It was getting dark by the time they turned to head home, and the festival was not winding down in the slightest. A large stack of wood had just finished being stacked and it seemed a row of bonfires was imminent. Adela checked over her shoulder, seeing bits of glowing in the distance. Who knew how long the festival would continue down in the valley.
“We should have left earlier.” Thomas stepped around a puddle. “We’re liable to step into a sinkhole at this rate.”
“You seem perfectly agile.” Adela smiled. “If anyone is going to get themselves stuck in mud it will be me. Luckily I’d have you to rescue me.”
“You’re so sure I would be able?” He smiled, helping her step around a puddle.
“I have complete faith,” she said. “I feel incredibly safe with you, Thomas. I’m sure the worst that would happen is that I’d lose a shoe to the mud.”
He laughed. “And I would do my best to even save that.”
“Shoes are replaceable,” she said. “Much more so than people. I’d prefer you forget my shoe and focus on me.”
“It would be impossible not to.”
She slowed, looking at him.
“What?” He frowned.
“You are probably the sweetest man I have ever had the pleasure to meet, Thomas. That or the man most skilled in flattery that I have ever met.”
“I’m not one to flatter when there’s no backing for it,” he said.
“You see?” She smiled. “I’m surprised I haven’t seen more women throwing themselves at you.”
“I believe your cousin frightens them away,” he mumbled.
“She can be a very frightening woman,” Adela answered, whether or not he was looking for one.
He cleared his throat. “Not that it seems to assuage you any.”
“Well, there’s not much she can do to me, Thomas,” Adela said. “Worse comes to worst, I’m sent back to Penrith. She can hardly excommunicate me.”
He caught her hand, turning to face her.
She looked up at him, eyes wide. “Is something wrong, Thomas?”
He looked at her.
She blinked. “What?”
He took her hand and held it in between both of his. “You are the most remarkable woman I have ever met, Miss Tilden.”
“Thank you,” she said with an easy smile. “But you’ve only known me a few days.”
“It feels much longer.”
“In a good way, I hope.”
“In the best of ways,” he said.
With not much else to say, she smiled.
He didn’t move to talk, didn’t move at all, just stood there holding her hand.
Adela Tilden has always been more ambitious than her station in life might allow. A minor nobleman’s daughter on a failing barony, Adela’s prospects seem dire outside of marrying well-off. When Adela catches the eye of the crown prince, Edward, however, well-off doesn’t seem to be a problem. Thrown into a world of politics and intrigue, Adela might have found all the excitement she ever wanted—if she can manage to leave her past behind.
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Genre – Alternate Historical Fiction
Rating – PG-13
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