'So you set them up?' I said to Courtney and Nathaniel as we rode away from the clearing where we had left Alexandria and Aiden alone together.
'Not exactly,' Courtney said.
'We just put them in a scenario where they will get to know each other better and in doing so making a marriage between them more possible,' Nathaniel explained.
'So in other words, you set them up.'
'You make it sound so calculated Ai,' Courtney protested, 'but all we want is the best for them.'
'I know he might not show it but Aiden does love Alexandria,' Nathaniel said, defending his master, 'he just hasn't been taught how to deal with emotions like that. He doesn't know how to show someone that he loves them. We're helping Alexandria to see what my prince is truly like.'
'I'm still not sure,' I said skeptically. 'What if Alex doesn't want to get to know Aiden, what will he do then?'
'We'll have to wait and see,' he said.
'But how are you Aislinn?' Courtney asked, pulling her horse closer to mine. 'Have you managed to sort things out with your father?'
'Of course not,' I said, trying to laugh it off. 'It seems he is the only person at court who has a problem with me falling in love with a servant, no one else is treating me the way he is. But unfortunately it's his approval I need or I will have to follow his orders and marry whoever it is he chooses for me.'
'Maybe Alexandria can do something for Lucas,' Nathaniel suggested. 'I don't know, give him a higher position, make him a respectable gentleman.'
'I don't want to ask Alex to do that, it would be going against my values as a friend. And Lucas would never accept any help from the royals, it would be charity and he would find that demeaning.'
'Surely if you told him you wanted him to accept help from Alex then he would do it, for your sake.'
'But I would never ask that of him,' I insisted. 'That's not what our relationship is about.'
We were very close to the palace now and I pulled my horse to a stop, moving to turn around. 'You guys head back in, I need some more time to clear my head.'
'Are you sure?' Courtney asked, turning her horse around too. 'I can stay out with you if you want.'
'I think it would be better for me to have some alone time.'
'OK then, if that's what you want.' Courtney blew me a kiss before directing her horse back in the direction of the palace. I watched the two of them disappear inside the gates of the palace then kicked Acapella into a canter in the other direction, urging her forward with as much speed as we could muster.
Lucas was exactly where he said he was, two saddlebags bulging with food, clothes and blankets hanging from his horse.
'Sorry I'm late,' I said, slowing Acapella down until she was standing close enough to Lucas's horse so I could lean over and kiss him lightly on the lips. 'I had to wait for them to leave.'
'That's alright,' he said, quickly dismounting and unstrapping one saddlebag from his horse and putting it on mine. 'As long as no one followed you here we should be fine.'
'Are you sure you want to do this?' I asked as Lucas remounted, wanting to make sure he knew what decision he was making.
'You have far more to lose than I do,' he said, taking my hand and sending shivers up my spine. 'Are you sure you want to do this?'
'We can't fit in here, not with my father around.'
'That's not the question I asked.'
Yes I am sure,' I said strongly, determined not to falter in my resolution.
'Good,' Lucas said, smiling, leaning over to kiss me, this time more deeply and passionately. 'Let's go.'