Evelyn sat in front of the mirror in her ruby gown as her lady’s maid added diamond pins throughout her upswept hair.
“I’m done my lady. Do you want to where your chandelier diamond earrings?”“I’ll wear my diamond studs and my ruby choker,” Evelyn replied. She didn’t want to look too gaudy, but she also wanted to draw attention to herself in a good way.
As her maid brought them to her to put on, there was a light knock on the door.
“I’ll finish here, please see who it is,” Evelyn replied.
There was some whispering near the door, and she had an idea that it was Pierce and her private guard.
“Your Highness, the men are here to escort you to the ball.”
Evelyn gave herself one last glance before standing up. “Perfect because I’m ready too.”
Evelyn stepped into the hall and heard a hiss to her left. She smiled to herself, she knew Pierce would hate this gown, which is why she wore it.
“Are we ready? I planned on saving the two waltz’ for two of you,” she explained as she took Pierce’s arm
“Sounds good,” Robert replied amusedly.
Pierce didn’t say a word. What on earth had possessed her to wear that gown?! Her nipples were barely covered in the corset style top. He was going to have a hell of a time keeping the men away from her during the ball.
As they hit the doorway, the other men dispersed, leaving Pierce, Robert, and Peter alone with Evelyn.
The first dances leading up to the first waltz were a blur. She danced with Peter first and then about seven others. Now she was being led to the floor by Robert.
She had decided to give Pierce the final waltz, knowing it would drive him crazy.
“You look positively stunning,” Robert told her softly as soon as the music started. “You are also driving Pierce to distraction, which the rest of us find quite amusing.”
Evelyn remained smiling as she responded, “Why would you say that?”
“He is currently scowling at us. He often scowls or glowers whenever other men so much as glance your way. He also gets antsy whenever anyone talks about you. If you want my take, he’s trying awfully hard to deny any feelings for you at all,” Robert explained to her.
They remained silent as a few couples danced closer to them. Once they were alone again, Evelyn asked, “Is that so? I hadn’t noticed”
Robert let out a hearty laugh. “Oh, my dear Queen, you’ve noticed more than you’ve let on. Like I said before, you look radiant. There isn’t a woman here whose beauty compares to yours.”
Evelyn blushed profusely. “Why thank you, Robert.”
The final strands of the waltz played. He bowed over her hand and brought her back to where Pierce and Peter were waiting.
The orchestra took a break until after dinner, when the second half of dancing would start.
As the gong rang out, Pierce took her arm and led her to the dining room.
Pierce pulled out her chair and then pushed it in. He looked down at the place cards in front of the plates next to her, and it wasn’t any of the men.
“Ignore the names and sit you three, now,” Evelyn commanded under her breath. She then grabbed the place cards, and handed them to a footman walking past
“Please replace these with where they were supposed to sit,” Evelyn told him. The footman nodded and walked down to the other end of the table.
She was seething with anger. They weren’t going to honor the winners because they were her men.
As soon as her wine glass was filled she took a drink. “So, you feel like drinking tonight, I see?”
Evelyn looked over at Pierce. She could tell he was annoyed, but she didn’t care. She was having fun getting under his skin.
“Yes, I have you, Peter, and Robert to keep me safe,” she giggled.
Pierce sighed while Robert and Peter chuckled. She didn’t realize what she did to men. They were waiting for a weak link so they could all swoop in like vultures.
Then her gowns left little to the imagination, especially the one she was wearing tonight. Pierce sighed again, it was going to be a long night.
“Before any of you three eat your food, let me handle it,” Evelyn breathed. “There is a reason they aren’t honoring what they said, and that scares me. They have never broken a promise to me before.”
All three men nodded as the soup was placed in front of them.
“Excuse me, but his soup looks better than mine. Do you mind if we switch?” Evelyn asked sweetly.
The footman nodded and grabbed her bowl, placing it in front of Peter, but his bowl disappeared from the room and another was given to her.
“Dammit,” Pierce muttered under his breath.
“Thank you! I don’t like these two bowls. I want to speak to David now,” Evelyn told the footman.
The footman took the bowls away and she watched as two more were brought over from the sideboard.
David was carrying one of the bowls. “You wished to see me, Your Highness,” he said
“Yes, I plan on switching every one of my courses out for one of the three men’s, which are clearly not good because I didn’t end up with Peter’s soup. Please let my parents know that I might not even switch out the dishes, I might just eat straight from their plates, you do know how bold I get when I’ve had wine,” Evelyn told the man sweetly.
He went pale as he nodded. He then quickly went over to where her parents and brother were seated. David spoke to the king only, who looked at the man with a quizzical expression. He then told David something, and the butler quickly walked away.
True to her word, Evelyn either switched plates or made the three men feed her something from their plates. No one questioned her antics because she kept asking for a refill.
So far, the four had each had a glass of wine, but everyone else believed Evelyn was having a glass with every course. She was getting ready to drink her second glass of wine, and they weren’t holding back on filling it.
Fortunately, they were having dessert, so she wouldn’t have too much to drink with the chocolate mousse.
“Pierce, can I have a bite of your mousse?” Evelyn asked. She was clearly enjoying herself.
He picked up the spoon and fed her a bite. She beamed at him before turning and joking with Peter about something.
If he wasn’t careful, he could easily fall in love with a woman who was never meant for him. Pierce just wanted her back in Astonia where she belonged, then he could go back to being the head of her personal guard instead of her personal bodyguard.
With dinner behind them, they went back into the ballroom, where Evelyn was quickly snatched up. He was annoyed with everything but it was almost over.
“Pierce? Aren’t you going to lead me out to the floor? It’s the final dance and the last waltz,” Evelyn told him placing her gloved hand on his arm.
He looked down at her. Evelyn’s face was flushed and she looked tired, but she was smiling brightly at him.
“Yes, let’s go.” He took her out to the dance floor and swept her into his arms.
They danced in silence for a few moments. “You look beautiful tonight, Evie. I just wish your gown left more to the imagination,” Pierce muttered.
Evelyn laughed. “Thank you. My mother has been bugging me to wear this dress, and I only felt comfortable doing so around you men. I knew I wouldn’t be fondled or have to beat off advances with you three if I wore it,” she explained.
They went silent again as Pierce guided her through the crowd. She forgot how effortlessly he danced. Evelyn didn’t have to worry about anything and relaxed.
“Thank you, Evelyn.”
Caught off guard, she whipped her gaze up to his. “For what? I didn’t do anything.”
“It was clear someone was trying to give us food poisoning, and you took care of it. So, thank you for looking out for us,” Pierce told her.
Evelyn blushed. “I didn’t do anything special.”
“You looked out for us, which is more than most people would have.”
They continued to dance until the end. Then Pierce escorted her to the edge of the dance floor where her guard awaited. Her father was making some long winded announcement, and he just wanted to get Evelyn upstairs.
King Reginald wrapped up his speech, but on their way upstairs, a footman said the King requested an audience with his daughter. Pierce was swearing in his mind, but one didn’t question a King’s orders.
Pierce knocked on the door to the King’s study, he bellowed for them to enter.
“Evelyn, my darling, please have a seat. I wanted to talk to you about what happened at dinner. David approached me and gave me the most peculiar message from you,” King Reginald explained from his seat in front of the fire.
Evelyn took the seat opposite her father, while the men stayed behind her. “Well, I was hurt, if you must know. When I entered the dining room, none of the men were seated next to me, rather it was a few of the men mother favored.”
“There must have been a mix up, my darling. I am nothing, if not true to my word. The top three winners in each event get to dine with you and get your attentions at the balls that follow. I’ll look into the matter further and make sure David understands regardless of what anyone else might say.”
“So, if you weren’t aware of that then what about the food?” Evelyn asked confused.
The King’s eye lit up at the reminder. “Yes, what about the food? The message was most odd, and truthfully, I didn’t understand it.”
“When I noticed the seating arrangements were off, I studied the soup as it was brought out to the men via the kitchen, but everyone else’s was being served from the sideboard. I told the footman to switch Peter’s soup for mine because it looked better, and it was taken from the room completely,” Evelyn recounted.
“You suspect food poisoning of some kind. I understand now, but it wasn’t me or your Mother for that matter. This is most alarming,” King Reginald stated.
He looked at Pierce and then the rest of the men. “Pierce, find out what is going on. I will have a word with David about the seating. I won’t mention the food, but be careful. Whoever is doing this is clearly trying to get to Evie.”
“I am not leaving her side tonight, Your Majesty. I will have my men look into the matter discreetly. You have my word we will figure out what is going on,” Pierce vowed.
“I do hope you give her some distance to bathe and ready for bed,” King Reginald jovially retorted.
“Father! I can’t believe you would say something like that!” Evelyn could feel her face burning.
“Yes, of course. Her Highness will be, of course, afforded her privacy.” Pierce conceded in a low tone.
King Reginald chuckled as Evelyn excused herself from the room. She began to walk down the hallway toward her chambers with her men trailing behind her, when a voice called out her name.
She stopped dead in her tracks. The voice called out to her again, and she froze. She couldn’t get her damn feet to move. Prince Philip was here, in the castle. He was calling her name and she needed to move. Now!
The voice was getting closer, Pierce grabbed her arm and Ian took the other. “Let’s move,” Pierce growled in an almost feral voice.
Richard and Peter stayed behind to help slow Prince Philip down. If those two knew what was good for them, Philip would never get close to Evelyn.
Once outside her door, Pierce ordered Peter to do a sweep of the room. Evelyn started fussing about it.
“Evelyn, be quiet,” Pierce hissed.
She glared at him, but kept silent. Once Peter confirmed the room was clear, Pierce escorted Evelyn into her room, told the men not to let anyone in, and closed the door.
“Do you mind?” Evelyn huffed. “I want to bathe and change for bed.”
“He’s off the ship, Evelyn! You froze in the blasted hallway at the sound of his voice. Do you even remember how you got to your bedroom?” Pierce spat at her.
Evelyn was not in the mood. She wanted to be left alone precisely because Philip had been let off the ship. She wanted to fall apart, but she couldn’t do that because Pierce was standing in front of her fireplace. And he was angry, so very angry.
“No, I don’t remember how I got here. I heard his voice and it took me back to the moment he had cornered me in that hall. The moment he pushed me against the wall, the moment he put his hands on me and began kissing me while tearing at my clothes,” Evelyn retorted.
She was shaking and sobbing now, but she didn’t care. “So, no, Pierce. I don’t remember how I got here because all I can remember is being there.”
Pierce stood in front of the fireplace frozen. He jaw was tightly clenched, as were his fists. His eyes sent a tremor of fear through her. They were on fire with rage, and it was in that moment Evelyn realized she had revealed too much.
She had been shaken and irritated by Pierce’s attitude, so she decided to just let him have it. Consequences be damned. She hadn’t thought those consequences would be a few minutes after their fight.
Evelyn and Pierce moved for the door at the same time.
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