11. The Handsome Stranger

Lydia Roman was seated comfortably on her sofa. This was where she had planned to spend her afternoon.

She wore a big smile along with a nice blue dress. It would seem that she enjoyed wearing blue dresses. Maybe it was her favourite color.

Her green eyes twinkled with excitement as she thought of her niece who was probably in the prince's arms.

She wanted the prince to fall for her niece even harder so that nothing would change the prince's mind from marrying her niece.

Lydia sat back and thought of all the time she had spent building this future. The moment she had heard that her sister had given birth to a daughter, she had begun plotting ways to work the birth of the child to her advantage.

She had always known that she was going to marry Mariana off to a rich and powerful family. Although, it had not yet crossed her mind that she could try the royal family.

It was when Lydia was mourning her younger sister's death, that she heard about the king wanting to marry his son off.

She immediately thought of Mariana. After all, the king owed her enough favors. She would have tried to get the king for herself but it would have been too much to ask for.

Which was why Mariana was her best bet. She was her best ticket to a secured future. Being referred to as the aunt of the Queen was going to come with so much respect and power. She wanted it all.

She wanted all the power that she could get and Mariana was the answer. Mariana was the breakthrough. Mariana was the solution. Which was why she was not going to let anything get in the way of her desire. Even if Mariana didn't want anything to do with the prince, she was going to force her. If she had to torture Mariana for it then she was willing to do it. She was ready to stoop as low as she could stoop. She was ready to do anything.

"Here is your tea, Mistress," Cassandra mentioned. This broke Lydia out of her daydream.

Lydia felt so irritated. She stared up at Cassandra with disgust. She noted that Cassandra was dressed in her usual dull gown and an apron. Her brown hair was tied neatly behind her head.

Lydia wanted to pounce on Cassandra and eat her if possible as punishment for breaking her out of her sweet thoughts.

"Did you have to bring it now?" Lydia demanded. She still felt and sounded irritated. She scrunched up her nose and kept staring at Cassandra.

Cassandra felt intimated under her Mistress's glare. Cassandra wanted to flee from her gaze but she had to find her courage and stay put.

"Forgive me, Mistress," Cassandra managed to whimper.

Lydia suddenly pitied the maid. Of all the people in the house, she actually preferred this maid. Maybe because she was the oldest maid in the house. Cassandra had been around since Lydia was still going through adolescence. Cassandra was the only person that really understood Lydia and never tried to escape from her, unlike the others.

"You may go now. You don't have to wear that emotional face on me," Lydia said and waved her away.

Cassandra nodded and scurried away. Lydia was sure she was heading straight back into the kitchen. She could hear the movements of the other two maids in the house as they went about their duties.

Lydia looked after the woman, then she turned her gaze down to the cup of coffee placed on the table before her. It smelled nice and she knew that Cassandra would have made the coffee just how she wanted it. The coffee was quite tempting. It was tempting enough for her irritation to begin to slip away. She picked up the coffee and lifted it to her lips.

She was just about to take the sip when a knock resonated on the door. Lydia's head shut up at the door as she stared at it questioningly. She was not expecting any visitors.

Another knock resonated on the door again.

"Cassandra! Sarah! Where are all the maids in this house? Will somebody get the door?" Lydia screamed.

Leandra emerged from the kitchen area. "I'll get it," She announced in a soft voice.

Lydia rolled her eyes and turned her gaze the other way. Leandra was a girl that always seemed to have a different aura. She had not fully understood the girl and felt as if she would never understand her.

Leandra hurried towards the door. She had a white scarf tied around her head but some of her dark hair escaped the ends of the scarf. Her apron was neatly worn above her burgundy dress. Leandra finally reached the great double doors. She gently pulled the doors open.

Three men were standing before the door staring back at her. They were warriors of Asgaria. The one staring straight at her was a knight of Asgaria. The other men with him seemed to be under his command. He was the only one dressed in body armor with the Asgaria sigil on the left breast. The sign of twin crescent moons. His skin was dark and his hair was cut low.

"Is Lady Lydia in?" He asked in a husky voice.

Leandra felt intimidated by the man. Her heart suddenly started raising for no reason. She felt uneasy. She felt as if trouble had befallen them.

"Ye— yes, she is sir," Leandra managed to say.

"I need to see her. Tell her it's Sir George Malton of Asgaria. It is important," He requested.

At the mention of her name, Lydia turned her gaze to the door. Her brows rose higher above her face.

Leandra nodded at the man and was about to turn to her mistress when Lydia spoke up.

"Let them in," Lydia instructed.

Leandra nodded and turned back to the men.

"You may come in," Leandra said as she gestured at the way towards her Mistress.

Sir George accepted the invitation and followed Leandra into the house. Both his men also followed him in.

Lydia rose to her feet as the men approached her. This was a sign of respect for the knight of Asgaria.

George reached her and gave her a short bow.

"To what do I owe this sudden visit? Is it perhaps another message from the prince?" Lydia asked.

Leandra was still standing there with them as she waited for her Mistress to give her instructions.

"It is concerning your niece, my Lady," George began.

Lydia's expression suddenly morphed into fear. What could have gone wrong? Was the prince about to break up the alliance? Was he about to reject Mariana?

Lydia felt her heart racing. She could not allow Mariana to ruin her perfectly made-up plans. She was ready to beg the prince if she had to. The prince could not reject her niece.

"What about Mariana?" Lydia asked. "Has she been causing trouble for the prince already? She only got to the place yesterday," Lydia added.

George gave her a defeated expression. For a moment, he had hoped that he would find Lucius and the lady the prince sent for hiding out here but it was obvious they weren't here and her poor aunt didn't know the whereabouts of her niece were unknown. George hated the fact that he was the one that had to break the news to her.

"Tell me, what did my niece do?" Lydia questioned.

George gulped and allowed the news to flow out of his lips. "They never made it to the palace yesterday," George began.

Lydia's look morphed into shock. "What?"

"Their carriage got attacked yesterday and the horses got away. We found the coachman dead. The horses fled and we currently do not know the whereabouts of both your niece and Lucius," George blurted out.

Leandra let out a harsh gasp. This caused all their attentions to turn to her. Leandra was frozen on the spot as she stared back at George with shock. Her body vibrated with a mixture of fear and shock.

Lydia stared at Leandra questioningly. She wondered why the maid was this affected by the news, why she was reacting the way she was doing at the moment. They hadn't even known themselves long enough.

Lydia turned her gaze back to George. Multiple thoughts ran through her head. This could not be happening. She had plans for Mariana. Mariana could not be missing. If she ended up not getting found then none of her dreams would become reality. Mariana had to be found.

"You have to find my niece. You have to find Mariana! You have to do everything in your power to get her back!" Lydia exclaimed and sank into the sofa that was behind her.

"We're doing everything we can, Lady Lydia," George assured her.

Lydia looked up at the man standing before her in irritation. If he was truly doing everything he could to save her then what was he still doing here standing around?

Leandra suddenly spoke up. "Who attacked them?"

George was surprised by the question but he chose to answer it either way.

"We are not sure yet but it looks like it was a beast attack."

Leandra widened her eyes and her vision from yesterday entered her mind. She could see it clearly. She saw the bloodied version of Mariana again flickering into her memory. She saw the blood from her head run down her clothes. Her gown was stained with her blood.

Leandra let out a shuddered breath. Her heart started to race faster than what was considered normal. She started backing away from the men and Lydia. She didn't even know it when her legs started to carry her away. All she knew was that she saw herself heading out of the house.

Lydia noticed her leaving. She wanted to ask her where she was going but she felt too troubled to even speak. The news she had received was not something she expected to hear.

Leandra pulled the doors open and she raced out of the house. She didn't even understand why she was running. She just knew that she had to run. She felt the urge to run.

Her heart kept racing as she ran from the exercise she was doing and the uncertainty in her head. She didn't even know it when she entered the woods. She just kept running.

The entire time, she kept saying one thing over and over again.

"I could have saved her. I could have saved her."

It kept running through her mind over and over again. At this point, dark clouds had started to creep unto the sky. Rain was threatening to fall.

Just as Leandra thought about the rain, it gave way. She still didn't stop running until she hit her leg and tripped. This caused her to land on her face in the mud.

She slowly lifted herself to a kneeling position. Her body had gotten wet from the rain. Her scarf was missing. Her hair clung to her face as well as her clothes.

Her tears mixed with the rain and ran down her cheeks. "I could have saved her but I didn't! It's all my fault! I caused this!" Leandra screamed.

Her body trembled due to the cold coming from the rain and the blame that she was putting on herself.

Suddenly, two pairs of legs came to a stop before her. Leandra startled by the sudden appearance of the legs flinched away from the stranger and fell back on her rump. Then she looked up at the stranger and was met with glowing green eyes.

His short hair clung to his forehead. He wore a blouse made out of cotton. He had on dark tight pants and boots to protect his legs. He never breathed a word. He only watched her as she examined him.

Fear seized Leandra as she continued to gaze at the handsome stranger. Slowly, the stranger bent down to Leandra's level.

Leandra watched him in shock. She tried to move but she was unable to make even the slightest movement. It was as if she was too entranced to make one move. It was as if he was controlling her with his powerful gaze.

The stranger with the glowing eyes slowly brought his face inches away from Leandra's shocked face.

Up close, his eyes were even more bewitching. They seemed to hold secrets that Leandra thought she could never uncover. He looked dangerous and Leandra wanted to get away from him as fast as possible yet there was a certain kind of pull that she was feeling towards him. It terrified her.

"Mine," The strange man whispered.

Leandra's eyes got even bigger than saucers. Immediately, she regained control of her body. She pushed the handsome stranger away and got to her feet. She started to run from him and she stopped and threw a gaze at him.

The handsome stranger had a smile on his face as he watched her go. Leandra let out another involuntary shudder and fled from the spot. The last thing she wanted was for the man to come after her.

Who was he? Where did he come from?

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