CHAPTER TWENTY-EIGHT: Under the Sea

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CHAPTER TWENTY-EIGHT: Under the Sea

The water was cold, but it didn’t bother Story. They’d left the ship without any fanfare, slipping into the ocean at an hour so early it may as well have been considered part of the night. She glanced to her left and saw Adair swimming ahead of them in the murky darkness of the sea, making her thankful yet again for Eánna’s gift. She scratched at the ad’har on her face absentmindedly. They were on their third set of the stuff, and it was almost time for a fourth.

Adair had said they were near her mother’s home now, which was a good thing, since after three hours of swimming, she was exhausted. She’d always been a natural swimmer, and after all the walking she’d done around Ailionora, her endurance was better than it’d ever been before. But even Eirnin looked like he was starting to flag a little, and that was saying something. Or maybe he just didn’t like being under water. Story wasn’t sure which, but he had eyed the ad’har with more revulsion than was really necessary before Adair had smeared it on his face.

She glanced surreptitiously in his direction, and that was a bad idea. The muscles in his bare shoulders and back moved fluidly under his skin while he swam, and she imagined how they would feel under her hands.

Stop that!

Story shook her head to clear it, sending up a cascade of bubbles to the surface far overhead, and tried to focus on what Adair was saying—she had, of course, been talking non-stop since they’d submerged. But it was a pointless venture. Her mind kept going back to what Eirnin had told her two days before.

He loves me!

She was flattered, scared, excited, nervous, happy, and very unsure of how she felt all at the same time. How could a person feel so many emotions at once and not explode? She knew that she cared about him—that much was obvious—but she didn’t know if she was in love with him.

She’d never been in love before, so she had no frame of reference. She’d always figured, at least based on many of the movies she’d seen and books she’d read, that she’d know instantly if she met the one. But with Eirnin, it was all so slow and gradual that she didn’t even realize she had feelings for him until they were in the middle of it all. She still wasn’t sure what “it all” was.

He also had a tendency to purposefully irritate her—though he’d probably call it teasing.

But in a good way, she thought with a half-smile, remembering his words to her.

Maybe it was just a bizarre elf way of flirting? Though—if memory served her—in elementary school, little boys were always mean to girls they liked. Mostly because they didn’t understand what they were feeling and being mean was the only way they knew how to cope.

And maybe I’m just over thinking things. Again.

Eirnin was as good as his word and didn’t act like anything was any different between them. He had been just as attentive as before but without the kissing and cuddling, which—she realized with a blush—she really missed. What there had been was plenty of staring, and not just from him this time. She was hyper-aware of him at all times and tracked his movements with her eyes like some crazy, obsessed stalker. Except it couldn’t be stalking if he liked it—could it? He had said that he liked her looking at him…

I am an idiot. She flushed, suddenly very grateful that no one could read her thoughts.

No wonder men didn’t understand women. Heck, she didn’t even understand herself. What hope was there for them?

“Hey, I just asked if you wanted to shave off your eyebrows and you said ‘uh-huh’.”             Adair swam up next to Story, her sarong fluttering lazily in the ocean currents, blending well with the small school of brightly-colored fish clustered around her. She’d fought wearing anything initially, stridently informing Story that she was a dryad, and dryads swam naked. It took Story pointing out that she couldn’t go prancing around the Faerie Prince’s garden in her birthday suit before she agreed to put anything on. So, they were all swimming in minimal clothing, carrying the rest of what they needed in a pack on Adair’s back since she was the strongest swimmer. Neither Eirnin nor Story liked that much but had eventually agreed that it made sense.

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