“You’re only telling me this now??” I was livid at the thought that Jacob had given me three hours to find a dress and get ready for the ball. Also at the fact that there was a ball that she hadn’t told me about.
“It’s not like I knew any earlier!” That was a lie and we both knew it. I shot him a look as if to say yeah right and he sighed. “Okay, I knew two hours ago but I was neglecting telling you for exactly this reason. Can you blame me?”
“I can and I do!” I exclaimed, flopping back onto the bed that felt like it was made of feathers. So soft, so comfortable. “What am I going to wear?”
“I’ll show you.”
“There’s no time!” I was freaking out. I had nothing to wear and no time to find something and I was supposed to be going to a ball! What do you even wear to a ball? It’s not like I’ve ever been to one before.
“You have an abundance of time.”
“Someone is misusing his big boy words.”
He sighed and with an eye roll he came at me, sliding an arm under mine and scooped me up into his arms, bridal style. A squeal let out of my mouth and I kicked but he just shushed me.
“That was rude,” I told him but he just shook his head, nudging the door open with his foot and heading to the other end of the hallway. Every footstep jostled me and he just let out a low chuckle.
“You were being difficult. I think I acted reasonably under the circumstances.”
“Did you have a spelling test yesterday or what?”
“Considering I was suspended yesterday,” he drawled.
Oh, right. I’d forgotten about that already.
But there was no time to dwell on it because he opened another dark wood door into what had to be Ada’s room. It wasn't super girly, but there were features to it that were too young to be Milena’s and too girly to be Royce’s. He went over to the bed and dropped me, my stomach flipping as I went.
“What is with you today? You’re acting more weird than normal,” I frowned, sitting up on the bed and crossing my legs. He was over at a huge, rustic looking wardrobe. It ran halfway along the wall between another door and the window, with character effortlessly worked into it.
“You said so yourself,” he said, pulling open the doors to reveal too many floor length dresses to count. “My father is intimidating.” His tone told me to leave it at that so I didn’t ask any further questions and moved onto the dresses.
“These are Ada’s, right?”
“How did you know?” Jacob’s brow was furrowed and I just laughed.
“Are these all suitable for a ball?”
“It’s not even that fancy.”
I gave him my best pointed look. “What will you be wearing?” A best way to judge the formality of an event was to see what a man was wearing. A tux would mean it was the highest kind of formal there was, and a regular shirt and slacks meant a sit down dinner.
“A tux.” Formal it is. “Which I actually need to go dig out of a closet.”
“Well I’ll be here for a while so you can go.”
“Trying to get rid of me are you?” He teased and I just gave him a decent shove and he laughed his way out of the room.
With one look at the dresses I sighed, wishing for my sister to be here to help me choose. But she wasn’t here, and I had to do it on my own.
Within an hour I had chosen a simple midnight blue dress that reached just above the floor when I had on a pair of Ada’s heels. It was lucky we were about the same size, or else I would be screwed. I took the items back to my room and laid them on the bed, before rummaging through my bag for the small supply of makeup I brought. Again, it would have to do.
I spent the rest of the afternoon getting ready, with no disturbances from Jacob. I think he was a bit worried about dinner tonight and it got me thinking that this had something to do with the ulterior motives for our fake relationship. It would make sense; considering I had to come here as his girlfriend to re-meet his father. If it were a normal situation I simply wouldn’t see his father until he was back home.
I was a bit suspicious but didn’t ask, because he was doing me the courtesy of keeping quiet about my grandmother so I figured I’d return the favour.
Another thing on my mind was this place, because not everyone lives in a freaking castle. This would be for numerous reasons; financial incompetency, unavailability of castles and so on so forth. So it made me wonder; why did the Beck’s own a castle?
I was just contemplating this as I looked at myself in the mirror. My dark hair was pinned back into a structured bun with curls hanging loose at the front, a wisp of one at the back of my neck. I had just hung a shawl over my shoulders to match the dress which hung a little loose on my frame. Satisfied, I was about to take a seat on my bed but then there was a knock on the door and sure enough, it was Jacob, looking handsome and, a touch uncomfortable, in his tux.
When he saw me, a small smile brightened his lips but then he just shook his head and asked, “Ready to go?”
“No,” I said firmly but walked into the hall regardless. “But let’s go.”
There was distinct music coming from downstairs somewhere as Jacob led me through the castle, not seas, but small streams of people flowing down the main corridor with their class expressed in the number of diamonds they wore around their necks or wrists. I looked down to my bare ones but didn’t have time to fret as we came to the end of a hallway where a man stood, turning when he heard the sound of our footsteps.
I remembered Jacob’s father as a very tall, intimidating man but now, with his son standing at least two inches taller, he didn’t seem much of either. His stature was all angles but his features were soft, from the way his cheeks had a slight roundness to the softness of his eyes when they looked at Jacob.
I wasn’t so nervous anymore.
Just as Jacob went to open his mouth to re-introduce me, I took a small step forward and did it myself.
“Mr. Beck, it’s nice to see you again. I’m not sure you remember me from when I was younger but I’m Kaia Sawyer.”
The beat he took to answer was enough to make me question whether I’d said something wrong, but then a smile resembling Jacob’s took control of his face.
Quickly, to Jacob he muttered, “Your mother is right, she’s perfect for you,” and then to me, “You’re hard to forget.” He took a step forward and kissed me on either cheek as was etiquette that I’d learned from the handsome young man beside me. “And please, call me Nikolaus.”
I nodded about to speak but an ageing thin man approached in a tailcoat that reminded me of a penguin, getting Nikolaus’ attention.
“My apologies, sir, but you have guests to greet.”
“Thank you, Kristoff,” he said, and then turned to me with an apologetic glance. “I must be going. I hope to catch up with the two of you before the night quiets. And no Jacob-“ his eyes flicked to his son with an eyebrow raised that was so familiar yet looked out of place on him “-you don’t have to stay to the end. Do your rounds, make it an hour at least, and then you are free to raid the kitchen and hide in your room for the remainder of the night.”
“Why would you want to do that?” I asked, completely incredulous. This was a ball, and a fancy one at that. I wasn’t about to stay just an hour.
“Because he gets bored,” Nikolaus teased and I laughed with him, but then Kristoff was murmuring in German and I could tell he really had to go.
“You’re needed elsewhere. We will catch up with you later,” I reassured him before sending a pointed glance at Jacob that made him groan and his father laugh more. Jacob wasn’t getting out of this unless he had a better plan or the ball was incredibly boring. Neither of which I could see happening.
“My apologies,” his father said again, and then was on his way down the corridor.
“Are you ready to attend your first Winter’s Ball?” Jacob asked after a moment of us slowly trailing behind his father. I could see people drifting down the hallway like snowflakes in a light power of snow, heading towards the left side of the castle where classical music was playing.
I paused just before the hall and looked up at him with a sly grin. “May it be the best one you’ve ever attended.”
Do you know the point when you have listened to a song over and over until you can’t stand to listen to it any more? That is what the Winter’s Ball was like to me. I’d been to so many that I couldn’t take it anymore, but the girl I was here with wasn’t letting me out of it after my mandatory rounds as Prince.
I swear, every formal event we go to that requires her in a nice dress has me wanting to throw all reason out the window, take her to my room and do things that I’d only ever imagined.
Unlike the Winter’s Ball, she was that one song that, no matter how much you listen to, you will never tire of. You couldn’t ever tire of, because it was the perfect amount of everything you would want in a song. Kaia Sawyer was the perfect amount of everything I would want in a girl, or so the romantic portion of my brain was telling me. So as much as I didn’t want to be at the ball, I would stay as long as her heart desired. Or until I could convince her there was something better to do upstairs.
We were coming to the last people I had to greet before my rounds as Prince could be deemed a success, and they were the closest friends my family has. I’d known them from when I was a baby and every time we visited through my childhood, they would be at the doors waiting for us.
The Abel family were like my second family, and they were standing at the back of the room with their smiles on me.
Anna Abel was the mother, ever kind with her soft face and elegant touch. Married to the lovely woman was Deun, who scared the living daylights out of anyone with a brain without ever saying a word. I knew he was a good man and that he was just very classically German in the way he kept his emotions hidden under thick skin, but it didn’t mean he didn’t scare me.
“Good evening,” I greeted them in German, naturally, Anna pulling me into a hug before I could think twice. Over her shoulder I saw Deun nod and then go off to find someone else to speak with, putting my worry to ease.
“You’re here, finally. We thought you would never make it to us,” Anna gushed, stepping away only to hold my face in between her hands as she observed me, as if looking for any cuts or bruises or changes that had happened in the time since I’d seen her last.
“If it were up to me, you would be the only one’s I would see,” I admitted and she clucked her tongue and lightly smacked my arm.
“I see the Prince hasn't changed his tune,” a voice came from beside and I grinned, released from Anna’s grasp so I could greet her son, and my only real friend I had here in Celti.
Coen Abel stood in front of me, a tad shorter and a lot sharper. He had gelled blonde hair, blue eyes and as we joked, would have been saved by Hitler. Not that we let our parents hear; they would literally have killed us.
“If I haven’t by now, I don’t think I ever will,” I said, before shaking hands with him. He was too German for hugs, even man hugs. “Good to see you again, Coen.”
“It’s quiet around here without you Beck’s, I must admit,” he said, but his eyes kept drifting to Kaia who was standing a bit behind me, a small smile on her red lips. “Who’s she?”
“Kaia Sawyer,” I informed him, linking my hand through hers and pulling her to my side. If I didn’t know any better she looked almost nervous, so I squeezed her hand in the most reassurance I had. “My girlfriend.”
“Doesn’t speak German?”
I was about to respond but Kaia held up her hand with her thumb and forefinger a small space apart. “I speak a little,” she said in German, and I had to keep in my surprise. German is not a difficult language to learn; it’s in the accent where people mess up. But her accent was almost flawless, and I know it impressed Coen as well.
“She is studying it at school,” I elaborated and he nodded, his eyes lingering for a moment longer than I would have liked.
“You chose well, my friend. She’s hot.” he congratulated me before his eyes peered over my shoulder. “And as much as I would like to stay and chat, I have some urgent matters to attend to.”
With that he left like the half-prick he was but I didn’t hold it against him. He was headed for the daughter of the richest man in the country, who just so happened to be a supermodel. She had nothing on the girl by my side, but that’s where his mind was and I couldn’t blame him.
“Who was that?” Kaia asked me, holding her champagne glass to her lips and taking a sip, her curious eyes in the same direction mine were.
“Coen Abel. We’re family friends and he can be a bit of a prick, but he’s alright when he’s not around girls.”
“What did he say?”
I paused, not sure if I really wanted to tell her. But then I figured she’d get it out of me with one glimpse of puppy dog eyes or a minor please and I’d cave. “He said that I chose well and that you’re hot, then excused himself to go hit on that girl.” I subtly turned to the side and nodded towards the model, who Coen was deep in conversation with. I was glad I couldn’t hear anything over this music.
“He sounds like a charming young man,” Kaia drawled sarcasm and I couldn’t help but laugh, before the room overwhelmed me with its expensive boredom. I knew Kaia could feel it too, which is why I said, “Let’s get out of here.”
She held her ground like I assumed she would, glancing around at the guests. “Shouldn’t you stay?”
“Do you want to stay?”
She shook her head, not without considerable hesitation.
“Me neither. There’s a hallway running race with our names on it.” I held out my hand to her and she took it, a sly smile taking control of her face.
“When we’re done, it’ll only have mine.”