The end of the night was a swift and silent arrow. Capri and Briony took the elevator to the fourth floor with a slew of other ladies and a group of silent guards. The laughing, talking, and good wishes—some even genuine—continued until she and Briony entered her room.
Briony helped her out of the dress with clumsy hands as they chatted about the evening. The blond had drunk her fair share of champagne and was flushed. Laughter bubbled out of her in the form of giggles that were quite unlike her. It made Capri laugh in turn, staving off the sadness that would envelop her once her friend was gone.
Capri only had two glasses of champagne during the party. She preferred red wine, dry and bittersweet.
Soon, Briony retired to her own room, and Capri was left alone, her head perfectly clear, her last, shining moment already dimmed. Most new ladies would be freshening up after their party, choosing lingerie to impress the King, and waiting with anticipation to hear from their newly-appointed attendant that he was on his way to bed them.
Capri didn’t want that, but she wanted something.
She sighed, finished undressing, and donned a satin robe. She kept the beads in her hair because she liked them—a bit of luxury to comfort her. Briony recommended she sleep naked. Most ladies did. They could be called upon at any time, and Briony insisted that it allowed a woman to feel more in tune with her body.
Capri, however, couldn’t bear to feel so unprotected when she was at her most vulnerable, and her attendant didn’t push the issue.
She was tired, but she wandered the room, sipping a glass of water and letting herself linger just a little longer in the last night that her body would be hers. Her thoughts drifted to what would come next, what it could be like. Best-case scenarios and worst-case scenarios played in her mind until she thought she might do better just to go to bed after all.
But then Briony burst into her room, dressed in her own robe, wide-eyed and mostly sober.
“Good, you’re still awake,” she said before Capri could speak. “He’s coming.”
The blood left Capri’s face so fast she had to sit down. “What? Why?”
“Why do you think? He wants to bed you.”
This couldn’t be happening. She’d built her entire life around Ekon, and then she’d been forced to dismantle it. She’d gone through all the pain and grief because he’d rejected her. After all of that, now that she’d come to terms with it, now that she didn’t even want him, he would still have her.
It wasn’t fair.
Briony turned from the vanity where she was scrambling to find a particular bottle of perfume. Her gaze was sharp. “He’s the King, Capri. He can do whatever he wants. Now let’s get your dress back on.”
“Yes,” Briony snapped. Then she seemed to collect her patience. “He wanted you in that dress tonight so he could take it off of you. I can’t believe I didn’t see the signs before. I’m sorry for that.”
She spritzed Capri with the subtle perfume, and together they pulled the dress out of the laundry. Briony shook out the wrinkles, and Capri slipped into it once more. She was shaking; her heart beat too fast. She was terrified and completely unprepared.
“You left your hair. That’s good. Bare feet will be fine.” She was talking to herself, checking off some mental list.
When she seemed satisfied, she took her protégé firmly by the shoulders and looked her dead in the eye. Her tone was urgent. “I’m not sure what to expect from him, Capri. I’ve never seen him like this. You’re forbidden fruit, and that’s something he’s simply never had to contend with. Just remember what I’ve taught you.”
Capri nodded automatically, before the words fully sank in. If Briony, of all people, was out of her element, what the hell could Capri do? Her attendant stood next to her, and they faced the door together. A sharp rap sounded almost immediately. Capri flinched. Briony squeezed her hand tightly and then moved to let in their King.
“King,” she greeted. “I apologize for my attire. We weren’t expecting a visit.”
“It’s alright, Briony,” he replied, barely looking at her.
He stepped inside, letting the door slide shut behind him with his guards on the other side.
“Is there anything I can get you?” Briony asked.
“No, thank you. You can leave us.”
Briony nodded her head in acquiescence and shot Capri one final glance, her gaze filled with warning. Capri would need to handle this carefully.
And then she and Ekon were alone.
Capri swallowed, struggling to keep her fear from showing. His eyes, dark with desire, ran down the length of her body, taking stock of all that was his. She didn’t need experience to know that his self-control was hanging by a thread. She swallowed the lump in her throat and forced her voice to remain even.
“What can I do for you, King?”
“Oh, Capri,” he breathed, keeping his distance but still seeming too close. “I’ve tried to resist you, but I just can’t.”
Capri’s mouth was dry, but she thought if she turned in search of a glass of water he might pounce.
“I’m honored, King,” she said softly. “But as you’ve said, I…” She fumbled here, and his eyes shot to hers. The show of weakness, of innocence, seemed to ignite him, and he moved in. She finished her thought quickly. “I do not meet the requirements.”
“Yes,” he murmured, almost to himself as he reached a hand up to massage the nape of her neck and toy with the clasp holding her halter top together. His eyes raked over her clothed breasts. With effort, he managed to focus on her and their electric conversation once more. “I think I’ve discovered a solution.”
Capri didn’t trust herself to speak. Her mind was going haywire, but she couldn’t let him know. Every ounce of energy was put toward keeping her body from trembling. If he knew her fear, it would be all-too-easy for him to dominate her, to hold the upper hand, and even in her current state she knew she couldn’t let that happen.
He pressed her against him then, and she could feel him. He whispered in her ear, “There are parts of you that are still untouched.”
His hand gripped her ass, illustrating his point, and bile rose in Capri’s throat. She knew exactly what he intended, and it was the last thing she wanted to do. Briony had told her it could be nice under the right circumstances. These were not the right circumstances.
Ekon himself had demanded a gentle lover to ease her into her new duties, and now he would take even that from her.
She nearly shut down then, just as she had when she’d accepted that there was no escaping Sullivan or the men who had brought her here in the first place.
Briony’s words drifted back to her. You are never powerless.
She was wrong. She’d never been raped. There was no way Capri could see to have escaped Sullivan, and she might encounter a similar partner again. But not tonight. Sullivan had been a monster; the king, she suspected, was just a man. A weak man, overcome with desire for her.
That gave her power.
She took a deep breath, tamped down her fear, and very carefully took the upper hand.
“My King,” she said softly, untucking his shirt from his pants so she could begin to slowly unbutton it. He gasped as her deft fingertips grazed his skin. She took genuine pleasure in the sound, in the knowledge that she was bringing her king, the source of her woes, to his knees. “That isn’t what you really want.”
She pushed his jacket off his shoulders, and he rid himself of the shirt. His skin was perfectly smooth, light brown and chiseled. If he were someone else, he might have been perfect.
“I can’t go back on my word,” he said, voice husky, resolve cracking under her touch.
“King,” she murmured, standing on her tiptoes to nibble his ear, “you know that no man has ever spilled his seed inside of me. I can promise that I am as tight as any maiden. I want you.” She paused to undo his belt, sliding it through the loops and letting it fall to the floor. “And you want to come inside of me.”
She looked him in the eye. It wouldn’t do to blush now. Her lips were a whisper away from his, but she needed him to close the gap. She realized suddenly that he was trembling. She felt like a goddess.
“I’ve promised you to another,” he whispered, his lips brushing hers.
“I won’t tell if you don’t.”
He groaned then and kissed her deeply, passionately. Although Capri didn’t feel the same desire, she felt a rush of triumph. Her fate would never be her own, but she’d proven that she could twist it in her favor.
Maybe that would be enough to make her new life as the Prize bearable.