20 - The Unstoppable Margaret

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Margaret's shriek of delight was loud enough to split the sky and make boulders cover their ears. She captured Fye in an embrace so tight that it made Fye wonder if her mother had been possessed by some evil, super strong spirit.

"Oh, my sweet little girl!" Margaret slobbered on Fye's cheek. Margaret probably thought it was a kiss, but no. It was slobbering. "You're going to get married! Oh, I'm so happy! My sweet little girl! My dear, sweet Fye!"

Fye wormed her way out of her mother's iron grip. "Uh huh," she mumbled.

I'm doing the right thing, she told herself for the billionth time since she and Xander agreed to get married ten minutes ago. Fye's mother would be happy, and as annoying as Margaret could be sometimes, she did deserve a little sunshine in her life. And if Fye had to pretend to want to marry Xander to give that sunshine to her, so be it. It was a small price to pay.

Still, Fye's stomach ached at the thought. Or was that fluttering?

Xander was handsome—too handsome for his own, good really. Those green eyes of his made emeralds look dull. Not that Fye had seen too many emeralds in person, but she could imagine. And those muscles... it ought to be illegal for a man to be that muscular.

Stop it! she berated herself. If she kept thinking about how handsome Xander was, she might... she might...

No, she oughtn't think about his physical appearance. She could think about his personality. His funny, irreverent personality that also held an undeniable sweetness, and a note of honor that many men lacked. He was brave. Selfless, too. Agreeing to marry her without the chance of ever doing that thing that made children? How many men had that sort of self-sacrificing spirit? Even if he thought he could convince her to change her mind, the fact that he was willing to take the risk spoke volumes about him.

Stop it. Thinking about his personality did no good, either.

She would have to stop thinking about him altogether. Yes, that was it. She would pretend he was... a block of wood. Yes. A handsome and charming block of wood.

No, that didn't have the desired impact, either.

When the day began, her intention had been to end her arrangement with Xander. After last night... when they had been standing by the fire, with him so close to her... that was when something in Fye changed. She had hoped that it would be cured by the morning, but it was still there. Last night, she had realized that if Xander had actually been her suitor and not just a fake suitor, she wouldn't have pushed him out of a tree. She wouldn't have broken his noise, either. She might have even let him write poetry for her.

The realization had turned her icy inside. It wasn't acceptable.

And now I'm going to marry him. This is the worst thing ever. But when she looked at Xander or thought about him too much, it didn't seem like the worst thing ever...

"You should get married right away!" Margaret said, yanking Fye back to reality. "Tonight. I know there are a few priests here."

"No!" Fye said, panic lodging in her throat. "Mother, it's the middle of the—"

"Yes, dear. The middle of the night. You're quite right. Tomorrow, then. After whatever nonsense you'll be doing in the arena. Immediately after, we'll get you cleaned up and into a pretty dress, and—"

"No. After the tournament. Mother, I—"

"But why wait, dear? Now that you're engaged, you're as good as married. And the sooner you do it, the less time you'll have to get nervous. I remember how nervous I was on my wedding night. I had been thinking about it for months! It's best to get it over with, dear. The first time might be a bit awkward, but—"

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