In The Darkness

What she would find that day would change the world she lived in. Ancient pages would show her things that no one would ever believe and lead her to a land beyond her home town of Lockley.
Louisa McCain discovers an old diary in her basement, that tells her of a fantasy land that she could only dream of. She slowly gets entranced by the idea of the beyond, the potential that it holds. She becomes obsessed with finding this place called Philia, frantically scrambling to put together the clues and find the portal.
If she does, will it all be what she imagined or will she be plunged into a world that she wishes she'd never found?


13. Thirteen

“We have a habit of doing this don’t we?”

“We sure do.” I replied laughing a little. It was only Xander.

“Are you ready to meet my pack?” he asked, holding out his arm for me to take.

“I’m ready.” I replied cheerily, a smile sneaking its way onto my face for the first time that night.

“There aren’t many of them, but, as I said earlier, they are in their wolf forms, so may be a little intimidating.”

We rounded the building, onto the back porch of the mansion. I could see three wolf shadows on the ground below, lying patiently in wait of us. They stood at our approach, their stances hostile and on edge as we entered a moonbeam of light that illuminated our faces in a pale glow.

“It’s only us” Xander announced to the group, who visibly relaxed when they knew who it was with them. Their shapes shifted in the dim light, the wolf silhouettes melting away into taller, human ones with broad shoulders. They were all male and at least six foot tall with muscular figures. I could not see their faces properly in the poor light, but I could tell that they had squared jaw lines and cropped hair, like those men in the movies, all buffed up and ready for action.

“Xander” one of the gruff voices began, gravelly and rough, “why did you tell us to come here?”

“Let us find some more private location to discuss this. I heard some of the angels out on the lawn to the right side of the house who may overhear us. We will have to walk in our human forms to the edge of the property, but then we can transform and run to the eastern forest.”

“We’ll meet you there, Xander.” Another voice said, slightly softer than the previous one.

“Ok. I’ll be with Louisa so we will be a little behind you. Be there by the time the moon has peaked in the sky. You know what to do.”

And with that, the men morphed to wolves again, bounding into the tree line at the border of the property, disappearing into the pitch black shadows beneath the trees.

Xander began walking the way the wolves had gone, motioning for me to follow him towards the forest. Tentatively, I advanced towards the border of the property, not knowing what could possibly be beyond the divide that seemed to exist between the semi-darkness and the midnight woods.

A few feet before the tree line, Xander stopped and turned towards me, placing his large hands on my shoulders, covering them completely with his palms.

“Louisa.” He gulped, nervous for the first time I had known him.

I nodded my head, urging him to continue with whatever he wanted to say.

“I’m sorry about what I’m about to do Louisa, sincerely so.” And then he dove forward and smashed his lips to mine, roughly prying my lips open with his own. My lips went numb, and then soon my whole body as a tingle slithered over my skin, like water flowing over my whole body. Xander’s kiss was everything Zach’s wasn’t. It brought the fireworks that those sappy romance novels talked about, sent those shivers down my spine that every protagonist continued to try to describe but just couldn’t.

All too soon, it was over. I delved deep into Xander’s eyes, drowning in the colour of drying grass in the summer sun, spotting the flecks of dirt among the pale green that I had seen only a few times, yet was so comforting and familiar already.

“Louisa?” Xander said urgently, clicking his fingers in front of my face to try and get me out of my trance. I blinked, coming back to reality, yet still completely baffled by what had just happened.

I nodded my head slowly, moving on autopilot in response to him.

“Louisa. I want you to concentrate really hard on transforming into a wolf. Imagine your body dropping onto all fours and sprouting fur all over. See your ears move to the top of your head and your nose elongate into a snout.” Xander was trying to get me to change into a werewolf when I wasn’t one. I wasn’t a miracle worker. I couldn’t just change into a wolf on command like him.

“I’m not a werewolf.” I clarified, checking he knew that fact.

“Yes, I know. That’s why I kissed you. Because you are bonded to an angel in the feeding process, your energy rose to the surface and intertwined itself with mine temporarily. It means that some of my energy is inside you, so you temporarily have my werewolf abilities. It will wear off soon so we need to get going.” My stomach dropped at the news, not realising that was why he had kissed me. I don’t know what had sparked those feelings within me but decided to put it down to a hormone flare or something biological like that. Nothing could happen between me and Xander. He was helping me escape Philia as an ally, a friend at best. Nothing more, nothing less.

I shuttered my eyes closed, feeling the burn of Xander’s gaze on me as I tried to envision myself transforming into a wolf. I imagined the feeling of sinking to the floor, my stomach dropping along with the rest of me as the ground met my ragged paws. A tail snaked its way out of my back, hair the colour of my own pushing its way out of my skin, to cover my body in its warm, chocolate layers. The rest of the process came naturally now, my nose slowly elongating into a snout, with a black, wet nose on the end. My long hair receded down to the same length as the rest of it, replaced by two ears that had slid up from the side of my head to the top, like two peaks with silky soft insides that crowned my head. The transformation was complete, as was Xander’s.

Xander motioned with his snout towards the dense forest foliage. I charged in, not thinking or looking back any more. Xander was slightly in front of me, his hair only slightly lighter than my own.

My vision was improved now that I was in this new form. I could see through the trees and hear every animal rustling amongst the bushes and snuffling the ground. An earthy scent emanated from everything around me, fresh and light with the slight hint of a recent rain that resided on the leaves of every plant.

We skidded to a halt as we entered a clearing in the trees, a flat area of grass, stained by patches of soil. The three wolves from earlier stood in their human forms, bathed in the soft glow of the moon that highlighted the harsh features of their faces. They all stared at us as we came into the area, on high alert even though the mansion was a few miles back.

The run had been exhilarating, allowing me to work off all the stress of the past while and the annoyance I had built up towards Xander. It gave me the chance to feel free again; like I could do anything I wanted whilst I was in that form. It all ended too soon though, the residue of the rush in my bloodstream the only reminder of what I had been for those past minutes.

I shifted back to my human form, wanting to stay as a wolf but having no choice. Xander’s energy must have worn off just as we finished the run. I still had my clothing on, my elegant dress that was now slightly damp from the evening dew on the blades of grass.

“Boys?” the three wolves nodded in unison to Xander’s call to them, “Do you know why I have called this meeting?”

They all paused for a moment to look at one another, each holding a slight look of confusion on their faces. The one with the rough voice then said “No, Xander. We have no idea why you’ve called this meeting, yet I have a feeling it is something to do with the girl.”

“You feel correctly, Justin. Louisa here is the main focus of this meet.” All eyes swivelled around to look at me, scanning my whole body as if checking to see how worthy I was of their time.

“What does she want?” Justin, the gravelly voiced one, asked harshly, being as blunt as possible with his question.

“She wants our help to escape Philia. She was brought here by an angel, Zachariel.” Snarls echoed around the clearing at the mention of his name. Clearly Zach was not a favourite among this pack.

“We do not need to cause any more trouble with Zachariel. He will have the angel court prosecute us severely for aiding the escape of his victim. We can’t risk it, Xander. Not for this one mortal. She is no different than the rest of them out there who are being fed on, ho are lined up to die at the hands of the angels.” The wolf who had not said a word so far finally inputted into the conversation, clearly unhappy with putting his life on the line to help me.

“She is different though, Sam. She figured out what the angels were doing to her without being directly told by an outsider. That has to count for something special, right?” Xander reasoned, fighting my case for me.

“I suppose that is different. The mortals never normally figure it out without outside aid. The angels are normally more careful than that.” The one who I did not know the name of pondered, tapping his chin with his index finger thoughtfully.

“But are you willing to put your life, your good name, on the line for this one measly human girl?” Sam asked.

“I don’t know. I have not talked to her yet. I do not know her yet. Only then can I judge whether I should help her or not. I do not like to make rash decisions, yet I believe every option should be considered as thoroughly as is necessary.” The nameless one said philosophically.

“Exactly, Sam.” Xander said, “You need to give Louisa a chance. We don’t have much time to come to a decision but we have this time now, here, for you to get to know her and make a decision on what you will do to help.”

“So you’re definitely going to help her! What is she to you, Xander?” Sam demanded, exasperated with the idea that Xander would help me by the furious look on his face that was made all the more menacing by the half shadow his face was covered in.

“I have allied myself with her, Sam. She does not mean much to me, but I believe it will give us a just reason to get to Zachariel. We will have a great opportunity to kill him, to get rid of our enemy and try and reclaim what is rightfully ours.” Xander’s teeth were clenched now, bared and pearl white in the darkness.

“That will just upset the balance though, Xander. You know that more than anyone else.” Sam growled.

“It certainly doesn’t help that he is one of the seven archangels. It would undoubtedly cause a full blown war if one of the archangels were to fall to the hands of a werewolf, don’t you think?” Justin reasoned.

I began to get nervous. The rest of the wolves were obviously against the idea of helping me escape, deeming the risks too high. The only one who seemed to want to give me a chance was the werewolf who I did not know the name of. I hoped he would stick to my side, even though that was extremely selfish of me. I wondered if the rest of the pack decided against the plan, whether Xander would just wave goodbye and leave me to my certain end. 

“Whatever you boys decide, I’m sticking with Louisa. I have pledged an allegiance with her and I am not about to break that promise, whether I do this with or without you.” Xander proclaimed confidently, his mind clearly made up already. A wave of relief washed over me at this. At least I had one werewolf fighting my corner.

“I can’t do this, Xander. I will not be responsible for the falling of Philia, now or anytime in the future.”  Sam shot out like a bullet, quick and harsh, cutting its path through the thick atmosphere.

“I respect your opinion, Sam. If you would like to leave now, you may. I will send the rest of the pack along to you after we have finished discussing or you may stay if you so wish.” Xander said all business now.

“I might just stick around for a while.” Sam shrugged, walking over to lean his back against one of the trees on the edge of the clearing, at ease with himself and his decision.

“Ok, guys. If you have any questions about the plan or Louisa, we’re all ready to answer them, aren’t we Louisa?” It was the first time I had been involved in the conversation. Xander bringing me in was necessary, but I didn’t know if I was ready to answer any of the questions they had for me.

My heart picked up speed as nerves took over. My palms began heating up despite the cool night air that surrounded us. I saw Sam smirk a little out of the corner of my eye, obviously picking up on my unease with being put on the spot.

I nodded my head in answer to Xander’s question, trying to appear confident but unable to find my voice beneath the blankets of nerves.

“How far have you got with the plan so far, Xander?” Justin asked, only interested in how we were planning to do it.

“We haven’t planned too far ahead yet, Justin. We don’t know how many people we have to aid us yet. We will be able to get a better idea of what we can do when we know how many of you are willing to help us out. So far, we know we need to somehow kill Zachariel and find a way to distract the angels so Louisa can escape through the portal.” Xander explained.

“Louisa,” the nameless one said. I looked up from the ground to look into his ocean blue eyes that were like the calm waves on a sunny day on the beach. “How old are you?”

“Fifteen,” I replied, a giant lump clogging up my throat, making my voice come out a little strained.

“Where are you from on Earth?” he asked, never breaking eye contact with me.

“Lockley, a small village in England.”

“Who brought you here Louisa?”

“I was lured here by Zachariel and came through the portal in a small lake in my local park.”

“Did you know about Philia prior to being lured here?”

“Yes. I discovered a diary by an ancestor of mine which spoke of Philia. I wanted to know how to get here and whether such a place could actually exist without being discovered. I wanted to know whether all these seemingly fictional creatures existed among us without being noticed.” I spilled out everything I had known about Philia, never losing contact with those eyes that made me loosen up and relax my mind until it released the stream of words like a flood gate that was finally being raised.

“Alex.” Xander growled, warning him to back off but I didn’t understand why. The questions Alex was asking were perfectly reasonable in my eyes.

Alex looked away and the flood gate was closed again. I then realised he had put me in a trance or under a spell of some form, making me spill all the information I knew.

“I had to do that Xander. It was the only way I could possibly get her to talk to me. She wouldn’t have said anything much otherwise because she’s so nervous.” Alex explained.

“I understand, Alex.” Xander said, forgiving his pack member.

Meow. A faint sound came from the bushes, soft and barely audible. It sounded like a cat but I couldn’t be sure as it was muffled by the thatched branches and masses of leaves that covered the creature.

It burst out through a bush, charging towards us, heading straight for Xander’s legs. She quivered behind them, placing herself right between his legs as she stared, wide eyed, into the brush she had just come through.

The cat was a familiar smoky gray, with piercing blue eyes that were hauntingly familiar. My mind flashed back to my first day in Philia, when Zach and I encountered a cat on the way to the cave. I recalled the staring match the two had and the hatred that seemed to pass between them that never quite went away.

“Elara?” Xander said quizzically, bending down to scoop the tiny creature into his arms. She stared right at me, evoking the feelings I had experienced when I first met her, a warm fuzzy feeling rising up in my chest, a smile unconsciously twitching at my lips. My legs took me towards Xander and Elara without me even realising. The small silver cat just had a magnetic pull to her, like she was a magnet that attracted me.

I put my hand out and stroked her soft, silken fur between her ears, flashing back to the first time I had done that on that sunny day.

The rest of the world faded away as I stared into the eyes of the cat, the ice blue melting and seeping through to my soul.

“You passed the test, Louisa.” Alex said, from behind me, a smile in his voice.

The cat broke our gaze, leaping out of Xander’s arm to wrap her body around my legs.

“What test?” I asked, unsure of what I had done to gain their acceptance.

“Elara, Louisa.” Xander began to explain, “She is very important to our pack. She is the one that has guided us throughout our time as a pack, helping us to make important decisions. It seems she has aided everyone in deciding about helping you. She seems extremely comfortable around you and to accept you. She never normally accepts an outsider this quickly.”

“I’ve met her before.” I blurted out, not wanting to keep any secrets from these people who were willing to help me.

“Really?” Alex asked, his eyebrows rising in disbelief.

I nodded my reply, and then explained “I met her when I first arrived with Zach. She seemed extremely hostile around him. I wanted to keep her but Zach persuaded me not to, saying she probably had an owner or something like that.”

“He’s wrong with saying she has an owner.” Alex said, “We don’t own her and none of the other cats are owned either. They are each named after every moon in the solar system because of the importance the moon has to us in our lives. Elara is a moon of Jupiter and also the name of our beautiful guidance here.” Alex came over to me and Elara, giving the cat an affectionate pat on the head, a smile on his face as his blonde hair flopped into his ocean eyes.

“How many cats are there in this world?” I asked, curious.

“There is one for every moon in the solar system, plus a few seeming as Earth’s moon has a few names. Not all of the cats are female but all are attached to a wolf pack. They do not like the angels and aren’t great fans of the merfolk either, because they don’t like water. They love to chase the fairies though, so we have bonded with them quite closely because of this. They are our closest allies in Philia by a long way.” Xander explained to me.

“Elara, you have changed my mind.” Sam announced from over by the tree, pushing off from the trunk with one foot. “I cannot argue with the decision of our guidance. She knows best and if Elara thinks that we should help Louisa, well, so do I.”

“I will too.” Justin announced abruptly, going to stand alongside Xander and Sam.

“Louisa, I’ve only just met you but I have a good feeling about you. I don’t know why but I do. I feel that you will cause something that could change Philia somehow; a change for the better. It may not be a drastic change, but I believe that a minor change is better than what we have now, so I believe I shall risk my good name, and potentially my life, to aid you in your escape from Philia.”

Tears began to build in my eyes as I saw the united front of werewolves before me, all suppressing smiles as they heard what Alex had to say. I wanted to go up to them all and give them each a huge, gratitude filled hug, but felt I didn’t know them well enough to do so. Instead, I said gratefully, “Thank you so much for agreeing to help me. This means a lot to me that you would do this.”

They looked at each other, and then released their smiles, beaming at me in the moonlight.

I let one tear of joy roll down my cheek. It held all the gratitude in the world for these four werewolves and cat in front of me. I couldn’t put into words how grateful I was for the aid they were offering, for the risks they would have to take; all to allow one measly human get back home to Earth.

“Now, Louisa, we need to get you back to the ball before Zachariel notices your absence.” Xander split open the silence, making the unwanted announcement that we would have to leave everything for tonight.

“Good bye for now, Sam, Justin, Alex, Elara.” I nodded at each in turn, upset that I had to leave then so soon after meeting them.

“Don’t worry, Louisa.” Alex said, putting a comforting hand on my arm, “We will meet up again soon to discuss the plans. We will have to arrange most of the plans just among us but you will need to be informed of the plan before we put it in action.”

“Of course.” I replied, a lump forming in my throat, tears threatening to spill. “Where shall we meet next time?”

“If you could get into town somehow, that would be great.” Sam said.

“I’ll try and come up with an excuse to visit the village sometime then.” I promised, already trying to form an excuse that Zach would fall for in my head.

“We will send Elara with you.” Alex informed me, motioning towards the cat that was still curled between my legs, her soft fur tickling my bare ankles.

“Won’t Zach notice her though?” I asked, wondering why they would put Elara in such a potentially dangerous situation.

“Don’t worry about her. She can cloak herself from him if need be.” Alex explained, a grin spreading across his lips as he read my concern for their guidance.

“I believe I read you wrong at first.” Sam admitted, “You don’t seem to be so bad and possibly even worth the risk of my life if Elara’s reactions to you are anything to go by.”  He smiled endearingly at the cat, his eyes sparkling in the darkness.

“Now off to the ball with you, Louisa. We don’t want you getting caught before we even start the plan.” Xander dragged me by the arm to the edge of the clearing, sensing my reluctance to leave his pack. Elara trotted along happily behind us, her tail swishing in the air as she walked. I waved cheerily to the pack, receiving a round of waves in return as we entered the midnight world that was the forest.

“Louisa.” Xander said, nervous.

“Uh huh?” I said.

“We’re going to, um, have to give you the ability to turn into a werewolf again.” Xander looked away from me, into the blackness. I didn’t know whether he wanted to kiss me or not again. I didn’t know whether I wanted him to either to be honest. That first time had confused me completely and scrambled my common sense into an indecipherable code that I still couldn’t figure out.

I swallowed the lump in my throat, threading my fingers together then unlocking them again nervously, my toes tapping on the compacted earth beneath my bare feet.

In unison, we turned, our gazes locking onto each other like a missile locking on to its target, accurate and unwavering. I swallowed again, my throat drying out like a desert under the blazing heat of his stare. I let out a stuttered breath, licking my lips to try and moisten them in preparation for what I knew had to happen.

I shuttered my eyes closed, leaning forward a little to meet him half way. Our lips moulded together, moving softer than before, less urgent. Nobody was waiting for us now, well except for Zach, but he could wait whilst we did what we had to.

His smooth lips prised mine open, sliding his practised tongue inside my mouth to meet mine tentatively. I could feel my energy rising up inside of me this time, swirling up my throat to meet something in the middle of our lips, colliding with an unknown power that I hadn’t felt before.

Tiny cool drops began tangling themselves with my hair and skin, falling from the sky from the oblivion above, slowly drowning me in their cold comfort. I felt Xander’s hand work its way up to my hair, tangling in the roots and pulling with a gentle tug, sending heat through my whole body. His other hand rested on the small of my back, sending shivers up my spine.

I felt like I was going to erupt into flames, setting the whole forest on fire along with my whole body. It was a reckless feeling that only he had ever made me feel; a feeling of freedom and passion that consumed my whole being like a tidal wave of fire, hot and all consuming.

We separated our energy well and truly mixed. His hands remained where they had gone to, as he gazed into my eyes.

I didn’t know what to think anymore. I knew I had to leave Philia and its darkness, yet I had found light amongst all the dark in the werewolf that held me now. I couldn’t bear to look at him any longer, not wanting to see what I had to leave behind any more. I could feel his gaze burning into the side of my face, unwavering from that point where my eyes had been. His hand fell from my hair, trailing down the length of the brown waves, slowly following the strands until he reached the end, where he dropped both his hands from my body.

It felt like I had been emptied of everything when we broke contact, but it was for the best that this flame was extinguished before it blazed to a bonfire. I couldn’t bear for it to get to that level of intimacy, just to be broken because of the barrier between our two worlds. The change would be too great for either of us to be able to cope if we let ourselves get lost. I wouldn’t allow it to happen, so I had to do this.

“We’d better get going.” I said shortly, dropping to the floor as I transformed into the wolf. Xander reluctantly did the same, charging ahead of me, leading the way back to the mansion.

If I was in my human form at that point, tears would have been streaming down my face, filled with frustration and the anguish of my situation. It wasn’t like Xander was someone I didn’t know either, I had gotten to know him pretty well over the short time I had known him. I felt we had gone from just allies to friends, bonded by the trust we had easily formed with one another.

My life was just one huge cliché, where the girl and boy wanted to get with each other, or at least it seemed that way, but couldn’t for some reason that life just had to throw at them.

We reached the mansion soon enough, waiting in the tree line until Xander’s energy had fully worn off so Zach wouldn’t be able to tell that I had been with the wolves.

We nodded a silent good bye, the tension from the heated kiss still lingering between us like a fog that prevented us from wanting to talk to one another for fear of initiating another heated encounter. I would have to meet up with him again, though as we had to discuss the downfall of Zach and how they would distract the angels so I could escape. Hell, I didn’t even know where the portal was still. That question was definitely at the top of my agenda.

I made my way back to the entrance of the mansion, my feet now encrusted with the earth from the ground. I would have to somehow remove that before I went back inside or Zach would know I had been outside somewhere. I suppose I could just say I had been getting some air. I would have to get used to lying to him to sort out the plan, so why not start out small now as a test run?

I entered to the wide hallway, which was now void of life. All the angels must have gone into the ball room, or at least it sounded that way from the buzz that came from the room.

I pushed through the huge double doors, making my way confidently into the room. All eyes seemed to be glued to me as I made my way into the bustling ball room, giving my filthy feet and bedraggled hair a disgusted look before turning their noses up at me and going back to their conversations about politics and other subjects of the sort.

They were so stuck up in their corsets and petticoats, their hair styled to perfection and their make up almost like a second skin. I didn’t care what they thought of me though. They could think what they wanted, as could I. They probably thought I was the nutcase that Zachariel had picked up just so he could feed. They probably thought him desperate and disorganised because he had not arranged for a better food source to meet with him at the lake, so had to go for whatever he could get his hands on.

It gave me a sense of pride to be making Zach look bad after all he had put me through, but then a sting of guilt hit me, small, yet stung like hell, like a paper cut. Zach hadn’t been all that bad to me. Sure, he had lied to me and fed off me, but that was just what he had to do to survive, it wasn’t fully his fault. He had also defended me and was trying to extend my pitiful life as much as possible whilst I plotted his downfall behind his back.

“There you are, Louisa. I was wondering where you had got to.” Zach came up to me and embraced me. His arms felt strange around me after my encounter with Xander, it just felt even more wrong than before.

“Oh, yeah.” I replied, swallowing before saying, “I just went outside for some fresh air. It was getting a little stuffy in here so I went outside to cool down a little.” I mentally crossed my fingers, hoping that I didn’t possess any of those pesky give-aways that some people had when they lied.

“Alright. I’m just glad you’re back here now, love.” He pecked me on the head as I relaxed, realising that I could get away with lying to Zach. That was one less problem I would have to face.

I glanced around the room, the memory of Harriet and Raphael’s fight hitting me full force, focusing on the way Raphael had yelled at Harriet and threatened her with death. I saw the two over on the dance floor, together as if nothing had happened between them earlier that night. I suppose they had to put up a facade though seeming as Raphael was so high up in the ranks of the angels. If his food source went and rebelled, I’m sure the other humans trapped here would possibly figure out what was happening and try to escape themselves, causing a catastrophic domino effect that would most likely end in war.

Everything that I seemed to think of doing would have repercussions. War seemed to be the most common. Also, my only way of escape seemed to be through death and hurt, which I didn’t want to cause. I knew that if I personally murdered Zach, the dagger of guilt that would pierce my heart would stay embedded in there for the rest of my life. I didn’t want that, nor would I wish it upon anyone else. The basic plan we had was flawed if no one was willing to inflict the catalyst. I knew none of the werewolves would particularly want to do it as they didn’t want to risk too much. I could tell that clearly, even though they had agreed, hesitantly in some cases, to help me out.

I couldn’t stand here anymore, just waiting around with all these upper-class angels showing me the contents of their nostrils. I was just so worked up with my head spinning from all the ideas and flaws that whirled around my head, creating mass destruction like a violent storm the blew ferociously inside my skull. It pounded against my cranium, thundering, cracking my head in two with all the confusion and paranoia. I was over thinking this too much, I knew, yet I had nothing else to think about but the plan to get out of this nightmare.

My mind had been put to rest by seeing Harriet alive. I had no other reasons to be here anymore. I just had to go and sleep on it and put the flies that buzzed around in my head to rest for at least a few hours.

“Zach,” I mumbled, clutching my thumping head, “I don’t feel too good. Can we go home now?”

“Louisa, we can’t go now. The ball is just beginning.” Zach sounded rather childlike when he said that, a slight moan coming through as if he was saying ‘do we have to?’

“But I’ve got a headache and I’m tired and dirty and just fed up of having to put up with these snobs.” I blurted out without realising what I said, yet too pained to care.

“I’ll take you upstairs to one of the bedrooms if you want.” Zach compromised, gesturing to the grand staircase that led to a higher floor.

“Alright then. I guess that will do for now.” I sighed, making my way towards the stairs.

“I will just inform the King that you are going to rest upstairs. I’ll be back in a moment.”

Zach ran off towards the King, gesticulating wildly as he quickly explained the situation to him, only getting a curt nod in return.

He dashed back to my side, taking my arm and leading me up the stairs to the dimmer upper floor.

“Here.” he said, opening a white door with gold trimmings lining the edges, “It is not the most extravagant of rooms, but it will suffice for what we need it for.”

“We?”  I asked, looking in on the pure white room.

“Yes, we. I know what you want, Louisa, and I am more than happy to give it to you.” He smiled mischievously, heading over to the king sized bed and sitting in the edge.

I finally got what he meant and shook my head, jostling the unsteady thoughts in my head. I sighed, just wanting to fall asleep on the plush white pillows, then said “No, Zach. Not tonight. I just need some rest.”

“Oh.” He deadpanned, rising from the bed and straightening his suit.

I passed him, trying not to touch him as I did.

“Louisa,” he murmured, catching my arm as I passed, “I...I don’t want to pressure you into anything. I just...I assumed-“

“Yeah, well you assumed wrong.” I replied bluntly, “Now, if you don’t mind, I would like to be left alone for a while so I can get some sleep. I seriously do have a pounding headache and think getting some rest would help with it.”

“Of course, Louisa. I’ll be downstairs if you need anything.” He called as he exited the room, leaving me to flop down onto the thick white duvet and marshmallow pillows.

“Hallelujah. Peace at last.” I whispered into the clear air, my eyes fluttering closed and submitting to the darkness; the relief.


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