Bunnygirl Ch. 06bycellophanesmile©
Cal felt the small body next to him stiffen, and he looked down at her questioningly as he tightened his arm around her. Harley had an almost dazed expression on her face as she watched the approaching horsemen.
"What's going on?" his worried whisper landed right next to her ear, but before Harley could have a chance to respond, or even think of responding for that matter, the riders were already there.
"Princess Harley," the man leading the group dismounted, a relieved expression on his face.
Cal's mind flopped over at the title the man just addressed her as. Princess? It couldn't be. There had to be a mistake, but her next words assured him there wasn't.
"General Wrothing," she addressed the man with affection, clearly recognizing him. The rest of the soldiers had dismounted and already given their customary bows to the young royal, and Harley smiled graciously at them in return.
Their was a crowd around them now, of everyone in the entire camp. Harley could feel all eyes on her, and she frankly wasn't really sure what she should do. She looked hopelessly up at Cal, who was staring at her like he had never seen her before.
"Harley, you don't know how worried we've all been about you. What happened, girl?" General Wrothing took a step forward, placing strong, gentle hands on her shoulders. He lost his formality in his relief of finding her, reverting back to what he had used to call her when she was just a little girl, getting into mischief in her grandfather's castle.
"I-I-" Harley didn't know what to tell him. She couldn't tell him she was kidnapped, but if her parents thought she had run away it would break their hearts.
"It doesn't matter now, Harley. You're save now, and we'll take you home," he started to lead Harley away without so much as a glance at the curious crowd around him. He had done what he had set out to do, find Harley. Now that he had her, he was going to make sure she got home.
"Stop," Cal was finally shaken from his daze when the General tried to lead Harley out of his arms. "She's not going anywhere," he pulled her back to him.
"And who are you?" General Wrothing demanding, seeming to notice the other man for the first time. Though Cal towered over him, the General had his soldiers behind him, not to mention years of experience leading men, and he was no coward.
Wrothing pulled Harley back out of Cal's arms. The babies in the box she was still holding started to cry at being jerked around, and Harley quickly set them on the ground.
"Who are you?" Cal said, squaring off against the other man.
"I'm General Arthur Wrothing of His Majesty's Royal Army, and I'm here to take the Princess Harley back home to her family."
"She's not going anywhere," Cal stated confidently, stepping in front of where Harley was crouched on the ground.
"Cal," he heard her soft voice as she stepped in front of him, "Actually, I am," she said gently.
Cal almost fell over at the blow. She wouldn't go, surely. She loved him—she told him she loved him.
"Cal, my parents. I need to see them, they will have been dreadfully worried about me."
The relief he felt at hearing those words was indescribable. "So it's not for good?" he asked, still hesitant.
"No, it's not for good," Harley looked at him like he was daft for even asking, and he pulled her into his arms.
He gently stroked her hair away from her ear, placing his mouth against her scalp. "I suppose this will be my chance to meet your parents. It is only fitting, since I intend to marry their daughter—and soon."
"Cal," she said, happily throwing her arms around his neck, and kissing him forcefully on the mouth like they didn't have attentive audience.
When she pulled away, Cal let her feet slip back to the ground from where he was holding her up for his kiss. She turned around, still in the circle of his arms.
"Mr. Wrothing," she said smiling at the bemused man, his expression mirroring most of the onlookers, "I would like to introduce you to my fiancé, Calhoun Jacobs."
The whole troop burst out in cheers as soon as the words were out of her mouth. Harley looked around at the people who had become her friends. Tanner was professing loudly that he had known those two were destined from the start, and also that he should get a bigger bonus for bringing Cal the love of his life. Horace, the centaur, seemed completely shocked by the news, but was galloping around excitedly none the less. V was smiling and crying into a handkerchief while dramatically pressing her hand to her heart.
Even the soldiers, in all their confusion, had given in to the merriment and were clapping their hands.
Harley looked over to Arthur Wrothing, a man who was like an uncle to her. He shook his head and chuckled a bit. "Why, you're all grown up," he said, a hint of a tear in his eye, and Harley pulled out of Cal's arms to hug him.
Arthur gave her a fatherly hug, then offered an outstretched hand to Cal. Cal grabbed it and shook it. "It's a pleasure to meet you," he said sincerely, "Please, you and you're men should stay the night with us. We can travel back to Harley's home tomorrow," he said looking down at her to see if she was in agreement.
Harley smiled and hugged his arm, happy now that everything was going to be okay.
Zachary sat next to his wife, eating breakfast in the great dining room. Though the two preferred their little cottage in the woods to the castle, they had been spending more and more time here of late. They wanted to be close in case any word of Harley was delivered.
He felt Annabelle snuggle in closer to his arm, hugging it to her chest.
"Don't worry, sweetheart, Harley will be all right." Zachary had lost count of how many times he had said that in the past week.
"But she's been gone so long," Annabelle whispered softly, desperately.
"Not too long," Zachary replied, "She—" but his words were cut off.
"It's Harley!" Olive shouted excitedly, having just bounded into the room. Zachary and Annabelle were instantly on their feet
"What? What?!" Annabelle demanded, running over to meet Olive.
"She's here!" Olive shouted at Annabelle's back, for the mother had already read the truth in Olive's eyes and was running to meet her daughter.
Zachary was not far behind her, and the two glimpsed the sight of their daughter at the same moment. Harley was surrounded by soldiers, and had already dismounted from the horse she had been riding. She saw her parents at the same time they saw her.
All three embraced instantly, the parents squeezing their daughter between them. After a long time, Harley finally pulled back enough to look in their faces. Her mother had tears streaming fully down her cheeks, and even her father had a hint of moisture in his eyes.
Just then the king came rushing out of the castle on his old legs, and he grabbed Harley up in his arms, hugging her to him like he would never let her go. The queen was next, squeezing her granddaughter just as fully as her grandfather had.
Harley laughed happily as she was passed around, to her uncles and aunts and cousins, everyone proclaiming excitedly how happy they were to have her back. She was eventually deposited back in her parents' arms, and Harley felt as though she had just been through a tornado.
"Mom, Dad," she told her parents, beckoning Cal, who had been standing out of the way during her happy reunion with her family, to come closer. "I want you to meet my fiancé, Calhoun."
Annabelle exclaimed in happy excitement, placing motherly arms around Cal. Cal seemed genuinely shocked, but happy nonetheless, at such a warm welcome. He wrapped his arms back around Annabelle in return.
"Welcome to the family," she said, more tears in her eyes.
Zachary was not so easily convinced, "How did you meet my daughter?" he asked suspiciously.
Cal looked at the ground ashamedly, but spoke before Harley had a chance to cover for him. "I kidnapped her, sir," he answered, looking Zachary in the eye, taking responsibility for his actions.
A collective gasp could be heard moments before Zachary punched Cal right in the eye.
"Daddy!" Harley shouted, running over to Cal, who had stumbled back a few steps, but remained on his feet.
Cal smiled at Harley's gentle prodding, but looked at her father when he said, "It's okay. I deserved that."
"Damn right you did," Zachary said evenly before adding, "Come inside and tell us all that's happened."
Harley smiled and ran to her father, giving his arms a hug. She knew her parents would understand. They, too, had experienced true love.