Quick reminder: This is basically a rough draft and only temporarily available to read online. Once the book is complete, it will be revised, professionally edited, and then published on Amazon. For more details about the blog book, or to read the story from the beginning, check out the book’s main page.
A full moon peeks over the trees. I sit on Lionel’s boulder with my knees drawn to my chest and my arms wrapped around my legs, watching as it slowly rises high into the sky.
“What are you doing out here?” Lionel asks when he finds me, motioning for me to make room for him. “It’s cold.”
I scoot over so he can join me. He sits close, and our arms press together. With a sigh, I lay my head on his shoulder. “I’m wishing it were summer.”
It’s easy between us—it has been for years. Sometimes, I wish it were a little less easy.
An icy breeze blows across the clearing, making me shiver. Lionel wraps his arm around my back, drawing me in close. “You’re going to freeze out here.”
I cuddle in close, closing my eyes like a content house cat. If he knew my thoughts, he might be appalled.
Then again, he might not be. But we’ll never know because I’d rather cut out my tongue than voice them first.
“Lionel,” I say.
“Eron spoke of something strange while I was in the village today. He said there’s a rumor of sea dragons attacking ships in the waters near Triblue. Did you hear anything of it while you were gone?”
The prince is silent.
“Lionel?” I turn my head up, pulling away just enough I can see his face.
“It’s true,” he says with a heavy sigh.
“But I’ve always heard they’re peaceful.”
He nods slowly. “In all my reading, I’ve never heard of sea dragons attacking anyone.”
“Oh, that reminds me.” I leap up from the rock and tug on his arm. “I got another book from Midge.”
Lionel groans, but he lets me lead him toward my cottage. “Please say it’s not from the gypsies.”
“Oh, you like them,” I tease.
Once he’s following me, I try to let go of his hand. But he doesn’t release me. Instead, he pauses on the moonlit trail and winds his fingers through mine as if it’s the natural thing to do. And I suppose it might be, though we’ve never walked like this before.
Maybe Lionel missed me as much as I missed him. This is the longest we’ve ever been apart, and I didn’t like it.
But what I really didn’t like was him leaving the ridge and perhaps realizing there’s a great big world out there that he’s missed. Just as he promised, the prince has stayed. But part of him must miss his previous life—the excitement, the ease, the status.
We walk side-by-side, neither of us saying anything. My hand feels small in his, and his skin is rough and warm.
Our footsteps are quiet, muffled by the spring’s early grass.
We reach the cottage, and Lionel releases me. Missing his touch already, I fumble inside, attempting to light a candle.
“You’re hopeless,” Lionel says, trying to nudge me out of the way.
I nudge right back. “I almost have it.”
Moments later, the spark turns into a flame in my tinderbox, and I light a candle. It’s not enough to illuminate the whole cottage, but it lights the space between us.
“Wait just a moment,” I say, taking the candle with me. “I need to find the book.”
“I don’t know why you bother with them,” Lionel complains, though he’s not actually complaining—he just likes to gripe.
I locate the book, and then turn around, offering it to him.
He eyes it with suspicion. “It’s not another love story, is it?”
“What’s wrong with love stories?” I ask lightly.
“Nothing—if it’s your own.” Lionel meets my eyes in the dim light. “I don’t particularly care to read other people’s.”
A nervous smile flutters over my face. I’m not sure how to answer that, so I choose to pretend he didn’t say it at all. “It’s a science text—a study of the flora in northern Waldren.”
Lionel’s eyes light, and he snatches the book from my hands. “I might read it.”
“Might,” I scoff. “We both know you’ll stay up half the night.”
He gives me a wry smile, already flipping through the pages.
“Do you think the sea dragons are in danger?” I ask.
Setting the book aside, Lionel gives me his full attention. “It seems Triblue’s ships are in danger, not the dragons.”
“But why would they act like that?” I ask. “Eron said it seems like the work of dark magic.” I pause. “Or borrowed, whatever that means.”
Lionel frowns. “Borrowed?”
“Do you know what that is?”
He shakes his head, not liking it. “I don’t.”
Lionel is a wealth of information, a collector of random facts and knowledge—especially those dealing with the natural sciences. Now I know it’s because he devoured every book he could get his hands on from the time he was old enough to read.
It’s unusual to find a subject he doesn’t know anything about.
“We’ll speak to Tarith tomorrow,” he decides, almost to himself.
He picks up the book, studying the cover before he meets my eyes. “Thank you for this.”
Though I’m far more pleased than I probably should be, I offer him a one-shouldered shrug. Like I haven’t begged Midge to ask her gypsy friends for every book on the subject they can find—and paid a fair amount of gold for them as well.
“It’s late.” Lionel gently taps the top of my head with the book. “Let’s get back to the cavern.”
Laughing, I swat him away.
We leave the cottage. Sadly, this time he doesn’t take my hand….and I’m not brave enough to reach for his.
Yet, a wicked voice whispers in my head.
I glance at Lionel in the moonlight, drawing my bottom lip between my teeth, thinking.
Feeling my eyes on him, he looks at me. “What is it?”
“Nothing.” I hide my smile. “Let’s hurry—it’s cold. I have no idea why you decided to stay out so late.”
Laughing under his breath, Lionel follows me.