat.

    “Is Gabe in the living room?” he asked.

    “Yeah,” Clark answered. Lex nodded once and then started walking slowly in that direction.

    Even if he wasn’t responsible for Chloe’s death, he now felt like he was, and a part of him was in no hurry to face his jury.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~

    “This *really* isn’t necessary,” Chloe said through gritted teeth as Lucas carried her back to her room. “I’m perfectly capable of walking.”

    “You were hardly capable of *standing* just moments ago,” Carrado reminded her as he walked ahead of them. Chloe wanted so desperately to roll her eyes, but she refrained. Instead, she looked pleadingly at Lucas.

    “Come on, I’ve got to be getting pretty heavy by now. Right?”

    Lucas let out a low chuckle and then smirked down at her.

    “No,” he answered. This time Chloe did roll her eyes and squirmed around a little bit in his arms. The truth was that even through the layers of clothing between them, she could feel his hard muscles flexing beneath and beside her as he carried her down the hallway.

    They reached her room and Martha was there waiting for them, apparently in distress over what was happening.

    “Set her on the bed,” Martha ordered, temporarily forgetting proper etiquette when addressing Lucas. He walked over, and much to Chloe’s relief, finally put her down by laying her on the bed.

    Chloe eyed Carrado warily as he pulled a pouch off of his hip and dug into it with his fingers.

    “It will help bring down your fever,” he explained.

    “I don’t have a fever,” Chloe protested. Martha reached her hand out to feel Chloe’s forehead and when Chloe saw her frown she repeated the action herself. She felt warmer than normal, and a little clammy. “Okay, so I’m a little warm,” she conceded, “but it’s probably just because I’m wearing this huge dress.”

    “I can help you remove it,” Lucas said with a smirk. Martha and Carrado shot him looks of disbelief and disapproval, but Chloe laughed.

    “I don’t think that’s necessary,” she said.

    “It certainly isn’t,” Martha said under her breath. Carrado walked over to Chloe and motioned for her to open her mouth, but she wouldn’t.

    “I’m not letting you put – whatever that is - in my mouth. What if it’s poison?”

    Lucas snickered and Carrado squared his jaw. Chloe could see that he was getting angry and desperately wanted to rant at her about something, but she knew he wouldn’t while the others were in the room. Carrado took a deep breath to calm himself and then turned to Martha.

    “You and his highness should leave, allow the princess to get some rest,” he said. Martha nodded in agreement and scurried out the door, but Lucas stood firm and folded his arms across his chest.

    “And leave you *alone* in a room with Alexander’s future wife?” he asked with false concern. “I think not.” Carrado opened his mouth to argue, but Lucas cut him off. “What if it really is poison? Then would my parents not have my head as well for leaving her?” Lucas knew that Carrado would never make a move toward Chloe, and he doubted that the concoction in the pouch was poison, but he still wanted to know what was going on and he wasn’t going to leave until he did.

    Chloe’s thoughts took a completely different turn when she heard the name ‘Alexander’. Her eyes grew wide and she stared at Carrado.

    “*Alexander*? You want me to marry *Lex*?! Have you lost your mind?!” she yelled. “What am I saying? Of course you have! Otherwise you wouldn’t have set up this bizarre fantasy world. Speaking of which, how did you get all of these people to forget their real lives? I ---” she trailed off from her irate rambling when she noticed that both Lucas and Carrado were looking at her strangely. “What?”

    “How did you know the nickname that Alexander’s deceased mother bestowed him with?” Lucas asked. Chloe’s eyes turned to Carrado.

    “Tell him,” she said. Carrado frowned. Her rant just moments ago led him to believe that she thought this world was all some elaborate hoax and that she didn’t know the truth. Lucas arched an eyebrow at Carrado’s reaction.

    “Yes,” he said, “*tell* me.”

    “Your majesty, I assure you – I would never ---” Carrado was frightened by the danger lurking in Lucas’s glare. It was generally a look that he associated with the king and his eldest son, but knowing Lucas’s propensity to act without caring about consequences, it made the situation seem all the worse for him. He had a feeling that if he didn’t say something – anything - then he wouldn’t be making it out of Chloe’s room alive. “My prince, I implore you; she needs her rest if she is to recover.”

    Lucas pursed his lips, but finally acquiesced and gave the older man a nod of his head. He gave Chloe a small bow and exited the room, closing the door almost all the way behind him. Lucas signaled to the guards outside the door that they should be quiet as he leaned his body up against the door so he could listen to what was going on in the room. Carrado closed his eyes and let out a small sigh in relief when the young prince left. He looked warningly at Chloe.

    “You must not bring this up again,” he said in a quiet voice that Lucas could barely make out. “You are here now, and you will be here forever. I suggest you accept your role with the knowledge that you will never be going back.” Chloe paled. ‘Back’ implied that she was somewhere else entirely.

    “W-where am I?” she asked in almost a whisper.

    “Your new home,” Carrado answered cryptically. “Now, do you want some of this?” He held up a pinch of the ground herb between his fingers and Chloe shook her head. “Are you certain? It will help you sleep.” Chloe shook her head again and Carrado nodded and put the green and brown grainy substance back into the pouch.

    Lucas furrowed his brow. The conversation he eavesdropped on didn’t tell him anything other than the fact that Chloe was homesick and wanted to go home rather than marry his brother – which he basically already knew. He walked away from the room and the guards without saying a word. The guards knew better than to betray him, even if it was to a monk. He charged down the hallway as he thought about what had happened. Regardless of the words that had been spoken, there was still something wrong with the way Carrado was acting – and Lucas was going to find out what it was.


    Chapter 6

    Lex gave Jonathan a curt nod as he walked into the living room and then he looked at Gabe sympathetically.

    “I’m sorry,” Lex said. Gabe nodded almost absently, but said nothing. “Is there anything I can do?”

    “No, but thank you,” Gabe said quietly. Lex nodded. “I – um – I won’t be into work for a while.”

    “Of course. Take as long as you need.”

    Lex watched as Gabe buried his face in his hands, willing himself not to sob outright in front of his friends and his boss. The doorbell rang and Lex turned his head in the direction of the front door to see who Clark let in. He furrowed his brow slightly when he saw that it was the new sheriff. Hadn’t the police already been there that morning? He couldn’t make out what Clark and Sheriff Adams were saying, but from the expression on Clark’s face, it couldn’t be good. He rose from his chair and walked over to the foyer.

    “She’s really upset. Can’t you give her a little time to calm down before you talk to her?” Clark asked the sheriff.

    “Clark, I understand that you’re grieving; and that Lana’s grieving too, but she wasn’t very forthcoming with my deputy earlier, and I need to ask her some questions. She could remember something that could be incredibly valuable to our investigation,” Adams said. Then she pulled the extra guilt strings by asking, “Don’t you want to find out who did this to your friend? Who killed Chloe?”

    ‘She’s good,’ Lex thought to himself. “I’m sure a day or so wouldn’t make that much of a difference, Sheriff.”

    The woman looked over and tilted her head warningly at Lex.

    “I could very well be looking at the beginnings of a serial killer in this county, Mr. Luthor. Every *second* makes a difference.”

    “Go get her,” Lex said quietly, yet authoritatively to his friend. Clark frowned, but nodded. Lex and the sheriff watched Clark ascend the stairs quickly and then Lex turned back to look at the sheriff. The tone of the woman’s voice when she was speaking to Clark was gnawing at him. “You think she had something to do with this, don’t you?” The sheriff sighed.

    “I don’t know what to think,” she admitted. “But I can’t disregard the fact that Miss Lang had motive, means, and opportunity just because she’s the town sweetheart.”

    “Lana would never do something like this. From what I understand, she and Chloe had gotten to thinking of each other as sisters.”

    “Do you know how high the percentage of murders between family members is?” the sheriff reminded him. Lex frowned.

    “You have this wrong,” he said.

    “I hope I do. But I still need to talk to her to rule out the possibility.”

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~

    Carrado left Chloe’s room and headed toward his sanctuary – a large room filled with books, tablets, herbs, and potions. His thoughts were weighing on him heavily. He hadn’t expected Chloe to put up such a fight about being there, because he hadn’t expected her to remember anything of her former life. Instead, she was apparently immune to the herbs he had given her to erase her memory and she was fighting being here every step of the way.

    He couldn’t blame her for not wanting to marry Prince Alexander. In truth, the man seemed to have lost any sort of humanity when his mother died. Carrado shook his head in despair over the situation. The princess had killed herself to get out of marrying Alexander, and now he himself had gone so far as to kidnap her double from another world just so the Luthor and Sullivan kingdoms wouldn’t go to war. He was putting this Chloe in the same position the other Chloe had been in, and who was to say that she wouldn’t try to kill herself as well.

    A thought nagged at the back of his mind. This Chloe, she wasn’t like the other one, and it wasn’t just the haircut. This one seemed so full of life, so unwilling to accept authority, so --- Carrado let out a grunt with his next thought. So like Prince Lucas. The two seemed to be hitting it off as well, and that was saying quite a bit considering that very few people got along with the prince. He was brash and outwardly uncaring about people’s feelings; he made constant remarks berating the intelligence of the people in the court; and he had the intelligence of a ruler mixed with the physique of a warrior. Carrado shook his head again. King Lionel was fortunate that Lucas hadn’t been born as the first son, or he would have overthrown him by now.

    Carrado stopped at the door to his sanctuary and was surprised to see it a little bit open. It was usually kept under strict lock and key.

    ‘No matter,’ he thought to himself. ‘One of the others must have forgotten.’

    He stepped inside, only to be greeted by the distinct smell of blood hovering in the room. He stepped inside the room and almost gagged on the sight in front of him. The guard who had been at the door as well as Nudd had both been slain and Nudd’s head had been removed from his body. The door shut behind him and Carrado whipped around to see who was there.

    Prince Lucas held the slain druid’s head by the hair and tossed it at Carrado. His face held no emotion except anger and contempt and Carrado took a few steps back as Lucas drew his sword again.

    “Your assistant was not as helpful as I would have liked,” Lucas said coldly, slowly stalking toward Carrado. “Tell me, what happened to the princess?”

    “Sire, I – I do not know of what you speak. The princess is in her bed, resting,” Carrado said. Lucas gave him an icy glare.

    “The *real* princess,” he clarified. Carrado said nothing and Lucas’s demeanor changed to relaxed, yet still threatening. “Perhaps it would help if I told you what Nudd was kind enough to tell me?”

    Carrado got a sinking feeling in his gut. Nudd had obviously spilled what he had known about the kidnapping to Prince Lucas under threat of death, and Lucas had killed him anyway. Carrado held no delusions that the young man would have any qualms in doing the same to him. He gave Lucas a slow nod of his head and Lucas continued speaking.

    “The daughter of King Gabriel killed herself so she would not have to marry my brother,” Lucas said. Carrado stayed silent. “You did not want to risk war between our two kingdoms, so you decided to *steal* another princess from an alternate reality. Did I understand what he told me correctly?” Carrado barely nodded his head in affirmation and Lucas let a tiny smirk grace his lips. “You do not need to worry yourself, Carrado. I have no intention of telling anyone – I highly doubt they would believe me anyway.”

    Carrado let out a small sigh of relief and then looked questioningly at Lucas.

    “Why?” he asked.

    “Why what?” Lucas responded.

    “Why are you willing to aid me in this deception?” Carrado asked. Lucas shrugged.

    “I have no desire for our kingdoms to go to war,” he answered. “And this princess is identical in every way to the last – well, not every way,” he mused with an almost leering smile that made the knots in Carrado’s stomach grow tighter. “I like her. She is intelligent and she does not care that I insult those around me, regardless of their rank. She laughed at some of the things I said for my own amusement.”

    “Highness,” Carrado said carefully, “you cannot be suggesting ---” he trailed off when he saw Lucas’s lopsided grin and the look in the prince’s eyes that seemed to be boring right through him. “She is promised to your brother,” he said in barely a whisper.

    “No,” Lucas said. “The other princess was promised to my brother.”

    “My prince, please,” Carrado pleaded, “you cannot do this. It will bring chaos.”

    “Why should it matter which son she marries? As long as our two kingdoms are united, is that not what matters?”

    “She was promised to Alexander because he is the heir to the throne and she will take her rightful position as queen,” Carrado said. “King Gabriel would not allow her to marry a man who was not in direct ascent to a throne.”

    Lucas shrugged again and shot a small, unsympathetic grin at Carrado.

    “Then may I recommend that you come up with a plan to convince him? Because I have already decided that she will be mine, not Alexander’s; and I would dislike having to slaughter my elder brothers just so I can be the next heir to the throne.”

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~

    Chloe paced around the bedroom as she put the facts together in her head. Carrado definitely knew something and he had even gone so far as to threaten her. He wasn’t a meteor freak, but he had basically kidnapped her away from home and brought her to this place – wherever the hell this place was.

    ‘Maybe I’m in a coma or something,’ she thought briefly. ‘I mean, that would explain a lot, right? The realism, the familiar characters, the ---’ her thoughts trailed off when there was a knock on the door. “Yes?” The door opened slightly, but not enough so anyone could see in.

    “Your highness, Prince Lucas is here,” one of the guards said. “He wishes to speak with you.” Chloe rolled her eyes. Everything was so formal around here, and granted she hadn’t been there for long, but she wondered why her subconscious would drag up such an unfriendly environment for her.

    “Yeah, fine – whatever,” Chloe mumbled the last part and the door opened further as Lucas stepped into the room. He smiled at her and despite the guards’ objections; he closed the door behind him. “Wow. Coming into my room alone – it’s scandalous,” she said with a modicum of sarcasm. Lucas’s smile grew wider and he chuckled.

    “I have information for you, my princess,” he said, gracing her with a small bow.

    “It’s Chloe,” she corrected. “And knock off that bowing thing, it gives me the creeps.” That earned a bellow of laughter from the young prince’s throat. “So – information?”

    “You are not ill.”

    “You don’t say.”

    “And you are not dreaming,” he said, taking a couple of steps closer to her. Chloe lifted an eyebrow and folded her arms across her chest. The action pushed up her bosom and Lucas’s gaze was drawn there.

    “Up here chief,” she said in a teasing manner. He smiled at her as his eyes reached hers again. “So, I’m not dreaming. I suppose that means I’m not in a coma either?” Lucas shook his head.

    “I am not sure ---”

    “Um, kind of like being asleep for a long time,” she explained. Lucas shook his head again. “What then? This has something to do with that Carrado guy, doesn’t it?”

    “Indeed,” Lucas affirmed. He got close enough so Chloe could see the spatters of blood on his clothing and hands. Her mouth fell open slightly, but she quickly shut it. “Perhaps you should sit down.”

    Chapter 7

    Sheriff Adams sat across from Lana in Lana’s bedroom. Clark had told her that Lana didn’t look physically capable of leaving the room, so the policewoman came to her instead. She had been listening to Lana cry her way through her questions, without giving her any substantial answers, for the last twenty minutes. Lana held the Kleenex up to her face and lightly blew her nose before turning her wet eyes upon the sheriff again.

    “I – I don’t know what else I can tell you,” Lana said in a choked voice. “I knocked on her door when I realized that she hadn’t used the bathroom yet – it was her turn for first shower – and ---” Lana trailed off into a sob again and Sheriff Adams leaned forward in her chair. If the girl in front of her did it, then she was putting on one hell of an act to convince people otherwise.

    “And?” Adams prodded. Lana sniffled and her lower lip trembled as she started to speak again.

    “And she didn’t answer the door. I told her that I was coming in and then – then I saw her – and she was – just lying there.” Lana’s body started to shake as she openly wept for the loss of her friend. Adams sighed. She understood that Lana had to mourn, but if she was indeed the killer, she wasn’t going to let her get away just because she put on a good act.

    “Was there any animosity between the two of you?”

    Lana stopped crying and stared at Adams with confusion.

    “What?” she squeaked in disbelief.

    “We’ll find out, you know? We have her computer and the journals she kept on paper as well.”

    Lana’s eyes grew wide.

    “You – you think *I* did this?” she asked in barely a whisper.

    “I’m not pointing fingers,” Adams said consolingly, “but I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t ask everyone close to her these questions – especially the people who live with her and would have had access to her.”

    Lana’s face paled and she suddenly felt ill. She just barely managed to shake her head.

    “I would never – she was my friend,” Lana said quietly before breaking into tears again. Sheriff Adams gave a tight, yet not completely unsympathetic grin.

    “You’re obviously upset. Why don’t you get some rest and I’ll talk to you tomorrow?”

    With that, the sheriff stood up and started to walk out of the room, throwing one last look at the sorrowful girl before leaving. She couldn’t help but wonder why Lana was having such a breakdown when all of Chloe’s other closest friends and family seemed to handling the situation like most normal people would. There were tears, and a great deal of grief encased the house, but they weren’t losing whatever hold they had on their sanity. Sheriff Adams couldn’t help but wonder if Lana was reacting the way she was because she was the one who found the body, and therefore more emotional – or because she was trying to overcompensate to cover up her guilt in Chloe Sullivan’s murder.

    Either way, it was clear that Lana wasn’t going to talk and Adams would have to wait until the forensics reports came back before she could possibly have any evidence to confront her with. It was time to have some ‘conversations’ with some of Chloe’s other friends.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~

    Chloe shook her head vehemently in denial.

    “This can’t be true! I mean, alternate realities are completely sci-fi, there’s no proof that they actually exist.”

    “It is what they told me,” Lucas responded.

    “And you believe them?” Chloe asked, searching his face for any sign that he might not trust what Carrado and Nudd had told him. She saw none.

    “Yes,” he said. A tiny smirk etched itself upon his lips before his next words came out. “It has been my experience that most people will not lie when they are threatened with death.” Lucas braced himself for what he believed would be Chloe’s horrified reaction. He liked her, but he didn’t want to be dishonest with her; and he also wanted to know whether or not there might be a possibility for her to truly accept him for how he was. Jokes were one thing, murder was another – and most of the people he was surrounded with feared him for both.

    Chloe didn’t look horrified though, she looked amused.

    “And I suppose those blood splatters all over you are from chopping off Carrado’s head?”

    “Nudd’s actually,” Lucas said, intrigued by her reaction.

    “Who is Nudd?”

    “Carrado’s apprentice.”

    “Oh. Well, did you at least get the information on how to send me home before you killed him?” Chloe asked, still thinking that Lucas was joking about actually killing someone. Lucas looked surprised and he shook his head.

    “It did not occur to me to ask,” he admitted. Chloe glared at him and placed her hands on her hips.

    “So, let me get this straight. You threatened a guy with death to get information for me, but you didn’t ask him how I could get home? And then you killed him before *I* could ask him?!” The situation hit Chloe’s brain with full force after she yelled at him. Lucas had blood all over him. He openly admitted to killing Carrado’s apprentice – possibly one of the only people who might know how to send her home – and he looked completely serious about it. ‘Oh, crap! He’s serious!’ Her gut twisted into a knot and she didn’t know whether to try and run screaming from the room out of fear for her life, or to try and strangle him herself for offing the other guy without getting the information she needed first.

    Lucas felt a smile tugging at the corners of his mouth in amusement when he saw the different emotions play on Chloe’s face, but he took a few steps back when he saw the fire spark up in Chloe’s eyes. He knew that look well from the few times he had been forced to go into battle with his brothers and from the various competitions that the kingdoms held – she was angry enough to draw blood, perhaps even kill if necessary. He couldn’t help it and he let out a light chuckle at the situation. If he had any doubts before, he didn’t now. He had found the woman he felt he was meant to be with.

    “I’m failing to see the humor in this, Lucas,” she bit and then started throwing her hands in the air, motioning wildly with them. “God! I’m stuck in a parallel universe with a *sociopath* who doesn’t even get the information I need to go home before he kills ---” Lucas started laughing loudly and she calmed down to the point where she was just staring blankly at him. Lucas flashed her a bright smile and held his hands up in mock surrender.

    “Carrado can still give you the information you require,” he said.

    “Oh. Well, what are we waiting for? Let’s go ask him,” Chloe said and started walking quickly toward the door. She stopped when Lucas caught her arm.

    “It may not do you any good to speak with him.”

    “Why not?” Chloe asked suspiciously, glancing down at where his hand still gripped her arm and then looking up pointedly at him. He took the hint and removed his hand.

    “I was told that the princess took your place in your world, as you took her place here.”

    “I thought you said she killed herself?”

    “And what better location to hide her body?” Lucas countered. Chloe’s eyes grew large and the color drained from her cheeks.

    “They’re going to think I’m dead,” she thought aloud.

    “Unless they have a way to revive someone who has had a dagger plunged into her heart,” Lucas said, looking at her questioningly. Chloe shook her head. He watched her face change from surprise to disbelief to stubbornness in a matter of seconds.

    “All the more reason to talk to him now then,” she said, moving to the door again.

    “I do not ---”

    “If I can get back there right away, then I can explain what happened and ---”

    “They will not think you have lost your mind?” Lucas interrupted. Chloe sloughed off the question with a wave of her hand. Most of the people who knew about her meteor rock theory thought she was crazy anyway. She opened the door and Lucas followed her into the hallway, past the guards who looked hesitant to let her leave her room only accompanied by Lucas. The prince shot them a warning glare and they stiffened their spines, turning their faces to look straight ahead again.

    “Probably,” Chloe finally answered, “but they have tests they can run to prove it’s me. After all, I’m sure I must have some kind of radiation in my blood from being around all those meteor rocks.” She turned her face toward Lucas as she continued down the hallway. “Do you guys have meteor rocks here?” Lucas arched an eyebrow and Chloe continued. “Um – it would have happened about thirteen or fourteen years ago – meteors came crashing down to earth, leaving behind fragments of themselves.” Lucas stared blankly at her and Chloe started to get frustrated. “They’re green or red stones?” she offered. Lucas shook his head.

    “Apparently the course of events here has not been the same as where you come from,” he said. Chloe frowned.

    “Apparently,” she mumbled under her breath. ‘That’s probably a good thing though; because they’ll run tests back home for the autopsy and they’ll see it isn’t me. Maybe they’ll even come looking for me. Yeah, right. Who am I kidding? It’s Smallville! They’ll probably see the stab wound through the heart and assume I killed myself over never being able to have Clark. Idiots.'

    “Princess?” Lucas asked to get her attention. Chloe snapped out of her thoughts and glanced over at him. He gave her a hint of a smile and she realized that she must have been inwardly rambling for some time.

    “Sorry. I get caught up in my thoughts sometimes,” she said. Lucas nodded once and seemed to approve of her answer.

    “At least you have thoughts to get swept up in,” he responded. “I do not think the same can be said for many in the court here.” Chloe smiled, remembering his earlier comments about Lana and the others who had been seated around the table.

    ‘No, no, no,’ she mentally chided herself. ‘He’s not nice – he’s evil – he’s a murderer. A cute murderer though.’ She almost cringed when the second thought tacked itself on to the rest of her line of thinking. She bit her lip as she looked at him through the corner of her eye. ‘Okay, a cute murderer – so kind of like a meteor freak without the Lana obsession. I can handle that – as long as he doesn’t try to kill me. And he seems to like me at least as a friend, so he probably won’t.’ Chloe sucked in a breath and smiled at him. ‘It doesn’t matter. I’ll be out of here soon and it won’t matter anyway.’

    She abruptly stopped walking when they reached an intersection between their hall and another. She turned around and when she realized that they had actually walked quite a distance, she turned around again to look at Lucas with an embarrassed expression on her face.

    “I have no idea where I’m going.”

  6. #6
    scifichick774
    Just a Guest!
    Chapter 8

    Alexander’s army was making their way back to the central part of the kingdom. Some were walking and some were riding horses. Alexander frowned from atop his steed. They had fought well, and his mind should be on their victory, but it wasn’t.

    “You seem deep in thought, my prince,” Gareth, the man riding beside him and one of Alexander’s finest soldiers, said observantly. Alexander nodded once, but kept looking straight ahead at the countryside they were crossing. “What troubles you?” He knew better than to ask, since the prince was a very reserved man and rarely shared any details of his life or his thoughts with anyone, but he felt compelled to try.

    Alexander would marry soon, and if he couldn’t come out of his shell at least a little bit, then it would make for a disappointing wedding night and marriage for the princess – leading to a possible war when she informed her father that her husband could not perform his husbandly duties.

    Alexander glanced at Gareth through the corner of his eye and furrowed his brow.

    “It is of little importance,” he replied. Gareth shook his head.

    “If it is worrying you ---”

    “I am not troubled nor worried, Gareth. I was simply wondering what my bride to be looks like,” he said in a curt tone. Gareth smiled. So the prince had some humanity in him after all.

    “She is beautiful,” Gareth responded, the smile still on his lips. His eyes took on an almost dream-like quality as he remembered her from the last time he had seen her. “Hair of gold and eyes the color of emeralds.” Alexander turned his head to look at him questioningly. “I was assigned to your father’s circle for one of his negotiation visits to the Sullivans’ kingdom; I caught sight of her there,” he quickly explained. Alexander raised one eyebrow and turned his eyes back to the land in front of them.

    “Beautiful, you say?”

    Gareth’s smile turned into a smirk. Alexander was interested. This was definitely a good sign, especially since he had shown no apparent interest in the fairer sex, or in anything rather than military strategy and war, before. Alexander had become so withdrawn after his mother’s death and his father marrying his mistress only days after, that he did not socialize with anyone. To anyone’s knowledge, he had never engaged in polite conversation with anyone, let alone had a lover. He was so disconnected from the world around him, that war and strategy for war, were all he concentrated on. Most of his siblings were the opposite.

    Tor, Alexander’s younger brother by only ten months, was lively, outgoing, and had slept his way through many of the available women in the court and the kingdom. He had never been close to Queen Lillian, so her passing didn’t impact him as it did Alexander. Julian, the next youngest son, was very intelligent and loved his mother, but didn’t let her loss hamper his social abilities. He was not known for being a warrior though, and many thought it for the best that he marry his betrothed and settle in one of the corners of the kingdom to act as its regent there.

    Lucinda was the last full-blooded sibling that Alexander had. Lillian died soon after her birth and so the girl had never gotten to know her mother. She was pretty, flirtatious, and spurred Queen Rachel’s jealousy to no end as Lucinda was King Lionel’s only daughter and he doted on her more than his sons or even his wife.

    Lucas was the first child out of Rachel’s womb. Gareth felt it was interesting how the eldest sons of both queens should end up being so similar. He shook off the thought. They were not similar when they were observed with finer detail. Where Alexander was anti-social because he had been so emotionally scarred from the events in his life, Lucas was anti-social seemingly out of choice or mere personality. He even seemed to revel in the fact that he was the outcast of the family and didn’t care what anyone’s opinion of him was. He was arrogant, although many conceded that he had every right to be so since he was handsome, intelligent, physically adept, *and* a prince. But there was also something wrong in his mind, Gareth thought.

    From an early age, Lucas had been different. Where some children might do something bad because they didn’t know the difference between right and wrong, Lucas knew the difference well and just didn’t care. The thought made Gareth shudder. If Lucas ever chose to fight for the crown, Gareth had no doubt that he would get it – and woe to them all if that day ever came.

    James was Alexander’s youngest sibling, and the only other child that Rachel had given birth to. When Carrado had informed Lionel that he believed Lillian’s death to be brought on, in part, by her having four children in such a short period of time, Lionel insisted that he and Rachel wait before trying again. And when the time came to try again, they were unable to conceive.

    For the most part, James was usually locked away in his room or in one area of the castle. From birth, he had been cursed with hallucinations and spouted prophecies that made most people fear him. Most, but not all. The monks saw him on a regular basis and even seemed to believe some of the things he said. And there were others – occasional commoners would straggle to the gates and beg to know what the future had in store for them. Gareth wondered if the reason Rachel had not been able to become pregnant again was because Lionel had made a conscious decision for it not to happen. There were concoctions that the monks derived that could destroy her fertility, and Gareth wouldn’t blame his king at all for not wanting to sire another child for her when the two he had weren’t mentally stable.

    “Tell me what you know of her,” Alexander said, pulling Gareth out of his thoughts.

    “I know very little other than what I have already told you,” he said. “She is thin in the waist, but not to the point of appearing sickly as Julian’s betrothed, Lady Lana.” Gareth paused before speaking again. “She did not seem to like the idea of being forced to marry,” he said hesitantly. Alexander kept a neutral expression on his face.

    “I would imagine not.”

    “Perhaps you can change her mind,” Gareth said suggestively. One corner of Alexander’s mouth curled upward ever so slightly.

    “Perhaps.”

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~

    Lucas’s mouth spread into a wide smile as he laughed.

    “Princess!” a woman’s voice yelled from behind them. Chloe and Lucas’s heads snapped toward the woman’s voice to see Martha Kent rushing toward them. As Lucas and Chloe turned their bodies completely to face her, he noticed the startled look Martha tried to hide at seeing him with Chloe. She gave them a curtsey as she arrived and focused her attention on Chloe. “I thought you were resting, but when I went by your room to check on you ---”

    Chloe gave her a forced smile as she interrupted. She loved Mrs. Kent like a mother, but she reminded herself that this wasn’t *her* Mrs. Kent, and she really needed to see Carrado immediately so she could get home.

    “I’m feeling better, but thank you for your concern, Mrs. Kent,” Chloe said politely.

    “Yes,” Lucas chimed in, his voice full of a surprisingly convincing fake kindness. “In fact, I was just escorting her to see Carrado.” Martha’s face contorted into a panicked expression.

    “Oh, no! You must not,” she said. “A terrible thing has happened. Nudd and Johfrit have fallen victim to an experiment gone awry in the sanctuary and both have ---,” she paused while she glanced at Chloe, unsure of whether it would be proper to say such things in her presence, “--- both have died because of it,” she finished in a hushed voice directed at Lucas. Chloe arched an eyebrow at Lucas and it took a great deal of effort for him to push back the smile he felt rising to his lips. “I implore you, highness; you must not take the princess anywhere near the sanctuary. Carrado believes a contagion may still be in the air. It is a miracle that the poor man has managed to escape death himself.”

    ‘Indeed,’ thought Lucas. Martha turned to look at Chloe with concern.

    “And you have been in such poor health already,” Martha said to her.

    “Worry not,” Lucas said to the older woman in a reassuring voice and then grinned at Chloe. “Perhaps a walk in the garden then? We can speak with Carrado after it has been confirmed that he has not fallen ill as well.”

    Chloe crossed her arms and scowled at him, but Martha didn’t catch it because she was nodding her head vigorously in agreement with Lucas’s statement.

    “Yes,” Martha said. “Fresh air will be wonderful for her. If you will permit me a moment, I will ---”

    “You do not trust me to be alone with her majesty?” Lucas questioned with mock hurt.

    Martha frowned. Prince Lucas was handsome, but was not known for being a womanizer like his older brother, Tor – although most people attributed that to the fact that few people besides the guards could stand to be in a room alone with the young man. She thought more about it. The truth was, Lucas seemed to keep to himself when not forced to interact with others, and had not shown interest in anyone until he met Chloe. And that was the problem.

    The feeling in her gut was yelling at her to say no to him. She and several of the other servants had noticed how Lucas looked at Chloe; the way his demeanor changed when he was around her. If he became truly attached to her, then the kingdom might very well be facing unrest within its own royal family – as well as a war with Chloe’s kingdom in which they would be defeated. Martha knew that King Gabriel would never allow his only daughter to marry anyone but a King’s eldest son, as he would be in direct ascension to the throne. It had taken many long arduous talks and communications to even reach the agreement that Chloe would marry Alexander to steady the peace between their kingdoms.

    Unfortunately, Martha knew from rumors and personal experience that Lucas rarely acted with concern to other people’s well-being. He was ruthless and he wouldn’t hesitate to slaughter every one of his older brothers and even his father if they stood in the way of him securing something he really wanted. Everyone had been very fortunate that Lucas had never really wanted for anything – until now.

    “I – of course,” Martha finally replied, giving Lucas a small bow of her head. She paused when she saw the smug look on Lucas’s face, having a bad feeling that he would be definitely be willing to take the princess, not caring that she was betrothed to his brother or that it would be against her will. Martha’s lips curled in the tiniest grin as she raised her head. “I’ll summon the guards for you.”

    Lucas squared his jaw, realizing what Martha was doing. If he refused the guards for his and Chloe’s protection – not to mention her health in case she had a ‘dizzy spell’ again – then it would look too suspicious. He gritted his teeth as he squared his jaw and gave her a curt nod.

    “Go on then.”


    Chapter 9

    Sheriff Adams paced impatiently outside of the pathologist’s office door. She had gotten over to the lab as quickly as she could after receiving the phone call, but no one was there to meet her yet.

    “Sheriff Adams,” a man’s voice came from behind her. The woman whipped her head around to see James Kirchin, the local coroner and pathologist. He was her elder by only ten years, though it seemed much more than that. She figured that being locked up in a lab with dead bodies all day would do that to a person – especially in Smallville where things were never as simple as they seemed.

    “Dr. Kirchin,” she greeted formally. “You said you had something?” He nodded, but didn’t look up from the paperwork in his hands. He opened his door and proceeded to walk directly to his desk.

    “Please – have a seat,” he said, taking the chair behind his desk and motioning to the two chairs on the other side. She sat down in one of the chairs and looked at him expectantly. When his bloodshot grey eyes finally looked up at her, they were accompanied by a neutral expression that set her nerves on end. He scooted some papers across the desk at her and pointed to the areas that had been highlighted. “I didn’t find enough to tell you who killed her, but I found enough to help narrow it down if you already have suspects.”

    “It’s definitely not a suicide then?” Adams asked, furrowing her brow at the complicated jargon that filled the papers she was looking at.

    “It’s highly unlikely. She died almost instantly and she wouldn’t have had time to dress in different clothes and dispose of the weapon.”

    “I had a feeling.”

    “The body was obviously moved from the scene where she was actually killed, although I’m sure you already realized that,” he continued. “What you might not know, is that we found traces of a toxin in her body,” he said. Adams looked up at him with surprise.

    “But she was stabbed,” she protested. Kirchin barely nodded.

    “And the toxin was far more concentrated in and around the wound than anywhere else in her body,” he said.

    “So, the killer dipped the knife into the poison and *then* killed her?”

    “That’s certainly what it looks like,” the man agreed and then rubbed his sore eyes. “And it’s the toxin that actually killed her. The knife directed it right into her blood stream by puncturing her heart. If she had just been stabbed ---”

    “Then she might have had time to call out for help,” the sheriff finished for him. He nodded again.

    “The interesting part is that the plant that this toxin is derived from has been extinct for centuries,” Kirchin said.

    “And you know this, *how*?”

    Dr. Kirchin got up from his chair and retrieved an old dog-eared book off of one of the bookshelves. He skimmed through the pages until he found the one he was looking for, and then placed it in front of her.

    ‘A drawing of a plant – woo hoo,’ Adams thought sarcastically.

    “It was fairly common throughout Europe until around seven hundred years ago when it was completely wiped out by ---”

    “Okay,” Adams said, holding her hand to stop the man from continuing on his monotone voice. “But if it’s extinct, then how did they get the poison?”

    “There’s the question,” Kirchin answered. “My guess is that some lab stumbled across something synthetic that can mimic the plant’s toxin, but I really have no idea how they could have done it without an original sample to begin with.”

    “Hmm.”

    “And ---” the doctor paused and folded his hands in front of him on the desk. Adams looked at him questioningly and the look he gave her made her instinctively want to pull her gun on him. The man gave her the creeps, and although she told herself that she was probably overreacting and that she was probably just freaked out because of his choice of profession, there was still something to be said for intuition.

    “And?”

    “And,” he continued, “There’s a possibility that the young woman lying in the morgue isn’t Chloe Sullivan at all.”

    “What? That’s not possible! I had her father and one of her best friends identify the body. Plus, I’ve met her and that was her.”

    “Not according the medical records I was given,” he said and leaned forward in his chair.

    “Why? What did her records say?”

    “According to her medical history, Miss Sullivan has a birth control implant in her arm,” he said.

    “So?”

    “The young lady on my table doesn’t.”

    “Maybe she had it removed,” Adams suggested. Kirchin shook his head.

    “She doesn’t even have any sort of a scar to indicate that one had ever been there.”

    “Well, maybe ---”

    “*And* her dental records don’t match up.”

    “What?”

    “Chloe Sullivan had regular check-ups, a few fillings, and she had her wisdom teeth taken out. The body on the table doesn’t look like she’s ever been to the dentist and her teeth are a little crowded from her wisdom teeth coming in and pushing the others out of place.”

    Sheriff Adams was quiet while she digested the information. Eventually she just shook her head lightly and stared at the man in front of her.

    “I thought you said it was just a *possibility*, but the more you tell me, the more it sounds like it’s a *probability* that the victim wasn’t Miss Sullivan,” she said. Kirchin shrugged.

    “There’s always a possibility,” he said and then gave her a wince of a grin. “This *is* Smallville.”

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~

    “I get the distinct feeling that you don’t want me to go see Carrado. Why *is* that, Lucas?” Chloe asked in a hushed, yet irritated voice.

    “I would never wish for illness to fall upon you, highness, and you heard as well as I that his sanctuary is not safe,” Lucas said with a teasing lilt to his voice. Chloe narrowed her eyes at him and unconsciously started walking a little faster.

    “Jackass,” she said only partially under her breath. Lucas laughed and matched the speed of her stride. He leaned closer to her while they walked so he could speak without the guards following them hearing their conversation.

    “Would it be so horrible for you to stay here?” he asked. Chloe shot him a look of disbelief, but kept walking.

    “Uh – ye-ah,” she strung out. “Hello! I’m supposed to marry Lex in this world. And granted, he’s a good looking guy, but ---” Chloe stopped talking and tilted her head at Lucas, who simply seemed amused by her rambling. “Since you guys never had the meteor shower here, does he have hair?” Lucas arched an eyebrow.

    “When he does not shave his head for battle,” he replied.

    “Huh – interesting,” Chloe mused aloud. They started walking again and Lucas looked at her questioningly.

    “Have you changed your mind about the marriage?” he asked. Chloe’s eyes grew wide in what could only be described as horror.

    “No!” Chloe yelled. “And I’m going home before then anyway,” she said in a quiet voice to make up for her outburst.

    “And if Carrado is unable to send you home? What then?” Lucas asked. Chloe shook her head. She really didn’t want to think about that.

    “I don’t know,” she replied. “I guess I’m just hoping that doesn’t happen.”

    “It is a possibility, you realize?”

    “Yeah, I know,” Chloe said in a disheartened tone. “I don’t think I’ll be able to go through with it though. I mean, even if I never go home – I could never marry someone who cheat on me.”

    “Cheat on you?”

    “You know – sleeps with other women while we’re married,” Chloe explained. “I just couldn’t. I wouldn’t be able to live like that.”

    Lucas was about to tell her that she wouldn’t have to fear that from Alexander when he thought better of it. Apparently the man who was his brother in her world was more like Tor – and he could certainly understand her not wanting to marry someone who would be so ill-suited for her. An evil grin came upon his lips. All he had to do was let her believe that Alexander was like ‘Lex’ and she would refuse to marry him, letting him step in to take his brother’s place as her betrothed.

    He felt the chemistry between them, but he couldn’t be sure if she did; and strangely enough, her opinion of him actually mattered for some reason. He had never cared what people thought of him before, so it was a strange and discomforting sensation to care what someone besides himself thought.

    “Chloe?”

    “Yeah?” she asked, but kept her eyes on the path and its surrounding gardens. “Ooh! Berries!”

    She rushed off the path over to the patch of wild strawberries growing by the edge of the forest. Lucas grinned and started to follow her at a leisurely pace, holding a hand up to motion the guards not to follow them off the path. When he reached her, Chloe had squatted down and was picking the sweet red fruit off of the plants and gathering a few into her free hand. He smiled down at her and she returned it, rising to her feet as she did so.

    She plucked one out of her hand and held the moist strawberry up to her mouth. Her teeth clamped around it and as the first of the berry’s liquid dribbled into her mouth, she closed her eyes and let out an audible moan of delight. Lucas watched her with widened eyes and felt himself start to grow hard with the sound she made. Chloe swallowed the fruit, tossed the leafy stem to the ground, and opened her eyes; immediately changing her expression from utter pleasure to guilt.

    “Oh, Lucas. I’m so sorry. Geez, I’m rude. Do you want one?” she asked and took one of the berries out of her hand for him. Out of habit, she held the berry by the fruit instead of by the stem and Lucas, instead of taking the strawberry from her as intended, decided to take full advantage of the situation.

    His fingers delicately encircled her wrist and he brought her hand with the berry to his mouth. His lips wrapped around the fruit and the fingers holding it, keeping his eye contact steady with Chloe the entire time. Chloe’s breath hitched and her mouth dropped open ever so slightly at the intimacy of the action, let alone the care with which it was done.

    “I – um ---” she stammered as he released his hold on her wrist and grinned at her reaction.

    “Chloe?”

    “Yeah?”

    “I may have a way for you not to marry Alexander.”


    Chapter 10

    Sheriff Adams groaned and buried her head in her hands against her desk. Two weeks had now gone by from the time the body, whom they were now referring to as Jane Doe, had been found in Chloe’s room. In that time, every new revelation that came to light only brought up a whole new series of questions that they couldn’t find answers to. It was frustrating, infuriating, and completely exhausting.

    Lex had informed her that his father had been involved with human cloning a while ago, and given that Lionel and Chloe had a bit of a history with her investigating him and him making not so veiled threats toward her, it was entirely possible that he was behind her abduction. Unfortunately, Lionel wasn’t making himself available for any kind of questioning. In fact, Adams had started to suspect that he was intentionally spending extra time abroad so he wouldn’t have to speak with her; which., of course, only made him look all the more guilty.

    Adams had contacted several agencies, including the FBI and Interpol, but none of them seemed especially anxious or even willing to help her track Lionel down and ask him questions about Chloe Sullivan’s disappearance. She was sick of people with money living like the law didn’t apply to them. With every day that passed, she became more and more convinced that Chloe was still alive and Lionel was keeping her somewhere for his own sick motives. The thought made her shudder and ran her hand over her face before answering the phone that had been ringing for an unknown amount of time.

    “Sheriff Adams,” she greeted in a somber and tired tone.

    “Sheriff, this is Detective Tom Burke with Interpol,” the male voice said through the receiver. Adams immediately sat up straight in her seat in full attention. “It’s come to my understanding that you’re investigating Lionel Luthor for the murder of one woman and the abduction of another. Is that correct?”

    “Yes, sir. Well, actually, I just need to ask him some questions. He’s looking more and more like my lead suspect, but I haven’t been able to pin him down yet.”

    “I understand,” Burke said. “I think we may be able to help each other out.”

    ~*~*~*~*~

    “I do not believe you should go unattended,” Lucas said, pacing back and forth as he argued with Chloe.

    “Well, what do you want me to do, Lucas? Invite anyone who happens to be nearby to come watch me take a bath?” Chloe asked in irritation. “Besides, I’m not going by myself. Mrs. Kent is going with me to carry my bathing sheets and a change of clothes.” Chloe made a face. “I feel kind of bad using her like a pack mule like that.”

    “Mrs. Kent cannot provide adequate protection for you,” Lucas practically growled.

    “I’m going to a take a bath in the warm springs, it’s not like somebody’s going to track me there and try to steal me away while I’m naked!”

    “I would,” Lucas argued. Chloe snickered and Lucas’s face warmed from angry to moderately upset. He sighed and ran a hand through his dark hair. “Take a guard or two. Mrs. Kent will ensure that they do not watch you while you bathe.” Chloe shook her head.

    “I’m sick of these stupid guards following me around everywhere; and from what Carrado said, it’s going to be another six months before the gate to my world can be reopened. I’m going to take my moments of peace and quiet as often as I can get them.”

    “Let me come with you then,” Lucas said suggestively. Chloe rolled her eyes.

    “Yeah, because *that’s* gonna happen,” she said. “I had a major crush on Clark for years, and there’s no way that I ever would have let him ---”

    “Clark?”

    “Mrs. Kent’s son – or her son back in my world anyway,” Chloe said and then frowned. “I hate saying that. It makes me sound like an alien or something.” Lucas looked at her questioningly and she smiled. “You know – someone from outer space – where the stars in the sky are?” Lucas took a couple of steps toward her.

    “Only the Gods and Goddesses live among the stars, my princess,” he said huskily, reaching out to sweep some hair behind her ear and letting his fingers linger on her jaw. “And you, most certainly, would feel at home there.” Chloe’s smile beamed, but not for the reason Lucas thought, and when she turned to the side he was forced to drop his hand from her skin.

    “Remind me to make you watch Stargate when the portal is reopened,” she said. Lucas arched an inquisitive eyebrow.

    “You are still considering taking me with you?” he asked with some surprise. “In spite of Carrado informing us that you may not return home for several months?”

    “Yeah, well,” Chloe started, “it was a good plan, even if it didn’t work out the way we wanted. And you’re pretty much the only person who’s tried to be friends with me here, so I kind of owe you.”

    Chloe was apprehensive about bringing Lucas back to her own world, because she had a feeling that he wouldn’t fit in, but her own words reflected the truth behind them. He had been a true friend to her. He had befriended her on her first morning there, he had taken it upon himself to find out more information about her situation for her – granted, he had killed people in the process, but for some reason, that bothered her less and less every day she was there; and despite his flirty behavior with her, she had never seen him act that way with any other girl. In fact, when he was around her, he seemed completely focused on her. It was really nice to have a friend’s full attention for once and she wasn’t sure she wanted to relinquish that by going back to her world without him.

    “You owe me nothing,” Lucas said, jarring her out of her thoughts. “But I will take your offer. The more you speak of your world, the more curious I am. I would be shamed to let the opportunity pass me by so I could remain here without you.”

    ~*~*~*~*~

    Many of the men straggled off in different directions, heading home to their families as they reached the outskirts of the center of the Luthor kingdom. Alexander continued forward thoughtfully. Another hour and he would be home. He would be met with the same reception that his father always threw when he came back from battle, except this time the woman who he had been arranged to marry would also be there.

    “Thinking about her again?” Gareth asked. Alexander turned his eyes to look at him and Gareth gave him a knowing smile. “I would be lying if I were to tell you that this development does not please me.”

    “My upcoming marriage pleases you?”

    “Your *interest* in your future bride pleases me,” Gareth corrected. “If you find her to be good company, and she you, then we may never war with the Sullivan house again.”

    “You were afraid that we would lose,” Alexander said in a sure tone.

    “It was not so much a fear as a menacing promise,” Gareth said.

    Alexander grunted in agreement. His own family’s kingdom was incredibly large and prosperous, but even with their wealth and his knack for military strategy, they could never have won if they went to battle with the Sullivan’s kingdom as their opposition. No land had better armies, more gold, more land, and more power than the Sullivan kingdom. One of the reasons he had agreed to the arrangement was because he knew that he would be facing inevitable slaughter if he didn’t. He wouldn’t go down without a fight, but he would go down.

    Alexander let out a pensive breath. He couldn’t help but wonder how much of a challenge Chloe would be. She was King Gabriel’s only child, and no doubt spoiled beyond exception. Adding that to the fact that she was not in favor of the union and Alexander knew he would have his hands full.

    Gareth squinted his eyes as he saw some horsemen approaching from the direction they were headed. A slow grin appeared on his lips when he recognized the riders.

    “It seems your brother has seen fit to come ahead to welcome you home,” he said.

    Alexander’s face remained neutral and unaffected. His brother Tor was by far his father’s favorite son, and although Alexander didn’t care about such things, Tor would make a point to remind him every chance he got.

    “Brother!” Tor greeted loudly as he and his guards charged up toward Alexander and the men that were still making their way to the city.

    “Tor,” Alexander replied with no hint of any emotion on his face at all. Tor turned his horse around and began to ride next to his brother, smirking at him as he did so. His black hair, dark eyes, and chiseled features all seemed to be enhanced by the action.

    “I bring you news,” he said.

    “Do you?” Alexander asked in a not quite interested tone. “And here I thought you were coming to welcome me home.” Tor gave a half-snort before his face fell into disbelief. His older brother had just made a joke – or at least a pass at sarcasm. He had never heard him do it before and it startled him.

    “Do not tell me that you have gone and got a soul while you were away at battle,” Tor said. “The princess will be most displeased.” Alexander’s eyes flitted over to Tor’s face for just a moment and Tor took it as a sign to continue. “Our brother Lucas has taken a liking to her.” Alexander scoffed.

    “Lucas likes no one,” he rebutted, but then inwardly frowned as Tor’s earlier words sunk in. “How has she responded to his attentions?”

    “Somewhat favorably,” Tor answered. “Although not as much as Lucas would like. She has befriended him, but it has not gone any further than that – I suspect that is due to her being betrothed to you.”

    “Just as Lucas likes no one, no one likes him,” Alexander said, trying to keep the extent of his displeasure with the development from leaking into his words. “What kind of a person would tolerate a relationship of any kind with him? Especially one who has been so pampered throughout her life?”

    “I would not know, brother. In truth, Lucas has been very protective of her and has not allowed most of the family or court to visit with her. There seems to be the beginning of a friendship with Lucinda, and she tolerates Lana as well as the servants, but Lucas has not allowed me, Julian, or James to speak with her in any more than a passing context.”

    “I can understand his concern with you,” Alexander replied in a degrading tone. “He probably fears that you will try to bed the woman he wants for himself.” Tor threw his head back as a low, thundering laughter boomed from his throat. Alexander let a hint of a grin lift one corner of his mouth. “And James ---” he paused and shook his head slightly, “--- perhaps he does not want her to think more poorly of our family than she already does.”

    “Perhaps,” Tor agreed. “But then, how would you explain him keeping her away from Julian? He poses no threat of trying to woo her attentions away from him or of dishonoring our family.”

    “Lucas does not care for Julian.”

    “Lucas does not care for anyone,” Tor reminded him.

    “Except the princess it would seem.”

    “Except the princess,” Tor agreed. There was silence between them for a few minutes, only the sounds of the horses and the men as they made their way across the land. “You have never met her. Perhaps it is not so late as to back out of the arrangement.”

    “We would be defeated if we went to battle with her father’s kingdom,” Alexander reminded him.

    “He may agree to let our brother marry her instead,” Tor mused. “Why should she need to marry you when she and her husband would not stay to rule this kingdom in time anyway?” Alexander clenched his teeth. Tor had obviously been thinking along the same lines he had been a couple of weeks earlier, but was replacing King Gabriel’s position with Lucas as his successor instead of him.

    “I would not think that a viable possibility,” Alexander finally answered.

    “We shall see, brother. We shall see.”


    Chapter 11

    A/N: The song is ‘Stay’ by Michelle Featherstone, and amazingly enough, I don’t own the rights to it either. Bummer. Sorry that this chapter is a little shorter, but it needed to be done.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    “I need to know that I’ll have your cooperation here,” Sheriff Adams said, looking pointedly at Lex.

    “Of course,” he answered. “You forget that I want Chloe back home safely just as much as you do.” Adams narrowed her eyes and folded her arms across her chest.

    “Yeah, you do. Why is that?”

    “Gabe is my plant manager *and* my best employee,” he said.

    “And that’s it? There’s nothing more to it?”

    “What are you implying?”

    “Just that it’s been my experience that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree,” she answered.

    “Why ask me for my cooperation if you suspect me?”

    “I didn’t say I suspected you, Mr. Luthor. I just want to know that I can trust everyone who’s involved. And everyone else seems to have a valid relationship with Miss Sullivan.”

    “Chloe was my friend.”

    “Was?”

    “Is,” Lex corrected. “And I’m going to do everything in my power to bring her back – with or without your trust.”

    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    Alexander turned his horse to the right when the castle could be seen in the distance. Tor looked at him questioningly.

    “Where are you going? Do you not wish to return home to a hero’s welcome?” he asked. Alexander stopped his horse and turned him around to face Tor.

    “If what you say is true, then I would need to make a better impression on the princess. Do you not think it would be suitable if I was to bathe before meeting her for the first time?” Alexander asked. Tor nodded and smiled, showing off the dimples in his cheeks.

    “Indeed. You are willing to fight for her then? For a woman you have not ever seen?”

    “Hair of gold, eyes like emeralds ---” Alexander chuckled lightly at the confused expression on his brother’s face. “Gareth has seen her when he visited her father’s kingdom.”

    “Ah,” Tor said understandingly. He gave his brother a serious look. “You should know that she is beautiful. The only reason I have not gone after her is because of your arrangement to marry her.”

    “And because Lucas would kill you in a second’s time,” Alexander said with a smirk.

    “That also,” Tor agreed. He motioned with his head toward the part of the forest where the natural warm springs lay. “Go on. I’ll inform father as to the reason for your delay.” Alexander gave him a curt nod and turned his horse back around to head toward the bathing pools.

    On his ride there, his head filled with the comments Tor had made. He would have gone after her if he didn’t fear death by Lucas’s hand. Where did that leave him then? Chloe was *his* betrothed, not Lucas’s. He had every right to marry her regardless of what Lucas felt toward her. Alexander frowned. Somehow he doubted it would be so simple.

    When he neared one of the springs, he heard a woman’s beautiful voice singing. And although it was not a melody that he recognized, the sound coming from her lips seemed to twist around every tree and be carried away with the wind. Alexander stopped his horse and tied him up against a tree as he unconsciously followed the music to its source. Through the thick cover of the forest that surrounded the pool, he saw a woman’s back raised in the water. Her hair, unlike anything he had seen before on a woman, was somewhat short and wet; and when she brought her hands up to sweep through it, it brought the gentle curve of her hips partially out of the water.

    Alexander’s breath hitched in his throat at the site of her. He hadn’t even seen her face yet, but the combination of the view of her back mixed with the soft lilt of her voice was enough to endear him to her. He leaned against a tree as he listened to her sing, hoping that she might turn around and he would get a glimpse of what she looked like. The soft hum of her words drifted into his ears.

    If I build a wall
    A hundred feet tall
    Would that keep you in?
    If I shackled your feet
    So you couldn’t leave
    Would you try and run?


    He mentally kicked himself. Alexander had never acted like this before, had never shown any kind of interest in pursuing women as Tor did, and yet in the space of a couple of weeks, he had daydreamed about what his fiancée would look like and now he found himself attracted to a completely different woman altogether. He let out a small sigh and considered that maybe Tor was right – maybe he should just let Lucas marry Princess Chloe.

    If I promised not to fight
    At least not tonight
    Would you stay the night?


    ‘She sounds heartbroken,’ Alexander thought to himself. Her sad lyrics clamped around his heart and made him want to comfort her, made him want to make up for whoever the man was who had destroyed her love.

    If I wore that little dress
    That one you like the best
    Would you pass my test?


    Would you stay?
    Would you stay with me?


    ‘God, yes,’ he thought. ‘What fool would run from her?’ He watched as her song stopped and she seemed to sink beneath the water’s surface. He bristled against the branches of his hiding spot when she didn’t come up right away. Surely she wouldn’t drown herself over some simpleton who wasn’t good enough for her in the first place? He stilled as he saw the water ripple and her head bob out from underneath. She was facing him now, but her eyes were closed as her hands went over her head once again.

    Alexander’s mouth hung open as he took in the beauty before him. The lines of her face, the swell of her breasts, the curves of her body – he felt his chest constrict and his breathing become ragged. When she opened her eyes, the sun filtering in from above lit her up and his friend’s words whispered in his mind.

    ‘She is beautiful…Hair of gold, eyes the color of emeralds…’

    His eyes grew wide in disbelief. This couldn’t be her. This couldn’t be the woman he was to marry. If so, her parents could have married her to a king immediately rather than a prince.

    “Princess,” Martha called out. “There has been word that Prince Alexander’s army has returned from war. You should rise from your bath and prepare yourself to meet him now.”

    Alexander watched as Chloe’s face contorted in displeasure with the situation.

    “Fine,” Chloe grumbled. Martha held out a bath sheet to wrap her in and Chloe half-swam over to the side of the pool and walked up the rocks to the sheet.

    Alexander turned away as Martha covered up Chloe’s form, his heart beating hard and rapid in his chest. This beautiful siren was the princess, the one he was intended for. His soul rejoiced and died at the same time. She did not love him. She did not want to marry him. She was in love with another – a man who was quite possibly his younger brother. But then, why was she so forlorn about it? Alexander’s head spun, and after he overcame the physical illness of the conflicting emotions, only one thing remained. He would do what he always did. He would win.

  7. #7
    scifichick774
    Just a Guest!
    Chapter 12

    “If I may, your highness,” Martha said, bringing a dress over to Chloe that was draped on her arms. “This rose one would make a lovely first impression.” Chloe stared at the dress and then up at Martha, her expression full of disgust and disbelief.

    “It’s pink.”

    “It is ---”

    “Not gonna happen,” Chloe interrupted. She glanced over at the dresses that Martha had selected and frowned. “I don’t suppose they packed a nice black one?” she grumbled under her breath.

    “Black?” Martha repeated, completely aghast by the very suggestion of the princess wearing a black dress to meet her future husband as black was a color strictly reserved for grief and mourning. Chloe snickered at her response.

    “Calm down. It was just a joke --- sort of.”

    “Princess, I ---” Martha trailed off with a confused frown when Chloe started digging through one of the many trunks that hadn’t been unpacked yet.

    “How about this one?” she asked, plucking an ornate, deep crimson red dress out of its storage.

    “It is lovely, but perhaps a bit…intimidating for your first meeting with Prince Alexander.”

    “Ooh – and look,” Chloe said, completely ignoring what Martha just told her, “a tiara.” She dug the dainty diamond encrusted crown out and dangled it on her finger. “I can see it now – ‘The Miss Medieval Pageant’,” Chloe snarked. “Well, you know, without the whole pageant thing.” She smiled brightly as she shimmied into the first layer of the dress. “I guess I win by default.”

    “Your majesty,” Martha started with hesitation and then shook her head as she thought better of it.

    “What?”

    “Nothing,” Martha lied, moving to help Chloe with the dress.

    “Wow, you’re a bad liar,” Chloe said with a teasing grin. “So, what is it?”

    “Please forgive me. As absurd as it sounds, at times I forget that you were not raised in our kingdom. Your speech and mannerisms just served to remind me,” the older woman answered, ducking her head slightly to hide the color that was rising to her cheeks.

    “You didn’t understand what I was talking about,” Chloe said knowingly. Martha nodded. “Yeah, I get that a lot,” she mumbled to herself and then looked at Martha with discomfort lining her features. For a while now, she had been debating whether or not to tell Martha the truth, but had decided against it when she realized that the woman would probably just think she was crazy.

    Martha smoothed out the dress and took a step back to look at Chloe as if nothing had been said. Chloe jokingly lifted the tiara to her head and placed it there, earning a small gasp from Martha’s lips. Martha’s breath caught in her throat at the sight of the princess who now looked like she was willing to fulfill her royal duties.

    “You have made a fine choice,” she finally said quietly. “The prince will not dare deny your union when he catches sight of you.” Chloe’s eyebrows rose.

    “That’s a possibility?” she asked, surprise and a hint of pleasure tweaking her voice. Martha shook her head.

    “As inhuman as many claim him to be, he would never put our kingdom in such peril as to refuse King Gabriel’s only daughter,” she answered.

    “Oh, yeah – some peril,” Chloe said sarcastically and added a roll of her eyes for emphasis.

    “Your father’s kingdom is greater in size, number, and wealth than any other,” Martha said in astonishment. “Surely you know this as you are his only child.” Chloe forced herself to give the woman a fake smile.

    “Well, they don’t let me get out a lot,” she said. Martha nodded.

    “I can imagine. Your parents care for you dearly and wish no harm to come to you. It is understandable.”

    “I guess,” Chloe said. ‘No wonder the other me wanted to die. Locked up in her own house – castle – whatever; and then sent here to marry a guy she doesn’t even know. If I didn’t have Lucas to keep me company ---’ Her head shook ever so slightly as she ripped herself out of her thoughts. Lucas was a friend, and even though he had expressed an interest in her, she couldn’t afford to let it go past friendship. It would make things even more complicated than they already were.

    “Princess?” Martha asked worriedly, noticing that Chloe had been wrapped up in her own thoughts and then seemed to shiver. “Are you feeling ill again?”

    “Uh – no. No,” Chloe said quickly. “Tell me more about this ‘denying our union’ thing. How would I get him to do that exactly? I mean, I don’t want to take any chances in offending him,” she added, hoping that it would cover for her previous question.

    “You do not need to fear,” Martha said with a kind smile. “He will not refuse you. Even if he were to disregard the arrangement set forth by your fathers, your beauty shall make him desire the marriage on its own merits.” Martha’s smile faltered when she remembered that the princess didn’t want the union with Alexander to take place, only pronounced by the disgruntled look on Chloe’s face. She sighed. “You must resign yourself to the fact that Alexander is the man your parents chose for you.” She paused and bit the inside of her cheek before continuing, uncertain of whether she should say anything about what she had observed in the past couple of weeks. “He will not allow your relationship with his brother to continue.”

    Chloe’s head whipped around to look at her.

    “Lucas is my friend – the only friend I have here – and even if he wasn’t, nobody tells me who I can and can’t be friends with,” she said irritably. This conversation was taking on the distinctive undertones of every conversation she had with Clark about who she was apparently allowed not to hang out with. Granted, most of them had turned out to be meteor freaks, so technically Clark had been in the right there, but she still didn’t like being lectured to. Martha’s face paled and for a moment, Chloe felt bad for her. That is, until the woman spoke.

    “If you value his life as you claim to, you will not continue to see him; regardless of what your relationship with him is.”

    “What are you saying? That Lex would kill his own brother?” Chloe asked in a disbelieving tone. The look on Martha’s face didn’t change and Chloe suddenly felt very worried. “Oh.” Martha cleared her throat.

    “You should leave for the main hall now. It would not do to arrive late,” Martha said. A knock came at the door, causing both of the women to turn and look toward it expectantly. Martha scurried over to open it and she bit back the feeling of dread that swept through her when she saw Lucas, dressed in a manner befitting the welcome of his returning brother. He too, wore a rarely used crown, though his was platinum with large stones strategically circling it. “Y-your highness,” Martha greeted and gave a small curtsey to him.

    Lucas paid her no attention as his eyes leeringly fell directly upon Chloe. He smiled a half-smirk at her when he reached her own eyes and Chloe just shook her head.

    “I have come to escort you to my brother’s homecoming,” he said, ignoring the frightened look that Martha was giving him. Chloe took the steps needed to cross the room and he offered his arm out to her.

    “You’re going to have to knock that off,” she said. He looked at her questioningly. “Mrs. Kent was just telling me that she doesn’t think your brother will approve of our friendship.”

    “This matters to you?” he asked as he led her into the hallway. Chloe scoffed.

    “No,” she answered. “But if he’s really the devil incarnate as everyone around here seems to think he is, then ---” Lucas grinned down at her.

    “You are worried for me,” he said almost teasingly, yet still touched by the fact that she would have such an emotion for him.

    “So?” Chloe said to brush off the comment. Lucas leaned closer as they were walking and bent his head down to speak into her ear.

    “You need not fear, Chloe,” he said in a hushed, yet husky voice that sent shivers down her spine. “I am an excellent warrior, and more than capable of defending myself against any attacks that he may wage against me.”

    “An excellent warrior, huh? Then how come you weren’t off at war like he was?” Chloe asked.

    “It was merely a battle, not a war,” Lucas corrected. “And you may have noticed that our other brothers, Tor, Julian, and James, did not fight by his side either.”

    “Why haven’t I met James?” she asked, changing the topic away from the uncomfortable one it was sure to become. Lucas grumbled and straightened to his full height as he walked with her.

    “He is…unwell.”

    “He’s sick?” Chloe asked with concern.

    “Not physically, but mentally ---”

    “Oh. I didn’t know. I’m sorry,” she said.

    “It is alright. Father has confined him to the palace grounds, and usually to one particular section of our home, so he will not bother you.”

    “Bother me?” Chloe asked, picturing a whole host of things that she hadn’t even considered before when Lucas said his brother was ill.

    “With his visions – he *sees* things,” Lucas said disdainfully. “Many of the monks actually believe him to be a prophet of some sort.” Chloe stopped walking and let go of his arm.

    “He’s a psychic?! That’s what you meant by meant by mentally unwell?!” she half-yelled. “Lucas! Why didn’t you tell me this before?!”

    “I did not want you to void our…friendship…because of the shame he has brought to our family,” he answered. Chloe shook her head.

    “I can’t believe this,” she said more to herself than to him. “Did you ever think that he might be able to tell us how to get home faster?” she asked and then poked a finger at his chest. “You are taking me to see him as soon as this stupid ‘welcome home’ party is over.” Lucas was stunned by her words and barely managed to nod before he heard his sister’s voice call out to Chloe.

    “Princess!” Lucinda greeted loudly, pulling Chloe and Lucas’s attention in the direction they had just stopped going. The auburn-haired girl seemed almost to float toward them and she shot a glare at Lucas before smiling brightly at Chloe. “My, you look enchanting.” Chloe smiled.

    “Thanks,” she said. Lucinda nodded and took her arm as if they were old friends.

    “I have news for you,” she said. Chloe turned her head and looked at Lucas expectantly, be he just arched an eyebrow, surprised by what Lucinda had said as well. “Alexander saw you earlier and he has already informed my father that he will not object to your union.” Chloe made a face.

    “Why does *he* get to have the option of not marrying me, but *I* don’t have the option of not marrying *him*?” she asked in frustration lined with anger.

    “You did not hear me,” Lucinda said. “He has said that he will marry you. Is this not wonderful news?” Lucas took a couple of steps and tore his sister away from Chloe’s arm.

    “You did not hear *her*,” he told her menacingly, backing her up against a wall as he spoke. Lucinda looked scared, but she held her head high; knowing that Lucas would not hesitate to dispose of her if he felt it was necessary. “Chloe said that she does not want to marry him.”

    “But ---”

    Lucas let a feral growl escape his throat and Chloe placed her hand on his arm before he did something that both of them would regret. He stilled and turned his head to look at her.

    “Come on,” Chloe said, tugging on his arm a little. “Let’s just get this over with.” Lucas nodded and stepped away from his sister, causing Lucinda to flash a look of pure gratitude at Chloe. Lucas and Chloe only made it a few steps before Lucas stopped again and turned back to look at Lucinda.

    “You said he saw her?”

    Lucinda bit her lip, knowing that she shouldn’t have let that fact slip in front of her brother.

    “Where?” he demanded. “I have been with her for --- the bathing pools?!” Lucinda’s eyes grew wide when she realized that Lucas was right. It was the only place that Alexander could have seen her without commenting on seeing Lucas in her company.

    “What?!” Chloe yelled. “He was --- oh, God.” She clutched at her stomach as it twisted, making her feel sick at the thought of someone watching her bathe without her knowing about it.

    “Lucinda!” Alexander’s bellowing voice came out of a room down the corridor. Chloe and Lucas both turned to look at him as he stopped in his tracks at the sight of Chloe standing there looking at him.

    He swallowed hard as he took in her appearance. Her hair was pulled back, graced with a crown as loose tendrils of blonde cupped her face. Her dress, the color of blood; a color he had learned to grow fond of. Perhaps she had asked around to find out, but no – no one knew of his preference for the color except him. In his mind, it was yet another sign that destiny had spoken.

    Chloe clenched her hands into little fists and swiftly covered the space between them. Lucas and Lucinda looked on, startled when Chloe brought her hand back and slapped Alexander hard across the face. Lucas’s mouth quickly spread with a smile full of mirth and he threw his head back in laughter.

    “That’s for spying on me while I was taking a bath!” Chloe yelled at Alexander and then turned on her heel to head back toward Lucas. “Jackass.”


    Chapter 13

    Alexander growled and swiftly moved forward to catch her arm, swinging her back around to face him. Instead of a frightened look as he would have presumed to have seen, Chloe’s face showed nothing but pure rage.

    “Let go of me!” she yelled, trying to yank her arm away from him, but Alexander kept a firm grip on her. Lucas poised himself, readying his sword to attack, but stopped when Alexander spoke.

    “Perhaps I need to rethink my position on our upcoming union,” he said, intending it as a threat as he temporarily forgot that the princess had no desire to marry him. Chloe’s face lit up and she couldn’t hide the smile that swept across her lips.

    “Really?” she asked excitedly. Alexander frowned and confused, let go of her arm. She closed the small space between them and wrapped her arms around him in a jubilant embrace. “Thank you, thank you, thank you,” she said and then pulled back, flashing him a bright smile that nearly took his breath away. Chloe turned around to face Lucas, the same smile still on her mouth. Lucas slid his sword back into its hilt and grinned at her as he stepped closer.

    He bundled her up in his arms and placed a chaste kiss on her forehead, making Alexander curl his hands into fists. How could he have forgotten, even momentarily, that Chloe was opposed to the very idea of marrying him? An unexpected voice rose to be Alexander’s ally.

    “No!” Lucinda protested, setting aside her own fear of Lucas when the scene unfolded in front of her. Chloe, Lucas, and Alexander all looked over at her.

    “No?” Lucas questioned snidely. Lucinda frowned and turned her attention to Alexander.

    “I do not want to die simply because you and Princess Chloe did not fall in love with each other at first sight,” she said. “Many arranged marriages, especially among royals, have…troublesome…beginnings. I am certain that you will find common ground in time.” She gave a pleading look to Alexander and then to Chloe, choosing to try and ignore Lucas’s glare altogether before she turned on her heel and headed back down the hall.

    Chloe let out a small sigh and patted Lucas on the chest as she pulled away from him.

    “I think Lex and I need to have a little talk,” she said, causing Lucas to frown and Alexander to blink in surprise at the use of his long abandoned nickname. Lucas leaned down closer to her.

    “I do not feel right leaving you alone with him,” Lucas said in a hushed voice. Chloe gave him a reassuring grin.

    “I’ll be fine,” she insisted. “And if I’m not, then I’ll scream for you.” Lucas glanced over at his brother and shot him a warning look before nodding once at Chloe.

    “If he ---”

    “I’m a loud screamer, Lucas,” she assured him, immediately regretting her choice of words when he arched a somewhat leering eyebrow at her. “Mind out of the gutter – that’s not what I meant.” He grinned playfully at her and kissed her forehead again before turning and walking in the direction his sister had gone, giving Alexander a threatening glare along the way. Chloe closed her eyes and took a deep breath before looking over at Alexander and beaming a fake smile at him. “Okay, let’s get this over with. You don’t really want to get married, *I* don’t really want to get married – so, let’s not get married.”

    Alexander took a couple of steps closer to her and Chloe suddenly felt the overwhelming urge to yell for Lucas to come and rescue her, but she didn’t. Instead, she held her head high and looked directly into his blue eyes as he stared down at her.

    ‘Personal bubble,’ she thought, but didn’t say it because she knew the reference would be lost on him. Alexander opened his mouth to speak, but Chloe cut him off. “Look, I know that everyone’s afraid that my dad will order your kingdom burned to the ground or something, but I’m pretty sure I can talk him out of it. What we’re talking about here has nothing to do with them. It’s just you and me. Can you honestly say that you want to marry someone you don’t even know?” she nervously rambled.

    Before she had a chance to protest, Alexander’s mouth was on hers; one hand on her hip and the other tangled in the hair at the back of her head to keep her from pulling away from him. Chloe gasped in shock and Alexander’s tongue plunged into her mouth. She whimpered as she tried to push away from him and his hold on her only seemed to tighten.

    She finally gave in and began to return his kiss, part of her figuring that he might let her go if she reciprocated; the other part, the one she was trying to ignore, telling her that it might not be so bad to have to marry him when he was such a good kisser. Alexander finally trailed away from her mouth and peppered her jaw with small, wet kisses until he reached her ear. Chloe closed her eyes as she panted for breath against him and a shiver went through her body when she felt his words in her ear.

    “You have been promised to me, not to him,” he said in a low, husky tone that carried a menacing threat with it. “It would serve you well to remember it.” Chloe narrowed her eyes at him as he pulled back to look at her.

    “Oh, really?” she asked, straightening her spine and folding her arms across her chest. Alexander’s gaze brought down to her breasts with the action and Chloe rolled her eyes. “Well, I hate to break it to you, but I’m not the one who made that promise.” Alexander looked back up at her, trying to push down the feelings of lust that swam through his body at the fire in her eyes. “And I have no intention of keeping it.”

    They stared at each other, unblinking for what seemed like forever before Alexander’s expression softened and he spoke again.

    “What have I done to offend you so, your highness?”

    Chloe arched an eyebrow.

    “Well, gee. I don’t know,” she said sarcastically. “But I’m pretty sure it had something to do with you watching me take a bath without me knowing you were there.”

    “You are my betrothed,” he responded with some confusion. His hand reached out and tucked some hair behind her ear, leaving his fingers to graze against her skin. Chloe pushed aside the warmth of arousal that swept through her body with such an innocent touch and shook her head.

    “But seeing as how you just got back from war, there’s no way you could have known that,” she pointed out. Alexander gave her a strange look.

    “I do not understand.”

    “Yeah, I’m getting a lot of that here,” she mumbled under her breath and then sighed. “Look, it’s not you. I’m sure you’re a really nice guy ---” ‘As far as demons go,’ she inwardly added. “But I don’t want to get married to *anyone*. I just want to go home.” Alexander frowned.

    “Have you been treated unwell here?”

    “No, I ---”

    “Lucas,” he interrupted with a growl. “Your love for him causes you to betray your parents’ wishes?”

    “I don’t *love* him,” she argued. “He’s my friend. That’s it.”

    “I ---”

    “Like I said, I just want to go home. It doesn’t have anything to do with you or any member of your family.”

    Alexander seemed surprised by her statement, but he nodded as if he came to some kind of inner understanding.

    “You miss your family.”

    “Yes,” she answered. Alexander nodded again.

    “We shall return to your home soon after we are wed,” he said definitively, leaving no room for objection.

    “But ---”

    Both of their heads turned at the sound of someone clearing their throat. Half-expecting to see Lucas, Chloe’s eyes widened a little when she saw Lionel standing in the hallway, only five or so feet away from them.

    “Is everything alright?” he asked. Chloe managed a forced grin.

    “Fine.”

    “We were just getting acquainted,” Alexander responded. Lionel looked back and forth between them with some suspicion as the tension in the air was almost palpable.

    “I see,” he said.

    “The princess wishes for us to return to the Sullivan kingdom after we marry,” Alexander informed him, as if the decision had already been made. Lionel appeared pensive, but he finally gave them a curt nod, not agreeing or disagreeing with his son’s statement.

    “Our guests are expecting the both of you. Come along,” he said and turned around to head back to the room he came from.

    Chloe and Alexander shared a look and he offered his arm out to her. Chloe opened her mouth to argue, but Alexander motioned to where his father stood walking ahead of them. She gave him a small frown and took his arm, leaning closer to him as she did so.

    “I’m not marrying you,” she whispered.

    “Yes you are,” he replied in a hushed voice.

    The trumpets started to sound when Lionel stepped into the room and Chloe cringed. She had no doubt that Lucas would be waiting near the door for her and she was being forced to come in on his brother’s arm.

    It was going to be an interesting evening.


    Chapter 14

    “What do you mean you’re closing the investigation?!” Gabe yelled. Sheriff Adams cringed ever so slightly and motioned with her hands for him to calm down.

    “I didn’t say ‘close’, I said ‘put aside’,” she said.

    “What’s the difference?” he asked in exasperation.

    “Mr. Sullivan, I know how you must feel, but we just don’t have the amount of staff we would need to keep this investigation on active status. It will still be open, but we have other cases to investigate. I can’t devote my entire department to one case, especially when we don’t have any leads whatsoever.” She frowned and gave him an apologetic look. “I’m sorry – I just can’t.”

    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    “I doubt you could run fast enough,” Julian said teasingly into Chloe’s ear from behind, almost causing her to spill the goblet of mead that she had clutched in one of her hands. He had been watching her as she kept glancing back and forth between where Alexander stood talking to his father and the large door that would be her only means of escape. Chloe turned her head to see him smirking at her as he took a couple of steps, turning to face her.

    “I don’t know, I can run pretty fast when I want to,” she said with half-slurred speech. Despite originally turning down the drink, she had eventually given in, justifying it to herself by saying that she wouldn’t be able to put up with any more well-wishers without it. Julian chuckled and Chloe gave him a small grin. She hadn’t gotten to know him very well – or at all, really. She had only been introduced to him and said hello a couple of times in passing, but he seemed friendly enough, and at least she knew she didn’t have to worry about him making unwanted advances toward her like Tor, because he was engaged. “Where’s Lana?”

    Julian motioned with his head and Chloe saw Lana jabbering away to Lucinda, who looked positively bored by the conversation, and Queen Rachel, who looked like she was almost ready to strangle the poor girl.

    “You could join them,” Julian suggested. Chloe snorted.

    “Ye-ah. I don’t think so.”

    “If you did, it would only serve to prolong the life of my future bride,” Julian said with a not quite pleading tone. Chloe furrowed her brow.

    “I don’t see how me going over there is going to help,” she said.

    “My father’s wife likes you,” he replied.

    “She does?”

    “Of course. Her eldest son is in love with you,” Julian started.

    “Lucas and I are friends,” Chloe protested. Julian gave her a glimpse of a smile.

    “You needn’t be concerned of my opinion on your taking him as a lover,” he said quietly. “If anything, it has been a welcome change to see my younger brother acting almost human. At any rate, we were speaking of my step-mother. If you are able to convince your parents to allow you to marry Lucas instead of Alexander, then she will be mother to a future king.” Chloe frowned.

    “I think she’s overestimating my persuasive abilities,” she said and then paused for a second, frowning again as she shook her head lightly. “And I don’t want to marry *anyone*.”

    “You *are* of marrying age,” he pointed out.

    “Yeah, but – I just never pictured myself getting married – at least not so early. I wanted to do stuff first, you know?” she asked. Julian gave her a knowing look and took a sip from his own glass.

    “You wished for your life to be something other than what your parents wished for,” he said. Chloe blinked her eyes a couple of times.

    “You sound like you know what I’m talking about,” she said. Julian nodded, but chose not to answer her unspoken question.

    “What would you wish for yourself if not to marry a future king?” he asked. Chloe shook her head dejectedly and took another drink from the goblet in her hands.

    “I don’t even know what you would call them here, but I want to be a reporter,” she said. Julian creased his brow as he tried to think of a word that would compare to what she said. “Someone who investigates stories and then spreads the news about what they find,” she said, noticing his confusion and trying to help him. Julian’s eyebrows rose high in surprise, but his expression quickly fell into one of displeasure.

    “I have never heard of such a position before, but it sounds…dangerous. Surely your parents would never allow it, even if you were not of noble birth,” he said. Chloe shrugged.

    “Being buried alive was the worst,” she said, her eyes on the door again instead of on the man she was speaking to. “Not that being pushed out a window didn’t suck - because it did - but I had nightmares for a long time after the coffin thing,” she rambled, now feeling the full affects of the alcohol rushing through her. Julian looked absolutely horrified by what Chloe was saying. She was speaking as if the incidents had actually occurred and her slurred speech only seemed to indicate that she wasn’t lying all the more.

    “I – I – did not think that King Gabriel would have ever allowed his only child to be put in such peril,” Julian replied. Chloe’s attention was drawn back to him with his statement and her face slightly paled as she realized that she had just told someone other than Lucas something about her life back home.

    A distinct, feral-like growl came from behind her and she watched as Julian’s features were overcome with fear.

    ‘Oh, thank God,’ she thought. She turned her head slightly and smiled at Lucas. “Hey,” she greeted, “Enjoying yourself?”

    “No,” he replied, his fierce stare fixed on his brother.

    “Good. Me either,” Chloe said. “Think we can get out of here now?” Lucas looked down at her, seeing her smile and raised one corner of his mouth in a semi-smirk. He nodded and took the cup from her hands, shoving it toward Julian, who simply frowned at him.

    “Not to put a damper on your ---” he stopped and cleared his throat, “---*love*, but I sincerely doubt that you will be allowed to leave together.”

    “Well, I’m not letting *Lex* escort me back to my room,” Chloe said and absently patted Lucas’s chest. Lucas looked down at the motion and then up to her face, a bemused and somewhat leering smile placing itself on his lips. “Asshole,” she muttered to herself as she glared in Alexander’s direction. “Did I tell you that he kissed me?” she asked indignantly. Fire seemed to flare up in Lucas’s eyes and Chloe winced. ‘Wrong thing to say,’ she thought.

    “He *is* your intended,” Julian hesitantly pointed out, earning him hard glares from both Chloe and Lucas, but accepting them as his intention to draw Lucas’s fury away from Chloe seemed to work. “And there is talk of moving your wedding date up.”

    “What?!” Chloe yelled. “No, no, no, no, no.”

    “Perhaps I misheard,” Julian offered.

    “You did not,” Lucas said with a scowl. “I heard the same myself. I believe it was father’s idea to have the wedding prepared for when King Gabriel and Queen Rebecca arrive.” Chloe groaned.

    “Well, that’s great – just great,” she said sarcastically and shook her head. “I’m never gonna get out of here – at least not before I’m married.” Julian looked confused but Lucas put his hand on the small of her back sympathetically.

    “We have not spoken to James yet,” he reminded her quietly. “Perhaps ---” he trailed off as he watched her face light up.

    “Yes! You’re right. Let’s go do that now,” she said excitedly, pulling away from him only to run into a solid wall of flesh and muscle in the direction she turned. Her eyes darted up to the man she ran into and she cursed under her breath.

    “Princess,” Alexander greeted, glancing at both of his brothers as recognition of their presence before looking back down at her. “As the festivities have worn down, I am to see you back to your room.” Chloe scowled at him and held up a finger.

    “Hold that thought,” she said and turned back around to look at Lucas, who was balling his hands into fists. She gave him a knowing look and his eyes went from her to Alexander with a tiny smirk.

    “I’ll walk with you,” Lucas said. “It is in the direction of James’s room and I promised him that I would stop by for a visit.” Alexander frowned, but gave his brother a curt nod, and then extended his arm for Chloe. She didn’t even fake a smile at him as she placed her hand on his arm and Lucas smirked to himself.

    Alexander had gone so far as to taste her lips and she still denied him any sort of emotion other than anger and displeasure; whereas he had won her as a friend and quite possibly as the beginning of something more. She would convince the other Chloe’s parents to allow her to marry him instead, James would come up with something, or she would marry Alexander and, in time, he would convince her to share his bed rather than her husband’s. The thoughts flitting through his mind pleased Lucas greatly – until he saw that Alexander had stopped and was glaring at him. Lucas arched a questioning eyebrow and Alexander motioned toward the connecting hallway.

    “You *were* going to see James, correct?” he asked, his tone revealing that he knew Lucas’s true intentions of just not wanting to leave him alone with Chloe. Lucas gave him a tight grin and then reached for Chloe’s free hand.

    “I will speak with you tomorrow, my princess,” he said, placing a kiss on the back of her hand. Chloe snickered and he smiled at her before giving her a small bow. “Goodnight.”

    Chloe sighed as she watched him walk away and Alexander clenched his jaw.

    “I wanted to meet James,” she said with a tiny, somewhat drunken pout. They started walking again and Alexander’s body immediately relaxed, startled by her words. That was the reason she sighed? Could it be that she really *was* just friends with his brother?

    “I can take you tomorrow if you’d like,” he said. Chloe laughed.

    “Yeah, right,” she said sarcastically. “Thanks anyway, but I’ll just wait until Lucas can take me.” Alexander’s body stiffened again.

    “You and I are to spend our next few days together,” he informed her.

    “What? Why?”

    “It is common practice in arranged marriages for the couple to spend the days before their wedding together.”

    “But, but --- I thought we weren’t supposed to get married for another couple of weeks?”

    “Our nuptials have been moved up to five days hence,” Alexander said. Chloe’s eyes grew wide and Alexander couldn’t help the grin that took over his mouth. “I am surprised that you were not informed of the change at the feast.”

    “I was,” she grumbled. “I was just hoping it was wrong.” She frowned to herself and started to walk away from him, only to sway and trip because of her somewhat intoxicated state. Alexander reached out and caught her. Luckily they were near her bedroom, so she wouldn’t need to walk far.

    “Are you alright?”

    “Yeah - thanks,” she mumbled as Alexander held her upright. She ran a hand around the back of her neck. “I don’t usually drink – and I shouldn’t have tonight,” she said as she focused on the stone floor beneath her. Alexander steadied her with one arm, using the fingers from his other hand to tilt her chin up to look at him. Chloe’s heart started beating faster, pounding against her chest as they looked at each other. ‘No! No! Don’t do it!’ a little voice inside her head yelled at her. ‘You don’t belong here; you don’t even like him, you ---’

    Their heads leaned toward each other; their lips brushing lightly before Chloe felt both of Alexander’s hands grip her waist and pull her closer to him. The kiss deepened, but was still hesitant and unsure. Chloe felt like she was melting into his touch, but tried to reason that it was just the alcohol’s effects on her body. Her lips parted and she darted her tongue out to trace along the crease in his mouth. He pulled back just enough to take a breath before capturing her mouth with his own again. Their tongues slid passionately against each other and Chloe let out a small whimper.

    When they finally pulled apart to breathe, Chloe touched her fingers up to her lips in disbelief, but they were still swollen from their embrace.

    “I – um,” she said and then paused. “I should go.” She took a couple of steps away from him before stopping and looking back at him. “Goodnight.”


    Chapter 15

    Alexander walked swiftly through the maze of dark corridors, lit only by sporadically placed small torches on the walls. Although he didn’t visit that part of his home that often, he knew his way around from when he was a child and his mother used to take him on small walks through the halls of the castle. It had been their special time together, just the two of them. He shook away his thoughts as he came upon the guards who stood outside the door and they bowed to him.

    “Is he awake?” Alexander asked curtly. One of the guards nodded.

    “Yes, highness,” he answered.

    “And Lucas?” Alexander asked.

    “He only stayed but a few minutes,” the other guard replied. Alexander grunted and motioned to the guards to open the door for him.

    “James,” Alexander greeted after the door closed quickly behind him.

    His brother had his back to him as he stared out at the night sky through the tiny slit of a window.

    “Alexander,” he said, not needing to turn around to know who it was. There was a moment of silence as Alexander waited for further recognition. “She was not brought here for you,” James said cryptically and then turned around, the moonlight casting an eerie glow behind his closely cropped golden hair. His eyes were pools of black as he looked at the man on the other side of the room.

    “You are mistaken,” Alexander argued. “She is my intended.”

    James’s face remained neutral as he crossed the room and motioned for Alexander to sit on a bench against the wall. When he did, James stood a few feet in front of him.

    “The two are not the same,” he finally said. Alexander furrowed his brow and James looked to the floor for a second before looking back up at him. “It was the only way I could have the other one brought here, Alexander.”

    “I do not understand.”

    James turned away from him again and crossed the room to the window, keeping his back to his brother as he began to speak.

    “Long ago, when the princess was first born, a prophet foretold of danger to her life; of someone close enough to do her harm, by administering poison as she grew, so that she would eventually be overcome with agony from the pain and take her life,” James started.

    “Impossible.”

    “Not wanting their daughter to suffer such a fate, King Gabriel and Queen Rebecca turned to the monks in their land,” James continued, ignoring Alexander’s protest. “For her safety, their daughter was taken to another realm and, to arouse no suspicion, her other was taken from the Sullivan family of that land.”

    “James,” Alexander said in a warning tone. James slowly turned around and met Lex’s stare with his own.

    “The Chloe who was raised here, but not born of the king and queen, grew increasingly ill with every day that passed. Knowing that her death would soon come and fulfill the prophecy, they wished for their true daughter to be brought back to them,” James said with a small frown. “During this alignment,” he said, motioning out the window to the stars, “the only land in which the doorway between our two worlds could be opened, is here.”

    “What you speak of, it is fantasy,” Alexander said; his eyes pleading on his brother’s to tell him otherwise.

    “It is not required for you to believe in something to make it so,” James said simply. Alexander shook his head lightly and James started talking again. “I have been in contact with them through couriers, monks or guards who are willing to believe more readily than you. It was agreed that the only way the young woman they raised could be brought over here without concern to motives would be to form an allegiance, an agreement; and so in, her hand in marriage was promised to you.”

    Alexander stared at James in shock and complete disbelief, shaking his head once again and rising to his feet as he spoke.

    “Where is the other then?” he asked.

    “She begged for a merciful end and it was granted to her,” James said, a hint of sadness lining his voice. “Carrado and Nudd found her body, but told no one, as they did not wish to start a war with the Sullivan Kingdom. Instead, without their knowledge, they followed the plan that was in place and returned her to the world in which she was born, and brought back the princess who was born of the queen’s womb here.”

    “Impossible,” Alexander said again, this time hushed and under his breath.

    “Is it?” James asked. “Does she not seem different than any other woman you have met? Is her manner of speech not strange to you and to others in this court? Has she not accepted our brother Lucas into her confidence?” Alexander growled at him and James looked at him pointedly. “I have only seen glimpses of visions of the world in which she was raised, but it is far different than our own. I fear that she has become accustomed to that life, as she will come to ask me tomorrow for a way to return there sooner than the months that Carrado told her she would need to wait.”

    “And what will you tell her?”

    “She was brought here to be reunited with her true parents, Alexander; not to be your wife – and you came here tonight to ask me to lie to her.”

    “It is not a lie,” Alexander protested. “I was meant to be with her. Do not ask me to explain, for I cannot. But, I can feel it.” James nodded once.

    “As Lucas can feel it for him,” he said, earning him a threatening glare from his brother. “And yet she loves neither of you – not in the way that you want her to.”

    “But ---”

    “You kissed,” James acknowledged and Alexander nodded. “Physical attraction is only one connection that you must make out of many and Lucas has her friendship, which is certainly the basis for a stronger relationship.” Alexander clenched his jaw.

    “You are going to recommend that she marry him,” he said as a statement and not a question. James shook his head.

    “No.”

    “Then…?”

    “She needs to know the truth about who she is and where she is from before she makes any decision about whom to marry, Alexander.”

    “We wed on Sunday.”

    “And her parents will arrive on Thursday,” James said surely. “She will need time with them before they can come to an agreement about whom she shall marry, or if she shall even marry at all.”

    Alexander narrowed his eyes at James, a suspicion creeping its way into his head.

    “You would not be lying to me and to Lucas to gain her favor for yourself, would you?” Alexander asked. “You seem terribly knowledgeable about a woman who has never lived in our kingdom.” A tiny grin curled up one side of James’s lips.

    “I am not Tor,” he replied. Alexander frowned and nodded in acceptance of the statement. “And how I wish that I could tell you the extent of my knowledge and everything else that makes up the truth, but the timing is not right. Chloe needs to be informed first.”

    “How am I to become her friend if you will not tell me all you know of her?” Alexander asked in frustration, causing James to grin again.

    “I am not the one you need to be addressing that question to.”

    Alexander let out a sour chuckle.

    “You are suggesting that I ask Lucas?”

    “No.”

    “Who then?” Alexander asked. James kept eye contact, but said nothing. “Her?! Even with our physical attraction, she does not care to be in my company.”

    “Nor have you given her much of a reason to,” James pointed out. “If you truly believe yourself to be in love with her, then you will do her the honor of wooing her.” Alexander’s eyes grew wide. “It would be expected of you were you not a royal.”

    Alexander shook his head, his face showing only how baffled he was at where to begin such an undertaking. James chuckled and then let out a light sigh.

    “You might start with an apology,” he suggested. Alexander arched an eyebrow. “You *did* watch her bathe without her knowledge and have yet to apologize for your behavior.”

    “She is my betrothed,” Alexander said in a tone that clearly indicated that he believed it to excuse his behavior.

    “But you did not know that until you saw her face and Gareth’s words echoed in your head, correct?”

    Alexander squirmed. He had forgotten how unnerving it could be to pay a visit to his youngest brother, how much he seemed to know with no one telling him.

    “There is a possibility that I am incorrect, but I believe she was offended that you were ogling some random woman instead of her,” James said.

    “But she was the only ---”

    “But you did not know her,” James said again, in a voice like he was explaining it to a child.

    “And I suppose she would have been *less* offended if I *had* known it was her?” Alexander asked sarcastically. James raised an eyebrow, waiting for the truth of Alexander’s own statement to hit him. Alexander blinked a couple of times, stunned when he finally realized what James had been trying to tell him. He held up a hand and turned toward the door. “I – need to leave. Goodnight.”

    James nodded and grinned as Alexander rushed out the door. Tomorrow would bring the beginning of the truth.


    Chapter 16

    A/N: The song is “Hello” by Evanescence and I don’t own any of the rights to it either. Damn.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~

    Lex sped along through the night on the highway from Metropolis to Smallville, his headlights barely making a dent in the darkness that surrounded him. He couldn’t help but how it seemed fitting. He had been so sure that his father was responsible for Chloe’s death, but now…

    Chloe was dead. He grew more and more certain of that fact with every minute that passed and she didn’t return home. The problem was that everyone’s main suspect had just had several federal charges brought against him, ranging from the most minor of infractions to the most severe, all of which threatened to take away Lionel’s much loved freedom; and he still denied knowing anything about Chloe’s disappearance when a deal was offered to him.

    Lex clutched the wheel a little tighter, the blood draining from his knuckles as he pushed down harder on the gas pedal. He had no way of explaining to Gabe how they now had nothing to go on in terms of where his daughter might be or how to get her back. No leads whatsoever. No one had even called or come forward with any information in order to claim the reward money that had been offered. The real Chloe Sullivan had vanished into thin air, leaving a dead copy of herself in her place.

    Even if there were other companies doing illegal cloning research, what were the chances that they would pick a teenaged girl from Smallville to be their test subject? And why bother to risk exposing themselves by leaving the body in the Sullivan’s house? Why not just dispose of the body and keep Chloe anyway? The only thing Lex could think of was that they didn’t want anyone to come looking for her, but had obviously arranged for the possibility anyway, as no one could find out where she had been taken or who had taken her.

    Lex leaned over slightly and pushed a button to switch the CD in the car’s audio system. As soon as the haunting melody started to drift through the air, Lex’s mind went in a million different directions. It had been one of Chloe’s mix CDs, the one in the deck of her home computer, which meant it was probably the one she was listening to before she disappeared. He hadn’t heard most of the songs on it before he borrowed it from Gabe, but now he knew them all by heart, having listened to it over and over again in a strange and desperate attempt to bring him closer to any clues that it might hold about her and where she had gone.

    Playground school bell rings again
    Rain clouds come to play again
    Has no one told you she’s not breathing?
    Hello I’m your mind giving you
    Someone to talk to
    Hello


    All of the songs on the CD were like this. Themes of death and depression, warped with a meaning that he could only hope to decipher. Lex had never pictured Chloe as the kind of person who ever had those kinds of feelings. Typical teenage angst – of course. Depression so deep that she spoke of it to no one – never.

    Though with her mother abandoning her and Gabe when she was five, the ongoing Clark and Lana saga, and Lionel’s recent threats against her, Lex certainly couldn’t blame her for feeling that way. She was just more like him than she was like Lana. She held the feelings that could kill her inside while making sure everyone else saw something completely different, someone that they wanted her to be instead of who she was.

    If I smile and don’t believe
    Soon I know I’ll wake from this dream
    Don’t try to fix me I’m not broken
    Hello I’m the lie living for you so you can hide
    Don’t cry


    He would be lying if he hadn’t considered the possibility that Chloe had left of her own free will, but he had no explanation for how she would have gotten a woman who looked just like her, who shared her DNA, and left her lying dead in her place so people wouldn’t know that she was really gone. No logical explanation anyway. He did briefly consider what he considered to be a far-fetched theory about alternate realities after catching the tail-end of a series on the sci-fi channel after he realized that he had fallen asleep on the couch with the TV still on.

    Suddenly I know I’m not sleeping
    Hello I’m still here
    All that’s left of yesterday


    Lex was exhausted and frustrated. Weeks of research, of following every lead he had on his dad and his business associates, all for naught. He hadn’t been sleeping well, and when he did sleep, his dreams were filled with bizarre images of a man he had never seen looking out at the night sky and then turning around and telling him that she was never his and that he needed to let her go.

    He would wake up immediately after the words were spoken, thinking he had only been asleep for a few minutes, only to find out that he had been asleep for hours. It was unnerving and tiring, but he wasn’t about to let go of his search for Chloe. He had made a promise to Gabe and to Chloe’s friends to do everything in his power to find her, and Lex Luthor didn’t make promises that he didn’t intend to keep - even if it killed him in the process.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    James sighed and sat down, bringing his knees up to his chest and then resting his head on them. He heard the sound of the door open and, as always, the guards simply let his visitors in without announcing them like they would with any other member of the family. No introductions were needed and they knew that. James didn’t look up from where his gaze was fixed on the floor.

    “He is not listening to me,” he said almost sadly. “He is destroying himself and I can only reach him across the boundaries for so long.” He raised his eyes, still large and black, and looked straight at Chloe, ignoring Alexander’s quizzical look. “He is stubborn in every world.”

    Chloe’s mouth dropped open slightly as a gasp released from her throat at the sight of him. Her hand quickly flew to cover her mouth, but her eyes were still wide in shock. James gave her a small, knowing grin and rose to his feet. He slowly crossed the room to her and nodded once at what she apparently suspected just by looking at him.

    “Princess,” he said quietly, reaching out a hand to cup her cheek. Alexander’s jaw squared and his hand crept down to his sword, but James let his hand drop in time. “I wanted to be there to greet you when you were brought back to our world, but it would have brought too many questions upon me.” Chloe frowned.

    “I’m still not sure I believe that this is my ‘home world’,” she said.

    “It is not necessary for you to believe something to make it so,” Alexander said, repeating James’s words from the night before. Chloe shook her head.

    “Even if it’s true – hell, *especially* if it’s true – I want to go home. Why should I have to stay here with people who basically gave me over to someone else to raise and sentenced those people’s daughter to death?”

    “Your father took the only path he believed would save you from death, and it did,” James stated simply.

    “And my ‘mother’?” Chloe asked, the last word not sliding well of her tongue. James kept a neutral, yet foreboding expression on his face and Chloe’s stomach tied into a knot.

    “There was a reason that your father sired no more children for her,” he said.

    “For *her*,” Chloe repeated, staring James straight in the eye.

    “James,” Alexander said warningly. The monks might think him to be a prophet, and he knew that his brother had some range of abilities that most people weren’t gifted with, but he couldn’t stand it when James spoke in cryptic sentences that he couldn’t decipher. James turned his head and Alexander couldn’t repress the involuntary shiver that went through his body with the look.

    “Our blood is not the same, you and I.”

    “We were born of different mothers,” Alexander replied.

    “And seeded by different fathers,” James said.

    “I do not understand.”

    “If he’s right about me being born here, then I think he might be my brother – or half brother anyway,” Chloe said. Alexander’s eyebrows rose, but Chloe and James were only looking at each other so they didn’t notice. “God, I don’t believe this is happening,” she said as she shook her head. “You look so much like my cousins, it’s scary. Are you sure I’m not just in a coma?” James nodded once and offered out a hand for her to take, but she didn’t reach out for it. Instead, she gave him an uneasy look. “Even if you are my brother, you can’t make me stay here.”

    “He is the heir to your family’s throne,” Alexander told her firmly, but still in disbelief that it was happening. If James was indeed Chloe’s brother, or half-brother as she had pointed out, he would still be entitled to inherit the throne when King Gabriel eventually died. Alexander wondered if the king even knew that James was his son; after all, their correspondence had been strictly through intermediaries. If he didn’t know yet, then Alexander knew that he would soon find out, as he and his wife were set to arrive late the next day.

    Alexander was surprised that the thought of not taking over the Sullivan kingdom didn’t bother him as much as it would have before he met Chloe; but now he just wanted her. He could inherit his own father’s throne and they could remain there for all he cared. He just wanted her with him.

    “If you return to the world you consider to be your home, you will be faced with the same problems that hunt you here,” James said, ignoring Alexander’s comment. Chloe made a disbelieving face.

    “Uh - *not*,” she said. “First of all, I’m not a princess back home, and I actually have some privacy for more than just the time when I’m sleeping. Second, nobody’s trying to force me to marry anyone there. And ---”

    “As I said, he is not listening to me,” James said.

    “What?”

    “The Alexander of the reality in which you were raised, he has become obsessive about finding you,” James explained. “Do you not think that he would keep you by his side were you to return?” Chloe let out a hard breath through her nose.

    “Yeah, right,” she said sarcastically. “Lex doesn’t even know I’m alive as anyone other than Clark’s little reporter friend. And besides, everyone there thinks I’m dead, remember? This is really just another reason I should go there as soon as possible to clear things up.”

    “I have tried to tell him through his dreams that you will not be returning,” James said and turned his back to them.

    “What?! How could you ---” she stopped talking as she saw James’s hands raise to the sides of his head and he let out a small whimpering sound in pain.

    “Chloe, do not make me do this,” he finally said quietly.

    “Make you do what?” she asked.

    “You may be angry and disoriented now, but in time it will pass.”

    “What are you talking about?”

    James turned back around, his face pale and slightly sweaty.

    “I have seen that you may try to return there, but I cannot allow this,” he answered. “You would not survive the journey.” Chloe’s mouth opened to speak, but James cut her off by turning and speaking to Alexander. “I will do as you wanted to ask last night if you promise not to let her out of your sight. She cannot go back there.”

    Alexander seemed taken aback by all of the information he had been forced to absorb in such a short period of time, but he managed a nod.

    “And Lucas?” he asked. James turned his back on them once again and walked over to stare out the window.

    “It is unseen.”

  8. #8
    Members TestingFaith's Avatar
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    18 May 2003
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    This is good...I've been reading it at FF.N
    I was wondering when you'd post it up here...

    Can't wait for more,
    Lily M. :sunny:

  9. #9
    scifichick774
    Just a Guest!
    Chapter 17

    “Fucking asshole!” Chloe ranted. “How dare he tell me that I can’t go home just because he had a ‘vision’ about it? And then to say to tell everyone else that I *have* to marry Lex? Who the hell does he think he is?!”

    Lucas snickered and Chloe stopped pacing back and forth from their place in the garden to glare at him. He smiled up at her from where he lay sprawled out on the ground, hands resting behind his head.

    “Glad to see you find this so amusing,” she said sarcastically and gave him a small nudging kick in the ribs. Lucas laughed and caught her foot, pulling hard so she tripped and fell half on top of him. Chloe raised her head slightly and blew a puff of air upward to move the hair out of her eyes. Lucas tugged at her hips and turned her around so she was facing him, smiling at the disbelieving look on her face.

    “You still wish to return to the world you consider to be home, yes?” he asked. Chloe’s expression softened and she started to push herself off of him.

    “You know I do. I don’t care what your brother says – I don’t belong here.”

    “He is your brother as well.”

    “Yeah, thanks for reminding me,” Chloe said somewhat sourly and then sat down next to Lucas. “I always wanted a brother, but ---”

    “Not what you were thinking of?”

    “Exactly.”

    Lucas sat up and softly stroked his fingers against Chloe’s arm.

    “You know that I will do everything in my power to help you return home, Chloe,” he said. Chloe looked down and barely nodded her head.

    “He said I would die,” she said quietly. “If I went through again. He said I would die.” Lucas tipped her chin upward with his fingers, forcing her to make eye contact with him. She blinked in surprise when she saw the gleam in his eye.

    “James has been known to…exaggerate. I do not know what he sees, but I do know that he manipulates what he tells people so some visions will not come to pass,” Lucas said. “It is very possible that he saw something that he did not wish to see pass, and told you something extreme so you would not set the event in motion.” Chloe opened and closed her mouth, gaping like a fish with Lucas’s words. Finally she let out what sounded like a growl and pushed herself up to a standing position.

    “Son of a bitch!” she yelled, quickly followed by an apologetic look at Lucas. “Sorry, no offense.” Lucas shrugged and stood up as well.

    “None taken,” he responded. “Why should I care what you think of my mother?”

    “Oh, yeah. I forgot that you don’t really care about other people,” she said almost to herself. Lucas reached out and took her hand in his, bowing slightly to bring it to his lips.

    “Only you, my Chloe,” he said somewhat cheekily. Chloe laughed and shook her head in amusement as his eyes sparkled teasingly.

    “The girls back home are gonna love you,” she said. “Your lines are right out of a romance novel – not to mention that you could easily pass for one of the guys on the cover.” Lucas arched an eyebrow. “Not to boost your ego any more than it is already, but you’re a pretty good looking guy. I’ll bet you’ll be able to get modeling work easy.”

    “You still intend to take me, then?” he asked, skipping over whatever questions he had about the rest of the things she said.

    “I told you I would.”

    “I may have to kill your husband to get him to part with you,” Lucas said, his voice carrying a hint of warning.

    “You have no idea how good I am at sneaking out,” Chloe countered. “Besides, there’s still a chance that my dad won’t make me marry him; regardless of what James says.”

    “And if you do?”

    “Then I do,” Chloe said with a shrug of her shoulders as they started walking again. “It’s not like it will be for love – or like it will even count once we get back home.” Lucas tilted his head to the side.

    “The gate cannot be opened for some time,” he said and then paused thoughtfully. “You could be carrying his child by then.” Chloe’s eyes grew wide in panic and then she shook it off and smiled back at him.

    “Don’t scare me like that.”

    “I was not intending to frighten you.”

    Chloe stopped walking and tried to pull up her sleeve, but it wouldn’t hike far enough.

    “Okay, well you can’t see it now, but I have a birth control implant right about here,” she said and pointed to a spot on the under-side of her upper arm. “Unless someone decides to take it out here – and eww at that mental image – then I’ll be baby free.” Lucas kept his gaze on the part of her arm that she had pointed to.

    “Fascinating,” he murmured.

    “I guess,” she said. “I never realized how many things I took for granted as a part of every day life.” Lucas offered his arm out to her and she placed her hand on it without even thinking. “I think you’ll like it there – presuming we ever get back.”

    “Carrado is particularly fond of following James’s advice, but he is even fonder of staying alive,” Lucas said with a smirk. “He will help us.” Chloe snorted.

    “Should I be worried that I don’t even care that you’re dropping death threats anymore?” she asked.

    “Perhaps you are merely adjusting to your true home.”

    “Fun-ny,” Chloe strung out with heavy sarcasm. Lucas chuckled and moved his arm around her back as he gave her a partial hug.

    Unbeknownst to them, a pair of vivid blue eyes had been watching them throughout their entire conversation. It had been all Alexander could do not to allow his rage to control him and kill his brother right then and there. Of course, he knew that Chloe didn’t want to marry him – that much wasn’t news; but to hear that Lucas was still going to help her go home? And that she was going to take him with her? It was unacceptable.

    Alexander closed his eyes and took a deep breath before turning and heading back toward the castle. His mind kept flitting to the remark she made about the birth control device in her arm. Could such a thing really exist? He frowned at the thought. Although he knew that once King Gabriel knew that James was his son, that *he* would be heir to the throne; Alexander still hoped that after he and Chloe had married that they would conceive quickly and she would warm up to him because of it. He squared his jaw. Something would need to be done about that.

    He cut across the rocks and trails quickly, making his way to the back entrance far before Chloe and Lucas did. The guards barely had a chance to bow as he hurriedly passed by them. By the time he reached Carrado’s sanctuary, he was completely livid. Lucas was *not* going to take Chloe away from him. He growled at the men who guarded the door and they nervously announced his presence to Carrado.

    The older man stared up at him after the door shut, his expression neutral as he took in Alexander’s fevered appearance.

    “Your highness,” he said with a curt bow of his head. “How may I assist you?”

    “You brought her here,” Alexander started, his breathing still slightly labored.

    “I ---”

    “You need not bother to deny it,” he said. “It was all part of a plan set forth by my brother James.” Carrado looked shocked by the information, but said nothing to show it.

    “What is it that you want from me, sire?”

    “The world she was in – they put something…*in* her.”

    “I do not understand.”

    “In her left arm,” Alexander continued. “There is a device underneath her skin to keep her from conceiving.” Before Carrado could speak, Alexander gave him a cold glare and let one hand drift against the base of his sword. “I want it removed before we marry on Sunday.” There was silence for a second as Carrado weighed his words carefully.

    “She has agreed to this?”

    “No.”

    “I see,” Carrado said, darting his eyes away from the intense stare that he was receiving. “She will need to be heavily asleep to remove it with as little pain as possible.” Alexander looked at him expectantly as Carrado moved aside various glass jars. He selected one filled with liquid and made sure to cover his mouth and nose before dabbing a clean cloth into it. “This will put her to rest,” he said, handing the cloth to Alexander. “Take care not to breathe the vapors yourself.” Alexander nodded. “Send for me when she is out and I will do as you have asked.”

    Alexander shoved the cloth into a pouch that was resting on his hip and then gave Carrado a curt nod.

    “You will need to do it soon,” Carrado said before Alexander had the chance to turn away from him. “I have heard word that King Gabriel and Queen Rebecca are set to arrive tomorrow evening. It will take time for the potion to wear off, and I doubt they would be pleased if their daughter was unable to greet them when they arrived.”


    Chapter 18

    A/N: This chapter has some material that might be considered sensitive to some readers. Please remember that the fic has a rating for a reason. Thanks.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    Lex sighed as he watched Gabe run a hand over his face. He had been back at work for a while now, but Lex knew he shouldn’t have been. The poor man was throwing himself into his work to take his mind off Chloe; so much so that he was going to burn himself out if he kept on like he was. Lex closed his eyes for a second before heading over toward him.

    “Gabe.”

    Gabe turned his head slightly and gave Lex a nod of his head.

    “Lex,” he returned. The two stood there, silent and looking straight ahead rather than at each other for a full minute before Lex spoke again.

    “How are you holding up?” The sincerity in Lex’s voice made Gabe give him a wince of a grin.

    “As well as can be expected,” he answered.

    “Gabe ---” Lex trailed off, taking a deep breath before he could continue. “Let me get you help. I can fly in the best psy---”

    “Can they bring back my daughter?” Gabe interrupted, already knowing the answer.

    “No, they can’t,” Lex said. “But they can help you try and deal with things – help you get on with your life.”

    “Like you?” Gabe asked wryly, shooting a pointed look in Lex’s direction.

    “I’m not throwing myself into work twenty-four hours a day,” Lex countered.

    “No, you’re not,” Gabe agreed. “But you’re running yourself ragged trying to find her.” Lex blinked once in surprise and Gabe continued. “Clark told me.” Lex nodded and Gabe tilted his head at him. “Why?”

    “Why?”

    “Why threaten to exhaust yourself over someone you barely know? Especially now that you know for certain that your father had nothing to do with her disappearance. And don’t give me the excuse about her being your plant manager’s daughter, because I have a feeling there’s more to it than that.”

    “Knew,” Lex corrected.

    “Pardon?”

    “You said ‘know’.”

    “I refuse to believe that Chloe is ---”

    “I don’t think she is either,” Lex interrupted with a slight shake of his head. “I meant – Lana’s given me some of Chloe’s things in hopes of finding her, and after looking through them, I think I have a better idea of who she is.” His gaze fell uncomfortably to the floor. “She’s a remarkable young woman. I wish I had taken the time to get to know her on her own merits rather than simply as Clark’s friend before this happened.” Gabe grinned sympathetically.

    “You’re not the only one feeling that way,” he said. Lex looked up and tried to push aside the completely unjustified wave of jealousy that swept through him.

    “Did Clark say something?”

    “No,” Gabe answered, missing Lex’s meaning. “Chloe’s mom called.”

    “Oh.” Lex was stunned. From what he had heard from Clark, Chloe’s mom had abandoned her and her dad when she was around five years old and hadn’t been in contact with them since. He didn’t know the reasons for her departure, but knew that the phone call must have stirred up already painful emotions for Gabe. “How did it go?”

    “Not well,” Gabe said, flinching a little as he answered. “I’m ashamed to say that she caught me off guard.” Lex raised a questioning eyebrow and Gabe grumbled under his breath before continuing. “I accused her of having something to do with Chloe’s disappearance.” Lex looked surprised, but didn’t say anything. “We had only gone out a few times when she got pregnant. She didn’t want to have Chloe, but I never would have been able to forgive myself if I let her kill my child, so I asked her to marry me – which she didn’t want to do either, by the way.” Gabe shook his head again sadly. “I don’t regret making her have Chloe because my little girl is the light of my life, but I regret making Rebecca stay when she obviously had no interest in either of us.”

    “Why would you think she had something to do with it?”

    “I came home from work late one night. Chloe was asleep, but Rebecca was in her room. I heard her telling Chloe that she would never be free as long as she was around,” Gabe answered in choked voice. “She was going to --- if I hadn’t walked in --- God.” Lex felt his gut twist into a knot, not only with the words Gabe was saying, but with the emotion behind them. His father may be a bastard who wanted to ruin his life, but he never physically tried to kill him – at least not yet.

    “I’m sorry.”

    “I told her to leave,” Gabe said after a moment. “And she did. I’m just lucky that Chloe was fast asleep and doesn’t have to remember her mother that way.” Lex closed his eyes briefly, desperately trying to will away the emotions that were starting to bubble over.

    “What did she want – when she called?”

    “Something about how she saw the article in the paper and how she had grown up now, how sorry she was that she had missed all those years with Chloe but she needed the time for herself, and how she was sad that she was never going to get to know her,” Gabe replied sourly. “Honestly, I was too angry to pay that much attention. But I guess it’s good that she’s finally acknowledged that she has a daughter; even if it is too late.”

    “It’s not,” Lex said quickly. “Chloe’s still alive – somewhere.” Gabe nodded and gave him a small grin.

    “Thanks – for everything,” he said. Lex frowned at Gabe’s bloodshot eyes and the wrinkles on his face that weren’t there a month ago.

    “You need to go home and get some rest,” he said, placing a hand on Gabe’s shoulder for emphasis. “I’ll get someone else to cover this shift.”

    “Lex ---”

    “Go,” Lex ordered. “I’m not going to lose my best employee because he falls asleep on the job and gets sucked into the machinery.” Gabe made a face and then gave him a nod of his head.

    Lex watched Gabe leave, thinking to himself that sleep wouldn’t be such a bad idea for him as well. Unfortunately, he was still having the dreams of a stranger telling him to let Chloe go and the prospect of facing that when he closed his eyes wasn’t at all tempting. Worse yet, images of himself and Chloe had started drifting into his thoughts. Strange images. They were dressed in medieval clothing and he had stubble for hair. Lex tried to shake off the pictures in his mind. Normally he would have no objection to seeing him and Chloe together, but every image seemed to consist of her being angry at him, and it was more than a little disturbing.

    He was sure that any psycho-analyst would say that a part of his subconscious blamed himself for her disappearance, and although he was trying to rectify it by spending time with her, she wouldn’t forgive him for not finding her. Lex groaned wearily and rubbed his hand over the back of his neck. If they ever did find her, he could only hope that she wouldn’t react the same way as she did in his dreams.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    “How long is this going to take?” Alexander asked, pacing back and forth in Chloe’s bedroom as Carrado stitched up her arm. Carrado barely spared him a quick glance.

    “The device is out of her arm, but her wound needs mending,” he replied. Alexander grunted.

    He had come up behind her after she and Lucas parted ways and placed the doused cloth over her nose and mouth. She fell limply into his arms and it was easy to convince the guards by her door that she had simply had a relapse into her illness as he carried her into the bedroom and ordered that they fetch Carrado for him. It had worked so simply – too simply.

    He didn’t fear his brother, but he knew that Lucas would hear of what had happened and might come charging through the door at any minute. He would know what was really going on the second his eyes fell upon the bed, where Chloe lay clothed only by a blanket from her chest down. Alexander looked at her again. Her breath was coming in a soft, even rhythm as she slept under the potion’s effects. Her bare arms were out to her sides as Carrado hovered over her, and it was all Alexander could do not to push the man aside and start kissing his way up them.

    Alexander pumped his hands in and out of fists nervously as he tried to make up his mind about something. There would be dire consequences if he saw it through, but the possible reward was too great to pass up. He stopped pacing just as Carrado got some long pieces of cloth out to bandage Chloe’s arm.

    “Marry us.”

    Carrado stilled his actions and turned his head to look at Alexander.

    “My prince?”

    “Marry us,” Alexander repeated.

    “N-now?” Carrado uncharacteristically stammered. “Impossible.” Alexander’s fiery glare made Carrado’s stomach clench. “Sire, her parents will be arriving tomorrow evening. Surely you can delay your nuptials until ---”

    “No.”

    “But she is not awake,” Carrado argued. A flash of light beamed from the small slit of a window onto Alexander’s sword as he drew it from his side and touched it against Carrado’s neck. Carrado held his hands up, one of them grasping the fabric he was going to wind around Chloe’s arm. “Sire, please. Even if I overlooked the fact that I would be forcing her into the marriage, you would need rings. The ceremony would not be valid without them.”

    Alexander reached up with one hand and brought a chain over his head from around his neck. A leather pouch dangled on the end of it as he tossed it to the older man. Carrado hid his frown as he opened the pouch. Inside laid the wedding rings he was sure Alexander had crafted for the wedding soon after his first encounter with Chloe. He took a breath and shot one last pleading look at the prince. In response, Alexander tilted his sword so it scraped the skin of his neck and drew a small amount of blood.

    “May I wrap her wound first?”

    Alexander nodded and withdrew his sword, watching as Carrado seemed to take his time bandaging Chloe’s arm. Carrado cleared his throat and stood up.

    “Take her hand,” he told Alexander. The prince sat down on the bed next to Chloe and did as Carrado told him. The monk began, praying silently that something, *anything* would cause the door to burst open and stop the mockery of a wedding ceremony. The door stayed shut. Carrado murmured some lengthy words in an ancient language and his hands started to shake as he got to the vows.

    With great surprise, when he questioned Chloe as to whether she would take Alexander as her husband, she let out a hum and rolled toward Alexander, snuggling up to the arm he was using to hold her hand. Alexander beamed and Carrado frowned. “So be it. By the law of this land, you are pronounced husband and wife. You may kiss your bride.”

    Alexander lowered his mouth to Chloe’s, giving her a soft, gentle kiss. Chloe hummed again as the potion Lex had used was starting to wear off. His lips pressed harder against hers, his hand traveling up her side over the blanket that covered her. Chloe, in a state where she wasn’t quite awake, thought she was dreaming and began to reciprocate the kiss.

    Carrado gathered his things and hurriedly left the room, closing the door behind him as he tried to justify what he had just done. He had married his king’s eldest son to a woman who did not love him, who wasn’t even conscious to have a say in the matter. Carrado frowned as he decided that there was no justification for what he had done and he would need to serve a great deal of penance to make up for his actions. The guards looked at him expectantly and he forced a blank expression onto his face.

    “Prince Alexander will be seeing after his beloved. See that they’re not disturbed.”


    Chapter 19

    Alexander kissed along her jaw to her neck, darting his tongue out to taste her soft skin on top of her vein. His teeth grazed her and his mouth latched on; starting to suck hard as his hand slowly removed the blanket from her body. Chloe’s arms went up around his neck and pressed against the back of his head to keep him from moving.

    His hand reached for her breast, his fingers teasing the nipple as he trailed his mouth down to the other one. Alexander’s lips wrapped around her other nipple and Chloe’s hips bucked. A loud groan came from deep in his throat at her responsiveness and Chloe’s eyes started to flutter open. They fixed on the top of Alexander’s head and her eyes grew wide with panic.

    She let out a scream and tried to scoot away from him, grabbing and clutching the blanket against her skin to cover herself when she realized she was naked.

    “What the hell are you doing in my room?!”

    Alexander opened his mouth to answer, but got cut off when a burst of raised voices came from outside the door. Chloe took advantage of the temporary distraction, wrapped the blanket around her. She winced at the twinge of pain that shot through her arm at the movement and looked down to the source. Her arm was bandaged in the exact spot her birth control implant had been.

    “Son of a bitch!” she yelled backing off the bed until she was standing in the corner of the room, as far away from Alexander as possible. Alexander eyes flared, but Chloe wasn’t frightened anymore. She was angry. And Alexander was about to be on the receiving end of a full-fledged Chloe rant. “You took out my implant?! What the fuck were you thinking?! Those things are expensive, not to mention that I’m damn sure you don’t have anything like it in this world! Argh! And since you cut into my arm, with what I’m guessing wasn’t sterile equipment, then I’m probably going to get gangrene or something. Great. That’s just great.”

    Suddenly, the door swung open to reveal Lucas with his sword drawn and a cold, murderous look in his eyes. There was no sign of the guards and Chloe figured they must have been smart enough to get out of the way.

    ‘Good,’ she thought. ‘There won’t be any witnesses when he kills his asshole of a brother.’ She blinked in surprise at her own thoughts. Had she really turned into the kind of woman she abhorred? The damsel in distress? The very thought of it disturbed her. Despite the fact that Clark had rescued her several times, the damsel in distress syndrome was really something that she had always associated with Lana. After all, when Clark came to Lana’s rescue, it was because every damn meteor freak in town seemed to want to do her harm. Not that Chloe could blame them, at least not before she became friends with her, but the point was that Lana was helpless. When Clark had to save Chloe, it was because she was in the middle of a story. ‘Or a date,’ Chloe thought sourly.

    Still, the situation was different. At least Chloe had put up a fight, kicking and screaming the entire time she was in a bad situation. Whereas, Lana seemed to get knocked out or constantly cry ‘help me’. True, Lana had taken self-defense lessons, but the only time she ever used them was to beat up that jock in the Talon. There had been several instances after that where the girl conveniently forgot everything she had learned and fell into peril almost willingly.

    Chloe wasn’t like that. She was a fighter. On the other hand, there was no chance in hell she was going to get between two large, well-built men with sharp swords in order to just shoot her mouth off at them. There was a time to stand up for yourself, and there was a time for being perfectly quiet, huddled in a corner trying to keep the blanket wrapped around you from falling down, and hoping that it wouldn’t be your blood that got sprayed all over you. Seeing the look in Lucas and Alexander’s eyes, Chloe reasoned it was time for the second.

    Lucas let out a loud growl at his brother, effectively pulling Chloe out of her inner rambling. Alexander didn’t back down, not that she expected that he would. Instead, he stood poised with his own sword in hand, glaring intensely back at his brother.

    “Did you touch her?” Lucas asked through a clenched jaw.

    “She is my wife,” Alexander responded confidently. Chloe’s eyes widened.

    “The hell I am!” she yelled. Her words finally brought Lucas’s attention to her, if only for a second, and his demeanor softened ever so slightly. It wasn’t enough so anyone else would notice, but Chloe had gotten to know him pretty well. His eyes fixed on his brother once again as he spoke to her.

    “You are,” Lucas informed her and motioned to the ring that now graced her left ring finger. “Alexander had Carrado marry you without your consent.”

    “What?!”

    Alexander sneered cockily at his brother.

    “Her consent was not required as our parents had already approved the union,” he said. Lucas growled again and Chloe could see him warring with his emotions. She frowned, knowing it was because of her. He knew that she didn’t approve of him killing people and didn’t want to appear poorly in her eyes by having to do it right in front of her.

    Chloe set her jaw; damned if she was going to let Alexander have the advantage just because she was too cowardly to say anything. She stalked over to him, still clutching the blanket where it gathered together in front with one hand. She moved to stand in front of him, making sure she had his full attention. It worked. His eyes raked over her body and Chloe had to push down the tingle of arousal that came with his gaze.

    “I am *not* your wife!” she yelled. “I don’t care what James says – I’m going home. And you ---” she paused for a second while she poked his chest angrily with her finger. “*You* are *not* going with me!”

    Alexander watched her chest heave up and down and her face color with her temper. The very image of her so passionate, even if it was in pure animosity toward him, was incredibly erotic. If nothing else, his years in battle had taught him a number of skills that he would need to fully capture her for his own. Speed and agility being the two he needed now. With his free hand, he reached out and grabbed the back of her head, slamming his lips down to hers in a brutal kiss. It didn’t last long because he sensed his brother coming toward them to attack him. Alexander brought his sword up just in time to clang against Lucas’s sword.

    They were about to get into a full-on duel when the sound of someone clearing their throat came from the doorway. All three heads in the room turned to look at who was brave enough to disrupt the thick tension of the moment. Martha Kent stood there, her eyes wide and face paled in panic. She gave them a courtesy and then hesitantly began to speak.

    “I --- please forgive me for intruding, but King Gabriel and Queen Rebecca have arrived sooner than expected,” she said. She looked at Chloe and tried to give her a small grin, but it came off looking like she was going to be sick. “I am here to help you dress to meet them.” Alexander, Lucas, and Chloe all remained silent, staring at the woman – Chloe in disbelief, the other two in frustration and anger. Martha took in the two princes’ attire. “Pardon, but perhaps you should change as well, highnesses. Your father has requested that all of the court must dress in formal attire, so King Gabriel will not take offense.”

    Lucas grunted and turned to look at Chloe. He reached out and placed his hand on her back, knowing that Alexander wouldn’t dare do anything to him in front of Martha.

    “Stay with her,” he half whispered. “If he ---”

    “Thanks,” Chloe said, cutting him off and giving him a stoic expression. Lucas nodded once, glaring at his brother warningly as he left the room.

    Alexander, however, made no effort to leave. He placed his sword back in its sheath and folded his arms across his chest.

    “Sire?” Martha asked questioningly.

    “I will change into more formal attire *after* my wife has,” he answered firmly. “We will be expected to enter the hall together.”

    Martha’s mouth dropped open a little and she started to stammer.

    “W-wife? But you have not married yet. You will not marry until Sunday. It has been arranged,” she argued. Alexander’s nostrils flared.

    “We were married not an hour ago,” he said almost scathingly.

    “You did not wait for her parents?” Martha asked, still in shock. She looked around the floor of the room in distress. “This is not good. King Gabriel will be most displeased.” Alexander kept a cool, uncaring look on his face and Martha shivered when she finally looked at him again. She opened her mouth to speak, but closed it quickly when she saw that he wasn’t going to waver from his position. She nodded once and turned to shut the door so passers-by wouldn’t be able to see Chloe change.

    “What?! Oh, hell no!” Chloe yelled to nobody in particular. She focused her attention on Alexander. “You’re leaving and you’re leaving now. I’m not changing with you in my room,” she said indignantly. He smirked at her and for a brief moment she was reminded of the Lex from her world; although she instantly told herself that Lex would never have put her in that kind of position. Alexander stepped closer to her, placing an unwanted hand on her hip as he leaned down to speak into her ear.

    “It is my right as your husband to be around you at all times,” he said, his low, husky voice sending a tremble through her body. Chloe barely resisted closing her eyes and melting into his touch.

    “You’re *not* my husband,” she said, her tone weak and unsure, betraying the authority with which she intended them to come out. Alexander pulled away slightly to observe her, his eyes stilling on her lips.

    “I am,” he responded, reaching his other hand into her hair, “whether you admit it or not.” He lowered his mouth to hers, licking along the crease in her lips until she opened for him. Her hands rested on his chest and he pulled her body closer, bringing his hand to her back and tugging slightly on the blanket so it would fall. Martha blushed and turned her face away before silently making her way to the door and opening it only slightly to slide out into the hallway.

    “Mr. Luthor? Sir?”

    Lex shook his head, his body shuddering a little as he was jerked from the strange daydream/vision/fantasy thing he had been having. He didn’t even realize that Tom Yager, the man he had called in to take over the shift Gabe had been working, had been calling his name for the last few minutes to get his attention.

    “What?”

    “I – no offense, Mr. Luthor, but are you alright?” he asked. “You seemed completely out of it and ---” he trailed off, giving Lex a weird look.

    “And what?”

    “Your eyes kind of --- turned green,” Yager said. Lex arched an eyebrow.

    “I have blue eyes, Mr. Yager.”

    “I know. That’s not what I meant,” Yager replied. “I mean, they literally fogged over with that weird meteor rock color – even the white parts.”

    Lex opened his mouth to speak, but then snapped it shut as he remembered Chloe’s theory about the meteor rocks and their ability to cause strange mutations. Was it possible that his initial exposure because of the meteor shower, and then additional exposure due to his father’s experiments, had made him material for Chloe’s wall of weird? Lex’s heart started to beat faster. He had only believed his dreams to be extensions of how he was feeling about Chloe’s disappearance, but now…

    ‘She said this world,’ he thought. ‘And she said she was coming home.’ Lex turned his head to look at Yager for a split second. “Will you excuse me please? I have some research to do.”


    Chapter 20

    Lex’s car swerved as he took the corner at too high of a speed. One place in all of Metropolis hadn’t laughed at him when he called about alternate dimensions actually existing and how to access them. He felt a little apprehensive that the one place had been an occult bookshop, but he was reaching the point of desperation and pushed aside any concerns that he might have about looking foolish.

    His cell phone rang just as he pulled up to the curb in front of the store. He plucked it out of his jacket pocket and answered it, his eyes fixed on the dark red curtains sheltering the shop from the outside world. If he was anyone else, or if he was standing in front of the store under any other circumstances, the skulls and charms decorating the window sill would have sent a shiver up his spine. As it was though, he had developed somewhat of an obsession with finding Chloe, and now that the visions of her being with him in an alternate world had started, he was going to do whatever it took to bring her home.

    “Luthor,” he curtly said into the phone, not particularly wanting to be bothered with a phone call when he might be close to finding a way to get to the woman he realized that he was starting to develop more than platonic feelings toward.

    “Lex Luthor?”

    “Yes?” Lex bit, not recognizing the voice on the other end of the line, and being more than a little disturbed that someone had been able to gain access to his private cell phone number without his permission.

    “Mr. Luthor, this is Sergeant Barnes, I’m with the Coast City Police Department.”

    ‘Crap,’ Lex inwardly muttered. He sucked in a breath and then squared his jaw. “I presume this call has something to do with my brother Lucas then?”

    “Yes sir.”

    “What did he do?” Lex asked, trying to keep his tone void of any emotion.

    “I ---” he heard Barnes sigh and then continue, “I’m sorry to be the one to tell you this, but your brother is dead. His body was found in his apartment a couple of hours ago.”

    Lex stood there, stunned at what he had just heard.

    “Wh--- how? How did he die?” he managed to ask. He knew that Lucas still liked to gamble – and cheat – so someone killing him over a game of cards was a very real possibility. Of course, he couldn’t rule out the fact that their father had threatened to have Lucas killed when it became more obvious that he would never switch sides and team up with him.

    “He was shot,” Barnes answered. “The neighbors heard yelling before the shots – looks like a lover’s quarrel. We’re bringing in his girlfriend for questioning now.”

    “I see,” Lex said.

    “Not to be insensitive, but you’ll need to get in touch with whatever mortuary you want to handle the funeral arrangements. You don’t have to come and I.D. the body or anything though; his neighbors and driver’s license did that for him.”

    “Alright.”

    “I’m sorry for your loss.”

    “Thank you, Sergeant.”

    The phone call ended without a proper goodbye; Lex too busy absorbing the information he was given to offer one and Barnes too busy with his caseload to care. Lex stared blankly at the shop that had seemed so foreboding just moments ago. Lucas, the half-brother that he had never really gotten to know - even after he found him - was dead. He knew it was wrong, but he felt bad that he didn’t feel worse. Here he was, three hours from the town in which he now lived, searching for a way to bring a woman, who in all practical terms was virtually a stranger, back to him; but he couldn’t find it in himself to break down for the loss of his own brother.

    Life could be incredibly fucked up sometimes.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    “This is unacceptable! I came here to solidify our allegiance by attending my daughter’s wedding to your eldest son, only to be informed that he has already forced her to marry him earlier this very day.” Gabriel growled and stared down Lionel, who opened his mouth to protest, but was swiftly cut off. “I *will* have his head for this and your kingdom *will* be destroyed.”

    Chloe cringed when she heard her father’s voice come roaring angrily through the open door. She had never heard the dad who raised her use that tone before, and she found herself suddenly grateful for that fact. He was obviously upset that Alexander had forced a marriage upon her while she was unconscious, and although he had every right to be livid over the situation, his tone was so menacing that Chloe couldn’t help but wonder if he had ever really intended for her to go through with the marriage.

    After all, James had told Alexander that the arranged marriage had pretty much been a rouse in order for her and her other self to be switched. The thought that everyone back home believed her to be dead still made her sick and she paled.

    Alexander leaned down and uncharacteristically placed a sweet kiss on her temple. Chloe turned and looked up at him questioningly, but he was already looking forward again, his posture completely straight as they came up upon the entryway to the room that her dad and presumably her mom and the rest of the Luthor clan were in. She was surprised that she seemed to be more affected by her dad’s yelling than he was, but she supposed that some things must be universal through all alternate dimensions. Alexander had all the cool composure that Lex back home did. Her mind flitted to what she had allowed to happen with him not an hour ago.

    ‘Okay, maybe not *all* the cool composure,’ she thought to herself. She was still having trouble believing that it had actually happened, though the sore ache between her legs served as a not-so-gentle reminder that it had. She had slept with Alexander. ‘The bane of my existence and I sleep with him. Way to go, Sullivan,’ she inwardly chided herself.

    If it had been any other man in any other circumstance, then she might have used the term ‘made love’ or ‘had sex with’, but as it stood, she didn’t love him – at least she didn’t think she did. They had an undeniable physical, chemical reaction to each other though. The spark that went through her skin upon their first official meeting was still there every time he had touched her since then; if anything, it had grown more and more intense each time.

    Chloe wondered briefly why she never had that kind of immense attraction to the Lex back home, but her mind quickly provided her with the answer. Clark. She was so blindly in lust with him that any other gorgeous man could have paraded naked in front of her and she would have simply written a story on the sudden influx of streakers in town. No. Lex Luthor never had a chance. Chloe had to cover a snort at her own train of thought by letting out a small cough into her free hand.

    ‘The Lex Luthor I knew never would have been interested in me,’ she mentally clarified, frowning slightly afterward. She meant what she had told Alexander before; she had every intention of still going home. But now she felt a twinge in her heart at the thought of leaving him behind. ‘It was just sex,’ she told herself firmly. ‘It doesn’t change anything. He’s still an obsessive, possessive jerk and you still don’t like him.’

    Lionel’s pleading voice came wafting into the hallway. And although normally, she would have paid to see a man like Lionel Luthor grovel, in this setting it kind of made her feel bad for him.

    “Please, your highness, I am certain that Alexander only did so out of the deep love he has developed for your daughter,” Lionel said. “For what more could you ask than for her husband out of an arranged marriage to love her?”

    Alexander and Chloe stopped when they reached the open door and Chloe struggled to keep her mouth from falling open when she saw her dad decked out in the same royal attire that everyone else was wearing. It was even more difficult when she saw her mom standing on the sidelines, appearing completely unaffected emotionally by what was going on in front of her.

    The man standing next to the guards looked at them, over to where the kings were arguing, and then back again, clearly conflicted as to whether to announce their presence or not. Chloe gave him a small smile and then turned her attention to Gabriel and Lionel as Gabriel started to fume again.

    “It does not matter that he ---”

    “Wow,” Chloe said a little louder than her normal speaking voice, “he hasn’t seen me in *forever* and he’d rather keep a fight going with your dad instead.” She looked at Alexander and gave him a really forced and nervous smile. “I think I should be offended.”

    King Gabriel swung his head around and the threatening scowl that had been on his face just a moment before melted into a broad, warm smile. He knew immediately from the short haircut to the healthy, glowing tint of her skin – this was his daughter; not the one he had raised, and by doing so, had doomed to a life of misery and frailty from a slow death; but the daughter he himself had seeded. He opened his arms for her, hoping that she would have given up some of the anger that James, through a messenger, said that she had upon learning the truth of where she came from.

    Chloe stood there for a second, unmoving, and unsure of how to proceed. She missed her dad so much, but the man in front of her wasn’t her dad - at least he wasn’t the man that she had believed to be her dad all her life. Of course, if she ended up never being able to go back…

    She returned the smile and let go of Alexander’s arm, making her way over to King Gabriel. His arms wrapped around her when she reached him and she found herself hugging him back. He pulled away slightly and gave her a firm kiss on her forehead before smiling almost giddily down at her. Chloe almost felt bad for feeling so much resentment toward him for sending her away to begin with. Almost being the operative word.

    The second Chloe caught Queen Rebecca looking at her in shock and with hatred in her eyes; she knew what James had been referring to. Her own mother had been the one who had been giving the poison to the girl she believed to be her daughter, or at least Chloe suspected that was the case. Her father noticed the look and spoke in a hushed voice, his back now turned on Rebecca so he wouldn’t need to worry about her possibly reading his lips.

    “I am sorry,” he said quietly. “I should have known from the start that it was she, but I did not want to believe it.” Chloe nodded absently.

    “Love is blind,” she replied somewhat sourly.

    “Mmm,” Gabriel hummed in agreement. “Despite this marriage that has been forced upon you in this land, you will not be expected to stay in it.” He palmed her cheek sweetly. “You are my only child, daughter. You are my heir. I would never wish for you to be unhappy.” Chloe frowned.

    “Ye-ah,” she strung out, “about the heir thing – I don’t suppose that James ---”

    “He refuses to tell me of your future as leader of my kingdom, but I have no doubt that you will be a fine one,” Gabriel interrupted and then smirked proudly. “Who else would dare to speak during a fight between two kings?”

    “Look, not that I don’t appreciate you thinking that I’m going to take over your throne, because I think it’s totally cool that you’re all progressive when it comes to the whole female leadership thing, but ---”

    “Your mother will cause you no more harm,” he said, cutting her off again. “She will die by my hand before she comes near you.” Chloe grimaced.

    “Actually, I was going to say – have you *met* James?”

    Gabriel looked at her in puzzlement and then lightly shook his head.

    “We have corresponded only through messenger,” he answered. “Why? Does he need to speak to me again?”

    “That might be a good idea,” Chloe said carefully, judging her father’s face as she chose her next words, “seeing as how he’s your son.”



    TBC...

  10. #10
    Members TestingFaith's Avatar
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    18 May 2003
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    Yay...I like being listened to....another update really soon would be nice...

    ^_^

    Looking forward to more,
    Lily M. :sunny:

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