THE NEXT MORNING I lay in bed thinking over the previous day's events, funnily enough I kept coming back to that kiss. It wasn't like I hadn't kissed a guy before. I had, plenty of times, but it had never felt like that. It had been... I floundered for an adequate description, flushing at the memory of Alek's arms cradling me, the scent of his breath and, oh god, that mouth. I fanned my face with a hand, the memory deliciously real in that moment.

Incredible? Stunning?

Well, let's just say it didn't seem so unbelievable that Alek might be...

I couldn't finish that thought yet. No way, just too insane, my rational voice declared loudly while I resolutely ignored the silly voice that called quietly, this is what you asked for. Shaking off the crazy thoughts I climbed out of bed and focused on dressing, then went down to breakfast.

KASSIE WATCHED CAT stride into the dinning area. She seemed okay now, but last night she'd appeared very dazed. Kassie made a mental note to keep an eye on her. They tucked into a huge cooked breakfast. Kassie gathered a plate of yummy scraps for Lucky and a plate of cream too. At the end of breakfast the tortoiseshell cat, who normally looked very sleek, had a visible pot belly and nodded off to sleep when Kassie settled her into the pack for the day. Rumal watched over her shoulder and reached over to stroke Lucky's head, eliciting a sleepy purr from her.

'She seems to be handling the flying better,' he observed to Kassie.

'All the special food and real cream seems to make her happy.' She laughed. 'It's much fancier than what she got at home.'

RUMAL FELT ANOTHER twinge of curiosity at the thought of Kassie's home. 'You'll have to tell me about your homeland.'

Kassie glanced at him, her eyes conveying warmth and yet a hint of unease. 'I will, sometime.'

They turned their attention to getting the rest of the gear packed up. Melanite dashed around to everyone with parcels of food, tearfully hugging the men and demanding they visit more often.

KASSIE CHUCKLED SOFTLY to herself at the chaotic sight within the lodge. Because the griffons could fit in the lodge's main room and were very welcome, they seemed to forget how much space they took up. Sian did an impressive leap over Kerak, who lay sprawled out on the floor, then lunged to avoid the load of long tent poles Loi carried. Finished with their packing, Kassie and Rumal decided to wait outside, it seemed the safest place.

'Do you have villages like this in your homeland?' Rumal asked.

She gave him a sideways look while she considered what was safe to tell him. 'Yes, well kind of. Our homeland is,' she paused to think. 'More crowded than here. With many ethnicities grouped together.'

Rumal looked confused. 'Ethnicities?'

Kassie mentally smacked herself; of course, everything would have a different name here. 'Different races?' she explained hesitantly.

He nodded in understanding and then looked hard at her. 'What's your race? You're different to the others aren't you?'

She smiled, pleased he had noticed, and explained that she had been born in a different country, Malaysia, with a different climate and so had slightly different features and a different accent; her dad was European and her mum Malay—though she didn't explain that to Rumal.

'And Laura is from somewhere else too?' he asked.

She nodded. 'Loi is from Scotland and they have rather heavy accents compared to Sian or Cat. They're both from New Zealand so that's why they sound so similar.' Everyone poured out of the lodge, so they put the conversation on hold while they finished their goodbyes.

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