Do you have someone in mind, Galen?" Toraf asks, popping a shrimp into his mouth. "Is it someone I know?"
"Shut up, Toraf," Galen growls. He closes his eyes, massages his temples. This could have gone a lot better in so many ways.
"Oh," Toraf says. "It must be someone I know, then."
"Toraf, I swear by Triton's trident-"
"These are the best shrimp you've ever made, Rachel," Toraf continues. "I can't wait to cook shrimp on our island. I'll get the seasoning for us, Rayna."
"She's not going to any island with you, Toraf!" Emma yells.
"Oh, but she is, Emma. Rayna wants to be my mate. Don't you, princess?" he smiles.
Rayna shakes her head. "It's no use, Emma. I really don't have a choice."
She resigns herself to the seat next to Emma, who peers down at her, incredulous. "You do have a choice. You can come live with me at my house. I'll make sure he can't get near you."
Toraf's expression indicates he didn't consider that possibility before goading Emma. Galen laughs. "It's not so funny anymore is it, tadpole?" he says, nudging him.
Toraf shakes his head. "She's not staying with you, Emma."
"We'll see about that, tadpole," she returns.
"Galen, do something," Toraf says, not taking his eyes off Emma.
Galen grins. "Such as?"
"I don't know, arrest her or something," Toraf says, crossing his arms.
Emma locks eyes with Galen, stealing his breath. "Yeah, Galen. Come arrest me if you're feeling up to it. But I'm telling you right now, the second you lay a hand on me, I'm busting this glass over your head and using it to split your lip like Toraf's." She picks up her heavy drinking glass and splashes the last drops of orange juice onto the table.
Everyone gasps except Galen-who laughs so hard he almost upturns his chair.
Emma's nostrils flare. "You don't think I'll do it? There's only one way to find out, isn't there, Highness?"
The whole airy house echoes Galen's deep-throated howls. Wiping the tears from his eyes, he elbows Toraf, who's looking at him like he drank too much saltwater. "Do you know those foolish humans at her school voted her the sweetest out of all of them?"
Toraf's expression softens as he looks up at Emma, chuckling. Galen's guffaws prove contagious-Toraf is soon pounding the table to catch his breath. Even Rachel snickers from behind her oven mitt.
The bluster leaves Emma's expression. Galen can tell she's in danger of smiling. She places the glass on the table as if it's still full and she doesn't want to spill it. "Well, that was a couple of years ago."
This time Galen's chair does turn back, and he sprawls onto the floor. When Rayna starts giggling, Emma gives in, too. "I guess...I guess I do have sort of a temper," she says, smiling sheepishly.
She walks around the table to stand over Galen. Peering down, she offers her hand. He grins up at her. "Show me your other hand."
She laughs and shows him it's empty. "No weapons."
"Pretty resourceful," he says, accepting her hand. "I'll never look at a drinking glass the same way." He does most of the work of pulling himself up but can't resist the opportunity to touch her.
She shrugs. "Survival instinct, maybe?"
He nods. "Or you're trying to cut my lips off so you won't have to kiss me." He's pleased when she looks away, pink restaining her cheeks.
"Rayna tries that all the time," Toraf chimes in. "Sometimes when her aim is good, it works, but most of the time kissing her is my reward for the pain.