I woke up to the sound of sniffling. I frowned before turning over. Was she crying again? But I wasn't sensing sadness. Instead....
I turned over and sat up. Lillian was still in bed, shivering and sniffling, wiping her nose. Her eyes were closed and I swung my legs over the side of the bed.
"Elves get sick?" I asked and she jumped a little, opening her eyes.
"Unfortunately, yes," she said in a hoarse voice and coughed. "It's my own fault. I shouldn't have tried for that fish."
I chuckled, remember when she took me hunting - something I was very good at - yesterday.
I had been in the elven realm for two weeks. It had been less eventful with each passing day. I had decided to sleep during the night like they did and it was becoming easier. The elves were also getting used to me although I still heard whispers about her parents. Our deal kept me from mentioning them but I was getting close to swallowing my pride and losing that bet.
"I'll be right back," I said and sought out the one elf that I had come on good terms with. "Good morning, Oaken."
Petunia smiled. She was chopping herbs and put her knife to the side. Silver, even a small amount like that, made me nervous. She found that out the hard way when she set the knife down right next to my hand one day. I embarrassed myself by throwing it so hard that it went flying through three trees. They didn't bother healing the holes. In fact, some elves had tied ribbons on the trunks. I knew they were teasing me but none of them felt brave enough to do so except for Petunia and Lillian.
I wanted the other elves to feel more comfortable around me but word had gotten out that I was the prince and everyone got uptight again. I was doing my best to act like it didn't bother me but Lillian, Petunia, and Elder Arlan picked up on my discomfort quickly. Since then I heard them talking to several elves, trying to loosen them up.
"What brings you out here today?" she asked. "It should be overcast. Maybe you and Lillian can go on that walk to the gardens you've been wanting to take."
"Yeah, about that," I said. "She's sick. Do you have anything I can make for her?"
"I can make it," she said, reaching for a pot.
"No, that's okay," I said quickly and went around to the other side. "I'd like to try."
She looked impressed as she passed me the ingredients to chop with an iron knife and some stock. I put everything in the pot and hung it over the fire, watching it carefully.
"Now, when do I take it off?" I asked, turning my back.
Petunia was cutting something up as she said, "Pretty soon. That recipe has an herb in it that can get-"
Suddenly, the soup erupted. I froze in place as the hot liquid, vegetables, and other herbs splashed down my body. Petunia turned slowly, her eyes wide and her jaw dropped.
"Explosive?" I finished, spitting some carrot out of my mouth.
I could tell she was trying not to laugh as she said, "How about I make the soup while you clean up?"
"Sounds like a good plan to me," I grumbled and walked to the stream that they bathed in.
When I got to the stream, I saw something that made me duck behind a tree. Knowing this would earn me a slap should I get caught, I peeked around the trunk. Lillian was stripping down to wash. Her back was to me but I could see her body was pink from fever. She slid into the water carefully and dipped under. When she came back up, I almost had a glance of her chest before a silver knife came flying my way.
"Shit!" I shouted, ducking just in time.
"That's what you get for - achoo! - peeking," she said in a hoarse voice.
"I couldn't resist," I said, coming from around and keeping my eyes averted. "Your turn," I added cheerfully and stripped down quickly.
She squealed and turned away, hiding her face. I laughed and got into the water, washing off that damn soup. She finished bathing and I contemplated what I was about to do. We were friends now, much to my surprise, but in just a month and a half we would be husband and wife. Besides, we were alone.
Ah, what the hell.
I swam up behind her and put my arms around her waist. She froze, covering her breasts with her arms.
"I'm sorry," I said in a light voice. "Did I surprise you?"
"Hands off," she said, sneezing again.
"But I'm comfortable," I teased, resting my forehead on the back of her head. "And soon we'll be alone more often like this. Might as well get used to it while we can."
I knew she was blushing even though I couldn't see her face. I closed my eyes and, for a brief moment, felt warmth and a peace I haven't felt before.
"Preferably not right now," she said finally, coughing and jerking me out of my thoughts. "I'm rather sick at the moment, if you haven't noticed."
I snorted and let her go, swimming back to my clothes and washing them off.
"Oh, I noticed. Believe me, I noticed," I said and she turned her head so she could see me out of the corner of her eye.
"What do you mean?"
"He tried to make the soup for you," I heard Petunia say behind us, laughing a little. "It was disastrous, to say the least."
She was carrying two new clean outfits for us and I winked at her as she averted her eyes from my body. I waited until I was mostly dry before getting dressed. Petunia was helping Lillian get dressed and I stretched. The bath had felt good.
"Off to bed with you, missy," Petunia said.
"I'll take her," I offered.
"Why? So you can embarrass me some more?" she grumbled and I laughed.
She sneezed as I helped her back to her hut. When we were back in, Petunia handed her the soup she had made and left.
"I didn't know elves could get sick," I said, leaning forward from where I was sitting on my bed.
"Yeah," she said, taking a small sip and cringing. "Ugh. This is awful. Did you make this?"
"Haha, very funny," I said dryly. "No, that would be Oaken who made it."
She laughed. "Yeah, I know. I was teasing. Did it explode on you?"
"Yes," I said bitterly.
She laughed again. "That happened to me, too, the first time I tried to make it."
She put the empty bowl to the side on the floor.
"Why were you making it?"
"My mom got sick," she answered then groaned.
I laughed. "Someone lost the bet," I said in a sing-song voice.
"I'm sick," she warned when I sat beside her.
"I'm a vampire, dear, we don't get sick."
Before she could argue, I kissed her. Again, I felt the warmth but this time I felt the peace Elder Donne had told me about and that I had felt in the stream. Her lips were hot from the fever but to my surprise, and probably hers, she kissed me back. I put my hand on the back of her neck, wanting to deepen the kiss but she pulled away before I could.
"Get your blanket," she whispered, looking sad. "I have a story to tell you."