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The girl must have been exhausted, or my sleeping spell stronger than I thought, because she’s still asleep when I wake. It’s nearly mid-day. I eat, conjure a tray, and knock on the girl’s door.

“Good morning,” I say cheerily as I go inside. Ingrid stretches and blinks at the light streaming in the window.

“Good morning Marta.”

“What would you like to do today? Listen to more music? Visit the library? See the gardens?”

“I don’t know. I’m not really used to doing nothing. I have chores at home to keep me busy.”

I choke down a snort. The poor girl has more time than she knows what to do with. If only I had that problem. I can think of a whole list of things I would do if I only had more time. Sadly, it is the one spell that even the most accomplished of sorceresses cannot perform. Time is something that cannot be tampered with.

“Well let’s start with the garden. It’s beautiful this time of year,” I say as if I know.

“Will Bear be out there?”

“I don’t know. If you like, we can look for him before we go out.” I have a hard time calling the beast a ‘him’. Then again, I have a hard time considering the prince a person as well. The beast has more of a heart than he does.

We wander the halls until we see Bear’s lumbering form. Ingrid calls out to him and he pauses while she runs up to him. She hugs him, burying her face in his shaggy coat.

“You’re lucky you don’t have to put up with the prince,” she mutters. “He’s about as mean as you look.”

Bear snorts.

“Exactly! To be honest, he scares me. Not because he’s a prince or anything like that. Last night, I thought he was going to hit me.”

A low growl floats by.

“I know. I don’t think he’d mean to hurt me, but he has a temper. And I don’t think he’s used to not getting his way. He is a prince, after all.” She shakes her head and straightens. “Marta and I are going to see the gardens, do you want to come?”

It’s absolutely amazing. Not only does she seem to think the beast can understand her, she is under the impression that she can understand it. The three of us make our way outside. I catch sight of Karl ducking around the corner to avoid us. I guess he’s taking the prince’s warning seriously.

Lucky for me, I was correct. The gardens are stunning. I didn’t put any of my magic into them, so the beauty was entirely natural. And yet, the girl barely spares the scenery a second glance. She walks beside the beast, chatting away. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say she lived here. For all her talk about feeling uncomfortable, she looks right at home.

I sit on a bench in the sun, enjoying the peace and quiet. I’m beginning to dread the sunset and the drama it brings.