Bella sighed and leaned over to trail her fingers through the water letting the droplets trickle off her fingers.
“What am I going to do?” she asked the horse.
Not surprisingly the beast gave an impartial snort that held no answers.
“Some advisor you are,” she scolded him.
“Maybe you didn’t ask the right question?” A voice said behind her.
Bella jumped to her feet and turned to face the newcomer. A woman with long blond hair and the kind of ageless beauty any woman would kill for approached Bella with a smile on her lips. Glancing around Bella only saw a dark brown horse but no guards.
“Wh-what would be the right question?” Bella really wanted to know who the woman was but something about the stranger told Bella demanding answers wasn’t the way to go.
“What would you like to do? If you were given your greatest wish what would you wish for?” The woman’s blue-green eyes peered at Bella as if she could see straight into Bella’s soul.
The words came without much thought. “I’d marry the king and cook for him and his kids.” Bella laughed at the ridiculous notion. “But I’d make a horrible queen.”
“Why?” the stranger asked. “You’re a beautiful woman who wants to take care of the royal family. I notice you didn’t mention a word about fancy gowns or sparkly jewels or how you can’t wait to attend the next ball. If I were a fairy godmother I’d have absolutely no idea what to do with you.”
Bella smiled at the woman’s fanciful notion. “Are you sure you’re not my fairy godmother? You did appear out of nowhere.”
“I’m certain. I can however help you with your wish,” the woman’s smile eased the ache in Bella’s heart.
“I don’t know it’s so much a wish as an impossible dream,” Bella admitted. “Even if I’d make a good queen I’d hate the job. I don’t like to dress up or dance or listen to people complain about stuff. I like to be left alone in my kitchen and only come out to hear people say nice things about my food.”
The woman came closer and patted Bella on the shoulder. “One thing at a time. First we need to get you back and dressed for the part. They always say you should dress for the position you seek.”
“This isn’t a job interview,” Bella said with a disdainful snort.
“Of course it is. You’re applying for the job of caretaker of the king’s heart, an important position that takes a lot of time and energy. Are you sure you’re up to the job?” The woman looked Bella up and down as if assessing her strengths and weaknesses.
“Probably not,” Bella admitted. “But I’m willing to try.”
Sort of willing, almost able. Bella had little confidence this odd woman could make things happen.
“I’m Bella Tiazza.” Bella held out her hand.
The woman ignored it to give Bella a hug. When she stepped back her smile warmed Bella to her toes, until the woman spoke again. “I’m Queen Gwen, Zerrin’s mother.”
The world shifted off kilter for a moment as Bella choked over her words. “Nice to meet you.”