“I’ve never seen anything like it.” Serin squatted down next to the old tire. Her crisp, blue uniform created a contrast against the green field behind her.

Bran wondered how nobody had picked up on just how beautiful she was. Her black hair whipped around in the breeze now that she’d taken it out of the regulation ponytail.

“You have, you just didn’t recognize it when you saw it. They used to use these on transports all the time. Now they’ve all been recycled into the running tracks and things like that.”

Bran knelt on one knee beside her and leaned an elbow against his thigh for support. He pulled on a blue flower, and the whole thing came up by the roots. He’d only meant to pull the top off. He thought it would look fantastic in her hair, but not with roots and dirt dangling from it. He tossed it aside, then wiped his hands on his pants.

“Not that.” Serin turned to glare at him. “That!” She pointed at the tire.

Bran leaned in. He sniffed, wrinkling his nose at the smell drifting off the rubber object. He didn’t see anything unusual. Just the tire, overgrown with weeds.

She sighed heavily. “Of course I know what a tire is, you idiot. They teach history in school, you know. I meant this thing.” She leaned down and poked at the bit of purple that he’d tossed aside.

“The flower? You serious?” His heart thumped in his throat. He knew she’d been sequestered in that fancy, rich girl’s school but he’d never anticipated this. “Ain’t you ever been outside?”

“Of course I have been outside.” She drew herself up to standing, and stared down at him. She looked every bit the heir to the fortune she was supposed to be.

Bran stood up. He moved closer to her, pushing past the normal personal space she allowed. “You don’t, do you?”

“I…” She gulped, then stepped back.

He stepped forward. “You’ve never seen a blue bonnet? What about the rest of it? Have you felt the sun beating down on your face and shoulders? Have you ever felt swallowed whole by the sky? Have you ever felt truly free?”

Serin tried to step back from him, but he shot his hand out to grab her arm. He leaned closer to her, until he could stare straight into her eyes. Damn, he could get lost in those eyes. They blazed like the summer sky. He saw fear. He saw comprehension. He saw hope. Above all, he saw a spark of something he’d been hoping for himself.

He cupped her face with his other hand. “There’s so much more than what they teach in those schools, Serin.”

He didn’t lean in. He wanted her to want this as much as he did. He wanted her to make the first move. He wanted her…that’s it. He just wanted her.

Her eyes twinkled, and he saw her lips curl in the faintest hint of a smile. When she spoke, her breath caressed his cheek and warmed his heart.

“Show me.”