After pelting uphill and downhill and breakneck speeds, not talking but only trying to keep their seats and their breaths, they finally stopped at border of the forest. All three were panting, inhaling deeply and calming their jumpy nerves. Jevan slipped off the horse’s back and held up his hands to help Cecily descend. Together they looked out at the noonday landscape, and then she turned to him. There was that wild look deep in his eyes—a look that bespoke ambition and a man who knew himself, an her. Reaching her fingers up to brush his cheek, Cecily leaned in and touched her lips to his, and he responded.
Buttercup beauty by jillyspoon
Buttercup beauty, a photo by jillyspoon on Flickr.
It was a little different, though, she thought. Different than last time. There was passion, yes, and it felt so right, but was it only her imagination that there was the smallest hesitation? She pulled away from him and heard his voice, like water running over a deep blue, “Cecily, you are the first woman I’ve ever loved.”
“You are the only man I will ever love.”
“And what am I to say to that, dearest?”
“Jevan, when will we be married?”
The cold look entered his eyes, the look she almost feared every time she saw it. It was a look of distance, of backing away and into shadows where she couldn’t reach him. “Jevan?”

“It will take time, dearheart. Don’t you realize that I must receive my Aunt and Uncle’s blessing? You must give me enough time to convince them, to ease the question.”
He was evading her, but she pushed that thought away and struggled to understand his predicament. “Yes, yes, I understand it. They—won’t be very happy.”
“Oh it isn’t that, my dear, it’s only that it will quite a shock to them. Quite a shock. But please,” He bent his face down to hers and tucked a runaway strand of hair behind her ear, his fingers barely grazing her cheek, “please do not be unhappy. We will be married, it will only take a little bit more time.”
“Jevan, why do you love me?” The question was almost a blow, an accidental one that struck too close to a vulnerable place.
“Does there have to be a reason?”
“Of course there does!”
“What if I just feel love every time I see you, is that not enough?”
“Jevan, you know as well as I do that there are no causeless feelings, no emotions without a reason behind them. Love is a reaction to our wishes, dreams, ideals, embodied in another person.”
He laughed like a carefree child playing with his favorite toy. “And what philosopher have you been reading now, Cecily? Brughe? Rosenbaum? Gritzge?”
“You know very well that I cannot read!”
Jevan gave that laugh again and collapsed on the grass at her feet, caressing the slender ankle above her awkward, scuffed brown shoe. “What if I told you that I love you for this ankle, hmm? That the entire reason for our walks is for me to see the creamy white skin slipping out from under your skirt every few minutes, and the reason I talk to you for hours on end is only hold my feet closer to yours, and that the greatest joy of my life was when I first held it in my fingers?”
Cecily’s eyes rolled and she flung herself down beside him with a derisive snort—the same reaction she gave Milo when he talked utter nonsense. But when she looked at the young man’s face she saw that it had a set, purposeful look that gave the lie to his jesting tone.  The lines of his cheeks were fully defined, drawn back from the lips in noble curves, and there was a burning in his eyes that almost made her half believe him.
In a moment the look was gone, replaced by a mocking, would-be smile. “Really, dearest, do you think I would be that superficial? If nothing else it would be your eyes—“
“Oh, Jevan, please!” He was holding her again and, the horse completely forgotten, the two of them were ready to forget the rest of the world…when far in the distance they heard the piping call of a bugle. Jevan cursed and Cecily closed her eyes. “That would be my lord the Earl.”
Jevan stopped her from going back to Grane. “Not yet, I wanted to tell you—I’m giving you something.”
“It’s a gift. I intended for you to find it when you arrived home today, but I’d like you to go see it now.”
Cecily’s eyes widened. “How do you know where my house is?”
“Is that the first thing to your mind? Bless my soul, any other girl would have been begging to know how large a ring I had given her, and you are concerned about my knowledge of local geography. Well, if you must know, I have been spying out your entire life’s history. You wouldn’t believe the number of people I’ve had to bribe and threaten to extract the choicest information.”
“Goodness, surely there is nothing  to find. I never had any excitement in my whole life before I met you!”
“It doesn’t matter, I have to know everything. Ever since I first saw your face on the night of my arrival…”
“So you remember that? I thought for sure that it was far too dark for you to recognize me later.”
“There’s not a chance that I could ever forget a face as beautiful as yours.”
“Jevan! You are simply—“
 He put a finger to her lips. “Shhh, don’t say it. Only come to me tomorrow night.”
“Of course.”

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Constructive criticism is welcome! Please remember, though, that nearly every excerpt posted here is my first rough draft.