Shadows

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Ch. 11

Grey sat up in bed and looked around, unsure what was going on. He ran his hands through his long, unruly, black hair and searched his thoughts for a moment. He remembered the shadows attacking Terra, and the feeling of helplessness as he watched them circle her, completely beyond his control. Then . . . then he had sent every ounce of energy he had to help her. He’d sat back on his bed then, exhausted and waited for Terra to come bursting through those doors, demanding an explanation and furious about what had happened.

Not that he would have blamed her. He was the Shadow King and shadows tried to kill her today. It only made sense for her to be mad at him after that. He sat down wanting to rest so he could explain things to her, get her to understand that it wasn’t him who had sent those shadows after her. It would take some convincing but he was sure Terra would believe him.

He must have fallen asleep.

As far as he could tell hours had passed between now and then.

Yet somehow there was no Terra.

She was going to be furious when she came down here, she wouldn’t have walked away just because he was asleep. She might come through the glass and shaken him awake demanding answers, but she wouldn’t have just let him sleep. He glance over at the table, there was no tray from lunch. Just the tray she’d brought from breakfast.

She hadn’t been here since then?

An image of her underneath him flashed in his mind.

He stopped for a moment, thinking over all that had raced through this mind at that moment.

She was beautiful in her grey dress, with her hair slightly out of place after he had rolled on top of her. She looked up at him with her green eyes full of anger, fear, and something he thought could have been desire.

Not for the first time in his life, Grey nearly lost control looking down at her that way.

He was glad she had threatened him with the fire like she had. It had snapped him out of the crazy thoughts that had been racing in his mind.

He stopped and focused for a moment.

Reynolds was coming down the spiral staircase, which must have been what woke him.

Not just that, he was coming alone.

Grey focused harder. There was no trace of Terra, although she did seemed to feature predominantly in Reynolds mind as he walked across the floor now. He couldn’t tell all of what he was thinking form this distance and the way his mind seemed to buzz around a million different things didn’t seem to help.

Could she have sent him in her stead to argue with him?

No. Terra wasn’t the kind of woman who let a man fight her battles for her. If Reynolds was on his way down here, alone, than it was because he wanted to get his two cents in before she came down and said her piece.

He stood and stretched. Reynolds was fool if the thought he was going to come down here and argue with him. Grey was a King in two different rights and in two different worlds. Reynolds was less than an insect to him. If he pushed it too far, he would just kill him.

Terra would never forgive me if I killed Eric,’ a small voice in the back of his head whispered.

A sudden flash of anger at the voice had Grey’s temper up and his patience down. He stalked back to the end of his cell and leaned against the wall. He thought about reaching out and darkening nearly all the torches so when he walked in, Reynolds would be surrounded by darkness. If he did that however, then it was possible that Reynolds would just close the door and bar it. He would never get a chance to explain anything to Terra if that happened.

Not that it mattered what she thought of course, he just needed her to get her sister was all.

So Grey decided the best course of action.

He would release enough dark magic into the room to make it nearly impossible for anyone to be in here. It would swirl and build in the room, completely unseen, until there was no clean air left. Eric would walk in and start chocking. He would be lucky if he managed to get two words in while Grey stood in his cell and laughed.

Reynolds was now at the table with the other guard, the one who had the . . . interesting thoughts about Terra. He was stopped and talking so Grey knew he had time. He had just started to flood the room when the door opened and Terra stepped in carrying the dinner tray like she always did.

He stared shocked. He couldn’t detect her at all. She stood at the door and met his gaze. Her eyes were set and hard and there was something so different about her face. There was a kind of determination there he hadn’t seen in her before. She still looked the same, although she was beautiful in her white dress with her black hair.

He realized suddenly she wasn’t just furious she was outraged, appalled even. He had never seen her so mad. Terra was not the kind of person prone to anger. She was the person who took the crap that everyone dished out and told herself that it was her fault, even though it rarely was. Terra didn’t get mad, not like this anyway.

“Terra,” he started, knowing it would take more than just explaining to get her to understand now.

Terra walked into the prison room, carrying a tray laden down with some of the best foods the kingdom had to offer. Her mother had spared no expense when preparing dinner for Prince Charles and Seph, even if she was in custody.

As soon as she was through the door she was struck by how much dark energy was circulating in the room. It seemed to be pouring out of the cell and lingering on the floor. Like a lake of black clouds surrounding the cell and lapping toward the door. She looked up and met Grey’s eyes, knowing this might very well be the last time she ever spoke with him.

She could see the shock on his face as it registered for him that he hadn’t seen her coming. With Bell’s knife strapped to her thigh she was literally invisible to him. Still not sure about having a knife on her, Terra was incredibly grateful for the protection it offered her thoughts and feelings. If Grey could see in to her head and her heart he would know how much she was hurting inside at the thought of what she had to say to him. He would be able to see the way her mind raced for different explanation other than the obvious one.

Weapon or no, she was glad Bell had made her take it.

“Terra,” he said.

With a sigh, she started forward. As she walked into the darkness she felt its icy cold curl around her ankles like a cat. She shuddered against the cold and felt the darkness at her feet tremble for a moment, before it vanished all together.

“Terra,” he repeated, more shocked this time. “How did you . . .”

She set the tray on the table and turned back to face he. He’d walked down to the corner closest to the table and was leaning against the glass. He met her gaze with a mix of emotions swirling behind his eyes. She could have stopped and figured out what each of those emotions was, but that would only make what she had to do all the harder.

“I’ll keep this simple,” she started, more grateful than she could say that her voice sounded steady and strong. “Today a man died because you were trying to get to me. A good man who was only doing what he knew to be right. . .”

“Terra let me explain,” he interjected.

She put her hand up, “This will go so much easier if you just let me talk first.”

“Only if you listen to me when you’re done,” he countered hotly.

“Fine,” she agreed.

“Go on then.”

Terra took a breath and forced herself not to be swayed by the hurt in Grey’s eyes. “Today I held a man in my arms as he died. I didn’t know the man personally, but I know now that his name was Tom and he was from the Moon Kingdom. I know that he was a good man trying to protect his princess, even though it meant his life. He died protecting her.

“His death, though caused by your shadows, is my fault. Something . . .”

“How could it possibly be your fault?!” He demanded suddenly.

“It’s not your turn yet,” she shot at him.

Grey scowled but motioned for Terra to continue. “His death is my fault because those shadows were after me. They came for me. He had the unfortunate luck of getting caught in the middle of your plans for me. The guilt of his death I will carry with me for the rest of my life.

“I have always known who and what you are,” she was quieter now, the heat of her anger fading quickly. “For a time I told myself I could heal you. I thought I could take the darkness in your heart away. Make you better I suppose.

“I was young and I was stupid. I was sure if I could heal you than I could save you and Diana. Because if there was no darkness in you, than neither of you had to fight. Neither of you had to die.” Terra paused for a moment as she considered what to say next. There was so much she needed to tell him before she walked away that it was hard for her to keep track of it all.

“For years I tried to be here and help you, even though the whole time I knew you were trying to corrupt me. You started the very first day I was in here.” Grey made a noise like he was going to argue, but again she held up her hand to silence him. “I know you’ve been trying Grey, don’t try to lie. I actually understood why you were doing it. I was so blind by my own simple ignorance that I justified it. It was only logical for you to do all you could to escape here.”

“Terra I. . .” he started.

“I can see your darkness.”

Grey nearly fell out of the chair he was trying to sit in. “You can do what?! How?”

“I don’t know how,” Terra sighed exasperated. “I don’t know how I do half the things I can do! But that’s not the point!”

He stopped, words on the tip of his tongue. Thinking better of it, he waited for her to go on.

“My point is I knew what you were doing and who you are and what you’re capable of. Still I let myself think . . . I even let myself feel . . .” Terra’s words trailed away. She took a long shaky breath and said, “It doesn’t matter now. What matters is that after today I know how wrong I was about you. I know that you are the monster I tried to pretend you weren’t all this time.

“Today you tried to kill me, tried and almost succeeded. So I have to know, why did you help me? Why send your monsters to kill me and then save me at the last second? What good does that do? What is the point of putting me through all this? Is it all part of your little game to corrupt me? Why, just tell me why?”

Grey waited a moment before he spoke, wanting to be sure she was done. “Terra I didn’t send those shadows.”

She scoffed, “Of course you didn’t. I’m sure there’s someone else out there who can control shadows right? That makes perfect sense.” Terra’s tone was bitter and sarcastic. Tears were in her eyes and threatening to spill down her face. She had to blink rapidly several times to keep from crying.

“Terra I gave you a chance to speak, you have to pay me that same respect,” Grey growled getting heated again.

“Fine!” She exclaimed irritably. She had absolutely no desire to hear what he had to say, but she sat down in her chair and motioned for him to continue.

Grey was starting to get angry. Terra was looking at him the way everybody else looked at him, like he was something less than people. She had never looked at him that way, and she sure as hell had no right to do it now.

“Damn it Terra listen to me!” He shouted, slowly losing control. “I didn’t send those damn things to kill you! I don’t know what happened but they weren’t listening to me! I tried to stop them but I couldn’t! I was just sitting there watching them as they advanced toward you; it was all I could do to send you energy when you reached for it!”

“You control them!” She shouted jumping out of her chair. “You’re the only one who controls them!”

“Damn it Terra that’s what I’m trying to tell you! I couldn’t control them! I’m slowly losing my control on them and that’s YOUR FAULT!” He was yelling in full now. He had lost all sense of control as he fought to make her understand what was really going on.

“How dare you!” She yelled, sounding more like her sister than herself. “How can you stand there and blame me for the shadows you sent! How is this in anyway MY FAULT!?” Terra was at the glass yelling at Grey as loudly as he was yelling at her.

“BECAUSE I’M IN LOVE WITH YOU, YOU IDIOT,” Grey shouted not thinking.

Terra stumbled back a step, away from the glass. “What?” she asked, all the fire gone from her eyes.

Grey cursed himself and his lack of control. He had never meant for her to know how he felt. He had discovered just over six months ago how he really felt about her. Much to his own dismay, he had realized that the feelings he was faking to corrupt her had stopped being fake. For a time he told himself that it wasn’t that he loved her. How would he even know if he did? He knew nothing about love personally. He had seen some of the things people did in the name of love and some things people tried to pass off as love.

When he had found out he was shocked and disgusted with himself. He knew that there would never been anything between himself and the princess, nothing real anyway. Grey had planned to use a number of fake emotions to manipulate Terra once she was under his control. In all his plans and schemes, he had never planned for love.

Mostly he blamed that wretched little bright spot in his heart. For years he’d tried all he could to return it to normal. But to no avail. Once he knew what he felt for her he knew it was all because of that.

Now he had told her how he felt and the aftermath of that confession could change and devastate everything he had spent the last four years working towards.

“Terra,” he started, not sure where to go from here. “I . . . I’m sorry.”

“You’re sorry?” She demanded, her anger coming back. “You nearly killed me today and then you tell me you love me? What kind of sick game are you playing at?”

“It’s not a game!” He shouted, getting angry again too. “You think I want to feel this way? Do you think that this is fun for me? Do you have any idea what loving you has done to me?!”

Terra stopped. She was so mad and so enraged at his fake declaration that she felt she might explode. To stand there, today of all days, and act like he was in love with her. As if he even knew what love was. She felt her resolve weaken suddenly as the tears she’d been fighting broke free and started to run down her face.

“You aren’t capable of love,” she finally whispered, surprised at how bitter she sounded. “So don’t stand there and make excuses about what happened today. If there was even a shred of humanity in you, you would tell me why you did what you did so that I can go.”

Grey, stuck by a pain in his chest at her words, said, “Terra I couldn’t have sent those shadows after you if I wanted to. I don’t understand how it happened or even when it happened for certain. All I know is that I do love you. Despite what you or I might want. That’s why when you reached to me today I gave you all I had.

“It’s why when you ask me not to do thing or to stop, I stop. Even if I don’t want to. If you ask me to do it, I will.

“I convinced you to start having dinner in my box because being that close to you without being able to touch you was more than I could stand. Over the years, this last one in particular I think, I have bent and broken to your will, and yours alone. Not for some damn plan or to manipulate you.”

He took a deep breath, unable to stop the words that flew from his mouth. “I did it because I love you. Even though I’ve fought that love every step of the way. Even now I would fight it if I knew how.”

Terra’s mind raced. It was just over a year ago that the number of shadows and shadow attacks skyrocketed. If what Grey was saying was the truth than his feelings for her meant that he was losing his control over the shadows. Which had to mean that she had been right all along, she’d been slowly purifying him.

Still, if she was willing to believe that then she couldn’t dismiss his claims of innocence out of hand. She would have to consider the fact that he was telling the truth. She would have to consider that he actually did love her.

“No,” she whispered. “I can’t do this.” She turned for the door. If she had to start thinking about him loving her it would . . . it would lead to the conversation of how she felt about him.

She had taken anything she felt for him and locked it away inside herself. She didn’t want to know, she didn’t want to think about it. All she wanted to do was save him and her sister from a fight that could claim both their lives. She couldn’t allow herself to even think about . . . feelings . . . for him with this kind of weight on her shoulders.

“Terra wait!” He shouted. “Don’t go!”

She slowed to a stop, halfway across the room. She hated herself for stopping, hated that the pain in his voice had caused her to stop.

“I know that today was bad, and I know that you don’t want to hear this, but I do love you. I’ve told you that, the least you could do is tell me how you feel about me. I feel like my heart might die if I don’t know. And don’t worry; I hate me enough for the both of us for saying so.”

“I can’t,” Terra sighed still facing the door.

“Can’t what?”

“Can’t talk about this, not after everything that’s happened.”

“Terra you know I’m telling the truth. I know that you know this, even though I can’t detect your heart or your mind, because you’re trying to run. You know what I’m saying is true and you’re trying to run from that truth.”

“Grey,” she whispered, her voice breaking. “What good would it do to tell you how I felt about you or if I felt anything about you? In what world would that make things better?”

“Terra,” he started, not exactly sure what to say. “Tell me this one thing. Tell me this and I will tell you anything else you want to know about me or the shadows or the plans that I was making. Anything, just tell me how you feel so my stupid heart will stop hammering in my chest.”

She turned slightly and regarded Grey out of the corner of her eye. There were many things they didn’t know. If she asked the right question than it could tip the scales in their favor. It could change the tide of the coming battle.

With a sad and defeated sigh, she turned and faced him. Tears still silently flowing down her face she said, “Grey . . . you are this piece of me, this part of my heart that . . . that I wish I didn’t need. I tried for so long to keep what I felt about you locked away inside of my heart. I knew that what I thought and what I felt were treason and would destroy me if I voiced them.

“So there,” she finished, stating to get angry again, although this time she wasn’t sure why. “You are the piece of my heart I wish I didn’t need. Because our love would destroy worlds. Maybe just our own, or maybe Diana’s or John’s or even Eric’s. Our love would be a . . . tragedy of unheard of proportions.” Terra had spoken from her heart and said everything she had been thinking for so long.

She looked at Grey; he seemed too shocked to speak. So she gathered her long skirt in her hands and headed for the door again. It would be best if she just left now. She would speak with Bell in the morning and ask him what one piece of information would be the most beneficial for them to know. Then she would ask Grey and be done. She wouldn’t come back for anymore conversations.

“If our love is such a tragedy then why are you the one thing that’s healed me?!” He shouted, seconds before Terra’s hand found the door knob.

She turned, confused, and faced him again. “What did you say?”

“You heard me,” he all but spat. “If our love is such a terrible thing, such a great tragedy, then why is it the one thing that has healed me? Why is it the thing that clears away the fog in my mind and makes me wonder if I’ve been right to do what I’ve done?! How is that tragic?!”

Terra stared, unable to speak.

Her heart sang to hear the words Grey said. To know that there was a part of him that wasn’t convinced that being this man, this Shadow King, was a good. Could he really be telling the truth?

Terra cried out as the sensation of the second heartbeat in her chest returned, as it did sometimes. She put her hand to her chest and leaned against the door. It didn’t hurt per say, it was just intense and sometimes knocked the wind out of her. As she stood she noticed how much more intense it was this time. Usually she would wait and it would be over.

Now it held on and made Terra feel like she couldn’t see straight.

A sound across the room drew her attention back to Grey. He had one hand on the glass and the other on his chest. He had felt it too. He looked up and their eyes met.

“You?” Terra asked. “This is you?”

“This isn’t me,” he grunted. “I have no idea what this is or why it happens.”

Terra shook her head. This was the grain that tipped the scale, she couldn’t take anymore. She looked at Grey one last time, yanked the door open and ran.

Eric stood, dumbfounded, and watched Terra run from the prison and up the stairs. She didn’t stop and say a word to him as she went. She hadn’t even looked to see if he was there. He felt for her through the bond, but forgot about the knife that she wore. He couldn’t feel her so long as it was on. He glanced into the brightly lit prison and saw the prisoner on his knees at the edge of the glass.

For a moment he went back and forth, trying to decide if he should chase after Terra or if he should go and demand to know what happened.

He knew Terra well enough to know that there were times when she needed to be alone. On the other hand though, today was a very special day for them. He didn’t know exactly what they were to each other, but he knew that if she needed him, he should be there. Even if it meant that he had to come back down here in the wee hours of the morning to find out what that monster had said to her.

He shouted over his shoulder for Lewis to close the door and not let anyone pass except him, then he ran up the stairs and started trying to figure out where Terra might be.

King Sol slowly made his way to the west wing. He needed to go over some things where the Moon Kingdom was concerned. With two of the five royal children here, it wouldn’t be long before he found his Brother-in-law at his front door demanding to know what was going on. If it were at all possible, he would like to avoid that confrontation. His brother-in-law, the King of the Moon Kingdom, was not a reasonable man. He would not take interference from King Sol lightly.

He opened the door just as Terra came barreling through.

“Terra!” He exclaimed as she ran into his chest. “What on earth is going on?”

She looked up at him, tears in her eyes, and sobbed something he couldn’t quite understand. Instinctively he wrapped his arms around her and waved his guards off. All but Markus bowed and took up positions outside the door to the west wing.

“Markus get the door to the war room,” King Sol told him as he helped Terra walk back down the hall. He wasn’t sure what had happened but she was coming from the prison and that usually meant trouble. He led her into the war room and sat her down in his large ornately carved throne.

“My Lord,” Markus said from his side. King Sol glanced up to see Markus holding a handkerchief he had produced from his uniform.

“Thank you Markus,” he said. “Go and wait by the door, I don’t want any interruptions.” With a slight bow, Markus turned and walked to the door. He stood facing away from King Sol and Terra, out of respect.

“Terra tell me what’s happened?” King Sol asked. He tried to keep his voice concerned but fatherly.

Terra looked up at her father; she could tell he wouldn’t handle any of the news she had very well. It seemed the only thing she could do was lie. She couldn’t tell her father that she and Eric were in love and had spent part of the evening wrapped in each other’s arms in her mother’s garden. Even worse than that she couldn’t tell him that Grey loved her and that . . . she . . . she might feel something . . . similar. How could she tell her father any of that? How could she expect him to understand when she still didn’t understand any of it?

So she did the only thing she could thing to do.

“I’m sorry father,” she started, trying to steady her voice. “It just gets so hard having to deal with the prisoner. Especially after everything that happened today to me and John and Seph. It was just a little more than I could handle.”

King Sol smiled kindly down at his daughter. She was never raised to be a queen or to handle the pressure that came with ruling. Everything that had happened today and in the last four years had really put a strain on her. She had borne the weight of all her responsibilities so well that King Sol had often wondered what kind of Queen she would be. It only made sense that after everything that had happened that she would start to strain under it all.

He cupped her face in his hands and used his thumbs to wipe her tears away. “I know it’s been a hard day, and I know you never wanted to be involved in all this. But I want you to know how proud I am of your for taking all this on. You stepped up to save your sister and saving her is the same as saving everyone. It’s a hard road to travel, being royalty, but you have trod it well and you have made me proud. So know that going forward.”

Terra smiled. “Thank you Papa. I’m sorry I let myself get worked up this way.”

“We all have moments of weakness my dear, but at least you can recognize that and move forward. Just remember you are stronger than you think you are.”

“Thank you Papa,” she repeated. “I’m fine now I just needed a moment to collect myself.”

“Good, that’s good.” King Sol made a face as he pulled back from his daughter.

“What is it Papa?” She asked, recognizing the face her father was making.

“Don’t worry about it tonight Terra, we can talk in the morning.”

“Papa you can talk to me now. I could use the distraction to be honest.”

King Sol considered for a moment. “Very well then. What did Persephone say to you that was so important we had to hold her here? It looks bad to not release her to her brother, you must know that.”

“I do father,” she assured him. “When I spoke with Persephone earlier she informed me that she might have information prevalent to the fight between Diana and the Shadow King. I was going to see what the information was and then if it was relevant I had planned to come to you with it.”

“So what was the information?” King Sol asked his interests peeked.

“I don’t know,” she stalled, running out of lies to tell her father. “I was trying to talk to her earlier when the guards came in and took her before you. That’s why I stopped you before you could send her away.”

King Sol silently considered what he daughter had said. It seemed unlikely that a princess from a neighboring kingdom would have information that they could use. But any information that could be provided was always taken and considered. She was family and that meant that extra considerations had to be made. He knew that her brother wouldn’t leave without her, but a few days certainly wouldn’t hurt. Especially if that meant help for Diana.

“If what you’re saying is true than I’ll send the Captain in to talk to her in the morning,” King Sol decided.

Terra’s eyes went wide. Seph had no idea about the lie she had told to keep her here. If Jones went in to question her, and she told him that she didn’t know anything the house of cards Terra had been building with her lies would crumble around her. She needed to get to Seph before anyone questioned her.

“Father, do you think that’s wise?” She asked, “To send in the Captain of the Guard in to question one of our cousins? Won’t Uncle Lusin take that as an insult? He’s very . . . particular that way.”

“You make a valid point,” he agreed. “What would you suggest, were you in my shoes?”

“I would send me in,” she answered simply. “I’m her cousin so her and I having a conversation is just two girls catching up, and she’s already opened up to me about this today so it warrants the thought that she would do so again.”

King Sol considered what Terra said. It made a good deal of sense to him. It kept Lusin off his back and made it possible to get the information from Persephone. It was a very good idea. King Sol swelled with pride at the thought of his daughter being so diplomatically inclined.

“I think that is an excellent suggestion,” he said. “Will you let me know as soon as you speak with her?”

“I will thank you father, for helping me and for trusting me,” Terra said standing and curtsying to the King. “I will speak with my cousin as soon as possible.”

Terra knocked on the large wooden door that had once belonged to her sister. Jones was standing on one side of the door and another solider Terra didn’t know very well was there too. She felt better about having Jones there. She didn’t know what the protocol was for housing a princess who was a runaway, but it made her feel better to know she had a friend outside Seph’s door.

“Go away Char,” Seph shouted from behind the door. “If they didn’t let you in before they aren’t going to let you in now.”

“Seph it’s me, Terra.” There was the sound of walking followed by the sound of the bolt being drawn on the door.

Seph poked her head out of the door. “Are you alone?” She asked.

“Yes,” Terra replied, “it’s just me. Can I come in?”

“Yes,” Seph whispered, pulling her in by her arm. “Just hurry.”

“Seph are you alright?” She asked, “You’re acting a little . . . paranoid.”

“I’m sorry Terra but with Charles down the hall I can’t be too careful. I’m telling you he will stop at nothing to prove to my parents that I had the baby.”

“Why?” Terra asked. “What has he got against you?”

Seph scoffed. “It would be easier to list the things he doesn’t hate me for.”

“Why?” She asked again.

Seph sighed and said, “I’m the youngest. When I was born my mother almost died. She was sick in bed for nearly three months. During that time my father had me with him everywhere he went. It was unheard of and people thought he might be going mad. We bonded during that time I suppose. After that he was always around. He and I went everywhere together. If he had to go to a different kingdom to discuss anything, I was with him.

“Needless to say I got a lot of special treatment. Most of my siblings resent me for it. Before everything happened with Darien, I was always by my father’s side. Once there was a risk of Darien being a Shadowed Man, my father completely turned his back on me. Leaving me completely exposed to my siblings wrath.”

“Oh. So your brother is . . .”

“Trying to oust me as my father’s favorite,” Seph said with a nod.

“That’s terrible.”

“That’s why I can’t thank you enough for stopping your father from letting him take me.”

“That’s also why I’m here,” she explained. She pulled Seph over to the small sofa and sat her down. “I spoke to my father tonight and I told him that the reason you had to stay because you have information prevalent to the battle my sister has to fight.”

“I don’t have any information about that!” She shouted starting to panic.

“I know!” Terra sighed. “But it was the only thing I could think to say. It was the one thing I knew would give my father pause.”

“So what happens when he realizes that I don’t have any information for him?”

“Um . . .” she stammered, “best case scenario, he sends you back to your brother that second and he locks me away for treason.”

“That’s the best case scenario?” Seph asked, her jaw hanging open.

Terra rolled the thoughts around in her head for a moment and then said, “Yea that’s the best.”

“So then what do we do?”

“I don’t know . . . make something up that sounds good?” She suggest at the end of her rope with all the lies.

“Like what?”

“I don’t know!”

“Ok, we can do this,” Seph nodded. “We are young intelligent women. We can think of something.”

“Ok, yeah, you’re right. We can do this . . .”

“What about the prophecy?” She asked, “What does it say exactly?”

“I don’t know,” Terra admitted. “I’ve never seen it.”

“Wait, really?”

“Yeah,” she grimaced. “I could give you a general run down but that’s it.”

“I thought you guys would have it here to look at, in case it helped your sister.”

“I think it’s at the Great Library,” she guessed.

Seph stopped and thought for a while. She knew so little about the prophecy itself. Her one hope was that it was here and there was something on it she could use to help herself out of the situation she and Terra were now in.

“Wait I’ve got it,” Seph exclaimed with a laugh. “The prophecy is the answer! Tell your father that I told you that there’s more to the prophecy than what we know. Tell him another sign showed up in my kingdom and I came to tell you. By the time he sends a rider and it comes back and they go through the entire thing, weeks will have gone by and there’ll be no more proof of the baby.”

“That’s genius! Seph you may have just saved us!” Terra leaned forward and wrapped her arms around her cousin’s neck and hugged her. “Thank you so much I was terrified that everyone was going to find out we lied.”

Terra’s thoughts shifted to her cousin’s newborn son and her smile faded. “What about the boy?”

“He’ll stay here,” Seph sighed again. “Once I’ve denied him he’ll be named an orphan and sent off to a home.” It was clearly all Seph could do to not break down crying.

“Well then he’s in luck,” Terra stated, smiling kindly at her cousin.

“How do you figure?”

“Because in a matter of days I will be opening a new orphanage in Castle Town. A bigger, better and safer place for the orphans of the kingdom to come. He’ll be safe there.”

“You’re sure?”

“I am.”

This time it was Seph’s turn to hug Terra. “Thank you. I can’t tell you how much better that makes me feel.”

She hugged her cousin back and said, “It is the very least I can do.”

Seph nodded and pulled away. “So when do we tell your father?”

By the time Terra was finally climbing the stairs to her room, she was exhausted. She had left Seph’s room and tracked down her father. After explaining everything to King Sol she volunteered to go in the morning and examine the prophecy herself. Citing that sending anyone else risked compromising the mission and the quality of answers they received. She had to meet with her father and Bell in the morning to discuss what they should do.

She was really hoping that he father would let her go. She needed to get out for a while and she hadn’t ridden out past the local farms in years. Plus the ride would give her time to think about Grey and Eric and clear her head. Something she sorely needed to do.

“Terra there you are,” Eric sighed walking down the last few steps to her room. “I’ve been looking everywhere for you.”

“I’m sorry,” she apologized. “I forgot that with the knife you can’t tell where I’m at.”

“Or if you’re ok,” he added. He walked up the last few steps to her room and stood with her at the door. He reached up and brushed a few stray hairs away from her face. Terra smiled and leaned her head into his embrace. She sighed contentedly at his closeness.

Eric put a finger under her chin and lifted her face up to his. He leaned down and kissed her, soft at first and sweet. He wasn’t sure how far he could take things with her before she would pull away. When she kissed him back and made no move to back away, he wrapped his arms around her and pulled her into him. He turned his head and deepened the kiss.

Terra reached up and wrapped her arms around his neck. She knew it was a bad idea. She knew that things with Eric could only go so far. After the day she’d had and everything that had happened, it was nice to just be Terra in the arms of a man she loved.

Eric made a noise in the back of his throat. He pushed Terra against the wall opposite him and kissed her harder. He pulled her hands up and pinned her wrists above her head with his left hand. He took his free hand and ran it up and down the sides of her body, carefully skirting anything thing that would make her shy and pull away.

He kissed her down her neck and to the top of her collar bone.

Terra shuddered under his touch, completely surprised by her own reaction. She wanted him to touch her everywhere; she liked the way his lips felt on her skin. Still part of her wanted to run away, surprised by the way she felt and a little afraid. She wanted to turn and run.

“Terra,” he whispered against her skin. “Oh Terra let me show you how much I love you.”

Something in his words pulled her out of her hot and foggy train of thought. “Eric,” she panted. “Eric, stop. I can’t do this, we can’t do this.”

Eric groaned and stepped back. “Are you sure we can’t do this?” He asked, his voice deep and gravely.

“I am sure,” she told him, trying to sound firm.

“Alright,” he muttered sounding sulky.

“Good night Eric,” Terra said smiling at his sulkiness.

“Good night Terra,” he replied bowing to her.

He straightened up and turned for the stairs. Not trusting himself if he stood there and stared at her breathless and up against the wall. He knew he would lose control.

“I love you,” she called as he stepped down.

He stopped and turned, a huge smile spreading across his formally sulky face. “Say it again.”

“I love you.”

Eric rushed back to her and scooped her up in his arms he spun her around kissing her saying, “I love you,” over and over again. He set her on her feet and kissed her again.

“Good night Princess, I love you.”

“Good night Guard, I love you too,” she replied laughing.

By the time she managed to get into her room and into her shift, Terra seriously thought her legs might give out. She crawled into her large four poster bed and pulled the sheets up to her chin. Today was the single strangest day she had ever experienced. Two men had confessed their love for her, she had met her cousin for the first time, she had nearly died, and she got a new Royal Guard, lied to her father, lost her horse, and nearly finished an orphanage.

It seemed like some if it had happened weeks ago.

She was so tired

She stared at the purple canopy over her bed and waited for sleep to find her. At first her mind wouldn’t settle. It wanted to run over everything Eric and Grey had said. Line by line and syllable by syllable until it made sense.

Terra considered, for a moment at least, staying awake and thinking about it. Then she closed her eyes for a second and the world fell away as she finally nodded off.


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