Shadows

By Jennifer N. Bogle All Rights Reserved ©

Fantasy / Romance

Ch. 8

Four Years Later

Terra gazed into her looking glass. It was getting older and had just started to fade around the edges where the sun touched it. It was hard to believe she’d had it for almost four years now. It was part of a set she had received for her sixteenth birthday from her father.

So much had changed in such a small amount of time.

Terra was full grown now and a woman. She was just over five foot seven, a full two inches taller than Diana, not that it was a good thing. Diana begrudged her for so many things now, her height included. Terra had fallen into the habit of slouching in her sister presence. If she didn’t look any taller than Diana would leave her alone about that at least.

She found other things to get mad at her for. Terra had grown up and grown quite lovely. Her green eyes, which at one point had seemed too large for her face, were dazzling now with their deep color and the slant they had taken on as she aged. Her hair was a dark and thick as ever and the freckles on her face had become part of her natural beauty.

She had stayed slim in her waist but her chest and hips had grown and filled out. She had taken on a classic hourglass shape like Diana had. With a few stark differences. Diana was still very slim she had kept her pre-teen thinness. They were both lovely, but as far as Terra was concerned, Diana would always outshine her.

She stood and straightened out her deep purple dress. She could sense Eric coming. They were still bonded, somehow. It baffled Bell to no end that their bond had managed to persist for so long. He had told them that some bonds can last for lifetimes, but usually only in family members or spouses. He had theorized several times that the reason they were still bonded was because of their frequent use of it. They were always reaching out to one another for different reasons.

Terra was glad she had the bond with Eric. She never felt alone, unless she asked him for privacy, and he was always there when she needed him. It didn’t matter what she needed him for when or where they were, he would come. It didn’t help that the bond kept them close as the years went by. She could tell that his feelings had grown for her as she’d grown.

Eric was very good at keeping quiet about how he felt about her. There had been a couple of instances where they had gotten too close and Eric had tried push past the line Terra had drawn. It didn’t take much to get him to back off, but those situations had started occurring more and more frequently over the last year. It was all she could do to step back before things went too far. Another great thing about the bond was that he could usually tell when she needed him to back off.

The best thing about their bond was that it kept Grey out of her heart.

She needed what she felt there to stay secret and to stay safe. If someone, anyone, ever found out what was in her heart, if they could see the things she felt and who she felt them for . . . they would hang her for treason.

Eric knocked once on the door and came in. He could already tell that Terra was ready to go down to dinner. She felt her heart skip at the sight of him, as it often did. He was so handsome now, not that he hadn’t been before. His face was more chiseled and his hair was longer. It wasn’t much of a difference, but Terra certainly enjoyed it.

“You look beautiful,” he remarked as he leaned in the doorway. She flushed awkwardly.

“Thank you,” she smiled. He was looking at her like he did when he was pondering about them being more than friends.

It happened a lot.

“Are you ready for dinner?” he asked.

“Yes,” she replied heading toward him and the door.

“How were you lessons with Bell?” He asked as they headed down the spiral staircase.

“Amazing,” she gushed. She loved her magic lessons and the way that Bell would push her to explore everything she could do. It was the constant good thing she’d had to turn to over the past few years. With the rise in shadow activity and the new rules her father had laid down as a result, Terra needed good things to keep her busy. If she sat around too long doing nothing her mind would wonder. Since it seemed to always wander toward the future she was rushing to a full speed, she tried not to have any down time if she could help it.

“What are you guys working on now?”

“Well, he’s teaching me about sending my conciseness out over long distances. I reached as far as the castle wall before our lesson was over and Diana came in.”

Eric grimaced, “How are things going with her?”

“Not great,” she admitted as they started down the grand staircase. “She still hardly talks to me.” In the last year or so Diana had gone from tolerating her around and insulting her as they passed to not talking to her at all. Sometimes Terra would catch her staring at her, scowling at her was really what she was doing, but she didn’t see it that way.

“What do you think is going on with her?” Eric asked, opening the door to the grand dining hall.

“I don’t know,” she sighed. “I wish I did, but I can’t figure it out.” She and Eric paused their conversation and bowed to the King and Queen. Her father nodded his permission for her to continue on, her mother didn’t even bother to look at her. As they hurried on to the kitchen men and women would salute or curtsy as she passed. Terra would wave and thank each of them, often referring to them by their name.

When they finally made it to the kitchen Jenny was waiting with the tray of food for her and Grey. Terra smiled her thanks and headed back toward the west wing and the prison. It usually took them less than ten minutes to complete the entire circuit, from her room to the kitchen down to the basement. They had gotten good at making their way around with the tray of food. After four years, dinner this way had become routine.

Eric pushed the large wooden door in and held it open for her. “I’m going to head up and eat. Think of me when you’re ready to go.”

“I will,” she promised. She squeezed past Eric who had decided to hold the door a little more close tonight. Making it harder for her to get in and out without pressing against him, he was having one of those nights. One of those nights meant that he was once again reevaluating their relationship and trying to find a way to take it beyond what it was.

It was less than six months after he had told her his feelings were coming back, that Terra felt the sudden change in him. He loved her. At first her heart soared to feel him realize that. Then, like a rock thrown at the sky, it came crashing down. If he loved her . . . really loved Terra . . . than he could be hurt, or worse, and it would be all her fault. She couldn’t let him know she knew. He had promised not to love her and as long as he never said the actual words, she was sure she would be able to keep it together around him.

Still, on some days, like today, she could feel him staring at her, weighing the options of telling her how he really felt. For three and a half years he had decided the best thing was to keep his feelings quiet. At least until such a time as she could hear him and really tell him how she felt as well.

Not that she would ever admit to herself how she felt.

Terra waited until the door was closed before she started across the room to the glass cell. It looked ever the same, large, imposing, glass that hummed with her power. It seemed that time had no effect on the glass cell where they kept Grey. In truth, it didn’t seem like time had much of an effect on Grey either. As she aged and changed, he remained the same. He looked the same now as he had the day she met him.

Except for those few time when his face would change.

There were rare moments where Grey would suddenly seem so much younger to her. He denied it, said it never happened. Terra knew the truth.

She looked at Grey who was leaning against the glass waiting for her, like he did so many nights. He smiled at her and her heart leapt uncomfortably in her chest. The wicked grin that spread across his face told Terra he was aware of her hearts current gymnastics.

She shot him a warning look and he laughed.

“Good evening Princess,” he said as she set the tray on the table.

“Good evening prisoner,” Terra mocked, matching his overly formal tone.

He laughed and said, “You look lovely tonight Shadow.”

“Thank you,” she replied, trying to sound off hand while her heart leapt again at the mention of his secret name for her.

“So he’s having one of those days, hu?” Grey asked scanning the door. “What fun for you.”

“Grey,” she warned. “You promised not to bring up the things you see in Eric, remember?” Terra had run from the room one night, nearly a year ago, when Eric had also been having a day like today. He had lingered outside the wooden doors and Grey had picked up on what he was feeling. He had then tried to explain to Terra exactly how Eric felt about her and what he thought about her.

She had responded by clapping her hands to her ears, singing loudly and running away.

After that she had made him promise to not talk about anybody’s feelings while they were having dinner, not even their own.

“I remember,” he recalled, “I was just remarking on how it must have been a long day for you, that’s all.”

“Well it was actually a good day,” she explained reflectively.

“Are you eating in here or out there?” He asked. Unbeknownst to everyone but the two of them, Terra had started dinning with Grey inside his cell. It was easier than being separated by a wall and it seemed to keep him from flying into outbursts as often. Also, not that she would ever think it or say it out loud, but she enjoyed the closeness with him.

“I’ll eat with you,” she answered, knowing that it was what they both wanted. She knew deep down that she should keep her distance and not put herself in so many situations where things could so easily go out of hand. Sometimes she listened to that little voice deep down inside herself, most of the time she didn’t.

Grey’s eyes sparkled for the briefest second. He gave her his little half smile, something Terra always took as a good sign, and extended his hand to the glass.

“Let me help you with dinner,” He said.

She nodded and put the tray up to the glass and pushed. It slid through as easy as ever with Terra along behind it. Grey quickly switched the tray to his other hand and took Terra’s left hand up to his mouth and kissed it gently before turning it over and kissing her palm. Carefully he would fold her fingers over the fresh kiss so she could hold on to it.

Terra’s heart always went crazy when he did that. He held her hand and looked down into her eyes intently. She could tell, despite his actions, he was trying to see into her heart. He did so every time they were alone together. She knew why, and she was determined he would never find the answer he sought there.

“We should eat,” she stated breaking away. “It’s been a long day.”

“Tell me about it. What did you do with yourself today?”

“I went and visited the children’s home today.”

“How is going?” He asked, genuinely interested.

“It’s going very well. They’ve almost finished the construction on it and the Master Builder says it could be ready for occupants by the end of the week.” Terra had been struck by the idea to build a home for the orphaned children in the castle town almost a year ago. She had gone to her father the next day and asked for permission to begin working on such a place. Her father, so pleased to see one of his daughters taking an interest in the kingdom and its people, agreed. With the condition that Terra was in charge of all of it.

She needed to find a place, work with the Master Builder and Carpenter, and help draw up the plans for the building itself.

Terra had exceeded all expectations set for her by her father and every other man she worked with. She had drawn up beautiful plans and found the perfect location to build the home. At her insistence, the Master Builder hired only men from the castle town to handle the construction. With an influx of new jobs and the promise of a new home for orphaned children, the people in the town started to notice Terra for the first time in her life.

“Next week?” He asked threw a mouthful of chicken, “That’s amazing.”

“I know,” she smiled, her face practically glowing with pride. “I can’t wait until we can start getting these kids the things they need.”

Grey looked at Terra and let out a quite sigh. She still amazed him, even after all this time. Her selflessness and her insane need to help others, two things about her that had originally grated against him, now they were some of the things he admired the most about her.

It was too bad those things would be ceasing soon.

He had been waiting for four long years. Patiently using anyone he could to slowly manipulate Terra. She would have to love him, he had realized a few years ago. The only way he could get her to help him do what she was going to have to do was if she loved him. Not just love, she had to love him implicitly and without the shadow of a doubt.

He was so close now. Her feelings for him grew stronger every day and what had started as a crack in her resolve was now a giant spanning chasm of doubt and darkness in her heart. Soon he would be able to push her past that last bit of resistance and break her. Then she would be his and his plan for her sister could finally start to unfold.

After nearly two hours of talking and laughing Terra could feel Eric get anxious through the bond. He always worried if she was gone too long. She sighed and turned to Grey, he would already know that she had to get going, he was always in her head when he could be. He made his usual it’s-too-early face, but didn’t say anything.

“You know he’s only going to wait for so long,” she reminded him as she started to gather their plates and silverware onto the tray.

“He can wait a little longer,” Grey muttered irritably. “He has all day with you out there; he doesn’t need to be cutting into my time as well.”

“Your time?” She asked. “I didn’t realize I was rentable.”

Grey shrugged. “For the right price, I find almost all women can be “rented.”” He was smiling wickedly again.

Terra stood and walked to the wall without so much as a look or word of parting. She had a hand on the glass by the time he got to her. He grabbed her shoulder and pulled her gently away from the wall, a mixed look of concern and doubt on his face.

“Come off it now, you know I was only joking.”

“Oh I know,” she smiled. “You and I both know you couldn’t afford my rates.”

Grey froze, a look of pure disbelief on his face. He couldn’t believe what he’d heard her say. Terra didn’t talk about things like that. Ever.

“You should see your face,” she laughed. “I didn’t realize saying that would break you. I’m sorry.” She laughed harder as he continued to stair.

After another second or so Grey finally managed to pull himself together, scowling at Terra as she continued to laugh. He shook his head and folded his arms across his chest.

“So we can’t talk about feelings but you can talk about how much it would be to rent you out?” he asked accusingly. “How is that fair?”

Terra’s laughter died out. He had a point.

“I’m sorry,” she apologized earnestly. “I was just trying to counter your joke, I didn’t really think before I spoke.”

“No need to apologize to me. If we’re gonna talk about emotions and other such gooey things, I’d just like a forewarning is all.”

“A forewarning?” She asked confused. “Why would you need a forewarning?”

Grey smiled and his eyes twinkled with desire and something a little darker. Terra cleared her throat loudly and stepped back away from him. He could get a little intense when he looked at her this way. Not like a little girl or a young lady or even a princess, he looked at her like a woman he would have in his bed.

Terra felt a small shudder of desire go through her as her mind suddenly wandered down the path that wondered what being bedded by a man like Grey would be like. Would he be passionate? Or would he be gentle with her since she was still a maid? Her mind wondered what it would be like to be bedded at all. She was twenty now and most other women her age were married and on their fourth child. She and Diana were still unmarried, due largely in part to the fact that Diana was still being groomed into a savior for the people.

She didn’t have time to court or marry anyone right now. Especially if things didn’t go her way during the final battle between, a battle she dreaded with a cold pit in her stomach. Everything would change that day. One person she . . . one person that she . . .

Terra shook her head.

She wouldn’t allow herself to think it. Not here or now in the cell with Grey. She wouldn’t allow herself to think about that at all.

She looked up and almost screamed.

Grey had taken advantage of her momentary reverie to step in closer, pinning her in the corner of the cell. He had a hand on the glass on each side of her and was looking down at her intently. All traces of desire were gone from his eyes, replace by something that Terra thought looked a little like impatience.

“Don’t mind me,” he said, “by all means, finish your thought.”

“Grey,” she started with an annoyed sigh. “I have to go, Eric will be here soon and I need to be on the other side of the glass when that happens.”

Looking like he’d much rather be pressing her for answers, he stepped back so Terra could grab the tray. “You know you could just be honest,” he added.

“Honest?” she asked, feigning stupid to buy time so she could get away before the conversation went too far.

“With me. You can be honest with me.” He reached out and put a hand on her shoulder. Terra, still gathering the dishes, ignored the contact and how it made her feel. “Just tell me how you feel. You can say those words to me.”

She stopped and turned, looking him in the eyes. “I don’t know what words you mean,” she lied badly. “I’m going on my way now. I’ll see you for breakfast in the morning.”

Terra was through the glass before Grey could respond. He watched her walk to the door and pull it open. Once on the other side, she set the tray down and grabbed the door to push it closed. A heartbeat before she was out of sight, she looked up and her eyes locked on Grey’s. They both knew how the other felt, though neither could say it out loud.

Terra feared that if she said it out loud, she would give life to those feelings and never be able to take them back. Once they had a life of their own, those words could destroy her and everyone she cared about. She couldn’t risk it. She had to keep how she felt a secret to everyone. Even herself.

Grey watched the door close, locking eyes with Terra just be for it did. He could tell his plan was working, he just couldn’t tell how far along they were. He needed her to tell him how she felt about him. His heart gave a painful leap at the thought of her loving him. His mind knew it was all part of his plan, but his damn heart. It wouldn’t listen to his mind, it did whatever it wanted. There were times over the past few years where he and Terra would be talking and the next thing he knew he had her in his arms, inches from her face. He would be breathless and it would take all he had to keep from pushing the line Terra had drawn for them.

He needed to find a way to force her to tell him the truth.

Reynolds.

That fool hadn’t been utilized in a while. Maybe it was time for him to prove his usefulness.

Diana strode back and forth along the large, very expensive, rug in her room. Jack should have been back by now. Damn fool probably got lost somewhere. She swore if it wasn’t for his particular set of skills in the bedroom, he would be completely useless. She had sent him to go fetch the wretched old hag from town nearly an hour ago. She couldn’t be seen outside the castle at this hour. She needed Jack to get the woman and hurry.

A soft knock at the door pulled Diana from the thoughts of what she would do to him if he failed her. She slid the bolt and opened the door. A very old woman came shambling in, followed closely behind by Jack.

“You’re Majesty,” she said, bowing to Diana. She was old, well into her seventies, even though to Diana she looked nearly one hundred. Her robes were old and dirty and they smelled of fifth and her foul dealings. Her face and hair were just as dirty and the robes she wore, if not more so. What few teeth she had were black and rotting away.

It made Diana queasy just to think of such a woman standing on her fine rug in her fine room, surrounded by all of her fine things. She wanted this over with as soon as possible.

“Do you have what I need?” She demanded.

“Yes m’lady,” she responded, her voice horse and her accent thick.

“Give it to me,” she demanded.

“Payment first, highness.”

Diana scowled at the old hag, but she snapped her fingers at Jack who produced a small bag of silver and bronze sols. He shook it once and threw it at the old woman. She caught it in the air quick as a cat. She jingled the bag a few times then, satisfied, reached into her robes and produced a small glass vial filled with a dark black liquid.

Jack snatched the vial out of her hand and passed it to Diana. She held it up to the light and tried to see through the thick liquid.

“Will it do what I need?” She demanded of the woman.

“Aye, that it will,” she answered. “It will remove the child inside without damaging anything else m’lady.”

“Good. You’re excused.” Jack opened the door back up and both he and the old woman turned to leave. “Oh and old hag, if you’re wrong, I’ll kill you,” she added without looking up.

Old though she was, the woman knew that the Princess wasn’t kidding. She nodded and followed the young man back out into the hall. Diana pushed the door closed and slid the bolt in. She didn’t want to be disturbed. She pulled the small cork out and dumped the liquid down her throat.

It tasted as foul as it looked and it burned on the way down. It hit Diana’s stomach and she felt like she might vomit. Knowing she had to keep it down for the potion to work, she clapped her hands over her mouth and clambered into her bed. She pulled her pillow up over her face and waited for the trickle of blood between her thighs that signaled the potion had done as it was supposed to and the bastard Jack had gotten on her was gone.

Eric closed the door to his room and then banged his head against it. He didn’t know what he was supposed to do anymore! For years he had been careful about how he felt about her and what emotions he showed her. He wanted to be good to the promise he had made all those years ago, but that was getting harder and harder as each year passed.

He loved her.

He loved her so much it hurt no to be able to tell her.

It was easy at first; she was so young it wouldn’t have been right for him to love her then. Now though, now she was grown and easily the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. Not to mention the fact that she was kind, generous, sweet, funny, and did he mention beautiful? She was impossible not to love.

Yet he couldn’t say it to her.

He couldn’t grab her and tell her how he felt about her and he longed to hold her every day and how not being able to do so up until that point was killing him.

He couldn’t say any of that.

He couldn’t even think about it when she was around.

All he could do was be the best friend he could be until she was ready to be with him.

Terra stretched and rolled over. Light was just starting to bleed through the curtains on her windows. Dawn was breaking. Mammy would be just getting up and getting ready to come get her up. Terra thought about staying in bed and waiting for Mammy, but there was work to be done in town today and she had to be to the construction site early to overseen some of the smaller details of the children’s home.

After that it was lessons with Bell and the new self-defense master her father had brought in from Pleiades Kingdom. She was supposed to be the very best anyone had ever seen. Father had paid a handsome sum to get her here to train them and Terra intended to make sure it was worth every sol. After that she needed to head back to the construction site and talk with the other men about the completion of the building and her father’s approval for a party the day it’s completed.

Then back to the castle to wash and change for dinner with Grey.

It would be a very full day, but Terra liked it that way.

Deciding that waiting would only put off what needed to be done, and give her time to ponder on things she didn’t want to ponder on, she decided it was time to rise. She threw the blankets off and got up. After a few minutes looking through her wardrobe, she decided on a simple dark grey dress. It had a beautiful cut to it, corset, square neck line, cap sleeves and a simi full skirt. It would look nice on her and it would be appropriate for what she had to do that day.

Not waiting for Mammy, Terra dressed and washed her face. She combed through her long locks of hair and then fought with it to make it stay up on her head and look nice. Half way through her struggle Mammy came in.

“Up already?” She asked, an amused smile on her face.

“Yes,” Terra replied, still struggling with her hair. “I have a lot to do today and I wanted to get an early start. Except that my hair absolutely refuses to do anything I want it to. Maybe if I had some scissors I could fix it.”

“Don’t you dare,” Mammy scolded laughing. “Here let me help.” She came up behind the princess and with deft nimble fingers she soothed the mess that had become her hair and twisted some and braided other parts. In less than two minutes Terra’s hair was up and looking beautiful on her head. She even had little ringlets framing her face and at the base of her neck. Mammy was amazing.

“I don’t know how you do it,” she muttered appreciatively. “I don’t know how to do anything with it.”

“You don’t need to know,” Mammy replied. “If you would just let me hire you some ladies in waiting you wouldn’t ever have to worry about things like your hair.”

Terra rolled her eyes; she’d heard this argument before. When she turned sixteen it was customary for her to take on at least three ladies in waiting. She had decided not to do so. Something her mother still found unforgivable. Every proper lady had ladies in waiting.

Terra just didn’t like the idea of a group of women whose sole purpose was to follow her around and do what she said. She could find her own dress and lace her own corset; she didn’t need a gaggle of women to do it for her.

Mammy sighed, knowing she wasn’t going to win that argument today. With a few last adjustments, she stepped back and let Terra rise off her stool and get a good look at her hair. She couldn’t understand how Mammy could do such an amazing job in so little time. She could barely get her hair brushed in that amount of time.

“Thank you Mammy,” she whispered hugging her tightly for a moment.

“You’re welcome child,” Mammy replied. “Now hurry, Guard Reynolds is at the base of the stairs waiting for you.”

“He is?” She asked. Her heart fluttered at the thought of him up early and waiting for her. Her favorite part of the day was when Eric saw her in the morning. He always made her feel so beautiful.

“He is,” she answered, smiling at the color that appeared on Terra’s cheeks. “Now go on, shoo, get going.”

“Bye Mammy,” she called as she was playfully shooed from the room. “I’ll see you tonight!”

“Eric! Where are you?!”

“Terra? Where are you?”

“I’m here, come closer.”

Eric opened his eyes, he was surrounded by swirling grey mist and nothing else it seemed. He couldn’t see land or sky, just billows of swirling mist. He couldn’t see Terra, but he could sense her just a ways a head.

“Terra where are we?” He asked.

Suddenly she was in front him. She was wearing a grey dress that seemed to blend perfectly with the billows around her, making it near impossible for Eric to differentiate between the bottom of her dress and the mist swirling around.

“We’re in your dream,” she answered simply.

“My dream!?”

“Yes. It’s the only safe place I can talk to you.”

“What do you mean? Why isn’t it safe?”

“Grey. He’s always watching me. I can’t risk talking to you where he might hear me.”

Terra closed the distance between them and grabbed his hands in both of hers. She looked up at him sad and scared. There was something about her face that didn’t seem right to Eric, her eyes didn’t look right and her freckles were gone.

“I’m sorry to do this to you Eric,” she explained, “but I just can’t take it anymore.”

“Can’t take what?”

“Not telling you.”

Eric’s heart leapt up into his throat. “Telling me what?”

“That I love you. I’ve always loved you and I can’t keep it inside anymore.”

“Terra,” he whispered. He had waited so long for her to say those words to him. To hear her say that she felt the same as she did, that she loved him. He wrapped his arms around her and held her close to him. He couldn’t say how happy he was.

“Eric, there’s something you must do for me,” she instructed, her face against his chest.

“Anything for you,” he replied simply.

“I need to know that you’ll remember this outside of the dream.”

“I will, I promise you Terra. I will never forget this.”

“Dreams are hard to remember after we wake. I need you to prove to me that you remember having this dream. I need you to wait for the moment and take me in your arms and kiss me like you’ve always wanted.”

Eric couldn’t speak. He stared in disbelief at Terra’s serious face looking up at him.

When he finally found his voice again he said, “You want me to do what?”

“Kiss me. Don’t say anything don’t warn me. I can’t risk Grey finding out somehow. Just promise me you’ll do this.”

“I promise. But won’t Grey just find out about the kiss and cause problems?”

“Not if it’s spontaneous. Then it’s just a heat of the moment thing and then we’ll both know we remember this.”

It made a kind of sense to Eric, he had to admit. Not to mention the thought of holding the princess in real life, kissing her like he’d wanted to for so long, it seemed too good to be true.

“When?” He asked.

“You’ll know the moment,” she assured him. Her image started to shimmer and fade. “I’m waking up I have to go. Please Eric don’t forget.”

“I won’t,” he called as she disappeared.

Eric’s eyes snapped open. He was lying in bed and judging by the lack of light out his window, it was still very early. He sighed and ran his fingers through his long brown hair. That dream . . . there’s no way that was real. It wasn’t possible for people to share dreams. Was it? What if it was real? Could he really grab Terra and hold her the way he wanted? Or kiss her the way he’d always wanted? What about her father? Would he hurt Eric if he found out?

It didn’t seem possible that such a thing could really happen. Could it be possible that Terra could somehow put herself in his dream? He had never heard of such a thing being done before. However, when it came to Terra, it seemed as though she broke through what was possible all the time. Bell was always saying that he didn’t think there was anything she couldn’t do, if she really wanted to.

He pondered for a while over what to do.

He didn’t want to risk doing something to Terra that she didn’t want. He also didn’t want to entice the wrath of the King, who lately has been quite prone to anger when it came to his children.

So many people were demanding to know when Diana would be ready and when could the fight finally start. People were getting more and more nervous as the number of shadows being seen increased. All the signs from the prophecy were here, why wasn’t anything being done to stop the Shadow King? Most people in the town now knew that he was held prisoner at the bottom of the castle. They wondered, angrily, why the King hadn’t killed him yet. Why when he was a prisoner, had he been allowed to live?

King Sol was under a great deal of stress. Eric would greatly appreciate not exacerbating that stress by forcing himself on the Princess. There was no telling how the King would react to something like this right now. He could slap Eric on the wrist, or he could behead him. Either way, caution was called for.

Eric decided he would rise, get ready, and then judge, based on how Terra reacted to him this morning, if he should believe what he had dreamt or not.

As he pulled his door closed, Mammy appeared at the top of the stairs across from him.

“Good morning Mammy,” Eric greeted cheerily. He liked Mammy, a great deal in fact. She was one of the only people in the castle that actually loved Terra and put her needs above her sisters. Most everyone cared only for Diana. Not that he blamed them, Diana was beautiful, she was the oldest, and she was the Princess of prophecy. It was hard to hate someone who was supposed to save your life.

Of course now he knew the real Diana, the cold, bitter, hateful princess that no one ever saw. No one except Terra, and by proxy himself and Mammy. They all knew what she was really like and how she treated people.

“Good Morning Eric,” Mammy replied smiling at him. “What are you doing up so early?”

“Terra has a lot to do today, I just wanted to make sure I was up and ready when she rose. Are you headed up now?”

“I am. I’ll get that lazy thing out of bed and send her down.”

“Thank you Mammy.”

With a nod, she started up the rest of the stairs to Terra’s room. He could hear her talking to Terra; she was already up, like him. Maybe that was a sign she’d sent the dream. She was up because in the dream she said she was waking and that was before even he woke.

Eric shook his head. He couldn’t let himself read too much into one thing. He had to be sure before he broke the promise he’d made her. So he waited at the base of her stairs while she and Mammy talked back and forth. It wasn’t too long after she’d gone up that Eric heard the door opening. He stood up straight and adjusted his uniform.

“I’ll see you tonight!” He heard Terra yell, then the door closed and he could hear her making her way down the spiral stairs.

A second later she came in to view.

She was wearing a stunning grey dress, nearly identical to the one she’d been wearing in the dream. A warm smile spread across her face when she saw him standing there, waiting. She hurried down the rest of the stairs and stopped in front of him.

“Good morning,” she said sweetly, her cheeks coloring slightly.

“It is indeed,” he agreed. “You look beautiful today.”

“Thank you,” she said, her cheeks getting redder.

“I like your dress,” he offered. He was hoping she would say something that would tell him she’d chosen it on purpose for today. Anything that might lead him to believe that is was this dress he’d seen her in during their dream. He so wanted to believe that it was real.

“Thank you,” she repeated. “I wasn’t going to wear it at first. But as I looked at it I felt like I needed to wear it today.” Terra hadn’t realized until talking to Eric that she hadn’t intended to wear this dress today at all.

“Today?” He asked, not sure he could trust his own ears.

“Yes,” she confirmed, considering. “I just felt like I needed to wear it. Is that strange?”

“Not at all,” he answered smiling. He knew. She was trying to tell him she wore it so he would know she was in his dream. It was real. The day he had been waiting for, the day that he had imagined every day for the last four years was finally here. He could finally tell her how he felt about her and hold her as he’d always wanted to do.

“Are you ready?” She asked.

“I am,” he answered offering her his hand. “Let’s get going.”

Terra walked through the door’s to the prison carrying Grey’s breakfast. She was getting down later than she had intended. She had gotten to the kitchen so early they weren’t done with his breakfast yet. She had been sure that as soon as she went through the door, Grey would be waiting impatiently for his breakfast. He was always cranky in the morning.

When they rarely fought it was almost always in the morning.

So when she came through the door to find that he was still in bed, she was more than a little surprised. He was always awake when she came down. Honestly she’d never seen him sleep before. He was awake when she left at night and up before she came down in the morning.

Not wanting to wake him, Terra pulled the door closed quietly. She took one step forward and heard the heel of her shoe make a loud echoing click on the hard stone floor. Careful of the breakfast tray, she slipped her shoes off and padded across the floor in just her stockings.

Once she got to the glass she could see clearly that Grey was still in bed and breathing softly. Apparently covers and shirts were too restrictive for him as he had neither on currently. He was rolled and facing the other wall. There was something about the way he looked laying there that sparked Terra’s curiosity. She wanted to see him sleeping, not just want, she felt she needed to see his face.

She stepped through the glass carefully and set the tray down on the table as quietly as she could. Carefully she made her way across the cell to Grey’s bed. He was still breathing in slow even beats as she stood over him. She was stuck by the realization that as he lay there sleeping he was vulnerable. That was most likely why he’d never let himself sleep so late as for her to see him, he was exposed and defenseless while he slept.

She smiled and wondered if it was possible he still didn’t trust her. After four years of companionship, there was very little they didn’t know about each other.

He made a small noise in his sleep and turned over onto his back.

Terra could see now why she felt she had to see him.

His face was changed again. He looked younger, more innocent. His face was absent all the hard lines that he bore from years of war and plotting. It was still Grey, same dark, wild hair, same face shape and she was sure if she could see them, he would have the same grey eyes. He had simply lost all of the things that made him look frightening.

“Terra,” he whispered with a smile.

She froze.

Was he awake?

Could he see her?

Would he be mad that she had crept in and watched him sleep? It sounded creepy saying it in her head that way.

Grey let out a sigh and started to snore softly.

He was still asleep.

He was saying her name in his sleep?

Was he dreaming of her?

Terra felt her face flush at the thought. Could he really be dreaming about her? Sure she was the only person he really interacted with, but wouldn’t that be more reason not to dream of her? Was it a good dream? What if he was dreaming about killing her or something else terrible? Maybe he wasn’t as kind as she had been lead to think.

She was overcome by a sudden need to know what he was dreaming. There had to be a way to find out. She had magic and a brain; it shouldn’t be that hard right?

Terra racked her brain for a way to see what was in his head.

It struck her then. Years ago, after she’d found out her mother didn’t want her, she’d put his hands on the side of her face and he’d seen what was in her head. Maybe there was a way she could do that so she could see in his head. If she put her hands on Grey’s face the way he had on hers, maybe she could see what was going on in there.

Terra looked at the way he was laying. He was on his back but still mostly facing the opposite wall. She walked around the bed and carefully crawled in next to Grey. She knelt down next to him and extended her hands. If she was right, she would be able to see what he was dreaming about her. If she was wrong the only things she would succeed in doing is waking him and putting herself in a situation that was going to require a lot of explanation.

Taking a deep breath she reached out and gently put one hand on either side of his face. She closed her eyes and focused on Grey and his dream. She tried to call forth the images in his head.

Terra opened her eyes.

She was standing in the middle of beautiful field of moonflowers. They were opened and turned up to the full moon overhead. A soft breeze rustled the flowers and blew Terra’s hair around. If this was Grey’s dream, it was one of the loveliest things she’d ever seen.

She heard laughter behind her and turned slowly. It was hard to move in a dream, she realized then. It was similar to walking through think mud. You couldn’t really move fast at all. Once she managed to make the turn she saw Grey a few yards from her near a lake that glowed silver in the moonlight.

As she watched Grey spun slowly. He was dancing, with her.

It was the oddest thing she’d ever seen.

She stood in a dream surrounded by flowers watching herself dance with a man she was supposed to hate. Something in the way he held her and the way they were looking at each other struck Terra as odd. She’d danced with Grey before in the cell but it didn’t look like that. He was holding her so close looking down at her like . . . well . . . like he loved her.

Terra felt ashamed for intruding on such a private thought. Grey was entitled to dream whatever he wanted, it wasn’t for her to jump in and judge him.

She should go.

As Terra turned to leave she felt something behind her.

Moving slowly she turned to face the largest Shadow she had ever seen. It towered over her with bulging golden eyes. Not sliver like other shadows, but gold and menacing. Terra could tell that this was no ordinary shadow. Not just because of its size or because of its eyes but because of the amount of darkness coming off this shadow was unlike anything she’d ever felt in her life. It was pure black, dark, think and ominous. She felt like she was choking on the darkness. Almost as if the shadow was taking the air from her lungs.

It stared at her, eyes bulging.

YOU DO NOT BELONG HERE!’ A voice in her head boomed.

Terra clapped her hands to her ears. It was so loud it hurt.

YOU DO NOT BELONG HERE!’ It boomed again. ‘LEAVE NOW OR SUFFER FOR YOUR INSOLENCE!’

She staggered back a step, between the darkness and the sound of its voice in her head, she was starting to black out.

A scream from Grey’s direction pulled her attention.

Dream Terra had vanished and the shadow with the golden eyes was attempting to pull Grey into itself. He looked at her with eyes wide, fear written plain across his face as he struggled to get away.

“Terra!” He screamed. “Help me!”

“Grey,” she called back. She tried to run towards him, but found that she still couldn’t move quickly. At the pace she was going, she knew the struggle would be long over by the time she got to him. She had to hurry.

Wind whipped across her face again.

Wind! That was it!

Not sure it would work in a dream, Terra tried to summon the wind to her as Master Bell had taught her to do. To her never ending surprise, the wind answered and came to her call. She encircled herself with wind and pleaded to the element to launch her at Grey.

Wind responded.

She went flying through the air and landed softly on the grass in front of him.

“GRAB MY HANDS!” She shouted.

Grey reached up and grabbed her wrists. Terra wrapped her hands around his and silently urged the wind to pull them up and away from the shadow, and the threat it posed to them.

Again, wind responded.

It lifted the two of them into the air and away from the golden eyed shadow.

It stared at Terra, golden eyes bulging out of its head. She met its gaze head on. She wasn’t sure what this new shadow was, but she knew she wouldn’t let it hurt Grey so long as she could help it. At her urging the wind took them away from where the shadow stood.

“Terra!?” Grey exclaimed. “You saved me!”

“Of course,” she smiled, as the wind started to lower them back down. “You’re my friend.”

“Thank you,” he said as his feet touched ground. He released her wrists and she slid down into his arms. Slowly he lowered her, never taking his eyes from hers.

“You don’t have to thank me,” she said awkwardly. “This is only a dream.”

“I’m dreaming?”

“Yes,” she answered guiltily. “I brought you breakfast and you were still asleep. I was going to leave, but you said my name.”

“I see,” he said, still smiling. “I should have known this was only a dream. That shadow wouldn’t have been so easy to best otherwise.”

Terra started to say something but stopped when things started to fade before her. “What’s going on?” She asked alarmed.

“I’m waking up,” he answered sadly. “Terra thank you for what you did, real or not.”

“Grey wait!” She called. “Your face,” she tried to ask, but it was no use. He and the world he was standing in faded away. For a moment she stood in an empty white void. There was nothing around, no sights or sounds. There was only her.

She opened her eyes. For a moment she couldn’t understand what she was seeing. Somehow she was lying on Grey’s bed, not sitting like she had been. Grey was half on top of her, pinning her right hand underneath him. His eyes were still closed and he was still breathing in a slow steady rhythm. It didn’t appear that he had woken up yet.

Terra pulled slightly on her arm, trying to see if she could free it. Grey had been grateful in the dream, but awake Grey might not be so happy about the invasion of his privacy. Especially since the dream she had spied on, had been about her.

At the slight tug, his eyes shot open.

He looked at her with pure disbelief on his face. She was lying flat on her back and he was lying draped over the right side of her. They looked like a couple who’d just woken cuddled next to each other. He opened his mouth but no sound came out. He just stared.

“Uh, good morning,” Terra giggled awkwardly. “I brought you breakfast, but I should be going now.” She tugged at her arm again. Grey looked down and understanding flashed in his eyes. Slowly the pieces were coming together for him.

“Why princess,” he teased, enjoying his new found dominance over her. “Whatever are you doing in my bed? And trapped here no less? A lesser man might take this as an invitation.”

Terra scowled at him. “Try it and I’ll burn this bed to cinders.” After so many years she was well versed in dealing with Grey.

He smiled. “You know I like a challenge.”

“Grey let me go already!” Terra said impatiently. “Eric’s outside and if I keep him waiting he’ll come in to see what’s going on.”

“First tell me why you’re in my bed.”

Terra stared, “You don’t remember?”

“Remember what?”

“Nothing,” she said too quickly.

Grey shifted his weight and sprang up, grabbing Terra’s left wrist as he went. He was now straddling her, one of her wrists in each hand. He pinned them back on the bed and brought his face down to hers. His black hair hung down and tickled Terra where it touched her face.

She squirmed and kicked, trying to get free. Grey was nearly a foot taller than she was and he had the weight to keep her pinned. Physically she couldn’t best him.

“Tell me what I’ve clearly forgotten,” he whispered intimately, hovering inches from her face.

“You have two seconds to get off me before I force you off,” she countered.

“Go ahead and try princess,” he replied smiling, “It’s been a while since I’ve had a reason to go a few rounds in bed, but I think I’m still up to the challenge.”

Getting more and more anxious as each moment passed she said, “Grey, Eric won’t wait much longer, he’ll burst in here and that’ll be it. Supervised visits and no more dinner conversation.”

He chuckled. “Eric is discussing with young John, the pros and cons of the newest sword they were all issued. He’s been at it nearly twenty minutes and judging by what they’re talking about now, it’s going to be a good long while before he realizes how much time has passed.”

He was right about one thing at least, Eric could talk about swords and crossbows all day. He loved weapons and all the ins and outs of them seemed to genuinely intrigue him. He could talk about a sword for hours if she let him. They were his passion.

“Grey, you’re my friend and I don’t want to hurt you . . .”

“Your friend,” he cut in slowly. “That’s right, I’m your friend.” Terra could see in his eyes, he remembered the dream. “You were in my dream.”

It wasn’t a question but she still nodded. Grey jumped up and off of the princess. He slid easily from the bed to the floor and grabbed a shirt off the small wardrobe in the corner.

“You know it’s rude to spy on other people’s dreams.”

“I wouldn’t have spied if you hadn’t said my name,” she countered defensively. She carefully got out of the bed and used the glass as a mirror to fix her hair and adjust her dress.

“I don’t talk in my sleep,” he laughed.

“How would you know?” She asked. “How many people have ever seen you sleep?”

Grey froze halfway through adjusting the belt he wore around his shirt. “Hmm. I suppose none.”

“So then how would you know?”

He considered this a moment. “I guess I wouldn’t.”

Terra laughed at the strange face he was making. Confused with a bit of deep thought, sprinkled with just a bit of sadness.

“I have to go.” She walked over and put a hand on Grey’s shoulder. “I’m sorry about the snooping in your dreams thing.”

He looked at her and shrugged. “It’s fine. I don’t remember most of it anyway. Now get going. Your white knight has realized what time it is.”

“White knight?”

“Here he comes,” Grey repeated, pushing Terra gently toward the wall.

She stepped through the glass and kept walking, only stopping briefly to slip her shoes back on. “I’ll see you at lunch,” she called as the door swung open and Eric walked in. Terra didn’t stop at the door; she walked past Eric and nudged him with her shoulder.

“Come on, we’re already gonna be late,” she said laughing as she passed him.

“What?” He asked. He scowled at Grey who waved at him with a smile. Pulling the door closed he ran after Terra who had already started up the stairs.

“Hey I’m not the one who’s making us late,” He said catching up.

“I know.”

Eric waited.

When Terra didn’t offer up a reason for being so late he asked, “So, what took so long?”

“He was asleep,” she answered. She wasn’t lying to him, but she wasn’t telling him everything. A fact she hated herself for.

“Must be nice to sleep all day,” Eric grumbled.

Terra ignored him as they hurried to get out of the castle.

Diana woke slowly. She rolled away from the sun and a sharp pain in her stomach stopped her. It was a hot angry pain that brought the night before back in even sharper detail. Diana opened her eyes fully and threw off her blankets. Her sheets were soaked in blood from her thighs down. Whatever that witch had given her had worked.

With a smile, Diana threw her head back on the pillow and thanked whatever power had been looking over her for getting rid of the bastard. When her ladies came in they would see the blood and think her courses had come. Judging by how much, they would think it was a bad course and she would be pampered and not have to go to her lessons.

Smiling wider, Diana cried out in pain and waited until her ladies came rushing in.

Bell stood in the presence chamber of King Sol, waiting for the King to come and meet with him. It had been several months since they’d last spoken about Terra and the prisoner. As the years had progressed, so too had their bond. It seemed that all of their original projections concerning the connection Terra was forming with the man she called Grey, fell drastically short of what the reality was. Terra had formed a bond with him that rivaled the bond she shared with her Guard.

If they were going to act on that bond, use it to their advantage, they would need to start putting those plans into motion now.

As he waited, Bell admired the room he was standing in. It was a great deal larger than the previous presence chamber the King had. There was a large fireplace directly across from the double doors that lead to the hall. A large fur rug adorned the floor directly in front of the fireplace. There were large cushioned chairs flanking both walls and small tables spaced intermittently between them. In the very center of the room there was a large oval solid mahogany table decorated with a beautiful pale white vase from the moon kingdom that was always kept full of fresh flowers from the Queen’s garden.

It was a beautiful room.

“Master Bell,” the King said, opening his large bedroom door.

“Majesty,” Bell greeted, bowing with his fist over his heart.

“Rise Bell,” King Sol commanded. “Tell me, what news do you have of my daughter?”

“The news is good, better than we had hoped in fact.”

“And Terra? Tell me, how is her exposer? Is she being corrupted?”

“Terra seems to be the same bright happy girls she’s always been. I can’t sense any increase in darkness. Although she is harder to read than most, she has some very adept mental walls.”

“That’s a good thing isn’t it?” King Sol asked.

“Yes. If I can’t read her than its very unlikely that his darkness will be able to have much effect on her.”

“Good,” the King sighed, visibly relieved.

“My Lord, I’ve been watching things with Terra, monitoring her bond with the prisoner.”

“And?”

“I think it’s nearly time. Their bond has grown faster than we could have ever imagined. At this point if we wait too much longer we run the risk of damaging Terra in the process. Not only that . . .” Bell trailed off, not sure how to tell the King.

“What?” King Sol asked his eyebrows drawn together in concern.

“Majesty,” Bell faltered, not sure he should have broached the subject.

“Master Wizard I am you King and your friend. Please don’t force me to order you to tell me.”

Bell sighed, “My lord I fear that there might be . . . emotions, between your daughter and the prisoner.”

King Sol was quiet for a while. He pondered over what Bell had said. Terra had a big heart. It was something he always loved about his youngest daughter. She loved so easily and cared for all that she met. Sometimes he would ponder over what things would be like if she were to inherit the throne and not Diana.

Diana was strong and cunning; she had nearly all the traits a good ruler required. All she seemed to lack was compassion and caring. They weren’t the most important traits for a ruler, but they were necessary. He worried that he was leaving the kingdom in the hands of a heartless ruler.

“My Lord?” Bell asked. “I know this news is bad but I believe that no matter what happens she’ll be fine.”

“How can you know?” King Sol asked.

“I believe that her bond with Guard Reynolds will protect her from most of the pain that might be associated with the prisoner’s death. In time I believe she will be fine and she will find it in her heart to forgive us for our part in it.”

“Very well then,” he consented. “How soon should we begin our preparations?”

“Immediately.”

Grey sat quietly on his bed thinking over the dream he’d had and the fact that Terra had somehow managed to put herself in it. Things like dream sharing weren’t unheard of; it just requires a bond between the two people, or a seriously strong magical ability.

In this case it could have been either.

What Grey sat pondering about was the way Terra had faced down the golden eyed shadow for him. There was power and darkness in that thing the likes of which his little shadow had never seen. It was nearly impossible to breath in its presence. Let alone think or form any kind of thought that wasn’t solely concerned with escaping.

Terra had flown over to him and pulled him away without any second thought. He called for help and she had responded. It was like it was the simplest of requests. It baffled him to no end. He stood and walked to the table. His breakfast was cold now but he didn’t care. It wasn’t food he was interested in today.

There had been a shift in the air.

Change was coming, he could feel it. For so many years all the different people who had some stake in the coming battle were building and waiting. Watching for the signs and preparing for their roles in the end.

Now things had changed. The last piece had fallen into place. Things would start accelerating quickly. The end was coming and Grey was looking forward to finally getting out of this cell.

Terra squinted her eyes against the bright light of the sun as she and Eric walked out of the castle gates and into the surrounding town. There was a smell of fresh baking bread and the sounds of families waking for the day. She loved the way mornings made everything seem so fresh. Every morning meant a new day and a chance to start over.

“You look happy,” Eric remarked.

“I am,” she replied.

“Good dreams?” He enquired.

“Good morning Princess,” a woman called from the window.

“Good Morning Ruth,” she called up. “How are the little ones?”

“As rambunctious as ever I’m afraid,” she said with a smile. “Are you off to work on the home?”

“We are.”

“Creator bless you and your kind heart,” she called, before she disappeared back into her home.

“You as well,” Terra called.

They started walking again. As they went the city seemed to come alive around them. Stores were opening and people were starting on their busy days. Everyone smiled and waved as they walked past. Women curtsied and men doffed their caps as they bowed. A few men who had known Eric growing up called to him and waved, laughing boisterously.

It took nearly twenty minutes to make the walk from the castle gates to the construction site. Already Terra and Eric were sweating in the heat of the day. As the sun rose it would only get hotter and hotter. She worried that it might be too hot for the men to work.

“Good Morning Princess, Guard Reynolds,” the Master Builder said as he walked toward them. “A fine morning for building.” He was a tall strong man. He stood over six feet tall and had the broadest shoulders Terra had ever seen in a person. His hair and beard were red and looked like fire with the sun shining through them. His eyes were a light blue, like the sky or ice. He was good kind man, and his face showed that.

“Good morning Master Builder,” Terra greeted him smiling. “How are you doing today?”

“Princess, how many times must I ask you to call me Harold? Or even just foreman would be better than ‘Master Builder’.”

She laughed. “I promise I mean no disrespect. Master Builder is a title hard earned and sorely fought for. I would feel remiss not addressing you with the title you deserve.”

“It’s hard to argue with logic like that,” he said to Eric. “How about we agree on foreman? Still a title, full of respect, just not so long.”

“Foreman it is then,” she smiled. “So tell me then Foreman, how is our building looking?”

“Come see for yourself.”

Terra and Eric spent the next hour with the Foreman walking all over the construction site and hearing about what was finished and would soon be. He explained that the only thing they still had to do was finish the work on the inside and take down the scaffolding they had built. They would be done before weeks end.

Thanking him for all his work, Terra made her excuses and said that she had to be leaving. Together they walked back to the castle making small talk and discussing the progress the home had made in such a short period of time.

“Can I ask you something?” Eric enquired as they walked through the main entrance to the castle.

“Of course.”

They took the main staircase up to the third floor and then took the left corridor toward the east wing and the schoolroom. Eric was quiet for a while as he considered the best way to phrase his question.

“Why did you want to build the home?” He finally asked.

“You don’t know?” She asked.

“No,” he answered, thinking back to all the conversations they’d had about the home.

Terra stopped and grabbed Eric’s sleeve to stop him too. “I’m building the home for you.”

“For me?” He asked dumbfounded.

“Yes, you,” she smiled. “The stories you told me about being an orphan and living on the streets and going from home to home never having a place to call your own. Or the way some of the people out there treated you . . . it broke my heart to think of you that way. That’s why I wanted to build this home.”

“You really did this for me?”

“I wanted to wait until the unveiling, but I suppose I can tell you now. The home is to be called “The Reynolds Home for Orphaned Children.” They’re putting the sign up tomorrow.”

For the smallest moment Eric thought his heart might burst from his chest.

For him.

She was doing this wonderful thing for him.

Eric grabbed her and pulled her into an embrace. He wrapped his arms around her and held her tight against him. She rested her head against his chest and sighed. She loved the way he smelled and how safe she felt in his arms. He felt safe.

“Terra,” he whispered, resting his head on hers and breathing the smell of her in. “Terra I love you. I love you so much I don’t even know how to put it in words. I’ve loved you since I walked with you and talked of fireflies. I’ve watched you grown and I’ve seen the woman you’ve become and I can’t imagine a woman I’d want to love more.

“You’re the best thing that has ever happened to me and even if it means that one day I become a target for some kind of terrible evil, I wouldn’t trade my time with you for anything. I love you.”

Terra couldn’t move. She had known for some time that Eric thought he was in love with her. She could feel it in the way he looked at her and the way he thought about her. She had wondered what it would be like to love him the way he loved her. To just love.

But she didn’t have that luxury.

Terra didn’t get love. She had to protect her sister and do all she could to help her prepare for the battle. Then there was her responsibility to Grey. She knew that he was still actively trying to corrupt her. There were days where it felt like he was winning, days where she could almost feel darkness in herself.

She didn’t have the luxury of love.

Not right now anyway.

Possibly not ever.

“Eric,” she whispered, feeling her heart break. She knew that what she had to now would nearly destroy her. Not to mention destroy the relationship she shared with her guard. There would be only pieces left at the end.

But she had to do it.

She had to keep him safe.

Terra pushed gently against Eric’s chest, she need to be able to see him to tell him this. He let her pull away some, but kept her close. Tears in her eyes, she looked up at him and opened her mouth to say the words that would destroy all that lay between them.

Eric’s face came down and he, without so much as a word to her, he put his lips to hers. At first the kiss was gentle and then the longer it progressed the more passionate it became. Eric pulled her closer and held her tighter. He pushed her back until she was up against a wall and the kiss became something more. Passion gave way to desire and everything shifted suddenly.

Terra’s heart was racing as she felt Eric’s hand slide down her neck to rest as the top of her bodice. She could feel the heat and desire coming off him in waves. In that moment he was no longer her guard, he was a man and she was a woman.

“Terra,” he whispered when their lips parted. His voice was deep and heavy with desire. He pressed himself against her and she couldn’t help the small moan that suddenly escaped her throat. It was a sound she’d never made before and it startled her. It seemed to drive Eric completely mad as he brought his mouth down on hers again.

He kissed her again and again each time holding his mouth to hers for longer and longer periods of time. Then he began to kiss down her neck, to her collar bone, to the top of her breasts.

Again a strange moan escaped from Terra’s throat.

Things were getting out of control and she could feel all the reserve she had rapidly start slipping away. If she let this go on any longer she would lose control completely. She had to act now.

Summoning up the wind, she blew Eric back.

Caught off guard by the strong sudden wind, he flew backwards and slammed into the opposite wall of the corridor, thumping his head. Terra was instantly sorry she’d done it. She’d gotten too worked up and hadn’t paid enough attention to what she was doing. All she wanted to do was push him away because she knew she’d never be strong enough to do it herself. Instead she’d thrown him across the hall.

“Eric,” she started, wanting to explain. “Eric . . . I . . .”

He put his hand up so silence her. He was angry, more than angry he was hurt.

“I swear to the Creator Terra I don’t know what to do with you!” He walked toward her and she shrank back against the wall.

“I don’t understand!” He exclaimed the hurt of Terra’s reaction plain on his face. “You told me this was what you wanted! You said you wanted me to tell you how I felt and I did!”

“When did I do that?” She demanded, her fear about hurting his feelings slowly fading.

“This morning in the dream!” Eric was beyond angry now. He had been so happy this morning when she’d told him that she wanted to know how he felt and that she wanted to be held and kissed by him the way he’d been dreaming about doing for the past few years. It was all he’d wanted to hear her say for longer than he could say.

He finally finds the perfect moment, a moment when he was overcome by the love he felt for her. She was building a home for orphaned children and not only was it going to be named for him, but it was for him. He’d talked with her so many times about this childhood and how difficult things had been being orphaned at such a young age. She’d always say how sorry she was that he’d had to suffer for so long, alone. She would hold him and tell him that he wasn’t alone anymore.

There couldn’t have been a more perfect time to tell her.

Now . . . she was acting like she didn’t even know what he was talking about.

“What dream?!” Terra demanded.

“My dream this morning! You showed up wearing the same dress you’re wearing now and told me to tell you how I felt! You said you wanted me to take you in my arms, hold you, tell you, and then kiss you!”

Terra’s jaw dropped.

She had done no such thing.

She didn’t even know how to do that!

“I never said that,” she declared. “I wouldn’t say that to you, not now anyway. Eric I don’t know what you saw in your dream, or what you think you saw, but I swear to you that did not come from me.”

Eric exploded! “How can you stand there in the same dress you were wearing in the dream and lie to me!?”

“I’m not . . .”

“Shut up!” He shouted. His shoulders were up, he was beyond anger, he was furious.

Terra stopped, he’d never yelled like this before. He’d never been this angry with her.

“I’m done,” he roared! “I can’t handle this anymore!”

“Eric . . .” she whispered.

“You can’t treat people like this! You act like you love me, you let me hold you and kiss you. Send me dreams where you tell me that you want me too. Then you turn around and use your magic against me!

“I can’t take this anymore! I’m done with the games and childishness. Either you love me or you don’t, I won’t do this in between anymore!”

“Eric,” she pleaded. She wanted to tell him how she felt, tell him everything he meant to her, but she couldn’t. She couldn’t put her wants and feelings above his safety. He knew that.

“Terra princess or not, I swear if you don’t answer me . . .”

“I CAN’T!” She shouted. “Damn it Eric you know I can’t tell you these things! I can’t tell you how I feel. It’s not about what I want! I can’t put you in that kind of danger. I can’t have feelings for you or for anyone! I told you this! You knew what this was from the beginning . . . I can’t . . . I can’t change that now.” She had started strong, fueled by her anger and frustration. By the time she ended she was near tears.

“Cant’ or won’t?” He demanded bitterly.

“Both,” she sobbed, feeling helplessly swept along by the torrent of emotions.

“Do you have any idea what I’ve given up for this, for you?”

“Eric.”

“I’m a man, a man who has waited patiently for you to finally decide I was worth caring about. You told me once that you cared for me and since then you have hinted and insinuated that you loved me but you’ve never said it! Still, like an idiot I waited for you! And for what? For you to shove me away again and act like you don’t know what I’m talking about!

“I’m done with the games and I’m done with the waiting. Either you tell me now, what I need to know, what I deserve to know, or I’m walking away.”

She knew he wasn’t bluffing, she could feel his resolve through the bond. He would leave, he would walk away and she would never see him again. Even knowing all that, knowing she could lose him, she still couldn’t put her wants above his safety. She hung her head and felt the tears start to run down her face. She couldn’t say, not matter how much she wanted to.

“Say something goddamn it!” He shouted at her. “I’m giving up Terra don’t you get that?! This is it, this is goodbye!”

She looked at him and met his stare. As much as he wanted her to say something, she didn’t need to. He could see clearly in her eyes exactly what her answer was. When he started to shake his head disbelievingly, she hung her head again.

“I can’t believe this,” he groaned, the anger back in his voice. “For four years I have loved you and waited for you to be able to tell me you loved me. Four years I’ve waited!” He closed most of the distance between them in a quick step.

Terra was still against the wall and unable to shrink away from the anger she knew she deserved.

He put a finger under her chin and lifted her face so she was looking at him. “I’m done, Terra. I can’t, no, I won’t do this anymore.” He bent and kissed her softly. He dropped his hand and stepped away. “I’m going to find your father and officially resign my duties as your Guard. Goodbye Princess.” He placed his fist over his heart and formally saluted her before walking away.

Terra stood, still up against the wall, tears running like rivers down her face, and closed her half of the bond. It wasn’t an easy thing to do by any means, and it usually left her feeling empty inside.

Not that it mattered now.

She would keep her side of the bond closed until it finally faded. At least now, she thought to herself, Eric would be safe. There would be no point in anyone or anything targeting him if he was no longer connected to her.

“Princess?”

Terra looked up, a wild hope in her heart that Eric had come back for her.

Master Bell was standing just outside the classroom door. When he saw her face his eyes went wide and he rushed over.

“Terra,” he asked dropping her title. “Tell me what’s happened? Are you alright?”

“Hello Master Bell,” she whispered weakly. “I’m sorry if I’m late for my lesson.”

“Terra,” he sighed, wrapping an arm around her shoulders. “Why don’t you come with me and we’ll talk inside ok?”

“Ok.”


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