Chapter 7


The great façade of the cathedral glimmering with gold onion domes rose in a multicolored mass opposite the Red Square.

My eyes were a bit sensitive and my mind was still hazy, but I could still make out the city layout for miles. The beautiful Kremlin, in the heart of the City of Moskva as known in Russian, was still a huge walled enclosure containing many magnificent buildings and monuments as I had remembered. Beyond this central area were vacant highways and railroads that divided the city into five great circles with their own gates.

Turning back from the window to look around my enormous dwelling, I realized that I had not been here for quite a long time, but the heavy feeling that kept stirring in my chest still hadn't ceased.

Candles were burning in the golden chandeliers, casting dim light through the dark palace room. At the far end was a richly carved fireplace made of white marble that loomed out of the shadow. The table was laden with red roses in the center and overflowed with food and fine wines and other delicacies the palace maids had prepared.

The food was ordered for my human companion, who at this early hour was still deep in her innocent slumber.

I was fully aware of how cruel I was to the human girl and last night was no different. She was nothing but sweet and obedient to me, but it was my predatory nature to hurt and ravage the prey merely for the joy of it.

Walking into the bedroom again, I looked at the king-size bed where Lyra's creamy white nakedness was half-covered in the red silk comforter.

Seeing the rise and fall of her breathing chest, my stubborn mind rewound to those vivid mornings I used to spend with the one woman I could never forget. Coming back here clearly didn't lessen the heavy feeling that kept taunting my heart.

I let out a quiet sigh before placing my wine glass down on the nightstand. The dull thud of the crystal against the wooden surface caused Lyra to stir from her sleep.

"Your Highness?" she said in a croaky voice and tried to rub the drowsiness away from her eyes.

"How many times do I have to remind you? Don't call me that," I said then went over to sit on the edge of the bed. "Now get dressed and come to have breakfast with me."

She nodded.

I got up again and went back to the main room. Sitting down at the head of the grand table, I waited until Lyra eventually appeared a few moments later.

She wrapped herself in a long nightgown. The silken material cleaved to her curvaceous figure as she wore no underwear. The Moscow chill made her nipples harden against the fabric. Lyra blushed and hugged herself before slowly walked over to the table.

"Are you cold?" I asked. The girl lowered her head in embarrassment before nodded silently.

"Must be difficult for you to adjust to the winter here," I said and then got up from my chair again. "Sit down."

She did as she was told. Lyra's green eyes followed me as I walked to the bedroom again.

Entering the massive walk-in closet, I traced my fingers over the variety of expensive clothes and then decided to take one of my double-breasted pea coats from its hanger. I returned to Lyra, who was sitting quietly, waiting for me.

Without another word, I draped the thick coat over her shoulders and sat down into my chair again. From the corner of my eye, I could see a surprised look on Lyra's face.

"Thank you,," she said softly. I gave her a small smile before looking at the food on the table.

"You must be hungry," I said and pushed the plates towards her. She stared blankly at the traditional Zakuski, pancakes with Siberian salmon caviar, gherkins, smoked herrings, followed by Russian-style ravioli. Some desserts consisted of fruit pies and cakes, were also set elegantly on the table before her. Lyra instinctively swallowed as the delicious aroma floated in the air. For a brief moment, I wondered how she and other humans had been treated back in France.

"My palace might be different from where you used to live, but I promise you that you will be fed properly during your stay here," I said, causing Lyra to look at me with eyes dancing against the candlelight. I gestured to the food as if to tell her to start eating. At last, she picked up her silverware and went through the myriad of small plates with great appetite.

I smiled and poured myself another glass of wine and slowly sipped it. Suddenly Lyra turned to me again.

"You haven't drunk from me yet. Would you like to?" she asked as if it was the most normal thing to offer. I frowned, which caused Lyra to tense up a little.

"I'm fine," I said.

Lyra didn't say anything again, but the fact that a human girl was so conditioned to her life that she would feel obliged to let me drink her blood made my heart heavy.

Then we heard a knock on the door. A royal guard stepped into the room and bowed from the distance.

"Your Highness, a lady by the name of Estella wishes to see you," he spoke.

"It's alright. Let her in," I said.

The guard bowed again and walked out. A moment later, Estella appeared through the door. She walked up to the table and sat down beside me.

"I can't believe they didn't let me see you," she said as she frowned sulkily. "I told them I'm with the Grand Duchess, but those red-eyed dummies still refused my entrance. Can you believe it?"

"What do you want, Ella?" I said, using her nickname to cool her down. She shifted herself and flipped her glossy brown hair back.

"Well, I want you to show us around your city," she said with a flirty smile. "I'm so excited. I can't wait to see everything."

"You and your sister can go ahead and enjoy yourselves," I said then put my wine glass down.

"But it wouldn't be the same without you, Anastasia," she whined, reaching her hands over to grab my hand. "Claire and I have been dying to see Gorky Park and the Botanical Garden. And oh...Claire also wants to explore the Izmaylovskiy Forest where the Czars used to hunt..."

"I'm busy," I cut her off with a stiff tone. "I have a meeting with the Council this afternoon."

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