Carlos has been King for a few years now and is being pressured to choose a bride. But he’s only ever had eyes for one princess, and he’s had to wait for her to turn twenty-one.
I flip through a magazine while lying on the floor of Carlos’s office. I’m bored as I lie on my stomach, swaying my feet in the air. I roll over when I come to a picture of Princess Star. I’m not shocked to see her in the magazine. I’d be more shocked if she wasn’t. The paparazzi are always trying to find out what she’s wearing and what she’s doing. Or better yet, who she’s doing. What kind of name is that? It makes me want to roll my eyes as much as her face does.
“You sure you don’t want to pick Star?” I tease, rolling fully to my side to look at Carlos. His eyes are trained on me, his face set in a hard stare. I don’t know why he looks so angry. He’s been grumpy for the past few months, which isn’t normal for him.
Okay, that’s not true. He’s usually pretty abrupt and a little cool with people. Except with me. I’m always the one who can get away with anything. I can show up at his office, flop down, and do whatever I want. Like I am now. It’s been that way since I was a little girl. But then he wasn’t always king. He’s only held the title for the past few years. I thought things might change. That he wouldn’t have time for me anymore. Instead I’ve only been granted further access into his family’s castle.
His eyes move to my legs, and it’s then I see my dress has ridden up. I sit up quickly and pull it down, my face turning red knowing he saw my underwear. I want to die. Of course when the man I’ve been in love with since I was fifteen sees my underwear, I’m wearing plain white ones with little hearts on them. Kill me now.
“I suggest you get rid of that dress, Heavenly. I’m sure whoever your intended might be wouldn’t like hearing his wife wore dresses and flashed what was his to other men.”
My mouth falls open at his words, then I narrow my eyes at him. He’s never talked to me like that before. I take the magazine and throw it at him. My aim is terrible, and it ends up knocking a vase off the table next to his desk. It causes it to crash to the floor, shattering into a hundred pieces.
I roll back over and grab another magazine, ignoring him. I’m not even sure what I’m mad about. Maybe it’s the casual talk about me being passed to whoever my husband might be. My coming of age is fast approaching, and I’ve been ignoring it, hoping that maybe no one will call on me. My heart already belongs to a man who’s been searching for his own wife since he became king. I’m not even a blip on his radar in that area. I’m like his cute little sister in his eyes, someone he has to protect and shelter.
He’s been my everything from the first moment we met. I came to stay with my grandma, whose home is right on the edge of Carlos’s land. I’d moved here after both my parents died and my brother had taken the crown. I love my brother, but he had no idea what to do with a grieving little sister. He had a country of his own to run.
I climbed the wall that surrounded the castle from the rest of the world, only to come up against two guards when I’d landed on the other side. Boredom and curiosity had gotten the best of me that day. They dragged me kicking and screaming back to the castle with the intent to have me arrested for trespassing. Which I was. But it was Carlos who’d saved me.
I’d broken away from the two guards and taken off, only to run right into Carlos. He was like a hard wall of muscle, and I would have fallen on my ass that day if he hadn’t grabbed ahold of me. He pulled me back to him and stopped me from falling.
I’d never seen someone go from angry to sweet in a flash. He ripped into the guards for having sent a girl running from them in fear. Since that day a guard has never touched me or stood in my way here. Most won’t even make eye contact with me. No place ever been off limits to me either. Something about that makes me feel special, but I have a feeling it’s something I’ll soon lose. I can’t imagine whoever Carlos chooses as a wife will allow me to still roam the castle and estate like I do now.
Sometimes when I can’t sleep at night I sneak over from my grandmother’s and climb into his bed, where he’ll hold me close until I fall asleep. I don’t think that will be happening anymore once he takes a queen. Especially since he asked me to stop the last time I did it. It cut deep. Deeper than I thought it would. Yeah, things are going to change, but I don’t want them to. I want to stay here forever. This feels like my home now—the only home I’ve known since I lost both my parents.
The room remains quiet as both of us know I’m not going to clean up the mess. I glance over at him, and his eyes are still on me. We stare at each other for a long moment.
“I’m sorry, Heavenly. You know I’m very protective of you.” I nod, understanding. He has always been that way with me, even when it comes to men or boys poking around me. “I don’t like the idea of men being able to see up your dress.” He leans back in his chair, rubbing a hand over his face. “Things have to change,” he mumbles, and I feel my stomach turn.
“I’m not going to be allowed here after you choose your wife,” I say, and I hear the defeat and sadness in my own voice. This wife thing has been hanging over my head for two years now. It’s bittersweet. Part of me loves the fact that he hasn’t picked one yet, and another part wants him to do it so I have to face the music.
“Why would you say such a thing?” He sits back up in his chair.
“I mean, I know I can come over, just not like now. You already won’t let me in your room.” My gaze drops back down to the magazine.
Carlos gets up, coming around his desk and picking up the magazine I threw. He looks at the page that’s open to the picture of Star. He rolls his eyes and tosses it into the fire that’s cracking quietly in the fireplace.
“You’re days away from coming of age,” he reminds me.
I know. I turn twenty-one soon. I’ve been dreading it, wondering who might be calling for my hand in marriage. I secretly hoped that my brother had forgotten all about me and I wouldn’t have to worry about that day. But I think that chance is slim to none.
“I know,” I mumble. “Maybe you should worry about your own little problem. You know, picking a wife? How many women have showed up here and you still haven’t picked one.”
His jaw clenches at my words. He hates when they come. That makes two of us. I want to say it out loud, but I keep it to myself. I always try to keep the anger out of my voice. I can’t let my jealousy show. That wouldn’t be good. Then I really wouldn’t be allowed over anymore.
“Heavenly. You will never not be allowed here. You’re a part of this family, and you know it.”
I want to tell him he’s wrong. If he were mine I sure as heck wouldn’t let him hang out with some girl in his office all day.
Then it hits me. I jump up and rush over to him. “Maybe I could marry your brother!”
I almost run into him I’m so excited at the idea. But he catches me and puts his hands on my shoulders. I’d never have to leave! I could still see Carlos and his mom every day! Carlos’s brother Romy is nice, but if the rumors in the magazines are true, he’s a little bit of a player. But I wouldn’t care. I’m sure his mom will be pushing him to get married soon, too. Maybe we could just be married in name. He could still do whatever he wanted, and I could stay here. Romy and I get along well. We often team up and give Carlos a hard time when he gets into one of his grumpy moods.
Carlos tightens his grip on my shoulders.
“You want to be with my brother?”
The look on his face changes to anger. I’ve seen this face on him many times over the years, but never has it been aimed at me. I don’t understand why he’s so mad. I know he’s protective of me in a brotherly way, but this seems excessive.
“He wouldn’t treat you as you deserve to be treated,” he half-growls. He brings his hand to my cheek and strokes it softly. The touch doesn’t match the anger in his words.
“Romy is sweet to me,” I say, trying to make him understand.
“He wouldn’t be loyal,” he throws back.
Loyalty is everything to him. I know Carlos would be faithful to his wife. He’s a man of great honor. That’s probably why I’ve never seen any magazine pictures of him out on a date. It’s also why he’d never think of being with me. I’m too young. Not only that but although I’m a princess, I’m a little brash and blurt things out in moments I shouldn’t. My parents kept me away from the social scene, then after they died I was out here living with my grandmother. She barely leaves the house. My only social interactions occur with him, when I come over here and hang out. I even completed my schooling at the castle with private teachers. It was easier to do it here. I practically live here, for the most part. If I wasn’t with Carlos, I was with his mother, helping her plan some charity event or dinner, ones I never went to. Carlos always said I was too young. I often wondered if he brought dates to those events. But at night, when he’d get home, I’d sneak over, faking I had a bad dream. When I crawled into his bed there were never any other women. Nor did his bed smell like one had been with him.
The doors to Carlos’s office open, and his mom Nina walks in. Carlos drops his hand from my cheek, but the other on my shoulder only digs in a little tighter. I shake him off, turning to greet the woman who has become like a mom to me over the past five years.
“Nina, I have the best idea! I should marry your son.”
Alexa Riley is two sassy friends who got together and wrote some dirty books. They are both married moms of two who love football, donuts, and obsessed book heroes.