Chapter 3

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Chapter 3

It was two days later when Oliver kissed her cheek goodbye and sailed back home. It warmed her heart to spend time with him, she felt as if she could tell him anything and in those last three days she did. Never once had he judged, he was always there instead with a listening ear and comforting hand. She mused that a marriage between them was actually the correct thing because she wanted him in her life forever.

She was working on her latest painting when her legs grew restless and her thoughts turned hazy, all key signs it was time to take a break. She left her bedroom intending to take a walk to clear her mind but as luck would have it she found trouble.

Dawson was staying in their private compound until her father could arrange for more suitable arrangements in one of the camps villas. Several halls down from her own corridors she found him.

Something sinister took hold and forced her to peak inside his room, she had only wanted to see if he was in and catch a glimpse of his grace. She found he was in the process of getting undressed for bed and instead of turning away as a proper woman should, she watched. I’m going to the fiery pits of hell, she thought.

He was of a beautiful form, his body was tall and lean, every muscle defined and smooth with lightly tanned skin. He stopped before removing his shorts. He walked over to the door and pulled it farther open before she could register a thought. He loomed over her as she fell back on her butt and hands. An amused expression twisted on his lips. “Lady Lucia, what are you doing out here?”

“I…” she swallowed the bad lie which popped into her head. There was no excuse for her to be there and especially at his door. “It seems I’ve taken a wrong turn.”

“In a home you’ve been in all your life?”

The embarrassment reddened her cheeks and sent her heart low in her belly. “Are you teasing me?”

“Apologies.” Dawson extended his hand and helped her up off the floor. “Please excuse my lack of dress, I thought I had heard an intruder.” 

“It’s my fault.” Shyly she turned away from his honest expression and hoped he hadn’t realized she was peaking at him. “I have been meaning to talk to you. I never got the chance to thank you for the help you gave me at the market.” She used the words to help calm the frenzy going on in her body from his warm touch.

“I was only doing what any honorable man would.”

“And yet you were the only one to stand up to the hyena.”

“Sometimes a beautiful woman intimidates a man.”

“But not you.” Did he find her pretty? She sure hoped so as she stared at him unable to look away again.

“Not in the same way. Your beauty is a danger for a man like me nonetheless. We shouldn’t be here like this. Goodnight Princess Lucia.” He turned quickly on his heel and disappeared back inside his bed chamber.

She stood there with a mix of emotions, she was excited to know he felt something as equally as forbidden as she, and yet at the same time she was full of regret that their lives weren’t different.

She was a princess destined to marry a prince, and Dawson was a servant to her father and their pride.

With her shoulders slumped Lucia turned back to her room. Seated back in front of her painting her stroke of inspiration took on a very different edge, long gone were the pretty flowers and bright colors.

The next morning it was time for breakfast and her mother and father weren’t willing to hear any excuses. She could paint in her down time, her mother would always say and this morning was no different. The king and queen were full of bright smiles and laughter seated around the table. Lucia grew nervous with curiosity as she joined her parents. “Am I missing something?”

Queen Katarina waved her hand. “Your father was just reminding me of something from when we were younger. The night before our wedding while everyone was nervous for the festivities we were doing what young adults do.”

Her father picked up the story. “We were racing all night through the forest and that morning of the wedding my father was red from fury to see us running into the chapel with dirty feet and wild hair.”

Lucia smiled. “Grandma must’ve been furious.” Katarina’s mother, Maria Mary, was a very strict woman living back in Spain, she came and visited the kingdom for the holidays.

Lewis Cahill was a king for a large pride and yet still showed a great amount of fear at the mention of his mother-in-law. “That’s putting it mildly. The wedding was beautiful and perfect yet Lady Maria still has complaints more than twenty years later. I hope your mother is being more lenient for yours.” He said to his daughter.

“Well…” Lucia laughed at her mother’s wide eyed look of surprise. “You’re doing wonderful and the plans are lovely.” She didn’t have any inputs of her own, the wedding was a union between the two prides and it was more for the public than for the couple. The laughter died down and they began eating breakfast as a family the way her father had requested. After breakfast her parents were anxious for a run and Lucia decided to walk with them outside but declined to run. She preferred to run more toward sundown when the forests were a little emptier and there wasn’t as high a chance encountering someone naked. Lady Gwen always teased about her modesty, nudity was apart of their culture yet it still left her self-conscious.

Outside her parents wasted no time racing away like two teenagers. Her mother hiked her dress to her knees, kicked off her shoes and ran ahead of her husband. His laugher filled the air as he rushed faster to catch up. Deeper in the forest they’d strip and shift into their lion.

Lucia laughed and glanced around for any lurking eyes out of embarrassment for her parents. There were guards patrolling the grounds and they struggled not to crack their own smiles. The forest surrounding their compound was all protected with sharp wires and tall brick walls to keep the vicious hyenas out, so the guards continued to make their rounds not bothering to follow the king and queen.

As her laughter died down Lucia moved around the garden to pick flowers for a display Jennifer would love in her room. She all but jumped out her stockings when she noticed she was no longer alone. “Your grace.”

Dawson fought back a smile. “Princess.” He bent at the waist in proper greeting. “I hope I didn’t scare you.”

“No.” she quickly denied her fright. “I didn’t hear you approach.”

“I was looking for King Cahill and Bishop Addams directed me this way.”

“Oh yes, he’s taking a run with my mother. Is there something wrong?” it was hard to look at him without her cheeks burning up from the memories of the previous night.  He didn’t seem bothered by it and yet she couldn’t be as brave and forget the image of his body, the twinkle in his eyes as he teased her and the raw honesty of his tone before he turned away and shut the door.

“No.” he smiled and her stomach tightened. “It’s only a standard meeting. It can wait I wouldn’t want to impose. Their majesties are very loving toward one another. You must hope for the same in your marriage.”

It surprised her to hear him mention her engagement yet of course he’d know about it. It was a big talk amongst the town. “Yes, of course. Oliver is a good man and I don’t foresee a problem. Is there someone special in your life?” she didn’t want to appear meddlesome but she desperately wanted to know more about this intense and fascinating stranger.

Finally there was a waver in his cool exterior as he shyly smiled and glanced toward the flower bed. “No, your highness, there is not.”

“You can call me Lucia, I don’t see the need to bother with formalities during all moments of the day.”

His smile grew warmer as their eyes met again. “As you wish, Lucia. I hear you like to paint.”

“Yes.” She couldn’t contain her excitement to share her art with another person. “Would you like to see some pieces?” his dark blue eyes glanced toward the forest in silent wonder. “They’ll be at least another hour.” She answered.

“Then it seems I have a free hour and I’d love to spend it with you.”

Her heart rate soared to the skies as she moved ahead and lead the way back inside to her work area.

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