Lilium paced the front room of the small cottage she shared with her Da and two younger siblings. She wore a lovely dark red dress with a scoop neckline, flowing sleeves and a fitted waist. Her long dark gold hair was pulled back into a low pony tail fastened with a beautiful silver clip. Da had given it to her earlier that day as a gift for her eighteenth birthday. Butterflies swarmed in her stomach; she felt so grown up yet deep inside she trembled like a little girl.
"Ya will wear out the floor boards, child. Be still, he will be here soon enough," the Miller said with chuckle.
"Do I look alright?" the young woman asked for the umpteenth time.
Her father pushed himself from his chair and moved to block her path. Gently he took her by the shoulders and kissed her forehead. "You look beautiful, just like your mother did when she was your age." His eyes sparkled with unshed tears as he looked at his little girl. "Now just 'cause you are of age does not mean…"
"Da!" Lilium said, blushing deeply and playfully smacking his arm. She could not believe her father even suggested that something like *that* would take place. She liked Hesgar a lot; found him charming and very handsome and her dreams were filled with less than pure images of the two of them, but this was the first time since the Summer Festival that the two of them would be out alone.
Prior to this night the only time they were alone was the walk home from the Warrior's Den when she had still worked there and the ride to and from the Summer Festival. The other times they were together, it was either at the homestead or in the company of others, namely Fréarid and his wife or, on occasion, Captain Erkenbrand and Éalwyn.
A knock at the door cause her heart to jump in her throat and glue her feet to the floor. The Miller chortled as he limped to the door.
"Good day, sir," Hesgar greeted with a small bow. "Is Lilium ready?"
The Miller snorted. "Come see for yourself." The large man stepped aside and let the Rider pass. Hesgar entered the front room and all thoughts and words fled his mind as he looked upon Lilium. The young man thought his heart would burst for love of her. She looked radiant!
The Miller's daughter began to blush and toed at the floor. Why was Hesgar staring at her like that? She finally looked up into eyes filled with love, admiration, and…desire. The young woman's heart fluttered and she felt that tingly warmth that came when ever she imagined them together more intimately. Now, for the first time, she saw that look in his eyes; he wanted her, too!
Her father cleared his throat and spoke, successfully breaking the sexual tension that was mounting; "Now she may be at her majority, but I still expect her home at a reasonable hour."
Hesgar shook himself, took a deep breath, and looked the taller man in the eyes as he answered, "I assure you, sir, she will not be late. I have a quiet supper arranged and then I thought to celebrate at the Warrior's Den for a little while before I bring her home."
The Miller nodded and Lilum smiled. That sounded wonderful; a little time alone and some time with friends. "Let me just get my cloak and I will be ready," she said softly.
As Lilium hurried back to her room, the Miller reached into his pocket and retrieved a small pouch. "I think ya will be needed this," the older man said with a wistful sort of smile.
Hesgar took the pouch, fingering it gently before raising his eyes to the Miller's. An almost non perceivable nod was all the Rider got as Lilium glided back into the room.
She looked at the two men and wondered about the odd feeling she was getting. It was like they were having some silent communication. "I, I am ready," she said.
The men broke from their thoughts. The Miller headed for the door and opened it for them. "Well, ya best be gettin' going. Wouldn't want dinner to spoil."
Lilium moved towards the door; Hesgar, however remained where he was, looking again at the pouch in his hand. Suddenly the rider turned to father and daughter. "Wait!" he said. The other two stood silent as Hesgar continued. "I was going to give you this at dinner, but…" he hesitated, "I think it would be more appropriate now."
Lilium cocked her head to the side trying to figure out what the man was talking about. She looked to her father but his face was unreadable—though his eyes seemed…wet. Slowly she moved back into the room and came to stand before the tall young Rider.
"Lilium, I knew what I wanted to get you for your birthday and after talking to your father," he paused, willing his nerves to settle, "he…well that is I…Happy Birthday." With a shaky hand he gave the Miller's daughter the small pouch.
Tentatively her delicate hand pulled apart the draw string and carefully emptied it into the palm of her hand. Lilium gasped. She looked to her Da and saw the unshed tears begin their silent journey down his face. When she looked back at Hesgar, she found the man who had become her every thought, kneeling before her.
"Will you accept me as your betrothed?" he asked; hope shining in his warm brown eyes.
Lilium looked back at the brooch in her hand--her mother's brooch; twin horse heads entwined, one with a wreath of wheat etched onto it. Her vision blurred and her voice failed. All the young woman could do was nodded…quite emphatically.
Hesgar stood, finally breathing again, and took the pin, carefully attaching it to the shoulder of her dress. With her hands free and realization dawning, Lilium threw her arms around her betrothed and pulled his lips to hers in a rather searing kiss! Instinctively, Hesgar wrapped his arms around her and pulled her close. This was nothing like what they had shared in the past. This was not some chaste kiss of youngling; it was the heated kiss of a man and a woman very much in love.
The Miller cleared his throat amid giggling coming from the loft steps as Lilium's siblings looked through the rails. Hesgar reluctantly broke the kiss, a slight pink stain on his cheeks as he realized the audience.
Lilium turned to her father with such a look of love that the Miller was forced to wipe at his eyes again. In a flash, his little girl was in his arms. "Oh thank you, Da! I love you!" she whispered into his barrel of a chest.
"And I you, little one," he replied, kissing the crown of her head. Looking over her, he pinned Hesgar with a fatherly stare. "This changes nothing," he said firmly, "I still expect her home at a reasonable time and in the same 'condition' as she is leaving." His meaning was clear.
Hesgar squared his shoulders and met the man's stare. "You have my word." Hesgar had already decided that they would wait until their wedding night to know each other *that* way; however, if Lilium kept kissing him like she did before, it might have to be a very short betrothal!