“Dad that’s not fair.” I say, stomping my foot.
“Lillian that’s enough,” King Dennis—AKA my father—says firmly, his eyes not even looking up at me.
“Dad!” I whine and his eyes snap right to me.
“I said that’s enough.” He growls. I glare at him and bolt through the doors, nearly knocking over Grant in the process. He stumbles to the side, mumbling “Pardon, Princess Lillian,” his eyes wide as they watch me.
“Whoa, what’s going on?” Princess Mollie says, her eyes lighting up with amusement as she steadies me. Princess Mollie happens to be my sister.
“Fuck off,” I mutter, ripping my arm away from her. My pride is bruised and I need to nurse it in private. Preferably with Gabriel kissing my neck.
Her eyes widen and she looks at me anew, critical eyes scanning my face. “Did Father deny you again?”
I growl and she backs away, hands held up in front of her. “I’m sorry.” She says but amusement glints in her eyes. She just thinks it’s so funny when Father denies me something.
I narrow my eyes at her and she has the audacity to wink at me before disappearing around the corner. My jaw clenches and unclenches as I decide on a plan of action before throwing it to the wind and sprinting to the barn.
“Hey Snowflake,” I murmur as I let myself into his paddock. His ears flick towards me but he remains eating. I go over to him and slip his halter on. He flicks an ear in protest but he doesn’t complain when I lead him to the barn. I tie him up and get to work.
Snowflake is a black leopard Knabstrupper with the black coloring clustering down his legs and up his neck. In my eyes he’s gorgeous. His tail is 75% black with 25% white coloring in but his mane is 50/50. The black spots cluster near his muzzle but other than those places, the spotting is random. I sigh in appreciation.
Gabriel’s chuckle brings me out of my thoughts. He stands by Missy’s stall. Snowflake flicks his ears back and he calls softly, his tail swishing excitedly. Missy responds loudly, eagerly.
I laugh and wrap my arms around Snowflake, pressing my face to his coat.
Gabriel looks at Missy. She stares back at him and calls again to Snowflake.
“Sex starved, are you?” Gabriel asks dryly.
I smack Snowflake lightly. “Stop it. Father doesn’t want her to breed yet.”
He tosses his head but relaxes. Missy calls again but he doesn’t respond. I give Snowflake a carrot in gratitude.
“I swear, it’s like he understands the English language.” Gabriel comments, running his hand over Snowflake’s hindquarters.
I hide my smile and continue grooming Snowflake. Gabriel retreats to the background. As I continue grooming, I manage to forget about Gabriel and Father and Molly and focus all my attention on Snowflake.
“Going on the trails?”
“Oh!” I scream in fright and stumble backwards. Snowflake pops up, the whites of his eyes showing. He comes back down with a thud and paws at the ground, tail swishing agitatedly. He snorts to himself in reassurance, tossing his head.
“Didn’t mean to scare you.” Prince Micah responds, instantly scooting back a couple steps.
I calm my heart second and work on calming Snowflake down. His mane has flip-flopped all over the place and I run my hands over his body, talking quietly to him. He quiets down but remains alert. I slip his bridle on without fuss and lead him outside.
“Being around mares this time of year isn’t nice to Snowflake.” I respond, smoothing down his mane before turning to Prince Micah.
He scoffs and I glare at him. “Geld him then.”
I gasp outraged. “Snowflake is from perfect bloodlines. His foals will be perfection continuing down the line.”
He raises an eyebrow at me.
I let out a defeated sigh and shrug my shoulders. “Father wants him to breed when the time is right.”
Snowflake whickers and I look forward to see Jasmine long-lining Promisemeforever. Promisemeforever stops and raises her elegant neck, calling over to Snowflake. Snowflake stretches his head back and calls louder, almost demanding. Promisemeforever tosses her pretty head before trotting off in the circle again. Jasmine watches, stunned, as Promisemeforever acts like nothing has happened. Then she offers a side buck and Jasmine grins, shaking her head as she continues long-lining Promisemeforever.
I laugh back and turn back to an eager Snowflake. I grab his reins and give him a light pull. He stops dancing around and stands perfectly still—too perfect. I narrow my eyes at him and hurriedly get up in case he tries something.
He remains standing still as I reach down to fix my stirrup. Gabriel steps forward and does it for me. I lean back and close my eyes, trying not to dwell on the fact that Gabriel is only a stable-hand employee and he only will be forever. A sharp pain slices through my chest and I inhale quickly in response.
I slyly look out of the corner of my eye towards Gabriel. His head is bent to my boot and the sun picks out the auburn strands in his dark hair. He is surely handsome, but just as surely, off-limits. Even though I do it to spite Father because he has ordered me to marry a Prince but I keep spurning them by dating the “commoners,” I do try to keep it fling only. I sigh wistfully as Gabriel backs up before raising his eyes to mine. But Gabriel was different and I fell hard for him. Good thing he’s better at masking his feelings than me.
Prince Micah appears with his faithful companion, Reggie, beside him. I breathe out gratefully that he’s not riding with me. I need this private time to myself.
“Alright let’s go,” I say to Snowflake and nudge him forward.
“Princess Lillian—your helmet!” Grant calls, hurrying forward just as Snowflake takes my nudge as a cue to leap forward. He immediately comes to a stop when his legs touch the ground again. I fly forward and my head collides with his neck. My neck cracks back and I taste mane. I slowly push myself off his neck and stretch my neck, gradually testing every muscle that collided with his body. Snowflake swings his head to look at me and his eyes grin at me. “Revenge for making me wait,” they seem to say.
“Princess Lillian!” Grant yells, panickedly. I roll my eyes at Snowflake and nudge him forward, the reins carefully clutched in my hands. He dances playfully and I turn him in a circle.
“I’m fine, Grant.” I assure him with a smile. I drop my eyes to Gabriel who is tense and I smile softly before jerking my eyes back up to Grant.
“Lillian, you will wear your helmet!” Father yells out the door.
My mood plummets and Snowflake dances, nervously, this time. I choose to ignore him and nudge Snowflake once again. “Try anything and you will be sex starved,” I threaten under my breath. Snowflake picks his legs up and eases into a slow canter. I grin.
“Lillian!” Father shouts angrily.
I spur Snowflake harder and he jets off.
“Gabriel! After her!” Father demands.
I lean forward and Snowflake picks his head up in excitement. Been a while since I asked him to run like this and being Snowflake—an energetic stallion—he loves to run.
“Yes sir!” I hear Gabriel reply but after that nothing because Snowflake has jumped the fence that surrounds the house and all I can feel is—free.


Publication Date: 01-27-2013

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