Samera

A chance meeting between a prince and a peasant results in consequences that will not only change their lives, but also the kingdom.

Cover by Zillah Designs.

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29. Chapter Twenty Nine: Samera

      Khyber pushed me behind him and kept a hand on my waist, perhaps to reassure himself that I was still there. Nobody spoke and I took the chance to examine the riders. One of them was Prince Abelard and I cringed away when his dark eyes fell on me. I didn’t recognise any of the other five men but from the way they were holding themselves they were high born. Their horses were, like Shadow, magnificent creatures whose coats were so shiny that I could probably see my reflection in them.

      “Taking your pet for a walk, brother?” Abelard asked his voice cold.

      His fellow riders sneered at me and I fixed my gaze on the snow covered ground, my cheeks becoming hot.

      Khyber didn’t speak so Abelard said. “I would go back to the Palace if I were you. It would be tragic if somebody got accidentally shot.”

      Khyber tensed at the threat and I gently laid a hand on his back, not wanting him to say or do anything he might later regret. Seeing that Khyber wasn’t going to rise to the bait, Abelard snorted and kicked his horse. The other riders followed as he disappeared into the surrounding trees. After a few minutes Khyber turned to face me.

      “We should probably go back to the Palace,” he muttered not meeting my eyes.

      Khyber and I mounted Shadow before riding back the way we had come.

 

      Hovering by the window I tapped my fingers on my thigh, the dress soft on my skin. I still couldn’t believe that Princess Leanda had given me her old dresses. I was wearing clothing fit for a princess.

      “Are you alright, Samera?” Orien asked from where he was sat at the table.

      I tore my gaze from the night sky to look at him. “Yes, I’m fine.” I smiled.

      “It’s just that you’ve been pacing for a while.”

      It was true. I hadn’t been able to keep still ever since Khyber and Mariella had left to attend dinner.

      “I just... I don’t know what to do with myself,” I replied joining Orien at the round wooden table.

      That seemed to be happening a lot lately and it was usually when Khyber wasn’t around. It was almost like he had taken a part of me with him.

      “We could have a game of cards?” Orien suggested scratching his chin.

      Whenever both Khyber and Mariella couldn’t be with me Orien would look after me. It was probably because Khyber was worried that Abelard or one of his friends might try and do something to me. Orien shuffled a pack of cards and I felt my eyes drawn to the flames flickering in the fireplace.

      “I’m worried about my father.”

      I didn’t realise that I had spoken aloud until Orien replied. “Do you want to go home?”

      Accepting some cards from him I said. “I do and I don’t. On the one hand I should be caring for my father but... I like it here. This will probably sound horrible but it’s nice to have only myself to think about.”

      Orien smiled sadly. “Don’t feel guilty. I think that you deserve a break after all that you’ve been through.”

      After a while Khyber and Mariella returned and we all played card games together. It wasn’t long before Orien left and then an hour or so after that Abelard could be heard roaming the hallway shouting drunkenly for Mariella. The blood drained from her face and she quickly stood up, muttering goodnight before exiting the room.

      “Want another game?” Khyber asked as he gathered all the cards together.

      Smiling I replied. “Actually, I was wondering if you could read to me.”

      “Of course,” he said raising his grey eyes to meet mine. “Shall we sit by the fire?”

      I retrieved a book from the bedside table and sat down in front of the fireplace. The flames were dying but it was still warm. Khyber settled down beside me placing two glasses and a bottle of wine in front of us.

      “Would you like a drink?” he asked. I nodded and Khyber poured me some. Handing me a glass he took the book from me. He examined the cover and smiled. “Another poetry book,”

      I looked down at my wine. “I can get a different book if you want.”

      “No,” Khyber chuckled. “This is fine.”

      He started reading a poem aloud and I soon became lost in the words. I loved poetry. Sipping at my wine I found my gaze drawn to Khyber’s mouth, to his lips. A blush crept onto my cheeks and I glanced away. I didn’t realise that he had finished reading until he laced his fingers through mine. I blinked and gazed at Khyber aware that we must have moved closer. His touch made my insides quiver.

      “What are you thinking about?” Khyber asked his voice soft as he brushed the hair from my face.

      “The war,” I replied honestly. The poem had been about love and death and had made me think of the war. “I... I’m worried that my brother will die and Omer.” I felt Khyber tense at Omer’s name. “Do you worry that the King will get injured?”

      Sighing he ran a hand through his hair, messing it up. I had to refrain from the urge to reach out smooth it down. “Sometimes,”

      I finished off my wine and my stomach growled. Embarrassed I fixed my eyes on my legs.

      “Did you not eat your dinner?” Khyber asked caressing the back of my hand with his thumb.

      My words stilled in my throat at his touch. “I...I ate some of it and it was delicious but I wasn’t very hungry.”

      “Come on,” he said getting up and pulling me to my feet. “I’ll take you to the kitchens.”

      “You don’t have to.”

      Shaking his head Khyber smiled and led me out to the corridor. Our hands were still linked as we walked to the kitchens. We passed several guards all of who bowed to Khyber. They probably glared after me; I knew that Khyber, Mariella and Orien were the only ones that wanted me at the Palace. I couldn’t help but gasp at the size of the kitchens. They seemed to go on forever. Khyber chuckled at my reaction and released my hand to search the cupboards. I felt disappointment bloom in my chest. There were several windows that didn’t have much of a view and a lantern was hanging by the door. I picked it up and went over to Khyber, holding the lantern high so that he could see.

      “What in the name of the Goddess do you think you’re doing?”

      I jumped at the voice, nearly dropping the lantern and Khyber hit his head on the cupboard.

      “It’s just me Hilda,” he said moving to stand beside me as he rubbed his head.

      The thin, narrow lipped woman’s thunderous expression quickly turned to shock. Curtsying low she apologised. “Please forgive me, your highness. I thought... I didn’t realise that it was you.” Hilda’s greying hair was pulled back in a tight bun and she was wringing her hands anxiously probably afraid that she was in trouble.

      Khyber smiled warmly. “It’s quite alright. I was just trying to find something for Samera here to eat.”

      Hilda eyed me with interest. Maybe she had heard about me. I was sure that the servants were all very intrigued about why Khyber was caring for me. “I’m sure I could find something, your highness. Please wait here.” Hilda disappeared into the pantry.

      Turning to Khyber I smiled asking. “How’s your head?”

      “It’s okay thanks,” he answered embarrassed.

      I reached out and gently stroked his head, my heart fluttering in my chest. Khyber’s eyes closed slightly and his lips parted. His grey eyes locked on mine and he smiled. Placing his hand on mine, Khyber leaned forwards as if to kiss me but Hilda suddenly reappeared and we jumped apart.

      Seeming not to have noticed, Hilda put a dish on the counter. “Here you are, your highness. I found some apple tart or would you prefer something else?”

      Khyber gazed at me questioningly and I shook my head, my cheeks red.

      “Thank you, Hilda. That will be perfect.”

      “Is there anything else I can do for you, your highness?” Hilda asked eager to please.

      Khyber replied kindly. “No, Hilda. You should go to bed its late. Thank you for your help.”

      “Well if you change your mind don’t hesitate to ask, your highness.” Hilda curtsied before leaving the kitchen.

      Unable to meet Khyber’s gaze I stared at the floor. Had he really been about to kiss me? Had I wanted him to? Yes I had. This unsettled me. Since when did I have those kinds of feelings for Khyber? Just the fact that he was stood there next to me right there and then made my skin tingle.

      “How much of this tart do you want then?”

     

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