••• SEVEN •••

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Chapter Seven

"Add you to the race?" He asks, raising an eyebrow as he approaches me. Yet I stand firm and in place, raising my chin in the process. "A female in a group of men as they search the realm?"

"Why not?" I ask.

"Who said I would add you to the race anyway?" The King questions, stepping a mere inch from me. His scent envelops me as my heart beats violently within my chest. How can he get me to feel this way after he almost let me fall off a balcony? "I have promised nothing to you yet."

"Then I no longer am needed here," I remark, looking over his shoulder and to the doors of the balcony. "Now, you should let me leave."

"Do you talk to your Ruler this way? Your Elders? I would be shocked if no one has threatened to banish you by now."

I stay silent. Not because he has truly won the argument, but because I believe one wrong slip up will make the King question of I even have an idea what he is referring to. One slip up and he will think something is off with me even more than right now.

"That smart mouth of yours may get you in trouble one day."

I frown.

"Why should I add you? You could just tell me what to look for and be on your way back home."

He wants me here. I do not know why, but I know this man is not wanting me to leave anytime soon. Why? An odd feeling in my gut. That is all I know: an odd feeling in my gut that causes me to believe this man will not let me leave anytime soon. I have to get out of here. Soon he will begin to question me even more.

"Believe me, your men will have no idea what I am looking for."

Is it a lie? A lie to maybe find my father?

Maybe so. Maybe not. I know my father was a very smart man, one of believed in a signature mark. Every show he went to, mother told me he would carve a small marking into the doors of the changing rooms. Why? Mother always said he wanted to leave a mark for those who would one day replace him. No one has ever replaced my father. Still claimed the best magician of all history, year after year people still try and beat him, yet no one does.

"Believe me, you will need my help."

My help. My plan that I just developed minutes ago was to help these men find my father for me to find him as well. However, there will be a catch. Right as we are about to find my father, I will lead them astray after I gain their trust. Have them help me find my father. To find the man who I never got to live with as I grew up. The man who barely raised me. The man who knows how to get out of here.

Or at least I hope.

But he never came home.

Is there even a way home? Maybe my father is working on a way to go home? He has to be! He would have come home by now if he had a way!

"You are not the average woman, Candice," he states, his voice a soft whisper as he looks deep within my eyes. He's caught me in a trance once more. He's made me become lost in those eyes. "You talk to your King as if you are equal to me."

I should know better.

"I think you are a business partner. We are simply having a simple business deal. No one is a level higher during a deal for business."

The King scoffs, stepping a tad bit further as my skin pales. He's flush against me now, my heart beating faster than ever within my chest. "Impressive. That way of thinking for a woman."

I want to snap back at him. Yet these people are still living in a different time. Men and women are not equal. Sexism is everywhere here. Yet it seems as if he doesn't mind it, as if it's entertaining, as if, as he said, he is impressed. That's a good sign.

"Either I join the race to find this man or I leave."

A smirk crosses his face. What did I say? What caused him to appear smug, suspicious?

"Leave? You leave when I think it wise."

"Think it wise?" I ask, taking a step back, only for the King to grab my arm, pulling me back towards him as sparks fly though my arm.

"After all, you are in my domain."

My skin pales. He's not going to let me leave. But why?

What could make him want to keep me here? Consumed within my thoughts, by the time he has me right where he wants me, I'm stuck. Stuck within his grasp, I'm held against him, my back against his front as my heart skips a beat. His lips brush my ear as goosebumps form across my skin.

"Believe me, sweet Candice, my domain is tricky to leave." I swallow the lump in my throat.

"Am I added to the race to find him?" I ask, my voice stern as I am afraid it will crack.

"I have no reason to trust you."

I scoff.

"You are asking me to add a woman to the group who states she can aid me in finding a murderer." He lowers his head, his lips brushing my neck. "I have no reason to believe you could help me."

I'm afraid. Afraid to speak. Afraid of what he means. Afraid of why he will not let me leave.

"Trust me."

He pulls away, his body gone as I let out a silent breath. "Trust you?" He questions, walking in a circle around me as my fingers begin to shake. "The King trust a commoner?"

"Trust me."

He chuckles. "Trust me or I leave, and you will never have to see me again."

The King pulls away, staring down upon my figure as I find my hands begin to shake. As his eyes scan over my body, my body reacting right away as I feel my body temperature increase. His hands slide into his pockets, his crown catching the light of the sun as a knock occurs on the balcony doors.

"Your Majesty-

"Do you have a good reason to interrupt me?" The King snaps, facing the door as the guard is pale with fear.

"Your Majesty, word has reached the palace of an odd sighting, one in the rural lands, near the marble hall. Word has it of a magical spell."

My heart skips a beat.

Although I do not know anything about this realm, I know one thing for sure: the place the guard is describing...it's where I woke up.

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