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The walls of the dining room were a shade of cream with picturesque paintings hanging all around. Candles lit up the room from the chandelier dangling over the glass table, illuminating the room and giving it a romantic, comfy feel. The white sheet covering the table seemed to brighten the room some more as it stretched from the west of the room to the east. Plates and eating utensils decorating it in front of each seat. There were two seats on the south and north, and others sat along the length.

Evelyn was met with the familiar aroma of food, and consequently, her stomach growled and mouth watered. She took a seat, laid the napkin on her lap and begun acknowledging the people in the room.

There were a few royals seated, chatting among themselves. They gave Evelyn a curt nod and she nodded back. Erika took a seat at the head of the table and met Evelyn’s eyes.

She smirked slightly, pointing at one of the entrances as she swiftly took a sip of her cup of wine.

Evelyn shifted her line of sight to the doors and she watched as Braxton entered, jet black hair combed to the side and attire formal and astonishingly handsome.

He seemed engrossed in the conversation he was having with one of his men. He whispered rather harshly, glaring into the man’s eyes. The man seemed nervous, hands stuffed into his pocket.

Braxton appeared to sense Evelyn’s eyes because he looked up from the frail man and smiled happily at Evelyn, his eyes glistening meanwhile.

She smiled back.

“Hello, Princess Evelyn,” He greeted as he swooped down and took a seat next to her.

“Hello,” She replied simply. She had nothing to say, mostly because she didn’t want to lead him on and Erika’s expression didn’t help.

Erika stared intensely at Evelyn, mouthing the word “Speak,” to her desperately. Evelyn nevertheless ignored her countenance and returned to the depth of her mind.

It was still true that she saw Braxton as a chance for a fresh start, but what she told Ivory that day kept bugging her.

“So now he’s here, trying to mend this relationship. I think it stands a chance.”

She couldn’t understand why she had said that. It wasn’t true. She ended it for a reason, not because she ran out of love or because he did something wrong but because they just didn’t work together. They burned brighter apart, not together.

The guilt she felt replicated as she wondered how Everest felt. Her words gave him false hope.

The blossom of hope gave him determination and courage, two dangerous elements. Evelyn knew he was listening because she knew Everest wouldn’t be able to resist hearing what Evelyn thought about their broken relationship.

Everest waltzed in, dressed in a black suit that highlighted his icy cold eyes. He held a smirk, one of confidence and happiness. His eyes immediately met Evelyn as he plopped down beside her on the left.

“Evelyn,” His velvety voice whispered softly, eyes delicate.

Butterflies erupted in her stomach at the sound of her name rolling smoothly off his tongue. She couldn’t tear her eyes away, glue to his state.

Everest in this suit with a tie and a dress shirt stuck to his body, showing everyone his fit chest. The black jacket buttoned, a crease dotting it from the strain of covering such a complex body.

It drove her crazy. Both from his sexiness and his morale.

Everest watched just as hungrily, eyes scanning down her frame as he inhaled her features.

“Prince Everest,” She murmured, eyes drifting away from his classiness.

Ivory sat across Evelyn, her face emotionless as she watched the contact. Evelyn knew Ivory was judging. She didn’t expect her to understand and she did not.

Evelyn swallowed, thinking Ivory was in no position to judge.

Finally, Eleazar walked in and sat on his designated seat across his wife. His blue eyes quickly scanned the room and he noticed Everest’s frame sitting dangerously close to his daughter. A snarl crawled its way up his face, similar to a spider crawling up a wall.

At the sight of her father, Evelyn could not help but have the urge to yell and scream at the king. Instead, she bit her tongue and swallowed down the itch.

As everyone began to eat, Erika started the conversation by asking Braxton some questions.

He answered and Evelyn desperately tried to listen but it deemed hard. Everest sat close to her, scooting closer each time she tried shuffling away to Braxton. She soon gave up.

She enjoyed having him close but she could feel Ivory’s gaze and Eleazar’s stare. She tried to comprehend why he was doing this. Was he trying to prove a point to Eleazar? Was he doing this out of want and need and not because of some hidden motive?

She felt angry at him for not answering her properly when she asked him why he came. At the thought of the interruption, she glanced over at Ivory and inspected the crimson tone to her cheeks and sly smile to her face. Her eyes were elsewhere and after some following of lines of sight, she spotted Jacob at the entrance, smiling back at Ivory.

Evelyn returned her gaze to her food. She lost her appetite but forced the fork up to her mouth. She felt disgusted immediately after but shooed the feeling away.

How did I not notice this before? Evelyn thought to herself, the guilt rising back up again. If only I weren’t so centred around my own life, I would’ve been there for Ivory. But no, here I am, without a friend, one that lied to me.

Everest noticed her decline in mood and reached underneath the table and caught her hand, giving her a reassuring squeeze.

She did not face him but attempted at eating with her right hand, the uncomfortable hand. She didn’t want to let go even if it meant eating awkwardly.

“What are your plans for securing your kingdom?” The words flowed out from Eleazar naturally, they weren’t strangers to his tongue. He asks Evelyn the same question every time he sees her, waiting for a perfect response but it seemed no matter how many times he asked her, she always failed to give the proper answer.

At his question, Evelyn tensed.

Braxton though, smiled happily as if expecting such a question. He faced Evelyn and said, “Marry the Queen of Adaline.” He simply stared, his somewhat innocent smile turning into a full-on haughty smirk.

The atmosphere in the room changed drastically. The majority were impressed at Braxton’s smooth answer while the minority, like Everest, radiated vexation and agitation.

He clenched Evelyn hand so hard she thought he would break it.

Eleazar cracked a smile at the answer, finally hearing the perfect response. Evelyn forced a smile across her face as she faked delight. Braxton didn’t stop there. He leaned into her, softly whispered, “I’ll cherish you forever.” His hot breath fanned her face.

At his close proximity, a shiver ran down her spine. Everest heard every syllable and started fuming. His face turned into a tomato as he yearned to punch Braxton and show him who Evelyn belonged to.

She belonged to him.

His grip on Evelyn’s hand remained as tight, in fear of Evelyn removing her hand and leaving, leaving him and running to Braxton.

Unfortunately, the hard grip was hurting Evelyn rather than keeping her put and she struggled not to pull her hand away.

Evelyn knew what Everest was thinking, and wanted nothing more than to calm him down. She didn’t know what to do and thus remained seated, the fake smile still on her face as she waited for Everest to calm down and release her now crimson hand.

As time ticked on, Everest managed to reclaim his calm demeanour and released his grip, eyes stuck on her red hand. He felt guilty and sent her an apologetic look, eyes shimmering with hurt. He couldn’t believe himself, he let anger blind him.

As the moon rose and the sun retreated, Evelyn found herself in the cabin. She couldn’t sleep, the endless possibilities of tomorrow haunting her. The ball was just around the corner, and an unpleasant feeling kept tugging at her.

It seemed to yell Look at me! but she couldn’t see it in the dark. It continued to screech She dances quietly in everyone’s shadow, awaiting the hour.

Evelyn recognised the words, but couldn’t quite remember where from. It bugged her all night. The voice had an agreement with Evelyn’s memories because events between her and Everest kept repeating ceaselessly in her head.

She lay with a nagging headache on the couch, wrapped up in a blanket with her head on a pillow. Her eyes were closed but she was wide awake. She couldn’t see anything but she could distinctly hear the cracklings from the fireplace and the harsh wind outside as it shook and quaked the trees. Her fingers feeling the soft fabric of the blue blanket and the couch.

She hadn’t moved a muscle in minutes and consequently, her muscles ached for movement. Nevertheless, she enjoyed the feeling. Tranquillity was a thick layer surrounding her in a warm blanket.

First, the flashbacks started slow and gentle, then they grew harsh, harsher and heart-wrenching.

“Evelyn.” She remembered the way her name flowed out of his lips when they first met that day. She remembered the shivers that coursed through her body and the way her heart started palpitating quickly.

The memory didn’t affect her physically and she still remained unmoving in her position.

“I’m afraid because I know I can’t fight forever.” Evelyn had watched as Everest processed her answer when he asked her why she was afraid. “Maybe I’m meant to only be a princess. Maybe I’m not destined for greatness. Maybe I am not who I wish to be and maybe I’ll never be that person.”

Still, she laid frozen.

“Darling, you are a work of art.” Everest’s words had slipped so gracefully and quietly that Evelyn almost did not hear them. His eyes held fire, trying to comprehend how such a perfect masterpiece existed.

Evelyn swallowed at the memory.

“I don’t want to be king because I don’t see a future to rule over. The world is forever broken, and why bother piecing back such a complex puzzle with billions of pieces? No one has the time nor the patience. We, humans, did this. We took it for granted and now, we pay the consequences. No, Evelyn, I don’t want to be king. Not like my father.” The hatred and truth behind his words were clear, put out there for Evelyn to try and understand, but she didn’t and she still doesn’t.

Evelyn’s muscles twitched.

“Give me what I want,” She told Everest, eyes stern and undeflected. He nodded from his position. “A shiver. I want a shiver down my spine.” That was the night she allowed him to fully claim her as his and now, a horrid mistake.

Evelyn’s breathing hitched.

“I am tired of being your dirty, little secret.” Those were the words he told Evelyn after she answered his question with silence. “You are embarrassed of us... Just admit it!”

At her lack of oxygen, Evelyn’s body shot up to a sitting position but her eyes remained closed, more memories flashing as she whimpered. She couldn’t understand what was happening nevertheless why.

“I’m in love with you.” The words repeated over a trillion times.

“Come back to me.”

“I’m slowly giving up.”

They went round and round.

“I don’t know what to do anymore.”

“That is all I want in life, for this pain to seem purposeful.”

Evelyn grabbed her head, whispering to herself, “Stop.” It came out hoarse, hurting her throat as it felt like someone was clawing at it. She remained in that position for the rest of the night, sweat trickling all over her body.

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