Chapter 14- Closure
“We eventually learn that emotional closure is our own action. We can be responsible for it. In any moment, we can choose to open or to close.”
We walked into the small room and never had I seen so much love in the eyes of two people as I did in Killian and Georgiana’s. They stared at the tiny round-faced human with so much adoration.
She looked up, eyes shining. “Meet your goddaughter, Jasmine Hope.”
I took the small bundle into my arms and it was like looking at both Killian and Georgiana. The lucky kid had amazing genes.
I turned to face Tobias and chuckled. A light sheen of sweat covered his forehead. “Would you like to hold her?”
He swallowed roughly and nodded.
I placed her in his arms and his worry transformed into awe. My heart had never felt so full. I glanced at Killian and Georgiana as they shared a conspiratorial look. I raised my brows and Georgiana simply chuckled. She fell back onto her bed and relaxed, eyes closing.
“We should go,” I said to Tobias. “Georgiana needs to rest.”
He agreed. Tobias handed Jasmine to Killian and looked as if he were transferring a parcel of explosives to his best friend.
I grinned at the spectacle.
We left Killian and Georgiana to bask in the happiness of their little family while we returned to the world. We walked in silence, not really with a destination in mind. I had to go and see the council but I couldn’t seem to tear myself away from the man by my side.
“They’re going to make great parents,” he smiled.
“The best,” I agreed.
After a few turns down the corridors, I gathered my courage and started a conversation that should have happened a while ago.
“Tobias,” I said, grabbing hold of his hand and stopping in the middle of the nearly deserted hall.
Servants averted their gazes and scrambled to give us privacy. He stared at my hand in his for a moment before entwining our fingers together.
“Thank you for stepping aside and letting Killian take the only free spot to leave in the game of crowns. Without it he and Georgiana might not have had their happiness,” I said gesturing back towards the hospital wing.
“It was the right thing to do,” he whispered.
“I know but not a lot of people would have given up their own chance at love.”
His gorgeous blue eyes began a slow smolder, reaching the core of my heart.
“I never fully appreciated what you did for them and how attractive of a quality that is in a man,” I said slowly inching closer to him.
His grip on my hand matched the fierce ache of longing in my chest. He swallowed roughly.
“No more secrets, okay?
He nodded. With his free hand, he swept a loose strand of my hair behind an ear. Another step closer left us a few inches apart.
Looking up at him, I raised my free hand and trailed a finger across his bottom lip. “Good.”
And I kissed him like I’d been wanting to do since I first walked into the hospital. His hands cupped my face while mine traveled the length of his back. I knew I shouldn’t have been kissing him like this in such a public place while the game still continued but I needed him like I needed to breathe and the thought terrified me.
We pulled apart an inch for some air, but instead, I continued my onslaught along the base of his neck.
He brokenly whispered my name.
His voice urged me on and I so gladly wanted to answer but the queen in me had to bring us screeching to a halt. Pulling away, I gave us the space we need to regain control. I was at a loss for words. I couldn’t seem to open my mouth in fear of what might slip out, afraid of the three words that rattled around in my mind. My heart was not to be trusted so easily again, not without time to fully understand my feelings. Not without the time to try with Thomas.
Sensing my distress, Tobias began, “so, the orphanage is having a festival tomorrow. Did you receive the flyer I sent you?”
I smiled. “I did, thank you. I wouldn’t miss it. That place is our baby.”
His goofy smile and the faraway look on his face was endearing.
I tilt my head to one side, waiting for him to say something.
He shook his head and smiled. “I wanted to ask if you would accompany me?”
I grimaced. “I already told Kealie and Thomas that I would go with them.”
“Okay, not a problem,” he smiled. “How about a late dinner tomorrow evening?”
“Yes, I’d love that,” I answered, happy to have plans with him.
I buried our moment in the far corners of my heart as we stepped out onto the grounds. The day had warmed considerably since my brunch with Kealie and Thomas. A crisp breeze still lingered but it was refreshing compared to the stifling heat of the palace.
“Care for a walk? Tobias asked, but my attention was on the six figures just beyond the now bare apple orchard.
Rowan and his sisters were training the new Trinity. From here it was difficult to tell which triplet was which. The color of their eyes being the only way to differentiate between the three.
Tobias’s smooth voice pulled me back.
“I’m sorry. I would love to but I really need to check on their progress,” I said, nodding in the group’s direction.
“Of course, I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“Yes,” I smiled widely.
“Great. Tomorrow then,” he said hesitantly turning back towards the palace.
As much as I didn’t want him to leave, I needed to check in with Rowan, and I wasn’t going to flaunt Tobias in front of him.
I took my sweet time approaching Rowan and his sisters. I’d hurt Rowan by not keeping him in the game and his sisters would never forgive me. The pair were frightening when they held a grudge, queen or not.
Colt, Lake, and Cypress sat meditating in nothing but thin cotton pants.
“They must be so cold,” I murmured to myself.
“Nah, they’ll be alright,” Rowan said from behind me, surprising me by his closeness.
I subtly moved away. “Are you sure?”
His shoulders fell an inch. “We were trained that way as well.”
“What does it accomplish?”
“They learn to focus by shutting everything else out. Including their discomfort.”
“Right,” I said, unconvinced.
“What can I do for you, your highness?”
I shouldn’t have been surprised by the thinly veiled iciness in his tone, but I was.
Fiddling with my sapphire ring, I asked, “how are they doing with their training?”
My sisters and I are giving them a crash course in all they’ll need to know for the selection ceremony. They’ll be ready.”
I swallowed roughly. “Thank you.”
Why did this have to be so awkward?
“Uncomfortable?” he asked.
I cringed. “Aren’t you?”
He laughed,” a bit but it is what it is.”
For a moment, I was struck dumb by his laughter. It had been so long since I’d last heard it.
“It’s nice to hear you laughing.”
“Is it?” His grey specked eyes brightened.
A flicker of hope remained swirling in those celestial pools of knowledge and pain.
His face hardened at my tone. “Don’t say anything.”
“I didn’t mean to…”
Before I could finish my sentence, one of his sisters interrupted. “Break his heart?”
The other added, “Lead him on?”
“Act like a slut?” they both chorused.
I staggered back from the pair as if struck by their words. I shook my head. “I didn’t lead him on.”
“Enough,” Rowan hissed. “Control your tongues when you speak to your Queen.”
“Forgive us, Queen Penelope,” they asked as they mockingly bowed at the waist. “We only wish happiness for our brother and we sometimes get carried away,” one said.
I slowly nodded.
“Make yourselves scarce,” he seethed.
They called for the triples to follow them and disappeared into the woods.
“I’m sorry, Rowan. I never meant to hurt you. It was never my intention. I especially never meant to lead you on.”
He shook his head and kicked at the ground. “You didn’t. I knew my chances when I agreed to try for your hand. It’s a miracle you’ve even forgiven me.”
Stuffing his hands into his pockets he peeked up at me from beneath his long lashes. “I’m grateful that you did. What I did was unfathomable. I never should have withheld information. I can’t believe how selfish I was in stealing that choice from you.”
I swallowed the lump that had begun to form. “Thank you for that.”
He cleared his throat. “I should go before Willow or Ivy decide to come looking for me.”
“Of course, don’t let me keep you.”
“I’ll see you around, Penelope.”
As he walked away, I realized how much I needed that closure. His words had healed a part of me I didn’t know was still broken.