But, as much as I wished they would, they didn't drown.
There was a terrible crash coming westward, and I snapped my head round, feeling Kaden's arms tighten around me like a barrier – for there was Prince Harshal and my father, the former stumbling and falling toward us.
I do believe Prince Harshal is drunk.
I glanced up into Kaden's glittering eyes, only to find them focused intently on the Prince of Daibik. His hands were now trembling.
As the auburn-haired, very inebriated prince staggered toward us, I'm pretty sure he was struggling for conscious thought – not that he isn't in all hours of the day. Today it was only especially evident.
It was also very terrifying.
He came up close, standing about a foot away, and swaying. I've half a mind to push him over and laugh, but I'm now being forced to smother that gleeful thought, because my father, very sober (for once), is marching right behind him.
Slowly, Kaden released me to turn and face them, his eyes sparking with such possessiveness and anger it made me shiver. Prince Harshal was too drunk to be fazed.
Harshal pointed a shaky finger on me, his eyes clouded. "You little s-slut," he slurred, before turning to Kaden, "Ish s-she right ready to jump in y-your bed yet?"
Kaden suddenly went ramrod straight, his fists clenched. "You bastard!" He snarled, and looked ready to smack him square on the nose with those prepared hands.
I would have gladly let him, but my father very suddenly intervened.
"You hit my prince, little boy, and I will make sure you spend the rest of your days in court prison while my daughter sleeps above you, beside him," he glanced to the bleary Prince Harshal.
Kaden backed down at the threat, but the flame rose in his eyes. "What do you want Ronale?" he flicked his eyes in disgust at the red-haired man. "Harshal?"
"I want my daughter, you insolent child."
"Your daughter is courting me."
My father turned a brilliant shade of red. "My daughter courts whomever I permit." He snorted, "You had your chance, I believe it's been said."
Something in me has just snapped. I have had quite enough. "You idiot!" I hissed at my father. "I don't care what you think. I swear, if you touch him or hurt him, I'll run off, parade myself as his mistress to shame you, and then marry him and make sure you don't get a shilling. So shut the bloody hell up."
Prince Harshal and my father stared at me.
"You w-wench!" My father stammered fiercely, but he made no further move has Kaden started towards him.
"Do we have an understanding, Ronale?" Kaden spoke through gritted teeth.
My father nodded dumbly, before he and Harshal turned to back away.
Kaden shifted towards me, his large palm and slender fingers wrapping around my waist as warm liquid fanned out in the pit of my stomach, exploding.
"It was that easy?" I struggled to make words come out of my addled brain, his grasp almost making me forget everything that had just transpired. How, exactly, had I denied being attracted to him for so long? I mean, honestly!
He paused his impending answer to run a finger down my cheek, the fire in his eyes still burning – only with a very different emotion; I'd like to think. "What would you have me do, princess? Duel him? Would that satisfy your ornery nature?"
I kicked him in the shin, impulsively. "I hate you."
Very suddenly he grabbed my face and kissed me very deeply and very hard, pulling me up to him so that I could feel every muscle in his body. He continued it, sighing softly, deepening his intent with every movement of his hand. When he released me, panting slightly, I was stunned. I have never been held like that.
"And I love you," he whispered to me, a small quirk in his mouth contrasting the heavy look in his eyes.
He let my body go slightly, only to shut his eyes in thought. "But no, it's not that easy. They only left because I had my hand on my sword. Still…" A smile spread across his face.
I frowned. "What?"
"Nothing." He shrugged not so inconspicuously.
What in all hells was going on?
He wouldn't tell me.
I am honestly, and oddly, glowing. And I don't even mind. I go about my days smirking at anyone who'll pass me, and all I think about is him. How much he traveled to get here, all the things he risked…just to see me.
Too bad he's not seeing much of me.
He's been locked in my father's study for three days – coming out only to eat dinner with my grudging father and whisper about things he said I would know about later. Oddly enough, my father's mood seems to be getting better and better with every passing day. Not so oddly, from the murderous glares Kaden has given him, Prince Harshal has not approached me.
It is one such of these days; Kaden doing whatever it was he was doing, sitting across from my father in his study. I have, being the impatient person I am, had enough. But, considering I know that door is locked with about five different contraptions, I will abandon the impulse to ram it down and ring both their necks. Instead, I think I'll go for a walk in the garden.
I strode outside in a some-what comfortable burgundy dress, as far as idiot-inventions strapped to skirts go. The sun shimmered down onto the grass; highlighting the flowers and making them glow with light. I breathed in deep, letting the aromas of both the afternoon and the plants course through my veins.
I walked along, alone, listening to my shoes tap against the stone walkway. Well, what did you expect? It's not exactly like I go out to look at the flowers. I don't know a dandelion from a weed. Unless a dandelion is a weed. Then I suppose it's all right not to know the difference.
The point is, this is just to waste time.
I was so engulfed in my on thoughts, I didn't notice when someone came up behind me.
"So this is the woman Prince Kadenelar gave up his betrothed for?"
I spun around, recognizing the voice…but it seemed from so long ago, that I couldn't recall the face. So when I saw the figure, sitting primly on a horse, looking more beautiful than I ever could in violet dressings that draped like silk sheets, I jumped backward. Did I mention I nearly tripped on my (now seemingly ill-fitting) dress? It was Sondra.
She delicately but swiftly dismounted, and gave me a short hug before I could even think to react, a wide smile on her face and a twinkle in her eye. "Aviah," she sighed with her soft voice.
I, only the other hand, was not nearly so composed. In fact, I was utterly stunned. "Sondra…what are you doing here?"
Her smile just grew. "I convinced mother and father to let me go find Kaden." She suddenly pouted, "they refused to send me without half the royal guard." She shrugged, "It's really a shame I have a faster horse than them. It caused them a lot of trouble on the way here – they should be rushing behind me at any moment."
As a thought suddenly crept over me, so did the conspicuous reddening of my cheeks. "Kaden told me…uh…he said you were the one that convince him to…"
"Come down here?" She laughed softly, "Of course I did! The dolt loves you more than he loves Damodar." She suddenly frowned, looking around. "Where is he, by the way?"
My mouth turned into a frown, as well. "Sitting with my father in his study, talking about God knows what. Probably negotiations to keep my father from killing me in seven different ways about this whole 'courtship'." It feels strange to even say that. "They've been at it for days."
Then Sondra did something unexpected. She threw her head back and laughed. Not contained, polite laughter, but uproarious. Of course, a dainty gloved hand covered it all. I stared at her, perplexed and even a little aghast. "What?" I asked nervously.
She looked at me once more, before breaking into little chuckles. "Oh, Aviah," she smiled, thought not patronizingly, "I admire that you don't have any idea, and for that sole reason, I'll just let you be surprised."
"No!" I replied impulsively, cringing at the whiny tone. I sighed. "I've been kept in the dark about all of this, and it's driving me insane, Sondra."
She smiled sympathetically. "It will be worth it Aviah, if I know anything."
Before I could reply, there was a pounding of hooves and about twenty men atop them, looking rather disgruntled. Sondra gave a small grimace, and turned to face them, motioning for me to make my exit and mouthing that they were quite irritable in these stages of their journey. So I was left rush off and look at some mutant cousin of a dandelion, thinking the gardens weren't nearly as nice as Damodar's, and wonder what new turn my life would take.
When I re-entered the castle and went into my rooms, idly twisting a flower I had (probably illegally) plucked from the garden, I heard voices just as I was about to push open the door. Paranoid of the bad experiences I had with my father and certain horse-thieves, I decided to not barge in, and ended up practically having my ear shoved against the ear-hole. Well, eavesdropping or rudely jumping in? I'd like to think I picked the lesser of two evils.
I soon recognized the voices as Sondra and Kaden's, and was about to just walk in, now that it was safe, before I caught some of the conversation.
"Dammit, Sondra! I am so sick of that man!" Kaden's voice was vehement, and my heart went to my throat at the sound of his soft roughness. If there is such a thing.
Sondra's voice was laughing. "What would you have? Do you want to backtrack to two weeks from now, where you would sit up in your room, pining for her and blaming yourself above all other circumstances?" It transitioned into serious. "You know you were utterly miserable –"
"Dejected would be the word I'd use," Kaden cut in, his voice dry.
"You didn't eat, you never slept unless you couldn't take it anymore, and when you did you woke up screaming her name over and over again. You mumbled it at court functions, and read that stupid Snow White story until the pages tore. You lived, breathed and walked her when she wasn't there – and now you're going to say it's too much, just because her father is an idiot?"
"I believe you made your point," Kaden replied, his voice tense. "Although I never even touched the thought of leaving her again." His voice softened to a rough whisper, "Sondra…I've never met anyone in all my years that makes me want to kiss them until they faint – and at the same time, only want to hear words drop from their lips while I lay at their feet."
"So she's worth it?"
"Lord, is she worth it."
"Then what's your problem?"
I could her him sigh tersely. "Sometimes…sometimes I feel that she's the one who's going to feel sorry for all of this. She doesn't talk to me…doesn't tell me how she feels about me."
"Perhaps, dear brother, that's because you've been locked up with her blasted father instead of spending your time with her!"
"Sondra. I stare at that woman until I feel my eyes no longer exist."
I can't take it anymore. I stood up, practically shaking, and knocked on the door loudly. Trying to keep my voice from giving away my state, I called out, "Is anyone in there? Father?"
I pushed the door open, still holding the flower, and I found Sondra sitting ramrod straight on a chair, and Kaden standing, coffee-skinned and gray-eyed, leaning against a mantle. They both looked at me, and in light of the recent conversation, I turned beet red as I felt Kaden's eyes on me. This state was made even more obvious when Sondra quietly left the room.
"W-where's my father?" I pushed out.
Kaden gave a quick and slight shake of his head, as if clearing thoughts away. "Gone to gather…something."
I nodded dumbly, looking at him in his entire splendor, basking in him and trying to keep strange, powerful thoughts from clouding my mind. Most of it was about what he had just said. He was wearing a dark, forest green color of an eastern tunic, trimmed in a dark gold and embroidered with chocolate tinted thread, into little spiral patterns on the cuffs. It looked velvet and expensive.
He wore knee length, tan boots and dark brown pants – it was as if he had wanted to impress someone. However, he had undone a few of the buttons on his collar, and his hair was somewhat mussed, as if he had spent a long time running his hand through it – a nervous gesture of his.
"Oh," I replied, but something in my scolded my mouth. There were naked emotions flitting through his eyes, and I struggled to remember what he said. He wanted me to talk to him…but that thought was soon overcome by the knowledge of the misery he had gone through without me.
"I…" I began, forcing myself to look straight at him. It wasn't working, especially since I was getting caught up in his eyes. How do I even begin? As it turned out, I just babbled it all until it was done. "I love it when you care so much about things – like your sisters. Like your country. I love it when you look at me, hoping I care. I love how you care for your father. I love how much care you take to keep people happy – I think it was when we first entered Damodar, you with those eyes, that it first started taking control. I love your humour. I love the fact that I know you will help the poor of your country. I love your smile and your mind -"
Suddenly I stopped, and had to build up my courage, for he was looking at me – staring at me with such ardor it shook me to my very core. I drew a very shaky breath. "Kaden, I love you."
My eyes were lowered, so when he crossed the distance between us in one step I was surprised. When he wrapped his arms around me and placed his mouth on mine in a matter of moments, and in one swift movement, I was stunned. He didn't let go. Instead, he started placing small, quick brushing kisses all over my face – my forehead, my eyelids, my jaw line – before moving down my neck, lingeringly, and ending at my shoulder. By this point I am about to fall to the floor.
He held my tightly, his breath tickling my skin. "Aviah, tell me you'll marry me," he whispered into me ear, his lips brushing the skin.
And then it all fell into place.
He had been working out marriage contracts with my father, all this time – and, most shockingly, I was not afraid. In fact, his soft murmuring of the words made my stomach tighten pleasantly, and I felt my eyes flutter closed on their own accord, before looking into his without end. His beautiful features glowed back at me, his wry mouth hanging open slightly, his eyes saturated with need. Yet I could see he already knew the answer, in the way lightness and joy coursed through his very being.
Well, what do you think I said?
A/N: And that would be the end. So there. No more epilogues! Yes, I know it's not 'conventional'. I don't care about convention…I don't think it fits this story to have it end without them getting married, or even without the kind of finality of her giving an answer. Besides, you already know what she's going to say :P If you don't like it…well, it was my choice, and I made it. Just add whatever you think should belong.
Oh, and I have a new fantasy story! I would GREATLY appreciate it if you read and reviewed it – just go to my bio – and I will probably have more new ones out shortly. Anyway, thanks if you do, and even if you don't thanks for reading this anyway!