Bonus Story

So here is something special I wanted to share with you. This story takes place before the epilogue, but is not central to wrapping up the main story, so I've added it to the very end. I hope you like it. The new characters are not based off anyone specifically, but add to the cast in a supporting way. Timeline wise this is two months after the last full chapter and five and a half years before the conclusion. The rest will be explained within the story itself. Originally I had planed to post it with the epilogue, but it had grown too long and needed a bit more editing. I think this works out better in the long run anyways. I really hope you enjoy it.

A Stich in Time

I've learned over the years that things happen a certain way for a reason. A lesson can always be learned from a mistake, but to cause another person pain is never easy to justify. I will never regret how my life turned out. Though I carry the people I've hurt with me every day, I never want to forget the lessons they taught me.

Vargus, who I barely knew, showed me that honor can have a high price.

The Duke of Freid, who died believing it was his time, taught me that power is never freely given.

Naria proved love and loyalty are often charged at the same price.

Folken instilled the belief that no one is beyond saving.

Yukari continued to teach me even after all the pain I caused her; that love can heal all wounds.

There are others I've hurt with both my actions and my naiveté, and they still carry scars that no one can see. My parents, who I would have wounded by never returning, but caused more pain by doing the opposite. Merle, that I've hurt repeatedly by pushing her away. Millearna, who I manipulated while being selfishly selfless. Dryden, the man caught in the crossfire. Allen, who I confused with my girlish fantasies and mistaking chivalry for affection. Then there is Van, the one that never gave up on me even when I was the one to lose hope.

I wouldn't be the person I am today without his faith, even when I didn't feel like I deserved it. We've been through so much together; our happily ever after was hard earned. We will never take for granted the pain that has shaped us, like wet clay into pottery by skilled hands. The flaws only make us more beautiful.

There was one pain I didn't know how to learn from. My happiness caused someone else pain and the feeling of guilt persisted even though I knew it was unavoidable. When I returned, Van broke his contract to marry another, a woman I never met but saw the future of. Going back to Gaia took something from her that was irreplaceable.

The princess would never know what I stole. Van knew, and though he claimed things were better this way, the negative feeling still nagged at me. I saw children that would now never exist. There had been love in her eyes for the king. A love that will no longer exist thanks to me, so now every time I am the most happy a slight doubt still casts a dark shadow on my mood.

It could be the extra power I still hold causing these shifts in my mood or the child I carry making my hormones rage out of control. Regardless, the price is the same. I've hurt someone and I crave a chance to fix it, but I have no idea how.

Somehow, it makes this all so much harder. I was surprised to be the target of Millearna's focus, but Van wasn't for reasons I can only guess. The invitation stated the Austurian queen would now hold a ball to honor the new queen of Fanelia. Unfortunately, that meant me. The graceful scrawl on the back of the card forcefully stated that my attendance wasn't optional or up for debate.

I haven't seen her in six years, but I could easily picture that beautiful face set and unwavering. Powers as strong as mine are still limited by distance, though I didn't need them to know the golden-haired queen would win this battle. That is why I find myself again staying in the elegant castle in the capital city of Palas. Even after all this time, Millearna is as unchanging as the crisp ocean air cooling the summer heated streets. It was hard to see her again. It had nothing to with how I felt her emotions rolling over me like waves in a storm, but because she was still my friend after everything both said and unsaid.

Van by my side helps, as it always does. He steadies me, and I draw on that strength greedily. I really don't want to be here, surrounded by so many strangers. After burning off some of the energy two months ago, being around people has gotten easier, but that largely consisted of people who were already comfortable with my presence and role in their lives. This is new and scary in a way. It wasn't when I was a naive fifteen year old from another world. Everyone will be looking at me, judging, and making their own assumptions. One or two might even be true.

If things were different I would spend this trip self-medicating with vino, but my little peanut has made that impossible. Van and I still haven't told anyone, aside from Merle, that I am pregnant. It is still a risk so early into my pregnancy, but mostly, we keep the baby a secret because it isn't visible yet. Others don't really need to know right now.

Well, Millearna suspects the truth, since I have turned down any alcoholic drink offered to me since my arrival two days ago. You add that with the suddenness in which Van and I married, and let's just say she is good with math. The official story is that we had a small, traditional Fanelian ceremony, but to anyone that can read between the lines, we ran off and eloped. At times like this I wish my friend wasn't so smart. She knows that Merle wasn't at the wedding, and the only reason Van would do something so major without his sister's presence had to be quite the scandal.

It would be a disaster if the truth, or even a part of it, got out now. I am doing my best not to fall apart or retreat into myself with all the new stimulus. Just this morning I was walking down a familiar set of stairs when it hit me like a sledge hammer. My shoelace breaking as I carried a stack of dishes and blankets. The sudden loss of my shoe causing me to drop everything into a noisy mess. A presence behind me causing me to turn.

I came to the present as quickly as the vision took shape. The memory of Naria kidnapping me felt so real. It is hard to believe that I am alone at the base of these spiral stone stairs. The power's hold on me is still far too strong, but I will survive this, like everything else I've faced, head on.

Now another set of stairs are causing me more anxiety. These lead not to the past, but to my grand entrance to the ball in my honor. I know in time the pressure will lessen and my control will improve, but right now this isn't helping at all. The only way I can endure this attack is a combination of sheer willpower and Van. I lightly touch the pink pendant lying innocently on my chest and quickly pray for control. I fear I'll need it desperately tonight.

My dress is made of rich fabrics and delicate embroidery. The Fanelian style is both comfortable while still being functional. There are other positives to wearing the long layered dress and sash, besides the sharp contrast I will make against an event filled with ladies striving to dress as fashionably as Millearna. Mostly, it is Van; I know how pleased he is with my choice even without being able to read his emotions. Pride, joy, and a level of attraction that made me blush hotly. There are, of course, other thoughts he hides only slightly better, focused attention and careful concern.

Even now, it's as if he's not wearing finely tailored clothing but armor, prepared to enter battle at any moment. As always, his tan, muscular arms are bare except for the bright splash of color inked into his otherwise flawless skin. Blue on the right, red on the left, sharply contrasting and adding an exotic flare to the already commanding presence. My Warrior King through and through.

His gloved hand is before me now, palm upturned and patiently waiting. I slip my smaller hand into his gratefully. Guided to his side effortlessly, Van leans in just enough that I can feel his warmth and hear the low rumble of a whisper. "No need to fear. I am here with you."

The blush has returned from the promise of his protection and the flashes I see of the other ways we have expressed our affection these last few months. "I don't know if I can do this, Van." My voice is breathy, and I wish it didn't sound so scared.

"You can do this, Hitomi." His deep mahogany eyes are earnest and intense. I wish I had half the faith in myself as he seems to have in me. "You are far stronger than anyone I've ever met before. Just breathe."

I take a deep breath almost just to assure him, but letting it out slowly seems to help my nerves slightly. I have to remember not to let myself be overwhelmed. I can pick small things to focus on, and then the power won't burn wildly out of control. I've been practicing for the last two months, after all. I have found a few things that seem to work best: the pendant Van returned to me; the feather tattoo hidden beneath the folds of my dress that only my husband knows exist; the growing child I carry lovingly; lastly, the man by my side sharing his strength and calm.

"Okay." I nod slightly, feeling the delicate weight of the simple circlet on my brow shift minutely. "I'm ready."

Van leads me smoothly forward towards the moment I've been dreading. A steward is waiting to announce us. I know it's just us at this point, because it feels like all of Gaia is already mingling in the grand hall. Like everything else here in the Asturian palace, the room itself is just as richly decorated as the guests. Music swells beautifully, bouncing off the high arched ceilings, but I can't really hear it.

The moment we crest the top of the stairway, the room volume lowers dramatically, hushed in anticipation. I freeze, feeling the attention stabbing at me like hundreds of sharp, little arrows. Pausing only a step below me, Van gently squeezes my hand reassuringly.

I breathe in deeply, lift my head with what I hope appears to be confidence, and begin to walk again.

"Van Salzar de Fanel, King of Fanelia."

Focus on Van. The steady thump of his heart through our connected hands and souls. Broad shoulders and strong arm made to hold me. Wild raven hair starting to grow lower in the back once again, untamed yet still very handsome. I can't see his face, but I know that calm expression. He was born to be king and I belong at his side. We are better together than any romance story ever dreamed up, the very connection binding us strong enough to survive the bad times.

"Hitomi Kanzaki de Fanel, Queen of Fanelia."

The new title still feels strange, but I am grateful we asked Millearna to leave any nicknames from the war off of our introduction. Van doesn't want to be known as the Pilot of the Escaflowne or the White Dragon any more than I want to be the Seer from the Mystic Moon. It will always be part of who we are, but it doesn't define us. We won't let it.

I can feel the curiosity and questions, but the jealousy that creeps through the room is like a toxic thing. I'm sure it's natural for people to want what you have when you are raised so high. It's not just the women that would rather be at Van's side themselves; Van has plenty of that dark emotion aimed at him. I don't know everything he went through after the war, but this gives me some idea of the obstacles he had to overcome to become the man, the king, he is today.

We've made it to the bottom, and thankfully, Millearna is nearby. Van leads us to her group. A few of them I don't recognize but most I remember very fondly. They welcome me without jealously or judgement. Of course, the beautiful queen is center of attention. The others include her elder sister, Princess Eries. She is a quiet woman about my age with sad blue eyes and a soft smile. Celena, who still doesn't remember the ten years she was missing, is also present. Unchanged by time, Dryden appears just as sure and confident as he did when first we met a lifetime ago. Though Allen still wears the uniform of a knight with the same flowing long hair, he seemed older with lines just beginning to crease around his cornflower blue eyes. The others present make polite introductions but melt into the crowd a short time later.

Van speaks with Allen as if they are equals, and I guess in his mind they always will be. Allen took up the mantle of mentor when Vargus died. Though the two didn't always see things the same way, their goals were similar enough that the bond that formed was one of mutual respect. I'm doing my best to smile and pay attention to the conversation flowing around me. I feel like I am doing an okay job even with everything circling around us like a whirlpool. It takes me a minute to register that a key member of our group is missing.

I wait for a slight lull in the conversation before commenting in what I hope is an offhanded way, "I'm surprised Merle isn't with you. I would think she'd be right in the center of everyone."

Millearna's laughter is light and tinkling like silver bells. "Oh, not without her Lord Van." She teases easily with an elegant shrug. "She's made a few friends of her own in the last few years, but now that you both have made an appearance, I'm sure she'll find us."

I hope she doesn't notice me stiffen at the mention of Merle's new friends, but she wouldn't be a skilled surgeon without keen eyes. Wisely, Millearna doesn't say anything more on the specific friend and why my new sister might prefer to spend time with my husband's ex-fiancé.

The Neko and I have grown close again in the last few months. I've trusted her enough to share the truth about what has happened to me, all of it. Only Van and she know everything. In this time, she has worked to build a mental shield between us. Now, I can't feel her without effort on my part or carelessness on hers. With all these swirling emotions and energy, I have no sense of Merle until she is right behind me.

"Finely decided to show up to your own party?" I nearly jump, but instead, my hand not gripping Van's flies to my chest in surprise. She snickers at my dramatic response and grins. "Why, Hitomi, did I scare you?"

Her falsely innocent tone makes me want to be childish right back. I want to roll my eyes or stick my tongue out as I would have done when I was fifteen, except now I'm the queen of a country and all eyes are watching. "Really, Merle, you should be more careful playing around like that. Someone might spill their drink on your pretty dress." The threat is there but cloaked. I feel like I've channeled a bit of Millearna's sass; the words don't even sound like me.

Before the Neko can retort, a strong wave of emotion crashes into me, but I can't pinpoint the direction. Jealousy, anger, suspicion, and hate roll through my core, making me feel ill. I can taste bile rise in the back of my throat and pray I don't puke here in front of everyone.

Van pulls me to his side, unnoticed by anyone but our group. They are the few people that understand more than rumors. "What is it, Hitomi?" His voice is low, and the hint of worry helps me pull away from the negative feelings and focus on my control. I still feel terrible but not quite so desperate.

"I think I'm going to be sick," I mumble, feeling cold sweat beading along my forehead and at the back of my bare neck. I know he wants to escort me, but as much as I long to stay by his side, it will only cause more attention. I can't handle that right now. "It's okay. Merle will walk with me to the gardens to get some air."

The pink-haired Neko is suddenly serious and at my side, understanding my need instantly. "Don't worry, Lord Van. I'll take care of Hitomi."

He wants to argue. Instead, he nods and reluctantly lets me go. I know what he wants to say. Quickly, I lean into his solid form and press a light kiss at the corner of his mouth. Before he can respond, I've turned and let Merle lead me away, the feeling of his supple lips a tingling memory.

We make it outside and she closes the wide, decorative doors behind us. Eventually, someone is bound to be curious enough to follow. Breathing the crisp night air in deeply, I taste salt carried by the canals this far into the city. I don't know what helps more, the fresh breeze or the barrier of walls between my mind and all the Gaian upper class inside.

Before Merle can ask, I take a few steadier steps into the garden. "I'm better now. Thank you."

"What was that?" She questions, though even I am not quite sure of the correct answer. "You seemed to be fine, then all of a sudden, you turned white as a sheet and started shaking. Come on, Hitomi. I know it was something big, so don't even try and lie to me."

By now, I've reached the first row of flowers. I take another deep breath, this time filled with the mingling scents of countless flowers I couldn't name. Without Van here, I direct the controlling of these raging powers into the tattoo in my mind. It's slower than just focusing on him, but it works. The way it curves against my hip, each delicate line forming the light and shadow, a pale imitation of Van's shining feather. It's still beautiful in its own way. I brush my fingers softly over the silky petals of a rose-like flower and feel more like myself.

"I think I was coping with all the emotions, questions, and memories floating around in the room." I speak softly, since this is meant for Merle's keen ears alone and I know she can hear me easily.

"So, what happened?" The worry in her voice isn't for her Lord Van or how silly I may make everybody look. Merle honestly cares about me. We generally interact more carefully with each other these days, but I am grateful to have her.

"It was sudden and focused like an attack. So much hate and suspicion, it was overwhelming." Just talking about it brings back the terrible sick feeling, but I can't run from this. "I don't know where it came from."

A thought comes to me then and I don't like it. There's no denying that one person in that room has every right to hate me that much. The Neko seems as if she is checking her own memory of events for a threat within her stronger senses.

"Merle, do you think it was your friend?" The moment the words are out of my mouth, she knows exactly what wasn't said out loud and is doing her best not to yell at me.

"Are you crazy?!" Clawed hands in the air, she takes a steadying breath before continuing calmer, but still angry. "I don't know how, but Eva doesn't hate you. She believes Lord Van and you were meant to be, and that politics shouldn't get in your way. You should know this isn't her first broken engagement."

That stops me. "What do you mean?" I didn't see her with anyone other than Van, but that was a different timeline. The future is constantly changing with each fickle human heart.

"She's the only candidate for that whole arranged marriage thing who's your age. For royals, that's pretty old here." She now walks over to the sweet smelling flowers by me and picks one. I know she feels guilty for saying any of this, like telling your best friend's secrets; it just feels wrong. "When she was younger, the year before the war actually, she was fourteen and engaged to the crown prince of Daedalus. I think there was more to it that she wouldn't say, but after the war, there was friction between their countries. The contract was broken pretty suddenly, and he married someone else. His new wife was always frail and passed away after having his son a year or two later."

Now I feel even guiltier than before. If I believed in luck, I would have to believe it was against this girl. What are the odds that she went through the same heartbreaking situation twice? She has to have feelings for both of the men involved and how they married other women so quickly after the engagements were broken. Political marriages are still crazy to me, but for a girl to be jilted twice, it has to begin to feel personal at some point. I wouldn't blame her for hating me.

"Are you sure it couldn't be her?" I'm a lot less sure now. Who else here could hate me that much?

"I'm positive." Merle responds instantly. "She's the youngest of three princesses like Millearna, but she is the only one still unmarried. If she held grudges, I doubt there would be anyone in this room she'd be able to stand being around. She doesn't take any of it personally. It's one of the reasons I like her so much."

I could hear the words my friend didn't say out loud clearly. Spinsters like us need to stick together after all.

A strong presence approaches the door but doesn't come out. I can feel the distrust and loathing flowing through clearly. I know this hate is what made me sick before, but I can't risk pointing any more fingers. Taking a deep breath, I close my eyes and reach out with my unique senses. I see behind me, through the space between the closed door. The woman on the other side is slight and pretty like a petite doll. Her flame colored hair is swept up elaborately. This isn't the sword fighting princess from Ceiserio, though her name is also one I heard in my vision where Van was being forced to select a bride.

"Emma?" A voice calls just over her shoulder, making her heart jump into her slender throat. She turns. Trying not to look guilty. She would have passed unnoticed if the other woman hadn't been so close already. "Why are you glaring at the door as if it has personally insulted you?"

"Eva, don't you have something better to do than stalk me?" The newcomer is tall enough that the slighter princess has to look up sharply to make eye contact, and the expression seems to fall short. She makes up for it with a biting tone. "You should just go play fight and chase off men like you've been doing for years. It seems to be working so well in your favor."

"Yes, that's exactly what I want, after all." The woman, whose long braided hair is similar in color to mine, grins easily, completely un-phased. "I'd rather be alone than marry a man who can't accept all of me, faults included."

The younger girl gasps, as if this is the most scandalous thing ever said to her. "You're crazy."

"I sure am." She smiles wider, and it lights up her eyes, transforming her face into a thing of pure beauty. I can see how she could have suited Van. "That's exactly why I'm looking for my friend, Merle, and not flirting with every male that moves in my direction."

"Strange, just like your choice in company. The Neko is in the garden with her new sister." Emma flushes slightly, and her mood turns sour again, dulling the first impression I had of her attractiveness. "I'm sure you remember the latest woman to steal your betrothed. The queen of Fanelia looks pretty sickly, just like the last delicate upstart. Rather than you, the men you become engaged to seem to prefer weak women."

Eva's hazel eyes turn stormy, and I know it's not the personal comments that have her ready to do battle. "What did she do to offend you? Did she make her grand entrance in the middle of your piano forte? For such a pretty girl, you're rather ugly when you've been upstaged."

Her questions hit the mark dead center like a skilled archer's aim. I come back to myself swiftly enough to lose my balance, but thankfully, Merle is by my side.

"What did you see?" She asks, steadying me effortlessly.

"That you were right." I sigh, feeling better. "It was a red-haired princess who I offended by my bad timing."

"Ah, Emma of Edizardia." She nods, putting the pieces together far swifter than I could. "Sounds about right. She's always got to be the center of attention. It also can't help that, in her opinion, the new queen is a big nobody from nowhere. Not only did you upstage her, but you've got the gall to steal a king without any royal blood of your own."

Her summary hurts, but that doesn't make it any less true. I knew before coming here that some of these people would see me as a pretender, a peasant that thought to rise too high, too fast. Honestly, I don't care if I'm ever one of them. All that matters is that I'm Van's family now.

"I think it's time I met your friend." My words brighten Merle's bright blue eyes, and I can't help smile in return. "She defended me against the other princess, and I haven't given her a reason to."

We return to the ballroom together, and I'm feeling much better. The waves of hate have receded, and most of what remains seeping through the large room is curiosity. That I can handle.

Van comes into sight, and he's talking animatedly with a fair-haired man only a few years older than us. The stranger is good looking in a classic way. The newcomer wears his hair just slightly longer on top and neatly combed back. Added with the well-groomed mustache he sports, he feels familiar, although I've never seen him before in my life, even in visions.

I place my hand softly on Van's forearm, letting him know I've returned without interrupting their conversation. It has something to do with the last of the bandit problem that has finally been cleared from their shared border. I can feel Van's relief, which has little to do with the handsome blond man and everything to do with my return. He turns to me slightly, and I feel stronger by the second.

"Caine, I'd like to introduce you to my wife, Hitomi." He smiles warmly at me, and I know our relationship with this man is important. "Hitomi, Caine is the King of Daedalus." I don't really hear the rest of the introductions as the sovereign of the country directly to the north of us bows over my hand like a gentleman. No flirtation, just well executed manners. It hits me forcefully how I recognize him. In the future where Van had married for politics, he wore his hair in the same exact way down to the facial hair. This is the man Eva was supposed to marry, the one she still loves.

Van in that timeline grew to reflect her preferences, and in this path we walk together, he has again changed but not for my sake. This time we will get the chance to grow together.

"Are you feeling better now?" Van asks. I realize it is just the two of us for a moment. Merle has run off on her mission and the blond king has left to circulate.

"Much better." I smile and tuck my hand into his elbow, pressing closer to his lean side without scandalizing the crowd observing us from a distance. "I just needed some fresh air."

"Was that all?" He gives me that lopsided smile I love so much, and I can't wait for this expensive waste of time to end and for the night to really start.

I don't get a chance to share my not so clean thoughts as Merle chooses this moment to return. Her timing has always been stellar in that regard. She isn't alone as promised.

It's the woman who spoke up for the stranger who stole her future. I've seen her four times now, but this in the first experience truly face to face. Nothing has changed with her appearance, except there is a pale flower tucked into her honey blond hair, the one Merle picked while telling me about her past. The expression she wears is friendly and unassuming. There isn't any malice in this woman, but in another lifetime, she would have fought me for Van. Now, I can see she feels no pain at seeing us together. On the other hand, even if he had been happy with her, it would have still caused me agony. It wouldn't have been jealousy, but that I wasn't the one to share those moments with him.

I guess that's one difference between loving someone and being in love with them. True love causes just as much pain as joy, but I wouldn't trade these feelings for anything in either world.

We all chat pleasantly for a while, mostly the princess and Merle. She does try to convince Van to participate in the next sword fighting tournament. Most people have only heard stories of his ability; few can say they have seen him truly in action. He politely declines. I know it's a skill he's worked hard to grow and maintain, but it has never been a game to him, not for any titles, prizes, or accolades. It is a means of protection and defense; when his sword is drawn, the intent is clear and nothing else exists.

I can't help but compliment her on the flower she wears, though Merle gives me a strange look. Surprised, as if she forgot it was there, the princess quickly removes the fragrant bloom and holds it out to me.

"It's not much, but I think it would be far lovelier on you." She smiles openly, but I see something else in her expressive hazel eyes. Eva is expecting me to reject the simple gift. Somehow, she knows her presence still makes me slightly uncomfortable but not why.

"How kind. Thank you." With a small return smile, I gently take the blossom, and for the briefest moment our fingers connect. I am not overwhelmed by the vision, but I can see the new event playing over what is happening right now. I play it off as best as I can. Thankfully, Van recognizes the unfocused look in my eyes and takes control of the conversation smoothly.

This way I am free to pay more attention to what I am supposed to see. Eva is positively glowing, her eyes moist with unshed tears of joy. In her arms is a small, cooing child opening sapphire blue eyes. Eyes inherited from the father, King Caine of Daedalus. The blond man kisses his wife's forehead tenderly, and with great love, he delicately strokes the feather soft hair of his newborn daughter.

The vision clears and I know deep down what is meant to be. It's how things should have been from the start, but somewhere along the way they turned messy. Those two were destined to be together even if politics tore them apart originally. Now only pride has kept them separate. As quickly as the pieces fit together, an idea forms in my head.

Merle and Eva excuse themselves to make another round of the room. It's then that I spot the King of Daedalus passing near us. I try not to be too obvious, but time is not on my side. The moment could be over and lost far too quickly. Tripping the princess is a lot harder than it sounds.

She stumbles, surprised, and collides with another before losing her balance entirely. The man she bumped into catches her by instinct, steading the startled woman against his solid chest. It's as if the world stops spinning and only Eva and Caine matter. I can see the connection take hold.

Blushing prettily, the princess thanks him for saving her from embarrassment, but he still hasn't regained control of his racing heart.

I try not to smile too widely as I turn back to Van. "What was that all about?" He asks, confused as to why I would trip his ex-fiancé in public.

"Just setting things right." I pat his arm, almost as you would a child that doesn't understand grown up things. "You'll see one day."

He will, of course. The relationship between our two countries will grow as our children laugh and play together. The young crown prince of Fanelia chasing through the gardens after bouncing golden curls belonging to the cheerful princess of Daedalus. The years passing and their feelings growing with each visit and event. There won't be a need for talks of arranged marriages as my son will tell us exactly who he wants. Soulmates, such a rare thing, must run in the Fanel line. First, Goau falling in love with the beautiful Varie at first sight. Now, Van and I walking the same path in understanding and affection. One day years from now, we will see it happen for our son and the daughter of our closest neighboring kingdom, the next great love story.

As the fairy tales say, we all lived happily ever after.

The End!

A/N- I hope you liked it! This story was pretty fun to write, and we got to see some old friends and even a few new ones. I had this image of a teenage boy that looked like Van but with Htiomi's hair color, wings spread around a pretty blue eyed girl with tight golden ringlets. Her name is supposed to be Nora like my daughter who she is made after. The real child is full of energy, determination, and unbridled enthusiasm. Older children often end up chasing after her, and I find the young princess would be the same way. She magnetizes people and draws them into her orbit effortlessly. As a partner for an empath like Folken it seemed like a perfect fit.

When Merle was talking about Eva's past she mentioned it was a crown prince who broke the engagement, but when we meet him he is a King. It is years later after all and he could have taken the thrown easily within that time period. As a widower with a young son, falling in love with the unmarried princess of another country would have been perfect for both of them. As I've said before I love details, but I have learned from my past mistakes and though I have a full life planned for these extras they don't need to be in the story. I didn't want to draw away from Van and Hitomi's story after all. As things go we will most likely see more of what happened in the edges of Vans story Surface Tension.

Shameless plug, but if you enjoyed my writing so far please check out the prequel which has the first chapter posted.

Lastly I wanted to thank everyone who has read, reviewed, favorited, followed, and supported this story as it grew and changed. Thank you so very much.

My amazing repeat reviewers! In order of appearance: La Beckinator, pinkdynamite, picimadar, Miniclio, bluetreeleaves, dinkycharlie, Mageblood, Meghanna Starsong, Varya19, cesi1, witchfingers, zephakitara, Guest, Stephanie, and Lulu.

As always a special thank you to Meghanna Starsong for improving the quality of my writing and entertaining my crazy overfilled mind.