The next time I saw Adam, he was extremely apologetic, to the point of anxiety.
"Selena, I don't know what came over me," he told me. "I was extraordinarily forward and dreadful in the way I didn't express my intentions before acting upon them, thus preventing you from discouraging me should you have preferred that I did not kiss you - I was so rude and - "
"Adam," I interrupted, feeling the need to put his mind at rest, though he was greatly amusing me.
Adam stopped and stayed still as if awaiting judgement or punishment.
Smiling, I murmured "I didn't mind it."
Adam frowned, looking confused. Slowly he asked "You ... didn't mind me ... kissing you?"
Still smiling, I replied "No." And it was the truth. Whether it was due to my lack of interest in Tiger Flame, or some odd effect of reading about my great-uncle's actions with Vanessa Flame, or some obscure reason I couldn't fathom at present, the feel of Adam's lips against my own had brought me contentment. Serenity too, though that might have just been the peace of the moment.
"I liked it," I told Adam, as well as my bewildered self.
He swallowed and gazed at me with an unfathomable look in his eyes.
"Then may I ... kiss you again?" His question was hesitant but at the same time full of a barely stifled emotion that evidently had a great impact on him.
I steadily held his gaze and replied "You may."
To my immense surprise, and slight disappointment, when he leant in, he merely quickly kissed my cheek.
Drawing back, he muttered "I should have kissed you like that the first time." His breathing was heavy and irregular.
In not quite full awareness of what I was doing, I murmured "I've said you may, though" and leant in to kiss him.
Adam's entire body relaxed and he returned it. Warmth rushed through me and I casually reached out to hold his hands. Our eyes were closed so it was a total shock when someone cried out "Oh!"
Adam and I instantly came apart, both of us blushing brightly. We turned to face whoever had caught us in that private moment.
Flushing equally furiously but brimming with pleasure too, Eve stood there before a door which led into the entrance hall where we were standing.
"Eve, cease grinning like that," Adam muttered embarrassedly.
"Are you truly courting" she asked excitedly.
"We've barely had a chance to consider that," Adam informed her, slightly crossly. He started walking away, in the direction of the gardens. "Don't follow us," he called to her.
‘Sorry,' I mouthed to her as I ran after him.
‘It's okay,' she mouthed back, winking.
I grinned at her, before passing out of sight.
Outside, Adam was pacing to and fro, his cheeks still slightly red. Seeing me, he stopped.
"Selena, I am so sorry about my sis-"
"Don't," I interrupted. "I mean, you don't have to apologise. About anything. There was no shame in that kiss, was there?"
Adam shook his head vigorously. "Of course not. But ... courtship is not a public affair. There are rules one has to consider when other people are about. I may present you as my love and dance with you, and perhaps show my affection for you in small ways, but kissing you so strongly is like showing you off or being possessive, as if you were only there for my purposes. I would never like to treat you in that way, Selena. You deserve to be treated as a queen."
"Your intentions are so honourable," I said, almost in awe of him.
"Such intentions are the only ones that should be held by anyone who claims to love you."
Adam drew close to me, and tucked a few loose strands of my hair behind my ear.
"I'm sure your love is much more than something you claim," I told him sincerely.
"Which makes good intentions all the more important."
I smiled. "I shouldn't worry," I murmured. "I think you hold them easily."
Our mouths briefly met and then Adam was saying "Would you like to have dinner tonight? I know a good restaurant in the Land of Boulders."
"So far away from either of our palaces," I murmured.
"We shouldn't let our families see that we are courting too early."
"What about Eve?"
"She won't say anything until we have."
"How shall we get there?"
Adam looked pensive for a few moments. Finally, he said "Prince Coal I in love with your cousin. If I ask him to arrange something for tonight, you could ride with her and him to the Land of Boulders and I could meet you there. Doubtless your aunt and uncle would want her accompanied for some time this evening. Coal might even be interested in dining in the same restaurant as us."
"And if Coal is otherwise occupied?"
Adam shrugged. "We may just have to inform your parents that you're opening the Winter Ball at Majesteria Palace with me, and that we need to discuss it."
"I'm what? ... Oh!" I giggled.
He smiled. "You'll be amazing."
I blushed, averting my gaze. "I hope I don't make a mistake."
Adam lifted my chin and I found myself falling into twinkling blue depths.
"You won't," he murmured, and again our mouths met.
"I shall have to limit the rooms we enter when you visit, Selena," he said afterwards, "or else these honourable intentions involving restrictions around others will go completely out of the window."
I giggled again. It was odd how I felt like a child - so relaxed and carefree.
Adam's smile widened.
"What shall we do now?" he whispered.
I considered for a moment. "Go to the Central Garden, perhaps?"
Adam beamed. "Perfect."
So we strolled along, hand in hand and sat down in the garden where Adam had presented me with a sapphire - I should put that on a chain and begin wearing that now - facing the stone fountain with an eagle rising out of it.
"I think we're alone now," I said to Adam in a jokingly conspiratorial tone.
"I think you're right," he agreed.
And this time, the kiss wasn't short.
When we broke away, Adam couldn't stop beaming.
"I love you," he whispered joyfully."You've made all my dreams come true."
"I'm so glad I can make you happy," I told him, a tear in my eye.
His arms came around me and I cried freely. For although it felt like Adam was someone I needed in my life and his kisses were pure delight, I didn't feel completely whole...