THE REST OF the flight was peaceful. Nesha and Kerak ran a few races and then Phroma insisted on racing the winner which Audrey thoroughly enjoyed. She yelped at Kerak the whole time Phroma raced him. Tomiar obliged Kerak with a race too and the men felt pleased to see the griffons felt up to strength again. The effects from their leap appeared to have faded fast.

'Alek,' Loushka's voice shook him out of his meditative state. 'We're going to locate a suitable campsite shortly. You'd best wake Catherine now.'

Alek shook her gently. 'Catherine, wake up we're nearly there.'

She mumbled against his chest and sleepily looked around. Then she registered where she sat and her head snapped up. Wide emerald eyes stared up at him in shock.

WHOA! WHEN DID I get to the front of the saddle!? I gripped the sides of it and stared around for a moment, it was a hell of a scary view if you weren't a fan of heights. I looked back up at Alek and attempted an "I'm cool with this" smile while the silly voice in my head did the insane giggling for me.

Better in than out I guess.

CATHERINE GAVE HIM a tentative smile, her lips pressed together. It made her cheekbones jut out and a tiny dimple in each cheek show. The expression enchanted Alek and he gently pressed his lips to her forehead, unable to resist.

I SAT VERY still while my insides did somersaults.

He just kissed me on the forehead! And that look... That smile...

Well that was the most efficient way to distract you, my rational voice sounded amused. Just imagine what you'd have done if he'd kissed you on the mouth.

The silly voice loved that idea.

I swallowed hard—surely it wasn't possible to fall for someone this quickly? And really, he was practically taking advantage of me considering the situation. I worked on the indignant feeling while my rational voice laughed at me; why not just go with it?

I considered that. Oh what the heck, let's just enjoy it—after all it might amount to nothing.

Alek's voice interrupted my thoughts. 'Catherine.'

I looked up. He did that slow, wide smile again, making my toes curl.

'We're about to land, so hold on,' Alek continued.

Hold on? To what?

He wrapped one strong arm around my waist and gripped the saddle with his other hand. Then we dropped from the sky.

Still clutching Alek tight while making choked gasping noises, it stunned me when he said. 'That was nice and smooth, well done, Loushka.'

The griffon made an appreciative noise at him.

Nice? Smooth?

I guess he isn't wrong, my rational voice pointed out. I mean, it's not like you noticed an almighty bump when we hit the ground and you barely even jolted in your seat.

Yes well, when my stomach returns from squishing my brain I might consider that point of view, my silly voice snapped.

Alek let go of me and I clutched the saddle with both hands while he did his clever trick of sliding down Loushka's forearm.

On the ground he called up to me and beckoned. 'Slide down, Catherine.' I stared down at him. I had a very vivid image in my head of me doing a giant belly flop onto the ground in front of him. Not a good look. As I considered my options he stepped closer to Loushka.

The Arrival, Book one of the Birthright TrilogyRead this story for FREE!