Hiya everyone!

Harlequin and I are back! It is summer so I have finally squeezed a chapter out of our dear Harlequin. I'm hoping for another at the end of the month, but no promises.

Meanwhile, enjoy!


CHAPTER 3

I had been working in the chateau for quite a while. At first, I had returned to my house at the end of the day, but it soon became obvious that there weren't enough hours in the night for me to make the trip back and forth as well as get a good night of sleep. I returned to my house once a month and sent my wages home every week. It was difficult being away from home so much, but the money was worth it. My Father had sent me news that we were catching up to the amount owed and that he was certain we would have it by the end of the season.

Father complained though. He had wanted me apprenticed, not working as a servant. He made me promise to look for a Master that would take me in with the start of the new season. I tried. Nothing seemed to suit me though. And, as the new season settled in, all I had managed to achieve was a higher position in the nobleman's estate. I was promoted to guard.

I had been watching the guards' training every night I could before going off to bed, knowing I had to get up early the next day. After a week or so of this sneaking, one of them approached me, "You know how to fight, lad?"

I shook my head. "No, Sir."

"You want to learn?"

My eyes grew wide. Could I really? Surely I wouldn't be any good. Oh, how wrong I was. Within the season, I was tossing some of the trained soldiers into the mud. I continued to come to the grounds every spare moment of my time until the Lord spotted me.

"Come here, boy," I heard him order and he motioned with his hand to come closer. I obeyed. I had learned the hard way what it was not to obey immediately. Flogging. My shoulders clenched at the thought. "Your name, boy."

"Valek, Milord." Keep it simple.

"Well, Valek. It seems as though you have quite the affinity with a weapon," Lord Cyril inquired. He waited for me to respond.

"If you say so, Milord," I answered. Keep your head down and accept any compliments or favors with grace. Never take the final word in any conversation.

The man smiled tightly. "Your age, Valek."

It was a good sign he still called me by my name. I had not acted in a way that would put me beneath any of his attentions. "Thirteen, Milord."

His eyebrows shot up quizzically. I was used to it by now. My early growth sprout had me looking like a sixteen-year-old. "No, you must be older than that, boy." I cringed. He thought I was lying—hence the reversal to 'boy'.

"Milord, I assure you, I am thirteen."

Lord Cybil pursed his lips. "Then you must be apprenticed, Valek? Just begun with a new Master, leaving for his home soon?" If—at sixteen—I did not have a Master, surely I was staying. But, at thirteen, I still had a chance of getting a spot somewhere. He suspected I was leaving the estate soon.

"No, Milord. My Father is looking for someone to apprentice me to, but has not found anyone adequate yet."

"Well then, bring news to your Father. Tell him I have found you a Master," Lord Cybil laughed heartily. "The Weapons' Master is looking for someone to train. And with your obvious talent I can't see why he would refuse. You'll be promoted to guard and the Weapons' Master will take you as a student." The Lord looked pleased with himself. I didn't know how my Father would react to this news, however. Weapons' Master? Was that really what I was going to do with my life?

I forced a smile onto my face. I would deal with the problems ahead when they arose. "Yes Milord. I am sure my Father will be pleased." It wasn't a total lie. If I told Father that this was what I wanted to do, I was sure he would support me in my decision although he may not completely approve. I would just tell him that the opportunity had come along and the prospect looked appealing. He would let me make my own choices.

But when I sat with my quill on hand that night, the words would not come to me. How could I say this? I couldn't refuse the position—it had been granted to me by Lord Cybil himself—and I shuddered at the idea of displeasing my Father. Oh, well, here goes nothing.

Pater Father,

I am writing to you about my apprenticeship. I have been given a Master by Lord Cybil. I have been promoted to guard—it surprised me too. Apparently, as many people here tell me, I have an affinity with a weapon. Lord Cybil saw me training today and told me that the Weapons' Master will gladly take me as a student.

Don't worry about the apprenticeship's fee. My new position earns me much higher wages and I will pay myself. I will send the rest of the money to Mother and You of course, as usual. The amount You will receive should remain the same as before, if my calculations are correct.

To answer your questions from your previous letter—yes, I will be visiting soon. I will come home during the next week with all the details. Yes, I will pick up your order from the shop on my way.

Your son,
Valek A. Icefaren Ixia

I read over my letter squinting at some of the words in an effort to read them. My writing hadn't always been this messy, my 't's looking like 'l's and the letters mashed together. Lucian had taken over teaching me to write as well as bringing me to the small school underneath the church and I had started off in a neat cursive. Then it all went downhill. With Lucian and the others… gone, I had given up on a proper education. Better to find a job and keep the house, the business and my parents going. It would have to do.

I folded the sheet and inserted it into an envelope. I would hand it to an envoy in the morning.

I now sat in my home's kitchen, drinking tea Mother had prepared. It was a miracle she had even gotten out of bed, I took the tea gratefully.

"Weapons' Master?" Father asked me.

I looked up at him over my cup. My work on the estate had greatly improved my Father's view of me. I was now a man, no longer a boy, and I had matured to fit the title. I scrutinized his face. "Yes."

He didn't say anything, waiting for a more complete answer. I took a sip of my tea before responding. "You don't like the idea?" I asked. Better to have his view on things before giving my opinion. It was a skill I had learned at the manor: never contradict or question your superior.

Father sighed. The wisps of heat from his drink expelled into the air. I had learned to be observant like that. Watching for the smallest things. "It's not what I would have expected from you, Valek." He paused, then thought better of it and spoke again, "An affinity with a weapon, you tell me?"

"That's what Lord Cybil calls it. And the other soldiers. I just need your word to go ahead with it."

Father stared at me, his gaze steady, and I shifted uncomfortably in my chair.

"Valek, are you sure you want to do this?" He asked.

I nodded, in answer.

"Then I won't stop you. Just promise me you'll keep me updated on everything you do. Promise you'll be careful."

I smiled, and told him I would. He laughed, ruffling my hair. "My little man is growing up." He chuckled.

I gagged in response and pushed his hand away, laughing.

.oO° ° °Oo.

Upon returning to the chateau, I turned and head straight for the training yard, knowing that some of the other soldiers would be waiting for me to join their practice.

As I neared the field, I noticed that the usual clusters of soldiers had all gathered in the centre of the training yard, forming a rough circle. I slowed my pace, searching the crowds for a familiar face.

"Valek!" I felt a tap on my shoulder, and turned around, coming face to face with one of the soldiers I practiced with.

"Hey," I replied. "You got any idea what's going on?" I nodded towards the soldiers.

"Yeah… Shalom just came out, looking for his apprentice… Apparently, he's late. I wouldn't wanna be in that kid's shoes, Shalom is terrifying enough when he isn't angry!"

I frowned. "Who's Shalom?" I asked.

"He's the Weapons' Master. Didn't you know? Oh man, everyone kn—"

I was no longer listening. I felt horror grip me, and I ran past the crowd, only to see them all watching a figure walking into the rooms at the far end of the courtyard. I ran after him, knowing I couldn't mess this up. I needed to get this apprenticeship.

I heard howls following me to the barracks. "Someone's in trouble!" "Who would have thought!" "Little Valek is in for it..."

The door slammed shut in from of my face, although I was sure that Shalom had seen me following him, if he hadn't at least heard the others mocking me.

I stood in front of the door for what seemed like ages, even if it was only a few seconds.

Someone called out to me, "Duck when you go in!" It was followed by laughter.

I gulped.

I knocked on the door, my heart thumping. All I could imagine was the lashing I would receive, for being late. I waited, but nothing. I raised my hand to knock again, but then I heard the weapons master.

"Come in," he said, calmly. My heart calmed a little, and I opened the door, entering the room. Maybe they were just trying to scare me.

"Sorry I'm la—"

Something sailed past my ear. I fell to the ground. Glancing in back of me, I caught the sun glinting off the blade which had lodged into the door frame.

I lay on the ground, panting. Should I get up? I didn't dare even look up. Slowly, a pair boots came into view as my Master stood in front of me.

"Get up," a deep voice ordered. I swallowed, not daring to move. "I said, get up."

Shaking, I slowly stood. Shalom towered over me.

The door slammed shut. "I will not deal with your shenanigans. You are to be here every morning before dawn and you will not leave until I say we have finished for the day."

I looked down. "Yes, Master," I whispered.

"What?" he demanded. "Are you a scared little girl, or are you my apprentice?"

"Your apprentice, Master," I managed.

"Then start acting like it. We do not dawdle, we follow orders and nothing is a detail. Anything else means death. You will speak when spoken to, act only when ordered and never, under any circumstances, disobey me. Do you understand, Valek?" How did he know my name?

"Yes, Master."

"There's a pail and a mop in the corner. Get to work."

He stalked past me, walking out, and slamming the door behind him. Without his presence, the room seemed much larger and I stared at the pail and mop he had pointed out to me. This was the exact opposite of what I had expected from this job. I was still a servant. Or maybe he was still mad.

Either way, I moved to pick up the pail. After I managed to drag it out of the room and fill it, I got to work. As Shalom put it.

The door creaked open, allowing a sliver of light to paint the floor, but I determinedly continued working. I wouldn't give my Master an excuse to beat me. It wasn't rare for apprentices to receive physical punishment.

"Well, would you look who it is," a smug voice echoed in the room, and I stopped, glancing up. Damon strode into the room, regarding me. "I never expected you to make it this far, Valek. You get to clean the barracks."

"Shut it, Damon," I snapped. He had incessantly pestered me ever since the first day I arrived.

He smirked, walking further into my room, and treading mud over the floor I had already cleaned.

"Hey!" I protested. "I just cleaned that, get out!"

He ignored me. "I see you're an apprentice too, then."

I nodded, "Weapons' Mastery... You?"

"I'm apprenticed to the blacksmith," he answered in a rather superior tone. I wasn't sure whether to believe him or not. He could've been telling the truth, but he didn't look nearly bulky enough to lug around a blacksmith's tools.

"I don't believe you." I blurted out without thought.

He raised an eyebrow. "And, why would I lie about it to you?" I had no answer for that one. I stared at him, and he grinned, smug.

I opened my mouth to retort, just as the Weapons' Master walked. He stopped short in his tracks, and regarded the muddy floor. My mouth went dry.

"Master, I can explain! You see, Damon walk—"

"Don't make excuses, boy." He said, his lips curling in distaste.

He turned to Damon, "Well?"

Damon started. "Well, what? I don't have any news. I don't have access to all this information. I'm only thirteen, you know," he huffed.

"What about the new Snow Cats?"

My eyes widened and I looked down in haste. Snow Cats. The rebels. That was what Lucian had called them. It didn't make any sense: why would these people work with the rebels? They didn't. They couldn't.

"Maybe. Who?"

I couldn't restrain myself. I had to know. "Is it true?" I asked. They both turned to glare at me. I shrunk back from my Master's gaze. "Nothing…" I muttered before he could even ask.

"Later," he said in a strained voice to Damon. The latter smirked at me before leaving the room.

It didn't take long after that. "What did I tell you about speaking?" Shalom demanded. His hand gripped my ear hard. I mashed my teeth together to keep from yelling out. He shook me.

"I'm sorry. I'm sorry." I repeated over and over. "I'm sorry." He let me fall to the floor.

"Finish cleaning up," he snarled before moving to a table in the far corner of the room. He sat with his feet up on the table, surveying me. It was long past dark by the time I finished cleaning.

.oO° ° °Oo.

My arms ached. Shalom had had me clean every surface in the room. I stood in the midst of my hard work, looking at my Master. He stood and walked to the back of the room. Springing open a large lock, the wall was slid away.

My eyes bulged out my head. Lined inside was every weapon imaginable and even some unimaginable. Swords, maces, knives of all lengths and sizes, colored darts, chains attached to all sorts of instruments, long pipes, whips, clamps… It was never ending.

"Now," Shalom said. "How many of these can you name?"

I glanced over the wall. I knew a sword from a knife, but I doubted it was as simple as that. I shook my head, "None, Master."

He sighed. "Dear God, you're hopeless. At this rate, with your attitude, I'll never get you anywhere." I wanted to scream out at him that he hadn't even tried and here he was, giving up already. "You know how to write?" he grunted.

Happy to have done something right for a change, I nodded enthusiastically. My Master watched me with what looked like disgust. My smile dropped. "Yes, Master," I corrected myself.

He nodded, but didn't look the least bit pleased. "Sit. We will not even be thinking about any weapons today. I am going to go over the rules with you." I swallowed hard and dropped into the seat across from the one he had assumed.

"You are here before dawn every morning. You address me as Master and no less. You will be moved from your room in the servants' wing into my personal home. You treat everything which belongs to me with the utmost respect. You do not touch anything without my permission. You do not speak unless spoken to, and only if asked a direct question. I want a clear, concise answer—no babbling. You will be assigned daily chores on top of your apprentice duties. You will complete them exactly as they are given and only when you are finished may you be excused for the day." My heart beat faster in my chest. I didn't dare ask about visits to my parents' house. "If I deem your work for the day to be inadequate, you will not be fed. Your wages go to me. I run your expenses—"

"But…" I squeaked. My eyes grew wide and slapped a hand over my mouth.

Shalom's jaw tensed. "Is there a problem, Valek?" he asked with a mockery of curiosity. I took a deep breath. "Speak up, boy!" he barked.

"M-my parents…" I stuttered.

"Yes, tedious creatures aren't they?" he chuckled.

"My wages go to my parents," I managed to breathe.

"Wrong. Fifty per cent of your wages go to your parents. The rest becomes your apprentice fee. Is there another problem?" He raised his eyebrows.

I shook my head, my breathing just a tad easier.

"Very well, moving on. I run your expenses. Any and all mail you receive goes through my hands first. If there is anyone you wish to visit, the privilege of a vacation must be earned. You will constantly be tested on your knowledge. Punishments will be given out on my word, whether you agree or not. Is this all understood, Valek?" he asked.

I caught myself in the beginning of a nod. "Yes, Master."

"Go get your belongings. I will sort through them to determine what you will and will not need."

.oO° ° °Oo.

I was like he was purposely trying to set me off. After sifting through all my personal things, he repossessed over half of them and threw away the others. He left me only one pair of underpants, my pajamas, some woolen socks and a thick sweater. Then he grabbed me by the scruff of the neck, like a dog, and pushed me ahead of him in the direction of a small cottage in the distance.

He unlocked the door and stuffed me inside. I rubbed the back of my neck when he released me. The place was filthy and I knew that I'd probably have to clean it before I could hope for any rest. I blinked my eyes, trying to force them to remain open.

Shalom looked me over. I was just as dirty as the apartment we stood in from all the work I had done today. "Take a bath. You stink. Your room is at the end of the hall, to the left. Report back here when you're done." He stalked off. I swayed with relief when he was out of sight.

.oO° ° °Oo.

I didn't see him again until a little while later. I stood in front of the small fire I had started to melt warm the snow I would be using as bath water. A shadow fell over me. "Heat more of that up. I want a steaming bath waiting in my room within the hour."

I lugged a tub for my Master to his bedroom and ran a bath for him. Then I set about doing the same in my room.

I finished washing, dressed in the clothes my Master had left me. I dragged my battered body to the living room.

I heard Shalom muttering something about rocks crashing against the floor as he joined me in the main room several long minutes later.

I was inspected thoroughly and then a pair of scissors was taken out and any hair that grew past my shoulders was chopped off. "Keep it like that at all times," was the only comment I merited when it was all over. I had expected my hair to be ragged and chopped unevenly, but when Shalom held a dirty mirror in front my face, I was surprised to find that my new hair was neat and styled. "You'll be doing that yourself soon enough. Along with shaving, if anything ever starts to grow on that baby-face of yours," my Master grunted.

"Off to bed," he pushed me out of the room. My stomach growled in response. I hadn't eaten anything since morning, but I wasn't about to pass off an opportunity to rest.

I was shocked to the core when I came into my room again. There was fresh bedding on the thin mattress that had been laid out for me and, a bare work table and chair had been set up. There was a bowl of some sort of stew waiting for me.

A note was written in calligraphic script:

I won't be poisoning you until later. Feel free to eat without fear.

The note didn't reassure me in the least, but it was either this or nothing. However, when I sat down, I couldn't bring myself to eat it. What if it was a trap? What if someone else had set the food out? I lurched out of my chair, grabbing the food and utensils, I ran across the hall to the main room.

Shalom looked up at me in annoyance. He was eating out of a pot holding the same mixture I held a bowl of. "No gratitude, I see," he commented dryly. "I could have let you hold out till morning, but I told myself: "You were too hard on the poor kid. It's his first day, he's probably shitting himself." Huh. Figures a brat like you wouldn't appreciate the simple joy of a hot meal."

"Figures you're such an asshole," I retorted. Then backed up a few step when he leaned in my direction and put out my arms to protect myself from the lashes I was sure to receive as a reward for my words.

All I got was laughter. "You're a pussy, you know that, kid? One second you're all out, swearing at me, and the next, you're hiding in your mother's skirts." He paused. "I'm not going to hit you, Valek. Come, sit." He motioned to the second chair with his spoon. "Eat."

I sat down and began shoveling food into my mouth gratefully. "Thank you, Master," I slipped in between mouthfuls.

"You don't have to add that title to every sentence. You're making me feel like a damn slave owner."

I didn't answer, practically liking my bowl clean. Shalom watched my attentively. "Where are you from, kid?"

I looked up in surprise. It was such a normal question that I had trouble associating with him. "Icefaren Station."

"Any siblings?"

I flinched and spoke carefully, "No…"

Something that could have been interpreted as regret had the emotion belonged to anyone else flashed in his eyes. "Still fresh?" he asked.

I didn't answer. I looked down into my now-empty bowl.

"Are you mute, or something?" he demanded. "What did you not understand of 'I will not hit you'? I don't believe in the efficiency of physical punishment. It doesn't teach a lesson, but teaches to fear. Fear is not respect. It can serve the same purpose, but the two are distinctly different. The point is not to fear, but to be able to retort to someone superior while keeping your dignity."

I forced myself to look up at him, trying my hardest not to squirm in my seat. "No Master," I answered weakly, clearing my throat before continuing. "I don't like to talk about it."

"You should have just told me that before, instead of cowering like a baby. I cannot train you if you are scared of the littlest things. I don't care if you're good with a weapon. The weak get killed faster, and I'm not wasting my time on you only for you to get yourself killed by next week. Understand?" He said gruffly as he leant back in his chair.

I swallowed my fear and made sure to keep my head up as I replied. "Yes Master."

I braced myself for another callous response but all I got was, "Now finish your dinner before I throw it outside."

Without hesitating, I gulped down the food. I'd forgotten just how hungry I was until the smell and taste enveloped me. I was aware of Shalom watching me eat like I hadn't eaten in months, but I didn't care, he'd find something else to chastise me with anyway.

But surprisingly he didn't comment as I placed the empty bowl back down on the table. After ordering me to clean up the dishes and be up before dawn tomorrow (any later and I'd be assigned to the latrines) he left for his room.

I let out a sigh of relief as I heard his door click shut; I was free until tomorrow morning. Realizing I'd only have a few hours' sleep, I rushed to get the dishes cleaned. I was already exhausted before mid-afternoon, and it had been catching up with me ever since.

.oO° ° °Oo.

I leaned over and puked into the bushes. I had been training under Shalom for several months now, but my endurance still hadn't eased up. Running still left me in a sweat and I swayed to the sidelines every morning to throw up my breakfast.

But regardless, I'd continue running straight after. Shalom isn't one to hide his intolerance over tardiness, and I wasn't going to be the one to make it happen. During the months I'd trained, he is beginning to ease up on me a little. But that's only because I'm not making any more mistakes, one slip up and he's back at biting my head off. Usually over the smallest, insignificant things, but I've learnt the hard way not to talk back or refuse my punishments.

But despite the hard, grueling training, I could easily see my improvements. My stamina is getting better, although I still need to work on my running. I have a feeling it's going to take a while before I can run without breaking a sweat and vomiting.

During fighting, both with a weapon and hand to hand, my movements are becoming less jerky and I'm taking the time to read my opponents body language to guess his next move. I still need a lot of practice before I can fight properly, but I'm happy with how far I've come from the start of training.

At last I'd finished my laps, and I bent over by the training yard fences while I managed to get my breathing back to normal. I'd been running laps every morning and night since starting training and each time my lungs still felt like they were on fire.

I was drinking from the water pitcher when I heard Shalom shout my name. Wiping my mouth with the back of my hand, I straightened and turned to face him.

"Yes master?"

"Run an extra lap tonight, you still need to build your stamina up."

I tried not to moan at the thought of running even more, but swallowed my protests, knowing full well it would only get me more laps. "Yes Sir."

"Now get in the yard, you're fighting [name?] today. Remember to slow down and predict his next move before blocking or striking."

"Yes master." He jerked his head towards the group of men waiting in the yard, and I jumped over the fence before hurrying to join them.

I've trained with the same man three times now, and I've become used to his fighting style and his most common move. Distract you with a punch aimed to the face, and as you move your hands to block it, he aims another one to your stomach.

A lot of the soldiers use this move in their fights, or very similar ones. The technique is good; distract your opponent before striking when his guard is down. The method I use when fighting new partners is to begin fighting badly, lulling them into a false sense of security. Once they've began to relax, thinking I'm an easy fight, I strike.

First time he witnessed it, Shalom praised me, well for him it was a compliment. And I've been using the move ever since. I've learnt that fighting is like a card game, keep your best move to your chest, and when it's time go for the kill.

Training with the other soldiers has taught me many things Shalom has failed to mention or didn't know himself. Every strategy, tactic and dirty move used against me, I use in my next fight.

My mind is already filled with so many moves I didn't even know was possible before I started training. I only hope that Shalom continues to train me so I can learn more. My desire to kill the King has grown impossibly more intense, as the better I get, the more I believe in my ability to do it.

The day passed quickly and by the time I crawled into bed late that night my muscles were stiff and painful. Even a hot bath didn't soothe them, so I struggled to find a comfortable position before falling into a restless sleep.

I woke up a few hours later with a mouth that felt like sandpaper. Grudgenly, I pulled myself out of bed knowing I wouldn't settle until I'd had a drink to sooth my throat. I trudged downstairs cautious to make a little sound as possible in case I woke Shalom up.

When the stairs would creek, the sickening sound echoing around the house, I'd freeze for a few seconds waiting painfully to hear any sound from Shalom's room. When there was none, I'd breathe a sigh of relief before continuing down the stairs. Unfortunately I had to repeat this several times but luckily it didn't wake him.

I managed to find my way through the darkness and into the kitchen. The water pitcher is always kept on the counter next to the window, so I used my hands to feel along the counter top until I reached it.

I didn't even bother with a glass as I bent my head underneath and drunk the water greedily. Once my throat was soothed and I couldn't drink anymore, I tip toed my way back to my room. Fortunately the stairs didn't creek too much and there wasn't an angry Shalom waiting for me at the top of the stairs, like I'd feared.

This time I had no trouble going back to sleep and vivid dreams flickered through my mind. The images changed from training sessions, to life back home with my brothers and parents to finally settling on Luna.

Her harmonious giggles surrounded me and I spun around in the open area but couldn't see her anywhere.

"Luna?" This made her laugh louder than before, her giggles echoing off the trees. This didn't make finding her any easier, she could be anywhere.

I looked around the trees but still no sign of her, although the trees are big enough for her small body to hide behind and move as I do. If so this game could take hours.

"Luna" I dragged out the 'a', hoping I could persuade her to put me out of my misery. Every time we meet up she has a habit of hiding whenever I turn my back on her. Which doesn't happen very often mind you, seeing as it takes hours to find her again.

"Come on now, we've only got an hour before I have to take you home for dinner."

"It's not my fault it takes you so long to find me," she retorted. It sounded like her soft voice was coming from above me.

I looked up and there she was, sitting on the tree branch, with an innocent expression on her pretty face. I wasn't fooled though, for such a pretty little thing, she was the sneakiest person I know, although not as bad as my brothers. I quickly shook that thought away as quickly as it entered my mind.

I ran up to the tree trunk and climbed up effortlessly, I'd been climbing trees all through my childhood so it felt like second nature for me. As soon as I reached the branch she was on, she stuck her tongue out at me.

I laughed as I made my way across to sit next to her. As I edged my way across she shuffled and leaned further away from me, clearly seeing the mischievous smirk on my face.

"Valek…" she warned, as I was only a foot away from her.

"You think you're so clever don't you?" I drawled out while still smirking at her. I saw her gulp as she leaned as far as far away from me as she could without falling off. Fear was in her eyes, but she knew I'd never hurt her. She was just worried about what I was going to do to her.

She knows I know her weak spot, I know the places on her body that make her squeal and cry with laughter. Her sides was one of them, her knees the other. Basically nearly all of her was ticklish, but I only ever dared touch her in appropriate places.

She knew I had her cornered as she couldn't move any further without the branch snapping, and I was blocking her only way of getting down the tree as it was too high to jump.

"I'm sorry Valek, I promise I won't do it again. Please don't tickle me!" She tried to reason with me but it wouldn't work, I fell for this the first time and she still did it again the next chance she got.

I swung my leg around to straddle the branch so I wouldn't fall off, then I placed my right hand on her knee to stop her from falling. I reached up with my free hand and tickled her left side, while she squirmed and laughed uncontrollably.

"Val…Valek… please…. I… can't….. no more….. please…. Stop… I won't…. do it ….. again….. if you…. Stop… please….Val….ek…. please…. I …. Can't…. stop…. Please!"

"Only if you say that I'm the best and that you love me."

"Okay… okay!... Valek your….. the best… and… I love… you!"

I stopped, my breath catching in my throat. Even though I forced her to say it, it still sounded amazing coming from her lips.

"Say it again." I teased, half expecting her not to. But she did.

I couldn't stop myself from slowly leaning towards her, my gaze focused on her lips which were slightly parted. I stopped an inch from her lips, and flicked my eyes up to hers, but they were already closed. Her warm breath exhaled against my mouth and I couldn't wait any longer as I closed the distance between us. My first kiss was far better than I expected.

Her lips were soft underneath my own and tasted sweeter than anything I'd ever tasted before. I was certain this was her first kiss, so I didn't want to disappoint her, but didn't want to scare her by being to forward either.

When we broke apart, and I waited for her eyes to open, displaying a light sky-coloured blus, before stuttering. "I'm sorry… I.. I hope it wasn't too much?"

She smiled sweetly at me, "It was perfect." I couldn't stop the grin threatening to overtake my face. She leaned forward, her hand on my knees, inching upwards as she pressed her lips against mine again.

I bolted upright in bed, my breathing coming out in pants. This wasn't the first time I'd dreamt of Luna, but I'd never imagined that before. The room was starting to get lighter so I knew it was almost dawn so I might as well get up anyway.

As I moved to get out of bed, I felt something wet and sticky in between my legs. I was still groggy from waking up so I thought I was imagining it until I felt it again. Wide awake now, I wondered what it was before darting out the room and across the hall to the bathroom.

This is the first time it's happened, even though my father and brothers awkwardly tried to explain the process of puberty to me before. I was undeniably embarrassed and glad I woke up before Shalom tossed me out of bed. I think I would have died from shame if he had.

After I cleaned up, I rushed back to my room to clean my bed before Shalom found out. However all my hopes were ripped from me as I entered my room and spotted Shalom's big figure standing by my bed.

Hearing me walk in, he turned to face me and I couldn't help but swallow loudly as my legs began to quiver. I tried not to let my fear show, knowing it would only anger him further. But at that point I was far too embarrassed to care. I just wanted the ground to open up and swallow me.


Well? What did you think?

Valek is growing up. And just like all boys do, very awkwardly. Don't worry, it'll just get worse from now on. It may be a little over the top, but urges like the ones he is having are part of maturing for a boy so we couldn't just leave them out...

Anyway, Harlequin says she's working on Valek's Poison Study and Savin' Me next. Actually, I'm dictating her schedule, because I think she'll get things done faster that way. Either way, it you're following one or both of those stories, expect an update within the next two months, I would say.

I'm writing chapter 45 of Unraveling Worlds and it's coming along slowly. The wedding is coming up in this chapter. Then I'm thinking of having a honeymoon in the next one. It may or may not be M-rated-depending on what I feel Yelena's character can handle at that point.

Reviews will get us to update faster *hint hint*

Karl & Harlequin (: