Tainted Saint, Chapter Twenty-FourMature

Cassandra felt self-conscious in her simple lavender dress and imitation jewels. Everyone around her wore ridiculously full dresses with pearls that would cost enough to feed Cassandra practically indefinitely. And because she had not had the money to pay for a carriage, she had ridden a friend's horse to the castle. Her hair had gotten mussed in the wind, even though she had gone to great pains to keep it tamed. Anyone who looked at Cassandra would immediately be able to tell that she didn't belong. Even Morris belonged more than she did.

Nervously, Cassandra had made her way to the balcony, seeing Morris talking with someone. When she realized who the someone was, it was too late. There was no turning back now.

"Cassandra! I didn't know you were coming!" Morris exclaimed. He reached out and gently pulled Cassandra onto the balcony. "When did you get here?"

Withdrawing from Morris' grip, Cassandra hunched her shoulders, crossed her arms, and ducked her head, trying to make herself as small as possible. The thought never occurred to her how vulnerable she must look until she dared to look up and saw a look of pure caring and protectiveness crossing the King's face. "I got here a few minutes ago," she said, but she wished she hadn't "gotten there" at all.

"You came."

The King's two words, spoken with a whole slew of emotions, caused Cassandra's head to snap up. She met the beautiful man's eyes and grimaced insecurely. "I'm sorry," she said. "I - I can go home."

"No," the King said, his voice breaking with such strong feelings that Cassandra wondered if his very soul had touched hers. "No, Dear One. I'm glad you got here safely." He reached out and gently brushed Cassandra's hair behind her shoulders. "I can't believe you came. I looked for you."

Surprised at the man's forwardness, Cassandra found herself not wanting to pull away from his touch. Subconsciously, her mind registered that Morris had left. One perfectly beautiful moment passed between the King and the urchin before Cassandra stepped back, shivering in the air, though it was bearably cool outside. "You didn't look for me," she said, disbelieving. "You didn't even know Morris had invited me."

"I always look for you," the King said, his voice so filled with love that Cassandra felt just a little more beautiful than she had when she had first entered. And then, he uttered even stranger, even more beautiful, even more loving words. "I think I've always been looking for you."

Cassandra's soul cried out. I've always been looking for you, too! it sang, but instead of replying to the King's passion-fraught words, she gave a little gasp and fled the balcony.

I was a fool to come here. I was a fool to think I had any right to come here. Weeping, Cassandra cut through the room and ran through the open hallways until she collapsed to her knees, overcome with tears.

The End

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