One Night with the Alpha King
Mighty cheers rang out all over the packed grounds as Shade and Anya galloped to the palace steps. He swung her down from the saddle and carried her to the top step without breaking a sweat. He set her down on trembling legs and raised her hand to his lips before turning to quiet the crowd with look.
“By the decree of the first castes after The Disaster, I proclaim to all here present that I, a Barbarian Alpha Prime, choose this woman, Anya Fortune of Nisca, to be mine. I will vow to set her above all others as my match-mate. My Promised One. My queen. And, with her consent, I shall bind her life to mine and mine to hers on the morrow. We shall never be parted from that time unto death.”
In the hush that ensued, he turned to her with a smile so tender she blinked back the prick of tears. All eyes in the crowd followed his to her face and awaited her words of acceptance.
She took a deep breath and tried to stop herself from shaking, but to no avail.
“No,” her voice rang out so all could her, but she didn’t take her eyes from Shade’s face. “I decline.”
A collective outcry of disbelief rose up from the masses below. Anya looked at Shade with miserable eyes and mouthed, “I’m sorry.”
Shade stood immobile and without expression for a few microts, his lips tight and ashen. “Not yet, sweet. But you will be.”
Without warning he grabbed her by her waist and slung her over one of his massive shoulders. Shade swung back to face the stunned crowd.
“One night!” Shade blasted the words so no one could fail to hear. “By the flames below, I claim my right under the edict of all the castes set forth when my people were freed after The Disaster to have one night alone with this headstrong, ungrateful woman,” he gave her rump a slap that made her flinch more in surprise than pain, “and persuade her to change her obstinate mind. After one night with this Barbarian, she will be begging me to take her to the nearest binding ceremony!”
Titters erupted from below before the throng began to clap, cheer, and stomp their feet in approval. Without missing a beat, Shade turned and stormed into the palace with his prize hoisted over his shoulder like a sack of tuber-gourds.