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He must be crazy to even consider asking her to dance. She looked so bored though. As though she might die of it any moment.
Henry stood, his palms damp with sweat. No, he couldn’t do it. He sat again, picked up his tankard and took a healthy swig. Perhaps if he drank more, he would have more gumption to ask her. He took another quaff of the—what was this stuff? Mead? He liked the way it warmed his veins. He stood again. But his damn palms still sweated.
“Dad, what are you doing?” Maggie’s rough whisper came from his left. She tugged on his tunic. “Are you all right?”
Yes, he was going to do this. He was going to ask the queen to dance. And if she rejected him, he would hang his head in shame and leave. She would never see him again.
“I’m going to ask the queen for a dance.”
“Are you mad?” Maggie jumped to her feet next to him, her hand on his arm, keeping him in place. “You can’t do that.”
“Why not?” he asked and it sounded more like a challenge than a question.
“B-because she’s the queen.” Maggie stole a glance at her before looking back at him. “And I forbid it.”
He nearly laughed. “You forbid it?”
“You…you can’t, Dad.”
“Why not?” he asked again, this time wanting a real answer.
“She’s….she’s the mother of my best friend. It would be…weird.”
“Mags, you’re a grown woman. Married. I seriously doubt it would be weird to ask her for a dance.” He paused, thought about his words when his daughter raised an eyebrow. “Okay, aside from the fact she’s a queen and I’m a…a…you know.”
“Human,” she whispered roughly.
“But she doesn’t know that.”
“Not yet!” She fisted her hands and perched them on her hips. “What if she says no? Then what?”
“Then I’ll look silly, won’t I?” He straightened his tunic. “Don’t worry, my little magpie. If she says no, I swear not to bother her again. But I don’t think she will. I may be old, but I still have some charms.”
Maggie scowled, looking every bit like the teenager he remembered. “Dad. Ew.”
“Hey, don’t look so disgusted. Your mother and I—”
“All right, all right. I get it. No need to explain.” She held up her hands in surrender. “But be careful. She doesn’t like humans.”
“Hey, who you calling human? I’m a Fae now.” He thumbed at his chest as he winked and Maggie laughed. “See you later, magpie.”
He headed for the front of the room, steeling his nerves. The delay with Maggie had made him nearly lose his nerve. But no. He was seriously going to do it. He wouldn’t let the fact she was royalty and he was…nothing, deter him. He stepped up to her, held his hand out across the table.
“Your majesty, would you do me the honor of this dance?”
The Elven king dropped his chicken leg in shock. Elyne stared at him wide-eyed. Derron clenched his jaw. Maeve’s expression hadn’t changed from bored and annoyed and he wondered if that was now directed to him.
“Sir Henry…?” Elyne asked, but her words waned and she didn’t continue.
“It would be my honor,” he said.
“And who are you, exactly?” Her silky voice caressed his senses.
He dropped his hand and gave a quick bow. “Sir Henry. At your service, my queen.” That sounded convincing, didn’t it? He almost believed it himself.
“Are you new to the Queen’s Guard?” She still didn’t seem convinced as she looked him over, sizing him up.
“I am,” he said, feeling rather confident. She was going to say yes. He knew it.
“I see. And how did you end up here?”
Crap. A question he didn’t have an answer to. Thankfully, Elyne piped up.
“He helped round up some of the orcs and humans wandering the realm, Mother. He came to the palace yesterday.”
Not an untruth. Points to Elyne for thinking fast and offering an explanation. He liked the princess more and more.
Maeve’s gaze never left his face as she peered at him with something he couldn’t read. Not mistrust. She seemed to trust him. It was something else. Curiosity. Interest. She bit her lip as though on the verge of agreeing to dance with him. He held out his hand again.
“Do me the honor of a dance?”
“I don’t think that’s—”
“I will.” Maeve cut Derron off as she rose.
Henry’s heart leapt as he watched her round the table. Her grace and poise was impeccable. She was every bit the dignified queen she appeared to be. She took his hand, his fingers closing around hers. Her warmth penetrated him to his soul. God, she feels good! His heart hammered a happy cadence as he led her to the dance floor. The tune had been lively, upbeat. Now it was something slower. Softer. He cheered at the thought of holding her close and feeling her body press against him.
As he took her in his arms, he realized he had no clue what the dances were of the time or the realm. How did the Fae dance here? He did a quick cursory glance around the room. The others had practically deserted the floor to give way for the queen. A few brave couples remained dancing side by side, their fingertips barely touching.
Henry would not do that. He wanted her in his arms, next to him. He wanted to smell her beautiful, heady scent. What was it? Jasmine? Whatever it was, it was exotic. And she was ethereal. He was acutely aware of the gawks and stares from those around the room.
Had it been a bold move to ask her to dance? Because he was a lowly Fae knight did that mean he was not allowed to speak with his queen? Knowing she really wasn’t his queen made it okay in his mind. He slipped his arm around her waist, pulled her close, while holding her other hand shoulder height.
“What are you doing?” She flinched and for a moment he thought she might pull away.
He tightened his grip, keeping her firmly in place. “Where I come from this is how we dance. I’ll show you. All you have to do is follow my lead.”
“Where exactly do you come from?” An eyebrow quirked in question.
Ah, yet another question he couldn’t answer. “Across the realm.” Did that sound plausible?
“Hm,” was her response.
He led her through the steps, keeping her as close to him as possible. Then turned with her still in his arms.
“You learned to dance like this there?” she asked.
Actually, he learned before his wedding. Maggie’s mother had made him take lessons so they could dance together and not look like fools. Her words, not his. He had reluctantly agreed. He wasn’t for the ballroom dancing but now he was glad he had learned. Now he was with this lovely woman whose curves seemed made for him.
“I have never seen such a dance,” she said.
“Mayhap, your majesty, you should relax and enjoy it instead of questioning it every few seconds.”
She blinked surprise. Had no one talked to her like that before?
“I would remove the head of most who spoke to me like that.”
“In that insolent tone.”
“Apologies, your majesty. I hope I can keep my head. For my lips are attached and they’ve yet to have a taste of you.”
“You are bold, aren’t you?” She tilted her head back, gave him a look down her nose that he suspected she’d perfected eons ago.
“Too bold for her majesty?”
“That remains to be seen,” she said. And her mouth quirked into almost a grin.
Henry’s heart thumped and for the first time he could acknowledge the attraction he had for her. His nerve endings tingled and even his buddy in his pants was in agreement.
“Too bold to kiss you here?” He knew he pushed it but he didn’t care. He wanted to see what she’d say.
Her face hardened. “Definitely too bold.”
He slanted his head, as though ready to kiss her. She licked her lips, as though ready to let him. His mouth was close to hers. Oh so close. He could feel her warm breath tickling his face.
“Tempting me, your majesty?”
Do you think Henry will win the queen’s heart?