48. So Dear to my Heart

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Say you, dear readers.

This is not fair. Not fair at all. How can you end the story there? What about the love scene with Gerald and Ashley? We've waited patiently while you've gone on and on about battles, avalanches, earthquakes, witches, fire, smoke, blood, body parts, and have we complained?

Well, first of all, have you not been paying attention? There is no happily ever after. Only happy for now. Because the story continues even as you go back to your laundry and homework and jobs and pets and other obligations.

But I agree with you. It was lousy of me to end the story where I did. You deserve a little romance, and I, your benevolent author, aim to please. So without further ado, I give you Ashley and Gerald's first time "together."


Returning to the Ever After Castle from the Interkingdom Games was a snap compared to the journey there. Because traveling via fairy godmother magic was like flying on warm silken winds that had been scented with honeysuckle and suffused with watercolors in all the shades of the rainbow.

Fairy godmother travel involved no bird skirmishes, heights or falling from them, thin air, cold winds, ice monsters, witches, avalanches, nausea, time displacement, trolls, or terrifying visits to the black void.

Essentially, Maxine said, "time for everyone to go back to where they belong," and she swished her wand. Ashley and Gerald found themselves atop a mound of hay in the Ever After unicorn stables. Presumably, the others had been returned to their kingdoms. God, Ashley would miss her friends. There would have to be another sleepover as soon as possible. Perhaps this time, there would be no horrible revelations about odious princes or megalomaniacal magicians.

"We made it!" Gerald said. "We're home. Fairy godmothers are pretty amazing."

"They are."

"Now, My Princess," Gerald caressed Ashley's face, his eyes boring into hers.

"Yes?" Ashley said.

"At last, we are alone with no one to rescue. How I've dreamed of this moment. In great detail." He climbed on top of her, pushing her back into the scratchy sweet-smelling hay and kissed her lazily. She could practically feel the smirk at the edges of his lips.

"What exactly have you dreamed of?"

A beguiling blush stained Gerald's stubbled cheeks.

"That bad?"

"I assure you, Princess, quite good. These dreams of you have sustained me through much adversity."

Ashley arched her hips, pressing into the firmness of his loins, choking down a gasp at the pleasure. "It isn't fair of you to use me as a character in your dreams and not share the details."

He shifted his weight, then matched her movement, swirling his hips then pushing against her. Ashley made no effort to hide her gasp this time. She panted with desire. Gerald rolled off of her, shielding his eyes behind his errant curl. "You'll think me an animal," he said.

"I love animals," she said. "But if you'd rather not—"

"It isn't that," Gerald said. "If I tell you my dreams, then you will own me, body and soul."

"A fine body and soul it is," Ashley snuggled into Gerald's firm chest. He smelled like hay, naturally, and like fresh-washed linens hanging in the sun, and yeasty bread browning in the oven. She inhaled sharply, paying attention to each scent, committing them to memory. A yawn overtook her efforts.

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