p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;"Spending time around the nobility was usually an exhausting experience for Zahari. They were simply so predictable in their behavior and conversations that he usually had to talk himself out of making things more exciting. And with Tsveta there, he knew he had to be especially careful. Although his sister didn't care much for them either, she was trying to keep the family in good standing./p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;" /p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;"Zahari didn't care what the others thought of him, but he knew Tsveta wanted her family to hold their title, and he wasn't going to sabotage that simply because he was bored. With any luck, he would be leaving the country again soon and would no longer have to put up with the irritations of Fiametti society./p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;" /p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;"This particular time, Alena kept things far more interesting. Her presence alone was enough to change their normal conversation, as they all wanted to know what a Shynian was doing in Fiamett. Instead of telling the truth, Alena spun a story about being the king's cousin and looking for a husband. That seemed to make the other single women jealous, and a few seemed to be trying to catch Zahari's attention./p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;" /p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;""I don't know whether I'm amused or angry," Tsveta said once they were alone. "You knew the purpose of this visit, Zahari, and of course you just couldn't stand to be normal for three hours."/p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;" /p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;""I'm not looking to get married, Tsveta," Zahari said. "I don't even know how much longer I'm going to be here. I certainly don't want a wife tying me down. And if you're so concerned about your social standing, having Shynian royalty visiting can only help that."/p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;" /p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;""No one bought that story!" Tsveta snapped. "You probably insulted them by assuming they would!"/p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;" /p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;""At least I didn't have to use my sword," Alena said, patting her hip where her weapon was./p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;" /p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;""You brought your sword?" Tsveta looked shocked at that revelation./p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;" /p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;""You know, I think the two of us are going to disappear for a while," Zahari said./p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;" /p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;""That's the best idea you've had all day," Tsveta said./p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;" /p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;""Put on some normal clothes and meet me in the barn," Zahari said to Alena. To his surprise, she didn't argue and headed up the stairs. He followed her up, and when they got to her room, she stopped him./p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;" /p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;""You mind undoing the lacing on this thing?" she asked./p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;" /p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;""Um," Zahari managed to get out, not sure what to say to that. "Do you want me to find Mira for you?"/p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;" /p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;""Unless you're somehow incapable of doing it, why not do it yourself? Or are you just that lazy?"/p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;" /p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;""Right. I really don't care. Just get me out of this dress."/p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;" /p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;""Just as long as you don't punch me again," he said as he walked over to her. He hesitated before reaching for the laces. Very carefully, he untied and loosened them, being careful to not touch Alena on accident, sure that if he did, she'd get angry. Once it was loose, he quickly looked away from the small area of exposed skin and hurried to his own room./p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;" /p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;"Once he was safe in his own room, he quickly changed into his normal daily clothes. He didn't think it had taken him long to change, but when he made it to the barn, Alena was already waiting for him./p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;" /p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;"He readied two horses and then they took off, riding in silence for a while. Finally, Alena broke the silence once they had entered the forest to the east./p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;" /p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;""I wouldn't have hit you," she said./p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;" /p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;""What?" Zahari didn't know what she meant by that./p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;" /p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;""When you were helping me with the dress. I wouldn't have hit you. I know I did before, and I was angry and taking it out on you. You didn't deserve that, even if you were acting like an arrogant ass. There's not much you could do to make me want to hit you."/p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;" /p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;"For several moments, they fell back into silence as they continued along the wide trail. Somehow, Alena's statement didn't make Zahari feel any safer. She was still the most volatile person he had ever met, and although he hadn't seen her use her sword, he didn't doubt that she could./p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;" /p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;""Where are we headed?" Alena asked. "We're not going to Seafire, are we?" /p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;" /p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;""No," Zahari said. "There's another town to the east where Tsveta won't find us. I sent a messenger to Seafire. If someone there can get to Shyn, we'll hear about it. It'll save us the trouble of going there ourselves."/p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;" /p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;""Is it far?"/p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;" /p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;""Not really. The trouble comes when you get there. They're part of Fiamett, but they're so far south that no one pays that much attention to them. They get away with a lot of things down there. There's a lot of pirates, mercenaries, criminals."/p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;" /p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;""Sounds like my kind of place."/p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;" /p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;"Zahari looked over at her, wondering just what kind of life she had in Shyn. If she were a criminal, that would make quite a bit of sense. The only women he could think of that could fight like Alena were criminals. "Is that the kind of place you frequent in Shyn?"/p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;" /p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;""Hardly," Alena replied. "But compared to the people earlier, the people I work with in Shyn are probably much closer to your criminals."/p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;" /p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;""What do you do?" Zahari asked, hoping to get some more insight into her. /p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;" /p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;""I work for the king," Alena replied. "In the military."/p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;" /p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;""Really?" That wasn't the answer he was expecting, and he found he couldn't quite believe it. He had already learned that Shyn wasn't so strict on what women could and couldn't do, but women in the military seemed completely outrageous. The look she gave him, however, told him she was serious about that./p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;" /p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;""What's it like in Shyn?" Zahari asked, deciding it would be best to change the subject. Alena started talking, but she took every opportunity to point out how Shynian society was far less restricting./p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;" /p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;"By the time they arrived in the town of Redlyn, Zahari almost felt like an expert on Shyn. It sounded like a nice place, and Zahari found that he wanted to go there. He'd been there briefly in his youth but hadn't stayed long./p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;" /p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;"They found a stable for the horses, and because there was very little to do in the town, Zahari suggested the nearest tavern. There was no argument from Alena, and they quickly made their way there. When they arrived, Alena immediately walked in and went to the bar. Zahari came in a little behind her and saw that nearly every eye in the establishment was on Alena./p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;" /p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;"He sat down next to her at the bar, glancing at the other patrons before ordering a drink. Once Alena had ordered, she finally seemed to notice the attention focused on her./p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;" /p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;""Why's everyone looking at us?" Alena asked./p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;" /p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;""It's not us," Zahari said. "It's you. Fiametti women don't generally walk around with swords and barge into taverns. And of course, your obviously not Fiametti, which is a little strange for this area."/p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;" /p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;""So I'm a frightening foreigner," Alena said, taking a sip from her just arrived ale. "Shouldn't they have stopped looking by now?"/p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;" /p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;""Like I said, people like you don't show up in Redlyn," Zahari said as he drank his own ale. "But no one will bother you while I'm here. Of course, you probably wouldn't mind that."/p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;" /p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;""Maybe we should invite them to drink with us," Alena said. /p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;" /p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;"As soon as she said that, Zahari knew he would be in for an interesting night. Although people were initially wary of the pair, once Alena started talking to them, they relaxed. Even Zahari found himself having a good time. By the time the tavern was closing, both he and Alena had drank a little too much, and Zahari knew they wouldn't be able to ride back. Unfortunately, there was only one room available. /p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;" /p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;""Where are you going?" Alena asked after Zahari had led her to the room and he started to leave./p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;" /p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;""I'm going to see if there's another place to stay," he said. "Or if nothing else, I can go sleep with the horses."/p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;" /p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;""Don't be ridiculous," Alena said. "There's room for both of us here. And don't say it wouldn't be proper, because I'm pretty sure this entire night hasn't been proper."/p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;" /p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;"Zahari really couldn't argue with he logic, but he still felt it would be wrong for them to share the bed, and he hesitated in the doorway./p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;" /p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;""Get over here," Alena said, sitting on the bed and removing her boots. "Or I can drag you over here."/p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;" /p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;"He did as ordered, knowing Alena would make good on that threat. After removing his boots, he took the other side of the bed, keeping to the edge as much as possible. Despite her telling him she wouldn't hit him, Zahari had the feeling if he accidentally touched her, he'd be in trouble./p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;" /p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;"***/p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;" /p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;"Alena woke up in a comfortable position that she didn't want to move from. As soon as she realized why it was so comfortable, she shot up, brushing Zahari's arm off of her. During the night, she must have moved closer to him and he had put his arm around her. When she jumped up, it also woke Zahari./p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;" /p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;""What?" he groaned sleepily. It didn't take long before he was wide awake. "I'm sorry! Alena, I didn't mean it! It was an accident!"/p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;" /p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;""Calm down," she said as she started to pull on a boot. "I know it was an accident. It happens."/p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;" /p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;""I... You're not mad?" Zahari asked./p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;" /p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;""No reason to get mad. I'm just as much to blame as you are." It had been awkward to wake up like that, but she hadn't had any control over it and didn't see any reason to make a big deal out of it. One look at Zahari showed that he did not feel the same, as he looked bewildered and nervous. "Let's just get out of here."/p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;" /p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;"They didn't speak until they arrived at the stables, and there, the conversation drifted towards the horses, as Alena decided to learn how to saddle her own horse. Zahari seemed jumpy the entire time and although she first thought it was irritating, Alena found that she was starting to find it almost endearing. /p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;" /p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;""Zahari," she said, which made him jump just a little, and she couldn't help but laugh. "Why are you so nervous?"/p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;" /p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;""I, uh..." He looked away from her and Alena wasn't sure if she wanted to yell at him or hug him. "Remember yesterday?" he finally asked. "When you said there wasn't much I could do to make you hit me?"/p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;" /p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;""Yes," she responded hesitantly. She wasn't sure she liked where the conversation was going. /p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;" /p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;""Well," he said, taking a step closer to her. "I think I want to test that."/p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;" /p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;""I don't think that's a good idea," Alena said, taking a step back as he moved towards her. /p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;" /p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;""Neither do I," he said once he was right in front of her. He put his hands on either side of her face and then bent down, pressing his lips to hers./p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;" /p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;"Alena put her hands on his chest, ready to push him away, but she instead found herself kissing him back before she even knew what she was doing. Although she knew she shouldn't be kissing him, it felt so right and part of her didn't want to end it. When Zahari moved his arms down and started to pull her against him, she finally came to her senses and pushed him away./p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;" /p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;""We can't do that," Alena said./p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;" /p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;""You're bright red," Zahari said with a smile. "And I don't see any reason why we can't."/p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;" /p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;""You're too tall," she said, blurting out the first thing that came to mind. She went over to her horse and got on./p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;" /p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;""I don't mind bending down," he replied as he mounted his own steed./p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;" /p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;"They fell into silence as they rode home, not because Alena didn't want to talk to him, but she didn't know how. She hated to admit it to herself, but she enjoyed their kiss in the barn. Although far from her first kiss, it was the first one that felt honest, and it was one she thought she would remember for a long time. Unfortunately, she knew it had to be their only one./p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;" /p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;""We really can't do that again," Alena said as they came closer to his home./p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;" /p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;""Why not?" Zahari asked, glancing over at her./p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;" /p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;""Geography, for one," Alena said, picking the most obvious reason. "I don't do casual relationships, and we obviously can't have anything serious between us since I'm going back to Shyn as soon as possible."/p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;" /p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;""I could go to Shyn with you," Zahari suggested. "I don't want to stay here anyway."/p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;" /p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;""No," Alena said. "There can't be anything between us. You're a nice man, Zahari. I like you and maybe if circumstances were different, we could have something. But it would never work. Even if I wanted it."/p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;" /p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;""What's holding you back?" Zahari asked. "Why not try it?"/p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;" /p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;""Are you expecting company?" Alena asked, glad to change the subject and the group of black horses in front of his house was a good excuse to do so./p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;" /p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;""What are they doing here?" Zahari muttered./p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;" /p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;""Who are they?"/p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;" /p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;""If I had to guess, they're the Royal Guard."/p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;" /p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;"They picked up the pace and took the horses back to the stables where Yasen warned them that something was going on, although he didn't know what. When they made it inside, they were met by a man in a black uniform with red trim. /p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;" /p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;""Lord Dalarin," he said, "I need you to come with me."/p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;" /p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;"As Zahari went with the man, another man in an identical uniform grabbed Alena by the arm and took her sword. She wanted to defend herself, but instead decided to wait until she knew what was going on. As far as she knew, she had done nothing wrong and didn't want to make herself look bad./p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;" /p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;"They were taken to the main room of the house, where Tsveta and another black-uniformed man were sitting. Two more of the men were standing near the other entrance into the room./p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;" /p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;""Gavrail?" Zahari asked, sounding shocked./p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;" /p
p style="margin: 20px 0px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, sans-serif; line-height: 18px; text-align: justify;""That's Prince Gavrail to you, Baron," said the sitting man. "You've been accused of treason."/p