He was bigger than her, untamed and rugged—like a shape cut out of the wild forest.
Cora walked to the cage, curling her fingers around the bars and feeling his heat from where she stood. She was drawn to him. To the way the strength in his shoulders and chest rose and fell with his breath. The smell he brought with him of the forest… of the fresh grass and trees recently covered in rain. He was like an oasis there. A trapped, caged oasis that she had no right indulging in.
This male was vital and alive—such a stark contrast to the gray, undead, unliving dimension that he had been transplanted into. She had three years to get used to this nearly colorless place, and now his vivid life was so blinding, it nearly stole her breath.
"Pet?" she whispered to herself, grimacing at how the prince characterized this 'gift' of his.
Her voice affected him despite the wretched word she spoke—singing to him, calling him forward, pulling on something wild to unleash—but he didn't show it. His jaw remained clenched, all of his muscles taut and straining against the chains they had placed him in. And he refused to meet her eyes—not like this. Not here.
Was this truly the Moon Goddess' plan for him? A cage? Whatever chemical they had coated the metal with had weakened him to the point that he couldn't break out of the restraints like would be so easy for him otherwise.
Cora wet her lips, searching for words, feeling guilty that somehow the prince thought it right to bring this male here for her that he viewed as nothing but an animal, but she also felt so powerfully drawn to him. It reminded her of being within a breath of a lion at the zoo, and that thought riddled her with guilt as well.
He wasn't an object. He wasn't a pet either, regardless of how endearing that term could be. Rather… she wished to be a lion with him. Or to give herself to him as a meal.
"I am sorry. I will find a way to get you out of here," she whispered, her stomach twisting at the position she was in.
How would she possibly free him without offending the entire royal family?
"Is he not fascinating?" Prince Rayth's chilling voice arrived in the room followed by his distinctly threatening aura. His presence made her freeze, an instinctual fear creeping up her spine. All of the warmth from the male in the cage was doused by the freezing air of vampire royalty. "It is no easy task to catch a lycan, I can tell you that. I hope you will take very good care of him."
A long, pale finger caressed her cheek, causing her to shiver and a ragged breath to escape like death itself was caressing her. Perhaps death would be better.
"If you will be my bride, you will tolerate my touch, child," he whispered in her ear, causing her heart to stumble in its frantic attempt to run away from this situation, and both males heard it.
A low growl echoed around the room, instinctually releasing itself from the lycan's throat. Rayth chuckled in delight, his eyes flashing a threat to the male who now lifted his own threatening gaze. They stared each other down while Cora's eyes were fixed on the floor.
"I do hope the task of taming him will keep your skills occupied. There are far too many flowers blooming outside the garden today, Cora. If this continues, I am not sure my position alone can protect you from the unrest growing in Gray Vale."