I teased you with just a little bit of my short story, A Reason to Stay. Here's some more. . .
Jocelyn, Grace’s oldest and closest friend, pulled her out to the gardens to gossip about Sir Rider and Lady Phoresa’s engagement. They walked through the lantern-lit paths, gold light illuminating the bushes and flowers around them. “Didn’t you have a crush on Sir Rider?” Jocelyn asked, bumping her shoulder into Grace’s.
Grace giggled. “I used to dream of him rescuing me from dragons and other evil creatures from fairy tales.”
“Well, he is quite strong,” Jocelyn said. “Remember when he participated in that tournament?”
“Oh, I remember.” Grace grinned. “How could I forget that sweaty, gleaming chest in the sun—”
Jocelyn grabbed her arm and motioned further down the path. Grace’s brother Kyler was walking towards them, furrowing his brows. The two girls burst into giggles, holding onto each other.
“What are you talking about?” Kyler asked, stopping in front of them.
“Nothing,” Grace said as she caught her breath.
“They’ve opened the dance floor inside.” Kyler’s cheeks went pink. “Jocelyn, would you like to dance?”
Jocelyn smiled slyly. “Of course.”
Kyler motioned to Grace. “You don’t mind, Grace?”
“No, take her,” Grace said, giving Jocelyn a small nudge. Jocelyn took Kyler’s arm, and they walked inside. Grace trailed behind them, giving them enough space to be alone. She shook her head as she smiled. They would probably get married someday, once they got past their embarrassment of liking one another.
Back into the palace, the corridor was empty. She ambled toward the ballroom, looking at the tapestries along the walls.
Footsteps echoed in the corridor, and she glanced over her shoulder. Dar had just stepped out of the corridor. He smiled politely at her and inclined her head. “Lady Grace.”
“Sir Dar,” she said with a slight curtsy.
He came to stand next to her, gazing at the tapestry in front of them. His arm brushed against her sleeve, and her breath caught in her throat. Goodness, she was being ridiculous. He was just another handsome noble. Another handsome noble who was already courting another lady.
He leaned his back against the tapestry, crossing his arms. “Tell me, Lady Grace, what about me is so interesting?”
Her mouth fell open. “What?”
“You always seem to be looking at me, and I just wondered what made me so interesting.” He fiddled with his sleeve, then glanced at her.
Her face grew warm. Her skin had to be pink—probably as pink as Lady Sarah’s dress. He was going to be trouble. If they kept talking, if he kept flirting with her, she knew she was going to fall in love. She shrugged a shoulder. “I’ll answer that as soon as you tell me why you stare at me just as often.”
He laughed, the sound echoing in the corridor. He studied her face.
She raised her eyebrows at him. “Well?”
“You’re always one of the most beautiful women in the room.”
She tightened her hands in front of her, smiling but not letting it grow too wide. “Really. You probably tell that to all the girls you stare at.”
He chuckled, then motioned to Grace. “I thought you were going to answer my question.”
She took a step closer to the tapestry and touched the fine threads that made up the face of King Thomas’ grandfather. The threads were so intricate, but she hardly saw them. “You’ve always intrigued me. Those visits to Shyra, staying at your manor with your family. . .” She looked at him. “I don’t know how to explain it, really.”
He straightened up and stepped towards her. Her sharp intake of breath made her blush again, but he didn’t seem to notice. His eyes bore into hers. “Try.”
Her mouth fell dry as she opened it. “Well. . .you’ve just always caught my eye. If I go to an event, I look around to see if you’re there. If you are, I can’t stop staring at you.” She swallowed, wondering how much she wanted to say. “I can’t help but wonder why you left Shyra six months ago. When I visited, you loved it so much. And sometimes. . .sometimes it seems like you’re not here. You drop out of the conversation and you don’t notice any of us. And I wonder if you’re back in Shyra, back home.”
He stared at her. His gaze flickered down to her lips, and she wondered what it’d be like to kiss him. She’d kissed her first suitor, Sir Joshua, two years ago when she was seventeen, only twice.
She wouldn’t say it, for fear of reminding him of his own words, but she thought of when she visited his family’s manor three years ago. They’d flirted, but then he’d pulled away. He told her her father didn’t like men like him. And she’d thought, she still did, Men like what? What are you like?
Voices broke through their trance, and they both stepped away from each other. A few other nobles had entered the corridor, laughing, drunk.
Grace laughed breathlessly. “We might have to finish this another time.”
“Do you promise?” Dar asked.
She backed away, smiling at him. “If you do.”
He nodded and put his hand on his heart. “Of course.”
She turned away, but at the door, she couldn’t help but look back. He met her gaze and smiled. Laughing, she walked into the ballroom.
To finish this short story and read others by great YA authors, please consider buying Love, Me. All proceeds go to CASA for their work with foster children. The book is live on Amazon for $2.99, and coming very soon to other ebook retailers.