“So nice to see you again.”
“When am I going to see you at the next hunting party?”
“Some siege we’ve been having, eh?”
Lotor stifled a yawn, nodding his head at each passer by. He, along with his bride, and future father in law, were standing at the entrance of the great ballroom, currently greeting each and every guest–all 300 of them, before they were seated. he had long since given up on trying to remember all the names of the guests. He was surrounded by a sea of strangers, this situation worst than any gathering of his father’s. At least then he knew most of the people there, if not on a first name basis, then by their reputation. Here, he had know idea who did what, who was an accomplished tactician, who was a decorated veteran, who owned what, who had the regency on which planet. Nothing!
Even weirder was the fact that everyone here knew who he was. There was a lot of mixed reactions over meeting the great Drule Prince. Some were awed, some barely managing to keep a lid on their fear, while others were looking to brown nose themselves into a higher position in the Doom Empire. There was even a case of some of the men being jealous of him, for landing Corral. A few were brave enough to whisper in his ear that he’d better treat the princess right, or they would make him sorry.
And the women! Most were a bunch of giggling, squealing girls, shooting him coy looks. Some were bold enough to lean in for hugs, and whisper seductive offers in his ear. Corral shot them all frosty death glares, taking hold of his arm possessively. They backed off, but he could just imaging the smirks on their lips. He also thought it would prove interesting to see how they would eat, since all the women were adhering to the Demos custom of hiding their faces with veils! It was too bad there was no one of his coloring. He could try an escape attempt by dressing as a woman…A very tall woman…who obviously spent a lot of time at the gym…
Finally! Allura was practically shaking with trepidation, as she entered the ball room. Everyone had been seated, and it was now time to start serving. Maltilda wouldn’t let her be one of the servants to usher the people to their pre-assigned seats, but she had to let her be a waiter. Especially when yet another one of the staff had gotten sick. Though in this case, Allura had nothing to do with that incident. She hadn’t been anywhere near Lenneth’s meal, and couldn’t induce food poisoning with a pill!
There he is! The princess thought excitedly. How handsome he looked in his dusky gray tuxedo. She was surprised. She had never seen him in anything but his battle uniform. It was almost as though it was a part of his being, and she hadn’t expected him to be dressed in anything else, to look so normal…like a prince you could bring home to meet your parents…out of his uniform, he was definitely less imposing, more approachable. A good thing too, since she had to talk to him…not to mention share closed quarters with him, if they were to escape the planet. She felt a blush color her cheeks over the thought of him being with her in her lion, all alone…
Someone bumped into her, and she blinked. No time for derailing trains of thought, she had work to do! She headed towards the buffet area, where entrees and appetizers were laid out, while the cooks frantically put the finishing touches on the main course. She joined the line of servants, who were gathering to get already loaded carts of food. The line was slow moving, and she risked another glance at Lotor. She thought he was definitely ill at ease with his in laws, only putting on a show of polite interest. His mask rarely slipped, never revealing the boredom he felt, and it only showed when he thought no one was looking at him.
He’s definitely tense, the princess decided. Well, I’ve got something that will help relax him. Her fingers caressed her sleeve covered wrist, feeling for the note hidden there.
“This one goes to the main table.”
“I’ll take it!” screeched Allura, dashing out of her place in line, to grab hold of the cart.
“Not so rough!” admonished one of the girls. “Or you’ll spill everything!”
“Yeah, yeah…” muttered Allura, relieved no one protested against her destination. Especially after that display. What timing for her that Maltilda was in the bathroom…well…not really…she had slipped laxatives into the woman’s drink. –
She quickly reached her target’s table, managing not to over turn the food laden cart, despite her rough handling. She began at one end of the table, passing by each person, serving them whatever food selections they indicated. She barely managed to pay attention to what was going on around her. All she could focus on was Lotor. In fact, she was almost giddy with relief over finally being close to him. Snatches of conversation drifted by, her brain not registering their meaning…
“They make a lovely couple.”
“Heard Arus lost another lion.”
“Zarkon’s fit to be tied. Wishes he thought of this first!”
“You don’t think that witch of his will actually show up at the wedding in that brown paper sack of hers?”
“And so then I said to her…”
“Who does that cow think she is, trying to hit on my father at my mother’s funeral!”
She was two seats away from Lotor, when he suddenly turned towards her. Her breath caught in her throat, fearing what he would do…and almost ended up choking in anger when his eyes quickly passed over her, uninterested, not even taking notice of her, but of the food! He then turned away, and she heard him softly say, “Corral…” reaching for the red head’s hands.
“Hmm?” She turned towards him quizzically.
Lotor leaned in close, and Allura would have given a small fortune to find out what he said to make Corral giggle like that. She ducked her head, and chided the prince, “Oh Lotor!”, glancing up shyly at him through lowered eye lashes. Lotor’s smile widened, and he reach up to caress Corral’s hair, the princess responded by leaning in closer with a breathy sigh.
“GIRL!!” hissed the woman she had frozen next to, like a robeast caught in the gleam of Blazing Sword. “Are you going to just stand there like an idiot, or what?!”
“Forgive me…” Allura tore her eyes away from the Royal couple to began hastily ladling soup into the woman’s bowl.
“Hmph!” The woman gave Allura a snide look, before focusing on her tray. “The fish looks good…” She said, considering the appetizers. “But then so does the steak. Roberto, what do you think?”
Allura didn’t listen to Roberto’s answer, once again she was too fixated on the engaged duo. Corral had shifted so close to Lotor, she was practically sitting in his lap! Allura saw green, while the Demosian princess saw bliss. Corral’s eyes were half closed, as she leaned against Lotor’s chest, murmuring responses to his words. He had one arm wrapped around her waist, her hand over his, while her other hand was resting on his knee. Allura couldn’t believe they were not only doing that right now, but that they were getting away with such a blatant display of affection! Why Allura’s Nanny would have a fit, if Allura tried that!
“You lazy wretch!” The woman was once again snapping at her. “Stop staring at the scenery, and serve my husband!”
Allura looked away from the public spectacle Corral and Lotor were making of themselves, to serve this Roberto fellow. Which cause her to be right next to Lotor, her body brushing against his frame. He didn’t notice. He was too busy sliding his fingers under Corral’s veil, letting her taste his wine coated fingers.
“But Lotor…” Corral suddenly pulled away, turning to look Lotor in the eyes. “What about Allura?”
YEAH!! Thought a furious Allura, as she stated to slip her note into Lotor’s bowl. What about ME?!
Lotor chuckled. “Allura who?” His voice rang out, loud enough for all to hear. “You’re the only woman in my life that matters to me.”
Some people gasped at the proclamation, others nodded their approval. This was how it should be. Why chase after that poor princess who only had one measly, war torn planet to her name, when he could have a real woman. One who was not only rich, and gorgeous, but WANTED him in return? Corral’s rivals suddenly lost their appetites, thinking how unfair life was that the princess be not only beautiful and wealthy, but manage to snag a handsome husband who was willing to pledge his devotion for all to hear!
And Corral? She somehow managed to not faint from happiness overload. “Oh Lotor!” She cried, chest heaving rapidly, and all the men at the table’s eyes were locked on what flesh that showed. “You have made me the happiest woman in the room…the planet, no the galaxy!”
“Not yet I haven’t.” Lotor winked, a saucy grin on his face. “There’s still the honey mo–.” As one, many of the guests sounded out a horrified cry, before the room fell into stunned silence. A clumsy, striped haired servant had just dumped a bowl of soup on the prince’s head. Thank the Gods it hadn’t been steaming hot, but a nice COLD bowl of vichyssoise. But it made just as bad a mess, and for one instant time was frozen, as everyone stared at the poor prince, sitting there shocked, drenched clumps of the meal clinging to his hair and face.
“I’m SO sorry!” cried a flushing Allura. But she wasn’t red faced with embarrassment, but anger. She turned, and ran from the table, before anyone could react. Before anyone could think to pull out a whip and punish her for her clumsiness. She pushed through the servants, noting out the corner of her eye, Chore Master Maltilda had finally put in an appearance. The woman was as white as a sheet, collapsed on the floor, partly conscious, as a frantic Raoul fanned her, trying to get her back on her feet. She refused to be comforted, instead moaning over and over how she knew something bad was going to happen.
“Maltilda was so right” Allura fought to keep the tears from falling. “Something bad DID happen!”
“Unbelievable!” groused a newly returned Lotor. Once everyone had managed to get over the shock of what happened, clearer heads prevailed. Lapis had suggested Lotor leave the room to wash up, and get changed into a cleaner, DRY coat. Since he had a modest sized wardrobe provided by his hosts, it had been a simple enough matter to get cleaned up. Though he didn’t like being baby-sat to do even that simple a task!
“Yes, I know…” cooed Corral sympathetically. “How ever did such a clumsy girl make it onto my father’s staff!?”
“Not that!” snapped Lotor. “I’m talking about your father not trusting me to go to the bathroom alone!”
“Oh…OH! Lotor…” Corral sighed. “It’s not a trust issue, so much as a matter of security.”
“He wants to feel secure in the knowledge that I can’t escape!” muttered Lotor.
“No, not at all! He’s worried about possible assassination attempts! Besides…” She gave him a sidelong glance. “You yourself said that you no longer wished to leave here…so there’s no need for talk..” She tapped her fingers against his lips. “Or thought…” She brushed them against his forehead. “Of escape.” She blinked, eyes worried. “Is there? You’re not…still trying to leave me, are you Lotor?”
“Of course not dearest.” Lotor said reassuringly. “It’s just…” He broke off with a sigh.
“Just what?” She asked.
“Well…just that a man likes to be alone sometimes…to uh…take long walks.” He only added that bit in about walks to avoid her saying he could always be alone in his room.
“Walks?” She looked blank. “This is about walking?”
“For the most part.” Lotor’s stormy expression was replaced with a smile. “It’s also about spending time alone with the person you love…holding hands…” He took hers in his grip. “Out beneath the stars, or along a garden path on a sunny day…”
“Oh…” She said softly. “Well, we can do that. AFTER the wedding.”
With a sigh, he let go of her hands. “Corral…” He practically whined her name. “I want to be with you now! Corral, can’t you see? I can’t wait any longer!”
“But…you are with me.” She blinked innocent eyes at him, and he cursed. He didn’t think any other princess could be as naive as Allura! “And the wedding is not that far away…”
“Corral…” He grasped her by the shoulders, staring into her eyes. “I don’t think you’re understanding me. I want…no, I NEED to be with you.” He tried to convey all his longing, his passion to her via his eyes. “My desire grows for you with each passing second. It’s all I can do to keep my hands off of you!”
“Oh…” She swallowed, nervous. One of his hands fell to her legs, massaging her thigh through the voluminous skirts. “OH!!” She suddenly got his meaning. “You mean you want to…” He nodded. “But we can’t!”
“Why not?” Lotor asked. “After all, we’re soon to be married…:
“But that’s the thing.!” Corral protested, very conscious of where his hand was, and what it was doing. “We’re not married yet!”
“It’s merely a matter of paperwork to seal the deal.” He said.
“Don’t tell me you’re the love ’em and leave ’em type.” He teased her. “Already got a boyfriend lined up on the side…want him instead of me…”
“NO!!” She cried, a bit too loudly. Everyone at the table turned to look at them, which only made Corral blush harder.
“My fiancee was just telling me how ugly this shirt is.” Lotor explained, acting as though his hand wasn’t on her thigh, and traveling upwards. “I offered to take it off if it offended her eyes that much. Apparently it doesn’t…or maybe…” He grinned. “She’s not ready to see me without my shirt yet.” He found where the skirt attached to her bodice, and slipped his fingers between them, brushing against her corset. Corral let out a little startled squeal, and was grateful the veil hid how red her face was.
The crowd burst into laughter, and someone made a joke about Corral having to get over that hang up real fast. Roberto having had too much to drink began making a rather rude joke about them doing it with their clothes ON. Anador than smacked him upside the head, uttering an admonishment. “That’s my daughter you’re making insinuations about!”
Lotor and Corral remained silent, the princess nervously gulping down two glasses of champagne in quick succession. Lotor watched her with a sly look in his eyes, waiting for attention to be diverted from them, before they could continue the discussion again. He nonchalantly took a sip of his wine, while he continued to tease her with his fingers.
“Stupid, stupid, stupid!” cried Allura. “I’m such a fool!” She sniffled, huddling on the floor of a darkened corridor, tears streaming down her face. How could I…” How could she what? Believe Lotor cared for her? Needed her? Ha! What a laugh that was! It was as obvious as the nose on her face, he did not want rescuing! She had wasted her time in coming here. And in all probability, she had further endangered her planet as well! “I have to get out of here!” She decided, standing up.
And yet, she hesitated. Even with all the anger, the hurt feelings, she still could not do it. She could not bring herself to leave Lotor here to marry Corral. To marry someone else, someone other than ALLURA! She could no longer deny it, even to herself. She was JEALOUS. Of Corral! The way Lotor had looked at her, the way he had touched her, the way the princess was not scared to admit she wanted Lotor, and would do her damnedest to get him by hook or by crook! Allura was also worried sick about her position in Lotor’s heart. Had he really moved on? Damn him! Damn him for being charming towards Corral, and damn him for forcing her to realize she did feel SOMETHING for him. Before she had been able to hide behind her conviction that Lotor did not want Corral! But now, unless her minds was playing tricks on her, he did want Corral…
And what of her father? Alfor had thought Lotor needed saving…needed saving, or needed her? Perhaps the two answers were one and the same…
Maybe she should go back. Try to get close to him…to slip him a note to meet with her, so they could talk. He might still be willing to leave with her. She didn’t know what they would do once they left Demos, but at least for a time they’d be together. Worst case scenario, he’d tell on her. She’d be captured or worse…but if he really loved her as much as he said he did…It was time to take a chance.