Henrie went very still as Raven's whispered words reached his ears. He wasn't sure what to do. He was afraid to tell her he felt the same, but what if she was talking about...the horse instead?
He knew that was dumb, but he felt very very weak and exposed. His father had always taught him that love made one weak and easy to defeat. Didn't he have to be strong for her? So he could protect her?
But that was why he wanted to be strong: because he loved her.
All of these thoughts and feelings passed through him in only an instant. He slowly sighed and then whispered back, "I'll get you out of this mess, Raven. I'll get you your life back."
Raven sighed deeply when she didn't love her back. It was stupid of her. She should have kept her mouth shut. She fought back tears, looking away. What was life worth living when you couldn't be with the one you loved?
Henrie knew he had done wrong when Raven had sighed. He sighed too. He never seemed to be able to do the right thing with her. He may've been a prince, but he was king of stupid.
"Do...do you know how the queen, my mother died?"
"No...I don't think so..." Raven murmured, eyes closed. She sounded as sad as she felt.
"I was about five years old. Mother and I were out in the gardens. The tulips were just starting to bloom and my mother loved to paint them. I was running around and playing when I found something I had never seen before." Henrie sighed and continued, "It was a black mamba. The most deadly of snakes.
"My father has many enemies. One of them had bought the snake and placed it in the gardens.
"My mother knew what it was and when she saw me watching it she screamed and ran to me. That is when the snake struck. It missed me, but it managed to hit my mother's foot on the second attack...she died within the day."
Henrie paused for a second, not sure how to continue. "Years later my older brother was killed in battle and my father learned to hate me. It seems like everyone I care for and...love...gets hurt or I lose them."
Raven sighed. "I'm sorry..." She mumbled. "It's terrible to lose your family..." She bit her lip. "That doesn't mean you wouldn't let yourself become close to anyone, does it?"
Henrie sighed, "No...but...it does mean that I am slow to admit it."
He twisted his neck the best as he could to look at Raven. She looked so beautiful. He wanted to run his hand through her long silky hair...
Raven felt the burning need to know for certain how he felt about her. She wanted to ask, but she just couldn't bring herself to.
Henrie could see the unasked question shining in her eyes. He hesitated, uncertain what he should say.
Raven chased for the answer another way. She kisssed him full on the lips. If he pulled back that was the end of it. And if not...well...she'd be happier.
Henrie froze at first. He was shocked that she was kissing him...and then the passion took over. He pressed his lips hard against her and kissed her like he had never kissed a girl before. He seemed to melt into her and they molded together into one being.
Abruptly he realized what he was doing and pulled away. Panting. he locked eyes with her.
A soft smile formed on Raven's lips as she gazed into his eyes. "I think I'm satisfied with that result."
Henrie flushed and turned back around. He cleared his throat and glanced up at the sky. "We will need to find a place to camp for the night. It will be nightfall soon..."
"How much do you think we can trust he won't turn me into a wolf?" Raven questioned.
"I don't trust him one bit," Henrie acknowledged as he pulled his horse to a stop and slid off. He held his arms up for her so he could help her down, "But I trust you. Wolf or not."
Raven accepted his help, chewing on her lip. "So it's not safe to go back to town.."
Henrie shook his head, "No. We aren't going back to town. We are halfway to the Stag Forest. We will reach it there by midday tomorrow if we leave first light."
He glanced at the sky then looked back to Raven. "What do you want to do? Stay in this clearing and build a fire or would you rather look for a cave?"
"I don't know how much I could control myself, Henrie." Raven mumbled. "I think it might be safest to trap me somewhere. And I have to undress anyway, otherwise my clothes will be torn."
Henrie nodded. "Okay. I think there are some cliffs over there. Maybe there are some caves too."
He grabbed her hand with one of his and his horse's reigns in the other. "Let's go."
Raven nodded, head down as they walked toward the cliffs. She hated imprisoning herself, but she had no choice.