Beneath the Crown

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Chapter 22

Ash

There have been a lot of guys in my life that have told me I’m hot, or sexy, or pretty, but I never really took any of it to heart. Not after spending a lifetime with someone that enforced the idea that I am nothing. But the way he just told me I’m beautiful, I believed him. I believed that that is how he saw me.

His fingers were still playing with my hair, and my head resting on his legs. I stared into his eyes as he looked down at me.

“Thank you,” was all I could think to say. He smiled and tore his eyes away from mine, looking up at something in the garden again.

“It is rare to find someone in this kingdom whose beauty is not augmented.”

“Yeah, I’ve noticed that everyone here seems to be really pretty, what’s up with that?”

“Our masters of form have perfected a way of making people look beautiful. But none of it is real.”

I looked up at him again and wondered, “Are you real?”

He met my eyes again, “I am. I only allowed the masters of form to change one thing about me. But it is not something you can see. Not yet anyway,” He said with a grin.

Oh? And I wonder what that could be?

At my smile and raised brow, he must have understood where my thoughts had taken me.

“Not that,” he said with a wink, “That. . . is just fine the way it is.”

There was my blush again.

Ok Ash, head out of the gutter!

“That’s not what I was thinking about,” I said as I shook my head and looked away.

“No? Are you sure?” I could hear the smile in his voice without seeing it.

“Yes,” Even I heard my own voice betray me.

“Very well. I believe you.”

No, he doesn’t! He knows exactly what you were thinking of. And you know you were you little hoe!

“So,” I said, once again hoping to change the subject, “What is there to do on Parna? I hear no one lives there.”

“No. Only my brother has a home on Parna, but I believe there is plenty to do. Have you ever ridden on an animal’s back?”

“I’ve ridden a horse before, but I doubt you guys have sweet little ponies here, am I right?

“I don’t know what a pony is, but if you like, I could take you riding when we get there. Raylon has a small herd of Mal’net’s that are tame enough to mount.”

“Sounds like fun,” I said and moved to sit up. I crossed my legs in front of me as I faced the king, “How long will you be there with us?”

“As long as I can possibly get away for. I would like to say all three days you will be there, but I do not want to promise something I may not be able to do.” His voice had changed to one of disappointment again.

“Well however long you stay, I’m sure it will be fun.”

“I have no doubt,” he said and locked eyes with me again. This time he bit his lip and my heart jumped at the sight.

He wants you, Ash. Are you ready for it? Are you ready to go that far with him?

“Have you been to the market yet?” He asked, breaking my very inappropriate thoughts.

“No,” I said and pulled at a little piece of fluff on the blanket, “Connie said we can go there after we get back, but I was really looking forward to going.”

“I would take you, but I fear that my presence would only hinder the experience.”

“Why would you say that?”

“The market should be enjoyed without everyone falling at your feet.” His voice had taken on a sadder tone.

“I take it you don’t get to do much without being recognized, do you?”

“No. Everywhere I go, I am always and only the king. I do wonder what it would be like to not be noticed, just once.”

“You could always dress up. . .or down in your case. Put on a disguise.”

He met my eyes then and a smile spread over his face, “Yes, that is a wonderful idea. Will you help me? You and I can go to the market together tomorrow morning.”

“Um, sure, yeah ok. We are going to need some supplies though.”

“Like what?”

“Well, clothes would be a good start. You can’t go in this,” I said and tugged gently on the collar of his shirt.

I met his stunning green eyes again, and the way he watched me, the way his eyes themselves smiled at simply looking at me made me blush, yet again.

“Very well. Then I will meet you first thing in the morning at the entrance of the grand hall.”

I nodded, “Sounds like a plan.” I said and turned to walk away.

Don’t look behind you, just keep walking. Don’t do it, Ash.

I turned to take a look and smiled when I found him still standing in the same place I left him, watching me walk away.

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