The Kingdom of Archer Book I: Bloom

By J.Rose All Rights Reserved ©

Fantasy / Scifi

Two Sides of The Night

(Lyric)

Everyone was gathered downstairs in the long dining hall once again. There was no sound other than the clinking of forks and the occasional clunk of a glass being set down after having a drink. Everyone seemed to be in their own mindset thinking about their own problems. No one really dared speak that was until King Thomas finally broke the silence. Clearing his throat, he looked at both Parker and I.

“Son. Have you thought about what I said?” King Thomas asked. For a moment I turned to look at Parker, who was sitting across from me on the table. His eyes met mine and though I wanted to look away feeling my blush, curiosity

got the best of me.

“Yes. I’ve already made arrangements.” Parker said to his father.

“That’s good.” King Thomas spoke nodding his head absentmindedly.

“Oliver will be going with you as a precaution. There will be more Novas to protect you but they will keep their distance,” King Thomas spoke. His words making me tense.

Where was Parker going? Why would he need protection? Then I realized it was more than that. Maxwell had warned us and I knew that wasn’t something that was meant to be taken lightly.

“Lyric,” Crystal whispered. Turning to look me she simply offered a smile and took my hand from under the table. I was glad that she’d chosen to sit beside me at a time like this when I felt so afraid. Then again, I always did feel afraid, and that made me feel weak.

“It’ll be alright. It’s just a precaution. Parker will be fine,” She whispered offering me a smile. It wasn’t like me to worry about Parker. Maybe it was due to what we’d gone through recently, but part of me realized it was more than that. Parker had changed and so had I. Part of me wanted to not care about him, but then I remember his words to me from a few nights ago.

“I love you.”

I’m still confused by it. I’m still unsure if he really meant those words. Even so, time and time again he’s protected me, saved me from harm’s way. The least I could do for him now, even though I myself am unsure of my own feelings, is care about him just a little.

“Would you excuse us?” Crystal speaks up to everyone, the boys and King Thomas proceeding to stand up courteously. Crystal smiles at them politely before taking me by the hand and guiding me upstairs without speaking a word as to where we are going. We go up to a different wing of the house, one that I assume is her room and Spencer’s. The room is rather large the curtains a vibrant shiny emerald green color. The bed has soft yellow colored sheets that appear almost cream like. The nightstand on the far left beside the bed is small holding a lamp and a large old book that reads Archer History of Kings and Queens. There’s a piano at the far end of the room just like mine. Once again I drift toward it like I did in my own room and Crystal offers a smile.

“Spencer sometimes plays for me,” She says her look soft and her eyes getting a dreamy starry-eyed look. Her expression only makes me wonder if I could ever look that way at anyone… At Parker.

“I love you.”

I can feel my face heat up at the thought of Parker again and try to shake my thoughts away.

“We haven’t had a chance to talk much with everything that’s been going on lately,” Crystal speaks cutting my train of thought and making me turn to her. She’s moving about in her room hurriedly going to her closet to grab a few articles of clothing and then going through her drawers taking a large box out.

“How have you been… With Parker? It certainly is a lot to take in,” She says pulling me over to the large bed. It feels so soft almost like sinking into a fluffy cloud.

“Yes,” I say quietly unsure of what to tell her. Not when I feel like a jumbled mess inside.

“How do you feel?” Crystal asks and for a moment I feel confused again. Not of what she’s asked me, but confused as to how I myself feel.

“I don’t know.”

“He says he loves me. He. Told me he was sorry for everything he’s done to me and. I don’t know,” I tell her looking down at my hands.

“He really is sorry Lyric,” Crystal assures taking my hand and offering a kind smile.

“You don’t know how much he worries about you. Even then. After the fire,” She says and for a second my heart tightens remembering that horrible day.

“I know he was a jerk but. He does care about you. At the hospital. He never left your side. He never left you alone. Who do you think asked King Thomas to help you when you had nowhere else to go?” Crystal asked. Her words making the jumbled mess of my emotions more confused.

“But. He hated me he-” “He didn’t,” Crystal speaks cutting me off and offering a smile.

“Maybe that’s the way you feel but. You have to ask him Lyric,” She says.

“He was never there when I woke up,” I tell her and Crystal only smiles shaking her head.

“Maybe that’s something you need to talk about with him. For now, let’s just get you ready okay,” She tells me.

“Ready for what?” I ask looking at her in confusion only to have her push a white frilly skirt my way and a soft orange long-sleeved blouse.

“For your date,” Crystal clarifies.

“Date?” I question, causing Crystal to laugh lightly, before standing me up and pushing me toward the bathroom to change.

***

I feel so uncomfortable. I’m wearing a white frilly skirt that goes down past my knees. A pair of white three-inch heels that make my feet hurt, a long half sleeve orange blouse, and my hair has been curled at the bottom into perfect soft waves. Crystal has done my makeup soft and light. She has applied pink blush on my cheeks, a winged cat eye on both my top eyelids, mascara, and the softest of pinks on my lips. Normally I wouldn’t protest on what I was wearing but the thought of getting “dressed up” for a date with Parker Archer, made my stomach churn. Whether that was a good thing or not I was still trying to figure that out. I’d never been on a date before. Much less kissed anyone or held someone’s hand for that matter. It seemed however that I had gotten hand holding over with a few days ago with Parker.

Blushing at the thought, I tried to stop the way my heart was wildly beating as I walked to the bottom of the stairs with Crystal. I could see Parker standing at the bottom of the stairs and I couldn’t help but think how cliché this all felt. Still, even more cliché was the way I felt inside. He was standing there with a smile on his face his hazel eyes shining. He was wearing a black leather jacket again and for a second I felt like we were back in high school. Only this time he was smiling at me instead of glaring.

“She’s ready,” Crystal speaks up pushing me forward lightly toward Parker who offers a smile.

“Thanks Crystal we-” “Just have fun,” She says before turning to me.

“Both of you,” She adds causing my cheeks to flame. All I could do was simply look down and nod before hearing her retreat back upstairs.

“You look nice,” Parker speaks causing my blush to intensify, making me unable to meet his eyes once again.

“It’s just Parker,” I thought to myself wanting to stop my shy reactions.

“Do you want to go now?” Parker asks reaching for my hand. Finding myself unable to speak again I nod in agreement before Parker takes my hand. His hold on me is firm, but gentle at the same time, while he pulls me along and out of the castle doors. Outside Neil is waiting for us with the car door already open. Without a word, Parker helps me inside the car.

*Bump, Ba- Bump, Bump*

Pushing myself to the far end of the car as close to the window as I possibly can I avoid eye contact. My hands go to my sides and I begin to clutch at my skirt, the rough fabric at the bottom scrunching at my fingertips. I’m afraid. Not of him but that he’ll be able to hear my pounding heartbeat. I’m embarrassed and part of me feels idiotic for letting myself get carried away by one single word. When I turn to look at Parker, he’s looking right back at me. My heart seems to skip a beat and just like that I can feel my face flush again. He chuckles lightly and I turn my gaze back to the window.

“Don’t be nervous,” Parker assures me.

“I promise I won’t do anything,” He adds. We drive for about an hour going past Archer homes, schools, past the main city. I wonder where it is exactly that we’re going and where the Nova guards are.

“Don’t worry we’ll be fine,” He says. Part of me wants to ask how he knows that but I’m too nervous to speak up. I don’t see another car behind us, nor do I see any Novas following us on the side.

“His father did say they’d keep their distance,” I think to myself, but I wondered where Oliver was. Was he not the one that was supposed to stay close? The city and the people have slowly left my car window and there is nothing but grass, green grass, and pastures.

Everything around seems so empty, yet the sky is so beautiful. The sun has slowly started to set. By the time the car stops there is a soft orange glow slowly going down to bring forth the night in the beautiful rich sky.

“Where are we?” I want to ask Parker who simply offers a smile and takes my hand again leading me out of the car. We walk along the grass and my feet wobble as we climb up a small hill my heels sinking into the dirt. The shoes pinch at my sides and I feel like they don’t quite fit right but I know I’m just uncomfortable. Heels are something I don’t wear often and when I do they make my feet hurt. I’m afraid I’ll fall due to my clumsiness at

the moment and I’m glad that Parker is holding my hand to keep me steady.

We walk a good fifteen minutes in silence, Parker pulling me along with a smile on his lips that make my heart continue its fast-paced dance.

“We’re almost there,” He speaks to me. In the distance, I can see people standing around, working on something, and causing Parker’s smile to intensify as he pulls me towards them. The closer we get to them, the clearer I can see. There is a large basket on the ground that almost appeared to be weaved entirely of rope and was definitely strong enough to carry both of us. Attached to the large basket was a large green air balloon that was being inflated by hot air. Large sandbags have been put around the basket in order to keep it down and I feel my stomach churn. It took a few moments for me to understand what we were doing here and I felt my heart stop. Watching the air balloon rise to life made uneasiness spread across my entire body.

“We’re going on there?” I hear myself dumbly ask, and Parker simply turns to me, a smile on his face as he nods.

“Prince Archer. Princess,” The five men working on the balloon speak, before bowing politely to us. I’m quiet again. This time Parker’s hand feels like the only thing that’s anchoring me down. My mind has gone blank from fear. Far away I can hear Parker speaking with someone. By the time I’ve come back to my senses the hot-air baloon is ready to go, and all I can do is gulp my fear down.

“Are you sure you can steer it?” One of the men asks Parker and I feel my stomach do another flip realizing it’s almost time to get on the air balloon.

“Yes,” Parker answers, taking my hand and guiding me into the large basket.

My heart feels like it’s drumming out of my ears but I don’t say anything to Parker when he closes the little basket door. Slowly he begins to pull the large metal hanger on the top of the balloon igniting the flame and slowly we begin to ascend. The higher we go the more I feel my stomach tighten and I begin to feel slightly dizzier.

“Don’t look down. Don’t look down,” I chant to myself.

We go across pastures of clean grass and mountains. Higher and higher we go until everything and everyone seems like small little ants crawling about. My grip on his hand has tightened more and my nails are digging into his skin. I know I’m squeezing too hard when I hear him wince. Turning to me his gaze penetrates mine and something flickers in his eyes.

“You’re so pale. Are you okay?” Parker asks concerned. Still, I can’t find my voice and I simply nod at him trying to calm myself down.

“Are you afraid of heights?” He questions.

“I’m afraid of everything,” I think to myself feeling like such an idiot.

“I’m sorry. I wanted to surprise you but I realize I should have asked if you were afraid of heights,” Parker says, running his hands nervously through his hair.

“We can go back down okay I.” “It’s okay,” I answer him quickly, not wanting to make him feel bad for this. I already feel like crap for the both of us, anyway.

“I just. Need some time to get used to it,” I assure him though he remains unconvinced I try to even my breaths and calm down my racing heart. I’ve let go of his hand and instead opted to grip tightly on to the basket, hoping to calm myself. Parker doesn’t say much after that and for the longest time, I try to calm myself. My heartbeat reaching normalcy or at least as normal as it can get with Parker around me. It’s hard to stay calm but I realize if I don’t look down and concentrate on what I can see around me instead, I’m not so afraid. Night has fallen and the glistening stars begin to align one by one lighting up the sky beautifully.

“This isn’t so bad,” I assure myself.

“Really?” Parker asks, and I blush realizing I’ve spoken out loud. His eyes meet mine again and I find myself smiling before looking away from him.

“Really,” I tell him.

“I’m really sorry. This wasn’t exactly how I planned this day to go,” He admitted rubbing the back of his neck sheepishly.

“It’s really alright. It’s nice,” I tell him.

All around us the night sky was lit up, a few fireflies have already come out, their soft glow making the night have a special spark to it. Magical. Part of me feels a bit cliché again, the way things end up in a romantic scene of a movie right before a kiss. I can feel myself blushing at my own thoughts feeling stupid again and realizing that a kiss is something that’s never going to happen.

“It’s nice out here. Peaceful,” I tell him and he smiles at me again.

“My father always brought Spencer and I out here when we were kids after,” Parker spoke pausing for a moment. Something flickers in his eyes before he smiles at me brightly, though he doesn’t finish what he started to say.

“He taught me how to steer the balloon. Spencer knows too, but he’s clumsier than I am. When he brought Crystal up here, he almost crashed into a mountain,” He says shaking his head, a smile on his lips. I find myself smiling back again unsure as to why I’m doing it but somehow it feels right.

“Do you bring girls here a lot?” I question, the words spewing out of my mouth before I could stop myself.

He doesn’t say anything for a second and tenses at the question. My cheeks flame again and I grip on to the basket tighter. The harsh rope material tickles my fingers. A prickly sensation runs up my body from the awkward silence that I’ve now caused.

“Never mind,” I tell him silently. He doesn’t say anything and his shoulders are still stiff with tension for a long time.

“I. I’ve dated a lot,” Parker tells me quietly and I can feel my face burn up again. Looking away from Parker, I reach my hand out awkwardly from the basket. There’s a firefly nearby, and it gently floats to my hand landing softly on my palm. Its small little light flickering on and off for a while making me smile at it.

“It wasn’t really dating more like hookups and.” Parker continues making me turn back to look at him. Having forgotten he was still speaking.

“I know,” I want to tell him.

“I saw you,” I wanted to say remembering all those girls that would cling to him in school. Still, that never bothered me back then, much less now. It was in the past.

“They didn’t mean anything I-” Letting out a nervous laugh he simply rubbed the back of his neck. The light of the sky and the firefly’s allowing me to see his expression. There was a harsh red blush on his cheeks that seemed wrong and silly on him. Covering my mouth with my firefly free hand I tried to stop the laughter bubbling inside my throat but it was too late. Somehow I was laughing at him and then slowly his own deep soft carefree laughter joined me before finally, we both calmed down. For a moment there was silence. Comfortable silence. The type that made you feel warm and soft. Both of us looking away from each other and out into the beautiful night sky.

“One,” Parker speaks softly cutting the silence.

“What?” I question him while he smiles at me. There is something different in his eyes that I can’t describe and once again my heart has picked up its usual racing pace.

“I’ve only brought you up here,” He says making me blush once again.

“Really? I-”

The wind suddenly picks up and a loud screech is heard startling the both of us. The firefly in my hand along with the rest of the surrounding fireflies quickly flutter away, afraid. An eagle as large as the air balloon flies toward us, one of its beautiful bright shiny brown wings almost hitting us. Parker’s hand wraps around my waist tightly and he pulls me toward him while the basket rocks slightly.

Another loud screech is heard from the eagle the sound majestic and beautiful as it flies around us. I know from its eyes, and size that it’s not a regular eagle but a Nova. His eyes meet mine and then he does a full long circle around us. He calls out again spreading his wings wide and his beak opens up to let out a loud sound. In the distance, more eagles follow.

“Is that Oliver?” I question to Parker, looking up at him, my body still pressed against his firmly. Though I can feel myself blush again, I try not to overthink. Instead, I ignore it all. I ignore the way my skin tingles where his hand is on my waist. At the moment all I want is for my question to be answered.

“Can you understand him?” Parker asks and I feel his hold on me lose grip for a second.

“No. His eyes just look familiar,” I tell him and he simply looks up at me and smiles.

“Yes that’s Oliver and a few other Nova Guards,” Parker explains, and I turn away slightly. His grip around my waist once again loosens, but he doesn’t let go of me.

There’s so many of them, about a dozen flying Novas around us, occasionally screeching out into the night. Their feathers all beautiful. Their colors all silky, shiny bright against the moonlight. Some of them surround us but Oliver is the only one who is closest to us. I offer him a smile and though he’s only a few feet away I reach out to him. He screeches again and flies closer to us though I can only touch part of Oliver’s wing. His feathers are soft and velvet like against my fingertips.

“He’s so beautiful,” I tell Parker and Oliver lets out another happier screech as he flies away.

“They’re all so big,” I tell Parker in wonder.

“Oliver is my father’s most trusted Nova officer, and the highest ranked of our warriors,” Parker speaks up.

“Oh. But. He’s so young,” I tell Parker who simply nods in acknowledgment. The Eagles all follow after Oliver, disappearing into the night, though their soft screeches are heard through the skies letting us both know that they’re still there.

“I really like this place. It’s peaceful,” I add quietly.

“Really?” Parker asks, his voice almost hopeful.

“Really” I assure him causing him to smile.

For a moment there is quiet again. Peace… and then… I feel the grip on my waist tighten just a bit more and I feel my heart race once more. Oliver flies near us again and he looks at me and somehow I remember his words to me. Turning to look at Parker I can feel my cheeks once again tint red but the question burning inside me makes me speak.

“Parker. Is it true you’ve been sleeping outside my door since I arrived at Archer?” I question. At my question, the grip on my waist immediately loosens and Parker turns away slightly, rubbing the back of his neck nervously.

“I… yes” He admits.

“I want to keep you safe and… Cray,”

At his mentioning of Maxwell, I can feel myself tense but I try to relax enough to speak.

“You can’t keep me safe if you tire yourself out like that,” I tell him remembering Oliver’s words.

“You can. Stay in our room. If you like,” I tell him. My cheeks flame again from embarrassment and I avoid looking at him. My heart races while I look down and fiddle with my hands nervously.

“You don’t have to do that,” Parker says quietly.

“I know. I’m not someone you want to be with,” He says and when I look up at him again, his eyes are filled with pain. His expression somehow making my chest tighten inexplicably.

“But. I care about you. And I want to keep you safe. Let me keep you safe?” Parker says.

“He does care about you. At the hospital. He never left your side.”

“Back then. The fire I-” “I’m sorry about that. If I could have helped you, I would have. I really wish I could take back all those things I said really I-”

“You didn’t cause that,” I tell Parker.

“Things happen,” I tell him shrugging, though inside I can feel that pain in my heart again at the memories.

“I didn’t tell anyone. I was afraid and you-” “I didn’t make things any better for you by acting like a jerk,” Parker speaks up bitterly.

“True,” I say to Parker whose eyes are filled with regret.

“But. I was never afraid of you. Not the same way I fear Maxwell or my father,” I tell him.

“I am scared but… Not of you… Just… Of… The way you look at me,” I admit to him. The look on Parker’s face at my revelation a mix of surprise and confusion.

“Why?” Parker asks.

“That day of the fire… and now… You always look at me the same way… Like… You can see everything and… It makes me feel… Disarmed,” I tell him.

“Crystal says you care about me. That you were there at the hospital. That you never left my side, and you asked your father to help me… Is that true?” I ask him.

For a second, Parker is quiet, unsure of what to answer before he nods.

“I wanted to make sure you were really okay. But. I couldn’t bear to look at you either,” Parker says, his words feeling like harsh ice cold water being poured down on me.

“Not because I hate you,” Parker added quickly.

“I love you. I guess. I always have I just… Didn’t know. I still don’t know how to act when I’m around you. You make me feel disarmed too,” Parker admitted.

“Me? Make him feel disarmed?” I thought to myself.

“I couldn’t watch it. How broken you were. Your eyes. I.”

“I know I didn’t cause all of it but I added to it and-” “You didn’t,” I tell him.

“Maybe that last time… You really did hurt me.” I admit and his eyes look down ashamed but I find the courage to take his hand and for a moment we’re both quiet. When Parker looks up at me again his eyes express a deep pain I had never seen before.

“But. I was already broken a long time ago. That day when I got home I just. He was there and. He didn’t want me to leave anymore. You just happened to say something wrong that day too. But. None of that was your fault. You saved me. You always save me. Even when you don’t have to.” I say to him and he simply reaches to cup my cheek. His thumb gently running across my cheek and once again I can feel my heart pitter patter.

*Bump, Ba- Bump, Bump*

Parker moves close to me the look in his eyes only increasing my heart rate. His forehead presses against mine for a second and he smiles.

“I always want to save you,” Parker says.

“I know I said I’d give you time to think about it. I. I know I don’t deserve it. Can you just. All I want is a chance.”

*Screech*

Startled by the sound of the Eagles, Parker moves away from me. A part of me glad that he did, the other disappointed. What was I expecting? Why was I disappointed? Still, his words had left me breathless and had given me an answer about us.

“We should probably head back. It’s getting late,” Parker says quietly. It takes a while but before we’re back on the ground the feeling of descending making my stomach drop. Neither Parker nor I speak once we’re back on the ground and get out of the air balloon. Taking my hand in his once again Parker leads us back to where we started from. Neil is waiting for us in the car and Parker simply opens the door for me to slip inside. This time though I’m still nervous, something about today has calmed my nerves a bit.

We ride back in silence again, though it’s no longer awkward, but calm, the same way it was in the air balloon. Parker’s hand is still holding mine refusing to let go and I don’t want him to either. Even before this, I realize that although part of me has been feeling insecure because of him, the other part has been feeling safe because of him too. By the time we reach the castle I can feel the exhaustion of the day weighing me down while he leads me up to my room.

We stand at the door for a moment and I feel fluttering again.

“Thank you for today. I had a good time,” I tell him quietly, causing him to smile. “Me too. I guess I’ll see you tomorrow,” Parker says before turning to walk away.

“Yes,” I tell him making him stop in his tracks and turn me, a look of confusion in his eyes.

“I can. Give you a chance,” I tell him, my words lingering in the air for a moment.

“Good night Parker,” I tell him, unable to take the pounding of my own heart in my ears. Entering my room and closing the door behind me I sigh trying to calm my fluttering heart. I don’t know if what I’ve done is the right thing to do or if it will come back to bite me. But today I felt like I could fall in love with Parker Archer and that didn’t really seem like a bad thing anymore.

(Parker)

Lyric had made her choice. She had agreed to give me a chance to be with her. Part of me wanted to rejoice in what I was feeling but at the moment all that I could think about was protecting her.

The night sky seemed to light up beautifully. Fireflies all around creating a beautiful shine across the night. From a distance, Nova guards flew around us. I was aware of them especially Oliver who kept close distance, ready to inform us of anything. We were so close now, Lyric and I, closer than I ever thought was possible. Certainly not after what I had done to her. Still, there we were now. Lyric was so beautiful, the night sky lighting her face softly. She was always so gentle with anything and anyone that I realize this was truly her essence. There was such innocence in her that her delicate nature always seemed to win people over. I realized she had a way of getting into people’s hearts, something about her that I feared years ago and now wanted to embrace.

Without knowing it back then, she had already wormed her way into my heart. I’d wanted to escape my feelings for her because of fear of what my mother had done to my father. Fear of not being good enough to be with her. I wasn’t going to do that anymore. My own fear of rejection had hurt me, her insecurities and her pain had made her suffer. We were both unsure and insecure of ourselves back then. Now, I wasn’t going to let her walk away, she’d chosen me and I was going to fight for her. Even if that meant fighting her own insecurities. Insecurities that her father had planted inside her and things that I myself had said but did not mean.

The way she looked at me in that moment was different. There was something about her eyes. Depth... Life... Vulnerability... Hope. I needed to clear away all of our misunderstandings. Not only for my sake, but for her sake as well.

“I know. I’m not someone you want to be with,” I tell her because I know that if she could have chosen, she would have wanted another life. Still, I’m selfish enough to recognize that I want her to stay in my life forever.

“But. I care about you. And I want to keep you safe. Let me keep you safe?” I beg her. Right now all I want is for Lyric to know that no matter what happens I truly do love her. I want her to know she is the only thing that truly matters to me.

“Back then. The fire I. I’m sorry about that. If I could have helped you, I would have. I really wish I could take back all those things I said really I-”

“You didn’t cause that. Things happen,” She says silently, her voice growing soft and maybe she’s not aware but she has her arms around herself again. That look of sadness in her eyes becomes present and for a moment I wish that I did not bring it up. Every single time I bring up what I did she also remembers what was done to her not just by me but by everyone else.

“I didn’t tell anyone. I was afraid and you-” She begins, but I don’t want her to continue to remember not when I know it’s causing her so much pain again.

“I didn’t make things any better for you by acting like a jerk,” I tell her. That feeling of regret fills my throat again the way it has for the past 5 years.

“True,” Lyric agrees quietly her words stinging but I know she’s right.

“But. I was never afraid of you. Not the same way I fear Maxwell or my father,” Lyric explains and somehow I can feel hope from her words. She wasn’t afraid of me. But then. What did she feel toward me?

“I am scared but… Not of you… Just… Of… The way you look at me.”

“Why?” I ask her. Unsure as to what she was referring to.

No matter how much I wanted to show Lyric back then that I hated her. No matter how much I pretended her presence never affected me, my true feelings never really let me show hate. Because it was never hate that I felt for her, but love.

“That day of the fire. And. Now. You always look at me the same way…

Like… You can see everything and. It makes me feel… Disarmed,”

Disarmed? Her words made me feel confusion. How could I make her feel that way? I wasn’t sure whether that was a good thing or a bad thing based on the way she was right now. The look in Lyric’s eyes showed sadness, confusion, maybe an undertone of softness that she always seemed to carry herself with. Whatever it meant somehow that made me feel appeased, so much so that I knew it must have been a good thing.

“Crystal says you care about me. That you were there at the hospital.

That you never left my side, and you asked your father to help me. Is that

true?” Lyric asked and for a moment I felt embarrassed. I never wanted her to know about it. Not because I was ashamed or anything. It had more to do with the fact that I didn’t want her to feel afraid or hate me for it.

“I wanted to make sure you were really okay. But. I couldn’t bear to look at you either,” I tell her and then I can see it. Hurt flashes in her eyes so deeply that I can almost see her soul and I realize I’ve said the wrong thing again.

“Not because I hate you,” I tell her trying to appease her insecurities.

“I love you. I guess I always have I just. Didn’t know. I still don’t know. How to act when I’m around you. You make me feel disarmed too,” I say to her truthfully. I couldn’t look at her back then not because I hated her but because I knew what I had caused, what I

should have protected her from.

Part of me realized I couldn’t have stopped myself. Lyric was so closed off back then that I realized my efforts, in the beginning, to get her to like me would have never worked. She was so afraid back then of everything and everyone. Much like I had been, we both closed our hearts to the unknown. That love and pull that we both must have felt from the beginning was pushed away out of fear. Somehow part of me still wished I could

have helped even though deep within myself I feel like I couldn’t, and that only makes me feel helpless and useless to her.

“I couldn’t watch it… How broken you were. Your eyes. I… I know I didn’t cause all of it but I added to it and” “You didn’t,” Lyric says cutting me off. The look in her eyes once again is sad as she speaks.

“Maybe that last time. You really did hurt me.” She says her words only confirming what I’d known for a very long time now. Confirming that I had hurt her. Something that I knew I’d have to live with for the rest of my life. This regret I knew would always be with me.

Though I wished I could take so many things back, at the same time, it made me

grow and made me more aware of her and what she would need. For that part, I

was glad.

“But. I was already broken a long time ago. That day when I got home I just… He was there and… He didn’t want me to leave anymore. You just happened to say something wrong that day too… But. None of that was your fault. You saved me. You always save me. Even when you don’t have to,” Though her words should appease me somehow and they do to a certain extent, I will always regret hurting her. But I will never regret saving her.

At the moment all I can think about and concentrate on is Lyric. How beautiful she, is how much I love her. How much I want to kiss her. I don’t want to rush. I don’t want to make her feel uncomfortable, so I simply reach my hand up to caress her cheek. When she doesn’t pull away from me or cringe my heart elates and I find myself wishing

for more. Slowly I press my forehead to hers allowing her a few more moments to

run if she wants to.

“I always want to save you. I know I said I’d give you time to think about it. I. I know I don’t deserve it. Can you just. All I want is a chance,”

I say to Lyric, allowing her more time to make a decision, to run away from

this. But she doesn’t.

For the first time since coming back I don’t see fear in her eyes, but shyness and

acceptance. Lyric closes her eyes for just a moment and I find myself smiling, knowing she’s allowing me to kiss her. The gentle innocent essence she is, I know this is truly her first kiss. Though I realize I’ve secretly stolen a few kisses that she might not remember, I know she’ll remember this. I’m so close to evaporating the distance between us and moving another step toward her heart.

“Parker! We have company!”

Anger. That was what was overshadowing the good at the moment, the fear of losing her. It seemed like Cray had sent a few troops to the outskirts of Archer ready to attack. They didn’t get within our lands but they managed to fight some Nova’s in the sky and others on land, and sea. I knew what this was, a declaration of war. We’d outstretched the shaky treaty for years, my father and his father and so on and so forth, all trying

to keep the little peace we did have for our people. This had finally been the ripple that finally caused a wave.

Cray wasn’t going to back off that much I knew. Had I been me in his position, maybe I wouldn’t have either. But I loved Lyric enough to want what she wanted and to back away if she’d asked me to.

“Parker you can’t go by yourself,” Spencer spoke up. He, Oliver and I had gathered downstairs in the living room discussing what we knew.

My father was already starting to prepare troops in case of war with Oliver and setting patrols up around our lands to protect our people. I knew it would eventually lead to war but not over this. Not over her. Lyric would not take this well but for her, I would do anything, protect her with my own life if I had to. Still, I also knew I had a duty to my people. I needed to minimize the damage for them as much as I could, and that was what I was going to try to do.

“You can’t go with me Spencer this is my business and I need to handle

it on my own.” “You’ll get yourself killed Parker and for what?” Spencer snapped. “I’m not going to get myself killed. She’s worth everything to me and I’m not going to lose her,” I snapped back anger getting the best of me as well. I knew he didn’t mean it. I knew he was simply concerned for me but still, Lyric mattered more to me than my own safety.

“I know she does,” Spencer said quietly.

“But you can’t go to meet him there so blindly. He’s a Cray! He plays dirty! Don’t you think he’s going to bring troops with him? You’ll get yourself killed!” Spencer said.

“I know that already,” I tell him.

“He’s a Cray. And they’re not known for playing fair,” I say before turning to look at Oliver who had remained quiet throughout our entire conversation.

“Which is why Oliver is coming with me and so are a few other Nova officers. All flyers to minimize the damage should it lead to that,” I assure him.

“But you can’t come with us. I need you to stay here and take care of your mate and mine,” I tell him. I can tell he’s having trouble within himself now, but he sighs and nods knowing it’s what’s best.

Spencer is strong, stronger than most Nova’s simply because of the blood that runs in our veins. I also knew that if it really came down to a fight Spencer would be able to hold his own and not only protect Crystal, but Lyric as well.

“Fine. Just be careful,” Spencer says.

“We have to go Parker, Cray said midnight,” Oliver speaks up. Standing up from the couch we both head out of the castle walls and shift.

“Come on,” I howled out to Oliver who flew above me along with several other Novas.

We made our way out of town, past every single Archer city until we reached the middle of nowhere, the land in between Archer and Cray. Cray was in his Nova form but I didn’t want things to escalate not after seeing the close to dozen Nova troops that ranked him on either side. Shifting back into human form I changed into the pair of clothes I’d brought and simply headed toward him. He seemed to have the same idea because by the time we reached him he’d shifted back to his human form as well; a smirk on his face.

“You brought back up. Didn’t think you would,” Maxwell spoke.

“With you as my enemy of course I did. I don’t peg you for someone who plays clean,” I said. My words only making his smile intensify. “You only brought one I see. Are you sure you’re prepared Archer,” Maxwell spoke motioning to the six Nova bobcats that ranked him.

“I’m prepared. Though I didn’t bring as many guards as you did. I’m sure we can take you,” I said.

*Screech*

Above us six Nova eagles and crows began to call out to us, letting Cray know Oliver, and I were not alone. Maxwell knew it too; as soon as he saw them his eyes only intensified with anger and his jaw tightened. Though bobcat Novas were strong, they stood no chance against Nova flyers.

“Look I didn’t come here to fight.” “Really Archer? Because that’s exactly what I came here to do,” Maxwell said his voice tight and filled with Anger.

“She’s mine Archer and you know it!” Maxwell spoke up shaking with rage.

“She’s made her choice Cray. Stay away from her,” I said, but I knew that Maxwell wasn’t going to go away quietly.

“I’m giving you one last chance Archer. Either you hand her over to me. Or I take her and your kingdom by force.” “Two things that don’t and will never belong to you,” I said grabbing him by his shirt. Still, Maxwell only smirked and kept his cool.

“Really Archer. Because that’s not what I hear. I’m sure you remember Scott,” Maxwell speaks up, and I can see in the lines of bobcats a single black panther. Of course I remembered this scumbag. Just thinking about the way he’d treated her, my Lyric, made my blood boil.

“I remember this scumbag,” I spoke to them.

“So you’ve left Archer and traded sides. Why does that not surprise me?” I said to Scott.

“You know exactly why!” Scott hissed out in anger.

“You deserved what you got,” I spoke to him.

“And now you’re going to get yours!” Scott hissed out but a hand from Maxwell stopped him from attacking and he retreated glaring angrily.

“You think you deserve her Archer? After what you did to her? Scott here told me everything,” Maxwell said, a satisfied look on his face.

“You don’t love her Cray all you want is to have her.” “What would you know about what I want,” Maxwell said, his eyes threatening before pushing me away from him while he chuckled.

“But you’re right. I do just want her. Because it means you won’t have her and I will. Another something that you won’t have.” He said.

“And you don’t even realize what it is we’ve taken,” Maxwell said a hint of arrogance to him that I couldn’t understand.

“Not that it matters. Because she will be mine otherwise, I’ll kill

her,” Maxwell said.

“You won’t get near her. I’ll make sure of that,” I threatened.

“What makes you think you can stop me Archer? Either you give her to me or I’ll kill you and her.” “Your choice,” Maxwell threatened.

“How about I kill you and solve the problem now,” I threatened. “Parker,” Oliver spoke, pulling me back from Cray who simply smirked.

“That’s what he wants. Remember what the council deemed as law for both the Archer and Cray kingdom. If either prince or king should die by the others hand, the other kingdom has the right to attack unless the other surrenders their kingdom. This is what he wants. For you to attack first and lead us into war. Don’t you see that?” Oliver spoke up, his eyes menacing while he glared at Maxwell.

Oliver was right. If we fought, and I died or killed him because I attacked first it would give his father enough ammunition to start a war with our kingdom. My father was a fair king and I knew he would not want our people to be harmed. When it came down to I knew my father would have no choice but to hand over the Kingdom to the Crays.

“Have it your way then Archer,” Maxwell spoke up.

“But know this isn’t over and I will have her.”

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