Orb's Year 945
She shut her eyes and gritted her teeth when she felt the tears threaten once more. She would not cry about this...
Elyssa cracked her eyes open and looked towards her mother. She gasped with surprise and scrambled over to her mother.
Their autonoman Castle Guard was tasked with getting all the supplies the castle would need for the puppy that Elyssa had named Rembrandt.
Elyssa felt happy and needed for the first time in a long while...
Celeste's lips thinned and she crossed her arms. "You are going and that is final. You will not offend the Crown Princess."
Right before Prince Phillipe and Prince Felicity had exchanged their vows, Elyssa had been overwrought and had slipped out to the Entrance Hall to sit. Moments later, this man had slipped from the Throne Room with an intense frown on his own face. She'd wondered what his story was.
Then, their eyes had met and his face had cleared of anger as he approached her.
And she hadn't been able to shake him since!
He had stepped from the Throne Room to avoid watching Princess Felicity marry her prince. He'd been ready to do violence on anything or anyone when he'd glanced across the Hall and seen a vision of an angel with such sadness in her eyes. She hadn't been happy for the company and had continually tried to think of excuses to be free of him.
With a wicked grin, he teased, "Ah, but I could never allow such a beautiful woman to return home unassisted! What would the Crown Prince think of his friend?" In his experience, it never hurt to make mention of his close ties to the Royales.
"Won't you give me leave to stand by your fire a moment or two before you send me out in this weather?" he asked quickly. For some reason, he just wasn't ready to leave her company.
Elyssa scowled at Prince Berjes. What the devil could he want, pestering me like this! she thought with exasperation. Good breeding warred with the desire to slink off alone and lick her wounds. She supposed her pity party could wait a short while. "Very well," she announced regally. "You may come in."
She just hoped she didn't regret it...
"We tend to keep to ourselves," she said softly, shifting uncomfortably after his fierce frown.
Elyssa flushed. He should've been her husband. "No," she answered quietly. "My mother, Princess Celeste."
Berjes eyes snapped to hers. "Princess Celeste? So your father was.."
She nodded silently, mentally preparing for the thoughtless comments. Once, someone had actually asked her if she'd known what her father had been planning. But his response surprised her.
"That must have been very hard," he said with understanding... and compassion. Berjes knew how Prince Earl had worried the safety of his aunt and cousin as they sought to capture the murdering traitor. Bless the Orb they had captured the lunatic before he'd had a chance to harm anyone else!
Elyssa cleared her throat softly, her gaze darting around the room. Although he had chosen to completely ignore her earlier cues, Berjes found himself honoring this one.
Elyssa's eyes fluttered and her pulse quickened as he charmed her. She supposed he was very practiced at this...
Orb's Year 947
"Of course, let's go upstairs," she said nervously.
Berjes grinned saucily and flexed his muscle. "What about this one? Doesn't it make me look more manly?" he asked.
Elyssa bit back a smile, impressed despite herself at his muscular body. "Unless you can hold it in that manner for hours..." she teased.
Berjes look smoldered. "I can hold it like this as long as you like," he promised silkily.
Elyssa took a shaky breath and began painting.
"Berjes! No! You can't look until it's done!" she said in surprise when she saw him approach
"Berjes! Oh! Stop it!" she laughed. "You are incorrigible!"
Orb's Year 948
Felicity kissed her cousin's cheek. "Is there a law against coming by to see my cousin?" she asked with a grin. "Oh! Cesar!" she called out as the unruly young pup bolted inside.
"Oh no! Rembrandt!" Elyssa cried out, hurrying in after Cesar.
"Thank you," Felicity said graciously, then got straight to the point. "Elyssa, have I done something to anger you?" she asked.
"No! Of course not!" Elyssa answered hurriedly. "Why ever would you think that?"
Felicity paused and lowered her voice. "My husband told me of your history," she admitted. "I thought you might hate me terribly."
"No! I don't hate you! I don't even hate him!" she said, realizing it was true.
Elyssa nodded, her cheeks flushed. "I understand. I'm glad you have found true happiness together."
Felicity smiled again, the secret smile of a woman in love with a happy family. "We certainly have," she said softly, then turning to Elyssa, she announced, "And so that is why, dear cousin, I will not rest until you have found true love as well!"
"Oh no! Please do not worry yourself!" Elyssa said quickly. "I am quite happy!"
Felicity waved her hand dismissively. "I'm afraid my mind is set! I will be your fairy godmother!" she announced cheerfully.
Elyssa groaned with dismay.
The paintbrush swept over the planes of his smiling face, as though he knew a secret she did not. But she knew the truth.
Love is a word that comes readily to lips, but love is an emotion that does not exist.
Celeste's face paled. "What is it?" she asked tersely. She had put behind her husband's treachery these past years, rebuilding her life. She didn't think she could stand it if he destroyed her sense of peace! She clasped her hands together nervously as she tried to read her brother's eyes.
Barron put the missive in his sister's hands. "Geoffrey L'Adventurer is dead," he said. "His cousin, the new king, sent the news as soon as he learned it."
"Mother, it will be okay," Elyssa promised, stroking her mother's hair tenderly.
"I know," Celeste sobbed. "I'm just so... happy..."
Elyssa closed her eyes as a shudder went through her at her mother's words. It was over. He didn't have the power to hurt them anymore.