The First Touch
"Princess, your father always talked so highly of you but his words did not do you justice. I know you have had contact with Corrina and she has been very excited." King Caleb says and I take hold of my gown and then bow respectfully. "Don't bow for me, you will be a queen within months and if we all bowed to every royal in this home now. You'd get back ache dear girl."
I contain a laugh at how normal King Caleb seems. My father wouldn't ever speak so informally. I still bow every evening or morning when I see him. The queen wraps an arm through mine and leads me inside. Finn stays close but with the other guards. Once finally the tour downstairs of the palace is finished. The two tall princes follow behind us. Never speaking and I am surprised they didn't make an excuse to leave. They are notorious for behaving like young studs and causing a stir. How lucky they are to have that kind of freedom.
"Guards you may leave." Corrina says as we sit down in a lounge. Comfortable seating in a cosy warm room. Finn stays standing in the corner of the room even as he nods for the others to leave. "Does he ever leave?"
"Yes. When he sleeps or needs to use the toilet." I smile at Finn but he just stands like a soldier ready to fight any moment. Always so worried and protective. "Finn. You need to become familiar with the grounds. The king and queens guards will allow me no harm."
"I will return." He says with an incline of his head. Though he doesn't look sure he does need to do walkthroughs with king Caleb's guards and mine.
"A very loyal guard." Caleb says, placing a hand onto his wife's lap. Such a romantic gesture. Its beautiful and warms my heart that they are almost a normal couple.
"He has been with me since i was so young. He personally stopped me being kidnapped twelve times."
"Twelve attempted kidnaps?" Matteo, the oldest of the two princes, says. I look at him and his brown straight hair is swept over just falling onto his tanned forehead. He is an inch taller and a year older than Alessandro. His eyes are a pale brown and he is broad shouldered with long lean legs that seem to go on forever. Handsome, gorgeous, all words wouldn't give true meaning to how godlike he is. His light blue shirt is pulling tight around his biceps and I find my mouth running dry.
"Yes." I say matter of factly there is no other way to be. "Two others succeeded. Both times I was placed into a van. One Finn ran a car into the van, I woke with a large lump on my head and was carried away from the scene by him. The other i was in the van for nearly an hour. The only time I truly felt at risk. Like Finn may not get to me in time."
"But he did?" Alessandro 25 and six foot one his brown hair is slightly wavy and left messy in the centre with a faded cut at the back and sides. As tanned as Matteo but his eyes are hazel. Specks of green hidden in the chocolate colour. His shoulders are nearly as broad as his brothers, nearly. His legs as long but slightly more defined in the smart fitting trousers. Thick and strong. Another god like man. King Caleb and queen Corrina have great genetics looking at the cheek bones and chiselled jaws of their sons. The full lips and thick lashes scattered around gorgeous eyes.
"Yes. Finn is protective." I respond.
"And who can blame him. You have our reassurance that here you are safe. No harm will come to you." Caleb speaks with a final tone.
"Now this evening is only going to be us here and some others. A few cousins and friends. Some music and a banquet." Corrina says standing and Caleb does with her. "I'll send a maid in any moment and she will take you to your room. I'm sure you'd like to rest before this evening."
I stand ready to bow again but Caleb gives me a look so I stop. Both princes sit comfortably. I sit on the edge of the chair, knees together and ankles crossed. Rigid and not knowing how to begin a conversation. Luckily I don't have to.
"Do you mind us calling you Isabella?" Matteo leans forward asking.
"I prefer Bella if we are not using titles." I lean back slightly, relaxing my posture. Though it is difficult being in a room with these two handsome men. Of course I have been around other men and no one is required to be a virgin anymore. But it is difficult to lose your virginity when a threat of kidnapping is over your head constantly. A guard who is more like a father and can scare away even the bravest of men.
"Bella. I like it." Alessandro says and I notice the cheeky glint in his eye.
"As do i." Matteo responds. With nearly the exact glint in his.
"O goody. I am glad my name is to both of your liking." I say with a sarcastic tone. Which seems to shock a smile onto both of their faces. Knocking the air from my lungs for a moment. But I regain my senses and speak. "I believe i can find that maid to lead me to my room." I stand.
"Or I could take you." Alessandro says standing up. "It would be a pleasure."
"Yeah right." Matteo says as he slowly rises to his feet. "So Bella." He says my name like a treat. His favourite sweet that he is rolling around on his tongue, savouring. "Who would you like to show you the way?"
I lift a brow. Almost confused as thea memory of these two they found it funny they had found me in the stables. Grooming one of the horses. Hay sticking into my dress and hair. I remember them saying I thought I could behave like a stable boy.
"She won't be needing either of you." I hear his voice and smile at the two princes' eyes widening in front of me. "Bella. Your rooms are ready."
"Thank you Finn." I turn beaming at him. "Till this evening, Alessandro. Matteo."
I pick my skirts up and turn walking away towards Finn.
"I'll be damned." I say after the door closes and I fall back onto the chair. Alessandro falls back into his with the same amount of effort.
"She is beautiful."
"That isn't what you were saying early. What was it again? Barely adult teeth, frizzy hair …" I smile at my brother as he runs a hand through his wavy curls..
"She has definitely grown into it all." He mutters and I sigh. That she has. I noticed how he had looked at her. It was the same as me, with instant desire.
"Do you think she realises by some close family and friends mother means over forty people?" I ask him.
"Likely. She is a princess who understands even informal parties are just that. A party nonetheless. Especially us Italians who have cousins coming out of our ears." Alessandro then laughs. "I do wonder if those twins will be here this evening."
Twins? Which twins? My mind goes off thinking about who he could be talking about, but then it clicks.
"Oh." Twins, not identical but a bit similar to both me and Alessandro we look very alike. They are daughters of a friend of our mothers. They were not a chase in fact the last gathering they lured us away from the party. "Well that could be slightly awkward as we both get to know the lovely princess."
"So you plan to get to know her?" Alessandro looks towards me. "As you may have guessed I will be."
"We have both grown up knowing we will be king one day. One here and one leaving to be with a pretty princess in need of a king." I say with a shrug. "What difference does it make? We both know that you have half the amount of charm I have." I chuckle as he huffs.
"Well we will see who is more charming then won't we dear brother."
I climb into my dress the black lace all the way down to my wrists. Covering the scarred skin I have. In darkness barely noticeable but in day light it glimmers with memories. The darker black covering my breasts with a heart shaped design. The flow of extra material, many more layers of lace flowing down to the floor from my waist. The back of my dress is sheer like my arms and shoulders. I slide on small black heels and sit as Lucy, my maid does my hair. Up into a messy style bun small curls falling free down my nape and around my face. My lips have a dark nude brown shade covering them, enhancing their shape and size. My wide eyes look much wider with mascara covering my many lashes. I didn't bother with bronzer when the sun in Spain has given me a bronzed nose and cheeks already. I doubted I would need a blusher when I naturally have one.
"Thank you Lucy. Are you having fun this evening?" I ask her.
Lucy has been with me for a few years now. A few years older than me in her early twenties. Blonde hair and dark blue eyes, a few inches smaller than me and rounded in her hips.
"The servers here are really friendly. They've spoken about how other than those on duty, tonight the queen allows staff to have a party of their own. Even pays for extra food and drink so that they can do it." She says with a wide smile. "As long as that will be all."
"Of course. Go get yourself ready and have a good time."
She does. She leaves with a skip in her step and a smile on her face. I stand up straightening out my many skirts and walk over towards the wide bay window. I notice the stables in the distance. Through the lovely garden. I walk to the large double doors and open them to find Finn.
"Bella. Where are you going?" He raises a brow. "Not planning on running away?"
"Of course not but i would like to take a walk, alone. If you feel it is safe." My eyes plead with him as I look up. He rolls his but I know that he will give in. "Just a walk in the gardens. You can stand at the entrance and wait for me to return."
"I will show you the way and wait as you request." He puts out his arm and I take it. I have nearly an hour before I am required to be at the 'gathering'. I know of Queen Corrina and her many friendships though I can see why. She is friendly, lovely and very normal. "Take your time. Remember …"
I interrupt smiling up at him. "The people love me but be who I love." Squeezing his arm as I step away. "Thank you."
I walk through the garden. Letting my fingertips gently touch the colourful petals and leaves. The grass is soft but the ground beneath it is hard enough, my heels don't break the surface and make it difficult to walk. I follow out through an opening in the perfectly groomed bush towards the large barn that I know is a stable. I make it there and see only a stable boy. He seems to notice me but continues going about his duties. Not looking up again almost shy.
I move down towards two large black stallions. Both bring their head over the stalls doors. I smile and stand between the two large heads stroking both. So beautiful and fierce.
"You are beautiful aren't you." I say patting one and the other nudges into my hand. "No need to get jealous, you are just as beautiful."
"Maybe they don't like sharing." I turn and step away from the stallions at the sound of his deep velvet voice. Turning I see Matteo standing in a fitted gray suit with a white silk shirt beneath. His tall frame is leaning against the wooden stall. Broad and masculine in every sense of the word. "Don't look worried Bella. You have no need to fear being alone with me."
"We are not …" I look to where the stable boy was but he is gone. Looking back to Matteo only to see amusement glittering in his eyes. "So what do you gain in getting ten minutes alone with me?"
"Do I need to gain anything but being the first to see how beautiful you look in that dress?" He stands tall and comes towards me like a hunter, a gorgeous one. I tilt my chin up and keep our eyes fused as he stalks closer to me. His brown eyes could steal my breath away if I wasn't already holding it. "Your dress only enhances your natural beauty."
"Thank you. You look handsome." I say politely and he chuckles leaning forwards slightly. His aftershave hitting my nostrils, such a strong manly scent a hint of spice but mostly just him.
"Is that all i get?"
"You thought you'd get more compliments? I didn't realise I would have to feed you compliments like I would feed grain to a horse. Are you that insecure?" My lips tug up at the sides.
"You seem to have managed to surprise me twice today. One being as stunning as you are. Secondly you seem to enjoy being somewhat sarcastic."
"When the time calls for it." I pet one of the stallions again. "I had not realised Italian men needed their egos stroked." I don't contain my smile as I stroke both stallions now. Staying between them as though they were my shields against him. Hiding the colour beginning to stain my cheeks.
"You wound me." I look at him with the large black stallion's head between us. His hand placed dramatically over his heart even as his face held a playful smile. "I need many things stroking Bella but my ego is not one of them."
My hand falters on both horses' necks. My eyes wide and then Matteo laughs. I look away knowing my cheeks have turned a darker shade of red now. So indecently upfront yet I like it. In here it feels like two normal people talking, not a princess to Spain and prince of Italy.
"Are you always so forward Matteo?"
"Yes. That saying when in Rome. The men of Italy are hot blooded and not afraid to voice what they want. Just with little egos needing a beautiful woman to stroke it." He moves behind me. So bold yet I don't step away. His body is not touching mine but close, so very close that when he speaks I know he is leaning over. His breath whispering against my loose strands of hair around my nape and cheek. "To be stroked so gently by such a famine hand." His words cause me to quietly gasp. A sudden heating not only of my cheeks but between my legs. "These stallions are mine and Alessandros. This one here." He places his hand over my right hand rather than on the horse. Electricity shooting between us like a spark being lit on a firework. "This is Bravo. My horse, which is why I know he doesn't like sharing. He rarely gets such a beautiful lady this close he wants her all to himself …"
"I doubt he rarely gets this close. I'd say his ego may be small but made of solid gold and weights much more than it's worth." I say but my voice is breathy. Like I'm breathless from his closeness, which of course, I am. Yet find myself wanting to lean back and feel him against me. This is what happens when you get to eighteen and rarely have contact with a man not unless, it is on a dancefloor being watched by hundreds of others.
"He doesn't like to share with his brother Zeus. They love one another which is why we keep them close." He pulls raisins from his pocket and feeds some to first Zeus then he takes my hand from Bravo and places raisins in my palm. "He will adore you for feeding him his favourite."
"I know how to feed a horse." I say as he holds my hand in his, palm up allowing Bravo to take the raisins with his long damp tongue.
"Si, you do but allow me to be a part of such a great moment for Bravo. He usually needs a stern hand and firm voice yet with you he behaved like a gattina."
My hand clear of food I pull it free from Matteos. Ducking beneath his arm and taking a few steps backwards my eyes on his. He just smiles biting his lower lip, slowly moving towards me. I feel slightly breathless, like my gown became too tight around my ribcage. Wanting to tug at it to loosen the tightening. The overheating sensation that is burning my body up.
"People and animals do not need a firm hand they need guidance and patience. Maybe that is why both beautiful stallions took to me. He isn't a kitten. He is a stunning stallion just as he should be." I try to hold my usual confident tone but my eyes get distracted, by his perfect teeth digging into his full lower lip. I almost groan and my knees tremor.
"Here you are. I saw the beast and knew I could find you here." I turn to see Alessandro. A navy suit fitting his body and a white crisp shirt beneath. He and Matteo are so alike yet some striking differences. The straight and curly hair. The hazel eyes and the other latte brown. One has stronger thighs another shoulders and chest. My lord these Italian princes look better than a Greek god themselves. "I see Matteo already found you." His eyes move from mine to his brother. I look back and Matteo looks towards me. A small smile staining his lips. I stand side on to both men. My mouth open shocked as both men hold a confident smile whilst my heart takes a gallop. My head turns from one to the other until Alessandro speaks again. "Bella, I came to escort you to the party. If you'd allow?"