"Rand, a moment of your time please?"
"Is there some other paperwork we need to complete?" Rand stopped and returned to face Colin.
"My daughter may be your chosen and there is no doubt she's the best match for you."
"Never forget she's wasn't asked or even consulted about this. It has roused her Irish temper. Give her time to accept it."
"I understand your concern, Colin, but time is all I've ever given her. I've waited over ten years and I'll wait no longer. In less than six weeks, she'll be my wife, temper or not." He left the study and vowed to find his wayward bride and set a few things straight.
Mica and Colin watched him leave.
"Would you like to lay odds on them actually making it to the altar?" Colin joked.
"They'll make it. They're chosens."
"If they don't kill each other first. My oldest daughter is merely a younger version of her mother and your boy has enough of you in him that I don't doubt they'll have a wild ride to the altar.
Rand found Gracie beside the fountain in the royal gardens. She was sitting on the ledge, gazing down at the gold coins scattered across the bottom of the fountain. If anything she's only become more willful since my Gathering. Despite her temper, it does nothing to distract from how she affects me. If I had a durlac for every time I've had to stop myself from claiming her, I would have enough to bring our country out of deficit. His loins tightened at the picture she made, her generous curves covered in a light purple poet's shirt with dark leggings. She'd twisted her long red hair up into a twist but as usual tendrils had escaped to caress her neck. And she's mine.
He nearly grinned at Ruzac's reminder. Sometime during the first year after his sentient power awoke, he'd broken down and gave his power a name, tired of talking to nameless being.
When Gracie heard him approach, she glanced up but remained sitting, looking down into the swirling water.
"You know, I used to come here with my father and toss coins in and make the craziest wishes. Some of them would come true and some wouldn't. But at eight, I was still innocent enough to expect that they would." Her voice was wistful.
"I did the same thing. My favorite thing to wish for was us being together for the rest of our lives. You're my best friend, and even while I was studying for my placement test, you were never far away. As close as we are why don't you want to marry me?" He sat down next to her on the ledge.
"The only reason I was close at hand is because I was interning under my dad. The only thing I've ever wanted is to one day be an Advisor. When this farce gets out, the board of Elders will never take my application seriously."
"So your objection to marrying me is because you're afraid it will affect your wizardry exam?"
"I don't believe it. There's more than just a thwarted career goal here. Try again."
"We've been friends for years, it just won't work."
"That in itself will do nothing more than make our marriage stronger." He tried to keep his patience. "How can we make this work if you won't tell me the truth, Gracie? You've never lied to me in the past."
"I'm not lying!" Her eyes narrowed in anger.
"Then explain it to me."
"I don't know if I can explain it. It just doesn't feel right. We've been friends for so long, making the jump to a full partnership and marriage seems nearly impossible."
"More excuses, Rand? Just claim her and be done with it!"
"Shut up, Ruzac."
He strived for patience. "You wanted a partnership with me as my Advisor. Think of this as another kind of partnership. I've had enough excuses; what are you hiding from me, Gracie?
"I resent I've no say in this marriage. Your father and mine, in their infinite wisdom, decided this was the best thing for both of us. While we're socially and magically compatible, there are two living, breathing people in this. We both have needs, wants and desires."
"So you're concerned about what our relationship will be once we take off our crowns. There's no need for it. I'll be more than happy to take care of any of your needs. I want you to be happy with me." Reaching out, he took her hand and edged her closer until there was no marble separating them. In a move which didn't surprise him, she pulled her hand free and stood up.
"This is a serious issue, Rand. The primary duty of a royal couple is to produce an heir and I won't throw myself at a man who doesn't want me." She started to pace back in forth in front of him. A gasp escaped her when she bumped into him.
When he put his arms out to steady her, she looked up at him. Rand nearly groaned. I can't remember the last time she's been this close to me. After our near kiss at the Gathering she's kept her distance. I'd be a fool to pass up this up.
"Yes, take it."
"Shut up, Ruzac."
Lowering his head towards hers, his mouth was within inches of hers when she began to struggle.
"Stop it, Gracie. We both know I won't hurt you." Burying one hand in her hair, he tipped her face up to his.
"Don't do this. I don't know what are you're trying to prove but..."
"What are you afraid of? Finding out how hot the fire between us will burn or not being able to control it?" He rubbed his thumb over her lower lip. "Because the way I feel right now, I don't know if I'll be able to control it. I've waited too long."
"This isn't funny, Rand." Real anger showed in her eyes.
"I know you're angry with me. In the end it won't matter because we're chosens and the prophesy has been fulfilled. I wish you'd recognize it as easily as I do."
"And who says I haven't, Your Highness?" Wrenching free of his hold, she backed away from him. "I don't know what you did at your damn Gathering to fulfill that damn prophesy but you can undo it. I won't be forced into this. Not by my father or yours; and certainly not by you or some damn prophesy!"
"What did you just say?" Her eyes narrowed as she approached him.
"You heard me." Grabbing her around the waist, he jerked her against him. "You're mine and have been for the past ten years."
"You won't want to claim me once I'm done." Pushing hard against his chest, she broke his hold. Rand cursed while he fought for balance. It turned into a full-fledged shout when she used her power to tumble him into the fountain.
Coming up, he sputtered and pulled himself out of the fountain. Vicious little wildcat! She's going to be so much fun to tame.
©Dakota Trace All rights reserved. This is a work of fiction. All names, characters, locations, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination, or have been used fictionally. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, locales, or events is entirely coincidental. No portion of this work may be transmitted or reproduced in any form, or by any means, without permission in writing from the author.