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The Greatest Escape

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It took Lina almost a week before returning to the palace. Eva stood in the balcony, where they’d shared their first kiss, when she glimpsed a broom boat approaching, a lone figure inside. She didn’t have to look twice to recognise Lina.

She rushed into the room inside, re-materialising at the palace doors. She sprinted the remaining distance to the boat. She supposed she should slow down so Lina didn’t notice how eager she was, but thought better of it. So what if she appeared over-zealous? She’d already shared a lot of herself with Lina. Why would one more thing matter? After all, Eva secretly hoped she would share even more with Lina.

So she walked as quickly as her legs would allow her.

When she got to the boat, Lina had already stepped off it and onto the slippery ground. She looked up and gave Eva a tight smile when she saw her. Eva slackened her stride.

What did that look mean?

“Are you okay?” she asked once she was a few breadths from Lina.

Lina nodded. “I need to talk to you.”

Nothing good ever came of those words.

“All right.”

“Let’s walk,” Lina said, starting a walk in the path surrounding the palace. Eva followed her, matching her steps until they were walking in tandem.

They walked for a few tense minutes. Eva ran different scenarios in her mind. All with bad outcomes. The worst of which had Lina yelling at her with fervour the likes of which she had barely glimpsed from her. She was telling her off for getting too close, too personal, even though Lina was the one to lean in the last time. But in all fairness, Eva had been the one to initiate the only kiss they’d shared, even if Lina had melted into it like a thawing ice cube.

Lina took a deep breath. “I’m sorry about last time,” she finally said, her voice firm, as if she had been rehearsing the words, and knowing Lina, she probably had. They were such simple words, yet they carried such heaviness. “I shouldn’t have tried to kiss you.”

Eva couldn’t help but stop in her tracks. “Why not?” She turned to look at Lina, who also halted.

“We . . . I don’t know.”

“Why would you apologise, then?”

“Because I felt your hesitancy. I kept leaning in and you didn’t move. Didn’t meet me halfway.” Lina stole a glance at her, then fixed her sight on the ground. “So I chickened out and ran away.”

Of course. As usual, Eva had gotten too lost in her thoughts and had given Lina the wrong impression. “It isn’t like you to run away, Lina. Not from anything.”

“I know. But you make me do things I’ve never done before,” Lina whispered, still not meeting Eva’s eyes.

Eva wasn’t having it. Lina shouldn’t get to say things like that then just look away from her. So, without giving it much thought, she reached out and lifted Lina’s chin with a fingertip. Her breath hitched at the look she saw in those eyes. Unguarded. Open. Wary.

“Lina,” came Eva’s voice. A low pitch she’s never heard herself use before. “You were wrong. I did want to kiss you. I do.”

Not giving herself a chance to hesitate, Eva captured Lina’s warm lips in hers, moving into her personal space and wrapping her arms around her shoulders.

Even though she’d expected it, she was amazed when Lena returned the kiss, her usual fire re-emerging, their lips re-acquainted at last.

Eva kissed her hungrily, firmly. Insistently. She reached up and ran her hands down Lina’s silver curls, sighing in her mouth at the sensations spreading through her body.

Their first kiss was a mere spark compared to the heat of this one.

Eva pulled away for breath, then promptly connected their lips again. She felt hands pulling her hips closer to Lina as Lina’s mouth opened under her incessant lips.

When their tongues grazed, Eva understood the ache and hunger in her chest. Warmth spread through her centre, her entire being.

How could she ever want for anything else when she got to kiss Lina like that?

Their lips broke apart, Lina leaning on Eva’s shoulders for support. With her eyes closed, Eva’s arms circled Lina’s waist as she rested her forehead against hers. She felt dazed. Unsteady. Out of breath.

“Perhaps I shouldn’t have hesitated last time,” Lina said.

Eva opened her eyes and gave her an incredulous look. “Really.” The comment earned her a giggle.

Eva realised something then, and it hit her with such enormity it scared her.

She would do anything for Lina Kirk. Scale mountains, brave tides. She would even exhaust her magic just to see her happy. Now, when Eva wondered if that was love, if that was what all those fairy stories were about, she knew the answer: a resounding yes.

For now, though, Lina seemed content with Eva’s touch, with the dance of their tongues. So she did the only thing she could.

She kissed her again.