Chapter 15: Stolen Kiss
WHEN they arrived at the mountains of Dzulei hours later, Anya couldn’t believe her eyes how magnificent the place was. Fresh air from the mountains and surrounded by the forest and beautiful lake, the cabin houses were breathtaking at best. A luxury SUV stopped at the entrance of a cabin house owned by Jones’s family. Everyone got out to stretch their arms and legs after the long drive.
“Welcome to Dzulei!” Marian announced excitedly. “I haven’t visited this place for a while. It sure brings a lot of fond memories.”
“This is my first time visiting such a beautiful place. It reminds me of ‘Frosne Fjell’－a land located in the Northern of Excalibell,” Duke approached his fiancée from behind and cuddled her. “Thank you for bringing me here, my lovely Marian.”
While the engaged couple shared a tender and loving moment, the other two began to unload their belongings from the car.
“It’s a shame we’re only going to be here for three days. I’d love spending a week here, at least.” Anya murmured as she unloaded the last bag from the car, completely unaware Aidan’s presence behind her.
“What would you be doing here for a week and alone?”
“...Scared the shit out of me,” Anya sighed, one hand rested her chest. “Why would you be interested to know?”
“I wasn’t. Furthermore, if you are done with your little monologue, perhaps you could assist me in carrying our belongings and supplies inside the cabin house, Miss Romans?”
“Why not ask Duke and Marian to help too? Hey guys! Guys?” Anya turned her head to look at the couple, only to discovered they had disappeared from the spot a moment ago.
“Both His Highness and Lady Marian are currently meeting with the cabin’s housekeeper. Now, come along, Miss Romans.”
Begrudgingly, Anya picked their belongings and carried them inside the cabin house.
AFTER a couple of trips, the two managed to move everything inside the cabin house. Anya entered the living room and walked toward the window overlooking the beautiful view of the mountains and lake.
“It is beautiful,” Anya whispered softly, admiring the beautiful view.
“It really is a beautiful sight.”
Turning her head around, Anya came to face with Aidan who was holding two mugs of iced Roselle tea in each hand.
“A drink for My lady?” Aidan offered her a mug.
“Thank you,” Anya nodded her head and carefully accepted the mug. Sipping on the tea, Anya sighed in content. “The tea is good.”
“You’re most welcome. I’d thought I should reward you for being helpful earlier.” Anya stopped sipping the tea on track and looked up at him questioningly.
“You could have refused, wandered off and let me deal with carrying our belongings by myself. Yet, you didn’t and helped out. That actually means a lot to me.”
Slightly taken back by his words, Anya put her mug down on the nearby coffee table beside the window and crossed her arms.
“You’d really think I would just leave you alone to carry all of our belongings? Not to mention, how heavy they were?”
“I could use magic,” Aidan shrugged. “It’ll be like a blink of an eye to teleport them from the car to the mansion.”
“Magic or not, do you honestly think I would let you carry them all by yourself? Is that what you think of me as a person?”
“You hate me.”
The air tensed and grew into deep silence the moment those words came out from his mouth. Anya’s startled eyes gazed back to him in great disbelief.
“...Hate? I admit we argue and bicker a lot, like a lot, but I’ve never…hated you. How could I? You’ve saved my ass more than I could count at this point. But hate…? I-Is that what you thought of me?”
Aidan lowered his head. It was perhaps the first time ever, Anya saw an expression in his usually stoic face. To his surprise, Anya’s hands suddenly reached out and cupped his cheeks.
“You haven’t been yourself since yesterday. No, maybe even before then. If I have to guess, it must have been after the Engagement Party. Something must have happened that you are not telling me and it is quite worrisome to be honest because you would have never－”
In a blink of an eye, Aidan pulled the young woman closer to his chest and wrapped her tightly in his strong arms.
Normally in a situation such as this, Anya would have shoved mercilessly to whoever dared to lay their dirty hands on her. However, she couldn’t bring herself to do so to the older gentleman. Something that escaped his lips caused her to halt.
What made it worse, his voice, sounded so kind and tender.
…And so terribly sad.
As gently as she could be, Anya lightly pushed away from his embrace and cupped his cheeks again, forcing him to look at her.
“Tell me everything. Please.”
PRINCE Duke and his fiancee had just left from speaking with the housekeeper and making their way to the main house when they suddenly stopped.
“Duke? Is something wrong?” Marian asked. Duke’s fingers slowly slipped from hers and he took a step back, before crouching down with a palm on his forehead.
“I… suddenly feel light-headed.”
“Was the trip coming here hard on you?”
“No. I’m used of riding cars by now. It’s just that I suddenly felt odd. Like something unexpectedly is about to jump at me.”
Marian rubbed his back gently for comfort. “Well, maybe you should get some rest. Do you want me to call Aidan?”
Duke shook his head. “I’m okay. I’ll be fine after resting a bit,” He then grinned and held her hand close to his lips and kissed it. “Care to join me, my Princess?”
Unknown to them both, a pair of eyes in the forest were watching them from afar.
NIGHT finally approached, the four friends gathered at the front porch where Duke and Aidan were barbecuing their meals for dinner, while Marian assisted Anya rehearsing over her lines for the theatrical play.
Duke gazed over the ladies and smiled. “It flutters my heart knowing the two most important women in my life got along so well.”
“It would be troublesome if Lady Marian thought there’s something going on between you two otherwise,” Aidan nodded.
“Indeed. Speaking of which, Aidan, I suddenly felt light-headed earlier and have this rather odd feeling something unspeakable is about to happen. Do you feel it too?”
Aidan flipped the large piece of meat he was barbecuing before he spoke calmly. “I felt it the moment we’ve arrived. Though, the presence was rather weak. Nevertheless, I’ve already cast a barrier surrounding our perimeters. Just be on your guards, Your Highness.”
Duke nodded and smile. “Thank you, Aidan. I knew we could count on you. Oh, by the way,” Aidan lifted his head to look at the Prince.
“Were you out sight-seeing the place with Miss Anya earlier? We couldn’t find you two.”
“Ah, all right then,” Duke’s smile grew bigger. “To think that you two used to be like oil and water, I am also happy to see how your relationship has improved greatly!”
Duke gave another smile at Aidan before he walked back to where the two ladies were currently resting, carrying the plates of their dinner with both hands.
No sooner than the Prince left his space, Aidan let out a small sigh. At the corner of his eyes, he watched how the young woman whom he had held in his arms a while back, was talking animatedly with the Prince’s beloved.
I wonder why…I didn’t want to let her go then.
Like an old recording film, Aidan reminisced the encountered that had happened between them moments ago and the event that happened after.
After Anya had encouraged him to tell her everything that caused him to act this way, to her disappointment, Aidan had merely stared at her. It had taken her about a minute or so to finally convinced him to trust her and gotten him to loosen his grips on her waist.
No words had come out from his mouth afterwards. Not long than that, Anya had decided to take the matters into her own hands and dragged him out to the front porch.
“We’re going for a walk.”
The walk that Anya had in mind was actually long hike further away from the cabin houses, within the forest and closer to the mountains. They’d finally stopped hiking when they arrived at the beautiful sight of the forest’s body of water with waterfall.
Anya could no longer contain her excitement. Smiled gleefully, she nudged the gloomy butler by the elbow before tilted her head toward the spring.
Anya carefully slipped out the boots she was wearing and swished her feet in the spring. The water was indefinitely cold, but she became acclimated to the temperature really quick.
Meanwhile, Aidan had simply watched from afar. For someone so smart, is she not aware of the dangerous disease she might be caught by playing with the water? Why she could have easily get pneumonia, and he would none the better stuck with taking care of her!
Sighed heavily, Aidan had taken a few steps closer to her.
“What are you doing, Miss Romans?”
“The water’s cold!”
“No kidding,” Aidan had responded without a humour. “I would get my feet off there if I were you.”
“Because,” His jaws had clenched. “It would be a nuisance if you were to get a disease while we’re in the mountains.”
Unperturbed by his words of cautions still, the young woman shrugged. “You can always transport me to the hospital if that ever happens.”
“I am being deadly serious, Miss Romans. Get your feet off the stream right now.”
“Otherwise what? What you’re going to do if I don’t want to take my feet off the stream?” Anya said with a challenging smirk.
Never in a million years would Anya expected the Gran Mago to commit an act such as grabbed her by the shoulders and shoved her down and into the spring. While the young woman had desperately flapping her hands, Aidan’s hands went down to her waist and grabbed it protectively.
As bubbles slowly reduced from her mouth, Anya realised he had used magic on her to enable her to breathe normally under water. Shocked and surprised by this outcome, Anya had not known what to do or how to react except staring back at amber eyes that seemed to glow for an unknown reason.
Just then, she had felt one of his hands slowly reached out and stroked her left cheek. Eyes grown widened, Anya, intended to slap his hand away when she felt him tightened his grip on her waist and held her closer to him.
His eyes… They were unlike the ones she normally sees.
Heart beating rapidly against her chest before Anya knew what happened, she felt his lips brushed lightly against her.
Everything had happened so fast afterwards. Anya had shoved the man away and swam up to the surface. Her face flamed and she could feel her cheeks hot. Though she could feel his stare, Anya had dared to turn her head slightly to look at the man who had just stolen her first kiss!
His eyes glowed beautifully in amber light. Without a word, Anya had immediately pulled herself from the spring and made a mad dash to the cabin house.
She locked herself in the guest room that had been provided to her for hours until it was time for dinner.
PERHAPS I’ve taken things gone too far.
Aidan sighed as he looked at the night scenery through the window of his bedroom. He walked toward the door and turned the doorknob. It took him merely a short walk to reach his destination.
Taking a deep breath, Aidan knocked twice on the wooden door. He could heard light footsteps rushed toward the door and opened it slowly.
When she saw who was standing in front of her bedroom door at midnight, Anya quickly shut it back but was stopped mid-way by an unseen force.
“Oh, come on!”
“At ease, Miss Romans. Can I have a bit of your time to talk?”
“After what happened? Hell no. Go away!”
The door burst opened and Anya screamed. Taking a step back, she growled and prepared to defend herself as the butler stepped into her room.
“You can relax, Miss Romans. I just wanted to talk.”
“Well, it’s late and you’re damn lucky that I’d still opened that door. Now up with it. What do you want?”
“What happened at the spring earlier today,” Aidan chose to ignore how red her face became the moment words came out from his mouth. “I hope you’ll think nothing of it nothing more than just a method to help you out with the theatrical play.”
Aidan handed her a copy of her script and pointed out a page of a scene. Eyebrow raised, Anya snatched the script and read the whole page. By the time she was done, she stared at him and gawked in great disbelief.
Aidan smiled. “Exactly. In Act 3, Princess Roselle grieved over the death of her late father, decided to throw her life away in a lake, was then rescued by Prince Ezwin who gave her an ability to breathe in the water through a kiss. It was the first of the many encounters between the Prince and Princess. In other words, I was merely helping you to get into the role of the ‘Prince’.”
Still couldn’t believe what just happened, Anya shook her head. “What?! No. Wait. Wait. So you’re telling me, the whole thing about you being ‘so tired’ up until the k-kiss in the forest was just an act for you to help me get into the role?”
“Precisely. You seem to be having troubles getting into the role of the Prince, despite memorising all the lines. I just thought you might need an extra ‘push’ for it,” Aidan smiled with crinkled eyes.
Flushed embarrassingly over what happened, Anya growled loudly. “Damn it, Aidan. That was my first kiss, you bastard! Give it back! Give me back my first kiss! The kiss that I’ve been saving for－”
“Ethan Carter? Very well.” With a snap of his fingers, Anya immediately felt as if he hadn’t kissed her.
“Woah. What… What just happened?”
Aidan shrugged. “I just remove the kissing part from your memory. Technically, as far as you concerned, we’ve never kissed.”
Aidan turned and about to leave when he stopped at the door. Turned to look at the young woman who was still in surprised, Aidan said in a rather calm and serious tone.
“I am not sure if the Prince has ever told you this, but just between the two of us, I hope you will never ever get your hope highs with me, Miss Romans, for I am the Gran Mago and sworn protector of my master, His Royal Highness the Prince. I’ve pledged my whole life and full commitment to serve him until the day I shall die. Moreover, as the Gran Mago, I am incapable to feel any forms of love, let alone to love another. I hope you would be able to choose a good man and live happily. Goodnight, Miss Romans.”
EVERYONE involved with the theatrical play had been on their toes for weeks in preparations and it went amazingly well. When the night of the play finally arrived, it went perfectly well and smoothly.
The audience smiled, laughed and cried at each significant points of the play. By the time the play came to an end, and the cast of the play bowed down, the crowd cheered loudly. Backstage, Anya celebrated with her team and crew.
“Cheers!” Ethan Carter cheered, a glass of wine in his hand. “Firstly, I like to make a toast and take this opportunity to thank you, everyone, so much for doing such a wonderful job in making this a successful play. Anya especially, I knew it had been tough on you to memorise the lines and get into the role of the Prince last minutes. I gotta say, the first scene between the Princess and the Prince was incredibly mind-blowing! It wasn’t even in the script but the audience was fascinated by the scene and loved it! How on earth did you and Clarissa manage to pull a stunt like that?”
Anya’s ears deep red. “We practice like a lot and just kinda go with the flow. Clarissa knew what I was about to do beforehand. So…” Beside her, Clarissa nodded her head and smiled.
“That’s true. Anya kept on assuring me with, ’Don’t worry I got this. Trust me!”
“Is that so? Well, I am happy to hear it worked out anyway!” Ethan smiled widely.
Soon the short after-party ended, everyone parted ways happily and content with their achievement, to Anya’s surprise, waiting for her at the front gates of the community’s hall were Josh and her friends, who surprised her with confetti.
“There’s my young Prince!” Josh wrapped his strong arms around her tightly and whirled her in the air. “We’re so proud of you!”
“I can’t breathe!” Anya chuckled heartily.
“You were amazing, Anya. I didn’t know you were such a good actress!” Emma Greens hugged her tightly the moment Josh released her from his arms. “Steve and I brought you something for you to celebrate later.”
“A Mon Chéri liquor? You’re trying to get me drunk tonight?”
While Anya was chatting happily with her best friends and family, Aidan who stood afar from the Prince, simply watched her. His senses peeked up at unknown presence who seemed to be watching them from far away distance.
His amber eyes glowed faintly.
The virtuoso is here.