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The rest of the day passes uneventfully. The girl seems to have taken a liking to the beast, which is surprising but good. If she can care for such a terrifying creature, then perhaps the prince stands a chance after all.

He crushes that hope as soon as he regains his ability to speak. After listening to him shout “Woman!” for about five minutes, I finally track him down.

“Where have you been?”

“I’m sorry, Sire, I didn’t realize you were calling me.”

“Who else would I have been shouting for?”

“Forgive me, Your Highness,” I said with a curtsy. “But I did not hear you call my name.” I wonder if he even remembers what my name is.

“Bring the girl to me.”

I find her in the music room again, tense and jumpy. She didn’t even notice me enter.

“Ingrid?”

She jumps.

“I’m sorry, dear, I didn’t mean to startle you. The prince would like to speak with you.”

She nods and follows me back to the prince’s room.

“Good evening, Your Highness,” Ingrid says with a curtsy.

“Have you changed your mind?”

“No, sir, I haven’t,” she stutters.

The prince slams his hands on the table. “Why not? We could be done with disaster if you would just love me!”

“You can’t command my heart, Sire,” Ingrid says softly. Her hands are shaking, but her voice is sure. “No one can. My heart will choose to love, the same as anyone else’s. No amount of ordering or threatening will change that. If I could end this and go home by making myself love you, don’t you think I would?”

The poor girl is nearly in tears, but the prince doesn’t seem to notice.

“I’m not sure you would.” His eyes narrow. “You’re enjoying this, aren’t you? The attention, having me begging for you affection. Well I hope you know that as soon as this…debacle is over, you will only ever see me from a distance. You will never speak to me again. You will go back to your farm and your family and nothing will have changed. You will be a nobody and I will be a prince.”

Goblin’s feet, did the prince of tantrums listen to anything I say? He has to fall in love with the girl as well to lift the spell. And at this rate, I might as well resign myself to losing my magic and living a mundane life.

“Get out of here. Perhaps another day with that beast will change your mind. I’m sure you’re anxious to get away from it.”

“At this point, I think I prefer’s Bear’s company,” the girl mutters. Unfortunately, the prince hears her.

His face turns purple with rage. For a moment, I can see the beast’s face in his own. It sends shivers down my spine. His fist turns white and his muscles tense. I quickly grab Ingrid’s elbow and pull her from the room. I don’t trust the prince to control his temper. And the look on his face says he would like nothing better than to hit something. I can’t risk it being either one of us.

The prince roars in anger, again reminding me of Bear, and I cast another spell to confuse his feet. He will not be able to find either of us tonight. Ingrid doesn’t say a word as I lead her back to her room. Her face is white and her hands shake.

“Would you like me to sit with you a while, dear?” I ask we reach her room.

“Would you, Marta? Just until I fall asleep? I know the door locks, but-”

“I don’t mind one bit. Prince Heinrik can be a little intimidating, can’t he?”

She nods.

“You change into your nightclothes. I’m going to go grab some mending. I’ll lock the door and I have the only key. I’ll be back in a few minutes.”

Ingrid nods again and I step out. Luckily, I don’t really have to go anywhere to retrieve the fictitious mending, I can simply conjure some. But I want to give Ingrid some privacy to put her emotions back in order. After a few minutes pass, I knock on her door.

“It’s only Marta, Ingrid. May I come in?”

“Yes.”

I pull the door closed behind me, making sure the girl can see me locking it. She’s already in her bed. I pull up a chair, sit, and begin stitching closed a hole in one of the conjured shirt in the dim candlelight.

Despite her nerves, the girl falls asleep in a matter of minutes. I cast a spell over her that will alert me when she wakes and leave. I stumble a bit in the hallway. With all the magic I’ve been using, I need a few hours of sleep to replenish my energy. And if I can help it, I’ll only cast basic spells tomorrow. With those promises firmly made, trudge back to my room and sink into the sweet oblivion of sleep.

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