I sat beside the lake, I liked it here, it was peaceful, calm, away from the bustle of camp. I inhaled and tried to meditate but no peace came.

“Do you mind?” I turned and saw General Martin. I shook my head. He sat with me. I was surprised.

“You meditate?” I asked. He shrugged.

“Not much since I lost the blessing, it isn’t as necessary. But I still enjoy it,” I smiled at him. “I don’t see my presence being soothing to you though?”

“Not if we can’t talk a bit,” I admitted. He nodded. “When you lost the blessing, why?”

“Well,” he sighed, “I failed in my mandate, to protect the balance.” He closed his eyes. “When your parents were killed, and your ascension put in question, that was the end.” He looked at me again. “As if Anton’s death wasn’t enough punishment, Cornan decided I was also to lose my mandate altogether.” The sadness in his voice wasn’t about the blessing.

“Were you in love with him?” I asked softly. He stopped and looked at me.

“With the god?” He tried. “No, serving a god is too complicated for that.” I laughed and he grinned. “With your father?” I nodded. “I don’t know, I thought so, sometimes. I certainly loved him, he was my closest friend,” he frowned, “and we loved the same woman, it was all very complicated.”

“My mother?” I said. He cocked his head.

“Marie?” He laughed. “No, no, John perhaps, but not me. She was far too quiet for me.” I looked at him.

“Olivia then,” I said, he smiled sadly. “I knew, I mean, I didn’t know, but I knew.” He smiled.

“That’s Marie,” he said softly, “god, she used to say that sort of thing every day. Everyone else thought she was insane because they didn’t know what it was like, that wave of understanding when you see something.” I took his hand.

“Did you Dream?” I whispered. He shook his head. “Tell me more about my father.” We glanced across the lake and I saw Marina sitting.

“No,” he said softly, “not tonight, that is. There is somewhere else you have to be.” I nodded and walked over to her. When our eyes met, I suddenly understood why she’d been so shy around me.

I Saw all of it. I Saw Tristan holding her and whispering that he wanted her. And she looked so afraid.

She’s afraid of everything, Athena had said. It’s irritating. 

But we finally talked. (Again, note from Reenie: This conversation already exists. It’s awesome, read it there!) It took a lot, but I’m happy to be friends with her, though there was a point that needed ironing out.

“Does your father want to go home?” I asked. Marina looked at me.

“He’ll be coming home, when we go back to Dovetail,” she said oddly. “Oh! You mean Brightcoast? I suppose he might, I believe they used to go in the summer, the whole court, we could go, Goddess, that will be work, I don’t believe anyone’s been in the manor or the summer palace in ten years.” I laughed. When she babbled she got a funny vacant look on her face.

“I meant Tumona actually,” I said softly. She turned away and swallowed.

“Phania isn’t home,” she whispered. “That’s what he’ll say, if you ask. But I think, somewhere, deep down, yes, he does. It’s not possible though, King Daniel barred him years ago.”

“It might be,” I said softly. She swallowed and we didn’t say anything else for a while.

“You said before that,” she sighed, “that you need me.” I looked at her. “You don’t.”

“I do,” I said, “I don’t know why you would ever think that I didn’t, or that anyone wouldn’t.” She looked away again.

“You don’t understand,” she said softly. “How could you? You had the world, and I had a dusty library and my father and no idea what the future was, or what it could be.” This I recognized. Fear felt foreign, but this was anger. Anger I know, anger, I have.

“No,” I said softly, “no I can’t understand that. I can only understand biting my tongue when I made a friend, never knowing when the axe would fall, and Aaron.” She nodded.

“I keep thinking about Athena,” she whispered. I laughed. “I didn’t know him, I didn’t think I wanted,” she rubbed her face. “I wanted to be rescued, and I didn’t know him, and Pantona and Brightcoast united.” I laughed harder then. “It isn’t funny.”

“It’s a little funny,” I grinned, “he kissed me once, when I was twelve, and when I asked him why, his answer was, ‘I think I’d be a pretty good king, don’t you.'” She giggled. “But you think like that too.”

“Like what?” She looked baffled.

“Politically,” I explained. “I don’t, I’m bad at it. Caleb tried to teach me, but it gives me a stomachache.” I thought of Prince Eric, and Phania and the goddess. But I wasn’t ready to tell her all of that yet. The sun started to go up.

“Lisette,” she said softly, “he loves you.” I swallowed.

“Can we not,” I sighed, “we can we not talk about him?” She looked at me. “I can’t, with you.”

“Alright,” she whispered and stood up and floated away. I went back to my tent as the sun started to rise and saw Tristan asleep in a chair. He woke up as I walked in.

“I was worried,” he said. I smiled and took his hand and lead him to bed. We kissed and undressed. “Lisette,” he mumbled.

“I love you,” I said. “Why were you worried?”

“When you’re out of my sight, I worry,” he whispered, “when you stay out all night, I think you may have died.” I smiled.

“I was with Marina,” I explained. He nodded.

“I should,” he started and I kissed him. “Lisette,” he pushed me away. I looked at him. “What did she tell you?”

“She didn’t,” I said, “she didn’t need to.” He looked afraid. They don’t understand. I realized. “We talked about a lot of things. But somethings we don’t need to.”

“Because of the damn blessing,” he said standing up. I swallowed. “Do you think that’s what it is?”

“What what is?” I asked. He looked at me.

“Rana is playing games with me,” he said softly. I sighed.

“Is that what you think?” I said. “That you love me because of the goddess? That you want her because of her?” He sighed and came back to me.

“No,” he said, “not really.” We kissed deeply. “I only know that when I’m with you, or not with you, there’s only you.” I smiled. He was lying, whether he knew it or not. “Lisette,” he mumbled.

“Tristan,” I whispered back to him. “Martin said your father was in love with my mother.” He laughed.

“I knew that,” he said, “my mother used to tease him about it.” I giggled. “Lisette, be honest, what are you afraid of here?”

“I’m not afraid,” I explained, “I keep thinking about my father.” He nodded. “He wasn’t afraid, and it killed him.” He kissed the top of my head.


Tristan met me as the sun was going down and took my hand. He kissed me softly and we pressed our foreheads together.

“You were trying to tell me something,” I said, “before, when Thom-General Martin came in.” He sighed and frowned.

“Yes, I was,” he admitted, “I told you, in Pantona, that there wasn’t anyone else, that,” I smiled. “I think I was blind to something.”

“She loves you,” I said softly. “Marina, Lady Marina,” he nodded. “And you?” He shrugged. “You feel the same?”

“No,” he said, “no, it’s only,” he frowned, “I shouldn’t have, I never told her about,” he sighed, “it doesn’t matter. Shall we go?” I nodded and we moved quickly towards where my family was.

My family. Not Olivia and Caleb and Aaron. But my uncle and cousin. My blood, my mother’s blood, my family. And I knew walking in that she was going to hate me.

“Ah, your highness,” my uncle, Lestat, Uncle Les.

“Lisette,” I said softly, after he bowed and stoof up. “Please, I don’t want to be,” Marina looked at me and frowned. “I can’t imagine you called my mother your majesty.”

“Only when teasing her,” he smiled. “Well, then,” he said, “Lisette, and you met Marina earlier.”

“Of course,” I said. She smiled softly at me. “I’m glad to know you finally. I hope we can be friends.”

“I hope so too,” she said, “hello Sir Tristan.”

“Lady Marina,” he said softly. I hadn’t seen him this quiet in a while. But I liked dinner, and looking at my uncle I had the same, well not the same, but a similar feeling about how I did when I saw Thomas. He could tell me about my mother.

“What have you been doing?” I asked Marina finally. She looked oddly at me again. “In Dovetail?”

“In Dovetail?” She repeated. I nodded. I’d talked about Pantona, and my life at least a little. “Very little. Since we got here though, I’ve been very busy. I’m learning to heal, and it turns out all of the nothing and studying I’ve done it’s helped me here.”

“So many hours in the library,” Tristan said, “here we all thought you were hiding from us.” She wrinkled her nose at him and stuck out her tongue and I swallowed. Maybe he didn’t love her back, but there was an easiness between them, something that I’d never seen in him.

“I’m looking forward to seeing Dovetail,” I admitted. Uncle Les smiled and sipped his wine. “Did you always live there?”

Another memory and story from that. I wanted to hurl myself at Tristan, to claim him, there. He was mine, we’d made promises, whispered and shared parts of ourselves she would never see.

But I knew I was being ridiculous. Tristan said he didn’t return her feelings, I had to trust him. As we discussed battle strategy, I noticed something else change, the way he was looking at me and then I felt the final shift. She saw.

I excused myself and left quickly, I wanted her to see me, but I knew it that moment that she wouldn’t. I could explain later.

“Are you alright?” Tristan asked as we got back to my tent and walked inside. I nodded. “You don’t seem alright.”

“I am,” I said and kissed him. “Make love to me.” He grinned and we fell back against the bed. It was restless, and quick, fitting how discomforted I felt. After, he took a lock of my hair, one of the curls, and twirled it around his finger.

“What are you thinking about?” He asked. I rolled onto my stomach and kissed him. “So we’re of the same mind then?” I giggled.

“Perhaps,” I said softly. His hands slipped around my waist and pulled me close again. “What you said, about me and winning this fight, you meant that?”

“I’d follow you to hell,” he whispered, “into the darkness and back, I wouldn’t even be able to help it, I don’t think.” I pressed my forehead against his. “Lisette.”

“Please don’t ever let me be anyone other than Lisette, with you,” I said softly, “I’ve felt so much today, and I want to be Lisette, in every moment that I can be.”

“Of course, love,” he said, “if I can be Tristan, the merchant’s son.” I nodded and we kissed again. He was everything I wanted.

“Good then,” I said. “I have too much to think about, and I don’t want that to be a part of us.”

“Lisette,” he said, “you were upset tonight?” I sighed and rolled onto my back.

“I was a lot of things tonight,” I admitted. “I was upset, and jealous, and worried.” He looked at me.

“Jealous?” He said. I nodded. “Of Marina?” I looked at him. “Lisette, she’s nothing,” I stopped him.

“No,” I said, “no, she’s wonderful, and beautiful and ladylike and you know her and she knows you.” He kissed me.

“Perhaps,” he said softly, “but I love you, and am loved by you, and I think that might be greater.” I sighed and pressed my forehead against his chest as we both fell asleep, him first, his deep childish sleep.

I dreamt that night of the palace at Dovetail, I was watching as a woman looked out over a balcony, holding a bundle. It was my mother, I realized. A man joined her, with eyes, exactly like mine and short cropped red hair. I smiled.

“How is she?” He asked softly. My mother smiled.

“Wonderful,” she said, “asleep. So you shouldn’t speak to loud.” He laughed softly.

“She’ll sleep soundly. She was named crown princess today,” he said and slipped a silver r bracelet around my wrist. My mother laughed.

“So she is,” she smiled, “they all agreed then.” He nodded. “Even if I have others, and boys?”

“Yes,” he said, “it’s settled. There wasn’t much of a fight, honestly, only Brayton resisted at all.” She nodded. “I don’t know what’s gotten into him.”

“He’s angry with me,” she frowned, “I don’t know why, but he is.” My father kissed her forehead. “I thought this was what he wanted, he always said that he wanted to study to be a mastero, and now he can!”

“I’ve given up trying to please him, Marie,” he sighed, “he’s going to be unpleasant for the rest of our lives, just as he was odd until now.”

I wanted to scream at them to heed his anger, to try something, anything, to at least be aware. I knew I couldn’t, past visions didn’t work that way. I woke up and breathed deeply.


I swallowed seeing what looked like a city of tents swimming below us in the valley. I sighed, it all looked beautiful but so many people! I don’t think I’d ever seen so many people in one place.

“Goddess,” I whispered. Tristan looked at me.

“Courage Lisette,” Athena said, nudging me. “It won’t be. so bad.” I nodded and we rode a bit further along, before she inhaled sharply at the figure on horseback. “Martin!” She exclaimed and galloped.

“Well, that was inevitable,” Caleb sighed and we trotted up after her. “General.”

“Count,” The general said. I looked at him, and tried to make up my mind about him. He was a large man, handsome, in a way, and Athena looked, well, glowing. “Countess,” he said, nodding at Olivia. “Cornan’s sword,” he whispered as we locked eyes. “Your Highness, I’m at your disposal.”

“Thank you,” I said. I had a hundred questions for him. About my father, something in me knew he was the right person to tell me everything about my father. “I suppose we should.” He nodded and we rode on. I felt Aralla, my horse steady under me as we walked through the camp. We arrived on a center of the tents and I swallowed.

There she was beautiful, and dressed in a blue healer’s dress. Her eyes were wide and brown, and she was staring at me.

She’s darker than I am, but otherwise, we look very alike, and she’s small, so small. I feel in a daze, vaguely hearing everyone greet her as we dismount. She’s trying not to look at me, I can tell. Then I notice Aaron take her hand and kiss it. I see Tristan’s jaw tighten, and Athena rolls her eyes.

“Aaron,” I manage to say, “Don’t flirt with her!” He winks at me and I sigh loudly. Aaron being obnoxious has broken then spell.

“This is Princess Annalise, Lady Marina,” Athena said, “Lisette, may I present your cousin, Lady Marina Sanpierre of Brightcoast.” Then she curtsied, and we talked.

I was glad to talk to her, spilling out a thousand nervous questions.  (A Note From Reenie: Read Marina’s POV on this to get this conversation, writing it again would be pretty boring!) We’re going to have dinner with her tonight, her and my uncle, I’m curious to meet him. And to hear about my mother.

I walked to a tent that Olivia was standing in front of. It looks quite large.

“Is this yours, Olivia?” I said. She laughed.

“No, love, it’s yours,” she said, parting the middle. I swallowed as I looked around. There was a large bed, several books and maps on a desk, and it’s all very grand looking. “You’ll have to get used to these sorts of things, I suppose. The trappings, your father used to call them.” I nodded, and sat on the bed. “Well, you’ve met her now.”

“Yes,” I said softly. “So I have.” I thought for a moment. “I think she’s as afraid of me as I am of her.” She laughed.

“Perhaps,” Olivia whispered. “Caleb will be with Les now,” Tristan walked into the tent now, “I should make sure Aaron isn’t making trouble.” I nodded and she left. Tristan came close and kissed me. I whimpered softly into him.

“I suppose I can’t just do that whenever I want now,” he said. I laughed. “Are you alright?”

“Yes,” I said, “I’m having dinner with my family.” He nodded.

“I know,” he said, “Marina invited me.” I smiled, that made the whole thing seem less fearsome. “Lisette, I, feel,” he looked down, “I know I told you,” I looked at him.

“What?” I asked softly. He ran his hands through my hair. I kissed him again. We fell back against the bed.

“I love you,” he muttered, “I suppose we have to be more careful now.” I giggled.

“You do at that,” we turned over to the  door and so General Martin standing, smirking at us. “Captain.” Tristan leapt up and saluted.

“General,” he said, “Athena,”

“Has said her piece,” the general smiled, “you weren’t losing sleep over my condition, then?”

“No sir,” Tristan grinned back at him, “I imagine it would take a thousand shadows to defeat you. And my trust in Lady Marina is greater than my sister’s.”

“Good then,” Martin said, “Princess, if it’s convenient, I’d like a word.”

“Of course,” I mumbled, was I blushing? I felt all hot. “Sir Tristan you’re dismissed.” Tristan rushed out, “we were only,”

“No need,” Martin said and sat in the desk chair, “Tristan’s past due for some foolishness, and I imagine Anselm and Caleb have already lectured you.” I frowned, he wasn’t what I expected. “I wanted to give you a few things.” I nodded. He reached into the large leather bag he had with him and laid them out on the desk. I exhaled and walked over.

There were three things there, a sword, the hilt with a sparkling green jewel standing out, a necklace of pearls, surrounding a single blue stone, and a silver circlet, clearly meant to be worn on the crown.

“Goddess,” I whispered, running my fingers over the treasures. “These are mine?”

“Aye,” he grinned, “the sword was your father’s I made it for him myself, the circlet is older than dirt, I think, the heir is supposed to wear it in public, I stole it away from Dovetail when I fled last year. And the necklace was Marie’s, one of her things from Phania, from Tumona.” I nodded.

“Caleb says I shouldn’t flaunt the Phania connection,” I said. Martin snorted.

“You’re chosen, aren’t you?” Martin said. I nodded, “I doubt that Rana would appreciate you ignoring her blessing.” I giggled at that and lifted my hair off my neck as he fastened it. “You have your father’s eyes you know.” I turned and looked at him. “Exactly, I’d forgotten, the color.” Something came over me then, a feeling I’d never felt before, like someone, or something else was inside of me.

“Thomas,” I said quietly, “it’s alright, I’m home now.” He smiled softly at me.

“So you are, Princess,” he said, “I can rest now.” I nodded and he knelt, I leaned down and kissed his forehead gently. “Thank you.” I smiled at him. I knew him, in that moment, this man, who’d been beloved of my father.

“Rise then, and show me my army,” I said. He stood up. I fastened the sword around my waist and place the circlet on my brow.

I was a lost princess, no more.


Riding with the twins is a lot of fun, something I didn’t quite expect when we left Pantona. They’re constantly grinning at one another and challenging each other to races, and dragging Aaron and I into it and then trading jokes. I wonder sometimes what it will be like when it’s no longer than just the four of us.

We made camp for the night and I was mostly surprised by how easily Olivia adapted to it. I’m so used to her in the manor, so refined and dignified, her on a bedroll in a tent seems wrong.

“Oh, I never could do it for long,” She said, “but the full camp gives me a real bed.” I smiled. “How are you doing?” She asked. I shrugged.

“It doesn’t feel real yet,” I admitted. She nodded and yawned. “I’ll let you sleep.”

“My dear,” she said softly, and took my hand. “Are you sure you’re alright?” I nodded and hugged her tightly.

“No,” I admitted, “I, last night, I Dreamed, I saw my mother.” I hadn’t seen her before, but the dreams, well, I wasn’t sure what any of them were anymore. Visions, and faces, and my mother screaming in pain and fear, and Prince Eric sailing through a storm and Tristan beside me when I woke, holding me closely.

“You saw Marie,” she said softly. I nodded. “Darling, it’s alright, maybe it wasn’t a vision, just a long buried memory.” I swallowed. It wasn’t, we both knew it wasn’t. “When did you last sleep without a dream?”

“In the spring,” I sighed, “before the twins came, I suppose, but even then, they were becoming more regular.” She nodded. “It’s all coming soon, I think, and the gods don’t want me to forget it.”

“As if you could,” She smiled. I nodded. “You’ll be alright. Hopefully in Dovetail the sisters or the University will know how to handle it.” I nodded. But I knew she was by no means sure. “Try to sleep anyway, I promise, this can’t last.” I smiled and walked back to my tent. Tristan and I had been sharing, another thing I knew couldn’t last.

I wondered if he knew. He must. But we didn’t talk about it. Ever.

He smiled at me and I slid under the blankets. I wanted him, but I knew, not tonight.

“Are you alright?” He asked softly. I nodded. “Lisette,” he said softly, running his finger against my face. I loved him for calling me Lisette, would that stay, would the look on his face right now?

“I don’t want this summer to end,” I said softly. “It was like gold.” He nodded.

“A golden summer,” he said. I nodded.

“Tell me more about what to expect when we get to the camp tomorrow,” I said snuggling into him. He smiled.

“Well,” he said and kissed my hair,  “you’ll have to fight General Martin, but you know that.”

“I have to what?” I said. He laughed.

“Just sparring,” he said, “all the officers have to, it’s a test. Unless you don’t want to be an officer.” I rolled my eyes. “You’ll meet Lady Marina, and your uncle, they’ll be so happy to meet you.” I nodded. “And no matter what, you need to sleep.” I smiled and kissed him again. I slept, and I dreamed, and Dreamed, nothing good or solid in either directions, just images.

And then that final one, the one that comes over and over, walking through the palace, into the throne room, but this time it was different, she was there, Marina, not with Brayton this time and not on the throne either.

“What did you think would happen?” She said sharply, her dark eyes clear and angry. She stepped away and I saw on the dais, clear as anything Tristan’s body slumped and lifeless, covered in blood. “You killed him.” I looked down and saw my sword covered in blood, I knew it was his. I woke up and realized I was screaming. Tristan looked at me and held me close.

“Lisette,” he said, “it’s alright, love, it’s alright,” I was sobbing. I looked at him. “Was it bad?”

“You were,” I said softly and kissed him, “no, you’re safe, you’re here,” I pressed my forehead to his chest.

“Where else would I be?” He said rubbing my back. “I’m with you.”

“You won’t leave?” I said, softly, “ever.”

“Not ever,” he whispered and kissed me again. I pulled myself close to him, then kissed him moving my hands below him waist. “Lisette,” he stopped me, “what was it?” I looked at him.

“I killed you,” I said, “or she did, but you died.” He swallowed and drew away. “The dreams aren’t,” I sighed, “I explained about the threads of time?” He nodded. “The dreams are just one thread, and that’s why they change, why they’re so,” I sighed. “You won’t die, I won’t let,” he kissed me again.

“Do you remember, the day we met,” he said, I nodded, “I said I would die for you and I meant it then, just out of duty, but know now, that I mean it with all of my heart. I will die for you if it comes to that.”

“You won’t,” I said, “I won’t let it happen.” We made love then, and I slept for the rest of the night soundly and woke up in the morning before the sun. I sat out and took a deep breath as I watched it go up.

I’d made a promise that I had no idea how to keep. Or if I could. And even worse, I knew now that there was a part of me that could kill him.

A Gift And A Goodbye

I rose early the next morning to go training, but couldn’t find Athena. I wondered if she was out already, but made my way out to the stables, Tristan had mentioned wanting to go riding and I decided to join him, when I saw Caleb standing waiting.

“Good Morning,” he said. I smiled softly at him. “Are you alright?”

“I don’t want to talk about it,” I said, “is that alright?”

“Perfectly,” he shrugged, “I have something for you,” I smiled, “come.” I walked in with him and saw standing in the middle a horse I’d never seen before. “It’s a bit early, but I thought a birthday present would be alright.” I giggled softly and walked over. “You’ve never had your own, but it wouldn’t do for The Lost Princess to return on a borrowed stable horse from someone else’s stable.”

“Caleb,” I whispered, petting her neck. “What’s her name?” I knew she was a mare immediately. And perfect. Clean white, shining, almost like a star.

“Doesn’t have one yet,” he grinned. “The Dumanis don’t name their animals. Charlotte showed her to me when I met them along the way back.” I smiled. “She’s shrewd that one, just a smile, and ‘I thought you might want to look at a horse, your grace, something suitable for a young woman.'” I remember the half smile on Charlotte’s face when she’d mentioned I was Phanian. I’d wondered what she’d guessed then, know I knew for sure.

“I’ll have to think it over,” I cooed, “thank you Caleb.” He smiled. “Have you seen Athena?”

“She went into town to find someone who could send her letter,” he said. I nodded. “William ran so quickly last night, before I could mention that I think,” I laughed.

“You think I should tell him the truth,” I said. He nodded. “Olivia told me, that he asked for me.” Caleb laughed. “I can only imagine you two scrambling for something to say.”

“It was something we’d anticipated,” he shrugged, “not with William specifically, but well, you’re a reasonably appealing young woman, and certainly not without local position, even if you were simply our ward. We’d assumed a village boy, or a younger merchant son might ask for you at some point.”

A younger merchant son. That gave me a pang. In another world, the world where I was really Lisette, and Tristan was really just a guest of my foster parents, he’d have asked for me. I’d be Lady Dugarry, not Queen Annalise.

“I’ll talk to him today,” I said softly. I pressed me forehead against the horse’s nose, not knowing what to say exactly.

I walked out towards the village and found Athena on her way back, she looked agitated.

“Are you alright?” I said. She frowned.

“I was,” she said, “I’d even calmed down about the General, but then I ran into that awful farmgirl, Katie?”

“Kathy,” I said. She nodded. “Yes, I don’t think she’d like you much.” Athena pressed her lips into her mouth.

“I certainly didn’t ask Aaron to abandon her minutes after she slept with him to chase after me,” she muttered, “it isn’t my fault.” I giggled, realizing this seemed like a familiar problem to her. “Where are you off to, and why isn’t my brother tailing behind you, in case a shadow or spy pops out of the orchard to carry you away to darkness?”

“He’s asleep,” I said, “and it seems unlikely at this juncture. If a spy were watching us, they’d probably wait until we’re all on the move to grab me.”

“Hmm,” she nodded, “I suppose so.” She was grinning now.

“I’m heading into town, but since you just came from that way, I’d assume you don’t want to join me,” she shook her head.

“No,” she said, “I have to talk to Aaron, and you’re likely going to have a rather serious conversation that should be had alone?” I nodded. “Good luck.” I smiled and waved.

Once I reached town, I noticed Kathy at her father’s stand looking very grumpy. I decided not to poke at that. That was a benefit to not being Lisette anymore, not having to deal with fallout of Aaron’s entanglements. I reached the inn and walked in. The maids all nodded at me and one pointed me towards William’s parlor. He smiled when he saw me.

“What a nice surprise,” he said, “Two days in a row at that.” I laughed.

“I wanted to talk to you,” I said, “but I didn’t get a chance last night.” He nodded. “William, I,” I swallowed. “We’re leaving soon.”

“I see,” he said quietly. “Going west?” I nodded. “This has something to do with Sir Tristan?”

“Yes,” I said, “and no.” I folded my hands. “I mean, he’s coming with us, of course, but,” I swallowed. “I’m not Lisette.” He scrunched his face in confusion. “I mean, I am, but she’s not, a real person.” I frowned. “I’m botching this. You see a lot of people come through, you’ve probably heard, rumors, stories,” I swallowed, “sightings.”

“Of?” He asked. “Last week I had a man who swore his horse was actually a unicorn, but I’m not following.”

“Of girls like me,” I said softly, “orphaned half Phanian girls,” I sighed, “who might not be what they seem.” His eyes widened.

“Gods, I’m a fool,” he muttered. I bit my bottom lip and glanced down. “Lisete, I mean, your highness, I guess.” I nodded. “So you’re going west, to go,” I nodded again. “Are you terrified?” I suddenly felt a surge of affection for William and flew across the room and hugged him.

“I’ll miss you,” I said softly, “really, before you came I didn’t have any friends except Aaron, and it’s been wonderful to have someone else.”

“Yes,” he smiled, “and just think what a good story it will be,” he whispered, “I courted the Queen of Cammadan herself, not that she had any idea of course.” I giggled. “I think we’d have made a good match though.”

“I can think of worse,” I said. “You don’t hate me?” He laughed.

“No, Lisette,” he said, “I don’t hate you.” He frowned. “Can I still call you Lisette?” I smiled.

“In private,” I shrugged, “I’ll be Your Highness in public though, until it’s Your Majesty.” He nodded. “Come with us.”

“No,” he said, “maybe, later when things are settled, but I’m not much use in a fight Lisette.” I smiled.

“Fine then,” I said softly.

The Next Step

Supper was one of the better ones we’ve had in a while, William even came, as Caleb had stopped by the inn to invite him.

I hadn’t seen him since that very odd market day, and I wondered now, knowing how he felt about me, if it would change anything between us. I found myself less talkative than usual but William was still himself.

“All things considered how do you find Lord Brayton these days?” William asked curiously. Athena took a long sip of wine.

“He’s changed very little,” Caleb said, “though he talks of marrying soon.” I exhaled, and thought of my dream. Tristan looked curiously at me.

“An honor for any woman, I’m sure,” Olivia grinned wryly. Aaron coughed on the water he was drinking trying not to laugh. “You must have more news than we do William! After all the Dumanis camp only just moved on. It had to have been a good month.”

“I did well enough,” he said, “it’s always best when it’s the Dumanis, don’t you think, Sir Tristan?”

“Our family is generous,” Athena answered.

“That’s a word for it,” Tristan muttered. I smiled and looked at him. “Alex and Charlotte said they did well, also. Your tenants must be thriving Count.”

“I’m happy to hear that,” Caleb smiled. “Lisette, pass the potatoes.” I smiled and handed them to him. “Thank you dearest.” The rest of the meal followed in that fashion until William left. After we all sat in the parlor, Caleb had given Athena a letter which she was reading, her face getting more and more red.

“He’s alright now?” She asked.

“Yes, Athena,” Caleb said softly, “General Martin was recovering very well when I left. Lady Marina tended to him.”

“That does not inspire much confidence.” Athena mumbled. “I should write to him.” She stood up and stormed out. Tristan shook his head.

“Is he alright?” Olivia said softly. Caleb smiled at her and nodded.

“You know Tom,” Caleb shrugged, “homicidally brave, if he weren’t alright he wouldn’t be likely to tell me of all people.” She nodded. “Are you curious how he’s doing Tristan?”

“Marina is more than capable of caring for him,” Tristan said absently. I felt my face flush, “Lady Marina, I mean.” Olivia nodded. I smiled at him. “It was shadows though?”

“Unfortunately,” Caleb sighed, “they’re getting stronger, it’s part of why I think we should get you to the resistance sooner rather than later.” Aaron frowned. “You have an opinion, Aaron?”

“I don’t see the rush,” he said, “besides the symbol of coronation on her birthday, why leave when we’re safe.” I looked at him.

“We won’t always be,” I said softly. “He’ll find me eventually, I’d rather be in control of that.” I stood up and walked up to my room. I sat quietly for a minute before the door opened. I was expecting Tristan, but instead it was Aaron.

“You’re right you know,” he said, “but I worry, it’s what brothers do.” I smiled softly at him. “Lisette,” he said, “do you want this to change?”

“No,” I sighed, “no, more than anything else, I want to stay here, but we can’t, we always knew it was going to end.” He sat and took my hand. “You could stay.” He laughed.

“If it weren’t for this summer,” he said softly, “if it weren’t for her, maybe I would.” I grinned.

“It is different this time,” I laughed. He nodded. “Have you told her how you feel?” He nodded. “And?”

“She’s hesistant,” he shrugged, “but ammenable.” I laughed and kissed him on the cheek. “Lisette,” he said, “you’re worried.”

“About a lot of things,” I said softly. “I need you though, so I’m glad.” He nodded and I hugged him. “Now go away, Tristan should be here soon, and I doubt you want to be here when he comes.”

“I do not,” he sighed. “Do you know what you’re doing here?” I smiled and nodded. “Alright, I won’t bother you.” He kissed me on the forehead. “I know you talked to Father about it, and if you need me to,” I rolled my eyes.

“I’m not marrying you for political reasons, don’t be absurd,” I said, “Please leave.” He nodded and walked out.

Tristan came in then, and we didn’t talk. We didn’t need to. There’s something else there. Something deep and wild, and instinctive. I need him, it’s that simple.

I slept deeply and dreamt of Lady Marina sitting beside a lake, writing a letter. I blinked and then I was on a blue ship, somewhere covered in ice and snow. Two boys were standing looking at lights flashing in the sky.

“Where are you?” One of them, younger, it looked with long curly hair tied back. The other, short cropped hair, they were both dark skinned.

“I’m not sure,” he said softly.

“Is it time?” The first asked. The other shook his head.

“No,” he whispered, “but soon.” I woke up and realized I’d had a vision of Prince Eric. I’d never Seen him before. I swallowed and turned seeing Tristan asleep.

I have no idea what to do.


I walked down to the cottage where Anselm lives and he was at work in his kitchen, mixing something. I had brought him some herbs and things from the manor garden and greenhouse at his request.

“Glad you found time in your busy schedule,” he said, “I thought I might never see you.” I laughed. “Is everything there?”

“Yes,” I said softly. I poured myself a cup of tea. “Mastero,” I said.

“Lisette,” he answered not looking up.

“If, hypothetically, one didn’t want to get pregnant,” I muttered, “is there some sort of potion or charm that might, you know, help with that.”

“Low magic users swear by whip willow,” he said distractedly. “It’s never been tested in a university setting. One of Aaron’s ask you?”

“No,” I mumbled, “it doesn’t matter. In a tea?”

“Do you know of another way to administer a bark than a tea?” He said. I nodded and then he stopped and looked at me. “Not for Aaron?” I shook my head. “Ah,” he sat down, “Sir Tristan, I assume.” I nodded. “That’s a dangerous game for you Lisette.”

“I understand,” I said softly. “It isn’t a game though.” I spread my fingers out. “We’re leaving soon.”

“Yes, yes,” he sighed, “I had a letter from the Count as well.” I swallowed.

“You’ll come with us,” I said. He looked at me.

“No, Lisette, I won’t,” he shook his head. “Unless you order me to. But I don’t belong with the army and I’m sure the University has moved on in directions I couldn’t abide.” I looked at him.

He looked much older than I’d ever realized in that moment. We’d all been preparing, but the world had passed him by in that time.

“I won’t order you,” I said softly, “but I do wish you’d come. I need you.”

“Bah,” He waved a hand. “You do not need me. You have the twins now, and you’ll have your cousin.” I frowned. “Now, we’ve got work to do. Dry out what you brought me and we’ll start brewing.” I nodded and hung the herbs in the window.

I sat in the living room next, breathing deeply and feeling what I could from around me. Part of me wanted to order Anselm to come with us, but the other part knew it wouldn’t be fair.

During the uprising, when Brayton’s forces pushed my parents from Dovetail, and he took control, most of the masteros were killed when they didn’t swear themselves to Brayton. Anselm fled with my parents, helping protect them as they moved. When I was settled in Pantona, he was settled with me.

He never seemed to like Caleb much, but Caleb takes it in stride. After we finish the potion and he gives me the whip willow, I head home. Tristan is waiting for me at the woods border. He doesn’t ever go into the woods, he doesn’t like it.

“Did you have a good lesson?” He grinned. I shrugged, feeling like the bark in my bag was terribly heavy.

“Yes,” I whispered and kissed him softly. He pulled me close. “What were you doing, running?”

“Getting tack together actually,” he shrugged, “I’ve neglected Elian,” I smiled. “Would you like to come with me?”

“No,” I said, “I have some work to do, and there’ll be plenty of riding soon,” he nodded. “I’ll walk with you though.” I slid my hand into his. I wanted to ride with him, go back to the hills and tumble around, cling to him and never leave.

“You’ve decided then,” he said. It wasn’t a question. He knew. I nodded. “Are you alright, Lisette?” I wanted to tell him everything, about Prince Eric, about the goddess, about my visions, the path I knew I had to take one day, and how I would have to kill the part of my heart that loved him to survive it. I kissed him again and we walked to the stables, and I saw a large grey horse out in front. I smiled then.

“Gods!” I exclaimed, Tristan smiled at me. “Caleb!” I ran quickly to the house and to his study, where he was standing over his desk, looking at something written.

“Good morning, Little One,” he said happily I ran and hugged him. “Let me look at you, Lisette.” I stepped back. “You’ve grown. That’s good. I don’t know how I was going to present a five foot tall commander to the army.” I laughed. “You were at market?”

“With Anselm,” I said, “he’s going to stay behind,” I said softly. Caleb nodded.

“I suspected he would,” he sighed, “it will be difficult without him, I was hoping he could guide you and Marina a bit but I wasn’t counting on it.” I nodded and sat down. “Olivia said that you’ve come to care for the twins.”

He spoke around it, but he knew.

“Yes, they’re,” I stopped, “I’m glad to have them by my side.” He nodded. “When will we leave?”

“Two weeks,” he said, “and then it’s a week of hard riding.” I nodded. “You’re ready.”

“Aaron says I’ll never be,” I said, “I think sometimes that he’s right.” He nodded. “Olivia and I were talking about,” I sighed, “when it ends, and what’s next for me.” He smiled.

“Dovetail and coronation,” he said. I nodded. “Oh, you mean after that.” I nodded again. “Well, the provenance leaders will want you to see their sons, of course, at least two of the nine are out the running, unless a great deal has changed between you and Aaron since I’ve been gone.” I laughed. “The borderland tribes have a prince or two the right age, and likely one of the boys from Rastan, there are ten of them.”

“And Phania?” I asked carefully. He pressed his lips.

“And Phania,” he said, “I know what you’ve Dreamt, dearest, and I know what you think will come, but I have to tell you politically it could be a miscalculation, if he even comes.”

“Daniel and Elana never backed Brayton,” I said.

“Not officially no,” he sighed, “but the also never forgave your Uncle for staying in Cammadan rather than accepting their offer of asylum for you and his family.” I looked at him.

“I could have lived at Tumona?” I said softly. He nodded. “But then, why,” he sighed.

“A lot of reasons,” he said, “mainly, we all thought it was important, given your calling and your mother, that you be as Cammadie as possible. Many of the border chiefs and provenance leaders didn’t like having a foreign princess and queen.” I nodded. “We’re a few steps from it, but clearly it’s been weighing on you?”

“Tristan and I,” I sighed, “it’s wrong, it’s cruel to him but I couldn’t,” I swallowed, “I love him, it’s impossible not to, I tried.” He laughed.

“Lisette, to crush your heart would be a grave mistake,” he said, “you love him, then love him, that’s all there is to it. Tristan isn’t a fool, he knows that he can’t be your husband.” I nodded.

“I’m glad you’re back,” I said. “I missed you, you were gone too long.” He nodded.

“I agree,” he sighed. “I wish we could stay longer, but I don’t think it can be helped. We have to be to the city by your birthday, and so we have to move.” I nodded.

Little One

Tristan was asleep and I stood up and got dressed. I like him sleeping. He sleeps like a child, sprawled everywhere, his face relaxed. I kissed his forehead and walked down to the kitchen. Aaron was sitting brewing tea.

“Good Evening,” he grinned, “you look, well, different.” I picked up a rag and threw it at him. “Is Sir Tristan content?”

“Don’t be vulgar,” I wrinkled my nose. “Why are you up?”

“A similar venture,” he shrugged. I raised my eyebrows. “Lady Athena has thawed a bit.” I laughed. “It’s different, this time.”

“If you say so,” I said softly. “Why aren’t you with her?”

“Her words,” he shrugged, “were ‘I want to trust you. But in order to do that, we have to take it slow.’ So that will be new and interesting.” I laughed. “And a messanger came and brought letters.” He handed me one.

I opened it, recognizing Caleb’s handwriting.

My Dearest Lisette,

I’ve been worried about you, my little one. It’s been too long since I heard you laugh. Sometimes I hear one of the girls here and I turn and I think it may be  you.

I saw Anselm, he told me of your visions. Both the one of Lady Marina at Brayton’s side and of the goddess. I know what you fear. You must be brave, which I also know you despise hearing. 

There’s a lot of talk here about what all of our next step should be, but I think, given the way things have progressed keeping you apart from everything is no longer an option. Discuss it with Anselm and let me know your thoughts. I promised you this summer and I will hold to that unless you say differently.

Be strong, Little One, hard days are coming, but you won’t be alone.

Your Loving Father.

I smiled. Aaron looked at me.

“What does he want?” He asked.

“You didn’t get one?” I frowned. He rolled his eyes. “He wants us to join the camp.” I folded the letter. “I think it might be time.” He nodded. “We’re ready, aren’t we?”

“I don’t know,” he said, “I don’t think we’ll ever be ready, not entirely, but I think it might be time.” I nodded. “Think it over, like he said. He’s usually right.” I could hear the bitterness in his voice.

That was new in the past year, the way they spoke to and about eachother, Aaron and Caleb, and it made me sad. There was something between them that I couldn’t see, no matter how much I knew them both.

“Get some sleep,” I whispered and kissed his forehead and walking back up to my bedroom. Tristan was sitting up now and smiled at me. I slipped in and let him hold me, forgetting the world for a minute, lost in him.

“Where are you?” He asked softly. I smiled.

“Right here,” I said softly. He nodded and kissed me. “Have you spent much time at the resistance camp?” He laughed.

“A fair bit,” he said softly, “more when we were younger, when my parents were still alive.” I nodded and rolled over resting my chin on his chest. “Why?”

“Tell me about it,” I whispered. He nodded.

“Are we going?” He asked.

“I don’t know yet,” I said. “Part of me never wants to go, part of me wants to stay here, safe and apart from it forever,” I straddled him, “with you.” He grinned and kissed me again.

“I wouldn’t particularly mind that either,” he whispered, I pushed hair off of his forehead. “Lisette,” he said softly, “tell me what you’re thinking.”

“I’m thinking,” I said, “of the threads of time.” He kissed me again.

“The what?” He laughed.

“You’re going to tease me,” I shook my head.

“Never,” He said solemnly.

“In the old times,” I explained, “when the chosen ruled and communed with the gods, they believed that the events of the universe were threads being plucked and spun together on the wheel of the world,” Tristan kissed my neck, “threads are untangled and cut as people’s decisions are made,” he pressed into me.

“And what does this have to do with us, or the resistance camp?” He asked, I whimpered as he moved inside of me.

“I,” I exhaled, “I’ve been thinking about the thread we’re on, where my parents were killed and so we met now instead of when we were very little.” He nodded. “You might not have loved me on another thread.”

“I’d always have loved you,” he whispered, “no matter what thread we were on.” He rolled over and we kissed again as he finished. I lay in his arms and wished with everything in me that nothing would change, and that our what if was real. “You wanted to hear about camp?” He whispered. I nodded. “It’s a busy place. General Martin does not accept laziness.” I nodded. “He’ll be furious about this, by the way, putting you at risk.”

“You haven’t put me at risk,” I said.  He sighed. “How could I be safer than having my bodyguard, quite literally in my bed.” He laughed.

“My family,” he whispered, “The Dumanis,” I shook my head. “They aren’t, good, Lisette, I love them, but they’re,” he sighed, “my grandfather does terrible things to maintain his hold on the guild, and my aunts and their husbands, and my cousins.” I kissed him.

“You aren’t them,” I said softly. He looked at me. “My cousin murdered my parents, my mother’s closest family is the Queen of Phania and she abandoned her to that death and me to this exile,” I touched his face. “We’re supposed to build a new world, apart from that.”

“We’re supposed to?” He laughed. I nodded. “I think you, Your Highness, have that mandate, not me.”

The word Mandate, startled me. Chosen have mandates, from the gods. Of course I am Chosen, but no one knows that except, well, Caleb and Anselm and me.

“I can’t do that alone,” I said.

“You’ll never be alone,” he said softly. “I won’t leave you.”

Sweet Treason

It was like a tidal wave, when he kissed me.  It pulled me under and nothing else matter, there was only Tristan, filling my lungs, overwhelming my body. My knees went to jelly and we both tumbled into the grass. I started giggled and he pushed my hair off my face.

“I love you,” he said, “every inch of me is yours, Lisette.” I swallowed and kissed him again.

“Prove it,” I mumbled into his lips. He kept kissing me and wiggled to be on top of me. I hiked my skirt up around my waist and he unlaced the front of his pants. I was never more sure of anything, than I was in that moment. I needed Tristan inside of me if I was ever going to be satisfied.

He pressed into me slowly, inch by inch, and I felt myself opening for him, and our lips never parted. Once I’d taken him, he started thrusting, and I did my best to match his rhythm. I briefly wondered if anyone could see us and then quickly realized I didn’t care. Tristan began to trail kisses on my jaw, and then my neck, and I whimpered softly.

“Lisette,” he panted, “I can’t, I have to,” I met his eyes and nodded and he pulled out, I gasped at the sudden absence of him and he finished against my thigh. We didn’t linger, quickly, pulling apart then, without a word, and walked back to the manor in comfortable silence, my hand in his.

I wanted to ask him a million things. How many other girls he’d been with? Did he know he was my first?  Did he understand that once we left here, this, whatever it was, between us couldn’t continue? But I was silent. I couldn’t shatter this moment. We got back to the manor and I excused myself to change for dinner. He kissed me softly and I went up to my room.

That night, at dinner and after we barely spoke. He couldn’t look me in the eye. It was only later, as we sat by the fire, everyone else gone to bed that he finally broke it.

“Do you regret it?” He said. I was startled.

“What?” I said. “No! Of course not! Do you?” He stared at me, baffled.

“How could you think,” he swallowed, “no, I don’t. I just thought,” he laughed and sat down, “you’ve been so quiet, and you’re normally, well,” he smiled, “not.”

“I didn’t want to scare you,” I frowned. “I didn’t know how,” I shook my head, “I’ve never done this, that, what we did.” He kissed me.

“Well, neither have I, but I thought that part was obvious,” he said. I laughed. “I enjoyed it though, and I got the impression you did.”

“Of course,” I blushed, “I mean, it was,” I swallowed. “How have you never been with anyone else?” He’s too perfect.

“There isn’t anyone else,” he said, taking my hand and tracing the lines with his thumb. “I came to life when I met you, that’s what I was trying to say this afternoon before you so rudely insisted I prove my devotion.” I rolled my eyes as he kissed my palm.

“What about The Lady Marina?” I asked. He drew back, surprised to hear her name.

“Marina?” He blinked. “What does Marina have to do with us?”

“You write to her,” I said, “and you carry that handkerchief. And you’ve said yourself that she’s beautiful, and wise, and powerful.”

“She’s been my friend since we were children,” he said, “it isn’t like that between us.” I looked at him. “She has a bit of a crush, but nothing ever happened.” I swallowed. “I only want you.” We kissed again.

“Come upstairs,” I said softly.

“Lisette,” he shook his head, “we can’t. We shouldn’t have earlier.” I looked at him. “I love you, but I’m not a fool. You’re a princess, you’re going to be queen. I’m a soldier, and one with a family that should not be trusted near to you. This isn’t, this can’t be real.” I pressed my face against his chest.

“It’s too late,” I whispered. “It already is real Tristan. Come upstairs, make love to me again. That’s an order.” He laughed.

“It’s a treasonous one,” he mumbled said and kissed my hair. “But it’s such, sweet treason.” I stood up and went to to my room, not looking back but knowing he was following me. He clicked the door shut behind us. I kissed him and everything grew more intense from there. We undressed each other and fell back onto the bed. The rushed passion on the hill gave way to something else here. Tristan was in me again, but as he pushed on top of me with his hips, his hands and mouth tended to the rest of my body, groping, kissing, nibling and generally consuming me. I was responding in kind, finding myself unable to keep my hands from his thighs, his buttocks, my mouth continually finding a spot on his chest that made him exhale and pull me closer to him.

I like that place.

I cried out a few times, until finally he pulled out, finishing with a sweet breath against my ear, whispering my name. I whimpered as he rolled away.

“Tristan,” I said softly. He wrapped his arms around me. “I love you.” He smiled.

“I love you,” he said. “Gods, it feels good to say it.” I smiled.

“Can you promise me something?” I whispered.

“Anything,” he said.

“I need you to tell me the truth,” I said. He brushed my hair out of my face. “It’s what I’ve always been most afraid of, when I become queen, that no one will tell me the truth. No one told my father the truth about Brayton, about his power and the people standing with him, and it got him killed.”

“I will always tell you the truth,” he whispered, “as I see it that is.” I smiled and kissed him. “Lisette,” he whispered again.

“Mm,” I cooed, “I like when you say my name.” He then started saying my name over and over again between kissing me.


Anselm went away for a bit, after I told him about my visitation with the goddess. He said he needed to speak to someone and that worries me. I’ve been journaling a lot, thinking about what she said, about tangled threads and being too long away from the sea.

But my days are as pleasant as they’ve ever been though. I get up at dawn with Athena and train, and then I study history or strategy, and then I have afternoons to myself, because I don’t have to study magic. This afternoon, I found my way to the orchard. I climbed up and pulled out a book. I started to read, lost in the same fairy tales I was that day nearly a month ago when then twins came.

I heard some whistling and glanced down seeing Tristan walking through. I grinned and grabbed a lemon and tossed it at him. He laughed and looked up at me.

“This feels familiar,” he said. I nodded and climbed down. It might be Athena’s influence, but I wouldn’t even dream of my leggings and baggy old shirts anymore. “Are you here being productive, or was your only mission to pelt me with citrus?”

“I was reading,” I said, and handed him the book. He flipped through it.

“Fairy tales?” He said. I nodded. He laughed and shook his head. “You never cease to surprise me, Princess.” His eyes were holding mine, and that tiny voice in the back of my head, the one I’d been pushing so hard to ignore for so long roared forward.

I love him. There’s no escaping it, anymore, no appeals to my duty as it might be. No distant princes I’ve never met and might never meet. There’s only him. He’s the sun.

“Lisette,” I said quietly, “please. Call me Lisette.” He swallowed.

“Gods,” he whispered, and moved away from me. “I can’t do that.” I stared at him.

“Why not?” I chased after him. We reached a hill, he looked at me. “Why can’t you call me by my name?”

“Because if I let a crack in the walls,” he exhaled, “if you’re not my princess, if I’m not serving you, protecting you,” I swallowed, suddenly I understood.

“Say it,” I whispered, “please, Tristan, please it might be easier if we just,” I went to take his hands and he stepped back. “I love you.” He stared at me. “I do, I don’t quite understand it, but I’ve never felt this way about anyone and,” he stopped and looked at me.

“I love you too,” he said, “but it’s impossible.” I swallowed and looked at him. “I’m not,” he looked down, “I’m supposed to protect you, I’m suppose to be lead your army, I’m not supposed to,” I laughed a little. “What’s funny?”

“You always do exactly what you’re supposed to do, don’t you?” I whispered. He smiled.

“I used to, yes,” he said. “But since I met you, well…” I nodded and we walked a little longer this time in silence.

“Can’t you do both?” I whispered. He looked oddly at me. “Can’t you protect me while loving me?” He sighed and touched my face.

“Princess,” he said softly.

“Lisette,” I corrected him. I felt like every hair on my body stand on end as he touched me.

“Lisette,” he whispered. “I don’t know if I can. I don’t think,” I looked at him. I swallowed.

“Pretend,” I said softly, “I’m not the princess.” He laughed. “Pretend I’m Lisette, I’m an orphan that Olivia and Caleb adopted on a whim. I’m who I say I am.” He nodded. “What then?”

“Then,” he whispered, “I’d tell you that you’re not like anyone I’ve ever met before. That I spend every morning, wondering when I’m going to see you, spend every night wondering what you’re thinking of and hoping that it’s me.” He pulled me close then and I swallowed, “and that all I want in the world right now is to kiss you.”

“So kiss me,” I whispered. He smiled.

“Is that an order?” He teased. I nodded. “But you’re an orphaned farmgirl I met by coincidence. I’m nearly a captain of the royal guard, you can’t give me orders.” I giggled and couldn’t stop myself then and kissed him.

I’ve only been kissed once before, by Aaron. I was twelve. It was uninvited and neither of us liked it much. (Well, him probably because it ended with me punching him and running away, but still…) This was different. Tristan wrapping his arms around me and kissing me back was everything.

“This is all just pretend, though,” I whispered. He looked down at me and shook his head.

“No,” he said, “no, it’s real.” We kissed again and I lost my breath.