Attraction 65

He spent the rest of the day just talking to Romelle, sitting besides her and somehow restraining himself from not touching her too much. Of course Sabbath couldn’t completely deny himself the touch of her, the Drule not even trying to hide the fact that he was sneaking touches of her arms, or trailing fingers through her hair. She didn’t comment on the acts, nor did she flinch away, or cower uncertainly.

In fact, Romelle had begun to relax around him, her mood calming to the point her scent no longer held an underlying smell of fear. Sabbath took that as a good sign, noting she also no longer seemed so angry with him. It wasn’t that she was at peace with what he had done, and he knew her temper could flare at any moment, but for the most part she was calm.

That calmness of her didn’t allow him to relax completely, Sabbath watching as the sunlit cracks of the boarded up windows began to dull in brightness. Soon they would be gone all together, night falling over this part of Arus. A part of him was looking forward to it, anticipation building at the thought of laying in bed with his mate. Less eager was the thought of her resistance, Sabbath knowing just how stubborn and argumentative his mate could be.

He took measures to keep her mood up, Sabbath cooking a simple meal from the food that had been left inside the house’s refrigerator. It would be some days before the supplies got to the point he needed to hunt, and he loathed the idea simply for the fact such an excursion would take him away from Romelle. Any period of time was deemed unacceptable in his mind, especially now that they were bonding.

And they were, of that he had no doubt about, Romelle listening to his stories and expressing interest in the things he had seen and done. She didn’t offer to outright share her own experiences, but he learned things from her through slips of the tongue, off hand comments she made that hinted at her own upbringing. He wasn’t sure he liked all he heard, Romelle seemed filled with thoughts of her own self worth, and it was a mixture of high and low value.

She didn’t seem to think anyone would see beyond her princess status, as though she didn’t think anyone would want her beyond the title her name came with. That saddened Sabbath, he wanted to prove to her she was worth so much more than just being a princess, and so he tried to subtly stress how little he valued things like her money and status.

He couldn’t tell if he was getting through to her on that point, she wasn’t always readable, her thoughts guarded. Sabbath tried to be an open book for her, ready and willing to answer any questions she might have.

“Why do you always wear your hair in braids?” She was sitting with her knees drawn up to her chest, watching him comb out his hair. The dark colored beads that tied off the ends of his braids were placed on the night stand, Sabbath making sure not even one was lost.

“You don’t like my braids?” He answered with a question of his own, holding back a chuckle at her quick protest.

“No! I didn’t say that!” A pause, Romelle chewing uncertainly on her bottom lip. “I was just curious is all. Most Drules that I’ve seen keep their hair long and unruly….but you don’t.”

He finished his combing, setting it down and reaching for one of the beads. He carefully handed it to Romelle, the girl glancing down at the dark jade stone, fingers feeling the texture. “A memento from my mother…” He said, and she looked surprised. “The beads are from a necklace of hers, some cheap tawdry thing her master thought she earned.”

A wistful smile then, Sabbath remembering how happy his mother had been with the necklace. “She loved it, she wore it every chance she got…”

“Why doesn’t she have it now?” Romelle asked, then turned stricken at his answer.

“She’s dead.” He turned reassuring, trying to keep her from becoming more upset. “She died a long time ago. Slaves….even ones used solely for pleasure, do not have a long life expectancy.”

“I’m sorry.” Romelle whispered, gazing downwards at the bead in her hand. “You wear these in your hair to what….to remember her?”

“Yes. To honor her memory.” Sabbath said, and began braiding a section of his hair. “She was a good woman in a bad situation. I wish I could have freed her from it. But only the King of Doom can set a slave free, and that is something King Zarkon would never do.”

She said nothing to that, just handed him back the bead so that he could set it in his hair. For several minutes they sat in silence, Sabbath braiding the rest of his hair, while Romelle hugged her knees to her chest. She seem troubled by what he had told her, but then he wasn’t surprised. The humans never accepted slavery, never understood it’s necessity. It was practically an alien concept to them, but one they fought against, not only to retain their own freedom, but to keep that freedom for all others through out the galaxy.

“My mother died when I was pretty young…” Romelle suddenly said, voice whisper soft. It was Sabbath’s turn to be sorry, the man regarding her with a solemn expression. “She died while giving birth to my youngest brother, Bandor.”

Sabbath knew from Allura that Romelle had two brothers, though he hadn’t known her mother had died. “That must have been rough for you.” He said out loud. She nodded slowly, seeming to hug her knees harder.

“Father tried….really he did…” She told him, almost sounding as though she was trying to reassure herself of that. “But…”

“But there’s no replacing a mother’s love.’ Sabbath finished for her, and she nodded. “How old were you when she passed?”

“I was about five.” A sigh then, Romelle relaxing her arms somewhat from their hold on her knees. “Far too young to lose my mother.”

“We’re never prepared to lose a loved one.” Sabbath told her, and she nodded once more.

“Father tried to make up for her loss….” Romelle seemed to be trying to convince herself of that. “He spent as much time with me as his duties would allow….at first…”

“At first?” Sabbath echoed curiously, and she shrugged.

“He’s a King. With his own kingdom to rule over. Naturally the obligations of the people would come first.”

“But not over his own daughter!” protested Sabbath, frowning at her. She looked uncertain then, and he reached over to take her hand in his. “Romelle…you should have been chief and foremost in his thoughts. He should have…”

“But he had his duties..” Romelle protested, voice sounding weak without conviction.

“He had duties to his children!” Sabbath had to keep from roaring at her, eyes blazing with anger. He wasn’t angry with her, but with this man, this King who could neglect a daughter that had been hurting over her mother’s death. “Why have children at all, if you’re not going to care for them?”

“He cared for me!” She said quickly. “In his own way, I’m sure he did.” But she sounded uncertain then. “And he loved my mother…they had three children after all.”

Sabbath kept quiet at that, having figured out that to the humans, children did not necessarily equal love among the parents. “You have two brothers, yes?” She nodded, and he forced a smile, urging her to open up more to him. “What are they like?”

“Bandor is still young….he’s only fourteen. But he’s impulsive and brash, quick with his temper when he feels an injustice has been done.” A fond smile was now on her face as she thought about the boy. “He’s training with Avok, whose our older brother.”

“Training?” echoed Sabbath, and she nodded.

“Yes….Avok is teaching him how to fight. A prince must know how to defend himself.” She explained.

“What about princesses?” He thought it interesting she flushed, Romelle shaking her head no.

“It’s not lady like to fight.” He could sense a but coming on, Sabbath staring at Romelle. “I used to fight a lot when I was a child…” She finally admitted, ducking her head so that her hair fell over her eyes. “You could say I was a bit of a tomboy…”

With two brothers and no mother figure to speak of, he wasn’t surprised. “Only a bit?” He asked, and Romelle shrugged.

“I grew out of it…” She followed that up with a fierce word. “I HAD to.”

“Because you are a princess?” She nodded to Sabbath’s inquiry. “What’s it like being a princess?” She went quiet at that, Sabbath wondering if he had asked something wrong. “Romelle?”

“It’s…” She seemed about to say something, only to change her mind. “It’s all right.” Was her answer at last. He would have teased her for that, but sensed the mood was too serious.

“Only all right?” He prodded, and she shrugged.

“It’s not all it’s thought to be.” Now Romelle sighed, not flinching when Sabbath reached over to brush the hair out of her eyes. He was waiting for her to elaborate, not pushing her to hurry. “It’s…well…there’s not much to do, aside from my studies.”

“Your studies?”

“I have to be well versed in the history of the kingdom. And not just the one my father rules, but all the kingdoms of the planet. And then there’s politics…” She made a face then, showing her displeasure. “It’s a whole lot of rubbish, mostly focused on who hates who, and which houses ally with each other. There’s a lot of jockeying for status and power, people quick to try and curry favor with my family.”

“Doesn’t sound much different from the Drule high court then.” Sabbath muttered. “I may not have a place with the nobles, but even we soldiers hear about their antics.”

“I guess it’s the same no matter where you go in the galaxy…” She sighed. “My brother Avok already has a bride picked out. One from a properly prestigious family with all the right connections. They fought and scraped their way to the point they could offer up their daughter for my father’s consideration.”

“Your father? I thought this was your brother’s bride?” A confused Sabbath asked.

“She is!”

“I don’t think I understand.” Sabbath said. “If this is your brother’s bride….well….shouldn’t he pick her out? And shouldn’t it be for love?” He frowned when she made a scoffing sound, Romelle shaking her head hard.

“Love has nothing to do with this!” She exclaimed, which only left him frowning harder. “It’s a marriage of convenience, one for political gain.” She explained, stressing the words. “This marriage will further strengthen my brother’s hold on the throne, and the house his bride comes from make for powerful allies. My brother Avok doesn’t even LIKE his bride!”

He couldn’t help but stare stunned at her, Romelle shifting, turning uncomfortable from his look. “This is a completely alien concept to me.” He admitted at last. “I thought humans married for love…?”

“They do…we do….” She looked pained then. “Usually.”

“Usually?” He echoed, and she shrugged.

“It’s different for most nobles. We’re not expected to marry for love…just for power and obligations to the kingdom.” Romelle sighed, a wistful look on her face. “My cousin Allura is the lucky one. She GOT to marry for her heart, and I’m sure even Nanny could be made to understand the advantages of having the Drule Empire tied to Arus.” A sigh then, Romelle seeming envious. “She got the best of both worlds.”

For a moment Sabbath was silent, just taking in what she said, and trying to hide his upset. She noticed anyway, Romelle reaching out to touch his arm. “What is it?” She asked, and he hesitated. “Tell me…” She implored him, blue eyes staring into his.

“Your father won’t let you marry for love?” He questioned, and she shrugged.

“I don’t know…probably not. I may not be next in line for the throne but….if he could make an alliance with one of the kingdoms that we don’t have a good relationship with….”

“It’s not right.” He grumbled, and she went wide eyed at his words. “That he would in effect auction his daughter off to the highest bidder.”

“It’s what I’ve come to expect…” Romelle said, looking weary. It was as though this was a conversation she had had a million times, the topic defeating her to the point she accepted her fate.

“I won’t accept it.” Sabbath growled, Romelle’s hand starting to fall away from his arm. He grabbed at it, feeling the warmth of her skin, and holding onto her hand like it was a life line to him. “And you shouldn’t either! You deserve better…you deserve love!”

“We don’t always get what we deserve…” She said sadly, and he pulled her into his arms, hearing her gasp. But she didn’t fight his hold, letting him pet her hair and hug her to him.

“I refuse to even entertain the notion of you entering a loveless marriage.” Sabbath growled into her ear. “I’d find a way to stop this, even if I had to take you off planet to do so!”

“That’s…almost sweet in a barbaric kind of way.” Romelle whispered to him.

“I mean it!”

“I know you do…and that makes it all the more…sad.” She sighed against his neck.

“Sad?” He eased her back so he could peer into her face, seeing how sad and troubled she looked. “Why is it sad?” She shrugged, not wanting to answer. “Romelle…” An idea had taken root, some notion that had been growing the more they had this conversation. “Do you fight against my love cause you fear it can’t be?”

“I know it can’t be!” She replied automatically. “My father would most likely never allow us to be together.”

He almost smiled that she was thinking of them as an us, but the seriousness of her words kept him from that expression. “If you find love, he shouldn’t stand in your way.” He said this firmly, even as she shook her head no.

“He wouldn’t understand…”

“We’d make him.” Sabbath insisted. “Just like princess Allura made her Nanny and advisor understand about her and Lotor.”

“In some ways, Allura had it easier…” whispered Romelle. “She had parents who loved each other, ones who would have understood her need for love.” Her eyes took on a far away look, Romelle losing herself to a memory. “I’ve been spending my kingdom’s winters with my cousin for a long time now. Enough time to have been there when her parents were still alive. It was as clear as day how much they loved each other…”

It was clear to him how much Romelle liked that love and wanted a similar kind for herself. “Did not Allura’s advisor cave in on the marriage to Prince Lotor because they were already bonded? That they were already a couple in the eyes of the Drule…?”

“What are you saying?” Romelle asked, though he had a feeling she wasn’t as confused as she pretended to be.

“We could reveal our mating. We Drules have nothing like your human idea of divorce. Mating is a permanent thing, one that no outside force should interfere with. It’s as good, no better than your custom of marriage.”

“My father wouldn’t see it that way!” protested a leery Romelle. “He would just see it as a disgrace, my allowing myself to be taken by you before we were properly wed.”

“We’d explain it to him.” Sabbath insisted. “Your cousin could help. He can’t look down on a Drule custom if it’s one your own cousin embraced.” Romelle still looked uncertain, shaking her head no. “Why not?”

“I don’t love you…” She began that familiar argument, but he didn’t frown.

“But you will…” He couldn’t help but be confidant, and was surprised when she angered.

“Now whose being overconfident?!” She demanded, pulling away from him. He didn’t apologize, watching as she settled herself against the pillows, closing her eyes as though that would end the conversation. It didn’t, he was touching her leg, dancing his fingers up to her thigh, the touch making her gasp out her awareness.

“I think you fight this, fight me….because of your fears of what your father will think. Of what he will try to do to keep you apart from me.” He told her, watching her open her eyes to stare at him. “But Romelle? Know this. He’s never met a Drule, never encountered the determination of a mated pair. His protests will crumble under the weight of our love.”

Now she frowned, asking him, “How can you be so sure of that?”

He paused, having to think. “I am because that’s how confidant I am of the love I feel for you. It will not be denied, it will not stop just because of one man’s selfish desires.”

“Selfish?” She lifted a brow at that.

“It’s selfish to sacrifice your children for power.” Explained Sabbath. He stopped touching her leg, but laid down besides her. “To cost them their chance at true love.” Now he reached for her, pulling her against him until she settled into place comfortably. He was surprised she didn’t protest nearly as much as she could, Romelle having shifted as though to pull free, then realized it was pointless.

He kept them facing each other, one arm around her waist, holding her secure. The other he ran through her hair, petting her in an attempt to soothe away her frown. It didn’t take nearly as much work as it would have a few hours earlier, Romelle relaxing bit by bit. She didn’t go to sleep though, just studying him carefully. He gazed back at her, drinking in his fill of her lovely face and enjoying the fact that he was the focus of her intent concentration.

“You really think it will be that easy to sway his opinion?” She at last asked.

“I didn’t say it would be easy.” He corrected her gently. “I know it will be difficult, and we may endure hardships. But we’ll hold strong together, and prove our bond is unbreakable. He’ll have to cave in…or risk alienating his only daughter.”

“Hmmm…” She rested her head on his shoulder, voice soft once more. “It would be simpler for you to find another woman.”

“You know that’s impossible for me.” Sabbath told her.

“We trade one impossible thing for another…” sighed Romelle.

“Not impossible, just difficult.” Sabbath retorted. She made a sound but was otherwise quiet, and soon her breathing evened out, showing she was asleep. He continued to stay awake, stroking her hair. She seemed to cuddle closer against him, a content sound escaping her. He smiled at that, but was worried, wondering just how much longer it would take to get her free of her father’s expectations of her.

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