A beauty named after the bitterest season sits in the crown garden, alone at breakfast. Ethan watched her from afar with concern. Did she always make me this nervous? We’re friends, close friends. Friends don’t make you nervous, even the beautiful ones. He thinks, second guessing their friendship after not seeing each other for a while. Does absence make the heart grow fonder? Ethan could only hope.
Walking the straight path from the main house to the enormous octagon gazebo she sat in, Ethan approached, each step heavier than the last. The abundant flower beds surrounding him is a pleasant, calming distraction until realizing he was empty-handed. He stares at the flowers, thinking. “Give it to me,” he whispers. Obedient flowers rise from the dirt, binding in a neat bouquet. He grabbed it quick, hoping no one saw. Mr. Velia warned Ethan not to use his powers at the crown, but he couldn’t help himself, and wanted to make a good second impression.
Winter wears a gold, short sleeve crop top, showing curves he’d never seen before. Her long legs are smooth as a milk-lime mint shake in blue-jean shorts and lavender sneakers. Even her black-purple-blue hair had grown longer, tied back in a loose ponytail.
“Shit. Why did I turn around?”
Mr. Velia stands outside the main house, looking in his direction. “Yeah, I know you’re watching, keep on.” Ethan says, agitated. He refocused on his crush. Here we go…
“Ethan?” she leaps up; the chair falls out from under her. “ETHAN!” She takes the flowers, diving into his arms. On instinct, he picks her up, spinning her.
Not again, not again! They fall to the grass. Anger boils inside Ethan, one not felt since the Great War, shifting his mind to survival mode. He charges ahead, shielding Winter with his body. They take shelter behind the base of a tall garden statue. The engraving caught Ethan’s eye: Her Majesty, Queen Danielle Dumisani.
“What happened!?” Winter screams, holding onto Ethan for dear life.
“Stay down,” he whispers. “Are you hurt?”
“No, yeah I-I’m okay. What happened?!”
Voices roar in the distance. Ethan looks past the statue. A swarm of crown guards run toward them–he looks closer and stands up, following Mr. Velia’s gaze to a fifth-floor window of the main house where King Resolut is, pulling a firearm back inside. Ethan ducked down fast. “What the fuck…?”
Ethan looks out again into the tall, pitch-black boots of a crown guard towering over him.
“Miss Velia, Mr. Dust, are you okay?” the guard asks, extending a black gloved hand.
“Uh, the king shot at us; you tell me!” Ethan shouts.
“King Resolut did no such thing. Please come with us, we’ll escort you to the guest residence.”
“What’s going on? Ethan said he saw the king, and Ethan never lies. Where’s my father? Take us to him, now!”
“Miss Velia, we have explicit orders to escort you and Mr. Dust to safety. Residence staff will provide refreshments for you both, and suits for swimming.”
“It’s okay, Win, come on. Let’s see how the water feels.”
Ethan extends his hand. Winter takes it, blushing.
“Why would he shoot at us?” Winter asks moments later from the bedroom, changing. The door is open. Ethan talks to her from the living room couch, waiting.
“I don’t know. But I feel it wasn’t you he was after, he’s a nut!”
“Because of his father, Crow. I can back that up too. He wasn’t the most pleasant person to be around. He wanted to kill Resolut! Did you know that?”
“Like I said, nut. Looks like it runs in the family. Anyway, does Resolut like you or something? Wouldn’t be the first time a jealous man tried to kill me.” Ethan chuckles, staring at the garden through the window, remembering his MILF neighbor, the husband she said moved on, and the day he came home from work early.
“Oh please, the king? I don’t know him like that! And I’m not interested.”
“Well, he could’ve killed us, the distance from where we stood, to that statue… It’s a clear shot, even for an amateur, and that guy is no amateur…”
When Winter emerges from the bedroom, her pink bikini caught Ethan off-guard. He’d never seen her in so little clothing, making the anger he felt over the king’s actions suddenly disappear.
“Well, regardless of the shit show today, it’s good to see you again — even though you put me away. You look great.”
“I’m sorry… I was focused on the crown, and myself… do you forgive me?”
“We’ll see. Don’t put me away again though.”
Winter laughs. “I can’t. You’re too large to capture now.”
“Good.” Ethan smirks. He adjusts his face to a forced, serious look, remembering why she put him away in the first place: too much smirking.
“Don’t hide your smirks.”
They hug again, and break, but her hands linger on his shoulders, his on her hips. He leans forward, inching closer to her face. Winter shuts her eyes.
The doorbell rings, startling them both. Ethan backs away.
“Uh. Let me get that. Maybe it’s news about what’s going—”
Mr. Velia entered before Ethan could answer, heading straight to Winter. “Are you okay, honey?”
“Dad! Someone shot at us!”
“I know. I saw it all. An absolute travesty. Listen, I have something to tell you about our king.”
“Let me guess, he’s a nut?” Ethan says, taking a seat beside Winter.
“He’s had many setbacks since extricated from House Diamond, so we must be patient with him in his rehabilitation. Being captured, beaten and left to die is tough to get over.”
“But why did he shoot at us?” Winter asks.
“A simple misunderstanding. He still has the captive mind; he’s been on edge. Once I revealed who you were, he declared his deep regret for the error and sends his apologies.”
“I’ll wait to hear it from him, when he apologizes to my face,” Ethan says.
“That won’t happen.” Mr. Velia says, his voice rougher than gravel.
“Then there was no apology.”
Uncomfortable silence falls. Winter sat still between the two, staring at her hands.
“Watch your step Ethan Dust. Someone like yourself does not request words from the king.”
“I thought I was a part of the family?”
Mr. Velia clears his throat. “Winter, would you excuse us please?”
“I prefer she stayed, if that’s what you wanna do, Win.”
She glanced at her father’s stern look, then at Ethan.
“I’ll be in the bedroom.”
Mr. Velia continues. “You lost your parents and your country because of insubordination. Do not make the same mistakes here.”
“Look around, Ethan Dust, then step outside and look again. You’re at the top of the top. Don’t get knocked down by your ego. Let this incident pass. More good surrounds you here than evil. Again, King Resolut is thoroughly repentant for his error.”
Ethan scoffs. He’s not sorry, otherwise he’d say it to my face, like the man he should fucking be.
“There is a position for you at Velia Inc, alongside Winter starting next week. You two are of similar mind and uncanny ability. With two twisters, Velia will continue to prosper while I serve as Crown Advisor to our king.”
Mr. Velia rises, smoothing his slacks over.
“Thank you for protecting my daughter.” Mr. Velia’s strong green hand extends forward. They shake like respectable men.
“I’d do anything for her.”
“Bye Daddy!” Winter yells from the bedroom.
Residence staff serves a multitude of breakfast delights. Ethan stood by, watching. Other than Winter, there weren’t many he could trust in the crown. Especially after getting shot at. What’s next? Poison?
Ethan popped a grape in his mouth and snooped inside the gold platters. One sizzled with hot maple sausage and bacon. In another, mountains of scrambled eggs. He sniffed the air—towering pancakes crowned with melted butter, swimming in oceans of syrup, crispy homemade hash browns and thick, hot biscuits were all ready for consumption. Damn, this looks good.
“Did you hear all that with your dad?” he asks Winter.
“I recorded it.” Her glasses turn to their normal blue and white color, minus the glow. “Ah. An American-style breakfast today. That’s nice.” She frowns at the food and poured a steamy cup of mint tea instead.
No matter what rage lay inside, Winter always made Ethan smile. She wasn’t scary as others made her out to be and was the only one to show him kindness when he first arrived in Aeterna. For Winter, Ethan would gladly take a bullet and die happy knowing she’d live to see another day.
Maybe it is time to look around, like Mr. Velia said. He was nineteen now and saw a lot no one should ever see. Death, struggle, faces forced to smile, living under the fist of order. Soon I’ll be at Velia Inc. I can build my beast, maybe return to Earth to see it one last time before the rot starts. Winter’s been dying to visit; we could go together.
Ethan caught Winter’s gaze as she disappeared into the bedroom, leaving the door open behind her. She can’t be changing again.
No answer. He follows the mint tea scent.
“Win? Wanna go swimming still?”
With each step inside, the room grew darker. “Where are you?” He moves towards a bed bathed in light from a circular skylight above it. Ethan watches the gold sun rays die as night creeps along like a silent, hungry prowler.
“Is this real?” he asks no one, watching a perfect white-gold moon settle where the sun had stood. He looked down and found Winter on the bed, submerged in the moon’s twinkling glow.
Where’d she come from?
She holds a sheet to her chest, trembling beneath. Ethan admires her exposed shoulders, neck, tousled hair, inky eyes…
“Oh yeah?” he asks. A grin sweeps his face.
“I, uh, just thought, maybe…”
He nods. “It’s cool Win.”
“I haven’t, you know. Before. W-with a guy, hardly with a girl. Certainly, never a human.”
“Lucky me.” He took off his shirt and used his powers to shed the rest. His pants fall to the floor with a soft thud.
Winter gazed at his muscular arms, sculpted chest, and gulped hard at his length… She looks up, shy. “Have you done this…? Before?”
“We talked about it, remember? The MILF—”
“Bah! Okay, okay! Don’t remind me. Shut up. Kiss me.”
He climbed in, kissing her slow, pushed up against the plush, lime colored headboard. Their hands lose themselves in places neither wanted to leave. He takes the sheet from her grasp, caressing her soft skin. Their bodies collide into a magical dream he craved to melt inside repeatedly.
“Tell me if I’m too—”
“O-ok…” she whispers, parting her knees.
Ethan shudders, his head falls backward, catching the sight of rain drops shattering against the skylight. Green lightning marked the black sky, followed by monstrous thunder, rattling the residence. Is she doing that? Ethan thought, gazing down at Winter. Is it us?
A strange force of nature connected them with each thrust, pumping through their veins with fresh, chilled liquid. He felt stronger. He looked at his arms where long cord-like things slithered beneath his skin. They were inside Winter too, across her face, down her neck, slithering inside her breasts before vanishing from them both. She smiles. Ethan kissed her again and again.
“Be with me,” they ask one another and laughs, never wanting to end…
Meanwhile, from the gazebo, Mr. Velia sat with King Resolut, looking at the guest residence. Neither could see Winter and Ethan, but knew what was taking place inside.
“Finally. Human and our kind are one. We control it all now.” Mr. Velia said, beaming proudly.
Resolut shook his head. “He’s going to hate me; I can feel it.”
“Well, no one told you to shoot at them. They would’ve had this ending without your interference. I was watching Ethan.”
“Well, it got them moving a little faster. We saw his bravery in action at least, and he’s fast. I give him that.”
“I never doubted him. If not for your troubles with Summer Diamond, you wouldn’t have almost died, and these two could’ve been together sooner. You had me worried sick. Now we have to bring House Diamond under control.”
“I’ll handle them.” Resolut says, stone faced.
“Regardless, Ethan Dust is a happy man right now, as is my daughter. He won’t remember you shot at him until you upset him.” Mr. Velia gives the king a look. “So don’t upset him. I’ve become quite fond of the human.”
“You’re certain they’re meant for each other?”
“Yes. She discovered him by mistake two years ago, when I brought him from America. I couldn’t keep them apart. Countless times I’ve told her to be wary of that Ethan Dust, that he was dangerous even. That part is true. But he has never shown her ill intent. And, the Amethyst confirmed their love.”
“Seriously?” Resolut asks, intrigued.
“Indeed. They shared themselves when their heart and mind were ready. Most of us can’t get that right, always rushing into everything. I’m proud of them. They’ll do wonderful things together. Soul mates always do.”
“Hm. I look forward to meeting them both.”
“Let’s give them privacy. I need to figure out how to tell Winter you’re her brother next. It won’t be easy. Cigars and strategy?”
“Sounds wonderful Father.”