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Zander watched Sophie, entranced as she started making the bed. His eyes narrowed slightly, he wondered why she was making the bed, it was something servants would do. He froze the thought in his head and heard her laugh, he often forgot Sophie was once a servant, Marilyn’s lady in waiting even. The idea seemed so distant to him, he had never thought of her as a servant- she was a princess to him, and even if she wasn’t a princess by blood, he would make her a princess and one day a queen.
She came over to him and he beamed up at her, she was the center of his universe and his lifeline. He gazed over his attire before answering her question, “I’d wear this to some balls, yes. It’s more so for meetings with foreign dignitaries, people we are not allied with, situations where a show of status may be considered critical.” He smirked when her hands went to the circlet on his head, “Crowns and I aren’t on friendly terms,” he told her with a smirk, “They are much too bulky and quite difficult.” Zander didn’t like anything that interfered with his ability to function normally.
Sophie seemed panicked about Heather’s arrival, but Zander seemed much more calm. He wasn’t any tenser than usual, but he was trained to not panic- Zander only panicked when Sophie was involved. Next thing he knew she was pushing him out her door, and he understood why she wanted him out, and he agreed that Vladimir and Liam shouldn’t be discovered. As they reached the common room she darted around him and was trying to figure out how to get into the room. He was turning to look at the note from Vladimir as Heather walked in and he turned to face her, standing behind Sophie. “Good Morning Heather,” Zander said with a polite smile. He saw Sophie pointing behind her back and barely hid his smirk until he had turned around. He walked onto the balcony, his calm demeanor fading slightly as the note reminded him of the war in Cadeweth.
Heather and Sophie went into Sophie’s room and Zander made work of getting into the room and talking to Liam. He read the note Vladimir had left, Vladimir had taken his letter to Will in Cadeweth. Though Zander wasn’t sure when he would be back or if Liam was supposed to meet him. He stuck the key in the lock and opened the door. He slipped through the door, careful to only allow enough room for him to walk through then shut the door behind him, locking it once more as he saw Liam was still on the bed. He took a deep breath, being a little too loud as he exhaled. After everything that had happened with Liam last night and now the risk of his discovery in Lirakin, Zander was slightly miffed, though he wiped the expression from his face quickly.
Zander sat in a chair inside the room, with Liam still here he couldn’t risk leaving and having anyone think the room was empty. He didn’t want to wake Liam just yet; he didn’t have any problems waiting a while longer. After sometime Zander went over to the side of the bed, “Liam,” he said once, his voice held its authoritative prince tone, “Your brother left earlier this morning. I’m not sure if you’re supposed to meet him or wait here for him,” Zander spoke calmly. He had set the note, feather and key on a table by the chair, “He left those,” Zander said, gesturing to the table. “I have breakfast before Severijan’s king arrives, you may want to make yourself scarce so there is not a risk of your discovery. Don’t use any magic to make someone fall unconscious either,” Zander warned, remembering what Liam had used on Sophie. The elven prince turned and left the room, shutting the door behind him.
Marilyn sat patiently in the dining hall, she was the first one to arrive and sat at the table, thoughts racing through her head. She could feel the anxiety and the fear burning in her chest, it was unsettling and caused her to sit very upright and on the edge of her seat. She couldn’t help but think about the King of Severijan’s arrival as well as what Grant had overheard. This was the most worried the princess had ever felt. When Grant and Sophie entered the dining hall together she smiled, wondering if Grant had asked her anything. She had probably handled it with ease if he had. “Good Morning,” Marilyn said to both of them, standing as they walked through the door. She planted a kiss on Grant’s cheek and took his hand in hers. She needed him, he made her feel strong and confident. She noticed that Zander wasn’t with Sophie, an odd sight since he never seemed to be too far out of reach. “Where’s Prince Zander?” she asked Sophie, curious more than anything.
Zander was making his way to the dining room, he hadn’t seen Sophie and didn’t know if she was already in the dining hall. He briefly remembered her asking him to save a plate, so she must have been expecting him to arrive first. He hoped if she was there she wouldn’t worry. He opened the door to the Dining hall, finding Sophie, Grant, and Marilyn inside, “Good Morning,” he spoke politely, not offering an explanation of what had kept him. He sat down beside Sophie and squeezed her hand, hoping to tell her everything was alright with Liam and Vladimir.
Sophie pouted. She slipped on her shoes before standing up and starting to make the bed. She stopped halfway through, laughing at herself. “Old habits die hard, I guess.” She looked over at Zander and blushed. He was extremely handsome today even though he looked a bit odd in this formal attire. Sophie rather preferred his more warrior like appearance. She walked over to closer examine the embroidery crest and the circlet. “Is this something you would wear to the ball?” Sophie asked as her fingers touched the gold circlet. Was it something like that of a crown? It looked like it was out of the pictures of elves she had seen in the castle library books. She’d never seen Zander in a crown but thought the ringlet was much better suited for him. Sophie was trying to think of what she would were today when a sudden realization hit her.
“Ahh! Heather will be here any second to help me get ready. You need to go back to your room.” She pushed Zander towards the door. “It’s not that you being here is a bad thing. I don’t mind actually but she might try to wake you up first and you’re not in your room but the door is locked. Heather will think it odd and get someone to fix the door and then Liam and Vladimir will be discovered.” Sophie stopped pushing, darting around Zander. How were they going to open the door? There was always a key somewhere. She stopped and turned quaintly to the open balcony door. Tied to the railing as a note, the room key on a string and a pitch black feather. “Huh?” It must be from Vladimir. Zander’s crest and letter where missing so the bird man must be running the deliver. There came a knock at the door. Heather opened it and curtsied to the couple. “Prince Zander, Princess Sophie, Good morning. I was not expecting you to be up this early.” Sophie curtsied back. “Hello Heather.” Sophie moved one had behind her body, signaling desperately for Zander to retrieve the note before the maid could see.
Luckily, Heather seemed preoccupied heading to Sophie’s room. “I must be late if both of you are already up. I drew you up a nice hot bath so we should hurry a chose your outfit quickly before the water gets cold.” Sophie shook her head. “I don’t want a bath,” she whined. “My hair will take forever to dry.” Heather laughed as she opened the wardrobe. “Oh Sophie, you have short hair. It should not take that long. I think you should grow your hair out. You’ll look much more regal with long hair. Hmm… I don’t believe I’ve seen this dress in the wardrobe before.” The maid pulled out the sky blue ball gown Sophie had tried on in Cadeweth. The princess cracked a wide smile. “It was a gift from Zander’s mother. Here, Queen Elizabeth also gave me matching jewelry. Let me get it.” Sophie dove into her trunk, rummaging about until she found the box with the tiara and the necklace. She then grabbed a pair of short blue heels and reluctantly followed Heather to the bathroom. Before leaving the common area Sophie told Zander, “Be sure to check on Fern. I don’t want him leaving an injured bird in a place where others will find it. Oh, and go down to breakfast. I’ll be there as soon as I can. Save me a plate.” She closed the hoping Zander understood the code to go check on Liam.
Sophie slipped into the bathtub trying her best to keep her hair out of the water. Her carefulness was ruined when Heather dumped water over the girl before grabbing the shampoo. It only took a few minutes for Sophie to be done with her bath. She sat by the vanity in a robe while Heather brushed her hair. “Zander is so handsome,” the maid chimed. “You’re lucky Sophie. By any chance would he have a brother?” The two laughed. Sophie shook her head earning a shrug from Heather. “Had to try. There, your hair is all done. Now let’s get you all dolled up.” Sophie exited the bathroom, donning the blue gown. The tiara was strange on her head but she managed to keep it balanced from all the training of carrying extra trays on her head as a maid.
She was feeling a lot lighter than she thought she would have with the looming cloud of worry hanging over Lirakin. Sophie decided to do a twirl down the hall to celebrate her for now happy mode but as she fished her turn she bumped right into Grant who had just left his own room. She scrabbled to grab the tiara the slipped forward nearly off her hair. “S…sorry.” Grant chuckled. “It’s no big deal. Here let me help you with that.” He took the tiara and placed it back on Sophie’s head. Sophie nodded her thanks noticing that Grant didn’t seem to be in as formal attire as Zander. It was only a fraction fancier than the outfit from the day before. Had he really not packed a lot when he decided to come to Lirakin? Sophie shook heard head as she heard grant’s voice ask her something. “Huh?”
Grant smirked. “I asked you if you’ve seen Marilyn this morning. I was wondering if I should find her or heading to the dining room. I’m going to take from your expression that you don’t know where she is either.” Sophie starred at her feet with embarrassment. “You waiting for Zander?” Sophie shook her head. Grant rubbed the back of his head, letting out a sigh. This conversation could have gone better. “Can I accompany you to the dining room then? We haven’t had a chance to get to know each other and I know how important you are to Marilyn.” Sophie looked up. “That would be fine.” The two walked down the hall in heavy silence. Sophie wished she had something to say but she was still intimidated by the man and freaked out that the kingdom had to face his father. Grant decided to break the silence. “I hear that you like to help Marilyn out with choosing her gowns. Is that true?” Sophie stiffened before dipping her head. Just a few more feet and they would be at the dining room. “Yes, I did. I always want Marilyn to look her best. Being the crown princess of a small kingdom means that first impressions are critical.” Grant nodded in understanding before opening the door for Sophie.
Zander was appreciative that Sophie was helping Vladimir get Liam to a bed so he could rest. Zander sat down behind the desk and looked at the paper, holding the pen in his hand. He just didn’t know how to start, or how to explain everything to his friend in a way that makes sense. Zander dipped the pen into the ink and starting scrawling in elvish on the paper, writing to Will about everything that has happened in Lirakin. He told Will about Severijan’s King and his sudden arrival, as well as about everything with Grant , and how Vladimir could help with the war between Cadeweth and Grath. Zander wrote about how with the Severijan King coming to Lirakin, it would be best if Cadeweth could be out of a war as soon as possible, just in case something happened while the Severijan King was in Lirakin. Zander was beginning to realize how much trouble this whole situation was the more he wrote about it.
He finally finished his letter and folding it, sealing it shut before heading off to bed with Sophie. He wouldn’t say anything about it, but he was happy that Liam was sleeping in his bed for the sole purpose that he was able to share a bed with Sophie. Her presence made him feel more relaxed, especially as he dosed off, fully aware of the long and challenging day ahead of them.
Marilyn saw Grant hide under the bed, which made for a decent hiding place. Lillian wouldn’t look there, she would be too busy helping Marilyn get ready for the day. Marilyn stood as Lillian went and pulled dresses out of the wardrobe. She smiled at Lillian’s comment about Sophie, Lillian was right, Sophie always picked out the best dresses. “She has always had a good sense for fashion,” Marilyn said with a smile. As soon as she said it she remembered Grant was in the room, and he didn’t know Sophie’s secret- the whole Kingdom of Lirakin’s secret. She became suddenly panicked as she looked at the outfits Lillian had assembled for her. She eventually chose a lavender dress and smiled at the sound of a bath. Marilyn went with Lillian into the bathroom and enjoyed the nice warm tub, especially since it helped her relax and she was anxious about what today held and about what Grant had just heard.
As she sat in the tub and tried to relax, though she couldn’t shake knowing that Grant may have overheard what Lillian said about Sophie. She held her breath and ducked under the water, letting her face and hair get wet. Maybe he didn’t think anything of it? Maybe he thought Sophie, as Marilyn’s sister, liked to help her pick out clothes? Marilyn asked herself these questions as she finished her bath, hoping they were true. Lillian handed her a towel as she climbed out of the tub then helped the princess into the gown she had chosen. Lillian thought the color went well with Marilyn’s hair and eyes.
Marilyn took a deep breath before she opened the door of her bedroom and walked into the hall, the heels of her shoes clicking lightly as she walked to breakfast. The tiara reminded her to keep her head straight, something she occasionally forgot to do. It would be important to remember today, so she was trying hard to remember, Grant wanted her to appear strong and this was how she was going to be able to do it.
Zander was up before the sun rose, seeing Sophie still sleeping next to her made him smile. She always relaxed him, made him feel calm. He was worried today, not only about the arrival of the Severijan King, but also about Sophie’s safety, and about the war in Cadeweth. He hoped will listened to Vladimir, especially since it was necessary for the general and the king to know about the Severijan King. Zander didn’t know how his father would react to the news, but he did know that the King would want Zander to do his best to keep peace between the two kingdoms. Their peace was cold and hard, but it was still existing which was especially important now.
Zander slid out of bed carefully, as to not wake Sophie and changed clothes. He wore a new uniform, one he couldn’t remember if Sophie had seen or not, but it wasn’t his typical warrior’s uniform, although it was similar and still just as comfortable. It was a bit more dressed up, and the color was black instead of the usual earth green tones. This black uniform had gold embroidery in Cadeweth’s crest. Zander also wore a gold circlet in his hair today, something he didn’t wear often, but it was a symbol of status- and occasionally a necessary one. He was sitting on the edge of the bed when he heard Sophie’s voice. He turned to look at her and smiled, “I’m sorry love,” he spoke gently, “We do have to go today. It would be rude if we didn’t.” He kissed her gently, he would give anything to stay in bed with her now.
Sophie gripped onto Zander. Her trembling stilled as listened to Zander speak calmly to her in elvish. In the back of her mind, she made a mental note to learn to speak elvish once they returned to Cadeweth. Sophie took a couple breaths to finish calming down. “I’m alright, I promise. It just startled me… I wasn’t expecting that to happen.” She rose to her feet, knees knocking as the rest of the adrenaline left her system. Zander still had his letter to write and they now had a guest to take care of. She left the room only to come back with arms laden with blankets and pillows. “Valdimir, do you think you could carry Liam to the couch?” Her eyes scanned the couch then Liam’s wings. “Will he fit? I don’t want him to be uncomfortable. Perhaps it would be better if he took my bed or Zander’s. That way you don’t have to worry about anyone coming in and seeing you.”
Vladimir nodded gratefully. “I would hate to kick you out of your room Princess so if it is alright with Prince Zander, We will be taking his room. Also, I would like to deliver the letter for you. I can fly faster than any messenger bird, though you are right to say that Liam is my top priority. I will td to my brother and leave before sunrise tomorrow.” He scooped up Liam and followed Sophie into the other room allowing time for Zander to finish his letter in peace. Sophie fluffed the pillows like she had done so many times before for Marilyn. Vladimir then lay Liam down. Once he was tucked in, Vladimir sat down at the desk’s chair. “Will you be okay sleeping there?” the cat girl asked as she offered the bird man a pillow. He nodded as he leaned back, stuffing the pillow behind him. “Alright. Goodnight,” whispered Sophie. She left the room and jumped a bit when she heard the door lock behind her. She sighed. “Good,” she thought, “Now they don’t have to worry about being discovered.
Sophie waltzed over to the desk where Zander sat writing. She draped her arms across his shoulders. “Are you nearly done, Zander?” She stroked his hair and kissed his temple hoping her presence kept him relaxed. “Let will know that I send my best and miss everyone in Cadeweth. There is nothing more we can do for today. Now if you’re done, we should get some sleep. Tomorrow is a big day and we will need out wits about us.” Sophie gently grabbed Zander’s arm, pulling him slowly to his feet at then to her room. She climbed into bed softly humming an old lullaby. She laid on her back and closed her eyes as she continued to sing. There were no words to the lullaby, just notes. Zander had wanted to hear her sing. If the surprise in Grant’s letter hadn’t shocked everyone, she would have sang in the music parlor but for the way the day turned out, this would have to do. When she was done, Sophie rolled over to Zander. Her maroon eyes were half open as she smiled at him. “Good night, Zander. Sweet dreams.” She laid there for as long as she could before dozing off.
Grant snored away until he heard his named called. He propped himself up and yawned. Blinking away the sleep he saw Marilyn’s worried face. With the second knock on the door, he was fully awake. The prince had every intention of leaving long before sunrise but had been too tired to wake up until now. Grant leaned across the bed, planting a swift kiss on Marilyn’s lips before rolling of the bed to his feet with little noise, then dropped down and crawled under the bed. The bed skirt’s fabric extended all the way to the floor providing a quick but less than ideal hiding place. Grant called on his warrior training to steady and quiet his breath before the maid entered the room.
“Good morning, my lady,” chimed Lillian as she entered the room. She did a curtsied before continuing. “I hope you slept well Princess Marilyn but now it is time to get ready for the day.” The maid went over to the wardrobe. “Let’s see what would be the ideal outfit for today? We must make a good impression to the Severijan King. Princess Marilyn is there any dress you had in mind. I think this one would be lovely, though I am not sure given the meeting was on such short notice.” The lady-in-waiting pulled out a few dresses for Marilyn to choose from before gathering up the matching shoes. Lillian then went over to the dresser to collect a selection of jewelry and tiaras.
Lillian smiled sheepishly as Marilyn made her selection. “I have to apologies, my lady. I am still not use to picking your out your dresses. Sophie always had a better eye for fashion, don’t you think. She always knew what would make you absolutely lovely.” Once the dress was selected, Lillian gathered the outfit and accessories up. “I had Heather draw you up a bath so you will be fresh and clean. This way, my lady.” She led Marilyn into the adjoining bathroom where a fresh tub of warm water was waiting. Meanwhile Grant waited silently for them to leave. When he heard the door close, he slowly made his way out from under the bed. He crept across the room, careful to avoid any squeaky floor boards. Grant opened the door a sliver to peak out into the hall. When he was certain no one was around he slipped out and quickly headed back to his room. A twisted knot gathered in his stomach as he knew all too soon his father would arrive. Hopefully the Severijan king was in a good mood.
Sophie yawned and opened her maroon eyes. She had slept through the night but didn’t feel rested. In fact, she felt as though she could have slept in until noon. Any other day she would have. Sophie let out a sigh. “Zander,” she called out in a voice above a whisper. “I don’t want to get out of bed.” She pulled the covers up higher so that her eyes barely appeared above the fabric. “Couldn’t we stay here,” she begged. The girl knew it was no use. They would have to get up and met Grant’s father whether they wanted to or not. If she was there, it would make it easier for the King and Queen to sell the story that they had a second daughter who would marry Cadeweth’s prince. It was the only way to keep Lirakin free. “I don’t want to go…” Sophie whined as she reached over the side of her bed to find her shoes.
Marilyn smiled as she laid next to Grant, watching exhaustion take him over. She was amazed with how quickly he fell asleep. She watched him only for a few moments, then her eyes shut and she was quickly asleep herself. The pleasant dreams she wanted never came, but her dreams were instead filled with the anxiety and worry of what the next day and the Severijan king brought. Most of the dreams weren’t enough to wake her, but prevented her from sleeping soundly.
Marilyn was awake before the sun rose, but she couldn’t get back to sleep. The anxiety and worry continued to burn in her as she sat up in bed, still processing what today was going to hold. She soon heard a knock at the door as the sun began to peak through the windows, probably her lady coming to wake her and prep her for the day.
“Grant,” she said, worry in her eyes. Part of her still didn’t want the others in the castle to know they had shared a bed that night. It wasn’t appropriate until marriage.
Zander watched Sophie as she pulled out the tools to write Will a letter, it was a good idea. Will didn’t trust others well, but a letter would convince him. Zander thought for a moment, if there was something else other than the letter, something that would tell will that Vladimir had met with Zander, then Will would be more inclined to listen to Vladimir immediately. After a few more moments of thought, Zander’s hand went to the chain and pendant around his neck. “Take this as well,” he said, pulling it off over his head. “It’s only given to the male royalty in Cadeweth. He will know it is mine and that you spoke with me,” Zander said. “Having both the pendant and the letter should be enough to convince Will that you should be listened to.”
Zander was shocked as Liam began to tell them of what the future could possible hold. He wasn’t liking what he was hearing either. He tried to make sense of what Liam was saying, then he thought and realized that Liam was seeing possibilities of the future, the many options it held. He couldn’t understand what Liam was saying, but that didn’t seem to matter anymore. He could tell what the boy was doing wasn’t safe, and he was concerned. When Vladimir stopped his brother Zander pulled Sophie into him, to try to comfort her. He could see the shock on her face. He tried to comfort her, muttering soothing phrases in elvish. He wasn’t sure if she knew what he was saying, but hoped he was getting the point across.
Zander looked at Vladimir, letting his tight grip on Sophie loosen. “You have nothing to make up to us,” Zander said. “I’m sure we can find Liam a more comfortable place to rest, or at least make one for him.” He thought a bit more, about the message to Will, “I’ll work on writing a message for the General, but don’t worry about rushing out with it now. He will still be there in the morning. Take care of your brother, and if you don’t want to go all that way I can send the message with a pigeon or a messenger.” Zander didn’t see any reason for a message to go out now, it could wait until morning.
The prince sat down to work on writing his message to Will, and told his friend about everything that was occurring in Lirakin. He informed Will of Severijan’s king’s arrival and the trouble it may bring. He told Will of his and Sophie’s plans, how they could leave at a moment’s notice if necessary. He also explained how Vladimir could help act as an emissary to Grath and try to end this war more quickly. With the King of Severijan coming tomorrow, Zander wanted to know that Cadeweth had the strength to take on such a strong nation if need be. However, a battle with Severijan and with Grath would be too much for Cadeweth to take on. Zander would try to keep the peace here, while they attempted to end the war quickly.
Grant frowned. “Father wants Lirakin under his control. He always thought small kingdoms where doomed to fall anyway. Only the biggest and strongest should survive. Father is likely also mad that I left Severijan to visit Lirakin instead of simply fetching you as originally planned.” Grant grimaced at the thought. He was the reason the King was coming to visit. If he had obeyed his father none of this would be happening and Marilyn would not have had to face the assassin. Then again, if he had Marilyn wouldn’t have gotten the chance to see her sister again. Neither option appeared to have been the better choice so grant was glad that everything was working out so far.
The prince was hesitant but didn’t protest when Marilyn brought him inside. He felt calming knowing he could keep an eye on her and be nearby if any danger did arise. Grant flopped onto the bed, his exhaustion finally getting the better of him. He made room for Marilyn and patted the mattress inviting her to lay down beside him. When she did Grant wrapped his arms around her gently. Try as he might his amber eyes would not remain open. He fell asleep within minutes. If anyone from Lirakin saw Grant in his current state, they would not have been able to figure out why they had been so terrified of the Severijan prince in the first place. He was peaceful as he dreamed of a hopefully future for him and his love.
Liam sighed. “I wasn’t sensing danger. Not really, anyways. I was trying to sense if one of the premonitions came from an internal threat or mistrust within those in Lirakin’s castle. To be able to tell if Sophie was safe would require seeing into the future.” Sophie rubbed Zander’s back to reassure him that she would be fine. He had bigger things to worry about that just her at the moment. Part of Sophie was scared in knowing if she was or wasn’t in danger. If the answer to such a question was yes she knew Zander would do everything in his power to protect her, even if it meant exhausting himself in the process. Vladimir must have sensed her worry as he tried to stir the conversation in a different direction. “I would be happy to send a message to anyone you wish. I do ask, however, that I am provided with a way of letting Cadeweth know that I come in peace as a messenger. Warring countries are never the safest places to fly into and I would hate to be mistaken as a spy.” Sophie nodded in agreement. She left Zander’s arms to run over to the desk to find a blank scroll, ink and a pen. A message to Will seemed like the perfect thing to calm Zander’s nerves.
Meanwhile, Liam stood lost in thought. “I think I could provide you with the answers you seek Zander. I know a spell to see the future.” Vladimir whirled around to face his brother. “Liam, you can’t read the future without the spring, It’s too dangerous…” Liam however had already plucked a large black feather from his wing. A green ora flared up around it but suddenly grew ice blue. The same color light suddenly emitted from his eyes. Liam screamed in pain dropping the feather that burned up before hitting the ground. The bird boy fell to the ground writhing in pain. Sophie rushed over to help him but by the time she reached Liam he had sat up. “I saw it, all of it. I saw Zander and Grant dueling in front of a thousand eyes… I saw a king with a twisted heart…Sophie, your secret… the dungeon…” Sophie exchanged a concern look with Zander. “Liam you need to stop,” warned Vladimir. Only Liam continued. “I see a tower and Marilyn and…” Vladimir took a step towards his brother, repeating his warning “Liam stop!” His warning feel on deaf ears as the younger brother rattled on, “There was a young general... I saw war and ruin…” Vladimir’s voice grew firm, “You have to stop!” Sophie rested a hand n Liam’s shoulder hoping to ease the panic and shook in Liam’s eyes “I saw Grant standing over Zander…he’s wounded or poisoned… I can’t tell…" Vladimir had dropped to his knees beside his brother “Liam!” Liam continued on. “The guards are taking Grant away…” At this point Sophie was trembling. “Stop!” Liam’s gaze grew distant as confusion washed over his face. “Wait, now it is Zander standing over Grant…”
A green glowing hand reached out and touched Liam’s forehead before the bird boy could utter another word. Liam fell backwards, sound asleep into his brother’s arms. Sophie looked up at Vladimir. “Why?” It was all she could manage to squeak out. The older bird man’s expression was tense but Sophie could see his worry etched into his face. Vladimir sighed. “He shouldn’t have tried to read the future. That spell was too much for him. There is a reason Grandfather uses the spring of time. There he can follow the strongest currents in the river of time to see what has been and were the future is likely to go. Without that knowledge of navigating time, there is no way to tell what something was that could have unfolded from what could unfold. He shouldn’t have been so reckless. I apologize for Liam’s actions and the unnecessary panic it has caused you.” Vladimir looked sadly down at his brother before brushing his hair. “I will do what I can to make it up to you. For now, Liam must remain here and rest. He is in no shape to fly anywhere and must be allowed to recover fully from the spell. I will take that message to the general, if you still wish to send it Zander.”
Marilyn smiled and returned his embrace, “I’m happy to see you,” she told him. “I’m alright, I promise,” she smiled and kissed his cheek before he pulled away from their embrace. Her hands gripped his back just as tightly, “I can’t abandon my people, I do not want to,” she said. “But staying in Lirakin is not an option, and with your father coming I honestly don’t know if we will be here too much longer, but we will make this work, you and I. We’re together and that’s all I need.”
She thought for a moment, “I don’t know what your father wants, or why he is coming. I have not met him up close and I do not know him like you do. However, Zander is here- and Lirakin does have an alliance with Cadeweth. You say your father would not risk a war with the elves, and I believe that. Perhaps we could talk with Zander about it in the morning, see if he could support us if needed.” She thought more, she had forgotten about the war the elves were fighting now, the one that had Zander tense, “Yet I had forgotten about the war the elves are fighting now…”
She saw the exhaustion in his eyes, “Let’s discuss such things in the morning, my love.” She coaxed him into her bedroom, knowing if she let him go back to his own room that he would stay up worrying.
Zander watched Sophie approach him, his eyes thoughtful, but he was glad she was permitted into this conversation. It saved him the explanation later. He listened to Vladimir, who was unable to give him details as to what the King of Severijan could want as he approached Lirakin. Vladimir’s response was at least helpful though, and would help Zander clue into what the King wanted as he spoke. Zander had only met the king of Severijan a few times, and even then it was from a distance.
Zander looked at Sophie, “Last time you were here, you used that spell to tell me Marilyn and the royal family of Lirakin was safe. Could you tell me the same thing for her?” he asked. “Is Sophie safe?” He was worried about her secret, and the King of Severijan finding out about it. That would be a lot of trouble for Cadeweth and Lirakin. Zander’s kingdom was already fighting one war, and Severijan was a much stronger kingdom than Grath. He didn’t know if they had the military strength to handle them both simultaneously.
“Is there any way you could deliver a message to one of Cadeweth’s Generals?” Zander asked. “He is heading up the war against Grath now with the King. He would gladly accept any help he could get in dealing with this conflict since the King is not the warrior he once was,” Zander admitted, though he despised the words coming out of his mouth.
Grant laughed nervously rubbing the back of his head. “I woke you. I’m sorry.” He looked away. “I…uh… I couldn’t sleep and after today’s events, I thought I should check in on you.” His amber eyes scanned Marilyn and came to rest on her face. Grant step forward to embrace her. He buried his face into her hair, letting his mind focus only on Marilyn. The tension started to melt from his body as he could now finally relax. “You are doing alright, aren’t you, love?” Grant murmured into her hair. He didn’t want to let go, not yet. Slowly, Grant let go of his princes and stepped back with a sigh.
Exhaustion was clearly visible on the foreign prince’s grey face. Even his amber eyes were slightly dull. Grant sighed. “I wish we could stay here, in Lirakin forever. I wish I didn’t have to take you back to my home. I love it here in Lirakin. I love you! I want to stay here where you’ll be happy if there was only some way.” Grant grabbed Marilyn’s hands. A crazy sleep deprived idea flashed in his mind. “We could run away! I know Sophie and Zander will take good care of your people. Father would have to leave your kingdom be since he won’t want to risk a war with the elves and their allies. Then we could be ourselves without judgment. We’d be happy and together. That’s all that matters.” There was a crazed light in Grant’s eyes that slowly faded away as reality set back in. He looked down at their hands. “No… no, I couldn’t ask you to do that. It wouldn’t be fair to you. You would never abandon your people. You care about them so much.” Grant sighed before letting out a sad laugh. His gaze never left their hands. “What are we going to do? I’m a mess. I’m sorry for blurting that out just then. I wasn’t thinking.”
Vladimir shook his head. “We prefer to keep things private. People tend to see us as bringers of bad luck instead of advisors of the future. That and our kind have never had a great standing with nekos. Even though we have moved far from the distant past of feuding tribes, cats and birds are just not a good mix.” His words were wasted though as Liam went over to Sophie’s door to open it. From the other side, Sophie heard footsteps approaching. She raced across the room, jumped on her bed, managing to sit at the foot as refined as she could be in her nightgown when Liam opened the door. Sophie thought it would have been Zander. Liam gave her a warm smile. “Greetings Princess Sophie. It is so nice to actually meet you. I have to apologize for last time.” Liam grabbed her hand, wrapping one wing around her shoulder as he guided her over to Zander in the common room.
Sophie blinked, eyes wide with surprise. She must be dreaming. There was no way she was actually meeting not one but two bird men like the ones in her childhood bedtime stories. Sophie barely registered Liam’s introduction to him and his brother before wandering to Zander’s side. Sophie wrapped her arms around Zander, eyes never leaving their guests. Vladimir shook his head at his brother. “What?” protested Liam. “You heard Prince Zander. She was going to find out anyway. Might as well save the time and effort and explain everything to the both of them.” Vladimir sighed, rubbing the bridge of his nose. As much as he hated it, his brother was right.
The older bird boy cleared his throat. “Getting back to your question, no, I can’t tell what Severijan’s King wants. Men like him believe the world belongs to them. They demand that everything goes their way and cannot stand for the tiniest thing to go wrong or happen without their consent. Because of this they are the hardest to read. I would have to be in the same room as them or have something of theirs that they keep on them for long periods of time in order to say what is exactly on their mind. If we had more details about the situation we could make a guess but as it stands we cannot. I am sorry.” He bowed. Liam took the opportunity to step forward and ask, “Is there anything else you would like use to answer for you? We will do our best.”
Marilyn turned to see her closed door after Grant left, her face long. She was still processing all of this and she knew she could go to him, but somehow she was nervous with all that was going on now. She changed into her nightgown, climbing onto her bed and looking up at the drapes that hung around it. She thought about her day and everything she had gone through. She hadn’t experienced anything like it before, but she learned about herself and now knew she was strong than she originally believed.
She had fallen asleep after a few moments, exhaustion taking over her body. She woke when she heard her name through the door, it was Grant’s voice. She didn’t know what he was doing here, but got up quietly and went to open the door. When she saw him standing there she smiled a little. “What’s going on?” she asked him softly. “Is everything alright?”
Zander was shocked to see two bird boys looking at him when he came in the room. He remembered Liam from the first time, this other boy looked familiar, Zander noted his name when it was spoken to him. Hearing about the war in Cadeweth caused Zander’s worries to return, despite having been distracted by the bird boys’ arrival. “Yes, there is a war in Cadeweth.” He thought for a minute, “Emissiaries...” he spoke out loud, considering the idea. “I would have to speak more with my father and the generals, but I believe that would be quite helpful in resolving the conflict.”
Zander was impressed with the new boy and his accuracy, “Yes, the King of Severijan should be here tomorrow, but we weren’t aware of what he wants. Does he believe he has claim to Lirakin, or to Marilyn?” Zander wanted to be able to warn Grant of what was going on before his father came if it was possible. “His arrival is leading to much tension here in Lirakin, a typically peaceful kingdom. If we could resolve the tension easily, I would like to take the opportunity.”
When Vladimir said the conversation was no longer private, Zander immediately knew Sophie was listening in. He hoped they wouldn’t put her to sleep like last time. “She’s very curious. Perhaps we could invite her in? She and I keep no secrets from one another, it may be best to inform her now.”
Grant could fell how tightly Marilyn gripped onto him. He was as much her pillar of strength as she was his. Yet, know how much she realized on and trusted him warmed his heart. Grant kissed Marilyn good night, fighting the urge to stay with her. It wouldn’t be seen as proper and he hated to incur any wrath from the guards or staff by being somewhere they deemed he shouldn’t be. Grant caught Marilyn’s hand before she could disappear completely into her room. “If you need me, you know where to find me. You need only call.” His lips brushed the back of her hand before reluctantly letting go.
Grant stood gazing at his princess’s closed door for a few more minutes before returning to his room. When he arrived, Grant flopped onto the bed. Exhaustion swept over the prince but he couldn’t sleep. The events of the day flashed in his mind and the worry of his father’s arrival gnawed on his nerves. Grant laid there staring at the ceiling until he could stand it no longer. He got up and paced his room. All too soon he was bored of wandered his room and not any calmer than before. Grant sighed. With much internal debate, the prince left his chambers heading towards Marilyn’s. Perhaps if he checked in on her he could finally relax. He went to knock on the door but paused. Marilyn could be asleep. Grant placed his hand on the door and softly called out to her “Marilyn?” Grant waited with baited breathe.
Sophie followed Zander back to the guest suite. When she arrived, she rushed to unlock the door so the bird men could talk with Zander. Secretly she wanted to see them but they didn’t come in when she unlocked the door almost as if they knew she was still in the room with Zander. The cat girl frown. “I will see you later. Good night, Zander.” Sophie blew him a kiss then disappeared into her room. First thing first, she needed to gather her things and start packing. There were a few items of value to the girl still in her old room but the servants could always fetch it for her. She was a princess now, she couldn’t go wandering about the servant quarters. Sophie sighed. In the bottom of her trunk was the ball gown a jewelry. Shame they might not get to be used. A quickly as she could, Sophie put most of her wardrobe into the trunk. Then she snuck over to the door and pressed her head to it. Sophie could just barely make out some voices.
In the other room, Liam entered followed by another winged man who was significantly older than Liam. They both bowed to Zander. “Hello Zander,” Liam chimed. “This is my brother Vladimir.” Liam’s brother only dipped his head. “Grandfather sensed that two of his premonitions had come to past but he is worried about the third. He also could sense trouble looming over Cadeweth. War perhaps? My brothers and I would gladly serve as emissaries for the two countries if need be.” Liam looked concerned but Vladimir remained stoic even as he nudged his brother in the arm. “Oh yeah, we have a very important message, this one involving Prince Grant?”
Vladimir stepped forward and began to speak. “The soul of the young prince is in jeopardy. His character and values are about to be tested. The fate of Lirakin could rest on his shoulders unless those he trusts stand with him.” Vladimir’s gaze drifted off into the distance. “A dark king comes forth this way. There is much malic in his heart. He comes to claim what he believes is rightful his but has deemed to have been stolen from him. He will not rest, not from his conquest. Should his greed continue, chaos shall spread, and kingdoms will crumble!” Liam move over to Zander’s side, watching his brother. Liam leaned into whisper “Vladimir’s much more in tune with his gifts than I am. He’s even inherited some of grandfather’s gift. Most though he senses the emotions of other’s.”
Vladimir’s distance gaze returned to focus on his younger brother and Zander. “There is much tension here in Lirakin. The worry on your mind is strong even though you are trying your best to hide it. The Severijan prince is also distressed, as if he losing control of the events that unfold around him. Lirakin’s princess is also unsure of herself and trying to come to terms with recent events. Your Sophie is…” Vladimir stopped, turning to face Sophie’s door. In a hushed tone he flatly remarked, “This conversation is no longer private.” Liam blinked then shook his head. “She’s a curious one isn’t she, Zander?” Liam said as he elbowed the elf playfully in the arm.
Zander frowned when Sophie mentioned Cadeweth and the war. It was awful to think about, his father there and Will’s letter had left him even more unsettled. The King of Cadeweth had fought in wars, he was a trained warrior, but age had taken some of his strength, and though his mind was sharp his body was not. Zander could see this, he had watched as his father stepped out of war instead of fighting with his men. Hopefully the King was spending more time helping with strategy than on the front lines.
Zander was drawn from his thoughts by her yawn and mention of bed, Zander was exhausted, but didn’t feel like he could go to sleep. He was anxious and worried, he didn’t want to miss anything about his kingdom and especially his father. “I guess you’re right, we should return to bed.”
Marilyn sensed him relax was relieved that her words had done something to help him. She felt so honored, he wanted to protect her and support her as much as she wanted to do the same for him. She listened to him, her eyes showing she understood what he was saying. “I’ve been trying my hardest to be brave a lot lately,” she told him. “Especially with everything that happened today. I will do my best to continue to be brave and to be strong, but I am still learning how to deal with these situations, with the tension, it is all new to me.” She looked him in the eyes, sincerity burning in her “I will do my best, but I will need you.” She squeezed his hand tightly in hers.
Zander saw the figure fly overhead and turned to Sophie, “It would appear you are right my dear,” he said. “I should go talk to him.” He thought about the ora spell the bird boy performed the first time they met, saying that there was nothing to fear with the royalty of Lirakin. He did say he couldn’t see Sophie though, and Zander wanted him to try. He wanted to make sure she was safe, and he was hoping the bird boy could help him with that. Zander gave Sophie a quick kiss good night before heading back into the palace, thoughts on his mind of what the bird boy said and all that transpired. Especially, what the bird boy would want to say this time.
Marilyn smiled and allowed Grant to escort her to her room. She held onto him a bit tighter than usual, feeling grounded when she was around him. Despite everything, she had him and that was important. Once they were at her room she kissed him again and walked inside. She didn’t want him to leave but didn’t think it was lady-like to ask him to stay. She looked at her bed and instantly realized how exhausted she truly was.
Sophie blinked. “I didn’t know that. I knew your elven magic would be weaker but I didn’t think it would take so much to get your magic to work. I just thought it would be better safe than sorry.” She looked away bashfully before chuckling. “I guess I still have a lot to learn.” She rested her head to his shoulder, breathing in the cool night air and watching the stars come out. Sophie was feeling much calmer. Hearing Zander’s heart beat helped her to relax.
The princess sighed. “I know the longer we stay in Lirakin the more anxious you get about Cadeweth. That’s why I suggested we be ready to leave as soon as possible. Not that we should leave. I just think you’d feel better that we be ready for whatever happens next and with Severijan’s king coming…” Sophie shivered at the thought. She’d only seen Grant’s father once at a distance. He was terrifying and loud, ordering everyone around as if they were his servants and they were close to being punished for disappointing him. Now she would get to be up close to the man she feared, the man who wanted her kingdom under his control any way he could. “I think it is the best option. We stick to our original plan to leave after the ball but we’ll be able to rush to Cadeweth if things become too tense here or we are called back.” Sophie nodded at his comment to keep her secret from Grant until the king was gone. She then let out a small yawn. “I think it is time for bed, unless you want to watch the stars for a while longer.” Sophie turned to look over shoulder at the night sky.
Feeling Marilyn’s lips on his cheek, Grant was finally able to let the tension out of his shoulder. He slumped back into the couch. “I just want to protect you… This is all new to you but I’ve dealt with Father’s unpredictability and demands before.” He looked up at her smile. He couldn’t help but smile back. There was a bravery in her, he could tell. While part of her confidence could be from her training as a princess and future leader of her country, this confidence she showed this moment was true from her heart. Grant pulled Marilyn in close. “Thank you, my love.”
He kissed her cheek. “You are my brave princess, Marilyn. I do, however, want you to know however that Father is an acquired taste. He can be… a bit much on the first meeting. I need you to be brave. Try not show any fear if you can but try not to appear confrontational or too bold either. I promise to stay right by your side.” He kissed her again before stroking her hair. The prince looked tired and worn out but finally happy. “May I escort you to your room, my lady? It has gotten late.” He chuckled softly then rose from his seat offering his hand.
Sophie smiled at the stars glittering above. It was late and the long exciting day was getting to her. Sophie yawned again and rubbed her eyes. “Zander, when we return to the castle I want to run past my old room. There a few belongings I would like to gather to take back to Cadeweth with us. It’s just a few things. You can head up to the room if you wish it will only be a second.” Sophie turned her attention back to the sky to see two large winged shapes zip by overhead. “I think it would be best for you to head back to the room. I think you have company of the feathered sort again. If I can recall they seem to only want to speak with you,” Sophie hinted at.
Zander sighed at Grant’s words, his eyes agreeing with what the other prince had said. “Yes, sir, it would be best for all three of our kingdoms if we could all keep the events of the hunting trip in this room,” Zander said. His voice was tense, and he was not happy, but he was calm. Zander nodded to Grant, he didn’t save Marilyn to repay any debt and he hoped she knew that, but it did feel a bit better to not have that on his shoulders any longer. Zander was a Prince after all and had his honor to maintain.
Marilyn looked between Grant and Zander, shocked at the news her father had spoken. She understood why they didn’t want it discussed, Severijan and Cadeweth definitely didn’t get along. She saw how tense Grant was, and wished she knew how to help him, but with all of the tension in the room, Marilyn was quiet and slightly nervous. However, they did need to be ready for the King of Severijan.
Zander was surprised by Sophie’s firm grasp on his hand and quick exit. “Please excuse us,” he said quickly with a bow before she pulled him out of the room. He didn’t quite understand where they were going, but before long they were outside and he had realized why she had been so tense… his magic. He hadn’t even thought about that, or about losing his temper. Her embrace told him even more, and he gently returned it. Despite all of the stress, a small smile danced across his lips. “It’s alright love,” he said, pressing a kiss to her hair. “I’m still calm, and my magic isn’t as strong outside of Cadeweth. The elements here, I would have to force them to obey my will, there’s no agreement like there is in Cadeweth. The magic would take a lot of effort to use,” he told her. He didn’t know if she quite understood what he meant, but he tried to make his explanation as simple as possible.
Marilyn watched everyone leave the room, and she was left with Grant, who was still staring silently at his empty glass. She watched him, but didn’t know if she should approach him or try to comfort him. She didn’t want to cause him any more stress. She sat silently, watching him, until he burst out and she jumped. He was by her side and she took his hands, looking him in the eyes.
Zander narrowed his eyes at her, “Ready to leave tomorrow morning?” he asked. He understood, and with her secret he wasn’t sure if staying in Lirakin with the Severijan king present was the best of ideas. He also didn’t think telling Grant her secret was the best of idea’s either. “There will always be other balls, you’re right,” he agreed, but there was still a part of him that wanted to stay, remembering how excited Sophie had been. “I don’t think we should worry about telling Grant about you just yet either,” he told her. “I’d prefer to keep that a secret just a while longer, just because of Severijan’s king.”
“I am happy my love,” Marilyn told him, holding both of his hands tightly in hers. “I am happy to be with you, wherever you are.” She kissed his cheek gently. “You don’t have to face all of these problems by yourself,” she told him. “You have me now, and we have to work together. We will get through this together, and we will figure this out.” She smiled, there was a sureness in her words and a confidence that hadn’t always been there. She meant what she said, and believed it with all of her heart.
The king rose from his arm chair to offer Grant a glass of brandy. Grant willingly accepted only to stare down at his drink blankly. The room once full of music was now full of tension enveloped in heavy silence. The King cleared his throat. “Victor, see that the castle is in order and a guest room is prepared. Inform the staff that we will likely be receiving an important guest tomorrow.” Sophie’s father rose from his seat at the piano, gave a polite bow to the king then rushed off to follow the orders.
Grant finally broke his silence though his gaze never left the floor. “I would greatly appreciate it, Your Majesty, if we would never mention the events of the hunting trip ever again. It would be much better if that story died in this room. If Father hears even the slightest whisper of it he will demand immediate retribution which none of us can afford to give at the moment. However, I will argue that our debt is squared, Zander. After what you did today to protect Marilyn, I will be forever grateful.” His face turned slightly so his amber eyes rested on Zander for a second before starring back down into his glass.
Sophie rose to her feet, taking Zander’s hand in a firm grip. As insanely nervous she was at this additional news, she could only imagine the stress Zander was under. Her mind darted back to Will’s explanation of emotions and stress causing outburst in magic. Zander told her his magic wasn’t strong in Lirakin but that didn’t mean they could risk it. She scanned her loves face. Zander didn’t have the same look in his eyes as last time but there was still visible traces of anger and tension. Sophie turned and curtsied to the king and queen. “It was a lovely evening. Truly it was but it is late. The day was long and eventful so I think it would be best if we shall be heading off to bed now. Thank you.” She dragged Zander out of the music parlor as swiftly as she could. Sophie guided him down the hallways aimlessly. They headed away from their rooms and out into the open air. The sky was turning a rich indigo while the stars started to appear overhead. Only when they had reached the open field often used for guard training at the castle did Sophie release her grip. Here in the open space they should be fine if Zander lost control of his magic.
“Zander…” Sophie spun around throwing her arms around him. She clung to him, burying her face into his chest as she tried to let him know with every fiber of her being that she was here for him. Deep down, Sophie felt ashamed that the time Zander almost lost control she had left his side and let him deal with it alone. She promised herself she wouldn’t ever allow herself to do that again. “I…I think we should be prepared by tomorrow morning to leave for Cadeweth. I am not saying we leave immediately. All I am saying is that we see how the meeting with Severijan’s King goes.” Sophie pulled away before cupping Zander’s face gently with her hands. “I don’t care about the ball anymore. There will always be more balls. I can tell that my time of calling Lirakin my home is ending. Cadeweth is my home now and they need us. I cannot keep you away from your people any longer. If you think it is the time to leave then I will go with you.”
Meanwhile, back inside the castle the King, Queen and Sophie’s mother left the music parlor to oversee plans for tomorrow. Everything had to be perfect in order to gain any approval from the uninvited, hardly announced yet cranky guest. This left Marilyn and Grant alone in the parlor. Severijan’s prince might as well have been a statue since he hadn’t uttered another syllable nor moved since everyone else had left. The only thing that showed the grey skin man wasn’t some realistically crafted decoration was that his hands trembled around the unemptied brandy glass. He seemed completely engulfed in his own thoughts. Suddenly he stood up and slammed the glass down on the closest table. “If you think that by your coming to Lirakin you can force me to take Marilyn to Serverijan as soon as possible you are gravely mistaken, Father!” Grant shouted to the air. He pivoted around and rushed over to Marilyn’s side. “My place is with you,” he told her with half-mad gleam in his eyes. “Where ever you wish to be is where you shall be with me at your side. I swear to you Marilyn, I will do all in my power to keep you happy, wherever that may be.”
Zander sat next to Sophie as he listened to the king speak. Zander was polite and diplomatic, as he had been trained to be. Zander much preferred being a warrior to being a prince, there was much less concern for the feelings of others in the path of a warrior. Zander’s primary concern was Cadeweth, but in order to better the interest of his own kingdom, it often meant keeping other kingdoms pleased, which wasn’t usually Zander’s primary concern.
None the less, Zander was born as a Prince and knew he must fulfill his duty, so he put on a happy face through dinner, though the thoughts of war clouded his mind. He could not do much to keep them away, even though he had tried. He worried about disappointing Sophie because of all of this, and shortening her time at her home and with her family. He worried about his father, knowing the aging man shouldn’t be anywhere near a battle now, but because Zander was away he had gone. He worried about his mother, who was sitting by herself in the castle, trying to run affairs of state with her husband away. Zander worried about his kingdom most of all, knowing that even if the battle may be easily won, it would cause a loss for the kingdom and a new increase of tension.
Zander ate his food exchanging conversation with those around him. He kept his thoughts in the back of his mind as he ate each of the chef’s decadent courses. He listened to the king, a man who talked much more than Zander’s own father. Zander was used to conversation at dinner, the elves in Cadeweth certainly weren’t quiet people, but Zander’s father rarely gave out praise, rarely said a compliment to anyone. Both Zander and his father were extremely stoic men.
Zander followed Sophie into the music parlor, seeing her parents there as well. Zander sat near Sophie, listening to the tales spun by the King. This kind of gathering rarely occurred in Cadeweth, but it was a refreshing change for Zander. Zander’s relaxed posture turned very tense when the king began speaking of the mountain lion. He squeezed Sophie’s hand gently, looking over at Grant. Zander wanted this story out even less than Grant did. He was not overly concerned with receiving Severijan’s help in the war against Grath. It was not Zander’s decision to make and he was certain his father and Will would never accept the help unless it was absolutely needed. However, the last thing anyone wanted was a debt to Severijan hanging over their head, especially Cadeweth. Zander’s kingdom had been lucky enough to avoid any major conflict with Severijan recently, but if any kind of battle and war broke out, it would not be solved quickly or easily. Two strong warrior nations like Cadeweth and Severijan would be at war for centuries, too many people would die in a war like that.
Grant left and Zander didn’t know what to say. The king had promised both Zander and Grant he would not speak of the incident with the mountain lion to anyone, and that promise had been broken. Zander couldn’t have been anymore stiff than he was now. He was on his feet, tapping his heel impatiently against the ground. He couldn’t think of a way to solve this situation.
Zander was stressed enough about all of this as it was, but he hardly expected to hear the news that Grant spoke. Zander was usually very good at concealing his emotions, but Zander’s temper shown on his face. He looked at Sophie, trying to calm down even slightly so he could think more clearly.
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