As Evelyn stepped out behind her mother, she was rendered breathless. Standing before her were six of the most beautiful men she had ever seen in her life.
They were tall, muscular, handsome, and lethal. They were staring straight ahead standing side-by-side waiting to be introduced.
As she and her mother approached, one of the men stepped forward and bowed before her.
“Your Majesty, may I present to you the Queen’s Men tasked with protecting Princess Evelyn?”
He was tall, with piercing blue eyes and jet black hair. He had the chiseled features of a Roman god and the physique to match. He was also very familiar to her, but she couldn’t place why.
“Yes, you may proceed,” replied the Queen, but Evelyn was only half listening and nodding as the introductions were made.
“Your Highness, this is John Greene. He is an amazing marksmen and will always accompany you as one of the rear bodyguards,” said the man.
John was tall and handsome in a pretty way. He had blond hair and light green eyes that almost looked blue at times.
Evelyn smiled and nodded. She held out her hand for him to bow over and kiss.
The man making the introductions had a slight brogue to his speech, which was vaguely familiar. She just couldn’t figure out why.
“This is Evan McClintock. He is a lookout and will always ride ahead. Next to him is Ian Masters, also a lookout and trained marksman. He too will always ride ahead.”
Both Evan and Ian bent over her hand and kissed it. Both had brown hair and brown eyes. They were tall, but not as tall as John or the mystery man. Both men were handsome in a refined sort of way, similar to royalty or the aristocracy.
Next was Peter White, who would guard her side. He had auburn hair and grey eyes with chiseled features. The last to be introduced was Robert Houndson. He was definitely a flirt and used to getting his way with his blond hair and blue eyes. He was a mix of chiseled and soft, making him devastatingly beautiful when he smiled.
Robert was the other rear marksman, and the mystery man kept their introduction brief.
Evelyn was expecting to be introduced to the apparent leader, but that was not to be the case. At least not at the moment. Once all the introductions were made, she was whisked off to the carriage that would drive her into town for her fitting.
All the Queen’s Men accompanied them, but in an interesting turn of events, the mystery man sat inside the carriage.
“Pierce, it has been too long. How is your brother?” Queen Maria asked.
“He is doing well, Your Majesty. I saw him a few months ago when I visited Scotland, and he’s still working on renovations to the castle,” laughed the man.
All at once it hit Evelyn why he was so familiar, he and his brother had visited several times off and on because her father had been hoping she would marry Richard MacLaughlin, King of Scotland. While she adored the man, it was his brother Pierce who had appealed to her more.
Now here she was, sitting across from the man she hadn’t seen in eleven years, but had stolen many a youthful thought. How she didn’t connect sooner who he was, was beyond her. She had had a crush on him for a few years until her father had told her she needed to focus her attention on someone who was to inherit, not a second or third son.
He had changed though. He had filled out more and had a faint scar on the left side of his face near his jawline. He also didn’t talk with a thick brogue like he once had. He was more serious, which probably had something to do with being in command of her personal detail. He was also starting to grey near the temples. None of this detracted in anyway from the man’s devastating looks, if anything it amplified the dark err around him.
“I heard King Richard was going to make an appearance for my birthday, or at least that’s what his letter said,” Evelyn joined the conversation cautiously.
“Yes, he’ll arrive tomorrow and then stay until you leave. He may stick around an additional day or two, but I don’t see him doing that because of the renovations he’s having done,” Pierce responded.
“I didn’t know you and King Richard corresponded regularly,” Queen Maria added looking surprised.
Evelyn blushed and looked down at her hands.
“He and I do write back and forth to each other, but it’s as friends and nothing more. We have written to each other for years, actually.”
Evelyn started fidgeting with the lace on her gown. Pierce was practically glaring at her, although then so was her mother.
“So, um Pierce, you’re to be one of my bodyguards?” Evelyn hastily asked to change the subject.
Queen Maria jumped in before Pierce could respond. “He’s your personal bodyguard, Evie. Where you go, he will go to. Where you sit, he will sit. You are his responsibility. If something happens to you, it’s his fault.”
“Nothing will happen to you. I will give my life saving your’s,” Pierce said as his gaze bored into hers.
A chill ran down Evelyn’s spine and she looked away hastily. She didn’t want anything to happen to Pierce or any of the other men tasked with protecting her.
Pierce and Queen Maria talked about the upcoming events and what needed to be done in order to ensure Evelyn’s safety in her new kingdom.
Soon enough, she was being helped out of the carriage by Pierce, who held her hand. A tremor of awareness swept through Evelyn, but if Pierce felt anything at all, he hid it well. She looked up into his handsome face and was going to thank him, when Lisette rushed from the store.
“Princess, it is so good to see you. Please come inside, I’m so excited for you to see your dresses,” Lisette exclaimed as she led her friend inside.
“Oh Lisette! It’s been ages since I’ve been able to get away. How have you been my friend? You will be at my birthday celebration?” Evelyn peppered her friend with questions as the two embraced.
“I’ve never missed one of your birthdays, and I wouldn’t dream of doing so now,” Lisette told her. “Queen Maria, I hope you are well. Please let me show you to your dressing room.”
Lisette curtsied deeply to the Queen before leading the way to the private dressing area. “Your Majesty, Your Highness, once we check the Queen’s gown, we will then get the Princess fitted into her gowns. Please make yourself at home.”
Evelyn’s guards stood at various points around the room, presumably so they could spring into action should the need arise. She decided to sit in one of the chairs in the waiting area.
Lisette’s assistant brought out a tray with tea and goodies. But before she could do more than set the tray down, Lisette was calling for her. The woman excused herself quickly.
Evelyn reached for the teapot, but Pierce beat her to it. “Please, let me, Your Highness.”
“I make my own tea every morning, I am more than capable of doing it now. It’s really no trouble at all,” Evelyn explained.
“But it isn’t dignified for you to do so in public,” came the terse response.
Evelyn felt like she was five-years-old again and being lectured by her governess on the proper etiquette of tea service. Pierce handed Evelyn the cup and saucer. As she took the items, their fingers brushed and a twinge of awareness coursed through her body.
Evelyn glanced up at Pierce to see if he felt it too, but his face was nothing more than a mask of indifference. Annoyed by his lack of emotion and embarrassed by her’s, Evelyn asked, “Are you going to prepare a plate for me as well?”
Pierce arched an eyebrow at her tone. “Would you like a cucumber sandwich or a scone, milady?”
“Neither. I just wasn’t certain how far my inabilities went.” Evelyn took a sip of her tea. Out of the corner of her eye she saw Pierce clenching his jaw. Perhaps her wasn’t as immune to her as he let on.
Evelyn smiled to herself, at least she had the ability annoy him. There was comfort in that little fact, as well as hope. If she could get under his skin, then perhaps they could be friends again. She missed his correspondence the most.
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