Before The Storm
What had possessed me? I know what. Lust. The unruly thing had taken over me. I hadn't even recognised myself to how I had spoken to Matteo. I had given him three options. Watch, join or leave. Shaking my head I feel the waves of my hair gently tickle my back. I am wearing a pale pink dress with long sleeves. Fitted all over and finishing just above my knees. Finn walks me towards the conservatory where the queen will be waiting for me.
"There you are dear." Corrina stands and so does the gentlemen next to her. His back to me. It isn't until he turns I realise who he is.
Prince Henry of England. His red blonde hair medium length for a man. Swept perfectly back from his face. His six foot height is built with lean muscle. His dark blue eyes sparkle as he looks at me.
Does she know what she is doing? If it wasn't difficult enough juggling her sons now prince Henry is here. There are two days before the party. Why is he here now? Then at the ball Sebastian will arrive. A bomb I'm so unprepared to detonate.
"Prince Henry, this is Princess Isabella. Soon to be queen of spain." Corrina says smiling as I walk towards the table. Forcing my legs to move as shock has taken the feeling from them.
Henry stretches out his hand and I place mine in his. He kisses the back of my hand with warm gentle lips. Yet I feel nothing. No spark. No coming to life as I did with the two princes here. I felt wanton last night. I felt out of control but in all the best ways. Matteo. Something about him draws me in.
"It's a pleasure to meet you princess. The reports do not do you justice." His thick British accent is filled with charm. At twenty nine he is the oldest of eligible princes at the moment. Well ones that fit my criteria of what I need.
"Thank you." I smile. Taking my hand back. Corrina sits down and I follow. Plastering the fake smile to my lips as brunch is served. Small sandwiches and cakes placed neatly before us.
Conversation flows. Henry is obviously interested and not afraid to show it. If I thought his keen interest was embarrassing in front of Corrina. When both Matteo and Alessandro arrive not long after food is taken away. I see shock reconside on both faces at Henry's presence. They joined us both taking a seat opposite me and Henry with Corrina sat at the head of the table. Her warm face holds a cheeky smile. Most would see it as polite but in my short time here I recognise her different facial expressions. When she is biting back a retort her mouth is more of a wide line. When she is warning King Caleb her eyes squint but her mouth smiles.
"What brings you here early Henry? Other than the warm weather of course." Alessandro asks. His tone is cool. He leans back in his chair crossing his arms over his chest. Why is it I feel any moment I should shout abort? Like a mission should be cancelled because something is wrong.
I fight to keep my eyes out the window on a tree gently swaying with the light breeze. It's difficult when both Alessandro and Matteo are in my line of sight.
"Well the warm weather and beautiful company. Two days extra is hardly early." Henry explains.
"Such kind compliments to my mother." Matteo smiles. His eyes holding a glint of something sinister. Is he trying to wind up prince Henry? Or his mother? Or myself?
"Of course. Queen Corrina is known worldwide for her beauty and parties. Though I must admit when I was informed of Princess Isabella being here for some time. I decided a few days before the ball would be even more pleasing." Henry beams at me. I turn and give him a polite smile. My eyes wandered to the side to see both Matteo and Alessandro sitting up that bit straighter. I may be mistaken but it's as though they try to look bigger. "I wondered Isabella. If you don't mind me calling you?" I nod in agreement. "Isabella I know you've been here now for over a week. I'd hoped you'd show me the gardens."
"I would …" Alessandro interjects just before I imagine Matteo would have done so.
"I think that is a pleasant idea. Bella is out in the gardens daily. She knows them now almost as well as I do." Corrina interrupts, throwing her sons a warning glance.
"Of course. Shall we go now. The sun is at its highest but we'll only be out there a short time." That is me implying he cannot have too much of my time. He nods and stands offering me a hand. Which I take.
When I leave I can feel the death stares on my back. Raising the hairs on my arms and neck. Neither have any right but of course they feel they do. I must accept I've led both on in a way. The way they have chased me has been overwhelming but also, exciting. The way Alessandro made me laugh and smile. The way Matteo made me feel like a woman. A mad, lust driven woman.
"Your coronation is being arranged. The invitations have been sent out. Though I have noticed the lack of it being reported in the news." Henry says once we walk further into the garden.
"A statement is ready but the release date publicly is not going to be revealed for another week. Maybe two. It depends on negotiations."
"Yes I had heard about Spain at the moment. I am very sorry. It is difficult to support those we love but to have so much pressure. Whilst still so young."
"Age is but a number. I am wiser than my years and always have been. By the time I was ten I had read every book in our palace library. Seems unbelievable now. I love my country but a country is just land without the people in it."
"Spoken like a true queen." He smiles down at me but I continue pushing forwards. "My brother rules with a similar view."
"As I've heard. It is reported your brother still has wild parties just now rather than the club, he had them in the palace."
"You've done your research. I like it. I agree with it. Yes. My brother wasn't ready to be king a few years ago. My father's tragic death left him reeling. But he got up and faced a new day. He works hard and also plays it."
"So i am not the only one who has done my research, I believe. I assume that you have looked into Princess Sofia also?"
"I have. A wise ruler does research every option."
I incline my head appreciating his honesty. Strangely Henry feels like a safe bet. An easy option. How awful is that of me to think? He doesn't bring goosebumps to my skin or wanton thoughts to my head. He doesn't make me want to lay down on the grass, lift my skirt and say take me. Not like the damn Italian princes and their brazen charm. More one than another but no denying the appeal in both.
"She is very beautiful."
"That she is. Though I must ask why do I feel as though you are ruling out any chance for us, even getting to know one another?"
"With the same amount of honesty as you have given. My father has had offers but only one is he, currently taking seriously."
"He is arranging your marriage?" Henry says it with an almost bitter tone. "I am sorry. I just believed that you would be choosing a husband of your own choice. Prince or not."
"I will but if that choice coincides with the offer to my father he would be happy." I have not mentioned too either of the princes. Finn or anyone. Why? It troubles me that father has so much control of my future that he will have no involvement in. I believe he will do anything to make this marriage go ahead. But he told me I have a choice. Somewhere deep down I don't believe it though.
Is it because I had already known from the photos I found the princes physically appealing? Is that why I'm so drawn to them? I had not expected to be drawn to them on another level though. The friendships building. Dancing in a nightclub. Something I hadn't even dreamed of before. They have been good to me. Yes the sexual tension is frustrating in every sense of the word. But the rest is intriguing. Like a shark. Swimming elegantly by you looking harmless and peaceful. You know it is dangerous but want to climb from the safety of the cage anyway. You want to swim beside it. To reach out and touch it. Feel the smooth …
I need to focus on the fact I have a prince sitting right here with me.
"I had not realised. Have the other princes? May I ask who has put an offer to your father?"
"That would be divulging information wouldn't it. Though i am sure it will come out at the ball." Though i really hope it doesn't.
If I had felt the conversation with me and Henry had left me feeling hollow. I shouldn't have been worried. Alessandro had been waiting. Standing next to Finn, talking. Finn actually talking had me raising my brow. As it turned out Alessandro had run it past him taking me out on the lake. A small boat ride. It had been surreen and so peaceful. He had rowed the small old wooden boat. A few swans had come close to the boat and I was petrified. Which had made Alessandro laugh loudly and in turn I had laughed with him. Once they had swam leisurely away without a care to the panic they had made me feel. I had swatted him playfully. Declaring though beautiful they were extremely dangerous if they wanted to be. He had told me how his mother had these bred and they lived on the lake all year round.
It was as he had taken my hand to help me from the boat. All the friendliness seemed to seep away. He had pulled me out hard and I had stumbled. Right into his hard chest. Placing a hand clumsily against it. Taking a step back he had still held my hand looking down at me. Both of us just looked at one another for a long moment. The noise of the lake. The descending sun and the beautiful almost pink light reflecting off the water. Enhancing his natural breathtaking handsomeness. Until I had pulled away with a smile.
If I had found the relaxing and warm evening boat ride with Alessandro had only added more confusion. It hadn't helped the next day Matteo insisting on a ride. Though he had only brought Bravo from the stalls. I had been confused at first. Until I realised he had wanted me to sit in front of him. I did of course. Just being polite. Obviously. It had nothing to do with the heat of his chest against my back. The feel of his thighs against mine. As we gently rocked. He hadn't made it a gentle stroll but instead sent Bravo into a galop. At one point on instinct I had let go. Raising my hands and closing my eyes. Matteo in turn had wrapped an arm around my waist holding me securely to him. Then had egged Bravo on to go faster. It had been beautiful as he had galloped roughly over the endless fields.
We had arrived back at the stalls and my hair was messy. My cheeks flush with the sun and the endless smiling I had done. Matteo had climbed down first and taken my hips. Waiting until I placed my hands on his shoulders to finally lower me. Slowly. Was he trying to make the muscles of his shoulders bulge beneath my palms. If he had been. He succeeded. His pure strength at holding me was shown as his muscles tightened. It had become difficult to breath. His hands had stayed on my hips as he had stepped me back towards a solid wall. I had barely enough strength to say anything. Mind stopped him as his lips had begun to move towards me. It was only two stable boys walking in that had me out of the trance. I had ducked beneath his arm and fled.
Tonight though is the ball. I have made excuses to be alone for most of the day. When really I had been sitting on the bay window reading. Listening to music. Trying to calm my nerves.
Tonight Prince Sebastian of France will be here. He already is, I imagine. Along with many other royals and their close families. Though it is Sebastian that I hope doesn't open his mouth. Doesn't reveal that my father has already told him, his offer is accepted if I don't find a man on my return.
I want to breathe. I throw my book and pull at my summer dress that feels too tight. It's too much. So much pressure. I feel like I am suffocating. Matteo, Alessandro, the coronation, my people rebelling, the constant idea of being kidnapped, my father dying ...