The creek crackled and rippled. The birds chirped and flew from one spot to another looking for food. Prince Julian’s horse snorted and continued to eat the lush green grass. It was peaceful and relaxing, deep in the woods, far from the palace and Eve’s home.
“What are we going to do?” Eve traced circles on Julian’s bare chest.
Julian ran his fingers through her hair. “Stay with me?” He lifted his head slightly to kiss her softly. Pulling her close against him, he wrapped both arms around her. “I want you with me, always.”
Her lips brushed his. “I know, but how can I? I am married.”
“I already offered to rid you of that scoundrel. I know how he treats you. He doesn’t deserve you, Eve. You were meant to be my queen, not his slave.” His tone mirrored his longing.
“Julian, I couldn’t live with myself if I knew he died so I could be with you. I just couldn’t.” Eve lowered her eyes. He sat up and pulled her up with him. Wrapping the blanket closer around her naked body, she searched his face. “I love you, Julian, but what kind of fiend would I be if I encouraged the murder of an innocent man just so I could fulfill my own heart’s desire?”
“A lovely one?” He chuckled.
“Stop jesting. This isn’t a laughing matter.” She turned away.
“Forgive me, my love. It was heartless of me to ask such a thing of a true lady.” He placed a kiss on her lips.
Pressing against him, she sighed. “At the same time, my love and desire for you make me almost consider your proposal.”
Julian smiled. “No, you are right. Our lives would forever be cursed should we take your husband’s life, just so we can be together. I pray…I dare to pray that we will be together as I believe it was always meant to be.” He played with the blanket she was covered in.
“Eve, Eve.” Thaddeus!
Eve jumped to her feet. “Oh, no. It’s Thaddeus!” Panic filled her. “What shall we do?”
Julian lumbered to his feet. “We shall tell him the truth.”
“He has a furious temper, Julian. There isn’t any telling what he might do.” The sound of hooves drew closer.
“Don’t worry, my love. I am a soldier as well as a prince. I can take care of this, should the need arise.” He put his pants back on.
Eve hurried to put her dress on. I wish it were proper for women to wear trousers!
Thaddeus came to the clearing and brought his horse up short. “Eve, what is going on here?” His voice was cold.
Shaking, Eve held her dress up in front of her.
Julian was fully dressed and had walked over to his horse. “I was riding in the woods when I came across this lovely woman bathing by herself. I didn’t want any harm to come to her, so I offered to watch over her while she finished. With my back turned, of course.”
Eve’s cheeks grew hot as she remembered he had done everything but not look at her as they made love in the stream. “That’s right, Thaddeus. This kind gentleman here was very gracious and most polite.”
Thaddeus stared hard at Julian, then his horse. “That is a royal animal. And you are dressed as a royal subject. Who are you?”
“I am Prince Julian.”
Thaddeus dismounted and pulled his sword out of his sheath. “Prince, you say? Last night soldiers came and stole my wife from under my nose. You wouldn’t happen to know anything about that, now, would you?” He drew closer to Julian.
“That isn’t true, Thaddeus. You practically let them take me. You didn’t even put up a fight!” Eve cried, concerned, as tension sparked the air.
“And you are a lying whore! One of our neighbors said they saw you ride down here with someone.” He glared at her.
Julian dropped his reins and approached Thaddeus. “Don’t you speak to Eve that way!!”
“You summoned her to the palace,” Thaddeus spat. “Then you had your way with her, didn’t you?” He lunged at Julian.
Julian jumped back as Thaddeus’s sword grazed his side, leaving a bleeding gash. “Are you mad?” Julian roared.
“I am quite sane!” Thaddeus shouted, lunging at him again.
Julian jumped back. “You’d better rethink this.”
“You think because you are the wealthiest fair-skinned man in the country, you are better than me?” Thaddeus snarled, advancing closer.
Eve trembled, her knuckles turning white as she gripped her dress.
“That isn’t what I meant! I have no way to defend myself. It will be called murder, and you will be sent to the lion’s den.” Julian dodged behind a tree to avoid being sliced in two.
“Who will say ‘murder’? I am going to feed your rotting carcass to the wolves.” The sword buried into the wood with a thud. Yanking it out, Thaddeus moved around the tree, swinging wildly.
“My men know I am with Eve. They will figure it out,” Julian countered as he narrowly escaped being clipped.
Eve’s heart contracted with fear as the men circled each other. She dropped her dress and rushed over to Julian’s horse in her underpants, her chest bare. Grabbing the sword hanging from the saddle, she pulled the heavy weapon from the sheath. Barely able to hold it, she cried, “Stop it!”
Thaddeus looked at her and laughed. “Adulteress! Get dressed and get on my horse so I can take you back to my bed where you are going to reward me for rescuing you. And then, you shall be properly shamed for disgracing me.”
Anger welled up inside her. “I am not going anywhere with you, and I am not going to let you hurt him!”
“Eve, my love, get back. You will only get hurt,” Julian pleaded, his eyes fixed on Thaddeus.
Thaddeus’s eyes bulged. “‘My love’? You use my wife for one night, and now she is your love?” He lunged at Julian like a madman.
Julian tripped backwards and fell. Thaddeus stood over him, his sword pricking against Julian’s throat, ready to pin him to the ground.
Eve dragged the sword closer.
Glancing sideways at Eve, Julian cried, “I can take care of this, Eve. Trust me.”
Thaddeus laughed. “Sure you can. With a sword pricking your throat?”
Before Thaddeus had a chance to blink, Julian brought his leg up and slammed it into Thaddeus’s groin. He dropped to the ground, screaming.
Julian rolled over onto his side and rubbed his throat. “No one speaks to Eve like that.”
Rage roared from Thaddeus’ lips as he ignored his pain and sprang to his feet, swinging his sword wildly above Julian. “DIE, YOU PIG!!”
Julian stared up into his Thaddeus’s face in disbelief. Blood was running from his mouth. A sword was sticking clean through his stomach. Eve stood trembling behind him, her hands covering her mouth in horror over what she’d done.
“Eve!” Julian rolled out of the way as Thaddeus toppled to the ground, dead.
Julian crawled over to Eve and reached for her.
Eve sank down against him and sobbed. “What have I done?”
Julian awoke with a start. “Eve?” He fumbled for a candle and lighter. The soft glow of the candlelight provided him with enough light to see Eve huddling in the corner of the room, shaking and weeping uncontrollably. “My god, Eve! What’s wrong?”
“I killed him; I killed him!” she wailed.
Julian picked her up and carried her to the bed. “You haven’t killed anyone, my love. It was just a bad dream.”
Eve shivered as Julian stroked her back. He pulled the bed’s blanket around her shoulders. “It was so real,” she said.
“Do you want to talk about it?” Julian wiped the tears from her eyes.
“Not really. It’s just that dream of you and me that I have been having, where you are a prince who sweeps me off my feet.” She chuckled at Julian’s silly grin.
“I remember having a short one like that. I thought it so strange. We were having a swim by a creek…”
“Yes!” Eve exclaimed. “We made love, and then TC came and tried to kill you.” Her cheeks warmed at the memory.
“I got the best of him, didn’t I?” Pride shone in his eyes.
Eve’s head dropped. “No, I did.” She shook her head of the awful image. “I love you, Julian, but I don’t want to see TC dead.”
Julian sighed and pulled her into his arms. “Why don’t we get back in bed, where you can let me help you forget that terrible dream?” He kissed her cheek.
Eve breathed deeply. Maybe that was exactly what she needed to forget that awful nightmare.
Outside, the snow was starting to let up. TC and Sam made their way toward the cabin. “I knew he was going to come up here,” TC declared as they viewed the busted up doorway of the cabin.
Sam pulled TC to a stop. “Now, remember, he is huge and very strong. Don’t do anything stupid or we will both end up dead, along with Eve.”
TC cocked his shotgun. “The only death happening out here is Julian Crane’s!”
He shrugged off Sam’s hand and entered the cabin.