The bad news? I don't have the book done yet! A combination of running into a plot hole at 75% through the first draft, some health issues, and having my kids at home for the summer derailed me from my original time line. I had really hoped to have this out to you by August, but it's looking more like September. As penance, here's another excerpt - this time from Laurel's point of view. (You can read the first excerpt I posted here.) Enjoy!
The garden was more of a park than anything, with a variety of trees, dozens of types of flowers, a hothouse, and the stables. It was as overwhelming as all the rest, but it was green, and Laurel found himself grow calmer while in it.
The prince led him to a shady spot where some servants were setting up a game for them. He had decided to teach Laurel croquet. Laurel was not very good at it, especially since the prince kept correcting his form by standing behind him and reaching around, moving his hands on the mallet to where they should be.
He was flirting, in other words. Laurel had never been flirted with, and still wasn’t sure how to handle it. Earlier, it had infuriated him because he assumed the prince was either doing it out of pity or else to make fun of him, but now he wasn’t so sure. The artificiality of it still rankled. Even if Laurel were nobility, he never would have caught the prince’s eye. No amount of dressing up would ever make him into one of the dandies he no doubt truly desired.
They finished the game—the prince won, naturally. They sat down at the table that had been set up for them. It was laden with even more refreshments and a pitcher of lemonade, as if they hadn’t just eaten an enormous meal. And there was still supper left after this! Laurel was so full he felt he might never eat again, but he did take the lemonade when it was offered.
“You’re quiet again,” the prince commented. “Don’t tell me you’re a sore loser.”
“Then what has you looking so glum?”
Laurel flexed his fingers over his cool glass. The lemonade was iced. He’d never had an iced drink before. “Why did you get those suits for me?”
“I already told you. If we want to have our fun, I think you would be more comfortable if you blended in, as it were.”
“It’s not because you’re embarrassed to be seen with me?”
“Of course not! I am never embarrassed about anything. Who on earth would try to shame me? It’s one of the chief pleasures of being royalty. Why are you so against wearing them?”
“I took an oath forsaking earthly pleasures.”
“You also took an oath to tell me the truth. Is that really all it is?”
Laurel swallowed. “Those fine things…they won’t make me any prettier when we’re in bed.”
“Still on about that, are you?” The prince heaved a dramatic sigh. “You are utterly unforgiving—and more my type than you realize.”
Laurel’s cheeks burned. “Don’t make fun of me.”
“I wouldn’t dream of it.”
Still so smug, so amused by the poor, ugly temple virgin. Laurel got to his feet and turned away, folding his arms around himself as he fought back tears. He could run away from the prince, or run away from his responsibilities, but not both, and he couldn’t decide which to choose.
The prince was beside him in a moment. He put his hand on Laurel’s shoulder and turned him around. “Perhaps that sounded flippant. Forgive me—in the circles I run in, sincerity is a foreign language, and I’m afraid my accent makes me unintelligible.” He took his hand in his and met his gaze directly. “I am not making fun of you. I want to show you a nice time. Please let me?”
Laurel bit his lip. “I’ve done nothing but insult you. Why would you be kind to me at all?”
“It so happens that I enjoy it when lads are a little mean. There are very few people who have the courage to be rude to a prince. I find it rather refreshing.”
Was he really serious? Laurel pulled away. He couldn’t think clearly when the prince was around. “I would like some time alone.”
The prince dramatically clapped his hands over his heart, as if struck by an arrow. “Oh yes, that’s perfect. You’re driving me wild! Now tell me that you find my company intolerable.”
Laurel paused. “But I don’t.” And it was true. He didn’t anymore.
The prince smiled. “Then we are making progress.” He bowed. “Good afternoon, dearheart.”
Laurel watched him leave, and soon he was alone. But the prince’s absence didn’t make his thoughts any clearer. Indeed, they seemed even muddier than before.