Evelyn stood in front of her mirror. The neckline was as high as she could get it, which wasn’t saying much.
In addition to flirting with suitors today, Evelyn wanted to get through breakfast. Knowing Prince Philip would be seated next to her at the table put a stone in the pit of her stomach. Then there was the business of Pierce. She hadn’t meant to have such a strong reaction to Philip’s name, but she had been on eggshells with the tournament drawing near. She hadn’t given herself a moment to breath before she had questioned Pierce.
She didn’t know why she had been so surprised to hear Philip would be coming. He never missed an opportunity to come and corner her. She was lucky he only touched her, stole some forced kisses, and put his hands on her, but she knew it was only a matter of time before things got out of hand with him. He didn’t believe in the word no.
There was a light knock on her door. Evelyn sighed. She knew it was Pierce and the rest of the men fetching her for breakfast.
There was nothing she could do about the low cut of her rose silk gown, but she could avoid men she didn’t want to sit next to easily enough. As long as she had Pierce.
Evelyn walked to the door and opened it. On the other side, Pierce assessed what she was wearing. He then lifted an eyebrow at her.
“Don’t be patronizing! I managed to get the gown up an extra inch and that’s all. I hate them as much as you all do, if not more,” Evelyn seethed through clenched teeth.
Pierce chuckled softly. “It is what it is, Evie. Richard should be dining next to you this morning. I believe he down right demanded.”
The corners of her mouth tilted up slightly at the news. “At least it’s one less pervert I have to worry about. Lead on my men, breakfast awaits.”
Evelyn squared her shoulders and walked with Pierce, Robert, and Peter to the dining room. The other men were around protecting her, she knew that without seeing them. It brought her comfort knowing she at least had a small troupe to keep her safe.
Breakfast and lunch were uneventful, thanks in part to Prince Philip’s ship being detained. She wasn’t certain what had happened, but whatever it was, it gave her a small reprieve. It was decided the following day would officially kick off the five day archery tournament. The bottom ten in the point system would be eliminated.
Evelyn thought that was wonderful, as her attention was diverted by the fifteen or so men surrounding her. Look at my biceps. I’m the most fit man here. These comments were typically followed by, my man of business has bigger arms than you. A brawl between several men almost broke out on more than one occasion, but Evelyn was relieved when it was announced she needed to get ready for dinner.
Once in her room, the men turned to leave.
“Wait!” Evelyn shouted. All the men turned and looked at her. “I… Well, I’m curious…. What happened to Philip?”
In a whisper she added, “Please, don’t take that the wrong way.”
Pierce dismissed the rest of the men. “I believe Evelyn, your Father’s men found contraband aboard. They have been told to remain on the ship until further notice.”
“Oh, well that’s good to know,” Evelyn softly replied. She took a seat by the fire and then motioned for Pierce to join her.
“Shouldn’t you be getting ready for dinner?” Pierce took the seat across from her.
“It’ll keep a few minutes, Pierce. I, um, I wanted to… Well, I…” Evelyn laughed mirthlessly. “I seem to be rather inarticulate tonight.”
“Sometimes memories are the worst form of torture,” Pierce told her. He never took his eyes off of her face.
Evelyn gasped slightly. “Yes, they are. But Pierce, he never raped me. I know you might have imagined the worst. It…”
Her voice trailed off. “Evelyn, it doesn’t matter what he did or didn’t do. You are terrified of the man, and it is my responsibility to protect you.”
Evelyn nodded and stared into the fire. Suddenly, she felt a hand over her own. “Pierce?”
“Get ready for dinner, Evie. I’ll see you in a little while,” Pierce told her. “Everything will be fine.”
Pierce went to stand, but Evelyn moved quickly. She knocked him off balance and they both fell to the floor.
Evelyn landed on top of Pierce. A thrill of awareness shot through her body. She smiled a little. “I was going to see you out.”
“Well, in the future, you don’t need to worry about seeing me out.” Pierce gently pushed her off of him so he could stand. He then reach out and helped her up.
Pierce then walked out of the room.
Evelyn sighed. She needed to not get her hopes up. While she had had a crush on Pierce for years, it was clear he didn’t share in her affections. He did feel the attraction she felt, but clearly that’s where things ended. She needed to let him go, but that seemed to be easier said than done at the moment.
A knock on the door summoned Evelyn from her thoughts. Jessica was unusually prompt tonight. She was going to want to gossip about all the men, which was fine by her. She could use a distraction at the moment.
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