I ran this one through Grammarly and am just doing it manually. :/ I can’t rely on the sync to work and it’s frustrating and holding me back from posting. Worst case scenario is someday it works and I have duplicate posts.
Note: This story would be a PG-13/YA story content-wise. It has some silly teenage antics and comments. 😀 It is only edited for spelling and grammar, which you’ll notice I’m getting MUCH better at. It won’t be fully edited for a while, but it shouldn’t be too much different from what is here other than simply, better. I don’t intend to edit it until a year has passed. My italics don’t carry over and I just don’t add them until I’m doing my final run-through. :/
Anne fretted, running her fingers over her mask. Antoine had retreated to the shower to get rid of the pond smell. Camille sat with her, an arm around hers.
“If Alexis says Kaiden is fine, I’m sure he is.”
“But I don’t know he’s okay,” said Anne, running the back of her hand over her eyes and sniffling. “I just wanted to see his face.”
Camille giggled, poking her in the side. “From where I was, you saw more than his face.”
“It was dark,” snorted Anne. She giggled, clapping her hands over her mouth. “I didn’t see that much.”
“Nope, just on his head.”
“No, not a Naiad.”
“He’s got one,” laughed Anne, trying hard not to snort-laugh again. “Looked like any other man, except stretched, like he has longer arms and legs. Absolutely elegant.”
Anne sighed, still upset but less terrified. Camille was always so good at knowing how to ease her worries.
“His wings are not shaped like ours at all, or like a Naiad’s.”
Camille gasped, leaning her head on Anne’s shoulder. “Maybe he’s a Dryad. They’re supposed to be very tall and very slender.”
“And they have green skin,” said Anne with a smirk. “Leaves for hair. Kaiden is not green, and he has hair like ours.”
“But imagine if he was a Dryad,” said Camille wistfully. “They’re supposed to be beautiful.”
“And terrifying.” Anne groaned, putting her arm around Camille’s shoulders and hugging her. “Why do you have a thing about Dryads?”
“I don’t know. There are so many stories, and some of them say they’re nice? I mean, wouldn’t you like a husband who’s really tall and can control nature? I mean, that’s ancient-gods-awesome.” Camille giggled as she spoke, gesturing into the air. “Someone who can take on anything, but is still gentle and loving to you, and only you.”
Anne winced, giving Camille a little shove. “You and your fairy tales. I wouldn’t like that at all, because it’s not real.” She went silent, chewing on a fingernail.
Camille looked at her in concern, the smile still on her lips. “Anne? What’s going on? Why are you nervous? Your mother approves, and you like him. He’ll come around, I’m sure of it.”
“I…I want him, and I know nothing about him,” replied Anne in a low voice. “I don’t understand. We talked for hours about nothing, and I just wanted to keep talking, and hear his voice.”
“That sounds better than couples who don’t even meet before they’re married,” said Camille with a shrug.
“I don’t want to get married right now.” The moment the words left her mouth, relief followed, flowing through her body. “I’m nineteen, and nobody lets me forget it. Why can’t I just be like everyone else?”
“Because you are going to be queen someday.” Camille wrapped her arms around Anne, hugging her again. “I’m sorry. I hope you end up with a good husband like your father.”
Anne rolled her eyes and groaned. “So far, everyone I’ve met has been awful, and you know it. Kaiden’s been the only one who’s treated me like I want to be treated, and I might scare him away by being me.”
“Then he wasn’t meant to be with you at all,” said Camille matter-of-factly.
“But…but I really like him.”
A knock on the door interrupted their conversation. Anne rose with Camille, rubbing the remaining tears from her eyes. “Yes? I’m dressed.” She glanced at her simple yellow dress. It was comfortable and casual, decorated with large orange flowers.
“You have a guest,” said her mother from the other side of the door. “Put on your mask.”
Mask? Anne lifted her hand, staring at her mask. What had once sounded like fun, was now annoying. What was the point of the masks? It was nothing but a nuisance, a thing that stood between her and Kaiden.
“Do you have your mask on?” Margery tapped the door. “Anne?”
With a sigh, Anne put the mask on and fastened the strap. “Yes, Mother.”
The door opened, and Kaiden stood on the other side. He bowed his head and stepped through the opening. When he lifted his head, she met his eyes, and the world vanished into white noise.
Camille giggled, slipping past Kaiden as Margery beckoned for her to leave. The door closed with a light click, leaving Kaiden and Anne alone. They stood in silence, and Anne wasn’t sure if she should say anything or let him talk first.
You say something.
I can say something.
Open your mouth and stop being dumb.
“I’m sorry,” said Anne at the same time as Kaiden. She could almost see his smirk behind the mask.
“You should be sorry,” he teased. “That was very clever and very naughty of you.”
The way he said naughty sent a thrill through her body, and she giggled. How did he do that? Others had tried to fluster her and failed. “You scared me. I thought you drowned.”
“Yeah, my uncle and your mother told me.” He turned his head, looking at the door, and Anne saw her chance. The strap beneath his neck wasn’t fully clasped. She rose on her tiptoes, grabbing for the strap, her wings rising without a sound to counterbalance her movement. Her fingers brushed the dangling end of the strap, and Kaiden jerked his head. Anne lost her balance, her hand sliding over the edge of his mask and against his cheek. Something caught her fingers, snagging the skin. Anne yelped, staggering back and gripping her stinging hand tightly. She moved back, glancing from her bleeding hand to Kaiden. His eyes were wide, staring at her with the whites showing their panic. Anne couldn’t see what she had caught her finger on, but whatever it was had left a long gash on the underside of her pointer finger. Blood welled up within the wound, pooling and overflowing down her hand.
Kaiden said nothing, stepping forward and grabbing her hand. He pressed it between his hands, and before she could protest, a pleasant warmth flooded her hand, and the pain vanished. “I am so sorry,” whispered Kaiden, whirling around, a hand running up the side of his face she had touched. He curled his fingers, scratching at the edge of the mask as he opened the door and left the room.
“Leaving so soon?” Margery asked from the other room.
There was no response from Kaiden, only a door opening and closing. Anne stared at her hand. Blood dripped onto the floor, but the gash itself had healed, leaving only a thin white line as evidence it had been there at all.
Anne frowned and flicked her fingers toward the floor to get rid of most of the blood. She stepped over the puddle and darted after Kaiden. Her mother opened her mouth to say something as she ran through the living room. He couldn’t get away that easily. She had questions.
“Anne,” Antoine came out of nowhere, blocking the door, “where are you going?”
“Antoine,” Margery snapped a warning from across the room.
He glowered, meeting Anne’s eyes, his wings rising as he gripped the towel around his waist. Antoine reluctantly stepped aside, and Anne scowled, letting him know his obstruction was not appreciated. With her chin in the air, she pushed the door open and walked through it like she wasn’t in a hurry.
“Where did he go?” She asked without looking at the pair of guards in the hall. One replied with a nod of his head, down the hall that led to a bigger corridor. Anne took off in a run, muttering to herself, “No, you are not getting away that easily, Kaiden.”
She caught up to him as he reached the stairs leading up to the gardens. His strange wings peeked out of both sides of his cape as he mounted the stairs, boots hitting the stone with a loud clacking.
“How did you do that?” Anne raced up the stairs and grabbed the end of his cloak as he stepped out onto the upper courtyard. She tossed the cloak to one side and giggled, getting a good look at his wings in the early morning sunlight.
Kaiden’s wings glowed rose red, like stained glass in the sunlight. Anne reached out to touch their smooth, translucent surface, and Kaiden jumped away from her.
“Do you mind?” he huffed, backing away. He snapped his wings tight beneath their covering.
“I think they’re pretty.”
“I don’t want to be pretty,” snorted Kaiden, continuing to look for an avenue of escape.
“Okay, handsome.” Anne rolled her eyes, continuing to advance. “They’re so fancy.”
“They are pink.”
“No, they’re a lovely rose red.”
“That’s all I need, glowing, pink wings.” Kaiden turned down a small path, walking briskly, but with a noticeable hitch in his step.
“Why are you walking like that?” Anne walked beside him, leaning over to study his boots. They looked like anyone else’s boots, but Kaiden did not walk like everyone else. Instead of heel first, his boots hit the ground toe first in a smooth, almost sliding motion.
Kaiden stopped walking and wobbled as though unsteady, shifting uncomfortably. “You ask a lot of questions.”
“I like to know things,” said Anne, standing before him with her hands clasped behind her back, purposely thrusting her chest out for his benefit. He looked away, lifting a hand to run up the nape of his neck. “Like what’s under your mask.”
“No.” Kaiden slid a gloved finger beneath the strap, then pulled the strap tighter and tucked in the end. Was he wearing gloves again? How peculiar. He had been wearing gloves every time she saw him, except when she caught him off-guard earlier. She hadn’t been paying attention to his hands, but now, she began plotting.
“Look, the masks are just for fun.” She undid the strap and slid her mask up, giving Kaiden a smile, her best, most sincere smile. He met her eyes, and he squinted, revealing he was smiling back beneath his mask. “Now, you, undo the strap and let me see your face.”
“No,” Kaiden said, chortling and touching the mouth on his mask. “I will not.”
“I let you see my face.”
“I didn’t ask you to do that.”
“Do you think I’m pretty?”
“I think you’re incorrigible,” said Kaiden, and she could hear the smirk in his tone, “…and pretty.”
“That’s an interesting choice of words.” Anne left the mask where it was, taking Kiaden’s hand. He didn’t fight her, tilting his head curiously as she gripped his sleeve and suddenly yanked on the fingers.
“Incorrigible,” he said again as she futilely tried to pull the glove off his hand. Three leather straps with brass buckles held it tight. He was determined not to let her see much of him. “Stop that.” He withdrew his hand when she went for the buckles. “I believe that word is fitting.”
“Why won’t you let me see you?” Anne brought out a pout and added a tiny whine. There were so many tactics she could use on him; honestly, this was far more fun than when her suitors pursued her.
“I told you why.” Kaiden turned, flaring his wings so she could see them fully in the light. “You will not like it, and I’m just here to entertain myself. Nothing will ever come of this, because you are a Papillon, and I am…”
Mesmerized as she was, Anne glanced at his face, “You are a? What?”
“Me.” Kaiden turned, and his wings dropped, slipping back beneath their covering. His shoulders slumped, and he stalked away down another path.
“You don’t get to just end a conversation and stalk off like a moody teenager, Kaiden.” Anne stomped after him, her shoes clicking over the flat rocks that formed the path. “I’m a teenager; you’re supposed to be a mature adult.”
“Well,” wheezed Kaiden, beginning to laugh. “I’m not an adult.”
“But you’re a king!”
“I don’t have to be an adult to be king.”
“But you told me you’re twenty-six.” Anne’s face scrunched up as she thought it through. “We are considered adults when we are around twenty-five.”
“No, Soliel are considered adults at that age.” Kaiden laughed as though amused by the entire conversation. “For us, it’s thirty-five.”
“So you’re more like my age?” Anne attempted to work her way through the conversation. “But you don’t act like it.”
“I am myself,” said Kaiden with a shrug, cryptic as ever. “You grow up faster when you’re forced into it, which is why, honestly, you are too young to get married. Anne, you should tell your mother you don’t want this and enjoy being a kid while you can.”
“I am not a kid!” Anne groaned, stomping a foot onto the rocks.
“You know what I mean.” Kaiden held out his arm. “And right now, so am I. Let’s get breakfast, and we can talk more if you want. I enjoy talking to you.”
“Stop telling me I’m too young for things,” mumbled Anne, accepting his arm. “I have two years before I’m supposed to get married. I’ll be older and ready.”
“At twenty-one?” Kaiden laid his free hand over hers, patting it gently. “Don’t rush, Anne.”
“We could get to know each other.” She leaned against his side as they walked. “Like, how you know magic and heal.”
“I do not know magic,” moaned Kaiden. “And my ability to do that is limited to small things.”
“What did I cut myself on?” Anne tilted her head up to peer at what she could see of Kaiden’s face where she had cut herself. There weren’t any protrusions on the ask for her to have caught her finger.
“Don’t worry about it.” Kaiden kept walking, changing the topic of conversation. “I hope they’ll have pastry bites. Alexis knows how much I like them. They’re filled with jam and sometimes meat.”
“I’ve had them,” said Anne. “The honey and strawberry ones are my favorite.”
They continued down the walkway where the smells of fresh-baked bread and pastries filled the air, mingling with cut fruit. There were already Fae there, eating and talking. Half of them wore their masks on their heads, not bothering with secrecy.
Anne ignored the other partygoers, sticking to Kaiden’s side. She had no interest in any of them, not when it was far more entertaining to delve into the mystery that walked beside her.