Day One

Day One
Morning

Alexis Davis walked briskly from her large and elegant home to her personal stables. She’d sent down a message earlier for her fastest horse to be bridled and readied for the journey to her sister’s home.Susan Davis was her elder sister by a good ten years-she’d been married to John Morgan almost before Alexis could remember. But she’d always been happy–something Alexis envied seeing as how she was nearly thirty and destined to remain a spinster.Susan had three children whom Alexis couldn’t adore more if they were her own. Jason, the spitting image of his father; Alexander, who had more aspirations and dreams than any other young man Alexis knew; and dear sweet Chloe, the youngest at fifteen.

John Morgan had been killed in a farming accident nearly five years ago and it had thrown the entire family into a tailspin. Alexander had been fifteen and preparing for university but with his father’s death, he elected to stay at home and take on more of the responsibilities. Alexis had offered to pay for Alexander’s education many times or donate to Chloe’s dowry but Susan had always been counting on Jason to marry well and with Robin Scorpio, it would have been exactly the union she’d hoped for.

Of course if Jason were to marry the Princess, it would solve their problems even further. Alexander would attend the university free of charge and Chloe would not even need a dowry. And Elizabeth could be happy in the life Alexis’s family would provide for her.

Her stable hand, Kyle, was waiting out for her outside of the stables, the reins of her favorite horse-Zeus-in his hands.

“Good day, Kyle. How are you this morning?” Alexis asked, taking the reins from him and stroking the dark hair of the beast.

“Good, Miss Davis. Miss Maximilliana has agreed to marry me,” the young man announced proudly. Alexis smiled at him, knowing that he’d been pursuing Maximilliana Matthews, one of the chambermaids up at the castle, for some time.

“Well, that is very good news,” Alexis replied. She slid onto the horse and stroked its mane. “I am off to see my sister. Please be here when I return to wash Zeus down.”

“Yes, Lady Davis,” Kyle replied obediently.

She kicked Zeus’s sides and took off for the main road that would lead her to the Morgan Estate.

If one wanted to find the crown princess of the realm, they would need to look no further than the highest tower of the castle. She sat on the edge and looked out over the main road, tracking the comings and goings of pretty much anyone. The view was wide and vast and she enjoyed it there.

She’d been doing it since she was old enough to hide from her governess and she knew that as long as she lived in the castle, she’d do it.

With her marriage to Lucas Spencer looming ever so more closely, she knew in her heart, she’d never escape these walls.

“This is hardly the place for a girl who should be at a dress fitting.”

Elizabeth turned and smiled brilliantly at her elder brother. The heir to the throne was a tall and handsome young man with coal-black hair and deep caramel eyes. He looked remarkably like their uncle Michael and yet was distinctly his own person.

“Hello, my dear Nikolas,” Elizabeth greeted. She slid off the edge of the tower and embraced him. “It is good to see you home. How was Emily’s visit to her family?”

“I think it did her good to return to her childhood home,” Nikolas remarked, casually tousling his sister’s curly brown hair. She let the long length of it hang down her back, only tying it away from her face. “Mother is looking for you.”

“She hardly noticed that I was gone,” Elizabeth replied. “She cares only for this wedding. But I do not wish to speak of weddings and other silly things. I want to know more about your trip. Was the Quartermaine Estate as vast and beautiful as they say? With rolling green hills and streams filled with pure, cold water?”

Her eyes were lit up with excitement and it happened so rarely these days that Nikolas immediately told her of all his adventures at his wife’s family home, doing his best to describe the beautiful landscape. She’d never been further than the village outside the walls of the castle and he knew it saddened her greatly to face marriage to someone who would never take her anywhere.

“It sounds so wonderful,” Elizabeth said wistfully. Her eyes found the edge of the Quartermaine lands. It was a confined view, blocked by trees and the horizon. “I think I could really enjoy living in such a place.”

“You and my wife both,” Nikolas said ruefully. “Since we began preparing for the trip home to the palace, Emily has withdrawn again and not speaking much. I wish that she wasn’t. I wish that she would talk to me.”

“Have faith, dear brother,” Elizabeth said, touching his hand in comfort. “It cannot be easy for her to uproot herself from the only home she has known and be married to a man she only met the morning of the ceremony.”

“It has been six months,” Nikolas argued. “Six months of waiting for her to get used to her new home and to her husband. She does not love me, Elizabeth, and I fear she never will.”

Elizabeth laughed then. “Life is very long, Nikolas. You cannot say a thing like that. Why, I might even learn to love Lucas.”

“I doubt that,” Nikolas told her. “He is not the man I would have chosen for you. Not at all. You do not need the captain of the guard.”

“Who would you have chosen?” Elizabeth asked pointedly. “If you were the king and it were up to you ?”

“Well, I would have asked you who it is you wished for,” he responded. “And it if that was suitable enough, I would have given you that. I only wish for your happiness, Elizabeth.”

“There is no one I wish for,” Elizabeth admitted. “I have yet to find someone who makes my blood run hot and all of the nerve endings in my skin stand on end. I want someone who excites me, who challenges me…” she sighed. “Who does not live inside a castle.”

“Where do you come up with these things?” Nikolas asked. “What makes you think love is like that at all?”

“Who are you to say that it is not?” Elizabeth responded in kind. “You do not say that you love Emily, only that you want her affection. Who says that love is not exciting and challenging and passionate? And why should I settle for less?”

“Because our father has decided you will marry Lucas and I do love my wife, Elizabeth. I am insulted that you think differently. I love her very much. And my respect for her knows no bounds. But it is not the excitement and hot blood you speak of.”

“And why must there be only one kind of love?” Elizabeth demanded. She sighed and folded her arms across the light blue silky material of her dress. “Why must I learn to love Lucas rather being able to marry the man I love?”

“You say that there is no one that you love,” Nikolas reminded her. “How do you know that Lucas will not be that man one day?”

“I cannot imagine Lucas loving anyone so passionately. I can’t even imagine Lucas being so passionate at all,” Elizabeth said with a sigh. “It matters not since I am marrying him in a month’s time whether I wish to or not.”

Nikolas kissed his sister’s forehead. “You think too much and you want things you can never have. Maybe you should…learn to accept the reality of your life,” he advised her.

“You’re probably right.” She tucked an errant strand of hair behind her ear and gave him a small smile. “I should get back to the fitting. Excuse me, brother.”

She moved away and headed over to the stairs leading down from the tower. When she’d disappeared inside the castle, Nikolas sighed. He did not like seeing her so unhappy and he feared that she would forever be that way if this marriage were to go through. Lucas was a good man but he did not understand Elizabeth, did not understand her stubbornness, her streak of independence. Her yearning for more than a life in the castle.

It was true that Nikolas would not have chosen a man like Lucas for his sister, but he wasn’t sure if anyone could make Elizabeth happy.

CRACK!

Jason Morgan swung the axe over his head and brought it down one more time, effectively splitting the wood in half. He set the split pieces aside and pulled another log on top of the trunk he was using to steady it.

“Jason!”

He swung the axe again and planted it deep inside the log before turning to see his sister hurrying towards him on the path from the house. Her long golden hair streamed out behind her and she looked upset. Worried, Jason abandoned his chores and met her halfway. “Chloe? What is wrong?”

“Aunt Alexis is here and she has…she has some news. You must come to the house at once,” Chloe told him. She tugged on his shirtsleeve, which was torn after a disagreement between himself and one of the cows.

“News?” Jason echoed as he let the blonde pull him down the path. “Is it the sort of the news that put that sad look in your eye?”

“She has come to break your betrothal,” Chloe remarked softly. “You and Lady Robin will not be marrying in six weeks time.”

Stunned, Jason stared at her. He shook his head. “You must have misunderstood. Alexis knows how much this marriage means to Mother. She would not break it-”

“It was decided by the Supreme Head of the High Council himself,” Chloe reported in a hushed voice as the approached the dilapidated porch of the simple one-story home John Morgan had built during the early years of his marriage.

“Michael Corinthos? What interest could he take in a betrothal like this?” Jason replied.

“I cannot tell you that at this time.”

Jason glanced up at the doorway to see his aunt there, looking at him sternly, her brown hair pulled back tightly, her mouth set in a determined line. “I see that Chloe was unable to keep this to herself.”

Chloe flushed and clasped her hands behind her back. “I am sorry, Aunt Alexis. I only wished to tell Jason as soon as possible. But he does not understand and nor do I.”

“Why does Michael Corinthos care about my marriage?” Jason asked.

Susan Morgan and Alexander joined the trio on the porch. Susan sighed. “Jason, I know that living out here makes it easier for you to forget this but…you are noble born. We do not live in the style of most, but Michael Corinthos concerns himself with you because of that.”

Jason shrugged. “Being of noble blood does me no good. It does not do the chores, it does not set food on the table so why worry about it?”

“It is because of your noble lineage that I come. Your presence has been requested at a sequestered meeting,” Alexis informed him. “So, clean up and saddle up. We must go as soon as possible.”

Jason shook his head. “I cannot just leave. I have responsibilities, chores-”

“Alexander can take care of that today. Your presence has been requested by Michael Corinthos himself. You must go,” Susan said firmly. She touched Alexis’s shoulder, her eyes turning a darker shade of blue and going slightly distant. “Yes…you must go.”

Recognizing the telltale signs of one of his mother’s visions, Jason dropped his objections and moved past the crowd in order to wash and change.

“Has anyone seen the princess?”

Michael’s voice boomed over the stables and his niece cowered in the corner, clutching one of the small kittens in her hands.

Elizabeth, the crown princess and second in line to the throne, was all of seven years. Her long hair was tangled, her white dress smudged with the dirt of the stables.

One of the stable hands nervously pointed her out to her uncle and he crossed the stables to kneel in front of her. “Hello, Beth,” he said softly. He reached for the tabby kitten in her hands but she shook her head and shrunk back.

“She is mine. Dillon told me I could keep her!” she complained. She gestured towards one of the children of the stable hands who squeaked and dived into a bale of hay when Michael’s eyes roved over him.

“Beth, you know that animals are not allowed inside,” Michael told her quietly, reaching for it again. She stubbornly shook her head. “They breed infection and spread germs. You know how your mother feels about it.”

“She is mine,” Elizabeth whispered. Her wide sapphire eyes filled with tears and she hugged it a little closer, being very careful not to squeeze the small animal. “She already loves me.”

“Why not keep her here in the stables and you can come visit her?” Michael suggested.

“I cannot visit her…Mother is always watching and so is Nanny Audrey. I want her in my room where she can sleep on my bed and keep me company on my window seat,” Elizabeth said stubbornly.

“Honey…you cannot keep her.” Knowing that he was running out of time to bring his niece to her parents, he tugged the kitten out of her arms.

“No!” Elizabeth cried. “No, please Uncle Michael! Don’t take her!”

“You!” Michael ordered to young Dillon Hornsby who had peeked out of his hay. “Take this animal wherever it is you keep them.”

Dillon hesitantly took the tabby from him, his eyes trained on the softly sobbing princess. “Yes, my lord,” he muttered hastily, a little bit of disdain in his voice for the uncle who had ripped the kitten from his niece. But one glare from the council member had him scrambling to the other side of the stable.

“I hate you!” Elizabeth cried. She stood and glared at him, her eyes darkening so quickly that even Michael found himself stepping away. Young children who had magical powers were dangerous because they were unable to control their emotions. It was part of the reason young sorcerers were taken and schooled and enchantresses were…well, it was best not to speak of what happened to unfortunate little girls who had special powers.

“Elizabeth, you should have known you would not be able to keep it,” Michael chided. He put a hand on her shoulder but she jerked away from him. “Please, calm down.”

She did and her eyes lightened to their normal sapphire shade. But they were cold and she was looking at him differently than before.

“I will never forgive you for this,” she said softly and yet with a touch of frost in her voice. She’d become her mother-his sister-and the realization saddened him quite a bit.

Michael found himself thinking of that day more often than he would like. He thought she might grow up and eventually she would love him like she once had. Twelve years had passed but she’d never forgotten.

He was seated in his private rooms, in the sitting area. He was about tell Elizabeth of the broken betrothal and her meeting with Jason Morgan and as always, when he was preparing to meet with her one on one, he thought of that day when she’d been so young and trusting and all she’d wanted in the world was a kitten.

“My lord?”

Michael glanced up and stood. “Beth, I am glad you came so quickly.”

Her eyes were disinterested, her hands clasped in front of her, her hair tied neatly back. She was every image of the perfect princess and none of the child she’d been once. “You requested my immediate presence. What is it that you wanted?”

“I wanted to be the one to tell you that you will not be marrying Lucas Spencer in a month’s time.”

A flicker of surprise crossed her face but it was gone almost as quickly as it had come and she shrugged. “And what is it that you want in return?”

Michael frowned. “What?”

“I doubt that you are acting in my best interests,” she said quietly. “So what is it that you want?”

“Maybe I did it so that you could be happy,” Michael said defensively, disregarding that he had only broken the betrothal so that she would be free to marry Jason. He had his own reasons for believing Elizabeth to be the chosen female in the legend.

“You have never taken an interest in my happiness, why start now?” Elizabeth asked bluntly. “What do you want from me, Michael?”

“Elizabeth…” Michael sighed. She would not listen to him about her part in a legend and her duty to her world to marry a man she’d never met. She didn’t trust him, didn’t like him. She would not take kindly to that news.

“Take a walk with me,” he said instead. He’d walk past the spot in the gardens that he and Alexis had decided on and see if she had brought Jason with her.

“I do not want to.”

“It is not a request,” Michael said pointedly. “Come.” He wouldn’t placate her any longer. Her marriage to Jason would not be a request but an order if he had to do so.

He started out of the rooms and glanced back only once when he realized Elizabeth wasn’t following. He gave her a stern glare and she sighed, falling into step beside him.

——

Barbara hesitantly knocked on Robin’s sitting room. The two women occupied separate wings of the house.

After a moment, the tiny young woman opened the door and smiled hesitantly. “Barbara, is there something you wished to speak to me about?”

“Yes. May I come in?”

Robin stepped aside and let her guardian enter. “Is there word from my parents? Will they be able to attend the wedding?”

Barbara sat on the sofa and patted the seat next to her. “Sit, my dear.”

Robin’s lower lip trembled and she clasped her hand together, nervously. “Has…has something happened to them?” she asked fearfully. She didn’t feel that she should lose her parents so soon after losing her aunt and uncle.

She’d been left in Malcolm and Felicia Scorpio’s care nearly three years ago after her parents had been given an extremely dangerous mission in the neighboring kingdom of Derwyn.

But soon after they’d left, Malcolm–or Mac as he’d been affectionately called–had been called to stage a mission near the northern borders of Rhigwyn. He’d taken his partner and wife with him, Felicia Jones-Scorpio. Felicia was the widow of Frisco Jones, Anthony Jones’s brother and it was deemed appropriate that the then fifteen year old girl would reside with Anthony and Barbara.

But just weeks ago, Mac and Felicia had been killed and Robin had been counting on more regular visits from her parents now that their mission was coming to an end. Robin sank onto the seat next to her guardian with trembling hands.

“Oh, darling, it is nothing like that all. It’s just…the High Council has broken your betrothal to Jason. I am so sorry that I alarmed you,” Barbara sighed. “Are you terribly disappointed?”

“Not especially,” Robin admitted. “I am of age and should be getting married. Jason is a nice man and I am sure he will make a good husband for any woman. But I do not love him and I am content in remaining here until a husband is found for me.”

“Well, you are taking this much more calmly than I had anticipated.” Barbara smiled and patted Robin’s hand. “Good. I will let the council know of your cooperation and I will begin making new contacts.”

Robin nodded. “Thank you, Barbara.”

“Aunt Alexis, what are we waiting for here?” Jason asked, sliding his hands into the pockets of his pants. He’d barely stepped foot into the main village of Rhigwyn in his entire twenty-four years much less the private gardens of the castle and to say he was uncomfortable and out of place would be an understatement.

“Michael is meeting us here and I promise we will explain everything,” Alexis pledged. She sat on one of the stone benches and sighed. “Are you disappointed about Robin?”

Jason shook his head. “No. I had only met Robin a few times. You and I both know that I was really marrying her for Chloe. She deserves a better kind of life and the only way that will happen is if the Morgan name has more respect attached to it,” Jason said.

“Chloe is a wonderful girl. She will find someone.”

“And Alexander. Alexander wants to attend the university,” Jason reminded her. “But we cannot afford to lose his help yet. We needed this.”

“But Jason, you do not care for Robin the way a man should care for his wife,” Alexis chastised.

“I would have treated her just as my father treated my mother,” Jason snapped, insulted.

“I am only saying that you do not love her and settling for less is unfair for the both of you,” Alexis replied with no trace of apology in her voice.

“Some of us are not allowed the luxury of marrying for love.”

Someone cleared their throat behind them and Jason turned, his eyes settling on a petite brunette in a silk sapphire dress that matched the shade of her eyes. She was tiny, would probably come no higher than his biceps and he could probably span her waist with his hands.

The moment her eyes found his, thunder crashed and the bright blue of the sky turned to coal-black. Multitudes of stars shot through the inky darkness before it abruptly returned to the spring day it’d been only a moment ago.

Elizabeth blinked. “What was that?” she asked softly.

Alexis stood and folded her arms tightly across her chest. “That was the sign,” she said softly. She looked at Michael, who seemed a little stunned.

“Sign of what?” Elizabeth demanded. She moved away from her uncle and stalked over to Alexis. “Sign ofwhat ?” she repeated. “Who is this?” she gestured towards Jason.

“Elizabeth, this is my nephew, Jason Morgan. Jason, this is Elizabeth, the crown princess of Rhigwyn.”

Jason bowed slightly. “My lady.”

Elizabeth’s eyes narrowed and she looked towards Michael. She shook her head and took a step back. “No. Michael…”

“What is going on here?” Jason asked. He frowned, not liking the paleness of Elizabeth’s already light skin. “Are you all right, my lady?”

This is why you broke my betrothal?” she demanded scathingly. “You wished for me to take a walk with you-would not take no for an answer-and you bring me to meet Alexis’s nephew.” She glared at her uncle. “What does he have that Lucas does not? Is he more noble? Is he more worthy? Will he put me in such a large cage I will not even realize I’m trapped?”

Alarmed, Alexis put a hand on the young girl’s shoulder. “Elizabeth, you do not understand what is going on here.”

Elizabeth shook the hand off easily and stepped away, moving backwards, never taking her eyes off her uncle who’d yet to speak a word. “I understand completely. Lucas would have let me have too much freedom. He does not quite understand me but he might let me have some liberty. We cannot have that can we now?”

“Elizabeth, do not overreact,” Michael said finally. “There is something going on here that you are not aware of–”

“You know…when you told me I did not have to marry Lucas, for one moment I thought that you loved me. That you were doing this for me because you knew how much I hated this…” She shook her head, tears shining brightly in her eyes. “But then I remembered. I remembered who you are. And who you will neverbe.”

She turned on her heel and stalked away. Alexis started after her but Michael put a hand on her elbow. “She will not listen to us and she will not accept an explanation. Not right now.”

“Then perhaps you might offer me one,” Jason spoke up. “Why was she so upset? And what happened here a few moments ago?”

Alexis sighed and looked towards Jason. “The simplest question to answer is why she is so upset and it is purely because-”

“Because twelve years ago, I took her kitten away,” Michael said softly, regret in his eyes. “Her mother would not have allowed her to have it inside the castle but she wanted it so badly. And I took it away. She has never forgiven me for that.”

“It is not as easy as it might seem to be the princess,” Alexis tried to explain. “She spends most of her time locked in her room and unable to leave the grounds. It is a very lonely existence.”

Jason nodded. “And she thought you were controlling her life even more so by bringing her here. But surely she misunderstood your intentions. You do not mean to arrange a betrothal between the two of us.”

“Why not?” Michael asked pointedly. “You are the nephew of a high-ranking council member. You are descended from the original captain of the king’s guard. What makes you so unworthy of marrying the princess?”

Jason swallowed hard and glanced at Alexis. “Surely you are joking,” he said quietly. “She is the crown princess, second in line to the throne. I may have the blood of noble men past, but I am just a farmer now.”

“Under normal circumstances, you would not have been the first man I would have chosen.”

“Normal circumstances,” Jason echoed. “And what makes these circumstances abnormal?”

“Have you heard of the legend behind the Aurora Dawning?” Michael asked conversationally.

“My father studied it quite closely,” Jason answered. “I know that it is due to occur in seven days, on Saturday night at midnight. The legend is that unless two specific people are celebrating the consummation of a holy union, the realm will be cursed with a thousand years of damnation.” He hesitated. “Do you believe that the princess and I are these two people?”

“We not only believe it, but we now know it. What happened here a few moments ago proves it,” Michael replied. “Now, it matters not to me whether the two of you agree with it or believe it yourself. It is the decision of the High Council that you will wed Elizabeth seven days from now.”

Alexis sighed. “Michael, it is not Jason that you need to speak to like this. It is your own flesh and blood.” She looked to her nephew. “What do you think of all this?”

“I know of the legend and I know what is to happen when the two people meet,” Jason responded. “It is my duty to my family and my home that I do as the council wishes.”

“Splendid,” Alexis said with a smile. “I will see you home and we will explain everything to your family. Michael, perhaps you should see to Elizabeth.”

“She will not listen to any explanation I will offer so I await your return. She will take it more calmly if it came from you.” Michael nodded to Jason before walking away.

“He speaks of her as if she were not his family, his sister’s daughter,” Jason said, a little disturbed. “Has he really no heart like they say?”

“Michael is a good man and he loves his family very much. He has always had a strained relationship when it comes to Elizabeth. Come, we will retrieve our horses and head for the farm.”

“Does he really think it is all because of a kitten he took from her?” he asked skeptically as Alexis led him towards the stables.

Alexis shrugged. “It is possible that it is where her distrust of him started, yes. That day has weighed heavily in his mind for a long time, Jason and I believe if he had a chance to do it again, he would give her the kitten if only for her to smile at him once again.”

“I can explain it to my mother,” Jason told his aunt once they rode their horses into the barn on the estate. He slid off and started to unhook the bridle. “You should go and talk to the princess.”

“Jason! You are back!” Chloe called from the corner of the barn. She poked her head out. “Come quickly! Lady is having her kittens!”

Jason smiled and shook his head. “Would you like to see some of the new additions to the family?” he asked his aunt. He moved towards the corner of the barn where the cats gave birth to their kittens and the dogs to their puppies. Chloe was an animal lover and always had a cat or dog trailing after her.

He squatted down as one of the tabby cats was giving birth to her sixth litter. Surrounding her were other various sized cats. “She is doing well. By now, she should not even need supervision.”

“I think these will be the most lovely yet,” Chloe said gleefully.

Jason glanced at one of the short-haired orange kittens watching the scene with a bit of interest. “Alexis.”

“Hmmm?”

“Did she ever…get the kitten she wanted?” he asked her.

Alexis frowned a little. “No. The one she picked out stayed in the barn and she visited it a lot…the cat died giving birth to a litter of kittens. She was inconsolable.” She shook her head sadly. “Michael kept track of the cat, believe it or not.”

Chloe frowned. “What are you two talking about?”

“Nothing.” Jason stood and paused only to sweep the tiny orange kitten into his hands. “Alexis, I will see you off.”

“Good day, darling, give my love to your mother and brother,” Alexis said to Chloe before following Jason to Zeus. “What are you doing with that cat?”

Jason grabbed one of the horse blankets-one of the smaller ones for the foals-and delicately wrapped the kitten in it. “No one should be denied something they seem to want so desperately. Perhaps…you can find a way to give her this.” He held the bundle out to his aunt.

“Oh, Jason…” Alexis took it from him. “This…I did not expect anything like this. She…she will adore it.” She kissed his cheek. “You know about the legend, but do you know what the shooting stars represent?”

He frowned. “They’re not part of…what happens?’

“No…it’s actually very old folklore. Shooting stars…it is said that if a man and woman see a shooting star the first time they meet…they will know the truest of loves.”

“I…did not know that,” Jason said lamely. He stepped away from his aunt and cleared his throat. “I should go speak with my mother.”

“I should get back as well. I will find a way to give the kitten to Elizabeth, you have my word.”

Afternoon

Elizabeth was seated in her window seat of her sitting room when a soft knock sounded on her door. “Come in,'” she called listlessly.

Her handmaid, Gia Campbell, entered. “My lady, I was wondering if you were in need of anything.”

“No. I do not think I’ll be needing you for the rest of the day, so you are free to do as you wish.” Elizabeth smiled a little at the only person in her life she might consider a friend.

Gia hesitated. “My lady, you seem…a little sad. Is everything all right or is too bold for me to ask?”

“I will not be marrying Lucas Spencer,” Elizabeth remarked. She glanced at Gia. “And I believe my uncle is already at work on another betrothal.”

“Well, my lady, you did not wish to marry Lucas,” the young woman said hesitantly. “Would this not be a good thing?”

“Yes,” Elizabeth admitted. “But he is arranging a betrothal between me and a man that I do not know and have only met this afternoon. At least…I knew Lucas.”

Gia smoothed her calloused hands down her gray skirt and cleared her throat. “Who is he?” she asked.

“Jason Morgan, Alexis’s nephew,” Elizabeth replied. “I have no doubt that he will know how to deal with me and would have more free time to control me. That must have been Michael’s primary motive for doing this to me. Lucas would be away often and I would have too much freedom. That cannot be allowed.”

“My lady, perhaps you are looking at this the wrong way,” Gia began. She sat primly on the edge of the window seat. “Surely, you should get to know this Jason Morgan before you make that assumption. Lord Corinthos would not do this to you without some sort of reason and I do not believe it is to control you.”

“Michael Corinthos cares for no one and he most especially does not care for females with a strong mind,” Elizabeth retorted quickly.

There was a knock on the door to her private suit and Gia hurried to open it, revealing Alexis. She was holding the horse blanket in her arms. “Elizabeth, I would like to speak with you.”

“Yes I suppose you would,” Elizabeth replied. “Gia, you are dismissed for the day. Thank you.”

“Yes, my lady.” Gia curtsied and left the room.

“Before I tell you what it is you need to know, I have something for you.” Alexis sat on the window seat, placing the bundle in her lap. She delicately separated the folds to reveal the small orange kitten.

Elizabeth’s eyes widened and she looked up at Alexis. “Is…is she really for me?”

The elder woman smiled. “Yes. Here, take her.”

Almost before the words left Alexis’s lips, Elizabeth had scooped her up and was cuddling her in her arms. “Thank you…thank you so much.”

“It is not me you need to thank but my nephew.”

Elizabeth blinked and shook her head. “I do not understand. How could he have known that I wanted a kitten?”

“Michael mentioned that day…when you were seven. It weighs on him heavily, Elizabeth. I wish that you would forgive him.”

Elizabeth ignored that and smiled. “So your nephew sent a cat for me. He seems…very sweet.” She held the kitten up and the animal mewed in protestation of being roused from the sleep she’d been falling into. “Well, then I will call you Morgan.”

“Jason is a good man,” Alexis said. “The very image of his father, my sister’s husband. And you would greatly enjoy the land that the Morgans own. A lot of green hills, a small stream that feeds into the lake, a lush forest.”

“So it is true. I am to be betrothed to Jason.” Elizabeth set the kitten next to her on the window seat and Morgan immediately began exploring her new environment.

“It is not just a betrothal.” Alexis hesitated. “Do you know the legend behind the Aurora Dawning?”

Understanding blossomed in Elizabeth’s eyes. “You believe that Jason and I are the people that are spoken of in the legend.”

“The day turned to night when you met…you are the people that we are seeking. Seven days from now, on the dusk of the seventh day-you will be married. It is an order from the High Council.”

Content with her new life, Morgan bounded into Elizabeth’s lap and curled into a tiny ball to sleep. “Tell me about Jason,” Elizabeth asked, her small fingers stroking Morgan’s soft fur.

“He does not believe in controlling people-and he would treat you so kindly. Even if you were not the princess, he would treat you as though you are because my brother-in-law treated my sister like she was a queen. He does not know how to be any different.” Alexis patted Elizabeth’s knee. “He will do anything to please you-even if you wish to climb a tree and spend the night. You will have the independence you so long for…and a good husband with a close and loving family.”

“So you are saying that I will have everything that I have always wanted…except a marriage borne from love,” Elizabeth said softly.

“If there is any man out there that you might love, it would be Jason. You just have to give him the chance.”

“So what is to happen now?” Elizabeth asked, not looking at the council member.

“Well, I suppose that is entirely up to the two of you for the next few days. If you would like, I could arrange for Jason to come to see you again. You could get to know one another.” Alexis sighed. “Elizabeth, I wish that there were something I could say to make you feel better about all of this.”

“There is nothing you could say, my lady. My life is not my own to live how I see fit.” Elizabeth’s large blue eyes were sad then. “I came to terms with this long ago.”

“Then I will take my leave. Shall I send to word to my nephew?”

“If you like. I may as well take the opportunity to thank him for the kitten.” She smiled then, feathering her fingers lightly over Morgan’s soft fur.

Chloe set the basket of bread on the dining table and sat down with a large plop-very unladylike in deed. “You are marrying the princess?” she asked in a hushed tone.

Susan frowned. “Are you sure that you heard your aunt correctly?”

Jason nodded and handed the plate of roasted chicken to Alexander. “You know that Father studied the legend of the Aurora Dawning. You must have suspected.”

His mother nodded. “I suspected but I never dared to hope-and now you are betrothed to the princess. It is quite a lot to take in.”

“What is she like?” Chloe asked. “Is she devastatingly beautiful? Is she like the ones from the books? Kind and perfect and all that?”

“She is very pretty,” Jason assured his sister. “As for perfect and kind…I only met her briefly so I could not form an actual opinion.”

“Will you live here?” Alexander pressed. “Or at the castle?”

“I am not sure. It was not brought up. I would assume since she is only second in line to the throne that we would live here.”

“I would hope so as we can ill afford to lose you here,” Susan remarked. “But this is a very good thing to happen to our family-” she broke off and stood. “Someone is approaching the front of the house.”

Chloe jumped up. “I will go see who it is.”

Alexander followed before Susan even had to even suggest it. Once they were both absent, Susan stared at her eldest child thoughtfully.

Feeling strangely uncomfortable, Jason shifted. “Is there something wrong?”

“Chloe tells me that you sent a kitten home with Alexis.” Susan smiled softly. “My sister does not care for animals so who was it intended for?”

“The princess,” Jason admitted. “Alexis told me that she had wanted one as a child and it died while having a litter of kittens.”

“It was a very kind thing to do. She seems to have made quite a good impression on you,” Susan observed.

“She immediately assumed that Michael Corinthos was arranging a new betrothal for her after breaking her last one and I fear that she thinks I am going to control her-trap her so to speak.”

“It cannot be easy being a woman in the royal family. Not being the direct heir but not being an ordinary girl,” his mother said. “You will have to make an effort to gain her trust as I do not think she would easily give it.”

“I only have seven days, I doubt I will make much progress.”

“If you go about it right, it would only take an hour,” Susan said.

Before Jason could ask her for suggestions, Chloe and Alexander moved back into the room, Chloe wore a dazed expression.

“Who was it?” Susan asked.

“A royal messenger,” Alexander remarked. He guided his sister back into a seat. “With a letter for Jason.” He handed his older brother the thick cream-colored envelope.

With little ceremony, Jason ripped the side of the envelope off and extracted a piece of paper with the same material and color as its envelope. “It is from Aunt Alexis. The princess wishes me to return to the castle tomorrow at my earliest convenience so that she may thank me in person for the kitten.”

“Kitten?” Alexander repeated.

“He sent the princess one of the kittens born two months ago,” Chloe reported with a dreamy smile. “It that not the most romantic thing you’ve ever heard?”

Jason scowled. “I do not know that I can afford to give up more time. There is so much to be done-”

“I can handle it,” Alexander cut in. “You are to marry her in seven days, brother. You should get the chance to know her more.”

“Wouldn’t it be so wonderful if they were to fall in love for real?” Chloe gushed.

“Hush, Chloe. You must get your head out of the clouds and live in the real world,” Susan chastised.

Chloe folded her hands in her lap. “Yes, Mother,” she said meekly. After a moment, she glanced up at Jason. “Are you going to go?”

“It is a royal invitation-I doubt he has a choice,” Alexander remarked.

“It does say at my earliest convenience so maybe I could do the chores-”

“You’ll go after breakfast,” Susan interrupted. “You have an obligation to her now, Jason. And after all, she does want to thank you. Alexander can handle the chores.”

“I cannot believe how cliché it is for the princess to be the chosen one,” Laura sighed. She took her seat at the council table next to her husband, Luke. “What is Lucas supposed to do now? There is no other eligible woman worthy of him.”

“There is Lady Scorpio. With her betrothal to Jason broken, she is free,” her husband pointed out.

Laura snorted. “Robin Scorpio is hardly worthy of our son, Luke. Be reasonable.”

Barbara Jones sat down across from Laura and glared at her. “Robin is too good for your son and I would never consent to a marriage.”

“Well, I am glad that pettiness is still alive and well,” Skye Chandler murmured as she took her seat. She set some paperwork down to smile at Monica and Alan Quartermaine.

“Would you expect any less?” Monica asked dryly. She was only a council member due to her marriage into the Quartermaine family. The Quartermaines were one of the most privileged families in the realm and all eligible adults from their blood line served on the council.

“No,” Skye replied with a rueful smile.

“Here is the text you were searching for,” Jasper Jacks took his seat next to the redhead and slid the paper towards her. “What did you need it for?”

“Michael asked me to do some research on the Dawning,” Skye said. “Thank you.”

Michael entered the room then and as always, Alexis and Caroline were in tow. They took their seats at the head of the table. “I have spoken to the king and queen. The marriage is set.”

Ned Ashton sighed. “I cannot imagine that the princess took it well.”

“On the contrary, the princess enjoyed meeting my nephew,” Alexis revealed. “I have made arrangements for them to meet again in the morning.”

Barbara snorted. “The princess has never been a suitable member of the royal family. I have no doubt the news that she may live freely on a farm raised her spirits.”

Michael narrowed his eyes and leaned forward. “Barbara, I might remind you that you speaking of one in line to the throne.”

The redhead murmured her apology.

“Anyhow, the dawning is on schedule and we might turn to other matters concerning the realm,” Michael continued.

 

Comments

  • I remember this story. It was never finished that I know of. I loved it. I like period pieces like this the best. Please finish this

    According to leasmom on March 28, 2014