Jessica Day George · 326 pages
Rating: (10.4K votes)
“Sire," Oliver said as he helped Petunia to her feet, "I'd like to marry Petunia.
"Of course you would," retorted the King Gregor. "But not right now! we just got those two taken care of." He pointed to the twins who were still trying to play Christian's odd game. "And weddings are expensive!”
“I want to help you," Oliver said.
"Why?" Galen looked up at him. "Because of Petunia?" Oliver was relieved that the prince didn't seem to be skeptical about his conviction. He simply looked like he wanted to know, and so did Heinrich, when Oliver dared to look at the other prince. Oliver was very aware that Heinrich had known his father. Had known him better than Oliver had, in fact.
"Because of her," Oliver said at last. "Even though I have only met her twice, really...I just..."
"I risked my life to save Rose after only speaking with her twice," Galen said with a small smile.”
“Galen!" The crown princess flung herself into her husband's arms with a glad cry. The other princesses shrieked and threw themselves at their brother-in-law only a moment later.”
“Jonquil went by with a full plate of food, and Petunia reached out and tried to snag a small cream puff from it. Jonquil lifted it over Petunia's head before she could, and clucked her tongue.
"These are for Lily," she said.
"Oh really?" Petunia gave her a look.
"And possibly some are for that Analousian duke Jacques invited," Jonquil said with a sparkle in her eye. "But none are for you." Then she flipped one to Oliver. "You can have one, my lord earl," she said, and twirled away.
"These are excellent," Oliver said, eating half of it in one bite. He fed Petunia the other half so she wouldn't get cream on her knitting. Oliver was just leaning in to steal a kiss - "I hope this means you're planning on marrying her, boy," barked King Gregor.
Oliver leaped to his feet. "Sire! Yes! I mean ... I ... sire!"
"I didn't pardon you and restore your earldom so that you could loll around my gardens flirting with my daughters," King Gregor said. Then he bent down and gave Petunia a kiss on the cheek. "I like him," he whispered loudly in her ear.
"Me too," she whispered back, blushing.”
“You're very short, aren't you?" She smirked at Petunia. "And you've got a nose like a stoat," Petunia replied. "But at least I can always have my gowns altered.”
“Shaking herself, Petunia looked around. Several of her sisters had been talking to her, but she hadn't heard them. "And that answers our questions about why he gave himself up," Poppy was saying, a smile turning up one corner of her mouth as she looked at Petunia. "Now if everyone could please avoid saying his name [Oliver], so that Petunia doesn't drift off again...?”
“The wardrobe? It was so full of gowns that he didn't think he could cram himself inside. Besides, it would be awkward if the maid came in to lay out a gown for dinner and grabbed Oliver instead of the blue silk with lace sleeves.”
“Can you be sure?"
"I haven't spent the last fifteen hundred years learning how to knit my own socks, boy!" The crone looked like she might box Heinrich's ears, if she could reach them.”
“Oliver's heart tried to pound its way out of his ribcage, but he ignored it. "I'm in love with Petunia," he announced. "And I want to help her.”
“Pansy rolled over and went to sleep, but Petunia stayed awake long after Olga left, and long after Oliver crawled out from under the bed, grabbed some sandwiches, and slipped out the door. She hoped that he was going to Galen and Rose's room, and she hoped, too that he hadn't known she was awake when he had leaned over and kissed her hair. She wanted to savor that touch forever.”
“Er," Oliver said. "He talks even less than the one Lily married," the crone remarked to Walter. "Though when the mood strikes him, he asks just as many questions as Galem." "I'm sorry," Oliver said weakly. The old woman nodded. "You are forgiven," she pronounced in a queenly tones.”
“She couldn't help but grin at him. "It is the most exciting thing that has ever happened to me. Even more exciting than being abducted by you.
"Galen and Rose got married that summer," she went on. "It was terribly romantic." She shrugged again. "Honestly? I'm having a hard time believing that it won't happen like that again. Galen will work some magic. We'll seal the gate and go home. Poppy and Daisy will have a beautiful wedding."
Oliver got up from his chair and came over to the bed. He sank down beside her and put his arm around her waist. She leaned her head on his shoulder.
"It will be alright," he told her "You shouldn't be afraid.”
“She [Pansy] pushed in next to Poppy so that she could see him around the guard's elbow. She was as tall as Poppy, with shining dark-brown hair and blue eyes. An utterly lovely girl, as all the princesses were, yet Oliver thought Petunia was far more beautiful.”
“Kestilan?" There was that name again. Oliver fought down an irrational surge of jealousy for this mysterious being who took up so much of Petunia's attention.”
“[Lily] "Petunia's hair is too curly to braid," She said conversationally. Oliver wasn't sure why, but that was what finally made him blush.”
“Lily slumped, putting her shaking hands on his shoulders. "But you will, won't you?" Pansy's voice broke into a sob.
"Yes, Pan," Galen said quietly.
"I don't like that," Pansy said. Galen stood and put his arms around the fine-boned girl, while Rose continued to comfort Lily. Oliver looked away. It was such a private moment; he hated to intrude on it. Galen was beloved by all of the sisters, but the love between him and Rose was so clear and shining that it hurt to look at them, spending their last hours together caring for the other girls.”
“He dug his heels into his horse's flanks and sped down the path. He heard the others call out behind him, but he ignored them. He was sure Karl and Johan and the others would have searched the rosebush and that entire are carefully enough; there was nothing to learn there. But he wanted to get to the hunting lodge, to find Prince Grigori and punch him in the nose for losing Petunia, and then make certain that her sisters were alright. And then her would find Petunia, and he would bring her home.”
“We're almost there, Oliver said. Once again Petunia was so startled that she tripped and would have fallen is Oliver hadn't caught her around the waist and pulled her upright. "You must have been far away," he said laughing.”
“And then what did you do, Lord Oliver?" Karl's eight-year-old daughter gazed up at him in awe, as though this were the best story she had ever heard.”
“Both princesses immediately looked wary, exchanging glances. "Warn us of what?" Petunia asked. She studied him with those blue, blue eyes and Oliver wondered all over again what he was doing here.”
“I abducted Princess Petunia last week. I didn’t harm her; I delivered her to the Grand Duchess Volenskaya, but now she is in terrible danger,” he said.”
“May I consent to and delight in thy law after the inner man, never complain over the strictness of thy demands, but mourn over my want of conformity to them; never question thy commandments, but esteem them to be right. By thy spirit within me, may my practice spring from principle, and my dispositions be conformable with duty.”
“Sometimes it is good to know your limits. Good to know you still have limits. It makes you human. And I wanted to stay that way. Zayvion”
“Below us the country looked like a black lake. Nowhere was there a glimmer of light. Nowhere, so far as the eye could range, was there a living creature except here in this group of holy buildings. With the going down of the sun, the night wind rose and set about the business of the gods, the dusting of the corners of Earth. As it swept along the valley below, it was trapped by the mountainside and was channeled up through faults in the rock, to emerge into our upper air with a dull moaning boom, like a giant conch calling one to service. Around us there was the creaking and crackling of rocks moving and contracting now that the greater heat of the day had gone. Above us the stars were vivid in the dark night sky. The Old People used to say that Kesar’s Legions had dropped their spears on the Floor of Heaven at the call of Buddha, and the stars were but the reflections of the lights of the Heavenly Room shining through the holes.”
“The fact is, I can’t put together the sort of feelings that I get when I’m having a dirty big wank together with the kind of feelings I get when I’m having a nice friendly chat with someone. It just doesn’t work.”
“Anyone can face ease and success with confidence. It is the way we face trouble and misfortune that defines us. Self-pity goes with selfishness, and there is nothing more to be deplored in a leader than that. Selfishness belongs to children, and to halfwits. A great leader puts others before himself. You would be surprised how acting so makes it easier to bear one’s own troubles. In order to act like a king, one need only treat everyone else like one.”
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