Entering the bailey was completely different to anything I'd known before. I was surrounded by the smell of fresh vegetables and baking bread.
I inhaled deeply. Savoring the scent. I hadn't realized I'd pause to tip my head up. Until I felt a hand grip my upper arm.
I jumped and looked over. Stunned to see that Warlord was tugging me behind him. His head lowered so the brim of the large hat hid his face. Shouldering his way through the crowd of people at the booths.
We walked a ways ahead of the mounted soldiers and the king but as they saw the steeds they spilled apart and silenced.
Clearly Warlord wants no part of that attention.
He wanted to be through the crowd and halfway across the bailey before they noticed.
This was why people claimed to hardly ever see him.
He was good at being inconspicuous when he so desired.
I watched him with interest. Why would the most powerful mage in the country not want attention?
He seems like he wants nothing more than to be left alone.
He walked directly behind the castle. Yanking me with him.
I realized we were separate from the king's guard and there were less people back here.
A servant was plowing a garden and a maid watering flowers.
I opened my mouth to scream for help.
But before a single sound could escape Warlord's head spun to look at me and his eyes narrowed.
It felt like there was a hand at my throat. Silencing any words that would try to escape.
I clutched my throat looking at him in panic.
"Quite finished?" He lifted a black brow haughtily.
I nodded in panic.
He drew a slow breath and instantly the pressure subsided and I felt like I could breathe again.
"Come." He pulled me through the wooden door into what had to be the kitchen. The scent of a roasted bird surrounded by eggs and glazed vegetables had my mouth watering.
Perhaps he'd assign me to work in here.
I'd never be hungry again. I couldn't help envisioning sinking my teeth into a sugar glazed sweet potato and feeling it's decadent flavor peel apart in my mouth. Releasing the slight buttery flavor.
"Mmm..." I purred without meaning to.
Warlord gave me an unreadable look over his shoulder. "Don't make that sound."
"Why?" I blinked at him.
"Because I said not to."
I glowered at his back in confusion. "If you think I'm going to obey all your little demands you're sorely mistaken."
He scoffed. A sound almost like a rough laugh escaped him.
"Upstairs." He drug me forward and lightly shoved me before him.
I stared up at what seemed an endless length of stairs. I frowned.
"Go or I'll carry you." He said impassively at my look. "Makes little difference to me."
Deciding I'd go out of my way to not let him touch me I lifted my dirty skirts and stalked up the steps. Only then realizing that I had tears along my dress that revealed my legs the same as the other girls' had.
When did that happen?
"Where are we going?" I asked.
We were nearing the tower now.
I knew because it was frightfully cold. He's going to lock me in the tower?
I couldn't help the fearful look I gave him. Rubbing my arms briskly I hesitantly stepped before him. I jumped when I felt his hand at my lower back urging me forward.
"My personal chambers."
"The hell I will!" I snapped.
He snorted and gave me a cocky half smile. "What exactly are you so afraid will happen?"
"You'll try to ravish me."
"I vow not to try and ravish you." He said.
I eyed him askance.
Biting my lip, I reluctantly walked forward toward another large door.
He pulled a key from the chain at his hip and lifted it to turn the lock.
The heavy door groaned as it eased open. Clearly built to be substantially more durable than the others throughout the castle.
For locking someone in?
Or for locking others out? I swallowed anxiously.
I realized I was still staring at the door while he'd stepped inside and was waiting for me to walk through.
But I felt like passing through that barrier meant I was willing to meet whatever fate he had in store for me.
I didn't like that feeling.
"Are you afraid of me?" He asked me the only thing that would've made me force myself forward.
"I fear nothing." I drew a steadying breath and marched through the door.
He swung it closed with a resounding slam. "Perhaps you should've been."
He turned the key in the lock and rounded on me. His icy blue eyes met my dark brown ones and I realized that whatever was coming, I wasn't going to like.
And I had the answer now to one question.
The lock is to keep something in...