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The smile on Evelyn’s face fell. She felt frozen. She couldn’t move her feet, or her hands, she couldn’t even breathe.

Seeing Everest in front of her brought back feelings she thought not even three hours ago she would ever feel again.

She remembered the feeling she got when she first laid eyes on him that day in the woods, the feeling she got when he first spoke, the feeling when she saw him again the next day in the same spot, the feeling she got when he made her laugh. It all came back like bombs. They took peace and left destruction.

The impulses weren’t getting to her muscles to move or greet him in any way, leaving Evelyn thinking of a bunch of things at once simultaneously.

As the King watched his daughter’s state, a wave of embarrassment and disappointment flowed through his body. Not wanting to humiliate his family any longer, he stepped up towards Everest and shook his hand.

“Everest,” He started, “To what do I owe this pleasure?” Sarcasm and disrespect laced his thick, aged voice. It was intentional, in fact, every cell in Eleazar’s body meant it.

It most definitely wasn’t a pleasure, and Everest noticed the absence of his title.

Everest cocked his head to the side, clearly acknowledging the lack of respect. Thus, with that smirk of his father, he said, “I see I should have made my arrival known, though, in my defence, we hadn’t received an invitation for the upcoming ball.”

A second hadn’t even passed when Eleazar replied, obnoxiously, “I will see to finding the one to blame, perhaps it was that event planner who failed to complete his job.”

Eleazar didn’t want to give Everest that advantage of having the last say, considering this was the son of the man who terrorized Eleazar for decades.

As the two men put their argument to a halt, Evelyn had recovered from her daze and turned to Everest.

“Prince Everest,” She addressed him, “We are finally meeting!”

She extended her hand, her heart beating erratically and her stomach deciding to pursue some parkour, watching as Everest’s expression transformed from hate to almost admiration.

His face erupted into a gigantic grin as he gracefully swooped down, planted a lingering kiss on her hand and said, “I should come here more often,” Then, he winked.

Everest was doing it on purpose, to provoke King Eleazar and play with Evelyn’s feelings.

Instead, all it did was infuriate her.

Whispers and hushed voices clouded the room as everyone was amused by the scene.

Prince Braxton though, still here on a business for the pursuit of the future, cleared his throat and shook hands with Everest, but as Everest shook his hand, he almost dismissed his entire existence.

“Princess Evelyn,” Spoke Braxton, “how would you feel about joining me for a stroll in the garden? I heard the flowers bloom rather magnificently this time of year.” He smiled warmly, intentionally pushing Everest slightly to the side. Evelyn saw the rather subtle, harsh push but decided to dismiss it.

Princess Evelyn smiled back, nodding subtly and intertwined her arm with Braxton, passing by Everest and Eleazar in the process of leaving the room.

As everyone watched the two future couple strut out, Evelyn could feel the laser gaze of Everest’s eyes on her back. It was jealousy, and deep, deep down in Evelyn’s heart, she felt relieved.

Relieved because it meant he still felt something for her, despite the fact that it hadn’t been that long since they decided to end it.

As the two royals strutted through the viridescent garden, the sun scorching above their heads, the air began to smell of sweet chances and flourishing flowers. It was a beautiful day, no doubt, but Evelyn had no taste for its magnificence. She was over being the prey for cruelty to enslave and torment. She wanted to crush cruelty, to contradict its purpose and demonstrate it’s wrath. She wanted a fresh start and perhaps Braxton was the key.

Despite having recently parted from the man she loved, the possibility of a future with Braxton wasn’t far from her mind. Perhaps it meant Evelyn wasn’t a devoted partner, but she knew a life with Everest was very slim, thus she looked for another man to share her days. Moreover, whatever had occurred between them was over and Evelyn knew that. She wanted to be loved, truly, and wanted the love to have a chance to shine and flourish. She couldn’t have that with Everest.

“I’d like to formally apologise on my Father’s behalf concerning the scene that occurred back in the throne room,” Evelyn spoke, her arm still intertwined with Braxton as the two strolled through the pathway of flowers.

The spectrum of birds flew over them on the horizon, varying in species, size and colour. The soft breeze blowing by them, its sweet aroma igniting a tranquil feeling in Evelyn. The crunch of the soft rocks and stones forming the pathway was heard, and Evelyn and Braxton’s movement were in perfect synchronisation.

Braxton smiled slightly, showing off his dimples and white teeth, “There is no need to. I’ve heard about the tension built up between the two kingdoms and, I admit, a few lies about the reason, but I understand if you’d feel uncomfortable informing me. Perhaps in time, you’ll trust me,”

Braxton was being considerate and sweet, two traits Evelyn cherished. She replied with a small smile, shaking her head, “It’s all right.”

Evelyn debated informing Braxton about the long history, as it wasn’t something easily shared. Moreover, it wasn’t as if she knew much to share. Thus, with a neutral face and good intentions, she spoke. “Mostly it’s about land, but there is another reason. Father never told me and I knew better than to ask him,” Evelyn muttered, suddenly falling into her thoughts.

It was no secret that King Phoenix of the Kingdom of the Orb has done something appalling to Evelyn’s father. But what the act was, Eleazar never told his daughter. It sparked betrayal in Evelyn, the fact that her Father did not trust his own blood enough to tell her about the reason why not to get involved with the neighbouring Kingdom. It was similar to telling someone to hate cheese but not telling them why.

Evelyn silently laughed in her head, finding the irony. If only her Father had told her, trusted her, she would have found a good enough reason to avoid her rapid affections getting caught by the one and only Everest of the Orb.

Braxton nodded, “I guess it is a little logical for King Eleazar not to tell you, perhaps it would harm you in a way.”

Once again, Evelyn delved deep into her thoughts. Maybe Braxton was right, but harm her in what way exactly?

A few minutes passed by, the tranquillity felt by Evelyn disappearing into the dark as she dug and dug for an answer to her question. Braxton didn’t speak, respecting her thoughts.

He soon broke the silence.

“Have you ever been in love, Princess?” The question slid out of Braxton’s lips, gracefully travelling through the air and into Evelyn’s ears.

She registered the question, no doubt shocking her, but she masked the emotion perfectly. She didn’t understand the point of the question. Nevertheless, she answered directly and simply, “Yes,”

Braxton narrowed his eyes, struck. It seemed he expected a no. She was imprinted in his mind as innocent, untouched and untarnished. He was wrong. Evelyn had been touched in every possible way, both mentally and physically. She was tarnished, forever it seemed, with her constant struggle for happiness.

Upon seeing his reaction, she asked, halting in the middle of the garden and untangling their arms, “Have you ever been in love?”

His answer was simple and direct as well, “Yes, I have,” He started, placing his arm on the small of her back and nudging her forward. Evelyn proceeded to walk as Braxton removed his hand and placed it behind his back, he then continued. “It did not work out. We met and we clicked, it was great. I should’ve known it was too good to be true,”

Evelyn arched an eyebrow, hooked to the story. She began to see him in a light. Maybe he was tarnished too. “What happened?” She asked, her voice low as Braxton held his stare at the ground.

“She left, decided I was not as important as I thought I was.”

“Princess!” Evelyn’s title rang out from behind them and the two turned simultaneously. Ivory stood, she approached them quickly, bowed and said, “Council meeting.”

“Any news on Prince Everest?” Evelyn asked, turning the corner with Ivory following behind closely.

“On the unexpected visit?” Ivory questioned, then nodded and explained. ” They feel threatened. With the chance of marriage and a stronger rule, the Kingdom of the Orb needs to act in order to balance out the power. Considering Prince Everest hasn’t yet been crowned the King,” Ivory informed Evelyn, continuing to follow her to the council room.

Evelyn frowned in confusion, still not understanding why Everest showed up. “So he’s here to...?”

Ivory quickly clarified everything, telling her, “Delay. He’s here to delay everything. We aren’t totally sure of the details yet.”

Evelyn didn’t reply, just continued to walk. The brick walls of the castle surrounded her where guards stood frozen at their posts, invisible. They lurked around like spies, eavesdropping at conversations while simultaneously doing their jobs. Unsurprisingly, they were the source of gossip.

“Why do you think he’s here?” Princess Evelyn stopped halfway, turned to Ivory and asked. She watched her expression closely. Evelyn’s head was buzzing with unanswered questions and she sought her best friend’s honest opinion.

Ivory looked blankly at her, breathing in, sparing a glance to one of the guards standing and then muttered, “You. He’s here for you.”

The answer was self-explanatory, to an extent, but instead of answering the question, it gave birth to more. Evelyn’s heartbeat sped up, thumping in her chest uncontrollably. She didn’t know why her heart sped up, perhaps she feared Ivory knew her secret. So she asked, “Why?”

The sound of a throat clearing snapped Evelyn and Ivory from their state and the two heads violently turned to face the birther of the sound.

Everest stood there, his eyes switching between the two quickly, before pausing at Evelyn.

Evelyn examined him. He was dressed in a suit now, with a blazer, a tie and all the sexiness accompanied with a man wearing a suit. All Evelyn ever saw him in were sweatpants and a T-shirt, mostly because they’d meet up either late at night or the early morning and none had the energy to dress up.

Her heart fluttered, the memories returning from the past. She smiled politely, changing her angle and facing him, “Prince Everest, how may I help you?” Evelyn felt beneath him, like a worker at the market.

Everest smirked a little, squinting his eyes as if slowly uncovering her. “It’d be my pleasure if you’d take a walk with me around your home,” He leaned forward a bit, as so he wanted a better view of the blemishes on her face. His eyes were pinned onto her, undeflected.

The intensity behind his icy blue eyes was strong, as they viewed her from behind his thick eyelashes. He was simply admiring her, remembering and recalling the time when she was his. He cherished her, and he still does.

Evelyn gulped hesitantly, panicking with Ivory at her side and her prince standing dangerously close. Her heart puttered, like a hummingbird’s wings, and her breath caught in her throat.

She couldn’t believe him. He was unpredictable, an unsolvable mystery that constantly surprised her. First, he asked her to join him in escaping everything she’s worked for, then he’d show up randomly, unexpected to delay her chance of happiness. Now, he’s here, leaning forward like a predator to his prey, showing the world the sizzle of electricity they share. It wasn’t fair.

He was daring her with his eyes to decline, to reject talking to him. He knew the extent of her feelings, he always knew. He knew she would want to talk to him.

She cleared her blocked throat from the caught breath, opened her lips and said, “Of course, Prince Everest,” She put on a menacing smile and stepped up next to him, she ushered subtly with her hand for Ivory to trail along. She didn’t want Everest to try anything funny.

Perhaps she wanted to talk to him, but the truth was, they were over. There was no they any more. He was now a complete, utter stranger. A stranger she harboured deep feelings for.

Everest guides his hand to the small of her back as he led her forward, a powerful smirk on his face.

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