"What is it you want from me?"
"I am a shadow guardian." He leaned toward her. "My purpose is to protect you from harm, even if it means protecting you from yourself." His voice was velvet soft.
"Who holds your allegiance?"
"You, princess," he responded.
"You can address me with my proper title, Lady Evelyn," she admonished, throwing the ruined flower to the floor to grind it beneath her slipper.
"You aren't angry." He took a step closer. It was a statement, not a question.
"Aye, but I am," she said, setting her jaw and boldly glaring at him. "I do not need you to watch over me like a child. I can take care of myself." Her heart whispered a plea to accept him, trust him. Her pride fought back, sending her heart to a dark place deep inside. Her spine straightened. She refused to like this man.
"Forgive my intrusion," he bowed stiffly. "Good evening, my lady." A chill embraced her as he stepped away. Her heart cried out, begging to give him a chance.
"And if I should require your assistance?" she murmured just above a whisper.
His hand hovered on the balcony door handle. "I'll be close by, hiding in the shadows." His reply was soft, as if to soothe her pride.
"Do you have a name, shadow guardian?" The question spilled from her lips before she could stop it.
His head turned towards her, face hidden deep in the hood, but the smile in his voice was clear.
With two swift strides, he disappeared over the balcony and into the waiting darkness.