Her dad said she was so much like her mother. Her mom said she was exactly like her father. She found it a point of pride that she had traits from both parents. People said her lust for the forest came from her dad, but she knew that really, it came from her mom.
She liked being in the forest because it as gorgeous, natural, and she felt like she could be herself here. She was released from the burden of being the eldest of the royal family. Her parents fully understood her reasoning, even though some of the villagers didn't.
Since she was a little girl, she'd had an affinity for finding flawless hiding spots. She knew of all the nooks and crannies in the castle. She was a whiz at playing hide and seek. Exploring a strange and unpredictable place like the forest gave her the thrill of finding new hiding spots.
Packed with her rucksack, a dagger and a few stones for preventative measure, she left the castle that Saturday morning, beating the sun to the forest and getting to witness the magnificent sunrise. She climbed up into her favorite tree close to the castle and opened up her rucksack, fishing out a pear. She sat and watched the sun come up from behind the castle.
She heard a twig snap behind her and whirled towards the sound. Not seeing anything, she soundlessly slipped from the tree and started making her way to her main hiding spot. Even though she had a dagger with her, she felt bare without her bow and arrows. She also had a sword, and knew how to yield it, but she preferred keeping her distance and staying incognito. It had a lot to do with the escaping her princess-duties thing.
She noticed unnatural moss lying in front of her hiding spot. Deciding not to chance it, she walked around it, careful to observe any odd ropes. Crawling under a large, overturned rock, she made her way down a narrow tunnel which brought her to an open space. She walked straight over to a quasi table she had made, reaching for her bow and the arrow lying next to it.
She whirled around and had her bow aimed at the intruder. His grinning face made her roll her eyes and put her weapon back down.
"Graham," she muttered, turning back to her table and dropping her rucksack onto it.
"Princess Emma," he said, and even with her back turned to him she could picture the grin on his face.
"Don't you have other people to bother?" she asked, turning back to him and crossing her arms. She looked at him pointedly.
"They're not as fun as you are!" he teased, making her roll her eyes. "Besides, your life would be boring without me in it."
She threw some arrows into her rucksack and slung it onto her shoulder. She grabbed her bow and made to leave. "No. My life would be boring without Sophia and Christopher and my friends. You are an unnecessary nuisance."
He scrambled to get up from the large rock he'd been sitting on to follow her. "Ouch, Em, that hurt." He dramatically pretended to clutch at his hart even though she had her back to him.
In the middle of the dark tunnel she turned around and poked him in the chest. "Don't call me that."
"Whatever you say, princess."
"Infuriating," she muttered. She was relieved when she saw light shine through the tunnel and made her way out of it, standing in front of her hiding spot. She mused to herself that she needed to look for a new one. One Graham didn't know about.
He held a hand over his face to shield it from the sun. "What's today's plan?"
"None of your business. You can be on your way now," she brushed him off. "Say hello to Gavin for me." She turned to walk away from him.
He immediately frowned, and walked right up behind her only to be pulled up into the air with her in the trap.
"Idiot! Did you set it?" Emma asked, frustrated.
"I did. I wasn't planning on being up here with you, though."
"You planned this!"
"I did not. Well, I mean I planned you getting trapped but not me. Kind of takes away all of the humor. And how do you know Gavin?"
"Well you know, he's the eldest brother and heir to the throne. I'm the eldest daughter and heir to the throne. It seemed only fitting. Your father is also a very nice person," she said offhandedly.
"You were at our castle?"
"Yes, I was. I saw pictures. King Phillip and Queen Aurora were only extremely enthusiastic that I had expressed interest in their kingdom. Tell me Graham, why did they seem so surprised to hear of our... acquaintance?"
"You were at the castle..." He only then seemed to process her words. "I hadn't told them."
She tried to lean back only to realize they were still trapped. She crossed her arms. "Well, that's not important. I might be your future sister-in-law."
She was delighted at the scowl that took over his face. "He's too old for you," he grumbled.
"How do you figure that?" she asked and let out a giggle. His jealousy was amusing.
"He's twenty-seven. You're twenty-one."
"Yes, and you're twenty-three, your little brother is eighteen. So what?"
He was silent. "You should be happy. Two kingdoms merging?"
"Your parents would never let you marry for land."
"Whatnow?" she asked surprisedly.
"They married for love, and they want their kids to marry for love."
Her eyes went wide, but he just shrugged. "Have you been talking to my father?"
"He was in the forest a few days ago. We talked."
She seemed extremely disturbed by the idea of Graham and her father bonding. "Oh, god. Will you let me down?"
"Flaw of the plan. I don't know how to get down."
"You're kidding me."
"I'm not. I hadn't planned on being up here with you."
She rolled her eyes, but noticed a taut rope. "Is that the rope you would need to cut to get us down?"
He moved around a little to look, and nodded. She maneuvered around and got her bow and an arrow.
"What are you going to do?"
"Shoot it and break it, of course." She arched an eyebrow at him as if asking him to challenge her.
He raised his arms up in surrender. "How do you wanna do this?"
"Just, sit still and don't move." He opened his mouth to say something, but she covered his mouth with her hand. "And don't say anything." He nodded in acquiescence.
His eyes went wide when he felt her knees on his upper thighs. She was leaning over him to get the arrow through one of the openings. His face was pressed against her abdomen and he had a hard time breathing. He couldn't believe the position they were in. And he'd thought just being in the trap with her was too close.
He didn't so much hear the rope snap as he felt the trap going down. With a loud thud he landed on his back on the forest ground. As if that wasn't enough, Emma fell down right onto him, a result of her position in the trap. Her bow had landed a foot next to them, but she was flush on top of him. Her body was angled and her knee was propped up against his crotch. If she moved that leg he would be in dangerous territory. Her face was mere inches from him, and he could feel her hot breath fan over his face. She seemed to realize their position a little later than him, but when she did she scrambled to get up and off him. She dusted some dirt off her pants while Graham got up.
"A simple, 'Thank you for breaking my fall Prince Graham' would suffice," he suggested, making her laugh loudly. She shook her head and turned to go when his hand wrapped itself around her wrist to stop her. She looked down at their hands, and when she looked up, she was pulled into his body and he was kissing her. She was surprised, but when his tongue traced over her lower lip, she moaned. His hand released her wrist and her previously captured hand came up to rest on his shoulder. When she felt her lungs begging for air she pulled away.
He surprised her by stepping back.
"Have a nice day, Princess Emma," he said, and bowed slightly.
She noticed he wasn't mocking her, but being sincere, and decided to play along.
"To you too, Prince Graham." She curtsied.
She turned and was walking away when he called out to her.
"Emma!" She stopped, but didn't turn around. She twisted her upper body to look at him. "Don't marry my brother Gavin," he said, almost pleadingly.
She smiled coyly back at him, before starting to walk again.
He was disappointed, and was just about to turn to go when her response floated over the air and into his willing ears.
"I was never going to."