"Love? Shah's dark brows furrowed. His stormy eyes darted around as if he couldn't figure out where to hold his gaze. He leaned away unconsciously, not enjoying the proximity with the woman.

"Do you not remember our betrothal? Surely, you couldn't have forgotten..." The Queen placed her hand on her heart as if suffering a great loss. Her red bangles clanged with her every move.

"I didn't even know my own name. You along with everything else faded I..." Shah's breath caught as if words were eluding him. His newly freed fists clenched at his sides as Cecilia recognised him trying to maintain control.

"Can you tell us what the Noor looked like? Perhaps we can be of more help," Cecilia interjected. She did not give a rat's behind about the Noor but she was invested in helping Shah untangle himself from the mess.

"I do not know..." The Queen uttered. An unshed tear clung to her kohl rimmed lower lash which she brushed away delicately.

"You were Shahzaib's wife. He must have confided in you?" Shah asked. He looked tense and uncomfortable with all the eyes upon him.

"He wanted nothing to do with me once he realised I was still meeting you..." Cecilia understood why the Queen was not using her own tongue. None of the maids were following their conversation or their scandalous content.

"I would never! I would never dishonour my family, my brother with such behaviour," Shah implored as if begging the queen to cease her blasphemous talk. He looked as if the world had disappeared from beneath his feet. Cecilia made an impulsive move and took hold of the man's hand.

"We were betrothed, engaged to marry. I cannot emphasize enough that he stole me from you. You owed him nothing after his betrayal," The woman glared at the ground. Two more tears slid down her face which she blinked away.

"I-" Shah cut off his sentence before he could utter it. He breathed deeply trying to remain calm. His fingers tightened around Cecilia's fingers as if they were his last lifeline.

"I beg your pardon but how could he have stolen you?" Cecilia interjected, startling the Queen as if she had forgotten her existence. The woman's eyes narrowed down to their joined hands.

"This is not your country where norms of society encourage freedom. We could not disobey the king. He only had to point at a woman and she would be his," The Queen explained, impatiently. The woman turned around with her elegant skirt sweeping the floor and said, "I understand you have suffered immensely. I will let you rest."

"She stays with me. I shall not let her out of my sight," Shah glared at the crowd as if anticipating a fight for Cecilia.

The Queen turned her head minutely, revealing only the side of her face and raised her brow at the display. Her facial expressions revealed nothing.

"I did not expect such a passionate response. How very unlike you," There was a pointed bitterness in the woman's voice.

"I saved his life and he feels honour bound to save mine. Surely you know how honourable he is, your highness," Cecilia dispelled the misunderstanding with calculated deference in her voice. Every instinct in her body was telling her to be cautious. There was something about the Queen that raised her hackles.

"Yes, that I can understand," The Royal's voice warmed considerably through her eyes remained pained and red, "Please, you are welcome to stay as long as possible. It is my fault my men did not read the situation appropriately. I had only been ruling for three days when I sent them after you."

"Thank you," Cecilia smiled and gave a polite bow, ignoring Shah's baffled look. The court Cecilia was a different creature he had never encountered.

"Choose one of my maids. I'm sure one of them shall be to your liking. Unfortunately they do not speak your tongue," The Queen lazily pointed behind her and began ascending the stairs. The doors were opened for her until she was helped out of the room with her escort.

"What are you doing?" Shah hissed, all angst forgotten at Cecilia's odd behaviour. The door behind them opened as soon as the Queen's slammed shut.

"If I am to stay then I must conform," The girl spoke. Her green eyes were flint with determination, "I'm not leaving you."

"You must. You have to return to safety. This palace is not safe. My senses are screaming for me to get you out," Shah articulated. His eyes were upon a new set of guards now entering the room. The men were dressed in white, a stark contrast with their former captives. They had delicate hands and pleasant features. These servants were not going to able to do them any physical harm which allowed Cecilia some relief. The men undid more of Shah's restraints leaving him completely free.

"If you need an excuse then here is one. The Royal guards have the flowers. I could go back but it shall take months to trace our steps," Cecilia mouthed with her eyes firmly stuck on Shah's wane face.

"They must have discarded them a long while ago," The man protested.

"For as long as I'm here I insist we at least try to find them. It's the least I could do..." Cecilia uttered remembering she truly could not stay to guard Shah forever. Her own country needed her now more then ever now that most the research team was decimated. A stab of fury coursed through her body at the thought of her slain companions.

Shah just stared at her with mounting desperation. The look of dread made Cecilia look away. She followed quietly as they were led by the new guards. The girl was too preoccupied by her own frantic thoughts to care about her surroundings.

The girl only came to when the dozen or so feet on her line of vision came to a halt making her falter. Shah's hand was on her shoulder instantly.

Shah sharply ordered something in his mother tongue leaving no doubt in Cecilia's mind that he was truly a Prince. The way the servants tripped over their feet to obey him gave her an overview of what his world must be like.

The bedchamber the companions were led to was opulent. Every inch of fabric in the room was a light sea green. The colour covered the trims of the curtains, the silk bedsheets and the carpet. Cecilia idly noticed the entire right wall, spanning a good sixteen feet, was covered in bookshelves and books.

"I find this colour most soothing," Shah confirmed Cecilia's suspicions that this was the man's room.

"I have asked you to be placed in the room connecting to mine. You will not be displeased by the proximity?" Shah asked. His eyes met Cecilia's briefly before roving back to his room. He was surveying it as if an old friend.

"Safety in numbers," Cecilia nodded as three maids entered the bed chamber.

"We shall talk later," Shah nodded, trying to act composed, but his entire body was thrumming with frantic energy as if he could not bear to be apart from Cecilia.


Cecilia opened the dividing door and it creaked open much to her displeasure. Shah who was resting in the dark sprang awake from his seated position.

His dark eyes roved over Cecilia's changed attire and then finally at her face as if searching for injuries. His clothed shoulders relaxed as he found Cecilia to be in good health.

"How are you?" The girl asked as she too observed her friend closely. He looked like a new man in his blinding white shirt. There was finely woven gold thread in the white adding to the richness of the material.

Shah shook his head as if nothing was right in the world. He whispered, "Shahzaib is gone and I could do nothing to save him."

"Do you remember your brother?" Cecilia asked softly.

Shah nodded and he looked away with anguish on his face. His body trembled with the force of his emotions.

"The palace reminded me of him. He raised me as if I were his own. I don't recall everything but I loved him. How could I betray him? How could I covet his bride?" Shah growled. His hand scrapped through his newly washed dark hair.

"He stole your future bride. Your love!" The redhead pleaded trying to remind he was only human.

"No... I don't know. I could not... I don't know what to believe," Shah sat down on his leather chair as if his legs no longer had the strength to hold him.

"Love must transcend beyond the conscious memory... Do you not feel the deep love for the Queen when you see her?" Cecilia questioned in a hushed voice. The question corroded her insides in a way she had never felt before.

"Every feeling revolts," Shah hissed. His jaw clenched painfully. Something in his denial soothed the awakening monster in Cecilia's chest.

"Then do not trust her. Her story makes no sense anyway," The girl whispered so low that even if they were being eavesdropped they would not be overheard, "She commands the guards and yet she did not tell them not to harm us. Don't trust anyone in this palace."

"But I trust you..." Shah looked up with clear eyes.

"Don't. I could not bear the weight of your trust. I'm not worthy" Cecilia replied, her mouth thinning with firmness.

"If not you then who else. You fought for my life like no other. I will strive to do the same for you. Go back to Damian, please! I will write him a letter..." Shah suddenly stilled as if he remembered something, "That reminds me. Damian wrote me a letter and I was replying back when I was attacked. I needed to... escape."

Shah looked at his desk with bemused expression. Cecilia's eyes widened as she began to take into account all that he had revealed about his connection with Damian. As Royalty they must have been acquainted with each other.

"Why did you run? Can you recall?" Cecilia wondered.

"I can't say. I knew my brother had died and I was distraught. I – I believe I wished to give something to Damian?" Shah trailed off as if his head was throbbing. He clutched his head in frustration.

"The Noor," Cecilia whispered, "It had to be."

"But why would I take it away from the Palace and the question remains; Where did it go..." Shah looked up as the mystery became clearer.

"It must have been a small object for you to carry it on horseback but small objects can easily fall especially when you were injured. It could be anywhere?!" The redhead cried out as she remembered the terrain she found the injured man in.

"At least you guessed my name right," Shah laughed. He stood and poured both of them water in a jewel encrusted, gold glasses.

"I am the witch, of course," Cecilia barked a short laugh. She sat down on the bed. She smoothed down her skirt and admired the silky material beneath her injured fingers.

Instead of frowning as he would have for her making fun of their omen the man just laughed. He handed her the glass with his eyes glinting with an undefined emotion. He looked calm but his eyes were a cacophony of chaos. His whole life had upended before his eyes and his only stable anchor was Cecilia.


Cecilia's exit from her rooms was unplanned. She had no intention of wandering the palace unescorted but Shah's past had made sleep impossible.

Once back in her bed chamber she had gone over the conversations of the day over and over again. The doomed romance, the murdered king, the snake of jealousy in her beating heart, everything had given her a headache.

Cecilia's bedchambers opened independently into the corridor a distance away Shah's entrance. The long corridor was covered in silk carpets which his her cautious footsteps. At the end of the corridor Cecilia entered a three story high atrium covered in green, exotic plants.

"If you're looking for an escape don't forget we're still watching," A man's voice called out from behind a palm tree making Cecilia start. Her heart thudded wildly at the sight of the concealed Royal guard. She cursed herself for her impulsiveness and bit down the hysteria.

"I- I thought I was no longer a prisoner but an esteemed guest," Cecilia answered mustering up all her bravery, "Besides I would never leave him."

"You're still licking his wounds. He is not a good man," Their former guard with brown eyes answered. Disgust coloured his voice at her loyalty.

"He is the best of men," The redhead asserted.

"I used to believe the same of him. I've seen him grow up into a man from a small motherless child but look at how he betrayed us all," The guard gritted out.

"What has he done?" The green eyed girl interrogated.

"He murdered the King! His murdered his own brother to take back the Queen," The man growled. Cecilia fought off the shock immediately. She did not believe the assertions.

"Did you see him? Did you see him commit the crime?" Cecilia asked, taking a step closer her fear all forgotten.

The masked man remained silent indicating he had not.

"He still does not remember everything. He will submit to any punishment if he finds out he killed his own brother. If you knew him once upon a time you will know the depth of his honour," Cecilia pleaded. Her silk dressing gown was caught in the thorn of the rose bush which she pulled herself free from without taking an eye off the man lest he disappear.

"He met his dying brother in the Royal chambers all alone and then removed the Noor from the premises. What can I make of his actions," The man explained.

"He must have a good reason to conceal it," Cecilia replied stubbornly.

"I hope you're correct," The guard whispered as he took a soft footstep backwards intending to end their conversation.

"Please, wait! Do you know what happened to the bags of flowers found on the researchers. Please, tell me you did not dispose of them. We need them and the notes upon them most urgently," Cecilia's words tripped all over each other as she begged the man.

The guard surveyed the empty room before nodding, "The Queen has them. She knows their purpose."

"She intends to give them to Prince Damian? My country is dying, sir! Make her act in haste!"

"I do not control the Queen. It is we she controls," The man replied mysteriously. That was the last Cecilia heard before the man disappeared from view and after a thorough search she could not find him in the atrium.