Prince Augustus buried his head in his hands, fighting back the wave of anxiety that swept over him every time he caught a glimpse of them. Every morning when he woke up, he prayed that they’d return to their normal skin tone, but every day the blue hue and icy coldness deepened and spread further. The color moving up his legs and torso had been easy enough to cover, but his hands were more difficult to hide. It had been an unseasonably cold spring, and he’d worn gloves as long as he could, but a sudden warm spell had swept across the kingdom and he was starting to get odd looks from the castle servants—not to mention his father, the king—every time he wore the heavy, black leather gauntlets.
He’d been researching like mad, searching every book in the castle library and consulting with the royal doctor, who’d pursed his lips but agreed to keep it a secret from King Weston. But nothing they tried seemed to be working. Augustus had even gone to the fields to spend the day in the sun, hoping that the heat would cure the spreading ice, but nothing had done the trick.
The secret had isolated him from his family and his fiancé, Princess Luciana. Truth be told, he wasn’t heartbroken over that. At best it was an arranged marriage. At worst … well, he didn’t want to think about that either. He’d rather spend his time with his men at arms than with his bride-to-be, something he knew wasn’t entirely normal. Especially not for a prince.
“Augustus!” The sound of his name being bellowed across the fields made his head snap up and he caught sight of Sebastian, one of his knights and his best friend barreling toward him on his chestnut charger.
He scrambled for his clothes, snatching them up in his haste to cover the embarrassing hue of his skin. “Go away, ‘Bastian” he shouted. “Is it too much for a Prince to have a moment alone?”
But Sebastian pulled his heavily muscled horse to a stop in front of him. Its skin steamed in the cooler air and he wondered how hard and fast Sebastian had ridden it. He’d managed to tug his pants on, but his shirt still lay in a tangled heap on the ground and there was no hiding his skin.
Sebastian slid to the ground with a heavy thud, letting go of the horse’s reins. It wandered away to munch on grass as he stared open-mouthed at Augustus. “August, your skin …” he whispered. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
Augustus closed his eyes in shame before opening them to look his friend in the eye. “I’m sorry, ‘Bastian. I didn’t know what to say. Something’s wrong with me and I don’t know what’s caused it or how to treat it.”
“You really don’t know?” Sebastian stepped closer, the heat of his body warming Augustus’ chilled skin. “You’ve never heard the legends?”
He shook his head. “Legends? I don’t understand.”
“Just trust me,” Sebastian whispered. Before Augustus could react, he felt the press of ‘Bastian’s lips against his. They both shuddered and, involuntarily, Augustus’ hands reached up to grip Sebastian’s leather tunic. He smelled of sweat, leather, and horse and the scent did something to Augustus that the flowery scent of Princess Luciana’s perfume had never done.
“What are you doing?” he asked in bewilderment as their lips parted, but he didn’t pull away from his friend in horror like he knew he should.
“Look at your hands, August,” Sebastian whispered.
Augustus looked down to see the normal rosy brown hue returning to his skin, the icy cold and blue color retreating like the snow in spring. “What? I don’t understand … how did you …?”
‘Bastian’s impish grin was so familiar it made Augustus’ heart ache. “You really don’t know the legends then. You’ve been cursed. We’ll have to speak to my mother to discover who placed it on you, but don’t you know what always cures a curse? Think about all of the fairy stories your nurse told you as a child.”
Sebastian thought about it for a moment, then his face split with a wide grin. His heart felt light for the first time in months. “True love’s kiss.”
“From a handsome prince—or in this case a knight.” ‘Bastian winked at him. “Come. As you well know, my mother’s powers as a healer and wise woman are legendary. She’ll have a solution for us. One even your father will be able live with. Happy endings aren’t just for fairy tales, you know.”
Dazed and disbelieving, Augustus finished dressing and hopped up on the chestnut stallion behind Sebastian. As the horse’s hooves thundered over the ground, he buried his head against ‘Bastian’s neck and allowed himself to hope.
I went a little over the word count again, but I was very pleased with the way the flash turned out.
I look forward to seeing you next Monday!