“I look like a prostitute, Jessica,” Evelyn flatly stated as she looked in the mirror. “Could you please find me another gown?”
“Her Majesty pulled me aside on my way up and insisted you wear the silver linen morning gown. She’ll have my neck if you’re not wearing it,” Jessica fretted.
Evelyn nodded. The problem was the fabric was on the thin side, which meant when there was a light source behind her, like say the sun, she would be exposed. The men would be able to see everything about her.
“Can we then use a darker shift or something? Please, Jessica, please,” Evelyn pleaded.
“Oh all right! But you owe me. Let me grab your black shift and petticoat, but you best be quick with getting undressed,” Jessica chided.
Evelyn started on the laces and had everything off by the time Jessica returned. When the knock sounded on the door, Jessica was helping her get back into the dress.
“One moment please,” Evelyn called out.
“Your Highness, we will be late for breakfast,” came the response.
Pierce! Pierce was on the other side of the door. He had come to escort her to breakfast. Evelyn was beaming.
“Seriously, my lady? Now you’re in a bloody rush to get out the door,” the young woman huffed.
As soon as the laces were tied, Evelyn ran to the door, took a breath, and then opened the door.
“Let us be off.”
Pierce nodded and all six men led her down the steps to the main dining hall for breakfast.
“There you are, and you are wearing… Evelyn, what did you do to the dress?” Queen Maria was staring at Evelyn’s gown trying to figure out why it was a much darker shade of silver than she remembered.
“Why whatever do you mean?” Evelyn responded innocently. “I thought this was how it was supposed to be worn.”
“I just thought it was a much lighter silver color and not quite so charcoal, I do hope Prince Philip doesn’t mind,” Queen Maria responded.
Evelyn lost her grip on her plate as the color drained from her face, however, John was there to catch it before it hit the ground.
“Your Highness,” he murmured. Evelyn thanked him before grabbing a piece of toast.
Her mother was shocked and smacked her husband to get his attention. “Evelyn, aren’t you going to eat more than that?” Queen Maria questioned as she studied her daughter.
Evelyn was too distracted with buttering her toast and fixing herself a cup of tea she wouldn’t drink to answer. Evan coughed loudly, pulling Evelyn from her task, she then noticed he was nodding in the direction of her mother.
“Oh, I’m sorry Mother, I didn’t hear you. Could you please repeat the question?”
Queen Maria looked at King Reginald before repeating the question. “I asked if that was all you were eating.”
Evelyn looked down at her plate and noticed the single piece of buttered toast, she then noticed all of her men looking at her, as well as a few others who had shown up for breakfast.
“Um, yes, I’m not overly hungry this morning,” Evelyn muttered.
“I see. I don’t remember you eating much yesterday either. I do hope you aren’t getting sick,” Queen Maria responded.
Evelyn forced herself to smile. “I think I’ve just been so caught up by everything, I’ve forgotten to eat. I promise I’ll eat more today.”
Queen Maria didn’t look convinced, but she didn’t ask any more questions. Evelyn was just washing down her last bite of toast when Prince Philip arrived.
He scanned the dining room and spotted Evelyn right away. Pierce and Peter were sitting next to her, while Robert sat across from them. Prince Philip ordered one of the footmen to make him a plate.
Evelyn looked over and saw that all three men had food piled high on their plates. Her heart sank as she realized she wouldn’t be able to leave without them sacrificing the sustenance they so desperately needed for the tournament.
Prince Philip was walking towards her, and Evelyn cringed. She kept telling herself to breath and that she could do this, but what she really wanted to do was run as far away as possible.
“Princess Evelyn, you look quite fetching in silver this morning. I hope you didn’t wear it on my account,” Philip stated. He then stared at Pierce and Robert. “I had hoped we could share breakfast together.”
“There is an open seat next to the Marquis of Ashford,” Pierce told the man as he motioned to Robert. “Your Highness, you simply must try the sausage this morning.”
Pierce then held out his fork to her. Once she met his gaze, Evelyn realized what he was doing. She smiled sweetly and ate the proffered bite. “That is rather tasty,” she replied after chewing and swallowing.
“Then please take this piece, I fear I grabbed too much food,” Robert said sliding his plate closer to her. Evelyn giggled and grabbed the sausage.
She really didn’t feel like eating, but she also didn’t want her men worrying about her. They all had really important tasks to complete without worrying about her health.
“The eggs are also amazing this morning,” Peter stated as he winked at her.
Evelyn grabbed her fork and took some of the eggs off his plate. She was praising the chef when Prince Philip finally sat down across from her.
He was pouting and outright demanding to the servants. The footman brought over his plate while another came with his coffee. “I swear, good help is so very difficult to find these day,” Philip announced to the three of them.
Evelyn was in better spirits having the men around her. “I wouldn’t know, everyone always seems to be doing such a marvelous job,” Evelyn threw back.
“I asked cook this morning if she would mind terribly making up a small batch of Scottish hot chocolate, and the wonderful woman indulged me,” Pierce beamed at Evelyn.
“Seriously? She only makes me hot chocolate on special occasions,” Evelyn laughed.
Pierce handed Evelyn his cup. “Have a drink, Your Highness,” he challenged.
“You are playing with fire,” Evelyn warned under her breath.
“I know and I don’t care,” he quipped.
Evelyn took a sip from his cup before turning to Peter and Robert. “It really is hot chocolate! Pierce, you are such a cad! I will never understand how you get that woman to do your bidding.”
The other two men joined in on their laughter, while Evelyn continued to eat off of their plates. A scandalous affair for sure, but no one said a word because she was eating and smiling — two things she had done very little of in the presence of Prince Philip.
Philip was sulking from his seat watching Evelyn pander to those beneath her. It wouldn’t be long before she was his bride, and he had big plans for her during her birthday ball, that is, if he could get her away from those men guarding her.
Pierce was relieved Evelyn was eating and joking. All the men were worried about her, and they weren’t the only ones — even the servants had noticed her mood. When Pierce had spoken to the chef this morning, she was more than happy to put his plan into motion.
Any moment now he would have to leave her along with the other competitors, but not before his revenge took effect.
“Princess Evelyn, you will be joining me in my private box today, right? You’re parents said it was a splendid idea, so I was hoping it met with your approval as well,” Prince Philip jealously interjected.
The light quickly faded from Evelyn’s eyes, her skin taking on an ashen hue. It was not lost on anyone at the table how sudden Evelyn’s demeanor changed at the thought of spending time with Prince Philip.
“I hadn’t heard about this invitation. I know King Richard had promised to join me this morning,” Evelyn explained cautiously.
“I am tired of your excuses,” Philip stated.
Evelyn was getting ready to argue, when Philip’s face suddenly fell. His pallor looked green and he quickly ran from the room.
“Oh dear, I hope he doesn’t have food poisoning,” Pierce whispered quietly in her ear.
Evelyn slowly turned and looked at him. Pierce winked at her before the footman announced the competitors needed to be on the field.
“Princess Evelyn, are you ready for this morning’s festivities?” King Richard asked.
“That I am. Let us be off,” Evelyn announced.
Richard made a great show of spoiling Evelyn all morning during the sword fighting. The hunting portion of the competition would be next week followed by a week of jousting to wrap up the games.
Robert and Peter had gone earlier in the morning, and done quite well. Evelyn was currently cheering for Richard’s man to win.
“When is Pierce supposed to fight?” Evelyn asked. She couldn’t see the competitor list or match line up from where she was sitting.
“Oh, I see how it is,” Richard dramatically threw an arm over his eyes. “How will I ever go on?”
Evelyn playful swatted him. “You know I love you, but I hadn’t seen the man who fights for Prince Philip yet or Pierce, and I’m getting nervous,” she confessed.
“That’s because Pierce is going against Prince Philip’s man, and they should be the final match of the morning before the quarter finalists are announced,” Richard explained.
“How did that happen? Prince Philip’s man is a cheater and I don’t understand how he is still in the competition,” Evelyn responded.
“My man and his were matched up. Pierce noticed it yesterday and asked if he could switch, there weren’t any objectives, so now they are fighting against each other,” Richard told her.
Evelyn nodded and watched the final few matches before Pierce and Prince Philip’s man took the field. As soon as she saw them, she held her breath and prayed hard.
Philip’s man was a cheater. Everyone he had competed against thus far had said so, this made Evelyn all the more nervous to see the outcome. She was grateful Philip had food poisoning and couldn’t make it to the event, but she was hoping her luck lasted for tonight as well.
As the match began, Pierce was on the defensive. He blocked and jabbed when he needed to, but he hadn’t taken control of the match. Philip’s man assumed Pierce was weaker than him and became arrogant.
Pierce quickly took advantage of an opening on the man’s left side, this gave him the chance to get the man on the ropes. The man kicked up dirt into Pierce’s eyes, temporarily blinding him and striking him.
Pierce grunted in what seemed to be pain, but kept going. The man gave Pierce an opening a few moves later, leaving his right side unprotected, Pierce easily knocked him to the ground and put his sword to his throat.
Pierce was declared the winner and everyone was cheering over the match, including Evelyn. However, she noticed Pierce’s breathing was heavy and he was favoring his left arm. That’s when she saw the blood.
She then looked at the sword Philip’s man was holding and noticed the blood along the edge. He was being escorted off the field, but was soundly complaining that Pierce had cheated.
“He’s bleeding,” Evelyn stated to no one in particular. She got up from her seat and began to make her way down to the field. Evan and John were behind her, and in a flash Richard caught up.
“What the blazes do you mean ‘he’s bleeding’? The swords are fake,” Richard demanded.
“Look at him, Richard! Then have someone look at Philip’s man’s sword it has blood on it because it’s real,” Evelyn impatiently explained.
Richard studied his brother and then look at where Philip’s man was being escorted. Richard swore soundly and then let out a roar as he went after the man, bellowing for her father in the process.
It seemed like an eternity, but Evelyn finally made it to Pierce. “Let me see your arm.”
Pierce looked over at her. “You’re supposed to be going to lunch. You will be missed. I’ll have someone tend to the scratch.”
He was annoyed with her, but Evelyn wouldn’t be satisfied until she saw his arm. “Come. Now,” she commanded.
Evelyn marched towards the men’s rooms by the servant’s quarters. She was irritated they hadn’t been given better accommodations; however, with all the hustle and bustle, no one paid her any attention.
She escorted Pierce to his room along with her two bodyguards. “You sit down. And you two make sure no one disturbs us. I don’t need a scandal right now.”
Evan and John nodded as they walked out the door with grins on their faces.
“If you don’t want a scandal, then leave,” Pierce reasoned.
Evelyn ignored him as she grabbed his arm. It was deeper than she had realized. He needed stitches and a doctor, but she knew he would refuse one.
Evelyn sighed deeply as she began to remove his shirt.
“What the hell do you think you are doing?” Pierce quickly wrapped her hands in his.
“I need your shirt off if I’m going to clean and dress the wound. You really need stitches though.”
“I’ve got the shirt, just get some soap and water, along with a needle and thread and a large bandage,” Pierce barked.
Evelyn moved to the other side of the room, gathering up the items he had requested. She set them on a table near him, turned and gasped.
He was more muscular than she had thought. Evelyn also hadn’t realized how thick his chest was, or how well defined. She could make out almost every muscle bulging from his upper body.
It was the blood on his left bicep that pulled her from her lustful thoughts. “Pierce,” she whispered softly. Grabbing the wash cloth and dipping it in the cool water to lather the soap, Evelyn went about the task of cleaning his cut.
Once she was done, Pierce ordered her to sterilize the needle before threading it. “Give it to me, Evie.”
Puzzled, she handed it to him and then quickly turned away when she realized what he was doing. “Pierce, a doctor should really be doing that.”
“It’s not the first time I’ve sewn myself up, and it probably won’t be the last,” he retorted.
Once he was done, Evelyn wrapped the wound with the bandage. “Do you feel fine? You had blood dripping down your arm, so I’m sure you lost quite a bit.”
“I feel fine. I’m a bit tired, but I’ll live. I can’t miss your fitting this afternoon,” Pierce teased. “Which you need to go get ready for. I need to get ready as well.”
“Are you sure? Rest might be the best thing for you,” Evelyn fretted.
“I’m fine. Go now, before you are discovered,” Pierce chuckled.
Evelyn took one last look at Pierce before leaving. Pierce sighed. That jackass had cut him good, but in the rules, it stated should someone be caught with a real sword, it was an automatic disqualification from the tournament.
He made sure the bastard cut him so there could be no doubt he had been using a real sword. It also meant he now had a target on his back because everyone would learn of his injury, which meant he had a weakness.
There was a knock on his door. “Yes,” he bellowed.
“Can the King and I enter?” Richard asked from the other side.
Pierce swore under his breath, he grabbed a shirt and quickly buttoned it before opening the door and bowing slightly. “Please come in. What can I do for you?”
“We wanted to make sure your arm was taken care of. King Richard said you had been cut by a sword during the competition, but I wasn’t certain because I didn’t see what had happened.”
Pierce nodded. He picked up the shirt and jacket he had been wearing and handed the items to King Reginald and his brother.
“As you can see, the blood is quite fresh. You just missed the nurse who helped bandage my arm. All the supplies she used are there on the table.” Pierce gestured to the medical supplies, bloody water and wash cloth, and bandages.
“I told King Reginald I want Philip’s man disqualified for using a real sword. Evelyn was the person who noticed the blood and saw the cut, followed by myself and everyone else there,” King Richard explained.
“I understand the concern, and I am horrified this happen. Are you alright? Do you need a doctor?” King Reginald asked.
“I am alright, and I don’t need a doctor,” Pierce told the man.
“Prince Philip is currently under the weather, from my understanding. But I will disqualify him and his man from the tournament, there were other complaints, however, none offered proof. I just chalked it up to jealousy, I feel bad you were actually injured,” King Reginald told them.
“It’s quite alright. If no one is willing to bring forth proof, then you are correct, there are any number of reasons for deception in a tournament like this,” Pierce assured him.
“I also didn’t realize how far down your rooms were. I know Prince Philip can be a dangerous man,” King Reginald continued. “I know her mother had hoped he would win her hand, but truthfully, I have been very unimpressed by him. I will have you moved to the third and fourth floors because I don’t trust him.”
“Thank you, Your Majesty. My men and I greatly appreciate the gesture. It will definitely help us guard the Princess better.” Pierce bowed to the man.
“That is most kind of you. You have my gratitude as well,” King Richard responded.
“Yes, well, Prince Philip isn’t bound to like the news he’s about to get, and while I would like to marry off my daughter, I don’t want to see her harmed in the process,” King Reginald explained.
“I understand. You have nothing to worry about,” Pierce told him.
“Well I guess we had better get out of here. You need your rest,” King Reginald stated.
Pierce nodded and watched as both kings walked out the door.
It was going in to be a very long day.
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