Tamara sat at her vanity staring at the image of herself before her. The smell of lilacs from salts she'd poured into her bath clung to her skin as well as the misty steam that still floated through the room. She had spent a very difficult night on the floor of the bathing chamber, thinking of Erik and her misery at being parted from him. She'd awoken stiff and still bone weary. Resolving to make the best of her situation she had drawn steaming water by the bucket full from the reservoir beneath the castle, thanking whatever Gods may be listening that her father had had the sense to locate her room above the underground spring. It took a little effort to drag the buckets full of steaming water up the three levels to her room, but once she soaked in the warm, fragrant water the effort expelled was well worth it.
Now sitting in front of the looking glass, she thought that she had done an admirable job of making herself look presentable and princess-like. No one would ever guess how she had passed her first night back in her homeland.
With the first sounds of castle life stirring floating up to her from the courtyard, she sat back and admired her handiwork. Her chestnut hair was piled into a mesh net on top of her head held on with strings of precious pearls. She was dressed in a deep green gown she had found in the back of her closet. She had been told several years ago by one of the older serving woman that it had been one of her mothers favorite gowns. It had a scooped neckline and tight bodice that was embroidered with gold thread. The skirt was straight and un-puffed and the sleeves were tight to her wrists where they flared out to cover her hands to her fingertips. Tamara had never found occasion to wear it while she lived at the palace.
There was a soft knock on the outer door just seconds before the heavy wooden slab swung inward. Tamara turned from the looking glass as Ethan strolled in. She was about to comment acidly on the state of his manners, but as soon as she looked at him the comment fell off her tongue and all of her annoyance evaporated. She could do nothing but stare at him in open amazement. Her breath caught in her chest.
The man who stood before her held only the barest resemblance to the man who had abducted her the day before. His face was free of the stubble that had covered chin and cheeks. He was in a clean, pressed, formal military uniform of the Tronin army. His dark brown hair had been cut shorter in a more military style and a long thin braid hung from behind his right ear the mark of a Tronin warrior. Somehow she had missed that detail the night before.
Ethan stood transfixed just inside her chamber. The woman staring back at him had little in common with the woman he had recovered yesterday. The green of her gown brought out red highlights in her hair. Her eyes were widened in surprise, the expression lending an openness to her features. He saw the beauty of her mother reflected in the smooth skin of her face. The child he remembered was permanently banished by the breathtaking woman seated before him.
She noticed that he was staring her as intently as she looked at him and felt her cheeks color in response.
"I would have thought your mother brought you up better than to march un-announced into a ladies chamber." She remarked, but the words lacked the sting she had intended.
"You look..." he began, still stunned by the transformation she had undergone. Then he dropped to one knee, his eyes on the ground. "Forgive me, your highness. I assure you that my lady mother did bring me up better than that."
For the second time in as many minutes Tamara was unable to form coherent thoughts. She was astounded that the man who had forcibly taken her from the forest yesterday was the same man who know knelt humbly before her. She stood up and walked over to where he stood looking down at the floor of her chamber.
"Apology accepted Captain." She said softly. "You can get up now." She told him when he remained in his position of fealty before her. He turned his face up to hers and their eyes locked briefly. A strange excitement leapt through her as he took her hand and briefly pressed his lips to her knuckles. He seemed as surprised by the action as she was, for he let go of her hand and rose abruptly to his feet.
"You're..." He began than cleared his throat nervously. When he went in he seemed to be in control of himself again. "You're brother wishes to see you immediately. He commanded me to bring you to him as soon as you were awake."
With those words he effectively brought the princess back to reality. She sighed heavily.
"He wastes little time issuing commands. And what if I was in the middle of my bath when you so unceremoniously barged into the chamber? Would you have dragged me into the throne room as bare as the day I was born?" She asked, the haughty mask again settled over her features. She delighted in the paleness her comment brought to his face. Obviously he had not thought of that possibility. "I thought not."
The amusement in her voice and the triumphant grin on her face brought back the anger he'd felt the night before.
"Well, since you are fully clothed and as presentable as you are likely to get considering your circumstances over the past few months, I would suggest that we not dwell on what might have been. Your highness, I would take the 'honor' of escorting you to the throne room." His tone brooked no argument and the emphasis he put on the work honor was not at all favorable. A dark scowl settled in her eyes and mouth. He returned the mocking smirk she had given him but moments before.
He held out his arm for her. She stared at in a long moment then looked at him as if she thought he couldn't possibly think she would be seen dead being escorted by him through the castle. Then she swept past him out the door and down the corridor to the stairs leading to the throne room. He angrily followed her pulling the heavy door shut behind him. Her amused laughter floated back up the hall to his un-amused ears.
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