An hour later Tamara sat in quiet glade sorting through the herbs that she had picked and mulling things over in her mind. It disturbed her to think that after everything that happened that Erik could still make her heart go pitter-pat. She longed to be able to tell him how he had hurt her. How his apparent non-interest in her feelings had broken her already fragile heart into a hundred thousand tiny shards.
She regretted now that her wounded pride had kept her from setting things right. She knew that she had to take at least a little of the blame for things working out the way they did. She huffed out an annoyed breath and threw down the herbs. She gathered together some wild flowers she had collected to brighten up her room at the tavern and began to absently braid them into a crown hoping that the repetitive action would calm her troubled thoughts.
She didn't want to think of Erik anymore.. Didn't want him to dominate her thoughts or feel the quickening of her heart that he inspired just by walking into a room. She wanted to come to terms with t he fact that she had lost her chance, that by her indecision she had allowed other forces to take whatever she may have or could have had with the prince away.
A single tear slid down her cheek which she wiped impatiently away. She put her hands to her face and willed herself to get under control.
"I will not cry over you." She declared to the empty air of the clearing. " I will get over you." Suddenly and idea struck and her eyes lit up. "Starting now."
A small, sad smile touched the corners of her mouth as she placed the flower crown atop her chestnut hair and climbed to her feet.
"Since you just danced your way right into my heart I'll just have to dance you right back out." Her voice was soft and melancholy. "Prince Greystone, may I have this dance?" She inquired of the emptiness and curtseyed formally to the air, then adopted a formal dancing pose with her invisible partner. "Of course, the real you will never. You're not even here. Even if you were I doubt you'd see the significance.
She shook her head, trying to shake off the depression that was threatening to take hold of her. She began humming the tune of a waltz, the very waltz where the dashing Prince Erik Greystone and captured the heart of the thoroughly enchanted young Princess Tamara Tronin. She started to move to the music, tentatively at first and then with a surety she hadn't felt in a long time. She actually felt this might be working. She became so engrossed in her peculiar form of exorcism that she didn't notice when the very man she was symbolically whirling around the meadow with stepped to the edge of the clearing.
He watched her with some fascination. It wasn't everyday you saw a normally shy and high strung princess dancing with abandon with the empty mid day sunshine. She seemed to be enjoying herself and as if to re-enforce that image she let out a peel of laughter and grabbed at the wild flowers that threatened to slide off her head as she waltzed. He found himself unable to stop the smile that the scene inspired.
It had taken him some time and not a little bribing to get Anna to point him in the direction that she had gone in. She had made him promise that he would set things right once he caught up to her. He had every intention of keeping that promise, as he did every promise he made, but something about the way she seemed so at ease and peaceful made him loathe to disturb her. She hadn't noticed him yet, obviously. He considered just turning around and going back to the tavern, letting her have her moment of peace and happiness before he tried to make her listen to what he had to say, but decided against it.
He knew that he should announce his presence and was about to do just, but when she was less than five feet away from him, her back to him, she whirled and they came face to face. Her relaxed and cheerful expression disappeared almost immediately. She looked for all the world like a frightened mouse confronted by the house cat. Then her features smoothed out into an un-readable mask. She started to drop her arms to her sides, but impulsively he caught her hands in his and pulled her tightly against him.
"What are you doing??!!??" She squealed and tried to pull free, but he held fast. In truth he had no idea what he was doing, but thought quick and came up with an answer.
"That looked like fun, but I thought it might be better with a partner." He told her and resumed her waltz.
"I have a partner." She declared haughtily, but made no further attempt to break away. She kept the panic she felt off her face, covering it with a scowl.
"You're making an annoying habit out of catching me in embarrassing situations." She grumbled and fought to keep the hitch out of her voice that his closeness was provoking.
"And here I though you were fond of me, but instead you just find me annoying." He teased and found that he was pleased at the rush of color to her cheeks.
'Being fond of someone doesn't mean that you can't also find them annoying.' She replied, her eyes downcast unless he should see her feelings reflected in them. She thought she would burst from the need to have him keep holding her, dancing with her. The logical part of her brain told her she should step away, disengage and save her poor abused heart from further pain, but the part of her brain that was totally besotted with this man told her she should take every moment he offered her and cherish them like gold. They would be all she had left when he was gone from her life.
He was speaking again and she had to force herself to concentrate on what he was saying.
"So you ARE fond of me." He said and her eyes flew up to meet his.
"I never said that!!!" She cried and stopped dancing so suddenly that their momentum sent them tumbling to the soft grass. Erik landed heavily on top of her and she froze. He looked down at her, amusement in his clear blue eyes. He could see that she was about to hyperventilate so he rolled off her. She immediately sat up and pressed her cool hands to her burning cheeks.
"This isn't working." She said abruptly and climbed to her feet. "I can't do this."
She was flustered and, Erik thought, thoroughly enchanting. As soon as the thought was formed he wondered where it had come from. He was supposed to be getting his life back in order, finding his place again after the horrible trick Dirk had played on him. He had thought to sort things out with the young princess, let her down easily, but she was quite unknowingly putting the kibosh on that.
"I have to go." She announced suddenly. Her hands slid from her cheeks to cover her mouth. She took in a deep shaking breath and walked over to her basket fully prepared to gather it up and flee, but Erik's hand on her arm stopped her.
"You can't run from me forever." he said softly. She stayed with her back to him, her eyes closed, and fought to master her nerves.
"I'm not running." She replied and cursed inwardly at the way her voice shook.
"Yes, you are. You've been running from me since the first day we met. This could have been all sorted out if you would have just stopped running long enough for us to talk." he told her matter-of-factly.
She turned to face him then, all traces of the timid young girl gone.
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