Flash Fiction: Anna & Bryce

(Anna & Jack’s story originally appeared as a serial flash fiction on CharlieGsOutfitRatings Instagram on 3/7/21 to 3/12/21 under “Book Vibes.” It has been modified for this blog post.)

Anna settled back in the carriage, disregarding all of her Princess training. She hated Prince Bryce and his stupid purple pants, even if they were her favorite color. “You’re literally the worst.”

Bryce raised an eyebrow. “Feeling’s mutual, Princess.” He spat Princess as if it were an expletive.

“You remodel your castle while your people starve!”

“You mean my father does. Just like yours likes to start wars he can’t finish.”

She sat forward and stuck her fingers right in his face. “That will change when I am queen.”

He brushed her hand away from him. “You think you’re alone in wanting change?”

He crossed his arms and turned so his body was facing the small window.

She noticed a fresh scab on his arm, peering out from the bottom of his shirt sleeve. “Trip over your privilege again?”

He shot her a look. “Building a well for a tenant family. Not that I need to defend myself.”

She swallowed. She hadn’t expected that answer. “Oh.” Because what else could she say?

“How on earth our parents thought we’d be a good match I have no clue.”

His words shouldn’t hurt. She hated him. Had hated him since they first met as children, when he’d broken her favorite toy, then as teenagers when his father had killed her favorite knight. They were into their twenties now, but the feelings were still there. And their families should’ve known a lifetime of hate couldn’t be solved by a carriage ride and a weekend away together.

Just three more days, Anna reminded herself. “Let’s just have to make it through the weekend and then we can break the news to our parents that it just won’t work. I brought plenty of books to keep me company,” she said. “Maybe you can find a wild animal to snuggle up to.”

He smirked. “Why do that when I can just get sliced to ribbons by your words?”

She laughed, then threw her hand over her mouth. Her eyes widened when he laughed in response.

He stared. “You know, I think that’s the first time I’ve ever heard you laugh when it wasn’t at me.”

She shook her head. “That’s not true.” Except she couldn’t think of another instance either. “Huh.”

He held up his hands in front of him. “Listen, let’s just put down our weapons for a few days. Relax. Have a vacation. Then we can go back to hating each other on Sunday, yeah?”

She was about to agree with him when the carriage tilted sideways on two wheels.

Bryce grabbed Anna, wrapping himself around her, her head tucked into his shoulder, and he used his other hand to brace them. The carriage swayed and tumbled to the side, the force of it knocking their breath from their bones.

The sound of screeching metal and fracturing wood filled their ears. Glass shards from the window embedded themselves into their skin. Bryce wrapped himself completely around her as they slid along the road, each choking for air. Then the world came to a quiet stop.

He had protected her.

He had grabbed her.

She pushed away, looking down on his shocked face, a small wound dotting his hairline with blood. “You okay?” she mouthed. Her lungs weren’t working yet.

He flinched but nodded, and helped her sit up.

She looked into his dark brown eyes and her chest warmed “You saved me.”

They heard a shout from outside. “Don’t count your chickens before they hatch, Princess.”

Bryce wrestled with the door that had caved in, kicking it open. “Don’t move,” he ordered, then inched his head out. An arrow flew by and he ducked back. “Five men. No guards standing. The horses are gone.” He started looking around the shattered carriage. “We need weapons.”

Anna lifted her skirts and pulled out two knives. “Can you handle these?”

He froze, staring at her wide-eyed. “Princess?” This time when he said it, it was in awe.

“I always pack.” She struggled to lift the jammed lid on her carriage seat. “Here, help me.”

They worked together to open the secret compartment, where she pulled out her favorite sword. He let out a disbelieving laugh. She nodded. “Hope you weren’t serious about putting down our weapons.”

He shook his head. “By all means, this is better.”

“Ready?” she asked.

“Do we have a plan?”

She smiled. “Yes, don’t die.”

“Good plan.”

She burst through the door’s opening, blocking two arrows with her sword. “Now!”

He pulled himself up and they charged, tag teaming the men who had attacked. She dispatched two without blinking, her lavender dress still pristine.

He roared and took out one more. Then it was two on two.

“Who are you?” Anna ordered, her words punctuated by her ringing sword, blade on blade.

“What do you want?” Bryce barked.

“Two royals in one sweep?” One of the men sneered. “And a pretty girl to boot. My men—“ Anna silenced him with the hilt of her sword to his head.

“Try saying that again. I dare you,” she dared, spinning to the last man. Bryce, distracted by her, took a punch tho the stomach, dropping his weapons.

“Only I get to be mean to him,” she spat, then charged after the last man.

Anna dispatched the threatening man with a single flick of her wrist. She looked around, making sure all of the attackers were still on the ground. “We’ll tie them up then try to find the horses. Yeah? You okay?”

Bryce just stared at her, bewildered. “Who are you?”

“Not too bad, yourself.” She reached down and helped him up. “Find some rope.”

They found some in a tool box in the carriage, then tied up the men who were still alive. Then they found one of the horses at a creek nearby.

“Can you ride without a saddle?” Anna asked.

“Can you ride in that dress?”

She took a knife and sliced her skirts in half. “Yes.”

He stared. “I’m in love.”

She playfully shoved him.

He helped her into the horse, then climbed on behind her. They were pressed together, his strong arms around her waist, hers around the horse as they rode as fast as they dared to the nearest town.

“Marry me,” he yelled over the thundering hooves.

She laughed. “What?”

“You are the most amazing woman I have ever met.”

His arms tightened around her waist and butterflies filled her stomach. She couldn’t forget the moment he protected her when during the accident. “Why’d you grab me? In the carriage?”

“I grabbed you because I couldn’t let you break your neck. I’d never hear the end of it.”

“We hate each other!”

“Makes it more fun!”

She laughed. “I’ll marry you under on condition. You better kiss better than you fight.”

Another squeeze. “I’m a damn good fighter.”

She smiled. “I know.”

When they reached the town, dispatched messages and the constable as needed, then the local doctor came to examine them. They were promptly taken to the inn, given baths, trays of supper, and new clothes.

Anna couldn’t stop thinking about the way Bryce’s body felt wrapped around hers. Her heart beat harder with the memory of how he looked up up at her the moment she saved his life.

Bewildered. Shocked. Impressed.

She had finally felt seen by someone.

A knock at her door jolted her from her thoughts. “Yes?”

Bryce slipped into her room, damp hair brushed back from his face. “You okay?”

She nodded, the butterflies causing a riot inside her. She reached up and touched below the cut on his face. “You okay?”

He closed his eyes as her hand moved to her cheek. “I am now.” He put his hand over hers, then turned his head, leaving a kiss in her palm.

“I was serious about the proposal,” he whispered, his lips against her palm.

“I was too,” she breathed, not believing she had enough audacity to even say the words.

He stepped toward her, brushing her hair behind her ears. “I have a confession.”

He bent down and brushed his lips against her cheek bone. “I don’t hate you.” He kissed her forehead. “I never did.” Her other cheek bone. “Not even as a kid.” The tip of her nose. “Well, maybe as a kid.”

She laughed, more breath than sound. “No?”

He kissed one eyebrow, then the other. “You make me want to be a better man.” The left corner of her lips. “And you fight like a warrior. A goddess.” The right corner of her lips. “And you’re the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen.”

His mouth hovered above her lips. She was melting into the floor, through the earth. She couldn’t remember anything but his warmth, his touch on her oversensitive skin.

“Well, then. Better hope your kiss is as good as your words,” she teased, impressed she had the brain power.

He pulled her into his arms and lowered his lips to hers. Fireworks exploded behind her eyes as she fell into him, sparks pouring from his mouth to hers, setting them both on fire.

They burned while they kissed, every inch of her wanting every inch of him, along with the realization that everything in her world had just changed. Mine, she thought. He’s mine.

When they broke apart, chests heaving and bodies trembling, she nodded at him. He smiled then kissed her again until the world no longer existed.

They had a sword fight instead of a first dance at their wedding.

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