His Highness's Second Wife

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Chapter 2: The Crown Prince

Raena’s eyes darted left and right, but apart from the figure half-hidden in the nearby rose bushes, there was no one there but them. She knew that in the book, the third prince never visited the second wife’s chambers during their wedding night, but there was nothing said about meeting her outside of them. Still, in the book, the silly girl stayed and waited all night, so things were already different.

The man stepped forward, tripping and swaying to his left. He steadied himself, barely, and took another two steps in their direction. He was taller than both of them, slim but relatively fit. His hair was dark and straight, falling past his shoulders. He looked devastatingly handsome, even with a drunken expression and a goofy grin on his lips. His eyes were bleary and unfocused, and even though he was staring at her, she was not sure he was seeing her properly.

“Tell me this is not the third prince,” Raena whispered to Kara, who was watching the man with wide eyes. Her usually controlled expression was replaced by one of hesitation and shock.

“No, that’s…” Kara started.

“Hey, what a pretty lady!” The man had reached the carefully arranged garden path, tripping on his own foot and flying forward. Raena raised her hands instinctively as he ran into her, his weight making her bend backward. Kara helped her steady him, and he staggered to his feet until he found his balance again. “You smell reeeeally nice.” He smiled. “Come here. I’ll give you a kiss.”

“No, thank you,” Raena replied, grimacing. “You should go get sober somewhere.”

“My, aren’t you bold talking to me like that?” He smirked. He leaned his hand on one of the oil lamp posts that were lighting the path, striking a pose that he probably thought was seductive, but in his state looked like he was trying to pee only in one of his pants’ legs. “What’s your name, pretty lady?”

“My name is none of your business,” Raena replied with an annoyed smile.

“What a strange name!”

“Kara, let’s go.”

Raena turned to leave, but before she could take a step, he moved surprisingly fast for his drunken state, grabbing her wrist and pulling her towards him. Raena crashed into his hard chest, wondering if he was wearing armor underneath. His hand wrapped around her waist.

“I haven’t seen you before,” he murmured, staring down at her with a playful grin. “So pretty.” He raised a hand and picked up a lock of her hair, bringing it to his nose and sniffing it. “Ah, even your hair smells nice.” He slurred. “Which house do you belong to? Kiss me and I’ll make you my concubine.”

Without waiting for her response, he leaned down to kiss her. Raena tried to push him back, but it was like trying to move a stone wall with her bare hands. Her new body was truly pathetic.

Just before his lips locked with hers, she turned her head so his mouth landed on her neck. He slid his tongue over her skin and moaned.

“Hey, have you heard about consent? Let go!” She snarled, hitting his chest with her fist. He didn’t even seem to notice.

“I don’t want to,” he murmured, his mouth exploring her neck and shoulders. “You taste nice, too. I like it.”

“Last chance, asshole! Let go!” Raena snarled.

“So feisty!” He chuckled, biting her neck teasingly. “I’m going to make you…”

Raena bent her knee, hitting him in the crotch with a trained proficiency. Her new body might not have been used to it, and her knee actually hurt after it connected, but her father’s self-defense lessons lived rent-free in her mind.

The drunkard let out a grunt, doubling down and falling sideways on the ground. Panting from the struggle, Raena stared at him with annoyance. He was holding his groin with both hands, whimpering quietly as his face showed a range of emotions featuring confusion, disbelief, anger, and a lot of pain.

“God, I hate those kinds of drunks,” Raena murmured, picking up her skirts and stepping away from him as he extended a trembling hand towards her. “Next time, ask for permission first. Asshole.”

“Mistress.” Kara hissed, pulling her hand. “Let’s go. Quickly.”

“Such a waste of a handsome face.” Raena sighed, throwing one last glance at the pitiful figure on the ground, then allowed Kara to pull her along the path. They half-walked, half-ran for the next ten minutes, and Kara didn’t slow down until they finally left the garden. By then Raena was panting so hard, that she couldn’t even ask her to stop.

Raena leaned on the stone wall they had stopped by, running hands over her burning thighs and begging them to hold on for a little longer.

“Why did you… make me… run?” She asked, taking deep breaths while a sharp pain kept piercing her chest. “He won’t be… getting up… anytime… soon.”

“Are you crazy?” Kara snapped, quickly lowering her voice. “Didn’t you recognize him? I even showed you his portrait!”

“It was dark,” Raena mumbled, trying to recall if she had ever seen his face. Kara had taken the time to describe and even procured portraits of the most important people in Raena’s life - and social circles - but there had been so many that their faces were mostly a blur. “Who was it?”

“That was the crown prince!” Kara said through gritted teeth. Raena’s heart skipped a beat and she felt a cold chill run through her body even though there was no wind. “Do you know that attacking a member of the royal family is punishable by death?” She grabbed her head with her hands, growling. “You kicked him in the… What if something happens? What if he can’t have children anymore? We’re dead. We’re so dead.”

“Relax,” Raena sighed, trying to sound nonchalant. She should have realized it sooner - with such looks and arrogance, of course, he’d be one of the male leads. She ought to pay more attention to their faces. “He was drunk out of his mind. He won’t remember us or our faces.” Kara didn’t seem comforted by that, her panicked gaze searching the shadows. “Why was he alone? Aren’t royals supposed to have guards with them all the time?”

“How should I know?” the maid snapped. “Maybe there were guards. Maybe they saw us and they are on their way to arrest us! Gah, I never should have trusted you! How can you be so impulsive and… violent!”

Raena frowned.

“So does that mean that if he’s royalty, he can pick a girl at random, screw her in the grass and just go about his day?” she asked coldly.

“He is the crown prince,” Kara said as if that answered the question, then took a deep breath in an attempt to calm herself.

“What a stupid book,” Raena murmured. “What?” Kara frowned.

“Nothing. Let’s get to the North Palace. We can’t stay here all night. My legs are going to give out soon.”

Kara hesitated for a moment, then took the lead again, striding alongside the crumbling wall they had stopped by to rest. The path wasn’t nearly as well kept as the ones in the main palace and the gardens, and it had holes that made them trip no matter how careful they were. There were no oil lamps either, so they walked in the dark, relying on the moon and the stars to find their way.

“We’re here,” Kara announced a few minutes later and Raena stopped, looking up. They were standing in front of an old double-winged gate that seemed a whiff away from falling down. The steps to the door had almost turned into one whole thing that probably would make for a nice winter slide spot. There were holes in the walls on both sides - one big enough for her to slide in - and where the facade wasn’t crumbling, ivy had claimed the stone.

“Oh, come on. I’m not even the main character here. Why must I suffer this much?” Raena murmured. And she wasn’t. The book she had woken up in wasn’t about the second wife of the third prince. It wasn’t even about the first wife. It was about a pretty young slave girl called Elene who had a very hard life during the war, only to miraculously end up loved by all three princes. “So stupid.”

Kara gave her a weird look, then pushed one of the doors open. A piercing screech broke the silence of the night, sending a flock of birds flying in panic. Raena followed her inside, looking around the front yard. The place was empty and unkempt, with weeds and wildflowers claiming most of the ground. There was a giant willow tree hovering between the wall and the three-story mansion, its branches spreading so tall and wide that she was sure it would cover half of the front yard in its shade during the day.

Her eyes stopped on the building itself and she gave it a bitter smile.

“What a dump,” Raena scoffed.

“It’s within our expectations,” Kara noted. “The first wife is probably trying to show her superiority by sticking you in here. Even the third prince’s concubines have better accommodations.”

“No matter.” Raena sighed, picking up her skirts and heading towards the front door. “This place is still a few steps up from my apartment back in my world. With a little work, it will do. We’re staying here temporarily, anyway.”

Raena pushed the doors of her new palace open and a flurry of dust rose in the air. Waving a hand in front of her face, she entered the gloomy anteroom, clicking with her tongue as her eyes inspected the peeling walls and dirt-covered floor. She stepped on something hard, and it shattered underneath her shoe. Picking up her dress, she stared at the skeleton of a mouse that had turned into another pile of rubbish to be disposed of tomorrow.

“They could have at least cleaned,” Kara sighed, stopping next to her. “They knew you’d be coming here. What if you raised a ruckus after seeing the place? Or they thought just because you’re supposed to be stupid, you wouldn’t complain if you were forced to live in this wreck?”

“Bringing attention to ourselves is not something we want right now,” Raena sighed. “Besides, once cleaned, the place won’t be that bad. Spacious rooms, tall ceiling, and that wood carving - it has great potential. This used to be the most gorgeous of all the palaces.” She remembered a paragraph about it in the book where Prince Kassian was telling Elene that the North Palace was the first building in the residence and the builders spared no effort, using only the best materials and most modern interior decoration. But that was over three hundred years ago. “Once money starts pouring in, we’ll turn this place into something sweet. Although I am torn - if I’ll be leaving it soon, I’m not sure how much I should invest in it.”

“Let’s worry about that once we actually have money,” Kara said. “For now, let’s get some sleep. We’ll have a lot of work to do from now on.”

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