The roaring engine of the car was the only sound going past the silent and serene scenery. The Silverstein estate was big enough to be considered a small town of its own. The forest that surrounded the Silverstein Palace spanned over several square miles. No one except for the authorized people was allowed to take the highway that connected the city of Florence to the Silverstein Estate.
“Have you decided on Maira’s punishment?”
Shazan lazily turned his head to the girl on the driving seat. She was, as usual, dressed in a suit. And as usual, held a charm that he found fascinating. He ran his fingers through her short and blonde hair. Her hair was of shoulder length, and she was his only woman who liked and preferred to keep her hair at this length. He had to admit it that this hairstyle suited her and went along perfectly with her features and personality.
“What punishment?” He knew what she wanted to say but still inquired.
“You know what I am talking about.” She sternly looked at him but then shifted her eyes back to the road. “She neglected Arianna’s safety, and also put herself in danger.”
“I have already had a little chat with her, and that was enough for her punishment.” He said and closed his eyes. “We both know what kind of a person she is. She would have made sure that Arianna was safe even if it cost her own life.”
Ilsa stayed quiet for some time after his words. He kept his eyes on her and kept smiling. He knew what was going on in her mind. She was irritated by the fact that she had lost a fight against Maira on that day. She had been trying hard to get Maira to accept her rematch challenge, but Maira had not accepted it even once in these three years. And now Ilsa was only looking for an excuse to force Maira to accept her challenge.
“Why do you not order her to accept my challenge?” She whispered.
“Because I don’t want to see you two fight.”
“Huh” She scoffed. “We both know that that’s not the reason. You think that I would lose to her again and it’d hurt me. Isn’t that so?”
Shazan stayed quiet at her words. What she had said was partially true. However, it wasn’t the reason either.
“I don’t want you to think that I am weak. It hurts me when I think that you believe I would lose to Maira.”
Her words contained all her worries and sadness. It was in her genes, to fight and to overcome stronger enemies with only the physical strength. Her physical strength was nearly as monstrous as her older brother. It was something even he dreaded. He was certain that if Ilsa hugged and squeezed him, she could easily snap his rib cage.
“I don’t think that you are weak Ilsa.” He said and sighed. “Her ability to see and predict your every move before it happens is your natural bane. Also, she’s faster than you and more proficient with weapons. She can not win against you by what you consider fair and square, neither can you. However, she will use her movements and weapons to tire you out and then capitalize on a minute mistake to win against you. That’s what she did last time.”
“I know that, but that won’t happen if I don’t make any mistakes, and tire her out first.”
It was what she planned to do, and he had already figured it out. The odds of either of them to win were the same. The monstrous strength, endurance, and stamina was something Maira could never match Ilsa in. One hit. That’s all Ilsa needed to win the duel. And the fact that she was more experienced was more favorable to her. That’s what he had bet on the last time. However, none of it had worked out against Maira.
“You want to know what I honestly believe would be the outcome of your duel?” He asked and took his eyes off her.
“Yes.” She said and tightened her grip on the wheel.
“Your desire to win and Maira’s persistence to not lose would result in one of getting critically injured.” He said and closed his eyes. “I don’t want to see the two of you fight and get hurt.”
“I won’t hurt her.” She whispered.
“Isn’t that why you lost the last time? You were worried about her safety.” He opened his eyes and gently smiled at her. “I know you can win if you go all out, Ilsa. But you also know what would happen if you go all out.”
“You are not strong enough to go easy on her and still win. The day either of you is strong enough to ensure the other person’s safety would be the day I allow you to have your match.” His gentle smiled ceased, and his words were serious. “I don’t want to see you hurt each other.”
“So you do think that I am weak.” She smiled and looked at him. “I will show you that I am not weak. I will make her accept my challenge you are not allowed to interfere when that happens.”
“Musclehead.” He shook his head and closed his eyes.
“Say it again…”
“I swear I will crash this car if you say that again… You know it’s one of your favorite cars.”
Ilsa loved bickering with him, and she would sometimes really get angry just for the sake of getting on his nerves. She loved doing it, and he had gotten used to it. However, this indeed was his favorite Ferrari, an edition made and customized only for him.
“Whatever…” He said and kept quiet. He could see her smile in satisfaction from the corner of his eye. She loved having him surrender an argument to her, and he would sometimes deliberately do it to see this smile on her face.
“Why did you come with me?”
“You don’t like having me accompanying you?” She asked back.
He didn’t answer her back but gently grabbed her hand and planted a kiss on it. Her cheeks warmed up, and it was evident on the pretty blush adorning her cheeks that she was happy.
They both stayed quiet, and he didn’t let go of her hand. He knew that she would eventually answer the question he had asked her. That’s how this girl was. She didn’t like making things easy for anyone. It was as if she was born to mess around with everyone.
“It was Keira.”
“She wanted to come with you, but Roselyn wouldn’t let go of her, and so she stayed back with her and Serafina.”
Shazan nodded to her and closed his eyes.
Unbeknownst to him, the sleep eventually won over, and he drifted off in his dreams.
“Hey, wake up!” A soft voice whispered in his ear, and a warm touch of lips kissed his cheek.
Even in his sleep, he could tell whose touch it was. Those soft and warm lips belonged to Ilsa. He did not allow her to retract her head in time and caught her lips with his own. He opened his eyes to see her blush adorned face and shy eyes trying to hide away.
“I love you!” He told her and took a deep sip of her lips.
“I know.” She said and got away from him. “You didn’t sleep last night, right?”
“We are here now let’s go get some rest.”
Shazan nodded to her and got out of the car. Two other cars were near the fountain of Aquarius, and that meant that Helen was at home. He looked at his watch and frowned. They should have arrived here an hour ago. He glanced over to Ilsa who was taking out a bag from the car and understood that she had driven slower to let him get a decent nap.
“What’s in the bag?” He asked.
Ilsa had brought it along with her when they had left the Silverstein Palace. He hadn’t asked her back then but seeing her take it out here made him curious.
“I don’t know. Roselyn asked me to take this bag to Helen. She said that Helen already knows what to do with it, and she told me to not peek at what’s inside it.” Ilsa said and came to stand by his side. “Let’s go.”
It was beyond him, how obedient Ilsa was to Roselyn. Had anyone else given this bag to her, she would have checked what was inside it and would have also made them believe that they owed her a favor in return. Anyone but Arianna, this brave girl was scared of his little sister.
“Let’s go.” He nodded and took a step forward.
The moment he landed his next step, the bells of crisis rang in his mind. His senses exploded to a maximum level of alertness, and his arms wrapped around Ilsa’s waist. The attacker was already on his back, but a pale smile crept on his lips.
The giant black wolf that had attacked them only caught the vacuum in the air he had left behind. The wolf looked upset as it snarled and cautiously juggled on its feet to not stop its movement.
“You are still too young to succeed at your pranks, Rysar.” Shazan said and landed right on top of the back of the giant wolf. The wolf stopped moving and disappointedly lowered its head.
“You should as well stop bullying him.” Ilsa advised like a kind person.
“If I remember right, it was you who beat him to pulp the last time he made a mistake.”
“Huh… It was his fault. He shouldn’t keep forgetting that he has no clothes on when he transforms back into his human form.” Ilsa sternly said. “You have learned your lesson, right Rysar?”
The black wolf meekly nodded, and its tail stopped wiggling in fear and recollection of the beating he had received at her hands.
“Now whose’s the one bullying him?” Shazan helplessly shook his hand and jumped off its back. He placed Ilsa back on her feet and patted the head of the wolf.
“You have done well.” He said to him. “Go get some rest.”
Rysar nodded to him and bowed before disappearing into the woods.
Werewolves were mystical creatures. They aged fast but their mental-age progressed at a very slow rate. Rysar was 62 years old this year, but his mental age wasn’t over that of a young teenager, and his physical appearance was that of a boy in his late teens. Of course, it was the mentality of a beast, not humans. The craving for blood was in its genes.
Rysar was strong, immensely strong. If he had willed it so, Ilsa would have never even been able to hurt him back then. However, he had obediently received the beating as punishment because he knew he had made her angry.
“Let’s go.” Ilsa grabbed his hand and led him to the house.
The house was designed like a cottage and was made only of stone and wood. But this was easily one of the most luxurious estates of the country. Helen loved being close to Nature, and so he had gifted this place to her several years ago. He had named this place Helen’s Nest.
The cottage was surrounded by woods on all sides and had an Aquarius fountain, a water-bearing mermaid, in front of it. The parking shed connected to the cottage could only accommodate one car, and that was where her prized Maserati was parked.
Ilsa pressed the doorbell and locked her arm around his as if to show to the people they were about to meet that he belonged to her. Ilsa rarely acted this way, but when she did, it fascinated him.
The old lady that was the only maid of this cottage opened the door. Her dull grey eyes shined when they saw it was him.
“Master!” She politely bowed to him.
“It’s okay, Ness.” Shazan stopped her from staying in that state and patted her shoulder. “I have asked you to never observe these courtesies to me.”
“Some things must never be neglected.” The wise old maid said and gestured them to come inside. “Please. I will inform lady Helen that you have come.” She said and walked upstairs.
Shazan led Ilsa to the bedroom on the ground floor. This room belonged to him. He took the bag from her hand and placed it on the table.
“Would you like to have something?” He turned around and asked her.
“Yup… Audoris. Chilled.” Ilsa said and slouched on the couch just like a lazy cat.
“Good. Get up and make one for me as well.” He gently smiled at her and sat down next to her.
“Why are you always so rude to me?” Ilsa glared at him with her Hazel eyes.
“I am the one being rude?” He asked with a confused expression on his face.
“Oh… My Apologies.” He nodded to himself. “I will try to not be rude to you, but first, go and prepare Audoris for me… chilled.” He pointed towards the bar in the corner of the room.
“What?” He raised his brow and asked her. “I am only asking you to prepare a drink for your Husband. How is that considered rude?”
“You asked me first if I wanted something.”
“Yes… And since you do need a drink as well, go make one for me too.”
“Don’t you need one?”
“Nope… Just wanted to give you company.”
Ilsa looked like she would burst in anger at any moment now. Her eyes were like daggers drawn to puncture his heart. How much he loved this shade of her, it even mystified him.
“Stop pulling her leg, Shazan.”
A sweet feminine voice called out from the entrance of the room, and a Lady in her early thirties, dressed in a white flowing gown entered and came over to stand behind him. She wrapped her arms around his neck and placed her cheek on his head.
“If you say so…” He inhaled her flowery aroma and planted a kiss on her arm. “She’s a musclehead anyways.”
“I am not!” Ilsa shot up from her seat, and her eyes held welling tears in them.
“Shazan!” Helen admonished him and smacked a light punch on his shoulder. “Come with me.” She walked over to Ilsa and wrapped her arms around her. “I will prepare a drink for you.”
“One for me as well.” He said and sank back in his seat.
Helen took Ilsa to the bar and engaged her in different conversations to lighten her mood. She was good at it. It was after all part of her profession. She was one of the world most successful fashion designers. And nothing lightened the mood of women more than the talk of pretty clothes.
Now that Ilsa didn’t have her attention on him, he closed his eyes and sent his senses to a maximum level of alertness. He wanted to trace a certain little girl. And surprisingly, he found her sitting on the staircase. Her heart was restless, and the aura surrounding her was ever more restless.
A warmth spread in his heart when his aura came into contact with a familiar presence, and a smile crept on his lips. His guess had proven right. But the smile didn’t linger for long as he remembered the sadness of Arianna.
“Shazan.” Helen called him out.
He opened his eyes and found her sitting on his side.
“Is everything okay?” She asked and her brows furrowed.
Helen nodded and handed him his glass of Audoris. She didn’t ask or say anything more and just nestled close to him.
The taste was as pleasant as ever. It was too strong of a drink for normal people, but for Azeros this was something they all loved.
He looked to the other side and found Ilsa still not meeting his gaze. She was still mad at him.
“Come here.” He asked her gently and drew his vacant arm to her.
She stayed there for a while, but after seeing him not retract his arm, she came over and buried her face in his chest.
“I love you.” He whispered in her ear and planted a kiss on her head.
“I know.” She answered and planted a kiss back on his neck.
“Where Asaya?” He looked at Helen and asked.
“She was in her room when I informed her that you have come. Strange, she hasn’t come to greet you yet.” She said. Despite all her efforts to hide her worries, it was all evident on her face.
“Helen.” He caressed her cheek with the back of his fingers and pulled her chin to make her look him in the eyes. “What happened?”
Her deep brown eyes were misty. And eventually, a tear slipped out of the corner of her eye and rolled down her cheek.
“What happened?” He inquired again.
“I don’t know.” She said and turned her face away. She rested her head on his shoulder. “Rysar brought her home last night. She was crying. I asked Rysar what had happened, but he stayed quiet and vanished into the woods. I asked her, and she only said that she had hurt Arianna.”
He brushed away the tear with his thumb and sipped her soft lips.
“Don’t worry. Everything’s okay. Arianna isn’t mad at her for anything nor has she done anything to hurt Arianna. It’s all a misunderstanding.” He told her. “I will talk to her.”
Helen nodded to his words, and her mood seemed to be better now. The worries on her face were easing away.
“She hasn’t slept last night.” She told him.
“I haven’t either.” He answered and gently smiled at her. “She’s on the staircase. Tell her I want to see her.”
Helen and Ilsa looked at him curiously. But Helen didn’t inquire anything and only nodded to him. He had already known where she was but still had asked her about it. And he hadn’t informed them why he wanted them to go out. His words were asking them to go out and send Asaya in.
“Okay.” Ilsa got from her seat first and walked over to the table where he had placed the bag. “Helen. Little princess asked me to hand this bag to you. She said you know what to do with these.”
“Of course.” A bright smile adorned Helen’s lips, and she walked over to take the bag from Ilsa’s hand. “I thought she would come personally to hand this to me.”
“She would have, had she not been occupied with Serafina and Keira.” Ilsa happily answered. “So, what’s inside it?”
“If I am not wrong, the little princess wants me to make some clothes exclusively for her. She had asked Renesmme to sketch out some designs. They must be inside this bag. Also, I wanted Renesme to prepare some designs for my next launch.”
They were both occupied in their conservation of how godly Renessme’s artwork was, and how excited they were to see the designs she had prepared. They left the room completely forgetting about him. And he sat there sighing helplessly.
“Women” He commented. He also wanted to see what kind of designs Renessme had prepared for Roselyn, but his enthusiasm was nowhere near as that of these women.
Shazan didn’t have to wait long for her. She hesitated, but in the end, willed her heart to enter the room.
“Asaya.” He said and got up from the couch.
There she was, standing by the door dressed in white and with her head lowered. Her body was lightly shaking to the restlessness in her heart. He didn’t want to let her suffer for another minute. He wrapped his arms around her and picked her up in his embrace. The moment he did that, the restlessness in her heart broke, and the tears uncontrollably streamed out of her eyes and wet his shirt.
“Ssssshhhh.” He planted a kiss on her head and walked over to the bed.
He slipped out of his shoes and then lied down on the bed resting her on his chest. He stroked her back gently, and let her cry all she wanted and needed to.
He heard her call him out.
“I… I didn’t..” She stammered.
“Sssshhhh.” He patted her head. “We will talk about it later. Let’s get some sleep first? I haven’t slept last night.”
She meekly nodded, and after what felt like an eternity, her sobs faded.
“Is Arianna mad at me?” She asked, and the fear of her heart was voiced out.
“No. She’s not mad at you. However, I have done something to upset her, and she’s mad at me.” He told her and squeezed her lightly.
“You should make up with her.”
Shazan only stopped stroking her back when he found her soundly asleep. His own eyes were drooping, but his focus was on his Aura that was mingling with her restless aura. It took him some time, but eventually, he managed to unite the two Auras. And now her Aura was stabilizing on its own.
He planted a kiss on her auburn head and closed his eyes.
She had finally had her awakening.