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Her Elemental Dragons: Kiss the Sky: Chapter 21

KIRA

When I’d imagined stopping in Stormhaven on our way to the Air Temple, I’d never pictured myself stepping into one of the finest dress shops in the city. Nor that Auric’s fiancé would be the one who’d convinced me to come here.

“Lady Brin,” the clothier said cheerfully as he made his way over to us and dropped into a bow. “It’s wonderful to see you again.”

Brin took his hands with a sweet smile. “Thank you, Dumond. How are your husbands?”

The elderly clothier’s face crinkled as he beamed at her. “Quite well, thank you. What brings you to my shop today? Is there something I can get you?”

“You may have heard that Prince Auric has returned to the palace and a ball is being thrown in his honor tomorrow night. I plan to wear the lovely lavender gown you made me the other week, but my friend Kira needs something to wear too. I’m hoping you have something that would work for her.”

“I see.” His eyes flicked up and down me, like he was taking measurements. I wore another borrowed dress from Brin today, this one in a pale yellow. “I do believe I might have a few gowns that would do.”

“Thank you,” Brin said. “I’m sorry for the short notice.”

He waved it away. “It’s no trouble. That’s why I always have a few gowns in stock at all times.”

“And that’s why you’re the best.”

“Let me see what I can find,” he said, before slipping into the back room.

Brin and I casually admired the samples on the floor and touched the fabrics on display. Every gown in here was worth more than all of my life’s possessions combined. I was keenly aware that I didn’t belong in this fine shop full of brocades, silks, velvets, and jewels.

“I’m so glad you agreed to come with me,” Brin said, as she idly examined a pair of soft deerskin gloves. “I realize we were both put in an awkward position due to the way we met, but I do hope we can become friends nevertheless.”

“Friends?” I asked, startled.

“Yes. I have so few real friends. Auric is the only person I’m close to. The other nobles are always playing games with each other or are far too stuffy. And the rest…well, I tend to break their hearts.” She winked at me. “Luckily that isn’t an issue with you, since you already have four suitors.”

I wasn’t sure how I felt about being friends with my mate’s former fiancé, but I had to admit I found myself liking Brin despite myself. Instead of answering her, I asked, “Is there anyone you want to be with now that your betrothal with Auric has ended?”

“No one in particular. My family is trying to set up another marriage as soon as possible though.” She sighed as she admired a deep green traveling cloak I’d been looking at earlier. “This would be lovely on you. I’ll tell Dumond to add it to the order.”

The cloak cost more money than I’d ever had in my life. “But I can’t—”

She held up a graceful dark hand. “No arguments, please. I have no sisters either, you know. It’s nice to shop for someone other than myself. And Auric told me to get you whatever you wanted.”

I wanted to protest some more, but the truth was I did need some new clothes, especially if we were going to be in Stormhaven for a few more days. I bowed my head. “That’s kind of you both. Thank you.”

“As the Prince’s new betrothed, you’ll have to start looking the part.” When I made a face, she laughed. “Is that not so?”

“I suppose I am, though we’ve never talked about marriage. Our relationship is…complicated. And I’m still upset with him for not telling me about his betrothal to you.”

“I saw him slip into your room last night, so you can’t be that upset with him,” she said, with a knowing gleam in her eyes.

My cheeks flushed at the memory of being touched by Jasin and Auric together. “I’ve forgiven him somewhat, but not completely.”

“You must understand that Auric has always been the odd one out among his family. They all love him, of course, but he’s always kept to himself and been very independent. When he didn’t, he was often teased by his siblings or ridiculed for being different by other nobles.” She laid a hand on my arm. “When Auric neglects to tell you something, it isn’t because he is trying to keep secrets, but because he has a hard time sharing parts of himself he knows others might disapprove of or dislike.”

I sighed. “That doesn’t excuse what he did.”

“No, it doesn’t, but I hope it explains it better.” Her red lips quirked up. “But if you’d like, we can be mad at him together. I’m still upset he disappeared from the Air Realm without a word to me.”

“He had a good reason, I promise.”

She arched a perfect dark eyebrow. “Yes, though he still won’t tell me what that is.”

I was saved from having to answer when Dumond returned with two women who carried a gown each. “I believe either of these should fit with minimal alterations,” he said. “Shall we try them on?”

I stepped behind a changing screen and donned the first dress, which was pale blue and made of the softest, lightest silk. It hugged my body when I put it on, accentuating my curves, and dipped scandalously low in the back. In the Air Realm people tended to show a lot more skin than I was used to, although I had to admit it did look nice.

I stepped out from behind the screen and Brin clasped her hands together. “Gorgeous,” she said. “It fits you like a glove. Dumond, you are a genius.”

He smiled at us both. “It helps when I have such beautiful women to work with.”

I tried on the other gown next, which was pure white and covered in tiny clear crystals all over, with a low neckline and a skirt that slightly flared around my feet. I could only stare at myself in the mirror as I spun, the crystals shifting in color as they caught the light. My red hair hanging around my shoulders only added to the drama, as if the color had been heightened by the dress. My hazel eyes stood out too, like they were reflecting all the colors the dress caught.

Brin gasped when she saw me. “Oh, it’s incredible. You must wear this to the ball.”

I smoothed my hands down the skirts. “I’ve never worn something so fine in my life.”

“Do you like it?”

In this gown I looked like a princess, like the kind of girl who belonged with Auric in the palace. “Yes, I love it. I’m just not sure I should be the one wearing it.”

“Nonsense. We’ll take both gowns,” Brin told Dumond. “Although she’ll wear this one to the ball.”

He nodded. “Perfect. Let me make a few slight alterations and then we’ll send them to the palace.”

As he began sticking the dress with pins, I said, “Everyone is going to notice me in this dress.”

“Good,” Brin said. “You have the love of a prince. Why hide it?”

I couldn’t help but smile. “I suppose.”

While Dumond continued tacking the dress, Brin began picking out other things for me, such as shoes, jewelry, and accessories, plus that green cloak I’d liked. I decided to leave her to it, since I had no idea what would be proper for the ball and I could tell she loved doing this sort of thing.

Once I’d returned to my borrowed yellow gown and thanked Dumond for everything, Brin didn’t stop there. She dragged me down the boisterous, colorful street to another shop, where I found fine traveling clothes that were more my style. The shopkeeper here knew Brin as well, and together they began picking out things for me.

By the time we were finished, I’d somehow ended up with an entire new wardrobe, courtesy of Brin’s help and Auric’s money. Every time I’d protested it was too much, Brin had ignored me. Now I had new boots, gloves, and riding clothes, along with my two gowns, two pairs of dress slippers, and much more. She even got me a few new chemises made of lace and silk, which I knew the men would love.

Hours later we climbed back into our carriage and relaxed against the seats. Who knew shopping could be exhausting? Or so time consuming? And the oddest thing was, I’d had fun, mainly because of Brin.

As the carriage began to climb the hill to the palace we both fell into tired, companionable silence while staring out the window. I’d been so hurt by Auric that I’d only thought of myself, but now I tried to imagine this situation from Brin’s perspective. Her friend and betrothed had suddenly disappeared without a word and then returned over a month later with a new woman he loved and no explanation for where he’d been. Even if she didn’t love Auric in that way it had to be difficult for her, especially with her family’s pressure on her to marry. Yet she’d been nothing but kind to me.

“You should tell your parents you don’t want them to arrange another marriage for you,” I blurted out.

She blinked at my sudden words. “Why is that?”

“You deserve to be with someone you love. A marriage you don’t want will never make you happy.”

“You’re probably right. At least if I married Auric I would be spending my life with a dear friend, but now my parents will likely try to marry me to someone I can barely tolerate. I do want children to further the family line someday, but I don’t care for men in that way. But what choice do I have?”

It was hard to believe the confident Brin would balk at sticking up for herself, but things were always harder with one’s own family. “What would you tell someone else who was in your position?”

She tilted her head slightly as she considered. “To be honest with their parents and be firm about what they want.”

“Then that’s what you should do.”

A faint smile crept over her red lips. “It’s much easier to give someone advice than to take it. Especially when it comes to standing up to your parents. But I’ll try.” She leaned forward and took my hands in hers. “Thank you, Kira. I can see why Auric loves you.”

“And I can see why you’re his best friend.”

I hated to admit it, but we might be in danger of becoming friends too.


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