Chapter 16

Sir Giddeon dismounted his spectacular black steed in one swift motion, coming to the Princess' side just as Sam hurried forward to hold the reins of the grey Nakatara, gleaming almost silver in the sunshine. "Here, Your Highness," the young Duke held out his arms. Cassandra turned her eyes away briefly, attempting to stifle a blush as Sir Giddeon took her about the waist and gently lifted her from her horse like she was just a feather.

"Thank you," Cassandra murmured, bowing her head with a bashful smile.

He returned the smile kindly, offering his arm.  "Shall we walk?"

She took it, Sam watching her as Sir Giddieon led her away. Frowing, he adjusted the reins in his hands and began guiding the young mare back to the stable.

The Duke led her away to the gardens, where various colored flowers sat primly in their place, smiling at them with their silken faces. They were like magnificent, perfect jewels in a collection of necklaces and rings. "Which is your favorite, Princess?" he inquired in something of an undertone, having a sense of intimacy. Though he was only being friendly, Cassandra could only imagine him as the gallant and incredibly handsome man that he was.

She moved away from him, wordlessly leading him further down the twisting pathways. Kneeling down slightly, she cupped her hands around the powder blue blossoms just before her. They were small, incredibly delicate, with long, graceful stems and tiny frosty-colored fern-like leaves. "These," Cassandra replied softly. "They have always been my favorites. They are so...modestly elegant."

Sir Giddeon smiled as Cassandra stood to her full height and faced him. "Like you, Princess," he said.

Cassandra colored deeply, averting her eyes. "Umm...thank you, Sir," she muttered, fiddling with her fingers awkwardly.

"Come," Sir Giddeon said almost laughingly. "There is something of a surprise for you inside."

{~}

"And fold your hands over the book...yes, like that," the painter instructed, nodding in approval. "There--there you go."

"Here, what about these, Falin?" Sir Giddeon entered the room, a bundle of flowers in his hands.

Falin briefly observed them, shifting his rectangular glasses on the end of his hooked nose. "Yes, yes, but only one or two. And have them lay over the pages, then fold your hands over the stems."

She nodded, Sir Giddeon stepping forward to hold them out. Cassandra shyly took them, his fingers brushing hers as she did so. She hurriedly looked away from his face, busying herself with perfecting the placement of the flowers.

"How long should this take?" Cassandra wondered aloud.

Falin chuckled, "A while. Do not fret, we shall do it in segments." He slyly grinned, turning his gaze to Sir Giddeon. "Perhaps the Duke can stay here and entertain you somehow."

"It would be my honor," Sir Giddeon smiled, pulling up a chair to seat himself adjacent to the Princess.

The End

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