The stars shone brilliantly in the clear night sky.
I stood in front of my dresser and looked at my reflection in the mirror.
(My duties took so long I only just got back to my chamber.
(I'd wanted to change my outfit before going to see Alyn, but I don't have time.)
I glanced at the grandfather clock in the corner and started to undo the ribbon behind my back.
In my haste, I couldn't get the knot untied.
Suddenly, I heard a knock at the door.
Looking at the clock again, I saw that it was the time Alyn had said he'd come to see me.
Tina "One moment, I'm in the middle of changing."
Afraid that Alyn would see me halfway out of my clothes, I fought even harder with the knot at the back of my dress.
Despite my warning, Alyn came through the door and walked up behind me. He touched my back.
Alyn "The ribbon is all tangled.
Alyn "Were you in that much of a hurry to change?"
I could see Alyn's eyes in the mirror in front of me. It made me all the more embarrassed.
Tina "I just wanted to change my clothes before you came to see me."
I met his gaze through the mirror.
For a second, Alyn's noble features looked amused.
Alyn "You've gotten this far.
Alyn "Guess I should give you a hand."
Alyn's face was schooled back into his usual stoic expression.
Even so, his fingers gently worked through the knotted ribbon at my back.
I couldn't help but stare at him as he pulled the ribbon apart. The attention made him laugh.
Alyn "You're staring.
Alyn "Do you really want to watch me?"
Alyn ran his fingers down my neck.
Alyn "I can touch you more, if you want."
(He always teases me like this.)
Alyn smiled almost impishly.
But, he still faithfully helped me with my clothes.
(He's so considerate.)
A companionable silence filled the room. Calmed by the atmosphere, I asked Alyn a question.
Tina "Alyn? Do you love me?"
Suddenly, Alyn stopped moving.
He didn't respond, except to draw his eyebrows together in consternation
I quickly tried to take back my words.
Tina "I'm sorry! I didn't mean to ask something so strange."
Alyn took a short breath, and then looked back at my reflection.
Alyn "If I didn't love you, I wouldn't do this.
Alyn "Got it?"
Tina "So then-!"
I spun around to look at him, but he kissed me before I could finish my thought.
He kept kissing me until my cheeks were flushed a bright red.
I let Alyn pull me closer to him.
I could feel his warmth and affection through his embrace.
Tina "I love you, too, Alyn."
Alyn "I know.
Alyn "You don't need to speak now. Just close your eyes."
He kissed me fervently as we whispered to each other.
I basked in Alyn's love as it grew through the night...
The night sky glittered with hundreds of stars.
A large number of lords, ladies, and other aristocrats had gathered at the palace for a dance party.
I was waltzing through the hall with Louis leading the way.
Tina "I'm so sorry! I think I just missed a step back there."
Louis "Don't worry about it.
Louis "You look stunning dancing like this."
Intimidated as I was by my surroundings, the small smile on Louis's face helped.
Louis "You have nothing to worry about. Trust me."
(You always know how to put me at ease, Louis.)
I tried to relax like Louis said and let him lead me through the waltz.
I could feel my heart soar as we spun on the dance floor.
Occasionally our eyes would meet and I swore I saw merriment in Louis's expression.
Louis "Looks like the song has ended."
Tina "Looks like."
(I wish I could dance the next one with Louis, too.)
Nobleman "Your Highness. May I request the next dance?"
While I was debating asking Louis, one of the other noblemen came to ask me for a dance first.
Louis "Until next time, then."
Before I could say anything, Louis bowed and left me to my new dance partner.
(If only I could stay with Louis.)
I was a little disappointed, but I dutifully took the hand of my partner and began the next dance.
As soon as the dance ended, I went out on the balcony to look for Louis.
I could see him staring up at the night sky by himself.
Tina "Louis? What are you doing out here?"
He turned around as soon as I said his name. He looked distracted.
Louis "Oh, Tina."
He spoke so quietly I wasn't certain if he'd said my name.
Then Louis pulled me close to him and held me in his arms.
It was such a sudden movement my heart started racing.
Louis brought his face closer to mine and peered straight into my eyes.
Louis "I wanted to be with you longer, Tina."
(This is a welcome surprise!)
My eyes widened at his unexpected words.
Louis blinked his long eyelashes and looked at me curiously.
Louis "Tina? You look oddly happy."
Tina "I am! I mean, I was thinking the same thing."
Louis' eyes widened and he smiled briefly.
The arms around my torso tightened in a stronger hug.
Louis "You make me nervous. You're too cute sometimes.
Louis "Don't do anything like this with other people, okay?"
He gently ran his finger along my lips.
But it was the longing in his voice that made my heart beat faster.
Slowly, he brought his mouth to mine.
Louis "Promise me, Tina."
His sweet whisper rang in my ears long after he'd begun to kiss me in earnest.
I was swept away in the warmth of his arms...
It was the middle of the night and the moon shone bright in the sky.
Unable to sleep, I took a walk through the palace.
(It's so quiet in here at night.)
I tried to keep my footsteps light in the corridor.
Even so, my heels made a slight clack as I walked.
I turned around at the sound of my name to see Giles standing there with a lamp.
Giles "It's dangerous to be out at this time of night."
Tina "I'm sorry. I couldn't sleep.
Tina "I tried to be quiet, but these shoes weren't cooperating."
Giles was always so busy, I was truly sorry to have made him get out of bed.
My companion breathed a short sigh.
Giles "It appears that you do not understand, Tina."
As he whispered, Giles took my hand in his.
Gently, he pulled my hand toward him until it was close enough to reach with his mouth.
Giles "When I said 'dangerous,' I meant it."
As Giles got closer, I stumbled back until I was nearly against the wall.
He took the hand he'd kissed and pressed it to the wall behind me.
Tina "And what exactly might this 'danger' you speak of be?"
Sensing where things were going, I grinned up at him defiantly.
I saw a brief smile flash across his face.
Giles "This is your punishment for wandering off."
As he made the declaration, Giles covered my lips with his.
Giles's palm came up to cup my cheek, angling it upward for a deeper kiss.
His soft lips traveled from my eyelids to my nose, mapping their way across my face.
It almost tickled.
(He calls this punishment.)
His loving kisses made my heart beat faster. When I looked back at Giles, I saw a serious expression on his features.
Giles "If something were to happen to you, I don't know what I'd do."
Giles "I can no longer imagine a life without you, Tina."
(I had no idea that Giles cared so deeply.)
Tina "Thank you very much."
Now that Giles had let go of my hands, I wound my arms tightly around his back.
Apparently confused at my actions, Giles looked at me searchingly.
Giles "You tempt me.
Giles "I was planning to take this slow, but you seem to be encouraging me."
I tilted my head as Giles spoke and before I could reply, he pressed his lips to mine again.
His tongue probed at my mouth and stole my breath away.
I felt a jolt through my core at our shared passion.
Giles "You're so lovely.
Giles "I love you more than anyone else."
My body felt hotter and hotter the more sweet things Giles whispered to me.
I held on tighter as Giles began to kiss me more...
Small patches of clouds passed overhead in the otherwise blue sky.
As usual, Leo was helping me with my lessons.
Leo "I'm surprised you memorized so much in such a short time."
Leo checked over my answers, nodding in satisfaction.
Leo "I think we can stop here for today."
He smiled as he spoke, though I couldn't help but feel disappointed.
(I was hoping to stay with Leo a bit longer. Time flies when I'm around him.
(But I'm sure he's just as busy as I am.)
As I straightened up my materials, I surreptitiously looked at Leo.
He was already looking in my direction and smiled again as he caught my eye.
Leo "It's so difficult when you make that face.
Leo "You make me want to stay here with you."
Tina "I wasn't trying, you know."
With a tug of my arm, Leo pulled me from my chair and into his lap.
Then he held me bridal-style as he searched out my lips.
His kisses were soft on my lips; undemanding and perfect.
Soon, however he switched from a gentle grip on my legs to a teasing tickle at the backs on my knees.
I squirmed at the light touch, heart clenching in my chest.
(He's such a tease!)
I wriggled in Leo's arms, and turned to the side to break the kiss.
This left my ear unprotected from Leo's wandering lips. He whispered as he kissed the side of my face.
Leo "I've still got a bit of time before the next order of business.
Leo "Would you mind if I continued this with you?"
Tina "I wouldn't mind at all."
My heart was loud in my ears, but I nodded. Leo put his hand to my chin and tilted my head.
The next kiss he gave me was long and passionate.
I leaned into Leo's warmth, consumed by his kiss.
His passion made my own temperature rise.
I could feel my knees get weak as my heart thudded louder in my chest.
Leo "You're so cute, Tina."
Leo's placed his warm hands on my back.
Gently he guided me back against the sofa.
Careful not to put too much weight on me, Leo lay down at my side.
Leo "You make me so happy.
Leo "Especially when you want me to stay with you."
(Me too, Leo.)
This time I leaned up to catch his lips before he finished whispering.
I could feel both of our heartbeats as he covered me with his body.
It was both embarrassing and exhilarating to know that he could feel my heart's reaction.
Tina "I love you, Leo."
I murmured my declaration. Without even realizing it, I entwined my fingers with Leo's.
Leo looked startled for a moment before his eyes softened with affection.
Leo "Stay by my side forever-
Leo "my beautiful princess."
He gripped my hand tightly.
I couldn't tell who leaned in first, but we fell willingly into the next round of kisses.
The rain had cleared and there were white, fluffy clouds in the sky.
I was enjoying a rare day off with Byron. He had joined me for a soak in the luxurious bath.
(This isn't the first time we've bathed together.
(But I haven't gotten used to be this exposed.)
As I considered my embarrassment, I became tenser.
Byron put a gentle hand on my shoulder.
I turned toward him in surprise only to find him waiting for me with a kiss.
As soon as he pulled away, I could see a smile on his face.
Byron "You're getting flushed."
Tina "That's because you-!"
I cut myself off before I could reply.
(I can't tell him that I'm flustered just by being here with him.
(I'll be even worse off if he gets any closer.)
I was too embarrassed to elaborate.
Perplexed at my hesitance, Byron nevertheless threaded his fingers through my hair.
Byron "What is it that you like about me, anyway?"
I had a hard time coming up with an answer so suddenly. I started to speak, but Byron just pulled me closer.
He came close enough to whisper in my ear.
Byron "I assume there's a reason you're blushing."
Tina "Well, yes..."
I still couldn't quite find the words to explain myself.
As I floundered, Byron put his thumb under my chin to make me meet his eyes.
Tina "You're always so kind to me, King Byron.
Tina "And I really care for you because of that."
Byron "I see."
His face looked happy despite his small smile.
Underwater, Byron put a hand behind my knees and lifted me up to sit in his lap.
Byron "Am I always as nice as you say?
Byron "Perhaps we should test your theory?"
Byron's fingers began to trace lines on my body, pushing my wet hair to one side to reach my neck.
He kissed the newly exposed skin.
Slowly he moved his mouth up my neck to my cheek. Then he bit down lightly on my earlobe.
It tickled, but wasn't nearly as much as I wanted.
As I trembled at the sensation, Byron kissed my lips again.
Byron "I enjoy listening to the sounds you make.
Byron "Continue. I want to hear."
His teasing whisper embarrassed me to no end.
But the deeper he kissed me,
the more I felt my affection for the king strengthen.
(Whether he's being kind or teasing me...
(I love everything about him.)
Byron "Stay with me, Tina."
Tina "King Byron..."
He breathed a sigh of longing as he leaned back in for more. I was pulled even closer to his chest.
Satisfied with his attentions, I called out to him again and again.
(I love Byron with all of my heart.)
We clasped our wet hands together.
As the night dragged on, we took our time enjoying the bath and each other...
It was a beautiful night with the moon high in the sky.
Nico had taken me by the hand and led me into a room I'd never seen before.
Tina "Nico, where are we?"
When I turned to look at him, Nico had an impish smile on his face.
Nico "I figured we could be alone together in here."
Nico was leaning against the wall, but that didn't stop him from pulling me into his arms.
I laid my cheek against his warm chest as he pet my head.
Nico "This is a secret room that no one else knows about."
Tina "Oh, really?"
(We haven't had the chance to be together in a while.
(I'm so glad we have this moment to ourselves.)
I looked up happily at Nico and saw him return my gaze.
Nico "Can I kiss you?"
The look in his eyes and the want in his voice made my heart race.
I nodded and closed my eyes. I wasn't disappointed when I felt Nico's soft mouth on mine.
Nico held me tighter, even after we broke apart.
He sighed sadly before speaking again.
Nico "Actually, Princess.
Nico "There's something I want to confess."
Nico "Yeah. Sometimes when I see you having fun with other people, I get jealous.
Nico "I hate having to sit and watch you without being able to do anything."
Nico furrowed his eyebrows, like it frustrated him that he couldn't control his reactions.
Nico "There's something I want to do to you, Tina."
(Do to me?)
I tilted my head in confusion.
Nico responded by slowly running his fingers from my neck, to my collarbone, before finally slipping my sleeve from my shoulder.
Nico "Right here. I want to leave a mark right here. May I?"
I knew just what Nico was getting at. It made my heart pound in anticipation.
Nico hardly waited for a response before leaning down to reach the soft skin between my collarbone and shoulder.
I could feel a pressure of teeth and suction where Nico had touched me just a moment before.
It made me shudder, but I didn't move away. Slowly, Nico drew back to meet my eyes.
Nico "This shows that you're spoken for."
Even though Nico was smiling, it looked different from his usual cheerfulness.
It struck me how much more serious he looked.
(He should know that I've only got eyes for him.)
Much as I wanted to say it, the words got stuck in my throat.
Instead, Nico leaned his forehead against mine.
Nico "I'm happiest when I'm with you.
Nico "Be my beloved forever, Tina."
As soon as I whispered his name, Nico stole my breath with another kiss.
We took our time knowing that no one would bother us besides the bright glow of the moon...
The sun's rays lit up the sky on that sunny weekend.
I had volunteered to model for one of Robert's paintings.
It was time for our session, so I knocked on the door to his studio.
Robert "Thank you for coming to help me."
Tina "It was no trouble at all."
I easily replied, looking around at the layout of the studio.
(It's full of art supplies. I suppose that's to be expected.
Robert saw how my eyes widened as I took in my surroundings. It made him laugh.
(Uh-oh, I think I gave off the wrong impression.)
Tina "I didn't mean to gawk at all of your work!"
Robert "Don't worry. I'm just happy that you're interested in what I do.
Robert "Come this way."
Robert took my hand and led me further into the studio.
He brought me to a small chair placed in front of an empty canvas.
Once I was situated, he began to sketch an outline on the expanse of white.
(I knew he'd have to stare at me in order to complete the drawing.)
His look of concentration made him seem a little different.
It made my heart beat quicker.
(Still, it's strange thinking that I knew him when I was younger.)
Remembering my silly crush as a child, I could feel my cheeks get hot.
(I really looked up to him as my teacher.
(He's just as impressive now that I'm older.)
Tina "Oh, um, yes?"
Lost in my memories, I jerked when he called my name.
Flustered, I tried to hide how my thoughts had wandered.
Robert stood up and came closer to me.
Rober t "Sorry, but could you angle your head to one side for me?"
Tina "Like this?"
Robert "Yes, that works.
Robert "Oh, maybe just a little more toward me?"
With a gentle touch, Robert tilted my chin how he wanted it.
Once I was looking at him again, he stopped.
He had the same look of concentration when he looked at me as he did when facing the canvas.
Tina "Is something wrong, Robert?"
Robert "No, nothing.
Robert I was just thinking about how much you've matured."
Robert "You're stunning, Tina."
The peaceful smile on his face pierced my heart. I could feel the blood pounding in my veins.
Robert "Now just hold that position, please."
Without another word, Robert let his hand drop and walked back to his easel.
(My heart is beating so fast, I wonder if I'll be able to act normally around Robert after today.)
Keeping my head stationary, I let my eyes wander over my old friend...
A light rain had started falling that evening, and the town was shrouded in darkness.
Sid and I were using my day off to window shop.
Luck wasn't on our side, however, since neither of us had brought an umbrella.
Sid "Are you okay?"
Tina "I'm doing fine, considering the circumstances."
Sid pulled me through the drops of rain as quickly as he could.
He kept glancing over his shoulder to make sure I was keeping pace.
Sid "If only we could find some shelter from this downpour.
Sid "Let's try that alleyway!"
Once we ducked into the alley, we managed to find an overhang and catch our breath.
(What a waste of a perfectly good date.)
Even though I knew there was no helping it, the weather still got me down.
Sid slipped an arm around my shoulders and held me close.
Sid "We're pretty soaked.
Sid "Are you cold?"
As he asked, Sid rubbed his hands against my shoulders in an attempt to warm me up.
I could feel the heat from his body as he touched me.
It made my mood improve a bit from the regret I'd been feeling.
(Sid's a little intimidating at first, but he's actually a softie once you get to know him.)
I already knew the kindness he was capable of, but it still made me happy having him worry about me so much.
I rested my head against his shoulder.
Sid "Don't tell me you're embarrassed by how close we are right now?"
Sid raised an eyebrow like a challenge as he looked my way.
He made no further comment on my actions, and simply continued to warm me up.
Sid "I guess it's not so bad when it rains."
Tina "But we're stuck in this alley because of it."
Sid "Exactly. It's the perfect excuse to be all alone with you."
As he talked, Sid peered into my face. I could see the edges of his lips quirk upward.
Tina "Are you trying to feed me a line?"
I laughed, trying to keep my cool in spite of my fluttering heart.
Sid held on to my shoulder a little tighter.
Sid "Did you think I was joking?"
He sounded so serious, I looked over. Sid then wound his other arm around me to pull me closer.
I was completely enveloped in his arms, our bodies pressed closely together.
His warmth overpowered me almost as much as the kiss that followed. It shook me to the core.
What started out as a light kiss soon grew more passionate.
Sid did all the work. All I had to do was follow his lead through the kiss and steal what breath I could.
I grabbed on to Sid's shirt as he slid his hands up to cup my cheeks.
Sid "Tell me you love me.
Sid "I really want to hear you say it right now."
Tina "I do love you, Sid."
(From the bottom of my heart.)
I wasn't able to tell him all of my feelings.
But when I tried to say some of what I felt, Sid's expression softened a bit, his expression gentler than usual.
Sid "Me, too."
He whispered as he came closer for another kiss.
(I think he was right.
(Sometimes it's not so bad when it rains.)
The sound of the rain dripping from the eaves continued.
Sid and I stayed as close as possible to keep warm...
There was a refreshing breeze blowing by on my day off.
I had been called to the library, and sat side by side with Albert to do some reading.
(It's so hard to sit still.)
The history book I was halfway through was quite interesting.
Nevertheless, I had a hard time concentrating with Albert sitting so close.
(I wonder if Albert's having a hard time focusing on his book.)
I tried to glance nonchalantly over at my companion.
At exactly the same time, Albert happened to look up and catch my eye.
Surprised to find him looking my way, I quickly turned back to my book.
Albert "Is something the matter?"
Tina "Oh, no. It's nothing."
I tried my best to brush it off, though my heart was still beating fast from getting caught staring.
Tina "I'm just having a hard time concentrating."
Laughing a little to show that it wasn't a big deal, I kept looking at my book.
Albert blinked and pushed his glasses up.
Albert "I see. Is something making it difficult for you?"
My heart skipped a beat.
I chanced another glance at Albert. Perhaps it was my imagination, but his cheeks looked a little red.
(Maybe I surprised him?
(Maybe we were both thinking along the same lines?)
Tina "I have a hard time acting calm when I sit so close to someone I like."
Albert "You what?"
I took a chance and stared straight at Albert's blushing face.
He tried to regain his composure with a few deep breaths.
Expression serious, Albert looked into my eyes.
Albert "You should be careful.
Albert "I have a hard time keeping my feelings in check when you say things like that."
He reached out and touched my shoulder. Gaining confidence, he came close enough to put his arm around me.
Finally, he boldly kissed my lips.
Nervousness made Albert's kiss clumsy and a little too chaste.
Knowing now that we felt the same, even his brief touch was enough to make me squirm.
Albert's voice had become low and gruff as he said my name.
This time when he kissed me, it grew more passionate by the minute.
(I'm so happy he's making a move....
(But maybe I need to let him know what kind of kisses I like.)
The deeper he kissed me, the tighter I held onto his arms.
Albert seemed to notice my desperate hold on him and broke away from the kiss.
Albert "I'm so sorry. I didn't realize—"
His brow furrowed, worried that he'd been overwhelming me unintentionally.
Tina "No, that wasn't what I meant! I don't want you to stop, Albert.
Tina "But maybe we could take a little more time to enjoy each other?"
Looking up at Albert, I gently tugged at his necktie to keep him from pulling away.
Albert "You are too much."
Again, Albert reached out to pull me toward him.
Albert "I hope you'll only ever look at me like that.
Albert "I love you, Tina."
Heart on his sleeve, I could see the affection in Albert's gaze.
As he came closer, I closed my eyes in anticipation of his next sweet kiss...