Caelan looked down at their hands, turning hers over so his fingertips could brush her palm. A shiver ran down Aislinn’s spine and her cheeks bloomed hot. She knew the effect of his touch had to be evident to him, but felt no embarrassment because it was clear that he was not unaffected. Caelan drew in a long, deep breath and folded his hand over hers.
"I have been trying to save myself."
"From what?" Aislinn bit her lower lip to stop herself from speaking further. All she'd done was ask him questions.
"Aislinn," he said softly, and his eyes slid for a moment to look at the bookshelf where they had kissed. "Do you remember our kiss?"
She blushed. "Yes. Of course."
"I wanted you very badly then. But you weren't ready to be with me or anyone else."
He leaned a little closer so their faces were only inches apart. In this part of the library, the way they sat, no one would see them unless they intentionally approached the table. It was late and the library was nearly empty, so Aislinn doubted they would need to explain to anyone why the crown prince and would-be lady knight sat so close together.
"Are you ready now, Aislinn?"
Aislinn closed her eyes and drew in a deep breath. She thought about Catherina, about how much she loved the little girl, about how cruel the world had been to the child. She thought about her parents, about how happy they were, about the love they shared. And she thought about all the times she’d spent with Caelan since coming to the castle. She'd despised him once, but now she couldn't picture her days without him. She smiled when he came into a room, and she looked forward to dinner just so they could talk. Her heart nearly broke whenever she thought of all the times he'd been hurt, or could have died. Not because he was the prince and would someday rule the kingdom, but because he was Caelan.
She opened her eyes to find him still watching her, waiting for her answer.
"Yes," she whispered.
Caelan smiled, but the smile didn’t quite reach his sapphire eyes. He raised his hand and laid the back of his fingers against her cheek. His skin was warm and Aislinn leaned into the touch. Caelan turned his hand and laid his palm against her cheek, his thumb brushing her lip. She closed her eyes and enjoyed the soft, gentle touch.
"Nothing will save me now," he said softly — so softly she almost didn't hear him — before he moved closer and touched his lips to hers.
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