Cinderella hid in the shadows of the darkened corridor, praying her light colored frock would not draw the attention of Prince and his cousin.
But, alas, luck was not with her. At least not good luck. Prince strode from the chamber, Sir Arnald fast on his heels. Surprise lit Prince’s eyes when they landed on her. His slow smile ignited a pulsating fire through her veins.
The stick in her hand began vibrating with a thrumming energy, reverberating up her arm, making its way through her entire body. Before coherent thought rationed her brain, she held it out—freezing the two men quite immobile. Horrified and shocked by her actions she looked at the stick, dumbfounded, uncertain what she’d accomplished or why? Could she make them forget they’d seen her?
She raked a hungry gaze over Prince and a positively evil thought took hold. She could test the theory. She wished to touch him. Just once. Before the inevitability of his and Essie’s nuptials. Would he remember? Mortification, humiliation would dog her to her death and beyond. Not to mention the end of an untarnished reputation or the love-turn-hate of a sister.
Hadn’t Cinderella and her sisters already stacked enough bad deeds against them? Oui! Enough to have them drawn and quartered several times over. But somehow in that moment she could not seem to care.
Was that so terrible?
Oui, it was, the prim, practical, timid voice in her head screamed even as she stepped toward him.
But one kiss, who would know besides she? Roaring silence filled the passageway. One more step found her in touching distance. Spicy soap assailed her senses, and before she could stop herself, Cinderella closed her eyes, tipped up on her toes and touched the corner of his mouth with her lips. Floating on air had nothing on such a daring adventure, touch of his lips. Heart pounding furiously, she lowered her heels, opened her eyes, and stepped back. There was a lovely firmness that contrasted with such velvet. She brought her fingers to her mouth.
Time suspended, holding her prisoner. She’d never acted so indecently. She stared at him as if he were Eros, come to life, yet he remained still as the statue, itself.
“Nicely handled, my dear.”
Startled, Cinderella jumped back, the stick clattering to the floor.
“Ah, there it is. I wondered where I’d misplaced it.”
Shamed burned through her. Her deplorable behavior fastened her in place.
“Oh, Fairy Godmother. I-I am, I—” Cinderella took another step back.
The distinct crack of wood had her gasping for air. Oh, no. No, no, no. She’d broken the magic stick. This could not be happening. Hands flew to her flamed cheeks. She waited for Prince to snap out of his frozen reverie. Denounce her very life. But not so much as a flicker of his eyelash fluttered. She dare not move. “Oh. I…I…” Her voice croaked in horror.
Fairy Godmother’s dainty palm came up to halt Cinderella mid-sentence. “Did you break it, do you think? My wand, dear? Thank the heavens you found the blasted thing. ’Twould not do for it to fall into nefarious hands.” She dipped forward and swiped two distinct pieces from the ground.
“Oh, my,” Cinderella whispered. She had definitely broken it. She was too stunned to cry. “I shall—shall—” An audible gulp was impossible to mask. Resigned, she squared her shoulders. ’Twas time to pay the piper. “I shall turn myself in, of course. ’Tis only fitting I should be locked up. The dungeon would be preferable to the gallows, however. Is it possible…you could recommend…I would be most grateful…I…I imagine there are friends in the dungeon. Or, mayhap, Marcel…I am friendly with mice, you see. They are not so terrible, you know. He…is not…so…”
“Cease your prattling, dear child. It is not as dire as all that. Worry naught. I shall handle matters from here. Do you think you can manage your way back?”
Cinderella did not think so, but she could not seem to form a coherent sentence to convey the fact.
“Run along, dear.”
“But, I need to tell Essie. He…she…they…” Cinderella flung out her hand unable to put sound to the word ‘betrothed.’
“Let us not mention this little incident further, hmm?”
“But—” She choked at Fairy Godmother’s stern gaze. “No…no, of course not.” She stammered while heat burned her face. She swung on her heel. Then stopped, and asked over her shoulder, “Prince? Sir Arnald?”
“Not to worry, child. These spells never last long. You handled things magnificently, if I must say.”
Pressing her luck was not an option. She ran for the cover of darkness—never mind the lack of ladylike etiquette, or the fact that she had no inclination, whatsoever, on how to find her way back. Or the many questions she’d had for her elusive Fairy Godmother, once she’d set eyes on her again.
Perhaps another time, she promised herself, and fled for safety.