Genevieve half woke and rolled over, sliding her hand across the sheets and searching for warmth; she felt nothing. She sat up, blinking in the darkness and pressing the blanket to her chest. She whispered, “Edmund?”
He stood very still in the open doorway, silhouetted against the pale morning sky; the sun had yet to rise, and a chill seeped through the room. She shivered. He was shirtless and barefoot, hair tousled, staring into the parking lot with a kind of absent focus.
Genevieve slid out of bed and grabbed her dress from the floor, slipping it over her head as she tiptoed across the room. She stood behind him and pressed her forehead against his back, encircling him in her arms.
“Good morning,” she whispered against his skin. He was stiff and silent for a moment, and then–
“Do you ever think about running away?”
“Isn’t that what we’ve done?” she giggled. The motel had been his idea, of course. It was hardly glamorous, but it was certainly private…
He turned around suddenly, catching her hands in his. “I mean really run away, not just for the weekend. Just running, and never looking back. Never going back.”
“You aren’t serious?” she said, but even as she did she knew his expression was far too earnest. “Edmund, you’re scaring me.”
He dropped his gaze and turned away, running a hand his through his hair. “You’re right. I’m sorry.”
“Edmund? Look at me.” She put a hand on his cheek and turned him to face her, then waited until he met her eyes. “What on earth are you talking about, running away?”
“I don’t know,” he said defensively, jerking away. “Sometimes I just think… it would be better, if I could leave everyone behind.”
“Oh.” Her face fell, and then suddenly he had her in a tight embrace, and he was murmuring into her hair:
“Not you, Genevieve. Never you. I could never leave unless you came with me.” He pulled away and looked at her. “But you wouldn’t, would you?”
“I… I don’t think I could, no.” He nodded, staring straight through her. “I don’t understand how you can even think about it. What about your friends, your family? Don’t you love them?”
“Of course I do. But sometimes… I just get overwhelmed, and I want to start over somewhere where nobody knows me. I don’t want to be Prince Edmund of Aurelia-Dulcinea anymore. I don’t even want to be Edmund.”
She knew that he struggled sometimes, but she had never seen him so morose and pensive. She stroked his hair. “Who do you want to be, then?”
He was quiet for a moment. “I don’t know. I don’t know who I am sometimes, Genevieve. But whenever I’m with you… I feel like I’m home.” He swallowed, and then took her hands again. “I wasn’t going to do it like this. I was going to do it right, the way you deserve, but… We’re here now, and I think this is the moment.”
“What are you talked about?” She gave a nervous laugh as he put a hand in his pocket, removing a small, square object she couldn’t see in the dim light, although the sun was beginning to rise. “Edmund!” she gasped, as he bent down onto one knee.
“Genevieve, I love you. I know, sometimes, that I say the wrong thing. Sometimes I’m strange, and you don’t understand me. But you make me feel like I understand myself. Even on my worst days, I know that when I see you, everything will be okay.” He held the box up and opened it. The ring was set with a heart-shaped diamond, surrounded by amethysts. “Princess Genevieve of Amethyra, will you be my wife?”
She felt like the breath had been knocked out of her—here? now?—but she didn’t have to think before she answered “Yes.”
He slipped the ring onto her finger and then tossed the box away before standing and pulling her in for a kiss. She laughed against his mouth; he picked her up and spun her in a circle, laughing too. She hadn’t seen him this happy in months.
“You don’t have any ideas about eloping, do you?” Genevieve asked as he set her down. She tried to give him a stern look, but she was so exhilarated she might have done it, if he asked. Friends and family be damned.
Edmund grinned. “Now that you mention it… I’m kidding!” He chuckled at her expression, taking her hand and kissing it. “I can make my peace with the world, as long as you’re with me.”
“I’m not going anywhere,” she assured him, “and neither are you. Not if I can help it.” She poked him in the chest.
He nodded seriously and put his arms around her, hugging her tight to his chest. “Thank you,” he whispered in her ear. “Thank you for bringing me home.”