Zahra had just started on her way to the library when she saw Adrian walking briskly toward her.
"Sara, we have to talk."
As she was practically dragged after the knight which had demanded an audience with her, Zahra wondered what could possibly be going wrong. Had the prince broken the deal and used the wine cellar, after all?
"Sara, I have to tell you something." There was something about the knight's voice that caused even more worry to flood Zahra's heart. "I have to go purchase an herb that will help the queen's sickness. But this herb can only be found in...Cor." The knight said nothing more.
Zahra was slightly confused. "Alright..." she said haltingly, unable to understand why Adrian was so upset.
"Haven't you ever heard about Cor and its rumors?"
Zahra shook her head, unable to keep from feeling rather dumb.
"It's not a good place, Sara. It's unsafe and ruthless. There are countless criminals there who would stop at nothing to harm someone like me."
Still not sensing the gravity of the situation, Zahra raised her eyebrows. "Is the knight trying to make me concerned on his behalf? Eh?"
"No, you don't understand. I'm being completely serious when I say that Cor is nothing less than a den of lions. I'll be lucky to make it back alive." Adrian shuddered.
"Not at all." Adrian waved his hand in the air. "Do I look like I'm jesting?"
It was so unlike Adrian to be frazzled that Zahra sensed something deeper lurking in the knight's heart. "What's really wrong, Adrian? I mean, I know Cor's bad and all, but there's something else troubling you, isn't there?" Zahra reached out and put her hand on Adrian's shoulder - the good shoulder.
"It's just...I hate to admit this, but..." Adrian's voice trailed off, and he looked away, suddenly awkward.
"You can tell me. I promise I won't tell a soul."
"I'm concerned to leave you all alone. If you were safe and sound, then I'd feel much better about traveling to Cor."
Zahra rolled her eyes. "I appreciate it, my charming knight, but I think I can hold my own."
"But if the king comes back and finds out that you've profaned the sacred grounds, there's no telling what he'll do!" Adrian burst out, his voice tainted with emotion. "I'm not willing to let you die, Sara. I'm just not." His cheeks flushed a dark pink color.
Disgusted to find that she, too, was blushing, Zahra covered her cheeks with her hands and looked away. "I'll really be fine, Adrian. You have my word on that one."
"But there's more. I guess I'm just afraid to leave you alone with the prince himself."
Yes, that prince was a dangerous one. Zahra had to agree.
"Promise me you won't let him fool you into anything dumb, okay?"
Crossing her arms, Zahra rolled her eyes. "Do you really have so little faith in me, Adrian?" she asked, trying not to be offended. Her tries were all to no avail, and she wondered if Adrian thought her a weakling.
"I have much faith in you, Sara. It's Alexander I'm worried about."
"I can handle him. I promise."
Adrian bent and kissed Zahra's cheek lightly. "You'd better keep that promise," he said. "Otherwise, I might feed Alexander piece by piece to the crocodiles."
Zahra blushed again. "Oh, is the knight jealous?"
"I guess I'm just afraid that my best friend will hurt the woman who's becoming the younger sister I never had."
Slightly disappointed by Adrian's words, Zahra tried to shrug as if she did not care. "Well, off with you, then," she said, trying to keep her voice from wobbling.
Yes, Zahra was concerned about Adrian's wellbeing. Yes, she was concerned about the prince and his tempestuous personality. But she was also concerned with the fact that Adrian thought she was a younger sister.
Younger sister, my foot.