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Perhaps it was because she had told him to never mind what she was called. Charming had received young ladies’ names by the thousands, wanted and unwanted; often the names were uttered proudly, flirtatiously, followed by grand titles and accomplishments. But she had turned her face away as she spoke (how he’d wished she had not), embarrassment and something else in her tone. There had been no coyness or teasing, she was sincere.

Maybe it was because he had felt ridiculously happy when he caused her to smile, watching it slowly grow, reaching up to her bright eyes. It had been a little thing, true. Yet his pleasure had been great. And while he had thought her pretty even with her old clothes and dirt-covered face, he had for a moment been breathless at how beautiful she looked when she smiled.

Or it could be due to how she had reacted, spoken to him. Her manner had been kind, serious, and attentive. She had commented about him having a bad day. The way she listened to him, watched him as though they were friends. There had been no underlying awe, nervousness, or slyness on her part. She had viewed him simply as a person, not a prince. And he had been grateful, feeling free, able to be himself.

Whatever the reason, often a grin spread across Charming’s face and his heart fluttered when he recalled the girl’s parting words.

“And I you.”

Thus a week later, instead of arguing when the king announced the upcoming birthday ball, he pressed for all eligible maidens to be invited. Perhaps this time he would be successful in seeing her again. He wanted to know her more. And just maybe the girl whom claimed to be nobody would share with him her name – a gift he would cherish.