Evelyn sat with Richard in her box alone. John and Ian were stationed outside, while Evan watched Lily during her nap.
Robert and Peter had finished their matches in this final day of sword fighting, which has surprised Evelyn because she had thought it was to go one more day. Evelyn had expected them to join her, but they must have had other things to do.
As always, Evelyn was waiting on Pierce. He had one of the final matches of the day. Earlier, he had knocked his opponent clean off his feet before the guy could even aim his sword at Pierce. She expected much of the same in his final match.
“What’s wrong my dear Evelyn? You are quite distant today,” Richard observed.
Evelyn pasted a smile on her face. “I’m fine, just a little tired. In a few weeks, I’ll be leaving for Astonia.”
Richard knew there was more to it than that. Pierce had soundly rejected her and she was putting up walls around her lovesick heart. It was depressing really.
Evelyn was in love with Pierce, but she had been set to inherit an entire kingdom. This fact limited her marriage choices in the eyes of her parents. Meanwhile, she had fallen in love with the wrong brother.
Sure they had written to each other often; however, for every one letter she sent to him, she sent two to Pierce. Oh how he had complained about the childish girl writing him letters. Then on a visit to the palace for her sixteenth birthday, Richard and Pierce had traveled for the birthday celebration.
Pierce was soundly complaining in his ear about how it was a glorified matchmaking event for a homely teen, when Evelyn descended the stairs in a gold silk gown that hugged every one of her burgeoning curves, Pierce was rendered speechless.
He hadn’t been the only man stunned into silence. Rather than pounce on her like everyone else, Pierce watched her from a distance. Men argued over who would dance what dance with her, but Evelyn had been scanning the ballroom, looking for someone.
The evening had been winding down, the final waltz was getting ready to play when a fight broke out. Three men were arguing over who Evelyn had promised the dance to. She was so embarrassed by the attention, but then there he was, rescuing her.
Pierce walked up to her, bowed over her hand, and led her onto the dance floor without a word. The waltz was half over by the time everyone realized what was going. Then the whispers had started.
He wasn’t good enough for a princess. His brother may be a king, but he had inherited nothing. Evelyn needed to set her sites higher because she did not need a fortune hunter. The gossip continued to swirl until they left. Pierce had never shown any sign it had bothered him, but Richard had always known it solidified a belief inside of him.
“He loves you in his own way, Evelyn. He just doesn’t know how to express it because he was never supposed to care,” Richard murmured.
“That’s absurd. Why would anyone care?” Evelyn asked in an annoyed tone.
“Because Evelyn, you and I have money and position. What does he have outside of his title?” Richard fired back.
Evelyn opened her mouth to argue back, but quickly close it. Richard had a point. She had never really thought about it in such harsh black and white terms. Pierce didn’t bring anything of monetary value to the match, instead he brought so much more.
“Oh, Richard, I’ve been such a fool,” Evelyn cried.
“Not a fool, Evelyn, just someone in love. But it’s not always enough.”
Evelyn knew that first hand. She had tried to convince her parents on more than one occasion to approve the match and reach out to see if Pierce was interested, but they had refused. Instead, her mother had been enamored by Prince Philip. Something that hadn’t changed these past few days.
The trumpet blew signalling the final fight. Pierce had his sword at the ready and so did his opponent. At the signal, both men circled the other, looking for the weakness. Evelyn held her breath, Pierce’s sword connected with the other fighter, sending him backwards to the ground. Pierce then delivered the winning strike.
“He did it,” Evelyn uttered in disbelief. “Pierce won. He actually won.”
“Of course he won! He was never going to lose to these dandies,” Richard chuckled.
The medals were being handed out by her mother, as the butler announced the winners. Evelyn was smiling ear-to-ear. She would get to spend her birthday evening with Pierce.
“Congratulations to our winner, Pierce of Astonia. He will have the honor of the Princess Evelyn’s company during her birthday festivities tomorrow,” Queen Maria announced.
There was polite clapping from the audience. Several of the suitors looked angry at the result, while others were whispering furiously to their men.
“Of course, no one expected the help to win,” Queen Maria added dryly. This was met with peels of laughter from the others royals and members of the aristocracy. “Perhaps there will be a way tonight for some other gentleman to spend the morning with the Princess before the evening festivities.”
Several gentlemen perked up at the news. Pierce was carefully hiding his true feelings, Evelyn could tell by his clenched jaw he was not pleased by the news.
Evelyn suddenly felt sick. Her mouth took on a sour taste and she felt like she was swallowing cotton. She heard nothing for a moment, then suddenly a cacophony of sounds greeted her. She couldn’t believe her mother had just referred to Pierce as the help, and then added to her day.
Her Father kept assuring her she was free to make her own decisions regarding her future, but she was beginning to feel like that was less and less true. Her Mother clearly had an agenda.
“I need to go to my room before I faint, Richard,” Evelyn whispered.
Richard took one look at her sheet white complexion and clammy appearance before helping Evelyn from her box, back to her room.
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