Evelyn slowly woke. She had the strangest dream. Pierce had climbed into bed with her and she had been deliciously warm all night long.
Evelyn let out a small sigh, and stretched. Or rather she would have if not for the solid form next to her. Evelyn slowly opened her eyes to find Pierce watching her.“So it wasn’t a dream,” Evelyn said. Her mouth went dry at the sight of the raw desire burning in Pierce’s eyes.
She was captivated by his eyes. Like a moth drawn to a flame, she began to lean in closer to him. When she was a hair’s breadth away from his lips, Pierce shoved her off of him.
“I don’t know what game you are playing at, Evelyn, but I do not appreciate it,” Pierce told her. He grabbed his boots as he walked over to the fireplace.
Evelyn’s lower lip quivered. She wasn’t playing a game. Why couldn’t he realize she wanted him? She didn’t just want him now, in this moment, she wanted him forever and always.
A tear slid down her cheek and she quickly brushed it away. Anger replaced hurt. Fine. If he didn’t want her, then she would focus her attention on getting through her birthday party. Then after, she could focus on becoming queen.
Pierce would then deliver her to Astonia and fade into the background as the head of her private security detail. As soon as the thought came to her, Evelyn felt another wave of sadness. She didn’t want him to fade into the background, however, it seemed like Pierce was giving her little choice.
Evelyn threw open the curtain and marched into the bathroom before Pierce could say anything. She was going to get ready for her day.
Evelyn pulled her nightgown over her head and threw it out the door. She could hear Pierce curse soundly, which gave her some pleasure. It was nice to know he wasn’t completely immune to her.
“Evelyn?” Pierce called to her from outside the open door. “When you are done, we need to talk. I have some news.”
Evelyn pulled her shift over her head, then began to riffle through her dresses. “News about what?”
“Things.” Came the the cryptic response. Evelyn huffed. She had half a mind to walk out the door as she was and make him tell her this “news” he had for her.
Instead, Evelyn located an emerald colored morning gown Lisette had made as part of her new wardrobe. She put the gown on, but the extremely low cut of it made the top of her shift show.
She normally only wore a shift under her gowns, but it was not going to be possible today. Evelyn took the garment off. She was reaching for her underwear, but decided against it. A wicked smile crossed her lips. Pierce could squirm.
Evelyn pulled the gown on over her naked flesh. She held the bodice in place and walked out to the fireplace. Pierce looked up. He saw what she was wearing and immediately scowled.
“I need help lacing up my gown. Jessica normally does it, however, she is not here and you are,” Evelyn informed him sweetly.
Pierce cursed under his breath before moving behind her. As he began to tighten the laces, he noticed something was off. He couldn’t place his finger on it at first, but not even a third of the way done with lacing came a hiss.
“Where is your shift? Are you wearing undergarments?” Pierce spun her around to ask.
“The gown is too low in the front for a shift, and I never wear undergarments, Pierce. I thought we established this in the carriage the other day,” Evelyn retorted holding the bodice in place.
Pierce all but roared at her. “Go put clothes on under that dress. Now!”
Evelyn held her ground firmly. “No. I am your Queen. I will do what I want, if you want me to wear undergarments then dress me yourself.”
Evelyn shot him her most seductive smile. She let the gown slip slightly. Pierce’s gaze immediately jumped to her breasts at the movement.
“Evelyn, you are playing with fire. If someone were to catch us right now, they would…” Pierce’s voice trailed off as if his mind were in another place entirely.
“They would what? Make us marry? How tragic for you.” Her sarcasm registered with Pierce. He glared at her.
“I told you to stop playing games with me,” Pierce growled in a low voice.
“Oh for heaven’s sake,” Evelyn replied. She was exasperated with this man. The bulge in his pants clearly said his body wanted her, but it was his mind protesting her advances. “Just lace me up. Now.”
Pierce turned her and pulled hard against the laces. Once he had finished, he buttoned the panel on the back of the gown, so no man could unlace her so easily.
Evelyn turned to face him, her breasts almost popping out of the gown. How the hell was he supposed to focus on sword fighting when she was wearing that dress?
“What is the news you are so desperate to tell me?” Evelyn took a seat in one of the chairs before looking pointedly at the fireplace.
Pierce raked a hand through his hair. “It’s about your brother and Prince Philip.”
Evelyn kept looking at him while he built the fire back up. “What about them?”
“He is the reason Philip is off his ship. And it seems your mother is quite taken with the man, because she also helped,” Pierce explained. “She is hoping you’ll marry him.”
Evelyn was quiet for a long moment. “I won’t marry him. No matter what happens, I won’t marry him.”
“He’s joining us for breakfast this morning. I have to hurry back to my room to change, and then I will be escorting you down. Jessica should be here to do your hair any minute.”
Evelyn got up from the chair, walked into her closet, and started rifling through her dresses. After a few minutes Pierce joined her.
“I will dress like a nun. That man will never touch me again, even with his eyes,” Evelyn said to him. Her hands were shaking, but she didn’t care. “You win, Pierce. Now get Jessica and get out.”
Pierce was going to say something, but decided against it. He walked carefully out of her bedroom, and was replaced by Jessica a few minutes later.
Pierce cleaned up and dressed before walking back up to escort Evelyn to breakfast. My god, the woman was too beautiful for her own good.
Resisting her was becoming harder and harder; however, he couldn’t afford to fall in love with her. He couldn’t afford any type of relationship with her. Evelyn was and always would be out of his reach.
He stood outside her door and knocked. Robert and Ian were with him, the other three were already down in the dining room.
Evelyn opened the door and started walking. Pierce walked directly behind her, while the other two men trailed behind him.
Pierce wasn’t sure how her mother would feel about the jacket she was wearing over her shirt, which was buttoned to her neck. Her skirt was a nondescript burgundy that matched the jacquard jacket.
“Your Highness, won’t you be warm?” Pierce questioned.
“No, the shirt is a thin linen. The jacket’s sleeves end at my elbow and the lace to my wrist is loose. I’ll be fine.”
Evelyn took a deep breath before walking through the open door of the dining room.
“Oh, Evelyn! I was wondering when you were joining us,” Queen Maria announced. “Prince Philip has been looking forward to your reunion.”
Prince Philip stood up and pulled out the chair next to him. “Come, Princess Evelyn. I want to know how things have been since my last visit.”
Evelyn took a seat. A footman came by with a plate of food, but Evelyn declined and requested a cup of tea instead.
Her mother took in her outfit as well as her demeanor. “My dear, you are dressed rather conservatively today. It’s also unlike you to skip breakfast.”
Evelyn smiled dutifully. “I didn’t realize how sunny it was during the archery tournament, so I took precautions for the swordfighting. As for breakfast, I’ve lost my appetite.”
Evelyn pointedly looked at Prince Philip when making her last comment. She winced when he kicked her under the table.
“I do hope you’re not falling ill. It would be tragic, especially considering we are to spend the day together,” Prince Philip commented.
Evelyn stiffened slightly, but kept silent.
King Reginald watched the exchange from behind his newspaper. He didn’t like the prince. Truth be told, he had always known Evelyn was in love with Pierce. She would jump at the chance to marry him.
However, Reginald was never sure what Pierce’s feelings were toward his daughter. For the most part he felt Pierce viewed Evelyn as his duty, but there were moments when he would catch a glimpse of something more. However, there were other questions surrounding Pierce. He was willing to overlook them, but his wife was not.
It was in those moments he felt hopeful there was a chance of his daughter having the man she wanted. Then Maria had decided Prince Philip was the man for Evelyn. It had been obvious to anyone at their first meeting the man made Evelyn uneasy.
As time had gone by, Philip seemed to become almost obsessed with Evelyn. At the same time, Evelyn retreated from him in fear. He was certain something had happened between the pair the last time Philip visited, but Evelyn kept that information to herself.
“I thought Lily and King Richard, along with the Earl of Thornton were going to sit in Evelyn’s box for the swordfighting,” King Reginald stated.
Queen Maria shot him a quizzical look. “Well, yes, of course. But surely the box is big enough to accommodate all of them?”
“There are four of them in addition to Evelyn’s three guards. I believe cook was also setting up a sweets table with some refreshing drinks,” King Reginald explained. “Her box only seats eight comfortably, and with the addition of the refreshments, there is simply no room for Prince Philip.”
Queen Maria glared at her husband through his announcement. She had believed he had wanted Evelyn married as much as she had, but now she was beginning to doubt his sincerity.
“Then tomorrow he can sit in her box.” Queen Maria’s clipped, icy tone dared her husband to continue the discussion.
“That should be fine.” King Reginald glanced meaningfully at his daughter.
Evelyn sighed. She knew he was trying to protect her from Prince Philip even though he didn’t know why.
Prince Philip smiled and nodded. “Don’t dress like a prude tomorrow, or you’ll regret it,” he told Evelyn under his breath.
“I’ll dress however I want,” she retorted.
Philip kicked her again. Evelyn winced and Pierce growled low. “Kick her again. I dare you,” came the leath voice to her right.
“I don’t know what you are talking about, and I resent the implication,” Philip responded back.
Queen Maria’s face was pale. King Reginald put his newspaper down on the table. “Prince Pierce, please escort Evelyn and Lily to the box with her men.”
“Maria, my study. Now,” King Reginald barked at his wife.
Once in his study, King Reginald slammed the door and whirled on his wife.
“Why do you like Prince Philip so much, Maria? Can’t you see Evelyn despises the man? And he kept kicking her under the table whenever she said something displeasing to him!”
Maria winced at her husband’s tone. It was clear he was enraged. “Darling, I’m sure the kicking was a misunderstanding. Pierce can be rather over protective of Evelyn at times.”
“I don’t care what it wasn’t! He will not abuse my daughter,” Reginald roared. “Why is he here, Maria? He wasn’t even invited.”
“I invited him because I thought it was an oversight, he and Thad are best friends after all. He is next in line for the throne, his kingdom is quite wealthy, and he wants children right away. This could be the marriage we are looking for for Evelyn,” Maria explained.
“Except she is afraid of him, Maria. Did you notice that? Or were you too busy counting your future grandchildren to realize he terrifies her? Evelyn didn’t want him invited for a reason, maybe you should have asked her what it was before going behind her back to invite a man she’s scared of,” Reginald argued.
“I didn’t think she was afraid of him, just shy around him. Evelyn hasn’t had much experience with men, maybe she doesn’t know how to act around them,” Maria shot back.
“She skipped breakfast, went sheet white when she heard he was joining her in her box, and dressed like a nun. That doesn’t say shy to me, Maria, it says scared. But please, do put your theory to the test and use Evelyn as a test subject,” Reginald stated flatly.
“She will not marry some destitute fourth son! She’s better than that!” Queen Maria shrieked at her husband before exiting the room.
King Reginald sighed. “But she loves him, Maria.”
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