Authors: Breeana Puttroff
Blooms of Consequence
Copyright © 2012 Breeana Puttro
The moral right of the author has been asserted.
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E-Book ISBN: 978-0-9839930-8-7
Paperback ISBN: 978-0-9839930-9-4
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Cover Design by Mallory Rock
Blooms of Consequence, Copyright 2012, Breeana Puttroff
~ 2 ~
Nineteen Days Later
~ 7 ~
The Last Prince
~ 20 ~
~ 21 ~
~ 22 ~
Crossing the Border
~ 23 ~ D
~ 25 ~ S
“ARE YOU OKAY, WILL?” Quinn asked quietly, still holding William’s hand as Nathaniel finally pulled away, finished with raising the tattoo.
After a long moment, he opened his eyes and nodded, although the gesture was unconvincing. “Are you?” he asked, wincing as he struggled to lift his head enough to get a look at the new artwork on his chest. “Please tell me you’re not still hurting.”
She gave him a half-smile, rubbing her thumb against the back of his hand, but she didn’t answer.
His eyes widened, and he glanced up at the bandage that now covered her new tattoo.
She tried to shrug, but only her right shoulder rose, and a searing stab of pain rippled through the left one. “Ow... Okay, that was a mistake.”
“It will be sore for a few days,” Nathaniel said, setting aside the tools he had been using and digging into his more-familiar leather medical bag.
Quinn looked at William’s tattoo. The blue ink stood in sharp contrast to the rest of his skin, forming the formidable symbol that represented the Friends of Philip, and she was suddenly acutely aware of the permanent mark under her own bandage. “Did we really just do that?” she asked, as a sudden wave of reality hit. Being here in Eirentheos sometimes felt so disconnected from her real – her other – life that it was easy to believe the things she did here wouldn’t truly matter.
And maybe during her first journeys here, that had been true. But now…
“Yes, you really just did.” Nathaniel leaned in again, and Quinn tightened her grip on William’s hand as her uncle spread a healing salve over the design, and then taped a thick piece of white gauze over it. William squeezed his eyes shut while he was being touched. “It took me awhile to get used to it at first, too,” Nathaniel said. “But you have a long time to adjust. That tattoo isn’t going anywhere.”
Her stomach tightened with a strange feeling as she thought about that – it was permanent, what she’d done. Even if she did walk away from all of this and go back to her life in her world, she would always have this reminder. And other people would be able to see it. “I wonder what my mom would say,” she wondered aloud.
Nathaniel’s gray eyes met hers, and she wasn’t sure how to read the expression in them. “I don’t know what Megan would say, Quinn. But I think Samuel would be proud.”
Beside her, William struggled to sit up. Once he’d managed it, he put his arm around her shoulder, careful not to touch either of their bandages.
“Would he?” Quinn asked. “He’s the one who left – the one who chose to get married and to have a baby in my world instead of here. Did he really want me here?”
Nathaniel sighed, his expression serious now. “His situation was complicated, and the choices he made were his own. He kept you there because he wanted you safe. If he were here now, that’s probably still what he would want – for you to be safe – but he still would have been proud of your making a decision for yourself – once he adjusted to the fact that you’re grown up enough to make it. I’m not sure I’m ready for that part myself.”
She swallowed; she’d thought that she’d long ago accepted the death of her biological father, but the things that had happened lately brought his absence into sharp focus sometimes. It didn’t help that she wouldn’t be facing the choices she was now if he was still alive.
“In any case,” Nathaniel added, keeping his eyes on hers, “I’m proud of you.”
She didn’t know how to answer. William’s arm tightened around her as she struggled to think. It was only recently that she’d found out that Nathaniel was actually her uncle, her father’s brother, and not just the small-town doctor she’d known her whole life.
Nathaniel looked as awkward as she felt as he finished putting things away inside several leather cases, but he smiled reassuringly at her, and she realized he didn’t expect a response. He pulled a small glass bottle out of his medical pouch. The little round pills inside rattled as he set it on the table in front of them. “Both of you should take some every six hours for the next day or so. I’m going to go speak with Stephen and see if we can figure out what’s going on here.”
At almost the same time Nathaniel was going out of the room,
Thomas reappeared in the doorway. “More ice, anyone?” he asked, grinning and holding up two small cloth bags.
“Yes, please,” William said, but his hands didn’t move. Quinn, still reeling from the conversation with Nathaniel, held both of her hands out, though the right one made it further than the left. Smiling, Thomas crossed the room and set one ice pack in each of her hands.
Maybe she was wrong, and she had recovered at least a little bit, because her hands cooperated now as she lifted the first bag to her chest. After a tense moment of adjusting to the cold, the ice felt good against her flaming skin.
“Okay, Will,” she said, raising the other, “this is going to feel awful for a minute, but then it’ll help.”
He nodded again, the only gesture he seemed capable of at the moment, and she thought about how strange it felt to be talking him through something. Usually it was William, the healer, who was speaking to her in soothing tones, right before he applied a stinging ointment or stuck a needle in her.
He sucked in a breath, squeezing his eyes shut as she pressed the little blue bag to his chest.
“That’s usually my line,” she said, inching closer to him while holding both ice packs in place.
After a moment, he relaxed slightly and replaced her hand with his, holding the ice against the bandage himself. “Why did we do this again?”
“Because you could get it over with
. Imagine watching
and then thinking about it for a couple of moons before doing it to yourself.” Thomas said. He was teasing, but there was an edge to his voice.
Quinn knew he was upset about not being allowed to join the Friends of Philip with them now. Stephen had agreed that Thomas could join before he was officially of age, but he had to wait until his sixteenth birthday, when his twin sister, Linnea, would be of age.
In some ways, she thought, it was more important to him than it was to her and William. He was the one who had been held hostage and tortured in Philotheum, the one who had been rescued by guards brave enough to be members of the secret resistance. Those guards were now facing a likely execution for that bravery.
Yes, Thomas very much had a stake in joining the Friends of Philip.
Looking at Thomas’ face, thinking about what he’d been through, made the pain she was in seem worth it somehow and eased her doubts about what her real father would have wanted. He was gone, and it was up to her now.
Beside her, William straightened, matching her posture, and tried to smooth his expression. “Help me out?” he asked Thomas, holding up his shirt, which had been folded over the back of the couch.
“Not being allowed to officially join yet doesn’t change how you feel about it, Thomas,” William said as Thomas helped him ease the fabric over his head. Quinn held the ice pack until the shirt was on, and then she pulled back his unbuttoned collar and pressed the bag against his bandage again. William shuddered, but kept talking as he reached to hold it himself. “And you never know; Father may yet change his mind now that we’re not going to Bristlecone.”
“Maybe,” Thomas said. “But you’re right; it doesn’t really matter if I’m allowed to officially join or not. I know which side I’m on. Speaking of not going to Bristlecone, though – Quinn, are you all right with that?”
She had never noticed before just how ingrained a habit shrugging was, but the memory of the sharp pain a moment ago managed to stop her. Was she all right? She hadn’t even thought about that yet – what it might mean if they couldn’t get to the gate. “I don’t know, Thomas. Before yesterday, I wasn’t even planning on going back home yet. We were going to be leaving for a trip through the kingdom, remember? I wonder if we can do that now?”
Thomas frowned. “No, I don’t think so, Quinn. It would be too dangerous for any of us to be traveling away from the castle. There was a reason my father was sending us to Bristlecone, remember?”
“Right, that was stupid of me to even mention.” Quinn swallowed, remembering that they weren’t sure how much Tolliver knew, remembering the missing guard and the strangers camped around the gate. Everything had changed so quickly since yesterday, so many big things had happened, that she hadn’t even had time to think about any of it. One moment they’d been planning the traditional kingdom tour to commemorate William’s coming of age, and the next they’d been going to Bristlecone; and then, just a little while ago, it had all changed again.
All day, she’d had gnawing anxiety about seeing her mother again. It was only now she realized that she’d been looking forward to it, too.
“It wasn’t stupid, Quinn. None of us has any idea what’s really going on right now,” William said, rubbing his thumb against the back of her hand.
Something about the gesture, or maybe his words, set off an unexpected reaction inside her. Her stomach clenched, and hot moisture appeared in the corners of her eyes. She blinked furiously, trying to make them go away, but more kept building. A second later, she was mortified when drops started running down her cheeks. She yanked her hand out of William’s and tried rubbing them away.
“Yeah, Quinn,” Thomas said kindly. “Hey, are you okay?” his voice changed, and she knew he’d seen what she was trying to hide.
She was fine. She tried to tell him so, tried to tell both of them as they leaned in close, but her voice wouldn’t work. When she opened her mouth, all that came out was a shuddering sob, and the tears flowed faster. It was suddenly hard to breathe. Thomas retrieved the ice pack from where it had fallen into her lap and held it back against her chest, and William rubbed her back, but she couldn’t stop crying.
She didn’t know why, didn’t understand why she couldn’t make herself stop, but the third time she tried to speak to explain that she was just fine, William looked up at Thomas. “Go,” he said. “Give her some space, please.”
She hadn’t known that she didn’t want him there, but when Thomas pulled the door closed behind him, she felt an overpowering sense of relief. Still, though, the tears didn’t stop. William set his ice pack down as he scooted so close to her that she was practically in his lap. He pulled her head against the side of his chest that wasn’t hurting and held her there.
At first, she sobbed harder, still not understanding where the tears were coming from. He just held her tighter, not saying anything.
Eventually, the torrent slowed into a steady stream, and finally she could almost put words to the emotion that had overtaken her. “What if I can never go home again?”
In the next moment, she knew exactly why, the other night when he’d told her he loved her for the first time, she’d had her answer for him right away. He didn’t speak immediately, didn’t shrug off her concerns or tell her it was going to be okay, when neither of them knew if that was true. He looked at her thoughtfully for a long moment before he finally answered. “I don’t know.”
It was enough that she was able to finally stop crying. She took a deep breath and composed herself, nodding at his answer – the only truthful answer there could be. William reached into his pocket, but when he pulled his hand back out, it was empty.
“I already went through all of your handkerchiefs, remember?” she said, glancing down at the bandage on her chest.
“It’s been a long day already, hasn’t it?” He cupped her chin in his hand, brushing away the remnants of her tears with his thumb.
His touch brought with it a new thought, one that made her shiver, and she took his other hand in hers. “I’m glad I’m stuck on the same side of the gate as you.”
The way his eyes widened gave her hope that the idea of being separated like that alarmed him as much as it did her. She didn’t get the chance to ask him, though, before he brought his lips to hers.
His lips were feather-light as they brushed against hers, sending a flood of warmth all the way to her toes, before he moved on, planting soft kisses along her chin and her cheekbones, kissing everywhere the tears had been, replacing her doubts with the one thing she was certain of right now – him.
By the time he finally pulled away, her thoughts had cleared, and her resolve was back where it belonged. “Sorry about that.”
William didn’t answer; he just leaned in again, kissing her softly on the nose before leaning back against the couch cushion. “I wonder where Linnea went.”
* * *
Linnea found her mother outside, sitting comfortably on one of the polished wooden benches, baby Hannah nestled in her lap while most of the rest of Linnea’s youngest siblings played nearby.
“Where are Emma and Alex?” she asked, coming to sit next to her.
Charlotte smiled and adjusted Hannah on her lap so that she could turn and look at Linnea. “Mud fight.” She nodded toward a recently watered patch of flowers. “Mia took them upstairs to change.”
“That sounds about right.” Linnea chuckled. “They didn’t cause too much damage,” she said, glancing over at a wide circle of gravel littered with shovels and other digging toys. That space had once been a flowerbed, too.
Her mother laughed aloud. “I think I could have
thirteen children and none of them would be as destructive as you and Thomas were. Of course, I had three other small boys
Rebecca when you and Thomas were little. I’m not sure why we didn’t stop having children after you.” Charlotte’s criticism rang hollow, though, as she kissed the top of Hannah’s head, taking a deep sniff of her neck before leaning over and kissing Linnea on the head, too.