Sequel to Spark
I'd known her most of my life.
I didn't know how I felt about her until that day by the river.
Then she came to my chamber in the dead of night. And I wasn't about to let a good thing go.
But fate said otherwise.
I was forced to commit a horrible crime. One she'll never forgive me for.
I tried to let her go...I really did.
01 Caring for Her
I had no idea how important the girl was to me until that day next to the river. She was about fifteen, and I only a few years older, when she burst from the trees to interfere in our day of training.
Roger and I were practicing swordplay next to the rushing water. Enjoying the added stimulation of birds, calling insects, and the whistling of the trees rather than the silence of the Training Yard.
Archer was circling around us. Giving pointers to us both as we moved forward and back. Metal clanging between us.
When Fiere burst from the leafed branches. Surging over the distance to toss her arms around Roger. “Don’t let them get me!”
He turned with her still dangling off his back, his sword lowering.
A huddled group of angry boys appeared behind her. Glowering at her hatefully.
“What did you do?” I asked her. Sure that she had earned whatever seething annoyance they were giving her.
She’s always into something.
Always stirring up trouble. I groaned inwardly.
She was huddled against Roger, peering around his elbow.
“They wouldn’t let me play in their mud fight.” She mumbled sullenly.
“So, what did you do?” I called her out. Knowing she was far from as sweet as her brother seemed to think.
“I hit them with a bit of horse-.” She started to admit over her shoulder. Blinking huge green eyes at me as her brother’s chiding cut her off.
“Fiere!” Roger objected. But there was the hint of mirth in his voice.
He coddled her. Thinking everything she did was adorable.
I supposed it was because she was a handful of years younger than us, and he’d never guessed he’d have another sibling.
“You made your mess. You have to clean it up.” I told her impatiently. Pointing my sword to the boys.
She glowered at me a moment before rolling her shoulders. Straightening she walked to those boys as regally as any princess should. But upon reaching them she shouted.
“You deserved it! You should’ve let me try to.”
“We don’t want know fancy pants Princess blaming us for her pretty hair getting dirty!” One of the boys said snidely.
I found myself taking a step forward. My hand gripping the sword. That seemed a bit unnecessary.
I was highly annoyed that the common boy would talk to his princess so cruelly.
But Roger’s hand on my arm stopped me. “They’re just children, Brother. Let them be. She must learn she can’t be so cruel either.”
Doubtful she’ll ever learn that.
“She’s a heathen, Roger.”
“I know.” He beamed proudly. Crossing his arms over his chest.
“You’re nothing but-” She shrieked, dropping her head like a bull and charging him.
He stepped aside and shoved her. Which sent her stumbling sideways several steps.
She teetered at the river’s edge and we all lurched forward.
Roger, Archer and I.
“She can’t swim!” Roger cried.
“I know.” I passed him. Reaching her just as she fell. I snatched her arm from the air. Using my superior Eternus reflexes to snag her while Roger was still only two steps from where he’d been.
Archer was at my side. “Good catch.”
He turned to glare at the boys.
“That’s how you treat your princess?” He demanded.
Fiere was blinking at me with those huge green eyes. Her face soft and the hint of fear dancing over her eyes.
And in that moment, I knew I’d have lost my mind, if she’d drowned in that river.
I’d never have let her. I’d have gotten her out. One way or another.
She clawed the bank with her free hand. Long red hair straight down her back to circle around her upper legs. She was tiny framed. Thin and narrow but beautiful, nonetheless.
I lifted her onto the bank, and she caught me in a violent hug. Pinning my thick arms to my shoulders. Snuggling her cheek into my chest and clinging to me as though I were the greatest hero to walk on two feet.
I cleared my throat. Giving her a hard look as she turned her head up to me.
“What?” She blinked.
I nodded toward her hug.
She smiled unabashed, dropping her head back against my head. Clearly with no intention of letting go anytime soon.
I looked across the grassy bank to Roger.
His expression turned from thankful to amused.
I grunted. Shrugging her off and walking back over to pick up my discarded sword.
Archer was there, to coddle her. Pulling her before him to inspect her from head to toe. “You okay, Girl.”
She nodded. Smiling softly. “Thanks to Jacks.”
“Jackson.” I corrected. Posing for further swordplay and not sparing her another look.
“That’s what I said.” She stood there at the edge of the clearing. Watching us the remainder of the day.
Archer had successfully chased the boys off.
But I found my eyes continually returning to her. Worried that she might stumble again.
Or get into some other kind of trouble.
That was the first day that I realized how much she meant to me.
It wasn’t much more than a year after that, that she showed up in my chamber.
Madder than a hornet because of something I’d said earlier in the day.
I’d taken to calling her Baby Girl, as her brother did. Because I could tell it annoyed her when I did. And I thought, in the back of my mind, that it might dissuade her following me about.
But it didn’t.
Instead, she’d showed up at my chamber door in the dead of night.
I often stayed at Pyre Castle despite that I resided in Eternus.
It had been an agreement by our fathers years ago. A way of allying the countries. We couldn’t do a wedding because my father, King Eternus had said that it was too dangerous for an Eternus to be engaged to a Skin when he might kill her.
He meant me.
Engaged to Fiere, was an impossibility.
King Pyre had agreed.
So, the negotiation was made that I would be leant to King Pyre to train with his men and learn the ways of his knights and warriors and to befriend his children.
So, we all grew up together. Learned loyalty to each other to continue peace between the kingdoms.
02 Plans of Kings
The plans of the old kings had worked. Roger Pyre was now my best friend. Had been for years. Securing a friendship between the kingdoms. One I never expected to end.
Archer Gray was my cousin, but he’d been raised with me as a brother when his own parents had passed away at a young age.
Archer was next in line to inherit the Eternus Crown were anything to happen to me. But that had never interfered in how close we were.
We do nearly everything together.
There was really only one thing that seemed to be fostering animosity between us.
Archer held a deep infatuation with Roger’s little sister.
Something everyone seemed oblivious to, but me.
And I felt very protective of her.
Is that the only reason? A little voice in my head whispered before I banished it.
But to every time Archer tried to sneak off with her. I goaded her until she as after me. Whether throwing clumps of mud or grass or chasing me around the stables. Unable to catch me with her far shorter legs.
She was all fire though.
Easy to stir.
And we’d gotten old enough now that I found myself watching her differently. Noticing how she never wore her hair up as a princess should. It was always down. As wild around her shoulders, as she was.
I was strolling down the hall from my chamber when I glimpsed her in the Solar with her mother.
She looked pretty today. Her skin was tanner than it should be because she was forever outside following us. She wore a lovely shimmering green gown. Her small mouth pursed in aggravation. Her green eyes were snapping with frustration as they did every time her mother tried to get her to sit down and learn to weave.
“You should figure that out, Baby Girl.” I entered the room to taunt. “You’ll need to know how to do that one day when you’re some poor sot’s submissive wife.”
She hated that word.
I knew it.
She’s afraid that will be expected of her when she’s wed.
And she hated it when I called her ‘Baby Girl.’
I didn’t know why. But the fact that it made her feisty, made me enjoy doing it, twice as much. Now I did it more to annoy her than because it was what her brother called her.
She stood up so fast, she toppled the table her mother had the patterns laid out on. She caught a fistful of cloth patterns and hurled them at me.
They made it about halfway before floating harmlessly to the floor.
She stomped a foot and huffed.
“You are rather similar to those wild bulls.” I pointed out. “They huff like that, right before they-”
She leapt over the narrow table and tossed aside the weaving plates, with surprising agility.
Laughing loudly I jogged just out of her reach.
“Jackson!” She shouted. Swiping at the back of my shirt again.
I slowed down enough to stay just out of reach as we rushed down a corridor. “If you didn’t have stubby little troll arms, you might have gotten ahold of me!”
She hissed in fury. Letting out a sound that reminded me of a mare choking.
Was that her mad sound?
I only laughed harder. I felt fingers tearing my shirt and realized I better up the pace a bit.
“Don’t be mad, Baby Girl. Girls are supposed to be slow.”
She shrieked an epithet and ran faster.
I was laughing as I hopped down the stairs two at a time. Knowing they’d slow her down a lot. I leapt over the railing of the second level and landed agilely at the bottom.
Something a human can’t do.
I gave her a wave before I was out the door. Whistling as I crossed the courtyard.
“You appear in a good mood.” Archer remarked.
“Which means he’s been torturing my sister again.” Roger remarked. Falling into step with them.
It was irresistible.
She was still shrieking from inside and there was a thump behind us as she finally reached the bottom of the stairs. Tossing open the heavy front door with surprising strength. “Jackson Gray!”
I ducked my head into my shoulders. Snickering so hard I was nearly sputtering.
Roger turned stunned eyes to me. “What did you do?”
I shrugged lifting my hand in a helpless gesture. “Merely trying to be encouraging.”
“A submissive wife!” She railed storming down the steps with her green skirts fisted.
“Did you say that?” Archer blinked at me in horror.
I shrugged. “I don’t recall.”
“The hell you don’t.” Roger said dryly. “Come on.”
He caught my sleeve and began pulling. “We better get you down to the river before she catches up.”
“She has tiny legs. I’m not worried about it.”
“Yeah?” Archer drawled. “Cause those ‘tiny legs’ are paddling fast. She’s right behind you.”
I was gone in a flash. Far from her reach as I headed out the bailey gate and out into the fields beyond. Still hearing her shouting in the distance.
It was an amusing day.
I didn’t regret a word of it.
But the last thing in the world I expected was the banging on my chamber door that night. A determined thudding that was like to wake everyone in the corridor.
I tossed it open, expecting to be told that the castle was afire.
Instead, I dropped my eyes to her slim frame.
She was tall for a female, I supposed.
At least a human one.
But to me, she still seemed tiny. So slender she was barely a stripe in the hallway. But as of late she’d begun to develop some curves along her hips and chest.
Those I found myself particularly interested in. Appreciating the fine form of any woman but finding Fiere’s particularly intriguing. Especially because she generally wore loose dresses that didn’t cling to much form. Though slim ankles often peeped from the bottom when she ran after me.
Another reason I enjoyed looking back at her pursuing me, so much.
And right now, those curves were prettily silhouetted by the candle burning behind her, which made her thin chemise entirely sheer.
Not that I mind…
“Yes?” I lifted a brow.