“I love you.” The prince caught her hands before her nails could dig into her own skin, forcing them down. “I love you.” His voice was fierce, his words a promise that the prince’s emerald green eyes willed her to believe. “I love you.”
Releasing her hands, he cupped her face.
“I love you.”
And then he was kissing her.
“Always, angel,” he whispered against her trembling lips. “Always.”
Their tears mingled.
Her pain was his pain.
And slowly, her arms went around his neck.
He kissed her harder, his arms nearly crushing her in his embrace.
She never said the words back, but it was enough.
All he had wanted was a chance to love her again.
One year later
Fawn and the prince had just taken their seats on one of the tables in the café’s alfresco area when a mom with two young children paused in front of them, browsing the café’s menu on display.
Today was Family Day, a special school holiday that the university’s vice chairman Derek Christopoulos had established in order to encourage deeper bonds between students and their families. Among other things, the holiday allowed parents to explore the entire university while also doubling as a school fair, with student groups competing with each other to have the most profitable activity booth.
When Fawn noticed the little girl staring at her, she smiled, and the little girl said loudly, “Mommy, look.” Her mother glanced down at her, and the little girl pointed at the scar on Fawn’s forehead. “She looks like Harry Potter.”
Her older brother, who looked about ten, snorted. “No, dummy.” He pointed to the scar on Fawn’s cheek. “She looks more like Samurai X—-”
Turning red in mortification, the mother sent Fawn a look of apology before hurriedly dragging them away, whispering furiously to her children.
Fawn grimaced, and as soon as the family was out of earshot, the sound of the prince’s low, dark laugh filled the air. “You do look like both.”
She made a face. “You’re evil.” But the soft tender light in her brown eyes belied her words. It hadn’t been easy at all, she mused, to get to this point.
The first few months they had been together, she had barely been able to sleep, and there was rarely a night that she hadn’t woken up screaming, crying, her body bathed in cold sweat, her mind trapped in memories of her ordeal.
But always, the prince had been there, wiping her tears, and he would whisper to her over and over that he loved her until she would finally succumb to an exhausted sleep.
In those months, her moods had swung dangerously between depression and aggression, her pain lashing inward and outward. There were days when she would scream at him in front of other people – his parents, his friends, his colleagues – almost as if a part of her was just waiting for him to give up on her.
But he never did.
The prince had never once lost his temper with her, had never raised his voice to her, had never walked out on her even when Fawn herself had found her own attitude unbearable.
When their gazes met again, she asked in a small voice, “Would you really always love me?”
The prince didn’t answer, but his lips slowly curved into a smile of wicked amusement.
Fawn wondered whether she should be confused or insulted.
And then the prince said under his breath, “You’re so damn sexy when you’re insecure.”
A surprised giggle escaped her, and she demanded helplessly, “Do you only think of sex all the time?”
“Yes.” The prince’s gaze roamed over her face hungrily.
Desire glittered in his beautiful emerald green eyes.
There wasn’t anything in it that suggested he saw her as scarred, flawed, or damaged.
It was just desire.
“Do you really not see the scars…at all?” Her voice caught at the end, the unexpected twinge in her heart catching her by surprise.
“Don’t be foolish.” The prince’s voice was mildly chiding. “Of course I see them, angel.” His fingers traced her scars one by one. “I’m not blind.” They had faded over time, but they were far from invisible, and they were still remarkable enough to have people occasionally stop and stare. “I see them as good as any other person, but I see them differently.” Cupping her face, he drew her close until their lips brushed against each other.
Her toes curled hard inside her shoes.
She knew she should be used to this, but she wasn’t. It was still so new to her, still felt surreal that now all of the prince’s kisses were hers.
“I see the scars,” the prince whispered against her lips, “and I see how much you love me.” He kissed her hard. “I see them, and it makes me want to show you how much I love you—-”
The prince suddenly pulled away, cutting their kiss and leaving her blinking.
A moment later, and he had suddenly dragged her out of the chair, pulling her inside the temporary café.