Victoria walks over to the spa house. As she enters the spa room, she finds Hunter relaxing next to a tray of wine and sweets, his back is turned to her.
“Ah, Carlo, you’re back. Excellent. If you would be so kind, I tweaked my shoulder, and I could use some attention…” he says while drinking from his goblet.
Victoria takes a deep breath, wondering if she really should just do it or if she should admit that she is, in fact, no Carlos. But before she could decide against it her feet bring her towards Hunter. She sits next to the pool and her hands settle on his shoulder. Victoria calls up all her knowledge gleaned from the books in the library. She starts to knead his shoulder, enjoying the warmth of his shoulder on her soft hands.
“Oh… that feels wonderful.” Hunter sighs, smiling. But then he stops. “But… something feels different.” Hunter says grabbing Victoria’s hand. She inhales when his calloused but yet soft hands wrap around her wrist. He gently grabs her wrist and draws it down. Victoria has to go down with her upper body so he can see her wrist fully. When Victoria is so close, she can smell his scent, a bit of the freshwater around them but also like a forest after a rainy day.
Hunter realises who the hand belongs to and his heartbeat increased immediately. A small smile crosses his face and he doesn’t let go of her hand but turns around to her. “Lady Victoria, this is… an unexpected treat. I didn’t know you were as excellent at massages you were at politics.”
Victoria smiles down to him. “When you spend your whole life in a library, not being able to leave that one, you have enough time to read books. I almost read every book in that library including politics and medical books.” Victoria admits and continues to massage his shoulder while looking at him. When they hear footsteps, Hunter smiles fade, and he takes a step away from her.
“My heart fills to see you, but we should not be too close. Rumours would swirl if someone walked in to find the two of us alone.” Hunter says disappointed that they have to be so careful.
Victoria tries to lift the mood. “Well, I suppose we’ll have to get married then.” But it has the opposite effect. Even though Hunter smiles because he appreciates the attempt to lift the mood, Victoria can see right through his smile. She can see the pain in his eyes when he responds, “As you well know, as future king, I have foreign alliances to consider and cannot marry any Cordonian. No matter how beautiful I may find them” or how I love them. Even if I fall in love I cannot marry them… I cannot marry you. he adds in his thoughts.
“Are you calling me beautiful, Your Regency?” Victoria beams looking into Hunter’s dark brown eyes.
Hunter chuckles. “Am I? I don’t recall referencing anyone Cordonian in particular.” but yes I am calling you beautiful. And I am sure you already know that I may try to be subtle about it but in reality, I am not. he adds again in his thoughts.
“Uh huh.” Victoria chuckles and looks around the spa.
Hunter meanwhile leans against the pool wall right next to Victoria. He lets go of her hand, reluctantly of course. “But future king or not, people walking in or not, I believe we can still find pleasure in each other’s company. Come closer. You’ve had a long day yourself, negotiating with Theodosia. Let me pamper you.” he says. But he wishes he could pamper her more than he can right now. In public, he has to be careful and cannot pamper her as much as he wishes it to do.
Victoria slides closer to the pool’s edge near Hunter. She lifts her skirts out of the way and dips her legs beside him. When she lifts the skirts aside, Hunter cannot stop himself from looking at her. She is one of the most beautiful woman he has ever seen, and not looking is harder than he had expected.
“The water is nice… so soothing.” Victoria sighs happily.
“I had hoped that. You deserve some relaxing.” Hunter smiles but he still wishes he could massage her feet and legs that she can relax even more. But he can’t otherwise it could give a scandal. Instead of doing that, he nudges over a tray if colourful sweets and glasses of ruby wine. “Please, take what you wish. What’s mine is yours.”
“Is that so? And what are you offering?” Victoria wants to add something, but she holds it back. It would be inappropriate. Maybe his heart doesn’t even belong to her and if she does this remark she could destroy this afternoon.
Hunter looks at her. “You have your pick…” he wonders that maybe she had the same thought about the heart. That is why she made it sound so ambiguous. But at the same time, he wonders why would she.
“Both sound tempting… I’d like to have one of them.” Victoria smiles and takes a bite of the macaron. The crispiness of the meringue shell contrasting with the tartness of the filling within makes her close her eyes and savour it.
“Mmmmmmh… truly, that is divine. I feel almost heady…” she smiles and opens her eyes again, just to see Hunter looking at her, a smile on his lips. “What, praytell, are you smiling about?” Victoria beams at Hunter who at first doesn’t say anything but then he says, “You. So few at court show their happiness so readily. I could drink it up so easily as the wine.” Hunter admits.
Victoria blushes but doesn’t look away from Hunter’s eyes. “You flirt…”
Hunter looks into her eyes. “I say nothing but the truth, and what I see before me is true and genuine and beautiful…”
Victoria stares into his eyes, it is almost like she loses herself in them. “Hunter…”
His eyes search her face and then he turns to Victoria, staring at her. He pushes himself up a bit out of the water… His face is close to her face. He looks at her lips and then back to her eyes. He leans in and she leans down to meet his lips. But before their lips can even meet, Victoria loses her balance and falls into the water. Hunter instantly helps her out of the water, looking at her. Hunter picks her up and sits her back onto the edge of the pool. As he looks at her he wonders how someone can be more beautiful than she was before.
Hunter clears his throat. “Did you enjoy the joust.” he steps away from her again and sits next to her but in the water.
When Victoria speaks again she sounds a bit disappointing. “The joust was a lot of work for everyone wearing armour. The tales don’t talk about how heavy the armour is. You must’ve been overly warm.” If she would have kept her balance they would be kissing by now. She knows that he wanted it as much as she wants it. “What did you think of the joust?”
Hunter noticed the hint of disappointment. Of course, he is as disappointed as her, but at the same time, he thinks it is better like that. He doesn’t know how he could handle marrying someone else when he got a taste of how it could be with her. “The stakes were far more interesting than in recent memory.”
“You’re speaking of your wager with Kayden? Things look like they may have heated up at the end.” Victoria asks.
“Is it so obvious to you?” Hunter looks up to look into her blue eyes.
“It was in the way you rode at him, and how you continued to fight even after you both were off the horses,” Victoria explains.
Hunter smiles. “I confess I wanted to win this year. Badly.” he looks back down enjoying the warmth of the water.
Victoria looks down to him. “Let me guess. Because I was watching, and you wanted to impress me?” she beams.
Hunter chuckles and smiles up to her. “I cannot deny that I was keen to impress a certain someone.” he smiles but then stops as he continued. “But there was something more. As the king-regent and potential future king of Cordonia, my responsibility is to the crown and I hope to carry. I have to look strong. Nothing I do is for just me, Victoria.” he looks at her, serious as ever. “In the moment I rode against Kayden, I knew that winning the joust was important, that if I lost, everyone was going to wonder if I was fit to rule,” he explains and looks away.
“Hunter… You rode nothing less than admirably, and I challenge anyone to hold that against you. And I will challenge anyone who says you are not made to be king. I see a kind man that already looks after the people around him. As you said, whatever you do is not only for you. That is a sign that you don’t think of yourself but for the people of Cordonia. It is something a king needs to have and you have that. You will be a wonderful king and you will have a wonderful… queen.” Victoria says, knowing that the person will never be her.
Hunter stares at her. She doesn’t want him to marry someone else and how much he wishes he could tell her he feels the same. “That’s a comfort, and yet… I lost. To a worthy opponent, of course. Truth be told, I admire Kayden. More credit to him for not having been trained that he bested me. But still, I feel I carry the weight of everyone’s expectations. The court and the people expect a lot of their leaders. If I’m to do Queen Kendra’s name proud, I must put up an invincible font… But I’m only human.”
Victoria cups his face. “And that is alright, Hunter. You can be human with me. And who wants a king that is not human? It is okay to show weakness even in front of your subjects. It is just important to keep an eye on the strength so that they always outweigh the weaknesses.” she strokes his cheek.
Hunter stares into her blue eyes, her curls falling down, tickling his shoulder. “What is it about you, Lady Victoria, that I can speak so freely in your presence and admit aloud what I can’t even say to myself?”
Victoria smiles. “I’m glad you feel that way. I want you to be able to speak to me, whenever you feel you need someone.”
Hunter nods. “It seems I can’t help myself… It’s as if you truly see me, the person I really am and not the person people want me to be or gossip about.” he smiles. He looks away from her and leans his head against her leg, letting out a long, slow breath.
Victoria takes her hand and runs it through his black hair. At her touch, his eyes closed and he melts underneath her touch, revelling in the feel of each other. They enjoy it as long as they can before the moment has to end.
“Victoria…” Hunter suddenly breaks the silence. He turns to her and reaches up to her cheek. His palm warm from the water.
“Hunter…” She whispers.
“I want to kiss you… so badly…” he whispers.
Victoria looks down to him, laying her hands onto his. “What stops you?”
“I am afraid once I’ve started, I cannot stop,” he admits, not leaving her eyes.
Victoria smiles and slides away from the edge into the water, her dress gets wet from the water and swims around her. It is too heavy to go underwater. She puts her hands onto his chest and looks up into his brown eyes. “Let us enjoy this moment, Hunter.”
Hunter looks at her lips and strokes her wet hair out of her face. Then he puts his hands around her underwater to linger on her back. He notices that her back is exposed due to the fact her dress swims around her.
“Kiss me…” she whispers looking onto his lips.
Hunter leans down, slowly, making sure she won’t change her mind. But when she tilts her head to the side and comes closer to him, he knows she wants this as much as he does. When his lips connect with her, an electric feeling shoots through his body. It is like small butterflies live inside of him. In this moment, he doesn’t care that anyone could walk in. He lines his tongue onto her lower lip, asking for permission to explore her mouth. She accepts it and puts her arms around him, deepening the kiss even more.
Hunter savours the feeling of her body in his arms, her soft lips that taste like macaron and Fierro wine and her hands on his neck, playing with his hair. Hunter pushes her against the pool wall, gently but still with a certain strength.
Victoria can feel how his heart increased its pace to beat. But when she felt his lips on hers, her heart made a backflip as well. She cannot believe that she is kissing Hunter Fierro, the kind man that makes her feel happy.
When Hunter breaks the kiss, he leans his forehead against hers, breathing fast. “We should stop…” he whispers.
Victoria holds him close to her. “We should… yeah…” she whispers back.
None of them wants to stop but when they won’t, no one can guarantee that it stays with one kiss. Hunter and Victoria and Hunter stay like this a bit longer. But when they hear footsteps again, they are reminded where they are and they reluctantly step back a little bit. Hunter helps her back up onto the edge of the pool while he sits back to his place next to her in the water.
“Thank you for finding me. I needed to talk to someone. I’m very happy it was you.” he says, quietly but loud enough for her to hear.
“Of course. I am always here, Hunter,” she says. “And what are allies for?” she tries to make it less tensional.
“Sharing sweets?” he holds another macaron to her. “And sharing kisses?” he whispers, staring into her blue eyes.
“Kisses only for very close allies, special allies,” she whispers. She takes the macaron and eats it. Together Victoria and Hunter relax, trying to make the time stop but eventually they have to depart. “I should probably go before Carlos really comes back.” Victoria gets up. Hunter gets up too and goes out of the water. “Thank you again.” he smiles.
“Always.” she smiles and kisses his cheek, lingering a bit longer, savouring his scent and the warmth of his body. “See you soon, Hunter,” she whispers, looking up at him before turning around and walking to the exit. With one last look back at Hunter, who already looks at her, she leaves the spa with the lingering feeling of his lips on hers and the knowledge that once he marries someone else, she ends up with a broken heart.