Outlaw Queen Week Day 2: Fake Relationship
“I know you’re not really in love with me.”
Regina smiled, resting her head on Robin’s shoulder as he spoke. She ignored the tiny flutter of excitement in her stomach.
“Right,” she said. “Of course not.”
“But if you were …”
“Then what?” she asked, looking up at him out of the corner of her eye.
His eyes twinkled as he let out a laugh. She smiled in spite of herself. But his arm wrapped around her reminded her too much of another pair of arms that would never hold her again, and her happiness faded as quickly as if she had been doused with ice water.
It had been like this for months, ever since the runaway queen had stumbled blindly into the outlaw’s path, having turned down the chance to learn magic and fled the castle the morning after her wedding.
“I will protect you,” he had promised when she told him her story.
And with the king’s soldiers hunting for her, the best way to do that was to take on a new identity. Gone was Queen Regina, and in her place was Regina of Locksley, a simple peasant woman who lived among the outlaws in Sherwood Forest. With her ragged clothes and uncombed hair, no one who saw her would ever mistake her for royalty, even if it was true. Her so-called “romance” with Robin was just the final layer of the illusion, the reason his men believed she was there. She knew he had feelings for her, but he had never tried to push her into making their fake relationship real.
“You lost your True Love,” he had said. “That’s not an easy burden to bear. I hope someday you do heal from that and find love again, but if it’s not with me … I just want you to be happy.”
Maybe that was it. Maybe that was why she felt so safe in his arms, why she found her thoughts lingering on him. It wasn’t love she felt, because her heart would always be with Daniel, but he was a friend, someone she could trust, someone who – though she couldn’t make herself admit it – she couldn’t imagine her life without. He was an anchor in her storm, a fire on a cold night, a light in her darkness.
But she wasn’t in love with him.
He traced her jaw gently with his fingertips, tilting her chin up so that she was looking him in the eyes.
“But if you were, I would be the luckiest man in the world.”
Regina’s heart fluttered. His eyes were so soft and blue, and she was reminded vaguely of another pair of eyes that had looked at her in almost just the same way, gentle and protective and full of awe, as if he couldn’t believe she was right there in his arms loving him back.
Except that she wasn’t. She wasn’t in love.
“If I loved you …”
What would she be? Surely not the luckiest girl in the world. That sort of thing wasn’t possible for her anymore. Not from the moment that Daniel had collapsed onto the floor of the stables, his heart crushed into ash. But she couldn’t deny, if she hadn’t loved and lost Daniel, if she was just here in Robin’s arms loving him, really loving him …
“If I loved you, it would be like a beautiful dream,” she finally said. “It is a beautiful dream. But it’s not … it can’t be real.”
He nodded, a smile on his lips that didn’t quite reach his eyes.
But as he squeezed her hand comfortingly and stood, leaving her side to gather firewood or speak to some of his men or whatever it was he was doing, Regina couldn’t help but miss the feeling of his arms around her. She couldn’t help but wish for the dream to be real, even though she had made enough wishes as a child to know how futile they were. She couldn’t help imagining the taste of his lips and the feeling of waking up in his arms, safe and warm and loved more than she had imagined she could be ever again.
Maybe not today. But someday …
No. She wasn’t in love. She couldn’t be.
To be continued …