CHAPTER TWENTY-SEVEN: Underway

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CHAPTER TWENTY-SEVEN: Underway

Story had her compass out and watched as it pointed due east, perpendicular to their current northerly course. She set the compass down and let it hang from the lanyard on her waist before looking back out at the water before her. The sun was low in the sky, casting orange and purple streaks through the scattered clouds overhead. It was amazing how many colors she could see in the prism of a simple white cloud now, thanks to Eánna’s magnificent gift to her.

She leaned against the guardrail at the front of the ship and felt it gently rock and sway beneath her. The salt spray whisked in the air around her, and the ropes overhead cracked and snapped as the wind blew at her back.

“I thought you’d get tired of being cooped up in your cabin eventually.”

Story stiffened as Eirnin leaned against the railing next to her. She still wasn’t ready to talk to him. She didn’t know what to say or how to say it.

“Uh, actually I was just going...”

His hand wrapped around her wrist, and she could tell by the way Eirnin’s tendons flexed under his tattoos he had no intention of letting her run off.

“Have I done something wrong?” His tone was light, almost uncaring, but his soft yellow eyes gave his worry away.

“No.” She bit her lip. “Yes.” Then squeezed her eyes shut and shook her head. “No.”

He raised a confused eyebrow at her and let go of her wrist. She sighed and looked out at the water again, knowing she lacked the courage to say any of this if she looked him in the eyes.

“No, you’ve done nothing wrong exactly. I guess I just assumed a few things. Well, one thing really. But, you know, it’s nothing. We’re nothing. And that’s okay.” The words came out hesitantly at first and then in a rush. There, she’d ended it. Now they could go back to just being friends, and someday her heart wouldn’t feel like a mountain troll had just torn it apart.

He placed a hand under her chin and guided her face to look at his. “How can you even think that?”

His eyes were a deep blue, and his entire countenance was so sad that she dropped her gaze, lest she lose her nerve. Why did he have to make this more difficult for her? “You should be with someone else. Someone like you, another elf.” A moment of inspiration hit her. “The queen!”

He cocked his head, confusion plain on his face. “What does she have to do with any of this?”

Story couldn’t believe that he was going to make her spell it out for him. He obviously knew what would happen if they pursued this relationship, how he’d be treated. Why was he playing dumb?

“You love her.”           

“Aye, of course I do. She’s my cousin.” He shrugged. “But that’s it—she’s family. There’s nothing romantic there, and there never will be.”

So much for that tactic.

She took a step back from him, sliding her hand along the railing, needing space. His nearness confused her and made her irrational and unable to think about anything but running her fingers through his silky, short hair.

Stop that!

“Look, you’re an elf. I’m a human.” How much more clear could she make it?

“Your point?” He looked a bit irritated.

“It’ll never be accepted. We’ll never be accepted.”

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