Monty pulled onto his cracked driveway and brought the motorcycle to a stop. The house looked a lot like Lizzie remembered; the lawn was overgrown, the lanterns on either side of the garage door were lit, and the cream white door looked just as intimidating as always. I finally get to see what the inside of his house looks like.
That same door opened just as Lizzie climbed off the bike; Tony and another teenager she didn’t recognize emerged from the home, chatting amongst themselves. Strong green, bright orange, and pale pink energy radiated off of the royal advisor, while his friend gave off a more conflicted aura. They shared the same orange glow with dashes of pink, but the stranger’s orange gave way to deep brown along the edges.
Lizzie blinked at the sight. Is Tony smiling? I’ve never seen him look happy before.
The teens noticed the prince first, nodding quietly in his direction as they passed him on their way toward the street. Tony offered no such greeting to Lizzie, while his friend smiled meekly and nodded at her. She returned the gesture in spite of the suspicion that crept up her back. There’s something up with that guy… He better not hurt Tony.
“C’mon,” Monty insisted. He left his bike on the driveway and took her hand in his, leading her up the path. “I owe you a tour.”
Butterflies flooded Lizzie’s abdomen as she followed the prince. Her heart was pounding in her chest. Calm down, Lizzie. It’s just a house. Nothing has to happen once you go inside.
But what if I want something to happen? A small voice replied back. Would that be so bad?
Only if Monty’s okay with it, she insisted to herself. I’m happy just spending time with him.
Monty led her up the steps of the brick house and released Lizzie’s hand. Then he pulled the screen door open, holding it in place with his body as he let the front door swing open. He gestured to the door and bowed his head playfully. “Milady.”
Caught up in the silliness of the moment, Lizzie stretched her skirt out in a mock curtsey and bowed her head in turn. “Much appreciated, milord.”
She was so swept up in the moment that she willingly stepped into the home without a second thought. Lizzie found herself in a hallway that opened up to a sitting room to the right, while a sofa and accent furniture could be seen straight ahead. A desk, computer, and accent chairs were found in the first area, illuminated by the dim light of the small, single-level chandelier overhead.
“ ‘Scuse me, those assholes left some lights on,” Monty muttered, flipping a switch in the room to shut off the light. Lizzie noticed a doorway leading from the sitting room to a kitchen, something she could only see because the light in the kitchen was still on. “Damn it, Tony!”
Monty gestured for Lizzie to continue further down the hallway. “Make yourself at home, okay? I’ll be right there.”
“Okay,” she agreed, strolling down the hall just as Monty disappeared into the sitting room. When she reached the living room, the teen couldn’t help but smirk. The sofa, tables, and accent chairs all belonged to separate sets, giving the room a quirky, mismatched feel. Directly ahead was the back door, to the right was a doorway that presumably led to the kitchen and dining area, and to the left was a fireplace carved from teal stone. The mantle consisted of a white-painted wood, and the overhead fan was the main source of light for the room. The fan was on, its blades an invisible blur as they spun around.
“Do you want something to drink?” Monty called out from the kitchen. She could hear him open the fridge. “We have juice, some fruity soda that Cassie made, wine, water…”
Lizzie’s forehead scrunched up. “Wine?”
“You want wine?”
“No–I meant, you have wine?” she asked, amazed. “Is it from another colony?”
“Yeah, one from up north.” He explained. “Some traders made the commute. Do you want some?”
“Doesn’t that stuff have alcohol in it?”
She heard him laugh from the kitchen as he pulled something out of the fridge. “I’ll take that as a no. Soda it is.”
She sat on the sofa and glanced around as sounds of pouring carbonated liquid filled the main portion of the home. The window that sat between the fireplace and the back door was just as long and wide as the windows she saw from the front of the house, drapes drawn and all. The flat screen adjacent to the corner hearth was mounted up on the wall, hovering over an entertainment center filled with movie discs, videogames, and a gaming console. Framed pictures on the fireplace mantle caught Lizzie’s eye, and she stood and approached the unlit hearth. Photographs of Monty and Mona, of Monty and Aunt Desi with a woman who looked like an older version of Mona, and of seven young people she didn’t recognize sat there, with the latter frame covered in dust. It was so dusty, in fact, that she nearly mistook one of the men for Monty.
“Those are the angels and humans who founded the colony,” Monty explained as he emerged from the dining area. He had two plastic cups of pink bubbly drink in his hands, and he held one out to Lizzie. “Try it. It’s delicious.”
Lizzie did as he said, her eyes rolling back as the sweet drink hit her tongue. “Remind me to thank Cassie. Is that strawberry?”
“Strawberry and some other berry, I think,” the angel recalled.
Lizzie turned her attention back to the photos, focusing on the one with Monty and the two older women. She pointed to the one who stood opposite Aunt Desi; all three family members were grinning widely at the person behind the camera. “Is that your mom?”
He nodded. “She’s a human, just like you. We got that picture taken just earlier this year, after my coronation.”
Lizzie’s fingers brushed over the third photo–the only one to have Mona with Monty. The two were only kids, their hands, faces, and clothes covered in a variety of paint colors. The twins stuck their tongue out to the cameraman, memorializing their messy state.
“Who took all these pictures?” asked Lizzie. The happy expressions of her boyfriend and his loved ones made her chest ache.
The ache in her chest was replaced with an itch. “Oh,” was all she muttered.
Monty sighed. “You can’t hate him forever, babe.”
She pouted and spun around, drink in hand as she headed back to the sofa. “I can try.”
“What I mean is that you shouldn’t,” the angel implored the human. “Please? Try to get along with him? There’s more to him than a grumpy old man who’s prejudiced against bandits.”
“Like what?” she scoffed. “Like a father who abandoned his daughter?”
She took her seat and glanced over in time to catch the prince’s frown. “He didn’t abandon Mona, Liz. It’s the exact opposite–since Mona was never recruited as an angel, he was extremely overprotective of her. She couldn’t handle both his smothering and his disappointment, so she was going to run away from the colony. I convinced our dad that Mona and I could live on our own at seventeen, that I could protect her while he ran the council.”
Lizzie was taken aback. “Mona never told me any of that.”
“You’re not the only one who doesn’t like to talk about the past,” he half-joked. When she didn’t laugh, Monty claimed the seat beside her and placed his hand on hers, squeezing it gently. “Also, I probably should’ve mentioned this earlier, but the council was split on whether or not you should start the halfway house. Dad was the deciding vote.”
The human’s head spun around so fast she thought her neck might snap. “He was? Matteo voted for the halfway house?”
Monty nodded. She noticed the familiar royal blue stripe that stretched over his neck. He’s telling the truth.
Lizzie took a deep breath, slumped her shoulders as she let it out, and shrugged. “Okay, fine. I didn’t realize the situation with your dad was that complicated. I’ll be nice.”
Then she set her drink down on the side table to her left, tucked a stray curl behind her left ear, and flipped her right hand over from beneath Monty’s. Their fingers interlocked, and the two locked eyes after Monty set down his own drink.
“I’m sorry.” she offered meekly. Her cheeks were burning from the embarrassment of having misjudged Monty’s father.
The prince shook his head and brought their interlocked fingers to his lips. “You have nothing to be sorry about.”
Then he kissed the back of her hand, and Lizzie’s breath caught in her throat. His eyes bore into hers, and his lips were soft as they pressed delicately into her skin.
This boy drives me crazy…
“Still want that tour?” He whispered, his breath tickling her hand.
Lizzie nodded, her lips unable to form words.
He smiled. “ ‘Kay. Let’s go. Bring your soda.”
The angel grabbed his drink and waited patiently for the human at the center of the living room. Once she had her cup in hand and joined him, the two ventured through the opposite hallway as Monty explained the purpose of each room. One was turned into a library, another into a gym, and Tony’s room was the messy bedroom across from a clean, well-stocked bathroom.
When they arrived at the closed door at the end of the hall, Monty took hold of the door knob and winked at the human. “And now, the prince suite.”
Then he swung the door open, flipped on the light, and gestured for Lizzie to come in.