The After Effects

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In Plain Sight

Three days later, I found myself falling into a comfortable routine. My hot showers started my mornings, delicious breakfasts following that, and then taking Harper to her daily lessons completed my morning.

My afternoons were usually meetings with the King and training with Locke, who's seemed to move into my living room.

Then an hour before dinner, I retrieve Harper from the classroom and we sit around the living room talking about our day before I or Locke get dinner from the kitchen downstairs.

I noticed yesterday that both breakfast and dinner were already set out when I went to go get them, something I found amusing as it seems the head cook has noticed our routine.

Then after dinner, and once Harper falls asleep, Locke and I usually go to the stables to let Ragnar out to the field and let him run. We decided that it's best to let him out at night just in case the Prince peeks out a window and notices the massive black stallion strutting across the field.

Currently, Locke and I sit around the round table with the King, discussing possible plans in case the North declares war.

The King's dark blue eyes flicked to me, amusement dancing in his iris's. "What do you think Ivy?" His deep voice brought me out of my musings.

"What no titles today, Samuel?" I asked the King, watching his eyes flair with humor.

Locke snorted at our back and forth banter.

"You know King's have killed for less?" King Samuel jested.

A deathly calm smirk danced across my face. "Try it, Sammy."

The King sighed and turned back to Locke with an exasperated look.

Locke just shrugged and said, "She's always been like this."

I went to retort to Locke when the door to the meeting room burst open.

I turned to see icy blue eyes. "You and your dramatic entrances." I rolled my eyes at the Prince.

"Where have you been?" The King asked Soren.

"Around," Soren said simply as he pulled out a seat opposite of his father and sat.

"That doesn't answer my question." The King's voice hardened ever so slightly with authority.

"Why didn't you tell me?" Soren's eyes glared at his father as he leaned forward.

"Tell you what?" The King collapsed in the seat behind him, bracing himself for whatever this conversation would bring.

"That the Acer's in town." Soren's voice was coated with anger.

Their closer then you think. I inwardly smirked.

I hid my reaction like a professional, turning to Locke with a look of boredom. "We've got another one." I drawled to my brother.

Locke hid his surprise as he tried to figure out where I was going with this. The King had the same reaction as he looked to me.

"And what does that mean?" Soren spit every word with irritation as his eyes cut to me.

"Another male trying to sword fight the Acer," I emphasized sword fight in hopes that they all knew I meant the male sword fighting not the actual fights with swords.

Locke and the King got my meaning as they both chuckled. Soren, however, did not find it funny.

A growl ripped from Soren's throat as he slammed his hand on the table. "I don't need some girl to try and understand my reasons."

Agitation crossed Locke's face as Soren tried to imply my lack of superiority due to my gender. Thankfully though, Locke bit back his reply.

The King was the next to speak. "I figured you already knew that the Acer was in town. I must've forgotten to check with you." The King said, his voice sounding exhausted with this conversation. "But that doesn't excuse you from meetings."

Soren sighed, realizing he was in the wrong. "I do apologize for being late."

First, I was surprised the Prince just apologized.

Second, I was surprised that he didn't offer excuses.

"Good." The King nodded, as he returned to looking back at the map.

I turned to Soren, whose icy blue eyes were thoughtfully staring at the table in front of him. His fist supported his chin as he was lost in thought.

"How do you know?" I asked him, which drew his icy gaze to me.

Boredom and disinterest crossed his face as he sighed. "How do I know what?"

"How do you know that the Acer is in town?" Why does he always have to speak to me like I'm beneath him? Screw this guy...

"The locals saw a black steed in town five days ago," Soren explained. "Plus talk is that the Acer was spotted at the local bar not too long ago."

"So you're going off of rumors?"

Soren rolled his eyes. "There the closet thing I've got, and I doubt he went back to the North."

I went to respond but gave up at the dull tone in his voice. Why force a conversation when he was so obviously bored of me.

The King and Locke were discussing the positioning of soldiers, every now and then they'd ask for Soren's opinion. Who actually offered good advice, surprising me as he seemed to barely have to think of his responses.

I cut in when they started discussing camp locations.

"Put them in the Black Forest." I gestured to the giant black spot in the middle of the map. The forest that unites the North and South, East and West.

"It's too da-" Locke started and I cut him off.

"I could draw you a detailed map that, once memorized, could lead somebody blindfolded through it." I offered. And although the Forest was thousands of acres wide, it was true. I knew that Forest so well.

The King and Locke were surprised by my deadpanned offer. I didn't even bother to look at Soren, instead pointing to the outer edges of the forest.

"The Vikings avoid it at all costs, even setting up camps on the edges would lower risks of being blindsided by them." The King nodded as I spoke.

"Get me that map as soon as you can." The King told me before he jumped to the next subject.

The meeting concluded an hour later. Giving Locke and me at least three hours to train before Harper was out of school for the day.

Soren walked out behind us, his brooding self made to go down a different hallway before I called him out, "Hey Princey?"

"What do you want now?" Soren turned to me, agitation evident in his voice.

"Just wanted to say that brooding is bad for your soul. You may want to try yoga, cause that look on your face is going to scare off all the women." I said as I walked backward, away from him.

A flicker of amusement sparkled in his cold blue eyes as he retorted. "The brooding didn't stop you from taking a peek."

Don't blush, don't blush... Dang it.

I felt heat creep up my face as the Prince brought up my viewing of him from yesterday. How do I even respond to that?

"Good luck with your Acer hunt Princey," I said in a fake as prosthetic's voice, before turning and walking with Locke to the training area.

"You checked him out?" Locke asked, bringing my blush back.

"For like five seconds, I was caught off guard. You'd be too if a girl walked in with just lingerie on." I felt my tone raise a bit as I defended myself.

Locke made a fair face and clucked his tongue. "Alright, fair point." He held the door for me as we walked outside.

Although that was the end of the conversation, I had a feeling it wasn't the end of the conversation. Yay me...


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