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Game of Hearts

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Chapter 2

I’d awaken late into the night to find that the celebration was still ongoing. Cecilia was well received by the court. Joining the courtiers, a small crowd’s gathered at a gaming table as the occupants play a hand of cards. “I’m curious about your business in Paris, Lord Bennington. We haven’t seen you in ages.” States the Prince’s cousin. Cecilia pointed him out to me earlier and warned me against him. A rogue and a deviant, to say the least.

“My business is my own, but I was passing through and wanted to get a glimpse of the future Queen. I must say that she doesn’t disappoint.”

“You’re too kind, Lord Bennington,” Cecilia states demurely.

“Be wary of that one, Princess. He has a reputation with the women that will make the devil himself blush.” Reports, Bastien.

“From what I’ve heard, you don’t have much room to talk.” Cecilia retorts. A small round of laughter follows, with Cecilia winning the hand. “Maybe he’s brought me good luck, as I’ve not lost a hand since he’s joined us.” She adds good-naturedly.

“I could bring you so much more than luck, Princess.”

“Careful, Bennington. She’s your future Queen.” Warns, Bastien.

“Shame on you for dashing my dreams, Bastien.”

“Come now, why give hope where there is none.” He replies.

“What do you think, your Grace? Am I wrong in my…’ Lord Bennington’s inquiry is interrupted by my arrival. Upon closer inspection, the crowd’s parted, and I can see that the king has a good lineage. Bastien is as handsome as his cousin, the Prince. He has dark features also—hair, eyes, and countenance. How lovely they are.

“And you must be the companion that everyone’s gossiping about.” Says Bastien. Leave it up to him to be tactless also. “Bastien…” Cecilia reprimands. It’s apparent that she hasn’t warned him about me.

“And what do the gossipmongers have to say? Let me guess. She has a farmer’s complexion and a monkey’s manners.” A few light laughs follow my statement, and I’m rewarded with a devilish smirk from Bastien.

“I’ve heard that she’s beautiful and charming if one can stand an overabundance of cheekiness.”

“Well, clearly, you can see they were definitely talking about me, your Grace.” His small flirtatious smile speeds my heartbeat. “It’s evident that they were.” He says.

“Would you join us, Lady Marceau?” Lord Bennington offers with an inviting smile. Why do all of the lords at this court have to be handsome?

“Thank you, but I must decline. I’m not good at cards.”

“Now, that’s a lie if ever I heard one,” Cecelia states, with a specific expression and a slight turn of her head. It’s a look that I’ve seen one too many times.

She’s playing matchmaker. “I guess one hand won’t hurt,” I reply, readily appeasing her. Cecilia has no problem asserting her rank as a princess. I don’t want to be embarrassed in front of these English strangers. I have a goal, and I must stay the course.

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