“Where is Lily? She was looking forward to this event,” Evelyn inquired to Ian.
“No one knows, Your Highness. Her governess and all her things are gone,” Ian replied.
“That’s extremely odd. Can you please,” Evelyn was cut off by a disturbance to the side of her box. One man was trying to push his way into the box, while John and Evan pushed him back.
“That little brat isn’t here and neither is King Richard, therefore she has room in her box for me,” came the demanding voice of Prince Philip.
Evelyn grabbed onto Ian’s arm tightly. “Please,” she whispered desperately.
Ian snuck out the back and came up behind Prince Philip. “Excuse me, Your Highness, I believe your day with the Princess is tomorrow.”
“There is room in her box today, so I will sit in it today,” Prince Philip commanded. He gave one last shove past John and Evan.
“The burgundy jacquard looks radiant on you, Princess,” Prince Philip exclaimed the moment he saw her. There was an hour left of the competition before the lunch break, and yet, the prince had waited until now to make a fuss.
“You are much too generous in your praise, Prince Philip,” she forced herself to lightly retort.
“It’s so wonderful of you to join us,” Charles, the Earl of Thornton, chimed in sarcastically. “I’ve had our fair Princess all to myself this morning.”
Evelyn had received a missive from Richard saying he would not be at the morning festivities due to some urgent business, which had left Evelyn alone with Charles. He had actually been a perfect gentleman, and was quite witty.
Evelyn had actually found herself enjoying his company. They had conversed and gotten to know each other. He had confessed he had only entered the tournament because of his father, there was already a woman who had won his affections. He was hoping to marry her once the tournament was over.
In the meantime, he had to keep up the appearance of doing his father’s bidding. Evelyn had thanked him for his candor and told him it was a relief to know she didn’t have to worry about being pawed at in his company.
They joked around the entire morning about a variety of things, mostly mocking the other men. However, Charles did tell her something that struck her as odd, he had seen Prince Philip talking to Lily’s uncle.
“Some of us take more care with our appearance than others,” Prince Philip tersely replied. As he sat down, he brushed Evelyn’s shoulder with his hand.
Startled, Evelyn glanced at him and he winked. He then covertly slid his hand down the side of her body. The disgust she felt at his touch made her carefully inch closer to Charles.
For the next hour, Evelyn chatted and joked with Charles while Prince Philip touched and fondled her every chance he got. When the gong for lunch rang out, Charles quickly offered to escort Evelyn and she jumped at the chance.
Ian carefully followed at a distance, while Prince Philip huffed he should be the one escorting her. When they arrived at the outdoor seating area for lunch, an urgent missive was waiting for Charles.
Philip wasted no time seizing the opportunity to have Evelyn all to himself. As lunch was being served, he kept gazing at her breasts and making excuses to reach across her for items so he would “accidentally” brush them. As if that wasn’t bad enough, he used his free hand to rub her thigh and on more than one occasion trying to touch her private place through her skirt.
As soon as she was able, Evelyn made an excuse to leave the table to change for the afternoon festivities. Philip offered to walk her to her room, but Evelyn had insisted his presence would be missed too much. In the end, she had bolted the moment he had become distracted by something.
Evan and John had immediately flanked her.
“Your Highness, do you need to rest a moment? You look quite pale,” Evan questioned from behind.
“No, I need to get to my damn room as soon as possible before that insipid Prince Philip finds me,” Evelyn responded. She was walking at a light jog.
“I realize he’s a rat bastard, Princess. And it pains us greatly to see him touching you and taking advantage of you, but your breathing is getting hard and you are wearing a jacket,” John explained.
Neither man was winded, which was infuriating on some level, but they were right. She would pass out at the rate she was going. Evelyn slowed down her pace.
“I want to bathe before the next round and scrub my skin clean of that man and the memory of his touch,” Evelyn told them. “It’s all I can do to not throw up and pretend to listen and flirt.”
“It’s all we can do to not beat the man within an inch of his life, Your Highness,” Even told her.
As they began the ascent up the back stairwell to the fourth floor, Evelyn’s head started spinning and her legs gave out. John was behind her and caught her as she went down.
“Dammit. We warned you about this. Evan, take the lead and make sure no one sees us,” John commanded.
“I’m already on it. Did you eat anything or where you just picking at the food and drinking wine?” Evan asked from ahead of them.
“I’m sorry. I know I need to eat, but with his touching me, I managed to nibble on some cheese, bread, and a few meats. I did drink a few glasses of the wine because I had hoped it would help with my nerves.”
John sighed while Evan kept a lookout up ahead. “I will make sure you have a tea service sent to your booth as soon as you are back for the afternoon festivities.”
“Thank you both so much. I don’t know what I would do without any of you. To be honest, I don’t know what I did without you,” Evelyn stated as she rested her spinning head against John’s shoulder.
Evan looked back. He could see the worried look in John’s eyes. Peter and Robert had both competed and won this morning. They didn’t fight again until tomorrow, so maybe they could join her in her box.
Pierce still had to compete this afternoon. Evan and John both knew he would want to know what was happening with the Princess, but he couldn’t be distracted now.
They rounded the last corner and John set Evelyn on her feet as her lady’s maid Jessica came up the servants stairs. “Oh good. I’m not late. I apologize, Your Highness, I didn’t see you leave the lunch, so I hurried here as fast as I could.”
“It’s quite alright. I wanted to bathe before this afternoon, so I left early.”
As the women walked into the room, Evelyn paused. “Evan, John, can you please tell Pierce that Lily’s uncle was seen talking to Prince Philip? It is probably nothing, but still, it is something he should know.”
Both men nodded. The two women continued talking as the door closed. “Is Richard still tending to the business with Ian?” John asked quietly.
Evan nodded in response. “No, they have finished. Once we are back downstairs at the challenge, I shall fetch someone to get her tea and bring back either Peter or Robert.”
John thought about this a moment. “Bring them both, I am not letting anyone else in that box. It may anger the king and queen, but I don’t trust that snake and he’s not getting back into that box. I wouldn’t put it past him to drug her.”
A good steamy bath was all she really needed. Having one twice in one day had thrown Jessica for a bit of a loop, but her lady’s maid had indulged her. After she had washed her hair, Evelyn had dismissed her.
Her birthday ball was Saturday evening, just a few days time. She was excited for the fireworks and other whimsical things. However, tonight, she just wanted to be free from the memories of Philip.
She had managed to avoid Philip in her box during the afternoon’s festivities thanks to her men. However, she had had to endure that man’s wandering eyes and hands during dinner, which meant she ate little and drank too much.
John and Evan had kindly helped her back to her room. Once there, she told Jessica she was still feeling a bit hungry, so could tea and a light meal be brought up.
The young woman had taken pity on her, telling her all the servants knew what was happening. She didn’t blame her for not wanting to eat until after. Jessica had blessed her with soup, little sandwiches, and some dessert cakes.
Evelyn was going to make sure there were a few extra crowns in her paycheck this week, as well as the others helping her out. She knew they all had to be tired after preparing all these meals, but to make sure she still had meals was too much.
A noise from the balcony caught her attention. The door opened and closed softly, and she could hear the soft footfalls across the rug. She was getting ready to scream when she heard the faint voice calling out to her.
“I’m in the bath, Pierce,” Evelyn softly called out to him.
“Didn’t you take one earlier?” Pierce replied on the other side of the door.
“Yes, I did, but I needed another,” Evelyn answered as a chill ran down her spine.
“I see.” Pierce’s tone was clipped, so Evelyn knew he was angry. “I need to speak to you, so I can wait.”
Evelyn hesitated a moment. “Or you can come in here.”
“It would be better if I didn’t.” Evelyn knew she was playing with fire, but she didn’t care. Pierce was the only man she had ever wanted, he had consumed her thoughts for years until her mother had denied any possibility of a match between them.
Evelyn pulled the plug and grabbed a towel to dry off. She realized too late everything she was to wear had been laid out on her bed. She frantically looked around for anything that wasn’t a towel, but luck was not on her side,
“I’m coming out,” she announced.
Pierce moved away from the door to stand over by the fire. He lifted his head when he heard her step out and wish he had kept looking at the fire. Standing before him was Evelyn in only a towel, her damp hair hanging loosely around her shoulders, her fair skin pink from the warmth of the water.
“My clothes were set out on my bed, if you turn around I can dress quickly and ….” Evelyn’s voice trailed off as she began to blush. Pierce pulled himself together and turned away from her.
Evelyn got dressed quickly and threw on a robe for good measure. She then grabbed her hairbrush and sat in a chair by the fire.
“Did you get enough to eat with what Jessica brought you? I can always go down and get you something more.”
“No, I’m fine. Thank you for offering though, it’s very kind of you.” Evelyn brushed her hair as she stared into the fire. Pierce’s sudden swearing startled her.
He pulled a handkerchief from his pocket and wiped the tears streaming down her face. “Evie, what happened today? All Evan and John said was that you needed your rest, but you look pale and were so withdrawn all day.”
“It’s nothing you need to concern yourself with. There is nothing you can do about it,” Evelyn uttered.
Pierce sighed. In some ways he was scared to know what she was going to say, and in other ways, he had a feeling he knew.
“Evie, I can’t attempt to fix your problem unless I know what it is. Clearly, it’s something that will make me mad, or else you would say something,” Pierce acknowledged.
“It’s… It’s the dresses and… and,” Evelyn hesitated. Pierce would hit the roof when he learned about Prince Philip’s advances. She turned her face away from him.
“And?” Pierce was trying for patience, he truly was, but this was killing him.
“And Prince Philip and a few others and their constant touching, but mostly Prince Philip, he ah, he kept going for me under the table at lunch and dinner. He ah, he also, well, that is to say, he kept finding ways to brush my chest and look down my gown this evening,” Evelyn whispered brokenly. She was also beat red from embarrassment. She never once made eye contact with him.
“Prince Philip did what?” Pierce was seething. Evelyn flinched at the rage in his tone. “I’m going to kill the son of a bitch!”
Evelyn’s eyes flew to his. “No! No, you can’t do anything to him! I can’t lose you! I need you! I lov…”
Evelyn’s hand flew to her mouth. The horrified look on her face telling Pierce she hadn’t meant to let the last part slip out of her mouth.
He gently took her hands in his. “I know, Evie. It’s not in the cards for us. It never was.”
“I know. I just couldn’t bear it if something happened to you. You have done so much for me, I don’t know how I will ever be able to repay you,” Evelyn admitted.
“I will fix your problem with Prince Philip. I promise you,” Pierce vowed. “He will never touch you again.”
“Pierce, what are you planning on doing?” Evelyn fretted.
“Nothing that will cause any permanent damage,” Pierce responded. “Now let’s get you to bed.”
“I just need to braid and pin my hair up. You need your sleep, I don’t want you off your game with the sword fighting. I don’t want to see you hurt,” Evelyn told him.
“The swords aren’t real, so you don’t need to worry there. My job as your personal bodyguard is to always be alert and handle your needs.”
“You have to escort me to Lisette’s shop in the afternoon for my final fitting,” Evelyn added.
“I didn’t forget. Now off to bed,” he replied.
Pierce picked Evelyn up as he stood, he then walked to the bed and carefully set her down. He then began to braid her hair before pinning it to the top of her head.
“Good night, Evelyn,” Pierce whispered into her hair as his kissed the top of her head.
“Good night, Pierce.” Evelyn laid back against the pillows and watched as he closed the curtains around the bed. “Pierce?”
“Did John and Evan tell you about Lily’s uncle talking to Prince Philip?” Evelyn asked.
“Yes, I have Ian looking into the matter. Now go to sleep,” Pierce told her. He began to shut the curtain once more.
He let out a deep, weary sigh. “Yes?”
“Stay with me, please,” Evelyn begged. “I don’t want to be alone. I can’t get the memories, the touching…. I can’t stop thinking.”
“Evelyn… I can’t. I grow weary of this game you’re playing with me,” Pierce replied.
“It’s not a game. Besides, I thought you weren’t going to leave my side,” Evelyn taunted.
Pierce let out a low growl before surrendering. “Until you fall asleep.”
Pierce took his boots off and carefully hid them, he then closed the curtains and reach for Evelyn. She willingly came to him.
“I love how very masculine you smell,” Evelyn told him as she laid her head on his shoulder and a hand on his chest.
Pierce picked up her hand and chuckled, giving into the sensation of her in his arms. “I love how you smell too. Always so exotic with your jasmine while other ladies wear rose or lavender.”
Evelyn smiled as she breathed him in. “I love to be different.” She snuggled into him deeper and yawned.
“I know ye do. Now be a good lass and go to sleep.” Evelyn giggled. She loved his brogue, but lately it only came out when his guard was down.
“Why do you mask your accent, Pierce? It’s one of the many things I love about you,” Evelyn asked before yawning again.
“Because people in Astonia don’t have thick brogues like in Scotland. The men didn’t respect or obey a foreigner, so I learned to hide it. It only comes out around you or when I’m drunk,” Pierce explained.
“Oh, I guess that makes sense.” Evelyn’s eyelids felt so heavy, she began to drift off to sleep. Pierce was so warm and solid, he made her feel safe.
When she was with him, she didn’t think about the horrible things that had happened that day. She knew no matter what, he would keep her safe.
Pierce watched as Evelyn fell asleep. He would leave when she was in a deep slumber. Pierce knew the men would tease him mercilessly if they learned of this, but he didn’t care. He had her in his arms, and it felt so good.
The light tapping on the balcony door woke Pierce up with a start. Evelyn had draped herself across him, and he was stiff as a board underneath his pants. Pierce carefully situated Evelyn against her pillows, then grabbed his boots and went out the balcony door.
“What the hell were you doing in there with her all night?” Evan hissed through his teeth.
“She asked me to stay after she told me what that royal bastard Prince Philip did to her. She couldn’t even look me in the bloody eye and was so embarrassed and ashamed, I won’t stand for it,” Pierce raged quietly.
“Then what are you going to do about him?” Evan questioned.
“I’m going to go down to the kitchen and see about breakfast, then I’m going to bathe, dress, and meet the future queen for breakfast,” Pierce explained.
“Breakfast is your plan?”
“Yes, and don’t be late. You wouldn’t want to miss the fun,” Pierce said, winking at Evan before climbing down to the ground.
With luck, the cooking staff would just be getting ready for the day.
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