It was not their first kiss, nor their second, not even their third — those happened outside Cinders’s kitchen window, by the lake’s shore, and in Tobias’s shop after they planned their escape, respectively. The first took them both by surprise, Tobias bumping into Cinders as he clambered out of the window frame; she turned around to check on his progress and he was right there, so close that it seemed simpler to just kiss him and get it out of the way. The second had been a more deliberate affair: after she said good night, Tobias caught her fingers in his and brushed them against his lips, then drew her in for a tender, lingering farewell, a departure that knew not when the return might be. The third was immediately followed by the fourth, the fifth… and then Cinders lost count, lost to Tobias’s warm mouth, his hands gripping her shoulders and sliding down her back, his soft sighs, and the sweet, sweet anticipation of freedom, so close she could almost taste it…
So it was not a first kiss they shared, when they met at the crossroads, but it had the spirit of one. Once they were finally alone and Tobias swept her into an embrace, she found herself trembling, with anticipation as well as excitement, and just a touch of nerves — was he truly here, ready to give up his whole life to see the world at her side? He looked down at her, smiling, a sparkle in his eye; she smiled back, and then closed her eyes as he bent down and touched his lips to hers, light and tentative, as if he still sought permission. And that permission she granted without hesitation, her hand rising up the back of his neck to pull him in, parting her lips to invite him even closer. Her first kiss as a free woman, the kiss that sealed her fate.
“Are you ready?” Tobias pressed another kiss to her forehead, and she opened her eyes with a smile.
“The open road awaits.” Cinders stepped out of Tobias’s arms, then took her hand in his, stepping onto the cobblestones and not looking back.