The Unlikely Prince: Part 22

Part 22: Twist of Fate

As soon as the fairies were gone, Janus hurried into the trees to avoid being seen by Emerald. Had she seen him go into the forest? Or had she been in need of a walk as well? Whatever the case, the last thing he wanted to do was be alone with her in these woods. It was getting harder to stay away from her with this invisible string that he was certain was drawing them closer, and he knew being alone with her would only make things more difficult.

He hid behind a tree just as the princess came into view. She was singing softly to herself, and looking around in a childlike wonder at the falling snow. It melted when it landed on her pink cloak, unlike what it did when it landed on him. It just served as another reminded that they shouldn’t be together. She was natural. He was not.

His breath caught as he took in the sight of her. The colors of her thick dress, coats, and cloak were vibrant against the piles of stood. Her hair was hidden beneath her hood, but a few golden strands were loose around her face.

He looked away and pressed his back to the tree, half of him wanting to let her see him. But he let her walk right on by…only to remember that even if she had seen him, they wouldn’t really be alone so long as her guard was around. But where was he? He stayed a moment longer until he decided that Emerald had duped her guard again and was outside without him. He couldn’t very well leave her alone then, could he?

Taking a shaky breath, he stepped out from the cover of the large tree. “Princess?” he said, making his tone surprised. He started towards her just as she turned at the sound of his voice. “What are you doing here?”

Her eyes brightened with delight. “Oh! I just wanted to go for a walk,” she said, beaming. Her cheeks and nose were a rosy red from the cold. “I love the snow, don’t you? You must if you’re out here, too.”

“You shouldn’t be out here without your guard, Princess,” he said when he caught up to her.

“I’m all right,” she said, looking up at him. “Besides, I have you now. Will you walk with me?”

Yes, was what he wanted to say. His mind whirred until he forced out a different reply. “Training is about to start…I should be getting back.”

“Only for a moment, at least?” she pleaded, clasping her gloved hands like a child.

He bit back a grumble, then nodded curtly. “Fine, but just a moment. Then we have to go back.”

Emerald nodded, a wide smile on her face. She started forward, looking over her shoulder once to make sure he was following.

Sighing, Janus walked with her. She began to chatter on about the last time it had snowed, and all that she wanted to do that day now that it was snowing again. Janus found himself listening intently to her, wanting to know every bit of her stories and plans. A part of his mind knew he should be staying away from her but when the time finally came to head back to the palace, he found himself hesitating. He froze.

“Janus?” Emerald turned to him. Large snowflakes fell around them, covering them both, but melting on her clothes. “What’s the matter?”

Janus blushed, but was glad that his cheeks were already red from the cold. “Nothing. I suppose I just don’t want to go back quite yet.”

She gave him a sad smile. “Neither do I, but I suppose we must.” She held out her hand to him. He took it. Even through the soft glove, he could feel how frail she was. What if she caught a cold for being out here?

“You aren’t too cold, are you?” he asked. He started to take off his cloak.

“I’m fine,” she said, stepping closer to him. “But…I do think we should really get back. Hunter will wonder about me…”

Janus couldn’t look away from her gentle gaze, couldn’t let go of her hand. He wanted to pull her close to him, but knew he shouldn’t, not when she wasn’t his. The mention of Hunter’s name made a flicker of anger go through him, even though he knew that things would be better if she was with him. He could keep her safe.

“Yes…we should,” he said, letting her hand go. He tore his gaze away from her and started back towards the palace, Emerald following silently behind him.

When they got back, lack of sleep caught up with Janus, and his eyes desperately wanted to close. Still, once he said his goodbye to Emerald before she headed up to see Hunter – and apologize to her guard – he went out to the fields where the knights would be training that day.

Some of the men were already gathered there, but before he could get to them, Thomas stopped him.

“Good morning, Janus,” he said, nodding once. “I was hoping to get a chance to speak with you today.”

Janus felt his muscles go tense. “About what?” Was it about his performance during training? He had been working extra hard lately, hoping the older man would notice.

“It’s about the princess, actually. I discussed things with Hunter, since he is a little upset that she keeps straying from her guard. He believes having a friend near her would be much better, and he said I may choose anyone I trust.”

Janus blinked. Why was he being told this? “And?”

Thomas smiled slightly. “I was thinking you could be her guard, actually,” he said. “You are a very talented man, and I think you would be a perfect guard for her. No one would dare cross her as long as you’re around!”

Janus, at first, wasn’t sure he was hearing things right. Then when the words set in, his eyes went wide. Of all people, Thomas trusted him? “You want me to be the princess’ guard?”

“Don’t worry, you’ll still get a chance to be a Knight of Dusk. In fact, this would better your chances. Well, I’m not sure why you’d want to be a Knight of Dusk when you have the honor to be the princess’ personal guard.”

Janus could only stare with wide eyes at Thomas for a moment, hen said, “Well, I don’t know if I-“

“You start tomorrow,” Thomas cut him off. “I already brought it up with His Majesty, and he agreed this was for the best. Today will be your last day of training, then you are to report to the Royal Guard in the morning.” He clapped Janus on the shoulder. “Congratulations, sir.”

Janus flinched at his touch. It had already been done?! They hadn’t even asked if that was what he wanted! As Thomas walked away, he struggled to process what was happening. Was this fate trying to get its way with him? Because if he was Emerald’s guard, he would be with her every second of the day.

How could he help avoiding his feelings, then?

~ ~ ~

Janus has met with a little twist of fate! Things will get a little bit tougher for him here on out! Do you have any thoughts on what might happen next? Let me know in the comments below!

Thank you so much for reading, and God bless!

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