Prince of my Panties (Royal Package #2) by Lili Valente
Princess Elizabeth Agnes Rochat
Twelve years ago…
If I’m caught, I’ll be in so much trouble.
I should turn around, creep back up the stairs, down the longest hallway I’ve ever seen, and into the room with the pink linen sheets and rose-scented bath towels. It’s a lovely space. The art deco furniture in my guest suite is museum-quality, and the hand-carved reading chair in the corner probably costs more than every piece of clothing I own, including the ball gown I wore earlier tonight.
My mother sold a pair of antique diamond earrings to pay for the dress, a garment I will wear only once—twice if I manage not to grow before the midsummer celebration in the village and can work up the courage to draw attention to myself.
I don’t enjoy attention, but it would be such a waste for that dreamy peach silk to molder in a wardrobe for the rest of its life.
Not all garments have souls, but dresses like that one do. They have hopes and dreams…aspirations. They want to be a part of the story, even shape it if they can.
Cinderella wouldn’t have caught the attention of the prince without her fairy godmother’s ball gown, and Dorothy Gale wouldn’t have made it home to Kansas without those shoes.
If I had to choose, I’d pick the shoes.
I step off the final stair, heart slamming in my chest as I try to remember the way to the royal library. After three days amidst the glitz and glamor of the always bustling Baden Bergen castle, like Dorothy Gale from Kansas, I’m starting to feel there’s no place like home.
I’m already engaged to marry a prince, and I don’t know about Cinderella’s experience, but so far, I can tell you it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.
Prince Andrew clearly hates being my fiancé, not that I can blame him.
I’m only thirteen, technically a teenager, but so thin and flat-chested I still look like a kid. Meanwhile, Andrew is a strapping seventeen-year-old, so handsome even the older, married women at the ball were stealing glances his way.
No one looks at me. And if they do, they quickly look away, to spare us both the discomfort. In addition to being so skinny I practically disappear when I turn sideways, I stutter when I talk to strangers and I don’t think I’ve ever laughed out loud in front of anyone but my sisters. Meanwhile, Andrew gives rousing speeches on national holidays and has a popular social media account full of his wild adventures. I enjoy reading, crafting, sewing, and helping my nanny with her insect farm. Andrew lives for world travel, jet-setting with glamorous people, and surfing in shark-infested waters.
We’re about as well suited as a tiger and a ball of sentient drier lint, and if we ever make it to the altar, I’m sure the marriage would be miserable for us both.
And that’s only with what I know for sure about marriage—the friendship and companionship and spending every day together part.
There are other things…
Things that married people do…
Things that happen in the dark that I know Andrew and I will never do together—imagining it for even a second makes my stomach churn like there’s a swarm of locusts loose in there—but I still can’t help but wonder…
I wonder a lot.
I wonder so much it’s like a forest fire in my mind, threatening to smoke out the rest of the healthy growth—this burning need to answer questions I hardly know how to ask.
But my parents are so old and old-fashioned the thought of asking either of them about that makes my soul cringe. And yes, I could ask Nanny Chamomile, but she’s from California and so not old-fashioned I’d probably get far more information than I’m prepared for. And then I’d never be able to look her in the eye without thinking about what she knew that I now knew.
It would be too shame-inducing to bear.
Books are the best way. A book keeps your secrets while giving up all of its own—at least to the careful reader. Books can be trusted not to tattle or reject or judge, and if I find the right ones, I’m certain they’ll tell me everything I want to know.
But I’ve spent hours searching the bookshelves in our soggy, crumbling castle back home without stumbling upon anything helpful. The raciest thing I could find was a Victorian volume on animal husbandry. And though useful for confirming my suspicions with regard to the “Tab A into Slot B” issue, it was otherwise a wash.
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