I know she doesn't love me.

Yet, I have always loved her. It's more than her beauty, than her long golden hair, than her searching blue eyes. It's more than her laugh, or the way she walks, or how she puts an arm around her sister when they walk together.

But Valarie doesn't love me.

It's Peter. He's a simple woodcutter, penniless like all the rest. Handsome, I suppose. From childhood he has followed her around like a lost wolf pup.

And now, they have wandered into my place of refuge.

Peter left us in the caverns. Were it not for him, my father might not be dead.

No, that is not true. It is my fault. I did not defend him. I hid out of fear. But it is easier to blame Peter.

Why I watch them, I don't know. To further punish myself, perhaps. Or maybe I am incredulous.

I watch him kiss her, the woman I have chosen to marry. My bracelet is on her wrist, catching the torchlight. I watch him stretch her out across the soft, sweet-smelling hay. I would never dare do such a thing. I watch her cling to him, her lips desperately searching for his as they will never search for mine. I listen to her breathing quicken, as my presence has never done. I see his him sit back, looking down at her, so yielding and willing. I would give anything to be in his place, yet I hate him for it.

"Don't you want me?" she asks, breathlessly, almost hurt.

Yes, he does. His hand unlaces her bodice. He leans toward her, capturing her mouth with his.

I can't stand it anymore. I start forward—but a sound other than me interrupts them; faces, shuffles in the hayloft, a cry for Peter to assist. They haven't seen her. Quickly, he bundles her aside with one last kiss, her face flushed with excitement.

Rage fills me, at Peter and at myself, even at Valarie, who chooses a boy too free with his hands, a boy who will not wait to honor their union in marriage, over me. I have never made such advances. I have never risked her reputation. I would never carry her into a barn and make love to her, where anyone might walk in. But that, it seems, is what she wants.

Anguish fills my soul. My fists clench. I would be a fool to marry her now. She would not be faithful. Each time I touched her, she would imagine it as Peter.

If only she looked at me in that way…