Beyond the Flame {Chapter 29}

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Created by readergirl31 on Wednesday, March 23, 2011

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“Don’t worry, Rainey. I’ll be fine,” Neil assured me as I was strapped onto a horse heading back to the castle. Neil was staying at the battle sight, of course. But I was useless now. My injuries made it difficult for me to even breathe correctly, let alone engage in battle and defend myself.

“I’m not worried about you, Neil. I know you can take care of yourself. I'm worried about everyone in general.”

I was sad that Neil couldn’t come with me, but he was needed in this war. For the past week, he had been my support system. I had, in a way, grown selfishly attached to him. I wanted him to take care of me and love me. But I didn’t necessarily love him back. I just loved the feeling of being loved right now.

Once I was secured on the horse’s back, Neil gave me a gentle kiss on the cheek before waving me off. I kept looking back in his direction as I made my way back through The Forest, making Neil smile to himself. This look of pleasure in love was the most beautiful thing I had seen in a long time. I held that memory close throughout the journey back.

By the time we reached the castle, my ribs felt as if they were on fire. I knew that the horse could not help that it walked with bumps and jolts, but I wished it had known that it was carrying something so fragile.

When we stopped at the door of the castle, I was unstrapped and carried to the infirmary on a stretcher. I was finally given the correct treatment for broken ribs and I was able to breathe a little more easily.

“Thank you,” I whispered to the healer as she taped up my torso tightly.

She smiled at my praise and responded, “You’re welcome, Princess Loraine.”

I was given a drug to help me sleep. I was exhausted from traveling and battling and everything else that had happened back in The Forest. And now I could sleep peacefully.

I dreamed that someone snuck in one of the windows. They were watching me. They barely moved. I noticed how tall the person was. Maybe it was Ayden. But then again, maybe it was my imagination.

I managed to pry my heavy eyelids open and saw the figure of an elf standing over me. It wasn’t a healer; I could tell by the size. It was a male. I opened my eyes further, determined to figure out who was watching me so closely.

They must have seen my eyes flutter because they said softly, “I know you’re in there, Loraine.”

Ayden.

“How did you get here?” I murmured almost incoherently. I closed my eyes again, not wanting to see his face. I hated what he was doing to me.

“I had some help from an old friend.” Outside I heard the whinny of a horse.

“Is that Jaleela?” I asked. “Why would she do this to me?”

I heard him sigh. “I’m so sorry, Rainey. I never meant for any of this to happen. Sometimes I wish I could just… I could just start over with you. I keep replaying that night when I told you my secret over and over and think what I could have done differently. But the problem is that I couldn’t have done anything differently because I love you, and I would always tell you the truth.”

These words came as a shock to me. I was expecting something along these lines, but I had no idea that what he felt was to this degree.

“I realize that I can’t just tell you to go away anymore. You’re going to keep coming back no matter what. But I need you to know that I’m not going to keep coming back. I’m engaged, Ayden. I need you to respect that,” I said.

He frowned and asked, “Isn’t marriage supposed to be for love?”

I nodded, not sure where he was going with this. “Neil loves me.”

“But do you love him? Think about when you told me that you loved me. Do you feel that way about him now?”

I thought about that for a long time. My heart screamed no but my mind said that I had to say yes.

I decided to listen to my heart. “No,” I admitted. “But that doesn’t mean that I still love you.”

“I’ll take that,” he said. “It’s better than what I expected you to say.”

He looked deep in my eyes for a second, as if trying to see through and into my soul. Then, hesitantly, he leaned down and kissed me tenderly on the forehead. I closed my eyes as butterflies did flips in my stomach.

“I love you, Rainey,” he said.

“I love you, too, Ayden.”

My eyes flew open as what I had just said sunk in. What had I done?


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