True Love is a Journey....
Seventeen-year-old Adria Catarr is a carefree, stubborn girl with an insatiable sweet tooth. When she stumbles into Lando Cardé, the incognito prince, during the annual Midsummer Festival and mistakes his charm for love at first sight, her naïve heart is quickly broken.
Kaidan Sordell, a childhood friend, is there to pick up the pieces and help Adria mend her wounds. His affection for her has gone unnoticed for so long that he's not sure if he'll ever have the nerve to tell her how he truly feels.
With the last summer before adulthood upon them, Adria and Kaidan decide to seek out the Temple of the Red Mare. The legendary tales of it revealing a heart's truest desire is too tempting for lovelorn Adria to pass up.
Will she realize, though, that what she's looking for has been trekking beside her all along?
For all the innocent fun she had at his expense, though, she yearned to see him happy. His usual melancholy had no place in the Midsummer Festival. Would seeing him react to her witty quips with a smile be too much to ask? This evening was for merrymaking, and even the smallest one was precious.
Her impish comment made Kaidan’s brows arch in terror. To make matters worse, the way she looked upon him expectantly left him frozen. He could not move if he tried. “N-no, that’s not it at all. Y-you’re funny Adria. Why would you think that? I just…I just wanted to take a walk.” He scratched his chin. “T-that necklace was your mother’s, wasn’t it?”
She ran her fingers over the charm of Áine and patted him on the back. “How did you know that? I’m impressed!”
This made the corner of his mouth arch upward. Adria could not help but mimic him as a personal triumph.
Almost immediately, though, he began to blush. “Well, um, it’s unique and, well, er…I have a knack for remembering important things, and, and, uh….” He chewed his inner lip in an attempt to stop stammering. “Um, you know what I mean. It’s g-good to see you here, though. It’s been a while.”
She finally met his wide stare with interest. A wiser girl would have taken note of the sheer courage he was mustering just to exchange a few pleasantries with her. A smarter girl might have understood that he cared for these short minutes more than the actual Midsummer Festival. A more perceptive girl may have seen him opening up to her.
Adria did not.
“You make a good point, Kaidan,” she agreed. “Perhaps we can catch up sometime.”
His reply came out a bit too eagerly. “I’d like that. I’ll be departing for Orlidus in three days. Maybe we can get together when I return from the capital, or….” He fidgeted uneasily. Her idle suggestion had clearly left him tongue-tied. Still he ventured, “Adria, what I meant to say is wow. I mean, um, that dress you’re wearing, well….”
He took a deep breath. “You look really am—”
A series of erupting fireworks in the shape of hearts and streaming comets interrupted Kaidan’s bold confession. With it went Adria’s attention. What he would give to just have the courage to take her hand in his! Despair began to consume him in the few seconds that passed before the neon sparks fizzled into ash. He had to find a way to change it.
“Uh, Adria, um, well, there’s going to be a dance around midnight, just like last year. Y-you know which one?” He paused and kicked the ground nervously. It was now or never. “W-would you join me in it?”
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