Where does a princess go for advice? In the kingdom of Rosewood, the answer’s simple: ask the honey witch.
Ursula has grown up knowing she’ll inherit the throne, and she’s devoted to her land and her people. But she wonders about her future, whether she’ll be happy, and whether she’ll marry for love. Beautiful earth-witch Esmerelda promises answers, divined in magical honey ... and one smile from her has always made Ursula’s heart race.
Esme has loved Ursula silently for years, despite knowing a common earth-witch can’t hope to marry a princess, especially one so generous and passionate and worthy of a royal marriage. But when Ursula comes to her with a question about love, Esme can’t resist introducing her princess to the sweetest magic of desire ... and some even sweeter uses for enchanted honey.
"Come in." The witch's voice hummed like her beehives: busy, low, delicious, enticing and amused. "I'm in the workroom, Princess; come all the way through to the back, please."
Ursula did, drawn by that voice like a compass-needle to the north; she picked her way through the spotless kitchen, small library, a playful litter of black-and-white kittens, a tall elegant harp, a pile of brilliant orange pumpkins. She paused in the doorway, taking in the scene; the honey witch, framed by green and growing herbs and silver and gold basins and knives, straightened up from tasting something in a pot and turned, and Ursula's breath caught in her throat.
Esmerelda Grey smiled back. One hand brushed back long gold-and-copper curls; her eyes were enchanting green, and the soft shirt and trousers she wore were also green, and they hugged every luscious curve; she was not young, and not old, simply timeless and warm and glorious all at once.
Ursula had been too shy to speak to her for years. A coltish awkward princess who tripped over her own skirts at formal banquets, she'd had only a silent inarticulate longing, faced with calm clever beauty.
Today that would be different. Today Ursula wanted something. Desired something. Needed, might be the word.
She licked her lips. Managed, "I've brought you a gift ..." She even held up the basket. Fresh-baked bread offered itself hopefully.
Esmerelda smiled more, and Ursula wanted to touch her, to taste her, to find out how she felt. That loose soft shirt was open enough to slide across one creamy shoulder. "And you've even baked it yourself. I do appreciate it, Princess, though for you I'd offer my services for free."
"How did you --"
"Know that you had? The bees tell me things." Esmerelda's eyes danced. "And so does evening chatter at The Crown. Most of your people are utterly delighted to have a princess who knows practical skills. Baking. Horse-doctoring. Woodscraft. They're quite proud to explain it all to any visitors, new and old, over a mug of ale."
"Oh," Ursula said, and felt her cheeks warm. She had thought her people generally liked their princess; she had not known they felt so strongly about her. She shifted weight. "Thank you?"
"You'll be a good queen, they say." Esmerelda took the basket and set it on a shelf, where homemade baked goods shared space with a somewhat bemused silver mirror and a cheerful pot of catnip. "We should certainly enjoy this later. I've got fresh butter, and of course the honey ... the bees do like their sage and lavender. But you had a question."
"A question ..." Ursula, caught by the casualness of the comment -- you'll be a good queen -- and the offer to share bread and honey, forgot words momentarily; remembered. "I wanted. To ask. About my future."
"That is what most people ask." Esmerelda's tone was a little wry, but only a little; affection colored it. "The future is never set. It flows, it moves, it can be stirred up ... I can tell you what I see at the moment, this moment, if nothing changes. But that's all."
"I just want to know," Ursula said, and stopped, and tried again. "If it's true. What you said. About being a good queen. And -- and if I'll be happy."
That was not entirely what she had meant to ask; but she could not ask the honey witch to gently ease her down upon the workbench and slip a hand beneath her dusty trousers, either.
"Oh, Princess," Esmerelda said, "if you are not happy, I can try to help; please, let me help." And her voice was tender, exquisite, firm: she could command the world, Ursula thought, and the world would love it. No wonder strands of magic fell at her feet and dripped from her fingers; Ursula herself wanted to do precisely that.
She breathed, "Not Princess, just Ursula, please, just -- me," and their eyes met; the witch's changed, then, green blooming brighter and more breathless.