Chapter Two: Dinner For Ten
The Prince’s Mate
Chapter two – Dinner for Ten
I cried out as Mr. Malack dragged the brush through my golden hair again. It was horribly tangled and knotted making it nearly impossible to brush. I had spent the last week being pampered and prepared for the Prince. I spent three of those days doing nothing more than sleeping and eating. Mr. Malack wanted to get rid of the gaunt look in my face.
“Stop whining,” he ordered. I grumbled something under my breath and picked at my new nails. A few women had come in yesterday and had applied fake nails to my natural ones. They said that mine were beyond repair.
“You’re hurting me,” I complained.
Mr. Malack just laughed, “Beauty is pain, gorgeous.” I looked down and allowed him to continue to tug away at my hair. I couldn’t care less about meeting the Prince; I wanted nothing more than to return home to my simple life.
“What am I being prepared for—I mean other than the Prince of course,” I asked nervously.
Mr. Malack sighed, “It’s another grooming, what they do is bring all the most likely girls from across the country and bring them to the Prince. Basically, all of the ones who have potential sit down and have dinner.”
“Potential? How do they know what it takes to be his mate? Is there a certain criteria?” I was sure I didn’t fill any of the requirements.
Mr. Malack sighed, “Well, there isn’t much to go off of. All they have is a picture.”
I frowned, “A picture? How do they have a picture?”
“Ah, look, the curling iron is ready. I’m having one of my assistances pull some possible dress choices for you, is there any colour you like in particular?”
“Blue...?” I said, sounding unsure.
Mr. Malack nodded, “A nice deep blue would look good since you are pale, it matches your eyes too, and they’re lovely by the way. They’re breathtaking, they remind me of the depths of the ocean.”
I smiled faintly, “My mother had the same eyes.” Mr. Malack didn’t speak again as he worked wonders on my hair and then polished my face. Yesterday, they had waxed my legs and eyebrows, to say it stung is an understatement. My skin burned for hours.
“What happens if I am not chosen by the Prince?”
Mr. Malack shrugged indifferently, “I guess you just go home.” I nodded as a new plan formulated in my head. “I don’t know why you would want to though; I mean to live in the Palace with the Prince? It would be a great life.”
“I have a family back home Mr. Malack,” I said coldly, “Nothing the Prince could offer me stands a chance.”
Mr. Malack sighed, “I wasn’t trying to offend you dear, I’m just saying. The Prince is a good man, hotheaded and a little arrogant, but he looks out for his loved ones and for his country. He would be a great father.”
I scrunched my nose up, “He will not be fathering my children, I wouldn’t want my kids to have to handle the pressure of running a country. I want a simple life, a quiet one.”
Mr. Malack stopped and stared at me through the mirror, “You are so unlike the countless girls I have groomed, you’re different. Half of them couldn’t stop puking out of nervousness and the other half babbled away about the Prince’s charming looks.”
“How many girls have tried and failed to be the Prince’s mate?”
Mr. Malack tapped his chin with his comb, “Hmm, I personally have groomed about eight or so. That means eighty girls have been showcased.” I felt my stomach drop, eighty girls? Eighty girls stolen away from their homes, eighty girls dragged away from their loved ones.
“Wow, that’s a lot,” I commented, “Do you think I will be any different?”
Mr. Malack titled his head to the side as he observed me through the mirror’s reflection. “I don’t know, you seem different, but then again you’ll most likely be just like everyone else.”
I sighed in relief, but at the same time a weird feeling was festering in the pit of my stomach. “I hope he doesn’t even look at me,” I said.
Mr. Malack gasped, “And miss all of my hard work?” he wacked me with the comb, “That can’t happen!”
I looked down, “But I don’t want him to notice me, I want to slip away and return home. I don’t want to stay here, no matter how beautiful it is. Where are we actually?”
Mr. Malack smiled, “Sorry, I am unable to tell you the location of the Palace, they work hard to keep its whereabouts hidden. If everyone knew where it was it would be flooded with people demanding things and protesting.”
It was a weird sensation not truly knowing where I was, for all I knew I was only a few steps from my sister. On the other hand, I could be separated from her by an entire country. Granted, the ride here was long, but that could be just something they do to throw people off.
“How much longer? When is the grooming?”
Mr. Malack looked at his watch and gasped, “Oh my! It’s only in a few hours. We’ve been talking to much my dear. I promise to be fast so long as you don’t distract me.”
I followed Mr. Malack’s request and stayed silent for the next few hours as my hair was curled and pinned to the top of my head. The makeup round was harder to stay silent for. I was never one to wear makeup and found the mascara wand near my open eyes to be unnerving.
My favourite part was when five women dressed in matching outfits walked in carrying large clothing bags. Inside each was a different dress. For the first time since being here, I was allowed to make a decision for myself.
I chose a one sleeved, backless dress that was the colour of the ocean. It had a deep cut front that made me feel empowered but not sleazy, it was loose and flowing but still looked elegant and beautiful.
Mr. Malack sent me a reassuring smile when I walked out of the change room. “You look stunning Serena, there is no way the Prince will be able to keep his eyes off of you!”
I blushed and looked away. I didn’t want the Prince’s attention, but this may be my only shot of feeling like a princess. I wanted to get the best of the experience until I was sent home tomorrow.
I looked in the mirror and felt my eyes widen. I barely recognized myself, for the first time in years I was cleaned up and felt pretty. Actually, I felt beautiful. I couldn’t stop the grin that came to my face and launched myself at Mr. Malack and crushed him in a bear hug.
“Thank you, I feel wonderful! I just wish that Ray—”I felt my happy mood sizzle and dissolve as I was yanked back to reality. I was stolen away from my home and my family, and now I was being groomed for some guy.
Mr. Malack frowned and patted my shoulder, “I don’t usually say this, but I hope he doesn’t choose you.”
The first thing I noticed as I walked into the ballroom was the other ten replicas of me. All the girl’s except for one was tall with blonde hair and light eyes. The other thing I noticed was how immature I looked. The other girls weren’t really girls at all, they were filled out women with curves that made my frame look childish.
Instantly, I felt self conscious. But, I forced my chin up high and walked into the room with careful confidence. The golden man had reappeared and took my hand, leading me over to a round table with the other ten girls.
I was seated between the only brunette and a very busty blonde. The brunette stuck out like a sore thumb, but I wondered if it was on purpose.
“So, what pack are you from?” The blonde to my right asked. Her voice was snobby and nasally, but I forced a small smile onto my face.
“The Silver Creek pack.”
Recognition flashed on her features, “I thought that pack was like, gone or something.”
I grimaced, “We are trying to get back on our feet.”
She smiled, “That’s good, what made you want to come to the grooming?”
I frowned, the colour drained from my face. “I was forced to come tonight,” I said. The golden man sent me a stern look. The look communicated his point; shut up.
The blonde’s smile dropped, “What do you mean?”
I forced a laugh to tumble through my lips, “I mean, my Mom, she uh, she wanted me to come tonight. She basically forced me into this dress.”
The blonde’s smile reappeared, “Oh! I volunteered. When the King’s men came to our pack with that picture, I figured I was the closest to it.”
I nodded and took a sip of my drink. It was hard to disguise my shock. Had these girls come here willingly? I didn’t know why the idea surprised and disgusted me so much. Maybe it was because of my journey here.
“I was forced here too,” the brunette whispered. I turned to look at her and we shared the same look of loss, grief and fear.
I looked around the room briefly and whispered back, “Who brought you here?”
“The one in the black suit, with the scar.” I looked around to see the man she had described leaning against the far wall, his eyes never strayed from the brunette. I looked over at her and noticed that we looked alike, we had similar facial structure, but the hair was different.
“The one in the gold dragged me away from my family,” I said quietly before taking another small sip of my champagne.
“Can you believe these bimbos volunteered?”
I was glad someone shared my view, “It’s crazy.” The Prince did not join us for dinner, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying it. The other girls however, looked frustrated and disappointed. I ate like I had never seen food and drank several glasses of champagne. It was near impossible to get drunk as a werewolf; our body just burned the alcohol off.
After dinner had ended the dance had begun, I stayed with the brunette who I later learned was called Sky. The golden man had asked for a few dances and I had politely refused each time but I knew his patience was running thin.
“You look so pretty!” A blonde girl with short hair came bobbing over to me with a wild grin on her face. “I’m Tally, and you are?”
I grimaced, “Serena, you look wonderful as well.” Tally was clad in a knee length, purple dress with frills. I had noticed that I was the only one dressed in blue.
“Aren’t you excited to see the Prince?” She babbled. Sky and I shared a look before turning and smiling.
“Of course,” Sky said. Her eyes whoever were on the man that brought her here. He was constantly watching his every move.
“I saw a picture of him and oh my God! I hope he is my mate! Hell, I’ll take him even if he’s not!” she giggled, making my wolf’s shackles raise. “He is so good looking, he doesn’t even look real!”
“When is he coming anyway? I’m so bored,” Another girl had joined the conversation. Her tanned skin clashed with her whitish blonde hair.
Tally looked at the girl with obvious distaste, “He’s the Prince, and he is obviously busy. I’m sure he will be coming any second.”
As she said the words the hair on the back of my neck started to tingle and rise. A weird electric sensation washed through my body and my wolf was suddenly on high alert.
“Ladies, if I could have your attention please. Prince Sebastian Winchester the Second has entered the room, let the official grooming begin.”
The two blondes suddenly disappeared as they wobbled off towards the Prince. Their high heels clacked as they rushed him, desperate for him to see something special and worth keeping in them.
“Price Sebastian! Over here!” one cried hysterically. I didn’t turn around, I didn’t move, I stayed rooted to the spot I was standing in. I didn’t even want to look at his face.
“Please, ladies, I’m flattered. How about we dance?” His voice hit me like a truck. It was somehow smooth but edgy at the same time.
“Dance with me first!” I hear Tally yell. They all sounded pathetic. I sent Sky a meaningful look and relaxed as the music started up again. I fiddled around with my silver clutch as the night proceeded. I never let my eyes stray from the ground as I swayed awkwardly to the music, I just wanted this night to be over.
“Excuse me,” I was suddenly forced into the dancing position as the song changed. The golden man had cut in, finally getting the dance he had been begging me for. “What are you doing?” he hissed at me.
I decided to play dumb, “What do you mean?”
He narrowed his eyes, “You haven’t even looked at him.”
“Who? The Prince?”
He gave me a flat look, “No, the waiter... of course the Prince!”
“I don’t want to see him,” I hissed.
The golden man smirked, “Well, apparently all he wants to see is you. His eyes have been glued to you since he walked in here. He’s watching you dance with me right now as he speaks to your brunette friend.”
I looked around to see Sky trapped between the Prince and the man that brought her here. It was obvious they shared no connection, much to Sky’s relief. I was relieved for her, she was going to get to go home.
“I don’t want to be noticed,” I said.
The golden man narrowed his eyes, “I did not travel around the country to find you and bring you here for no reason Serena Hope. I know you are the one he has been looking for, and I want the prize.”
“What exactly do you get out of all of this?” I questioned. The golden man spun me around before answering.
“A lot of gold.” I could see why that would attract him. The song ended and I felt my hands and cheeks become warm. As I looked around the room I could see the other girls had tried and failed to match themselves with the Prince.
Most of them looked devastated a few were in tears. But I could see the happiness and relief on Sky’s face, she was the only girl that was pleased she was not the Prince’s mate. I would give anything to trade places with her.
Suddenly, the electric current that had been running through me intensified and I felt my wolf tense up. Heat hit me in waves along with the smell of the forest mixed with a sweet cinnamon.
My vision turned hazy from the feelings that were running through my body, my ears hummed as the air around me seemed to crackle with energy. Then his voice cut through it all, bringing one piercing moment of clarity.
“May I have a dance?”