~ The Ride ~ pg 12

She smiled at what must have been a dumb-struck expression on his face before turning back around to give him privacy with his thoughts. Fiora reminded him of Avery, yes, but only so far. Where Avery had pushed him to temptation, Fiora demanded innocent decorum. Where Avery would have succumbed to fear, Fiora fought through with bravery. Where Avery had abandoned her love to save herself, Fiora… his breath hitched on a sob he tried to contain… Fiora was willing to fight for the people she loved… die for them… for him

There was no denying it now. There was no going back. The scar over his heart ached. Alex had to face the facts. Fiora had captured his heart the moment she had saved it from being pierced by a bolt. He loved her not because she reminded him of Avery but because she was everything Avery had not been. 

Alex wrapped his arm around her waist again and pulled her close not caring that the clip-clop of their party’s horses were catching up to them. He had so few days left to spend with her… he would make the most of their time. She relaxed against him as she clicked Clover into a walk and then a canter that would keep them with the group. 

One rider, one horse, one horse and rider. Alex waited for the moment their hearts would beat as one. When their thrumming snapped together and he could sense her satisfaction there was only one thought on his mind. I love you. The simple act of admitting it, even silently, broke down the walls he had built up as protection against heartache. They crumbled in the wake of his new heartbeat. I love you. Even walls that had gone up the day he found out Avery would not be his promise came tumbling down leaving his heart raw and aching. It hurts… but I love you. It was as if his chest could no longer contain his own heart. It expanded and grew and spilled out of him to envelope Fiora as they rode. I love you, I love you. They could never be more than they were but, stars above, with every heartbeat he loved her more. He didn't want to, knowing the futility of it, but he was defenseless against it. Clover’s hoof beats echoed his mental mantra. I love you, Fiora. I love you. It physically hurt to breathe as the tragedy of their inevitable parting taunted him. More tears squeezed down his face as he clutched her jealously to his chest. Stars help me, I love you. And even though he knew it was only wishful thinking, he imagined her heart responded. 

I love you, too.

The End

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