A Modern Fairy Tale Romance

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Chapter 4: Awkward Encounter

THE sound of the food-processor being used in the kitchen, was the only sound that filled in loudly throughout the Romans’ household, early Thursday morning.

Three people were already up and running in the kitchen at five o’clock in the morning. Aidan and Rosy were busily working putting the icing on top of the freshly-baked muffins in the kitchen, while Duke whisked away the white and fluffy cream in a big metallic bowl.

The Prince hummed softly as he delicately put the already soft and whisked cream aside while brushing some of the flour on his nose. He wore a simple long-sleeves grey shirt, of which he’d borrowed from Dean. He also wore an apron on top of it and additionally, wrapped his head with a bandanna to keep his bangs from falling down.

At one glance, he did not look at all like the Royal Prince of Excalibell. Still, Duke didn’t mind. After all, it’s not every day that one got the chance to take off the heavy and thick garment in exchange for something lighter and simple.

Removing the flours on his cheeks, Duke looked at the clock hanging on the walls that read eight twenty-five.

“Isn’t it time for Miss Anya to get ready for her classes?”

“Can you check on her, dear? I’m a bit occupied at the moment,” Rosy shouted from the kitchen.

“Yes, Ma’am,” Duke took off his apron, carefully put it aside and washed his hands before making his way to the youngest Romans’ private chamber.

Standing at her door, Duke gave a couple of knocks.

“Miss Anya? It is I, Prince Duke of Excalibell. Isn’t it time for you to get ready for class? Have you awaken from your slumber yet?” Duke heard an audible squeak came from the other side of the door before a familiar voice nervously told him to go in.

Turning the knob gently, he opened the door to a neat and organised room. No paperwork lying on the floor, no reference books buried under the table and even the floors were clean and sparkled. None of them, however, caught his eyes the most other than the Mistress of the chamber, currently dotted in a sunflowers printed sundress.

Her hair was untied, straightened and looked so fluffy and soft after being brushed. Duke would be lying if he said his heart didn’t make a flip when he saw Anya standing in front of the mirror, continually checking herself on every angle with a deep frown on her forehead.

She looked absolutely beautiful.

Meanwhile, Anya Romans clenched her teeth. No matter how many times she looked at her reflection, she was still not satisfied with her hairstyle. Sighed deeply, Anya decided the best way was to get a second opinion and turned around to face the Prince with her cheeks blushed slightly.

“Well, say something. How do I look?”

A broad smile spread across Duke’s face lips as he approached her.

“You look absolutely stunning, Miss Anya! May I ask what’s the special occasion?”

“N-nothing special.”

Liar.

Anya cleared her throat and looked down on the wooden floor. “Just because I like to wear pants, doesn’t mean I won’t or can’t wear a dress every now and then.”

“I see,” Duke nodded, still smiled warmly at her. “Well, I think you look absolutely stunning terrific, Miss Anya. Still, what’s with the long face?”

At his given question, Anya let out a loud sigh.

“I have everything perfectly matched except my hair and it’s driving me crazy! I’ve been planning to get my hair done for weeks but just couldn’t find the right time to do it! Just look at me, I look haggard with my hair loose like this.”

“What about tying them into a ponytail?”

Anya scoffed. “Ponytail is outdated. Besides, I’ve always tied my hair in a ponytail. Just for today, I’d like to tie them differently.”

Looking at her clock hanging on the walls, Anya muttered a curse under her breath.

“Shite. I’m running late. Screw this dress! I’ll just—”

Out of nowhere, came a pair of gentle hands suddenly brushed through her long hair. Anya stopped and looked up, only to meet with Duke’s reflection on the mirror, admiring her.

“I know just the thing that will go well with that dress.”

“Huh?” Anya blinked her eyes rapidly.

“Come, now. Let’s not waste the time that we have left,” Gently, Duke pulled her toward the bed and be seated, facing the mirror while he proceeded and sat behind him, holding her hairbrush.

Without wasting time, the Prince began working on brushing her hair.

Anya’s silky hair to Duke’s admiration was smooth and healthy. Gently, he divided her hair and began to braid them while softly hummed a tune. While the Prince of Excalibell slowly braiding her hair, Anya sat stiffly and had a hard time believing he actually knew how to do braids!

Where did he learn to do the braids, she ought to ask as soon as possible.

Often times, Anya would have to ask Emma’s assistance to help her to do beautiful braids on her hair for special occasions.

As Anya listened silently to Duke’s soft hums, it got her wondering if he missed his home after being away from quite some time.

“Hey.”

“Mmm? Yes?”

“What’s the song that you’re humming? It sounds like a baby’s lullaby.”

To her surprise, Duke softly chuckled. “It is actually an old hymn passed down from generations to generations is famous in my kingdom, Excalibell. Would you care to hear me singing the lyrics?”

“You can sing? Sure. I don’t mind.”

Duke took out a deep breath and began to sing.

Anya had her eyes closed the whole time as she listened to his smooth and calm voice singing, the melody softly. It filled with nostalgic emotions — as if his voice alone was carrying her to a distance place.

Anya didn’t even realise when Duke had stopped singing nor did she cared, until a hand gently patted on her forehead, awakened her from the spell.

“All done! Hope you like it, Miss... Anya?”

Slowly reopening her eyes, Anya was surprised to find the troubled look on Duke’s face as she felt both of his hands gently cupping her cheeks and wiped away the tears rolling down her cheeks.

“Are you alright?” Duke asked softly. “Is the braid too tight? Should I take it-?”

Anya quickly brushed his hands and wiped away the flowing tears running down her cheeks.

“I-It’s fine! I’m fine. I don’t know why I’m so emotional all the sudden,” Anya lowered her gaze and refused to look at him in the eyes. Her cheeks tainted in pink from the embarrassment of being caught crying.

A long pause passed by between them when Duke finally nodded.

“Alright, Miss Anya. If you said so,” Duke carefully put away the hairbrush and waited patiently for her response.Truthfully, it had taken him by surprise to see her cried out of the blue like that.

Anya had always displayed herself as a strong-minded individual who refused to back down without any sort of fights. His butler may have hard times dealing with her due to their personalities often crashed, but to Duke, despite her many flaws such as snapping at people, bossy and demanding attitudes, Anya Romans wasn’t as a hard-hearted as she often liked to portrait.

Feeling awkward after what happened, Anya got up to her feet and walked toward the standing mirror to get a good look of her braided hair and gasped loudly.

Duke had braided her hair in Dutch Braid before twisted it to one side, and wrapped it in a circular coil around itself, and turned it into a bun.

It was adorable, even the stubbly ends. Best of all, it matched perfectly with the dress! The style swept her hair neatly out of the way and also showed her neck — something that she sometimes has forgotten she had one.

“I... I love it.”

“I’m glad you do. Marian loves this hairstyle, so for me to please her, I’d made efforts to have the servants to teach me how to do it. I can teach you how to braid it differently if you want?”

“That’s... Very nice and generous of you. Thank you. I really appreciate your offer and what you have done.”

Patting the back of her head, all the sudden, she remembered something that instantly her turned pale white. Her eyes looked at the clock: Eight forty-five.

“Shite! Now I’ll be very late for school!”

Hurriedly, Anya grabbed her bag on the floor and silently thankful that she had already packed for today’s lesson last night before rushing out of her room.

At the corridor, Anya nearly bumped into Aidan who happened to be on his way to check on them.

“Good morning, Miss Romans. I am just on my way to see if you have already devoured His Highness for waking you up so early in the morning.”

Anya snarled. “I don’t have the time to deal with your sarcasm first thing in the morning. Now move!”

A firm grasp on her left shoulder prevented her from leaving. Anya turned around with an annoying frown.

“Before you leave, may I suggest for you to say goodbye to your mother and wish her best of luck for the Bakery Conferences? She won’t be back for a week, you know.”

“That’s right. I’d almost forgot about it.”

Releasing her, the handsome butler watched her dashed to the kitchen where the older Romans was. He observed as Anya kissed and embraced her mother tightly, wishing her well for the conference before she headed to the school.

“What was that all about?”

If there was one thing Aidan thankful for, was the years of mastering the art of being calm and collected in any given situation. The amused tone and the smirk that plastered on his face was enough to know what was going on in his mind.

“Whatever do you mean by that, Your Highness?”

“Oh, come on now! No need to be so humble. I see what you’re trying to pull here.”

“You’ve lost me, Sir.”

“It is highly unusual for you to remind Miss Anya about her mother leaving for a conference today and to wish her the best of luck, knowing that you wouldn’t give a damn about her even if she’s about to be eaten by a shark,” Duke smirked arrogantly and crossed his arms.

“Sir, I assure you I have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about. I feel indebted only to Madam because we are currently living under her roof and eating her food. Other than that, I care not to whatever happens to that wicked witch.”

With his piece being said, Aidan returned to where he came from.

Duke annoyingly rolled his eyes at the butler’s remarks. For two months he had been trying to bring peace between the young woman and his butler, but somehow, they always ended up at each other’s throats. Sighed, Duke contemplated teasing his butler one last time.

“Tell me, Aidan. Doesn’t Miss Anya look absolutely stunning today in that sundress? I wonder who is she trying to impress?”

If the Prince had noticed how the older man’s back stiff a little bit, he didn’t bother to mention it.


“I’M super beat!”

Anya stretched her arms and back in the air. Her last class of the day had just ended at three o’clock in the afternoon. Currently, she was sitting in a circular with her friends at the cafeteria when one of them spoke out.

“Soo, Anya,” A smirk spread on her ruby lips. “You look very nice today.”

“Got a problem with that, Re-bec-ca?

“Oh, no. Definitely not. It’s just that... It’s such a shame that the Literature Club meeting that you’ve been looking forward attending, hence, dressed up so nicely has been cancelled and postponed to next weekend at the very last minute! You must be devastated!”

“Shut it, Wilson!”

Anya buried her darkened pink-tainted cheeks on her arms as her friends laughed loudly at her.

“Cheer up, Anya. You do look nice wearing the dress with this hairstyle,” Emma Greens patted her back gently while admiring Anya’s braided circular coil. “Did Auntie Rosy did this for you?”

Anya scoffed. “What makes you think I can’t do it myself?”

“Because you don’t!” Everyone yelled back at her in sync, caught themselves doing it and laughed it off loudly.

“I heard Ethan sudden took an emergency leave after his second period,” Steve Aarons said, adjusting his glasses. “Or else, I’m sure you’d kill him with your stunning appearance today.”

“He rarely took any leaves from school. I hope it’s nothing serious,” Anya frowned worriedly.

Ethan Carter was known by all as A student who was also very humble, down to earth and easy to talk with, despite his hectic daily schedules from classes to job interviews.

Sighed, Anya looked at her wrist-watch.

“I’d better get going.”

“Oh, you’re managing the cafe while Auntie is away, right?”

“Yeah. Can’t just leave the newbies all alone,” Grabbing her bag, Anya stood.

“Mind if we join?” Steve and Emma got up from their seats. “To tell you the truth, I need to buy presents for Ma. Her birthday’s approaching soon.”

“Oh, I can help you with that, Steve!”

Steve grinned widely. He then wrapped his arms around Emma’s shoulders and affectionately pulled her close.“Yeah, yeah. I know you just want to shop. Come on.”

The trio was just finished saying goodbyes to the rest of their friends, all the sudden, a group of women shrieked loudly nearby.

“What the hell?” Anya uncovered her ears with both her hands, despite the shrieking sound still ongoing. Soon the small group quickly escalated to bigger crowds which soon involved several of the university’s staff who were called in to calm down the masses.

“Did you get his picture? He’s so hot!”

“Is he a new student here? Oh, please let him be!”

“He looks like a model! Or a Prince!”

“Hey! What’s with all the screaming?” Emma asked annoyingly to one of the women gathered at the front gates of the school.

“A real-life Prince is standing at the entrance gates! He’s like, super hot!”

“Prince?” Emma and Steve said in synced and exchanged looks.

“You’ve got to be kidding me...”

Neither Steve nor Emma heard the teeth clenched sound behind them. When they turned around, they were surprised to see Anya was nowhere to be seen.

“Anya? Where did she disappeared off to?”

“Steve, over there!” Emma pointed out at a petite figure, running wildly and shoving her away from the crowds to get to the main gates. Several noises could be heard from the distance.

“Huh? What the hell is she doing?”

“I don’t know but let’s get out through the back gates and see what’s going on.”

After what seems to be an eternal struggle, Anya Romans managed to get away from the massive crowds and landed at the front of the entrance gates. She made a quick inspection of her hair, just to see if it still looked all right.

Yes! Still all right.

Anya sighed in relief. Her relief was quickly short-lived when she saw the person waving with his charming smiles the crowds at the entrance gates — making them all sighed dreamily.

Oh, geez. Anya rolled her eyes while making her way to the man and tapped his left shoulder from behind.

Duke turned and instantly, the charming smile that he had a while ago escalated to pure glee the moment his eyes landed on the young woman.

“Miss Anya!”

Duke had his arms ready to pull her into an embrace but was instantly stopped when Anya one hand on his forehead and pushed him away.

With a forced smile, she whispered lowly. “Not here. Are you trying to make my student’s life miserable and a living hell?”

Duke looked taken back by her question. “Whatever do you mean by that?”

Anya tugged his arm slightly, pointed out to the sharp and angry glares from the closed entrance gates.

That is exactly what I meant.”

“Oh.”

“Yeah. What brings you...” Anya stopped talking mid-way, much to the Prince’s further curiosity.

“Miss Anya?” What came out of her mouth next brought shivers down to his very spine.

“What happened?

Duke gasped sharply. Before he could utter a word when he found himself being yanked forward by the collar and his face came face-to-face with the young woman’s dangerous glare.

“Answer me,” Anya snarled.

“P-Please calm down, Miss Anya! I swear on my mother’s grave, nothing bad happened to the cafe house!”

“Then why are you here?!”

If look could kill, Duke had no doubt he would have already been dead by now. The fierce look on Anya’s face was much scarier than when he had to deal with his father’s angry outburst. Suddenly, he felt like running miles away from her.

Meanwhile, Anya’s grip on his collar tightened as she inhaled deeply and slowly while waiting for the Prince to answer her question.

“A-Aidan,” Duke cursed himself as he forced not to appear weak and stutter. “Aidan... told me to take a day off from work today. He said I have been working hard to my bones for the whole month and that if I don’t stop working my body will collapse.”

A long eerie silence.

“I-I thought I take this golden opportunity to invite you for an outing since you’ve been very busy lately and—”

“...What?”

“Please forgive me, Miss Anya!”

“He’s not the Boss. I AM. Damn it!”

Duke turned pale while as Anya tightened her grip on his collar. At this point, he’d rather face his father’s wrath for missing out a vital dinner meeting than being strangled by the aggressively hot-headed woman in front of him!

“ANYA!”

Two pairs of arms quickly disarmed the young woman from terrorising the life out the young man with her temper.

“Anya, get a hold of yourself!” Emma Greens yelled angrily. Just a while ago, she had been worried sick when her best friend suddenly disappeared and dashed through the main gates.

Worried, the couple had rushed through the back door, only to meet with an unforgettable sight of Anya in the midst of terrorising a man twice taller and older than she was.

“Anya,” Emma sighed heavily. “Just what in the world were you trying to do to this poor young man?!”

Anya made a tsk noise. She then gritted her teeth and crossed her arms before rude turned her back at them — much to Emma’s irritation.

While the two ladies exchanged communication which involved some yelling and arguing, Duke was having a tough time trying to absorb everything that had just happened. He slowly brought his hands around his throat when someone offered his hand to help him get back on his feet.

“Are you okay?” Steve’s voice was calm as he offered his hand and a small smile to the man.

“I’m... Good. I think.”

“Good. Must have a shock for you, huh?” Steve blinked his eyes couples of times when the realisation hit him. “Hey, aren’t you the newbie working at Homez? What are you doing all the way here?”

“My b-brother thought I should take a time out since I have been working hard to my bones for the whole month and that if I don’t stop working my body will collapse. I thought of asking Miss Anya’s permission. But it doesn’t seem as she approved of the idea...”

Steve nodded. “I see. Well, just take it easy for now. As for Anya, don’t worry about her — Emma has everything under control. I’m Steve Aarons, by the way. Anya’s childhood friend.”

“I am Duke Excalibell. A pleasure to meet you,” Duke took and shook the latter’s hand firmly.

“Forgive my bluntness, but are you a foreigner? It’s rare for someone to have a unique family’s name.”

“Let’s just say I came from a faraway land.”

“Uh huh.”

Done with the brief introduction, the men were approached by the two young women. Emma had a big smile on her face while Anya looked rather bored and slightly flustered from all the yelling she had done earlier.

“I’m starving. Can we get something to eat?”


IT was somewhat of a miracle that the four friends ended up eating desserts at Archie’s — a well-known dessert house. The place was trendy amongst the youngsters and couples and often full during lunch hours. However, on that particular day, the place was quite empty much to their surprise.

“I’ll have the ice-cream strawberry flavoured pancake, please,” Anya ordered.

“I’ll have the parfait.”

“I’ll just have an extra spoon — I’m sharing her parfait.”

All eyes landed on Duke who was currently fascinated by the illustration on the menu when suddenly he felt a sharp nudge on his side.

“Order something, will you?” Anya hissed.

“But there are just too many selections to choose from! I don’t even know which one to choose!”

Anya groaned tiredly and snatched the menu from his hands. She then pointed a dish on the menu to the waitress before she confirmed the orders and walked away.

Yawned with one palm placed underneath her chin, Anya looked around at the empty place until a few coughs from Emma broke her concentration.

“Anya, sweetie. Would you like to introduce us to your new friend here whom we have yet to meet?” Her voice was soft and angelic, but Steve knew better. Very subtly, he inched away from Emma in case the two ladies decided they would like to continue where they’d left off at the school’s entrance.

“Emma, Duke Excalibell. Duke, Emma Greens. I believe you two have already introduced yourselves?”

Steve and Duke nodded.

“It is nice to finally meet with you, Duke. We haven’t got the chance to speak the other day.”

“Ah! You lots were the one who came to the cafe the other day! The pleasure is all mine.”

“So, Duke. How do you two know each other? Are you two close?” Emma asked, teasingly.

“Well, actually I am —”

“—Friends!” Anya quickly cut in. “He’s my mother’s longtime regular customer and friend’s son. I believe I have already told you about this, Emma,” Anya gritted her teeth, to which Emma simply shrugged.

“You did mention before but how come I’ve never met this Aunt Penny person? I mean I came to the cafe every day to play with you.”

“From what Mum mentioned, Aunt Penny often dropped by in the morning while we were at school and left just when we came back.”

Anya felt sweats dripping down her spine and just wished none of them could tell the lies she told them. Steve, especially. Considering they were always together growing up, it was hard to lie to him.

“Duke and his brother will be staying at my place for a while and work at Homez until their parents got back. Ain’t that right, Duke?”

“Y-Yes.”

The waitress soon returned to their table with their orders. She placed a plate of the ice-cream strawberry flavoured pancake in front of Anya. The parfait in front of Emma, with an extra spoon for Steve, and a chocolate-banana ice-cream pie in front of Duke, who had his mouth slightly opened and his eyes widened at the dessert. Thanking the waitress for their meals, the four friends wasted no time and dug into their desserts.

Anya picked another piece of the pancake with a fork and brought it over to her lips. For a moment, it almost seemed like she had paused time and blissfully savoured the sweet taste of strawberry in her mouth.

Beside her, Duke carefully poked the chocolate-banana ice-cream pie with his fork. His eyes filled with curiosity of how fruit could be turned into something like as magnificent as this! Graciously, he took a slice of the pie and brought it to his mouth.

Sweet Heavens! The moment the ice cream and pie melted in his mouth, Duke felt like he was falling in love all over again. He quickly dug more into the pie.

Meanwhile, Emma and Steve stared silently at the two individuals before them.

Yin and Yang.

The Sun and the Moon.

Fire and Water.

One looked as if he was raised in a high-class family; so dignified, prim and proper, even as he was dressed so casually while digging his face into the dessert. While the other acted very unladylike even as she’s wearing a very nice sundress and hair braided so elegantly.

Despite Emma being very grateful Anya had eventually learned proper table manners (which had taken her two years of practice during their high school days), the latter still placed one arm on the table with a palm underneath her chin, as she poked the rest of her leftover pancake.

Letting a few small coughs that were loud enough to catch Duke’s attention, Emma smiled sweetly at him.

“Do you mind if I ask how old are you exactly, Duke?”

“Not at all. I turned twenty-five three months ago.”

Steve choked on the piece of the parfait. “Twenty-five!? You don’t look your age at all! Anya, you should be more respectful of him. He’s the same age as your brothers!”

Anya scoffed and rolled her eyes.

Meanwhile, Emma continued drilling the Prince with questions that have been bothering her since they met.

“Were you studying or working before you came here?”

“I—”

“Duke has special conditions that made hard for him to do anything outdoors growing up. Hence, the reason why we rarely met as his parents often kept him confined in the mansion most of the times. But now that his body is stronger, his parents had allowed him to go out.”

“Hmm... Is that so? While I appreciate your concerns toward your here, Anya, I’m pretty sure the man can speak for himself.” Emma’s perfectly kept nails kept on tapping on the table. She eyed at the Prince narrowing.

“Which High School did you went to?”

“Heather—” A small piece of a banana being shoved into Anya’s mouth before she could finish the word by the man seated beside her.

With a gracious smile, Duke answered politely.

“Heatherbricks Road. As mentioned by Anya, I was mostly home-schooled due to my conditions.”

“Heatherbricks Road, huh? So you are from the upper-class family.” Steve nodded while crossing his arms. Many of his company’s clients came from that neighbouring area. Though he came from a wealthy background himself, Steve was never fond of the upperclassmen.

“Indeed,” Duke nodded. “I will be the next heir to my family’s throne.”

“That certainly explains your prim and proper behaviour. It’s very rare to see someone behaving like you at this time and age. I, myself was not being taught to be like that. But, I guess it’s one for each family,” Steve smiled.

“See, Anya? You should relax more and let him do all the talking,” Emma teased.

Anya rolled her eyes and playfully stick out her tongue. Afterwards, the four friends spent the rest of the day talking about various topics.


BY the time they decided to leave to dessert house, dusk had already settled in. Anya and Duke waved goodbyes to the loving couple and prepared to leave when Steve suddenly cried out.

“Ah, shoot! I’d totally forgot to give you this, Anya. Here,” Steve quickly dug up something inside his backpack and handed her a thick yellow file.

“Sorry, it had taken me a while to get it done for you, Anya. Here’s all the information that you’d asked for regarding the ‘Blue Tree.’ My cousin Thomas did a great job getting the information. Oh, and he sent you his regards.”

“Thanks a bunch, Steve. You’re a life-saver!” Anya gave her best friend a bear hug.

Steve chucked delightedly. “No problem. It’s for your assignment, right? To be honest, I’m surprised when you said you’re working on ‘The Blue Tree’. It’s quite a challenging topic from what I’d heard. But then, a great novelist always welcomes a good challenge, right?”

“Right,” Anya smiled gratefully.

It wasn’t an entirely a lie when Anya had requested for Steve to help her gathered in-depth information regarding the Blue Tree, as part of the research for her assignment. When she informed the Prince and his butler about the ‘Blue Tree’ folktale, Aidan mentioned the Blue Tree could hold some sort of magic and may be a key for them to return to Excalibell.

The only drawback Anya had about the Blue Tree was there wasn’t any information about it stated in the books nor on the internet despite how hard she tried. Frustrated and nearly given up on the search, Anya decided to gamble her luck and turned for Steve’s assistance since most of his maternal family members worked as historians, archaeologists, and arboriculturists.

Anya walked steadily beside the Excalibell’s Prince, hummed a cheerful tune as she held on the file closed to her chest. Duke glanced at the young maiden beside him and met with a gleeful smile — and found himself liking it a lot.

Ten minutes passed by and finally, they landed at the front door of Homez’. Anya turned pale instantly the moment she realised she had forgotten all about Homez’ and left the damn butler to handle the cafe all by himself while she spent the entire evening with her friends!

Preparing herself for the worse, Anya inhaled profoundly and slowly turned on the knob. Mentally, she was ready to give him a beating of a lifetime if anything terrible happened to the cafe despite him naturally being a lot stronger than she was.

When she opened the door, Anya’s jaws almost dropped as she stood stunningly to find the place was still attached in one piece. The floors were spotlessly polished, and the customers were happily chatting and enjoyed themselves.

“Welcome, Miss Romans.”

A familiar deep and seductive voice greeted her as walked toward the door and adequately greeted her with a cunning smile.

“Had a fun outdoor experience, Your Highness?”

“Why yes, Aidan. I had a marvellous time meeting with Miss Anya’s friends — Mister Steven Aarons and Miss Emma Greens.”

Aidan nodded, happy to see that the Excalibell Prince enjoyed himself. He then turned his head and met with a hot-ironed glare belonged to the young woman who had her hands crossed.

Anya wanted so much to yell at the damn butler for merely telling the Prince to ‘take the day off’ without her permission but found that she could not say a word.

Homez was not in chaos, after all. The place was cleaned, and the customers were happy. So on what grounds should, she accused him with? Even her own mother had put much faith in Aidan to be in charge of taking care of the cafe and them, before she left for a week conference, seeing as he was the oldest out of the three of them.

Gritting her teeth, Anya breathed in deeply.

“Anything happened while I was away?”

Before Aidan could reply, a customer called them for bills.

Aidan raised a hand and nodded. With a charming smile, he pointed at the waving customer.

“We can talk about it later. For now, as Madam always said, ‘customers always come first’,” The butler winked at her before processed to the customer’s table.

“I still don’t trust him,” Anya hissed.

“I don’t know about that,” Duke chuckled. “I haven’t seen him this relaxed for such a long time. Not since—” Duke suddenly covered his mouth with one hand and shook his head.

Anya raised one eyebrow suspiciously.

“Since what?”

Duke furiously shook his head.

“No. I really shouldn’t be talking about it. It’s a sensitive topic anyway. Please forget anything I’ve just said.”

Clearing his throat, the Prince looked at the time.

“Oh my. It’s nine o’clock already? Miss Anya, we’d better clean up the place. It’s closing time.”

It was ten o’clock by the time they reached home after finished cleaning up and closed the cafe. With her tummy full from eating a burger on the way back, Anya was more than ready to go home for a nice hot shower and then head straight to bed.

“I’m exhausted,” Anya mumbled as she unlocked the front door while the two behind her silently nodded.

Turning the doorknob, they were welcomed by the automatic front light at the door.

“Casey, I’m home! Have you been a good gi—” Anya’s eager voice stopped midway as she stepped into the bright light of the living room.

Her eyes widened, and body stiffened.

“Miss Anya? Is something wrong?” Duke’s concerned voice filled the room. Quickly as he could removing his shoes before he hurried to the young woman who remained still.

His eyes moved from the shock expression on Anya’s face to the source.

Sitting in the living room on the sofa with the television switched on, and Casey napping cosily on his laps — was a man with two big luggage on the floor.

He had turned his head soonest when he heard the main door unlocked and was about to greet and welcome when he suddenly stopped.

Duke snapped from his thoughts when the young woman in front of him suddenly cringed loudly.

“JAMES?!”

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