Thorne walked next to Cress as they strolled through the open gates of the palace, merging with the rest of the crazy dressed Lunars. Thorne walked with confidence, keeping a hand placed on the small of Cress's back. He was glad they didn't stand out against the rest of the aristocrats, who were all drinking from jeweled flasks and meandering about the palace halls.
The gilded arched doors of the palace were open wide, looking warm and welcoming, with palace guards on each side. Thorne watched as guests entered the palace, all chattering with excitement. Having never been in the palace, Thorne was curious; being a world-class thief did that to a person. He momentarily considered the amount of priceless artifacts the lay beyond the palace walls but he shook those thoughts away. They weren't there to steal priceless artifacts. They were there on a mission.
Thorne glanced down at Cress. Her outfit was just as strange as his, with her frilly orange skirt, butterfly wings connected to fingerless gloves, and a small blue hat on her blond hair. Thorne couldn't help but find the outfit adorable on her and the way her eyes gazed at the palace…
He shook his head, clearing his thoughts. Pulling her slightly closer, he murmured against her ear, "Pretend like you belong here, and everyone will believe it."
He watched with a small smile as she stood straighter and walked with more confidence in her step. "I am a criminal mastermind," she murmured, "and I am here to take down this regime."
Thorne smiled down at her. "That's my line."
"I know," she said, a smile playing on her lips. "I stole it."
Thorne chuckled, glancing away and pulling her behind a group of Lunars, close enough so they would appear to be part of the group. They ambled up the white stone stairs and Thorne kept a close eye on the palace guards as they passed, walking into the palace with the rest of the Lunars. Nobody spared them a second glance and the sound of laughter and footsteps echoed throughout the grand entrance.
Thorne felt Cress relax beside him as he took in the sight of the palace. A large statue of a naked woman stood in the center of the hall and even though Thorne had no idea who the lady was or why she was important, he couldn't help but find the statue impressive to look at. She had a thorny crown on her head and an arrow pointing into the dark sky. The rest of the entrance hall was just as grand, with other aristocrats loitering in alcoves, eating and chatting.
"Good day," said a man, stepping forward to greet them. Thorne stiffened and dug his fingers into Cress's back. The man was obviously a servant, his job was probably to make sure no guests got lost or confused. His dreadlocked hair was dyed a bright green color melting into an emerald color at the tips.
He wore a jovial smile and Thorne returned the gesture as convincingly as he could. "We are glad you have come to enjoy the festivities on this most celebrated day," the man said. "Please enjoy the comforts our generous queen has laid out for her guests." He gestured to his left, where Thorne could see a group of Lunars laughing near a intricate fountain. The man continued rambling on about exotic albino animals and musical assortments and other things Thorne generally didn't care about. It wasn't until he heard the phrase 'companionship rooms' that his interest peaked a little. He glanced down the hall where the man was gesturing and raised an eyebrow.
Thorne was just about to question it when the man walked off. Turning to Cress, he asked, "What do you think he meant by 'companionship rooms'?"
Cress glared at him and he cleared his throat, suddenly feeling hot. He adjusted his collar and said, "Not that I'm tempted to...or...this way, right?"
"You too seem lost," someone purred and Thorne whirled around, tucking Cress behind him as he did. Two women stood not far away, eyeing Thorne hungrily. They were both wearing rhinestone studded suits and Thorne noticed that they were pretty; in the way all Lunars were pretty. The woman wearing thick-framed glasses looked Thorne up and down, like he was an expensive piece of jewelry worthy of her attention. "Maybe we can help you find your way?"
"Flattered, ladies," Thorne purred with a grin. "We're on something of a covert mission right now, but we'll keep our eye out for you at the coronation."
"Ooh, a covert mission," the other woman swooned, batted her eyelashes. "I will want to hear that story later."
"I will want to tell it," Thorne said, winking as he threw an arm around Cress's tiny shoulders. He noticed she felt tense under his arm and he wondered if she was okay. He led her away from the two women, whose eyes never left Thorne, even as he walked away. He let out a low whistle. "Holy spades. The women in this place."
"You mean the glamours in this place. One of them was a man."
Thorne tripped, stumbling over his feet and glanced down at Cress, eyebrows raised. "You don't say. Which one?"
"Um...the one wearing glasses?" She looked mildly annoyed but Thorne glanced over his shoulder, searching the crowd for the couple.
"Well played Lunars," He mumbled, feeling impressed and more than a little stupid. Another reason why he hated Lunars; their mind control abilities and the fact that they can make you see what they want you to see. Also, they were too arrogant for their own good. He faced forward again, stopping just before a hallway leading away from the entrance hall. "Jacin said to take the third hallway, right?" Without waiting for her answer, he gently tugged her toward a curving hall, where floor-to-ceiling windows gave them a beautiful view of the gardens.
"Try to keep in mind that they can make themselves look however they want to," Cress said. "No one in this palace is as beautiful as you think they are. It's all just mind control."
Thorne grinned down at her. The soft glow of the lights illuminated her blond hair and her eyes flickered to his before looking away again. He squeezed her closer, wondering how it was possible for him to get so lucky as to have her on his arm. "I'm fairly certain there's at least one exception to that rule," he murmured.
She rolled her eyes. "Yeah. Thaumaturges."
She looked so serious and cute that he couldn't help but laugh, dropping his arm from her shoulders. She blinked at him confused, before shaking her head and walking down the hall.
Or at least, Thorne thought she had walked down the hall…
He wasn't sure if his mind was playing tricks on him or not but suddenly Cress was facing him but she looked different.
She was beautiful.
Not that she wasn't always beautiful in his eyes; he remembered the first time he saw her after his eyesight returned, the first real time he saw her. He thought she was beautiful then. But now, there was something different in the way she was staring at him, the way she titled her small head, the way she batted her thick eyelashes. She looked almost ethereal, almost angelic. His heart pounded relentlessly in his chest.
"I thought I sensed an Earthen boy," she said, although Thorne wasn't really paying any attention to the words leaving her lips. Her delicate, soft-looking lips…
She reached up and traced a finger on his bow tie before trailing it down his chest. Thorne swallowed. "And a well-dressed one at that. What a lucky find."
Thorne felt his knees go weak and he thought his heart was going to explode. Somewhere in his mind he knew something was wrong; they were here on a mission and Cress wasn't the type of girl to flirt while they were in danger. But in that moment, as she reached up and wrapped her arms around his neck, pulling his lips down to hers, he couldn't bring himself to care.
Thorne felt like he was flying. The world seemed to disappear and there was this burning through his veins that made him grip Cress's waist tighter. Nothing else mattered. Cress. She was Cress. They were kissing.
He remembered their first kiss on the rooftop and how even though he tried time and time again to will the memory of her soft lips away from his mind, he could never do it. He wanted to kiss her again for so long and he was only just realizing it. So Thorne did the only thing he could think to do at that moment.
He pulled her closer and kissed her harder.
He didn't how long they stood there, wrapped in each other's arms, lips gently teasing but Thorne didn't want to stop. Cress was his and after the fear of almost losing her, he didn't ever want to let her go again.
Eventually she pulled away and Thorne stared at her, breathless.
"You've been wanting that a while, haven't you?" She fluttered her eyelashes, sounding just as breathless as he felt.
Her lips were slightly swollen and her cheeks were flushed and she just looked so pretty that Thorne barely heard himself when he said, "I think I'm in love with you."
She giggled and played with his bow tie. "Oh, aren't you just darling? And not a bad kisser, either. Maybe we can enjoy more of each other's company later?" She patted him on the chest, giving him a wink before sashaying down the hall.
Thorne watched her walk away, confused. Her blond hair hazed and blurred before turning into a darker brown color, cascading down her back. Her long legs were tanned and luscious and she was evidently not Cress…
He stood there a moment in dazed shock. Once again, he had been fooled by a Lunar. He wondered how long he had been kissing her? If Cress had been watching…
He shook his head, turning in a circle. "Cress?" His hand smoothed down his messy hair and his heart pounded when he realized Cress wasn't next to him. "Cress!"
He whirled to see her standing near an alcove he hadn't noticed before. He sagged in relief. "Spades. I'm sorry. I don't know what happened. That was–"
"I don't want to know." She turned and stormed down the hall and Thorne had to chase after her.
"Whoa, hey, hold on. Are you mad?"
"Why would I be mad?" She swung her hands wildly around her head and Thorne had to duck to avoid getting hit in the face. "You have the right to flirt with and kiss and proclaim your love for whoever you want to. Which is good, because you do. All the time."
She looked frustrated as she stomped as quickly as her short legs would allow. He knew the expression well from seeing it on dozens of girls' faces. "So...you're jealous?" Thorne couldn't help but feel a little pride for himself. If she was jealous then that meant she liked him...at least a little.
"You do realize that all she wanted was to get a laugh at your expense, right?"
Thorne chuckled. "Yeah. I get that now. Cress, wait." He grabbed her arm and forced her to stop. He wanted to lean in, to brush the stray hair out of her eyes, to reassure her that jealousy was not needed, that she was more beautiful than any other girl he's ever met. But instead, all he said was: "I know they can't do it to you, but the rest of us can't choose not to be controlled by them. She manipulated me. It wasn't my fault."
She fixed him with a glare. "And I suppose you're going to say that you didn't enjoy it?"
He opened his mouth to deny it but hesitated. Of course, he enjoyed it. But only because he thought he was kissing her. "Er. Well…"
She ripped her arm away. "I know it wasn't your fault. But that doesn't excuse everyone else. I mean, take Iko!"
He blinked, momentarily confused. "What about Iko?"
Cress dropped her voice in what he assumed was a poor impression of him. "'I really know how to pick them, don't I?'"
Thorne chuckled, biting his lip to smother the adoring smile on his face. "It's the truth, isn't it? Her new body is gorgeous."
Cress gave him a vicious glare and he swallowed, clearing his throat. "That was clearly not the right thing to say. Sorry. But I'd just gotten my eyesight back."
"Yeah, and all you wanted to look at was her."
Thorne blinked, feeling his heart beat faster. She stormed away before he could respond and he wanted to pull her back to him. To tell her that he couldn't keep his eyes off of her when he got his eyesight back but something told him she wouldn't believe him.
"Nevermind." She kept her head lowered to avoid looking at him. "Let's just–"
A palace guard blocked their path, one arm held out, and Thorne pulled Cress back against him. He had been paying so much attention to Cress that he hadn't noticed the two guards stationed in the hall.
"We are asking that all guests begin to make their way to the great hall so that the coronation ceremony can begin without delay." The guard held out his arm. "Please proceed this way."
"Of course," Thorne smiled, pulling Cress away. "Thank you. We must have gotten turned around."
As soon as they turned the corner, Thorne felt Cress rip her arm out of his grasp and he wanted to argue but stayed silent. He didn't understand why she was so upset. They were in a hallway that was smaller and quieter even though there were still a handful of guests milling about.
"Stop here," Thorne whispered, backing her up against a wall next to a door. He briefly wondered if that led to the atrium but pushed the thought away and he leaned closer so that to anyone watching, they would look like they were having an intimate conversation. Cress clenched her hands in fists and glared at his shoulder. "Cress…" He sighed. "I know you're upset, but could you pretend not to be for a second?"
He watched as she closed her eyes and took a deep breath, her shoulders relaxing. When she opened her eyes, she blinked up at him and smiled in a way that almost looked believable. He raised his eyebrows. "That's uncanny."
But he could still see the hurt in her eyes. "I'm a girl too, you know. I may not be as pretty as Iko, or brave like Cinder or bold like Scarlet–"
"And I don't even want to know what dumb thing you said when you met Princess Winter for the first time."
Thorne clamped his mouth shut, a small blush creeping up his neck. This only made Cress more irritated.
"But I'm not invisible! And yet you flirt with every single one of them. You'll flirt with anyone who so much as looks at you."
"You've made your point," Thorne frowned and noticed that she wasn't pretending to smile anymore either. He kept his hand near her hip, as if he could reassure her in that simple touch but he knew she was too upset.
"This is what you were trying to tell me, wasn't it?" Her voice wavered and for the first time, he noticed her eyes looked misty. "In the desert. When you were going on and on about how I'm so sweet and how you didn't want to hurt me and...You were trying to warn me, but I was too much of a...a naive, hopeless romantic to even listen to you."
Thorne wanted so badly to tell her the truth; to speak the words he's been too afraid to say aloud. To tell her that despite all he's done to try and dissuade her from loving him, all he managed to do in the end was fall in love with her in return. And it scared him more than anything. "I never wanted to hurt you…"
She crossed her arms and this time, there were real tears in her eyes. Thorne felt his heart break. "I know," Cress sniffed. "It's my own fault I've been this stupid."
Thorne flinched and glanced around. He almost forgot they weren't alone but luckily, the few remaining guests in the hallway weren't paying them any attention.
Reaching around her, Thorne pulled open the door and shuffled her into the room that was indeed an atrium like he suspected. Cress stumbled but caught herself, taking a few steps away from Thorne. The atrium was large with dozens of flowers and potted plants. The ceiling rose high and they could easily see the stars through the glass. Sofas and reading chairs were grouped together throughout the large room and a series of desks sat facing the the large window overlooking the lake.
"Good," Thorne said. "I thought I remembered seeing something about an atrium. We'll wait here until the halls clear. I'm hoping we can cross into one of the servant halls to avoid any more run-ins with guards for a while."
Cress took a deep breath and moved further away. She crossed her arms and kept her gaze lowered to the floor. He could tell she was still very upset with him and it bothered him more than he let on.
Could she possibly still be in love with him?
It did seem that way, with how she was acting. She was jealous that he'd kissed that Lunar girl and she didn't like the way he flirted with Iko. She had compared herself to Cinder, Scarlet, and Winter which was the last thing Thorne wanted her to do. He wanted her to see that she was beautiful because she was Cress, and that was all that mattered. But for some reason, the words were stuck in his throat and he couldn't get them out. He didn't understand what was wrong with him; flirting with Cinder was easy. Flirting with every girl was easy for him. Why was it so hard to tell Cress how he really felt?
He took a step closer, reaching out for her. "Cress...listen…"
She jerked away. "Don't. I'm sorry. That wasn't fair of me. I shouldn't have said anything."
She wiped her nose with her fingerless gloves.
He watched her, running a hand through his hair, as she crossed her arms and avoided his gaze. Tell her, He told himself. Tell her now before you ruin everything. He opened his mouth but again the words wouldn't come. He was afraid, he realized. This feeling he had wasn't something he was familiar with. Playing around with girls was easy because he didn't have to worry about feelings or commitment, but with Cress everything was...different. She made him feel things he never thought he was capable of feeling. If only he could just tell her…
"How long are we waiting here?" She asked, fiddling with the hem of her skirt.
Thorne pulled out the portscreen, struggling to keep his breathing under control. "A few more minutes, just to make sure they've rounded up the slower guests."
She nodded, not looking at him and Thorne took a deep breath, leaning back against the door, stuffing his fists into his pockets.
She shook her head and turned to face him. The sadness written all over her face made Thorne want to punch something. "I'm all right," She murmured. "I just don't want to talk about it."
Thorne swallowed and stared at her. His heart was pounding again and he felt so nervous that he thought he might throw up, but Cress was standing there, as beautiful as ever in her ridiculous costume. Her bare legs visible under the frilly skirt, the curve of her neck, the dip of her clavicle, her wide eyes, her tiny nose and delicate lips...everything about her was perfect. He realized if he couldn't tell her how he felt, there was only one thing he could do.
"All right," He said. "I don't want to talk about it either."
Without waiting for her response, he pushed away from the door and marched up to her. Startled, she stumbled back into one of the desks. "What–"
Thorne grabbed her by the backs of her thighs and lifted her onto the desk, pushing her up against an enormous potted fern before crushing his lips against hers.
His kiss with the Lunar girl was nothing compared to this.
At first, they were both a little hesitant. But Thorne had done this plenty of times before. Except only this time, it was Cress and she was now digging her hands in his hair. He growled against her lips and pulled her closer, gripping her hips tightly. Her lips were just as soft as he remembered and he heard her whimper. He moaned softly, feeling an unusual heat rush throughout his body. This was...he couldn't think of a word to describe it but he didn't want it to ever end. He kissed her again, and again, and again, until she finally pulled back, gasping for air. She trembled as he wrapped his arms around her, leaning his forehead against hers. He struggled to catch his breath and the only thing he could manage to get out was: "Cress."
Cress licked her swollen lips, bringing his attention down to them. He would have kissed her again, but she unburied her hands from his hair and pushed him away slightly.
"This…" She cleared her throat. "This isn't what I wanted."
Thorne almost flinched, feeling as if she had stabbed him in the heart. He pulled back, refusing to let her see the hurt on his face.
"I mean it is," she said, reaching for him. "Obviously it is."
He sagged in relief and grinned at her. She gave him a small smile in return. "But...not to be just another girl," she said. "I never wanted to be just another one of your girls."
He frowned. "Cress…" Tell her, his thoughts whispered. Despite the fear he felt, he didn't want her to think he was only kissing her out of pity. He took a deep breath. "She looked like you."
Her gaze snapped up to his. "What?"
"The girl in the hallway, the one that kissed me. She looked like you."
She shook her head, a strand of hair falling into her face. "That's ridiculous. She was brunette, and tall–"
"Not to me," Thorne whispered, tucking the strand of hair behind her ear. "She must have seen us walking together. Maybe she saw the way I looked at you or something, I don't know, but she knew...she made her glamour look like you."
Thorne watched as her lips parted in surprise, remembering the kiss in the hallway that felt like eons ago. Her eyes widened in comprehension.
"I thought I was kissing you," He leaned forward, brushing his lips against hers. Once. Two times. Cress pulled him closer and he molded his lips over hers.
She yanked away. "But...you told her you loved her."
His heart stopped and he swallowed. I know...I do Cress, I just can't find the courage to say it. "Right. That." He shrugged as nonchalantly as he could. "I mean, I was...we were–"
Before he could finish with his lame excuse, the door swung open behind him.
I know I could have continued but well...I mostly just wanted to write the kissing scene because it was just too perfect and I love Cresswell. Hope you enjoyed! :)