Holding Elva, Nicholas winced as he bent his right wrist. He had tried to hide it, and maybe would have been successful if I had been anyone other than his ex–girlfriend.
He’d told me the story himself, when we had been dating.
Nicholas had excelled for his age. His werewolf abilities were some of the strongest in the entire
kingdom, even when he’d been a child.
Because of this, when a war had broken out in the north between the Werewolf Kingdom and the Bear
People, Nicholas had been sent to the front lines. He’d only been 11 at the time.
Though his talent was immense, he lacked the years of training that other soldiers had.
He fought hard and well. He felled many foes. But his inexperience too often led him into situations he
might have otherwise known to avoid.
Once, he followed an enemy deep behind their lines, and straight into a trap.
Only with the sacrifices of so many others, was he able to escape, but not without injury.
Over time, most of the wounds had healed. All except for his right wrist.
He’d explained to me that he was often able to suppress the pain. It didn’t always bother him. But when the cold set in, or it rained or snowed, the pain would flare up again.
So many nights I had laid awake after hearing his story, imagining an 11 year old version of the boy I loved fighting in a shifter war. I had nightmares, imagining his fear, the pain he’d felt from his injuries, and the guilt he’d suffered every day, knowing others had died to save him.
Now, thoughts of the nightmares returned, with a new, different angle. Nicholas, a prince, had been sent to war, Weren’t princes supposed to be pampered and protected?
Nicholas looked at me, and I pulled my gaze away. I couldn’t let on that I knew his injury pained him. Since he hated me now, he’d hate showing me his weakness.
didn’t want him to hurt himself further by trying to hide it.
We should get back to our room,” I said.
my some do take Elve from him, but she buried her nose against his collar
That would probably be best.” Elva could be the most stubborn girl in the kingdom, when she put her
mind to it.
As we left the infirmary and made our way back to my room, I tried to smile at Nicholas. His kindness and generosity were not lost on me. It wouldn’t hurt to make nice with him, for Elva’s sake if nothing else.
“She likes you,” I said.
He gently patted Elva’s back. The girl had fallen asleep in his arms. He seemed pleased with the words, though he didn’t offer any type of reply.
After a long moment, he said, “She’ll be safe here. I will see to it personally.”
I didn’t know what else to say, other than, “Thank you, Prince Nicholas.” I tried another smile. “I’ll try to teach her how to pronounce your name.”
“Don’t you dare,” he said softly.
That familiar fond feeling flooded through me again. He couldn’t actually like being called Nick–lass? Or maybe he did. It was rather cute.
Elva was already getting so big. Soon, she would lose the cute way she said things. I supposed there was no need to rush it, not if Nicholas didn’t mind.
Once we were back in my bedroom, he tucked Elva into her side of the large bed, then left the room without another word to me, not even a goodnight.
A twinge of disappointment rose inside of me, and resenting it, I buried it quickly.
Nicholas meant nothing to me anymore.
The next day, Elva was feeling infinitely better. She bounced around the room with her usual 3 year old energy, regardless of how many times I tried to get her to sit still and rest.
While sighing from my latest failed attempt, one of the maids brought me an invitation that had been delivered to the room.
on for the First Ball, the maid said, holding out the glittering notecard. The whole thing
had been dipped in gold, with the black pen lettera hand written afterwards,