This is a bonus chapter written from Lionel’s point of view. It contains spoilers, so make sure you read the book first. Click here to view Genevieve of Dragon Ridge on Amazon.
Chapter 16 1/2
I stand before Cadalia and Shalay, impatiently listening to the dragons as they fling instructions my way.
“And cut your hair before you meet her,” Cadalia commands. “You can’t propose when you look like a shabby pony.”
Rolling my eyes, I nod.
Shalay extends her wings in irritation. “But most importantly, bring her back.”
Never in my life would I have believed I’d let two dragons play matchmaker, but here I am, rolling a gold band between my fingers.
Every day, I worked odd jobs for the people of Dragon Ridge to buy this simple ring. It bears no jewels or adornments, but I bought it with money I earned with my own two hands.
It’s almost summer now, and Genevieve has been gone far too long.
I’ve armed myself with a thousand reasons Genevieve should return to the ridge with me—every one of them good, sound reasons.
Determined, I leave the meadow and make the short walk to the village where Genevieve grew up.
* * *
I run my hand over my jaw, unable to get used to the way it feels to have most of my beard missing. I couldn’t part with it all—I’ve grown attached to it in the last few months.
My head, too, feels lighter. My hair is short now, and the curls that plagued me my entire life are gone. Father didn’t think I should cut my hair—he preferred his long and believed I should wear mine the same way.
I’ve finally escaped his control, and it feels good. Better than good—I feel free for the first time in my life.
Free as one can be when they’re indebted to dragons anyhow.
The door opens, and my hand falls from my chin.
“May I help you?” the man asks as he looks my simple clothing over with an air of distaste. “The service entrance is around the back.”
“I’m looking for Genevieve.”
He narrows his eyes at me. “I’m sorry, but—”
From behind him, an oblivious maid calls, “She went on a picnic with Aubrey and Oliver, toward the dairy, I believe. Oliver was trying to talk Aubrey into letting him have a puppy.”
The man’s face pinches. “She’s not in right now.”
Not sure whether I’m amused or irritated that he thinks I’m a common villager, I give him a tight nod and turn toward the road.
Which way is the dairy?
I find it a while later, after speaking to a man with a dog-led cart in the village who happened to be delivering milk to the bakery
“They were just here,” a rosy-cheeked woman tells me from near the barn when I question her. “They bought a puppy for young Lord Oliver and headed that way.”
She points toward a lane that goes into the forest.
Frustrated that the day is turning into a wild goose chase, I turn toward the lane. And then, with Genevieve scolding me in my head, I look back. “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome.” She beams at me. “I hope you find them.”
I walk the lane, growing impatient. I came all this way to surprise Genevieve—the least she could do is make it a little less challenging to find her. I shake my head at the thought, reluctantly amused. That’s not Genevieve’s way—she lives to turn my life upside down.
These last few months have been sad and dull. I’ve never missed someone like I miss Genevieve. It’s like she took part of my heart with her when she left.
I feel for the ring in the inside pocket of my vest, reassuring myself it’s still there.
Today, I’m going to bring her home.
Her brother has Aubrey—he doesn’t need to steal Genevieve from me. She’s gotten a chance to know him, and that will make her happy. We can visit as often as she likes.
But she needs to come home. The dragons miss her, the people of Dragon Ridge miss her, and I miss her.
A boy’s laugh alerts me there are people ahead. I veer off the lane, following a game trail, and the voices grow louder.
And then I spot Genevieve, standing near a picnic blanket. She wears a cream-colored linen dress instead of her usual trousers, and her hair falls down her back in golden brown waves.
I pause at the forest’s edge, taking in the scene.
“What is she doing?” the boy laughs as a puppy crawls up his chest to lick his chin.
“Apparently, she thinks she’s a parrot,” Genevieve says, and they all laugh. When the puppy wanders to the other side of the glen, she warns, “Better go after her.”
The boy follows the dog, and I’m about to make myself known. I pause when Aubrey comes up behind Genevieve, and she tilts her head back to look up at him.
He ends up sitting next to her, and they talk while the boy plays with the dog. I’m too far away to hear what they’re saying, but from the look on Genevieve’s face, I can tell they’ve become close.
Feeling uncomfortable, I hang back, taking in the scene. Again, I reach for the ring. But for reasons I can’t name, I’m unable to make myself join them.
Finally, Aubrey announces it’s time to leave. Genevieve folds the picnic blanket, and her brother takes it from her. They smile at each other, content and happy.
Genevieve has finally reunited with her family.
I step behind a large chokecherry bush, hiding when she looks my way. My chest tightens, and I rub the ache between my ribs.
She’s right there. Why am I letting her walk away?
But I know my answer, though it’s an uncomfortable realization.
I can’t make Genevieve choose between her family and me. Besides, they have so much to offer her, and I have nothing. I’m a disgraced prince, a servant of dragons.
Genevieve deserves better—I want that for her.
Gritting my teeth, I let my head fall back, promising myself I’ll find her when my years with the dragons are complete. Until then… I’ll leave her be.
“Be happy, Genevieve,” I whisper as I step around the chokecherry and watch her disappear into the woods with her family.
Pocketing the ring, I head back to the village.