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Finding Real Love

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Carmilla

"Ma! No!" Carmilla cried and tried to escape from a tall woman who was holding her tight as she saw the bad men took her Ma away from her. "Don't leave me!" She implored as she saw her Ma tried to get loose from the bad men.

But they were strong and big, they seized her. "Be strong Carmilla and remember that I love you!" Were the last words that her Ma told her as they threw her Ma in a carriage.

That was the last time she saw her before she was abducted by the same horrible men in identical clothes and thrown to a different carriage together with the tall woman."

 

She woke up gasping for her breath, her heart pounding, cold sweat running down from her forehead; she could feel the chill in her body. She struggled to get loose and opened her eyes, then reality hit her when she found herself sleeping on a big four posted bed with heavy drapes.

Many days had passed since she was painfully separated from her Ma. But the excruciating scene still haunts her every night in her sleep.

"Ma?!" She cried in anguish even though she knew that her Ma was no longer with her. She tried to go back to sleep and thought of the happy days and nights she and her Ma spent; the days they spent their times together growing vegetables and flowers at their little backyard; the days she and her Ma would tend the cows and hens that they have in their small barn; the days she could ran freely at their small farm and picked the roses in their little garden; the days her Ma would teach her how to sew and embroider her own clothes; the days she and her Ma would spent the day cooking food and baking bread; the nights her Ma would comb her beautiful long locks before going to bed; the nights her Ma would tucked her in bed and kissed her goodnight; and the nights she would cuddle with her Ma when there was storm and would feel secured.

Those days and nights were gone.

*****

She did not know how many days or weeks had passed but she was glad to be out of the new chamber that she was sleeping in now. A chamber that was bigger than her home.

When she arrived in this place, she was crying, shouting and throwing things at the people that brings her food and guards her. She was angry, sad and just wanted to go back to her own home with her Ma.

The tall scary lady who took her away from her Ma discovered her unpleasant behavior and she was detained in this new chamber. She was told that she would not get out of there until she behaved properly. But she did not heed. She was still angry and longing for her Ma and she continued to shout, cry and throw things every day.

Until one day, she got tired and realized what the tall scary lady told her. Maybe if she behaved they would let her out and she could see her Ma again, and she could go back to her own home with Ma.

She had thought hopefully.

So, the next day she did not threw her tantrums to the woman that brought her food and ate it dutifully, she even took a bath and did not give the woman a hard time. Her Ma used to help her with her bath and clothing her, but since they took her Ma away she taught herself to do it alone.

*****

She was snatched from her recollection as she heard the cold authoritative voice of the tall scary lady, and found herself standing in the grandest room that she had seen in her entire life.

"Come here."

The tall scary lady beckoned her to come forward. The eerie sound of silence and the vastness of the room gave her the shiver. The sight of the tall scary lady sitting on the big chair with her dark hair neatly combed and dressed in the finest clothes she had ever seen was intimidating enough to render her powerless and speechless. It was her first time to set foot in this vast room, and she was scared just by looking at the tall scary lady's dark fiery eyes staring at her. She had no idea why she was suddenly summoned. She walked slowly towards where the tall scary lady was sitting. She approached with reluctant steps while her heart anxiously throbs as she came closer.

It felt strange, however, to be terrified at this woman and yet, she felt like she was somehow connected with this woman that she feared. It felt like she had already seen her before, when she was still young, but she cannot recall when and why? It might also be a fragment of her imagination and maybe she must be hallucinating due to her pining for her Ma.

She was thankful that it was only her and the tall scary lady inside the vast room; she was not used to seeing a lot of people. She grew up with only her Ma on her side and Da who visited them once in a while. She was taught by her Ma that not everybody was kind and trustful so she was not permitted to meet other people or go outside of their farm. And now, she understood fully well why her Ma did not want her to meet other people, as she found herself in the presence of one of the unkind people she met.

"Do you know why you are here?"

She heard the icy cold voice of the tall scary lady, and noticed the fiery eyes glaring at her with full of authority.

She just shook her head afraid how to converse with this woman; afraid that if she say something it would turn out not right and she would be locked again to her new room.

"I want what is best for you."

She wondered and furrowed her brows. Why would this woman want the best for her? Does she even know that this is the most dreadful times in my life!

"From now on you will be called by your real name and you are to forget the name that you are used to hear." The tall scary lady stated.

She looked up, shocked at what she heard. Her young mind cannot comprehend what this woman was saying, she shook her head and was growing upset and confused, and before she could control herself the words were already out of her mouth.

"No! My name is Carmilla!"

She shouted not caring what this misbehavior would cost her. She was growing upset now; all she wants was to go back to her Ma. She had behaved and obeyed all the things that they had asked her to do, and she was looking forward being released and returned to her Ma!

"Silence!" The tall scary lady shouted back and rose from the big chair. "You are not to speak when I am talking to you and you will listen and obey me!"

She was already trembling with anger, refusing to accept what this evil woman was telling her. She made the tall scary lady furious and she knew that she would be punished, but she does not care anymore. She just remained standing there and bowed her head, refusing to listen further as she hid her face behind her long dark locks.

"Look at me!"

She flinched as her small ears heard the tall scary lady ordered her to do. She trembled with fear when she saw this evil woman standing just three feet away from her.

"And listen carefully to what I'm going to say! You will forget that name!"

She reluctantly looked up, her eyes shimmering with unshed tears, her hands balled into fist and this time she tried to control her temper while she swallow her pain.

"You will always acknowledge when I call you. You will ignore anyone who will call you by that name and that person will be punished if he or she disobeys. There are people here who will provide you everything you need as long as it adheres to my satisfaction. This is your home!" was the tall scary lady's demands.

"I don't want anything from you! I don't want to live here!" she finally burst out, as tears flowed out from her eyes. "Where's my Ma?! I want to go home! Let me out of here!" she demanded.

Suddenly she saw the tall scary lady stepped down from the big chair and approached her, and the next thing she knew, the evil woman was holding her jaw and she found herself face to face with the woman she detest.

"You are forbidden to neither go outside the walls of this place nor talk to the village people who come in here. The moment you tried to escape, you will be punished. You will no longer see nor have contact with your Ma, I have sent her to a faraway land!"

She refused to accept all of the things that the tall scary lady was telling her. "No! I want my mother back!" she bawled in desperation.

She tried to get loose from this evil woman's hands, but she failed, as she felt the hold on her jaw tightens and her face was brought closer to this evil woman, making sure that she was looking straight in those fiery wicked eyes.

"I am your Mother and you're going to obey me!" The tall scary lady reprimanded. "From now on you will be called Prince Carl Philipp Marcus of Karnstein!"

The words came as a shock and she froze as her disoriented mind tried to digest what she just heard.

 

TBC

Chapter Text

Carmilla

 

 

She tried to get loose from this evil woman's hand, but she failed, as she felt the hold on her jaw tightens and her face was brought closer to this evil woman, making sure that she was looking straight in those fiery wicked eyes.

"I am your Mother and you're going to obey me!" The tall scary lady reprimanded. "From now on you will be called Prince Carl Philipp Marcus of Karnstein!"

The words came as a shock and she froze as her disoriented mind tried to digest what she just heard.

What!?

She shakes her head. She refused to accept; she refused to acknowledge whatever madness this evil woman was commanding her. Nobody could take away her identity, and nobody can dictate to renounce her real name. This woman was not her mother but an impostor!

As the shocking revelation subsides and her courage regained, she shoved the evil woman's hand that was on her jaw and got loose from the claw.

"Get your hands off me!" she claimed, her eyes glaring at the woman. "No! Noooo! You are not my mother!"

"Have you not been listening?!" Was the furious remark. "I, Queen Lilita of Karnstein, am your Mother and the King Philipp of Karnstein is your Father!"

"You are lying!" She accused and ran towards the door where she entered earlier, fuming with all the lies that she heard.

The moment she stepped out of the vast room her life changed drastically.

 

*****

 

"Ma! No! Don't leave me!" she shouted as her heart beat rapidly, desperation overtaking her.

Suddenly she was snatched from that terrible scene, opened her eyes and met by darkness and silence.

"Ma?" she muttered and realized that it was another nightmare and she found herself alone on a soft mattress covered with a warm blanket. She was in the chamber; her chamber, on her bed. She does not know how many days; weeks or months had passed since the Queen confronted her. But the nightmares still haunts her; the pain was still inside and she was exhausted.

She laid on her side curled up into a ball, bent her knees up, drew them near her stomach as tightly as possible, and bowed her head as she wrapped her arms around it. And lulled herself to sleep again.

 

*****

 

When she was finally contained, the evil woman that she now called her 'Queen Mother' began to visit her every night before she sleeps…

She heard the sound of shoe heels clanging at the marbled hall outside her chamber. As the sound came closer, her fear grew stronger. She dreaded this time of the day when the maid had left and she was alone in this new chamber. Her heart was banking and the anticipation of sleeping alone in the dark drove her insane. She heard the door opened and she swallowed in fear as she saw the Queen entered the chamber. The Queen trained her to stay awake and wait for her to say good night to her before she goes to sleep. She had dutifully done it for the pass ten months.

"Are you comfortable and ready to sleep?" Was always the same question that she hears the Queen asks before saying good night to her for the pass ten months.

And the only answer that she has to say is: "Yes my Queen Mother."

Upon hearing her satisfactory reply, the Queen would give her a wicked smile of approval, and would remind her every night:

"Remember, you are strong and you are fearless; you are Prince Carl of Karnstein and the future King of this kingdom." These phrases from the Queen had been inculcated to her mind every night before she goes to sleep for the pass ten months. Afterwards, the Queen would closed all the curtains in the enormous four post bed of hers and blew off the only candle in the room before leaving her in total darkness and silence.

And then it began.

…The dreadful feeling.

The feeling of being swallowed by this deep black hole; the feeling that she was about to fall into a pit and never come out again.

In the pass ten months, every night she would cry and shout for help hoping that there was someone who might hear her and open the door of her chamber to let the light in and just hold her tight.

But nobody ever came.

Nobody ever hear.

Nobody ever save her from drowning in this pit of darkness.

And she would just cry and cry until she was exhausted and sleep claimed her.

She knew that the nightmares were over when she woke up and hears the maid enter her room.

 

*****

 

She could still recall how she was seized by the maids and was locked up in the big chamber that they called 'the Prince's Chamber'. They did not let her out and confined her until she succumbed to the evil woman's claims and demands. Demands that she have to fulfill and obey in this new life of hers.

 

And now she found herself staring in front of the mirror as she accomplished another requirement from the Queen. She tilted her head from one side to another and felt exposed at the absence of those long rich curly locks that had been a part of her. However, she felt surprisingly satisfied of the outcome as she saw her hair, cut short neatly at the back, with her nape showing and the side were cut neatly too above her ears, forming a pointy elegant thin side burns around her ears that curls a bit at the end that made it looked softer, while the front was left in soft mess that falls to her eyes, a request that she asked the barber, even if the Queen preferred it shorter to complete the neat look. The barber complied unto her request and he advised her to fix her bangs and put on a little beeswax to hold it back, so that it would not get in a way and she would look neat in her mother's eyes. Her mother specifically ordered the barber to cut her hair every two to three months in order to maintain her hair short and neat.

She just finished her bath and stared at the clothes in front of her; clothes that she never wear and now she had to get used to them because the Queen had chosen it for her.

She tried to recall all the things the Queen commanded her as her eyes roamed at every piece of clothing material in front of her: first, she have to wrap her chest with linen and made sure that her chest was flat and fully covered. The Queen strictly informed her that no one can see or touch her chest. No one was allowed to see her naked. She would wear a braies followed by a pair of trousers and wear a long sleeve tunic so that she would look appropriate according to her mother.

She chose a simple black linen tunic with gold embroidery linings as her everyday clothes. She was told by the Queen that these were the clothes that she would wear and nothing else, and was strictly prohibited to wear any dresses. The Queen had asked the shoemaker to make different kinds of boots and shoes for her that she would use for different kinds of occasions, and nothing else.

From now on, everything that she need and use should be approved first by the Queen.

 

*****

 

She found herself alone in the presence of the Queen again at the vast room, but this time she was calm and resolve. The last time she was here, she was struggling to get her old life back and refused to accept who she really was. But in the span of ten moths she gradually accepted all the things that the Queen instructed her to do, even if it was against her will. She stood three feet away from the throne and bowed to the Queen.

"I am so pleased to see you in those clothes, my son. You looked handsome and neat."

She heard the Queen imparted and she felt the scrutinizing eyes of her mother on her. She just finished taking her bath and was dressed in the black tunic that she picked as her everyday clothes and a pair of trousers and boots and made sure to wrap her chest tightly with white linen before she put on an undershirt and her tunic. She did not forget to put some beeswax on her hair as recommended by her barber. She wanted her impression to be perfect in the eyes of the Queen.

"Thank you, my Queen Mother," she replied, reluctant if she called the Queen correctly. She needed to think and be careful how she answers while in the presence of the Queen.

"I think it is time for you to begin your education as a prince and the future king of Karnstein," the Queen revealed. "There will be a scholar to teach you all the proper etiquette of being a prince and you will learn to ride a horse and use a sword. You will speak calmly and lower the pitch of your voice every time you talk, you will not screech and cry. And most importantly you will control your emotions because it is a sign of weakness. Do you understand?"

She nodded and gave the Queen her full attention before saying, "Yes, my Queen Mother."

"I have selected a very notable musician from Wien, to teach you to play a musical instrument of your choice and an Italian artist will arrive in the castle next month to teach you arts. You will begin your studies of foreign language, history, philosophy, literature, arithmetic and science." The Queen explained. "For your leisure time you will practice your swordsmanship and horseback riding."

She continued to give her undivided attention to the Queen and she felt deprived of her freedom. Even her leisure time was assigned to the Queen's choice of activities for her. She had thought of asking if she could do gardening for her leisure time, but she shoved the idea and remained silent knowing that she would not be heard.

"From now on you will eat dinner together with me and your King Father and I expect you to behave yourself like a prince." the Queen added.

She was suddenly yanked from her recollection as she heard the word 'your King Father'. Since she arrived at the Karnstein Castle, she never saw the King. The thought of meeting the King for the first time was making her apprehensive. What if he did not like me? Will he accept me? Will he believe that I am his child? These were the few concerns that stressed her out. What if he is not my father and all of these are lies?!

"The King travels a lot and today he is arriving and you will get a chance to meet him as you join us for dinner." The Queen elaborated and paused. "Carl? Are you listening to me?" Was the Queen's puzzled remark.

She nodded absent mindedly and tried her best to calm herself. "Yes my Queen," she replied right away.

"Do I have to keep on reminding you to call me your Queen Mother?" the Queen told her.

She bowed her head realizing her mistake. "Forgive me my Queen Mother."

She received a nod from the Queen accepting her apology.

"It would not happen again." Was her humble response.

"Very well, I expect that you will remember to address the King as your King Father." Was the Queen's challenging remark.

"I will remember, my Queen Mother." She assured.

 

*****

 

The anticipation of meeting the King for the first time had been straining her since this morning. And now she found herself fidgeting at her chair in the family dining room of the castle. She was placed at the left side of the long rectangular table across the Queen, and to the left of the King's place.

She and the Queen should always be the first to arrive before the King that was one of the rules in the castle when dining. This was also the first time that she will eat together with the Queen and it worried her. Her restlessness did not go unnoticed as she received a strict look from the Queen.

"Is there anything that is bothering you, my son?" The Queen asked in a firm tone.

Her body automatically calmed down, as she heard the authoritative voice of the Queen. She sat straight and took a deep breath, calming her nerves, and when she was able to pacify herself, she looked at the Queen and calmly said, "No, nothing at all, my Queen Mother."

The Queen was supposed to say more when their attention was caught by the royal guards announcing the arrival of the King at the dining hall. She stood up at once together with the Queen and bowed both their heads when the King approached the dining table. She was still bowing her head when she heard a deep gruff voice.

"Look at me." The voice commanded as she saw the sight of a large pair of leather hunting boots on the floor that belonged to the King. She was just a foot away from him and his presence was making her anxious. She reluctantly lifted her head and looked up at the tall slim well-built man in front of her. Her eyes widened as she observed fully a middle aged face with well-trimmed beard, dark hair and pale skin. She was astonished as she discovered the strong resemblance of her to the King. He had the same jawline as hers; his nose was as perfect and pointy as hers; they share the same thin lips and she was surprised to find out that the King had that symmetrical eyebrow too as hers and dark orbs! The only thing that was separating their appearance was the King's full beard and the wavy shoulder length flowing hair.

"My child!" The King expressed.

The next thing she knew, two strong big arms were wrapped around her as her head rested on the King's chest. She heard the excited beating of his heart as her ear was pressed tightly on his chest. "You are finally here!" He added with excitement in his voice.

She was speechless and helpless as she remained wrapped around the King's arms. She did not expect that he was going to react like this. It was totally the opposite of how the Queen treated her. She never felt any concern from the Queen since she arrived in the castle. However, the King's genuine affection was confusing her; the fact that the King was almost in tears upon seeing her and embracing her was overwhelming enough to drive her insane. She never expected that the King of Karnstein would regard her.

She then felt him released from the embrace and was now standing close to him, his eyes staring down at her with mixed emotions of remorse, gladness and excitement as she gazed at him with relief. All her doubts and worries disappeared, and a smile formed in her mouth as she saw the eyes of her father for the first time and felt the warmth and love flowing from his gaze. Unshed tears of joy where threatening to fall from her eyes, but she contained it; remembering what the Queen told her, ' Showing your emotions is a sign of weakness'. And instead she composed herself and finally found the courage to speak.

"It is an honor to finally meet you, Your Majesty, my King Father," she said with absolute sincerity, took his hand and kissed it.

"It brings me great joy to see you here, my child." The King proclaimed.

She was about to tell him the same thing, but the voice of the Queen prevented her.

"My King, I am sure you are very exhausted from your long journey," the Queen sought his gaze. "Why don't we take a sit and eat our supper and then you can tell me everything that happened in your journey."

The King nodded and motioned for her and the Queen to take their seat, and the servants began to pour wine on their goblets and served the food.

Surprisingly, she felt welcome for the first time since she arrived in the castle, after she heard those words from the King; from her father. Once she was comfortably seated, the King's attention was now diverted to the Queen as she saw the King kissed the cheek of the Queen and they had a chat about his journey. She disliked eavesdropping so she tried to block anything she heard from their conversation. Her doubts vanished as she saw the evidence of her being related to the King of Karnstein.

I look like him. She reminded herself as her eyes discreetly study again the King's features.

She had never thought that she would meet her father. The nearest relationship to a father that she had was with Da, and she knew that she could never be related to Da because Da had a red hair. And then it dawned on her: Ma had a light hair!

She grew suddenly curious and observed how she was related to the Queen as her eyes analyze the features of the woman in front of her. This was the perfect time to stare at the Queen without being scared because the Queen was engaged into a conversation with the King.

And there it was: the pale and porcelain-like delicate complexion and the dark hair of the Queen. It was certainly the features that she inherited from her mother. There was nothing more to doubt. She was indeed the offspring of the King and Queen of Karnstein.

As the indication of being a Karnstein unfold before her eyes, another mystery had puzzled her: Why was she living with her Ma since she was a small child?

Without having second thoughts the question was out of her mouth. "Why did you give me away?" Was her daring and yet innocent query. She maybe young but she was smart and curious. She finally received the undivided attention of both the King and Queen. "If I was your child, why did I not grow up in here, at the castle? Why did I not grow up with you, my real mother and father?"

There was a long silence as two pairs of eyes stared at her.

"Leave us!"

She heard the King's taut voice and all of the servants and guards in the dining hall disappeared. She was now flinching in her chair and regretted that she ever ask the ultimate question, as she saw the King glared at her while the Queen remained silent and frigid. She swallowed hard as she waited anxiously for her punishment of being impertinent in front of the King and Queen. But her fear vanished as the King put his hand on her small shoulder and gently squeezed it and gazed at her with full of remorse.

"Carmilla you were-" the King uttered softly.

She was seized as she heard her name again and almost lost her composure. It had been a long time since someone called her by her name: her real name! It was like she had been awoken from an enchanted spell. Finally! The King was recognizing her by her real name!

"Philipp,"

The sound of the Queen's cold authoritative voice sliced like a dagger and called the King's attention before he could say another word.

"Our son, Carl Philipp Marcus," the Queen glanced at her before overtaking the conversation. "…Had been informed of his legitimate name, we will no longer use that old name and everyone in the palace was prohibited to call the Prince that name."

Her hope of regaining her identity was thwarted upon hearing the Queen's statement.

"And to answer your question why you never grew up in the castle with us?" the Queen continued in that calm domineering voice. "You were abducted." The Queen said matter-of-factly.

She was dumbfounded; her ears do not want to accept what she just heard, as she stared at the Queen with a slightly open mouth and furrowed her brows.

"Lilita-" the King interrupted.

But the Queen hindered him.

"No Philipp. Our son deserved to know the truth," the Queen said not giving the King a chance to explain. "…That he was abducted by his wet nurse." The King and Queen's attention was suddenly focused on her. "Your wet nurse that you called your Ma had taken you away from us." The Queen related, anguished.

She was shocked. She swallowed hard, closed her eyes and her hand reached for the bridge of her nose and pinched it. Did her Ma really abduct her? She never witnessed any violation or dishonesty while she grew up with her Ma. Her Ma raised her earnestly, giving all the love and care that she needed. She could never recall anything wrong about her Ma's personality; everything about her Ma emits love and sincerity.

Her contemplation was interrupted when she heard the Queen speak again.

"Do not be fooled by the affection that your wet nurse showed to you," the Queen advised. "She was desperate to have a child."

Still bewildered, she focused her sight on the Queen and saw the Queen put her hand over the King's hand that was resting on the table and held it, while the King avoided her eyes.

"The King and I suffered from your lost and I… I had thought of killing myself from the loss of my beloved child. I was devastated; the past twelve years without you were the most sorrowful years of my life. I never bear another child because I never recover from the pain of losing you." Was the Queen's heartfelt confession. "You will understand now why I am very protective and strict about your well-being. You are very precious to me and to the King and we do not want any harm to come to you again. We will do everything in our power to protect you, our only son and the love of my life; because I could not bear losing you again."

After that profound disclosure from her mother, her outlook towards the Queen changed.

She stood up and walked towards where the Queen, her mother was seated. The Queen quickly turned to her direction as she approached, and then she kneeled in front of her mother and took the Queen's right hand. "My Queen Mother, I never knew. Forgive me for afflicting you and the King such misery."

"You have nothing to apologize my child," the King finally spoke.

She felt the Queen's left hand covered her hand that was holding her mother and forcefully sought her gaze. "My son, you are the source of my happiness. It would bring me joy and satisfaction to know that you have fully accepted who you really are and never again look back to the old life that you had. You have wasted twelve years of your life without me, let me take care of you and mold you to who you really are: the Prince of Karnstein and the heir to the throne."

"I will obey and honor you, my Queen Mother and my King Father."

 

*****

There were nights that she never wanted to go to sleep for fear of having the nightmares again; she would remain awake till the wee hours of the morning and wait for the maid to come… and that was the only time she would feel at peace.

And there were days that she never noticed the maid enter, as she slept deep and peaceful. And this was one of those days…

"Good morning Your Highness."

She heard the firm but courteous voice of the maid said. It was the same middle aged woman who had guarded and served her food when she arrived at the castle.

Still groggy from her sleep, "Good morning," she returned, to let the maid know that she was already awake, as the Queen instructed her. The maid would never leave the room and stop saying 'good morning ' to her until she had reply.

She heard the maid walked around the room to light the candles, and then went to the bathroom to prepare her hot bath, clean clothes and everything she needed for the day. She waited patiently on her bed until she knew that everything was prepared.

The disclosures of the Queen and the physical evidence of her resemblance to the King last night were an epiphany that changed her whole view about her situation. Although she had given her word to both the Queen and the King that she would obey and honor them, she still cannot find it in her heart to hate her Ma for abducting her. Her Ma never hurt her and had loved her like her own child. The part of her life that she spent with her Ma would always be a happy memory that she would cherish and keep in her heart. And nobody can know that; specially the Queen. She had no intention of causing any pain to her mother, she repeated the word again, Mother, trying to get used to the sound of it. She used to refer to the woman that bore her as the Queen, however after last night she was slowly finding it in her heart to refer to the Queen as her mother. She would just have to remember to call her 'Queen Mother', in her presence.

Her ruminating was halted when she heard the voice of the maid.

"Your bath is ready, Your Highness" the maid informed.

"Thank you, you may go." She replied firmly.

The Queen has forbid her to talk to any maid or guard. The only communication she had with the maid was when the maid wakes her up and informs her that her bath was prepared.

Upon hearing the door closed and was certain that she was alone, she opened the heavy drapes of her bed and get up. The maid needs to leave her chamber before she comes out of her curtained bed. She remembered the strict instructions that the Queen had implemented.

She took the purple robe that was laid on the chair beside her bed and put it on before heading to the bathroom.

Today was the beginning of her journey of fully accepting who she really was and to be able to obtain that, she need to fully accept what she really was.

When she entered the bathroom she went first to the chamber pot and stood in front of it and emptied her bladder.

 

TBC

Chapter Text

Carmilla

Once they finished eating dinner, the Queen would either ask her to play some music at the music room, read some literature for her while they have tea in the tea room, or paint a beautiful picture; and she always obliged. But every time she would strike a wrong chord, paint a bad picture or mispronounce a word from a book, her mother would always tell her:

'You are not trying your best, how could you become a king someday when you can't even do it right!'

She felt always humiliated and degraded to hear those words from her mother, which was why she made sure to work hard, until she perfected everything and the Queen was pleased. She excelled in her studies and began to like philosophy. She set her goal to make the Queen happy and satisfied of what she does in order not to be humiliated again. She accepted her fate that she was to become a king someday and she would act like a king. Every time her mother would compliment her, it was like a lift in her pride and spirit. She began to thrive on those compliments from her mother and longed for that. She promised herself never to fail again and fully accepted the fact that she was a prince; the Queen never fail to remind her that. Every night before eating their dinner when she would dress on those fine tunic, trousers and cloak, kept her hair short and neat, the Queen would always tell her what a handsome prince she was. And she would smile at the compliment from her mother and thank the Queen from that boast of confidence.

Her father rarely said a word during dinner except to ask her how was her studies and what new things did she learned. Other than that, the Queen always dominated the conversation and she and her father would just listen and agree. Every evening after they have eaten their dinner her father would always tell her the same phrase all over again before he leaves the table, "Good night my son." And she would catch a sight of her mother's satisfied smile, before she replied "Good night my King Father."

*****

She felt the warmth that was emanating from the fireplace back her, as she sat on the floor in front of the Queen who was sitting on a chair right across the fireplace. The Queen's chamber seemed warm and little compared to the real appearance of it when the whole chamber was lighted and looked cold. Her head was resting on the Queen's lap and she felt calm at the touch of the Queen's warm hand caressing her face. Sometimes she was lucky to spend a relaxing moment with her mother in the Queen's chamber and this was one of those evenings.

"You do know that I will do anything for you, my son?" she heard the Queen's soft remark while her mother strokes her hair.

She lifted her head from the Queen's lap and looked at her mother's eyes. She was told by the Queen that every time someone was talking to her she would look into their eyes and give her full attention. This time, the Queen reached for her face and gently cupped it with both hands, gazing at her like she was the most important person in the world.

"You, my glittering prince are a diamond," the Queen said. "Everything that I do is for your best interest. You are the most important person in my life, more important than the King."

Suddenly, she felt this pride grew in her. She never thought that the Queen prioritized her more than the King.

"One day, this kingdom will be yours," She heard the clear voice of the Queen continued, still holding her face with one hand, as the other strokes her hair gently; and not breaking the gaze, as if the Queen was trying to get through her mind. "You will become the king and the most powerful in this kingdom. Everyone will obey you and fear you; everything you say will be the truth and no one will dare to question you. You will become strong and fearless. To attain that, you need to sacrifice; you need to work hard, you need to have wisdom and discipline. You need to control your emotions and not show them, because it's a sign of weakness. Do you understand me?"

She just nodded, not wanting to interrupt this moment; the moment she hears the Queen praised and worshipped her; the moment she feels the gentle caressing touch of her mother that she infrequently experienced. It seemed magical to her.

"In order for you to become a great king, you will obey and do everything that I say." The Queen stated firmly. "And if you do, you, my Prince, will make me happy and proud of you."

After that remark, slowly, the Queen gave her a kiss on her left cheek while still cupping the other side of her face, "Will you do that for me?" the Queen whispered into her ear, the voice sounded gentle and then gazed at her eyes with such intensity.

As if she was hypnotized, she nodded. "Yes, my Queen Mother." was her resolved answer. "I will obey."

"Excellent." The Queen replied, the voice back to the normal tone of firm and superior, and gave her that controlled smile that never reaches the eye. "Now, give me a kiss."

She complied and took the Queen's hand; she bowed her head as her lips touched the back of the Queen's hand.

*****

There were several occasions that she wanted to show the Queen how obedient she was, and one of the thing that she knew that would make the Queen happy was when she dressed herself the way the Queen wanted her to be, and the way her hair should be cut: short and neat. Today was the day the barber needs to cut her hair. She was now sitting in front of the mirror in the middle of her chamber, gazing at her image. The barber was waiting for her permission before he starts to cut her hair. She contemplated for a moment and wondered, how she would look like now if her hair were still long and her curly soft locks hanging above her shoulders, and how would she looked like if she could still wear those beautiful dresses that her Ma sewed for her. Her Ma… she now found herself longing as the memories of her past haunted her, the memory of her old life, the memory of her old self. Then her eyes unexpectedly gaze back at the image in the mirror. And she was snatched back to reality as she saw in the mirror the new her… The Prince of Karnstein, the son that the Queen always calls, and she was reminded of the conversation with the Queen yesterday. 'Make me happy and proud of you' was always the reminder that kept emerging in her mind. Without having any second thoughts, she commanded the barber to begin. She made it a point to tell the barber to cut it like the same as before.

*****

That afternoon before she eats her midday meal, while she was alone reading one of her philosophy books, she was surprised when she saw the Queen entered the library followed by one of the royal guards. She stood up at once and bowed to give respect to the Queen.

The Queen motioned for the guard to hand the sheathed sword to her, "I have a gift for you." The Queen said and the guard kneeled in front of her lifting the sword with both hands and offered to her while the guard bowed his head. She carefully took it and unsheathed the heavy sword and was mesmerized at the sight of it. It has a golden handle and its blade was also gold, and it shimmered as her eyes examined every corner of the blade.

"It's beautiful," she expressed in awe not lifting her eyes off the sword.

"It’s the Blade of Hastur," The Queen informed. "It has been with the family from generations to generations. Your grandfather, my father the late King Marcus of Morgan was the last owner."

Suddenly, she felt that she did not deserve to own the sword upon learning that it belonged to a former king. "My Queen Mother, I'm very thankful for this precious gift. But I don't think I deserve it," was her honest remark.

"Nonsense!" the Queen exclaimed and beckoned for her to come closer. The serious look on the Queen's face tells her that this was going to be another punishment. Quickly, she sheathed the sword and handed it back to the guard that was still kneeling before her and dispatched the guard with a waved of her hand before he sees her being reprimanded by the Queen. She was nervous and worried that she made the Queen angry by her ungratefulness. However, she was surprised when the Queen cupped her face and lifted it to meet the Queen's gentle gaze. "You're my son, and the future king. You deserve a king's sword." The Queen said and released her.

"Forgive me for my ungratefulness," she returned still looking up at the Queen. "I will be honored to own it and will take good care of it." Was her swift recovery remark, one thing she learned was never to argue with the Queen.

"Perfect." The Queen returned giving her that controlled smile. "Now that everything is settled, I expect you to do your best in your swordsmanship."

"I will do my best to be the worthy owner of the sword." She returned.

"I'm pleased to hear that, my son," was the Queen's happy reply.

She bowed her head as a sign of promise to the Queen and, thought that the Queen was about to leave but as she look up she saw the Queen still standing in front of her looking towards her as if appraising something in her head. "Did the barber cut your hair today?" The Queen asked, checking her neatly cut hair.

"Yes my Queen Mother," she answered, glad that the Queen noticed. Then her eyes caught the sight of the Queen's arms reaching at her back and felt the Queen's hand touching the tip of her hair at the back of her neck, and momentarily caressed her bared nape before releasing the touch. She felt almost hypnotized at the contact.

"It becomes of you," the Queen remarked.

She beamed at the comment of the Queen knowing that she had pleased her mother.

*****
As she passed the throne room on the way to the training hall to practice for sword fight, she caught sight of the people that were lined up that wish to talk to the King, and grew curious on how the people from the village live.

The Queen told her that life outside the castle was dangerous. She was forbidden to neither go outside the walls of the castle nor talk to the village people who came to their castle. The Queen told her that the people outside were mostly savage.

When she was just new in the castle, she was told by the Queen that she can roam around freely at the castle's garden without supervision, but the moment she tried to go out of the castle, she would be punished. She did tried escaping, but she under estimated the Karnstein Castle's guards and she was caught at once and locked up at a small chamber for many days in total darkness until she promise the Queen not to do it again and she was released.

But this time, she already understood the true reason why her real mother had forbidden her to go out of the castle, and she does not want to cause her pain again. She brushed off the thought of how does the village look like and what kind of people live there. Instead, she focused her mind on how she could perfect her swordsmanship and walked to the direction of the training hall with determination.

TBC

Chapter Text

Carmilla

"Who are you?" She questioned, standing a feet away by the end of the King's bed and stared at the sight of the woman lying on her father's bed.

She was looking for her father. But she was surprised to find a woman instead in her father's chamber.

"And who are you?" the woman retaliated with a foreign accent.

"I demand an answer." She returned not breaking her eyes at the woman who seemed to be not scared of her. The woman does not look old, maybe just a couple of years older than her, with a pale skin and brown long hair. She became more irritated when she saw the woman gave her a naughty smirk and seemed to be appraising her when the woman looked at her from head to toe.

"To what do I owe the pleasure?"

She suddenly felt warm at the sound of the woman's enticing voice. "Where's my father? And what are you doing here?" she demanded, trying to cover her uneasiness. But instead of answering her, the woman got out of the bed and slowly approached her. She gasped and yet remained calm and got distracted as she caught the sight of those voluptuous breasts peeping from the woman's satin robe that were slightly opened; she felt something throbbed down her.

"I didn't realize the Prince is more handsome in person."

She heard the woman remarked as the woman break into her comfort zone and suddenly she felt like she was under the woman's spell. Her gaze turned to the heaving of the woman's bosom and she could smell a flowery perfume, as the woman came closer. The woman lifted her chin up with an index finger before looking to her eyes and said, "I'm the King's Mistress."

She contorted her browse, "What do you mean?" she asked, still holding the woman's gaze.

"I take care of the King's pleasure needs." The woman quipped.

She gave the woman another puzzled look.

"Like this." The woman replied and the next thing she felt, her genitalia hardening at the touch of the woman's hand while rubbing it, her breath became ragged as the overwhelming feeling captured her. She closed her eyes savoring the strange sensation of the woman's hand on the most intimate part of her body. Never had she felt so excited and hot in her life, she felt like something was roused inside and everything in her body was going to explode.

"It seems the Prince likes it too." The woman whispered in a husky voice.

She opened her eyes and managed to breakout from the woman's spell. She stepped back, slapped the woman's hand that was on her crotch and strode to the direction of the door. Leaving in haste and ran to the direction of her chamber.

When she arrived at her room, her erection was still visible. She quickly locked herself in the bathroom opened her trousers and let her fully erected shaft out of her braies. It was very hard and tight it aches so much. It never felt so tense like this before and the spasm that came with it prompted her to take over. There was no amount of breathing exercise that can calm it. She cannot ignore the ache anymore as the naked image of her father's mistress kept reoccurring in her mind, and felt the overwhelming sensation that the woman was giving her.

"Damn!" She expressed and groaned, as she imagined the woman rubbing her shaft; she stared at her erection and hesitatingly held it, carefully running her hand up and down at the length of her shaft, testing how she will react to her hand and began to pump it; she was surprised to find pleasure on this and she continued stroking up and down. The more she stroked it, the more she liked the sensation. Then she felt her balls warm and tight as the surge filled up and was now threatening to explode as it stretch its way to her shaft. She pumped faster and moaned at the feeling that it sent to her body; she felt losing her mind as the surge started to take over, the anticipation building up and she lose control as the wave crash and her orgasm took over; she shuddered and black out for a moment as the feeling of letting it go thrilled her.

She used to feel this every morning and would try to ignore it till it subsides. She never touches it and she would just breath in and out till she calmed down and her erection was gone. But right now, she had realized something new; something thrilling and satisfying.

While she was a child she never had this situation before, there was nothing hanging in between her legs and she sits on the chamber pot while emptying her bladder. But as she grew, and as she recalled, the later years of her life with her Ma, Da began to tell her that there would be changes in her genitalia as she grew up. She trusted Da and everything that he tells her. She knew that every time Da would come to visit them, he would check up her to see if she was healthy and well. Da used to tell her that she should not be surprised if her genitalia changed and gain a different one. She was worried at the beginning but Da was always there to explain to her and her Ma the changes in her body. Da assured her that everything was going to be fine and that everyone under goes this phase of life called puberty, and there would be changes in one's body. And Da informed her that this was one of the changes in her body along with having full grown breasts. Da told her that it was just perfectly normal. She recalled that Da suggested that she begun to learn to pee standing, but her Ma refused to agree and told her that she can continue sitting on a chamber pot while peeing; Which she continued doing so until her Queen Mother ordered her to stand if nature calls after her mother asked her to strip her clothes off to check if there were signs of 'abused' from her Ma after she was brought to the castle.

It all started in her early years she lives in the castle; she noticed that she always wakes up to find her genitalia hard and fully erected. She often experienced it too during the night and she would just try to calm and ignore it until she can go to sleep.

 

*****

 

That night after her mother said goodnight to her, and as her room became dark and silent, she decided to shed off all of her clothes as she lay in her bed. She was no longer afraid of the dark and can manage to sleep now without crying and shouting. But her mother still continued to say goodnight and to remind her that she was 'strong and fearless and she was the Prince of Karnstein and future King'. And the curtain to her bed remained closed whenever she would sleep.

After the incident today, she found a feeling of boldness awakening inside her. Her hand reached out for her shaft and she began to work on it rubbing it up and down as the image of her father's mistress played in her mind.

 

*****

She woke up at the sound of water being poured on the tub, and she knew that any minute from now the maid would tell her that her bath was ready. She closed her eyes again trying to salvage her erotic fantasy of the woman that she met yesterday. But before she could form another image of the woman, she heard the maid informing her that the bath was ready. "Thank you. You may go." She said as fast as possible. When she knew that the maid had left her hand reached downwards and she felt her hard erection under the sheet. She used to ignore it every morning but after the sensation that she discovered yesterday, she chose not to neglect it and will give it full attention every morning.

 

*****

After her bath and "new morning ritual", she felt more relax and giddy. She had never imagine how refreshing and invigorating it was to release all that tension in her body. Who would have thought that she could feel like this after that morning ritual?

She started her day eating breakfast and when she was done she decided to sneak at the King's Throne Room. When she found the King already seated on his throne, she hurriedly went to her father's chamber. When she arrived, no guards were standing by the door maybe that was the sign that the King was not inside just like yesterday, she thought to herself and made a mental note. She carefully opened the door and her eyes beamed at the sight of the woman that she met yesterday sitting at the end of the bed. This time the woman was wearing a lace bodice dress. She felt warm when the woman regarded her presence.

"You came back." Was the woman's remark, giving her a naughty smile. "How can I be of service to you, my Prince?"

Suddenly she lost her confidence, wondering why this woman was making her weak. I… I wanted to apologize for what I did yesterday, was her initial reaction, remembering how she slapped the woman's hand but she suddenly remembered what the Queen used to tell her, "A king is always right and never makes mistakes that is why he does not apologize". She took a deep breath and when she regained her composure, she spoke calmly. "You did not answer my questions yesterday and I demand an answer. Who are you and what are you doing in my father's room?" she delivered in an authoritative voice.

Her eyes followed the woman as she saw the woman got up from the bed. She was thankful that she was fully clothed today, or else she would find herself speechless and motionless again. The woman approached her and stopped in front of her but this time, the gap between them was decent enough for someone to talk to. The woman curtsied in front of her before speaking.

"Forgive me Your Highness; I got carried away yesterday. I did not realize how charming and handsome the Prince is, until I came face to face with him."

She felt a pulse inside her braise. This woman surely knows how to tease and make her uncomfortable. She fought her emotions and recalled what her mother told her, "Showing your emotions is a sign of weakness."

"You have not answered my questions." She said firmly, glaring at the woman.

The woman released a sigh of submission and gave her a serious look.

"My name is Elleanor, Your highness. I am one of the King's mistresses." The woman replied firmly with pride.

One of my father's mistresses? She was suddenly curious. How many mistresses can the King take? She wondered, growing confused at why the King needs a mistress when he was married to the Queen, her mother. "What is your role as a mistress?" She asked, bound on finding the truth.

"My role is to serve the King. Do whatever the King desires and pleasure him in bed."

She was dumbfounded at the answer that she received. She thought the King's wife was the only one that could pleasure the King in bed. Suddenly, she felt concerned about her mother's feelings. Even if she finds her mother cold and aloof, she would still not permit this unfaithfulness. "Does the Queen know about this?"

"She does Your Highness."

She thought that this was too much, "And why would my mother, the Queen allow this?" She asked with a hint of anger in her voice wanting to defend her mother.

"…Because the Queen cannot fulfill her duty in bed all the time to the King."

"How dare you talk about my mother like that?!" She shouted and was about to slap the face of the woman. But she found her composure and took a deep breath.

"With all due respect Your Highness, your Mother the Queen was the one who chose me to be your father's mistress."

She was shocked. "You're lying!" She accused the woman, as her temper was beginning to overcome her. How could her mother permit it? She wondered as she grew more confuse. And before she could accuse the woman of some other things, she heard the door opened and saw the Queen standing by the door.

"Your Majesty," the woman remarked and curtsied in front of the Queen at once.

"Leave us!" The Queen commanded.

She saw the woman hastily left and closed the door behind her.

"What are you doing here?"

She heard her mother's fierce voice, as she bowed her head, hiding her face. "I… I am looking for my King Father. But then I found this woman…" she was supposed to add "on his bed" but refrained.

"Elleanor," Her mother tried to finish the sentence for her. "…Your father's mistress."

She looked up, stunned at her mother's comment. "You knew?" Was her astonished reply.

"How can I not, when I was the one who chose Elleanor to be your father's mistress?" The Queen stated.

She hesitated on the next question, but eventually gave in. "Did you know that my father's mistress is pleasuring him in bed?" She tried to reason, wanting to know if this woman was telling the truth.

"Yes."

She heard the Queen's firm and confident answer.

"But how can you let her do that?"

"Because my role as the Queen is to bear an heir; as a Queen I have duties not only to the King, but to the whole Kingdom, to the people and to you, my son." The Queen related. "I cannot always be at your father's side whenever he wants to be pleasured, that is why I have chosen three mistresses for him."

"Three?!" was her reaction as she found out the truth. She slowly realized that being a Queen was a very demanding job and she had witnessed how her mother fulfilled all those duties.

"I know that you are surprise to find out. But it is perfectly acceptable for the King to have mistresses, because the King needs someone to serve him, amuse him, serve him food and pour him wine, listen to him talk even if it was in the middle of the night and most importantly it’s the mistresses duty to pleasure the King and give him all that he desires in bed."

After that reasonable explanation from her mother, she now understood why the need for the King to have a mistress was necessary. She bowed her head and walked towards the Queen, feeling ashamed of having to ask her mother all those things. She had learned never to question her mother and the Queen was always right. "Forgive me my Queen Mother for my rudeness, I did not mean to ask those questions."

"You don't need to apologize. You are the Prince and the future King." Her mother expressed. "And when you become the King, you are going to take a mistress too. But before that happens, we need to find you a suitable wife."

 

TBC

Chapter Text

Laura

"Do I have to?" She whimpered, trailing behind the Lady in Waiting as the curly redhead woman laid two dresses on the bed while she eyed the gowns with awe.

The first dress was a long elegant slender emerald gown made in velvet, adorned with beautiful wide long sleeves, and round low neckline, twisted with gold and green piping on shoulders, neckline and sleeves end. The other was a long white tunic linen dress, long sleeves with elegant golden trims, with a round low neckline and a lacing on the back that can be adjusted to fit her figure.

"Princess, your father has invited the most eligible princes from different kingdoms." The Lady in Waiting encourages her. "And besides, it is the first time that the castle is having a ball, so your presence is required."

"Oh Perry, the only reason why my father is having this ball it's because he wants me to meet those potential suitors, wed me off and send me to another kingdom." She reasoned out and sat on her bed beside the dresses and sighed before lying.

Since she turned fifteen and became a full grown young woman, the whole castle especially her father, had begun encouraging her to be more sociable, as the sons of the King's friends and alliance from different kingdoms begun to come and visit their castle. She wished that she could just remain young and does whatever she desires: roam around the castle and chat with the servants, read, bake sweets with her Lady in Waiting, ride the horse in the forest with her father, play her sword with Kirsch or just do nothing and chat with her handmaiden friends the whole afternoon.

"You sounded like The King wants to get rid-off you."

"Isn't that what all the Kings and Queens are doing to their daughters? Because girls cannot take over the throne, so the best solution is to find a prince that will marry us and take us to their kingdom and become their ornamental wife?" She retorted not happy about the way girls were not given the same right as the boys. "Why can't daughters rule and become the heir to the throne?!"

"Princess, you are not going to be an ornamental wife of a certain prince," Her Lady in Waiting tried to console her. "As a princess, you have a significant role to play-"

"What role? Attend the balls and feasts? Obey the husband? Do some needle work and embroidery?" she reproved.

"As a princess, you have a duty to bear your husband a child."

Perry's words prevented her from snapping further.

"And if you marry a first born prince or the heir to the throne, you are not just expected to bear a son," Perry explained with pride. "You are to produce an heir to secure your husband's hold on the throne and empire.

"What if I bore a girl instead of a son?" she retorted; sighting herself as an example. She was an only child and never thought of having any siblings. "Look at my father he did not have any male heir.

"Well, you just have to try again until you produce a son," Perry explained calmly. "And the King's situation is different. When the Queen died he promised on your mother's grave that he will take good care of you instead of marrying again."

She closed her eyes and furrowed her brows, feeling the pressure of those responsibilities. She does not like the idea of bearing someone's child out of duty. She felt like she was being used for some political propaganda.

"What if I refuse to wed and wish not to bear someone's child? It is my life; it is my body; it is my decision." She challenged and heard Perry sighed. She knew that her Lady in Waiting was starting to have a headache due to her stubbornness.

"Oh Princess, I wish I could agree with what you just said. But you are not an ordinary peasant girl or a commoner. You are a princess, and you have obligations to fulfill and duties to obey."

She groaned and rose from the bed and walked across the room, stood by the window and stared blankly outside. "I wished I hadn't been born a princess. Maybe my life would be easier." She lamented and sighed.

"Don't say that. Everything is going to be alright," Her Lady in Waiting returned. "One day you would become a Queen and help your husband rule his kingdom. You would be a good Queen and a great mother. You are strong, compassionate and beautiful. I think your husband would be the luckiest man."

Then it dawned on her, "What if I don't want to be wed to a man?"

"I beg your pardon?"

She heard Perry's surprised reaction and turned around to face her Lady in Waiting. Even if Perry was just five years older than her, she considered Perry as her mother figure, best friend and not just her Lady in Waiting. She was comfortable telling Perry everything.

"What if I want a woman instead?" was her bold statement.

Perry blinked her eyes and opened her mouth to say something, but no words formed in her mouth. After a few seconds, the redhead regained her composure. "Would you mind repeating what you just said?"

"I don't want to marry a man," she reiterated with confidence. "I want a woman."

"Laura, you have not been with a woman or a man before. How can you tell that you do not like a man, and you want to wed a woman?" Perry pronounced slowly and clearly every word.

"Intuition, I guess."

"Princess, you cannot decide on your preference based on your feelings," Perry disagreed. The shock on her face faded and replaced by worry. "And I suggest that you kept mum about this and never tell anybody, not even your father."

"But why... What's wrong with loving a woman instead of a man?" She asked, growing frustrated.

"Because it's not natural," Perry declared.

She gave Perry an irritated grin, "What do you mean it's not natural? And who get to say that this is natural to do and this is not, huh?"

"It's the tradition and beliefs," her Lady in Waiting simply replied.

"Well, I don't want to follow that beliefs and tradition." She proclaimed crossing her arms on her chest.

Perry approached, uncrossed her hands and held it; and gazed at her eyes before telling the truth.

"Laura, you might get hurt if you refuse to follow," was Perry's concerned remark. "Not everybody would accept and understand what you want. We don't know if there are girls out there who like girls too, and if they did, they might be afraid to tell someone about it."

"Why would they be afraid to tell that they like girls too?" she asked innocently.

"Because they might be punish."

"I think that's absurd."

"I know. But you have to promise me not to tell anybody about this." Perry implored.

"I won't tell anyone; but I cannot promise that I would stop liking a woman." She informed and released her hands from Perry's hold.

 

*****

She fulfilled her obligation dutifully like any other princess and had been a perfect hostess to her father's guests, especially to the young princes that danced and chatted with her the whole night. Among the twenty princes that were invited, she found the Prince from Berghausen interesting. But not interesting enough to create a spark of romance between them.

Perry told her that they just met, so it was just natural not to feel something yet, however, if they get a chance to spend another time with each other, maybe something might developed. She discarded the idea and raised her hands as Perry put on her camisole. After that, she sat on the chair of her dressing table and faced the mirror, as Perry stood behind her and started to brush her rich long blonde locks.

"You were beautiful and perfect tonight, Princess. I'm proud of you,"

Perry stated, in between brushing hair and then turned her head to the direction of the bathroom as one of the handmaids emerged outside and approached them.

"Did you found the cream Natalie?" She asked, as the girl with the black hair and almond eye stood by her side.

"Yes, Princess," her childhood friend replied with a natural tone. "Should I put some in your arms and legs now?"

"Yes Natalie, you may, thank you." she answered with a smile and then looked at Perry's reflection on the mirror in front of her.

"I don't want to disappoint my father; after all, I am a princess and it's my duty to charm my guests," she simply replied with a hint of sarcasm.

"Oh, Princess, it's not that bad. And besides you made a good acquaintance with that handsome prince… what is his name again?" Perry was eager to know, while Natalie remained silent and continued putting cream on her legs. The handmaids were always silent while in the presence of the Lady in Waiting.

"Viktor… he is nice and quiet. He is not like the other princes that I met."

Worried, Perry stopped brushing her hair and followed up another question, "Why?! How were the other princes? Did someone hurt you?" The Lady in Waiting asked, sounding like a protective mother.

"No! Nobody hurt me." She clarified. "I just find most of the princes arrogant, sometimes rude and sarcastic, that's all. And some of them are teasing me."

"Princess, boys, like to tease the girls, and some princes can be arrogant because they knew that they would become a king someday." Perry explained.

She just rolled her eyes and thought that boys were imbeciles. "And have you seen the Prince of Lawrence?"

"What about him?" Perry asked, sensing her restlessness.

She never complained but if there was one thing that she does not like in a man was a beard or hard stubble. When she was a child, she refused to give her father a kiss because she dislikes the feeling of being kissed by someone with a facial hair. It hurt her soft skin. That was the reason why the King had never grew his beard and remained clean shaven.

"Don't get me wrong, he is handsome, tall and have beautiful blue eyes. But the way his stubble rubbed on my face when he kissed me goodbye on my cheek, it's so rough and I hate it."

"That's just how men are Princess. You're just not used to it because the King does not have a beard and Kirsch shaves regularly because you told him that you do not want a personal royal guard that looks like a barbarian." Perry informed.

She suddenly felt guilty about teasing her only male childhood friend. Being the son of the castle's cook, Kirsch grew up living in the castle with his mother. And since she was always in the servant's hall or in the castle's kitchen when she was a child, the servant's children became her friends and treated them as her family. As they grew up, the King witnessed how the servant's children helped her overcame the sadness of losing a mother. So, her father made sure that her childhood friends remained by her side, and became her hand maidens and personal royal guard.

"And you're father told your uncle that you don't like someone with a beard, so he kept his face smooth too."

"What?! But I did not ask him to tell that to Uncle Spencer!" She suddenly felt ashamed of being fussy and did not realize that her father's younger brother was ordered to remain clean-shaven too.

"You're father saw how you react to those people with beard near you, so he ordered you're uncle and your cousin to shave regularly." Perry related, grinning at the thought of revealing a secret. "The King only wants what's best for the princess."

"Oh Perry, what have I done? I remembered only asking my father to shave his beard, because he is the only one who kisses me on the cheek… and I was just teasing Kirsch, but I did not know that he would take it seriously. But with regards to my Uncle Spencer and my cousin, I don't have anything to do with it!" She babbled fully and felt bad about it.

"Calm down, It's not your fault. I only told you these things so that next time you will be tolerate and considerate to others." Perry disclosed and tried to calm her by guiding her to her bed and tuck her in at once. "Sometimes you need to be humble and accepting to how people looked like, and stop judging people of how they look outside. Because you cannot find love if you always look at the surface, you need to look deeper to the person's heart and soul."

"Princess, what if your husband has a beard? Imagine how will it be every time he will kiss you?" Natalie suddenly came up with a very witty remark that worried her more.

Perry glared at the hand maid that was standing on the other side of the bed. "Natalie, don't scare the Princess."

"Forgive me Princess, I was just being realistic. Because I heard that most of the women prefer to have a husband with beard, because they thought that it is very manly and handsome. That's why most of the men in the village have beard." Natalie related, ignoring Perry's glare.

She was about to tell them that these was one of the reasons why she wanted to wed a woman and not a man, because she likes the smooth face of a woman. But suddenly changed her mind when she realized that she and Perry were not alone; so instead, she expressed her preference if she was to marry a man. "Well, I am not one of those women and I prefer my husband to be clean-shaven and smooth."

"We all have our own preferences when it comes to choosing our partner in life. We just have to respect each other's choice of partners." Perry told them, so as to end the 'debate' of which was more attractive: men with beard or clean shaven?

She grew suddenly curious and before her Lady in Waiting could say another word, she asked the question that she and the other hand maids were dying to know, "How about you, Perry? Do you prefer with beard or clean shaven?"

Perry's cheeks crimsoned and they waited eagerly for the answer.

"Yes Perry, do you like those ruggedly handsome look? Or do you prefer the smooth one like the Princess?" Natalie repeated, as if challenging the Lady in Waiting.

Regaining her composure, Perry stood straight and looked at them in their eyes; first to Natalie and then to her before saying, "I prefer a smooth face over those stubbles. I do not want to kiss someone if it's going to hurt… And before I forgot, I need to know if you are coming with me to the market square tomorrow. We are out of chocolates for your creampuffs."

 

TBC

Chapter Text

Carmilla

She woke up at the sound of heralding trumpets outside of the castle and groaned at the loud persisting sound of it, as if not stopping until the whole castle and the village were awake. Last night was one of the nights that she had a nightmare again, and she woke up in the middle of the night too disturbed to go back to sleep again. She managed to catch some sleep not until she heard the rooster crowed. The nightmares became lesser and almost never happened lately as she grew up, but she was surprised when she had one last night. She put a pillow on her head to muffle the annoying noise. But it never stopped. Irritated, she threw the pillow at the end of her bed.

And then it occurred to her:

Today was the day the castle will announce officially that the Karnstein Kingdom has a prince and heir to the throne; today the castle will declare also her official name day, the 6th of May; and today will mark also her entry to the real life of being a crowned prince and the future King of Karnstein.

She felt suddenly out of breath and began to sweat and felt cold after recalling what would happen today.

Am I ready?

She asked herself as her heart pounded and the thought of meeting those people who would be part of her new life sends her to frenzy.

What if I cannot do it?

It took her more than four years to become the confident and well-bred prince that she was now, and she knew that the way to become the king was a long learning process. And today was only the beginning. She had overcome and surpassed almost all of the Queen’s requirements and demands for her to become a well refined and intelligent prince. However, the anxiety of meeting a lot of people and being with them in one room was driving her mad!

Her worrying has ceased when she heard the door opened widely and heard the familiar sharp sound of shoe heels clicking and clacking on the floor of her chamber.

Mother?!

She realized and panicked. She fumbled under her sheets and sighed in relief when she felt nothing hard.

What is she doing here?!

She thought irritated; the least person she wants in her chamber in the morning was her mother. She could tolerate the maid coming to her chamber in the morning and waking her up; she was confident that her privacy would be respected, but her mother?

“Carl? Are you awake?”

She heard the cold authoritative voice of the Queen outside of her curtained four post bed; she could feel that her mother was already standing beside her bed. She shoved the sheet that was covering her and checked if she was decent before replying.

“Yes my Queen Mother.” She said, and rose.

She shoved the curtain to open it and come out of her bed. She was right; her mother was standing near the bed, as she saw the Queen’s tall figure in front of her.

“Happy name day, my son,”

She heard the Queen said and was surprised when she felt the Queen’s soft lips touched her left cheek. She felt warm and happy at the gesture of the Queen; it was the first time her mother kissed her, and it meant a lot to her.

“Thank you my Queen Mother,” she returned with a satisfied smile, as she bowed gently in front of the Queen, not forgetting her manners.

“I want to be the first one to greet you on your special day,” the Queen informed. “And since this is the day that you are going to be officially crowned, I thought I might surprise you with a gift.”

She gave her mother a surprise look and followed her mother’s eyes as it darted to the direction across the chamber by the fireplace. She almost lost her composure when she saw another person with them. And she remembered the rule: ‘always wait for the maid to leave your chamber before coming out of your bed.’ She was just clothed in her braies and long sleeve under tunic nobody was allowed to see her in her sleep wear except the Queen.

Sensing her uneasiness, she felt the Queen’s hand cupping her left cheek and she turned her gaze up to her mother. “It is alright. LaFontaine has my permission.” Her mother assured and summoned for the person to come closer.

“Good morning Your Highness,”

She heard the person with a short red hair greeted before bowing in front of her. Her eyes scanned at the sight of this person clothed in black breeches, black long sleeve under shirt over a blue plain nylon vest. She discreetly eyed the person’s crotch and was confused by the lack of bulge. Before her curiosity can go further, she heard her mother’s voice.

“This is LaFontaine,” the Queen introduced. “From now on, LaFontaine is going to be your Valet. They will look after your personal needs, from grooming, taking care of your clothes, ordering the maids when you need something and organizing your day for you.”

She listened intently to what her mother told her and was satisfied that she had her own personal valet. But one thing confused her: why does her mother keep on referring LaFontaine as they?

“May I ask why we have to refer to you as they?” she asked carefully, respecting LaFontaine’s identity.

“My son, Lafontaine chooses not to be called neither a she nor a he,” the Queen informed and gave a nod to LaFontaine. “They prefer they and them.”

She was still confused, but this was not the time to ask more. One day she will ask LaFontaine why. But in the meantime, she wanted to assure that LaFontaine was suit to be her valet.

“Does my Valet know their limit of how far they can serve me?” She asked, wanting to be sure.

“LaFontaine knew everything about you and the rules that I implemented to every servants that were serving you,” The Queen told her. “LaFontaine is schooled as an apothecary and grew up watching their father cured people. So, they would be one of the castle’s apothecary from now on too.”

She was suddenly impressed at her new Valet, but she began to wonder what this person was doing in the castle and serving her as her valet. “Have you been a valet before?” She asked this LaFontaine. But her mother took over.

“No, they have not.” The queen explained. “But do not worry. LaFontaine had been preparing for this position for a long time and their training had been commendable; it is like they are born to be your Valet.”

She nodded in agreement towards her new Valet, and then turned her gaze to her mother. “Thank you my Queen Mother for providing me the best care. I am very much grateful for your kindness.”

“I want the best for you,” The Queen relayed and focused to LaFontaine’s direction. “LaFontaine, I now entrust to you my son.”

“Thank you, your Majesty, for giving me the honor,” LaFontaine said. “I would be forever grateful.”

“My son, Your King Father and I are proud of you and the hard work that you have undergone in order to attain this, we are happy that you had become the prince that you are: intelligent, obedient, fearless, confident, courteous.”

“Thank you my Queen Mother, I could have not done it without your help,” she replied with pride.

*****

The time had come, and she found herself fidgeting as she waited by the other side of the throne room. She could hear the murmuring of the people inside the throne room. Her mother assured her that only the important noble men and women and the castle's important court officials, bishops and priests were invited. She was distracted from her thoughts when she heard the voice of her Valet beside her.

“Your Royal Highness just remember the breathing exercise that I taught you,” LaFontaine relayed. "And the scent of the lavender that I applied on your pulse point would calm you."

She looked at LaFontaine’s direction and nodded discreetly. She felt better realizing that her valet was beside her and knew how to calm her even if they just met today. Her mother was right, it was as if LaFontaine was born to be her Valet; to be her companion; to assist her in whatever problem she was in to and she was thankful for it.

“And remember, I am always behind you, Your Royal Highness.” LaFontaine assured and smiled.

She smiled modestly at her Valet and gave her a nod of thanks. She straightened her back and stood proud as she saw the King and Queen proceeded to the main door of the throne room and entered. She remained standing on her spot, waiting for the herald to call her as the King and Queen marched inside the throne room. She could hear and see what was happening inside the throne room.

The door remained opened and she had a view of how many people were in the throne room to witness her crowning and she began to sweat and feel cold. Then she remembered the breathing exercise that her new Valet told her and worked on it. She slowly regained her composure and concentrated on what the herald announces.

It did not take long before the herald announced the arrival of the King and Queen as the procession in the throne room began.

“All rise for their Royal Majesties, King Philipp Albert Matthias of Karnstein and Queen Lilita Mircalla Constance of Karnstein, rulers of Kingdom of Karnstein!”

“Your majesties, do you have any words for your people?” The herald announced as the King and Queen reached their thrones and faced the crowd.

“I thank all of you for coming today to celebrate a special occasion,” The King began as the small crowd listened intently. “I declare today that the Kingdom Of Karnstein has an heir to the throne and this day marks also the Name Day and coronation of my successor. I call forward my son and heir to the throne of Kingdom of Karnstein!”

“Their Majesties call before them Prince Carl Philipp Marcus, heir to the throne of Karnstein Kingdom!”

The herald announced her entrance, and she marched with confidence to the throne room, with LaFontaine following discreetly behind her on the side. She focused her sight towards where her father and mother were standing, as the King and Queen waited for her. She could feel all the eyes and attention to her but disregard it and focused towards her parents. She bowed her head first to the King and then to the Queen and remained standing in front of the King, as her father approached her.

“As heir to the throne of Kingdom of Karnstein, You must at all time place the good of the Kingdom before Your own interests. You must be a source of strength and wisdom for Your people. As my sole heir, do you accept to be my successor?”

“I accept, with all my heart.” She declared, and kneeled on the pillow that was placed in front of her. And the King took the crown and placed it on her head carefully.

“As the King of Karnstein and ruler of this Kingdom, I now declare you, Carl Philipp Marcus, my successor and heir to the throne of Karnstein!”

Seconds after the declaration, she heard the crowd rejoiced.

******

It was almost midnight and she did not know how she managed to survive the crowning ceremony and the feast, but she was thankful that it was already over. LaFontaine had helped her today enormously and she realized that most of the people that were invited were the same people that she sees in the castle and some noble men and women that her parents knew, which she already recognized.

Right now, she was resting in her chamber sitting at the chair beside her study table still dressed in that red long over tunic with over coat and red long cloak with a fur that was pinned at her shoulders with diamond brooch. She still felt uncomfortable at the weight of her crown on her head. It was not heavy but she just has to get used to it. She stood up from her chair with her back straight and faced the door as she heard the sound of her mother’s heels on the hall’s floor. It was time for the Queen to say goodnight to her. The guards opened the door to her chamber and the Queen entered. She bowed at once as the Queen approached her.

“Good evening my Queen Mother,” she greeted her mother.

“You were excellent today, my son,” the Queen praised her, standing in front of her. “I was afraid that you will be distress due to the number of people that were inside the throne room, but you managed to composed yourself. I am proud of you.”

“I would not have done it without the help of my Valet,” she returned honestly.

“Did them?” the Queen remarked, wondering. “I should praise LaFontaine for taking good care of my precious son.”

She felt warm and proud at the mention of her being precious.

“I have another gift for you,” the Queen relayed.

“I thought my valet was the gift.” She said, wondering; and was surprised when a golden chain necklace with ruby pendant surrounded by diamonds were put around her neck. “It’s beautiful, thank you so much my Queen Mother for the precious gift.”

“You are my precious glittering Prince, you deserve precious gifts.” The Queen reasoned and kissed her on the cheek. “Before you go to bed, I want you to think of the things that happened today. You are now the crowned Prince of Karnstein and your father’s successor; in order for you to be a successful King you need me to guide you.”

She nodded and the Queen walked to the direction of the door and left her wondering about what her mother told her.

*****

It was the day after her birthday feast and she was given a rest day by the Queen from all her studying and obligations. She had asked LaFontaine to take care of all the gifts that she received yesterday and write a letter of thanks to all the guests. Right now, she can do freely what she wanted without her Valet trailing by her side.

She saw the strong rays of the sun outside her window and felt the gentle breeze of summer caressing her cheeks as she approached the window. She looked out and smiled at the sight of green trees and its abundant leaves and the flowers that were in full blooms. It was seldom that she feels excited and looking forward of getting out.

The closest thing that she enjoyed when going out of the castle was to go horse riding around the castle’s vast courtyard. But today she had this confidence of conquering her fears of being out in the vast space and just surrender to it. She had successfully overcame her fear of being with lots of people in a room, although fifty persons were not a lot, still, she managed to calm down and fulfilled her task yesterday. And all thanks to the breathing exercise that her Valet taught her, some calming herbs and the knowledge that LaFontaine was there to help her anytime. Although they just met yesterday, LaFontaine oozes with trust and security that she never saw before in a person, not since she was separated from her Ma and Da. This time she felt a little secured knowing that there was a person that she could trust fully in anything.

Before she can change her mind, she put on her riding boots and strode out of her chamber.

When she arrived at the castle’s stable, she was greeted right away by the tall lanky middle age man with gray hair and bowed to her. Aside from the scholars and teachers, he was one of the servants that can talk to him.

“Good day Alfred,” She said as the man lifted his head and smiled at her. He had taught her how to ride the horse since she was twelve years old and was the only person she trusted when she wants to go horse riding.

“Good day Your Highness,” he returned.

“I was wondering if we could go outside of the castle’s walls today; perhaps the nearby forest?” She asked with confidence and saw the reluctance on Alfred’s face, but the man eventually nodded.

“Should I fetch some Royal Guards to escort us?” Alfred asked, knowing that it was their first time riding the horse outside of the castle. “…We do not want Her Majesty the Queen to worry.”

She was about to decline the offer, but eventually agreed with the man’s suggestion. The last thing she wants to see was the Queen worrying about her. “Only if they will not get in a way of my horse riding; I wish to explore the forest and see them for the first time without anybody disturbing me by trailing behind.”

“As you wish, Your Highness,” Alfred nodded and motioned for the five royal guards that were in the stable to come and gave them orders before hopping in their horses.

After a few minutes, Alfred was finished putting on the saddle on her black stallion and she hopped on her horse at once smoothly. Once she was securely seated, she guided her stallion on the way out of stable followed by Alfred behind her, and the other five royal guards that were keeping their distance a several foot away from her and Alfred. She felt a sense of freedom ignited inside her as she rode her horse passed the drawbridge and on the way to the forest.

*****

It was almost dusk when they reach the castle. She was thankful that her mother and father were busy attending to the guests that had spent the night after her coronation feasts, and were probably still entertaining them. So, their attention were focused somewhere else. When she reached the main door of the castle, she passed unto it and did not get off of her horse. Instead, she went around the side of the castle and chose the castle’s side entrance; trying to avoid some guests who were probably still loitering in the castle. She hopped off at once from her horse and thanked Alfred for accompanying her.

Upon crossing the threshold of the side door of the castle, she almost bumped into someone when she came face to face with a woman who was a couple of inch taller than her, dressed in a black cloak. Her eyes widened as she recognized who it was.

“Elleanor?”

“Your Highness, Forgive me,” The woman expressed and bowed in front of her, ashamed at rushing to the door and almost colliding to her. “I have no idea that Your Highness is using this door.” She apologized, still bowing her head.

She did not know who were using this door, but it was her first time to enter through the side door, so there was nobody to blame.

“It’s not your fault. I am trying to avoid our guests, so I decided to use this door instead of the main door.” She replied and saw that her father’s mistress was still bowing. “Are you hurt?” she asked with a hint of concern in her voice.

She remembered the last time they saw each other, they parted not in good terms and she was angry at this woman, believing that she was lying. But she regretted her behavior towards her father’s mistress when the Queen explained to her everything about the King’s Mistress. She cannot blame her if her father’s mistress was somewhat intimidated by her presence.

“Look at me.”

Elleanor hesitated and looked at her with a hint of anxiety in her eyes. She suddenly felt guilty of accusing this woman of being a liar and she was about to apologize to her but suddenly caught off guard when the awkward silence between them was broken. And she heard Elleanor’s voice.

“I-I am alright Your Highness,” Elleanor uttered.

She was about to apologize for behaving badly last time they met, but was suddenly reminded of what her mother used to tell her: ‘You’re the future King, you don’t need to apologize.’ And instead, she thought of something to make up from her misbehavior towards her father’s mistress. But first, she needs to know where Elleanor is going.

“It’s already dark, where are you going?” was her curious remark.

“I was about to go home, Your Highness,”

Puzzled, “I thought you live in the castle?” was her innocent comment.

“No, Your Highness, the King provided a house for me in the village. I just come in the castle when the King needs me. And tonight the King is with his other mistress, so he sent me home.”

“But it is already dark, how would you manage to go home?” she suddenly found herself worrying at Elleanor’s safety. Then she caught Elleanor blushing at her remark and smirk at her. “What? Did I say something wrong?”

Elleanor shook her head, “No Your Highness, nothing is wrong. I just don’t expect that the Prince of Karnstein will be worried about how I would go home.”

This time, she felt that she was the one who was blushing as Elleanor’s statement silenced her. “I just want to make sure that you are safe.” She honestly told her and made Elleanor smile fully.

“Thank you for your concern Your Highness that is…“ Elleanor hesitated for a moment.

“Is what?” she demanded, not use to being left hanging in a conversation.

“…thoughtful of you,” Elleanor supplied right away.

This time she was the one who smiled and felt a tingling sensation. But before it could lead to another different tingling sensation, she felt rumbling in her stomach and realized that the last meal she had was breakfast and it was almost dinner time.

“Would you care to join me for dinner?”

There was silence on Elleanor’s part and she saw the surprised expression of the King’s Mistress.

“It would be an honor, Your Highness,” was Elleanor’s excited reaction. “But I am not allowed to be seen dining with any of the Royal Family, and I cannot eat at the servant's hall. Since the Queen ordered that I am to entertain and serve the King in his chamber and nowhere else."

She was about to suggest that they could eat in her chamber but dismiss the thought. "I could ask the maids to prepare dinner at the tea room instead," was her hopeful suggestion. She was careful not to sound desperate.

"It sounded perfect."

Finally, she managed to coax Elleanor. "Follow me." She informed the King's Mistress and walked towards the direction of the tea room. When she saw the first Royal Guard in the castle he asked him right away to tell the servants that she would be dining in the tea room with someone.

*****

After three hours, and a four coarse meal and two jugs of wine, they now found themselves relaxing and talking endlessly. She was satisfied that she chose the tea room because she never experienced eating dinner while sitting on a sofa. Elleanor served her food and poured wine in her goblet, while they eat and relax in the softness of the sofa. She felt mischievous of not eating in the right manner but found it comfortable compared to eating dinner with her mother and father in the family dining hall where she had to observe proper table etiquette.

She could smell the faint flowery perfume of Elleanor as the King's Mistress leant on her side to pour more wine in her goblet. She knew that she had already reached her limit, but she does not care, as long as she could still be with Elleanor, talk and laugh with the King's mistress, she would continue to drink. She also noticed that the space on the sofa between them where growing shorter.

"So, how does it feel like to be crowned Prince of Karnstein?" Elleanor asked after pouring the red wine.

"Heavy."

They both laugh at her reply. She had never been careless and fooled with someone before and she never expected that there was a part in her, the foolish part that exists. She had never let her guard down and was always careful of how she behaves and talks. She was brought up to be serious and orderly, that she almost forgot how to laugh. And today, this person opened this window of emotions in her: the window of happiness and being carefree.

She found Elleanor clever, entertaining and a good listener. And she realized now why her mother had chosen Elleanor to be her father's Mistress: Elleanor was the complete opposite of her mother. Suddenly, she envied her father and before she could think, the wine overtook her sanity and blurted out:

"I wish I have a mistress like you."

"I wish I am… your mistress." Elleanor emphasized on the word 'your'.

She gazed at Elleanor and there was just silence, as she saw the fully dilated eyes of her father's mistress, as if inviting her. She did not waste any seconds, she leant in and kissed the rouged lips of the King's Mistress with wanton and was reciprocated with the same manner of kiss. She felt Elleanor's hand groped at once her crotch and started rubbing her shaft, it hardens at once at the contact, "Elleanor…" she groaned in between heated kiss and the maddening sensation of Elleanor's hand on her shaft. This woman can read her mind, she thought. She remembered the last time Elleanor touched her; how it awakened her into a new world.

"Call me Ell,"

Her father's mistress implored, as she felt Elleanor released from the kiss and was now putting small kisses under her earlobe and around her neck.

"Ell…" she pleaded and felt Ell's hand untied the strings of her trousers. And the next thing she saw was her fully erected shaft out of her braies and Ell going down on her.

She groaned, cursed and said words that she never used before as Ell's tongue and mouth gave her first sexual experience…

 

"Happy name day Prince Carl," she heard Ell whispered in her ear afterwards. She was about to kiss Ell to let the King's Mistress know how satisfied she was, but was rudely interrupted when she heard a voice called her.

"Your Highness."

She followed where the voice came from and she anxiously pulled her braies up and tied her trousers, as the figure of her Valet approached them. Suddenly she felt like she was abruptly snatched from a dream and was thrown back to reality.

"LaFontaine, have you not heard of knocking first, before entering?" Was her sarcastic remark, as she finished tying the strings of her trousers. Ell was now standing beside her with a decent gap.

"I was Your Highness…knocking. But no one answered," LaFontaine replied calmly.

"Then why didn't you leave?" she asked annoyed.

"Because the maid told me that Your Highness is here and-"

"…And that you can just barged in and disturb me?" She reproached, while glaring at her Valet.

"No Your Highness," was LaFontaine's firm calm reply. "I am here to let you know that the Queen was looking for Your Highness and is waiting at your chamber."

Mother?! She felt like cold water was poured over her, as she realized how she lost track of time and lost control of herself. She panicked and rose from her seat, but suddenly lost her balance as the effect of the wine got into her. She felt Ell supporting her by the arm.

"Your Highness, are you alright?" Ell asked with worry in her eyes.

She faced Ell, and gave her a weak smile. "I am alright. I had a good time, thank you for spending the evening with me. It's a pleasure being with you."

"The pleasure is mine Your Highness," Ell replied and bowed to her.

And before she could ask LaFontaine to help her, she felt LaFontaine already standing beside her, and putting her right arm around their shoulder, to support her fully.

"Don't tell my mother what you have seen," she warned LaFontaine at once before leaving the tea room.

"I don't know what you are talking about, Your Highness." LaFontaine replied and winked at her.

She smiled at her Valet's loyalty and thought that if there was one person she could trust right now, it would be LaFontaine. She was grateful that her Valet understood her.

*****

When they arrived at her chamber, the tall figure of the Queen greeted her eyes right away as they entered her chamber.

"Hello Mother!" She greeted the Queen as LaFontaine walked beside her, still supporting her.

"Where have you been?"

She heard the cold serious voice of the Queen.

"I just had dinner with Elleanor, since I did not want to disturb you and my King Father," she replied, and hiccupped.

"You're drunk!" The Queen reprimanded, and came closer and examined her face. "LaFontaine why is the Prince intoxicated?"

She grew worried and watched LaFontaine's expression as her Valet looked at her mother in the eyes.

"The Prince had dinner with this woman, Elleanor and served the Prince wine. Unfortunately, she did not know that His Highness cannot tolerate too much wine."

"Will you put the Prince on the chair and leave us for a moment?" The Queen asked LaFontaine.

As soon as the door closed, her mother stood in front of where she was seated and stared at her. She may be tipsy but she could tell that she was in for strong reprimanding.

"What kind of foolishness have you been up to? You were officially crowned the heir to the throne and you were already behaving like a fool. "

The Queen started, not tearing her mother's sight on her. She could see the anger and disappointment in her mother's eyes, and did not dare reply.

"And why were you with Elleanor?"

Her mother asked, in a suspicious manner. Suddenly, she found herself fidgeting, as her mother waited for her reply. She gathered her composure and decided to tell the truth, since she knew that there was nothing wrong with it, until the part where she kissed Ell.

"I met Ell.. Elleanor on my way to the castle and invited her to eat dinner with me," she explained without flaws in her voice. She chose not to elaborate more for fear of slipping.

"And why would you invite you father's mistress to dine with you?"

The Queen asked what she was afraid to hear. She knew that her mother would not stop until the truth was revealed. But she challenged her mother's suspicions.

"Why wouldn't I? My King Father had already sent her home and I want someone to keep me company, and Elleanor happened to be there."

After that explanation, she saw her mother's facial expression changed from the familiar deadpan to worry.

"From now on I forbid you to see and talk to Elleanor." The Queen insisted and glared at her.

 

TBC

Chapter Text

Laura

"Oh Perry, how many times do I have to do this!" She grumbled as she sat on the chair in front of her dressing table, dressed in one of her finest white gown and ready for Perry to put the crown as a finishing touch on her braided hair.

"As many times as you can, until you find the one," her Lady in waiting returned, standing behind her and looking at her reflection on the mirror, after pinning the crown on her hair.

"I don't think I can find the one," she despaired, knowing that her preference was not the ideal partner in the eyes of the people.

"Oh, Laura, don't say that," Perry reproached, stopping for a moment. "There is always someone for you out there; you just have to kiss as many princes as you can to be able to find him."

Perry was being optimistic as always, but she does not find it amusing right now. After the ball, there had been numerous proposals from the princes that she met. She had been nice, patient and accommodating for the past three months to all that visited and offered their love and castle to her. But none of them had enticed her to put on the ring.

"I would rather kiss many frogs instead of kissing those arrogant, unshaven scruffy princes," was her retort.

"Oh Princess, try to cheer up, it's your name day! You cannot be cranky on your special day," Perry reassured rubbing the sides of her shoulders, and looked at both their reflection on the mirror before whispering to her ear, "I heard Prince Viktor is coming today. He is clean shaven, handsome and nice."

She just rolled her eyes and conceded. As one of the few maiden princesses in Styria, there was no doubt that a lot of princes from the neighboring and even far away kingdom had proclaimed their love interest in her. According to Perry and the rest of the people in the castle that knew her, they were all convinced that she was the ideal princess that every prince seeks and the perfect daughter in law that every queen mother wish for their sons to marry. She was the epitome of kindness, cheerfulness, beauty, charm, humility and a ball of sunshine according to her friends and love ones. With all the excellent qualities that she possessed, she was indeed the perfect princess to bear an heir and be the mother of a future king and most importantly an ideal wife to any prince or an excellent queen to an heir.

However, their lovable Princess was not that ideal as they thought when she discovered that her preference with regards to her partner in life was not the ideal one in the eyes of the majority.

On that day that she revealed to Perry that she wished to wed a woman, she was thankful that her Lady in waiting understood and respected her decision. However, that did not stop Perry, her father and the rest of the people in the castle to search for the perfect prince that could melt her heart and convinced her to settle down. She loved the idea of settling down but when she pictures the image of her partner and love in life, an image of a woman and not a man was always drawn in her head; it was her heart that creates that image and she cannot control it no matter how hard she denied it. She would always prefer a beautiful woman from a handsome man and nobody can dictate her whom to love. The King, Perry and the whole castle can command her to fulfill all the duties and responsibilities of being the Princess of Hollis, but they cannot dictate her heart to love a prince that they deemed perfect for her. Love was the only thing that she could hold onto and when the right person comes, she would gladly give her heart to that person.

In the meantime, she does not want to disappoint her love ones, so she took a deep breath and prepared herself for the celebration.

*****

She chose to stand by the door of the castle's ballroom to greet her guests instead of sitting on the throne beside her father to welcome them. She thinks that it was more welcoming to meet her guests up close and personal instead of bowing to her while she was seated on a throne. She enjoyed also the non-traditional hugging and kissing her guests and receiving a peck on the cheek or a kiss on the hand from her acquaintances, friends and relatives.

Upon seeing her first guest of honor entering the ballroom and after hearing the herald announcing the names of the guests that arrived, she beamed at once at the sight of a blonde clean shaven middle aged man, a middle aged woman with a dark brown hair with a smiley face and a young prince that was a replica of the older man.

"Uncle Spencer!" She walked to the direction of her father's younger brother at once and gave him a hug, and kissed her auntie Jordana upon setting an eye on her uncle's wife followed by Johann their son. Then she gave her cousin, a bear hug and discreetly punched him lightly on his shoulder. Her cousin Johann might be the next heir to the throne of Hollis Kingdom, but that do not stopped her from being playful or teasing her cousin even if they were already both in their adolescent and were being presented to the society as potential betrothed to other princes and princesses.

"So, who would it be, Prince Viktor or Prince Gerhard?"

Johann whispered in her ear, teasing her. Her cousin knew that she was being paired with these princes after they witnessed how interested she was with the two the last time they had a ball.

"No one," she retorted and grinned at him and was about to give him a playful slap on the shoulder again, but had to refrain herself when the herald announced the arrival of the next guests and Johann walked further. She composed herself and smiled as a new prince that she had never met before walked towards her.

He had dark hair and was tan. He must have come from the neighboring land of Austria. If looks would count he would surely be one of the princes that she would be interested with, due to the fact that he was clean shaven and look smooth. She dislikes the hairy kind of men and preferred the ones with less hair.

She composed herself and smiled as she saw the prince bowed to her.

"Your Royal Highness, Princess Laura," he said standing majestically in front of her. "Allow me to personally introduce myself I am Prince Theodore of Straka. It is an honor to have been invited at your name day and to meet you."

"Thank you Prince Theodore, the honor is mine and I am grateful that you accepted our invitation," she returned before he was ushered further by the royal guards to go further down the hall.

He was kind of serious and formal. She thought as soon as he was out of her sight. He had also this air of arrogance in him. definitely one of those heirs to the throne! She may not be attracted in men, but she surely enjoyed the company of men who had sense of humor; men she could tease and be playful with like Johann; men who were kindhearted and courageous like Kirsch; men who were nice and clean shaven like Prince Viktor; and men whom she could talk anything under the sun and make her smile like Prince Gerhard.

Speaking of the devil! She thought as her eyes caught the sight of the tall, well-built, light-haired prince.

"Princess Laura, it's a pleasure to see you again!" The Prince of Lawrence declared as he gingerly made his way towards her, smiling. He was the only prince that she met that exudes with cheerfulness and found him unusually chatty for a man. She liked his unreserved, straightforward and unpretentious demeanor.

She received a hug from him at once and then a peck on the cheek. She was thankful that he shaved this time. "I'm so glad to see you too, Prince Gerhard."

As soon as they parted from the embrace, he motioned to the direction of a young woman who was standing behind him. "Princess Laura, allow me to introduce my sister, Princess Danielle of Lawrence."

Suddenly, she found herself staring at the tallest and most beautiful princess that she had ever met. This princess was tall like Prince Gerhard, but a redhead; her eyes were the bluest she had ever seen and her lips were thin and red. She found herself adoring every feature of the princess' face and cannot help but to sigh at this beautiful creature in front of her.

She was snatched from her ogling and thankful for being saved from this embarrassing situation when she heard the princess talk.

"I am Princess Danielle and your humble servant." The Princess uttered holding her gaze and then bowed.

Her mouth fell and she almost lost her composure upon hearing the princess of Lawrence uttered those words. She found it very intimate: and right there and then, she was already captured. She had not even noticed that Prince Gerhard had been telling her something. She shook her head and cleared her thoughts as she forced her attention to him.

"Forgive me, Prince Gerhard, could you repeat that again?" she embarrassingly requested, feeling the heat crawling in her face.

"I was wondering where your Royal Personal Guard might be?" Prince Gerhard asked.

She lifted her left eyebrow, confused at why Prince Gerhard was looking for her Royal Personal Guard. "Kirsch?" she asked and received a nod from him. "He was escorting some of the guests, but he would return immediately."

"I think I would require some assistance from him later on," the prince simply said and smiled at her before walking further.

She bravely set her gaze back at the Princess of Lawrence who was patiently waiting for her. "I am looking forward to get to know your charming personality." She returned and bit her lower lip. She received a smirk from the Princess, bowed in agreement before turning around and followed the path where the guests were.

She cannot stop herself from grinning like a fool, as the thought of getting to know Princess Danielle made her ecstatic. But the smile on her face disappeared when she saw her next guest already close by and was replaced by a less goofy smile, as she composed herself and stood straight.

"Princess Laura, you looked beautiful," the clean shaven young blonde Prince greeted and took her hand right away and kissed it before she could welcome him. "Happy name day," he said after releasing her hand.

"Thank you Prince Viktor, I am so thankful that you accepted our invitation again," she said emphasizing on 'our' instead of telling him that it was her invitation. Of all the princes that she met, the Prince of Berghausen was the one who was modest and refined; and not at all the aggressive and cocky type of man.

"It is a pleasure to be invited again by the most beautiful princess in Styria," Prince Viktor returned. "Would you do me the honor of saving the last dance for me?"

She does not know what does it meant, but since he requested nicely she had thought nothing wrong about it. "I would gladly do it." She returned and smiled knowing that it was just an innocent dance.

*****

The dinner was served and after granting all the request of those who liked to dance with her, she now found herself wanting to get out and just disappear from the eyes of everybody. Her feet hurt and it was warm, she really needed some fresh air.

She sneaked out of the ballroom while everybody was dancing and the rest still drinking and eating. She does not want to chat with another potential suitor or prince, she had been patiently chatting with every prince in the castle for the last six hours and she just needed a break.

Few minutes later, she was out in the castle's courtyard on the way to her favorite spot under the largest maple tree in the courtyard. A wooden bench was specifically made and placed under the tree upon the King's request since her father always find her under that tree, playing, reading, drawing, relaxing and having tea or what she used to call picnic. She sat at once and took off her shoes. She looked at the sky and the sight of the full moon shining in the clear night calmed her at once. Five minutes had not passed yet and she was already interrupted when she heard someone called her name from behind. Thinking that it was one of her handmaidens or some of the maids that were sent by Perry to search for her, she answered at once.

"Tell Perry I'll be back in ten minutes, just give me some time to rest my feet," she declared to whoever this person was, but she felt the person's presence approached her closer. When she opened her eyes, she almost gawked at the person in front of her.

"Who's Perry?" the sound of Princess Danielle's voice broke her ogling.

She composed herself and straightened her back, and put her shoes on. "Princess Danielle, what are you doing here? Shouldn't you be inside mingling with the guests?"

"I think I'm the one who should ask you those questions," the Princess of Lawrence returned and then smiled at her. "Relax, I'm only teasing you."

Sheepish, she gave Princess Danielle a bashful smile and gestured for her to take a seat beside her. "Well, sometimes, the celebrant needs a break too." She defended and then furrowed her brows while she set her eyes on Princess Danielle. "How did you know that I was here?"

"I followed you."

After that remark from the Princess of Lawrence, she felt her cheeks burning. "May I ask why?"

"I just thought that maybe you needed somebody to look after you, since you sneak out of the castle and your royal body guard was busy chatting with my brother," Princess Danielle related. "I wouldn't want anything bad to happen to you, in case there's a drunken guest that was roaming outside."

Her heart pounded madly at the heroic declaration of the Princess, but she did not dare tell her how much impact that remark made. "Well, you sounded like a knight in shining armor that wants to protect her princess." She spoke half in jest and half in earnest.

"You're right, I wish I was-," Princess Danielle replied, smiling.

Still oblivious, "So, you wished to be a knight instead of a princess?"

"No, I wished that I can be your knight in shining armor so that I can protect you."

After that statement, she sought Princess Danielle's eyes for any trace of teasing or fooling. But she became silent when she found earnest eyes gazing at her. She still cannot believe if this was for real. This would be a dream come true if she had interpreted it correctly. She was about to ask Princess Danielle another question, but the sound of Natalie's voice can be heard at the whole courtyard, shouting her name. Perry had surely found out that she was missing. "I guess we better return inside."

But before they could stand up, Princess Danielle held her arm gently, as if stopping her from rising. She turned her gaze to her with a questioning look, waiting for what she was going to tell. But instead, she felt her hand being taken by a soft hand, and the next thing she knew, Princess Danielle's lips were already touching the back of her hand and a pair of blue eyes were gazing at her with desire. She lost herself for a while at the sight in front of her. The most beautiful and attractive princess that she ever met was kissing her hand and wanted to protect her, how crazy and unreal it was! She tried to calm herself as she stressed out at the sound of Natalie's voice getting closer to them and the realization of Princess Danielle might feel the same thing as she does.

"Do you always kiss your lady friends on their hands like that?" was her stupid question.

"No. Only with you," Princess Danielle revealed.

After that answer, she did not waste any minute, she cupped the Princess of Lawrence's face and kissed her deeply. She was not disappointed as Princess Danielle returned the kiss with the same fervent manner. They only parted when they hear footsteps getting closer to where they were sitting.

"Princess Laura, everybody's looking for you and the King was worried," Natalie said after finding them.

Princess Danielle remained silent and bowed her head.

Still panting, she spoke at once to dispatch Natalie. "Tell them I'll be right back, I just have some matters to discuss with Princess Danielle," she informed Natalie, and gave her handmaiden a smile, before leaving them. As soon as she was sure that Natalie was gone, she held Princess Danielle's face and caressed it before saying, "I would love to see you more."

*****

She woke up with a smile in her face as the rays of the sun met her eyes. It was surely a bright day as the remaining heat and sunny days of summer still made its presence. In a few weeks the days would become shorter and the night would become longer. But she does not mind it, she felt like everything around her was still beaming. After her name day celebration last night, she could tell that it was the most wonderful ball or celebration that they had in the castle. Everybody in the kingdom of Hollis was happy and satisfied after the feast. She had dance with all of the princes that had been invited and saved the last dance to Prince Viktor. She remembered Perry mentioned that they both looked beautiful and perfect while dancing. She shrugged off Perry's comment and told her Lady in waiting not to expect too much. But the reason why she felt inspired and happy upon waking up was the new guest that she met last night.

Princess Danielle. She uttered the name like a sweet and fondly recalled what happened last night, while touching her lips. Her daydreaming was interrupted when she heard Perry called.

"Good morning Laura! You have a visitor," was Perry's very excited remark. "You would not believe who was in the tea room waiting for you."

"What?!" she was puzzled. She was not expecting someone today. "What do you mean?" She asked as she sat on her bed, ready to listen to Perry.

"The Prince of Berghausen is here and he was eager to speak to you at once." Her Lady in waiting declared.

"It sounded like he was too eager, since it had not pass a day yet since he was here and now he's back?" was her oblivious remark. "What does he want?"

"He wants to talk to you in private and he said that he had some serious matter to tell you."

*****

She was left without a choice but to face the Prince of Berghausen, after half an hour, she showed up at the tea room where she found Prince Viktor already standing and smiling at her upon laying his eyes on her.

"Prince Viktor, to what do I owe this honor?" She said smiling, as she approached him and bowed to greet him, while he took her hand instead and kissed it lightly. She felt warm at his gesture and quietness. She can sense that he was nervous and looked very serious. She gestured for him to take a seat, and she took the empty space beside him and sat on the sofa.

"Princess Laura, I apologized for disturbing your sleep, I know that-" the Prince was telling but she stopped him at once, to lessen the lines on his face, and put her hand on his to make him at ease.

"Prince Viktor, you did not disturb me at all. I was awake when my Lady in waiting informed me that I have a visitor," she related calmly and withdrew her hand from touching him as soon as she felt him relaxed. "And I was happy to find out that it was you."

"I am so relieved and glad to know that," he returned, and moved a little closer to her.

She did not move a bit, not wanting to send a wrong signal to Prince Viktor that she was avoiding him and remained composed and calm as she waited for him to speak.

"Princess Laura, last night was amazing," he started, and faced her. "I have never felt so happy in my life while you gave me the honor of having the last dance, thank you so much for considering me. You were so graceful and beautiful in every moment that I am with you, I felt proud that I was able to hold you and get close to you while dancing. I said to myself that I would be the happiest man if I get a chance to always dance with you…"

She was flattered at his sincere remark and smiled at his thoughtfulness, he may be the same age as her but he was surely mature in the way he thinks and behave, she thought. "Well, you're one of the nicest persons that I knew, and you asked me politely so I did not refuse your offer." Was her genuine remark. "And you were a good dancer too, so I did choose the right person for the last dance." He blushed at her remark and his boyish charm resurfaced. But he soon recovered from his bashfulness, as she touched his hand and reassured him. "You are probably the best dance partner that I ever had, after having danced with more than thirty princes. And you are charming and a gentle-" she was not finished yet with what she was saying, when she felt him claimed her lips and kissed her deeply. She was caught off guard and did not realize that he was going to behave this way. She pulled out from the kiss gently and looked at him. And before she could say something, he was holding both her hands and gazing at her, before saying:

"Princess Laura, would you do me the honor of being my wife and the mother to my children?"

She was shocked at what had just transpired she did not have the slightest idea that he was going to propose. She stared at him for a moment and cannot find the right words to tell him. Then she decided to look down so she could compose herself, but was taken aback at the sight of the bulge in Prince Viktor's trousers. She quickly released from his hold and rise from the sofa. "Oh my! What's that?!" she exclaimed gesturing on the package that was showing in his trousers.

The Prince of Berghausen looked down and was shocked also when he saw the bulge appearing in his trousers. He pressed his hands down on it, trying to hide it. But the contact only made it worst as it became more erected. She panicked at the sight of it and rung the bell for the maid to come in, while Prince Viktor turned his back on her to avoid further embarrassing sight.

Shortly, the door opened and she was glad to see Natalie instead of another maid. "Natalie, could you please tell Kirsch to escort Prince Viktor to his carriage? He needs to go home immediately," and before Natalie could leave the room, she bid him a quick goodbye and left the tea room.

*****

That night when Perry was finished brushing her hair and Natalie had left, she decided to tell Perry the truth.

"Perry, I lied, Prince Viktor did not have a stomach ache," she began as she looked sheepishly at Perry while the Lady in waiting was tucking her in bed. Perry was very excited to know what happened while they were in the tea room, and she said that he just came to visit and suddenly felt ill that he decided to go home early.

Perry's brows crinkled and gave her undivided attention to her. "What do you mean?" giving her a suspicious look.

"He proposed to me today," she said carefully, knowing that her Lady in waiting always gets excited upon hearing some prince proposing to her.

"What?! How!? Did you said yes?!" was Perry's hyper remark.

"Calm down, I know you're very excited to hear this, but I did not gave him an answer." She relayed and saw the disappointment on Perry's face.

Worried, Perry asked at once. "What happened? Why didn't you accept his proposal?"

"We kissed before he proposed-" she started but was interrupted by Perry's excited reaction.

"You kissed him! That was great!"

"Well before you get too happy and hopeful, I want you to know that I felt nothing special while he was kissing me. And when I pulled from the kiss I saw this bulge… his thing in his trousers-" she was babbling but was halted by Perry's reply.

"It's an erection."

"A what? And why it suddenly happened?" was her innocent question.

"Laura that only meant one thing: Prince Viktor was very happy and excited to kiss you."

Unsatisfied with Perry's explanation, "Would you mind explaining it to me like a grown woman and not a child. Perry I'm already an adult, I could handle everything unpleasant."

"Alright, an erection is when a man becomes sexually aroused and the penis fills with blood and grows larger than the usual size. The erect penis became harder and sticks straight up or forward." Perry explained without a hint of embarrassment. "And they say that when men find the object of their attention alluring that's when erection happens. So, in the case of Prince Viktor, he really is very attracted to you."

"I don't think I want to see him again." Was her initial reaction. "And I don't think I would want to see an erection or a penis again."

"Oh Laura, don't say that, you were just surprised because you did not know what to expect when in company of men, especially men who were attracted to you." Perry tried to convince her that it was not such a bad thing. "Sooner or later you're going to realize that it was a normal thing when you get married someday."

"I don't think I could consider seeing penis a normal thing in my life." She answered with absolute certainty.

"Princess, you cannot say that. Once you get married, your husband would ask you to fulfill your duty as a wife, or else he might divorce you."

"What do you mean my duty as a wife?" she was suddenly irritated at the mention of duty. She was fed up of hearing duties and responsibilities in her life, and now Perry was telling her that she had a duty to her husband too if ever she was to be married. Why can't I decide for myself?

"According to the book, a husband should fulfill his marital responsibility to his wife, and likewise a wife to her husband. A wife does not have the right over her own body, but her husband does. In the same way, a husband does not have the right over his own body, but his wife does." Perry stated as a matter of factly.

Upset at what she heard, "That was nonsense and foolish!" she exclaimed. "A woman should have every right to decide for herself and in everything that she does. No man should dictate what she should do and should not."

"Oh, Princess I know what you mean. But you are a princess and might become a future Queen someday you need to obey the rules." Perry quoted once again, reminding her role as a monarch.

It was rare that she gets angry when she and Perry were discussing her duties and obligations as a princess, but right now, it seemed too much for her to handle this conversation. "To hell with those stupid rules! I'm not getting married at all." And with that, she turned her back to Perry and covered herself with the thick blanket.

 

TBC

Chapter Text

Carmilla

"What is it with men and finding our breasts fascinating?"

She heard Ell asked and she quickly tore her eyes off the Royal Mistress' chest. She just sneaked in the King's Chamber knowing that her father and mother were out of the castle. And as she closed the door behind her she found Ell wearing a red corset dress that has a very low cut on the chest; her sight immediately caught Ell's abundant bosom and she suddenly fight the urge to touch them. Guilty, she looked up and stared at Ell's face instead as she heard Ell's voice; she calmed herself even though the sight of the Royal Mistress' bosom was making her uncomfortable.

She was paralyzed when Ell approached her; the sight of Ell's body clothed in the tightest bodice that she had ever seen drove her to madness.

She could not control herself and closed the gap between them with a kiss on Ell's lips. Her hands found the hips of the Royal Mistress and she drew Ell closer to her. She felt Ell's kiss deepened and found her tongue and Ell caressed it with her own. The sensation drove her mad and she groped Ell's breast and knead it and was rewarded by a moan from Ell. She had wished that Ell was naked; she was irritated at the tight dress that was hindering her from feeling those soft abundant breasts of the mistress.

She does not know where this beastly behavior of hers where coming from, but she found it hard to tame as she felt hot and her shaft erected in its full glory, in want of attention from Ell. She began to untie her trousers to relieve her with this torture, but was disappointed when she felt out of nowhere, Ell withdrew. She took a deep breath after Ell released from the kiss, and glared at the Royal Mistress with mixed surprised and anger.

"My Prince, I promised the Queen that I will never tempt his Royal Highness," Ell explained and kneeled in front with crossed arms as if covering her form.

"I am the heir to the throne, you cannot deny me of my claim!" she demanded, as if Ell was her property.

Ell looked up with scared expression. "I am fully aware of that, and if I would have it my way, Your Royal Highness need not to ask." Ell began. "But her Majesty, your Queen Mother ordered that I lay my hands off from the Prince, or she would behead me."

After discovering the truth she sighed in frustration and was angry to find out that her mother threatened Ell. She had to respect Ell's decision and she does not want to be the reason of the Royal Mistress' death.

"Very well, I do not think my presence is needed here anymore." She replied and turned her back to Ell and was about to march towards the door when she felt Ell's hand held her arm.

"My Prince!"

Ell called and released the hold from her arm as she eyed Ell's hand as if disgusted from the touch of the Royal Mistress.

"Forgive me, I did not intend to be impertinent," Ell confessed with bowed head, still kneeling. "I am already pleasing the King in bed. I think it will spite the Queen if I will please the Prince in bed too. The Queen informed me that Your Royal Highness is very precious to the Queen and Her Majesty does not want anybody to touch her son."

Suddenly her anger subsided after that explanation from Ell. She did not realize that the Queen was envious of Ell. And she remembered her promise to the Queen and to the King too that she would not cause them any pain.

"I understand." She returned and gave Ell a smirk to assure the Royal Mistress that she was not angry anymore. "I am going to ride my horse this afternoon. Will you have tea with me afterwards? My mother would arrive before dinner time, so we have plenty of time to chat."

"It would be a pleasure, my handsome Prince," Ell replied with a smile.

Frustrated, she still forced herself to smile and gave Ell a nod before she left her father's chamber and closed the door behind her. Every time she sees Ell, she cannot control this sensation; this desire to touch the woman. It was as if, she does not have the will to resist. She had not felt anything like this in her whole life and she does not know what it was. But one thing she was sure of: she always felt her shaft hardening every time she sees Ell's body and it frustrate her that Ell cannot touch her because of her Mother's order.

*****

She was just on her way back to the castle, and was about to turn around, when she heard sounds of men laughing and then splashes of water. She halted her horse and headed to the direction of where the sound came from. As she came closer, she was surprised to see a spring few meters across her that was hidden from the thick bushes and trees of the forest. She had never used this trail before whenever she goes horse-back riding with Alfred and the royal guards. However, today she chose not to have any escort since she already knew the way around the forest. She knew that Alfred would not allow her to go to the forest alone, so she sneaked out of the castle and informed LaFontaine instead.

She went down from her horse and walked towards the spring with her horse in tow, carefully she approached and hid behind the bushes to avoid being seen, in case it were some thieves or barbarians. When she was sure that she was securely hidden, she took a peek at them and saw that there were around five men who were submerged in the spring, bathing, laughing and talking. They looked like they were enjoying themselves. Her eyes caught the familiar red and black color of the Castle's Royal Guards uniform hanging by the bushes, and she felt relieved to know that they were not barbarians or thieves roaming around the forest.

Her attention was caught when two of the men got out of the water and started to walk towards the bank. When she saw that they were both naked, she decided to turn around knowing that it was impolite to watch further. But the sight of their flat chest and hairy body made her stay. Curious, she watched carefully how they were alike from her. But she became disoriented when she cannot see the similarity of their bodies to her. Thinking that her eyes were deceiving her, she waited for the rest of the men to come out of the water.

After a few minutes the remaining three came out of the water and she was shocked and agitated when she witnessed the sight in front of her: All five men have the same genitalia as hers, but nobody had a full grown breasts like hers!

How is this possible?!

She was transfixed by the reality in front of her. Disoriented, she fumbled climbing up to her horse and with shaking hands she grabbed the reins and signaled for the horse to move and rode as fast as she can without looking back.

When she arrived at the castle she was still shaking. Her heart was pounding and her mind was blurred. She needed some answers at once and went straight to the library.

Once inside the library she scanned the bookshelves and tried to find the book that could give her an answer. She knew every book in the library and what was it about but after unsuccessfully finding it, she threw the books that were in front of her and shouted to the guard and ordered him to fetch LaFontaine.

It did not take long before LaFontaine arrived at the library.

"Bring me the Human Anatomy book!"

Confused, "Your Highness?" LaFontaine asked after bowing.

"I said, bring me the Human Anatomy book!"

"With all due respect, Your Highness, the book that you are requesting was one of the forbidden books in the castle," LaFontaine stated.

She was confused and furious, "What are you talking about?"

"Your Highness, there is a list of forbidden books the Queen provided that should not be brought nor read inside the castle," LaFontaine explained.

Her suspicion grew; she felt betrayed but she won't take no for an answer. Seething with anger, she approached LaFontaine menacingly. "Bring me that book or I'll have you hanged."

LaFontaine nodded in silence and bowed; and calmly left the library.

She does not know how long LaFontaine can get the book for her, so she decided to take matters into her own hands and walked out of the library.

She ran towards the King's chamber and opened the door without knocking. When she crossed the threshold she was disappointed that she did not find the King, but instead, she saw Ell standing in the middle of the room.

Clouded with anger, she did not give Ell a chance to talk and strode towards her father's mistress. She saw the confused look on Ell's face but she disregarded it. She grabbed the mistress' robe and tore it out of Ell's body together with the underwear. Once the naked form of Ell was revealed, a wave of futile rage swept all over her as she ran her eyes on every part of Ell's body, resting on the genital area.

"P-prince Carl?" Ell pleaded.

She was distracted from Ell's voice and looked at the mistresses' eyes. Ell was petrified; fear was written all over Ell's face.

Pained with the truth, she left Ell and strode out of the King's chamber.

She arrived at her chamber still panting and opened the door wide. She grabbed the first thing that she had seen and threw the candlestick at the direction of the fireplace. She was boiling with anger and felt this unshed tears threatening to fall from her eyes. But she controlled it.

*****

She was sitting by the fireplace when she heard the door opened and saw LaFontaine carrying the big brown leather bound book that she asked.

"Put it on the table," she commanded and rose from the chair and walked closer to her Valet. There were still residue of anger in her body and it will not disappear until she confronted all the people that were involved in her life for an answer.

LaFontaine was calmly standing three feet away from her, waiting for any instruction. But instead, she chose to confront them.

"Do you know that I'm different?" She asked in her low authoritative voice, testing her Valet's knowledge. LaFontaine had seen her a lot of times naked whenever her valet would help her with her clothing.

LaFontaine nodded quietly and bowed their head, as if hiding something.

She decided to get to the point. "And you know that what you saw was very different from the rest?"

This time LaFontaine lifted their head and looked straight to her eyes. "Yes, I do."

She was pained at the admission of her Valet and felt betrayed for having to hide it from her.

"All this time you knew, and you didn't even tell me the truth?!" she was growing frustrated and the anger inside her had resurfaced. "How could you let me believe and treat me that I am normal, when in fact I am an abomination?!"

"Because you are not an abomination; you are different, but you are normal." LaFontaine elaborated, not breaking their eye contact.

"How could you call somebody normal; when the person is both a man and a woman?!" She reproached.

"Because the definition of normal is infinite," LaFontaine relayed. "Most of us grew up learning what is right and what is wrong. We were taught to follow the rules and traditions and stick to it. What we see outside and how it should look like where already decided by the people who made this rules. But we always forget that we have free will."

"It's easy for you to say that because you don't have the kind of obligation that I have." She returned not convinced. "Tell me, is it your decision not to be referred neither a he nor a she, or it was my mother's order too?"

"As I grew up my father had given me a choice of how I should dress and look like," LaFontaine answered. "According to my father, people should not limit their knowledge and experience. We should continue to explore and discover what we really want and like in life."

Wanting to challenge LaFontaine's point of view, she asked the ultimate question. "Do you really want to become a Valet? ...Because as I understood you like chemistry and all science related. So how come you end up here?"

"My father told me that my upbringing and outlook in life might one day help a person enlighten his mind and lessen his burden in life."

Then it dawned on her that LaFontaine was referring to no other than her.

"Your father might have felt great empathy to the people who are not normal," was her sarcastic retort. "Tell me, how did your father knew where to send you and who to help? Does he even know me?"

"He has known you from the day that you were born." LaFontaine declared.

Her composure was suddenly shattered and another wave of confusion swept over her. And before she could utter a word, LaFontaine was ready to supply the answer.

"I call my father Papa… and you call him Da."

She was shocked at the revelation and cannot believe how she could have missed it. The people that were around her were certainly trained and manipulated by her mother!

"So you're saying that my mother brought you here to fix me?!" She accused.

"No, I am here because I want to," LaFontaine disagreed. "I am here to let you know that you're not alone in this and that you don't have to be scared-"

"I am not scared!" She argued. "I'm furious… how could you, your father and my parents hid this from me!?"

"…Because they wanted to protect you."

"Protect me from what?!"

"…From having to hate yourself and feeling alone."

"Well I guess it's too late now." She challenged.

"No, it's not," LaFontaine contended. "You are perfectly the way you should be-"

"Yes, an abomination." She finished the sentence for LaFontaine.

"You're not an abomination," LaFontaine contradicted. "You are who you are and we all care about you."

She snorted, "The only thing that all of you cared for is for this kingdom to have an heir."

"No, that's not true."

"Really?! Because according to my mother I was abducted by my wet nurse, but then I realized today that it might not be the truth," she reasoned out, and pieced together all the things that happened in her life. "Tell me, if I have not developed a penis, would my mother take me back to the castle?"

"I cannot really answer that," was LaFontaine's genuine reply.

 

*****

 

That night she was bound to unfold the truth.

As soon as the three of them were seated comfortably at the dining room and before the servants could come out and bring their dinner, she dropped the bomb at once.

"Tell me my Queen Mother…" she began calmly looking at her mother across the table. "Would you still bring me to the castle even if I am a girl?"

She saw the alarmed expressions of her parents and there were silence for a moment as two pairs of eyes focused on her direction.

"Leave us!" The King commanded to the guards and servants.

As soon as they were alone, the King faced her. "What's this foolishness you are talking about?"

"I am absolutely sure that my Queen mother knew what I am talking about," she started, checking how her mother was going to react, since the Queen had been silent and expressionless. "I just found out today that men have penis and flat chest while women have vagina and breasts…"

"Stopped this nonsense! I will not tolerate such vulgar language in my castle!"

Her father commanded. But this time, she refused to obey.

"I would stop this nonsense if you two could explain to me why I have a penis and yet the body of a woman!" She blurted out, and she saw her father calmed down and was replaced by worry, while her mother's expression remained unchanged. "Why did you hide it from me?!" she demanded, as her anger resurfaced. "I was a fool to believe that there are people out there who looked like me; I was a fool to believe and obey everything that you told me; and I was a fool to believe that I am a prince and the heir to the throne-"

"But you are the heir to the throne!" the King reminded. "You are my only child and we care for you."

"Tell me my King Father… would I still be your heir if I have been a girl?" She challenged her father and switched her sight to her mother. "And would you care to bring me to the castle even if I don't have a penis? Or you would just leave me in that little house to believe that my wet nurse was my mother to avoid embarrassment, and people telling you that your child is an abomination?"

Her attention was caught as her father leaned closer to her side. "My child, you are not an abomination and I never intended to leave you with your wet nurse." The King's earnest reply.

"Is that the truth? Or you just decided that I am your child because I developed a penis and you needed an heir?" she supplied, divulging all her suspicions and anger.

"Your father was telling the truth," the Queen finally had broken her silence.

She shifted her sight to her mother and tried to clear her head from the anger that was taking over her.

"Your father wanted to keep you since you were born," the Queen related in a calm low voice. "But I was in shocked when the midwife and chirurgeon informed me that my child has both the private part of a boy and a girl. I was in denial and I cannot accept that you are different. I locked myself in my chamber and refused to see anyone, not even your father. Because I felt that I failed to give him a proper and normal heir…"

"Why didn't you just leave me to die if you cannot accept me?" Was her bitter remark.

"My child, that idea never occurred in our thoughts," the King defended at once. "Your mother was devastated and not in a good state and proper mind to take care of you. That's why I decided to ask your wet nurse to feed you and take care of you. I made sure that you're going to live and grow healthy," her father explained earnestly. "Your mother remained ill for years; she refused to eat and had tried taking her own life. That's why I decided that it was best for you to be with your wet nurse; because I was afraid for your safety. It took so long for your mother to recover from her illness. That's why you did not grow up in the castle."

"Did you ever plan on taking me back or you just wanted me because you need an heir?" was the ultimate question that kept on bothering her.

This time, her mother shifted from the chair and faced her. "No. Your father and I will accept whatever happens."

"Then why did it take twelve years for you to decide to tell me that I am your child?" Was her impatient upset comment.

"While you were living with your wet nurse, your father and I never stopped searching for a solution for your…" the Queen hesitated for a while.

"…Illness," She supplied with sarcasm.

"Your unique case," her mother graciously filled in. "It took us years to look for answers, but nobody could tell us. Until LaFontaine's father informed us that he had read a legend about a fish that was born with both male and female organ, but when the fish came of age it shifted to male."

"So, you decided my faith and destiny based on a fish legend?" was her mocking remark.

"We did not have a choice but to take a chance," the Queen continued calmly. "The Kingdom was waiting for your father to declare if we have an heir or a princess, and we were very confused what to declare. So we seek the help of people we trusted and we came to a decision to wait until you come of age. According to LaFontaine's father, in this way we could be sure that you had already grown or started to be an adult, then we could know if you would have a male or female part."

That was too much information that her reasoning cannot grasp fully and she was already becoming disoriented.

"The process of growing up reaches a certain point where you stop being a child and starts to become a full grown man or woman," the Queen explained to her like a child, since she had not read nor studied anything about human body and its development. "And since you have unique qualities, LaFontaine's father had a theory that there would be changes in your body as you grow up, so we waited until you reached that stage. In this way, we can find out if you're going to be a male or a female."

"But I am both."

"We are aware of that." the King reassured.

"The last time LaFontaine's father checked on you, he informed us that you have a very rare condition," The Queen explained clearly. "We were expecting that either you're going to be a full grown woman or a full grown man. But we were surprised when LaFontaine's father informed us that even if your male part had developed fully, your body remained like of a female."

"And that remained a mystery for us and LaFontaine's father," the King butt in. "So, I decided that as long as you're healthy we should be grateful and accept you for what you are and we stopped looking for answers and just faced the reality."

Still groggy from all the information, she got curious on how her secret was preserved. "How did you manage to keep the secret from the people and the kingdom?"

The Queen called her attention at once. "People who we trusted and knew about your situation advised us to tell the kingdom that you had a rare illness and that you were sent to a warmer place to live and to grow strong and healthy. Your father altered the law, stating that the palace would announce to the kingdom the sex and name of the heir, upon the heir's 16th name day. And anyone who dares to question the law would be punished."

After all the details, information and explanations that she heard she was still doubting and scared that one day her secret would come out and people will cursed her.

She was suddenly worried. "What if someone finds out the truth about me?" she asked. Then she suddenly felt her father's hand on her shoulder, gently rubbing it.

"My child, I am the King. I would make sure that nobody ever hurt you." The King stated. "And your mother had already taken care of the rest. We only want what's best for you because we love you and you are not alone in dealing with this.

 

TBC

Chapter Text

Carmilla

It took several months for her to speak with LaFontaine again in a natural and friendly manner. The day she found out the truth, she felt that LaFontaine had betrayed her too, but her Valet had been patiently there to assist her with everything she needed and did not give up on her even if she was broody all the time.

After those crucial months of adjusting to reality, LaFontaine always made sure to tell her that she was still the same Prince of Karnstein and that she should not lose faith and confidence in herself. Those words had made her stronger. But something inside her has broken.

"You're being broody again." She heard her Valet as she was torn from her deep thoughts. The relationship between her and LaFontaine had changed a lot since she found out the truth. She discovered that LaFontaine was the person that she could trust the most and considered them her friend.

"I am not." She defended, putting on the black overtunic that LaFontaine had been holding for a while. "I was just wondering why my father had to travel a lot. Can't he just delegate his work to his men?" She asked, as she slipped her arms on the tunic's sleeves.

"Are you asking because you missed your father or because you want to find out if you could avoid travelling when you become the King?" was LaFontaine's daring and yet honest remark.

She did not deny it. "Both actually," she replied with a clear deep tone. She felt that she could talk to LaFontaine anything without being judged. "My father had been gone for almost ten months and I still don't understand why he has to be gone that long."

"Well, being a King is a fulltime responsibility," LaFontaine supplied the answer. "His Majesty is also a dedicated and excellent trader. He always wants his Kingdom to have an abundant supply and wants to discover new methods and new things that could be beneficial to his kingdom."

Suddenly, she was amazed at how LaFontaine knew these things about her father and felt ashamed of not being aware of it. Whenever her father was in the palace they always talk about her and afterwards the King would be busy talking to his men about the situation in the kingdom. It was seldom that they spend time doing something together except when the King would take her on hunting. And instead, she was always with the Queen.

Curious, "How did you found out that my father is like that?" she asked.

"Because my Papa is always with the King wherever he travels, he is the King's chirurgeon. My Papa always tells me how amazing the King is."

After discovering the truth of how LaFontaine's father had helped her parents go through the hardship and confusion of taking care of her, she found more respect for him.

"How was Da?"

LaFontaine gave her a confused look. "I beg your pardon?"

"I mean… how is your father?"

"Oh. My father is alright. He actually asks me how you are doing every time we see each other," was LaFontaine's nonchalant reply.

"Really?! Was her surprised reaction and felt an overwhelming sentiment came over her.

Perhaps LaFontaine caught the amazed look in her face, LaFontaine added: "Yes, your Da still cares for you and misses you."

For the first time since she had arrived in the castle, she felt something good inside her that made her smile like a child; it felt genuine and warmed her heart. Da was the first father that she recognized and had known since she was a child. She grew up believing that Da was the one who had been protecting and providing her with all the things that she needed. But she was wrong on that, since Da had only been an instrument. However, nobody can replace the moments where Da had taught her to ride a pony; kicked a ball; made a boat out of leaves; milk the cow; made a toy sword out of wood and taught her how to use it. Nobody can replace those happy childhood memories of her with Da; not even her real father.

"The next time you see Da-" she suddenly hesitated. "I mean your father… tell him that I miss him too."

"I will," LaFontaine nodded and winked at her. "Before I forget, Her Majesty requires your presence at the Queen's chamber this afternoon."

"What does my mother want now?" she asked with a slight of irritation in her voice. "Aren't she satisfied enough to know that I am always in the castle and that she does not need to worry where in the world am I, like my father?"

"Apparently, It worries the Queen that you are always inside the castle," LaFontaine retaliated.

She ignored the comment and broke her eye contact with LaFontaine. "You can tell my mother that I spend my afternoons outside, so she did not have to worry about me not getting enough color on my cheeks."

"You call that outside?" was LaFontaine's sarcastic remark, pointing out that her gardening hobby and daily run in the castle's courtyard as 'outside'.

*****

"My Queen Mother, LaFontaine informed me that you wished to speak with me?" she asked, once she entered and saw her mother sitting on the chair by the fireplace of the Queen's chamber.

As soon as her mother caught her attention, the Queen beckoned her to come closer. After bowing to her mother she was suddenly taken aback when her sight caught a young woman rising from the lounge chair that was placed right across where her mother was sitting. The girl was without a doubt the most attractive young woman she had ever seen; tan skin, blonde wavy hair, deep blue eyes, thin lips and a very attractive mole on the upper side of the right lip.

"Carl, I want you to meet Princess Madelaine of Weiz," the Queen spoke, gesturing with her hands on the direction of the Princess that was dress in a baby blue satin gown. "Princess Madelaine, this is my son Prince Carl Philipp Marcus, the heir to the throne of Karnstein Kingdom."

"It is a pleasure to meet you Your Royal Highness," the Princess said and curtsied in front of her and gave her a smile that could melt everyone's heart. "I am Princess Madelaine Therese Amelie of Weiz."

"The pleasure is all mine, Princess Madelaine," she returned and walked to the princess and took the young woman's hand and kissed the back of it. She cannot deny that she was captivated by the beauty of this princess, as she found herself discreetly leered at the princess.

"Princess Madelaine will stay in the castle for a week and I want you to show her around the castle and be her companion for the whole duration of her stay with us."

She was suddenly caught off guard and did not know how to react at what her mother just told her. They never have a guest that stays in the castle, and the fact that this princess looked the same age as hers made her suspicious.

"I would be more than pleased to assist and escort you, Princess Madelaine," she replied, wanting their guest to feel welcome.

"Very well, since it is still early, maybe you could take Princess Madelaine to the tea room and we could chat there, before we all go to dinner," the Queen suggested looking at her.

"As you wish, my Queen Mother," she bowed to her mother before shifting her focus on the beautiful princess that was all smile and waiting for her. "Shall we go?" she asked in her deepest tone and offered her arm for the princess to take.

*****

That night, as soon as they finished eating dinner and after she had escorted the Princess of Weiz to her chamber, she decided to find out what her mother's real plan.

She knocked on the door of the Queen's chamber rather loudly, knowing that her mother would be preparing to go to bed soon.

"Who is it?!" she heard the deep authoritarian voice of her mother from the room.

"It's Carl, my Queen Mother!" she answered with the same phrase every time she would identify herself before entering the Queen's chamber.

"Come in!"

Once she entered the chamber, she saw the lady in waiting and five handmaids of the Queen bowed to her before leaving the chamber, so as to give her and the Queen privacy.

"What can I do for you my son?" the Queen got straight to the point, rising from the chair by the dressing table and approached her.

She bowed at once as her mother walked closer to where she was. "What does this Princess of Weiz doing in our castle? As far as I know, we never invited anyone to stay in the castle," was her calm and innocent query.

"I invited Princess Madelaine, so that you could get to know her better." The Queen simply replied.

She contorted her brows and felt that her mother was hiding something.

"May I know why I need to get to know her better?" she asked with a hint of curiosity.

"So that you could find out if she is the perfect wife for you." The Queen declared.

She gaped and her eyes widened at what her mother just said. Confused, "Forgive me my Queen Mother, but I did not fully catch what you said." She returned trying not to panic and hoping that what she heard was wrong.

"My son, you are already 18 I think it is high time that you find a wife," the Queen explained clearly.

"I never said that I want a wife," she replied, instantly. "That is not in my plan."

"As the heir to the throne you are required to produce an heir of your own to continue the monarchy of the Karnstein Kingdom."

"But I do not wish to get married," she retaliated.

"You do not have a choice; you are the future king. And the king needs a queen," The Queen stated. "And why are you opposing to marriage?"

She was losing her patience and she knew that her mother was the most difficult person to convince. Instead of arguing further with the Queen she decided to tell the truth.

"How would I explain to my wife when we go to bed that in addition to a man's part I also have a breasts?!" She retaliated, as if challenging her mother. "Do you think it would be easy for her to accept what I really am?"

"My son, your wife does not need to know it. She will obey whatever you say because you are her husband. So, there is no need for you to worry that your wife might discover it," was the Queen's fanciful reply. "You just need a wife who would bear your child and produce your heir, not a lover. And besides, the King and the Queen each have separate chambers like your father and I. You will come to her bed when it is time for you to consummate your marriage. You are not required to sleep and be intimate with her. And if the need arise, you can take a mistress of your own to pleasure you in bed without any questions or boundary."

Frustrated, "My Queen Mother, what you are telling me to do is inconceivable." was her cynical remark.

"Carl Philipp Marcus Karnstein, nothing is insurmountable when you are the future king."

After that hopeless comment from her mother, she decided not to challenge the Queen anymore, since she knew that she would lose in this argument. And instead, she planned on taking matters into her own hands.

Finding her composure, "Very well, if my Queen Mother thinks that it would work out, I would not question your opinion anymore. However, I do want the freedom to choose my own bride," she explained.

"And what exactly is in your mind?"

"I wish to choose the bride that suits me. You can select and invite the princesses that you deemed appropriate to be my wife. But I will decide whom I will marry." She suggested.

"Very well, we could arrange for that, as long as you will obey whatever I say," the Queen replied.

"I will, my Queen Mother."

*****

After saying good night to her mother, she hurriedly sought LaFontaine's presence. She heard the door of her chamber opened and was relieved to see her Valet, even though LaFontaine had forgotten to knock again.

"I need your help," she informed her Valet at once.

"You do know that it is my job to help you," Lafontaine answered, as they approached her and began to take off her cloak.

"Aside from that," she said, standing still as LaFontaine began to untie the strings of her overtunic. "I need your help to drive away our guest."

"You mean the beautiful Princess from Weiz that was being paired to you by Her Majesty?!"

Annoyed, she rolled her eyes as she heard LaFontaine's somewhat unbelievable stupid reaction. "Yes."

"But why?!" was LaFontaine's curious and dejected reply. "She is so beautiful and a good match for you."

"You're beginning to sound like my mother," she accused irritatingly. "I don't have any desire to marry and I don't need a wife."

"But you do need a wife and a queen to carry your offspring and be the mother of your children!"

"LaFontaine, you are worse than my mother!"

"With all due respect, the heir to the throne always needs a woman to guide and enlightened them," her Valet started. "Your wife would be your partner when you rule your kingdom and she could be the person that you could trust the most when it comes to any decision that you would make. Aside from that, she could be your friend and your lover."

Suddenly, the word lover pained her. Who would dare to love her? Who would dare accept what she really was? It never occurred in her mind that she would someday find someone who would both love her and accept her. Not after she had found out the truth. She may have accepted the fact that she was different, but she had lost her confidence of loving someone and finding someone who would love her in return. Not even Ell could bring back her confidence when it comes to being intimate with someone.

She hated that she had to explain again the reason behind why she refused to marry however; she needed LaFontaine to understand her too.

"Tell me, how would I explain to my future wife about these," was her challenging remark, pointing to her chest and then to her crotch.

"Oh." Was LaFontaine's simple and sober reaction.

"According to my mother, I don't need to get intimate with my wife because I just need to impregnate her and make sure that I produce an heir of my own." She related.

"Well… to be honest, you can do that but-"

She rolled her eyes refusing to believe that her own Valet agrees with her mother, however, she knew that LaFontaine always have a reasonable explanations to all her predicaments, "But what?"

"But it would be unfair to your wife if you would just use her like that."

"So you finally agree with me?"

"On the contrary, most of the royal marriages are rarely based on love," LaFontaine expressed.

"So, you mean to say that my mother and father do not love each other?"

"No, I did not mean like that." was LaFontaine quick answer. "Most of the monarchs like you need to establish an alliance to keep the empire going from generation to generation. As the future king of Karnstein you need a wife that would not just bear and produce your heir but someone who would suit also as a queen; like your mother, for instance."

"But I don't want to marry someone who would always dictate me what to do," she quipped.

"Why don't you take a chance on love?" LaFontaine challenged her out of the blue.

She gave her Valet a sarcastic smile. "Do you really think that there is a person out there who could accept me and love me for what I am?" she retorted. "You are naïve and hopeless."

"And you are being pessimistic," LaFontaine retaliated. "You haven't even tried and you are already giving up. You are the future king of Karnstein you should not give up in your battles."

Her ego was suddenly hurt by what LaFontaine said but it was the truth. "There are certain battles in life that have been won before it has been fought," and with that, she walked out of the conversation and decided not to waste more time.

She put on a thick robe and left her chamber with full determination and had already constructed an alibi out of her betrothal to the Princess of Weiz.

*****

After successfully convincing Princess Madelaine that she loved someone else and wish not to marry the Princess of Weiz, her mother on the other hand did not waste a time finding another candidate.

And now after just a week, she was summoned by her mother to come to dinner in her finest clothes and to meet the Princess from Liezen.

She sauntered to the direction of the family dining hall, and tried to recall all the information that LaFontaine gathered about this princess. She learned that this princess does not like to ride a horse and denounced hunting. Aside from that, this princess was very particular about cleanliness and does not like to get her hands dirty. Upon learning all these things, she made sure that her plan would turn out smoothly.

Yesterday, she asked her father for the first time to accompany her to go on hunting today, she was lucky to have her request granted even if her father was very busy. She knew that the King could not say no to her, especially if she wanted to go out. But her father told her that it would be a pleasure to spend some time with her to make up for the ten months that the King was away. She was very happy to bond with her father and she purposely prolonged their hunting so that they would arrive late at dinner.

When she arrived at the dining hall, she saw the Queen already seated on her mother's usual chair, while the King's chair remained empty. She had expected that the Princess would be put next to her chair on her left side, and she was right; as she saw the sight of a thin young woman with long straight brown hair sitting on that chair.

"Good evening my Queen Mother," she bowed at once to the Queen and did not give her mother a chance to talk yet. "Forgive me for coming late; I was with my King Father in the forest hunting all day. We enjoyed immensely hunting for those deer that we have forgotten the time."

"It is alright my son, as long as I know that you went out and enjoyed it. I would not oppose to that at all," the Queen replied and gave her a satisfied smile before gesturing to the princess that was sitting patiently on the other side of the dining table. "I would like you to meet our guest, Princess Sarah," the Queen started and they focus their attention to the girl. "This is my son, Prince Carl Philipp Marcus, the heir to the throne of Karnstein Kingdom." She heard her mother's proud introduction.

She walked to the other side of the table at once as soon as she saw the Princess rose from the chair and bowed to her direction. "It is an honor to meet you Your Royal Highness I am Princess Sarah Martina Kristina of Liezen."

"It is an honor to meet your acquaintance Princess Sarah," she returned and took the Princess' hand and kissed the back of it. She smiled when she felt that the princess released right away from her hold and discreetly wiped the hand that she kissed on the back of the princess' dress. She pretended that she did not catch it and motioned for the Princess to take a seat and she obliged as one of the servants pulled the chair for the princess, while she took her seat too.

"So, Princess Sarah I am planning to go hunting again tomorrow, would you do me the honor of being my companion?" she asked, not wasting her time of ruining this match.

"I… I apologize Your Royal Highness, but I have not ridden a horse for a long time," was the princess' sheepish remark.

"Oh. And why's that if I may ask?" she returned, but her mother halted the princess' answer at once.

"Carl, I am sure Princess Sarah can do something else aside from hunting," the Queen supplied. "Something she is comfortable with."

"Forgive me for being apathetic," she relayed and saw that the princess became at ease. "How about doing some gardening with me? I know it is a rare hobby for a prince, but I do love planting my own roses and getting my hands dirty with the soil."

This time she saw the princess flinched at the mention of dirt and soil.

"Forgive me Your Majesty, but I think his Royal Highness and I had nothing in common," the Princess related to the Queen, with an upset voice. "If I may be excuse, I think I would like to take a rest now. I suddenly feel unwell."

"I regret to hear that" was the Queen's worried remark. "Would you escort Princess Sarah to her chamber, Carl?"

"There is no need, Your Majesty," the Princess opposed right away. "I wouldn't want to bother His Royal Highness. It is a pleasure meeting you, Prince Carl."

As soon as she saw the princess rose from the seat and bowed to her, she rose from her seat too and nodded. One of the servants was summoned by the Queen to help the young woman and was escorted outside.

It did not take long before they heard the announcement that the King had arrived. They bowed to the King and her father gave her a puzzled look as they all took their seats.

"What happened to the Princess of Liezen? I thought she will eat dinner with us?" was the King's confused remark while taking his seat.

"I really don't have any idea my King Father," she replied innocently and began to unfold the table napkin in front of her and put it on her lap.

"The poor girl suddenly became unwell… perhaps due to your son's suggestion of gardening with him," the Queen's suspicious answer.

"I don't see anything wrong with that." The King commented.

She smiled wickedly as she heard her father not opposing to her odd hobby and watched how this interaction between her mother and father would last.

"My King, gardening is a filthy and appalling hobby for a prince. I don't know why your son is so mad about making it as his pastime." The Queen disagreed.

"Nothing is appalling and filthy as long as my child is happy and satisfied," the King retorted and winked on her direction. It was her first time to connive with her father against her mother and she was enjoying it.

"Thank you my King Father for your acknowledgement with regards to my passion." She declared gaining some confidence from her father's reaction.

"Philipp, you and your son can agree however you like with regards to gardening, but I still disapprove it," the Queen retaliated giving them her icy cold stare.

Seeing that the Queen became upset, "I apologize My Queen, I did not mean to disregard your opinion," the King apologized and caressed the Queen's hand.

As she witnessed this scene between her mother and father, she cannot help but to imagine how she would be, if she ever has a wife: would she become like her father and obey all those things that her mother desires, or would she be like her mother who always wants her every desire to be fulfilled?

*****

It did not take long for her mother to find another potential bride for her. And now, she was on her way to the castle's guest room to welcome another new visitor. Seven weeks had passed and different princesses had visited their castle every week.

LaFontaine was walking beside her as they descend the grand stairways of the castle on the way to the castle's guest room. Her mother and father were attending some important matters and she was left in charge of welcoming the Princess from Graz.

"Her name is Princess Helena Beatrice Cristina and she is the daughter of the King of Graz," LaFontaine briefed her on the way. "Just like you, she is the only child of the King and Queen of Graz and likes all the attention focus on her and loves to be pampered."

"Hmm… are you implying that I am self-centered and overindulged?"

"No, I am just saying that this princess are used to having all attention to her and wanted to be treated special," LaFontaine retorted. "And for the record, you are not self-centered… perhaps overindulged due to the lavish gifts from the Queen…"

"One more word and I'll feed you to the dragons," she replied playfully.

"You wouldn't dare; because I'm the only one who can help you with this 'princess troubles of yours," her Valet retaliated and gave her a wicked grin.

She smirked back wickedly, and as they near the guest room she asked LaFontaine about their scheme. "So, what's the plan?"

"After dinner, you'll invite the princess to come with you at the tea room," LaFontaine explained. "I have talked to Ell and asked her to serve the tea."

"What?!" she panicked at once at the mention of Ell's name. "You know that my mother had prohibited Ell and I to see and talk with each other-"

"Calm down, Her Majesty won't be back until tomorrow afternoon," LaFontaine reasoned out. "That's why you have the whole night to convince the princess that Ell is your Mistress and that-"

"Hold it! I'm not going to involve Ell in this scheme," she retorted, hiding the fact that she did not want to see the Royal Mistress again since the last time Ell tried to pleasure her, she lost her confidence and left Ell frustrated.

"I have talked to her and she agreed to help," LaFontaine tried to convince her. "And besides, where are we going to find someone who could play your mistress and agree to keep this secret aside from Ell?"

She eventually conceded at her Valet's idea. "Alright, so what would I do?" she asked impatiently.

"While in the tea room, try to irritate the princess by flirting with Ell and looking at Ell like the way you looked at her," LaFontaine suggested.

"Like what?" was her confused remark.

"Like you're going to tear Ell's clothes and devour her."

"Hey! I don't look at her like that," she denied with all her might.

"Is that so?" was LaFontaine's sarcastic reply. "Because the first time I saw you with Ell it does not looked like you are enjoying drinking wine with her."

She remained silent and realized just now that LaFontaine did catch them when Ell gave her, her first taste of oral intercourse.

"Alright, let's just get on with it and dismiss this princess as fast as we can," She returned and stopped arguing with her Valet. "And don't include Ell again if this plan didn't work out."

"What are you going to do then? Hide from the princess?" LaFontaine retaliated.

"Why not?"

She saw LaFontaine rolled their eyes and did not comment anymore. She would do all the necessary things just to avoid getting married.

She had made up her mind and closed her heart.

 

TBC

Chapter Text

Laura

"Laura? Are you awaked Princess?"

She heard Perry's voice as her Lady in Waiting entered her chamber. However, she doesn't have any plan leaving her bed at all. She had been wallowing in pain since the day Princess Danielle had confided to her that she was betrothed to the Prince of Straka.

"Sweetie, it's a beautiful day outside," Perry remarked, while sitting on the bed. "Why don't we go and have a picnic?"

"I'm not in the mood." She mumbled, her back facing Perry.

"You've been like that for the past months, you need to move on,"

She heard Perry's comment but did not bother to face her Lady in waiting. "Just go and have picnic with the girls. I'll be fine here." She suggested, knowing that Perry liked to have picnic too together with the handmaidens and her.

"Laura, you know that sooner or later, you and Princess Danielle would part ways," Perry stated. "You need to accept the truth that you two cannot be together no matter what happened."

"But it's unfair!" she exclaimed and turned around to face a worried Perry. "Why can't we be together? Why can't they allow women to have a choice of who we want to spend our life with?! Why should marriage be between a man and a woman? Why can't it be between a man and a man? Or a woman and a woman?!"

"Because that's what we have grown to believe."

Stupid beliefs! She cursed, remembering what Perry use to say about traditions.

"Laura, just be thankful that you and Princess Danielle were given a chance to be together even if it's just for a short time."

She refused to accept it, "I'll be thankful if I am the one who could marry Danny instead of the Prince of Straka." She retorted and got out of bed and walked to the direction of the bathroom, with Perry following behind her.

"By the way, the chirurgeon was called in today," Perry said with a hint of worries. "His Majesty is not feeling well."

She suddenly stopped and faced her Lady in waiting. "Why? What happened to my father?"

"Kirsch told me that His Majesty was not able to sleep last night and had been coughing the whole night."

"I need to see him." She returned and hurriedly put on her thick robe and shoes.

"Don't you want to change first?"

"It could wait." She replied not bothered if she was still in her sleeping wear under the thick robe. She just needed to check and see her father at once.

*****

"Perry, what's going on? Why is the castle preparing for a banquet? Is there a big feast to celebrate?" she asked as she entered the castle's kitchen and saw about twenty servants and cooks with Perry in a chaotic scene of slaughtering a lamb, butchering a pig, plucking the feathers of the pigeons and chickens, peeling sacks of potatoes, washing tons of different kinds of vegetables and Perry almost covered in flour.

"Your father has an important visitor and the kitchen was ordered to prepare a special dinner to welcome your father's guest," Perry replied after putting the fifth dough of bread on the wooden tray.

"And who is this very important visitor that needed to be welcomed with a banquet?" she asked with a hint of sarcasm, thinking that the preparation for this person was way too much. "Is she a woman?" Was her careful query, as it occurs to her that maybe her father was trying to impress a woman and wanted this woman's hand in marriage.

"No, Princess, it is not a woman… and you can stop worrying," Perry quipped.

"Wha-?! Who said I'm worrying?"

"…Said the pout in your mouth; the narrowing of your eyes and the lines on your brows." Perry delivered perfectly while kneading new dough.

She released the breath that she was holding and rolled her eyes, and followed Perry to the direction of the stone oven. Perry surely knows when she was lying and when she was not.

"Well, I am just curious that's all." She returned, helping Perry carry the trays of dough of breads to be put in the oven.

"I gathered that it was the King from Karnstein Kingdom who is coming," Perry said.

She stopped for a while, thinking that the name Karnstein rang a bell. "Where did I hear that?" and as the name sink in, she opened her mouth wide and covered it quickly with her hand. "Perry shouldn't we be preparing for war instead of a feast?!" was her dramatic reaction upon realizing that it was one of the Hollis' rival kingdom and Styria's notorious trader. "The Karnsteins are well known for conquering lands with abundant crops and livelihoods like ours!"

"Calm down Princess, that was long time ago," Perry replied and put all the doughs in the stone oven. "The Karnsteins was an old rival of your great grandfather but the King of Karnstein today was not engaging in battle but in trading."

"But why is he coming over?" she asked following Perry behind, as suspicions played in her thoughts. "I hope he wouldn't try to deceive my father in order for him to gain the kingdom's richness."

"Princess, I think you are being paranoid," the Lady in waiting accused and faced her. "Why don't you go to your chamber now, Natalie and Betty are waiting for you."

"Why? I am already dressed," she said, looking at herself and wondering why her handmaids were summoned to her chamber again.

"…Because you are going to welcome the King of Karnstein upon his arrival. Your father is not feeling well and still resting in his chamber."

She nodded right away and did not question Perry anymore. Her father's illness was getting worst and she was growing worried day by day. After her heart was broken, she did not entertain any more suitors and devoted her time taking care of her ill father. When she turned eighteen years old she refused to have any feast on her name day and informed the castle that she cannot tolerate the whole castle would celebrate while their king was ill.

And now, six months later, the castle was hosting a banquet and she was skeptic about having this feast tonight.

*****

Before sunset, she saw the carriage and the entire entourage of royal guards clothed in red and black uniforms; then she recognized the banner with Black Panther with a golden crown on its head of the Karnstein's House.

She hurriedly went to the throne room to formally welcome the King of Karnstein.

*****

By the time the dinner banquet was prepared, she was glad that her father felt better and stronger. And now while sitting at the right side of her father over dinner, she smiled as she saw her father partaking in the merriment while engaging at a serious conversation at the same time with the King of Karnstein who was sitting on the left side of her father. Maybe having this feast was not bad at all. She thought finding her father in good humor and seemed satisfied with the outcome.

The Hollis Kingdom's Kitchen had surely prepared an abundant and very special dinner for their guest. It was like showing off what the Hollis' Kingdom has to offer.

The banquet lasted till midnight and she smiled as she saw the satisfied look in her guests' faces. She recalled how the King of Karnstein was so appreciative and thankful for the warm welcome and delicious food, specially mentioning the sweets, before retiring to his chamber half an hour ago, even apologizing for leaving the feast too soon. And she thought this king was kind and humble. She was about to retire to her chamber and bid her father goodnight when she heard the King called her.

"Laura, may I have a word with you in my chamber?"

She heard her father's request and grew worried that he was ill again. "What is it Papa? Should I call the chirurgeon?"

"No, my little Princess, I just have some important thing to discuss with you," the King replied, rising from his seat.

Seeing that her father needed a rest; "Can't it wait till tomorrow? It looks like you need to go to bed now.

"No. I must tell you now," Was the king's firm reply.

Not wanting to upset her father, she nodded and led him out of the banquet hall and walked to the direction of the King's Chamber.

*****

As soon as they arrived at her father's chamber, the king did not waste any time and asked her to sit on one of the three chairs by the King's study table. She obeyed and her father took the seat opposite to hers. Once she was comfortably seated, her father drew his chair near her and took her hands and held it. She suddenly grew anxious. She does not know how she would take it if her father told her that he was dying. She just cannot take it! And before her father could utter a word, a tear was already falling on her left eye.

"Laura my dear, why are you crying?" the King asked at once and brushed the tear on her cheek.

She held her father's hands tighter and gazed at him before asking, "Are you going to tell me that you are dying?"

"No! My little Princess," the King quipped.

She embraced her father at once, relieved upon hearing the truth. "Oh Papa, I was so worried that I thought you are going to leave me like Mama." She burst out and did not bother to suppress the cry that was threatening to fall a while ago. Then she felt her father's hand rubbing her back consolingly.

"Shh, I am not going to leave you," her father whispered in her ear.

As soon as she calmed down and her whimpering subsided, she released from her father's embrace and gazed at his melancholic eyes.

"I love you Papa," she uttered softly, always telling the people around her how she felt.

"I love you too Princess, that's why I must tell you this-" the King hesitated, then looked at her and reclaimed her hands.

"Papa, what is it?" she asked, encouraging the King to speak.

"Laura, we all know that I am sick and we do not know how long I would live…"

Her hold on her father's hands tightened upon hearing that phrase as she waited anxiously at the next word her father will utter.

"It would give me peace of mind and happiness if I would see you now settled."

She narrowed her eyes and contorted her brows, but she remained silent.

"I have tried many times to find you a suitable husband, so that you can be happy and fulfilled-"

This time, she cannot accept what her father told her. "Papa, I am perfectly happy and fulfilled taking care of you and being with you. I don't need a husband to make me happy and fulfilled." She corrected a bit irritated at the thought that finding a husband was the key to happiness and fulfillment of a woman's life. She was not like most of the women and princesses that were so passionate of finding a suitable husband.

"I am aware of that my little Princess," the King replied with a calm voice. "But as a father, I dream of you being married and having a children of your own. Every father and mother's dream is to see their child happy and settled in life. I am not young anymore and not strong enough to find you a suitable husband. Sooner or later, you would need someone who will protect you and take care of you like I do."

"I don't think I could find someone who would protect me and take care of me like the way you do Papa," she retaliated. "That man was not born." She strongly claimed.

"Very well, if that was your opinion, I don't oppose on that," her father nodded. "However, the time has come for you to finally settle down. I have tried my best to invite as many princes as I can, so that you can select among them that suits you best. I have given you the freedom to choose, and yet you still remained unmarried and choosy. That's why this time I have chosen the prince that was best suited to you."

"What are you implying?"

"I decided to marry you off to the Prince of Karnstein."

She was shocked. Having been fussy and meticulous of selecting her potential husband, she did not expect that she would be paired off to the kingdom's old rival. Was this karma? She cannot fathom what her father was thinking?! Of all the princes that were offering their love and castle to her, why did she suddenly end up being betrothed to a prince that she have not even seen nor met? And to say the least, a prince that belonged to the family of their old rival!

"Papa, I will fulfill your wish and get marry," she spoke, but her emotions were taking over. "But why would you decide to marry me off to our family's old rival?! I could have said yes to Prince Viktor since he is still unmarried!"

"Laura, I have been patient enough and waited too long for you to come to a decision, and I cannot wait any longer."

"But I have not even met the Prince of Karnstein," she explained. "What if I don't like him? What if he is one of those arrogant princes that thinks that they were always right and that everybody would bow to them and obey their desires?"

Suddenly, she heard her father cough and put his hand on his chest, rubbing it as the cough continued.

"Papa, forgive me. I did not mean to upset you," she realized that she was beginning to be selfish. She rose from her seat and stood beside the king and rubbed his back. "Come on, I'll tuck you in bed now." She guided her father to the four post bed and removed his cloak, shoes and crown.

Once the king was tucked in bed, she took a chair and put it by his bedside and took a seat. She held her father's hand again, realizing how badly she behaved.

"Laura, I hope you won't hate me for this," the King began to explain gazing at her eyes. "I chose the Prince of Karnstein for you because I wanted to end this old family dispute between the Hollis and Karnstein Kingdom. By marrying you to the Prince of Karnstein our family would gain an alliance and would become two powerful families in terms of trading and cultivation. King Philipp is an excellent trade man and is always searching for a new way to keep his kingdom rich and abundant. He does not waste his richness and teaches his people how to protect and enrich their livelihoods. He cared for his people and does not take a lot from them. He is a kind and generous ruler."

She was finally enlightened after that heartfelt explanation from her father. She cannot continue pining for the loss love that cannot be reclaimed. "Forgive me Papa for being selfish. Now I know that you just meant well for me and I would do everything that you wish and would stop complaining."

"I just want the best for you my little Princess," the King replied. "It is still your choice to make and I know that it is selfish of me to tell you this; but if you would accept this proposal, I would be the happiest father knowing that my little baby would be in good hands and well taken care off. It would give me peace of mind too knowing that there is already someone who would protect you and take care of you."

She took a deep breath and stared at her father for a while, as if weighing her decision. She knew that she had wasted and prolonged her search for finding a husband. And now that she was broken hearted and the only woman that she loves was married, there was no choice but to move forward and accept the fact that she cannot find the love that her heart was longing for. She cannot find another woman that would accept her love and be with her forever, she knew that it would be difficult for her to search further since she was not just an ordinary peasant girl who could do whatever her heart desired.

As what Perry told her, she was a princess and she has a duty and obligation to fulfill, not just to her family but to the kingdom as well.

This time, she needs to face her destiny. And her destiny was already waiting for her at the Karnstein Kingdom.

TBC

Chapter Text

Laura

She could not explain how she felt, but the throbbing of her heart grew stronger as the horse drawn carriage approached their destination, and after some dreading minutes the horses halted.

"Perry… are we-" she fumbled for words, suddenly losing her ability to speak.

She felt the warm hand of Perry held her right hand.

"Yes Princess, we are already at the Karnstein Castle," her Lady in Waiting finished for her.

She had been silent since this morning, after she bade her father and the whole Hollis Kingdom farewell. She faced them with courage, not wanting for her father and the entire kingdom to worry about her as she prepared for her journey to her new life. However, deep inside her, she had never felt so anxious and distress in her entire life. She had never felt so vulnerable and exposed as the thought of living in a new castle with total strangers frightened her.

"What if they don't like me?"

Perry held her gaze and took both her hands. "Laura, King Philipp of Karnstein had personally chosen you to become the wife of the heir to the throne of Karnstein, isn't that enough reason to convince you?"

She felt a bit relieved at Perry's remark, but she still managed not to calm down. "You're right. But… what if he did not like me?"

"Who?"

All of a sudden she was worrying. "The Prince… what if he finds me unworthy to be his wife?"

"Princess, he is a fool not to like you," was Perry's confident reply. "I think he is the luckiest prince in this land. If he only knew how many princes had offered their love and castle for you-"

She stopped Perry on reminding her all over again how precious she was. "I know. Don't mention it anymore, it sounded like we're bragging about me."

"But it's the truth princess," Perry returned, staring at her. "You are the most beautiful, caring and kind hearted person that I have ever met. You always think of others first before yourself."

Her Lady in Waiting absolutely knew how to make her feel good and special, she thought and realized how lucky she was to have such a good friend, and mother-like Lady in Waiting at the same time. "Thanks Perry, I don't know what I would do without you by my side."

"Oh Princess, it is always a pleasure and a joy to help you and accompany you in everything that you do."

"And I am very glad that you're with me as I take this journey," she added, showing more how grateful she was. "Because I don't know if I could do this alone."

"Laura, you're strong and brave, I am just here to remind you that you have all those wonderful qualities that you seemed not aware of," was Perry's genuine remark. "And I am pretty sure that the Queen of Karnstein is going to like you right away."

"How can you tell that, you haven't even met my future mother in law," was her doubtful comment. "I heard that she is a perfectionist and very strict."

"Princess, with your charisma and cheerful qualities and not to forget your beauty, I am sure that you will receive the Queen's approval at once."

After those wonderful remarks from Perry, she finally felt confident and ready to face her new life. She may have lost a mother, but she was thankful to God that He provided a substitute for her mother.

"Shall we go and meet your future husband?"

She heard Perry asked and nodded with confidence to her Lady in Waiting and reminded herself before she stepped down from the carriage, that she was ready to face her destiny and fulfill her duty and obligation as a Princess and as a daughter. She was here because she promised her father that this time she would not avoid her duty anymore and would face the truth. The truth that she could no longer find the love that she was really longing for: the love of a woman.

*****

Once they entered the main entrance of the Karnstein Castle, they were mesmerized at once. It was grander and larger compared to their castle. And there were plenty of royal guards inside the castle however the atmosphere was not like their castle. She finds the Karnstein Castle spacious, cold and a bit darker and quiet, compared to the castle that she grew up with where it was always bright; people were talking to each other, the servants were happily greeting her and the King if they happened to meet them, there were less guards inside the castle since they trust their servants and guards and there were plenty of times that her father allowed the people from the village to eat in the castle once in a while. Everything in the Hollis Kingdom emits warmth and friendliness, the people were mostly smiling. And right now she was having a hard time not to smile and remained silent as she and Perry walked further to the throne room as the steward led the way. Once the main door to the throne room was opened, she and Perry proceeded alone and she walked gracefully to where the King and Queen of Karnstein were sitting. She felt nervous as she was not used to see a throne room without the crowds, but just the King and Queen of Karnstein and some royal guards inside waiting for her to approach. Once she came closer to the throne, she heard the herald announced her name and she curtsied to the King and then to the Queen. She was about to rose form her curtsy when her ears caught already the friendly voice of the King and she saw him rose from the throne and approached her at once.

"Princess Laura, we are so honored and grateful that you have finally decided to become a part of our family," King Philipp declared and gestured to the direction of the Queen who rose from the throne and approached them with a decent distance. "May I present to you my wife, Queen Lilita Mircalla Constance of Karnstein."

"Princess Laura Elizabeth Rosamund of Hollis, it is an honor to have finally met the beautiful Queen of Karnstein," she expressed as she curtsied again and smiled graciously to the Queen.

"It is a pleasure to finally meet you, Princess Laura," the Queen said in a clear and yet formal tone. "I was told by the King that he had chosen a beautiful bride for our prince, but he did not mention that it is the famous princess who is coveted by most of the princes in Southern Styria. What made you decide to finally settle down?"

Suddenly she found herself ashamed of her being meticulous of choosing her husband. She did not expect that the Queen knew about it. But as what all mother in laws, she felt that the Queen was trying to test her on why she was worthy to become the prince's wife. "Your Majesty, I think that I am matured enough to understand and perform my duty fully as a princess, and I felt that this is the right time for me to settle down and fulfill my obligation."

"Why did you agree to this proposal, even if you have not met my son yet and refused the other princes?" The Queen asked in a challenging tone.

"I accepted this proposal not for my own personal choice but to end this old dispute between the Hollis and Karnstein Kingdom. I want to bring peace to both our families," she declared sincerely not breaking her eye contact to the Queen. "I think we could be strong and powerful kingdoms when combined, and this marriage would seal its purpose."

The Queen did not reply further but she saw the impressed look on the Queen's face.

"And we are grateful for you for being an instrument of peace, Princess Laura," the King uttered, breaking the tension. "Consider this as your new home," the King informed.

"Before you retire to your chamber, I have an important thing to tell you about the Prince of Karnstein," the Queen interrupted.

She held her breath and waited anxiously, the way the Queen said it was like something was not good.

"The Prince has angst of going out in an open space and being surrounded by a lot of people. He has not set foot in the village nor other places, except in the perimeters of the castle and its nearby forest," The Queen revealed. "I think it is important for you to know his situation to avoid future problems. So, tell me, would this be a problem for you?"

"I don't think it would be a hindrance at all Your Majesty. No one is perfect," after answering that challenging question satisfactorily, she received a nod and a smile from the Queen.

"Princess Laura, I regret to inform you that the Prince is feeling ill today and cannot personally meet you," The King said, facing her.

She was suddenly worried upon hearing it, "Kindly send my regards to His Highness and I wish for him to recover soon."

"I will Princess," was the King's warm reply.

*****

She was astounded when she opened the door to her chamber and was greeted right away by the large four post bed that was made of mahogany and has burgundy velvet curtains on each post. A full body mirror stood on the left of the bed while a large fireplace that was higher than her can be seen on the left side of the bed, on to her right was the window and beside it was the dressing table with mirror, and just left by the door was the door leading to her own bathroom. The size of this chamber can be compared to the size of her father's chamber back home, and she was overwhelmed by the size of it.

"God, Perry this is actually huge for a little princess like me," she exclaimed as they inspected every corner of the room. She walked towards the wardrobe and saw at least three dozens of different gowns that were hanging and dozens of shoes. She ran to the direction of the dressing table and opened the drawer and saw about ten different kinds of earrings that were mostly made of diamonds, some rubies and sapphires, there were golden necklaces, with diamonds and emeralds and an exotic one made of pearls, about ten pieces of brooches where lined up too in the drawer made in diamonds again and sapphires. And there were four different kinds of tiaras too with diamonds on the table.

Surprised, "Are these all for me?!" she asked Perry, thinking that this prince surely knows how to pamper a princess. "But how did they know if it's going to fit me the dresses and shoes?"

"Because they asked me," was her Lady in Waiting's sheepish reply.

"But they don't need to give me new ones, I got my own and I still love the old ones," was her humble reply. "And the jewelries, I don't think I can accept it, didn't you mentioned to them that I am not fond of jewelries?" was her overwhelming reaction to all the extravagant gifts that were surrounding her. "I wouldn't want the Prince to think that I am extravagant and just thinks of dress and material things."

"I thought that they were going to make a dress for your betrothal feast, I did not expect that they were going to give you dozens of it," was Perry's confused remark.

"Don't touch those dresses that were here. I am going to use my own," she ordered her Lady in Waiting and made sure to remind her handmaids too. "Tell the girls that they should not touch it and that the ones we've packed from home are the things that I am going to use."

"What are you going to do with the gifts from the Prince then?" was Perry's curious remark.

"I don't know yet about the clothes and shoes, since it was personally made to fit my size. But I am definitely going to return all of those jewelries. I don't need it." Was her certain answer.

"As you wished," Perry agreed without any hesitation. "I will prepare your bath now and Natalie, Sarah Jane and Betty are coming right away with your things, is there anything in particular you need so that they knew right away what to unpack first while you are taking a bath?"

"Will you kindly make sure that I have my yellow pillow on the bed beside me?" she asked sweetly her Lady in Waiting, since Perry knew that it was her favorite pillow since she was a child.

"Oh Princess, you are about to marry and yet you're still craving for your security pillow," Perry commented. "When you get married, you can use the Prince of Karnstein as your security pillow instead.

"I don't think the Prince can provide me the same comfort and security like my yellow pillow is giving me," she retaliated, citing the significance of her favorite pillow that had helped her to calm and soothed her while sleeping alone at night. And since she was not in her own bed anymore and was going to sleep on a new bed in a new castle, she would definitely need some comfort and soothing tonight was her initial thought.

*****

She forcefully opened her eyes as the persisting sound of a knock on the door roused her from her slumber. "Who could this be?" she asked herself knowing that Perry just comes in her chamber without any notice, and her handmaids usually calls her name when they were knocking on her chamber.

"Come in!" she shouted back and put on the white silk robe to protect her from the cold air, as she stay on her bed and left the warmness of the blanket.

"Good morning Your Highness, I hope you slept well last night,"

She heard the voice said and saw the image of the person with short red hair as her eyes adjusted to the brightness of the sun rays from her window.

"Please allow me to introduce myself, I am LaFontaine and I am His Royal Highness' Valet de Chambre."

She saw the person bowed to her and narrowed her eyes towards the person. And suddenly her curiosity kicked in, "Are you a woman dressed in a man's clothes?"

"I am Your Highness, but I prefer to be referred neither a he nor a she, and I would prefer they and them when addressing me."

Suddenly she found herself fascinated by this person in front of her. She never thought that there were people who liked to be different and live the life they want. "May I ask who are you again?"

"I am LaFontaine, I am the Princes' Valet and I am here to inform you that His Highness, Prince Carl regrets to inform you that he was still unwell and cannot attend to Her Highness yet,"

"Oh, please send my regards to the Prince and tell Your Highness to get well soon and that I am looking forward to meet him." She related, growing concerned about the Prince's health.

"I will Your Highness," the Valet returned. "If there's anything I could do for Her Highness, please let me know. I am willing to help in any way I can to make the first day of your stay as comfortable as possible."

Her eyes caught the tiara's that were laid on her dressing table and suddenly remembered the enormous gifts. "Yes, there is one thing I like you to do. Kindly tell the Prince thank you for all the gifts that he gave me and I appreciate his generosity and thoughtfulness. Unfortunately, I could not accept it."

She received a dumbfounded look from the Prince's Valet.

"I beg your pardon, Your Highness?"

"The clothes, shoes and jewelries are too much," she explained trying to find a way on how she could tell to the Valet without sounding ungrateful.

"With all due respect Your Highness, the Prince of Karnstein thought that his betrothed deserved the best.

"I am grateful for all the gifts, but I have no use for it since I have my own clothes and my old ones are still perfectly well and beautiful. And I could not accept all those jewelries since I have my own but rarely use them. I think it would be better if the Prince could give it to the Queen instead."

"Very well, I would inform the Prince first before I removed the gifts." Was the Valet's polite reply.

"Thank you LaFontaine and kindly tell the Prince that I hope he is not angry at me for refusing his gifts. But I just thought that it is inappropriate for me to accept such extravagant gifts, especially if I have not seen nor met him yet."

LaFontaine silently nodded and bowed to her. "I will relay the message Your Highness. Have a good day."

"Have a nice day too LaFontaine and it's so nice to meet you," was her chirpy remark before the Valet left her chamber.

*****

After eating her breakfast, the Queen summoned her right away and was told that she would be toured around the castle and its facilities to familiarize herself of her new home.

"I think as the future queen, you should see first the most important place in the castle," The Queen suggested as they left the great hall and walked to the other side of the castle's wing that was separated from the main castle.

She followed the Queen behind. They reached the entrance of the room that the Queen was talking about and when the Royal Guards opened the doors, she was astonished at the sight in front of her.

"This is the castle's kitchen,"

The Queen showed her, as what she could describe the biggest kitchen she had ever seen. It was triple the size of the Hollis' kitchen. As they proceed inside and walk around she cannot help but to admire the structure of how the kitchen was divided.

"I like things in order, so the first section is where all the animals and poultries are to be butchered and cleaned. Over there is the section where all the vegetables and fruits are prepared," The Queen explained. "We have a separate place too where all the grains and wheats are stored and prepared. All the preparations of raw food should be prepared on that table near the fire place and stone oven once the food is cooked it should not get in contact with the raw ingredients. This is where all the hot foods are prepared."

She was impressed at how the Queen manages the production of food in the castle, but there was one thing she was dying to ask.

"Do you have a place too for baking breads and making sweets?" she asked with full of enthusiasm.

"Certainly," The Queen replied as they began to walk to another room that was less warm and much cooler. "I consider this the most important part of the kitchen, because cakes and sweets are the Prince's favorite food."

She grinned at the information that she gathered upon discovering one of the Prince's weaknesses. So, he's got a sweet tooth like me!

"I heard from the King that your castle had served him the most delectable cakes and sweets that the King had ever tasted,"

"Yes Your Majesty, we have one of the best Konditor and bakers back at home," was her proud answer.

"I wish we have our own Konditor, it would have been extraordinary," the Queen commented.

"I think it would not be a problem anymore, Your Majesty," she returned smiling at her future mother in law.

"What are you trying to imply?"

"My lady in Waiting is the Konditor of the Hollis castle, and she had taught me all that is to know about cakes and sweets," she delivered proudly.

The Queen seemed amazed and did not speak for a moment. Princesses were usually not interested in blending with the servants.

"When I was young I used to spend more time in the kitchen, and my Lady in Waiting's mother was the castle's Konditor during that time," she related. "We grew up together and learned a lot from making sweets and cakes."

"I am impressed that a princess like you managed to blend with the servants and eventually learned some of their craft," was the Queen's genuine expression. "If it will please you, the castle's kitchen is at your disposal."

She cannot believe what she just heard; she never thought that the Queen would give her access to the kitchen. "Thank you so much Your Majesty, I am grateful that you trust me to use the castle's kitchen."

"I expect that you can satisfy the Prince's cravings for sweets," was the Queen's challenging remark.

"I assure you Your Majesty, once the Prince had tasted my sweets, he wouldn't crave for anything else but mine," she uttered with confidence and was surprised at how she had conveyed it.

*****

Her second day at the Karnstein Castle had been exhausting with all the walking and climbing the stairs to the different chambers and halls of this enormous castle, and now she was thankful that it was over as she sat in the bath tub and relaxed in the hot water. She tried to recall all the information that she gathered from the Queen about the Prince. She was surprised to discover that they have some things in common like a weakness for sweets and cakes. And now she was looking forward to bake some cakes and make some sweets for him. She did not know why she suddenly had the urge to please him, but perhaps it was just her natural way of doing something good towards others, she presumed. The Queen was surprisingly accommodating as she remembered receiving permission to use the kitchen, now she just needs to go to the market square to buy all the ingredients that they need for making cakes and sweets.

As she reflected the things that happened today, she can say that both the King and the Queen were nice and pleasant towards her. She never expected that she could feel this warm welcome from total strangers and from her family's old rival.

The only thing that was left for her to worry was meeting her betrothed and the anticipation was killing her… It was killing her not knowing how the Prince looked like! It was killing her how the Prince was as a person; it was killing her how the Prince was going to react at meeting her for the first time; it was killing her that she had agreed to marry him even if she did not know him; and it was killing her that this Prince can demand what was rightfully his: her body.

TBC

Chapter Text

Carmilla

The thought of her betrothed sleeping on the other wing of their castle and staying under the same roof as hers was driving her insane. She never had a decent sleep since last week when her father returned from his journey, shocking her with the news of asking a certain princess for her hand in marriage for her. She was still furious at how her father went behind her back and secured her a bride. She did not see it coming.

She felt betrayed when her mother did not invite first the potential bride to be, like the Queen used to do for the past months. Her mother was the only one who was involved in this desperation of finding her a bride and she thought that she had successfully driven away all the potential brides that her mother invited for the past months, when the number of princesses coming to their castle dwindled and when nobody had come for the last four months; she thought that she had won…

She did not know how long she could stay in her chamber pretending to be sick. Her mother and father were both aware that she was cross and do not have any plans on welcoming the princess. She told LaFontaine to inform the King and Queen that she was ill instead. Sooner or later she would need to get out of her chamber, but she would not give her father the benefit of welcoming this princess with open arms and accepting her.

One of the most important things that she learned from her father about winning a battle was to know your enemy; and she was bound to win this one whatever it takes.

Her pondering was broken when she heard the door opened and saw her Valet coming in with a tray of food.

"What took you so long?" she asked irritated, even if she was aware that it was not LaFontaine's job to bring her breakfast. But right now she did not want to see anyone except her Valet, and dismissed the maid that brings her food. She threw the book that she was reading on the side then rose from the bed and walked towards the table by the window where her Valet put the tray.

She controlled the urge to smile as she caught the sight of a yellow long stemmed rose lying on the tray beside the shiny red apple, piece of loaf and her favorite cheese, the Steirerkas. She pulled out the chair beside the study table, sat and started eating while LaFontaine stood beside her.

"What's this rose doing on my tray? Are you trying to lure me to come out of my chamber and visit my garden?" she asked her Valet and suddenly missed her rose garden.

"Princess Laura actually sent that," LaFontaine related. "She wished you well and expressed her concern, since you have been sick for three days now."

She raised her left brow and was actually surprised at the gesture. But she shrugged off the idea of telling her Valet about it. She would not want LaFontaine to think that she was interested, so she ignored any topic that would lead to talking about the Princess. She diverted on another topic instead.

“What did my Queen Mother said?” She asked LaFontaine, while breaking the bread in small pieces. This was the third day that LaFontaine had been in the kitchen to bring her some bread and cheese, and fruits for breakfast.

“Nothing,” LaFontaine had replied and brought out a flask from their breast pocket’s coat and handed to her. It was the Queen's strict rule that she can only drink wine during dinner, and since she had been avoiding their family dinner lately, she lost the chance of drinking some wine.

She gulped down the liquid and did not stop until the last drop, “Thanks,” she exclaimed after drinking her first red wine in three days. “How did you managed to get some?” she asked, knowing that wines in the Karnstein Castle were usually consumed by them and rarely available for the servants and guards of the castle. Although Most and Ale were usually served to the monarch and nobility, the servants consumed mostly the two last drinks. But during festivities her father gives wine too to the servants.

“I’ve asked Perry to save some for me,” her Valet replied, and blushed a bit at the mention of the stranger’s name.

“Who’s Perry?” she asked, nonchalantly as she took a bite of an apple, munching it slowly. “Is she the new cook?” she asked and took another bite.

“No. She’s Princess Laura’s Lady in Waiting,” LaFontaine explained.

She was wondering why a total stranger from another castle had access to their kitchen and buttery.

The butler was usually the one in charge of the buttery, she thought, since she had tried to sneak into the buttery to get some wine, but the butler was given a strict order of her mother not to give wine to her except during dinner times, where her mother can control her wine intake.

“And why was she allowed to go to the buttery? Where’s the butler?” she asked annoyed, knowing that the butler does not allow her to step in the buttery. She could feel that the man dislike her and had thought that the day she became the King, she would fire the butler.

LaFontaine gave her a suspicious look and said, “You never care what happens in the kitchen or pantry or the buttery. Last I know it was the Queen who controls these places. So, How come you’re suddenly concerned about who enters in the buttery? And if I may explain further, Your Highness…” LaFontaine was saying with slight sarcasm, “Perry did not go to the buttery, she was supposed to give the wine to Princess Laura, but decided not to when I asked her a favor.”

“Why didn’t you say so?” she put the blame on LaFontaine.

“Because you suddenly flared up,” was LaFontaine’s calm retort. She remained silent, guilty after her Valet's comment. “And I think you should stop hiding and meet your betrothed,” LaFontaine added.

She hissed in disapproval, “She is not my betrothed,” looking at the door as if afraid that someone might hear it. Her father had not yet made the announcement of her engagement it was only her parents and LaFontaine who knew about it. “And you’re going to help me to stop this betrothal.”

“Aren’t you getting tired of running away from your responsibility?” LaFontaine exclaimed.

“I thought you’re my friend?!” she retaliated, and stood up from the chair not expecting of all people that she would hear those words from them. “You know that I don’t want to get married!”

“I know, but…” LaFontaine replied as their brows contorted. “But don’t you want to find out?” they asked hoping.

“Find out what? …if there’s someone out there who’ll accept an abomination like me?!” she retorted vehemently, not wanting to discuss this thing again.

“No…” was LaFontaine's calm reply before giving her a concerned look. “To find out if she could love you for what you are.”

She was silenced by the last comment.

She had never thought of this thing called love.

She was raised by a mother who gave her child to her wet nurse, and never knew what the word love was. She was thankful that her Ma cared for her like her own child, but there were always something that was missing in that care, a mother’s touch. It was like a void that would remain inside her. There were always a distance between her and her mother that was why her emotions were always suppressed. On the other hand, her mother made sure that she was lavished with the best things in the world that only the kings and princes could have; educated by the best scholars and philosophers; was taught music and arts by the best musicians and artists in Austria; and was brought up being treated the second most powerful person in the whole Kingdom of Karnstein, where everybody obey everything she desired, with the exception of her parents of course. These were love according to her mother and she was provided with it and everything she needed to become an intelligent, strong, fearless, well bred, confident and powerful ruler.

However, every ruler must provide an heir to continue the family’s reign, and this was the biggest challenge she has yet to face.

Desperate, "I tell you what, you help me get rid of the little princess and I'll grant you anything you desire." She told LaFontaine, not knowing what kind of agreement she was going through.

"Anything?!" was LaFontaine's dumbfounded remark.

"Yes. Anything," she replied with absolute certainty. "I am, after all… the future king of Karnstein." She added, smirking.

"Alright it's a deal," LaFontaine agreed. "I haven't really thought about it. So I'll just have to tell you next time or when I've already made up my mind."

"No stress. Take your time. But we need to get rid of my problem as soon as possible," She concluded, giving LaFontaine a mischievous smile.

*****

That night as she waited for LaFontaine to bring her dinner, she cannot help but to wonder why this princess agreed to her father's proposal even if they have not met each other yet.

Surely, she wanted something out of this betrothal; she speculated as she looked outside of her window and gazed at the stars, and then her mind came to a conclusion: This princess from Hollis was one of those extravagant women who liked jewelries and fancy things like gowns and shoes and their only desire in life was to marry a very rich prince and live in a big castle like theirs.

"Don't get mad at me for being late,"

Her contemplation was broken upon hearing her Valet's voice. She turned around and walked towards the table and sat on the chair, as LaFontaine put the tray of her dinner. She inhaled the delicious scent of hot beef pottage in front of her and was about to dip her spoon on the soup when her eyes caught something on the left side of the tray: the little round cake that was like a size of a cup.

She put her spoon down and lifted the saucer where the small cake was placed. She scrutinized the little sweets and inhaled the delicious scent of dark chocolate, she closed her eyes as she imagine taking it in her mouth and relishing the pure taste of cocoa beans in her tongue. She turned her focus to LaFontaine, "This smells delicious did the cook found a new recipe?" she asked, since she was familiar with all the cakes and sweets that their cook were making.

"Oh, I almost forgot," LaFontaine uttered excitedly. "The Princess baked that especially for you."

She raised both her eyebrows and cannot believe what LaFontaine just said. "The Princess made this?" was her surprised reaction, eyeing on the little fancy dark chocolate cake that she was holding. "How is that possible?" she asked questioning the Princess' credibility when it comes to making sweets and cakes. "This looks exquisite, are you trying to fool me?"

"That's the truth," LaFontaine returned with enthusiasm. "I was in the kitchen when Princess Laura and Perry made that. That's why I was late."

She was surprised and at the same time irritated, and suddenly she was not impress and put the sweets back on the tray. "Throw it away." She ordered and did not touch her soup either. "I lost my appetite."

"But why?" was LaFontaine's confused remark.

"I am not hungry anymore," she stated and rose from the chair and grabbed the book that was lying beside the tray.

LaFontaine was about to take the tray and go out with it when she remembered something important.

"I am sure that the Princess was already overwhelmed with all the gifts in her chamber, perhaps you can already ask her about the trade?" She stated, reminding LaFontaine and herself not to be distracted by the gestures from the Princess from pushing through with her plan.

Her Valet just gave her a puzzled look.

Irritated, "The Plan… where you ask the Princess to break our betrothal in exchanged for more golds and diamonds?" she reminded her Valet one of the schemes that they used to do to some of the princesses that agreed not to pursue being her bride and was sent home with more jewelries in exchange for her freedom.

"No. And I think it would not work out this time," LaFontaine returned.

"Why wouldn't it work? I am sure this princess just wants jewelries and fancy things," she declared.

"Because I forgot to mention that the Princess of Hollis was very thankful for all your gifts, however, she told me that she cannot accept all of it, and that she apologized for sounding ungrateful, but she thought that it was inappropriate to accept it."

She was dumbfounded after hearing that remark from LaFontaine. This was the first time that a princess refused her gifts.

"And I told the Princess that I will inform you first before I remove all the gifts in her chamber," her valet added. "Should I take back the gifts?"

This time, she mellowed down and remained silent for a moment as a flicker of guilt hit her, then she softly uttered, "No, don't take it back. Tell her… tell the Princess that I would be hurt if she returns everything," she relayed with a hint of shame in her voice.

"Very well, I will tell the Princess as soon as possible," LaFontaine nodded and bowed before leaving her chamber.

She felt like she was slapped in the face. She thought that everything can be solved as long as there were gold and diamonds involved. She thought that anything can be bought with her wealth and power, but this time she was wrong.

*****

 

The following day, she decided to be “sick” for the fourth day, testing how far the princess' patience of waiting for her would stretch. Right on the dot, when the clock struck twelve in the afternoon, her Valet came with the tray of her midday meal, and serves it in front of her on the table as she sat comfortably on the chair. She was contented when she saw nothing unusual on her tray in the form of a flower or sweets.

"It's good to see you come on time," was her sarcastic remark to her Valet, as LaFontaine laid also the table napkin on her lap.

"Well, everybody went out early today, so the kitchen was not that busy," LaFontaine returned.

Curious, she asked her Valet quickly, "Who's everybody? And why are they out?"

"After breakfast, His Majesty and the Queen invited the Princess and Perry to go out and ride the horse, so that Princess Laura would be familiar around the vicinity."

She grew worried at the thought of her parents getting fond of this Princess and became annoyed. Instead of reacting at LaFontaine's remark, she decided to follow up on their plan.

"Have you gathered enough information about the Princess?" she asked as she buttered her loaf. "I don't want my mother and father to get used of seeing the Princess in the castle."

"Not quite yet. But I am going to talk afterwards with one of the Princess' handmaids." LaFontaine returned.

"You better hurry," was her serious order. "The faster we could send her back home, the better." She remarked, wanting this plan of driving away the Princess to commence soon. "And why do you keep calling the Princess' Lady in Waiting by her given name? Did you befriend her?" was her suspicious query and suddenly saw her Valet crimsoned like never before.

"No. Per… the Princess' Lady in Waiting had been very nice towards me, and insisted that I call her by her given name," LaFontaine reasoned out.

"I hope you're not conniving with the enemy," she retorted giving her valet a suspicious look before dismissing them.

 

*****

Before the sun set, LaFontaine returned with juicy news for her…

"From what I've learned, Princess Laura was very picky when it comes to choosing a husband," LaFontaine informed her, as they devised a plan on their next scheme. "She'd had almost twenty proposals but none of them had succeeded to win Princess Laura's heart."

"And why is that?" she asked, suddenly curious, as she paced with her hands crossed behind her back.

"According to my source, there were two princes who have been Princess Laura's favorite and had grown fond of," LaFontaine explained as they stood beside the fireplace. "The first one was a young prince from the south. I was told that the prince looks very young, barely a man in appearance, though he has already reached his puberty, he still doesn't look like a man."

"What do you mean?" she queried.

While she was growing up nobody had explained to her the changes that a girl or a boy would go through when they reached puberty. The only changes she thought that could happen to a child like her was that, one's sex could change upon reaching puberty. Just like in her case. And since she underwent a lot of changes in her life, she did not even noticed if those changes were really part of a normal life. Because she was just thrown in this life without a choice.

"It means the prince doesn't have facial hair and was very clean in appearance. He was thin and not muscular," LaFontaine described seriously.

"So you mean to say, Princess Laura dislikes men with facial hair and muscular?" She inquired, raising her left eyebrow as she strokes her chin.

"Precisely!" LaFontaine agreed, giving her a nod. "And hear this out, I think you might find this particular information very helpful: the Princess has an intense aversion to men with beard."

"What do you mean?"

"My source told me that the King of Hollis had to remain clean shaven due to the Princess refusing to kiss her father on the cheek," was LaFontaine's passionate retelling of the story. "The King even ordered his brother, the Princess' uncle and the Princess' cousin, the heir to the Hollis' throne to always shave, because Princess Laura dislikes men with facial hair and finds it repulsive. Even the Princess' personal royal guard was been called by the princess barbarian when he started to grow his beard, and refused to let him guard her until he was clean shaven."

"Well, that was very interesting and enlightening," she replied. "But what happened to the Prince? Why didn't the Princess accept his proposal when she's attracted to him?" was her very curious question.

"…Because according to my source the young prince was so captivated one day by the beauty of Princess Laura that he wasn't able to control himself in her presence. He tried kissing her and she kissed him back, but the poor young prince was so aroused that he did not manage to stop his erection just after the first kiss! So, when Princess Laura noticed his bulge in his trousers, she panicked and dismissed him," LaFontaine relayed and laugh hard after the last information. "I think the princess is afraid of penis!" was LaFontaine's funny remark.

She did not find it funny. She laughed along with LaFontaine, pretending that the joke was hilarious and amusing. But deep inside her she was wondering.

Not wanting to dwell on that last part, she drew LaFontaine's attention by asking another question, "How about the other prince, what happened to him?"

After recovering from laughing, LaFontaine cleared their throat before proceeding, "Ehem… Well, this is a bit odd. Because this prince from the Kingdom of Lawrence is absolutely not the type of prince that Princess Laura likes. He has a beard, muscular and ruggedly handsome."

"So, how come the princess was fond of him?" was her perplexed remarked.

"Princess Laura was fond of him, because he always takes his younger sister, the Princess of Lawrence with him whenever he visits Princess Laura," LaFontaine informed. "Princess Laura thought that it was nice of him to bring along his sister every time he was in Hollis Kingdom… because Princess Laura gained a very special friend in the form of the Princess of Lawrence."

"Hmm… so you were saying that Princess Laura preferred the company of the princess instead of the prince?" Was her theory.

"Well, my source did not comment more on that," LaFontaine replied. "All I've learned was there were lots of times that both the Prince and Princess of Lawrence visited and stayed over at the Hollis Kingdom. Until one day, they both did not come at all."

"What happened?" she asked impatiently.

LaFontaine furrowed their brows before continuing, "The Princess of Lawrence got married and the Prince of Lawrence stopped coming. And Princess Laura did not accommodate anymore suitors for years… until she said yes to your proposal."

She was yanked from speculating further about what had happened between Princess Laura and the Lawrences siblings, when she heard LaFontaine's last remark.

"I did not propose to her! It was my father who proposed for me!" She retaliated losing her temper. Until now she cannot accept the fact that the King was involved in this predicament.

"And may I remind you that the Queen requests your presence at tomorrow's dinner," LaFontaine's comment made her more irritated. "Your mother emphasized that you will be formally introduce to the Princess of Hollis.

"What if I said no?" Was her arrogant reply, as if challenging her mother's order.

"Ah, yes, the Queen emphasized also that if you neglect to attend the dinner, Her Majesty would burn all the Philosophy books in the library." LaFontaine stated clearly.

"And you really know how to persuade me," was her mocking reply, and glared at her Valet.

"Do not hang me. I am just the bearer of news."

*****

So it began her wicked plans of driving away another princess, and this time she had planned it carefully so that this marriage would not come into fruition. She knew that her mother was already preparing for the announcement of her engagement and she had planned on interfering it before they had a chance to tell the whole kingdom.

Desperate on breaking her betrothal to the Princess of Hollis, she plotted a scheme that would surely shocked and drive away the Princess.

*****

She woke up early and summoned LaFontaine right away to her chamber. She just finished bathing and was in the bathroom with her Valet sitting in front of the mirror, looking at the facial hair on her jawline.

"Are you sure it looks like this?" She asked LaFontaine, worried, checking for the second time both her cheeks in the mirror, as LaFontaine worked on the false beard, meticulously putting it on her cheeks and attaching to her side burns.

She told LaFontaine to make it look more rugged, so they opted on applying the beard all the way to her cheeks and trimmed it to look neat and appropriate. "Don't you think it should go all the way down to my throat, like my father's?" she asked comparing the King's modified trimmed full beard to the false heavy stubble that was glued to her cheeks and around her lips, almost hiding the delicate shape of her mouth.

"No. We don't want to overdo it," Her Valet reasoned out, checking the strength of the beard's glue when applied to her face. LaFontaine opted on applying the beard beyond her jaw line, but keeping her neckline visible. "And besides, you should have lesser facial hair because you're still young."

"Says who?" Was her curious reply.

LaFontaine shrugged their shoulders, "I don't know it's just the way I observed people in the village."

Her expression became a little sober upon hearing LaFontaine's comment. She had never set foot outside the castle's walls and had never met different kinds of people in her life, only few of the people that serve and guard the castle.

"Alright," she agreed and checked her chin, unsatisfied with the lack of hair around her mouth. "But I need you to cover the area around my mouth with only my lips visible. I'd like the Princess to cringe if ever I need to kiss her." Was her naughty remark, and gave her Valet a wicked smirk.

After hours of putting and adding the beard and bickering with LaFontaine, she finally got the look that she wanted. She checked again her reflection on the mirror and smirked at the outcome. She looked like the younger version of her father. The length of her beard can be compared to heavy stubble, only it was softer and it covered almost half of her cheeks as it connects through her sideburns, the area around her mouth was covered as well, emphasizing the redness of her thin lips and her pearly white teeth, a perfect contrast to her dark facial hair. She eventually settled for LaFontaine's suggestion of just having her beard under her jaw line and not all the way on her throat, leaving her creamy smooth neck visible and her beard neat. Now she was ready to drive away some princess.

As a part of her daily hair grooming, LaFontaine was about to apply beeswax to her hair, to keep the bangs and the top in place and clean looking, a look that her mother considered most appropriate.

"No. Don't put it," she declared, not opting for the neat look that her mother approved.

"May I remind you that you cancelled your hair trim last time," Lafontaine said, still holding the glass of beeswax. "Your hair would look messy and rough if I don't apply it."

Her hair was still short but untrimmed and it does not passed on the Queen's standard of short clean cut. She was about to tell them to put it away, but her mischievous alter ego had another plan. "On second thought, you can apply it but…" she emphasized on the word 'but' putting LaFontaine suddenly on hold. "… muss and ruffle it to my hair."

LaFontaine gave her a confused looked, "You want me to make your hair look messy and unruly, is that what you're saying?"

"Yes."

LaFontaine hesitated, "But that would be imperfect and the Queen would definitely disapprove that look."

Her patience was running out. "For years I have obeyed my mother and father their every desire…" she started, as her rebellion started to show up. "When I told them that I am the one who would choose my wife, I thought they have given me the full responsibility to do it. But once I found out that my father had personally picked a bride for me, I felt like they betrayed me. Do you still expect that I am going to obey everything they say?"

"No." Lafontaine supplied quickly. "But do you have any intention at all to choose a wife? Perhaps His Majesty was impatiently waiting for you to decide, that's why he took matters into his own hands."

Guilty of the truth, "Say whatever you want to say, but I am not obeying any orders from anyone anymore… so, will you stop arguing with me and just do what I say?!"

"Alright."

After a couple of minutes, LaFontaine had finally acquired the goal of looking imperfect as she smirked at the reflection of herself on the mirror.

"Now, you look like you just got out of bed," was LaFontaine's unsatisfied remark.

"It's not so bad… maybe you could always style it like this," was her satisfied comment as she check out her hair, after LaFontaine had mussed her hair into the desired level of unruliness, until it's in perfect disarray. She noticed surprisingly that this 'just got out of bed' look, as what LaFontaine called, complements with the false heavy stubble on her perfectly squared jawline.

"How do I look?" She asked proudly facing LaFontaine.

LaFontaine looked into her face, nodded with approval and gave her a smirk beaming with pride at their latest masterwork, "Ruggedly handsome."

"Perfect!" She exclaimed looking back at the mirror to check again. "Let's see how this princess reacts being betrothed to me."

*****

She sauntered her way through the hall of the castle wearing her most masculine long sleeve purple tunic, opting for this thick tunic to make her looked muscular; black trousers and black cloak and her black leather riding boots that had two inches soles to add on her height . She put on her crown knowing that it was a special family affair. She smiled with full of confidence and cannot wait for the reaction of the Princess of Hollis.

LaFontaine was as usual besides her briefing about what to do.

"I have already informed the King and the Queen that you are coming," LaFontaine relayed.

After all the days of hiding and avoiding the Princess of Hollis, she finally gave up and thought of a better plan to escape this betrothal.

"And dinner would take place in your usual family dining room," LaFontaine informed.

The castle has different dining rooms and halls that were being used in every occasion. The most intimate room was the family dinner room where it holds a small rectangular table that has two chairs on both sides and the king's chair at the head table. She thought it would be perfect for her to observe the Princess.

 

*****

When she entered the dining room her Queen Mother was already seated on the right side of the king's chair. She smirked as she saw the Princess of Hollis sitting on the left side of the table, beside her chair, to the left of the king's chair. She discreetly stared at the new bride candidate and surprisingly found the Princess beautiful. There were dozens of princesses that she met, but she found this particular princess emits not just beauty but warmth, light, happiness and charm; it's like sunshine. But before she could interpret this admiration for attraction she composed herself and focused on her plan.

She walked towards the Queen to kiss her mother's hand and noticed the surprised look in the Queen's eyes.

"Good evening My Queen Mother," she said, trying to catch her mother's facial reaction as the Queen looked at her, waiting for some disapproval.

But instead of a retort, her mother gave her the Queen's signature controlled smile. "How nice of you to finally join us, my son," was the Queen's pleasant remark and then gestured to the princess across the table. "May I present Prince Carl Philipp Marcus of Karnstein, my only son and the heir to the throne of Karnstein Kingdom."

She walked around the table and approached the princess who had already rose from the chair and curtsied before her.

"Princess Laura Elizabeth Rosamund of Hollis," the princess replied after curtsying. "It is an honor to finally meet Your Royal Highness."

She held the Princess' gaze, as if eyeing the little Princess as her prey, then slowly took the Princess' right hand, gently brought it to her lips and kissed it as she stared at her betrothed not wanting to miss the Princess' reaction. "It is a pleasure to meet your acquaintance, Princess Laura," she said with her deepest and most enticing voice. She did not release the princess' hand for a while and gazed at her with those dark orbs, putting the princess in an uncomfortable situation. But she was surprised when the princess did not twitch a single finger and held her gaze too. Her mischief was interrupted when the royal guards announced the King's arrival. She released the princess' hand gently and stood beside her as they all bowed to the king upon his arrival.

"Good evening My King Father," she said, as she saw the angry look at her father's expression upon recognizing her.

"What's the meaning of this?!" the King demanded, still standing beside his chair and facing her.

The Queen touched the King's right elbow and held it, "I am sure your son would explain that to us afterwards. In the meantime, why don't we sit and celebrate this occasion and formally welcome Princess Laura into our family."

The King calmed down and took his seat, and they followed after him. And so the servants began pouring the wine and serving the first coarse.

She took a sip as soon as the servant poured the wine in her goblet and glanced at the Princess of Hollis who was sitting to her left and chatting with her mother. It was the first time she saw the Princess up close; she smirked wickedly and thought this would be easy.

The Princess of Hollis looked the same as the other princesses that were invited to the castle as her potential wife. They were naïve, pretty, innocent, vain, snob, demanding, lazy, egocentric and lackwit. They all want the same: to marry a prince, do whatever they desire, own all the finest clothes, shoes and jewelries and do nothing all day in the castle. They were all imbeciles!

She remained silent as if wanting to send a message that she was not interested. She just answered some questions as short as possible, so as not to encourage a conversation. Half an hour passed and they were all ready to retire in their chambers. She behaved during dinner and let her mother and father talked to her 'betrothed', while she continued to scrutinize the little Princess of Hollis. She found out that the Princess did not eat too much main course but had a sweet tooth and particularly likes red wine, and was fond of talking.

She was too involved in analyzing the Princess of Hollis she did not noticed that the Queen was already calling her. "Carl!" She was distracted from her evil plan and focused her sight to the Queen.

"Princess Laura is ready to retire to her chamber," the Queen informed.

She may be mischievous but she does not forget her manners. So, when the servant pulled out the princess' chair, she stood up and offered her arm to the princess as a sign of escorting her out. The princess gladly took her arm and they were about to bow to the Queen and the King before they leave, but the King's commanding voice stopped them.

"Hold it there, young man! I am not finish talking to you!" The King ordered.

She turned her gazed to the Princess of Hollis, "Princess Laura, I am afraid that I cannot escort you to your chamber since I have some things to resolve with my father," she said politely, and summoned one of the royal guards to replace her. "I hope you will have a nice evening."

"Thank you Your Highness for the lovely evening," the Princess returned and left the hall.

"Leave us!" The King ordered and every servants and royal guards in the room left except for her and the Queen.

She remained standing at the other end of the table right across the King's place and the spot where her father stopped her from escorting the princess.

"What are you up to now?! What kind of nonsense are you planning again?! I am already fed up of your mischiefs!" The King declared, glaring at her, while the Queen remained seated, ready to pacify the King.

"I do not understand what you are talking about my King Father," was her innocent remark.

"You know damn well what I am talking about!" was the King's furious reply. "I have travelled so far to find you a suitable wife, now that I found her you will just ruined it?!"

She can see that her father was already in the verge of his anger, but she still remained calm and composed; a trait that she learned from her mother, "Showing your emotions is a sign of weakness."

"I do not see anything that I am doing would ruin this betrothal," was her sarcastic retort.

"You watch your tongue young man!" The King shouted, stood up and banged his hands on the table. "You will remove that beard at once!" He finally said it.

She was also feeling her anger rising, but she took a deep breath and still composed herself. She had learned many times how to win an argument but this was her first time arguing with her father, and it looked like she got her bad temper from him. She was already tired of entertaining dozens of princesses to be her suitable wife and had already told her mother that she wished not to get marry but her father refused to accept it.

"I do not see any reason why I cannot have a beard," She replied while stroking her bearded chin, as if provoking her father. "I am after all… a prince." She disclosed as she saw the look of concede on her father's face. "Goodnight my King Father," she said with full of pride in her voice, and looked at her mother, "Goodnight my Queen Mother." And with that, she bowed her head to both of them and walked out of the room with an air of confidence and a wicked smile.

 

TBC

Chapter Text

Laura

"Oh Princess, you're here!" was Perry's excited remark as she entered her chamber. "How does he look like?"

She handled her first meeting with the Prince very well, maintaining her composure and poise like a true princess. Her future in laws never had a slight idea at how she was feeling while meeting their son. But once she arrived at her chamber, and reality sunk in, the emotions that she was suppressing since dinner had burst.

She was still in a semi state of shock and processing the situation after meeting the Prince of Karnstein. Then it dawned in her: this was karma; karma for being fussy about how the men around her would look like so as to suit her preference; karma for her qualm on man's facial hair and how it cringe her; karma on being choosy when it comes to selecting her husband; karma for being unappreciative and dissatisfied of the people that cares for her; Prince Viktor would have been the best husband for her if she would have to choose again; despite the awkward state that she had experienced with him last time, she knew that he was a nice and polite person, not to mention clean looking and not the typical naughty, wild, ruggedly handsome and arrogant type. Prince Viktor could have been the type of husband that would grant her every wish like her father. But she was so blinded by her attraction and love for Danny that she did not saw how Prince Viktor could have been the perfect husband for her! She took him for granted and now she was paying for all she had done with him and the other men in her life, as faith mocked her and gave her the Prince of Karnstein.

"Oh Perry, he looked perfectly all the things that I hate in a man!"

Confused "What do you mean?" Perry asked.

Perry might have noticed her state of immobility, "Laura, what's wrong?" her Lady in Waiting asked and led her to bed and they both sat.

"Everything is wrong!" she expressed, resting her head on Perry's shoulder as her Lady in Waiting put an arm around her. "He has a beard!" she grumbled.

"Oh." Perry realized. "Well, maybe when you get to know him better and already close to him, you could ask him to shave off his beard for you."

"I don't know Perry I think he wouldn't do that. I find him arrogant and broody,"

"How could you say that when you just met him tonight," Perry explained in her famous diplomatic way. "I'm sure he is not like the other princes that you met, who acts like they are the king."

"But he is, the future king!" was her hopeless reply; having met some of the heirs to the throne and finding the similar attitude of arrogance in them. "And he is not just the sole heir to the throne, he is an only child! Imagine how domineering, egocentric, overindulged, aggressive-"

"…Self-reliant, matured, independent, responsible, obedient, trustworthy he might be?" Perry finished the sentence. "You are an only child too."

Perry's reminder silenced her and pouts at the truth.

"So you think I'm domineering, egocentric, overindulged and aggressive?"

"Hmm… you are certainly not egocentric and overindulged. But you're kind of domineering and sometimes aggressive," was Perry's sarcastic answer.

"I am not!" she objected, but received a narrow look from Perry. "Am I?" was her sheepish query.

"Laura, every person has its own good and bad qualities," Perry related, giving her a reassuring smile. "Nobody's perfect. When it comes to marriage and living with another person, it is a challenge. Because our own comforts would be put to test and push into its limits. That's why it's important not to judge and not to expect too much."

"But what if he does not obey me?" was her worried remark, knowing that she was betrothed to a future king. "What if he is too arrogant to comply?"

"Princess, first and foremost, it is likely to happen that Prince Carl would not bend easily to your every wish and desire, since you've mentioned that he is the future king. But everything takes time. You need to work hard to gain his trust and respect. You cannot expect at once that he would grant your every desire," Perry explained in the most rational way. "Your duty as a wife is to obey your husband and honor him, but you're entitled also to your own opinion and he should respect you above all."

"I wish I would have said yes to Prince Viktor," was her hopeless remark, thinking that she could have easily dealt with Prince Viktor since she had known him better compared to the Prince of Karnstein, and they all knew that Prince Viktor was smitten with her.

"Laura, you mustn't say that," her Lady in Waiting criticized in a strict tone. "Remember, you're the one who said yes to this betrothal, nobody had forced you. You could have said no in the first place to avoid any problems. But right now, it was already too late to change your mind. You should take full responsibility for all of your actions now. Backing out in this marriage is like declaring a war to the Karnsteins."

She groaned in defeat and did not realize until Perry mentioned to her how she had been selfish and superficial; she did not realize how her fussiness could lead into a huge problem between two kingdoms. "I didn't mean it… I apologize. It's just… I've been controlling my emotions since dinner," she sighed and tried to recall her first encounter with the Prince. "When I saw him in the dining hall, I panicked at once… because the first thing I noticed is his beard… I… it's like my mind had blocked everything and the only thing that I was thinking was I hate his beard. And when he introduced himself, he took my hand and kissed it and the feeling of his beard on my hand gave me the shivers."

"Did he notice it?" was Perry's worried remark.

"No, he didn't. Thank God," she returned. "I maintained my composure and poise just like you taught me, and never put him in an awkward position. However, he did try to put me in uncomfortable state."

"What do you mean? Where you hurt?" was the automatic worried reply of her Lady in Waiting.

"No, he didn't hurt me," she explained, and put her hand on Perry's own to calm her Lady in Waiting. "He stared at me while kissing my hand, as if he knew that I would twitch if he prolonged kissing my hand with the contact of his beard on my skin. Luckily, he got distracted by the King's arrival and released my hand. But I swear I saw something wicked in his eyes, it's like he is mocking me."

"Princess, you're being paranoid,"

"No I'm not, there's really something in his looks and eyes that I cannot decipher, but felt that he did not like me," she quipped.

"So, what did you do? Did he notice that you're uncomfortable while he kissed your hand?"

"He didn't," she replied with certainty. "After all those feasts and entertaining dozens of different kinds of suitors, I skillfully learned how to suppress my emotions every time I meet a prince that I don't like," she declared proudly. "There are some princes who thought that they could just screw your mind and play with your feelings… but they are wrong."

"Alright, that's all for tonight. Meeting the Prince for the first time could be overwhelming. I'm going to prepare a hot bath for you before you sleep so you can calm down and think straight," Perry suggested.

"Are you saying that I am crazy and everything that I told you was a fabrication due to my repulsion at a man's beard?" she retorted.

"You're the one who said that, not me," Perry quipped.

*****

That night while in the comfort of her new bed, she pondered on the events of the day and her first encounter with the Prince, as she tried to recall how her betrothed really looked like. She was never given a chance to look at him carefully since she was sitting beside him, but she could remember how wild he looked like with those mussy untamed hair and heavy stubble. It was a long time since she was in a company of men with beard like Prince Gerhard, and she never thought that she would never encounter another rugged looking man after her break up with Danny. But this was a great challenge for her, as the person that she was about to marry possessed the number one quality that she dislike in a man. And now she found herself worrying how she would face her life with this person.

Could she bear to sleep every night beside him? She does not even know what she has to do in bed, she was informed that he could rightfully demand for her body and do whatever he desired to her since the primary goal was to produce an heir; and that was her most important obligation, to bear him an heir. But what if she did not like it? Just the thought of seeing a man's bulge like Prince Viktor's repulsed her already, what more if she sees the real thing out and was put inside her? How would she react? How would she take it? And worse, how would she take it being intimate with him; a man?!

She groaned in frustration and decided to give her mind and body its well deserves rest. Tomorrow was another new day, perhaps tomorrow everything would be alright since she was going to meet the Prince and was asked by him to ride the horse to the forest. She took a deep breath and let sleep claimed her as she cleared her mind of the happenings of today.

*****

"What do you mean he cannot make it?" she asked confused, while standing in the threshold of the stable of the castle. She woke up early today and put on her riding boots and riding dress looking forward at this fresh start of their 'getting to know' each other phase. She had not even finished her breakfast and decided to skip the dessert since one of the Royal Guards informed her that His Highness was already waiting for her at the stable. Not wanting to let the future King waits; she decided to go to the stable as quickly as she can.

"One of the guards just told me that His Highness was already here, waiting for me."

"His Highness suddenly had a headache and sends his apologies," LaFontaine explained.

Suddenly, she grew worried. "Oh, I'm sorry to hear that. Where is he? Can I visit him?"

"Umm… I think it's best that we let His Highness rest alone. The Prince could be broody and temperamental when he is sick."

"Oh, I see. Well, kindly tell him that I am worried and that I hope we would be well soon," she returned and gave LaFontaine a concerned look. "Is he always sick?" was her curious query, remembering that the Prince had been sick the past few days too.

LaFontaine took a deep breath and said, "It's just the weather, I guess. But with regards to His Highness' health, he is strong and healthy. So, Your Highness does not have to worry anything."

"Thanks LaFontaine for making me at ease," she said genuinely. "I was beginning to worry about that the Prince. By the way, did he like the rose and sweets that I sent to him while he was sick? He forgot to mention it to me last night during dinner."

"Oh, the rose and the sweets were lovely, His Highness liked it and sends his thanks," was LaFontaine's hyper reply. "Is there anything else I could do for Your Highness?"

The Prince's Valet had been very accommodating and friendly to her and to Perry and she felt that LaFontaine could become one of her friends too, just like Perry, Natalie, Sarah Jane and Betty. "Yes, I would like you to stop calling me Your Highness and just use Princess Laura, since we would be talking and interact with each other as often as possible. And I think we could be good friends and should stop this formality, don't you think so?"

"As you wish, Princess Laura, and I would be honored to be the future Queen's friend," LaFontaine stated with pride.

She beamed at them and said, "I am not a Queen, I'm just a Princess so kindly refrain from saying that, because I don't want Her Majesty to think that I am eager to become the queen."

"But you are going to be the next Queen," LaFontaine corrected. "But if it'll please the Princess, I would obey your wish."

"Thanks, and you can go back to His Highness, I think the Prince needed you more than I do," she explained and looked around the stable. "I think I'm still going for a ride even if the Prince can't. Is there someone out here whom I could ask to accompany me?"

"Yes, just give me a minute and I will fetch Alfred for you," LaFontaine offered. "Alfred is the one in charge of the horses and carriages here; he could recommend which horse would be best for you."

"Thank you again LaFontaine and please send my regards to His Highness," she returned before the Valet bowed to her.

"I will, Princess Laura, and enjoy your day."

*****

It turned out that the Prince became sicker and it was the fourth day since they were supposed to meet and go horseback riding, LaFontaine informed her last night that the Prince needed more days to recover from a bad cold and LaFontaine thought that he has a virus so they did not recommend her to visit the Prince, when she asked them again that she wants to see him. She respected his request although she was eager to see how the Prince was doing since she was growing worried about him and she felt like she was inconsiderate of not visiting him while he was sick.

Today, it had been more than a week since she arrived at the Karnstein Castle, and she had just met the Prince once. The King would be gone for a week and that left the Queen in charge and she was informed that Her Majesty would be busy in the next days to come. She was itching to visit the Prince but decided to wait and be patient. Even if the Prince cannot be with her she quickly gained some acquaintance inside the castle and befriended the Prince's Valet. Her Lady in Waiting was busy tidying in her chamber and she does not want to get in Perry's way, so she decided to go to the library instead. The Queen had already shown her the direction to the library, and still remembered it. One of the servants offered to escort her but she refused and told him that she was good at remembering directions.

It took her ten minutes to go from her chamber to the library, and now she was smiling as she saw the familiar mahogany door. She opened the door right away and was surprised when she saw the Prince sitting with a book on the chaise lounge beside the fireplace.

"Your Highness, I am happy to see that you are well," she uttered and bowed to him as soon as he caught her attention.

"Princess Laura, it's so lovely to see you," he returned and rose from the sofa, still holding his book. "I didn't know that you are fond of books too."

She looked at him and caught the naughty smirk; she sensed that he was hiding something. "I am Your Highness, fond of books," she replied, standing a few meters away from him, and discreetly checked him out for any sign of colds or sickness, she furrowed her brows as she found nothing. "I didn't know that Your Highness are already fine and well. I was beginning to worry that I am the one who brought the virus since Your Highness have been sick from the day that I arrived."

"I think I am having a strong reaction and hypersensitive against sunshine," he returned.

Confused, "I beg your pardon?" she was torn from observing his face when she heard that odd reply.

"You know… bright, happy, cheerful, warm little ball of sunshine," he continued. "It could be overwhelming for me if I am exposed too much."

What is he talking about? Does he have angst of going out in the sun too? She thought, as his last comment continued to baffle her. Not wanting to sound like an idiot, she decided not to dwell on his well-being. "Will Your Highness be interested to show me the best books in the library?"

"Certainly, will you be interested in reading Philosophy?" he suggested as he walked ahead and went to the shelves with large leather bound books.

She discreetly rolled her eyes, as she followed behind him. She hated Philosophy.

*****

That afternoon as she returned to her chamber, Perry caught the smile on her face and got curious.

"You look happy today, what happened?"

"Nothing, I just saw the Prince in the library and he showed me his favorite books," she replied, and sat on the chair by her dressing table.

"I thought he's still sick?"

"I thought so too, that's why I was surprised when I found him in the library."

Perry smiled and walked towards her and began to comb her hair. "Well, it's good that you two finally spent some time with each other. How did it go?"

"He suggested some books for me to read, even if Philosophy didn't interest me," she related. "But in the middle of our conversation, when I was asking him if he liked the sweets that I made for him, he suddenly began to cough and told me that he might throw up. So he left me in the library and said goodbye."

"Oh my, maybe the Prince did catch some virus," Perry commented.

 

TBC

Chapter Text

Laura

It had been a week since that unpleasant incident with the Prince and that woman that she just knew as Ell. She was just supposed to have tea with him, and to her excitement, she arrived at the tearoom early than expected wanting to surprise the Prince. But she got the surprise of her life when she witnessed her betrothed in an intimate moment with another woman. She left the scene too shock to confront the Prince after she accidentally caught the woman touching the Prince's private part. She asked the Prince's Valet the name of the woman after describing her to them but did not dare asked LaFontaine further what that woman's relationship to the Prince; for fear of finding out the truth.

After almost a month of living in the Karnstein Castle and enduring all those excuses and alibis from the Prince, she could finally tell that Prince Carl might feel the same thing as her: they were both trapped in a responsibility and obligation that they did not want; to marry and produce an heir. She had not told Perry yet what had happened but she felt like she was slapped in the face when she caught the Prince in an intimate moment with that woman. She could tolerate all those sarcastic arrogant remarks and alibis, and even his constant absences but the last thing that the Prince did was unacceptable. She was not jealous; not at all. But she was hurt. She was hurt that he has to resort to that kind of action in order to show her that she was unwanted and undesired. And now she fully understood that he really did not like her, to which degree? She did not know. But she would not make a scandal nor confront him. She felt that they were not that close for her to act like she was affected by the incident. In fact, she did not care at all if he wanted to kiss some random woman or let them touch him. She does not care for him. And she was definitely not jealous. She wished that she could just tell him that she does not like him too.

But she was already invested and bounded in this betrothal and cannot withdraw anymore, as she remembered what Perry told her: backing out in this betrothal was like declaring a war to the Karnsteins. So, even if her pride was hurt and she was being disregarded and disrespected by the Prince, she would still fulfill her responsibility with a brave face and accepts her destiny; for her sick father and for her kingdom. She would sacrifice her happiness and love just to fulfill her obligation and show to the people around her that she was a responsible and dutiful person.

She had been upset of what had happened and she chose not to tell Perry the truth, and instead informed her Lady in Waiting that she does not feel well and remained in her chamber for the past days.

"Laura? Are you awaked Princess?"

She heard the concerned voice of Perry as her Lady in Waiting entered her chamber. She turned to the direction of the voice and she hesitatingly rose from her bed and sat.

"How are you dear? The Queen and the King are worried and have been asking about you," Perry informed as her Lady in Waiting put the serving tray in front of her, with her lunch.

"Still the same," she replied as she comfortably sat on her bed and eyed at the bowl of vegetable pottage and some rye bread on the tray in front of her. She smiled when her eyes caught the sight of the little chocolate cake.

"I wish you could tell me more what you've been feeling so I know how to cure it, or at least I'll know which medicine to ask from LaFontaine since you refused to see a chirurgeon," was Perry's worried remark and sat on the bed.

"I told you, it's nothing serious, I just feel easily tired lately and got my monthly visitor, so maybe this is why I'm not feeling well," she reasoned out and was thankful for the perfect timing of her period, since she cannot take it anymore if she has to lie further to Perry. "And kindly send my thanks to the Queen and King for thinking of me and tell them not to worry," she added and realized that Perry just mentioned the Queen and King. The Prince had not expressed anything regarding her state and never saw him neither.

When he was the one who was sick she was concerned and wished to visit him even if they have not met yet. However, when it was already her who was 'sick' he did not even bother to send some get well soon wishes or just heard him ask Perry how she was doing. She did not bother to ask Perry if the Prince had asked for her. It was useless, since she knew the answer. I guess there are some people who are born insensitive and selfish. She concluded and started to eat her lunch.

"I am going to prepare a hot bath for you so that you'll feel relieve," Perry informed and stood from the bed and walked towards the bathroom.

"Thanks Perry," was her sober remark, feeling the cramps in her stomach.

 

*****

It took another week for her to stay in her chamber due to her regular menstrual discomfort. The Queen and the King continued to send get well wish to her and she assured them that she would get better soon, and told them that she just needed some rest.

"Good morning Princess!"

The sound of Perry's voice had awoken her from her reverie and stood from the chair of her dressing table. She smiled at once as she saw the bouquet of roses in different colors that Perry was carrying. At last, he did remember me. She told herself as her growing dislike towards the Prince diminished, thinking that he would like to apologize and to wish her well.

"Here you go," Perry said while handing her the flowers. "It's from LaFontaine. They are beginning to get worried about you since you refused to see them."

She was disappointed. She thought the Prince would finally apologize but she had expected too much. Why do I bother… she rolled her eyes and tried to mask her disappointment by burying her nose in the sweet scent of roses in front of her. "Kindly tell LaFontaine that I appreciate their concern and thank them for these lovely flowers."

*****

After more than two weeks of being confined in her chamber, she was finally feeling better and had looked forward to go out. The weather was perfect as spring had already made its presence.

It was a beautiful day and she chose to spend her late afternoon tea at the secluded garden of the Karnstein Castle. She discovered this beautiful garden out of boredom when she was waiting for the Prince to meet her, only to be blown off at the end. Most of the flowers that were growing on this side of the garden were roses. Different colored roses. But her favorite had been the yellow roses. She always makes it a point to touch them and smell this fragrant flower.

Today was a perfect day as she enjoys the sound of the birds chirping, inhaled the sweet scent of the roses and revere the sight of their spectacular bright colors of red, white, yellow, deep burgundy, light pink, orange, peach and lavender.

She closed her eyes and took a deep breath, relishing the rays of the sun touching her face and the cool breeze that comes along. The weather here at the Karnstein Kingdom was more pleasant compared to her home.

Maybe it’s not bad at all to live here, she thought. Suddenly, her appreciation of her surrounding was interrupted when she heard a sound around the bush. She opened her eyes instantly as her heart throbbed; worried that it might be some wild animals. She then turned to the direction of the sound as her eyes caught a figure coming out of the thick bush. She released a breath that she was holding as soon as she recognized the person that was walking towards her.

“I see, you have found my secret garden,” the deep raspy voice uttered. “And it looks like you are having a picnic without inviting me.”

She blushed as she saw the Prince glanced at the white blanket that was spread on the grass beside her; there laid the basket full of cakes and sweets that Perry prepared along with the cup and teapot that came with it.

“Your Highness,” she acknowledged his presence and gave him a bashful smile, glanced at him as he gave her a mischievous smirk before bowing her head. She had almost forgotten that unpleasant moment weeks ago; he still owed her an apology. But she chose not to dwell on her pain and frustration. Since she knew that he would not apologize. He was too arrogant to do that, she thought. 'Don't expect too much' was her new motto.

“I apologized if I am invading His Highness' garden, I did not know it.”

“Nonsense,” the Prince replied. “You could come here anytime you want.

She was waiting for him to open up about that awkward and yet painful moment, but she did not see any sign that he would confess soon. So instead, she shoved the thought aside and focused on the present. “Would Your Highness like to join me?” she suggested carefully, sensing that the Prince was not broody today. Instead of an answer, the Prince asked for her hand and she took it instantly as he held it and led her to the blanket to sit. Even if he was arrogant, she likes it that he was a gentleman.

She gracefully sat on the blanket and when she was already comfortable the Prince took the spot across her and sat quietly, with only the picnic basket separating them. She begun to unload the contents of the basket and laid them one by one. Darn! She worried when she realized that Perry just packed one cup for the tea, knowing that she would be alone. It’s alright Laura, don’t panic. She told herself as she finally laid the teapot on the surface.

“Are you going to eat all of these?” the Prince remarked, his eyes wandered at the sweets around him.

She blushed at the comment as her eyes caught the Prince’s astonish reaction at the sight in front of him.

There laid a cream puff with chocolate ganache on top of it, and another one with crisp caramel glaze on it, beside them were two tartlets with vanilla cream, one with strawberry and the other with blackberry dusted with confectioner’s sugar on top of them and a peppermint leaves as a décor and lastly her favorite, the small round cakes that Perry have always baked for her but had never given a proper name, except Laura’s cakes.

Perry had baked three flavors of those small cakes, the first one was a chocolate, sprinkled with flake of dark chocolate on top, the second one was blueberry with lemon cream and lastly the healthiest of them all according to her because it was a vegetable, the carrot flavor with crushed walnuts, cinnamon and vanilla cream cheese. Who would have thought that a tiny princess like her could consume so many cakes and sweets in one eating!

Feeling embarrassed of her sweet addiction, she asked the Prince shyly, “Would Your Highness like a taste?”

“Which one do you like most?” The Prince asked gazing at her warm cheeks.

“Umm… my favorites were those small round cakes,” she replied pointing on them, and then took the chocolate flavor and gracefully offered it to the Prince. “This is the best.” She uttered and the Prince took the offered cake and put it on his mouth. She stared at him for a moment, totally in awe how he gracefully took a bite and never left a crumb. She took the chance also to glance at his face, since this was the first time that she was face to face with him. She found his jawline very attractive even if it was covered with facial hair.

“Hmmm… that was delicious,” was his satisfied reply. “What is the name of this cake?”

“Umm… I don’t know,” she replied grinning. As soon as she caught the Prince’s confused reaction, "It was actually Perry’s original recipe and she just bakes it exclusively for my consumption."

Seeing that the prince ate the whole cake, she began to pour some tea to the only cup and saucer she had. He was her 'guest' after all, so it was just appropriate to offer him something to drink after eating something sweet.

“Your tea, Your Highness,” she said, presenting him the drink with two hands. She got distracted when the Prince stared at the offered drink and then gave her a smirk and diverted his focus at the two remaining small cakes in front of him, before looking back at her.

“Thank you, Cupcake,” the Prince returned and took the tea from her hand.

“I beg your pardon?” she asked, puzzled. Did he just call me cupcake? she wondered.

“Let’s call these small cakes, Cupcake,” He said to her, as he put the cup of tea beside the two round small cakes.

“Well, that was an excellent idea!” She blurted, giving him a huge goofy smile. She cannot wait to tell Perry that she already found an appropriate name to her favorite dessert. “For a while I thought, Your Highness called me cupcake.”

“I did,” was his nonchalant reply and smirked at her and raised his left eyebrow.

She was about to argue not liking the idea of being compared to a dessert. But the Prince did not give her a chance to comment.

“They kind of look like you; sweet, soft, small and delicious, Cupcake,” he pointed out with a hint of sarcasm.

She blushed at the description, and at the same time a bit annoyed at the nickname. Nobody ever called her another name, except Laura. “Well if it pleases Your Highness to call me that, I have nothing to argue.” she retorted, and gave him a smile. She did not know why she was suddenly enjoying his sarcastic remarks. “More sweets?”

“If you insist,” he returned, as if daring her, giving her again that devilish smirk and lifted his eyebrow.

She cannot fathom how a man can perfectly have a beautiful well- trimmed eyebrow. Most of the men she met do not have perfect eyebrows like him.

Feeling bold, she took the cream puff with chocolate, tore a small piece from it and brought her hand to the Prince’s mouth holding the piece of sweet between her thumb and index finger. She felt the Prince adjusted on his spot and briefly glanced at her before setting his eyes on the sweets, she became nervous as she waited for his reaction. He maintained his composure then he held her hand and to her surprise guided it inside his mouth, feeding him the sweets.

After putting the cream puff in his mouth, she unconsciously touched the Prince’s lips with her index finger, curious at how those thin red lips felt like. But then she realized that she had acted so bold. She nervously gazed at him waiting to be rejected, but she was surprised when she saw fully dilated dark orbs gazing back at her.

The next thing she felt was his mouth enclosing around her index finger and then he sucked it before swirling his tongue around it. She gasped at the sensation and closed her eyes, relishing the feeling of his tongue doing all these wild movements on her finger and before she could not control herself she slowly released it from his hot mouth. Panting she opened her eyes, still overwhelmed. What have I done?!

"I guess we should do more picnics, Cupcake," the Prince suggested smirking.

She bit her lower lip, still recovering from the dizzying contact of her finger against the Prince's tongue.

"And I suggest that you start calling me Prince Carl, instead of Your Highness."

 

TBC

Chapter Text

Carmilla

Suddenly she was shocked at her behavior and tried to compose herself and cleverly suggested the Princess to call her Prince Carl so as to disguise her awkwardness.

After telling the Princess to call her by her first name, her attention diverted when her eyes caught her Valet coming towards them. She sighed with relief. For the first time, she was thankful of her Valet's unannounced appearance, as she was rescued from the embarrassment of having to explain why she sucked the Princess' finger. She rose gracefully and faced the direction of her Valet, as the Princess remained seated on the blanket, still looking sheepish after she unconsciously seize the Princess' finger in her mouth.

"His Majesty requests your presence at the throne room and-" her valet was telling her, but as soon as they got closer and their eyes fell on the Princess' direction, LaFontaine loss their concentration. "Oh! Princess Laura, you're here!"

She rolled her eyes as her Valet focused their attention to the Princess and totally ignored her presence.

"How are you Princess? We were all so worried about you," LaFontaine informed as they gave their hand to help the Princess rose from the blanket.

"I am fine, LaFontaine," the Princess exclaimed, smiling at them with too much excitement. "And thank you so much for the lovely flowers that you sent me."

"Oh, that was from Prince Carl! I just…" LaFontaine slipped.

"Really?!" was the Princess' surprised remark and focused at her.

She averted the Princess' stare and shot daggers at her Valet for not being too discreet this time. The look that she was giving LaFontaine could melt steel. But instead of reprimanding her Valet, she changed the subject so as to avoid further questions from the Princess.

"You were saying?" she spoke in a deep superior tone, so as to get her Valet's attention.

"Oh, forgive me Your Highness…" LaFontaine uttered after regaining their composure and bowed to her realizing that they were not alone. "His Majesty wanted your presence in the throne room. I think the King wants to go hunting."

"Thank you," she returned and shifted her gaze to the Princess. "Thank you for the lovely sweets and for inviting me to join your picnic, Princess Laura. I am glad to see you feeling better now and I hope to see you tomorrow if my time permits." She relayed and took the Princess' hand and brought it to her lips gently; this time she wanted to catch the reaction that she had been denied during their first meeting. She stared at the Princess' eyes as she gently kisses the back of the Princess' hand, and prolonged the contact of her lips on the Princess' hand, making sure to rub slowly her stubble on the softness of the Princess' soft skin. She smirked as she finally saw the Princess twitched at the contact of her facial hair. And before the Princess could utter a word, she released gently the Princess' hand and smirked at the Princess, before shifting her eyes to her Valet who seemed to be quietly observing them. "LaFontaine, kindly escorts the Princess to her chamber; I'm sure she needed a rest now after today's activities." And with that, she left them both dumbfounded.

 

*****

That night, as soon as LaFontaine bid her goodnight and the door of her chamber closed, she walked towards the four posted bed and drew the heavy drapes to the side so she could get in; then drew it together before getting inside her blanket. After discovering the truth about her true identity and what she really was, she informed her mother never to come to her chamber anymore. She felt like she needed to be on her own and wanted her privacy to be respected since she was already an adult. The Queen respected her decision. But even if she had informed her Queen Mother to stop dropping by in her chamber every night, she still kept her bed covered and heavily draped when sleeping; a routine that would always be a part of her life since she felt more secured and could do what she pleases behind those heavy curtains. And the fact that her Valet was not that keen on knocking when entering her chamber

As soon as her head touched the soft pillow, she found herself smiling as she recalled how the Princess blushed and panicked after she sucked the Princess' finger in her mouth. At the same time, she was beginning to worry why she suddenly took the Princess' finger in her mouth; it was a very bold behavior of her if she would interpret it. She never imagine in her entire life doing that thing to anyone. And she was surprised when her body reacted that way. There was just this moment when she saw her father's mistress lightly clothed and she felt that urge of touching Ell's breast, but she managed to control herself. But today, it was just a finger. The Princess' finger that touched her lips and suddenly her heart pounded madly; suddenly something inside her had awoken; suddenly she cannot control her urge. What more if it was the Princess' hands or lips that touch her? How can her body cope with it? How can she cope with this enchanting touch? Now she was beginning to be scared.

More than two weeks had passed since the last time she saw the Princess, and she was glad to see her today. She was ashamed the last time the Princess saw her; a total fiasco. All she wanted was to irritate and annoyed the Princess of Hollis, like she used to do to the other princess. But the look of lust on Ell's face drove her to madness, after Ell saw her and articulated how very attractive, wild and rebellious she look like with her stubble and 'just get out of bed' hair. She never expected that there was a woman that she could attract strongly with how she looked now. Her original intention was to 'scare off' a certain princess by looking very rugged and dishevel, she never expected that it would be the opposite effect to her father's mistress.

She had no intention of showing the Princess the horny teenage version of her; but Ell was so persuasive and honestly, she wanted some release too, since all this betrothal thing had made her extra stressed. But as soon as she saw the disconcerted and mortified expression from the Princess' face after she was caught enjoying the feeling of Ell's hand stroking her shaft, she felt very ashamed of her action. It was very distasteful and vulgar behavior. Her mother would definitely be furious by how she acted so uncivilized, indecent, tasteless and foolish in front of the Princess of Hollis. She was the future king; she should not let her emotions and lusts consumed her. And the only thing to correct her mistake was to gain the princess' trust and faith in her; show the Princess that she was not an ill-mannered prince. Her reputation as a refined prince was very important not just to her mother but to her too. She could be arrogant sometimes, as her valet pointed out, but she would definitely not forget her manners.

When she found out that the Princess was sick, she got worried. She was not sure why, but for the first time, she found herself thinking of another person. A person that she had hurt due to her foolishness; although she was dying to know how the Princess was, as she continued to nag her Valet to update her of the Princess' condition, she still cannot manage to apologize and visit the Princess. Her pride as the heir to the throne was very strong. Perhaps due to her 'future king' upbringing and her mother's advice to her that kings do not apologize. So, instead she ordered LaFontaine to always ask the Princess' lady in waiting, to update her of the Princess' state without revealing to them that it was her who was asking.

As LaFontaine constantly reported to her the Princess' state, she presumed that the Princess just needed time to rest and to calm from distress. She gave it a week for the Princess to regain 'strength'. But when another week came and she learned that the Princess was still not fine, she began to worry and even asked LaFontaine to send some flowers to the Princess, but of course she insisted on telling the Princess that it was from her Valet.

So when she saw the Princess today, she was relieved and at the same time worried.

She was now contemplating why she had acted like that today. And it baffles her why her heart suddenly skipped when she saw that bashful smile of Princess Laura. It baffles her that Princess Laura did not confront nor was angry at her; she was waiting for an argument but the Princess showed no sign of bitterness, so she chose not to open the subject. It baffles her that she enjoyed it when Princess Laura fed her the sweets. But the thing that baffles her the most was how her body reacted when Princess Laura touched her lips and she surprisingly felt like she needed to possess that little finger in her mouth.

And now she could not sleep as the memory of what happened today and the face of that certain little Princess kept her awake and wondering.

"Cupcake," she whispered the name intimately and closed her eyes.

*****

Her eyelids were still heavy despite that refreshing morning bath. And now, she was sitting in front of her dressing table and waiting for LaFontaine to finish with the daily grooming of her hair and beard.

"There! You're all set." LaFontaine exclaimed as they successfully put on the last finishing touch of her beard under her lower lip, covering the entire area down to the chin.

She ran her right hand at her left jawline eyeing her bearded left cheek on the mirror, impressed at how LaFontaine managed to apply her false beard on without any problem. "Can't I just wear it all the time? It's tiring if I'm going to remove it before I go to sleep, only to put it back again in the morning."

"We can't." LaFontaine replied. "When you wash your face and take a bath, the texture will change. And I need to clean it every day after you used it with a special soap. And besides no one can see you sleeping, so they would not suspect that you have false stubble. We just have to make sure that you're all dressed and groomed before the maid brings your breakfast."

She groaned and gave her valet a frustrated grin.

"Don't complain to me," LaFontaine returned. "You're the one who started this I'm just following your orders."

"Alright!" She relented. "Do you know where she might be today?"

LaFontaine gave her a puzzled look, "Who?"

"Princess Laura!" She concluded, growing impatient. "Who else would I be looking for?"

"I thought you're avoiding her?"

"I… I am. But I told her that if I have time, I'm going to show her some books in the library," she reasoned out, avoiding her Valet's eyes.

"And then what?" was LaFontaine's follow up question.

She furrowed her brows and looked at LaFontaine's direction again, and gave her Valet a puzzled look, totally oblivious of what they were trying to ask.

"The Plan," LaFontaine supplied, impatient, "what's in the agenda today? Are you going to blow her off? Should I fetch Ell again and ask the Mistress to seduce you, since it did not work last time."

"No! There's no plan! And don't fetch Ell again," she reacted rather loud, as she recalled the embarrassing scene between her, Ell and how they were caught by the Princess.

"You're jumpy," LaFontaine remarked and gave her a suspicious look. "Are you finally accepting your betrothed?"

"No, I'm not," she denied.

"Then why do you want to meet Princess Laura?" LaFontaine inquired, not releasing their stare at her.

"I just want to make sure that the Princess would not tell my Queen Mother what she had seen at the tearoom." Was her excuse, "She… she caught Ell giving me a helping hand."

After realizing what she meant, her Valet glared at her.

"What have you done?" LaFontaine accused. "You're just supposed to flirt with Ell to irritate the Princess, not hurt… oh my God, don't tell me that Princess Laura caught you and Ell…

"I have no intention of doing it, I swear," she defended. "She just came unannounced and too early and Ell… Ell was…

"… Ell was being Ell. Don't tell me. I already know. And poor Princess Laura, she might be hurting after catching her betrothed cheating on her!" LaFontaine replied rolling their eyes, and began to walk to and fro across the chamber, contemplating. "Have you forgotten that the Queen forbade Ell to have any sexual interaction with you; she could be hanged."

"I know. But I wouldn't let that happen," she said with a trace of regret.

"For all I know, Princess Laura got sick due to emotional distress after seeing you and Ell. That's why the Princess refused to see anyone, except Perry for the past two weeks," was LaFontaine's worried conclusion. "…and that's why you kept asking me how was Princess Laura and ordered me to give those flowers, because your conscience was killing you."

"I think you're overreacting," she returned, feeling guiltier at LaFontaine's culmination of that awful incident. She hated that her Valet was so smart to have found out the truth. But she does not have any plan to admit it. "I think she's fine."

"And how are you going to fix this thing with Princess Laura?"

"I think I already have that covered," was her proud reply. "Yesterday in the garden, we've had a picnic, remember?"

LaFontaine was dumbfounded after hearing her remark, and looked at her, fully skeptic.

"And how did you manage to win the Princess' trust again?" they asked with a quizzical expression on their face.

"I told you, she looked fine when I saw her," she repeated.

"Did she confront you about that thing with Ell?" was the quick inquiry of her Valet. "…Because most of women would go crazy like an amazon when they see their betrothed with another woman."

"No. We didn't talk about that," she answered with full of confidence. Then suddenly realized, "I was surprised too that she did not ask me; I'm just waiting for her to throw her tantrums at me and accused me of being a cheater, but she didn't. And instead, she behaved like a perfect lady and offered me to join her to picnic. And she even served and fed me those delicious sweets and cupcakes." She related and realized that she was smiling while telling the story to LaFontaine. "I think I'm going to give her a chance." The words were already out of her mouth before she could think of the consequences that her decision might lead to.

"Did I just hear that right?!" was LaFontaine's surprised reply. "The Prince of Karnstein is giving his heart a chance?"

"Hey! I didn't say that I'm giving my heart a chance," she retaliated. "We're not talking about love. Nobody can have my heart," was her confident and certain remark. "I said I'm going to give Princess Laura a chance; to show me how she could cope up with having a mischievous, broody and wild betrothed."

LaFontaine was about to contradict but she did not let them gave a chance.

"And don't expect too much from this decision," she warned her Valet, knowing that LaFontaine favored the Princess of Hollis among the princesses that came to their castle. "This does not change my mind of not marrying."

"We'll see," was LaFontaine's challenging remark.

And before she could utter a retort, her Valet walked towards the bathroom whistling and smiling.

*****

"What's this?" Princess Laura asked, lifting her gaze from the book in front of her and looked at the cup that was placed beside the book.

The maid just came in a couple of minutes ago, and brought the tray of drinks and sweets that she asked for but instead of letting the maid serve their refreshment she ordered the maid to leave.

"It's hot cocoa," she replied after placing the cup in front of the Princess; and took her seat on the Princess' right side. After confirming from LaFontaine that Princess Laura was in the library, she decided to join the Princess.

"I know, but why didn't you asked the maid to serve it? And how did Your Highness know that I like hot cocoa?"

"I asked LaFontaine to ask your Lady in Waiting which drinks you like aside from wine," she related, as she took a sip of red wine from her goblet that the maid just brought in.

She saw Princess Laura crimsoned at the mentioning of wine as one of the favorites drinks of Princess too.

"I want to personally serve it to you, Cupcake, is that a problem?" she replied and glanced at the Princess' reaction of mentioning the new name and saw the Princess' cheeks crimsoned. "And didn't I tell you to call me Prince Carl, instead of Your Highness?"

Embarrassed, the Princess bowed her head, "I apologized Your- I mean, Prince Carl. And no; it's not a problem at all that you served the hot cocoa to me. I'm just not used to being served by a future king."

"And what exactly do you mean by that?" was her curious remark, thinking that there was a hint of criticism behind the Princess' remark.

"With all due respect, I have met and spent some of my time with some princes who are heirs to the throne, and almost all of them have servants around them to attend to their every need," Princess Laura expressed. "And most of them do not want to get their hands dirty. They are so demanding, not to mention arrogant, egocentric and conceited."

"That is a very interesting analysis," she returned and thought of challenging the Princess' theory. "Do you want to know what I think about the princesses that I have met and spent time with?"

"Everyone is entitled to their own opinion," the Princess claimed and cross her arms on the chest and faced her direction.

She smirked and felt that she was in for a debate, "With all due respect," she started her sentence with the same line as the Princess, as if mocking. "Most of the princesses that I met were pretty but naïve, vain, snob, demanding, lazy, egocentric and lackwit."

"Not every one of them is like that," Princess Laura retaliated. "There are princess too that are hard-working, intelligent, kind, friendly, humble and compassionate."

"Well, not every heir to the throne are arrogant, demanding, egocentric and conceited," she retorted, and can feel the tension arising. But she would not let the Princess win in this conversation. "And I've learned that most of the princesses want the same: to marry a prince, do whatever they desire, own all the finest clothes, shoes, jewelries and golds, then do nothing all day in the castle; wasn't that the reason why you agreed to become my betrothed?"

Suddenly, she realized that she had gone too far and it was already too late to take back that comment. And before she could think of another retort to repair the damage, the Princess already rose from the chair and curtsied before her.

"Thank you for spending the day with me Your Highness. I apologized for leaving early, but I suddenly felt ill," and with that, the Princess gracefully walked out of the library.

*****

It had been a long day and she felt terrible after saying that awful comment towards Princess Laura. Sometimes she hated herself for being temperamental and not thinking first before saying a word. She knew that she had been unfair to judge Princess Laura on why the Princess had agreed to be her betrothed. But she was eager to know the reason why and was not able to control herself today when she asked her that.

Her pondering was cut off when she saw LaFontaine waiting outside by the door of her chamber. She furrowed her brows and sensed that something was wrong since her Valet was always inside her chamber waiting for her there.

"Why are you outside?" She asked curious.

"I just want to let you know that there are things that Princess Laura asked me to return, and it's in your chamber," LaFontaine informed carefully.

She did not wait for LaFontaine to open the door and instead did it herself. As soon as she crossed the threshold she saw all the jewelries, golds and two big chests that she presumed were the Princess' gowns, dresses and shoes that she all gave to the Princess.

She kicked the side of the chest and her temper began to consume her. She ran her hand to her hair. "Give it back to her!" she shouted and walked to her Valet to confront them. "Didn't I tell you not to take it back?!"

"You did. But Princess Laura asked me today to return everything to you," LaFontaine explained calmly. "I reminded her again that you would be hurt if she does not accept it. But she said that she does not need it."

She knew that this was all her fault. But her wounded pride cannot accept this.

"I am the Prince of Karnstein and I order you to return all of these!" was her angry remark.

"Yes, Your Highness." LaFontaine complied.

*****

The following day, the atmosphere between her and her Valet was very quiet. She chose not to ask or talk about what had happened yesterday. And she was thankful that her Valet was silent throughout the morning.

And now she was on her way to the Queen's chamber wondering why her mother had suddenly summoned her so early today. She had not even eaten her breakfast but LaFontaine had informed her that the Queen had an important thing to tell her. She cleared her mind as she saw the door to the Queen's chamber.

She knocked on the door and when she heard her mother's voice the guards opened the door for her to come in. She walked across her mother's chamber and was surprised when she saw all the things that she asked LaFontaine to return to Princess Laura in her mother's chamber.

She tried to calm herself as she approach the bed of the Queen and saw her mother still on bed, eating breakfast. "Good morning my Queen Mother," was her sheepish remark, and stood by the bedside of the Queen.

"Good morning my son," was the Queen's calm and yet firm answer. "Have you eaten yet?"

"No. I haven't… I'm not hungry," she replied.

"Come here, sit with me," The Queen returned and patted the side of the bed.

She complied and walked closer and sat at the left side of the bed and faced her mother. Then she saw the Queen's left arm reached out and the Queen's left hand cupped her right cheek. "What's wrong Carl? What happened between you and Laura?"

"Nothing," was her weak reply, and averted her mother's eyes. But the Queen steadied the hold on her face and gently held her face to the direction of the Queen's eyes.

"Look at me when I am talking to you," the Queen reminded. "Would you like to explain to me why Laura would not accept your gifts?" The Queen asked firmly and released the hand that was cupping her face.

She knew that her mother dislike going around the bush, so she decided to tell the truth. "We had an argument yesterday, and I told her that the reason why all the princesses that I met want to get married was to live in a big castle like ours and have lots of jewelries and golds."

"You are absolutely right," the Queen commented.

Suddenly, her attention was fully focused on her mother after hearing the Queen's remark. She thought that Princess Laura was different among the rest. But her mother's opinion had suddenly broken her trust and faith in Princess Laura.

"So, it's true," she hesitatingly asks, hoping that none of it was true.

"It's true, all of the past princesses that you met like to get married to a rich prince," the Queen reconfirmed. "… Except Princess Laura."

She was suddenly relieved, and her heart pounded madly at the anticipation of knowing the reason why the Princess agreed to become her betrothed. She excitedly sought her mother's eyes and asked earnestly, "So, why did she agree to be my betrothed?"

"The Hollis' was actually an old enemy of the Karnsteins," the Queen related. "Your father was in one of his journey and needed to pass the Hollis Kingdom to be able to travel further to the south, where he had an invitation from the King of Berghausen. So your father asked the King of Hollis the permission to pass, and it was granted, and then your father was invited to sleep and dine at the Hollis Kingdom."

"So, how did I end up being betrothed to the daughter of my family's enemy?" was her curious remark, knowing that it would be crazy to marry off the Prince of Karnstein and Princess of Hollis.

"Because when your father saw the Princess of Hollis, he knew that she would be the perfect wife to our son."

"…Just like that? My King Father made a decision just by looking at the Princess?" was her astonished comment.

"That and by talking to the King of Hollis," was her mother's follow up. "Carl, you know that in every marriage, there is always a reason why Kings and Queens arrange the marriage of their children."

"And what might have been the crazy reason behind this proposal?" was her sarcastic answer.

"For the record, your father and the King of Hollis did not force Princess Laura to be your betrothed," the Queen remarked.

"Well she's lucky because she was given a choice," she retaliated. "And what was the Princess' reason?" was her impatient and curious query.

"Princess Laura agreed to be your betrothed in order to unite our family," the Queen informed. "She told me herself that she wants to bring peace to both our families and end this old dispute between the Hollis and Karnstein Kingdom."

She became silent after hearing that remark from her mother.

 

TBC

Chapter Text

Laura

"And I've learned that most of the princesses want the same: to marry a prince, do whatever they desire, own all the finest clothes, shoes, jewelries and gold, then do nothing all day in the castle; wasn't that the reason why you agreed to become my betrothed?"

 

The Prince's remark kept on playing in her head since that day she left him in the library. She hated him for accusing her of something that she was not. Even though she was a princess, she grew up not used to having a lot of clothes and jewelries. She grew up sharing her wealth and living simple as much as she can.

She thought that things were beginning to go well between her and the Prince after that awkward incident in the garden the other day; since they both enjoyed each other's company for the first time when they had that picnic. She was even surprised at herself for noticing how attractive the Prince's jawline and how she love staring at the Prince's perfect thin eyebrows that makes him look more mischievous. She even started to like his sarcastic and yet witty remarks. But the biggest surprise for her was when she unconsciously touched the Prince's lips and the Prince sucked her finger and she was overwhelmed at the feeling of it. She did not mention it to Perry yet, choosing to leave that intimate incident with the Prince too personal for others to know. She cannot deny that she had reminisced that moment on and on, until the incident in the library and all the happy thoughts that she had with the Prince disappeared after that accusation. And now, no amount of sweets or hot cocoa could pacify her.

Her contemplation was broken when she heard the door to her chamber opened.

 

"Laura, aren't you going to dress up for dinner?" Perry asked as soon as the Lady in Waiting entered the chamber.

She had asked Betty earlier to help her change in her sleeping camisole, so that Perry would not force her to go when her Lady in Waiting arrive. "I am not coming to dinner tonight, you can inform them," was her nonchalant reply while sitting on her bed. "And Natalie had already brought my supper earlier."

"Princess, this is the second time that you will skip dinner with them, the King and Queen might worry again," Perry relayed in a motherly tone and sat on the side of the bed and faced her. "You cannot avoid him forever."

"Perry, I could tolerate all of those mischiefs and mocking," she started to explain. "But to accused me of being materialistic and opportunist is the greatest insult that I have ever experience in my life. He has no right to judge me that way."

"I know how you felt Princess, but you shouldn't let your anger overcome you," Perry explained carefully. "I know that you're still upset with him and-"

"I'm not upset with him; I'm furious at him!" she expressed.

"Well, I'm sure the Prince would come to his senses and take back what he said, and-"

"Perry, two days had already passed and I still haven't heard from him," she retaliated. "If he really wants to apologize he could have done it as soon as possible. But knowing him, I doubt if he even thought about it. I think he's doing it intentionally."

"Perhaps he's angry and hurt too because you returned all of his gifts," her Lady in Waiting presumed.

"I don't care if he got angry or hurt, he could keep his gold and diamonds, I don't need them and I'm perfectly happy with out them," she retorted.

"So, what are you planning to do? You cannot remain angry at him and you cannot avoid him much longer," was her Lady in Waiting's worried remark. "And you shouldn't involve the King and Queen into your problem with the Prince."

"I'm not involving anybody in my problem!"

"Laura, you're obligated to join the King and Queen, and the Prince at dinner, not showing up at dinner time is unacceptable, especially if the King and Queen had not done anything wrong to you," Perry clarified firmly. "You should learn to separate your personal problem from your responsibility as a Princess, especially as the future daughter in law. What would the King and Queen say about your conduct? Your training as a future Queen starts here and you shouldn't let your future in laws think that you're incapable of managing your temper and emotions. If you have a problem with the Prince, try to sort it out with him discreetly."

She managed to simmer down after that explanation from Perry, besides her father, Perry was the only one who could enlighten her, "So, what are you suggesting?"

"That you get dressed now and join the King and Queen and the Prince at dinner, and try to remain calm and enthusiastic until dessert," Perry quipped.

*****

She took a deep breath before entering the dining hall and she was relieved when she saw that the King had not arrived yet. It would be disrespectful if she arrived after the King, although arriving after the Queen was not acceptable either, she walked gracefully towards the dining table and she saw at once the surprised look at the Prince's face. But she ignored him and walked towards where the Queen was sitting and curtsied before the Queen.

"Forgive me for arriving late, I hope I have not upset Her Majesty," was her humble remark, still bowing her head.

"It's nice that you could join us Princess Laura," the Queen started in a lighter and calmer tone. "No, you did not upset me, and I'm thankful that you are joining us at dinner tonight. You may take your seat. The King does not feel well so we will be dining without His Majesty."

She lifted her head and smiled, as she saw the Queen's calm expression and was surprised to find the Queen in an enthusiastic mood. "Thank you, Your Majesty and kindly send my regards to His Majesty." She replied and gracefully walked around the table, as she got closer to her chair, she saw the Prince rose from his chair and instead of letting the royal guard pulled the chair for her the Prince dismissed the guard and pulled the chair for her instead. She glanced at him, not smiling, "Thank you, Your Highness," she said and sat quietly, not bothering to look at him. She noticed that he was quiet too and just nodded when she thanked him. As soon as they all comfortably seated, the servants began to pour wine on their goblets and started to serve the first course.

"Princess Laura, I'm glad that you are here," The Queen started as they began to eat the soup that was served. "I am going to visit the monastery tomorrow and I want you to come."

"It would be a pleasure Your Majesty," was her simple answer. She was relieved to hear that she would be spending her day with the Queen and not with the Prince, whom she still resented. Yesterday she successfully avoided him by spending the whole day in the market square with Perry, and prolonging their shopping and chatting to the people that she met there, so as to avoid dinner at the castle.

"And Carl is everything prepared and in order for tomorrow's arrival of our visitor?" The Queen asked, looking at the Prince's direction. "This is your first time to engage into trading transaction, have you asked your King Father all the necessary things about this contract?"

"Yes my Queen Mother, everything is prepared and I have been briefed by my King Father properly," the Prince replied.

"Excellent," was the Queen's satisfactory reply. "Oh, and Princess Laura, our guest requested your presence too. So, I thought you and I can eat breakfast with him the following day, since my son here is not particularly a morning person. You can help me to welcome our guest and make him feel at home since you knew him."

Suddenly, the Queen's last remark piqued her interest. "It would be an honor to be of help to Your Majesty," was her reassuring reply. "May I know who is this Prince, we are talking about?"

"I believe his name is Prince Viktor of Berghausen."

She was shocked upon hearing the name. Is faith mocking her again? The last person that she wish not to see right now was Prince Viktor.

Prince Viktor would just remind her of her pining for her 'ideal husband'; Prince Viktor would just remind her of how she had been a fool to let him go in exchange for this arrogant Prince that was sitting beside her; Prince Viktor would just remind her how she had been treated with so much love and adoration and she cannot be reminded those things right now; not when she was angry at her betrothed for treating her unworthy, undesired, opportunist and materialistic. She does not know what could happen if she saw him again, especially in this state of her vulnerability. She knew that Prince Viktor would never do the things that Prince Carl has been doing towards her. She knew that Prince Viktor would pamper her and treat her with utmost. How would she be able to control her feelings if she ever sees him again?

This was the biggest challenge that she was facing and she hope and prays that she overcome this trial. Because after all the insults, mockery, mischiefs and being treated unwelcome by her betrothed, all she wished now was to be adored and comforted and no one can expertly do that other than Prince Viktor.

 

TBC

Chapter Text

Carmilla

Today, a certain prince from the south was visiting them in hope of a partnership in trading with the Karnstein Kingdom. Their kingdom was well known in producing one of the best cheese in Styria due to the vast rich green pasture of their land, cool climate and steady summer season, the cows and goats that produces the milk have been well taken care of ever since. That was the reason why they have very popular cheese products.

Due to her father being sick and her mother having to attend some important matters in another town, she was appointed by the King to deal with the Prince of Berghausen. The King informed her that the Kingdom of Berghausen produces one of the best wines in Styria.

In order for her to make her trading easier and successful, her mother asked one of the castle's trusted advisers everything about the Prince of Berghausen; from the food that the prince love up to the things that could make the Prince of Berghausen satisfied and happy. Her mother taught her that it was not just her enemy she should get familiarized with but her trading partners too. And she received a list of things that she should follow in order for this trading to work out smoothly. The Kingdom learned that Princess Laura was acquainted with the prince and had asked for Princess Laura's company during his stay, which the Queen approved at once, as long as it was for the good of the kingdom, the Queen explained.

She had been trained by her father a lot of times on how to handle and deal with such kinds. And today was just like any other trading day for her to deal with. Except for the fact that this was her first official assignment alone and she had not met the prince yet.

She received a message that the prince may arrived before or after midnight, so she decided to assign LaFontaine to receive him and instructed them that as soon as the Prince of Berghausen arrived, show him right away to his chamber so that the prince can rest right away knowing that he had travelled so far. She made sure to give a welcome note to the visiting prince since it would be late when the prince arrived and she does not want to disturb him. She apologized on her letter that nobody was there to welcome him since the King and Queen retire early to bed and she does not know exactly what time he would arrive. But she wrote to him that he would be welcome by the Queen her mother and Princess Laura at breakfast time.

She has not spoken with the Princess yet and has not patched things up with her betrothed. This trading was more important for her to focus her attention to, so she decided to deal with her little problem with the Princess as soon as this transaction was over. She knew that she was wrong and that she had hurt the Princess. But she does not know where to begin to fix things between them. Although she knew that apologizing was a very hard thing for her to do, she wanted to make sure that when she apologizes for the first time, it would be worth it. So she needed to plan it carefully.

*****

It was almost midnight and LaFontaine had already received the Prince of Berghausen and was taken to his chamber, and even though she was still awake, she did not bother to meet him. She thought that the letter from her was enough, and besides, she does not want to disturb him.

She told LaFontaine that she would wait for them until the prince arrived, then she could take her bath and LaFontaine can update her about the prince while helping her. "Did you inform him that I'm going to meet him in the afternoon?" She asked LaFontaine, while they remove her outer tunic. They were both inside the bathroom now and was about to take her bath.

"Yes, I did and had prepared all the necessary documents with regards to the trading contract," LaFontaine replied as they now put the clean sleeping undergarments for her to use on the chair beside the dressing table in the bathroom.

"Good." Was her satisfied remark, while she removed her trousers and gave it to LaFontaine. Dressed in just her braies and white undershirt, she nodded to LaFontaine as a sign that they can leave now and that she was already done with them. She cannot wait to take some hot bath before she goes to bed and was very tired. But she noticed LaFontaine still standing by the door, as if contemplating on something. "What is it?" was her confused remark.

"I was just wondering if you knew about the breakfast meeting between the Prince of Berghausen and Princess Laura?"

She contorted her brows and thought that the message did not reach her; but soon realized that it was the Queen who informed her that her mother invited the Prince of Berghausen to eat breakfast with Princess Laura too, after the Queen learned that the Prince of Berghausen and Princess Laura knew each other. She remembered the Queen telling her that rekindling Princess Laura's friendship with the Prince of Berghausen might help tighten their trading partnership with the kingdom from the south. "Yes, my Queen Mother informed me beforehand." She was about to send LaFontaine off knowing that her bath will soon be cold, but was interrupted again.

"Forgive me, but I am just worried about this meeting," LaFontaine revealed. "What if this prince was the same prince that Princess Laura was attracted to before? He was after all from the south. And I remembered correctly that one of Princess Laura's handmaidens told me that he lives in the Kingdom that was famous for producing wine."

Suddenly, she found herself worrying. Her mood unexpectedly shifted from being tired to irritate. What if it was him? What if Princess Laura was still attracted to him? She pretended to shrugged off LaFontaine's presumption. "Will you leave me now so that I can bath?!"

"Alright, alright… why the sudden grumpiness?" was LaFontaine's confused retaliation.

That night, she tossed sleeplessly in her bed and the thought of Princess Laura meeting the Prince of Berghausen was stressing her out. She tried to salvage any decent sleep she could get before she hears the rooster crow.

*****

The following morning, LaFontaine came a little later and brought her breakfast instead of the maid, since she had awoken late.

"Any news?" she asked gingerly, while cutting a piece of cheese followed by breaking the rye bread into small pieces. LaFontaine was now busy arranging her clothes for the day while she eats her breakfast on the table, near the fireplace.

"About what?" was LaFontaine's nonchalant reply after laying the clothes on the bed that she was going to wear for her fencing practice.

"About the Prince of Berghausen…" she answered pretending to be disinterested as she drinks her tea. "… and Princess Laura," The sound of her betrothed's name together with the Prince of Berghausen irked her ears

 

This time she got LaFontaine's attention as they looked at her. She met their eyes and waited in anticipation. "He was indeed the Princess' former admirer. Natalie, one of the princess' hand maidens confirmed it to me today as she saw a glimpse of the prince in the dining hall while the Queen and Princess Laura eat breakfast with him."

Upon hearing it, she lost her appetite and threw the piece of bread that she was holding on the plate. She clenched her jaw muscle and ran her fingers through her hair, before shoving the tray of food in front of her. "I'm done!" she told LaFontaine and stood up. She walked towards the bed and took the white fencing trousers and black shirt that was lying on her bed and LaFontaine helped her put it on. Then she went to the bathroom and sat in front of the dressing table, while she impatiently watch LaFontaine helped her with her daily hair and beard grooming.

After LaFontaine was finished, she rose at once and said, "We're going to practice now!" she informed LaFontaine. It was still early but she did not give a damn. LaFontaine confused with her sudden shift of mood, just followed her.

*****

After three hours of vigorous nonstop training, she now found herself resting at the garden catching some fresh air and trying to calm her nerves by listening to the chirping of the birds on the trees.

She was wondering. Why suddenly, she was furious at the thought of Princess Laura and the Prince of Berghausen getting friendly again? She knew that she does not have to worry anything since she does not have any feelings for Princess Laura. And she had revealed to LaFontaine that nobody could have her heart. But today, she felt this rage that just came out of nowhere and she was baffled about her emotions getting out of control. So she decided to channel her anger to somewhere else and maybe, she could control her feelings. And the best way to do that was with her swords.

But poor LaFontaine, she was hard on them during their fencing training that LaFontaine commented that she was extra aggressive today. She was supposed to train her swordsmanship with LaFontaine too, but begged to be replaced by one of the best knights in the castle, afraid that she might accidentally kill them.

She trained instead with a knight and used the Blade of Hastur during training. She rarely used the sword afraid that it might hurt someone since she was not that familiar yet holding such a powerful sword. However, today, she felt like going to battle and releasing out all the rage in her. She was satisfied with the outcome when the knight missed his sword for the first time since she had trained with him when she was still young.

When she felt herself relaxed and her temper cooled down, she decided to go back to the training room to put the Blade of Hastur back in the cabinet where all the swords were kept. The Queen had asked one of the carpenters to make a large lockable sword display cabinet just for the Blade of Hastur, and it was located in one of the rooms in the training hall where it housed her other swords.

She was about to put the Blade of Hastur back to its display cabinet, when her eyes caught the sight of Princess Laura and presumably the Prince of Berghausen going out of the castle and on their way to the garden. She got mad at what she had witnessed. But instead of invading into their "reunion" she chose instead a less violent approach of dealing with her emotions. She put on one of the royal guard armor and a helmet and decided not to put back yet her sword. After she awkwardly put on the armor and the helmet, she strode her way to the garden.

*****

When she arrived in the garden, neither guards nor Princess Laura's handmaidens were in sight. That's where her heart throbbed anxiously. She was suddenly worried that her betrothed was alone with another man.

She discreetly walked towards them and saw Princess Laura seated on one of the large stones under the willow tree. She clenched her jaw when her eyes caught the Prince of Berghausen sitting beside the Princess, with only a foot distance between them. They seemed to be having fun because she saw Princess Laura laughing with the prince. She had never seen her betrothed so happy like that, and she realized for the first time how beautiful and enchanting Princess Laura was! Her betrothed was literally like a sunshine that could melt anybody's heart with those beautiful smile and warm gaze. Just by looking at the smiling Princess could make anybody fall for her betrothed, and she just realized it by now; she does not want to share her betrothed to anybody.

She walked towards them, and as her presence interrupted the somewhat private conversation of the two, she caught Princess Laura's confused expression.

"You may leave. I don't need a guard," Princess Laura demanded, looking at her direction.

She almost snapped at the commanding sound of the princess' voice, it was the first time she heard someone ordering her aside from her mother and father. She does not like the sound of it. But she controlled herself and was committed on keeping an eye on her betrothed. "It's the prince's order!" she answered in her deepest voice.

"You can tell the Prince that I am not a child and I do not need any guard," was Princess Laura's arrogant reply.

"A young princess like you should not be left alone with a man," was her clever retort and stood beside the princess, not too close, but just enough to hear what they were saying and enough to see the Prince of Berghausen from where he was sitting.

"Don't you ever talk to the Princess like that!" the Prince of Berghausen reprimanded.

She was about to tell him to back off but Princess Laura put her hand on the Prince of Berghausen's left shoulder to stopped him from standing. She saw the look of annoyance from Princess Laura's face and an irritated prince, and she knew that she won. She smirked inside her helmet and stood still while Princess Laura turned her back on her, and resumed talking to the prince.

She never noticed Princess Laura's hair before, but she suddenly found herself admiring the princess' hair. It was the first time that she was standing closer behind Princess Laura and she cannot help but be attracted to. A small amount of hair from both sides were interweaved to a simple soft braid, while the rest of the dirty blonde curls falls softly below the shoulder. Small white flowers weaved in thin pip berry twigs as a crown adorned Princess Laura's head accentuating the natural beauty of her betrothed's face. She suddenly felt glad at the realization of what Princess Laura was to her, and a flicker of possessiveness possesses her.

Did she really look like this before? Or she had fixed up because she was meeting the Prince of Berghausen? She wondered, as she found herself growing attracted to the Princess. But before she could torture herself with more suspicion, Princess Laura's voice halted her.

"Leave him," the princess suggested. "We should talk about you instead." Once the Prince of Berghausen was calmly seated, he focused his sight again to Princess Laura.

"How are you Princess? You look sad, are they treating you well here?" was the Prince of Berghausen's worried query.

Princess Laura took a deep breath before answering, "Thank you Viktor for asking, you are still thoughtful as always. I am alright and yes, the Karnsteins are treating me well."

"Are you sure about that?" the Prince of Berghausen asked.

She focused her sight on him seeing that he moved closer to Princess Laura. And she felt suddenly threatened by him and how Princess Laura calls him by his first name. But she tried to calm herself.

"Yes I am," Was Princess Laura's reply.

"How about your betrothed? Is he treating you with the best care and respect?"

She felt like she was stabbed at the heart as she heard that concerned question from the Prince of Berghausen. She stilled herself and waited for the Princess to reply.

"Prince Carl had been most caring and gentle since I arrived here," the Princess related and croaked. "He… he made me feel at home at once and I forgot my homesickness."

After hearing that lie from Princess Laura, she could not help but to hate herself for acting like an arrogant fool towards the Princess. Everything that the Princess said was the complete opposite of how she had behaved, and it was killing her to hear how her betrothed had concealed her foolishness. She had been selfish and insensitive and had not noticed that Princess Laura was sad and homesick.

"Oh Laura, if you had just said yes to me, you wouldn't be this far away from your home and you never have to worry, because I would do anything to make you happy," the Prince of Berghausen retorted.

Bastard! She cursed at the prince's daring remark. Then she fidgeted when she saw a glimpse of Princess Laura's cheeks crimsoned and gave the Prince of Berghausen a timid smile.

"Viktor, we're young and impulsive that time. We don't know what we really feel for each other," was Princess Laura's modest and shy answer. "I am sure that there are a lot of princess who are waiting for you to ask their hand in marriage."

"But I'm serious Laura! I have always been and will always be in love with you!" was his passionate declaration. "That's why I cannot ask a woman in marriage... not until I see you married."

Upon hearing it, she took a deep breath and gripped the handle of her sword. One more comment and I'll slash your throat! This prince was getting into her nerves. How arrogant of him to say those words! It seemed like he was challenging Princess Laura's feelings when he knew that the Princess was already betrothed to her! She was about to order him to shut up but Princess Laura beat her to it.

"You mustn't say such things. I am already betrothed to Prince Carl," Princess Laura declared.

She was relieved upon hearing it, but contorted her brows when she noticed the princess' head tilted a bit to the side as if hiding its face from blushing. Is she flirting with him?! She imagined the princesses that she met and has learned how their bodies react while blushing when they flirted with her. And Princess Laura's body language was not far from the description, even if she cannot see her face.

She cannot deny the fact that the Prince of Berghausen was indeed good looking and neat in appearance, with a boyish charm that every woman would fall in love with. He was clean shaven. He was average in height, just a few inches higher than her and thin like how LaFontaine told her. His hair was like hers, short and neatly cut but blonde in color.

Her appraising on this prince was cut short when she saw his hand touched Princess Laura's hand that was resting on the princess' lap. A pang of jealousy suddenly hit her out of nowhere. She now found herself gripping on the handle of her sword again and has every intention of putting it to the Prince of Berghausen's throat. But she still controlled herself and took a deep breath, and kept an eye on him.

"Laura, will you grant me a last wish before you get marry?" The prince of Berghausen implored as he now took both hands of Princess Laura.

Totally oblivious, Princess Laura asked, "What do you mean?"

But instead of an answer she saw the Prince of Berghausen leaned towards Princess Laura's face.

"Enough!" she shouted, quickly unsheathed the Blade of Hastur and aimed it on the prince's throat before he could claim Princess Laura's lips.

Princess Laura was shocked upon seeing the sword aimed at the prince's throat and stood up.

She immediately shoved the princess out of the way and pulled Princess Laura behind her while she faced the Prince of Berghausen. She saw him stood up and unsheathed his sword, anger was written all over his face as he was caught off guard.

"How dare you! You're going to regret this!" The prince of Berghausen warned.

They were about to strike their swords to each other but Princess Laura mediated and stood in between them. "Stop!" They both put down their swords but the tension was still there.

"Stop this nonsense!" Princess Laura implored as her hands spread out, trying to stop them from attacking each other.

"How dare you put a sword to my throat!" the prince reiterated. "You should be punished for doing that!"

This time she cannot control her rage anymore as the sound of the word 'punish' angered her. She removed and threw the helmet that she was wearing, and revealed herself before him. "How dare you touch my betrothed?!" She accused and aimed the blade of Hastur again to the Prince of Berghausen. "No one touches her except me!"

"Prince Carl?!" Princess Laura gasped upon recognizing her. While a puzzled look was marred at the Prince of Berghausen's face as he saw her for the first time.

She was still panting furiously and her hands were shaking as rage overcame her, she was glaring at the Prince of Berghausen and ready to attack him. But she was disrupted when her sight was blocked by a pair of worried brown eyes gazing at her, and then she felt the princess' hands cupped her face.

"My Prince, please..."

She heard the Princess pleaded and she calmed down at the touch of the Princess' soft hands in her face. But she was angry at her too for flirting with him, so she shoved Princess Laura's hands on the side and released from the warm touch of her betrothed. And glared at the Prince of Berghausen and shouted, "I don't want to see your face again in my castle!" she declared before putting down her sword and sheathed it. She walked out of the garden and left the Prince of Berghausen still in a state of semi shock from finding out who she really was, and ignored Princess Laura's pleading.

*****

She was still furious when she arrived at the training hall and shouted at one of the guards to come to her. Once the guard had bowed in front of her, she threw the sheathed sword at him and ordered, "Get LaFontaine!" as she kicked the things that was around her and removed her gloves and threw it.

After a few minutes, she saw her valet arrived still catching their breath. "You called Your Highness?" Was LaFontaine's careful remark. Surely the guard who fetched them had already informed her valet that she was in a bad mood.

"Remove this!" She commanded LaFontaine, referring to the armor as she stood and faced them. "And tell the Prince of Berghausen to leave my castle at once. I'm not interested in our trading partnership." She instructed not having any second thoughts of what will be the outcome of this decision. Once she was out of the heavy armor, she ran her hand through her hair and looked at her valet, "And don't disturb me!" She said before LaFontaine have a chance to ask what happened and she stormed out of the hall.

*****

Once her anger subsided, she went to the library and spent the whole afternoon reading.

She took a break and gaze at the window. It was already dark and she did not even notice it. She walked in front of the big fireplace that was higher than her and appreciated the warmth that was eliminating from it. She stared absent mindedly at the flames that flowed and danced in an almost rhythmically motion. The sight soothed her as if it was hypnotizing her. It reminded her the evenings she spent at the Queen's chamber, sitting on the floor in front of the fireplace as her head rested on the Queen's lap while savoring the warmth of the fire and the comforting touch of her mother's hands. How she wished she could still do that, how she wished she was still fourteen and does not have to deal with this feeling right now. A feeling she thought she will never encounter.

Few weeks ago, she hated her father for bringing another princess to their castle not just as a potential wife but a betrothed for her. She tried many different ways to drive her off and for this princess to dislike her, but this Princess of Hollis never gives up. She continued testing Princess Laura's patience by taking her for granted most of the time, thinking that the princess would surely reached the end of the thread of her patience and would eventually give up, and yet the Princess was still staying at the castle. She thought of many crazy schemes that she could do to test not just the Princess' patience, but how superficial the Princess was with regards to physical appearance and she was surprised at the outcome; because until now, she was still wearing the false beard that LaFontaine made just to irk and make Princess Laura dislike her, and yet the Princess was still quiet and not complaining about it. She did not realize how much effort and challenge the Princess underwent just to prove to her that her betrothed was worth it until now.

She did not appreciate Princess Laura nor notice the Princess' beautiful hair until now; until a certain prince threatened to claim her betrothed. And where was this rage coming from as she recalled how she almost slash the throat of the Prince of Berghausen when she saw him almost kissed Princess Laura and put his hands on her betrothed. She never felt this way. She never showed her emotions because she knew that it was a sign of weakness. But one person had successfully tapped inside her cold heart and slowly entered. She was caught off guard and started to get scared.

Her contemplation was suddenly halted when she heard a knock on the door. She crinkled her brows and was irritated to find out that somebody was disturbing her. She knew that it was not the Queen because her mother does not need her permission to come in while the King would summon her if she was needed and she had informed LaFontaine that she wish not to be disturbed, so the guards outside would be informed not to let anyone in at the library. She tried to ignore it but the knocking persisted until she gave up.

"Who is it?!" She shouted back.

"It's Laura."

Her heart pounded and she almost melted at the sound of the voice and how intimate it was to hear 'Laura' instead of the more formal titles they use to address each other.

"May I come in?"

She shook her head to regain her sanity from the temporary spell of Laura's voice.

"Come in." She replied in a steady deep calm voice.

She took a deep breath and composed herself as she faced 'Laura'. She uttered the name again in her mind. She remained standing by the fireplace and watched the princess approached her with uncertain steps. "What do you want?" She asked in her deep authoritative voice, as if to stop the princess from coming closer and crossing her personal space. It worked and her betrothed settled right across her with a distance that a stranger will use.

"I would like to ask for Your Highness' forgiveness for what happened today." was the Princess' meek reply. "I know that you did not do it for me, since we both know that you are not fond of me, and you do not care if someone would want me, you might even be happy now because somebody else wants to marry me and you could get rid of me, and you will regain your freedom…"

How could she babble like that? Was her fascinating remark. Of course I did that for you, to protect you! She wanted to say back, but remembered her mother's reminder to her, "Showing your emotions is a sign of weakness." Then her attention caught again the Princess' anxious expression.

"…and instead it was Your Highness' pride that was hurt. And I am the one who caused it." The princess uttered softly in remorse tone. "Please forgive me for my misdemeanor. I have temporarily forgotten that I am betrothed to the future king of Karnstein and that I should have not allowed myself to be left alone and be touched by another man, except you, Your Highness."

She almost lost her composure and confidence as she heard Laura confessed all these feelings towards her. This woman is going to be the death of me! She felt overwhelmed and before she could break down and tell Laura that she cared for her, the Princess stopped her with another remark.

"And if the Prince of Karnstein thinks that I am not worthy anymore of being his future wife, I would accept that. I would understand if Your Highness would deem me impure and a disgrace," was Princess Laura's courageous declaration.

She released the breath that she was holding as the Princess' confession made her speechless and immobile. Princess Laura gazed at her with full of remorse and shimmering eyes. But she cannot find the words to say what she was feeling right now. She had not been trained to deal with this kind of emotions. Her mother successfully molded her to become a prince and the future king of Karnstein, but the Queen forgot to tell her how to handle and answer to this kind of situation. Her disoriented state was finally broken when she heard a sniff.

"There is no need to answer Your Highness." Was the princess weak comment. "I understand fully what your silence meant… I…I will leave at the crack of dawn."

She was awoken from her disorientation as she saw the princess turned her back and started to walk away from her.

"Laura!" she pleaded and ran after the princess. She grabbed the princess' left arm and gently turned her around, and put her lips on Laura's wet soft ones. She kissed Laura like she had never kissed anyone before and poured out all those emotions that she was suppressing and put it all in the kiss. She does not care what Laura would think about the kiss, she just have to do it! She just needs to claim what was hers a long time ago! ... And that was Laura's lips!

TBC

Chapter Text

Laura

She was caught off guard and bewildered as she felt a pair of thin soft smooth lips met her own, and at the same time a beard rubbed on her delicate skin; she gasped at the thought of that prickly stubble scratching her delicate face, but stilled when she felt how soft it was! And then she realized that Prince Carl was kissing her deeply. She tried to figure out what was going on but her sanity was clouded, as she felt the Prince's lips became demanding and sent her in a state of turmoil; she just closed her eyes and surrendered as this overwhelming sensation consumed her. To her astonishment, she reciprocated his kiss with the same intensity and hunger that he was doing and unconsciously put her hands on his nape, and caressed the back of his neck, urging him to kiss her more.

Then she felt his tongue pushed inside her mouth. She gladly welcomed it and opened her mouth and his tongue gently explored hers. She let out a soft moan, when she felt his hands on her hips and heard his ragged breathing. Her body was in the state of elation as she felt his body claiming hers. She had never thought that she was going to feel this way towards a man's touch but Prince Carl's touches were so gentle but possessive. She felt like collapsing as the dizzying touch of his hands roamed at her sides and then at her buttocks pulling her closer to him, and suddenly she felt his hard bulge against her! She panicked, opened her eyes and pulled off from his embrace; but regretted instantly when she saw the confused look on his face.

"Laura?" Prince Carl mumbled.

She heard the Prince's soft innocent call and she found herself ashamed of what she had done, as she saw his worried expression.

"Have I done something wrong?" was his soft apologetic remark.

She gazed into his eyes, and saw a concerned look and hurt. "No! You did not," she replied right away saving him from falling deeper into the wells of confusion. How can she tell him?

I am just not comfortable feeling your private part rubbing on me!

But instead, she cupped her hands around his jaw line and was surprised again how soft his beard and his face. She did not notice it this morning when she was trying to pacify him she just realized it now that it touched her cheeks and her hands. "I… I am just overwhelmed," was her honest reply and was relieved when Prince Carl gave her a bashful smile. She melted at the sight of it and never thought that the Prince was capable of blushing in front of her.

Then she finally regained her sanity and took this opportunity to ask him while he was in a good mood. She released her hands from his face.

"What's going on?" she asked carefully, still standing close to him. "Correct me if I'm wrong, but I had the impression in the beginning that you don't want me to be your betrothed, but then…this…" she paused and does not know how to tell him 'why did you kiss me' without sounding like she was complaining.

"I… I don't know," he filled in.

She saw him crimsoned and looked at his boots as he too was fumbling for words, and found him adorable in that state of confusion. She grabbed this moment of his weakness and asked "Would the Prince like to tell me why he kissed me?"

He gazed at her and was silent for a moment, as if studying her face then she saw again his bashful smile.

Oh god, he's not making this easier.

She thought, waiting in vain and dying of his princely charm.

Is he really this charming?

And before she could drown from his adorableness, his voice held her attention.

"All I know is I don't want to share you. I don't want to see anyone touching you. I just want you for myself," he began to tell in a deep and yet passionate tone. "Am I wrong to claim you like that? … Is it alright if I call you mine?"

She was too dumfounded to reply and a fling of warmth possessed her. She does not expect to hear such words from him, and does not have the slightest idea that he felt something for her. Something inside her tells her that she needed to give him assurance, so without thinking, she uttered the words that first came into her mind:

"But I am yours," she mumbled. And she saw his faced lightened up.

Instead of a reply, he claimed her lips again and kissed it. She reciprocated and found herself enjoying his kiss; how possessive and dominating his lips and tongue on hers; how it made her feel like he was claiming her on and on; and it felt so insane! The feeling of his soft beard rubbing on her delicate face was still making her uncomfortable, but she forgot the uneasiness as soon as he kissed her.

She unintentionally pulled out from the kiss as the need for air arose. He grumbled at the loss of contact, and she found it adorable. She regained her confidence and asked," does that mean I am forgiven?" she asked, remembering the reason why she was here and gave him her most adorable grin. She put her hands around the back of his neck, keeping him closer to her and not wanting to end this intimate conversation with him.

The Prince gazed at her with a different intensity in his eyes. She cannot describe what it was but his face was glowing and he was smirking at her playfully; she can now see the other side of Prince Carl; the side where he looked like an innocent boy and carefree; the side where he was not thrown into a huge responsibility of behaving like the future king of Karnstein.

"Yes. I think it is appropriate that I forgive my future wife, after that heartfelt confession and apology." The Prince replied not lifting his gaze on her, almost hypnotizing her. His mood changed, and was serious. He put his hands again on her hips. "… And as long as you will swear your devotion to me."

His comment was demanding and sounded dangerous.

Since she arrived at this castle the Prince never bothered how she felt. She does not feel welcome every time she was in his company. He was constantly avoiding her and sometimes rude towards her. He has all the qualities that she does not like in a person: arrogant, conceited, sarcastic, insensitive, egoistic, broody, temperamental, possessive, imperious, has a beard and the fact that he was a man, was driving her insane now!

She was beginning to panic internally and cannot believe that she had to accept all of these traits of her future husband. A husband! She emphasized, trying to remind herself that she likes women; their soft skin, their voluptuous breast, their cleavage, their perky nipples, their gentle touch, their soft skin, their smooth soft face, their hairless cheeks, their sweet smell, their delicious taste, the goddess-like shape of their body, their cleanliness, their calm and graceful movements, and the feeling of warmth and non-threatening way when they make love…

Was she really ready to give up all of these qualities in exchange for this man in front of her; a man that she was not even attracted to? …A man that does not even have the qualities that she was looking for in a man?

"Princess Laura?"

The deep puzzled and yet gentle voice of Prince Carl snatched her from pondering.

She was met by a pair of kind, innocent and vulnerable dark eyes, and she knew that she just have to give up everything that she wished for a man, she had to forget Prince Viktor… because her heart was dictating her now. She took his right hand, and noticed how soft and delicate it felt in her hand. She kissed his knuckle before gazing at him and said with utmost sincerity,

"I am yours Prince Carl and I swear to devote myself only to you."

*****

Ten minutes later, she found herself, hand in hand with the Prince walking along the hall towards her chamber. After that heartfelt remark, Prince Carl did not let her go and kissed her again, but not as passionate as the first one. He insisted on walking her to her chamber. When they finally reached the entrance of her chamber, Prince Carl dismissed the two guards that were standing by the door way. They stood there for a while just gazing at each other.

Finally, she broke the silence. "Thank you for being with me tonight."

"No. I thank you for coming to me tonight," was the Prince's humble reply. "And I hope you will forget my savage behavior early today."

"I think I'm kind of thankful that it happened," she commented.

"Huh?!" was the Prince's baffled reaction. "I did not realize that you had a thing for barbarians, Cupcake," Was his sarcastic remark.

"No! I did not meant, the 'you behaving like a wild cat and being territorial over me'!" She explained. "I'm glad that it happened because I would not have known the truth."

This time she caught the Prince smirking at her, "The truth…" he was trying to mock her and gestured with his hand as if encouraging her to speak further.

He was so bossy, she thought but it did not bother her anymore. And instead of answering him she put her hands around his neck and interlocked her fingers and kissed him. She felt Prince Carl put his hands on her hips. The feeling of his hands possessively holding her hips was beginning to arouse her. She never expected that someone could make her feel so vulnerable and helpless with a mere touch on her body.

They just kiss tenderly and she let him hold her like that until the need for air separated them. Surprisingly, she found his kisses so tender and soft, except for his beard again, that she still found uncomfortable when it rubbed to her cheek. He smelled good and his mouth tasted a hint of mint. She gazed at his face and her eyes roamed at his thin symmetrical eyebrows, deep dark orbs, his smooth pale face, his perfectly pointed nose, his small mouth that was covered almost with moustache and beard, his well-defined jawline and finally the thin red soft lips that had claimed her today, and it dawned on her:

He's beautiful!

Prince Carl gave her a puzzled look, "What?" the prince asked in a deep raspy voice that she was beginning to enjoy listening to.

"Nothing,"

She whispered back and hid her head at the crook of his neck, hiding her face and she took the chance to inhale his scent. It surprised her how pleasant and mild.

He smelled actually good!

The scent of this man was really driving her insane! Her instinct kicked in and she began to place small kisses at the prince's smooth neck, avoiding his jawline that covered with beard, while her hands roamed at his hair, which she found it surprisingly soft! It was like every body part of the prince that she touches were soft! Except for one particular hard part, which she thought she was not ready to explore. Suddenly, she heard a low purr like sound when her lips touched the back of his lower ear. She smiled at the amusing sound of it and was about to put her mouth on his earlobe, when the sound of a door opening rudely interrupted her followed by the sound of Perry's voice calling her.

"Princess Laura, do you know what time I-" was Perry saying. "Oh… Good evening Your Highness." Perry's voice suddenly changed as she caught sight of the Prince and curtsied in front of him.

She awkwardly released from his arms and they separated a foot away from each other.

"Good evening Perry," Prince Carl greeted back in a low and calm voice. Then he turned his focus on her. "Goodnight Princess. I'll see you tomorrow."

She wanted to kiss him goodnight but the changed in the tone of his voice when he said good evening to Perry signified that he was back into his authoritative attitude. She simply had to wait until tomorrow, when they can be alone again. So instead, she just had to be satisfied gazing at his eyes and said, "Goodnight My Prince." And then he left.

*****

Once inside her chamber, she felt like she was still floating and in heaven, what's happening to me? She asked herself totally oblivious of how she ended up kissing Prince Carl.

The last time she felt like this she was in love and it was with a woman. She was attracted right away from the first day that she laid her eyes on Danny. But right now she was totally confused and still cannot believe that she was beginning to like Prince Carl. There was definitely no attraction on her part the first time she saw him. And the fact that he was a man did not interest her further. But as a princess she has responsibilities to fulfill and one of that was to find a husband and produce an heir for him. And right now, the thought of producing an heir for Prince Carl was sending her mixed emotions.

She would love to be a mother and have children someday. She adored children and babies; she liked the idea of having a castle with lively children playing around the halls of the castle and running after them. She imagined that the parents of her children would be her and another woman, Danny. When they were together she and Danny would talk about spending their life in another land, where no one knew them and escaping from the responsibilities of being a princess. They would paint a house where they would want to live and grow old together. It does not matter if they were poor as long as they love each other. Nobody could stop them from showing how they felt to one another, until one day, reality hit and Danny must marry.

It was the saddest day of her life. She was devastated and does not want to accept the reality. She shoved away all the people that cared for her including her father and never accepted any suitors again. Everything that was around her was worthless, even her life was worthless. If she could not have the woman that she loved, she might as well die. But Perry supported and cared for her like her own mother. Perry slowly nurtured her all the love she needed from a mother and she was thankful to have Perry in her life.

Right now, her confused heart was dictating her that she liked this person, a person she never thought she would give her heart. She agreed to marry Prince Carl out of responsibilities and duties as a daughter and a princess. But she never agreed to love him in the first place. She set her mind on the goal, and that was to marry and eventually, produce an heir. But she never expected that she would be attracted to him. Being noble, she was taught that the kings and queens marry not for love but for power and to continue the monarchy. Love was just a foolish notion of every low born; they were the ones who marry for love! Because they do not have big responsibilities and power to maintain; they do not need to be forced to produce an heir out of loveless marriage. They conceived their children out of love! As she grew up she never knew how her parents were as husband and wife. Her mother died when she was just a small girl and her father never remarried.

She never knew the reason.

The voice of Perry broke her from her reverie. She was now tucked in bed and Perry was finished cleaning and putting everything in order. Perry had been silent since she entered the chamber after she was caught nipping at Prince Carl's ear. But she knew that her Lady in Waiting and mother figure deserved to know what was going on.

"I think I like him," she simply said out of the blue.

Perry's expression warmed at the thought of it and walked towards the bed and sat beside her.

"I'm glad to hear that," Perry replied, relaxing. "How did you found out?"

Perry's question sent her to the wells of confusion. And she wondered:

How did I found out that I like him?

This was the most complex question that she was facing now. Everything happened so fast. A few days ago she detested him and had not planned on forgiving him for all of his mischiefs. She was determined to play his game and ignore him too. But everything changed today and she found herself growing attracted to him and questioning herself.

Why am I attracted to someone who is very possessive and jealous? Why am I attracted to someone who is temperamental and broody? Why am I kissing someone with a beard?!

She faced Perry and contorted her brows; she honestly does not know. Only her heart knew the reason that her logic cannot fathom.

"I… I have no idea."

*****

She woke up at the sound of the birds chirping by her window, the sun was already up and she felt that everything around her made her happy.

"Good morning Princess!" She heard Perry's loud voice coming from the door.

Yes, it really is a good morning!

She said to herself and remained in bed for a while as she gathered all the memories of yesterday and replayed in her mind how the Prince kissed her passionately; how his hands sends a tingling sensation every time she would feel it on her hips.

Her musing was interrupted when Perry approached her bed.

"Hmmm… You looked like you had a very good night sleep." Perry commented.

"As a matter of fact, I did," she replied in a cheerful tone. "It was the first time I have slept that good and woke up happy since I arrived here. I felt refreshed!"

"Well, I'm glad that you feel that way. Because we're going to be spending the whole day at the market today," Perry informed her.

She was suddenly caught off guard, and her mood changed from musing to panic.

"What?! Is it Monday today?" she asked growing worried.

Every Monday, she and Perry would go to the market square to buy all the ingredients that Perry used to bake the cakes and sweets that she like. They do not rely on the castle's servants to buy the ingredients for them since they do not know all of the ingredients that Perry was using. And besides, they always like to go to the market together because it was like a mother-daughter bonding time to them. Ever since she was a child she always comes along with Perry and Perry's mother to the market. And when Perry's mother died, they promised to each other that they would continue the bonding of mother-daughter going to the market.

"What time is it?" she asked with a hint of panic. She had totally forgotten to tell Prince Carl that every Monday she goes to the market with Perry.

"It's half pass seven," Perry supplied and went to the bathroom to prepare for her bath.

"Damn! It's still early," She fidgeted.

She knew Prince Carl never wakes up before ten o' clock and she needs to go to the market in an hour with Perry. She internally berated herself for forgetting to inform Prince Carl that she cannot meet him at once since she knew that it would take a whole day for them to buy the ingredients they need.

She and Perry would always take their time to buy some things for them in the market. Sometimes they stop by on the street to watch some puppet show. And most of the time they would buy food from cart vendors, like hot pies, pretzels or sweets and they would eat them while shopping or strolling around the market square. These have been their Monday routine. Even if she had already left her home and lived in another kingdom they did not break their Monday tradition. Because this routine had helped her overcame her home sickness; this routine had made her looked forward to mingle with other people; this routine had made her forget how lonely it was to live in the Karnstein Castle; this routine made her happy to know that there were people, ordinary people that she could be friends with and talked normally to them.

When she arrived at the Karnstein Kingdom, nobody knew her except a few people in the castle. And not all of them knew that she was the betrothed of the Prince of Karnstein. The castle had never formally announced it yet, so she grabbed the chance to live a normal life even if it was just once a week, and the only place she could do that was here. Nobody in the castle knew that she and Perry used to sneak every Monday to the market dressed as commoners, except for the three royal guards that always accompanied them. She told Perry that she wanted to know how the commoners live outside and what do they think about.

They managed to get the trust of three royal guards in Karnstein Kingdom to go with them and discreetly guard them, telling them to wear ordinary clothes also, and not the Royal guard uniform. But right now, everything was going to change, and she hoped that she could still continue doing what she liked without Prince Carl knowing it. She thought of writing him a message telling him that she just needed to attend some matter with Perry. The castle did not mind before what they do and Prince Carl did not care before if she was in the castle or not, she even did him a favor of getting out of his sight and let him do whatever he wanted instead of getting stuck with her. They never noticed.

"Laura, you're market dress is ready and so is your bath," Perry informed while she wrote a little note to the Prince informing him that she would meet him in the evening.

"Thank you Perry." She said and folded the paper and sealed it with wax. "Can you please tell Natalie to give this to LaFontaine after we left?"

Perry nodded and took the letter and left the chamber.

*****
It was already dark when they passed at the castle's drawbridge. She was tired but was happy and satisfied that she was able to go to the village. It was refreshing and enjoyable to be carefree and do the things she liked. But the best thing that she enjoyed most was mingling with those commoners who became her acquaintances and friends. Talking to them had inspired her more to help the poor. Almost everybody was nice and genuine. But there were also some people that annoyed her, and one of them was the village's most eligible handsome man: William.

"Princess, maybe next time you can tell William that you already had a beau," Perry said out of nowhere. "I think he will stop courting you when you tell him that."

She was surprised that her Lady in Waiting was thinking of the same person as she was. "William is harmless and he just likes to have the ladies' attention," she returned, not taking his courtship seriously.

"By the way, who was that woman that you helped outside the brothel?" was Perry's curious remark.

"Her name was Elsie and she works in the brothel," she answered nonchalantly, but heard Perry's surprised gasp. "What? Why are you staring at me like that? I just gave her water and helped her with her cut. She told me that the owner was mad at her because she broke a plate or something…" was her innocent reply.

"The next time you see her, try to avoid her," Perry warned.

"Why? What's wrong with helping someone?" she asked, and grew curious.

"Because she works in the brothel," was Perry's short unsatisfactory reply.

But before she could ask another question the horse drawn carriage had already stopped at the castle's entrance. Once the door was opened they were met right away by LaFontaine. She stepped out of the carriage, after Perry and LaFontaine assisted her while going down the carriage.

Puzzled, "LaFontaine, what are you doing here?" she asked, seeing for the first time that the Prince's Valet seemed to be waiting for someone or something.

"Thank god you are already here Your Highness," they said and sighed with relief.

"How many times do I have to tell you to just call me Princess Laura," she reminded them nicely. "And why are you running? Is everything alright?" she asked as they entered the castle followed by Perry and the three royal guards carrying the goods that they bought.

"Everything is not alright when the Prince is angry and broody," they said

"Why? What happened?" was her oblivious remark.

"He… He is mad because you are not in the castle and you did not tell him where you went," LaFontaine explained in between breaths. "He shouted at everybody accusing us of being imbeciles because nobody can tell him where you are."

Oh God. She thought and felt guilty of putting everybody in a bad situation as she recalled how temperamental the Prince was yesterday. "Where is he?" She asked quickly.

"At the library," LaFontaine replied quickly. "And Princess, be careful. The Prince can be a lot to handle sometimes when he is angry."

She gave them a reassuring smile, and said, "Don't worry, I already know how to tame the wild cat."

She managed to change her dress quickly before meeting the Prince. And now she found herself a little nervous as she stood in front of the library door. She took a deep breath before knocking. When she did not hear a reply, she called for him and yet he still did not answer. So, she decided to let him know that it was her and that she was coming in. When nobody answered, she opened the door and entered the library. Her eyes caught him at once, as she saw the Prince sitting on the chaise lounge beside the fireplace. He did not lift his gaze on his book and his brows were contorted as if he was thinking deeply or he was plainly angry.

LaFontaine was right, he looks broody and mad.

She slowly approached him, careful as not to upset him further. She settled beside the chair and kneeled down beside him, her hands resting on the unoccupied little spot of the chair that divides her and where the Prince sat. "Are you mad at me?" she asked softly, direct to the point.

"Where have you been?" He asked, in a serious deep tone. His eyes never lifted from the book in front of him.

"I was at the market with Perry…" she was not even finished talking when she saw the book he was reading flew over the room.

"At the market!?" Prince Carl burst out. "Don't you know how dangerous it is to go to the village?!"

This time the Prince glared at her.

"It isn't." she replied wondering why he thinks like that.

"How would you know?!" He demanded, not tearing his eyes from her. "You could have been hurt!"

"Because I've been going there since I came here." She simply revealed the truth. "…And nobody has ever hurt me."

He was shocked at the reply, as if she committed a crime.

"Laura, you cannot just go out of the castle's wall like that! You don't know what those savages might do to you!" he scolded, his eyes turned into worry. "They could have abducted you. Or worst… kill you!"

Seeing that he was reddening with anger, she took the Prince's hand that already balled into fist, opened it and held it tight. She felt him calmed a bit at the touch of her hand.

"They are not savages and you don't have to worry because Perry was always with me as well as three of the royal guards." She said, keeping her voice down and calm, and gave Prince Carl a reassuring smile.

"Just three?!" He returned, shocked at the lack of security. "And why didn't I know about this gallivanting of yours?"

Because you were too busy avoiding and ignoring me before. She would like to say that, but refrained instead, not wanting to upset him again.

"Because you're always busy doing your responsibilities in the castle," she replied and looked at his eyes, searching for more doubts. "And I wasn't gallivanting; I was there to help Perry and to shop the things that I need. One day I'm going to tell you what we do at the market." She reassured him. "In the meantime, let's forget about today and just enjoy this moment." She suggested, knowing that it was already getting late.

"You don't know how worried I am, don't do that to me again," the Prince said, his eyes smoldering in pain.

"Please do not worry too much," she said and put her left hand at the side of his neck and caressed the spot under his earlobe, while the other hand remained holding his smooth soft hand. She discovered last night how the prince reacted at the touch of her hands caressing that part of his neck he surely was a cat in his past life she thought amused. "Now, can I get a kiss from my Prince?"

"You have to sit beside me first before you can get your kiss," he teased and made room for her to sit beside him at the Chaise lounge. She gracefully sat and kissed him lightly, and then released her lips as she made herself comfortable beside him by wrapping her right hand around his waist, careful not to touch the part of the Prince she deemed 'hard', and rested her head on his shoulder. She was surprised to find out that Prince Carl's shoulder was not that big as she thought. Thought it perfectly fitted her.

She felt comfortable and secured after he wrapped his right arm around her and felt his hand ran through her hair, it stayed there for a moment as if he was enjoying the softness of her hair, before resting on her upper arm, caressing it. She was surprised at how she enjoyed cuddling with him. It was their first time to snuggle and it made her dizzy at the gentleness of his touch. She closed her eyes and savored the feeling; the contact of his hand running gently up and down on her arm.

She suddenly wondered why he became silent. She lifted her head from his shoulder and set her eyes on him, and caught him contemplating.

"Are you alright?" she queried, and received a reply at once.

"Yes, I'm fine." He said and stared blankly in front of him.

Not satisfied with his answer, "Because you sound broody."

"I'm just thinking about things," he returned looking down.

Curious, she did not release her eyes on his direction, wanting to catch his expression before asking again, "What things?"

"How it looks like outside?" he said, his voice were coated with sadness.

Suddenly it dawned on her that he had never set foot outside. She remembered the Queen of Karnstein mentioned to her that her son had angst of meeting people and spending time in a crowded place.

"When was the last time you were out of the castle walls?" She asked, careful not to sound like she was prying.

"When I was twelve," he mumbled, and put his left hand, palm down on his leg and slides it towards his knee.

Sensing his discomfort, "Prince Carl?" she uttered softly and he set his focus on her. She saw the longing in his dark eyes. His fear must have been really severe. Instead of asking further, she reached for his left cheek and guided his lips on hers. He dutifully kissed her.

She caressed his bearded cheek, feeling the softness of his facial hair; she was trying to get used to it rubbing to her delicate skin but it still made her uncomfortable. However, the sensation of kissing him and feeling his lips against hers was the best thing she enjoyed most. She cannot deny how it made her warm and dizzy whenever she tasted his lips. It was addicting. She released from the kiss as the need for air arose and gazed at his dark orbs.

"Maybe someday you could come with me at the market?" she suggested and grinned at him.

"Maybe," He replied with a hint of hope in his deep raspy voice.

She smiled contently and rested her head back on his shoulder; and wrapped her arms again around his waist just relishing this moment with him as she relaxed at the warmth that was eliminating from his body and the sound of the fire crackling softly from the fire place.

*****

She woke up at the sound of someone screaming and realized that she was still on the Chaise lounge embracing Prince Carl. She did not know how many hours had passed by, but when she looked at him he looked like he was in pain.

"Ma, don't leave me!"

She touched his face and lightly patted it, "Carl! Carl! Wake up!" She said.

He opened his eyes, and she saw him still hurt from the nasty dream. She cupped his face with her right hand and brought it to her bosom and cradled him, "Shhh… it's just a dream. You can go back to sleep," She said as she wrapped her arms around him protectively, consoling him.

She never expected to see how scared and vulnerable he was. That dream was certainly unpleasant and she was curious who this 'Ma' was the Prince was calling. As far as she remembered, Prince Carl calls his mother 'Queen Mother'.

TBC

Chapter Text

Carmilla

Half an hour had passed since LaFontaine interrupted her sleep together with Princess Laura in the library. She was not surprise at all that the Lady in Waiting was with her Valet looking for the Princess. They had totally forgotten that they should not sleep together since they were not married yet, although they have not done anything beyond kissing and snuggling, the Princess' Lady in Waiting was still adamant that Princess Laura should remain 'unspoiled'.

The Princess explained that nothing that Perry would deem inappropriate happened. But she was surprised at herself for wanting to spend every moment with the Princess it was like she cannot get enough of her.

And now as the clock struck to midnight, she was sleepily sitting on the chair in front of the mirror. LaFontaine was certainly dying to know why she and Princess Laura were sleeping together on the chaise lounge.

"I kissed her," she uttered out of nowhere while her Valet removed the last piece of false beard from her cheeks.

Puzzled, "You what?" LaFontaine asked, stopping what they were doing and focused on her.

"I kissed Princess Laura."

"Yes!" LaFontaine shouted and jumped where they were standing.

"Stop behaving like a fool."

After that momentary joy, "I knew it! I knew you'll fall for her! How did it happen? Did she kiss you back? Was it good?!"

"Do you want to hear the rest of the story or you'll just interrogate me like a criminal?" was her irritated remark as the sight of her Valet happy about the news makes her want to punch herself for revealing her secret. Now she would definitely be on the receiving end of LaFontaine's scrutiny and teasing.

"Forgive me. I am just happy… finally!" LaFontaine expressed, then tried to calm down and waited eagerly to hear the news. "So, when did this happen?"

"When the Prince of Berghausen was here," she started and was interrupted by an eager Valet.

"Oh, the day that you almost killed me... so that explains why,"

She was surprised and became suspicious. "Do you know anything else?" she asked not proud of her behavior when she almost killed the prince of Berghausen.

"No. I just thought that something was wrong with your behavior that morning," LaFontaine pointed out.

She focused her attention to her Valet and resumed her story, "I just felt this rage inside me, when you told me that he was the prince that Princess Laura likes and… I thought it will pass when I trained with my sword and let this emotion out. But when I saw them together at the garden, my rage grew stronger and I can't control it; especially when I saw him touched Princess Laura's hands and was about to kiss her…"

"That is jealousy," LaFontaine pointed out. "What did you do then?"

She thought of hiding the truth from LaFontaine, but knowing her Valet, they would certainly find out the truth. "I drew my sword and aimed at the prince's throat."

"You what?!" LaFontaine blurted out.

"I wanted to kill him, but Princess Laura stopped me," was her follow up as she saw her Valet remained speechless, but regained their composure at once.

"Whoa!" LaFontaine interrupted, and was shocked. "You wanted to kill someone because he was touching Princess Laura?"

"It's like I don't want anyone touching her, except me," she explained once again this odd feeling that she encountered. "Is this natural?"

"It's certainly natural when you're obsessed with someone." LaFontaine retorted.

"I'm scared. I haven't felt like this and I don't know how to control these emotions," she returned revealing her feelings.

"Don't worry we'll deal with it one at a time," was LaFontaine's consoling words. "So, what happened? How did she take it? I'm sure Princess Laura was very confused and maybe dislikes you for almost killing her former suitor."

She smirked as she recalled how the Princess confessed to her and how Laura kissed her back. And it would definitely blow LaFontaine's mind when she tell them.

"I kissed her and she kissed me back." Was her proud answer and enjoyed watching how her Valet reacted.

LaFontaine was surprised. "Really?!'"

"I know you expected that the Princess is going to hate me," she started to explain, knowing what her Valet was going to say. "But I think she had fallen for my charm," was her confident remark.

"Didn't she felt disgusted by your beard when you kiss her?" Was LaFontaine's curious query.

"No. She never complained about it," was her nonchalant reply. "She even likes to touch my face." She proudly added as she smiled and recalled how Princess Laura's soft hands caressed her cheeks a lot of times. She discovered also how she enjoyed the Princess touching the lower back of her ears, and it felt amazing!

"How did you managed to let Princess Laura touch your face, let alone kiss her and rubbed your bearded cheeks on her?" LaFontaine asked, completely baffled.

"I guess you can ask her," she challenged her Valet. And before LaFontaine can retaliate she remembered that she needed to check on some important thing. "By the way, can you find out who were the guards that went with the Princess this morning? Ask them what the Princess and her Lady in Waiting have done in the village," she related, and suddenly curious about Princess Laura's 'gallivanting'. "From now on I want every detail of the Princess' trip and where she goes and what she does. And the next time the Princess goes outside of the castle make sure that she has enough royal guards with her. I don't want my betrothed roaming around the village unprotected."

"As you wish," LaFontaine nodded.

"And don't say a word to anyone about this, especially to the Princess," she warned.

*****

After half an hour, she was now peacefully lying on her bed and was thankful that LaFontaine agreed to stop harassing her with more questions about what happened between her and the Princess. She cannot believe that it was happening too. After living in the castle with just her parents and the people that served her, she never thought that she would care for another person. She never thought that there was a person that could cause her to smile and at the same time cause her to be insanely jealous and possessive. And she never thought she was capable of feeling all of these emotions…until this Princess came into her life.

"Laura," she uttered her betrothed's name as she recalled how the Princess swore to her. "You're mine," she mumbled with a hint of greed in her voice. She did not know how powerful those words were until Princess Laura told her 'I'm yours'. It was very intimate. Not just in the sense of knowing that her father had chosen the Princess to be her betrothed, but to hear it from the Princess itself made her confident and glad.

And she thought how wonderful it was to know that someone liked her and swore to devout herself to her. She never imagined anyone kissing her like that. Ell was the only woman that kissed her but the feeling was very different compared to how she felt when Princess Laura kissed her. Princess Laura's kiss was amazing and the way Princess Laura's hands touched her every time they kiss was one of the things that made her 'melt': it was very affectionate.

*****

When she woke up today, she was summoned right away to the King's chamber. Yesterday, her Queen Mother received the news of her 'argument' with the Prince of Berghausen and was disappointed at her for ruining the potential trading partnership between them and the Kingdom of Berghausen. She told her mother that Prince Viktor was difficult to deal with. However, they did not inform the King yet about that incident since her King Father was still not feeling well. And today she was informed that she could see and talk to the King.

Her heart was pounding as she approached closer to the King's chamber. It was the first time her King Father entrusted her of negotiating with a potential trading partner and she ruined it for him.

The guards that were standing by the chamber bowed to her and opened the door right away as they saw her coming. Once she entered the chamber she was glad to see that her father looked better and was standing beside the big table across the room which the King uses for all his work.

"Good morning my King Father," she greeted right away and the King turned to face her and she bowed to him. "I am so glad to see you well."

"Ah, Carl, it's good to see you my child," the King replied smiling at her, and walked towards her direction. "Come here."

She was surprised when the King put his arm around her shoulder and guided her towards the window. She was confused when they stood together by the window and looked across outside.

"What do you see?" the King asked.

Puzzled, she looked at the King to see if he was serious.

"I… I see the castle's courtyard," was her hesitant reply and stared at the King again.

"Look further and tell me what else do you see?" the King encouraged.

She looked out again and scanned the surroundings from the window carefully, and then her eyes caught a familiar sight. She does not realize until now that the window from the King's chamber had the perfect view of the castle's courtyard.

"I see the whole garden from here and the willow tree," she returned not having the slightest idea where this conversation was heading.

"That's right. And everything that happen there, I could see it from here," the King stated. "…Including the fight that happened two days ago."

She was nervous and suddenly worried. The King had witnessed her barbaric behavior and her father certainly knew already what had happened.

"My King Father… I apologized deeply for my unpleasant behavior and for losing my temper. I know there was no excuse for my bad behavior and I would understand if my King Father would not trust me again but-" she was explaining but the touch of the Kings' hand on her left shoulder interrupted her. She looked at the King and contorted her brows when she saw a mischievous smirk like hers.

"Carl, I am not angry at you. In fact I'm proud of you!" the King stated.

She was dumbfounded at the King's reaction. It was totally the complete opposite of her mother's disappointed reaction.

"I have witnessed how you showed Prince Viktor that he should not touch your betrothed and I am proud of you for claiming and marking your right to Princess Laura," the King related with such pride. "You are really a Karnstein; you're fierce and very possessive when it comes to the object of your affection. And you don't want to share."

She released the breath that she was holding as she realized that her father was not reprimanding her but instead praising her. She smiled back at him and regained her confidence. "I just reacted to how I felt, and that is to protect what is mine, my King Father." She added, making sure that the King understood her true motive.

That remark made the King laugh, "You definitely are a Karnstein, because you sounded like me."

She just gave her father a sheepish smile and did not deny it. "Are you that possessive too when it comes to my Queen Mother?" was her curious query.

"Yes. When I saw you confronted and aimed your sword to Prince Viktor, you reminded me of myself when I was still young and was just getting to know your Queen Mother," the King returned. "I almost killed someone too because he was around your Queen Mother and he wouldn't leave her."

"What happened?" was her excited and curious remark.

"We were invited at a ball and I asked your Queen Mother for a dance, she was still a princess then; a very beautiful princess and I was just a prince like you. She danced with me all night. But then we did not realized that there was a prince who wanted to dance with your Queen Mother too, so he interrupted us and asked your Queen Mother to dance with him. But your Queen Mother was already tired and politely declined him. He did not accept it and tried to force your Queen Mother to dance with him. I stopped him and drew my sword at his throat without thinking, except I wanted to protect this beautiful princess beside me. So we actually fought. I was very angry at him that I almost killed him. Your Queen Mother just stopped me from slashing his throat!"

"That was some story!" She expressed and was happy to find out that being jealous and possessive runs in their blood and that behavior was just natural for a Karnstein. "So, who was that prince who tried to steal my Queen Mother from you?"

The King smirked at her before saying, "It's Prince Viktor's father; The King of Berghausen."

She was dumbfounded again. Was this history repeating itself?

"It looks like the Berghausens like to steal our women," she concluded.

The King laughed so hard and patted her back. "You are absolutely right my child! The one thing they do not know is that the Karnsteins would always kill for their women! Nobody touches our women except us; tell that to your betrothed."

She smiled and said proudly, "I already did my King Father."

"You are certainly are my child!" the King expressed proudly. "I am happy that you already realize how important Laura is to you. I thought you'll going to ruin this betrothal. But I was wrong. Forgive me for accusing you."

"There is nothing to forgive my King Father," she replied, as they stood face to face by the window. "I have done a lot of things that I am not proud of, and I could understand your doubts." She was saying and her voice became serious. "But I want to assure you, my King Father that I will never run from my responsibility again. I accept this betrothal and I will marry Princess Laura."

After that heartfelt confession, her father wrapped his arms around her and patted her back. "I am proud of you Carl." The King stated and released her. "Should I formally announce your betrothal to the kingdom?"

"Can we do it after I propose to her?" was her excited remark.

"But Princess Laura had already said yes," the King reminded.

"Yes; to you, when you asked her hand in marriage for me," she returned, confidently correcting the King for the first time. "I want to ask Laura personally," she relayed in a dreamy state.

"Well you do need something when you ask your future wife," the King said, then walked across the room, opened one of the cabinets in the chamber and took a little box from a drawer.

"What is it?" she asked, curious after her father handed her the little box.

"Open it," was the King's excited reply.

She complied and opened the little box. She gasped and was surprised when she saw a gold ring with a single diamond glittering in the box. "It's beautiful."

"It's your grandmother's betrothal ring," the King commented with pride and love in his voice. "It is yours now and you can give that to Princess Laura when you ask her hand in marriage."

She was astonished and could not believe that the King could be so generous when it comes to her needs. She had just thought of asking LaFontaine to buy a ring that would suit the Princess. But she never thought that the King would give her an heirloom.

"Thank you so much my King Father, for this wonderful gift," she stated, looking at the King with full of excitement.

"I would do anything to make you happy, my child." The King responded and wrapped his arms again around her. "And I want you to know that I would always be here if you needed anything."

"Thank you my King Father, for your kindness and generosity," she replied, happy to know that she had her father's full support. "I think you and my Queen Mother have already provided me with all the luxuries and wealth that I needed until I become a king."

"It's just the beginning my child," the King corrected and smirked at her. "When you become the king you would own everything that I own, aside from the wealth that you have now. So be prepared." The King teased, and sensing that they were both in a happy unserious mode, the King put his hand around her shoulder again, "And if you're in doubt of what to do at your wedding night, you can ask me for an advice. I could ask some ladies to educate you on that matter." The King quipped and smirked at her naughtily.

She gave him a sheepish smile, and cannot believe she heard that from her father. Sensing that she was uncomfortable at his offer,

"I know that you feel embarrass to hear that, but as a King, it is my obligation too to make sure that my heir has enough knowledge and experience when it comes to that matter."

"I will certainly think about it and will let you know." Was the only thing she could say.

"Very well, if you do not have any further question with regards to that matter, I would like to get out of this chamber and wants some fresh air," the King returned. "Put on your riding clothes and boots and meet me at the stable in an hour."

"My King Father, are you sure you're strong enough to go out and ride a horse?" was her worried query, after catching the King coughing. "My Queen Mother would become worried if she finds out."

"Carl, if I stay another day in this chamber I'll go mad," the King retaliated. "And don't worry we are not hunting today, I just want to ride my horse and go around the forest."

"As you wish, My King Father," she agreed and bowed to the King before leaving the chamber.

Once she was out of the chamber, her mood slightly changed as she realized that she cannot see Princess Laura right away since she had to change and join the King in an hour. She was looking forward seeing her betrothed and kissing her betrothed. It sounded crazy, but the first thing that came into her mind was the image of the Princess' beautiful face and how adorable Princess Laura was. She had never been this infatuated, but right now she just needed to see her. Instead of walking to the direction of her chamber, she turned to the opposite wing and strode to the direction of the Princess' chamber. She had thought of just dropping by and see what her betrothed was doing.

Once she saw the door to Princess Laura's chamber, her heart throbbed madly. The two Royal guards that were standing by the door bowed to her right away and made room for her to come in. Usually, she could just order the guards to open the door for her and she could just go in but she still chose to give Princess Laura some privacy. So, she knocked on the door instead. She smiled when she heard the Princess' voice asked who it was.

"It's Prince Carl," she answered and when she received a reply, the guards opened the door for her, and she hurriedly walked inside the chamber.

She smirked and slowed her steps as she saw the Princess standing beside the dressing table, as if waiting for her and ready to greet her. Princess Laura dismissed the handmaiden that was holding the dress and discreetly left them after bowing to her.

Now they were alone.

Her heart beat faster as she approached the Princess and saw Princess Laura still wearing a white long sleeves satin chemise. She felt suddenly warm as her eyes roamed at the creaminess of the Princess' semi exposed bosom.

Her observation was halted when the Princess curtsied to her and said, "Prince Carl, it's good to see you. I apologized if I am not dressed properly."

"I think you look lovely in anything," she teased, and she saw the Princess bowed and gave her a sheepish smile and crimsoned. But then she suddenly remembered her activity with the King. "I am going horseback riding with the King today and I am not sure how long it will take, so I just thought of dropping by and let you know." She explained seriously, even though they both know that they could just relay the message to either LaFontaine or Perry.

"Thank you my Prince, for letting me know," was Princess Laura's sweet reply and smiled at her.

She beamed at the sight of her betrothed's adorableness, and she always felt giddy whenever the Princess calls her 'My Prince'.

"Is there anything else that My Prince wants to say?" Princess Laura teased.

"Yes, I need a kiss from my Princess before I go out," she demanded in a low enticing tone.

With a blink of an eye, Princess Laura was already in front of her and kissing her. As always, she felt the Princess' hand caressing the back of her neck and it made her crazy. This time she did not put her hands on the Princess' hips, and maintained a safe distance between her and the Princess. She was afraid that she might not be able to control herself seeing that the Princess was wearing a thin camisole.

"Would that be enough?"

She heard Princess Laura whispered after releasing from the kiss. She opened her eyes and saw the most beautiful brown eyes and was temporary mesmerized.

"It will do. For now," was her sarcastic reply and smiled at Princess Laura. "I have to go." She uttered softly and saw the disappointed look on the Princess' face. She found the Princess' pout so adorable that she wanted to kiss her betrothed again, but controlled herself, afraid that she might forget her appointment with her father. "I'll see you at dinner."

"I'll be looking forward to it." The Princess replied.

She gazed at Princess Laura and gave her a naughty smirk. "I hope you'll think of me while I'm gone Cupcake." She teased and was hoping to make the Princess blush again, and it worked.

"You're the only one who's always in my thoughts." The Princess replied and gave her a naughty smile too.

She gave her betrothed a lingering look before turning around. She left the Princess' chamber happy and satisfied.

 

*****

It was already passed the hour of their actual dinner time when she arrived at the dining hall together with her father. They both enjoyed the ride in the forest and she was glad that they went out.

She walked behind her father and saw Princess Laura and her mother were already on their seats. The King kissed the Queen's cheek before taking a seat. She let her father sit first before she bowed to her mother and then walked around to the other side of the table. She saw Princess Laura curtsied to the King and then to her and she acknowledged it. They remained composed and formal in the presence of the King and Queen. As soon as she was comfortably seated, the Queen looked at her and then the King.

"And what maybe the reason the King and the Prince of Karnstein arrived late?" Was the Queen's strict question.

"My Queen, your son and I just went for a ride in the forest," the King stated and smiled gently at the Queen, before lifting his goblet. "I think we should celebrate your victory my child."

She was trying her best not to touch Princess Laura as she felt the warmth that was crawling inside her just by sitting beside her betrothed, when the King's loud voice caught her attention and looked at her father; totally confused she asked, "Forgive me my King Father but I did not understand what you have said."

"We need to celebrate your victory against Prince Victor!"

The King expressed and she was suddenly worried as she caught the sight of her mother's curiosity.

"Is there anything I need to know?" was the Queen's serious question, looking at the King's direction.

"My Queen, your son scared off the Prince of Berghausen and showed him that the Karnsteins are very protective of their women," the King returned with full of enthusiasm and drunk more wine from the goblet.

"What do you mean scared off?" was the Queen's careful and yet suspicious remark.

She remained silent and prayed that her father would not tell her mother the real story, and watched carefully the conversation between her father and mother while the Princess stopped from eating and observed the conversation in front of them. She could now feel the tension arising as they waited for her father to say another word.

"Carl aimed his sword to Prince Victor's throat when he saw the prince was about to kiss Princess Laura here," the King expressed proudly. "That should teach the Prince of Berghausen never to touch our women. Am I right Carl?"

"Yes my King Father," was her sheepish reply and avoided the direction of her mother. She could feel the Queen's eyes on her and she knew that she was in big trouble. When she received no reaction from her mother, she knew at once that she was in for some reprimanding afterwards. As if sensing her uneasiness, she felt a hand tenderly touched her left leg and switched her gaze to the Princess.

"Are you alright?"

She heard Princess Laura asked and saw the concerned look on the Princess' face. She warmed at the sight of those beautiful brown eyes and how Princess Laura gazed at her with so much affection. She smiled and gazed at the Princess before nodding. "I'm alright, let's eat now." She suggested and they both tried to eat the lamb chops in front of them even if they both felt anxious.

"More wine for the Prince!" the King ordered while drinking his own.

She was torn from her conversation with Princess Laura as the loud voice of the King resonated in the dining hall. They all knew that the King had already too much wine. But it was a normal occurrence during dinner that her father can be drunk from time to time.

The thought of being drunk herself occurred in her mind. The servant poured more wine to her goblet and filled it to the brim. She took her goblet and drunk the red wine without spilling the contents. Then she put it down on the table gracefully and motioned to the servant to fill her goblet again. She consumed it at once and asked the servant to continue pouring. She knew that she had already reached her limit, but after this dinner she would need all the courage she can get when she face her mother. She took another swig from her goblet and asked for more. Then she felt again the tender touch of her betrothed's hand on her leg and she turned to look at the Princess' eyes, while her hand still held her goblet, waiting for the servant to finish pouring the wine.

"My Prince, I think you should finish your dinner," the Princess suggested carefully.

"I am not finish yet with my wine," she said in her deep authoritative tone, and ignored the Princess' remark and drunk the content of her goblet. She could feel the warmth sensation of alcohol in her body already but she still asked the servant to fill her goblet.

"I think the Prince had enough wine for the evening, you may go." The Queen interrupted in a calm and yet cold tone.

She remained silent and took a bite of the meat in front of her, but she lost her appetite and just remained seated until everybody were finished eating. She just had to wait for five minutes before the King finished his meal and rose from his seat. The Queen was there to assist the King and rose from the seat too.

She and Princess Laura rose from their seats and bowed to the King and Queen thanking them for the evening, but before leaving the table the Queen attracted her attention.

"Carl, I want you in my chamber at once." Was the Queen's strict order, and looked at Princess Laura's direction. "Good night Princess Laura, the guard will escort you to your chamber."

She heard the cold and serious voice of her mother, and turned to her betrothed's direction. "Good night Princess." She uttered with a hint of sadness in her voice, before leaving the Princess and helped her mother assisting the King.

"Goodnight my Prince," was Princess Laura's feeble reply and just nodded.

She was upset that she was not able to say good night properly to her betrothed. She was looking forward being kissed by Princess Laura before they both retire to their respective chambers. However, the cold icy stare that her mother had been giving her was a sign that she should control her feelings towards her betrothed and go to her mother's chamber at once and wait there while her mother puts the King to bed.

 

*****

She was already in the Queen's chamber when her mother arrived, and she had the feeling of what's to come. The only people who knew how she behaved badly towards the Prince of Berghausen were Princess Laura and her father. When her mother asked her the reason why the partnership between the Berghausen and them did not materialize, she cited bad negotiation as the reason and did not elaborate more. But after her father's announcement about her 'victory' she knew that she needed to explain again to the Queen the truth.

She composed herself, stood by the fireplace and waited calmly for her mother to sit on the chair beside the fireplace. Her heart pounded as her mother sat on the chair, hands rested on the arm rest while looking at her with those icy stare. It had been a long time since she saw the Queen with that cold icy expression. She faced her mother calmly and met the Queen's intimidating stare.

"Come closer."

She heard the cold authoritative voice of her mother and she obeyed. She stopped when she knew that she was already in the Queen's personal space and stood there without tearing her eyes off from her mother's icy glare.

"Carl Philipp Marcus you disappointed me." The Queen stated.

She just stared at the Queen knowing that her mother does not like being interrupted while talking. And she definitely deserved to be reprimanded for not telling her mother the truth and for behaving savagely.

"Have you lost your mind? Didn't I tell you that showing your emotions is a sign of weakness?" Was the Queen's angry and yet calm remark. "What do you think Prince Viktor is thinking now after you behaved like a savage in front of him?"

She wanted to tell her mother that it does not matter what Prince Viktor thought about her, the most important thing was she prevented him from kissing her betrothed. She was not even bothered by what she did to the prince.

"You have to remember that your personal feelings should not overpower you," the Queen stated. "Or else… you will fail as a king. Do you understand me?"

Guilty, she just nodded and looked at the floor. She knew that her new-found feelings towards the Princess had changed her. It made her realized that life could be beautiful when she knew that someone was there that she could call 'mine'.

"Look at me and answer my question!" The Queen ordered.

She was torn from her reverie, regained her composure and looked at her mother, "I understand my Queen Mother." She said in a deep clear tone, just like what her mother taught her.

"I don't know what happened between you and Princess Laura that caused you to behave like that, but I want to remind you that she is your betrothed and her responsibility comes first," The Queen stated in a clear serious tone. "Princess Laura had agreed to unite our kingdom with hers and her primary responsibility is to produce an heir for you. She is not here as your lover, but as your future queen and the mother of your children. You have to make sure that you both will fulfill your duties first as the future king and queen and be a good example to the people of this kingdom. Do I make myself clear?"

"Yes, my Queen Mother," she responded quickly.

"And Carl… I know that you have your own needs," the Queen related in a serious but mild manner. "I want to remind you that you can already take your own mistress, so that she could appease you if you feel stressed from all your responsibilities. In this way, you can focus on your duties and not be distracted by whatever you're feeling towards Princess Laura."

TBC

Chapter Text

Laura

She was just getting ready to leave the castle's main door and ride the horse drawn carriage that would take her and Perry to the market, when she was torn from her contemplating at the sight that greeted her.

What the…?! She almost cursed when she saw about ten royal guards on their horses surrounding the carriage that she was going to use for her market day. She turned around and faced Perry, who was threading behind her.

"Do you know anything about this?" She asked her Lady in Waiting.

"No." Perry replied and shook her head mirroring the same surprised expression.

She turned her eyes on the group of Royal Guards that was in front of her. "I don't need an escort you may all go back to your posts!" she commanded to the group, and was expecting that she should be heard at once.

But when none of them obeyed, she walked closer to them and shouted, "I command you all to go back to your posts!"

Still, no movement happened. "Did you hear me?!"

And yet, no reply and no reaction. So, she decided to approach the three Royal Guards that were always with them when they go to the market.

"Alfred, what's the meaning of this?" she asked the one with gray hair, the oldest of them and the one she trusted the most.

"His Royal Highness sent these extra Royal Guards to protect you, Princess." The middle aged man replied.

Irritated, she turned around and headed back to the palace and called Perry's attention, "Wait for me here!" she ordered to Perry and her three regular Royal Guards that were wearing their ordinary clothes. She did not even bother to take off her coat and strode back inside the castle.

After ten minutes, she reached the library and knocked hard. She does not care if Prince Carl was studying or in a meeting with some of the scholars. "Who is it?" She heard LaFontaine's voice behind the door.

"It's Princess Laura!"

The door opened right away and she was greeted by a cheery redhead.

"Princess Laura, it's nice to see you!"

"Where is he? I want to talk to him." Was her serious reply, ignoring the Valet's remark.

She crossed the threshold and walked into the room and was satisfied to see the Prince alone and buried in his books; he looked up and saw the Prince's face glowed upon seeing her. She saw him rose gracefully from his chair to meet her across the room. He looked naughty and outrageously wicked with his hair thrown out in disarray and she felt warm at once when she saw him smirked towards her and raised one of his perfectly thin shaped eyebrows.

"Good morning Cupcake, missed me already?" he asked.

She noticed that devilish grin despite the beard that was covering around his mouth. The sound of his deep raspy voice in the morning made her knees weak and she hated the effect that he has on her. But she tried to compose herself and did not return the smile, and just waited for him to come closer.

He really likes to tease me.

He approached without regarding her personal space. She felt the warmth of his breath and smelled the minty scent of it. She looked at him, and tried to control the urge of kissing him as her sight focused on his thin lips that always claimed her lips with full of wanton, she unconsciously bit her lower lip and felt a slight tingle inside her. But she shoved it and tore her eyes off his delicate mouth and glared at him.

"Alright I'm going to regret this but: what's wrong?" the Prince asked, moved beside her and wrapped his right arm around her shoulder.

"Oh I don't know- maybe the ten Royal Guards that were surrounding my carriage and refused to leave even if I've already told them to go away. And the fact that they're going to make my market day uncomfortable and not enjoyable," she babbled and frowned at him.

"Oh, come on Cupcake it's for your own protection," he returned, looking at her with concerned eyes. "I don't want my soon to be wife to just roam around the village with three guards on her side. You don't know what those savages in the village might do to you."

"How many times do I have to tell you that they're not savages," she retorted, releasing from his hold and faced him. "And they are actually nice."

"How would you know that they are nice when you don't even know them?" He doubted.

…Because I actually knew and befriended some of them.

She was about to tell the truth to him, but refrained for fear that he might worry more and send another group of Royal Guards. And then she wondered…

Was he overprotective or he just purely doesn't trust the people in the village?

She does not really like to argue with him this early, so she decided to compromise with him.

"Alright, you can send those extra guards to go with me, but I need you to tell them to wear their ordinary clothes and they should obey everything that I tell them." She demanded, remembering how the Royal Guards did not listen to her order.

She knew that he would ask why, so she decided to beat him to it. "And you will respect my request and don't ask further." And with that, she put her lips on his before he could utter a word and kissed him deeply, while her hand stroked the back of his neck and then fondled the back of his ear. She made sure to take her time petting the lower back of his ear, remembering how the Prince loved it. His beard was still making her a bit uncomfortable but she was surprise that it does not bother her that much anymore. Maybe she was already warming up at the reality that her Prince was hairy and not her ideal man she thought.

When she opened her eyes and released from the kiss, she saw him still enthralled. His eyes looked dreamy, intense and pensive.

Oh god! How can he look so tragically beautiful?

And before she could kiss him again and be swooned by his charm, she shook her head and calmed herself.

"Do we have a deal?" She asked in her most angelic voice. Seeing that he lost his ability to speak, she saw him just nodded. "Good!" she replied quickly and gave him a smile. "I'll see you at dinner. So, try not to shout at everyone while I'm gone."

*****

She left the castle with a naughty grin on her face. The way she negotiated her request was a smart move, but she felt a little guilty for putting the Prince under her spell in order for her to get what she wants.

"What are you smiling about?" she heard Perry's curious voice beside her.

"Do you think he likes me?" She asked out of the blue.

"I don't know Princess," Perry replied, staring at her. "The fact that he gets mad when he does not see you and almost killed someone when he saw you with another man, isn't that enough to answer your question?"

"Nah," she just raised her brows, not convinced. "I think Prince Carl almost killed Prince Viktor because he does not like other people touching or looking what he owns. He is like a cat, his very territorial."

"Laura, he does not own you," Perry corrected. "He was jealous because he does not like anyone touching you."

"That's absolutely what I'm trying to say," she retorted. "Prince Carl is very possessive of the things and people around him, like a cat!"

Perry rolled her eyes and just smiled while shaking her head.

"What?!" she asked as she saw Perry's resolved face. "Am I not right? He's like a cat… a very wicked black cat," Was her naïve and oblivious remark.

And before Perry can answer, they felt the horse drawn carriage came into a halt and heard Alfred, the Royal Coach Driver informed them that they have arrived in the place where they used to hide their carriage from the prying eyes of the village people. It was one of the secluded roads that lead from the forest into the village. She was excited to go out and explore the village that she almost forgot to take off her fur coat.

"Princess! Don't forget to take off your coat, and tie your hair," Perry informed right away and handed her a piece of string for her hair.

"Oh. Right," she said as she noticed the expensive coat that was covering her commoners clothes and change into a shabby robe. After that, she gathered her hair and tied it in a messy ponytail. Every time they go to the market, she tied her hair like this so that no one would recognize her in case there was someone she met from the castle.

When they stepped out of the carriage she smiled at the sight of the group of Royal Guards that were dressed in their regular clothes on their horses.

Perry gave her a worried look after glancing to all of them.

"Laura, they still looked like their guarding you," Perry said as her eyes roamed around the Royal Guards still sitting on their strong stallions.

"Don't worry, I have already given orders to them," was her reassuring reply. "I told them to buy the things that the castle need while discreetly looking after us. The only guards that were allowed to come near us were Alfred, Bastian and Fritz."

Still in doubt, Perry gave her a worried look. "Are you sure they are not going to disturb us?"

"No, because I gave them a long list of things and food to buy, so stop worrying and let's go before the vanilla run out." She suggested and they walked together with the other three Royal Guards, while the others dispersed in every direction but still discreetly tailing them.

"I don't think the market is going to ran out of vanilla," Perry commented as she slipped on her arm the shopping basket.

She crinkled her brows totally curious "How can you tell?"

"Because you're the only one who can afford it," Perry told her.

She gave Perry a smile and was not bothered at all at Perry's observation. Because the man that was selling the vanilla to her knew that she was one of the castle's trusted cook and baker.

Her eyes sparkled and were amused as they reach the market square of Karnstein. She cannot contain herself and almost ran. She loved to visit the different stalls and see new things that were being sold or traded. Every week she find new things that fascinated her: from colorful rubies and stones, silk, wools, linens, herbs, spices, incense, cheese, wines, bread, sweets, poultry, meat, fish, carved woods, books among others. She delights also at the sight of the colorful and different kinds of fruits and vegetables that were on the big baskets of each stall. And it put a smile on her face whenever she sees the hens, pigs, sheep, and children running around.

"Prin- I mean Laura, wait for me!" Perry shouted behind her.

To make sure that she got one of the most important things she needed in baking, she headed right away to the stall of one of her favorite sellers.

"Good morning Lukas!" she greeted the thin man with a receding white hairline and approached his stall.

"Laura! Good morning to you too, and Perry," he replied upon seeing them. "How are you ladies doing?"

"We're doing fine Lukas, how about you?" She answered while Perry gave him a smile and checked his product on the stall and walked around the back of it when Perry did not find something interesting.

"Oh, still the same. I have some fine fresh vanillas for you from Spain," He informed right away and laid in front of her the small black vines carefully.

She took the plant and smiled, as she saw the supple oily luster appearance of it, satisfied at the product. "Hmm… they are extra thick today." She pointed out. "What would you want in exchange for these?"

"Two silver coins. But since it's you, one silver is enough." He said, giving her a friendly smile.

"Lukas, it's alright, you don't need to give me a discount. I know that you need to earn a living too," she informed, as she put the vanilla in her basket, then took her pouch and handed the old man four silver coins instead.

His eyes widened at the sight of the four shining coins on his hand and stared at her in disbelief. "L-Laura, this is too much. I cannot accept it. You might get in trouble when the Queen finds out that you're over paying me."

He was about to give her back the two extra coins but she refused it gently. "No Lukas, that's for you. You've been one of the nicest and honest sellers here in the market and I appreciate that you always treat me well and gives me the best product you have." She said looking sincerely at the man's haggard face. "And besides the Prince gave me extra silver coins to buy the ingredients that I needed to make his favorite sweets, so it would not be a problem."

His face lit up and was curious. "Thank you Laura, you are so kind," he replied grateful. "So, what does the Prince look like? We never see him here and I have heard that he does not leave the castle."

She was suddenly caught off guard, and cast a look of confusion to him.

Sensing her uneasiness, "Please forgive me for prying, you don't need to answer it. I was just wondering how our future King looks like." Lukas replied with regret.

After regaining her composure, she smiled at him and gestured for him not to worry.

"The Prince is actually handsome in person," she said feeling warm and glad. "He was also kind and thoughtful in a very special way."

She was about to tell him more but was interrupted when Perry came back.

"Laura, have you found what you're looking for?" Perry asked.

She nodded and gave Lukas a smile, "I'm afraid I have to go. Perry and I need to buy a lot of things today."

"Oh, sure, we can talk again next time," Lukas said and bowed his head to both ladies. "I will see you again next week."

"Good bye Lukas!" They both said and she waved to the old man as they walked further in the busy square.

She looked behind her, checking where the other guards aside from Alfred, Bastian and Fritz who were expertly guarding her in the most discreet way. "It looks like the others are still busy with their market lists!" She chirped with amusement and headed to the stall of cheese.

She was not yet half way to the stall when little pair of hands wrapped around her legs.

"Laura! You're here!" the excited voice said.

She looked down and was happy to find a little girl with a dark curly hair clinging around her thighs.

"Emma!" she expressed in delight and took the little peasant girl in her arms and carried her, while she balanced the basket in her arm. "How's my little princess?!" she asked after small thin arms hugged her.

"I'm fine." The girl said smiling. "Did you bring me some sweets from the castle?" she asked with full of hope.

"Of course!" she exclaimed with the same bright tone as the child. She gestured at Perry who was walking behind her and took a piece of sweets from the basket she was carrying.

"Hello Perry!" the girl greeted as Perry handed her the baked good.

"Hello Emma," Perry replied walking beside them. "How's your mother?"

"She's there." Was the little girl's nonchalant reply, pointing at the stall where their heading. "Thank you." She said to both of them as she received the anticipated baked good. "Laura? What's this?!"

She smiled as she saw the girl's fascinated expression at the sight of the sweets that was on her hands, "It's a Creampuff, it's very delicious and it's the Prince's favorite!"

The little girl's face suddenly lit up with joy. "Wow! You're giving me the Prince's favorite sweets?!" was her remarkable reply. "Wouldn't he be mad if I eat it?!" she asked in her naïve tone.

She burst into laughter and was so happy at the girl's excited comment upon finding that it was the Prince's favorite, but at the same time worried about the Prince finding out that she would eat it.

"No Emma, the Prince wouldn't get mad," she assured, as she looked at those worried dark eyes in front of her. "The Prince is always happy to share what he has."

"And I just baked plenty of them yesterday, so the Prince have enough to eat," Perry added to lessen the worry in the little girl's face.

"How kind of him," the little girl commented not lifting her eyes on the sweets. "May I taste them now?"

Still carrying her in her arms, she smiled at the girl "Yes, you may." She returned glad to see that she was able to put a smile on this little girl. It always worried her how the little girl and her mother managed to survive with no husband to support them.

"Mama! Laura and Perry are here!" Emma shouted as they approached the stall where a woman with a dark hair and a little older than Perry stood behind it. The woman had the same curly dark locks and pale skin as Emma, but a haggard and thin face.

"And they gave me the Prince's favorite sweets!" Emma said with full of pride, lifting the sweets for her mother to see as they approached the stall.

"Laura! Perry! It's good to see you two!" the dark haired woman greeted them with genuine enthusiasm. "I see that my little girl had found you before you could come in my stall. Have you said thank you?"

"Yes Greta, she did." She responded right away smiling and still holding the child who was now indulging quietly at the sweets in her hand. "It's good to see you too and little Emma here. Sometimes I just wish that I have my own little girl too."

"Really?" she heard Perry's curious comment and saw the sarcastic smirk on her Lady in Waiting's face. "Why don't you tell him so that he could make it formal?" Perry slipped and was tongue-tied at the last comment.

She suddenly glared at Perry as Greta gave them a surprised look.

"Oh Laura! You never tell me that you had a beau," was the excited reaction from Greta. "What's his name? And what does he do?"

She shot daggers at Perry and knew that they cannot lie about it. She smirked as Perry remained silent and shifted her eyes to Greta. "His name is…" she tried to recall the Prince's other names. "Marcus. And he… he works at the castle too with us; his one of the Prince's Royal Guards." She invented, recalling the time Prince Carl and Prince Viktor fought with their swords. She was ashamed at the thought of lying to Greta, but she did not want their cover to be revealed.

Her tension was lessened as she heard Emma butt in and looked at her eyes while munching the Creampuff; she smiled as she saw the little girl's mouth full of cream.

"Laura, what's a beau?" Emma asked innocently.

She looked at Greta first, asking permission and received a nod. "A beau is a male suitor. He is someone that likes you and becomes your betrothed, and then you marry him."

"Do I have to like him too?"

Emma's innocent question caught her off guard. Being noble they always do not have the choice to choose whom they will marry. Just like her and Prince Carl.

She hated to lie again to this innocent child and glanced at Greta again to seek permission and she received a nod. "Well it depends. Because when you grow up, a boy or a man will ask you to be his sweetheart, and if you like him, you can choose him and say yes; But there are certain families, like the nobles and monarchies, their families where usually the ones who chooses a beau for their daughters."

"Who are the nobles and monarchies?" the little girl inquired.

"They are the kings and queens, prince and princesses and rich people," she explained.

"Can I choose the Prince of Karnstein to be my beau?!" Emma asked excitedly.

All three of them burst into laughter after hearing Emma's innocent wish.

"Sweetie, I think the Prince is too old for you," Greta informed.

"You haven't seen him yet, why would you think he's old?" Emma quipped and shifted her look at Perry.

"Perry, is the Prince handsome?" Emma asked.

That piece of information made Perry blushed. "You can ask Laura here how the Prince looks like, because she always brings food to him."

This time it was she who felt warm and fuzzy. Greta and Emma's expression became amaze at the thought of her seeing the Prince. Most of the people she befriended in the village only knew that she and Perry work at the kitchen of the castle and thought that they never see or have contact with the Royal Family. She learned from the villagers that, working closer with the monarchies were a privilege for some servants. In the case of the Karnsteins, having to serve and see the Prince of Karnstein was not just a privilege but an honor too, because the Queen does not allow a lot of servants to see and serve her only son. It had been a mystery for the villagers why the Prince was not allowed to see a lot of people and leave the castle.

Her train of thoughts was interrupted when she saw a pair of small dark eyes staring at her patiently and heard her name.

"Laura? Is the Prince handsome?"

"Yes. He is very handsome and nice," she told Emma, and then held the little girl's gaze, weighing how she will tell the little girl the next sentence. "And I think your mother is right, he is a bit older for you to choose as your beau."

"Why? I'm already five years old!" was the little girl's disappointed remark. "How old is the Prince?"

"He is the same age as me, sorry to disappoint you," she said carefully. Her heart broke at the sight of Emma's hope being crushed. "I tell you what, if I get a chance to talk to the Prince I would ask him to visit the market square one day, and you might see him in person."

"Can you do that?!" Emma's mood shifted and her eyes widened.

She nodded and the next thing she knew she felt two little arms hugged her again. "Thank you Laura!"

She was happy and satisfied after putting the smile back to the little girl's face.

"Emma, we cannot put Laura in a difficult situation," Greta warned. "You know that the Prince never leave the palace and it would be complicated for Laura just to talk to the Prince."

Confused, Emma asked her mother, "Why can't Laura talk to the Prince?"

"Because servants are not allowed to talk to the King, Queen or Prince," Greta explained. "That's the rule and Laura might lose her job in the castle."

"Oh." Emma sighed in defeat.

"Don't fret," she said consoling Emma. She does not want to disappoint the little girl, but at the same time, she wanted to respect Greta's concern about the relationship between the servants and their masters. "Perhaps I could ask someone to write to the Prince about visiting the market square and perhaps… they could write it there too that a little girl named Emma wants to meet him."

"That's sounds wonderful!" Emma was back in her good mood. The thought excited everyone.

"That's a good idea," Greta agreed but the sound of her voice was not convinced.

"And I know perfectly well who the person we could ask to write the letter and give it to the Prince," Perry was suddenly enthusiastic.

Even she had no idea who Perry was referring to, and gave her Lady in Waiting a puzzled look, "Who?"

"The Prince's Valet of Chamber!" Perry announced.

"What's Valet of Cha-" Emma was about to ask but had difficulty remembering the name.

"Valet of Chamber is the one that looks after The King's or Prince's clothes and other personal needs," she related gladly.

"…But how about the Queen or the Princess' needs? Who takes care of it?" was Emma's worried question.

She smiled and focused her eyes on Perry, gesturing her Lady in Waiting to explain the glamorous job.

"Ah! Lady in Waiting is what they call it," Perry stated, as all eyes stared at the Lady in Waiting. "She is in charge of the Queen or Princess' wardrobe care, supervision of servants, accompanying the Queen or Princess wherever she goes, reading correspondence and writing on the Queen or Princess' behalf. She must also be proficient in etiquette, language, dances, music, painting, horseback riding and embroidery."

"And don't forget, she could also be a friend or like a mother when a Princess or a Queen needed someone to confide into." She added and looked at Perry with full of warmth.

"Wow that was fun!" Emma reacted. "Maybe someday I can be a Lady in Waiting."

"Who knows? Perhaps when you're old enough," she returned and winked at Perry.

"Alright little girl, you can come down now so that Laura can choose the cheese that she wish to buy," Greta ordered. "And stop asking Laura about the Prince."

She put Emma down gently and received a sticky peck from Emma, as the little girl was still eating her creampuff.

"Laura?" Emma tapped her lightly wanting a last attention.

"Yes Emma?" she asked as she went down on her knees to level Emma's sight and gave the little girl her undivided attention.

"What's the Prince's name?" Emma asked.

She smiled before telling Emma the answer and sighed. "His name is Carl. Prince Carl." She supplied the answer pronouncing the name 'Carl' sweetly.

"I like his name," Emma commented and walked around the stall and stood beside her mother.

She just smiled at the young girl and stood up to face the stall full of different cheese, ready to choose what she wanted.

Perry had already chosen some cream cheese to use for her sweets.

She gave the cheese that she selected from the stall for Greta to pack it and asked how much when Perry received the packed cheese from Greta.

"So, how much do I owe you?" she asked, reaching for her pouch of coins.

"It's one silver coin for all," Greta responded.

She took out her hand from the pouch and handed Greta five silver coins.

"Laura! You don't have to pay me that much again," Greta was returning the four other silver coins. But she shoved Greta's hand gently away. "Save it. The four silvers are from my earnings from the castle."

"But this is too much," was Greta's worried reply. "And you might need something for yourself too. You don't earn that much from being a cook, do you?"

"Err… not that much," she answered skeptic. She hated lying but she wanted to help them without revealing her true identity. She took a mental note to ask the cook's wage when she gets back to the castle. "But since I work and live inside the castle, most of my needs were provided by the castle. The King is a generous master."

"Oh. The servants there are lucky," Greta commented. "I will accept your four silvers but you have to take all of my cheese. Because you paid double the cost of all the cheese that I am selling. And I won't take no for an answer."

"Alright, if you insists," she agreed and saw Greta begun to pack the rest of the cheese on the stall. "The Prince would be happy that he has a lot of different cheese to eat every day."

"I'm sure he will, because he likes it, especially the Steirerkas." She said.

"Here you go dear and thank you so much for your kindness," Greta responded while she took the rest of the packed cheese. "I hope His Royal Highness would enjoy it."

"He certainly will and I will let him know that it was a gift from you and Emma," she proudly told her without thinking. Then she saw Perry's expression gesturing for her to hurry up. "Good bye Greta. See you next week. Good bye Emma!" she shouted to the little girl who was busy playing behind the stall.

"Goodbye Laura and Perry!" The mother and daughter waved to them, with happy faces.

When she knew that their earshot away from Greta's stall she remembered Perry gesturing for her to hurry up.

"What's wrong?" she asked while they walked together side by side.

"You cannot tell Greta that you would tell the Prince that it was a gift from them," Perry chided in a hush voice. "Remember, you’re a servant, you don't get to speak to the Prince unless he asks you a question."

Feeling like a fool, "Oh. I forgot." She regretted getting carried away.

"Come on, let's find some chocolates," Perry suggested.

And before they could take another step, a muscular clean shaven young man with dark clean cut hair blocked their way and kneeled before them. Her eyes caught the red rose that he was offering to her and she knew right away who the person was.

"Laura my lady," he called with such passion in his voice. "When are you going to marry me?" he asked.

"William! How many times would I tell you that I don't love you and I'm not going to marry you!" she reprimanded. As much as she enjoyed interacting and befriending the commoners in the village, there were few of them who annoyed her, and one of them was this ardent suitor of hers. "And don’t ever call me your lady! Some people might hear and they might start a gossip!" she told him as her eyes scanned some of the onlookers and then she caught sight of Alfred, Bastian and Fritz who were always prepared to grabbed this insistent suitor of hers, in case she give them a permission to take him. But she never did that because she does not want to make a commotion and William had always behaved and never touches her, except the persistent proposal from him.

"Let them think that you're my lady," he replied still kneeling in front of them. "You are after all a beautiful maiden."

"Ahem!" Perry distracted him and got his attention. "Laura has a beau and they are going to marry soon."

The look of shock in his face made her step back as he stood up and looked at her with grief, "Tell me that is not true Laura!" He pleaded.

She just nodded feeling sorry for him.

But he did not accept it. "No, you're lying. I don't see a man accompanying you every time you go to the market. You're just telling me this because you want to test my patience and loyalty for you. I won't stop telling you that I love you." He proclaimed.

She sighed and rolled her eyes. Unbelievable! Why can't he take no for an answer! She looked up straight into his eyes.

"Perry is telling the truth, I have a beau and his name is Marcus. He is a Royal Guard in the castle," she explained, emphasizing the words 'Royal Guard' hoping that it might scare him away.

"There is no way I am going to let him have your hand in marriage without a fight," he returned with determination in his eyes. "Tell this Marcus, in the name of love, I am challenging him in a sword fight, in defense for my love to you Laura!"

Suddenly, there were uproar from the people around them, cheering for William and his passionate confession of love and determination to fight for it.

She grew worried when she saw the ten Royal Guards got alarmed by the commotion and were already surrounding them, ready to attack and protect her. She gave Alfred a sign to hold the guards from attacking and that she would take care of the commotion.

And when she was sure that Alfred has the control of the Royal Guards, she silenced the crowd who sympathized with William.

"Alright! I will tell my beau that you want to defend your love and honor, and that you're challenging him to a sword fight. And if he won, you would leave me alone and will not propose to me again!" She suddenly heard 'boos' from the crowd, who were certainly supporting William. "And if you win…"

Perry suddenly grabbed her arm and whispered to her. "Are you sure about this? Where in the world we'll gonna find an excellent swordsman?"

"Don't worry, I'll ask Alfred for the best knight in the castle," was her confident reply and released from Perry's arm and faced William and the crowd. "And if you win… you may ask my father for my hand in marriage and you have to accept all of my father's conditions before taking me to be your wife."

"I accept." He replied and the crowd applauded.

"Now, will you leave me in peace so that I can continue to buy the things that I need?" she requested, but he did not moved away.

"Not before you accept this," he handed the one stemmed red rose to her.

She smiled and hesitatingly took the flower, "thank you," she told him and he stepped aside to let her pass.

"How would you explain this to Prince Carl?" was Perry's worried remark as they walked to the direction of sweets stalls.

"He does not need to know." She returned. "I will ask one of the best knights in the castle to play along as my beau, to make sure William lost." She relayed, stating the most logical reason to tell her Lady In Waiting.

Although she knew that William might not be that serious, deep inside her she still worries. What if Prince Carl found out what happened today? And worst what if Prince Carl found out that a commoner in the village wanted her hand in marriage again? She had witnessed how possessive and jealous her betrothed could be. He might end up killing William.

TBC

Chapter Text

Laura

It was almost dusk when they arrived at the castle's entrance door. When she stepped down from the carriage after being assisted by Alfred, she was met by a worried LaFontaine.

"Thank god you're already here Princess," the Valet expressed as LaFontaine tried to catch their breath from running towards her.

Confused she asked them right away, "What happened to you?"

"It's the Prince…" LaFontaine uttered.

"What about the Prince?" Perry asked.

"Is he angry again?" she questioned, furrowing her brows. She remembered the last time she went to the village without telling him, and it resulted to the Prince being angry at everyone in the castle. "Why would he be angry when he knows that I was in the market today? I even allowed the ten extra guards that he sent to come with me. And I am not late for dinner."

Regaining their composure, LaFontaine faced her again and said, "He is not angry. But he is broody and impatient. He does not like to wait for someone, especially you, Princess."

"But I thought he won't be finished with his studies until dinner time," she returned, knowing that she had arrived early than she usually do, so that she had time to prepare and change for dinner.

"Well, that's the problem. His Highness cannot concentrate on his studies and dismissed the scholar that supposed to tutor him today," LaFontaine related.

"But why can't he concentrate on his studies and dismissed his tutor?" Was her innocent response. "When I saw him today, he seemed to be in deep thoughts with his books."

"He was." LaFontaine confirmed. "But when you left and the thought of you going to the market made him worried and restless."

"But the royal guards were with me!" she defended.

"I know. But he was not satisfied with just the ten, he even wanted to send ten more as a back-up, and the fact that he cannot be there by your side to protect you was driving him crazy." LaFontaine explained. "I think the Prince is not confident of you going to the market square. He does not like the thought of you being away from him for a long time," was LaFontaine's honest comment.

"I guess I just have to talk to him and explain to him that he should not worry too much."

"Princess, I think His Highness had fallen in love with you," Perry teased.

She gave her Lady in Waiting a lopsided grin, not convinced of what she heard. "Perry, he's not in love with me; he just doesn't want me to meet other men in the market square. And as I was telling you, Prince Carl is like a cat; he is very territorial," was her innocent comment.

Perry just sighed and rolled her eyes.

"Where is he?" she asked LaFontaine, thinking that it was time again to tame the wild cat.

"He is in the rose garden, waiting for you."

She did not waste another minute and went ahead to the rose garden. She did not bother changing her peasant clothes since she thought that it was time to tell him the truth, at how she and Perry spend their day in the market square.

After a few minutes, she reached the rose garden and fumbled her way through. It was already dark but the weak glittery light from the stars that were scattered in the sky helped her to find the secret entrance from one of the bushes that covered that rose garden.

When she came out of the bush and was out in the rose garden, her eyes caught at once the figure that was sitting on the ground. As she walked closer to the Prince, she smiled at the sight and found Prince Carl sitting on a blanket, beside him was the basket that she always used for picnic. There were two goblets on the middle of the blanket and a bottle which she presumed was a wine, some dark grapes, apples, strawberries, loaf and some cheese were also lying on the blanket. She smiled when her eyes caught some chocolate cupcakes which she presumed were the left-overs from breakfast early this morning.

The Prince did not notice her presence, seeing that he was too engrossed from gazing at the stars. She decided to surprise him and carefully approached him from behind. And when she was close enough to him, she kneeled behind him and she was about to put her hands on his eyes to cover it, but his reflex was fast that he stood up at once and unsheathed his sword and aimed at her.

"Whoa! It's just me!" she exclaimed right away and raised her hands as if surrendering. She saw the confused look on his face and realized that the Prince was trying to decipher who she was. Then she remembered that she was wearing this peasant maiden dress and her hair was tied up in a messy ponytail, and the Prince had never seen her hair like this before; "It's me, Laura."

"Cupcake? You scared me, don't ever sneak behind me like that again," the Prince reasoned out and his eyes scanned her again, before he sheathed his sword, "And why are you dress like that?"

"This is how I look like whenever I go to the market," she explained and rose from her feet and presented her 'peasant alter ego' to her betrothed.

"You're disguising as a commoner?" was the Prince's unbelievable reply, as if not amuse.

"Yes. And please don't get mad," she returned sensing that he was not alright with the idea. "I am doing this because I want to know how to live as a commoner. I want to experience the life outside the castle; talk to the people and mingle with them."

"Hold it, are you telling me that you're socializing with those savages?!"

"How many times do I have to tell you, they are not savages," was her impatient and yet careful respond. Then she saw his features became serious.

"Laura, you don't know what those people are thinking," he retaliated, his voice deeper and fiercer. "Most of them do not have money, if they find out that you're a princess, they will abduct you and ask for ransom money," was his doubtful comment. "From now on you are no longer going to the village."

She snapped at his retort. She knew that he was over protective and possessive, but to take away the only thing she enjoyed doing in this kingdom was unacceptable and she would not give it up. She had grown to love her life as a commoner even if she cannot do it often. Going in the village and market square had given her knowledge and inspiration on how to help the needy. It opened her eyes to the harsh reality of life and made her humble and grateful for what she had. It had taught her not be ignorant too.

"No, you cannot order me to do that," she retaliated, challenging his temper. "I have people who depend on me and I have big plans for them. You do not have the right to dictate what I should do."

"I am your betrothed and the future king. You shall obey me," was his angry authoritative reply.

After hearing his words, she remembered the reason why she did not want to get married to a man. She hated the fact that women were obligated to honor and obey their husbands. And now she discovered how unfair this tradition was and how degrading to be treated as a 'property' of a man.

"If it pleases Your Highness, you could as well lock me in the tower!" She blurted out without thinking. Her temper was also out of control. She was expecting another retort from him and she was ready to fight for her rights. But the silence and pained expression of Prince Carl held her back. Then it hit her: he was in a way having been 'imprisoned' in this castle due to his angst.

Oh God! She panicked internally, knowing that she hit a very sensitive topic.

 

She mellowed down and tried to approach him, but he stepped back and avoided her eyes. But she would not give up like this. She walked closer to him and held his cheeks and she guided his face to look at her. But he averted her eyes and looked to the side.

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to say that," she uttered and still held his face, as she waited for his reply. But was answered by silence, "Please look at me," she implored and he complied and saw the grief in his eyes. "I cannot bear it if my Prince would remain angry at me." After that heartfelt apology, she saw him calmed in her touch, leaned to her hand and he kissed her palm. She did not release her hands from his cheeks and felt overwhelmed at the contact of his lips kissing her palm. Even though he could be broody and temperamental, this soft and gentle loving side of the Prince was one of the reasons that she liked him. He was so affectionate if he wanted to.

"Can I kiss My Prince now?" she whispered and saw his bashful smile, before nodding. She gave him a gentle kiss and when she released from his kiss she gazed at him, sensing that he wanted to tell her something but he cannot seem to know how to begin. "Is there something you want to tell me?"

He gaze at her silently for a moment, as if composing the words that he was about to say.

"I'm sorry too."

Her eyes widened in surprised and cannot believe that she heard Prince Carl apologized for the first time. She remained calm and waited for him to talk further, not wanting to distract him. He was beginning to be really open and honest to her, she thought.

"I'm sorry for being overprotective. I really care for you; when I cannot see you or be with you whenever you go, I cannot protect you from any harm," he confessed, and looked down at his boots. "That's why I don't want you to go to the village anymore."

She cupped his face again and held his gaze, saving him for feeling ashamed of his weakness. "Carl, I am grateful that you want to always protect me, but I could take care of myself and the Royal guards that are with me are trained and highly skilled, you have to trust them to do their job."

"Very well, if it'll make you happy, I won't stop you from going to the village," he finally agreed. "But if something bad happen to you, I will hang all of them."

She rolled her eyes and just accepted her fate, since she was about to marry the future King.

"Are you hungry?" he asked out of nowhere.

Then she recalled the foods that were laid on the blanket.

"I'm famished!" she declared and she saw him laugh.

Prince Carl took her hand and guided her to seat on the blanket. Once she was comfortably seated, her eyes feasted at the food and sweets in front of her. Then she felt him sat on her left side, and began to pour the wine from a special bottle.

She was amazed as she saw the wine bubbly and sparkling, and the fact that it was not red made her curious. "What kind of wine is this?" she asked, looked into her goblet and smelled it. The aroma of apple and pears enticed her palate right away and tasted it. "Wow! It's sweet!"

"Do you like it?" the Prince asked, smiling and fascinated at her reaction.

She grinned at him, showing how delighted she was after drinking it. "I love it! What is it?"

"It's a sparkling wine from the vineyards of Champagne region in France," Prince Carl said with pride. "It is used when celebrating a coronation of a king."

She stopped from drinking further as she realized the importance of this wine and where it came from. "Why are you serving me a ludicrously expensive wine?" was her concerned question and put her goblet down.

"Because we're celebrating a very important day," the Prince answered nonchalantly, and pulled a little box from his pouch.

Before she could ask what special occasion they were celebrating, she saw Prince Carl genuflected towards her direction, opened the little box and took out the golden ring with a single diamond and presented it to her.

"I didn't realize that calling someone mine could make me smile and make my day beautiful. I didn't realize that the arrival of this little ball of sunshine in my life could turn my world upside down and not to mention crazy. I didn't realize that I could be happy knowing that there is someone out there who likes me despite my ill temper and broodiness. And I didn't realize that all of these things are possible, until you came into my life. Laura Elizabeth Rosamund, would you do me the honor of being my wife, my queen and the mother to my children?"

She was astonished. Prince Carl was proposing in front of her and she was too overwhelmed to describe what she was feeling now and too dumbfounded to reply. She never expected that it could be as dreamy like and lovely as this, and how touching it was to hear his reasons of marrying her. She never had any reason to marry him except that she wanted to unite and bring peace to both their kingdoms. As the days turned into weeks, and weeks turned to months, she slowly taught herself to accept her fate: that she was marrying a man. The feelings that she have towards her betrothed could be infatuation, or attraction, or simply excitement from knowing that Prince Carl was attracted to her and cared for her, but in her part she knew that there was always something missing: desire; her desire of loving a woman. Nevertheless, the feeling of being adored by someone was always thrilling.

She gathered her wits and calmed herself, and then she held his gaze before answering, "I do! With all my heart, I will marry you, Carl Philipp Marcus!" then she kissed him.

They released from the kiss and the Prince put the ring on her finger, it was a little tight but it fitted her finger.

"It was my grandmother's so it might not fit perfectly," was his worried reply as he had difficulties putting it on her finger.

"It's a little bit tight but it fits perfectly, thank you, it's beautiful," she expressed and raised her left hand, admiring the gem on her fourth finger. "I guessed there's no reason to remove this ring because I'm already bound to you forever," was her confident reply, and gave the Prince a reassuring smile.

"You certainly are Cupcake," was Prince Carl's instant reply. "And there's no turning back now," he teased and smirked at her. "You're already mine."

She grinned at him and then held his hands, "My Prince, I have already said yes before I even came here. I am already yours since that day."

"I know… but I wanted to do it properly, and who knows, you might have changed your mind and didn't want to marry me after you have seen me," was the Prince challenging remark.

"Well, my answer still remained the same it's a 'yes'. So from now on, you have to get used to this little ball of sunshine of yours, because I won't go anywhere," she teased him and earned a naughty smirk from him that she was beginning to like. "Shall we eat?"

"Oh, yes, of course," was the Prince quick reply and served her some cheese and bread.

"This is lovely did you plan all of this?" she remarked admiring the preparation that Prince Carl went through just to propose to her. And she was thankful that they made up.

He took a deep breath before saying, "You have no idea how difficult it was to prepare all of these, Cupcake."

She grinned at the sound of his endearment to her and caught his naughty smirk, "Really? You prepared it all and brought everything here?" she challenged him, knowing that the servant have done it. "You never ask anyone?"

"Well, I kind of ask LaFontaine…"

"I knew it."

Once they were finished eating, the Prince stood up, "Wait here, I'll just get something," he said and disappeared in the darkness.

She continued to enjoy the special wine and poured more on her goblet. After taking a drink, she put her goblet down in front of her and saw a yellow rose dropped in front of her, she was about to pick it up but she was suddenly surprised when she felt the presence of the Prince hovering behind her. She stayed still and waited anxiously for him to talk, but he remained standing, then she felt him come closer and kneeled behind her. She did not look up to check at him but instead she waited patiently on his next move. The anticipation of knowing he was behind her but not talking or not touching her was making her thrilled and at the same time nervous.

"Cupcake, you look like a naïve provincial girl," Prince Carl uttered his voice raspy, deeper and coated with desire. "Entirely too tightly wound. Such a cliché… I oughta know better-"

"Gee, thanks," she quipped, knowing that Prince Carl seemed thrilled at how she dressed. The fact that her hair was tied up and the creaminess of her nape was exposed, this olive green peasant dress reveals more of her shoulders compared to her princess dresses. The bodice was laced up the front and the full skirt was split down the front to show a modest peek of the white muslin under dress beneath it.

She knew that he was just inches away from her when she felt the warmth of his breath on her bare nape. She calmed herself and patiently waited. She gasped as she felt his lips and beard touched the back of her neck. Her heart throbbed madly as Prince Carl slowly kissed the area at the back of her neck, and on her bare shoulder. She felt his lips kissed her so hard on her left shoulder, as if wanting to let her know that he wants her.

She turned her head slowly to her left, and met Prince Carl's demanding lips on hers, kissing her deeply and pushed his tongue inside her mouth. She let his tongue caress her own before his tongue explored the roof of her mouth. She moaned at the sensation and her left hand reached out at the back and caressed his nape.

She gasped again and a loud moan escaped her mouth as she felt Prince Carl's hand cupped her left breast and kneaded it. Oh god! She shouted in her thoughts feeling the vulnerability of her position, as Prince Carl continued to caress her breast. She closed her eyes and felt for the first time this dizzying sensation that the Prince's hand was doing to her breast. She never thought that her body would react wildly. Now she knew why Perry had warned her not to get too close yet with the Prince. Not until they got married.

She kissed him deeply, while his left hand wrapped around her waist to support her. Then she felt his right hand removed the lace on the front of her bodice and pulled the sleeve of her underdress down, after a few seconds she felt his right hand on her exposed breast and kneaded it. She felt like she was going to collapse at the overwhelming pleasure that her body was experiencing. She began to pant and moaned louder when she felt the Prince's thumb and index finger rubbed her nipple, while his left hand found the base of her core and gently palmed it.

"Carl…" she cried out as she cannot control her body responding crazily to his torturous touches. Her left hand grabbed his hair and she arched her back as if wanting more contact from his hands.

"Laura…" he uttered his raspy voice thick with desire. "You're mine." He whispered in her ears.

It sent a shiver in her body as she heard his deep raspy voice say it, while his thumb and index fingers continued to rub her hardened nipple. She was lost in his touch and cannot escape this maddening sensation. She felt his other hand wrapped around her waist tighter and pulled her closer to him. But when she felt the Prince's hard bulge on her back she panicked and opened her eyes, and released herself gently from his arms.

She regretted her action as she saw the confused look from Prince Carl and stressed at how she was going to explain to him the sudden withdraw. It already happened twice and she still cannot find the way to tell him that she was not like some other woman who could be aroused at seeing or feeling a man's penis. And instead, she always panicked at the mere contact of it on her body. As if on cue, the sound of someone calling her name yanked her from her worry. She tried to listen if she heard it right, and her ears recognized the voice of Perry.

"Cupcake, what's wrong?" Prince Carl asked totally oblivious from the sound around him.

"Perry is looking for me," she said in a hushed tone and fixed her clothes before standing up.

"Damn it," was the Prince's disappointed reaction and rose.

"Is my hair alright?" was the first thing she worried.

"Cupcake, I almost undress you and you are worried about your hair?" Prince Carl remarked. "Maybe you should pay attention at the loose strings of your dress?"

"Oh!" she expressed as she forgot to tighten the strings, she did it quickly and knitted the top very tight.

She was already finished when she saw the figure of LaFontaine and Perry emerged from one of the bushes.

"Princess Laura, I got worried when you did not return to your chamber," was Perry's comment. And then bowed to the Prince, "Good evening Your Highness."

"Hello Perry," Was the Prince's apathetic reply.

"I ate dinner here together with Prince Carl," was her excuse and motioned for the foods and drinks that were laid on the picnic blanket. And then she was about to show Perry the ring but when she looked down at her hand, she caught the very visible bulge in the Prince's trousers. She faced him and covered him with her body. And tried to tell him about his erection, but he looked too disappointed to notice.

So instead, she decided that it was best that they left first. "I apologize, My Prince, but I've had a long day and would like to rest now." She then caught the Prince's attention.

"Oh, alright, LaFontaine and I can escort you to your chamber," was Prince Carl's thoughtful gesture.

"No!" she shouted and saw Prince Carl was shocked at her sudden outburst. "I mean… you are exhausted, so try to get some sleep too." She said and looked behind her towards LaFontaine and Perry, and was thankful that the two were standing still and quietly waiting for her.

The Prince gave her another puzzled look. "Cupcake, are you alright? You looked like you have seen a beast."

Panicking, "Yes! I mean no… It's not a beast!" she said rather loudly. "I'm just tired My Prince and thank you for the lovely evening," she returned and kissed him under his earlobe, while she whispered, "Your sword is still standing." And then she looked at his fully erected shaft, to let the Prince know what she meant.

Embarrassed, "Oh," Prince Carl said, turned around and walked away from them without looking back. "LaFontaine, go with them! I need to fix something!"

 

*****

The following day, she was having one of her baking day with Perry at the castle's kitchen when something just popped out of her naïve mind.

"Perry would it hurt?" She asked nonchalantly as she mixed the flour and milk in a bowl. They were alone in the kitchen and Perry was standing across her, and uses a rolling pin to flatten dough on the table.

She received Perry's full attention as her lady in waiting stopped at once from working and looked at her. She knew that Perry would always worry whenever there was something that was hurting in her, be it physically or emotionally.

"Hurt what Princess?"

"On my wedding night…" she began, weighing her words.

Her lack of interest on men became worst when she met different kinds of them and experienced some misbehavior from them, but nothing serious that she could deemed unacceptable.

"…When Prince Carl claim me."

"Oh."

She saw Perry blushed but did not care, because Perry was the only one she trusted to answer this kind of sensitive stuffs.

"Because I heard from Betty that I'm going to bleed," she explained, not wanting Perry to worry where she heard those silly things. Sometimes she liked talking to Betty about this stuff because that maiden of hers hides nothing. But she would like Perry's opinion.

"Well… as someone who wasn't claimed yet I cannot tell you how it felt, Princess," Perry explained carefully. "But I always hear from the married women that it always hurt the first time. And bleeding from a woman is a sign that no man has claimed her yet."

Worried, she gives Perry a follow up question, "Would the husband's size made it hurt?"

"I really cannot answer that. Why?" Perry relayed.

She suddenly felt warm and reluctant, but eventually gave in out of her curiosity.

"Well, it's Prince Carl… he… I… I think his..." She blurted the last words and hid her face from Perry in case she was blushing of embarrassment.

Perry composed herself and faced her, "Have you already seen the Prince's… umm… sword?"

"Wha-?! No!" She quipped, careful not to slip. She just told Perry that Prince Carl proposed but she never mentioned that he kissed her passionately last night. "It's not what you think!"

"Then why are you telling me that Prince Carl's is big," Perry gave her a suspicious look.

"I did not tell you that it is big! I said, I think it is big," she retorted, getting flustered. "Because the first time we kissed, I, well he actually grabbed my buttocks and pulled me closer to him then I felt something very hard in between his legs, but I think he did not noticed that I felt it. Because I panicked and was nervous I released from his arms and he was surprised and got sad at my sudden withdrawal."

Suddenly she saw Perry giving her an amused smile, a sign that she had babbled nervously.

"That meant only one thing…" Perry gave her a relieved smile afterwards. "Prince Carl is happy kissing you."

"Hmm… that was interesting," she answered giving Perry her 'naughty smart' grin.

TBC

Chapter Text

Carmilla

As soon as they were comfortably seated, she focused to the direction to her right and waited until the King consumed the first serving of wine.

"My King Father, I think we can officially announce to the whole kingdom that I and Princess Laura are betrothed," she stated clearly with a hint of excitement in her voice.

The King stared at her and then gave her as satisfied smile, before her father tapped her shoulder.

"Well done my child!" Her father responded with genuine enthusiasm. "Did you like the ring, Princess?" the King said and switched his sight to Laura. But before the Princess can show it, she saw her mother's suspicious stare.

"Is there something that I have missed? You all looked happy and excited," was the Queen's humorless remark.

"Forgive me my Queen Mother," she said at once, not wanting her mother to feel out of place. "I have forgotten to inform you that I have already proposed to Princess Laura and she had said yes." She explained careful not to sound too eager, since she knew that her mother would criticized her of being too emotional. And showing her emotions, especially to her mother, was prohibited."

"My son, what are you talking about?" was the Queen's arrogant and sarcastic reaction. "Princess Laura had already agreed to become your betrothed since the day your King Father visited the Hollis Kingdom. She was already bounded to you before you even met her. You don't need to propose."

Her mother's remarks irritated her.

Why can't she just be happy for what I've done!

She was about to explain to the Queen again that she wanted it done properly but the touch of Laura's hand on her leg refrained her.

"With all due respect, Your Majesty," Princess Laura interrupted gracefully and looked at the Queen. "I also told Prince Carl that it was not necessary, but when he kneeled in front of me and confessed his reasons of marrying me, I was overwhelmed and very happy that moment. I knew that he was hesitant at the beginning to marry me, and I understand it, but as the days went by and I slowly got to know him, I said to myself: I made the right choice. And I do not see myself marrying any other man, except your son." Laura expressed with such elegance and poise before lifting her gaze from the Queen, and shifted to the King. "I have grown to like Prince Carl for what he is and I care for him deeply."

There was a temporary silence for a moment as all eyes were focused on the Princess, after that heartfelt explanation. She never realized that Laura felt that way. And she was surprised to find out that her betrothed was daring enough to challenge her mother's comment. She and her father never defy the Queen's words; just like what was happening right now. And before the awkward silence can ruin everybody's mood, the cheerful sound of the King's voice brightened the situation.

"Princess, let me see the ring?!" Was the King's enthusiastic request, after finishing the second serving of wine.

Princess Laura happily showed the ring on her finger to the King then to the Queen.

Curious, "It's beautiful. Where did you get it Carl?" the Queen asked, being familiar with jewelries that were precious and of high value.

"I gave it to him." The King answered at once. "My only heir is getting married to the most beautiful Princess in Styria, and I thought, my child should propose properly. So I gave my mother's ring."

"Well I guess Princess Laura deserved that ring," the Queen agreed and the voice lightened up, and then stared at the Princess. "As long as you will not forget your responsibilities as the future queen comes first; and that is to provide an heir for my son and to help him rule this kingdom wisely and preserve the Karnstein's wealth."

"Your majesty, I always prioritizes my responsibilities and obligations as a daughter and a princess over my personal needs," Princess Laura stated confidently. "I am ready to accept all the hard works and responsibilities that would be bestowed to me."

After that powerful remark from her betrothed, she noticed her mother calmed down. She gazed at Laura and admired her betrothed's courage, perseverance, enthusiasm and dedication. She never expected that there was another woman who could challenge and measure up to her mother's expectations. She smiled and realized her taste in woman seemed similar to her father's taste: strong willed and confident women.

She reached for Princess Laura's right hand and was about to give her betrothed a reassuring touch, however, her eyes did not catch the goblet beside her, and it fell on the Princess' lap and the red liquid splattered all over her betrothed's dress.

"Oh, forgive me Princess, I did not see that," she apologized at once and rose from her seat to help Princess Laura dry the wine on the dress. Two of the manly servants were about to help the Princess get up and came with table napkins in their hands. But the thought of those hands touching her betrothed's dress made her worried and angry. "Don't touch her!" she ordered and everybody's eyes, including her parents were on her as she stood there and glared at the scared servants in front of her. They retreated at once and left Princess Laura alone.

"My Prince, they were just helping me stand up and gave me cloth to dry my dress," Princess Laura explained carefully.

"Carl, calm down, and let the servants escort Princess Laura to her chamber," the Queen said.

She heard her mother's suggestion but she does not trust the manly servants. "No, I will escort Princess Laura to her chamber," she responded and looked at her father's direction. "My King Father, would you mind if I left the table now? I want to escort my betrothed since it's my fault that she got into this mess."

"It's fine my child. Go and help Laura," the King assured and nodded.

"Thank you my King Father," she replied and bowed to the King, and then remembered that she needed her mother's permission too. "Would it be alright to my Queen Mother if I go?" she asked politely, even if she knew that her mother would say yes, since she asked the King first.

"You may go," was the Queen's cold response. "But make sure that the Lady in Waiting does her job, and not you."

"Good night Your Majesties," Princess Laura said and bowed to the Queen and King before leaving the table.

"Goodnight Princess," the King said and nodded.

*****

Princess Laura hurriedly entered the chamber as she trailed behind the small Princess. She just realized now how she reacted badly when she saw the guards that wanted to help Princess Laura a while ago. She had never been so over protective of someone before and it scared her.

"Should I stay outside and tell the guards to get Perry right away?" she asked as soon as she saw none of the maidens nor Perry was inside the chamber.

"No. Just help me undress," The Princess ordered and begun to struggle to get out of the dress.

"Are you trying to seduce me?" she teased, wanting to see her little princess blushed.

"Wha-?! No!" Laura retorted. "Will you please come here?"

"As you wish, my Princess," she replied making her voice deeper and enticing. Princess Laura turned around when she came closer and motioned for her to loosen the knots on the back of the dress. "I just really don't understand how you could breathe underneath this silly dress." She commented while her hands do the job of untangling the knots one by one.

"Stop complaining and just get me out of this dress," Laura retorted.

"So demanding… I like that in a woman," she quipped and this time she noticed Laura's head tilted to the side, a gesture she discovered when Princess Laura was embarrassed or flustered.

She did not comment further as her eyes caught the bare smooth skin of Princess Laura's back. She adorned for a moment how her little princess' back looked beautiful and tempting to her eyes. She had thought of running her hands through the soft silky skin of Laura and kissed again the smooth shoulders of her betrothed. She remembered how soft Laura's skin at her mouth when she kissed Laura's shoulder that night she proposed. She had not felt so aroused like that before, and she did not know if she could control herself if she kissed the Princess' shoulder again.

Then she remembered what her mother said. She controlled her urging and put her hands on her back, knowing that Perry could come any moment. "It's already loose, you can change now." She informed Laura and turned around and stood there with her hands behind her back, her right palm gripping her left wrist. She closed her eyes and began to inhale and exhale, trying to calm her nerves from that sight of Laura's bare skin. It seemed her body was on fire.

This woman is killing me!

"I'm already decent, you can turn around now," Laura ordered.

She breathed a sigh of relief when she heard the word decent. She relaxed and rested her arms on her side before turning around. Her eyes almost cannot believe how beautiful the sight was in front of her when she saw Laura dressed in a thin white camisole accentuating the shape of her betrothed's body. Her hungry eyes scanned Laura's whole body and caught her attention when her sight darted on those perky breasts that seemed visible beneath the silk camisole, and the small nipples that were visibly erected behind the damn cloth. Then she remembered the feeling of Laura's hard nipples on her fingertips, as she rubbed and squeezed it and the softness and fullness of Laura's breast as her hands caressed it.

Damn It! Why is it hot in here!

She complained and felt her throat drying and found it difficult to breath. She prayed the devil would stop tempting her as she felt something throbbed inside her braise.

"Prince Carl?"

Her prayer was answered when she heard Laura called her name and the spell that Laura's body put on her was broken.

"Umm… yes Princess?" she asked innocently, as she saw Laura blushed with embarrassment and nervousness. "Is something wrong?"

She held Laura's gaze and followed it as Laura guided her to the direction of her crotch. She was shocked when her eyes caught the sight of her fully erected shaft; it betrayed her again. And then she realized how it ached badly right now as she felt her balls tightened too. She put her hands and attempted to cover it.

"Oh!" she exclaimed and gave Laura an embarrass grin. "Sorry Cupcake, I remember that I have some important matters that need my full attention. Goodnight!" and with that, she stormed out of the chamber and did not wait for Laura's reply.

She ran towards the opposite wing, and on the way to her chamber she met LaFontaine who was confused on why she was running.

"What's wrong?!" LaFontaine asked, running behind her.

"Tone down your voice. You don't want to alarm the royal guards," she ordered as they pass on the two of them that was guarding the entrance of the wing leading to the hall of her chamber.

"But why are you running?" LaFontaine nagged as they caught up beside her. "And you're sweating and flustered. Have you been doing your 'morning ritual' anywhere else?" they accused.

"Of course not!" She retorted, and was thankful to have finally reached her chamber. She remembered LaFontaine walking in her room without knocking and accidentally heard her doing her 'morning ritual'. So, her Valet knew how she looked like whenever she was done with her 'morning ritual'.

She did not give LaFontaine a chance to reply and instead, she went straight to the bathroom and this time she made sure to lock it. "I'll call on you when I'm ready." She informed before locking the door.

Once she was safely inside the four walls of her bathroom, she removed the strings of her trousers at once and pulled down her braise. She gripped her stiff member right away and stroked it up and down.

******

Once she was done and decent, she asked for her Valet to come in. When she saw the naughty smirk on LaFontaine's face she avoided their eyes and she sat right away on the chair of her dressing table, ready for LaFontaine to remove her beard.

"Have you heard already from your source?" she asked in an authoritative serious tone in order to distract her Valet from asking what happened a while ago.

"Yes, he said that person lives alone with his mother in the village and is working at the butcher's store," LaFontaine related while carefully removing the beard. "The mother used to work inside the castle, but had to be sent away when the woman got pregnant."

"How about the guards, are they familiar with the place?" was her follow up question, as she winced a little when LaFontaine took off the facial hair above her upper lip; the most sensitive part.

"They have carefully studied the area around and the ins and outs of it, so they know where's the safest and where's not," LaFontaine supplied, while scrutinizing her hair. "Should I ask the barber to give you a trim soon? You're natural waves are beginning to show now."

"No, not yet," she replied right away. "I still want to enjoy this out of bed look that you're calling. And besides, it's not that long," was her final excuse.

"Alright," LaFontaine conceded and peeled off the last part of the beard. "…And how about this beard of yours? Why are you still not giving it up when you knew that Princess Laura does not like it?"

After hearing that reproach from her Valet; "Calm down, I'm going to get rid of it soon. I just need to do this mission first, before I remove it," was her defensive remark. "And besides, Princess Laura had never complained about it."

She looked at her Valet's reflection on the mirror, as she waited for their answer. But LaFontaine just rolled their eyes after that reply. "What?"

"Nothing," LaFontaine returned. "And what might be this mission you're talking about?"

"I'll discuss it with you tomorrow and you'll going to help me with it," she said and stood up. "In the meantime, I like to take a bath and sleep early, because we have a big day ahead of us tomorrow."

*****

That night, while in bed, she contemplated on how fast things were happening in her life. She had no intention of marrying and getting involved with someone for fear of being rejected and detested, and then the next thing she knew she was attracted and falling for this Princess and does not want to lose this woman in her life. Suddenly, she had become selfish and does not want to end this passion that she was feeling towards the Princess. She did not thought of the consequences anymore of what these emotions can do to her. All she wanted was to be with Laura and spend all her time with the Princess. Her mother was right; something happened to her and she suddenly found herself having all these emotions that she have never felt before, and it felt so good! She does not care what her mother thought about it. But she would not miss this chance of being happy once in her life, and she knew that, this happiness came from only one person: Laura.

And now, the only challenge she was facing was how to tell the Princess what she really was. She did not thought about it before since she was carried away with all these affection and sweet gestures from her betrothed. Laura was the sunshine of her life and she does not want that light to disappear!

Suddenly she found herself afraid of losing Laura if she told her soon to be wife about the real her. She panicked and began to feel this anxiety that she use to feel at the thought of people finding out what she really was.

She does not want to take a chance.

She does not want to end this happiness with Laura.

She would do anything to keep Laura to herself, even if she had to cover and hide her torso for the rest of her life. She would not give Laura a slight chance to suspect that she was not a full-fledged man. She would do everything in her power to keep that secret in order not to lose Laura.

Just like what her mother told her: she was the heir and the future King, nothing was impossible.

*****

The following day, she made sure to talk with LaFontaine first about her plan before doing her daily task and going out with her father. It was late in the afternoon when they finished their weekly hunting. The weather was getting milder and she loved it when she was sweating under the heat of the sun.

She had just finished hunting with the King and was already on the way to the castle, when her eyes caught the sight of her betrothed approaching her. She smiled and wished that every time she would come back home, the Princess would always be there to meet her outside.

"What are you doing outside?" she asked and then felt Laura's hands wrapped around the back of her neck before kissing her. "Cupcake, I'm stinking with sweat." She remarked but eventually reciprocated Laura's kisses and automatically put her hands on Laura's hips.

"I don't care. I like your smell," Laura returned and intentionally sniffed the area under her ear, before kissing it too.

"Stop pulling my leg, we both knew that I smell," she said and tried to disentangle herself from Laura's arms.

"But it's true! I like how you smell, it's mild and delicate," the Princess defended. "You smell earthy and at the same time like a rose. And whenever I'm close to you, your smell makes me calm knowing that you're near me; except when you do something naughty, then it makes me…"

She smirked right away at how the Princess blushed easily. "Makes you what?" she demanded and tightened the hold on her betrothed's hips.

"It makes me awake," Laura finished and smiled naughtily. "What are you expecting to hear?"

"Is that the truth?" she challenged and slowly kissed Laura's pulse point, and then switched to the other side and nipped all the way down on the creaminess of the Princess' neck. Then she felt Laura's heaving bosom as the Princess' breath became ragged when her lips feasted on the Princess' bare neck, but before she could go down further to Laura's bosom, a hand stopped her gently.

"Hold it there lady killer, we're outside and I don't have any intention of giving free shows to any curious spectators," the Princess commented and managed to release from the hold and gave her a naughty grin before running to the direction of the entrance to the castle. "Race you!"

"You're killing me Cupcake!" she expressed and ran after Laura.

It did not take long for her to catch her betrothed. Once they were inside, they composed themselves and behaved like an adult, as they stroll along the great hall and to the tea room.

Laura was still holding her hand while walking in the vast hall.

"Is it true?" she asked, as she and Princess Laura sauntered along the castle's hall holding hands.

"What?"

"That you're happy when I proposed to you and that you don't want to marry any other man except me?" she repeated smiling sweetly at the thought of it.

The Princess stopped and faced her and gazed at her eyes with full of warmth. Those beautiful innocent hazel eyes could melt anyone's heart just by gazing at it. Then she felt Laura held her hands firmly.

"It's true," Laura stated not lifting her betrothed's gaze from her. "I thought knowing that I'm already betrothed to you was enough, and then we could get marry afterwards. But the thrill and the happiness that I felt when I saw you kneeled in front of me, asked me to be your wife and the mother of your children was very intense. I never imagined that I could feel like that… at least not with a man."

She got suddenly curious at the last words Laura uttered.

"What do you mean at least not with a man?"

"Huh?!"

She saw the bewildered expression of her betrothed and she was confused too. "The last words that you said…" she tried to salvage the conversation and repeated it. "You said that you never imagined that you could feel like that, at least not with a man. What do you mean by that, Laura?"

 

TBC

Chapter Text

Laura

Oh God! What have I done?!

She panicked internally. Sometimes her babbling can get out of control and just have to say what she always felt. She did not tear her eyes from the Prince's stare and calmed herself until she could clear her head and compose a decent lie.

"Laura, what do you mean by that?" Prince Carl asked once more, his voice deep and authoritative.

She became more nervous when she saw the serious look on his face.

"Not with a man…" she started and thought carefully before she spoke another word. "Not with a man like you."

Prince Carl's expression became more serious and yet bothered. They were both trapped in this awkward silence and the tension was growing thick.

"What I meant is," she tried again as the Prince stared at her silently, waiting for her explanation. "…Not with a man like you who is broody, jealous, superior, over protective and ruggedly handsome," she stated and calmed down when she saw the Prince's expression softened and relaxed.

"I thought for a while you said that you never felt a thing like that for a man," Prince Carl replied and moved closer to her and stared at her. "Tell me Princess, what kind of man do you like?" he demanded.

She gained her confidence as soon as she saw his mood lightened. "Hmmm let me see," she said and grinned at him, while she pretended to think deeply. "I like a man who is broody, very territorial, sarcastic, possessive, intelligent, ruggedly handsome, with beautiful dark eyes that looks like he would always devour me, has dark hair and with a beard. Oh, and he must love sweets too, like me."

"Did you just describe me?" He returned and pretended to be irritated. "I'm serious, Cupcake!"

"But that's the truth!" she teased and walked further to the direction of the tea room. But she felt his hand halted her, and gently turned her around and the next thing she knew, Prince Carl was wrapping his arms possessively around her. She gazed at his face and saw the devilish smirk that she liked, and raised the perfectly shaped left eye brow of his.

"You think you could just get away like that, Cupcake?" He said his voice deep and coated with desire. "You just lied to the future King of Karnstein."

"And what are you planning to do, Your Highness?" she challenged and tried to loose from his arms, but his hold was strong and she felt him pulled her closer to him.

She saw his dark eyes stared at her and then slowly trailed to the creaminess of her neck and then stopped at her breasts. She caught sight of his hungry eyes and she felt a tingle inside her, as she witnessed how he stared at her like she was a prey that he was going to devour any moment from now. He looked wild and dangerous and it was making her aroused at the sight of him.

Prince Carl looked around him. Puzzled, her eyes followed his. They were alone in the long hall and the next thing she knew, Prince Carl gently pushed her to the nearest wall on the corner and started to kiss her deeply.

"Laura…" he uttered in between kisses. "Tell me you want me." He uttered with need.

The sound of his voice every time they kiss was so overwhelming. She never imagined being aroused just to hear the sound of his voice, it was very dark and passionate and at the same time delicate and desperate.

"You're the only one that I want, Carl," She said the first words that came to her mind. And her hands stroked his hair, as she felt his kiss became demanding and his hands explored the sides of her breasts, teasing her. "You're the only one that I adore," After saying those words, she felt Prince Carl released from the kiss, and she saw the pain in his eyes.

"Promise me you will never leave me, Laura," he begged. "Promise me that you will never seek another man's attention, but only mine."

Suddenly, Carl's expression became melancholic. She had never seen him looked so frightened and vulnerable like this. She melted at the sight in front of her and cupped his face gently, and gazed at him. "Carl, I will never leave you. I promise. And I will never look another man except you, My Prince," She uttered and was surprised at the words that came out from her mouth. She never thought that she could say these things to any man. After giving him an assurance, she saw him smiled and put his lips on hers again.

She felt his tongue sought her and opened her mouth gladly for him. His kisses deepened and she felt his hand roamed around her neck, exploring the small amount of exposed skin, and slowly descended to her bosom, before cupping her left breast. She closed her eyes and felt light headed at the sudden contact of his hand fondling her breast. She was beginning to love how Carl touches her; it was very possessive and yet affectionate. It was very different from Danny's touch, which she considered lovely, but not passionate.

"Oh god, Carl…" she cried as the Prince's fingers found her nipple and pinched it against the thin fabric of her dress.

"Your Highnesses…"

A voice suddenly interrupted them from getting more carried away, she opened her eyes and saw LaFontaine in front of her, while Prince Carl continued kissing her neck but removed the hand that was on her breast.

"LaFontaine!" she exclaimed, wanting to call the Prince's attention and to stop him from nipping on her neck.

"Leave now or die!" Prince Carl interjected, still facing his back to LaFontaine.

She tried to gently get away from his hold but his arms wrapped more tightly around her. "What can we do for you?" she asked sheepishly.

"…If I could just interrupt His Highness for a moment?" LaFontaine asked carefully. "I have a-"

"Are you blind? Can't you see that I'm occupied?"

She heard Prince Carl added and then burrowed his face deeper to her pulse point and continued to nip on her neck, showing no signs that he would listen.

"No Your Highness; and I am aware that you're engaged into something very important. But I'm definitely gonna lost my head if I didn't relay Her Majesty's message," LaFontaine retorted.

"Please excuse the Prince, he didn't mean to be rude," she returned and glared at Prince Carl to tame him before asking LaFontaine. "What is the message?"

"Her Majesty needs Your Highness at his chamber," LaFontaine related. "The seamstress and the tailors that will make Your Highness's clothes for the wedding are here and brought some samples for the Prince to try it on."

"Tell them to wait," Prince Carl ordered and resumed what he was doing.

But she would not accept this arrogant attitude of him, and instead called LaFontaine's attention. "I think the Prince can go now with you LaFontaine," she said and saw the surprised look on Carl. "The Prince needs a cold shower. He got too excited again and needed to calm down."

 

"I… "

She heard Prince Carl was about to protest but she silenced him with a kiss instead.

"I've asked Betty to bring the tea and the sweets to the tea room," she said after releasing from the kiss and remembered the reason why she was waiting outside. "I was waiting for you, because I baked some creampuffs for you today."

"But I want my Cupcake," he whined and tried to distract her and put his hands again on her hips and kissed her.

After the kiss, she took his hands off gently from her waist, "Don't let Your Queen Mother wait for you," she scolded him playfully. "I'll be waiting for you at the tea room, so hurry up and do what you have to do."

He hesitated but eventually gave up when she sneaked out of them and headed to the direction of the tearoom. "Thanks LaFontaine!"

After almost an hour of waiting in the tearoom, she finally heard the door opened and was surprised at what she saw.

Prince Carl entered and sauntered across the room with full of confidence, her eyes feasted at how attractive he was wearing a red and black checkered tunic, black trousers and black cape, the color complimented well to his pale skin and dark hair. And he oozes with self-confidence and poise. She does not know how he could be so graceful but at the same time so ruggedly handsome. This was the first time she had seen him wear something bright, aside from his regular black tunic and sometimes purple tunic that he puts on when there was a special occasion. She gaped at him openly and cannot believe that she could be giddy at the sight of how he dress and carry himself.

"If I had not known you, I would say that you want to devour me right here, right now," Prince Carl said, teasing her. "But since I know that we're not thinking the same thing, I would say that you're surprise that I'm wearing a different tunic."

She just gave him a naughty grin and leered at him.

"I got this from the tailor," he explained. "My Queen Mother thought that I should try a different color."

"You look handsome in that red and a black checkered tunic," was her fascinated comment, and seemed to be paralyzed at where she was seating as she looked up and stared at him.

Prince Carl took a seat beside her and faced her, and smirked naughtily. "So, I look handsome now because I'm wearing a different shade of color. But when I'm wearing my black, you never tell me that I'm handsome?"

"Of course I do!" was her instant retort. "You're handsome even if you're hairy!"

"Huh?!"

"Err, I mean, even if you have a beard, you're still handsome," she said and was a bit ashamed at how he described him. "I am not actually attracted to men with beard but…"

"But what?" was his sudden and curious remark.

"But I'm beginning to like it, because of you," she honestly told him.

"And what exactly do you mean by that?"

"Because you, my Prince," she started and cupped his bearded face and lovingly scratched his facial hair on his jaw line near the base of his ear like he was a cat. "Had put a hex on me and seduced me."

"Oh come on Cupcake! Tell me what you think of my beard?" He challenged and moved closer. "I want to hear your honest opinion."

"My honest opinion?" She was suddenly caught off guard. But she composed herself and just focused at him and gazed at his face. "Honestly, I never like men with beard." She finally admitted it and did not feel guilty. "When I first saw you, I panic."

"Really?" was his surprised remark. "Then why didn't you turn around and ran back at Hollis?" was his sarcastic reply.

"I'm being honest now! And you're teasing me!"

"Alright, I'm sorry. Carry on," he apologized and gave his attention to her again. "You're saying that you panic when you saw me, is it because I have a beard?"

"Umm… yes." And she finally said it without any hesitation.

"So, you hated my beard, is that what you want to say?" He asked, curious.

"Well, at the beginning. But then as we became closer, I did not noticed it at all," was her honest opinion. "It's like I have grown to accept it because it's part of you. It's what makes you, you. Do you understand what I mean?"

Prince Carl just nodded quietly while gazing at her.

"I mean, I never thought that I would come to like a man with a beard… but I just found myself, liking you; liking how you are; liking you despite how you're beard makes me uncomfortable," was her genuine remark. "I must say that I liked Prince Viktor because he has smooth face and clean shaven-" she was saying, but she noticed that his mood changed and became serious and he crinkled his brows.

"So, you finally admitted that you like that bastard," Prince Carl retaliated, obviously not happy with what he heard.

She held his face again and made him look at her direction. "Please don't be jealous, you know that you're the only man in my life now." She tried to pacify him, knowing that he was boiling inside with jealousy, and then averted her sight. "I'm not finished yet… hey, look at me." She ordered and when he finally set his gaze on her, she smiled at him and kissed him. She felt him calmed down after that kiss and the wrinkle on his brows disappeared. "What I want to say is; I would never ask you to change just to please me. Because I have grown to like you as what you are now and I wouldn't ask anything for more, because I am attracted to you and like you as you are."

"So, you'll tolerate it, even if my beard is making you uncomfortable whenever I kiss you?" Prince Carl asked, as if testing her.

"Yes, I can tolerate it and I would tolerate it even after we got married, have children and grow old," she teased him, and earned a smile from him.

"You're unbelievable, Cupcake," He returned and wrapped his arm around her. "How can you tolerate something that makes you uncomfortable?"

"Because, when it comes to caring for someone, you'll defy everything just to let that person know that he is precious."

"Are you saying that you care for me that much?" Prince Carl asked suddenly surprised.

She was surprised at what came out of her mouth too. But instead of denying it, she just carried on and let him know what she really felt.

"Carl, I will not deny it, I am growing fond of you and likes you as you are… my big wild cat," she teased him and saw his eyes widened.

"Well, you're big wild cat needs some petting now," he returned and smirked naughtily.

And the next thing she knew, Prince Carl lay on the sofa and rested his head on her lap.

"Don't you want to eat your creampuffs first?" she suggested and put her hand on his hair and began to stroke it.

"Later," he said, closed his eyes and relaxed.

"So, have you chosen what you're going to wear on our wedding?" she asked, and felt a bit awkward at the mention of wedding.

"Yes," Prince Carl said.

"Can you tell me how it looks like?" was her curious reply.

"It's red, with black and gold," he relayed nonchalantly.

"How very detailed it is," she quipped and saw his eyes opened and she smirked at him.

"Cupcake, I am not like you, who explain every tiny bit of detail, when talking about the clothes that I wear." He elaborated and closed his eyes again. "And besides, I wanted you to be surprised when you see me in my wedding tunic."

"But that's unfair," she declared and stopped stroking his hair. "I have described to you what I would wear and you won't tell me yours?"

This time, he opened his eyes and stared at her. "Cupcake, you haven't told me yet what you're going to wear."

"Oh."

"So, can we please go back to petting me now?" Prince Carl implored and closed his eyes again and relaxed.

Instead of stroking his hair, she decided to give him what he like most: she fondled under the base of his ears and caress it. She caught him smiling as if enjoying it and the next thing she heard was a purr sound. She giggled discreetly, not wanting to embarrass him and continued caressing the back of his ear.

As he relaxed on her touch, she took this chance to gaze at Prince Carl's face. She had always wondered how a man could be so beautiful despite having been covered with a facial hair. This was probably one of the reasons why she does not mind having a betrothed with a beard. Prince Carl's features were delicate and elegant. His complexion was flawless and porcelain like; his eyes were deep and the color fits his personality: dark and dangerous; his nose was like from a Greek god and his lips were so soft and kissable; and his perfectly shaped eye brows, she swear, were beautiful and elegant compared to her eye brows. But the most beautiful and attractive part of his face, and the one that she loved was his jawline. It was beautifully sculpted to perfection. She sighed and felt giddy at how the Prince made her feel like she was a mad woman who had a terrible crush to a Greek god of love; maybe she was! But the good thing about it was, she could kiss and touch this 'Greek god of love' that she admired! Suddenly she was overcame by her passion and excitement and decided to claim the Prince's lips.

She stopped caressing the back of his ear and cupped his cheek, before putting her lips on him and claimed those thin soft lips. This time, she kissed him so hard and put her tongue inside his mouth. Then she felt his hand caressed her hair, as she continued to kiss him passionately. She began to feel the heat crawled in her entire body, and her other hand started to caressed the prince's leg. She earned a groaned from him when she released from the kiss to get some air, but put her lips right away on him as their kisses became demanding. Her hand on his leg continued to stroke up and down, but she suddenly panic when her hand accidentally touched the hard bulge of the Prince and quickly released from the contact. She lost her focus and got suddenly confused and pulled from the kiss. When she opened her eyes, she saw the confused look on Prince Carl's face.

"Cupcake, what's wrong?"

"I'm sorry, it's just that… your…" she fumbled for words and hated herself for always have to pull from his kiss or from his touch whenever things got 'hot' and she felt him hard.

"My what?" Prince Carl asked, puzzled.

"I… I like to kiss you, and I like how you kiss me-"

"But…" Prince Carl filled in.

She saw his eyes wide and his expression, disoriented. She cannot keep doing this without telling him why. It would be unfair for him if she would lie. He lifted his head a bit from her lap and faced her direction, while waiting for her to reply.

"But I get scared when I feel your hard bulge rubbing on me." She said it without pausing.

"Oh." He remarked and looked at his crotch.

"You see, I tend to panic every time I see and feel it hard," she admitted sheepishly.

This time, Prince Carl rose and sat beside her; leaving a decent space between them, he held her hands carefully and motioned for her to look at his eyes. "Cupcake, why didn't you tell me at once? The last thing I want to do is to scare you," he expressed deeply. "I would never force you to do anything that you dislike," he said with a hint of sadness in his voice.

"Carl, I'm sorry if I'm a tease and you might think I'm a snob too. But-" she was trying to explain.

"It's alright Cupcake, I understand," was Prince Carl's thoughtful reply. "I know that everything that was happening in your life right now is new and overwhelming."

"But how am I going to give you an heir when I can't even bear to touch or feel your…"

"…Penis?"

"See! I can't even say it!" was her frustrated remark and felt ashamed of telling him. Getting betrothed to a man was one thing; accepting that she liked a man with a beard was definitely a miracle! But the thought of a man's sex organ inside her was beyond her imagination and it was making her anxious.

This time, she looked at Prince Carl's face and saw how worried he was and she became troubled at what he was thinking. "My Prince, I would understand it if you're thinking that I am a failure and a cold woman who couldn't please her man-"

"What? No!" was the Prince quick retort. "You are never a failure and not a cold person." He assured her.

"Then why do you look so worried and very upset?"

"Because I don't want my wife to feel pressured of having to produce an heir," the Prince explained taking into consideration everything with regards to her comfort. "Laura, I am not saying that I don't want an heir. Because I do want it, especially when you said yes when I asked you to be the mother of my children," was Prince Carl's fervent remark. "But I would only do it if I have your permission and when I know that you want it too. I want to conceive our child out of love, and not out of obligation."

She was touched at how he cared so much for her. And just wanted to cry, "So what do you mean by that?"

"That I am going to wait until you're ready to accept me and when you're ready to…" he was saying, but hesitated for a moment.

Curious, she asked at once, "Ready to what?" was her innocent question.

"… To love me." Prince Carl stated.

 

TBC

Chapter Text

Laura

She was too dumbfounded to comment. It never occurred to her that Prince Carl would bring the topic of love. Since she arrived in the Karnstein Kingdom, her mind was prepared for responsibilities and obligations; but not for love.

And since they were already being honest with each other right now…

"To tell you the truth, I feel something for you," she began, weighing her words as he gazed at her with full of hope in his eyes. "I don't know what to call it but…"

"… but it's not love." Prince Carl filled in.

She saw his face turned serious and the brightness in his eyes disappeared. She hated it every time she saw him in his melancholic state, but she does not want to lie to him.

"Not yet. I hope you understand that it is early for me to put a meaning to what I feel." She added and felt his hand released from hers.

"I understand," he whispered and seemed to lose his enthusiasm, and looked down.

Oh god, he is broody again.

She thought and rose from her seat. His expression changed at once, when she kneeled in front of him. She reached for his face and cupped his cheek, and motioned for him to look at her.

"I hope my big wild cat is not mad at me," she asked in her sweetest voice and pouted at him. She received the reaction that she wanted when he smiled and put his lips on hers and felt his hand caressed her hair.

Prince Carl groaned when she released from the kiss. She stood up and walked towards the table in front of them.

"You had forgotten your creampuffs," she reminded and took the plate containing the Prince's favorite sweets.

"I preferred your lips from those sweets," Prince Carl commented, "Or both."

She sat beside him and put the plate on her lap while she faced him, "Well, that could be arranged," she answered with full of confidence and saw the surprised look on the Prince's eyes.

Prince Carl smirked naughtily, "Show me," he dared and faced her direction.

She stared at him, and made sure that his eyes were focused on her. Once she got his full attention, she picked up the little creampuff with her thumb and index fingers and slowly put in her mouth and bit it in between her front teeth; she then moved closer to him and passed the sweet that was in between her lips unto his waiting mouth. She felt his wet lips gently on hers as he received the creampuff and disappeared in his mouth before kissing her.

"Ohh…" Prince Carl expressed while slowly munching the sweet that was melting inside his mouth. "I think that's the best creampuff that I've tasted."

She smiled at the sight of him happily chewing his favorite sweets.

"You want more?" she asked in a deep tone and he nodded while his eyes became darker, staring at her with his heavy lidded smoldering eyes. She lowered her head and stared back at him innocently before picking another sweet and put it on her mouth again and then fed him using her lips.

Prince Carl remained silent as she continued to slowly feed him his favorite sweet using her mouth and lips.

After feeding Prince Carl the creampuffs, she rose and took the goblet with wine instead of the tea. She took a seat beside him and decided to pamper him further by holding the goblet for him, "Your wine, Your Highness." She stated and gave him a naughty grin. He stared at her first and smirked.

"So, are you practicing now serving your future husband?" he asked and raised his left eyebrow.

"Well, I might as well start now," she returned and offered him the drink. "I don't want the future King of Karnstein to complain." She said and he dutifully drunk from the goblet that she was holding for him.

She suddenly felt warm, when she saw him licked his tongue after drinking the wine. There was really something about him that always made her giddy.

"As long as you'll always feed me like this, I would never complain." He teased.

She gave him lop sided grin. "I will never forget, Your Highness."

"By the way, I would be very busy for the next days," Prince Carl related. "I might not be able to see you during daytime. So, I'll just see you at dinner."

Since she arrived in the Karnstein Castle, she never questioned Prince Carl's activities, knowing that he was the future king of this kingdom.

"Thanks for letting me know," she said and put back the goblet on the table. Then returned beside the Prince and settled beside him. Prince Carl wrapped his arm around her and they silently enjoyed each other's company. She rested her head on his shoulder and wrapped her arm around his waist. She noticed that Prince Carl was actually fond of snuggles.

*****

It was Monday and she was grinning like a child; she exited the castle's main door followed by Perry. She always looks forward going to the market; disguising like a commoner made her thrilled and excited at the thought of being just an ordinary person that can roam around the village unnoticed. These frequent trips to the village have been relaxing for her as she was transported to a life of simplicity, carefree, rational, unpretentious, humble and forthright. But most importantly, she liked the genuine and sincere manner of the people she met and befriended with.

If only Carl could experience mingling with the people of this Kingdom.

She told herself, realizing that the Prince might like also spending time in the real world of his Kingdom.

It was more than a week now, and she rarely saw the Prince and missed his company. But she never got bored since she kept herself occupied by her princess' duties. The Queen had slowly introduced her to her upcoming responsibilities once she became officially married to Prince Carl and became the crowned Princess of Karnstein.

As future Queen of Karnstein, she was also worried about the people's suffering and poverty. The Kingdom of Karnstein and Hollis were abundant when it comes to the land's crops and products, but they need to work out on preserving this wealth so as the next generation can still experience the same abundance like the present. She had thought of teaching their people how to take care of their crops properly and to protect and preserve it. And she needed the help of her King to accomplish her plans.

She was about to hop in her carriage when her eyes caught a disturbing sight in the front of the carriage.

"Alfred, why is he clothed like that? I told you they should wear their ordinary clothes when going to the market with us," She demanded looking up and pointing to the person that was sitting already at the coachman's seat, clothed in the familiar Karnstein Royal Guards black trouser, red long sleeve tunic with a black panther with a golden crown embroidered on the chest, black cape and full helmet.

"Forgive me Princess Laura, for not asking your permission," Alfred apologized bowing his head in front of her. "I took the liberty of providing the Princess her 'royal guard betrothed'. After all the questioning from last time, it might be safer for the Princess to have her 'royal guard betrothed' by her side."

"Alfred is right Princess," Perry suggested, stepping beside her. "I think it's about time that you introduce someone as your betrothed, so they would stop inquiring who your beau is." Her Lady in Waiting quipped and gave her a sarcastic grin.

She rolled her eyes, conceded and glanced at the royal guard that was silently sitting on the coachman's seat and gave him an annoyed look before shifting her eyes on Alfred.

"Alright! I just hope you have chosen a guard who is a skilled swordsman…" she blamed her coachman as Alfred held her hand ready to assist her to step in the carriage. "…because I do not want to end up being betrothed to William."

She reasoned out but suddenly felt the carriage moved, and she followed Alfred's sight, thinking it were the horses. But was surprised when she saw the Royal Guard rose from the coach seat and looked intently towards her direction. She crinkled her brows and glared at him, "Alfred, what is wrong with him?"

Alfred fidgeted at the sight of the Royal Guard looking down at them. "Oh, he was just overwhelmed at the thought of fighting for you, Princess Laura," Alfred supplied his voice trembling. "I have mentioned to the guard that he might duel someone for your hand in marriage."

She did not break her stare at the guard, as Alfred explained to her the Royal Guard's odd behavior. "Tell your friend to simmer down." She informed before hopping into the carriage.

As soon as she and Perry were seated comfortably inside the carriage, and felt the carriage moved, she leaned closer to Perry's ear and whispered, "Watch out for that Royal Guard."

Perry gave her a puzzled look and mouthed, "Why?"

"I have a feeling that he cannot control his temper," she mumbled to her Lady in Waiting. "I don't want him to expose our disguise."

"Don't fret, I will take care of it," Perry assured.

"Thanks Perry," she uttered and felt the hand of her Lady in Waiting on top of her hand.

After almost half an hour, she felt the carriage halted and heard Alfred's voice announcing their arrival to the secluded place where they park their carriage and horses. She checked on her window to the left and saw the other royal guards clothed in ordinary clothes that were escorting them. She sighed in contentment as they discreetly dispersed to different directions towards the village after hiding their horses. She was glad that the other guards were obeying her rule of discreet. But her smile vanished as she remembered the Royal Guard that Alfred took with him to pretend to be her beau.

She had forgotten to give him an order and it was too late for her to tell him what to do or not. Perry was already out of the carriage and she rose from her seat and about to go out of the carriage. She lifted her hand to the person outside to assist her on stepping down the carriage, expecting that it was either Bastian or Fritz who usually helps her after climbing down from the back of the carriage. But she was surprised when a black leather gloved hand received her hand and held her gently until she reached the ground and she found the Royal Guard standing too close to her as if blocking her way, "T-thank you." She mumbled and felt a little intimidated at how he towered in front of her with his back straight in those Royal Guard uniform and staring at her.

He was not that tall, perhaps a couple of inches higher than her and even though his face was behind a guard's helmet, she could still feel his eyes penetrating at her and it sent shivers to her skin. She found her composure and looked up at him, "I think it is best that you keep your distance from me, so that it would not draw some attention from the village people."

She did not receive a reply or a nod of obedience, but instead, he stepped aside and let her passed. She walked towards where Perry was standing and handed to her one of the baskets that her Lady in Waiting were holding.

"What was that all about?" Perry asked curious as they resumed walking to the direction of the market square. "Why did he stood there in front of you?"

"That is what I am telling you a while ago," she returned mumbling to Perry. "That guard thinks that I am his betrothed."

"Oh my," Perry began to worry.

She glanced back to check where her personal guards and was surprised to find out that the Royal Guard was trailing proudly behind just five feet away from her, walking with an air of superiority while Alfred, Bastian and Fritz discreetly kept their distance behind the Royal Guard, as if the three were afraid to get closer to this Royal Guard. But she was puzzled when she noticed that the rest of the ten royal guards in their ordinary clothes were encircling them including her personal guards. She noticed also two of them walking in front of them.

"Perry did you forgot to give the other guards their market list?" she asked, while Perry walked cheerfully.

Perry looked at her direction as they strolled along the not so crowded square. She was glad that they were early today and there were not so many people, perhaps due to the heavy downfall early this morning.

"No I have not; I gave each of them their list. Why?"

"Look around you," she ordered, holding Perry by the arm motioning for her Lady in Waiting to walked further so as not to give any hint of suspicions to the guards. "All of the guards are surrounding us."

Perry glanced around her and said, "Oh, calm down Princess, maybe they have forgotten your order." Perry remarked untroubled. "And besides, nobody notice them except that one."

And she knew whom Perry was referring. "I know… it looks like he was enjoying the role."

After several minutes of walking and worrying, they arrived at Lukas' stall and sighed in relief as she saw the smiling face of the old man.

"Good morning Laura! Good morning Perry!" Lukas greeted cheerfully.

"Good morning Lukas," she greeted while Perry smiled and waved at him and stood behind her. "How are you today?"

"Oh, I am fine Laura, just a little worried," Lukas replied.

She furrowed her brows and asked, "Why? What's the matter?" she asked, as she saw the worried expression from the old man.

"It's nothing serious. I am just worried about the weather." The old man stated. "Whenever the weather is bad, a lot of people chose to stay home."

She nodded with concern, understanding how the weather can affect the people's work and trade. "Well, you're in luck! Perry and I are going to make lots of sweets in preparation for the Prince's name day, so I need all the vanilla that you can sell me."

Lukas' worried expression was appeased and he took all the vanilla that he have and packed it and handed it to her. "What would I do without you? I am very happy that you and Perry are working in the castle."

"What would I do without your fabulous vanilla, is what I should be worried about!" she exclaimed as she put the package of vanillas in her basket. "You're the only one who has the best vanilla in the Kingdom and probably in whole Styria."

"The castle never takes an interest on buying my vanillas before," Lukas informed. "I never met a person from the castle's kitchen, until now."

"And how will you know if the buyer is from the castle or not?" She asked growing suspicious.

"Because I know most of the people who live in the village," Lukas explained proudly. "I grew up selling and trading vanillas with my father. This market square is my second home. I ran around here as a child and knew everybody. I talked to every person that I meet." He said as his face lightened up, recalling his childhood days. "And I know that the person is working in the castle when they refuse to talk and just buy what they need; except from you and Perry."

She furrowed her brows and gave Lukas a narrowed look. "And why would they refuse to talk?

"I do not know. But one thing I am sure of is the workers in the castle are very discreet and unapproachable. Most of them live in the castle that is why we never get to know them well. So, imagine my surprise when I learned that you and Perry are working in the castle and talking to us!"

She laughed at Lukas' comment, even if it confused her to learn something about the workers from the castle. "Perry and I just moved in- I mean, we were newly hired by the King, so, we're just new in the castle and did not know those things about the workers."

"Oh, so where are you two from if I may ask?" Lukas returned.

She weighed the situation and contemplated if she was going to tell the truth or not. "We're actually from the Kingdom of Hollis."

"That is far away from here. But how did you two end up working at the Karnstein Kingdom?"

Lukas' curiosity was causing her to fidget she hoped that she would not slip. Then she remembered how King Philipp complimented the Hollis Castle's kitchen workers when he was on a visit and was served by the best sweets and cakes that they have.

"King Philipp was on an official visit to the Kingdom of Hollis. We were working in the kitchen and served his Majesty our famous sweets and cakes. After King Philipp tasted our sweets, he fell in love with it and he asked the King of Hollis if he could recommend some workers from the kitchen to work at the Karnstein Castle's kitchen. That was the reason why Perry and I ended up in here."

To divert the topic from further question, she asked him this time. "So, how long have you been selling vanillas and spices?"

He cleared his head for a while before answering. "Almost forty years," the old man declared.

"Oh!" She and Perry expressed with awed.

Their conversation was interrupted when Perry sought her attention and motioned to the direction of the Royal Guard that was approaching the stall.

Not wanting for him to destroy this day, she reached from her pouch. "How much are the vanillas Lukas?" she asked with a slight of panic in her voice. But it was already too late, when she felt the Royal Guard's presence behind her, invading again her personal space as she felt the warmth of him behind her, and smelled a familiar scent that confused her.

"It is ten silver, but since it's for the Prince's name day celebration, I am giving it to you for seven silver coins." Lukas offered and was about to say more but was suddenly distracted as his gaze focus on the man in front. "Oh, Laura, you brought a Royal Guard with you!"

She rolled her eyes as she saw Lukas staring at the person behind her. Not wanting to give Lukas the impression that she has a personal guard, she decided to go on with their story and the purpose of this Royal Guard.

"Err… Lukas, this is actually my betrothed Car- I mean Marcus." She caught the surprised look on the old man's face and sighed with annoyance.

Why is everybody happy everytime I tell them that I am betrothed!

"That is wonderful Laura!" Lukas expressed and held his hand towards the Royal Guard. "I am Lukas. I am delighted to meet one of the Royal Guards, but I am happier to meet Laura's betrothed."

Her eyes caught the waiting hand of Lukas, and sighed before looking behind her and focused her eyes on the Royal Guard's face.

"Marcus," she called but he seemed not to notice the name. "Marcus, sweetie!" She called and took his right hand and motioned for him to take Lukas' hand. "You should shake the person's hand when you're being introduced."

Finally, he understood and shook Lukas' hand briefly. However, she trembled when the Royal Guard put his right gloved hand on her hips after shaking Lukas' hand. She found herself helpless as she felt his hand touched her possessively.

"Umm… Laura, I think you should pay now." Perry butt in, and she managed to release from the Royal Guard's hand.

She felt a bit warm and yet irritated as he took advantage of the situation. But she was more irritated at herself for not releasing from his hold at once. She dugged her hand into her pouch and counted the silver on her hands. "Here's fifteen Lukas, thank you and have a nice day!" she uttered quickly and smiled at Lukas before the old man can refuse her generosity and waved goodbye to him.

"Thank you so much Laura!"

She heard Lukas' voice and looked behind and nodded. "Let's go!" she instructed Perry and the others and strode towards the market square's fountain, hoping to wash her face and lessen her annoyance. But her luck turned into worse when a man jumped in front of her and kneeled before offering her a red rose.

Can't my day get any worse?!" She groaned looking at the sky, as if complaining to God and closed her eyes.

"My beautiful Laura, have you come to accept my proposal?"

She heard the familiar desperate voice of her ardent suitor. But before she could tell William to go away she felt a hand shove her gently backwards. She opened her eyes and saw the Royal Guard standing in front of her, blocking William from talking to her, as if protecting her from any harm.

"Aha! You have finally showed up!" William taunted the Royal Guard. "I thought you got cold feet."

"William!" She tried catching his attention, to tell him that the deal was off. She was nervous and uncertain about this Royal Guard's sword's skill and forgot to ask Alfred if he was good or not. But she was pushed as far away as possible by the Royal Guard, as she saw him and William drew their swords and was about to start the sword fight.

"I will defend my love for you, Laura!"

She heard William shouted to her direction, before taking the first strike. "Oh Perry, what have I done?" She asked, worried as she felt Perry wrapped an arm around her shoulder while they watched the sword fight between William and the Royal Guard. The Royal Guard was thin compared to William's well-built muscular body.

Why did Alfred chose this guard!?

She berated herself on and on, as they witnessed William's aggressiveness when it came to sword play. "Why is he not attacking?!" she asked Perry, starting to panic at how the Royal Guard just blocked William's strike and then waited for another attack from William.

The Royal Guard seemed to move his wrist and body in an articulate way, as if it was some sort of dance with a sword. While on the other hand, William used his sword like a barbarian, striking and attacking anytime. Her heart beat faster when she saw the crowd formed around to watch the sword fight and heard the people cheering for William.

"William! William! William!"

But she felt a bit relieved when some of the people from the crowd cheered for the Royal Guard; surely most of them were the royal guards in disguise.

"Marcus! Marcus! Marcus!"

It did not take too long after that shouting and cheering, she saw the Royal Guard stroke in a swift motion and cuts inside and moves horizontally and cuts outside just below shoulder height, and from the right he aimed his sword towards William's heart. William just stood there motionless, but was relieved when the Royal Guard released his sword from William and everybody cheered for Marcus.

She released the breath that she was holding when she saw William left the site fuming, while her Royal Guard turned to her direction as if seeking his price.

"I guess you can approach and thank him after fighting for your 'hand in marriage'," she heard Perry's sarcastic remark and gave Perry a pout before walking towards the Royal Guard.

She felt that all eyes were on her as the crowd became silent and waited for her to congratulate her 'Royal Guard betrothed'. Her smile grew wider as she came closer and saw the Royal Guard opened his arms, as if demanding an embrace from her.

This guard is so arrogant!

She thought and reminded herself that most of the spectators knew that she was betrothed to this Royal Guard, so it was just appropriate to give him a hug. So, without further ado, she ran towards him and gave him a decent hug. But she was caught off guard, when she felt him wrapped his arms possessively around her hips and held her tight. Then she felt his left hand went down and touched her buttocks. She was about to push him but he released from the embrace, sensing her uneasiness. But the torture did not end there, after they released from the embrace the crowd began to chant:

"Kiss! Kiss! Kiss!"

This time, she stepped back two feet away from him. She could tolerate the embrace, and the touching of her ass, but kissing a stranger was not an option. She was a princess and betrothed to the future King of Karnstein, she would not allow it. And if Prince Carl found out, he would certainly hang this guard. She twitched and looked down as she saw the Royal Guard kneeled in front of her bowed his head, pulled up the cover of his helmet, her eyes widened when she saw his hand took her right hand and he kissed gently the back of her hand. She was surprised at the softness of his lips as they touch her skin but cringed when she felt his beard rubbed her hand. And before she could take a peek of his face, he put down the cover of his helmet and hid his face again behind it. He stood up and offered his arm to her. She took it gladly and they ignored the crowd's demand:

"Kiss her on the lips!"

They left the crowd and she was thankful that all of the commotion and stress were over. She was just worried how she would tell the Prince if he asks her how her day was. "Thank you by the way," she uttered as they walked towards the market square, her hand still clinging to his arm.

She felt a bit annoyed when she did not receive any reply and he did not even bother to look at her direction while she talked to him. She never uses her status in life to criticize, complain or demand to someone, but this Royal Guard should be taught the proper manner of behaving in the presence of a lady. She was about to reprimand him and order him to take out his helmet, when she felt a pair of little hands enclosed behind her. She stopped and turned around, knowing who it was.

"Emma! It's so nice to see you!" she expressed and took the little girl in her arms. She noticed that Emma might be scared at the presence of the Royal Guard beside her, as the little girl did not utter anything, and glanced at the Royal Guard beside her before whispering something in her ear. She smiled and nodded to the little girl.

"Yes, this is Marcus, the one that I told you."

The little girl gave him a puzzled look and whispered to her ear again. When she met those dark eyes again, she nodded to her. "Yes, he is handsome." This time, the Royal Guard turned his attention to both of them, sensing that they were talking about him. The little girl whispered to her ear again, and this time she did not know what to answer. "I guess you should ask him." She suggested and they turned to his direction.

"Marcus, can you carry me?" Emma asked, opening her arms for him to take her into his arms.

She saw his hesitation, but lifted and passed Emma to him before he could say no. If there was one person she did not want to let down, it was Emma. The Royal Guard could complain to her afterwards, but right now, the little girl looked excited to see and talk to her 'beau' and she would not deny that happiness.

"Come on let's go to your mother." She informed and walked towards her favorite cheese stall. She looked behind her, and saw the rest of the royal guards trailing them.

Where could Perry be? She thought. And before she could worry, she was already near the stall and smiled when she saw Greta waving at them.

"Hello Greta!" She greeted cheerfully as they arrived at the stall.

"Laura! How are you?!" Greta said and stared at the person who was carrying Emma. "And who do we have here?"

"This is Marcus, Mama." Emma informed.

"Your daughter is very smart, she remembered my betrothed," She said, and set her eyes on the Royal Guard who seemed to be uncomfortably carrying Emma, as the child curiously touched his helmet. "Marcus, this is Greta, Emma's mother and one of my favorite people here in the village." This time, he did not forget his manners, and offered his hand to Greta, while he struggled to carry Emma on the other. Greta shook his hand.

She gave him a smile of approval before focusing her attention to Greta.

"It's nice to see him with you," Greta commented. "But it would be nicer if we can see his face." Greta teased her and smiled.

She suddenly felt warm and gave Greta a modest smile and looked to her side to check if the Royal Guard heard what Greta said. She sighed with relief when she saw him standing a few meters away from them. She smiled as Emma continued to explore his helmet and he cannot complain about it.

"He is a little shy," she told Greta. "It is his first time to go publicly with me, so he is not used to it," was her excused.

Greta accepted her reason with a nod. "By the way, where's Perry?" Greta inquired.

"Oh, she's with us, we just went ahead." She said but her attention was interrupted when her ear caught the sound of a metal fell on the ground.

"Laura, you're right, Marcus is handsome!" Emma informed excited.

She turned around and set her eyes quickly at the direction of the Royal Guard and saw him without his helmet.

Her eyes widened and opened her mouth slightly, and dropped the basket that she was carrying as her eyes adjusted at the sight of the person in the Royal Guard's clothes and stared at him with disbelief.

It can't be?! She tried to be rational but her eyes were not lying.

Upon realizing who it was she ran towards him as the shocking truth of the Prince disguising as a Royal Guard unfold before her eyes. She did not know how he managed to calm down and go to the crowded market, but she would surely ask him later on. She was just thankful it was not crowded today, or else, the Prince might have panic and suffered from angst. Her heart melted when she saw him smirking naughtily towards her, while he still struggled carrying Emma.

"Hello Cupcake," he said in his deep enthusiastic raspy voice.

Her heart throbbed as she saw his face still sweating from the helmet that he wore; his hair was more disheveled, but his presence made her warm and fuzzy, "What are you doing here? And why didn't you tell me?" she asked, panicking that he was outside of the castle. "Are you alright? How do you feel? Do you want to go home? Can you breathe normally?"

"Why Laura, is Marcus sick?" Emma asked curiously, stopping from touching the Prince's beard.

She had forgotten that they were not alone, and she quickly replied to the little girl. "No Emma. Marcus is not sick he is just not use to going out and meeting a lot of people. He gets tired easily when he is with lots of people."

"Cupcake I'm fine, stop worrying." He assured her and cringed a bit as the little girl on his arms pinched his cheeks.

"Are you sure?" she asked still anxious.

He nodded and then lifted his left eyebrow. "By the way, you still owe an explanation why another man was proposing to you." He said in a serious manner, and then smirked, "And you owe me also a kiss after that sword fight."

She smiled and her nervousness disappeared after hearing the last phrase. She obliged and tiptoed in front of him as she put her lips on his and gave him a well-deserved kiss, while he balanced Emma on his arms. "Stay there. I'll be right back. And I'm going to explain everything when we get home." She ordered and saw Emma blocked his sight as the girl touched the Prince's hair with fascination.

When she turned around to the direction of the stall, Perry had already arrived and upon seeing her, her Lady in Waiting walked towards her.

"Where's Emma? I have her creampuffs here," Perry said, carrying a pouched with sweets. "Oh, there she is!" and walked towards where Emma and focused her eyes on the pouched while unwrapping the sweet.

Suddenly, she forgot to inform Perry and followed her Lady in Waiting and was about to warn her that the Prince was the Royal Guard. But she was already too late, when Perry stood frozen in front of the Prince who was disguised as the Royal Guard.

"Your Royal High-" Perry had uttered in shock.

"Yes Perry, I am the Royal Highness' guard." The Prince finished the sentence for Perry and glared at the Lady in Waiting.

She did not know if somebody heard it. But she needed to rescue Perry from the shocking presence of the Prince, as her Lady in Waiting remained in awe in front of the Prince and Emma.

"Perry, where's that creampuff that you're going to give to Emma?" she asked as she touched Perry's shoulder.

"Perry!" Emma shouted. "Did you bring me Prince Carl's favorite food?

Suddenly she saw the Prince gave her a suspicious look, and then smirked at her when she gave him a bashful smile.

"Um… yes Emma, here you go," Perry said and awkwardly gave the sweet to Emma while the Prince looked at them smirking.

"Come on Perry, Greta is going to show us the new cheeses that she made." She informed and guided Perry towards the stall, Perry almost bowed to the Prince before leaving; she just stopped her from doing it.

"Perry, are you alright?" Greta asked right away seeing Perry was still in shock.

"Don't worry about her," she answered right away standing beside Perry. "Perry met someone a while ago and she cannot stop thinking about him."

She had not a chance yet to check the cheese when they heard Emma shouted. "Mama! Marcus likes creampuffs too!"

They all looked to the little girl's direction as she saw the Prince approached closer to the stall and stood on her right while still holding Emma. Her heart melted when she saw the Prince's mouth and the beard around his mouth was covered with cream, while Emma's face and hands were covered with chocolates and cream. Emma took another bit from the pouch of goodies and licked the chocolate on top, then put the rest of the creampuff on the Prince's mouth, while Prince Carl accepted the sweets and ate it without complaint. They all laugh at the sight of the Prince and Emma sharing the creampuffs.

"Emma, sweetie, be careful, you're putting cream all over Marcus' face," Greta warned, and took Emma, "What would the Prince say when Marcus returns to the castle and sees his Royal Guard like that?"

"I think the Prince would get envy if he sees me eating creampuffs like this," Prince Carl commented at once.

"Come here," she ordered the Prince to face her, and took a white handkerchief from her pouch and began wiping the cream on his mouth. She smiled at the thought of him being 'dirty' and messy. She had never seen him so disheveled before. "I think I'm beginning to like your 'messy' look." She whispered and kissed him on the lips. They both got carried away and temporarily forgot that they were not alone, until they heard Emma chiming and they stopped kissing.

"Marcus! Can you take me to see the cows?" Was the little girl's excited remark as they saw the herd of cows passing through the middle of the market square.

"Do you want to sit on my shoulders?" The Prince asked with a thrill in his eyes and received an excited nod from the little girl.

"It looks like you're the one who is more excited to see the cows than Emma," she accused playfully.

"Do you know that one of my favorite animals are cows?" He returned, taking Emma from Greta's arms and carefully put the girl on his shoulders. "Come on Creampuff, we've got some cows to watch!"

She stood there by the stall and watched the Prince carry Emma while they headed to the middle of the market square. She noticed right away the royal guards discreetly followed Prince Carl and encircled the Prince right away, while Bastian and Fritz remained by her side. When she saw Alfred trailing behind Prince Carl, she sighed with relief.

"Laura, is something wrong? You looked worried?" Greta asked at once.

"No, nothing is wrong," she returned hiding her worries of how Prince Carl would manage to calm down once it get crowded.

Sensing her troubled state, Perry took her basket and offered to stay. "Laura, I could choose and buy the cheese that we need. You can join his Ro- I mean, Marcus and Emma."

"Alright," she answered right away and looked at Greta before leaving the stall. "We'll be back with Emma."

*****

It turned out that it did not get crowded in the market square as it should be. She was wondering why there were few people who showed up. But otherwise she was thankful that Prince Carl was able to enjoy strolling around the market square like a commoner. She was impressed also with the royal guards in their 'commoner clothes' that were guarding them carefully.

"You seemed to be enjoying your little tour," she teased, as they walk side by side along the market square her hands clutched in Prince Carl's arm. "If I haven't known, I would have said that you have already been here many times."

"I actually did." Was his simple reply.

She was surprised and stopped to face the prince. "I beg your pardon?"

"I have been in the market lately," the Prince replied smirking as if teasing her of not knowing the truth. "I and LaFontaine."

"And why didn't you tell me?" She demanded, and put her arms on her hips. "I was so worried that you might have some panic attack or something, because I thought that this is your first time to come out in the village, and the thought of you thinking that it was dangerous to come in the village would make you nervous and send you to frenzy and-"

A pair of soft lips halted her from babbling and scolding and she found herself drawn to the kiss and forgot his little crime.

"Young man,"

A frail voice of a woman caught their attention and they both released from the kiss and faced where the sound came from. Right beside them stood an old woman looking at the Prince's direction.

"Can you help me carry this sack of wheat to my house?" The old woman requested. "I think I hurt my back trying to carry it."

"Certainly," Prince Carl took the heavy load right away and swayed it over his shoulder, it caused the royal guards at once to react and Alfred already signaled the royal guard that was nearest to the Prince to take the load. The royal guard was already approaching the Prince to take the heavy sack from him, when the Prince shook his head and signaled for the royal guard to go back to his position. "This is quite heavy. You should not carry this thing you might break your bones." Prince Carl replied his voice thick with worry.

"I know, but my husband was ill and we do not have wheat to make our bread," the old lady reasoned out, while rubbing her back.

"I think you should take a rest for a while," she suggested and led the old woman in the nearest rock and sat there. "My name is Laura and this is Marcus," she introduced themselves while the royal guards remained their distance discreetly. "Don't you have a son or a daughter that could help you when you go to the market square to buy foods?"

"My name is Martha. No, it was just me and my husband. My son died in the forest protecting the King," the old woman related and diverted her attention to Prince Carl. "That's why when I saw you it reminded me of my son."

"Our condolences to you and your husband," she said right away sensing that it affected the Prince to hear what the old woman just told them. "May we know when your son died?"

"It was a long time ago, but I still miss him. Especially when I see some Royal Guards," the old woman relayed. "You reminded me of my son, strong and brave."

The Prince nodded quietly, he seemed to be contemplating on something, but she turned her attention to the old woman again. "How are you feeling now?"

"I feel much better, thank you."

She looked at the sky and it was beginning to get dark. "Why don't you tell us where you live and we could help and come with you?"

The old woman nodded and held her hand, showing them the way, as Prince Carl walked beside her and the rest discreetly trailing behind. "Is it far from here?" She asked worrying that Prince Carl cannot endure the long walk while carrying a heavy sack of wheat.

"No, it's just around the corner of the Church," the old woman pointed out the little church of the village.

And then she faced Prince Carl who was walking quietly. She gave him a worried look before asking, "Are you sure you don't need your horse to put that?"

"Certainly not! I have strong muscles to carry this sack," he replied proudly.

After a quarter of minutes, they arrived at a small cabin, while Alfred and the rest of the royal guards encircled the house and peeked inside as discreetly and fast they can. After checking that it was safe for them to come in, Alfred nodded to the Prince and they followed the old woman who was already inside the cabin. Once they were inside, she was surprised to see how cozy and warm the old woman's cabin was.

"Where should I put this?" Prince Carl informed right away, referring to the sack on his back.

"You can put it beside the table over there." The old woman returned.

The house was small so it was easy to see at once where the kitchen and the dining area and receiving area.

"I apologize that I have neither ale nor bread to offer both of you," Martha relayed as they stood in the middle of the house.

"Oh no! We are fine!" She disclosed.

"I feel awful asking Marcus to help me and I cannot even give him ale," was Martha's confession.

Prince Carl faced the old woman and said, "I tell you what, the next time we come in the market square, Laura and I would visit you and we are going to bring some ale and bread. Would that lessen your worries?"

The old lady nodded and was almost in tears after that offer. "It would be a pleasure to have both of you visiting me again. And thank you for helping me. You are both kind and generous."

"It was nothing Martha," she said to Martha, and took out her pouch of coins. She gave the whole pouch with silver coins to the confused old woman and looked at her.

"What's this?" The old lady asked.

"It's a little gift from me and Marcus," she started and hoped that Martha would not ask further. "We work at the castle and the King always gives us extra coins for ourselves when we do our errands in the market. Maybe next time, you can buy some bread that is already baked, so that you don't need to carry a heavy load of wheat to make your food. And to buy some medicine for your ill husband."

And before she could finish talking, she felt the old woman's hands wrapped around her. "Thank you so much." Martha replied and was almost in tears.

After the old woman gathered her composure, she led her to sit on the chair. "It was nice meeting you Martha. But we have to leave now since it is already growing dark. Will you be alright now?"

"Yes, do not worry."

"Good bye Martha and take care of yourself," Prince Carl said and gave the old woman a hug before walking out of the little cabin.

She was surprised to see the Prince mingled with a commoner and never expected that he could be approachable. She remembered that the Prince considered the people in the village as savages, but after witnessing how Prince Carl interacted with some of the locals, she now knew that his notion about the people in the village had changed.

Once they were outside, she hooked her arm in his and kissed his cheek.

Confused, "What's that for?" Prince Carl asked.

"For being an amazing person," she stated and smiled at him sweetly.

*****

When they arrived at the castle, she informed Perry to go ahead and asked her Lady in Waiting if Perry could send someone to bring some refreshments in the tea room. She wanted to take a rest first with the Prince before they get clean and change to their normal clothes.

"Come on," she informed Prince Carl as she pulled him by his hand on the way to the long dimly lit hall to the tearoom. She was thankful that this hall does not have a guard except by the entrance of the tearoom.

"Cupcake, why are we running?" he whined.

"Because…" she said and when she saw the little dark corner where Prince Carl took her and kissed her, she looked around her. Once she knew that they were alone, she pulled Prince Carl on the corner and put her arms around the back of his neck, "I want to do this." She said in a deep voice before she kissed him.

She felt Prince Carl pushed her gently on the wall and put his hands on her hips, and was careful not to get his crotch too close to her.

"Cupcake, what's gotten into you?" he asked in between kisses. "It's not that I'm complaining, but I never expected that you would assault me here in the dark corner."

She released from their gentle kiss, after hearing him teased her. "I just want to reward my Royal Guard beau for fighting William." She said and grinned at him, but was suddenly alarmed at the changed of expression on him after she mentioned William's name. Now she regretted it.

Damn it! Me and my big mouth!

The playful mood between them had disappeared as she saw him glared at her, his brows wrinkled and his smirk faded.

"What does that imbecile wants from you?" Prince Carl asked his voice authoritative and serious.

"Nothing, he was just teasing me, I guess," she said looking at his eyes and still resting her arms on his nape, careful of the words that she was using to avoid upsetting him further.

"Did he touch you?" Prince Carl demanded.

"No!" she answered right away, as she felt his gloved hand tightened its hold on her hips. "And I will never allow any man to touch me." Then she saw him raised his left eyebrow, and huffed as if not convinced of her words.

Irritated, "But you let me touched, embraced and kissed your hand while I'm disguised as a guard," he replied.

She gave him a sheepish look but defended herself right away. "I did. Because I need to pretend and convinced them that this Royal Guard is my beau," she reasoned out. "While I still don't know that it's you, I was very annoyed and irritated when this Royal Guard put his hand on my hips. And when you put your hand on my buttocks, I want to push you. But I needed to control myself because I needed to pretend that you're my beau. But deep inside I was mad and was thinking that My Prince would be furious when he finds out that I let some Royal Guard touched me. And when the crowd were shouting and asking you to kiss me, I said to myself that I would slap you in the face if this Royal Guard kissed me!"

After that honest declaration, she felt Carl's gloved hand touched her neck gently, as if marking his claim on her while the other hand remained on her waist. Her hair was still tied up in a messy pony tail and it gave his right hand more access on her sensitive neck. The feeling of the Prince's leather gloved hand touching slowly her bare neck gave her goose bumps. Then she felt Carl's hand touched her hair and pulled it gently to the side so as to show more the creaminess of her neck. The sensation of his warm breath on her neck made her knees weak. She closed her eyes as the anticipation of what Carl was going to do next and dominating her body aroused her. And the next thing she felt was his teeth sinking on her neck and sucking it; the sensation was very different from the previous times that the Prince nipped and nibbled on her neck. This time it was very possessive and somewhat aggressive and yet erotic. She did not know how many times Carl bit and sucked her neck, but she was becoming dizzy as he continued to devour her neck, and his right hand found her breast and started to knead it.

"Carl…" she whispered as her hands caressed his nape.

"You're mine Laura," Prince Carl declared as his kisses became hungrier.

His voice sounded dangerous and she knew that she needed to reassure him that she would always be his. She managed to cup his face and stopped him from nibbling more on her neck, before she cannot control herself of the maddening sensation that Carl's mouth was doing in her body. She brought his lips on hers and kissed him gently to pacify him. When she finally felt him calmed down, she released from the kiss and gazed at him while still gently holding his face.

"Carl, I promise that I would always be yours no matter what happened," she uttered and smiled at him and saw the wrinkle on his brows faded.

"I don't want you to talk to that imbecile again," he said, his voice gentle now.

She felt his hands wrapped around her waist, drawing her closer to her, but not too close to touch his crotch.

"I won't, I promise," she returned and kissed him, and realized how insanely jealous Carl could get when she was around men. She thought that he was just jealous of Prince Viktor, but it turned out that the Prince was very territorial and dangerously possessive. The thought of it thrilled her, but at the same time scared her a little when his temper gets out of control and was consumed by jealousy. Their kiss was rudely interrupted when they heard a gasped followed by a loud sound of metal and jug and other things dropped on the floor.

"What the?!" she expressed and released from the kiss and looked over Prince Carl's shoulder to see who it was. Prince Carl did not even bother to turn around to check it and as usual did not let her go.

"Don't tell me that it's LaFontaine again, because I swear they-" the Prince was saying.

But she lovingly cupped his left cheek with her right hand, to calm and stop him from talking, he managed to still and kept quiet, while she looked closely to the person that was finished gathering the things that fell on the ground and rose. She smiled when she recognized the face of one of her handmaids looking at her direction with shocked and bewilderment.

"Sarah Jane, what are you doing here? Are you alright?" she asked, worried at how her handmaid stared at her as if Sarah Jane had witnessed a crime.

"With all due respect Princess Laura, I don't think Prince Carl would like it if he finds out that you're kissing a guard," Sarah Jane related, her voice shaking. "He might hang you for being unfaithful and I don't want to lose a friend and our Princess."

She smiled and saw Prince Carl rolled his eyes in front of her. But the Prince did not turn around and just smirked at her.

"Thank you for your concern Sarah Jane," she started and tried to suppress the laugh that was threatening to come out of her mouth. "You are truly a good friend. But I don't think you need to worry about me being hanged."

"What do you mean Princess?" was Sarah Jane's confused remark.

She turned Carl around and let him finally faced Sarah Jane to enlightened her handmaid. "Because the guard that I am kissing is actually Prince Carl!" she exclaimed as she giggled.

"Your Highness! Forgive me for being impertinent. I did not know that it is you, Your Highness," was Sarah Jane's nervous reply and bowed upon recognizing the Prince.

"Prince Carl, allow me to introduce one of my hand maids and childhood friends, Sarah Jane," she said after regaining her composure.

"You may look at me Sarah Jane," Prince Carl said seeing that Sarah Jane was still bowing her head. "It's a pleasure to meet you. And I like to thank you for being considerate and honest." Prince Carl commented and smirked at them. "Now I know that I could count on you in case my Cupcake here decides to kiss someone else aside from me."

"Hey! I would never do that," she quipped and playfully slapped Carl's arm.

"I'm just kidding Cupcake," Prince Carl said and wrapped his arms around her to console her.

She felt warm and happy at the feeling of Carl's arms protectively around her. But she suddenly became worried when she remembered the sight of that woman, Ell, touching her Prince in a very intimate way. She had not fully seen what the woman's hand was doing to Prince Carl's private part. And during that time she does not care. But what if, it happened again? What if Prince Carl touched or even looked at another woman aside from her? What would she feel then?

 

TBC

Chapter Text

Carmilla

The heralding of the trumpet in the whole kingdom could still be heard to wake up the whole kingdom, but she was already up and dressed for her celebration and was already nagging LaFontaine.

"How about the creampuffs, did Perry baked lots of them?" was the first thing she asked while descending the grand staircase of the castle. "I promised Emma that I'll bring lots of them the next time I go to the village."

"Yes, Perry and the bakers had been baking since the other day," LaFontaine replied while checking their list. "They've packed already half of it-"

"What do you mean half of it?" Was her irritated reaction upon finding out that her Valet did not follow her order. "I told you to pack everything; I don't want them to get hungry."

"Don't worry, Perry had baked some cupcakes too and they were already packed and ready," LaFontaine replied. "Perry said that Her Majesty ordered the kitchen to make some creampuffs too for tonight's celebration. That's why she needed to save half of it, since we don't have enough ingredients to make more creampuffs."

"As long as it's enough to feed the whole village," she said as they reached the Great Hall and took the exit to the hallway where the servants used going to the side door of the castle. She does not want her parents to know where she was going today,"…How about the ales and beers?"

"Alfred had already taken care of them, and appointed some of the guards in uniform to distribute it upon your arrival in the village, like they used to do. Then you can join them, so that it would look like you and Princess Laura were part of the servants and guards from the castle who distribute food and drinks to the village in celebration of your name day."

"And the pies, bread and sausages, are they all prepared?"

"Everything is prepared and ready. I have delegated all the distribution to the Royal Guards in uniform and instructed them how they will give the food and drinks," LaFontaine explained. "And I asked Armitage to bring extra guards in their ordinary clothes to guard you and the Princess since it would be crowded in the village due to your name day celebration."

"Who's Armitage?" she wondered.

"He's the new knight that His Majesty selected to be your guard every time you would go out."

She stopped and faced LaFontaine, suddenly annoyed. "What do you mean my guard? I don't need one," she exclaimed and then realized something. "Did my King Father know that I went to the village?"

LaFontaine just nodded in silence.

She glared at her Valet. "But how did he found out?!" was her exaggerated remark and ran her fingers through her hair.

"Apparently, His Majesty received a tip and got worried that the heir to the throne was roaming around the village for the first time."

"Who's that traitor who told my King Father? I am going to hang him!" was her furious remark and balled her fist. She thought that she managed to keep her secret from her parents. "I told Alfred and all the guards not to mention it to the King, why can't they obey my order?!"

"It was Princess Laura who told the King."

"What?" she cannot believe what she just heard.

"The Princess was worried for you since you never set foot in the village," LaFontaine started to explain. "She's afraid that you might have panic attack and she does not know how to protect you."

"But that's insane!" she retorted, growing mad at how the people around her were treating her like a weak child. "I could take care of myself and I have managed to overcome my angst, what more do they want?"

"They just want to make sure that nothing bad will happen to you, in case something goes wrong."

"Does my Queen Mother know about this as well?" was her irritated remark as she breathed rapidly.

"No. Her Majesty does not know about it," LaFontaine assured. "Princess Laura told His Majesty about her daily trip to the village dressed as a commoner and begged the King not to tell anybody, since she does not want the Queen to worry."

She sighed and was very relieved to hear it. The Queen was over protective when it comes to her and she does not want her mother to get involved in this little secret of hers and Laura's. She was about to complain how all the people around her thinks that she was helpless, but was distracted when her eyes were suddenly covered by a hand from behind.

What the-?! She stopped and the next thing she felt was a pair of soft lips kissed her on her right cheek, and the hand was removed.

"Happy name day!" Laura exclaimed and stood in front of her.

All her anger and irritation disappeared as she saw the beautiful ecstatic little ball of sunshine in front of her, giggling and jumping in front of her. Laura moved closer and hugged her before kissing her on the lips. She put her hands around the Princess' hips and enclosed Laura in her arms.

"Happy name day, My Prince," Laura mumbled. "Why is my big wild cat being broody on his name day?"

Laura cupped her face and gazed at her. Every time she feels Laura touching her face, she melts at the contact and everything in her body just calms down. The Princess surely knew how to pacify her.

"Nothing," she uttered softly and smiled. "And thank you."

"Are you excited to go now?!" Laura asked cheerfully.

"Not as excited as you," was her sarcastic remark. It was Laura's first time also to witness how the castle distributes food and drinks in the village every time the King, the Queen or her celebrate their name day. It had been a tradition in their kingdom to declare it as an official feast day.

"Of course I'm excited! It's my first time to celebrate it as a commoner and I'll be celebrating it with you! And there would be lots of cupcakes and creampuffs!" Was the Princess' hyper reply.

"Cupcake, you're unbelievable!" she said and cannot fathom where all these energy comes from, as Laura began to drag her out of the door, too excited to go to the village.

Once they come out of the side door of the castle, four horse drawn carriages, around twenty Royal Guards in uniform and an additional thirty guards in their ordinary clothes were already waiting for them. She walked to the carriage where Alfred, and the other two guards that guards Laura were standing. Alfred bowed to her before handing her a Royal Guard's helmet.

"Happy name day, Your Highness," Alfred said after bowing.

"Thank you Alfred," she gave him a smile and nodded. Among the Royal Guards, Alfred was the one who had been there with her since she was young. That was why she respected him like a father. She was about to put on her helmet to complete with her Royal Guard disguise but suddenly remembered something. "Where's this Armitage?" she asked LaFontaine who was standing behind her.

"He's the one who's clean shaven and clean cut, wearing a black tunic and black beret," LaFontaine informed, discreetly looking at the knight's direction.

She stared at the knight for a while and studied him, before turning to Laura. She took the Princess' hand and guided Laura like a knight to the carriage, once Laura was inside the carriage, she turned around and was about to climb to the driver's seat beside Alfred, but was confused when she saw her Valet stepped inside the carriage and sat beside Laura.

Confused, "What are you doing?" she asked her Valet. "I didn't ask you to go with me." She said and had a hunch that LaFontaine was planning on something.

"…But I did," Laura chimed in. "Perry is busy preparing for the banquet for tonight, and I needed someone to help us."

LaFontaine just grinned at her.

After hearing those words from the Princess, she just rolled her eyes, put on the helmet and did not complain nor question them anymore. She knew that those two had already planned it ahead of time and just wants to make sure that she would be alright, in case it gets over crowded at the village. She climbed at the driver's seat and sat beside Alfred and ordered him to drive.

After almost half an hour, she found herself entering the village. All the Royal Guards in disguised had encircled her, Laura and LaFontaine while they marched together with the other Royal Guards in uniform who were assigned to distribute the food and ales. As they walked closer, the noise became louder and before they could reach the town square, she was amazed when she saw that the village people were already starting the feast!

She gawked at the sight in front of her and cannot believed how cheerful and delighted the people in the village celebrating her name day compared to the boring people that they invite in the castle. There were many tables and chairs that were put outside and people were drinking, eating, cooking, and grilling food outside. A lot of children were playing and running, some of them were watching puppet show or playing with small animals.

The whole village was decorated with the Karnstein's banners and flags of different colors added to the colorful sight. There were groups of men and women who were dancing too while the troubadours sung and played their instruments. She was fascinated when she witnessed some men juggling wooden spheres in their hands. Her interest was piqued when she saw one juggled with torch of fire in his hands and was amazed how the man does not burn himself. She spotted also two men dressed in black shirt and stockings, and their faces were covered with white powder. They looked like they were acting out a story through body motions without a speech. There were a lot of entertainments going on in the village and she was overwhelmed how the commoners, even if they do not have fancy clothes and fancy foods and drinks, they looked happier and more satisfied.

"Carl! This is amazing!" Laura said, standing beside her on her right, looking at the sight and fascinated.

"I know Cupcake, and I don't have any idea that it's like this," she responded, and held Laura's hand as they walked slowly into the crowd. While LaFontaine remained in awe and silently walked on her left side.

As they approached the town square the crowd began to gather, as the royal guards began to distribute the food and drinks. It looked like all the people in the village were outside and celebrating. It was not this cramped the last time she was here.

Suddenly she felt an intense wave of fear. She began to feel dizzy and felt like she was going to throw up. Her whole body began to shake and she could not catch her breath. She gripped Laura's hand tight.

"Carl? What's happening?!" Laura asked worried and held her tight.

"Take out his helmet!" LaFontaine ordered the Princess.

And Laura removed it at once. Then she felt LaFontaine put their arms protectively around her as they guided them out of the maddening crowd; while Alfred and the other guards quickly and discreetly formed a circle around them to protect them from the growing crowd.

She felt like her heart was pounding out of her chest.

"He's having a panic attack; we need to get him out of here." LaFontaine suggested.

"But it's already too far to go back to the carriage!" was Laura's anxious remark.

*****

"Marcus?"

She heard a voice beside her but cannot decipher who it was. She tried to slowly move her head to the direction of the sound.

"Marcus?"

She heard it again and was wondering why she was being called by her third name. She opened her eyes as it adjusted to the light and saw a pair of dark eyes staring at her. Then she recognized who it was.

"Creampuff," she mumbled and smiled at the little girl that was slowly capturing her heart.

"Laura! Mama! Marcus is awake!" Emma shouted over the room and left her.

Seconds later, Laura was kneeling beside her and stroking her hair. "Hey, how's my big wild cat?" Laura uttered softly, and looked at her with full of worries. "You scared me."

She just smiled and felt Laura's lips on hers. "Cupcake, I'm fine…stop worrying," she expressed and tried to get up, and found herself lying on a small low bed. "Where am I?" she asked as her eyes roamed around the four walls of the room which seemed to be the bedroom, dining room and kitchen as well.

"We're at Greta's house," Laura replied and helped her up to sit. "Try not to move yet. LaFontaine is getting some herbs for the nausea."

"What happened?" She asked.

"You've had a panic attack," Laura related. "And then you passed out. We took you here since Greta's house is the only place I know that's safe."

"Did someone notice it?" she asked at once, not wanting to expose their secret.

"No," Laura assured her and held her hand. "We managed to pull you out of the crowd, as quickly and discreetly as possible. I'm just thankful that Greta and Emma were still at home and haven't gone out yet."

"Who carried me?"

"It was Alfred," Laura filled in. "He was beside you right away when you began to shake."

She felt relieved at once upon learning that it was Alfred who took care of her. If there was someone who knew her secret aside from LaFontaine, it was Alfred. She was about to ask more but was interrupted by a cheery voice that screamed inside the room.

"Marcus!"

The dark haired little girl returned inside the house and hugged her at once upon seeing her sitting on the bed.

"Hey, Creampuff, thanks for letting me sleep in your bed," she said while Emma was still hugging her.

"Laura said that it's your name day too!" the girl said with too much excitement, and totally ignored what she said.

She glanced at Laura and totally oblivious at what was happening now.

"While you were sleeping, Emma and I had a little chat," Laura said and put the little girl on her lap. "She knew that today is Prince Carl's name day. And she got curious when are mine and yours; so, I told her that today is your name day too!"

She smiled to both the ladies that were sitting beside her, and then she suddenly realized that she does not even know when Laura's name day was. Not wanting to put herself in an embarrassing situation of not knowing when was Laura's name day, she asked the little girl instead.

"Yes, that's true, today is my name day too," she said looking at the dark haired girl beside her. "Did you found out when is Laura's name day?"

"Yes! It's the 10th of August!" Emma proudly answered.

"Is that right?" she asked and they both looked at the Princess' direction. Laura nodded and just smiled at them. "How about you Creampuff, when is your name day?"

"Mine is on the 4th of October," Emma declared and asked, "Can you and Laura and Perry and LaFontaine come to my name day?"

"Of course Creampuff!" she exclaimed and received a hug from Emma.

"Yay!"

"What's this commotion all about?"

They heard Greta's voice as the woman entered the room carrying a bowl, put it on the table and sat at the chair across them beside the little dining table.

"Mama! I invited them to my name day!" was Emma's hyper remark.

"Oh, sweetie, Laura and Marcus works at the castle, they need to ask first the permission of the King or Queen if they are going to take a free day from work," Greta explained. "And Marcus has a very important job since he is one of the guards of the Prince, he cannot just leave Prince Carl alone."

She heard Greta explained and glanced at Laura.

"Greta, I'm sure we could fix our schedule since we still have time to ask permission from their majesties, isn't it Marcus?" Laura asked and winked at her.

"You heard what Laura said Creampuff," she said right away to Emma, whose smile came back. "I'll ask the Prince right away when I come back to the castle if I can be free from work on your name day."

"Thanks Laura! Thanks Marcus!" Emma exclaimed and gave them both a hug and remained on her lap, and curiously touched her face, beard and hair, like the first time she and Emma met.

"How are you feeling now, Marcus?" Greta asked.

"I feel better now, thank you very much for letting me stay and sleep on Emma's bed," she said, assuming that it was the little girl's bed.

Greta smiled at them, "Actually it's mine and Emma's bed. That's where we sleep," Greta informed.

"Oh, well, thank you for letting me sleep in your bed," she said and felt embarrassed at having to sleep in a woman's bed and glanced at Laura who was giggling beside her. "And I hope you don't mind that I slept on your bed," she added and knew that she was blushing by the amused reaction of Laura.

"Yes Greta, imagine what would people say when they found out that a Royal Guard had slept on your bed," Laura chimed in, while still giggling. "They might think that you brought a man in your house and invited him in your bed; that would be a scandal!"

This time she glared at Laura, as she was teased and put in an awkward position. She did not know what the people would say if someone, especially a man who was not their husband, sleep on a woman's bed. She was brought up to be a proper gentleman and she does not want to put Greta in an awkward situation in case someone found out that she 'slept' on Greta's bed.

"I am just being polite here," she returned and faced Laura. "What if someone found out and spread a gossip. I don't want to ruin Greta's reputation."

"Calm down Marcus, nobody's going to know," Greta smiled and assured her. "And besides, the first thing I'm going to worry about is how Laura is going to react if she heard the news that you slept on my bed. But since Laura is here, I am not afraid if they would gossip about it."

"Oh, My Prince, you should have seen your face in the mirror, you're so worried and so adorable!" was Laura's enthusiastic remark.

"Marcus, why did Laura called you 'My Prince'?"

Suddenly, there was silence as all eyes were on hers. Laura was having some fun and did not actually think about refraining from using the endearment.

She looked at the little girl and said, "Because in Laura's eyes, I am her prince charming."

"And in Marcus' eyes, I am his princess," Laura added.

"Can I call also my beau, 'my prince'?" was Emma's innocent query.

"Sweetie, you're still young, you shouldn't be thinking about these things," Greta said. "Laura and Marcus are grown-ups and would be married soon. They can use whatever endearments they want."

"That's right Creampuff, a young girl like you shouldn't think about a beau," she added playfully lecturing the girl in front of her. "Wait until you grow up, then you can call your beau, whatever you want to call him."

"But I already have a beau!" Emma retorted.

"Emma! What are you saying?" Greta criticized at once.

"I'm sure Emma is just telling us whom she likes" Laura filled in, to lighten the situation. "So tell us, who is your beau?"

"It's Prince Carl!" Emma declared.

She felt suddenly shy and at the same time flattered.

"Umm… Marcus, I forgot to tell you that Emma wants the Prince of Karnstein to be her beau," Laura said, and pretended to be serious.

"Is that true, Creampuff?" She asked and stared at the little girl on her lap who was blushing. Emma just nodded. "But you haven't seen the Prince yet, how would you know that you like him?"

"Because Laura told us that the Prince is very handsome," Emma reasoned out.

"Laura said that?" she asked and then glanced at the Princess. "I am jealous now that Laura told you that the Prince is more handsome than me."

"Hey, I didn't say that Prince Carl is more handsome than you," Laura retaliated. "I told Emma that Prince Carl is very handsome. But you are very very handsome, and even more handsome than the Prince!"

"Don't you agree Greta?" Laura focused her sight on Greta who was silently having some fun watching and listening to them.

"I agree, I think Marcus is very handsome even if we haven't seen the Prince of Karnstein yet," Greta retaliated and looked at them, as if contemplating. "Marcus, excused me for asking this, I know that it's inappropriate, but you can choose not to answer it. Since you're guarding the Prince, I am just curious why he hasn't set foot yet in the village and why he doesn't like to go out of the castle's perimeters? Is he afraid of something?"

This time, the atmosphere grew serious and she saw the worried look on Laura's face as Greta waited for her to answer. She knew that Laura was nervous at how Greta innocently asked the question that she was avoiding all the time.

"I could be punished, or worst, I could be hanged for telling very sensitive information about the Prince-" she explained and saw the worried look on Greta's face.

"Oh Marcus, I'm sorry, don't tell me. It's alright, I wouldn't ask any more about the Prince," Greta interrupted and seemed to regret asking that question. "I am just overwhelmed knowing that you two works in the castle, and the thought of knowing how the royal family is makes me curious, especially the Prince, since we haven't seen him yet. I am sorry that I put your lives in danger due to this foolish question of mine."

Suddenly, it was she who grew curious. "Does it bother you or anyone else from the village that the Prince hasn't showed himself to the people?" she asked in an authoritative tone that she always used.

Greta looked uncomfortable and took time to reply. "Marcus, please forgive me if I have offended you. You sounded annoyed-"

"No, I am not annoyed and you did not offend me," she corrected right away and changed the tone of her voice into a deep and less authoritative tone that she was used to.

And before they could continue their conversation, LaFontaine's arrival distracted them and Emma walked towards them.

"LaFontaine! What are those?" Emma asked eyeing on the box on their right hand and a little jug on the left.

"Oh, do you have the creampuffs that Perry packed for Emma?" Laura asked and stood from where she was sitting and took the box of sweets and returned to where she was sitting. "Emma, come here," the Princess called and Emma sat on Laura's lap as they both opened the box of sweets.

"Yes, I also have some tea with herbs that could calm you down and lessen the nausea," LaFontaine informed and sat beside Greta.

"I think I'm fine and don't need it anymore," she said but received a glare from Laura. "Alright, give it to me, before Laura lectures me," she said and took the jug with warm tea and started to drink it.

"Oh, I almost forgot, I have a bowl of hot soup for you, Marcus," Greta was about to stand and fetch it.

"Greta, it's alright, you don't have to-"

"Nonsense, you're going to eat it so that you'll have some energy," Greta said and fetched the bowl of soup and handed it to her with a spoon. "Laura told me that you have forgotten to eat, because all of you needed to go right away to distribute the food and drinks. That's why you felt dizzy and passed out. You need to put something in your stomach before you go back out there."

She had no choice but to accept and eat the soup. "Thanks." Then she suddenly remembered that LaFontaine was not been introduced yet to Greta. "I'm sorry I forgot my manners, I haven't introduce LaFontaine my Va-"

"…best friend," Lafontaine filled in. "Laura actually introduced us earlier, while you were sleeping."

She just gave LaFontaine a smirk and raised her left eyebrow at the mention of the word 'best friend'. "Did they tell you also how to address or call LaFontaine?" she asked, knowing that it was important to her Valet the proper way of calling or addressing them.

"Yes, Laura explained it everything to me and I understand it," Greta replied.

She was not even finish eating half of the soup when she saw Emma's hand holding a creampuff in front of her mouth.

"Happy name day Marcus!" Emma shouted.

She smiled and gladly opened her mouth and Emma put the creampuff inside it. She munched at the sweet happily and kissed Emma on the cheek.

"Thank you Creampuff!" She said, and then saw Laura gazing at her with those innocent naughty eyes and she was reminded how aroused she felt the last time Laura fed her with a creampuff using the Princess' mouth.

"Laura! Why didn't you tell me?!"

Suddenly they were all eyes on Greta as they heard the dark haired woman shouted and looked at Laura's finger.

"Did Marcus already propose?" Was Greta's excited reaction as Laura showed the ring.

"Yes! He did!" was Laura's equally excited reply.

She just rolled her eyes and looked at her Valet who seemed to be growing worried at the sight of two women getting very excited at the thought of proposal.

"So, what did you get Marcus?" Greta asked Laura.

Laura just grinned and blushed, "I kind of forget about it." Was Laura's sheepish reply.

"What? You didn't give Marcus something of yours?" was Greta's shocked reaction.

"I don't think it's necessary," she said.

"What do you mean something of mine?" Laura asked innocently and crimsoned more. "Shouldn't that be given on the night of our wedding?"

"Not that one," LaFontaine corrected right away. "Traditionally, it means something you own; like the pieces of clothes that you wear," LaFontaine tried to explain. "Like for example a sleeve from your dress, a stocking that you use or…"

LaFontaine was not even finished yet when Greta whispered something to Laura's ear, and made Laura blushed even more. She does not need to know what Greta had whispered to Laura, because the thought of it had already sent a tingle down her crotch. And before her imagination could embarrass her, she drunk the remaining tea that LaFontaine gave her, stood up and handed the bowl of empty soup to Greta.

"Greta, thank you so much for welcoming us to your home," she stated and she saw them stood up too. "We'd like to stay longer but we need to go back to the castle to prepare for tonight's banquet. The servants and the guards are most occupied and busy during the evening feast at the castle since we need to serve and escort the noble guests, and I hate to say it but their extra demanding too, am I right, LaFontaine?" she said and elbowed her Valet and smirked at them.

"I agree. Their broody too," her Valet retorted.

"Oh, so you work in the castle too," was Greta's surprised remark and looked at LaFontaine. "What do you do then?"

"I'm Prince Carl's Valet de Chambre," LaFontaine proudly declared.

Greta was shocked and stared at LaFontaine with fascination. "Oh my, I think you're the nearest and closest person that I could say I have seen or met the Prince. Because I know that being the Valet is the most demanding and yet closest person that could get to the King or the Prince. And since we haven't seen the Prince of Karnstein yet, the people are more intrigued and curious when we hear something about him and meet the people who had been close to him and had actually spent more time with him, like you," Greta explained, referring to LaFontaine at the end. "I wish I could meet the Prince of Karnstein someday."

"I'm pretty sure your wish would be granted," Laura added and grinned at Greta. She went on her knees and hugged the little girl beside her. "Sorry Emma, but we need to leave now. But you can already go out and have some fun outside."

"Please tell Perry the creampuffs are delicious!" Emma said and then turned around.

"Bye Marcus and happy name day!" Emma said.

"Thanks Creampuff, and I'll see you next time," she replied and pinched Emma's cheek lightly, while Emma waved goodbye to them. She smiled when she saw Laura waving goodbye too like Emma, her betrothed was definitely adorable. "Good bye Greta."

"Good bye and thank you too." Greta returned as they walked all together on the way out.

*****

After the evening feast, Laura whispered to her ear to meet her in the tea room.

And now the anticipation of waiting for her betrothed was killing her; she tried to calm herself and sat comfortably on the sofa with her legs fully apart and her arms spread wide on the sofa's back. She felt that all the nerves in her body were awaked as her heart beat faster and her palms sweat. These feelings that she has towards Laura had slowly possessed her, and she does not know how long she could contain it. It was overwhelming and all she wanted was to be with Laura all the time and touch the Princess.

She turned her focused on the door when it opened. And she saw Laura, walking towards her, giving her an adorable grin. She smiled and tried to relax.

"So are you here to give me your underwear?" she asked at once.

"What?! No!" Laura retaliated.

She felt like a pervert for presuming and felt ashamed for her lasciviousness. But when she caught Laura blushing, she smirked naughtily.

"Isn't that the reason why you'd asked me to meet you here, Cupcake?" she said in a deep enticing tone. "…to give me your gift."

The Princess walked closer and stood in front of her and stared at her timidly, and then gave her a lopsided grin.

"I'm here to give your present, but not the one in your mind," Laura said, reached behind and removed the necklace that she was wearing.

Laura bends down and kissed her before putting the necklace around her neck. She discreetly sniffed on Laura's pulse point while the Princess puts the necklace and closed her eyes briefly.

"There, you can take a look,"

She was awakened from her temporary bliss and saw Laura standing in front of her, motioning to look at the necklace. She looked down and held it in her fingers to get a better view: it was a gold chain with an anchor pendant.

"It's beautiful, thank you," she uttered and pulled Laura to her right leg to sit and put her right arm to support the Princess' back, while her other hand rested possessively on Laura's leg. "I won't take it off," she said and kissed Laura.

"My father gave that to me when I was a child," Laura related after releasing from the kiss and touched the pendant on her chest.

But the sudden contact of Laura's hand on her chest caused her to panic. She released the Princess from her arms and lap like she was burned. She rose from where she was sitting and distanced herself from Laura.

"Carl? What's wrong?" Laura asked, suddenly confused and worried at the sudden withdrawal. "Did I do something that hurt you?" the Princess asked, careful not to touch or even get close to her.

"Umm… No. You didn't hurt me," she said and took a deep breath, ran her fingers through her hair and looked absent mindedly around her, avoiding Laura's eyes to hide her fear. Her mind was in terrible turmoil. How would she explain it without revealing the truth? And then the next thing she felt was Laura's hand seized her left hand and held it gently. She relaxed at the touch.

"Carl, look at me," Laura whispered.

She gazed at Laura and calmed down. She was debating on telling her betrothed the truth or lie. But when she saw the confused and worried look on the Princess she decided to do the right thing. "I… I'm just not comfortable at someone touching my chest," she started, "I actually don't like being touched there."

"I understand," Laura mumbled. "Thank you for telling me and being honest. The last thing I want to do is to make you uncomfortable and nervous."

The Princess' soothing voice always pacified her and she liked how Laura can easily do that to her body and mind. She was thankful that Laura did not ask the reason why. Then she saw Laura smiled and she felt her confidence came back.

"You cannot touch my chest… but you're welcome to touch me anywhere," she suggested with a hint of naughtiness in her voice and smirked at the Princess.

Laura giggled and kissed her at once. And while her hands where wrapped around Laura's waist, she was surprised when she felt the Princess' hands touched her buttocks. She grinned and released from the kiss.

"Did you just touch my butt?" She accused the princess playfully.

"No." Laura replied innocently.

"Yes you did!" She replied and felt Laura's hands moved up and wrapped around her nape.

"I didn't!" Laura expressed and tried to suppress a smile.

"You're lying! I felt it!" She said and stared at those naughty hazel eyes, before retaliating. "If you don't confess, I would demand you to give me the gift that I wish," she uttered, her voice deeper and raspier.

"What if I don't want to give it?" Laura challenged her.

"Then you won't see your big wild cat for a week," she replied and saw the disappointed look on Laura's face. She was just teasing the Princess, but it looked like Laura was beginning to believe her.

"Seriously, you'll gonna do that?!" The Princess asked.

"Why not? Since you're not giving me what I want," she reasoned out, pretending to be serious. "I am officially you're future husband, I can demand what's rightfully mine."

"Well, I call it extortion," Laura retorted.

"How can you call tradition extortion?" She said, and remained sober even if she found it amusing to see Laura growing serious. "You have to give something to me that is yours Cupcake; we both heard Greta and LaFontaine said it."

"Alright, I'm going to give you one of my underwear when you take me to my chamber afterwards," Laura conceded. "Are you satisfied?"

"No." she answered right away and stared at Laura seriously. "I want the one that you're wearing right now."

She saw Laura's mouth opened slightly and was too dumbfounded to reply. The Princess' cheeks crimsoned and she did not release her gaze on Laura.

"I beg your pardon?" Laura asked almost out of breath.

She leaned slowly on the side and put her mouth near Laura's ear and whispered in a husky voice, "Take off… your underwear… and give it to me…" she ordered, and felt Laura's bosom heaving and breath becoming deeper. "I want to smell you tonight when I go to bed," she whispered once again and felt her bulge hardening, as she imagined the things she would do with it. And then she faced Laura again and only saw arousal in the Princess' fully dilated eyes.

"If you really want it, you have to take it off yourself," Laura demanded in a low tone.

This time she felt her shaft throbbed and hardened as she heard the enticing voice of Laura commanding her to remove the underwear that she had been thinking since this morning. She gently released her arms around Laura's hips and retained her gaze on the Princess, checking for any sign of reluctance. But when she found none, she slowly kneeled in front of Laura. Not breaking their eye contact. She put her hand inside the dress and rested her hand on Laura's calf before slowly dragging it upwards at the smoothness of Laura's thigh. She heard Laura elicited a low moan when her hand got closer to the Princess' private part. Her hand brushed on Laura's mound before she put her fingers on the waist band of Laura's underwear and pulled it down slowly and torturously as she can while staring at Laura's face. Her breathing became ragged as she witnessed the excruciating agony of Laura, trying to suppress the arousal that she caused to the Princess' body. When she drew low enough the underwear, Laura stepped carefully out of it and she gently took it and put it in her trousers' pocket. She stood in front of the Princess and stared at Laura like she was going to devour the Princess any seconds from now. Laura's eyes glanced downwards and caught the hard bulge in her trousers. Laura blushed at the sight of it and looked back to her eyes and gave her a timid smile.

"It looks like your excited with your other gift," Laura uttered awkwardly.

She saw the sheepish look on Laura's face as they both glanced at the very visible bulge in her trousers. She tried to cover it with her other hand, but was distracted when she heard Laura's voice.

"Carl, I'm…" Laura said, nervous and looked on the floor.

She got worried and cupped Laura's face gently, and motioned for Laura to look at her.

"Cupcake, what's wrong?" She whispered and moved closer to Laura, careful not to rub her hard bulge on the Princess. "Did I scare you again?" she asked and wrinkled her eyebrows, "Because, I could leave now, so you don't have to see it," she uttered softly, and calmly, remembering how Laura felt about seeing her erection.

"Noooo! Stay," Laura replied at once. "Don't leave me," the Princess whispered.

Her heart melted as she heard Laura's sweet voice; she just loved it whenever Laura was shy and embarrassed, like an adorable child. Then she felt the Princess' arms rested on her shoulders and encircled around the back of her neck. "Then tell me why do you look so upset?" she asked gently, and this time she just rested her hands on her sides, making sure that she does not come too close to Laura for fear of scaring the Princess due to her hard bulge.

"Because I feel bad every time you catch me panic, became fidgety and squeamish every time I see your hard thingy." Laura babbled.

She chuckled after hearing that adorable babbling of the Princess.

"Why are you laughing?" Laura asked, annoyed.

"Sorry Cupcake, I just find it very amusing every time you're nervous and babbling," she returned, and she felt Laura was about to release the hands that were encircling around her, but she reached up and held it back. "Don't," she said quickly and Laura did not move. She kissed Laura's lips gently and apologized. "Cupcake, I'm sorry for making fun of you. I won't do it again," she said and became serious. "I'm just curious, what it is in a penis that makes you nervous?" she asked and this time Laura's face crimsoned like never before upon the mention of the word 'penis'.

"I… I don't know," the Princess replied.

"There must be a reason why you're always panicking every time you see my hard bulge," she said in a most gentle and calm tone. She does not want to upset Laura, but she wanted to get to the root of the problem. "Tell me Cupcake, have you seen or even touch a penis before?" she asked and wished that Laura was going to say 'no', since she does not like the idea of her future wife seeing another man's cock.

"No! I haven't seen a penis yet," Laura defended right away. "And I couldn't actually say that I have already touched one, because I just accidentally ran my hand on yours."

She heard Laura's panic babbling and she tried to restrain from smiling. Laura was really killing her with those adorable babbling.

"Alright, I believe you. But I have a suggestion…" she said and thought carefully about the words that she was going to say. "You can say yes or no. But I just want to help you overcome your fear, and I know I'm going to sound selfish with this suggestion, but I assure you, I have no personal motive. Because I have told you before, and I am telling you again, I am going to wait until you're comfortable and ready."

"Alright, what are you suggesting?" was Laura's curious remark.

"Touch my penis."

She saw the shocked expression on Laura's face and she put her hands on Laura's waist right away to compose the Princess. Then she saw Laura tried to say something but the words cannot seem to come out, and she knew that the Princess was stressed. She had to think of a way to distract and calm Laura and to wait till her penis was limp.

"Cupcake, look at me," she whispered, and tried to maintain their eye contact. "What do you see?" She saw Laura smiled timidly and she smiled back.

"You," Laura uttered.

"When you see me, what do you see?" she asked her voice calm and cool.

This time Laura grinned and those beautiful hazel eyes brightened.

"I see my possessive, broody, big wild cat," Laura teased.

She smirked at the description and just accepted the fact at how her Cupcake described her.

"Thank you for that very accurate and well complimented description of mine," she retorted.

"You asked me what I see," Laura retaliated. "I just told you the truth."

"Alright, I accept it," she conceded and smirked back at Laura. "Do you feel comfortable and happy whenever you see me?"

"Of course I do, what kind of question is that?" Laura returned.

"Are you happy now that I am near you and holding you?" she asked in a deep raspy voice, and stared at Laura.

"Yes," Laura returned in a husky voice.

When she heard that deep voice of Laura, she backed out a little but still held Laura's waist and glanced at her crotch. She took a deep breath and smiled at Laura.

"So, Cupcake… would you like to touch it?" she asked in a most calm and gentle manner, and gaze at the Princess. She saw the hesitation on Laura's face, and then saw the Princess took a deep breath and released the hands on her shoulders. Laura looked at her crotch and wrinkled its brows.

"Why is it small now?" The Princess wondered.

"Because I am not having an erection," she said nonchalantly. "Touch it," she uttered gently. And Laura carefully put a hand over her shaft, and slowly touched it with those trembling fingers.

"It's soft!" The Princess expressed innocently and looked surprised at the discovery of a limp cock. "But how come it's hard the last time I touched it?" Laura asked like a curious child.

"Because you make me excited and happy whenever you kiss and touch me," she teased and gave Laura a naughty smirk. She was about to suggest if Laura wanted to see it, but changed her mind, and thought it would be too much for Laura to touch and see it for the first time at the same moment. So instead she would just let Laura touch it more. "Try to hold it and rub your hand on it," she ordered and was about to say gently, but it was too late and Laura grabbed it excitedly. "Whoa!" she exclaimed and flinched.

"Oh god, Carl! I'm sorry! Did I hurt you?" Laura asked, worried and released the hand right away on the shaft.

After recovering from the pain, "I'm alright Cupcake, just try not to crush it; we still need to produce an heir, you know," she teased, to calm Laura.

"How can you still tease me when you're already in pain?" Laura retaliated and motioned for them to sit on the sofa. Once their comfortably seated, Laura asked, "What can I do to make the pain go away?"

She heard the Princess' gentle soothing voice and gazed at those naïve-looking hazel eyes. "You can stroke it gently," she gave Laura a sheepish smile and thought of taking a chance.

"Alright, but you have to tell me how soft or how hard-" Laura was telling.

"Not hard. No hard touching," she expressed it right away. "Just imagine that you're petting a cat."

"Really!? You're comparing your penis to a cat?!" was Laura's sarcastic remark.

"Why not?! I am after all your big wild cat!" She retaliated, and saw Laura yielded when she caught those hazel eyes rolled.

"Sometimes, I don’t know if you're the big wild Karnstein panther or my little fuzzy cuddly kitty," Laura teased back.

She moved closer to Laura and spread her legs wide and relaxed, while Laura sat sideways and faced her direction. "I could be both, Cupcake," she supplied and took Laura's hand and gently put it on her thigh. Laura got the message and glanced at her, she gave her a nod and the Princess carefully touched her member. Once she felt Laura's hand relaxed on her shaft, "Try to use the palm of your hand and gently rub it up and down," she instructed softly and she was beginning to like how Laura was fondling her shaft, the Princess was a quick learner she thought. "Then squeeze it- whoa!" she was about to say gently, but Laura got carried away again.

"I'm sorry!" Laura apologized at once and screamed too.

The Princess was about to release the hand on her shaft, but she gently put it back and covered Laura's hand with her own and guided the Princess on how to gently stroke her shaft. When she felt Laura picked up the right rhythm, she released her hand and gazed at Laura.

"Am I doing it right?" the Princess asked innocently.

"Yes, Cupcake, I like it," she returned and she was beginning to be aroused at Laura's caress and closed her eyes.

"Carl?"

She opened her eyes and tried to calm herself as she heard Laura's voice. "Yes Cupcake?" she asked calmly while catching her breath.

"Why is it getting bigger and harder?" Laura wondered.

She looked at her crotch and as expected, she has an erection. She tried to calm down and do not want Laura to panic at the sight of it. "It means that I am so happy and excited at the way you're touching me Cupcake," she tried to explain without losing her mind at the sensation that Laura's hand was still doing on her member. "It also means that I find you beautiful and want you," she added and put her lips on the Princess' and kissed Laura gently and slowly.

"Really?" Laura asked in between kisses, as if teasing. "How does My Prince want me?"

"Naked," she retaliated in between kisses, and suddenly she felt Laura withdraw from the kiss, released the hand on her shaft and she felt a hand lightly slapped her arm.

"Carl!" Laura reprimanded and rose from the seat. "I know what you're thinking!"

"I didn't mean it Cupcake!" She returned and was frustrated at the loss of Laura's hand on her shaft and for telling Laura how she really felt right now.

"Tell your big cat there, to calm down," Laura ordered. "And we need to go now. I don't want Perry to worry."

She groaned, "Seriously, Cupcake?" You're going to leave me like this? Because you don't want your Lady in Waiting to worry?" she asked in a sarcastic tone and does not have any intention of leaving the sofa.

"Carl Philipp Marcus," Laura stated and glared at her. "Our deal does not involve a naked me, so stand up and take me to my chamber now. I don't want Perry to have a heart attack when she found out that you tried to lure me and took my underwear."

Suddenly she remembered that Laura was actually naked underneath that silly dress. Still standing in front of her, she held Laura's hand and smirked at the Princess, "I could touch you down there too and you can tell me if it makes you feel good." She said in a deep enticing voice.

She smiled when she saw Laura came closer, bend down to cup her face and gazed at her before saying:

"My dear Prince Carl," Laura uttered in a deep tone. "It's not happening."

The Princess said and released the hand on her cheeks, turned around and walked to the door.

"Oh come on! It's my name day today!" she expressed and rose from the seat and followed the Princess. Then she saw Laura stopped and turned around and faced her, as she got near to the Princess.

"And I already gave you my underwear, so you got your wish on your name day," Laura teased and resumed walking.

She frustratingly followed the Princess. As they came out of the tearoom she tried to hide her erection using her cape. Just the thoughts of Laura not wearing anything underneath that dress was still making her hard.

TBC

Chapter Text

Laura

Today she woke up inspired and happy. After Carl left last night, she cannot help but be smitten by his thoughtfulness and being considerate about her feelings. She knew that the Prince was always thinking first of her needs before 'his' needs and she was thankful to have a betrothed that does not force her to do something that she does not like. The one thing that she liked also with Carl was he was willing to solve any problem or misunderstanding in their relationship at once and always wanted to make sure that she felt comfortable and happy. She felt like Carl was pampering her too much and it thrilled her!

She never expected that this arranged marriage would make her giddy, but as days passed by she found herself accepting and liking the Prince in every possible way. She does not just like Carl's positive traits but she was surprised to discover that she tolerated his negative attitudes too.

The sun was already up and she had already bathed and dressed for the day and had been in the kitchen to eat a little cupcake before she eats her breakfast. After meeting Lafontaine in the kitchen and learning that the Prince was still asleep, she left LaFontaine, Perry and her handmaidens in the servant's dining room, still eating their breakfast. And she thought that she and the Prince could eat breakfast together today for the first time.

She was already wandering throughout the dark hall carrying a candlestick with her on her way to Prince Carl’s chamber, when she realized that she might have taken the wrong wing. A servant informed her that the Prince’s chamber was just the opposite wing from hers. Although the maid offered to accompany her, knowing that she was still not that familiar with the halls and chambers at Karnstein Castle, she declined politely the offer and told her that she could manage. She saw two guards at the start of the passageway awhile ago, and followed the narrow dark hall, that seemed to be endless. She wondered if this was really the way to the Prince's chamber since it was isolated and far away from the rest of the other chambers.

Right now she was having second thoughts if this was really the right wing and was debating on going back or walking further. She recalled that on the wing where her chamber was located, it was guarded and it has two other chambers one beside her room and another one opposite across her room, where Perry sleeps. But when her eyes finally caught a large wooden door, she decided to walk further and hoped that it was the Prince’s chamber. She carefully knocked on the door and waited.

Having not received a reply, she knocked again a little harder and waited for the answer; Nothing.

Maybe this is not the right chamber.

She got impatient and thought that she did not come all the way to this wing for nothing, so she decided to check it.

“Carl?” She called out. “Are you awake? It’s Laura.”

She said and put her ear on the door, trying to listen at any sign of movement in the room. When she heard nothing, she become disappointed and pushed the door carefully. She felt lucky when it opened and interpreted it as a welcome; being curious all the time, she entered without hesitating and thought that maybe this was another chamber or hall that she could explore since she was already there.

She was surprised to find out that the chamber was dark, and no source of light was burning anywhere else. She had thought that maybe this was really the wrong chamber because it felt like it was bigger than her chamber and Perry's. She walked further and her eyes beamed at the sight of a big four post bed with an elegant burgundy drape enclosing the bed. She wondered why the curtains were drawn closed.

Maybe this is a guest chamber.

She told herself seeing that the heavy drapes were all drawn in and covering the bed. She tiptoed towards the bed trying not to bump to anything as she held the candlestick on her right hand. When she got closer to the right side of the bed, she carefully fumbled on its heavy drape to find the opening while she held her candle on a good distance from the drape to avoid accidentally burning it.

She finally found the partition and carefully slid the curtain to her left. She was taken aback as the sight of the back of a naked woman’s body was revealed; the woman was sleeping and lying on the side with the head resting on the upper arm, and nothing covering the woman except the white fine linen that was softly entangled in the lower leg.

She became speechless and froze at the erotic sight in front of her. She felt all her nerves awaken and her body never felt so hot as before. Something deep inside her resurfaced; something that she had not felt since she came to this castle: her desire and lust for a woman. She felt this sudden tingling in her core and an intense sensation that she had not experienced before. Her heart pounded madly; she had trouble thinking about anything other than to put her hands on this woman's body and to quench her desire.

Oh god, she’s beautiful!

Was her initial reaction as her eyes roamed at the creaminess of the woman's feet; the calves were chiseled into perfection while the legs were smooth, toned and lean. She had never felt so aroused just by gazing at a sleeping figure before.

How can she sleep like this?!

She remarked as she adored the perfectly sculpted smooth body like of a goddess. When her eyes reached the rear she swallowed and bit her lower lip as she tried to control the urge of touching those beautiful well-proportioned buttocks. Finally, her eyes ached at the fine curve of the woman's small hip and well-toned back muscles. And she felt the tingling sensation down her intensified. She remembered seeing Danny naked, but this woman's body in front of her had really taken her breath away, literally.

You're so beautiful.

But her worshipping was halted when the figure in front of her shifted and lay on the back. Her jaw dropped as her sight focused on those perky round breasts and pink nipples, she felt the throbbing sensation between her legs became extreme and a low moan escaped her mouth. She took a deep breath to calm herself and decided to gaze at the face of the most beautiful body she ever laid her eyes on.

Who are you?

She delighted at the sight of this woman's smooth porcelain like face, the eye brows were perfectly symmetrical, the nose were pointy and perfect, the mouth was delicate and the lips were thin and red.

However, she was taken aback as she recognized those perfectly chiseled jawline without beard.

What the…

She thought, confused. She closed her eyes for a moment to shake off the deceiving image; when she opened her eyes she darted her sight downwards. She was disoriented when she saw a penis in between the woman’s hairless legs!

She darted her eyes again at those breasts to confirm that it was a woman’s breast;

How could this be possible?!

She mentally berated herself that it was not possible, so she decided to come closer and put the candle that she was holding above the head of the person. She gasped at the shocking revelation as she saw a necklace with anchor pendant around the woman's neck and recognized the necklace that she gave the Prince. Her mind struggled to understand what her eyes were seeing and she became disconcerted as Carl's face unfolded right before her eyes without the beard!

“Oh my god!”

She exclaimed, and panic overcame her and did not realize that she had shouted. But before she could ran, the Prince’s eyes had opened and were staring at her with the same intensity of shock and with fear.

“Laura?!”

She heard the panic in his voice. But before she could utter an explanation she saw the Prince dashed out of the bed wrapping the white linen sheet around his body and ran to the direction of the door.

“Carl!” She tried to call him, but to no avail.

*****

“LaFontaine!” She shouted as she desperately searched for the Valet, and sighed with relief when her eyes caught them talking to Perry at the servants dining room.

“Princess Laura?” was LaFontaine's confused remarked after being torn from their conversation from Perry. “What’s wrong?” They ask, sensing that she was in state of panic.

“You have to help me find the Prince,” she said in between breaths as LaFontaine and Perry’s worried eyes focused on her. “I think he detest me.”

“What made you say that?” was Lafontaine’s puzzled comment.

“I saw him naked!” She delivered anxiously and paced across the room.

“Oh, Princess, I’m sure it’s alright for you to see His Highness in that state,” the Lady in Waiting quipped, trying to calm her with that remark. “After all you’re going to become his wife.” Perry added smirking.

“You don’t understand!” She pleaded crinkling her brows, and stopped pacing as she switched her focus to LaFontaine. Her mind was in terrible turmoil. She does not know how she would explain the shocking sight that she discovered. When she saw LaFontaine’s shocked reaction, she did not release her gaze at them.

“How naked?” LaFontaine asked, their brows furrowed.

“Very. Very. Naked.” She declared, emphasizing every word; clenching her teeth and giving LaFontaine a nervous grin.

“Oh god.” She heard Lafontaine uttered, as the color on their face faded to white. “Where is he?”

She sensed the seriousness on their voice and became more anxious.

“I don’t know; he just ran off!” She relayed as she recalled the look on the Prince’s face: betrayal; invasion; fear; anger; bewilderment. But before she could explain further, LaFontaine had already made their way to the door. She was about to run after them, but a hand held her.

“Princess, I think it would be best for you to just wait in your chamber,” Perry suggested, giving her a comforting nod.

“Oh Perry, what have I done?!” She cried and the next thing she felt were a pair of consoling arms around her.

“Hush dear,” Perry had whispered, as they walked out of the dining area. “Everything would be alright.”

*****

The night had already fallen and she was still anxiously waiting for any news from LaFontaine, but to no avail. She asked Perry to be with her tonight at her chamber until everything calmed down. Lying on her bed with her head resting on Perry’s lap, she felt secured as Perry stroke her hair while the Lady in Waiting patiently sat on the bed.

Perry’s touch always pacifies her every time she was upset. “Would you like some warm milk and honey?”

She heard Perry’s comforting words.

“No.” She mumbled, as she absent mindedly stared at the door.

“…How about some midnight sweets?” Perry suggested.

She just shook her head. She lost her appetite today and did not eat breakfast, lunch and dinner, and ignored all the cakes that Perry baked for her. Sensing that nothing could entice her to eat tonight, she heard Perry begun to hum the tune of her favorite lullaby when she was still a child. Perry used to sing that every time she was scared of sleeping alone. She found herself relaxing at the continuous caress of Perry’s touch on her hair and the soft familiar sound of her favorite song.

*****

A gentle tap on her shoulder, followed by Perry’s voice woke her up from her deep sleep. She groaned as the strong beam of light met her eyes and quickly averted it as she adjusted her sight on the brightness. She took a moment to shift from slumber state to waking up and as she gathered her thoughts, only one person was on her mind:

Carl

She hastily got up from her bed and shoved the warm blanket to the side. But as soon as her feet touched the cold floor, everything went spinning and the next thing she saw was darkness.

*****

“Perry?” She groaned and slowly opened her eyes and found Perry’s worried orbs staring back at her.

“Shh dear, I’m here,” was Perry’s consoling remark, as she felt a hand touched her forehead.

“What happened?” She asked, as her eyes followed Perry’s hand and saw her dipped a rug on the basin beside her bedside table. She flinched when she felt the wet cold rug on her forehead. “Prince Carl. I need to see him.” She whimpered as she remembered that moment of invasion.

“No dear. You’re sick and you need to rest,” was Perry’s strict command.

“But I need to talk to him,” She retaliated, as she tried to get up from her bed but was stopped right away by Perry’s hands, and she was tucked in bed again.

“You stay right there young lady!” Perry scolded, pointing the index finger on her as if she was a child again that being reprimanded.

She conceded and gave Perry a pout, “He’s furious at me, I need to apologize to him,” was her worried remark.

“I understand your situation. But you need to eat and get well first before you do that.” Perry said in a motherly tone. “Here, I made you some chicken consommé.”

She calmed down and settled on a sitting position as Perry put down the wooden bed tray in front of her that contains the bowl of her favorite soup garnished with carrots cut in small pieces in a shape of a flower, while her eyes rejoiced at the sight of the small round cake topped with flakes of dark chocolate. She smiled and felt like a child again that being pampered. She inhaled the delicious aroma of the soup and caught the smell of parsley, celery, leeks, chicken and carrots, and felt suddenly famished. Before she could say anything, Perry was already feeding her the soup.

“LaFontaine has a message for you,” Perry stated, in between feeding her.

“Did Laf found him?” She asked anxiously, as she paused before accepting the next spoonful of carrots that Perry was about to feed her.

“Yes, they found him.” Perry acknowledged. “But the Prince isn’t in his chamber right now, so you could just stay put and rest until you’re well enough to stand and talk to him.”

Curious, she asked the Prince's whereabouts. She knew that Perry was hiding something from her, “But where is he?”

“I don’t know, dear,” Perry returned and gave her the cup of milk with honey and drunk it. “LaFontaine told me that the Prince is safe and that his resting for a while from all the anxieties that happened lately.”

She was overcome with guilt and lost her appetite. Perry was about to give her favorite sweet but refused it and shook her head. “Thank you Perry, but I think my stomach is full,” she said, as she wiped her mouth with a table napkin and motioned for Perry to remove the bed tray in front of her.

“Laura, stop worrying too much,” Perry commented. “Take some rest and I will be back to bring you some dinner.”

She just nodded and gazed at the window. The sun was already descending as red and orange light sprawled over the sky, another day had passed and all she could think about was her Prince. She had not even noticed Perry left her chamber until she heard the sound of a door closed. She begun to contemplate; it had not yet sunk to her the astonishing truth. Was Prince Carl a man or a woman? She kept asking herself. She should have been feeling a strong pang of revolt at the revelation of her future husband’s real identity. She should have been ordering Perry and her hand maidens to pack their things and go back home, since she was deceived into marrying someone who was different. And yet, she does not feel any repulsion or detest. She even felt ashamed of herself for accidentally discovering the truth; she felt that she had invaded his deepest darkest secret when she saw him naked and vulnerable.

*****

Four days have passed since that awful incident, and she was still in the confinement of her chamber. She had slowly regained her strength and felt much better now, but she chose to remain in her chamber so as to avoid having dinner with the King and Queen. She cannot face them yet; not until she talked to Carl. The Prince has not been seen yet in the castle according to Perry; LaFontaine told Perry that Prince Carl caught a flu. She grew more worried, she cannot forgive her self if anything bad happen to him. A knock on the door snatched her from blaming herself. “Come in!” She said, and when the door opened she was surprise to see the Queen. She curtsied right away and greeted the queen, “Your Majesty.”

“I’m glad to see you well, Princess Laura,” the Queen started. “We both know the reason why I am here.”

The Queen was direct to the point. She stiffened and felt nervous; ashamed at invading the privacy of the Prince. But at the same time, she felt a certain power that she was holding against the Queen after discovering the dark secret of the Karnstein Kingdom.

“I apologized that you found out like this,” was the Queen’s unexpected remark. “You see, we have tried so many times to make his life as normal as possible, and we have sought a lot of help from different lands but no one could tell us the answer and a cure.”

She felt anger brewed inside her.

Why do they need to cure him?

She thought, irritated. Even if she found out the truth, it never occurred to her that Carl’s situation was a kind of disease that should be treated. She admitted that she was shocked but she never felt any repulsion towards him.

“Carl was born a girl but with both male and female parts.” The Queen related.

She was disconcerted right away at that first sentence. But she remained silent and would like to know the whole story.

"We hid her from the people and told the whole kingdom that my child had a rare disease that only a warmer climate can heal the child, thus she must live in a warmer place. We sought the help of my midwife who knew about the secret and asked her to be the wet nurse and maid. The King sought the help of the best chirurgeon in this land that specialized on these matters, and asked him what could be done to cure his child? The chirurgeon told us that nothing could be done, because our child was the only kind that he encountered in his whole life. He had read some books about a fish that had been born as female but grew up to become a male. But that was just a legend, he said. Having no solution to the problem, he strongly suggested that we wait until the child reached puberty, and maybe, like the fish in the legend; our child would become a full pledge man when she grew up. However, that was not the case with Carl.”

Her head felt like it was about to explode due to all these bewildering facts. “But how did the castle managed to hide his secret, if he was born a girl?” was the thing that bothered her, because she became one of the victims too of deceit.

“The King declared a law that every royal heir that is born from that time does not need a royal announcement, until the child turned 15.” The Queen explained. “And the law states also that the people cannot ask or demand the castle any important information about the newly born heir, including the sexuality and name. And if they do, they would be punished. The King added also that a new law would allow a female first born not just male, to inherit the throne. And with regards to the people that was involve in taking care of the Prince, they all vowed and swore to the Karnstein Kingdom that nobody can know the truth.”

Or else all of them would be hanged.

She presumed. Interpreting the Queen’s last remark as a threat to all that would break their promise of silence; including her. She recalled what Lukas told her about meeting the workers from the castle; how silent and careful they were of not talking about what was happening inside the castle.

“Princess Laura, I would understand if you do not want to marry my son anymore,” was the Queen’s unexpected remark. “I just want what’s best for the Kingdom; for the Prince to find a wife and produce an heir. We did not intend to deceive you. I was planning to tell you all of these things before you get married to him. But now that you discovered the truth, you are free to decide if you want to marry my son or leave this castle and go back to your Kingdom. However, we would like to ask for your silence regarding this matter.”

She contemplated on what she was going to answer. She does not know if the Queen was really planning on telling her about the Prince’s real identity or she was just deceiving her and would kept the secret until she married the Prince and she would be stuck in this deceitful marriage. Not having the patience of waiting, she noticed the Queen turned her back and walked towards the door.

“What’s her name?” She asked, before the Queen could leave her chamber. She knew that it was a bold thing to do, to just ask the Queen like that.

The Queen turned around and faced her, “I beg your pardon?”

“What’s her name before she became the Prince?” She repeated and waited anxiously for the reply as she saw the Queen’s fierce reaction.

“Carmilla.”

 

TBC

Chapter Text

Carmilla

She ran as fast as she can through the darkness, ignoring the chilly air at the hall, ignoring the hard cold marble on her feet, her mind was in total chaos and her body was shaking, and tears began to flow out of her eyes. She felt frightened, exposed, vulnerable and furious; she felt like her twelve year old self again when she arrived for the first time in the castle and wanted to escape from the hands of the Queen. Only this time, she was running away from the truth and she was seeking for her Queen Mother.

After a few minutes, she reached the Queen's chamber and ran quickly towards the entrance.

"Open the door!" she commanded to the two guards that were standing beside it. She walked inside quickly and found her Queen Mother still on bed and sleeping. She walked closer and stood at the side of the bed.

"Mother," she cried her voice weak and saw the Queen woke up at once.

"Carl? What's wrong?" The Queen asked, confused.

She just stood there wrapped in a white blanket, waiting for her Queen Mother to fully awake. She had not felt so scared like this and all she wanted was the warm protective arms of her mother.

"Laura saw me."

After saying it, she just saw the familiar restrained expression of her mother. She sighed when the Queen moved aside and opened the warm blanket that was covering her mother and motioned for her to get in and come to bed. She obeyed at once, without saying a word and once she was in bed, she felt her mother's arms enveloped her as she rested her head on the warmth of the Queen's bosom for the first time.

There was just silence and her mother's consoling arms as she bawled like a child.

*****

She slowly opened her eyes and averted the strong rays of sunlight that met her sight, and she wondered where all the light came from. She was not used to waking up in bright surrounding. She forced her eyes to open and realized that she was not on her bed, as she noticed no heavy drapes around her. Then her other senses awoken and she recognized that she had slept on her mother's bed. She turned around and saw an empty space beside her, and right after that, she felt a strong pang in her head and groaned in pain. She decided to close her eyes again for a few seconds, testing if it will go away. But it did not.

Then she wondered again why she was in the Queen's chamber and not hers. She slowly tried to recall what happened before she slept. And then she remembered…

"Laura,"

The realization of Laura discovering what she really was came as a blow to her. She reacted instinctively and shoved the blanket that was covering her and thought of going to Laura. But when she rose from the bed, she discovered that she was fully naked and the nagging pain on her head hindered her from standing properly. She decided to lie back on the bed.

"Damn it!" she expressed, frustrated and angry at herself for feeling weak. The pain in her head grew stronger and she decided to close her eyes and rest for a while.

*****

She did not know how long she had slept, but when she opened her eyes to her surroundings, the chamber where lighted with the weak rays of the sun coming from the window. She took a deep breath and rubbed her temple as this stubborn headache remained plaguing her. She noticed a serving tray with a bowl of soup, a goblet and a jug of water on the bedside table. And she suddenly felt thirsty. She carefully got up from the bed and sat first, testing if she could stand without a problem. When she felt confident, she got out from the warmth of the blanket and shivered slightly as the cool air in the room hit her naked body. She took the jug and poured the water on the goblet and drunk. She felt relieved after that drink and never realized how thirsty she was until now. She poured another round and consumed it and put back the goblet on the serving tray.

The bowl of soup beside it looked delicious though it was not hot anymore. But she had no appetite for any food right now and ignored it. She turned and glanced around her, searching for any signs of her mother. Then she saw some folded clothes on the chair by the fire place, and recognize that it were hers. She walked across the room to retrieve it. But before she could reach the chair where her clothes were placed, she caught her reflection at the full length size mirror that where standing beside the fireplace. She stood in front the mirror and stared at her naked body. Her eyes browse her face; then her breasts; before landing on her crotch. She stared at her genitals and focused her sight carefully on the phallus she took a moment to look at it, trying to find what was wrong, searching for a reason why she has it.

For a moment, she had wished that she was a full-fledged man and wished that she never have her breasts to avoid this disorientation; to avoid hiding her naked body. But she regretted right away the thought of not having a woman's breasts, because she loves her breasts. It was a reminder of what she was when she was young; it was a part of her that meant a lot to her too even if she had to hide it. Her breasts had been neglected and undervalued because of this damn obligation that she had. She stared at herself once again, searching for a flaw, searching for a reason for Laura to loathe her; searching for a reason to be called an abomination. But she failed. All she could find in front of her was a beautiful body; an imperfect beautiful body. She closed her eyes and she felt a drop of tear fell from her left eye, and she realized how she had been so cruel to herself; how she had treated herself like an abomination; how she treated herself with little sympathy; how she treated her body like a curse, when in fact she was unique and beautiful in a very extraordinary way! She opened her eyes looked again the reflection of herself on the mirror and smiled as she accepted her true self and appreciated the perfect sight in front of her.

 

*****

After putting on her clothes and composed herself, she decided it was time to confront and tell Laura the truth. She had been in her mother's chamber for almost a day and thought that she was brave enough to tell the truth. She walked to the direction of the door and opened it, but was surprised when the two guards that were guarding the door blocked her way. She glared at them, angry at how they behave.

"What's the meaning of this? Let me pass!" she ordered, but they did not moved from where they were standing. She was about to reprimand them, but a familiar face passed through the guards and bowed to her.

"Bertha, what's the meaning of this?" she asked the Queens' Lady in Waiting.

"Your Highness, we received a strict order from Her Majesty not to let you out of her chamber," the middle aged tall woman said.

The first time she met her mother's Lady in Waiting, was when she was young and been put to her chamber to be disciplined. She could never forget this woman, because she was the maid who took care and disciplined her the first time she arrived in the castle. Her mother's Lady in Waiting was stricter, taller, and bigger than the Queen and never smiled.

"Bertha, I am not a twelve year old anymore, I order you to tell those guards to get out of my way," she complained and glared at the woman. "I am the heir to the throne and you will all obey me!"

"Prince Carl, the Queen had given me the authority to confine you in her chamber. And we both know that I would obey first Her Majesty and would not hesitate to do anything, just to keep you in this chamber; even if you're already a grown up man and not a child anymore." Bertha declared, warning her.

Suddenly, she felt like she was twelve year old again. This woman had always scared her since she arrived in the castle. She knew that Bertha was one of the people that knew her secret and the only person that her mother trusted when it comes to taking care of her, whether she was sick, having tantrums, or simply needs a nanny that would accompany her whenever she wants to roam around the castle.

She tried to ask her nicely, even if she knew how strict the Lady in Waiting was. "There is something that I need to tell my betrothed, and it might be too late if I can't talk to her." She implored, but just received a stony stare from Bertha.

"It's the Queen's order Your Highness," Bertha concluded.

After hearing Bertha's answer, she tried to compose herself even if she was already boiling mad inside, "Fine." She returned bitterly and closed the door.

She walked to and fro across the Queen's chamber, growing worried every second that passed. Right now, she felt helpless and powerless. She cannot fathom why her mother would confine her and would not allow her to talk to Laura; surely there must be something going on; something that was serious and complicated.

Suddenly she was overcome with fear and started to lose hope.

What if Laura was shocked at discovering what she really was and was frantic? What if Laura cannot accept the fact? And worst, what if Laura was repulsed at what she really was?

All these worries kept pouring in in her mind and she felt like exploding as anxiety possessed her. She cannot just stay in her mother's chamber and do nothing. Without having any second thoughts, she opened the door again and faced the two tall bulky guards that were blocking her way.

"Get out of my way!" She shouted at them, losing her temper. But they did not heed and remained standing there. She tried to hit one of them, but the guard was quick and took her arm and pushed her inside and closed the door. She stumbled and fell on the floor; she stood up right away and walked to the door. But she grew furious when she discovered that they had locked her inside. "Open this damn door! I command all of you!" She called many times but they did not reply. She punched the door as her anger overcame her and did not care even if she saw her fist bleeding. "Let me talk to Laura!" She demanded and hit the door again when nobody opened it. "You will all be hanged when I get out of here!" she threatened and was boiling mad and kicked the door and punched it again and again until she felt numbed from the pain.

*****

She did not know how long she had slept, but when she opened her eyes, she found herself back on her mother's bed. She winced right away at the throbbing pain that she felt from her right hand, as her senses awakened; she brought her fist to her face to check how bad it was. But she was surprised when she saw a bandage wrapped around it. She slowly opened her eyes and realized that it was already dark, but the chamber was softly lighted and she saw the blazing fire that was illuminating from the fireplace. She groaned in pain as she tried to move her hand again, and the next thing she knew, her mother was approaching the bed and sat on the side and faced her.

"How are you feeling?"

She heard the Queen's firm and yet worried voice.

"I'm fine," she mumbled and did not met her mother's eyes.

"What were you thinking, acting like a fool?" the Queen lectured. "I have given Bertha and the guards a strict order to confine you here because I knew that you are not thinking straight, and what did you do? You disobeyed my order and hurt yourself. It's a good thing Bertha alerted me right away of your outbursts, or else you'll bleed to death on the floor."

She remained silent and just accepted her mother's reprimanding. If there was one thing she learned when she was young and was being scolded by her mother; was to never reason out and answer back.

 

"How could you talk properly to Laura when you're incapable of controlling your emotions and cannot think straight?" The Queen remarked in a clear and authoritative tone. "I want you to stay here for the meantime because I know that you are not ready to handle whatever Laura is going to say."

This time she cannot just remain silent and was aching to know what happened.

"So, what did Laura said?" was her careful reply, and looked at her mother's eyes, hopeful.

"Nothing; her Lady in Waiting informed me that the Princess is sick," the Queen relayed.

She grew worried upon hearing it and thought that maybe Laura had so much stress and anxiety after discovering the truth. Her rumination was halted when she felt the Queen's hand on her cheek.

"Carl, I know that you are worried. But I promise you that whatever Laura would say I would make sure that it would not hurt you," was the Queen's reassuring remark. "You are my precious son and I would not let anybody hurt you."

She just nodded and contemplated on what her mother just said. She does not know if she would feel relieved or worried. Since she knew that her mother would do anything to protect her.

"Right now, I want you to obey me and stay in my chamber until I know what Laura thinks about you," was the Queen's strict order. "Let me handle this until you recover from all of this chaos. And I don't want you to throw any tantrums again. Bertha is here to take care of you."

"Why can't my Valet do that?" she asked right away, not wanting to be treated like a twelve year old again.

"Because Bertha is the only one that could take care and discipline you in case you have those outbursts again," the Queen stated firmly. "Do I make myself clear?"

She just nodded meekly and knew that there was no point of arguing with the Queen.

"Yes, my Queen Mother."

*****

That night while lying on the Queen's bed and trying to catch some sleep, she recalled at the pleasant things that she was planning before Laura discovered the truth.

She was supposed to surprise Laura by showing up beardless and 'clean shaven' after the day of her name day. She told LaFontaine that the only reason why she still had her beard was because she wanted to go to the village again and give foods and drinks to the people in celebration of her name day. And of course, she needed her beard as part of her disguise.

When she arrived to her room that night after Laura bravely faced her challenge of touching her penis, she thought that the Princess might also feel more comfortable towards her if she finally remove the beard that was making Laura uncomfortable. She does not have any plan of removing it yet, since she enjoyed going to the village and disguising as a royal guard. But right now, she thought that she needed to pamper her Princess. She admired Laura for being patient and tolerating her beard and thought that it was time to really show her betrothed how she looked like without the facial hair.

She knew that Laura was attracted to men who were clean shaven and hoped to charm the Princess by looking like the prince that Laura was attracted to. The thought thrilled her and was looking forward of mesmerizing Laura with her charm and clean shaven appearance. She had dreamt of Laura growing attracted to her and hopefully, the Princess might begin to develop an attraction and eventually fall in love with her.

But all her plans were spoiled the moment Laura barged in her chamber and saw not just her beardless face but her entire being. She began to worry how Laura reacted at that moment of truth after discovering her female side. She had vowed before that she would do everything in her power to hide what she really was and to make sure that she was the man that Laura expected as a betrothed, a man that would provide Laura love, protection, wealth and satisfaction. She had promised to herself that she would be the most gentle and caring man for the Princess: the perfect husband for Laura.

She was ready to tell Laura that she loves the Princess and was thankful and happy to have a woman like Laura in her life. She was about to tell Laura that she would do anything for her Princess just to make Laura happy and satisfied. Because she was afraid to lose Laura; she was afraid that another man, particularly Prince Victor might steal Laura from her; she was afraid that Laura might not be satisfied being with her, if the Princess find out that she was not a full pledge man.

She tossed sleeplessly on the bed as the thought of losing Laura utterly worried her. She was thankful that her mother decided to sleep with her father to give her privacy and peace of mind. However, it did nothing to lessen her anxiety.

*****

The sound of the door closed roused her from her slumber. She slowly stretched her legs and arms and forcefully opened her eyes, but shut it again as the strong light from the rays of the sun hurt her eyes. She was not used to waking up in a bright surrounding and being greeted by the sunlight in the morning.

"Good morning my son," the Queen greeted.

She heard the calm and firm voice of her mother. Once again, she tried to open her eyes and grumbled at how bright it was. She rose and saw her mother sitting by the side of the bed, holding two or three books on the lap.

"Good morning my Queen Mother," she greeted back and sat on the bed.

"Carl, it's almost noon. You need to eat something," the Queen stated, motioning for the untouched tray of food that was laid on the bedside table.

She just nodded, even though she does not have any appetite for food.

"I brought some books for you to read so that you won't be idle while in here," the Queen informed and laid the book on the bed. "You need to be productive all the time."

"Thank you my Queen Mother, I will read them afterwards," she said, and wondered how long her mother intended to confine her in the Queen's chamber. She was aching to ask the question, but changed her mind knowing that the Queen had already made a decision and should not be questioned. And instead, she had thought of asking how Laura was. "How is Laura?" was her careful query.

"LaFontaine informed me that the Princess is still sick and has not come out of her chamber yet," the Queen stated firmly. "Carl, stop worrying about Laura. What you should be doing is to focus on your duties as the heir to the throne. You cannot let this predicament distract you from your obligations."

She just nodded silently and dutifully accepted her mother's order. She knew that her mother was trying to divert her attention from Laura by reminding her of her responsibilities.

 

*****

It had been four days since she was confined in the Queen's chamber; and it had been four days have passed without hearing anything from the Princess. Laura's silence was slowly killing her. A lot of things flashed in her mind but the one thing that bothered her was:

Is she really sick or she's just trying to avoid me?

She had worried about it for days now. She cannot even imagine the thought of Laura avoiding her. She felt like she cannot survive not having Laura in her life. Laura had already been a part of her daily life. The Princess was her little ball of sunshine; every time she sees Laura everything around her brightened up; Laura made her life bearable. Even if she felt that she had this heavy burden of being the future king, it does not matter to her how hard it was since she knew that there was this person beside her that made all the things seemed easy, just by looking at the Princess, knowing that Laura would always be there and would never leave her. She remembered that Laura assured her that she was the only man in the Princess' life right now and promised not to leave her. However, she was beginning to doubt that promise after Laura discovered the truth. She knew that the Princess made that promise because Laura knew and believed that she was a man. But right now everything seemed to fall apart.

TBC

Chapter Text

Laura

After the Queen left yesterday, she chose not to be disturbed and asked Perry not to bring her dinner anymore and requested her Lady in waiting that she may be left alone to rest and be not interrupted of her sleep. She cannot let Perry stay with her since her Lady in Waiting would definitely ask her what was wrong.

And today, she asked Perry again for some alone time and just ate a light brunch followed by a piece of chocolate cupcake for dinner. The day was almost over and she found herself on her bed contemplating of all the things that the Queen revealed to her.

She was in total shock yesterday after the Queen told her everything and her mind cannot grasp all the information about her future husband. She sighed and then smiled as she recalled all the things that she and Carl went through; how they began as a total stranger who hated one another, until they became at ease with each other's company, and learned to respect each other's needs and boundaries. She was glad that they discovered each other's weaknesses too and were very understanding and considerate to one another. She felt lucky to have found a betrothed who respected her every wish and does not force her to do something she disliked.

As much as she was shock about the reality of the true identity of the Prince, she cannot find in her heart to dislike Carl because all she could feel was just fondness. She was fond of him and everything about him. She liked how he treated her with so much care and gentleness and showered her with his full attention.

The friendship that they established in a short period of time had made her realized one thing: she adored Carl. She had grown to like her Prince even if she hated his beard and was making her uncomfortable; she was fond of her big wild cat and how protective Carl was of her; she tolerated his broodiness and accepted his possessiveness even if sometimes it scared her when he was over jealous.

She never expected that her life would be this challenging after discovering the truth. But then again, it was up to her if she would make a fuss out of it. She was the one who was going to spend her life with Carl and it was her decision if she would accept and see her partner as a man with a female body or a woman with a penis? She felt like her head was going to explode.

However, she felt that it was shallow and foolish to decide what she really wants based on what Carl was. Does it really define what a person was, based on his or her sexuality? Would it make Carl less gentle and more aggressive if she thought of him as a man, or would it make Carl delicate and gentler if she thought of him as a woman? But then again, would it make any difference if Carl was a woman instead of a man? Her affection towards the Prince cannot be ruined by just one imperfection. So, what if Carl was different? Would it matter to her? Would it matter if her future husband had a female body?

And then she was reminded again of the sight that astonished her. Carl's body reminded her how she loved and worshipped a woman. She had never felt so aroused in her entire life, until she saw the goddess like body of her betrothed. And she thought:

Carl is beautiful inside and handsome outside!

She was now in utter confusion and cannot fathom which she liked most: the ruggedly handsome Carl with a beard that she had grown to like or the beautiful clean shaven Carl that she preferred?

She pondered and tried to find a reason to like or dislike one of them. But she cannot find one. She tried to choose which one she preferred. But her heart cannot choose. She purely liked him for being Carl as a person and the special qualities that defined his whole being. It does not matter if he was a girl before and then a man now or a combination of both. What mattered most was she found a very compassionate person who liked her and would die for her. Carl's feelings towards her were genuine and it surpassed his physical features. He can be diabolical sometimes but he was sweet as an angel when he wanted to. And Carl treated her like she was the most desirable woman in the world that sometimes she suspected if he was falling in love with her.

She was torn from contemplating when she heard the door to her chamber opened and saw Perry entered with a paper on hand.

"Laura, it's from the Castle, a Royal Guard delivered it now," Perry informed and handed immediately the letter with a wax seal of their kingdom to her.

She opened the letter with trembling hands and sat on her bed, while Perry stood in front of her, waiting anxiously what the letter was about.

"It's from Uncle Spencer," she said after reading the letter and handed the missive to Perry to read it. She rose from the bed and walked to the window and stared absent mindedly outside. "I haven't talked to Carl yet. What shall I do?" was her hopeless remark.

Perry walked closer and stood by the window beside her. "Laura, the King is sick and I think your Uncle is right, you need to go home for a while, since your absence makes the King lonely and sicker. Perhaps if he sees you, he's going to be happy and feel better. Whatever your problem with the Prince can wait and-"

"I don't think it can wait," was her sudden reaction. She knew that her father needed her, but she needed to fix things with Carl. And she does not want to leave until they patch things up. "I told you Carl is angry and hates me, that's why he hasn't shown himself yet."

"Laura, I don't understand why he could remain angry this long," Perry retaliated. "I know that invading his privacy is unacceptable, but you just did it to surprise him. And besides, his surprise would eventually be revealed when you two meet; it's just that you saw him first… and naked."

Suddenly, something piqued her curiosity and faced her Lady in Waiting. "What do you mean 'his surprise'?"

Perry gave her a guilty look and tried to avoid her eyes, but she held Perry by the arm.

The Lady in Waiting sighed and gave her a resigned look. "LaFontaine slipped while we were eating breakfast and asked me not to tell you so as not to ruin the surprise, but I guess there's no need to hide it anymore," Perry related. "The Prince asked LaFontaine to shave his beard on the night of his name day. They said that Prince Carl wanted to give you a gift by being clean shaven, since he knew that you're uncomfortable with his beard and hated it. LaFontaine also told me that Prince Carl is willing to do anything to please you," Perry continued. "Laura, I think His Royal Highness is falling in love with you, and would do anything to please you up to the extent of remaining clean-shaven and smooth for you, so that he doesn't hurt your delicate skin." Perry added. "I guess all the men in your life are willing to sacrifice and shave their beards because they love you that much."

After hearing those words from Perry, she suddenly missed him. She never demanded or asked him to shave for her. She had completely and whole heartedly accepted him with a beard. She admitted that she hated it in the beginning. But as time goes by and Carl had begun kissing her all the time, and she had begun to enjoy his kisses, she became accustomed to the feeling of his beard rubbing on her skin. And then she became comfortable with it until it does not bother her anymore that much. Although there were times that his beard tickled her, especially when he was kissing her shoulders. But it does not make her cringe anymore. In fact, she sometimes felt aroused when his beard touches her neck all the way to her bosom.

She longed to see her Prince now; she longed to tell him that she still liked him and that nothing had changed; she longed to tell him that she wanted him and needed his touch; missed his possessive and yet gentle hands on hers. And she longed to kiss him; she does not care if he had a beard or not, she just wanted to taste his lips and assure him that she liked and wanted him.

"Did LaFontaine mention where the Prince is?" she asked, her voice full of hope and longing.

"I'm sorry Laura, even LaFontaine did not know where His Highness is," Perry answered quickly.

Disappointed, "But how did they know the Prince's condition? Surely, they must know where Carl is?!" she remarked, upset.

"LaFontaine hasn't seen the Prince since the day that you went to the Prince's chamber," Perry explained calmly. "Her Majesty just informed them about the Prince."

Suddenly a crazy idea crossed her mind, "I'm going to ask the Queen where Carl is." She was about to walk to the direction of the door when she felt Perry's hand seized her arm.

"What are you doing? Are you crazy?" Perry exclaimed.

"I need to know where Carl is!"

"Laura, it's almost midnight!" Perry quipped. "I don't think Her Majesty would be happy to see you knocking on her chamber at this hour."

She calmed down and was enlightened by Perry's words. She sat on her bed, frustrated that she cannot do anything right now. "But what am I going to do? I needed to reassure Carl that everything is alright. And I want to see my father too and Uncle Spencer wanted me to go home at once and had already sent the Royal Guard escorts to fetch me tomorrow!"

Perry sat on the bed, "Laura, I know that you want to please all of them. But you cannot do all things at once. I tell you what, why don't you try to write a letter instead to Prince Carl, and tomorrow morning, when you tell the Queen and the King that you needed to go home, you can ask them to give the letter to the Prince."

Her Lady in Waiting's suggestion gave her hope.

"Alright, I'll write to him instead," she returned and gave Perry a reassuring look. "And please tell the girls to prepare and pack-"

"I have already given them a heads up, since I have a hunch that they might want you to go home, after I saw the Royal Guard," Perry replied. "So, don't worry about it sweetie. Just try to write the letter to your Prince and I'll see you tomorrow."

"Thank you Perry," she replied.

"Goodnight Princess," her Lady in Waiting responded before walking out of the chamber.

After Perry had left, she sat right away at the study table and pulled the drawer and took out a paper and started to compose a letter to Carl.

*****

The next morning, she found herself entering the throne room before departing for Hollis Kingdom. As she walked further, she noticed that it was just the Queen who was present.

"Good morning Your Majesty," she greeted and curtsied to the Queen who was sitting on the throne.

"Good morning Princess Laura, what can I do for you?" the Queen asked, curious. "You looked like you are going somewhere."

"I am, Your Majesty. And I apologize for this short notice, but my father needs me and my uncle ordered me to go home right away due to my father's deteriorating health," she explained clearly, and to avoid any misunderstanding she presented a folded paper with both hands to the Queen at once. "I apologize for my boldness, but I would like to ask Your Majesty if Her Majesty could give this letter to the Prince." The guard that was standing beside the throne took the paper from her hand and handed it to the Queen.

"I am sorry to hear about your father. Kindly send my regards and tell him that we wish him well," the Queen replied. "I would make sure to give this to Carl."

"Thank you Your Majesty," she said and bowed to the Queen grateful. Then she looked at the Queen again and composed herself, as if preparing for a speech. "And I want to let Your Majesty know that nothing has changed on my part. I am not breaking my commitment to both our kingdoms and I would continue to fulfill my duties and obligations to this kingdom."

"Thank you for thinking first about the welfare of our kingdoms, I am impressed of your braveness and your decision," the Queen remarked with a firm voice.

"I keep my word and honor my promise," she replied. "A mere imperfection would not make me change my mind from marrying your son, Your Majesty. I like Carl very much and I have sworn my devotion to him. He is the only man that I wish to marry and no one else."

"I hope you know what you are saying," was the Queen's challenging remark. "Because once you tie the knot with my son, there is no backing out anymore. And I hated to say this, but I am very protective of my son and I don't want to see him hurt. So, if you are not completely certain about marrying him, you still have the chance to say it."

"Your Majesty, I know that you doubt my integrity, but I assure you, I am completely certain that I want to marry your son," she replied firmly. "And to appeased Your Majesty, I am ready and wish to be married to your son as soon as I return from my journey," was her confident retort. "I had thought of waiting for my father to become well so that he could travel here and walk me to the altar when I get marry. Unfortunately, my father is getting worst and I don't think he could manage to travel this long. And right now, my priority is to become the wife of the Prince of Karnstein and to fulfill my promise to him."

 

TBC

Chapter Text

Carmilla

When she saw the group of guards wearing yellow and black uniforms arriving in their castle yard, she became worried at once. Although she has not seen yet the Hollis' Royal Guard's uniform, she knew that they were from Laura's Kingdom when she saw the black bear with a golden crown on a yellow background of the Hollis' banner. She remained looking out at the window and was puzzled at the number of Hollis' Royal Guards that were waiting outside their courtyard. Her mother has not mentioned anything about it.

And then it hit her:

Is Laura leaving?

Suddenly she found herself growing anxious at the presence of around three dozen Royal Guards from Hollis Kingdom and some carriages. Are they here to fetch Laura? …But why?

Then her hope diminished and fear overcame her. She balled her fist as she stared and watched the royal guards outside, waiting anxiously what would happen. She waited in bated breaths and was alarmed when she saw the Princess' handmaidens all three of them get in one of the carriages, followed by the guards loading five chests on the top and back of another carriage. Her heart pounded fiercely.

Are those Laura's things?

She refused to accept, and waited anxiously if any other person would come out again. She almost lost her balance and her heart broke when she caught the sight of Laura followed by Perry getting into another carriage.

Laura?!

Her hands held tightly on the window sill. She was in total disarray as she watched Laura's carriage drove fast out of their courtyard, that she did not have time to react or to shout to Laura and beg the Princess not to leave her! And all she could do was to give her betrothed one last look as she caught a glimpse of Laura's face on the window of the carriage and gazed languidly at the horses until it disappeared from their courtyard.

"Noooo!"

She collapsed on the floor and bawled. How can Laura just left without even talking to her?! Was Laura so disgusted at her that the Princess did not even bother to say goodbye?! Was their relationship not that worth saving? How about the promises that Laura made to her?

"You promised not to leave me!" she bellowed as anger and pain overcame her.

It did not take long before the guards were alerted at her screaming, and the next thing she heard was the sound of her mother's shoes on the marbled floor approaching to where she was.

"Carl! What's the meaning of this?" the Queen exclaimed. "Stand up!"

She did not obey her mother but just looked up and stared at the Queen's angry face.

"Tell me, did Laura finally leave me?!" she demanded, still in tears. She does not care if her mother could see her like this. Then she saw her mother's face softened and kneeled in front of her and held her hands.

"Carl, Laura did not leave you. She just needs to go home because her father is ill and they needed her," the Queen related.

"But why didn't she talk to me? Why didn't she ask for me? Why didn't she meet me first before leaving?" was her confused and anxious remarks.

"Laura does not have time to wait for you, because they needed to leave at once," her mother relayed and rose. "But before she left, she told me that nothing has changed and that she would still fulfill her promise to both our kingdoms, and that meant, remaining betrothed to you."

After hearing those words, she managed to calm down. "Does she have any message for me?" was her hopeful query.

"She would come back as soon as her father became better," the Queen answered. "Now, get up and stop crying like a child. I didn't raise you to be sensitive and love sick fool. Act like a true prince and be strong."

She tried to gather her composure and stood up and dried her tears with her hand. She was relieved to know the truth but there was still a shred of doubt that was brewing inside her.

"And stop whimpering like a girl," the Queen ordered. "I don't want to see you like this again, do you understand?"

She just nodded and tried to calm down.

"Do you understand?!" the Queen demanded.

She caught her mother's icy glare and straightened her back. "Yes, my Queen Mother, I understand." She said in a firm deep voice, suppressing her sobbing.

"I am beginning to suspect that you're falling in love with the Princess,"

She tried to avert her mother's eyes.

"Look at me Carl," the Queen ordered. "Are you in love with Laura?"

She cannot deny it anymore. Her feelings for Laura were very strong and it consumed her.

"Yes."

She was waiting for another reprimanding from her mother but she was surprise when the Queen just stared at her quietly.

"She did not leave any message for you."

She heard the Queen stated then turned around and left her.

*****

She was startled at the sound of the door opened and heard the voice of her Valet greeted her. She remained lying on her bed and tried to ignore it. She had totally forgotten how annoying LaFontaine was every morning after having stayed for almost ten days in her mother's chamber. Her mother did not let her go back to her chamber at once for fear of she might do some foolish things again, after the queen saw how she reacted upon discovering that Laura left.

Last night was her first evening sleeping in her chamber. It had been a week now since Laura left for Hollis Kingdom. Ever since Laura had left she never had a decent sleep. She cannot focus on her studies and did not read the books that her mother brought during her stay in the Queen's chamber. She did not eat all the foods that Bertha brought her and just ate when she hears her stomach rumbling.

And today she had no plan of getting out of her bed, but had to discard the idea when she felt her bladder were about to burst and decided to get out of her bed. Once she came out of those heavy drapes she saw her Valet waiting for her by the fireplace. She ignored LaFontaine and went to the bathroom. She stood in front of the chamber pot and emptied her bladder. And afterwards she washed her hands and saw herself in the mirror. She looked awful. It was only more than one week that she had not seen Laura but she was already wasting. She was already devastated. She ignored the reflection in the mirror and walked out of the bathroom; she was about to go back to her bed again, when LaFontaine's voice stopped her.

"Your bath is ready and warm, and I have brought also your breakfast," LaFontaine said.

"What are you doing here? Didn't I tell you that I am not leaving my chamber," she complained and was irritated that her Valet walked towards her.

"Your Highness, we don't need to leave your chamber, if that's what you want," LaFontaine began to tell. "But you do need a bath and some nourishment."

She heard LaFontaine's 'polite' tone that her Valet always used to convince her to do something that she differed. "I am not leaving my chamber, but you are."

"Alright, I am going to leave you alone after you have taken your bath and eaten your breakfast."

She knew that her Valet could be such a persistent person and would never leave her alone. "Fine! I'm going to take a bath now but afterwards I want you out of my chamber." She commanded and saw her Valet bowed to her in an agreement.

*****

She felt like the days were dragging as she counted how long Laura had been gone. It had been ten days without her little ball of sunshine in the castle, and she felt how empty and silent their castle was without Laura.

Another day was over and she found herself lying on her bed, worrying again if Laura would really come back to their castle; worrying if Laura would come back to her.

What if Laura found someone else? What if Viktor asked her again? What if she decided to break our betrothal?

She cannot avoid but to think all of these crazy things since Laura had not talked to her or not even sent her a letter. She was afraid that she was losing Laura; she was afraid that Viktor might steal Laura from her, since she knew that the Berghausen Kingdom was in the south too, near Hollis' Kingdom.

*****

Each day her fear grew stronger. She began to suspect if Laura will really come back to her and fulfill the promise that the Princess' made. She recalled Laura telling her that she was the only man in the Princess' life and no one else. But how could she still believe Laura, when the Princess just left without a word of reassurance? How would she feel secure when she had not heard anything from Laura? She was slowly losing hope. And doubt was quickly taking over her thoughts.

*****

She was slowly tearing apart. It had been three weeks now; three damn weeks of patiently waiting if her betrothed would really come back to her; three grueling weeks of trying not to lose her sanity as she kept reminding herself that Laura still belonged to her; three crazy weeks of still wondering what Laura thought of her.

It was her fault. She hated herself. She had been wallowing in pain since she learned that Laura had left the castle to go back home. Although her mother assured her that Laura was coming back and that everything would be alright, her heart still did not want to believe. She had not talked to anyone since she transferred back to her chamber. She was neither talking to LaFontaine nor the Queen about what she felt.

She was supposed to destroy this betrothal and send Laura back to Hollis Kingdom frustrated and broken hearted, and instead, she committed the biggest mistake of her life: showing her vulnerability and falling in love to Laura. And now she was left hanging in a thin thread.

What a fool she had been to believe that somebody could love her for what she was; what a fool she had been to let this stranger come in to her heart and make her weak.

What a fool she had been to take a chance on love. She did not leave any reservations she just let herself fell into the charms of Laura without thinking of the consequences. And now that the truth was unveiled she was in complete chaos!

And what a fool she was for having been distracted of love and forgotten the ultimate problem of how she would explain to Laura what she was. She just let herself be dragged with the wave and flow of love.

Who was suffering now?!

The thought of losing Laura was tormenting her. She loves Laura. But does Laura still want her?

*****

It was almost a month since Laura went back home. It was almost a month where she had wallowed in pain, sorrow, and disorientation.

She was losing Laura.

She was losing love.

She was losing hope.

She did not know where she would be tomorrow, without Laura she was lost.

*****

Her state of despair did not go unnoticed from her mother. She was now summoned to talk to the Queen and found herself alone at the throne room with her mother. The last time she had talked alone to the Queen in the vast room was when she was twelve and the time she found out that she was heir to the throne of Karnstein Kingdom and that she had to accept this new life and identity. The scenario right now was similar from that but this time she was not scared anymore.

"Come here." The Queen beckoned in a calm but firm tone.

She walked closer to the Queen's throne and stopped when she met the four steps that separated the floor and the throne. She found her mother still intimidating when seated at the throne, grand and powerful while looking down at her, but she did not care. She knew that she was in for a hard reprimanding from her mother and she was ready for it. She met her mother's cold icy glare and prepared herself for whatever punishment that was waiting for her.

"I did not raise you to be a pathetic broken hearted prince that was pining for a certain woman," was the Queen's authoritative remark while sitting calmly on the throne. "Have you forgotten what I always tell you?"

"No, I have not, My Queen Mother," she replied with the same calm and firm tone, not tearing her eyes off from her mother's glare and mirroring the same inexpressive facial expression of her mother's.

"Then how come you are acting like a pathetic fool?!"

She heard her mother's authoritative voice raised. But she did not flinch. She was already immune to it. And she knew that her mother was disappointed at her.

"Carl Philipp Marcus, you are the heir to the throne of Karnstein Kingdom, what kind of King you will become if you let your heart take control over you?" was the Queen's challenging question. "A king should rule; not fall in love. Love is a hindrance from becoming a powerful king. You have an obligation first and foremost to the Karnstein Kingdom to be an accomplished ruler and to protect your people. And you have an obligation to me and to your King Father to be a successful heir. How can you become a strong and successful king when you cannot control your emotions?" Was her mother's honest critic. "You are marrying Princess Laura because we need to continue the monarchy. She knew that she had an obligation to fulfill that is why she did not break the betrothal. There is no problem about the princess finding out the truth, I took care of it."

She suddenly worried when she heard the last sentence that her mother uttered. When it was relating to her secret she knew that her mother would always do whatever it takes to protect the integrity of the kingdom. She was curious what her mother and Laura had agreed upon, but nonetheless she did not pry.

Her mother had informed her that Laura agreed to marry her out of obligation to her kingdom and to the Karnstein's. But did Laura mention something about marrying her out of love? She never knew. She never heard it from Laura.

"And Carl… don't forget that you are the love of my life, my son," the Queen's voice became gentler. "You are my source of happiness and the most important in my life. That's why I want what is best for you: to become a great king."

She felt like her confidence returned and her mother's reassurance lifted up her spirit. She felt fearless and strong.

Her contemplation was halted when her mother spoke again.

"If you ever commit to this marriage with the hope of combining love, you will fail as a king. Do I make myself clear?"

She nodded and just swallowed everything that her mother told her. "Yes, my Queen Mother." She replied in a confident and deep calm voice.

"Do you have anything you want to say?"

She contemplated for a moment.

A month of silence from Laura was enough. She was not used to being left alone. She was not used to being ignored. She was not used to waiting. And most of all her patience was running out.

Suddenly, she found herself not wanting to disappoint her mother again. And she felt like there was something inside her that was triggered, and she was in the state again where she seeks her mother's trust, attention and approval.

"Forgive me for being weak and for forgetting my obligations, I have been temporarily distracted," she spoke with candor. "I promise to obey all the things that you said and will never disappoint you my Queen Mother and my King Father."

After that heartfelt confession, the Queen nodded and gave her a satisfied smile.

"I am pleased to know that," was the Queen's reply, and beckoned her to come nearer to the throne and kneeled in front of the Queen. She looked up at the Queen's icy glare turned into a warmth gaze, and she felt her mother's right hand cupped her left cheek tenderly and kissed her other cheek before whispering into her ear:

"I'm happy that my son is back."

She closed her eyes for a moment as she heard those words and felt satisfied and secured. There was something in a way her mother does things that made her obey. And this time she would make sure that her mother would be proud of her.

 

TBC

Chapter Text

Laura

She sighed as she stepped out of the carriage and faced the Karnstein Castle's entrance. It was almost midnight and she was exhausted from the long day trip from Hollis Kingdom to Karnstein Kingdom. Nevertheless, she was glad that she was already in the castle and was looking forward to see her Prince. She had never seen him for over a month, nor heard from him and she wondered if he was still angry at her. She had hoped that the letter that she gave to the Queen would somehow enlighten Carl's mind, but she was disappointed when he did not reply.

When she entered the castle she cannot help comparing the light atmosphere of her home to the dim and silent aura of the castle that she lived in now. She took a deep breath and caught the musty and damp smell of the castle and the fragrance of rose in the air. She smiled as her nose caught the familiar scent of her Prince. When she arrived in the Karnstein Castle she was impressed at how the whole castle smelled of rose. It was rare that a castle in Styria have rose garden since it was a delicate flower to grow. But here, they mostly use the flower as fragrance to the linens and clothes that the King, the Queen and the Prince's used and as decorations. Often times, dried rose petals were scattered on the floors of each chamber. However, she did not use it to make her chamber smelled good, when Perry suggested that they scatter some to her chamber. She told Perry that she just want to make her chamber simple, clean and smelled neutral.

As she walked through the great hall on the way to the grand staircase, she cannot help but to look at the opposite wing when they reached the second floor and the hall leading to her chamber. Carl's chamber was located at the farthest end of the opposite wing: the most isolated chamber. And she cannot help but to wonder why the Prince would choose to sleep there. Speaking of the Prince, she was wondering also if Carl missed her at all during the times she was gone. Then something she never thought of slipped in her mind.

I wonder if he has grown his beard again?

She thought and wondered why it suddenly occurred in her mind. It was over a month since the last time she saw him. When she was in their castle, she wrote to him and mentioned in her letter that he did not have to shave just for her, because she liked him and had grown to love him with a beard. She felt ashamed and seemed demanding after learning from Perry that Carl wanted to please her by being clean shaven, which she thinks was inappropriate. Because she told Carl that she accepted him for what he was and would not ask him to change anything in him just to please her.

But she cannot deny that the Prince was handsomer when she saw him without facial hair. How she craved during that moment to kiss those beautiful soft looking cheeks and touch the Prince's smooth perfectly chiseled jawline. Now that she saw him without a beard, his jawline looked more enticing to kiss. And she imagined kissing Carl's alabaster throat. She was curious how it felt to put her hands on his smooth jawlines and caress it like she used to do before when Carl would want some petting from her like a cat. And she realized.

God! I missed my big wild cat!

She sighed with longing and recalled how Carl loved her touch, and how she loved gazing at his face, while he closed his eyes and savored the touch of her hand. Her Prince was so easy to please and pacify, and she was glad to discover his weaknesses. It only took one kiss from her to stop him from brooding; it only took the touch of her hand on his cheek to control his rage; and she only had to pout and give him a puppy sad eye look to get him to obey her. She felt overwhelmed and cannot wait to touch his face, kiss him and put her arms around him! She missed him so much!

And before she could turn around and walk to the direction of Carl's chamber, her eyes already caught the sight of her chamber's door and the two guards that stood beside it had already opened the door to welcome her back.

*****

She wake up at the sound of the chirping of the birds outside her window and she smiled as she caught the scent of rose in the air. She slowly opened her eyes and saw Perry putting a bouquet of different colored roses in the vase by her bedside table. She got excited at once, got up and gaze at the roses.

"Did Carl send those?"

"And good morning to you too Princess," Perry said.

She gave her Lady in Waiting a sheepish look, after forgetting her manners. "Sorry I'm just excited… good morning to you too."

"These are from their Majesties," Perry cleared. "They said that they are so happy that you are back in the castle and wish you a pleasant day on your return."

The smile on her face vanished and she was disappointed to find out that it was not her Prince who sent it.

"Have you seen Carl?" she asked Perry, full of hope.

"No, unfortunately; and neither LaFontaine," Perry sighed.

She wondered where he could be. Curious, "What time is it?"

"It's already past noon Princess," Perry informed.

And she realized at once why her Prince was not there to welcome her back. Everyone in the castle were already working and doing their daily tasks, while she still sits on her bed in the middle of the day. She felt like a spoiled princess.

"Why didn't you wake me up?" she asked and had thought of joining Carl for lunch today.

"I know that you were exhausted last night, so I didn't wake you up. I brought your lunch," Perry said and motioned on the wooden serving tray beside the flowers. "Should I put it on the table or you'll eat there?"

"Thanks. Please put it on the table," she returned and got up from her bed. She walked to the window and looked out, as she enjoyed the sight of the stunning garden and the different varieties of flowers that were in full bloom; from white edelweiss, bright red and yellow daisies, to the amazing blue, purple and pink hyacinths, dainty pink and peach carnations and majestic sweet smelling lilacs.

She loved this view from her window, and she loved how the Karnstein Castle maintained its beautiful garden of flowers and trees compared to the Hollis' Castle, where they mainly grow trees with fruits and vegetables.

But nothing would compare to the elegant red, white, blue, yellow and orange roses that were growing at Carl's secret rose garden. She loved that garden not just for the roses, but the significance of it: She and Carl had their first picnic there and Carl proposed to her in the rose garden.

*****

After eating lunch, she went to the throne room at once to thank the King and Queen for the flowers and to let them know that she had arrived safely. She was informed by the Queen at once that she need to start planning about the wedding and had already provided her some people to help with organizing.

Her hands were already full as she received a long list of 'to dos' on her first day back in the castle. She reminded herself that she should get used to it since she was about to become the Crowned Princess of Karnstein after she get married to Carl. Her obligations would be official and the list would grow longer. But she does not mind. She enjoyed helping people and working hard. She was never idle when she was in their castle.

Before dinner she caught LaFontaine in the kitchen and asked the Valet where the Prince was since she had not seen him yet after she arrived. The Valet told her that the Prince was with the King and the King's men, discussing about a new trade partnership, but would stay in the library before dinner. She was about to ask more about the Prince, but LaFontaine was summoned by the Queen.

*****

Few hours later, she found herself walking on the dimly lit hall to the library. Her heart was pounding in anticipation of seeing her Prince and the mixed feelings of not knowing if Carl was still angry at her or he had already forgotten that awful incident.

She had assured him on her letter that she still liked him and that her feelings never change towards him even after finding out the truth. She admitted that she was shocked and cannot believe it, and was still confuse the first week that she was still at the Karnstein Castle. However, during her stay at the Hollis Castle, she realized that she missed Carl and that she was longing for his presence. She remembered the time he got angry when he did not saw her for a day and he gets broody or mad whenever they don't get to see each other.

She wondered how angry he was now after she had been away for a month. She wondered also if Carl missed her as much as she missed him. She wrote a second letter to him when she was at her kingdom, stating how sorry she was again for what happened and that it does not matter what he was. Because she grew loving him for what he was even if he was different. She had also stated there that she was growing fond of him the last time they were together but was not able to tell him, because she was not sure of what she felt. But right now, the distance reconfirmed it: she felt something deeper other than attraction towards him. She waited for a reply eagerly, but was disappointed when he did not answer again.

On the last week of her stay at their castle, she wrote him a letter again asking him if he was still angry at her. And to make things easier for both of them, she reassured him that she was not breaking their betrothal and as soon as she arrived home they can talk about finalizing their marriage and announcing it to both kingdoms. She hoped that this assurance would erase any doubt on him with regards to what she feels. But she never knew what he thought of.

Her heart pounded fiercely and she sighed; she does not know what to expect when she knocked on the door of the library.

"Come in."

She heard Carl's quick reply, but she could tell from his voice that he was serious. She slowly entered the dark library and saw him standing by the fireplace, his back facing her. Her eyes caught sight of the crown on his head. He never wore it except during special occasions. She remembered him telling her that he disliked it because it was heavy and it reminded him of his heavy responsibilities as the future king; then he teased her and told her that, it was better not to wear his crown so that it would be easier for her to caress his hair if she would kiss him; which was true. She remembered that Carl liked the feeling of her hands running though his hair while his head was resting on her lap, and heard him purred when she caressed him there.

She had thought of wrapping her arms around Carl as soon as she entered the room, but the stiff shoulders and the hands of the Prince behind him told her that he had been contemplating. She disregarded the idea and stood behind him with a decent distance between them like an acquaintance instead of lovers.

"I missed you." She uttered softly.

She was expecting by now that Carl would turn around and kissed her, but she was disappointed by the lack of reply and action from him. She took a deep sigh and tried to get his attention again.

"I… I want to apologize for what had happened last time. I did not know-"

"Nobody knew, except my parents, some of the servants and my Valet." Was his cold reaction. "And you."

She took a deep breath again, and grew tense at the tone of his deep firm voice. She had never felt so intimidated at how he talked with that cold and authoritative voice of him. She had witnessed a lot of times when he loses his temper and shouts at everyone. But she knew that at the end of the day, she could tame him and Carl would surrender to her kisses. However, at this moment, she was not sensing any of those things from her Prince, except this cold authoritative aura.

"Carl, please… will you look at me?"

She requested, not used to talking to him with his back facing her. But when he did not move an inch, she gave up and just continued, "I want you to know that nothing had change. I still like you even if you…" she was about to say half woman and half man but she was confused and did not want to make things worse. "Different… I mean different like in a good kind of different way that I still like, you know." She babbled and she hope by now he was already softening from her being half-witted. But she was treated by silence again.

She thought of provoking him to stir his emotions, so that he would flare up and then she could pacify him and kiss him at the end.

"Fine! Do you want to know the truth?! I was shocked! I never met anyone like you. I cannot believe that it was possible for a person to be both and that I never found out or never had any suspicion that you possess both-" she was about to mention both man and woman's appearance, but controlled herself not wanting to hurt him.

And instead of a reply, she was distracted by his arms now resting on his sides, and she was alerted when she saw his hands balled into fist. She panicked and thought that Carl had misunderstood what she was trying to convey, and the thing she wanted to say was: she accepted and liked him for what he was.

But instead of saying it, it was an automatic reflex for her to hold him and kiss him just like they used to do when they were fighting and would make up.

Without hesitating, she touched the back of his left arm, gesturing for him to face her, but as soon as her hand made contact to his arm he turned around quickly and avoided her touch, as if he was burned.

"Do not touch me!" he reprimanded, his voice fierce.

"Carl…" she mumbled and was about to say sorry again but was taken aback by his violent reaction.

She gasped when she noticed his face, clean shaven and very neat looking, just like when she saw him while he was sleeping, but neater and colder. His hair was neatly trimmed and tamed.

As their eyes met, she could no longer find the deep, warm, caring orbs that she used to see. And instead, it was fierce and icy. She contorted her brows and was hurt at how he reacted. It seemed like she was talking to a stranger. Gone was the broody but passionate bearded Prince that she used to like; now it was replaced by this intimidating cold person that looked strange in her eyes. She cannot deny that he looked more attractive now that he was clean shaven and his smooth face was visible and beautiful than ever, compared when he had a beard. She hated that beard, but she had grown to love it because it was a part of him that she had accepted whole heartedly. Instead she was met by a different Carl. A Carl that was cold, withdrawn, serious, aloof and intimidating. And she worried and wondered:

What happened to my Prince?

"You do not need to spend your time with me," Carl said.

She was distracted from her rumination as she heard his deep cold voice and looked at him.

"From now on, I would be very busy, and can no longer be with you whenever you want me," the Prince stated. "If you want to give a message to me, you can relay it to my Valet. They will manage all of your needs and questions."

"Carl, we are about to get married, you must reserve some of your time for me," she commented and would not accept this arrangement.

"I am the heir to the throne and my duties and obligations to the Kingdom come first," he stated firmly. "And you will accept that and will not demand any of my time for you."

She was hurt upon hearing the last remark. But she would not have it.

"No, I won't accept it," she returned and saw the anger on his face after she rejected his proposal. "I am going to be your wife soon and I demand what is rightfully mine; and that means you and your affection." She blurted and was surprised to see him speechless. "You may not want to see my face, but I couldn't remain in a marriage where I don't see my husband nor talk to him. You can use the whole day fulfilling your duties as the heir, but when night comes, I want to be with you," was her bold demand.

"What you're asking is too much, Princess," Carl returned with sarcasm. "After we got married, you are going to remain sleeping in your own chamber and I would continue to sleep in my own chamber. You cannot force me to spend some time with you, and you certainly cannot ask me to give you some attention. Because my time is precious and should be spent for more important things rather than be wasted on your childish needs. And I don't need to discuss or explain any further to you, since I have already decided. And from now on, you will call me Prince Carl, or Your Highness and nothing else."

 

TBC

Chapter Text

Carmilla

"How can you say those words?" Laura retaliated still unconvinced. "I was just gone for a month… and yet… I could no longer recognize the Prince that I left behind… What happened to you?" the Princess' feeble and desperate remark. "Please tell me you don't mean it." Laura implored. "Because I don't know how I could live with you under the same roof without touching and holding you."

"Don't you dare talk to me like that," she reprimanded. She was irritated at how Laura does not give up easily; she clenched her jaws and increased the pitch of her voice. "I am your future husband and the heir to the throne; you shall obey and accept all the things that I am telling you. You will respect me and agree to all my conditions, and you will not use that tone of voice to me."

She remained glaring at Laura and noticed the Princess' brows wrinkled, while those hazel eyes smoldered in pain, and those beautiful lips quivered, as she witnessed how Laura tried to suppress the tears that were threatening to come out. But she did not yield.

"I have mentioned many times to my letters how much I want you; how much I like you; how much you mean to me," Laura uttered in a brittle tone. "Doesn't that mean anything for you?"

She stared at the Princess for a moment and she almost lost her composure, and was temporarily snatched from her outrage. What letters?!

Her brows furrowed and her eyes narrowed. She does not recall any letters that she received from Laura. But it does not mean she will yield to her feelings. She reminded herself again that she needed to be strong and be firm to her decisions. Then she heard her mother's voice in her head:

"How can you become a strong and successful king when you cannot control your emotions?"

She took a deep breath and said, "I don't know what you're talking about."

"I wrote three letters for you, didn't you received them?" the Princess asked with a trace of desperation.

She averted Laura's eyes; her thoughts in terrible turmoil and faced the fireplace. "I did. But it doesn't matter. I have made up my mind. This discussion is over. You may leave now. And don't you dare question me again," she warned in a firm arrogant tone. "Or I will break this betrothal!" And before she realized, the words were already out of her mouth and she regretted saying it.

Then there was silence.

She felt her heart pounding fiercely.

The anticipation of waiting for Laura to react to the threat of breaking their betrothal had sent her to frenzy. She twisted her signet ring on her right pinkie and bit her lip. What if Laura accepted the challenge? Could she take it? Was she ready to lose the love that she had finally found?

She held her breath when she heard Laura's voice and her shoulders stiffened.

"Before I leave, I want you to know that there was not a single day that I didn't think about you while I was gone." Laura confided. "…I missed my Prince." The Princess whispered in the air.

And the next thing she heard was the sound of footsteps on the floor then the door opened and finally closed.

She breathed a sigh of relief. She shut her eyes and bowed her head, while her right hand reached for her temples and rubbed it with her middle and index finger. She was very aware of how Laura was hurt by her words, but to hurt the one she love was more painful.

*****

When she arrived at the dining hall her mother and Laura were already in their places. She walked quietly towards her mother.

"Good evening my Queen Mother," she uttered and bowed to the Queen, before kissing her mother's hand.

"Carl, it's good to see you my son," the Queen returned after acknowledging her presence. "I was telling Princess Laura here that we could finally set the date of your wedding on the next full moon."

"And that would be when?" she asked, while still standing in front of the Queen.

"Next Wednesday," her mother confirmed.

"With all due respect My Queen Mother, I don't think we have enough time to prepare in a span of ten days," she replied, knowing that preparing for a wedding was a big task. But deep inside her, she knew that she was not emotionally prepared for it. She glanced at Laura who seemed to be silently listening to the Queen, and caught Laura's melancholic smile.

"My son, in case you have forgotten, your mother is the Queen and your father is the King. Nothing is impossible when it comes to our Prince's happiness," the Queen remarked with great pride.

And before she could comment, they heard the guards opened the door and announced the King's arrival.

She bowed to the King and Laura rose from the chair and curtsied to her father. When she saw her father took a seat, she walked across the other side of the table and was about to take her seat, but she was surprised when Laura curtsied to her too.

"Your Highness,"

She heard Laura uttered after curtsying to her and did not meet her eyes. Ever since they became close, she asked Laura never to bow to her again. And now, she felt hurt at the way Laura treated her. The awkwardness and tension that was growing between the two of them was interrupted when the King spoke, and they both took their seat as the guards pulled their chairs for them.

"Carl, Your Queen Mother informed me that you and Princess Laura can get married on the full moon," the King began and took a swig of wine from the goblet right away. "I think it's a good idea. What do you think Princess?"

The servants had already started serving the soup and pouring the wine, and she noticed that Laura was not touching the soup.

"I think it is perfect Your Majesty," the Princess answered in a weak voice. "I have promised Her Majesty that as soon as I came back from our kingdom, His Highness and I will get marry at once."

"How about your father, is he coming?" the King asked carefully.

She glanced at Laura and saw the Princess' head bowed and Laura's lips quivered. She ached at what she witnessed. But before she could react, the King's voice caught their attention again.

"Oh Princess, forgive me I didn't meant to hurt you," the King related and was staring at Laura now.

"No, Your Majesty, it's alright, I just missed my father," Laura said and looked up and focused to the King's direction. "As I have mentioned to Her Majesty, my father cannot walk me to the altar on my wedding day, since he has not the strength to travel that long. But my uncle will do it instead."

"That's nice to know, Princess Laura," the Queen related. "So it's settled then."

Seeing that both her father and Laura had not opposed to her mother's proposal, she nodded to her mother's direction.

"Excellent," the Queen said. "Princess Laura, tomorrow you could show me the list and we could discuss what more we need."

"Yes, Your Majesty," was Laura's simple reply.

"Carl, have you thought about which ring you and Princess Laura would use?" the King asked.

Suddenly she was disoriented. And had thought of asking Laura what the Princess liked. They have never talked about it. And she knew that Laura was not that fond of jewelries. But she still respected her betrothed.

"I haven't honestly thought about it my King Father," she replied and looked at the Princess. "Perhaps we could ask Princess Laura what she likes."

Laura looked at her.

"I am not really particular when it comes to jewelries so it does not matter to me which kind," the Princess responded.

"Princess Laura, these rings would be the symbol of yours and Carl's love and fidelity, so you shall both choose it," the Queen said. "I would ask for the goldsmith to come to the castle, so that you and Carl could tell him how you like your wedding band."

"Forgive me for my ignorance Your Majesty…"

She heard Laura saying, but saved her Princess from being embarrassed. "My Queen Mother, Princess Laura and I would take care of it."

"Very well, I trust that you would choose the best," The Queen commented and gave them a satisfied grin.

They all went back to eating the main course and she noticed that Laura barely ate the vegetables and beef on the plate. She tried to avoid conversing with Laura and asked her mother instead the one thing that was nagging in her mind since she left the library.

"My Queen Mother, could I have a word with you alone at your chamber after dinner?" She asked.

"Certainly my son,"

She nodded in thanks and tried to finish her beef even if she was having a hard time swallowing it due to the tension that was brewing between her and Laura.

When it was time for the dessert to serve, she discreetly observed the Princess beside her; her brows furrowed and she swallowed hard when she saw Laura refused the cupcakes that the servant had offered the Princess.

"What's the matter Princess, do you have a toothache?" the King suddenly commented. "You never say no to dessert."

"I apologizes Your Majesties, but I am not feeling well," the Princess answered. "Would it be alright if I retire to my chamber now?"

"You may go and rest now Princess, I'm sure you're still tired from your long journey," the King relayed. "Carl-"

"My King, the guards can escort Princess Laura," the Queen suggested. "I hope you'll be well soon"

She stood up as the princess rose from the seat. Laura bowed to the King then to the Queen and lastly, when it was time to bow to her, she caught the sadness in the Princess' eyes.

"Goodnight Your Highness,"

Laura mumbled without looking in her eyes.

"Good night Princess and I hope you feel better tomorrow," she said in a firm deep tone.

 

*****

"Didn't you receive my letters?"

"I did. But it doesn't matter. I have made up my mind."

Laura's pleading was still in her mind, nagging her like a conscience. She cannot take it anymore. She needed to know the truth.

She composed herself and made sure that she was in control of her emotions before arriving at the door to her mother's chamber. When the guards of the Queen's chamber saw her coming, they bowed to her and opened the door right away.

When she entered the chamber, she saw her mother sitting on the chair beside the fireplace. She walked closer and stood a meter away from where her mother was sitting. She was fuming inside but she tried her best to calm in front of her mother.

"Laura told me that she sent some letters for me," she said in a calm deep voice. "Is it true?"

Instead of an answer, she saw her mother's apathetic expression and then rose from the chair gracefully. The Queen walked to the study table by the window and retrieved something from its drawer. And returned to the chair and sat calmly, before handing three letters to her that was still sealed with wax.

"It's true," was the Queen's firm and calm reply. "Laura handed me the first letter right before she left for Hollis Kingdom, and the two remaining letters were delivered here from the time she was staying in her kingdom."

Her mother kept an eye contact with her and she did not release it.

"Then why didn't you give it to me?" she demanded and clenched her jaws. She felt the veins in her neck throbbing.

"Carl, the reason why I kept out those letters from you it's because I don't want you to breakdown again," the Queen explained openly in a firm and deep tone. "I don't want you to make a mistake of falling in love, while I'm preparing you to become the king. I know that it is hard for you not to be able to show your feelings to Laura, but you will get used to it. Right now the most important thing is for you to focus on your strength and sanity. I don't want you to lose control again. You can choose to open and read those letters. However, you have to promise and make sure that after you read the content, you could still remain focused and strong like you are right now."

She sighed and looked up when she saw the Queen rose and walked close to her.

"Do I make myself clear?" the Queen remarked not breaking the eye contact.

"Yes, my Queen Mother." She replied clearly and nodded.

Then she felt the Queen's knuckle rubbed on her cheek gently, "I hope my king would not disappoint his mother." The Queen whispered.

She closed her eyes and swallowed as the touch and words of her mother possessed her. "I won't," she replied in a low deep voice and opened her eyes. And the next thing she knew the Queen was holding her hand and beckoning her to sit on the floor while her mother sat on the chair.

"Come here,"

The Queen motioned to put her head on the Queen's lap. She obeyed and removed her crown and placed it beside her on the floor together with the letters on her hand, before she rested her head on her mother's lap. The last time she did this was when she was fourteen and she felt calmed and contented at the Queen's caress.

"Let me clear your mind and ease your worries, my son,"

She heard her mother's soothing voice as she felt the Queen's smooth hand stroked her hair and face. Her body started to calm down and she closed her eyes as she felt the warm caress of the Queen's hand.

"I have missed this," the Queen uttered softly. "I think you should always come to my chamber every night, so that I could help you relax before you go to bed … would you like that?"

She lifted her head from the Queen's lap and looked at the Queen's caring eyes. "Yes my Queen Mother, I think I'd like that very much."

And then she felt her mother's delicate hands cupped her face.

"I am happy to hear that and I am looking forward to see you every night in my chamber," the Queen returned. "Remember, you are precious to me Carl, and I am always here to protect and love you, my king."

Her pride soared after hearing those words from her mother. The only thing that was in her mind now was to meet her mother's expectation: and that was to be the king that the Queen desired.

*****

When she arrived in her chamber she saw her Valet emerged from the bathroom. She walked to her study table and put the letters in the drawer. Then she removed her crown and put it on the table before facing her Valet and let LaFontaine help her take off her clothes and boots. They stood there in silence and she knew that her Valet had realized at once that she was not in the mood for some small chat. When she was down with just her braise and under tunic, she turned around and walked quietly to the direction of the bathroom, while her Valet gathered her used clothes and boots and left the chamber.

She closed the door of the bathroom and removed the remaining clothes in her body. Once she was naked, she touched the anchor pendant of her necklace that was hanging around her neck and kissed it before she got in the bathtub. As she sat and the temperature of the water calmed her body, she cannot help but to think of the things that happened today.

She knew that she was hard on Laura and it was unfair of her to treat her Princess like that. But she had duties and obligations to fulfill and she had promised to give her whole self to become a successful king, even if she had to sacrifice her love and own happiness. She remembered the letters from Laura and contemplated on what she would do with it. Then her mother's voice lingered in her thoughts:

"I hope my king would not disappoint his mother."

She closed her eyes and tried to enjoy the hot water calming her body, while she made her decision.

 

TBC

Chapter Text

Laura

"Laura, the goldsmiths are here. They're waiting at the tea room," Perry informed.

"Can you please tell LaFontaine, to tell the Prince to meet me at the tearoom?" she said as she gathered the papers in her hands, and rose from the chair of her study table.

"His Highness is already in the tearoom as well as LaFontaine," Perry returned.

"Oh." She was surprised that the Prince was already there. "Alright, can you please tell Betty to bring some refreshments to the tearoom?"

She received a nod from her Lady in Waiting before leaving her chamber.

*****

Upon arriving at the tea room, she cannot help but to be emotional as she saw Carl sitting on the single chair at the farthest end of the center table, with LaFontaine standing beside him. Her attention was torn from the Prince, when the two men rose from the sofa and bowed to her as she approached them. One in his early adult, more likely her age she presumed, and the other, the middle age man with a white beard.

She curtsied first to Carl and greeted him.

"I apologize to keep His Highness waiting, I thought Your Highness is still outside," she remarked still bowing her head, after he rose from the chair.

"It's alright, I saw them outside and showed them here right away," Prince Carl said in a deep calm voice.

She took the seat across the two men and motioned for them to sit down, while Prince Carl took a seat after she sat comfortably.

"I have drawn some examples here and I just thought Your Highness could check if these suit Your Highness' standard," she said and showed the papers to the Prince on her left.

Carl stared at all of the three papers and she saw his gaze locked on a certain drawing. She hoped that it was the one that she favored the most, but she did not want to dictate him what to choose and instead waited for him to know what he thought of them.

"I think they're all nice," Prince Carl remarked. "But why is that one twisted?"

When she checked the one where his finger pointed at, she smiled and took the paper and held it in front of him; ready to explain.

"Compared to the other bands, this one is infinite." She said and saw him contorted his brows. "It means the ring has no end and no beginning and it continues forever in a circle."

Still curious, Prince Carl asked, "And what does it symbolizes?"

It symbolizes that my love for you has no beginning and no end… its forever.

She had thought of saying those words to him and was lost at the sight of his gentle dark orbs, and she gazed at him unintentionally.

"Princess? Did you hear what I've said?"

The Prince's cough tore her out of reminiscing and shook her head. "Oh, forgive me Your Highness, I just… umm, where were we?"

"The symbol of this ring?"

She heard him filled in.

"Ah yes, it symbolizes, two parts merging as one, just like our families; it’s a relationship. Both sides still exists but they are also both a part of one."

"So, in other words, it means: two becomes one," Prince Carl concluded.

"That's right," she added and smiled at him.

"Do you like it?" he said, serious.

She was surprised when he asked. She never thought that her opinion mattered to him, since the day he told her that she should obey him and never question him.

"Actually, that's my first choice, but of course, Your Highness' opinion is more important than mine," she relayed, in a low voice, showing to him that she was giving him all the rights to decide. Showing to him that she was respecting his decision of not to question him anymore and obey him.

"It's settled then," Prince Carl remarked and looked at the goldsmiths' direction. "We're choosing this one," he pointed at the sketch of the twisted ring.

She suppressed her excitement seeing that he was serious. She was certainly satisfied with his decision.

"I still have some matters to attend," the Prince faced her. "I would leave it to you to decide which material and other details you like in the rings."

"I would gladly do it," she returned.

"Your Highness, may we take the size of your finger?" the older of the goldsmiths asked and rose from his seat.

She saw LaFontaine took the ring gauge and assisted Prince Carl into measuring his finger, while they all waited for the Prince to finish. After LaFontaine found the perfect size, the Prince rose from his seat and left them.

"Your Highness, may we take yours now?"

She saw the younger goldsmith focused on her direction and was about to give to LaFontaine the ring gauge, but she halted the young man's hand.

"It's alright, you can take my measurement," she conveyed and the young man dutifully obliged, and smiled at her.

After finding the perfect size for her, she caught LaFontaine staring at her.

"What?" She asked, totally oblivious to why LaFontaine was looking at her.

But before the Valet could reply, her attention was diverted to the older goldsmith.

"How would Your Highness like the rings?"

"I would like it in gold, but I like the edges in platinum, could you do that?" she asked, knowing that platinum was a rare metal to find.

"Yes Your Highness, we could cater to all needs," the older goldsmith responded with confidence.

She smiled wide to them, and felt excited at her request being fulfilled. "…and the engraving inside the rings, you could put our first names: Carl on my ring and Laura on the Prince's ring. But can you add these words together with my name on the Prince's ring?" she asked, and wrote the words on the paper where she drew the ring that they have chosen.

"Certainly, Your Highness," the older goldsmith replied right away.

"Good! So, I'll leave it all to your good hands and I trust that you keep it confidential with regards to my special request on the Prince's ring."

"We are at your humble service Your Highness, and we are honored that you entrust us to make the Royal wedding bands."

"Thank you for making it possible," she returned.

After they had agreed on all the materials to be used and finalized the details, she thanked the goldsmiths and asked them to stay for a while on the tea room to eat some sweets and drink some tea. On the way out, LaFontaine walked with her and she remembered that she had an unfinished conversation with them.

"Do you want to tell me why you're staring at me while the goldsmith was taking my measurement?" she asked in a calm tone, as they walked through the hallway.

"It's a good thing that His Highness had already left when they took your measurement." LaFontaine commented.

She furrowed her brows and stopped on her tracks and faced them. "What exactly do you mean by that?"

"Princess, have you forgotten? His Highness does not like any man touching you, not even your finger, or else he would have flared up,"

"Oh my, you're right." She uttered and just realized by now. Even though they were not that close anymore, Carl was certainly not going to be please if he had seen the young goldsmith held her finger.

*****

The following day, while reviewing her wedding 'to do' list, her attention was interrupted when she saw Perry come in the chamber with a package on the Lady in Waiting's hands.

"Princess, you have a package," Perry informed.

Her eyes followed the direction of the package that was placed on the table in front of her.

"Do you know where it came from?" was her curious question as she fumbled for the knots of the package, while Perry looked patiently at her.

"Laura, it's from your father, according to the royal guard that delivered it," Perry informed.

"But I never asked Papa anything," she replied and successfully untied the knot around it.

"Well, since His Majesty cannot come to your wedding, I am definite that it is his gift for you," Perry presumed.

When she finally opened the box, her eyes caught first the white fabric that was on top of it and pulled it out at once. She smiled and ran her hand on the soft smooth silky texture of the fabric.

"Princess, that's your mother's veil!" was Perry's excited reaction and admired the fabric. "I remembered that His Majesty informed me that you should wear it on your wedding day."

She was astonished. She never expected that she would have the chance to see and wear her mother's wedding veil. She suddenly missed both of her parents and cannot control her tears.

"Perry, I missed my Mama," she cried and Perry's hands were already wrapping around her. "I wish she's still here to see me get married." She cannot help but to sob on her Lady in Waiting's shoulder.

"Shhh… I'm sure that your Mama is happy that you're about to marry," Perry consoled. "And I think she is proud to see her daughter had grown into a beautiful and kind princess."

The familiar hands of Perry rubbing on her back had always pacified her and she was thankful that her Lady in Waiting was always there to fill her mother's shoes, in case she needed or just simply missed her mother.

After regaining her composure, she laid the veil carefully on her bed and admired it, and tried to imagine how her mother looked like wearing the veil and wedding gown.

"Laura, there's still something inside the package," Perry informed and handed the little box. "Here, open it."

She took the small box and opened it with delight. Her eyes widened and her mouth opened wide when she caught the sight of a pair of diamond earrings. Then she noticed the small paper that was folded beside the earrings. She opened it and read what was inside:

'To my beautiful daughter. Love, Papa.'

"Oh Perry, I hate it that I cannot hug them both right now!" She exclaimed fully frustrated at the absence of both her parents. "I'd like to thank and embrace my Mama and Papa." She exclaimed and sat on the edge of her bed. She felt a lump in her throat and tried to suppress another cry. But she failed and bursted into tears as the thought of being away from her father and not seeing her mother again. Receiving a gift from both her father and mother made her ached for their presence and touches. Perry was beside her at once and embraced her tight.

"Try to be strong Laura and remember that even if they are not here physically with you, it does not mean that they don't love you," Perry stated.

Once she calmed down, Perry released her from the embrace. She was still whimpering when Perry looked at her.

"Wait here, I'll get you some hot cocoa and your favorite cupcake," Perry informed.

She just nodded and wiped the tears that was flowing from her eyes, and decided to lie down on her bed as Perry quickly left the chamber.

She was torn from her nap, and did not realize that she dozed off when she heard a light tap on the door. She furrowed her brows and did not get up, and remained lying on her side with her back facing the door.

"It's open!"

She shouted and did not move from her bed and decided to close her eyes again. She heard the door opened and felt someone walked across the room and then stood by her bedside. She grumbled as the person remained standing by her side as if waiting for her to get up from bed; sometimes Perry could be annoying.

"Aright, I'll get up now and eat the cupcake," she remarked, still half awake. She turned around and was about to get up from her bed, but the sight of the figure in front of her prevented her from moving. "Y-Your Highness… What can I do for you?" was her dumbfounded remark, and she sat on the bed instead of rising. She saw his brows furrowed; his eyes were melancholic as he gazed at her. She suddenly felt self-conscious and remembered that she had been crying, so she wiped her face with the back of her hand and brushed any residue of tears from her eyes.

"Why are you crying?"

She heard his deep, firm and yet calm voice. She rubbed her temple and tried to hide her face from his sight. "It's nothing Your Highness. I am just being silly, that's all; nothing to worry about." She replied and was expecting that he would accept her explanation. But instead of replying, she saw him sat on the bed, across her.

"Tell me what's wrong?"

Her heart almost breaks at the sound of his low gentle voice. She missed that sweet tone of his voice. She missed it when he gets worried about her and would soothe her.

"I just missed my Papa and Mama," she simply said and looked at him. She was surprised when she discovered that he was still gazing at her with those melancholic eyes, and the wrinkle in between his brows never fades. "I received a package from my father today, and it contained my mother's wedding veil and a pair of earrings from my father. I got emotional after I saw the gifts and wished that my parents are here on my wedding day. But we all know that it would never happen; that's why I cried. I missed them so much. I never feel so alone in my life; until now." She confessed and felt a lump in her throat formed again.

She bowed her head, and concealed the tear that escaped from her left eye. Then her senses suddenly awoken when she felt a soft hand cupped her left cheek and a thumb gently brushed away the tear on her face. And the next thing she knew, Carl's hand was gently caressing her left cheek and motioned for her to look up. The familiar soulful dark eyes of her Prince met her gaze and she almost melt at the sight of it. She missed that look; she missed that vulnerability from Carl; she missed those gentle eyes gazing openly at her. She was hurt and all she wanted was to put her lips on his thin red ones but she remembered that she cannot touch him. And she did not want to upset him again; like before. So she patiently waited for him to make the first move. She remained calm and did not tear her gaze from him. If Carl does not want her to touch him, she would prove to him that she could be obedient, but she will show him too what he was missing.

Without releasing from his touch, she carefully tilted down her head and slowly looked up at him through her lashes. She batted her eyelashes and grinned at him; not showing her teeth. Her heart beat faster when she saw Carl's fully dilated eyes and she felt his breathing became ragged and his hand on her cheek slowly crawled down to the side of her neck. But before anything else could come into fruition, she heard the door opened and they both released their gaze and the spell was broken when she saw Carl rose from the bed and looked at the direction to the door.

"Your Highness," a surprised Perry greeted and curtsied in front of the Prince. "Forgive me for intruding, I did not know that Your Highness' wants some alone time with the Princess."

"It's alright Perry, I am just here to check on Princess Laura," Carl explained and glanced at the direction of the bed and then to Perry again. "LaFontaine told me that the Princess is upset."

She furrowed her brows and remained sitting on her bed. "How did Laf knew?"

Perry approached the bed and stood beside the Prince. "I told them Princess, because I was looking for some chocolates to make your hot cocoa, but the kitchen told me that they're already empty. So, I got you a wine instead and some carrot cupcake instead of your favorite chocolate ones."

"I have already sent LaFontaine to the market square to buy some chocolates," the Prince chimed in in a serious tone.

She saw Carl crimsoned while she and Perry focused their attention to him and looked at him with their eyes wide for a moment.

"That's considerate of you," she remarked, so as not to put him in an awkward state, since Perry was still staring at him in disbelief.

"Yes, well I just don't want you to be cranky, while preparing for the wedding," was his sarcastic comment.

"Oh. Yes, of course not," she retaliated, and caught him smirked, but he turned serious again.

"I know how grumpy you could be without chocolates." The Prince added.

She was about to tell him that he was the grumpy one, but she was taken aback when he moved closer to her and took her right hand gently and held it in his soft hands. He gazed at her and said in a soothing tone:

"Before I go, I want you to know that you're not alone." The Prince mumbled.

And before she could comment on what he said, Carl removed his hands gently from hers, turned around and walked to the direction of the door.

She sighed and smiled.

 

TBC

Chapter Text

Carmilla

"They have arrived!"

She heard LaFontaine yelled after entering the library, her Valet approached her and she closed the books that were laid in front of her.

"Where are they now?" she asked, and felt her palms sweating, as she rose from the chair and waited anxiously for LaFontaine's reply.

"They're at the throne room, being welcomed by His Majesty and Her Majesty," LaFontaine answered in between breaths.

She ran her hand through her hair and did not know what she would do first. She suddenly felt like a lost child as she paced to and fro across the room. "Where's Laura?" she croaked.

"In the village with Perry," was her Valet's quick reply.

She took a deep breath and tried to compose herself, but she felt like she was losing her confidence. "How do I look?"

"Do you want my honest opinion?"

"Just answer the damn question!" she exclaimed, as her heart pounded crazily.

"You look like, you're about to be hanged," LaFontaine quipped and held their breath.

"Why do you have to tell the truth? Why can't you just lie to me?!" she retorted and she felt her anxiety level doubled.

"You told me to just answer the question," LaFontaine defended. "You didn't tell me to go easy on you."

"Arrgh!" She grumbled and left the library, followed by her Valet.

"What?" was LaFontaine's innocent remark.

"Most of the time I value your honesty," she exclaimed, as they strode along the great hall to the throne room. "But sometimes, I just need you to pretend that everything is alright; like now. Can't you do that?!" was her frustrated comment.

And before LaFontaine could utter a retort, they have already reached the grand entrance to the throne room and the Royal Guards had already opened the large wooden doors for her.

She gathered her composure and walked slowly, she found herself swallowing constantly as she walked closer to her parent's thrones and saw her mother talking to a woman with dark reddish brown hair and pale skin. The woman reminded her of Laura the first time she saw the Princess; it was like sunshine. The woman was smiling while talking to her mother. If she was not mistaking, the woman was probably ten to fifteen years younger than her mother. Then her sight shifted on the men that her father was talking to. She studied the older man's face and was also smiling to her father while they were talking, and she thought, were they all like these? Were they a family of sunshine? She focused her gaze to the man and saw that he had the same hair color as Laura's, and he was clean shaven. The man looked the same age as the woman that her mother was talking to and had a clean cut. Then she caught sight of the young man that was standing beside the older man. He too had a lighter hair and clean shaven; an almost carbon copy of the older man beside the King. He looked a little younger than her. Her scrutiny was disrupted when she heard her father's voice called everybody's attention, as the King caught sight of her approaching to their direction.

She took a deep breath and remembered to smile.

"Your Royal Highnesses, allow me to introduce my sole heir and Princess Laura's betrothed, Prince Carl Philipp Marcus," the King proclaimed, and motioned on her direction.

All eyes on her and she bowed to her right first; to her father and to the two men standing beside her father. Then she walked closer to her left and bowed first to her mother then to the woman beside the Queen.

She felt her father stood beside her and motioned to the direction of their guest, as her father introduced them individually to her.

"Carl, this is Prince Spencer of Hollis, the younger brother of the King of Hollis," the King said.

She shook his hand firmly and saw him smiling genuinely at her. Her anxiety lessened and she managed to return the smile. "It's an honor to meet you, Your Royal Highness."

"The honor is mine, Prince Carl," the man returned. "And thank you for inviting us to come early. My brother is worried that Laura might be lonely since he cannot come."

"She is, Your Highness, but I'm sure she would be very pleased when she finally sees her family," she replied, and found it easy to talk to him. "And please, call me Carl, I am soon to be your niece's husband, it is just fair to call me by my first name."

"Very well, if you like that, I wouldn't oppose to it," he replied and smiled again at her. "Because Laura calls me Uncle Spencer, and she calls my wife there, Aunt Jordana. I guess you could call us your Uncle Spencer and Aunt Jordana too."

She smiled and nodded, and felt comfortable at the warmness of Laura's family. "I will, Uncle Spencer."

"I would like you to meet my son and Laura's only cousin, Johann," Laura's uncle motioned for the younger man beside it.

"It's a pleasure to meet you, Prince Johann," she said and shook his hand firmly. "Just call me Carl."

"It's a pleasure to meet you too, Carl," Johann said. "And you can call me Johann."

She nodded and returned his smile too. And when her father motioned for her to the side where Laura's aunt and her mother stood, the woman was already smiling at her and she felt like she was standing in front of an older Laura, as the aura that this woman was sending was like a ball of sunshine too.

"Carl, I'd like you to meet Princess Jordana, Prince Spencer's wife and mother to Prince Johann," she heard her father said, and she was about to kiss the back of the woman's hand, but she was caught off guard, when the woman embraced her tightly, and held her for a while. While she carefully wrapped her hands too on the woman's waist; she caught sight of her mother lifted its left eye brows and close-lipped smile.

"Oh Carl, we're so thankful that our Laura finally found her Prince,"

She heard the woman said, and released her from the embrace. Then she was caught off guard again when the woman cupped her face with both hands, like Laura used to do to her, an then gazed at her with fascination.

"Laura is right, you are very handsome, but she told me that you have a beard," was the woman's puzzled remark.

She felt Laura's aunt's scrutinizing eyes on her. "Err… I shaved it for Laura," she commented and the woman released her face and smiled.

"I guess Laura's charm had an effect on you too," Laura's aunt teased her.

"What do you mean?" the Queen chimed in.

She saw right away her mother's curious expression.

"Our little Princess was not fond of beard; when she was a small child Laura asked the King to shave his beard, or else she would not kiss her father," Laura's aunt related. "And since then, the King ordered that all the men who are close to the Princess to shave their beards too. That's why my husband and my son never grew a beard, including Laura's personal royal guard."

"That's very interesting," the Queen commented.

She recalled LaFontaine telling her the story behind the beard hating Princess, and she just realized right now that Laura had a personal royal guard. A pang of jealousy hit her and she was suddenly irritated at the thought of her Princess having a man beside Laura all the time. Her worrying was interrupted when she heard again the voice of Laura's aunt.

"That's why, I was surprised when Laura told me that her betrothed has a beard and that she likes Carl very much," was the woman's excited remark.

She was glad to hear from Laura's aunt that the Princess likes her very much.

"I guess your little Princess where not the only one who has a charm here," the Queen returned.

She heard her mother's retort and wished that it would not result into something serious.

"I guess not, because your son here looks the perfect prince that any mother would choose for her daughter," Laura's aunt replied.

She was flattered at the compliment and cannot help but to give the woman a shy grin as Laura's aunt appraised her. While her mother displayed a proud smile.

"Thank you so much for the compliments," she said, and was aware that she was blushing while Laura's aunt's attention remained fixated on her. "I have to thank both my parents for the beautiful genes that were bestowed on me. And I have my mother to thank for molding me to be a better prince."

"I think it's time for all of you to take a rest first and freshen up before dinner," the King suggested, and led them out of the throne for the tour of the castle. "We could show you around the castle before you all retire to your chambers."

She breathed a sigh of relief and was thankful to be interrupted by her father. Meeting Laura's family was overwhelming and she was surprised that they were nice and warm people, and not the typical snobbish tight-lipped monarchs.

*****

With the help of LaFontaine and Perry, she managed to hide to Laura that the Princess' family was in the castle and arrived early as Laura expected. And now, she found herself walking to the hall that led to the family dining hall. She informed her mother that she would come late since she had some matters to attend to, but assured the Queen that she would arrived before the King.

"Have you checked if Laura's family is already in the dining hall?" she asked her very reliable Valet that was walking beside her.

"Yes, I have escorted them myself and assigned them to the proper sitting arrangement," LaFontaine supplied the information. "Her Majesty is there to keep them company and I informed your Queen Mother that Princess Laura would be late too since they had important things to buy for the wedding in the village square."

She still felt nervous dining with the Hollis' and this time with Laura. She hoped that Laura's family would not notice the awkwardness between the two of them.

"When is the Princess coming?"

"Any minute from now, so you could just wait for her by the door to the dining hall and meet her there," LaFontaine replied and stopped when they realized that they were already at the entrance to the dining hall.

"How do I look like?" she asked, wearing her red and black checkered tunic.

"I think the Princess would definitely love how you look," her Valet replied and grinned.

This time she gave LaFontaine a smirk and stood by the entrance to the dining room. Not a minute had passed and her eyes had already caught the sight of her Princess walking towards them. She held her breath and straightened her back as she saw Laura bowed to her.

"Your Highness," Laura said and stood for a while by the entrance, confused. "Were you waiting for me? Because I didn't know or I might have forgotten that we should meet here, please forgive me."

"Yes, I'm waiting for you. But you don't need to apologize because I didn't mention it to you," she told Laura, to save the Princess from the embarrassment of feeling guilty. "I just want to tell you that I have a surprise for you."

She saw those hazel eyes widened at once. Her heart melted upon seeing those innocent and yet naughty curious eyes of Laura's. The Princess certainly loved surprises. But she noticed that Laura did not laugh nor jump like the Princess used to do whenever Laura was happy.

"So, if you would follow me to the dining hall, you could see it for yourself," she suggested and she walked first to the door, followed by the Princess.

Once they were inside, Laura was speechless and just stared at those familiar faces that were staring back at them. But the Princess managed to gather her composure and greeted first the Queen before running to the woman that was beside the Queen and they hugged at once.

"Auntie Jordana!" Laura exclaimed after releasing from the long embrace, not satisfied, the Princess ran to the other side of the table and hugged Johann, then the uncle that had already opened his arms to receive the excited Princess.

"Uncle Spencer! I'm so happy to see all of you," the Princess declared and released from the embrace. "Why didn't you tell me that you're all coming today? Why didn't you tell me that you'll come early?"

"We're supposed to come two days before your wedding," Laura's uncle started to explain. "However, I received a letter from your betrothed requesting me if we could come earlier. So, here we are!"

"I'm so glad to see you," the Princess returned. But their little family reunion was cut short when the royal guards announced the arrival of the King. They all bowed to the King and waited for the King to sit before they could all take their seats.

Laura excused herself from her uncle and was guided by one of the maids to seat beside her aunt to the right, while her aunt sat to the right of the Queen.

She walked to the other side of the table and sat across Laura, since her chair was now occupied by Laura's uncle, and sat comfortably beside Laura's cousin to her right.

*****

After dinner, they all left the dining hall together. She breathed a sigh of relief after surviving the first dinner with her in-laws. Who would have thought that it was more nerve wrecking to meet Laura's family than meeting Laura for the first time? She was glad that no one noticed the awkwardness between her and Laura. She was thankful that she had to converse most of the time with Johann and Laura's uncle. Her train of thoughts was interrupted when she heard her father's voice calling them.

"Carl, shall we go to the library with Prince Spencer and Prince Johann, so that the ladies here could go to the tearoom and talked about the wedding?" the King remarked, as they gathered outside of the dining hall.

"Yes, my King Father," she replied right away and let them walked ahead after she saw her father leading the way. She had thought of talking to Laura and was curious to know Laura's reaction to her surprise even though she knew that the Princess was happy. But when she glanced at the Princess, Laura had already turned its back on them and was already chatting with the Queen and Laura's aunt. She looked down and bowed her head and followed her father.

*****

She felt this throbbing pain in her head as her senses slowly awoken.

"Good morning! It's time to wake up!"

She heard the annoying voice of her Valet and covered her head with a pillow to muffle the irritating sound. But it did not stop. She knew that LaFontaine would not stop to annoy her if she did not reply and inform her Valet that she was already awake.

Damn it! Why can't I have a break from all this madness!

Right now all she wanted was to stay in her bed and sleep throughout the day, and just wake up whenever she wanted too. She closed her eyes again and tried to regain her sleep. But the sound of LaFontaine's voice persisted throughout the chamber.

"Your bath is ready! Are you awake now?!"

She threw the pillow that was covering her head and cannot withstand her Valet's nagging anymore as her irritation overcame her.

"Leave me alone!" she yelled back, as she remained lying from her fully draped four posted bed. She could imagine the naughty grin on her Valet's face after hearing her reply.

"I need to get your hunting boots. You can take a bath now while I go to the shoemaker, then I'll help you right away to dress when I come back!" LaFontaine returned.

"Come back, never!" She retaliated.

"I'll bring your breakfast too when I return with creampuffs!"

She knew that LaFontaine was aware of her bad mood, and did not retaliated anymore. But a creampuff for breakfast will certainly make her less grumpy. After a few seconds she heard the door opened and then closed.

"Thank you," she uttered and was relieved to have some peace in her chamber. But she groaned again when she felt this nagging pain on her temple and in addition to that, she felt this throbbing ache on her crotch. She reached down under the sheet and her right hand found her shaft hard as a rock. She rolled her eyes and started to work her hand up and down through the hardness of her member. Sometimes she finds it pleasurable to do her 'morning ritual' when she just dreamt of Laura after she had awoken, but most of the time she find this morning hardness a nuisance. Then she grew worried as the thought of Laura waking up in the morning beside her with a hard shaft would definitely send Laura into a panic state. She sighed in frustration.

Then she remembered telling Laura that after they got married they would remain sleeping in their respective chambers… the thought suddenly hurt her.

*****

She never felt exhausted in her life and was thankful that she was already in the seclusion of her chamber. Hunting two days in a row was not her thing. After starting her morning hunting with her father, Laura's uncle and Johann, again, and not to mention visiting some of their farms and giving a tour to their guests on their vast land, she also had to spend her evening reviewing all the contracts that her father had given her for this new trading agreement.

And now, as she waited for LaFontaine to finish preparing her bath, she cannot help but to miss Laura. She just saw Laura briefly the other day when they had dinner together for the first time with Laura's relatives. She was expecting that Laura would noticed the red and black checkered tunic that she wore that day, but she was disappointed when the Princess did not complimented her. Yesterday, she was with her father the whole day hunting and spent most of their days outside. They missed eating dinner with the Queen, Laura and Laura's aunt and they ate late already, while the ladies have already retired to their chambers. And today, she was with her father again and she learned from LaFontaine that the Queen took Laura and Laura's aunt to visit the monastery and had eaten there instead and, were tired that all three retire to their chambers at once upon arriving at the castle.

She did not even bother to go to her mother's chamber yesterday after finding out that her mother was already asleep. And today, after she was finished reviewing the contracts, she had thought of going to her mother's chamber but Bertha informed her that the Queen does not want to be disturbed. She felt that she was left out. Her mother was not available and she had not seen nor talked to Laura for two days now. Usually, seeing the Princess every night at dinner was already enough to calm her nerves, and for her to feel secure that her betrothed was there beside her. And sometimes, if Laura was in the castle, she could get a glimpse of the Princess as Laura went on the Princess' day to day works. But as they prepared for their wedding, they become busier and she rarely sees her Princess. But she was glad to see that her betrothed was happy after Laura's relatives arrived in their castle.

Her rumination was interrupted when she saw her Valet emerged from the door of the bathroom. She stood up so that LaFontaine can remove her clothes, but she was distracted when LaFontaine handed her a small box and a letter.

"It's from Princess Laura," LaFontaine informed.

A smile escaped her mouth and she was excited to open it, but had to wait until her Valet left. She undressed quickly and when she was just in her under tunic and braise she dismissed her Valet at once.

"Thanks," she uttered and headed to the bathroom, without glancing at her Valet.

"Aren't you going to open it?" was LaFontaine's curious remark.

"I will, when I'm done bathing and after you have left," was her sarcastic retort, and gave her Valet a devilish smirk. "Now, go! I don't want your nosy nose here anymore."

*****

She bathed as fast as she can and put on her robe at once after she was finished; she did not bother to put on her sleeping wear yet. It could wait, she said to herself and walked out of the bathroom with her eyes focused on the little box and letter on her study table. She tore the seal of the letter and opened it as her heart pounded with anticipation.

To His Highness Prince Carl,

I cannot find the words to thank you for inviting my family to come earlier. It means a lot to me that they are here, it helps me forget my homesickness and distracts me from the fact that my father cannot come to my wedding.

Please accept my humble token of appreciation for His Highness' kind gesture and as a thank you for choosing me to be the mother to your children. I hope I could fulfill His Highness' wishes and I promise to be a dutiful wife to the future King of Karnstein.

Your humble servant,

Laura

_____

She cannot help but to feel emotional after reading Laura's letter. She found the letter thoughtful but at the same time a bit formal and less personal. She put the paper on the table and took the little box that came with it and opened it. Her eyes widened as she saw a cuff bracelet in silver with five emeralds, her birthstone, on the middle. She removed it from the box and put it on her left wrist. She smiled as she admired the jewelry on her wrist. It looked gorgeous on her and fits perfectly. After she had admired enough the bracelet, she took the letter again and read it one more time. She sighed as she read again:

'…thank you for choosing me to be the mother of your children'.

She removed the bracelet and placed it back to its box and she folded the letter again and placed it on the table and then put the box on top of the letter.

*****

The following day, she woke up feeling fully revived. She did not give LaFontaine a hard time waking her up and was now on her way out to the castle's courtyard.

Her mother had asked their guests to have lunch outside at the garden since the flowers were already in full bloom and the grass were full and beautiful. As she walked outside she cannot help but to admire the white edelweiss, bright red and yellow daisies, dainty pink and peach carnations and the blue, purple and pink hyacinths. But most of all she liked the sweet smell of lilacs that was lingering in the air.

The weather was perfect, the sky was clear and the sun was blazing. It would certainly leave a color on her pale skin, she thought. She felt the summer breeze caressed her face and she closed her eyes and inhaled the fresh summer air. She loved summer and all of its beauty. But nothing could compare to the beauty of her little ball of sunshine, as she caught sight of Laura clothed in a long luxurious off shoulders purple velvet dress with a metallic purple gold and black spiral brocade belt. The sleeves were long and the back was laced in an elegant corset style, with fine purple satin ribbon, emphasizing the Princess' curves. She licked her lips when her eyes focused on the smooth slender neck of the Princess and she ached to touch and kiss it. She discarded the thought right away as she approached them, and noticed that her father were already there talking with Laura's uncle and aunt together with her mother, standing on the left side, drinking wine, while Laura was sitting on the grass beside Johann. She walked closer to the left side first and paid her respect to her parents and Laura's uncle and aunt, before going to the direction where Johann and Laura were seated.

As she approached the two, she cannot help but to feel envious at how the cousins played around and bantered with each another. She smiled when she saw Laura hit Johann on the arm, and saw the Prince of Hollis' painful reaction. She remembered that Laura had hit her hard on the arm once, and it hurt, but she did not say anything to the Princess. And now, she can hear Johann complaining how the Princess' hand was like an iron. She had not even come nearer to them when suddenly; Johann rose and ran on the opposite direction. Her eyes widened and her mouth opened slightly when she saw Laura got up and ran after Johann. Laura was not even in the middle of catching the Prince of Hollis when she noticed her Princess reached for its foot and limped on one foot. She ran at once towards Laura as her heart pounded.

"Laura? Are you alright?!" she asked, her brows fully contorted as she saw the agonizing pain on Laura's face. She assisted the Princess at once to sit on the grass.

"I think I stepped on something," Laura commented and pulled her dress up to check.

She gasped when she saw Laura's bare foot bleeding. She took out her handkerchief at once and wrapped it around Laura's foot to stop the bleeding. But it looked like it will not stop it from bleeding.

"Come on, I'll take you inside now," she ordered and lifted Laura in her arms.

The Princess was caught off guard and she saw Laura's eyes widened and was about to say something.

"Do not talk. And put your hands around my neck," she ordered and walked as fast as she can to the direction of the castle. She could feel the warm breath of Laura on her face, and she caught the glimpse of Laura's pout. She tried so hard to control herself from kissing those soft lips. Laura was certainly adorable even when frowning.

To distract her from kissing the Princess; "I don't understand why you are not wearing your shoes," she commented, and sounded annoyed, as they approached the entrance to the castle. She was thankful that Laura remained silent. "Get LaFontaine! The Princess is bleeding. Tell them to come to the Princess' chamber as fast as they can!" She ordered to the first royal guard that she saw. She climbed the grand staircase without a problem and sighed with relief when she saw the Princess' chamber. The guards opened it at once and she was thankful that Perry was inside.

"Your Highness…" Perry bowed and gave them a confused look. "What happened to the Princess?"

"The Princess wasn't wearing her shoes, and stepped on something sharp and hurt her foot," she exclaimed and laid Laura carefully on the bed. "Get some clean linens and a basin of water and soap," she ordered and removed her cape and rolled the sleeves of her tunic.

"Your Highness, you don't need-" Laura was about to protest.

"I ordered you not to talk," she reminded Laura, and received a pout from the Princess and crossed its arms. She saw Perry came out from the bathroom with a basin and soap and she washed thoroughly her hands. "Give me the linens," she asked the Lady in Waiting and handed one to her. "Get some more clean water," she ordered and then sat on the edge of the bed and removed the handkerchief that was around the Princess' foot and changed it with the clean linen. She had not even asked how the Princess was feeling now, when she saw her Valet walking towards the bed.

"What happened?" LaFontaine asked, and glanced at the Princess on the bed with their brows contorted.

"The Princess had hurt her foot and is still bleeding," she explained as she showed LaFontaine the wound. "You might want to check if there's something inside the foot."

"How are you feeling Princess? Does it hurt too much? Do you feel anything inside your foot?" LaFontaine asked and turned to Laura's direction, but just received a heavy sighed and narrow look from Laura.

She rolled her eyes and remembered what she told Laura. "You may talk now."

"Thank you… Your Highness," Laura exclaimed with a trace of sarcasm. "I just stepped on a sharp stone and no, I think there's nothing in there."

"Alright, I'm going to wash the wound and disinfect it, and put something on it to ease the pain, then I'll wrap it with a bandage," the Valet remarked and opened the pouched and rummaged on the contents, and took out some small bottles, bandages and salve. "Ah, right on time." LaFontaine exclaimed as Perry approached with a clean basin of water and soap. They washed their hands and smiled back and thanked the Lady in Waiting.

She stood there behind her Valet and watched LaFontaine like a hawk at how they would dress the wound. But before LaFontaine can start, her Valet had noticed her hovering behind and faced her.

"Your Highness, maybe it would be better that you relax and take a seat beside the Princess," LaFontaine asked nicely.

"Don't tell me what to do!" She retaliated and stood straight.

"Forgive me Your Highness, I just want to let you know that I could do this, and Princess Laura would be healed in no time." LaFontaine remarked.

Then she noticed all three pairs of eyes stared at her with a trace of uneasiness. She tried to mellow down and walked to the chair beside the bed and sat there instead of sitting on the bed beside Laura. "Go ahead and do your work." She ordered and tried to calm as she saw Laura cringed while they washed the wound. She almost jumped beside Laura to hold the Princess, but she saw Perry sat on the other side of the bed at once and held and consoled Laura. She slowly sat back on the chair and controlled her emotions. She wished that it was her who was consoling and touching the Princess.

It did not take too long and LaFontaine had already wrapped the Princess' foot with a bandage and stood up and face Laura. She rose from the chair and checked LaFontaine's work, then gave her Valet a nod after she was satisfied with the result.

"It's already finished. It's just a small cut, nothing serious, but I recommend that you stay in bed for two days, so that it would heal fast," LaFontaine remarked and smiled at the Princess on the bed.

"But I still need to do-" Laura protested.

"No." She silenced the little Princess at once and walked closer to Laura's bedside. "You will stay in bed as what LaFontaine suggested and will not do anything, until your wound is healed. And you will obey me," she ordered in a firm deep tone, and emphasized the last sentence. The Princess remained silent at once and crossed its arms. She looked at the Lady in Waiting's direction and said, "Perry make sure that the Princess would remain in bed for two days; you can take over whatever the Princess needed with regards to the preparation for the wedding."

"Yes, Your Highness," Perry agreed and nodded.

"I will provide you two extra maids to do your job, so that you can concentrate on what the Princess needs for the wedding," she said in her authoritative tone, but she suspected that Laura might convince the Lady in Waiting to not obey her, as she caught Perry and Laura glancing at each other. "I hope I could trust you on this matter, Perry, since I know that the Princess could be a little persuasive when it comes to getting what she wants."

"I am not!" Laura protested.

"Then don't try anything foolish and listen to what LaFontaine had told you," she reprimanded.

"It's just a little cut, I'm not dying yet!" the Princess retorted.

After hearing the last sentence, she was not able to control her temper and sat beside Laura and glared at the Princess, while pointing her index finger on Laura, as if like a child. "Don't. Ever. Say. Dying. Again." she berated the Princess. Then she saw Laura's eyes widened, and the Princess' shoulders hunched and shrunk back to bed. She regretted her action at once and rose from the bed and left the chamber fuming. She hated that she cannot control her temper when it comes to Laura's well-being. Just the thought of Laura dying made her crazy and frightened. Laura was her life and she did not know how she would live without the Princess.

*****

That night, when it was time for her to retire in bed, she noticed that her Valet was quiet. She knew that LaFontaine was mad at her too, after scolding the Princess.

"How is she now?" she asked LaFontaine in a calm low tone, as her Valet began to remove her cape.

"I gave her some chamomile tea and something to ease the pain, so she's probably sleeping now," LaFontaine replied.

"Is she mad at me?" she asked sheepishly and avoided her Valet's eyes.

"Yes… she hated when you glared at her and pointed your finger on her face like a child," LaFontaine said carefully. "But after you left, I explained to her that you're just upset, and that you don't want anything bad to happen to her. I also mentioned to her that she's very precious to you that's why you're over protective when it comes to her."

"Did she understand what you've said?" was her worried remark.

"I think so… because she kept quiet after I told her those things," LaFontaine replied.

"Thank you," she returned and looked at her Valet.

"For what?"

"…For saving my butt every time I screwed up when it comes to Laura," she said with full honesty. "…For being patient with me and tolerating my crazy temper… and for always being honest with me."

Her Valet's expression lightened up, "What are friends for?" LaFontaine said and grinned.

"And yes, speaking of friends… I wish you could be my best person and take care of our rings when I get married…"

"…But we all know that I can't, because I'm not your relative and I'm not a monarch," LaFontaine finished for her.

"And it's so unfair!" She exclaimed and suddenly realized that she does not have a best man! "Now I have a best man crisis!"

"Don't you have any cousins that you could ask?" LaFontaine suggested and furrowed their brows.

She looked down on the floor. "I don't have any cousins from both sides," her voice suddenly soft and low. "Both my King Father and Queen Mother are only child."

LaFontaine remained silent and stared at her for a moment. "You mean to say you’re the youngest and the last heir of Karnstein Kingdom?!"

"I guess so… because my father never mentioned that we have any relatives," she relayed. "…Although my Queen Mother told me when I was a child that her father, had a sister, but never married and did not have any children."

"Well you better produce as many heirs as you can as soon as possible, to keep the Karnstein monarchy alive," was her Valet's smart remark.

"It's easy for you to say that, when you're not the one who has a wife that's afraid of penis," the words were already out of her mouth, before she realized it. And now she regretted talking comfortably with LaFontaine, and she wished that she could just leave her chamber to avoid LaFontaine's sarcastic remarks.

"Did I just hear that right? The Princess is afraid of penis?"

She put her hand at once to cover LaFontaine's mouth. "Do you have to say it again?"

LaFontaine glared at her and she removed her hand on their mouth.

"Are you serious?" was her Valet's unconvinced query.

She rolled her eyes and turned her back on LaFontaine and walked towards the bathroom. But LaFontaine ran after her and blocked her way. "Then how are you going to produce an heir?" was LaFontaine's worried remark.

"You know, that's the last thing on my mind right now," she retorted, and glared at her Valet. "What I should be worrying now is who would be my best man?"

Her Valet hesitated for a moment and she expected another witty retort from LaFontaine with regards to Laura's 'penis angst'.

"Why not ask Laura's cousin?"

Suddenly her eyes widened and smirked at her Valet. "Johann?"

"Why not? He's Laura's cousin and soon to be your cousin-in-law," LaFontaine explained. "It seemed you like him and had been pals with him in a short span of time. And I think, he is a nice lad and very down to earth, like Laura. Actually, Laura's family is all nice and down to earth like her. It's like they're a family of ball of sunshine!"

She chuckled at LaFontaine's similar opinion as hers. "I know, right?!" She expressed and was surprised that she was not the only one who noticed it. "I wonder if Laura's father is like them too." She rubbed her chin as if she still had a beard.

"Alright, first thing in the morning, ask Johann if he could be your best man," LaFontaine suggested.

"I will. Thanks again for saving my butt," she teased.

"Oh no, I am writing everything you owe me on my list, and would ask for a payback when the time comes," LaFontaine quipped.

"You are so shrewd; you'll make a great Master of Treasury," she commented and smirked at her Valet.

"Why not? You'll going to need someone whom you trust when you become the king?" LaFontaine replied and grinned.

"And who would be my Valet?" she asked with full of sarcasm and lifted her left eye brow.

"Me, who else?! You know how versatile I am!"

"Alright, I will put that in mind," she conceded. "Leave now, because I don't want my bath to get cold."

*****

It was the night before her wedding day and all she could think about was:

What if she didn't show up?

Until now, she still had doubts. Until now, she still did not trust Laura. Until now, her heart was still suffering. Until now, she had not felt this joy of being married soon to the one that she loved.

She had gone through a lot of pains and sacrificed her happiness, and had surpassed all of these challenges in her life. But the thought of totally losing Laura would certainly crush her. She did not want to think about it. She knew that Laura had promised her mother that nothing had changed. But until she had not heard Laura say 'I do' she would not be appeased. She took a swig of wine from her goblet and imagined how Laura would look like in a wedding gown. Her cupcake would certainly be the most beautiful woman in a wedding gown, there was no doubt about that.

"Alright, that's enough,"

She was torn from her pondering as she heard the voice of her Valet behind her, and snatched the goblet that she was holding from her hand.

"Hey! I'm not finished yet," she complained, but she knew that LaFontaine will not give it back, as she saw her Valet went to the bathroom and then returned afterwards with an empty goblet.

"We don't want you drunk and screwed up at your wedding day, do we?" LaFontaine retaliated.

"Do you know what she's doing now?" she asked out of the blue, and saw her Valet's brows contorted. "Laura, I mean."

"Probably sleeping; so that she is fully rested and beautiful on her special day tomorrow, why?"

"I haven't seen her yesterday, and she refused to see me today, is she still angry at me?" she asked, worried. She felt a little guilty for not visiting the Princess the other day, to check how Laura was doing. And instead she asked LaFontaine to constantly check on the Princess and made sure that the wound was taken care of.

"No, the Princess is not angry at you; she just didn't know that you're in the castle, she though that you went out with your parents together with her relatives, that's why she didn't ask for you," LaFontaine explained. "And you are definitely not allowed to see her today."

Her attention was caught and she grew more worried. "I though you said, she's not mad anymore?" she asked her brows furrowed.

"No, she refused to see you, because it's bad luck to see the bride the day before your wedding."

"Oh." She breathed a sigh of relief.

"Now, can you move your butt from the chair so that I could remove your clothes?" was LaFontaine's daring remark. "You had a big day to face tomorrow and you need to look fresh and revitalized; not like a drunk thief."

"You sounded like my mother," was her annoyed response and rose from the chair. "By the way, have you packed Laura's gift?"

"It's already taken care of," LaFontaine returned and rolled their eyes.

"What?!" she asked after she caught that expression from her Valet.

"You know that you've been asking me about that for the last twenty four hours," LaFontaine retorted. "You sounded like a parrot."

She just glared at her Valet and did not react anymore. LaFontaine was right.

*****

Her senses were roused slowly by the sound of heralding trumpets and at the same time the ringing of the church bells from the castle's chapel.

She groaned and was already irritated that her sleep was disturbed so early. What could be the occasion that the church bells were ringing too aside from the trumpet? And she heard it again the continued 'Ding-Dang!' sound. She buried her head inside the pillows around her and tried to salvage the remnants of her erotic dream. But the sound of the door opened and the click-clack sound of shoe heels on the marble floor yanked her from sleeping further.

Mother?!

She felt like cold water was poured on her and she desperately fumbled for that piece of cloth around her bed. Once she found it, she tucked it deeply under her pillows, and instantly reached down inside her braise.

Damn it!

She groaned as she felt her morning erection. She hated when her mother comes to her chamber unannounced in the morning, while she was still in bed. She knew that the breathing exercise that she used to do does not work anymore, since she had not done it for a very long time. She tried thinking of another way to make it go down. Perhaps think about the animal that she fears or a person… and immediately, the face of her mother's Lady in Waiting flashed in her mind.

"Carl? Are you awake?"

She did not answer her mother until she knew that her 'big cat', as Laura called it, was down.

Come on!

She grew impatient and tried her best to imagine Bertha naked. After a few minutes, she reached down and felt it soft.

"Carl? Do you hear me?"

"Yes, my Queen Mother. I'll be out in a minute," she answered firmly, her voice deep and raspy. Once she knew that she was decent, she got up and carefully opened the curtain on her bed and stepped out of her bed. The rays of the sun met her sight and she evaded it. Once her visual had adjusted, she saw her mother at once standing a foot from her, with LaFontaine holding her purple robe. Her Valet walked closer to her at once and she slipped her arms on the offered robe and tied the front afterwards.

"Good morning, I hope you'd had a good sleep," the Queen said and smiled. "How are you feeling today?"

"Good morning my Queen Mother," she said and the next thing she knew, her mother leant on her and kissed her on the left cheek. She contorted her brows and wanted to ask why her mother was in her chamber early in the morning. But she did not want to sound rude, so she decided to answer the question instead. "I feel fine, thanks for asking."

"That's good to hear," the Queen returned.

She was about to ask again why her mother was here, but the sudden opening of the door awoken her completely and she saw her father entering her chamber for the first time followed by two maids each carrying tray of breakfast.

She looked at her mother and contorted her brows. "Why is everybody here?" was her puzzled remark, but before the Queen could answer, she already saw her father approaching quickly towards where she was standing. She was about to bow to her father, but the Kings' arms wrapped around her and hindered her from doing it. She felt her father's warm assuring embrace and wrapped her arms around the King too. When the King released from the embrace, she can't help but to get confused at the commotion that was happening right now. She stared momentarily at the King and lost her ability to speak. Sensing that she was confused, she felt her father's hands grabbed both her upper arms and said:

"My only heir is getting married today I think I should help you too in preparing!" the King exclaimed, "How are you feeling my child?" was the excited question of the King.

She cursed the alcohol that she consumed last night for making her forgets her wedding day. She tried to compose herself, straightened her back and looked at her father confidently.

"I'm fine and I'm excited My King Father!" she exclaimed in a deep and firm tone.

"It's great to hear that," the King said. And then whispered something in her ear, "I hope you're fully prepared for your wedding night," the King mumbled.

She felt the warmth in her body climbed up in her face and stared at her father momentarily. How could she tell the King that her soon to be wife was afraid of penis? She nodded many times and gave her father a reassuring grin and thought of something that her father would like to hear.

"I am fully prepared and can't wait to claim what is mine, my King Father," she proclaimed and earned a proud smile and a laugh from the King.

"That's my child! Show your wife who's in charge!" the King shouted excitedly.

She joined the King in laughing, and was interrupted when they heard the sound of the Queen clearing its throat.

"I think, we should focus first on helping Carl dressing up," the Queen stated in a cold tone. "We thought that we could eat breakfast here together with you," the Queen returned and motioned for the bountiful breakfast that the maids had lain on the table across the room.

She and her father remained silent at once and nodded to the Queen, and followed her mother to the table where their breakfast was waiting, while she saw LaFontaine go to the bathroom to prepare her bath.

"I appreciate that my King Father is here to help me, as well as my Queen Mother," she relayed and looked at her mother, then her father as they gathered around the small table.

"Carl, today is a very important day for you and for the kingdom as well," the King said. "I and your Queen Mother are here to give you moral support and to let you know that you're not alone. And we want you to know that we are very proud of you for accepting your destiny of marrying a princess and making sure that the Karnstein's line of heir would not be broken. It's all in your hands now, for our family to grow."

She swallowed hard after hearing the last words from her father. To produce an heir was surely making her stressed and anxious.

"Thank you my King Father, I would try my best not to disappoint you," she simply said and took a big bite of creampuff.

*****

It took her three hours to finish before everything was satisfactory in her mother's eyes. And now, she stared at her reflection on the full length mirror. While LaFontaine made a finishing touch and her mother sitting on a chair in front of her, still checking what was lacking. The red tunic with golden linings and gold buttons that her mother had chosen for her to wear seemed to fit her perfectly and accentuated her color, together with the black trousers. On her shoulders were black patches with an embroidered black panther on a white background, the animal in the Karnstein's coat of arms and the image of her crown. An elegant green sash with black linings to represent the color of Styria and one of the colors of Karnstein Kingdom was placed horizontally from her right shoulder over her tunic. Four medals were pinned on her upper left breast: the first medal symbolizing the Styria Imperial Royal Crown; the second medal symbolizing the Royal Imperial Crown of Karnstein; the third symbolizing the Royal Imperial Crown of Morgan, her mother's Kingdom; and the last medal symbolizing her own Royal Crown of Prince of Karnstein. After they become officially married, Laura would get a similar medal like hers symbolizing the Royal Crown of Princess of Karnstein. She smiled at the thought of Laura becoming a part of her.

The last time the kingdom had a big event was during her coronation day, she was then fifteen and barely an adult. She just went in there and did her duty: to become the Crowned Prince of Karnstein. She remembered that LaFontaine as there to assist her too and her mother and she was nervous at the beginning. But she eventually overcame her fear, once she was inside the throne room after LaFontaine taught her to relax. And today, as she stared at the mirror and she could not help but to feel happy that she was about to get married. She had never imagined that this day would come in her life. And she never imagined that there was a woman who was willing to accept and marry her for what she was.

Suddenly, she felt anxious and a sense of doubt clouded her thoughts. She had never talk seriously with Laura lately, and with their arrangement now, fear began to overcome her. She began to breathe heavily and she twisted her ring on her pinky. Sensing her uneasiness, LaFontaine looked at her and knowing that the Queen was sitting in front of them, her Valet leaned closer and asked.

"Are you alright?" LaFontaine whispered and glanced sideways to the Queen.

"What if she didn't show up? What if she changed her mind and realized that I am not the one?" She murmured in between breaths. Then she felt LaFontaine's hand on her upper left arm, as if trying to calm her.

"She will come. Have faith in her," was her Valet's simple response.

She was alleviated from her worries after hearing those reassuring words from her Valet and only friend. "Thanks, I hope and pray she will."

"Trust me, she will come. You have waited for so long and now, try to accept in yourself that you are about to marry the woman you love and that nobody is going to stop you," was LaFontaine's encouraging words.

She smiled and nodded to her Valet. Then they heard the sudden opening of the door and they all turned their focus on the direction to the door. She saw her father fully dressed now in a red tunic and black trousers also, walking towards her wearing the biggest smile: a father's proud smile.

"Carl, are you ready to tie the knot?" was her father's sarcastic remark and winked.

She smiled wide and nodded to her father. She walked towards the Queen and assisted her mother, and offered her arm for her mother to hold. And together, they left her chamber with her parents on her both sides and LaFontaine behind her on the way out to the hall.

As they began to descend the grand staircase, she heard the trumpets herald, and she got goose bumps when she witnessed all of their household staffs and royal soldiers inside the castle looking at her, as if adoring her on her wedding day, totally mesmerized. She waved to them and gave them a genuine smile, as they bowed and cheered for her. She was touched at the servants' gesture and cheering, and she felt loved by these people who had served her in her entire life in the castle. She never realized that they were this happy for her. She almost forgot her worries and was overwhelmed.

She searched for some familiar faces among the crowd that were there to wish her good luck, and she was happy when her eyes caught sight of Alfred, Bastian, Fritz, the maid that always brings her breakfast, smiling genuinely at the sight of her. She made a mental note to talk to that maid and ask her name the next time she sees the woman. Even Bertha was there, standing like a statue as if suppressing to smile, but bowed to her when their eyes met and gave her a controlled smile instead. Then she saw Ell, standing all the way back, as if hiding, when their eyes met she received a modest smile from the Royal Mistress, and she gave Ell a shy smile. Then her brows contorted and did not notice anyone from the Hollis' Kingdom, then she realized at once: Perry and Laura's handmaidens were definitely in Laura's chamber, helping the Princess dress for the wedding; preparing Laura for her! The thought of it made her smile and warm inside. How could it be possible that there was one person in the world that was meant to be hers? It still felt surreal!

After a quarter, she found herself standing anxiously in front of the entrance door to the castle's chapel. Standing on her right was her father, and on her left was her mother, ready to march down the aisle with her.

"Carl, remember, we love you and we are proud of you, my son," her mother uttered and kissed her on her cheek.

She smiled after the kiss and nodded to her mother, "Thank you my Queen Mother, and King Father," she replied and glanced at her father.

"Are you ready?" The King asked in a firm tone.

She took a deep breath and nodded to the direction of her father. "Yes my King Father," she uttered and saw her father signaled to the royal guards that were holding the door's handles, and opened it wide. The next thing she heard was the bright lively sound of trumpet playing and recognized the piece that her English Music teacher taught her once to play in violin.

Then she took a step and walked down the aisle thinking only of the woman she loves and nothing else. The anticipation was killing her and cannot wait for Laura to become hers.

TBC

Chapter Text

Laura

"Good morning sunshine!"

She grumbled as she slowly came to consciousness. It was so unusual hearing Betty's voice first thing in the morning.

"Rise and shine Princess!"

She was supposed to ignore Betty's call and go back to sleep, but the cheery voice of Sarah Jane yanked her from dreamy state.

"Your Prince Charming is going to see you soon!"

She smiled and knew what Natalie was up to.

"Princess, I bet His Royal Highness is going to look hot in his wedding tunic; don't you want to see him soon?"

She heard Natalie added and she rose and sat up in bed. Natalie's last sentence caught her attention. As she opened her eyes fully, she saw Sarah Jane adding more logs on the fireplace, while Betty hanged the wedding gown beside the full length mirror and as if on cue, Natalie had placed the serving tray on her lap containing her ideal breakfast of hot cocoa, chocolate cupcake and some blue grapes. She noticed the unfamiliar bowl of porridge and her nose was enticed by the smell of cinnamon on top of it. And before she could ask Natalie what that bowl of porridge doing in her tray, she decided to ask the last thing that Natalie said.

"What do you mean His Royal Highness looks 'hot'?" she asked and contorted her brows. She had never heard the term 'hot' being used to described a person.

"It means that Prince Carl is gorgeous and at the same time appealing," was Betty's shameless reply, standing beside the dress table while putting out from the drawer the hairbrush, pins, powder and all of those things that were going to be used later on.

"Betty, be careful of the words that you used, you might offend Laura," Sarah Jane criticized in a low tone, and approached the bed. "Sorry for Betty's lack of tact." Sarah Jane added and sat on the right side of the bed.

"It's alright, I'm used to it," she reassured her and smiled. She was surprised when Natalie sat also on the left side of the bed facing her too. "And I'm not offended at all. In fact I'm delighted that you girls find my soon to be husband, 'hot'."

"I heard His Royal Hotness is going to wear a red tunic for the wedding," Natalie remarked. "Red would surely make him more handsome."

She narrowed her eyes and focused her sight to Natalie, "Did I hear that right? You called Prince Carl 'His Royal Hotness'?"

"Yes! And I'm the one who used first that term, isn't it fancy?" Betty said and sat on the foot of the bed, giggling.

"Does the Prince know that you girls are calling him that?" she asked and was suddenly curious what Carl thought of it.

"Oh no! His Highness does not know about it," Sarah Jane defended right away. "We're just calling him 'His Royal Hotness' when it's just us; even Perry doesn't know about it."

"Because Perry would surely disapprove of it," Natalie chimed-in. "…And would say that it's tasteless and disrespectful to the Prince.

"Don't worry, I won't tell Perry," she said and gave them a reassuring smile.

Then she heard all of her friends giggled and did not notice that the door opened.

"Girls, now is not the right time to gossip!"

Upon hearing the strict voice of her Lady in Waiting, all three handmaidens rose from the bed and returned to their respective tasks.

"Laura, you should eat the porridge that's on the tray," Perry ordered after entering the chamber and approached the bed and saw the bowl untouched. "You have a big day ahead of you and you would need a lot of nourishment today. "Sarah Jane, can you prepare the Princess' bath now?"

"Yes Perry," Sarah Jane answered dutifully and walked to the bathroom.

"Betty! Where's the bouquet?" Perry questioned across the room.

"I thought the gardener is going to bring it," Betty reasoned out.

"No. I told you to pick it up together with the gown," Perry retorted. "Run to the gardener now and fetch it!"

Betty nodded and ran at once and left the chamber.

"Natalie, do you have Laura's shoes?" Perry asked.

"Yes, it's right beside the gown," was Natalie's proud remark. "And I also have the silver coin from His Majesty."

She stared at Natalie and opened her mouth slightly.

"It's a tradition to put a coin inside the bride's shoes on her wedding day to bring good luck," Natalie said and winked.

"Princess, I forgot to mention that your father had sent the silver coin that your mother put in her shoe the day they got married. Your Aunt Jordana gave it to me yesterday," Perry explained.

"Oh, I didn't know that. I never realize that getting married is full of superstitions," she commented and dipped her spoon on the porridge, and took a spoonful of it to her mouth and ate it without complaining. She was aware that the ceremony would be long and she would definitely be hungry if she just ate the cupcake.

"It's not superstitions; it's tradition," Perry objected and walked to the dressing table and checked all the things that was laid on the top of the table. "Natalie, can you ran to Betty and tell her that it should be white lilies and yellow roses.

Natalie ran at once without any question and was out in a flash. After a few minutes, she saw Sarah Jane came out from the bathroom.

"The bath is ready," Sarah Jane remarked and smiled while approaching the bed.

"Thank you," she returned and smiled at her handmaiden. She put down the spoon on the side after finishing the porridge.

"Sarah Jane, can you take down the tray to the kitchen," Perry ordered to the handmaiden. "I'm going to help Laura with her bath; then we could start with her hair, when Betty and Natalie arrived."

Sarah Jane nodded gracefully and left the chamber with the serving tray.

"Try to rest for a while, before you take a bath," Perry suggested.

 

*****

"How are you feeling Princess?" Perry asked, while standing by the dressing table.

"Honestly? I don't know," she replied as she looked at Perry through the mirror, while her Lady in Waiting dries her hair. The bath was definitely refreshing. "But I feel weird that I am about to become someone's property."

"Laura, you shouldn't dwell on that stupid law," Perry suggested.

"But it's true. The law gives the husband full rights over his wife," she reasoned out, and was confused also why she was suddenly arguing this matter with Perry. "After the wedding, I will effectively become the Prince of Karnstein's property. Then I would have to obey all of his desires."

"Oh Princess, don't think about that; it's just wedding nerves, it's perfectly natural," was Perry's optimistic reply. "Every bride feels like that, even the groom."

"But Perry I feel like… I am about to marry a different person," was her hesitant retort.

"Laura, you are about to marry Prince Carl and he still is the person that you've grown to like," Perry clarified.

"No Perry. He is not the same person," she retorted.

"Don't say that," Perry returned and started brushing the hair. "You're just not used to seeing him clean shaven and neat looking."

"I'm not talking about his physical appearance I'm talking about his personality. It's like he was the total opposite of the Prince Carl that I met for the first time…" she exclaimed and tried to think of the right words to say. "…It's like I'm going to marry a stranger!"

"Hush dear, he is still the same broody Prince inside, just without the beard and not the rugged type that you used to see before," Perry retaliated, and looked on the reflection of both of them on the mirror. "And don't you think he looked more handsome now that he was clean shaven and clean cut? Isn't that what you like; a smooth clean looking man?"

She knew that Perry was trying to calm her nerves, by mentioning all the things that she liked. "I do… but that Carl is… cold, reserved and aloof," was her bitter comment. "He doesn't even remember to smile anymore. What if he remained like that for the rest of our married life?" she asked and began to recall how Carl treated her lately. "I would prefer the broody Prince with a beard from this clean shaven cold aloof Prince.

Their conversation was interrupted when they heard someone tapped on the door.

"Come in," Perry exclaimed.

She smiled at once when she saw the Valet entered the chamber and walked towards them.

"Laf! What can we do for you? Aren't you supposed to be helping His Highness now?" she asked after LaFontaine bowed to her. She was distracted when she saw a little box with a dainty yellow ribbon. "What's this?" she asked as LaFontaine handed it to her carefully.

"It's from His Highness, a token of his appreciation for agreeing to marry him," LaFontaine said nonchalantly. "And yes, I would help him soon I just need to give you that."

She opened it right away and was mesmerized at the sight of the sapphire and diamond owl brooch in white gold.

"It's beautiful! Please tell him, thank you," was her excited comment.

"The Prince said that he wants you to wear it every day," LaFontaine added.

"I will, and thank you again," she told the Valet and had noticed that they were not cheery today. "Laf? Is something wrong?"

She saw the Valet looked on the other side, then to Perry.

"Umm, Perry, could you leave us for a moment?" she asked her Lady in Waiting.

"Certainly," Perry nodded and went straight to the door and left the chamber.

"Care to tell me what's bothering you?" She asked carefully.

"It's about my friend…"

She contorted her brows and narrowed her eyes, and then she shook her head. "I don't understand what you mean. Care to elaborate more?" was her patient remark.

"I have a friend… and I found out that he is very nervous, because he's getting married today," LaFontaine relayed, as their brows furrowed and crossed their arms. "He never imagined in his entire life that someone would want to marry him. I told him that, he should take his chance and maybe, someone would accept him for what he is. He refused to believe me, because he thought that nobody could like him. He said that he doesn't believe in love and doesn't need someone else; but when he met this person, his outlook in life changed deliberately."

"And why may I ask?" she mumbled.

"Because he thought that there's no such thing as real love, till he found this person and felt how amazing it is to be with her," LaFontaine concluded in a low tone.

She was dumbfounded and cannot reply properly. She remained silent and gazed at the Valet. Any trace of doubts in her heart slowly vanished, as LaFontaine's words sunk in her. She swallowed hard and felt a lump forming in her throat. She does not know how she would react. All the words that LaFontaine told her now contradicted on how Carl was treating her lately. She never imagined that Carl never believed in love; she felt proud and happy to be the one who broke that spell.

"I have to go now, Princess. And thank you for listening to me," LaFontaine commented. "I would see you afterwards."

She heard the strange remark of the Valet, as if telling her to 'show up' at the church afterwards. And before the Valet could leave the room, she drew their attention.

"Tell your friend not to worry; I'm pretty sure his bride would show up," she remarked. "He just needs to have faith in her." She stated and smiled genuinely towards the Valet. She received a nod and a wide smile before LaFontaine walk towards the door and closed it.

As soon as LaFontaine left the chamber, Perry came in at once.

"Is everything alright with LaFontaine?" was Perry's curious and yet worried remark. "I hope they are feeling well."

She smirked and noticed a hint of worry on her Lady in Waiting's tone of voice.

"LaF is fine, they just needed some friendly advice," she returned and looked at the gift again on her hand.

"Laura, it's beautiful!" Perry remarked after having a good look at the elegant brooch.

"I know and I'm grateful for it… but he wants me to wear it every day," she said nonchalantly. "I don't know why I have to wear it every day; it's not even a wedding ring."

"I know that you don't like wearing jewelries, but I think I know why the Prince wants you to wear it every day," Perry replied and smiled.

She raised her left eyebrows and waited impatiently for Perry's theory. "Tell me."

"It's Prince Carl's way of telling you that he wants you to look modest and doesn't want other men to see the opening that shows your breasts; to avoid temptation." Perry explained. "Laura, His Highness is really over protective of you."

If you only knew.

She commented to herself and rolled her eyes.

*****

Surrounded by Perry, her three handmaiden friends and her Aunt Jordana, they all gave her space so she could move comfortably as she rose from the chair of the dressing table and walked to the full length mirror to get a better view of herself. She has not even seen her reflection on the mirror when she heard the ladies around her gasped and saw their gazes fixated on her and freeze.

She cannot believe what her sight met, as she slowly looked at herself on the mirror at how she was magically transformed by her Lady in Waiting and handmaidens into a beautiful bride.

She opted for a simple but elegant white long slim Chantilly lace gown with silhouette lace long sleeves. The pleated skirt was made to resemble an 'opening flower'. The train measured almost nine feet long according to Perry. Her mother's ivory silk tulle fingertip-length veil with embroidered flowers on the edge was held in place by a 'halo' tiara lent to her by her Aunt Jordana. Her hair was fixed in a loose bun with side-swept bangs creating a soft effortlessly romantic hairdo, that goes naturally with the simple and yet elegant diamond earrings that her father gave her. She smiled at her reflection and wished that her father and mother could see her now. And before she could get emotional, she heard the excited voice of her aunt standing beside her and adoring her reflection.

"Laura dear, you're so beautiful!" Her Aunt Jordana exclaimed. "If only your father and mother could see you now they would certainly be proud of you.

After hearing that remark, she cannot help and a tear fell on her right eye. "Oh, Aunt Jordana, my day would have been perfect if they're here," was her honest reply and sniffed.

"Oh, Laura, I'm sorry for making you cry," her aunt apologized and she immediately felt the warmth of the people that loved her when Perry, Betty, Natalie and Sarah Jane surrounded her and gave her a hug, careful not to ruin her dress and hair.

"See, you're not alone," her Aunt quipped after they released her from a hug.

"We all love you Laura and are here to support you," Perry said.

She cannot control her emotions anymore and bursted into tears.

"Oh, Betty, where's the gift that we made for the Princess?" Sarah Jane asked.

And the next thing she knew, Betty was handing her a white silk handkerchief with the initials 'LHK' elegantly embroidered in blue. "Here, take this with you."

After wiping her tears and recovering from crying, she faced them all and smiled genuinely, "Thank you for always being with me and for not letting me feel alone. I love you all and I'm very grateful for all of your love," she declared and smiled till it reached her eyes.

"Laura, are you ready?"

She heard her Aunt Jordana asked as they remained gathering around her.

"Your Uncle is pacing nervously outside your chamber since I came in," Her Aunt Jordana informed. "He's worried about you…I think he's more nervous than your father."

"Oh, I think I should tell Uncle Spencer that I'm alright," she returned and was touched, knowing that her Uncle was worried for her, but before she could do anything else…

"Did you know that your Uncle had a man-to-man talk with Prince Carl the other day?"

Her eyes widened. She did not know if she would be relieved or happy or sorry for Carl after hearing that news from her Aunt Jordana, and cannot help but to smile and be curious. "What did Uncle told Prince Carl?"

"Your Uncle told your husband to be that he shouldn't hurt our only Princess, or else, we would declare war again to the Karnsteins!" was her Aunt's enthusiastic reply. "And he told Carl to always shave if he wants a kiss from you."

After hearing that last sentence from her Aunt, she felt a bit ashamed and bowed her head and grinned. "Uncle thinks that I'm still a child."

"Don't you hate beards?"

"Yes, I do. But after becoming betrothed to Prince Carl, I got used to it and his beard didn't bother me anymore," she revealed and smiled at the thought of Carl kissing her and being tickled by his beard sometimes.

"Hmm, did I just hear that right? Our Princess is not bothered anymore of being kissed by someone who has a beard?"

She heard her aunt's intriguing remark and saw her Aunt gave her a sideway glance. "But only if it's Carl," she uttered out of nowhere and was surprised by what came out from her mouth.

"Aww, I think our little Princess is in love, is she Perry?"

"Umm, I honestly cannot answer that Your Highness," was Perry's careful response. "But we all know that His Royal Highness is over protective and doesn't want any man looking at the Princess."

"Hmm, I think your Prince is the jealous type, Laura," Her Aunt Jordana remarked.

And before she could reply, their attention was captured by a strong knock on the door.

"Oh god, Uncle Spencer," she exclaimed and they have totally forgotten that her Uncle was waiting outside.

"I think we better hurry," was her Aunt's worried reply. "Carl must have been anxious by now."

*****

As they arrived at the hall leading to the chapel, everything was surrounded by white roses and her nose caught the wonderful fragrance of it. Her heart pounded and her hand clasped tightly at the arm of her father's brother who was escorting her to the altar. Her Uncle must have noticed her nervousness when she felt him stopped and turned to her direction.

"Laura, are you alright?"

She heard her Uncle Spencer asked, as they stopped midway to the hall.

"Yes Uncle, I just need to take a breath," she returned and she felt Perry on her side.

"Princess is everything alright?" was Perry's worried remark.

"Yes, can you just lift the veil for a moment so that I could catch some fresh air," she asked, seeing that she did not have an available hand as she was holding the bouquet of white lilies and yellow roses on her left hand, and still clasping her uncle's arm with her right. Or she simply cannot move due to anxiety.

Perry faced her and lifted the veil. She felt like she cannot breath and her surroundings were so small, she felt like she was drowning.

"Princess, try to take a deep breath," Perry ordered. "And then exhale. Inhale. Exhale"

She repeated the process and after seven attempts she felt her nerves calmed down. She nodded to Perry and motioned to put her veil down then she looked at her uncle Spencer to her right, and signaled for him that they can continue to walk.

When they reached the end of the hall and the entrance to the castle's chapel, she saw the two guards held the handles of the doors, ready to open it wide. They stood there for a moment and she stared at the closed door. She contemplated what would be her future once that door opened and she stepped inside it…

She could never live in their castle anymore; she would never see her father everyday again; she would never be the Princess of Hollis anymore, but the crowned Princess of Karnstein; she would become a part of the Karnstein Family and Queen Lilita and King Philipp would be her new mother-in-law and father-in-law respectively; her freedom was not hers anymore to enjoy, and she had to ask permission to the Prince every time she would go somewhere else; her body would not be hers anymore but for Carl to claim; and above all, she would spend her life with Carl and no one else. Then suddenly, the thought of spending her life with the Prince made her sad and happy at the same time. She was looking forward for this day to happen and to officially fulfill her promise to everyone. However, she did not know if she was happy and ready to tie the knot knowing that Carl was not the same person anymore towards her.

Her uncle's voice interrupted her train of thoughts and she saw him smiled towards her.

"Laura, everything's going to be alright," was her uncle's reassuring comment. "I felt nervous too when I was waiting for your Aunt Jordana to come and march down the aisle. But when I saw how beautiful your auntie is, and the thought of spending my life with her, everything fell into places and I felt relieved."

She almost cried at what her uncle said and suddenly missed her father. "I wished Papa is here too."

"I know Princess, but you know that he sends his blessings and love to you on this day, so don't worry." Her uncle said and kissed her on the forehead.

She nodded and tried to compose herself, as she and her uncle together with Perry behind standing on the side, stood with their back straight and signaled to the guards that they were ready to go in. She understood that once she stepped inside, she was no longer Laura Elizabeth Rosamund Hollis but Laura Elizabeth Rosamund Karnstein.

Once the guards opened the door, her ears caught right away the calm sensuous plucking of the theorbo, the gentle silky sound of cello, the lustrous eloquent sound of violins, and the soft demure tone of baroque organ weaving in harmonious tone. She closed her eyes for a moment and let the soft melodious tune calm her nerves.

Then she opened her eyes and let the soothing sound carry her. She confidently marched down the aisle of the chapel, never tearing her eyes at the sight of the altar, ignoring the crowd of people that were seated on the rows of chairs on both sides. She just let the soft harmony wafted her through the aisle, and as she came closer to the altar her heart pounded madly as her eyes caught the sight of her dashing Prince in a red tunic and black trousers standing alone at the altar, gazing anxiously at her direction with those soulful dark eyes.

God, he's beautiful!

Carl was certainly a combination of beauty and grandeur. She looked up and locked her eyes on him, never tearing her sight away from him. His eyes were so melancholic and at the same time delighted upon seeing her. He just remained standing there majestically, waiting for her to come closer. He looked as if he was not convinced yet that she was there, about to tie the knot with him. He must have felt nervous when it took time for her to come in and march down the aisle.

She smiled and felt this tears threatening to come out, as she witnessed Carl's nervous, serious and yet glowing expression as he waited for her to ascend the altar. He looked like he was anticipating her arrival immensely as he saw him take deep breathes.

Was he really nervous?

When LaFontaine indirectly told her that Carl was nervous, she did not believe them fully. But after seeing his face and his eyes, she was finally convinced.

She and her uncle walked up to the five steps to the altar, and when they finally stood on the base of the altar, they bowed in front of the tabernacle and then her uncle turned to the right and she saw Carl bowed to her uncle before he presented her right hand to Carl. Once her Uncle stepped down and left her on the altar. She took a deep breath as she beheld the face of her future in front of her, after Carl received her hand.

"You're beautiful." Carl whispered out of the blue.

She almost fainted at how he uttered passionately those words and was caught off guard. She gazed at him and her eyes caught sight of his melancholic dark orbs. She wanted to tell him also how handsome he was but she became speechless after his surprising remark. She saw those perfectly symmetrical eyebrows contorted again. She could tell that he have been worrying too much; perhaps afraid that she would not show up. But even if Carl was not smiling, she could feel that he was overwhelmed and happy too, as she caught those dark eyes glistening with unshed tears. She knew that he was suppressing his feelings and all she could think about was to kiss him there and then. But reminded herself that they were in front of many people.

Just minutes ago she was panicking as doubts clouded her thoughts. Just moments ago she was debating with Perry that she does not recognize anymore this Prince that she was about to marry and how she worries that she would become Carl's property after they got married. But right now, every doubt in her mind vanished as she saw the intense look on his face, and all she could think about was:

I want to marry him.

She remained gazing at him as he carefully guided her to the chairs in front of the altar. She cannot help but to admire him wearing his red tunic regally. Natalie was right, red accentuated Carl's color and good looks. He looked devastatingly handsome with his hair short and neat, his face clean-shaven and smooth, his eyes dark and melancholic, his symmetrical eyebrows contorted, his soft red lips firmly closed and all she wanted was to kiss that smooth porcelain like neck of him, as the absence of facial hair made his jawline enticing to her eyes.

God, when did he became so wonderfully handsome even if he's serious and not smiling?!

Once they both positioned themselves near the chair facing the altar, and as she got closer to him, he leant and she heard him uttered in his deep raspy voice that she loved and said to her:

"I can't wait for you to be my wife."

She gave him a modest smile and began to feel emotional; she cannot fathom where all these feelings were coming from. How come all of a sudden Carl was being romantic and sweet towards her? Did Carl really mean it as a wife whom he could cuddle and kiss like he used to do before? …Or as a wife of the future king and mother to his heirs? She felt like crying and at the same time laughing. She never felt so overwhelmed in her life, as the reality of getting married to Carl unfolded right before her eyes. How could he be cold and aloof and sweet at the same time? Was Carl teasing her? Or he was just genuinely telling her what he felt right now? She was about to look at him in his eyes, but then she saw him focused his sight on the altar as the cardinal began with the ceremony.

The piney and lemony sweet aroma of burning frankincense and the earthy black licorice scent of burning myrrh, felt like a sedative that relaxed her, as her nose caught the smell of them. When she heard the sound of the cardinal chanting the mass in Latin, it brought her to reality and she tried to forget all of these crazy thoughts and listened intently as the cardinal proceeded with the ceremony. She could wait after the ceremony and tell him also how handsome he was and ask him what he really meant with the last thing he said.

When it was already time to obtain the consents and exchange vows, she tried her best not to be emotional. As the cardinal faced Carl and asked him first:

"Carl Philipp Marcus, do you take Laura Elizabeth Rosamund to be your wife? Do you promise to be true to her in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, to love her and honor her all the days of your life?"

"I do." Carl replied in a firm deep voice.

Then her heart pounded as the cardinal focused to her and asked:

"Laura Elizabeth Rosamund, do you take Carl Philipp Marcus to be your husband? Do you promise to be true to him in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, to love him and honor him all the days of your life?"

She smiled and said confidently, "I do."

And the next thing she heard was the cardinal proclaiming:

"You have declared your consent before the Church.

What God has joined, men must not divide."

She breathed a sigh of relief. At this point, she knew that she and Carl were now husband and wife. She tried to get a glimpse of Carl and saw his expression appeased.

Afterwards, she saw Johann came up to the altar and stood beside Carl. Her cousin handed the cardinal the wedding bands and returned to his seat. And the cardinal started blessing the rings:

"Lord, bless and consecrate Carl Philipp Marcus and Laura Elizabeth Rosamund in their love for each other. May these rings be a symbol of true faith in each other, and always remind them of their love,"

"Amen," she and Carl both responded.

Then the cardinal gave Carl his ring.

When Carl turned to face her, she felt a lump in her throat forming as he saw him gazing at her with his soulful dark eyes, as if he was overwhelmed and cannot wait to declare to the world that she was about to be his wife. She was thankful that the wrinkles between Carl's brows were gone, but he still looked serious. Carl took her left hand and held it. She felt her hand quivering and had to take a deep breath. He waited till she calmed down and held her left hand firmly. She tried to look him into his eyes without bursting into tears, she swallowed repeatedly as all her emotions resurfaced, and then she heard him recited in his deep firm raspy voice:

"With this Ring I, Carl Philipp Marcus, thee wed, with my body I thee worship, and with all my worldly goods I thee endow: In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen."

Then she felt him put his ring carefully in her finger. She sighed and felt happy to be wearing his ring from now on. She sniffed and tried to hold back her tears. Carl must have noticed it, and before the cardinal could hand to her her ring. Carl held her left hand, bowed his head and kissed her hand gently. It made her smile and happy, and she calmed at the sensation of Carl's lips touching her hand. After Carl released her hand, she composed herself and looked at the cardinal and nodded, to signify that she was ready. The cardinal placed her ring on her hand, and she held it tightly. She faced Carl and made sure that he held her gaze. Once she knew that those dark melancholic orbs were focused on her, she took a deep breath and smiled as she held Carl's hand gently and recited with all her heart:

"With this Ring I, Laura Elizabeth Rosamund, thee wed, with my body I thee worship, and with all my worldly goods I thee endow: In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen."

After putting her ring on his finger, her eyes widened as she saw him genuinely smiled for the first time, since she came back to the castle. She smiled back at him and she was surprised when she saw him mouthed the words 'thank you'. She smiled even more and gazed at him with full of warmth. Her heart was filled with joy and she cannot imagine how intense it could be to marry Carl; to marry her broody Prince.

Then they focused their attention back to the cardinal as she heard him declared:

"Forasmuch as Princess Laura Elizabeth Rosamund and Prince Carl Philipp Marcus have consented together in holy matrimony, and have pledged their love and devotion to each other, and have declared the same by the joining and the giving of rings, by the power vested in me, and as witnessed by the King and Queen of Karnstein, family and friends, I now pronounce you husband and wife."
"You may now kiss the bride."

Once she heard the cardinal said 'you may kiss the bride', she was overwhelmed and the thought of feeling Carl's lips again on hers sends her into daze. This time she would definitely touch that smooth jawline.

She faced him slowly and bowed her head slightly as he lifted her veil from her face. Once she felt the fresh air met her face, she gazed at Carl under her lashes and gave him a timid smile. She was surprised when she saw him smiling at her again, his face glowing and his eyes were now a picture of happiness and not the melancholic ones that she saw lately. He stared at her for a moment, as if studying her face, and the next thing she knew, she felt his hands cupped her face gently and claimed her lips. She was supposed to cup his face and run her hand on his smooth clean shaven jaw. But once she felt his lips again on hers, she does not have a choice but to follow what her body was dictating her: she closed her eyes and surrendered to his kisses, as the thought of being married to Carl sent her to frenzy.

 

TBC

Chapter Text

Carmilla

She stood there anxiously and tried very hard to composed herself. It had been almost half an hour and nobody had said anything when Laura would come. It was driving her insane as the minutes dragged and the anticipation of waiting if Laura would show up or not. She reached for her pinky, looked at it and twisted her signet ring, as she waited anxiously for things to happen.

What if she changed her mind? What if she didn't like me at all?

She brushed off the doubts in her mind and she put her arms on the side and stood straight. But her anxiety was slowly overcoming her, as she felt her hands sweating, and her hand fidgeted on her signet ring again. She tried to control it and balled her hands into fist. She felt that she was about to lose her self-control and thought that this was foolishness. She cannot help but to think of all the possible reasons why Laura would not marry her and only one thing came into her thoughts: Maybe Laura was ashamed to have a husband who was not a full-fledged man. And the thought of it made her paranoid.

But once she looked up and caught sight of LaFontaine's face smiling at her, she mellowed down. She remained her focus towards LaFontaine and saw her Valet gesturing for her to take a deep breath. She nodded lightly to LaFontaine. She took a deep breath and recalled the breathing exercise that LaFontaine taught her every time she felt exploding with panic. She closed her eyes and tried to focus on her breathing.

After attempting for the fourth time to calm her nerves, her ears suddenly caught the calm sensuous plucking of the theorbo, the gentle silky sound of cello, the lustrous eloquent sound of violins, and the soft demure tone of baroque organ weaving in harmonious tone. Her body relaxed as she let this soft harmony caressed her nerves.

But her tranquility was disrupted when she heard the sound of people standing from their seats. She slowly opened her eyes and her heart pounded fiercely as she saw the door of the chapel opened wide. And there she saw her bride standing by the door, dressed elegantly in white wedding gown. She gazed at Laura and cannot believe that her Princess was there.

She came.

She uttered to herself and almost choked as this lump that formed on her throat and as this overwhelming feeling of seeing Laura's figure appearing at the chapel's door sent her to frenzy. Her breathing became ragged and she felt this tear threatening to burst out of her chest, but she controlled her emotions.

With each step that Laura took and with each heart beat that she felt, she cannot help but to be overwhelmed. She furrowed her brows; time seemed to slow down while she stared at Laura marching down the aisle. She cannot believe what her eyes were seeing. And all she could think about was:

Does she really want to marry me?

She swallowed hard and closed her eyes for a moment, to check if she was not hallucinating. When she opened her eyes, she saw Laura gazing at her through that thin wedding veil. She did not release her gaze at her bride, afraid that if she winked, Laura might disappear. Her heart beat fiercely and she cannot control her emotions as the beautiful enchanting sight of her bride comes closer to reality. The agony of waiting for her bride to come to the altar was the most excruciating thing she ever experienced next to waiting for Laura to show up. If she could only hold Laura's hand and feel it, then she would be appeased and convinced that she was not hallucinating.

She revered the sight of her beautiful bride walking towards her. She had never imagined in her life that she would find love; she had never imagined in her life that someone would accept her for what she was and never judge her.

Laura had never said the word love to her, but to agree to marry her was an enormous gift. How her heart melted and she almost went down the altar to meet her bride as Laura walked towards her. But she held her breath and just stood with her back straight and totally composed; she needed to control herself and her emotion.

She managed to bottle up all her emotions inside her and she hoped that she could last till the ceremony was over without exploding.

You're the future King. Get hold of yourself!

She reminded herself and she stood with utmost dignity and confidence. As her Princess came closer, she furrowed her eyebrows and cannot help but to admire Laura and considered herself very lucky to have captured the most beautiful and coveted princess in Styria. And now, the most beautiful and most coveted princess in Styria would soon be her wife.

Laura oozed with poise and elegance. She loved how innocent and yet seductive Laura was especially when Laura gazed at her under those thick brown eye lashes, as if inviting her to devour the Princess.

She's beautiful! Thank you for giving her to me…

She exclaimed and did not forget to thank the Creator for this wonderful gift. She never imagined this day would come. She was too overwhelmed to see Laura in that elegant white wedding gown marching down the aisle to tie the knot with her, that she did not even bothered to look around her. Her eyes were totally focused on Laura the whole time.

As Laura and Prince Spencer ascended the altar, she gave her respect first to Laura's uncle and bowed her head lower than intended. Then she focused her attention to Laura's uncle. Her heart pounded madly and she remained composed and still furrowed her brows, too overwhelmed as Laura's uncle passed Laura's hand to her in marriage; transferring to her all the rights and ownership of Laura. Signifying that Laura's family would no longer have control over Laura or Laura's possessions and that she would respectfully take on the responsibilities and obligations that Laura's father once have. It would be her duty now to take care of Laura, as the King of Hollis' relinquished all his rights on his daughter and transferred it to her.

Now Laura belonged to her.

The thought of Laura belonging to her made her ecstatic. After receiving the hand of her Princess, and as soon as Laura's uncle stepped down to the altar, she gazed at her bride and she cannot imagine the bliss that she was experiencing right now. This was real and she was not hallucinating as she felt the softness of Laura's hand against hers.

She cannot imagine there was this one person that would offer herself to her to become her wife. She cannot thank enough destiny, faith and even God for bringing Laura into her life. She felt like crying as she stood there and see this wonderful blessing became real. She thought of wrapping her arms around her bride and just hold Laura, knowing that, at last, she already have someone she could call her wife; someone who could warm her and hold her every night and kiss her; someone who would stand by her side and tell her that everything would be alright, and make her smile when she was feeling all the burdens of being the future king. But she had to control her urges and emotions, as this path to becoming officially married to Laura was not over yet.

Instead, she said the only thing that was on her mind right now.

"You're beautiful," she whispered adoringly to her bride. And saw the surprised look on Laura's face. She waited for the Princess to reply but Laura seemed to be shock. Maybe Laura was still in denial and cannot accept the fact that they were about to get married. So, instead, she tore her eyes reluctantly to Laura's and led her bride to their chairs. She felt hurt at the lack of Laura's enthusiasm, and thought that Laura was just fulfilling the duties and obligations as a Princess. She tried not to dwell on these negative thoughts that kept on nagging her mind. But once she felt the nearness of Laura, as they took their seats and become closer, she cannot help but to tell Laura what was inside her heart right now.

"I can't wait for you to be my wife," she uttered softly, and does not care what Laura would think. Laura could just plainly ignore it or accept it but right now she needed to let these words out of her heart, or else she would burst with all of these emotions that were threatening to explode.

She was relieved when Laura gave her a modest smile, but still, she felt the Princess' smile as a forced smile, perhaps just to be nice to her. And when she saw that confused expression from Laura, she decided to ignore it and just focus her sight on the altar. She cannot help but to still remain anxious as she saw and felt her bride still not fully convince of marrying her. She would be appeased once she heard Laura say 'I do', but in the meantime, she felt like she was still hanging on a thread, as Laura's reaction seemed dim.

She saw the cardinal was about to begin the ceremony and looked at the altar, she prayed and hoped that Laura's heart would be enlightened, and hopefully the scent of the burning incenses would help to lessen her anxiety as she saw the cardinal held the Thurible and began to swing it around the altar and spread the incense around them. The smoke of the burning incense surrounded them like a fog, as if embracing them protectively, she suddenly felt safe and calm at the sight of it. She let herself be lulled by the calming smell of the sweet earthy aroma of the myrrh and frankincense and focused her attention to the ceremony.

When the cardinal approached her, she stood with her back straight and held her composure. She knew that the cardinal was about to obtain their consents to married and she hoped and pray that Laura would say the word 'I do'. She took a deep breath as the cardinal recited:

"Carl Philipp Marcus, do you take Laura Elizabeth Rosamund to be your wife? Do you promise to be true to her in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, to love her and honor her all the days of your life?"

"I do." She replied with as much determination as she could muster.

After uttering those precious words, she held her breath, as the cardinal looked at her bride and asked Laura:

"Laura Elizabeth Rosamund, do you take Carl Philipp Marcus to be your husband? Do you promise to be true to him in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, to love him and honor him all the days of your life?"

"I do."

After Laura proclaimed those precious words, she discreetly breathed a sigh of relief and she felt calmer; and when the cardinal proclaimed:

"You have declared your consent before the Church. What God has joined, men must not divide."

She felt this amazing joy inside her heart as Laura came closer to becoming officially her wife. At last! She now has a wife to call her own; a queen to support and help her in her reign; and a beautiful mother to bear her heirs. Suddenly, she was looking forward for the future and she thought for the first time: life was beautiful.

Her daydreaming was interrupted when she caught the sight of Johann standing beside her and carefully handed the wedding bands to the cardinal. She became more excited at the thought of wearing Laura's ring and her ring on Laura's finger, symbolizing their union.

After she heard the cardinal blessed the rings, she gathered her composure and concentrated on what to do next, as she received her ring from the cardinal. She gently reached for Laura's left hand and held it. But she suddenly became anxious when she felt Laura's hand trembled. She looked up and gazed at Laura, but the Princess avoided her gaze. Her heart pounded madly and thought that maybe Laura was having second thoughts. She waited for any sign of reluctance from her bride, but when she felt Laura calmed down, she held Laura's hand firmly and waited for Laura to look at her. Even if it was painful, she would not put the ring into Laura's finger if her bride was not totally certain, she thought. She held her breath and waited agonizingly for Laura to look at her.

And there it was! Laura finally held her gaze. She almost burst into tears when she saw those beautiful hazel eyes gazing at her. She gathered her strength and tried her best not to show her fear, before reciting in a deep firm tone:

"With this Ring I, Carl Philipp Marcus, thee wed, with my body I thee worship, and with all my worldly goods I thee endow: In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen."

Gently, she put her ring into Laura's fourth finger, and as soon as it was secured, she felt Laura released from her hand, and she was a bit disappointed at the sudden lack of contact. She bowed her head a bit and she cannot take it if Laura was not that pleased to wear her ring.

Maybe she's really just fulfilling her duties.

She thought and was totally disheartened. But when she heard Laura sniffed, she worried at once and she looked up and gazed at her bride. She was surprised to see Laura almost in tears, and she found herself confused as hell. She never wanted to see Laura upset; and her first instinct was to console Laura. She took Laura's hand gently, bowed her head and kissed her bride's hand. The only thing that was important now was to make Laura feel better. She does not care if the cardinal had to wait for her before they could resume the ceremony. When she felt Laura relaxed and she no longer heard her bride sniffing, she reluctantly and gently released Laura's hand. She did not dare look at Laura for fear that she might upset her bride again. Deep down inside, she was thinking that Laura was indeed hesitant to marry her and just fulfilling the duties of a Princess. And Laura does not have a choice but to marry her. When she saw the cardinal handed Laura the ring, she suddenly felt her heart ache. She does not want Laura to marry her out of obligation.

If you really don't want to marry me, just let go.

She thought and she carefully looked at Laura's face, to check if Laura was ready to put the ring now and just be over with it. Once their eyes met, she was surprised and never expected to see a smile on her bride's face! Then she felt Laura reached for her hand, held it gently and said:

"With this Ring I, Laura Elizabeth Rosamund, thee wed, with my body I thee worship, and with all my worldly goods I thee endow: In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen."

She almost burst into tears and cannot believe how Laura beautifully uttered each word and she felt the sincerity of Laura's declaration. And suddenly, she felt appeased and all the doubts in her heart disappeared. The next thing she felt was Laura putting, at last, the ring on her finger; she smiled with all her heart as she accepted Laura's ring with full of love. She never felt so happy and fulfilled in her life, and this was all because of Laura. She held Laura's gaze and mouthed the words 'thank you' to her wife, for accepting her. Her eyes widened when Laura smiled wider and seemed to be amused. After they have gazed and smiled enough to each other, they focused their attention to the cardinal in front of them, and heard:

"Forasmuch as Princess Laura Elizabeth Rosamund and Prince Carl Philipp Marcus have consented together in holy matrimony, and have pledged their love and devotion to each other, and have declared the same by the joining and the giving of rings, by the power vested in me, and as witnessed by the King and Queen of Karnstein, family and friends, I now pronounce you husband and wife."

Then she saw the cardinal looked at her and smiled, before saying:

"You may now kiss the bride."

After hearing those words, she felt like she was a little child on a Christmas Eve overly excited to open her gift, and she thought:

Best gift ever!

And with that, she lifted Laura's veil gently and she felt more excited when she saw her beautiful wife gazing at her under those thick brown eye lashes, as if inviting her. She felt like she was under Laura's spell as she gazed at her wife lovingly. Then she cupped Laura's face gently and claimed what was rightfully hers: her wife's soft lips.

 

*****

She held Laura's hand gently and led her wife to the middle of the ballroom. The one thing she appreciated while taking different lessons when she was young was when her mother secured a well-known Russian dancer to teach her the art of dancing. And now, she could show her wife one of her hidden talents. Opposed to what her mother like, she informed the musicians first to play a certain song that her Valet proudly presented to her as their gift.

She saw LaFontaine escorted a woman to stand beside the musicians, and gave each musician a music sheets. LaFontaine informed her beforehand that they hired someone to compose a song and music for this special occasion. She hoped that LaFontaine does not disappoint her.

She stood a meter apart from Laura and gaze at the Princess with all her heart as the first note struck and the singer's cool soothing, but seductive voice played in the air; she was glad that it was a voice of a woman. As the music played, she felt confident at once and it hypnotized her body. She smiled before taking Laura's left hand and put Laura's right hand on her shoulder, while her left hand wrapped around Laura's waist. She received a smile from her wife as she led Laura to dance.


The look of love
Is in your eyes
The look your heart can't disguise
The look of love
Is saying so much more
Than just words could ever say
And what my heart has heard
Well it takes my breath away

They danced slowly to the smooth beat of the music and did not lift her gaze at Laura. Her heart swelled at every line in the song. LaFontaine certainly knew how she felt towards Laura.


I can hardly wait to hold you
Feel my arms around you
How long I have waited
Waited just to love you
Now that I have found you

Suddenly, she began to feel emotional as each lyric struck her right in her heart. She contorted her brows and her breathing became ragged, as she heard the song and saw Laura's smoldering eyes. She tightened her hand on Laura's hip and drew the Princess closer to her.


You've got the look of love
It's on your face
A look that time can't erase
Be mine tonight
Let this be just the start
Of so many nights like this
Let's take a lover's vow
And then seal it with a kiss

She remained her gaze at Laura and found the same intensity of emotions in the Princess' eyes as she saw fully dilated hazel eyes. Then she felt Laura's hands crawled slowly on the back of her neck and the Princess wrapped its hand around her nape.


I can hardly wait to hold you
Feel my arms around you
How long I have waited
Waited just to love you
Now that I have found you
Don't ever go

This time she felt a burst of tear threatening to come out, as she heard the last line. 'don't ever go'. She had waited indeed for too long for love; and now she still cannot believe that it was in front of her, gazing at her with so much adoration and affection. She swallowed the lump that was forming in her throat, and tried to fight the tears inside her.


I can hardly wait to hold you
Feel my arms around you
How long I have waited
Waited just to love you
Now that I have found you
Don't ever go
Don't ever go
I love you so

They were still dancing but she cannot control herself anymore; she wrapped both her arms around Laura's waist tightly and she burrowed her face on the crook of Laura's neck as she heard the two last lines: 'Don't ever go, I love you so' and let her tears come out. Then she felt Laura's left arm wrapped around her shoulder protectively, while the Princess' right hand held her head gently on the crook of its neck to hide her face.

 

And the next thing she felt were Laura's soft wet lips on her neck and heard Laura's voice whispered a soothing I'll always be with you' to her ear.

 

TBC

Chapter Text

Laura

I'll always be with you.

She whispered to his ear as she tried to console her Prince; her right hand still holding his head gently. It felt amazing to hold Carl so close again. She wished that she could always hold him like that. She took a deep breath and sniffed his scent while Carl still burrowed his face on her neck. The last time she smelled his familiar scent was months ago.

God! I missed you so much.

She could feel the warmth of his breath against her skin. And she just let him cry quietly, stroked the back of his neck and just held him tight. It felt so good to see and feel him like this.

She never expected that he would be this emotional. It had been so long since Carl touched her. She never expected that he would bare his feelings like this again. And she wondered, why.

The song was beautiful and she never heard anything like it. She never heard a lady troubadour sing before and this woman was certainly the best among them.

But the most astonishing thing that she discovered was how skilled Carl was when it comes to dancing. They never had a chance to dance before and she never thought that he was such a graceful and amazing dancer.

She let the music weaved its magic and just let their bodies swayed to the smooth melody of it. It was definitely like a magical moment, as she held Carl so closed to her. She hoped that this enchanting moment would not be broken. But unfortunately every song had its end. When the music faded, she still held Carl tightly, as if afraid to let him go in fear of the spell would be broken.

As if on cue, after the music died, it was replaced right away by a much livelier music. Then she felt a hand tapped on her shoulder and when she turned around she saw the image of her father-in-law.

"May I have this dance?" King Philipp asked.

She hesitatingly released Carl from her arms and saw her Prince's face changed right away into a serious and composed expression.

"Carl, you're mother wants a dance with you," the King suggested.

She saw the look of hesitation from Carl's eyes before she let go of him; she nodded to assure him that it was alright. Then she found herself face to face with the King and smiled at her father-in-law as the King led her to dance. She saw Carl discreetly wiped his face before approaching where the Queen was sitting, and escorted his mother to the dance floor.

But her heart pounded fiercely as she saw Carl's eyebrows furrowed again while dancing with the Queen. She saw Carl nodded all the time and it seemed like the mother and son were in deep serious conversation. She wondered what could have change Carl's mood as she saw his warm expression turned to serious and reserved.

The music was not over yet, but she saw Carl escorted the Queen back to the chair and she narrowed her eyes when she saw Carl left the ballroom. Her sight followed where he headed and if her hunch was correct, he used the exit near the door to the secret garden. The voice of King Philipp brought her back to her senses and she shook her head and cleared her thoughts.

"Forgive me, I didn't catch what His Majesty said," she commented in a sheepish tone and looked at the King.

"I said, I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart, for making this wedding possible and for giving my son a chance," was the King's genuine remark. "I never thought that Carl would actually agree to get marry. But I guess my son found something special in you and he suddenly changed his mind."

She smiled timidly and felt honored to hear those things from Carl's father. "I should be the one thanking His Majesty, if it was not for Your Majesty's visit to our castle, I would have not known that the Prince of Karnstein is a wonderful person. Thank you so much for choosing me to be the wife of your son."

*****

After dancing with the King, her Uncle Spencer and Johann, she politely excused herself and went to the hall leading to the exit to the garden.

Once outside, she expertly navigated her way through the rose garden and she sighed and smiled when she saw Carl standing outside gazing at the stars.

"I'm sorry to interrupt you," she said in a pleasant tone as she approached him. His back was facing her; sensing that Carl did not acknowledge her presence and remained silent: "Carl? Are you alright?" she asked.

When he turned around and faced her, her heart throbbed, furrowed her brows and uneasiness overcame her as she saw again the reserved and cold expression of her Prince.

"Why wouldn't I be?" he said in a deep firm tone.

She shook her head slightly and narrowed her eyes as she tried to decipher his mood.

"You were crying while we're dancing," she explained. "I just thought-"

"You must be mistaking, Princess," Carl returned with an air of arrogance.

She took a deep breath. "What's going on?" she asked fully confused. "Why are you denying it? I saw the tears in your eyes and felt it on my shoulders."

"I don't know what you're talking about, Princess," he returned coldly. "Maybe you're the one who cried?"

"Carl, we just got married, and you're already lying to me," she retorted and was irritated as he twisted her words.

"Princess, I am grateful that this wedding happened. But we both know that this marriage is for the good of our kingdoms, and that we should not forget our obligations first," he reasoned out. "And may I remind you to call me Prince Carl."

Suddenly, she felt like bursting into fury. But before she could show to him her anger, the voice of LaFontaine caught their attention.

"Excuse me for interrupting Your Highnesses, but His Majesty said that it is time for the Bedding ceremony," LaFontaine informed.

She opened her mouth slightly and contorted her eyebrows, not knowing what LaFontaine just said. Sensing that she was totally unaware of what would commence…

"I gathered that no one informed you about the Bedding ceremony after the wedding feast?" Carl had guessed and motioned for the Valet to come closer.

"N-no," was her ashamed reply.

"My Valet would explain it to you and afterwards they would escort you inside," Carl replied in a superior deep tone.

She just waited for the Prince to finish giving instructions to LaFontaine, and did not ask him further, knowing that he was in his cold reserved self again.

"Did my King Father inform the others that I just want him and you to help me dress at my chamber?" the Prince asked their Valet.

"Yes Your Highness," LaFontaine answered. "His Majesty is the one who would present to you your nightshirt, and then I would be the one to help you with the rest."

Satisfied with the reply, "Very well, I would leave you both now and make sure that Princess Laura is comfortably escorted to her chamber afterwards."

And with that, she saw Carl left without saying another word to her, as if she was not there by his side. To make things less complicated, she decided to forget the sudden change of Carl's mood and faced the Valet for some explanation.

"What is this ceremony that His Royal Highness cannot tell me?" she demanded and saw the Valet's hands fidgeting as she waited for the answer. "Laf, what does this ceremony mean?"

It took a while before LaFontaine replied and she saw them paled.

"The Bedding ceremony is the part where the groom and bride go to their separate chamber to prepare and dress themselves," the Valet began relating. "Traditionally, the men of the groom's family and friends would take him to a separate chamber, and help him dress and prepare. The highest ranking male royal, in this case His Majesty, would present Prince Carl his nightshirt for the bedding ceremony. While on the other hand, the women of the bride's family and friends would take her to her chamber and help her prepare and dress. And since it's, Her Majesty who, is the highest ranking female royal, the Queen would present your nightgown."

"I don't get it, why do all the trouble of presenting the bride and groom their nightshirt and nightgown, when Carl has you and I have Perry to help me?" she asked and rolled her eyes. Traditions were always giving her a headache. She hated it when people cannot choose or decide in their free will and would have to follow some silly traditions. "…And why do some of the men and women have to take the bride and groom to their chambers and help them dress?

"Because after the women helped the bride, they would put you in bed and once you're ready, the men would take Prince Carl to your chamber and put him to bed with you," LaFontaine expertly relayed. "And afterwards, the bishop would bless the marriage bed for fertility and then everyone would leave, so that both you and Prince Carl could consummate your marriage."

After hearing those words from the Valet, she was totally speechless and too dumbfounded to reply.

What kind of silly tradition is that?!

Not only was she panicking at the thought of having a lot of people inside her chamber before her wedding night, she was also tormented.

She had forgotten her wedding night: the night she dreaded the most.

She adored Carl, but they both know that she was not fully prepared for this to happen and they were not able to discuss it. After being separated from him for a month and with all this craziness between Carl and her; and the stress of getting married right away, she forgot all along her fear. And now she was panicking and frightened, as the moment of losing her virginity approached.

"Princess Laura, are you alright?" LaFontaine asked with full of concern.

She shook her head and tried to clear her thoughts of her impending fate, "Umm, yes." She lied and tried not to show LaFontaine how nervous and worried she was.

"Oh, and I forgot to tell you," LaFontaine reminded. "The morning after the wedding night, the women, including the Queen would come to the chamber to check the marital bed to see if you're a virgin and if the marriage had been consummated."

This shocked her even more and the idea was driving her mad. "And how can they tell if I am pure or not? Or if the deed had been done?"

"When they see a blood on the white sheet," the Valet answered.

Then she remembered what Perry told her, when she was asking her Lady in Waiting what to expect on her wedding night. Right now, she was in terrible turmoil. She had no choice but to surrender her virginity to Carl and face her fear.

She silently walked towards the castle with her heart pounding fiercely, her shoulders hunched and looked down, while her mind was in total chaos.

*****

After gathering her strength, taking a long hot bath perfumed with rose oil and asking LaFontaine to make her some chamomile tea, she now found herself in front of the full length mirror as her three handmaidens and Perry surrounded her and prepared her for her wedding night. This time, the atmosphere in her chamber was silent, with the Queen and her Aunt Jordana being present in the room and ten more other elderly women that she recognized as wives of some of the noblemen and courtiers.

After her handmaidens had dried and brushed her hair, just dressed in her silk white robe, she walked towards where the Queen was sitting. She saw Perry handed the Queen her nightgown, while the other women and her Aunt Jordana stood around her.

The Queen rose from the chair, stood in front of her and graciously handed her the nightgown that she was going to wear for her wedding night. After receiving it she bowed her head and looked at the Queen.

"Thank you Your Majesty," she uttered, with poise.

"Remember, you have an obligation to produce an heir for the Karnstein Kingdom," the Queen declared in a firm voice. "Everything that you do should be for the best interest of the kingdom, and your personal worries and agitation should be set aside."

"I will not forget, Your Majesty," she replied firmly, concealing her anxiety as best as she can.

"And you have to remember that you should remain submissive and should not dominate your husband," the Queen informed with utmost importance. "The heir to the throne is the next powerful person after the King; as a wife, you should honor and obey all of the Prince's desires in bed and never refuse him of his needs at all times."

"I will, Your Majesty."

After agreeing to everything, she received a satisfied but controlled smile from the Queen.

"You may dress now."

She heard the Queen said and she bowed her head before heading to the bathroom together with Perry.

After Perry removed her robed and helped her put on her nightgown, they hurriedly went out of the bathroom, knowing that the Queen was waiting.

Once she was in the middle of the room, she saw Sarah Jane and Natalie put a white sheet on the bed, after her handmaidens had securely placed the white sheet, her Aunt Jordana together with the Queen and the elderly women inspected the white linen.

"Laura, you may now come to bed," her Aunt Jordana informed after all the women checked the bedsheet.

She dutifully come to the bed and sat on the left side.

"Call the Prince and tell him that his bride is ready and waiting for him," the Queen ordered.

She saw Betty nodded and bowed to the Queen before leaving the chamber. While she tried her best to remain calm and waited silently as her heart beat rapidly.

After a few minutes, the door to her chamber opened and she felt more agitated when she saw the King entered with Carl already dressed in his purple robe, followed by his Uncle Spencer, the bishop and around ten other familiar faces that she knew were noblemen and the King's advisers, and some of them husbands to the matrons in the room. Her eyes followed the group of men that escorted the Prince to the right side of the bed. LaFontaine helped the Prince removed his robe, and her eyes widened when she saw Carl clothed in his white short night shirt and white braise.

After they successfully put Carl to bed with her and covered them with the sheet, she saw everyone gathered around the four post bed and the bishop stood by the other end of the bed, faced them and began to pray silently and then said:

"Bless this bed and His Highness, Prince Carl and Her Highness Princess Laura, that they may share this gift of life and bear the kingdom an heir."

Right after the bishop recited the prayer, she calmed down a bit when she saw all of the people inside her chamber disappeared one by one in her sight. She caught Perry mouthing the words 'good luck' before leaving and her Aunt Jordana smiling at her, totally oblivious of her nervousness. Then she saw LaFontaine approached the right side of the bed, carrying the purple robe.

"Your Highness, I would put your robe here," LaFontaine informed in a low voice and put it on the bedside table beside the Prince.

She saw Carl just nodded silently and when she met LaFontaine's lingering gaze, she felt like crying as she saw the puppy sad eye expression of the Valet; as if commiserating with what she felt right now. Her eye contact with LaFontaine was broken when she saw the King approached the bed and the Valet discreetly left the chamber.

She noticed that everyone had left, and they found themselves alone with the King. She swallowed hard and waited for whatever the King would command her to do. After receiving all those orders from the Queen, she would not be surprise anymore of what the King would tell her to do. This wedding night felt like a torment as she was forced to do something she did not accept. Her rumination was interrupted when she heard the King coughed and she automatically focused her attention to His Majesty. But she was surprised when she saw the King stared at the Prince's direction and saw Carl looking at his father's eyes intently.

"Carl, be gentle and loving to Laura," the King uttered.

Her eyes widened and she cannot believe what her ears had heard. And then she saw King Philipp gazed at her with those kind warm orbs and smiled.

"Good night Laura," the King said softly.

"Good night Your Majesty and thank you," she returned and gave him a timid smile and then bowed.

"Carl, remember what I told you," the King reminded.

"I will my King Father," the Prince replied firmly and bowed before King Philipp left the chamber.

Once she heard the door closed, her heart started to beat rapidly and she remained lying on the bed with her eyes focused on the ceiling, avoiding Carl's direction. With bated breath, she waited for what would happen next.

"Look at me," Carl demanded.

She was startled by his deep and yet mild tone and flinched. She slowly turned to her left to face him and kept her distance. Her heart pounded madly as she saw Carl's eyes stared at her face for a moment. It felt like she was being tortured as Carl looked at her, devoid of emotion. Right now she did not know if she was anxious of the thought of having Carl's penis inside her or she was nervous at the intimidating sight of her Prince. She was definitely face to face with the cold reserved Carl and had no choice but to submit to him.

"You will obey everything that I will tell you and will remain silent," Carl stated in a serious deep voice. "I don't want to hear any comment from you, except when I tell you so."

She nodded meekly as her heart beat harder. She never imagined that she would feel frightened like this in the presence of Carl. And before she could lament at the loss of the old Prince that she had grown to like, the sound of Carl's cough drew back her attention to him.

"And never touch me," Carl declared.

The orders of the Queen and together with his demands would certainly send her in the pit of madness. Not only was she anxious of the idea of him putting his penis inside her, but all these demands were making her deranged. And all she wanted was to shout and let all these emotions out of her mind and body. But instead, she tried to calm and reminded herself:

This is for Karnstein Kingdom.

She told herself and abandoned all of her worries and fears, as the thought of producing an heir stuck to her mind. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath and tried to pacify herself as she prepared to offer her body to him.

When she opened her eyes, she was met by a pair of concerned dark eyes. She furrowed her brows and was confused at what she saw. She remained silent and looked down as she waited for him to make the first move.

"You may sleep now. I am sure you are exhausted," Carl uttered.

After hearing those words her eyes widened. She looked up and sought his gaze, to make sure if she heard it right. She narrowed her eyes and stared at him like an idiot.

Did he just tell me to sleep?

Perhaps sensing her confusion, "I want you to sleep and rest," he reiterated. "I am already tired and I don't want to explain further. If you don't want to sleep yet, it's your choice. But I am going to sleep now and I don't want you tossing around the bed and disturbing me."

She sighed and felt like this heavy load was lifted from her shoulders. She was surprised to hear that, but she was also thankful about his decision. And before she could smile at him, to thank him, Carl turned his back on her and lied on his side.

With the sheet covering only their lower body parts, she stared at his back for a moment and watched his shoulders relaxed as his breathing became deeper and his body calmed. It was her first time to see him sleeping and the presence of him beside her made her happy and sad at the same time.

She had longed for this night to happen, where she could wrap her arms around Carl and just hold him while sleeping. Then she suddenly had the urged to touch him and was about to reached for his arm; but the image of what happened the day she touched him and he became furious flashed in her mind. She carefully balled her hand into a fist and slowly retrieved and focused her gaze on his back.

How she wished she could caress that short soft hair, she knew that he used to like it, especially if she stroked the back of his ear. She had wished to kiss him good night and feel again his soft wet lips on hers. But she was deprived of it. She felt crying as she gazed at the sight of him lying so close to her, feeling his warmth and yet, she cannot touch him; not even the tip of his hair. She remained her gaze on his back until her eyelids became heavy; a tear drop escaped her left eye before she succumbed to sleep.

*****

Her senses were slowly roused as her ears caught the sound of knocking on the door. She forcefully opened her eyes and tried to adjust at the brightness that was illuminating from the window. She was certain that the sun was already up and nearing noon as the strong rays of the sun surrounded her chamber. She smiled when she heard the birds tweeting by the window; then her attention was robbed by the persisting sound of knocking on the door.

Sometimes, the handmaidens would tease her and wake her by just knocking on the door until she woke up and shouted for them to come in. This time she would not yield to their trick. She decided to close her eyes again. But the knocking persisted and she thought of ignoring them. Her left arm was about to reach behind her to grab her sheet and cover it over her head. But she suddenly found herself stuck and cannot move! She opened her eyes wide and tried to turn around, but she cannot release from the hold. She looked down and saw a hairless arm wrapped tightly around her, and then her eyes roamed at the sight of this pale smooth arm, and stopped when her eyes recognized the silver cuff bracelet with green stones. She held her breath and she suddenly felt warm, when she realized whose arm it was!

What the?!

She carefully turned around, and she almost gasped when she saw the sleeping sight of Carl. Her body and mind cannot comprehend what was happening right now.

Why is he here?!

Was her puzzled remark as she tried to ignore the tingling sensation that her body felt, as Carl's warm body laid beside her. And before she could panic further, she heard a woman's voice and the knocking persisted.

"Carl?! Princess Laura?! Are you awake?!"

She suddenly regained her memories and she remembered everything that happened yesterday, and what LaFontaine had told her.

Oh my god! They're here to check the sheet!

She recalled and her breathing became ragged. How they would explain to the Queen and to the matrons and her aunt about the absence of the blood on the sheet? It would imply that she was not pure if Carl would tell the Queen and the others that they have done the deed.

She had no choice but to wake him up and asked him to tell the truth.

"Your Highness, wake up!" she said in a hushed and panicky tone, and carefully touched him on his arm. "Prince Carl, wake up!" she asked, frustrated at how hard to wake Carl up. She shook him this time till he opened his eyes.

"What?!" he whined.

She saw him gazed at her innocently, and then her heart almost melted when he smiled and realized that she was there beside him.

"Laura? What are you doing here?" he mumbled sleepily, totally oblivious.

Seeing that he has not fully understood yet the situation: "You're in my chamber, on my bed and last night was supposed to be our wedding night, but we didn't do it, and now the Queen and the others are here to check the sheet and see if I was pure or not," she babbled immediately not waiting for him to fully awake. "Carl, they would check for my blood on the sheet as a sign that you've claimed my virginity!"

This time she saw his eyes widened and his expression mirrored her face.

"Bloody hell!" Carl exclaimed, after realizing their predicament. He turned around hastily and reached for the pocket of his robe that was on the bedside table, and took a vial from the pocket. "Move over," he ordered her, and she complied. Then he poured the red liquid from the bottle on the middle of the bed and hid the vial under his pillow.

"What's that?" she asked.

"It's a chicken's blood," he said. "We would tell them that we have consummated our marriage and-"

"Carl! Laura! We're coming in!" was the impatient call.

She heard the voice of the Queen and before the door open; Carl had already wrapped his arm around her, and felt his arm brushed accidentally on her breasts. The sudden contact of Carl's arm made her nipples hard. He removed it right away and rested his arm on her waist instead. Still, the mere contact of his hand and arm on her body was driving her insanely aroused. She remained unmoved and remembered not to touch him, as she lay on her back waiting for the Queen to see them in their 'intimate' state.

"Good morning! How are the newly-weds?"

The Queen asked, and she saw the same group of people that were present last night, minus the King and the men.

"Good morning My Queen Mother," Carl replied and released from the embrace, and got up and sat on the bed, his lower body still under the sheet.

"Good morning Your Majesty," she greeted the Queen and got up from the bed, after Carl released from the embrace. She stood beside the bed and bowed her head to the Queen as she saw her Mother-in-law walked to the side of her bed, together with the group of women and her Aunt Jordana.

"It's a custom and tradition that the women of the castle would check the matrimonial bed for sign of your purity and consummation." The Queen expressed.

She saw Carl lifted the sheet for them and a look of satisfaction could be found on the Queen's and everyone's face, when they caught the sight of blood on the white linen sheet.

"Perfect!" The Queen exclaimed.

Then she saw the Queen faced towards her direction. "Did you remember all the things that I have told you?"

"Yes Your Majesty," she nodded meekly and did not release her eyes from the Queen's fiery ones.

"Very well, we would leave you two alone and I would send the maids to bring your breakfast afterwards," the Queen related.

"Thank you Your Majesty," she returned and bowed her head as she saw the Queen walked to the other side of the bed where Carl was sitting.

"Carl, are you that tired that you cannot even stand up and give your Queen Mother a kiss?" The Queen asked in an authoritative voice.

"Forgive me, my Queen Mother," Carl replied, got out of the sheet and rose from the bed immediately.

But as soon as she saw Carl out of the bed and standing in front of the Queen, dressed only in his night shirt and braise, she understood why the Prince did not get up from the bed earlier. She saw the Queen lifted right away its hand and gave it to Carl to kiss, instead of kissing his mother on the cheek. And the next thing she heard was gasped from the women around them and saw their faces reddened as they witnessed the sight of the Prince of Karnstein's penis erected to its full glory.

She smiled discreetly like a devil, as she witnessed this awkward scene, and knew that it was her breasts that had awaken the Prince's 'cat'.

TBC

Chapter Text

Carmilla

She paced to and fro inside the bathroom of her chamber, while she waited anxiously for her Valet to arrive. She had forgotten all along the most important thing in this wedding night: not to consummate their marriage.

The Princess never asked her not to do it, but she knew that it would frighten her wife if she would claim Laura's virginity just for the sake of tonight.

She would never hurt her wife and she did not want Laura to loath her in bed; that was not how she imagined her married life would be.

So, even up to the last minute, she forced her Valet to come up with a solution of how they would lure her Queen Mother and the matrons when the group of women come and check the sheet of their matrimonial bed after the wedding night.

She almost leapt when she heard the loud knock on the bathroom's door.

"Who is it?"

"It's me, LaFontaine."

She opened the door right away as she hid behind it, knowing that the King was waiting outside in her chamber. She closed the door right away after slipping her Valet in.

"What took you so long?!" she asked in a hushed tone, as LaFontaine put a vial on the top of the dressing table and then faced her. "You look like you've seen a ghost? And why are you trembling?"

"The butcher had already slaughtered all of the chickens and pigeons for the feast and had already cleaned and threw away all the garbage," LaFontaine tried to explain, their voice shaking. "I have to ask a boy to get me a chicken from the barn, and I have to slaughter the innocent chicken myself, so that I could get what you want," the Valet complained in a low tone. "I hope God would forgive me for killing that poor chicken."

"Try to get hold of yourself and forget about the chicken!" she ordered seeing that her Valet looked disoriented. "What have you told my King Father again?" she asked, as LaFontaine helped her put on her purple robe and then slipped the vial filled with red liquid inside the pocket of her robe and then she securely tied the strings around her waist.

"I told his Majesty that I have forgotten your night shirt and that I need to retrieve it from the laundry room," LaFontaine replied.

"But where's the damn shirt?!" she asked, seeing that her Valet had nothing in their hands. Her stress level was already reaching its peak because of that damn chicken blood that she needed. She told LaFontaine that she would not come out of her chamber without that blood; even to the extent of letting the King wait for her, as they create an excuse just to retrieve the thing that would prove Laura's virginity.

"I have already given it to His Majesty before I came here. Just go to your King Father, so that he could already perform the ceremony of handing to you your night shirt, then you'll have to come back here, so that I could help you put it on."

"Alright, thanks. I'm going now," she informed her Valet and tried to regain her composure before facing her King Father, but she was distracted when she caught the worried expression of LaFontaine. "Stop thinking about the chicken!" she reprimanded in a hush tone before leaving the bathroom.

She walked with her back straight and her chin up across the room and towards where the King was sitting. Her King Father stood right away upon seeing her approaching. She bowed to the King at once and composed herself.

"Forgive me my King Father for letting you wait, I take all the blame of this carelessness," she declared.

"It's alright Carl, you don't need to apologize. I managed to take a quick nap while waiting, and I felt refreshed," the King said and smiled. "And besides, things like that are bound to happen at weddings. I remember that I accidentally poured the wine that I was drinking on my night shirt during the bedding ceremony, and my Valet had to retrieve a new one for me too."

She felt relieved after hearing her father's response, and gave him a smile when her father simply handed her the night shirt.

"Here, put this on now so that I could already take you to your bride," the king informed and winked at her.

"Thank you my King Father," she replied and bowed her head before leaving.

Once she was inside her bathroom, she untied her robe and LaFontaine stood behind her and helped her take it off. Then she remembered the precious vial in her robe's pocket.

"Careful, the vial is in there," she ordered and faced her Valet dressed in her braise and the white linen that was wrapped around her chest.

"I know, you don't have to tell me, I'm the one who put it there," LaFontaine replied and hanged the robe on the chair beside her dressing table. Then they held the night shirt for her to put it on.

After putting on the night shirt, LaFontaine retrieved the purple robe and held it for her, so she could put it on again. Once she securely tied the string, they left the bathroom and walked inside her chamber and face her King Father again.

"Before we go out, I need to tell you something," the King related and motioned for them to sit on the bed. While LaFontaine waited by the door.

They both sat on the right side of the bed and faced each other. Then her King Father put his right hand on her shoulder and looked at her in the eyes.

"The most important thing in the wedding night is your bride's comfort," the King explained sincerely. "You need to treat your wife with utmost respect in bed and you have to be gentle to her. Remember, it's her first time; it would be painful for her if she is not comfortable and relax. She would need time to become ready, so you should show her how much you adore and love her. You should always look her in the eyes and ask her permission first before claiming her. Always be gentle and loving when you touch her, and never hurry up. And don't forget to tell her how beautiful she is and how you love her."

"I will my King Father," she nodded sincerely. She was about to stand up but the voice of the King caught her attention and she paused.

"And Carl, if you think your bride is not ready, you don't need to do it. There's no shame in not doing it," the King reminded gently. "You could just spend the night holding each other. You don't need to hurry up consummating your marriage. There would be plenty of nights and days to do it. What matters most is that she feels secured in bed with you."

She nodded and gave her King Father a genuine smile. "Thank you my King Father I will remember everything that you told me."

"Shall we go?" the King asked and motioned for her to go first. "Oh, and I have to warn you, there are around ten men including the bishop and Prince Spencer waiting outside the door of your chamber; and every one of them are excited to put you in bed with Laura."

She smirked at her father and she received a smirk from him too. And they proceeded to the direction of the door.

*****

"Carl, remember what I told you," the King reminded.

"I will my King Father," she replied firmly and bowed before the King left the chamber.

Once she saw the King stepped out of the chamber, she recalled the last thing that her father told her:

"What matters most is that she feels secured in bed with you."

She was definitely going to tell Laura not to worry since she has no intention of consummating their marriage and even if her King Father reminded her that it was alright not to do it, she would still not claim Laura. Not this way. She excitedly turned to face her wife; to tell the Princess that they would not do it and that she just wants to hold Laura in her arms as they sleep. But when her gaze focused at Laura, she felt this sudden pain in her heart and she furrowed her brows as she saw the frightened expression in her wife's face.

She suddenly felt unwanted and undesirable while Laura avoided looking at her direction and just stared at the ceiling. She swallowed hard and tried to fight this lump that was forming in her throat. She had just witnessed her own wife avoided looking at her, perhaps disgusted at what lies inside her braise and inside her night shirt. For a moment, she lost her confidence as she replayed in her mind the facial expression of her wife.

What does she expect? Laura does not like penis.

She tried to erase all of these negative thoughts in her head.

So, she took a deep breath and tried her best to control her feelings. And before facing her wife she reminded herself that she had a beautiful body and if the Princess cannot accept it, then she would not force Laura. She was different and she would live with it whether Laura accept it or not. She gathered her confidence and controlled her feelings and said:

"Look at me," she ordered in her deepest firm voice.

She almost lost her composure when she caught Laura trembled just by looking at her.

Does she hate it that much?

She wondered all of a sudden and she thought of leaving Laura in bed so that her wife would be spared of having to forcefully sleep with her in bed. Her heart ached at the look of fear in Laura's eyes as she came face to face with her wife. She stared at the Princess and she contemplated what to say next. She was too hurt at how Laura looked at her so she decided to be her firm and cold self to conceal her pain.

"You will obey everything that I will tell you and will remain silent," she commanded in a firm deep voice. "I don't want to hear any comment from you, except when I tell you so."

She saw Laura nodded quietly and was thankful that there was no complain from her wife, oftentimes she felt hurt too whenever she have to be firm with Laura. But she had to do it. She had to be firm or else she cannot prove to her Queen Mother that she was capable of controlling her emotions. Then she caught Laura staring at her and she felt like giving in to her feelings, as she saw those beautiful hazel eyes. She tried to cough to break the stare. She does not know what was in Laura's mind, but the look in those brown eyes showed yearning. If her wife suddenly uttered a single word, she knew that she would yield to whatever Laura want. So she decided not to let it happen.

"And never touch me," she declared.

The look on Laura's face changed from yearning to blank expression, and she was thankful that she did not hurt her by saying those words. But when she saw the Princess' eyes closed she panicked inside and grew worried.

What have I done?

She hoped that Laura was not crying; she held her breath and waited anxiously for those beautiful brown eyes to open and gazed worriedly at the Princess.

I'm sorry.

The words were already in her thoughts and she would definitely say it as soon as she found out that she had hurt her wife.

She held her breath and gazed at the Princess' face; when those hazel eyes opened she felt relieved when she found no trace of tears. She composed herself and thought not to prolong Laura's anxiety anymore.

"You may sleep now. I am sure you are exhausted," she uttered.

Her eyes caught the surprised look of her wife and she knew that Laura would be confused that she had decided not to consummate their marriage. She waited for the Princess to focus those confused brown eyes to her.

"I want you to sleep and rest," she reiterated. Then she felt her emotions taking over and she thought of telling Laura the truth.

I don't want to hurt you and I am willing to wait for you to accept me, no matter how long it takes.

She longed to say those words, but she forcefully suppressed her feelings and instead, she decided to tell a lie.

"I am already tired and I don't want to explain further. If you don't want to sleep yet, it's your choice. But I am going to sleep now and I don't want you tossing around the bed and disturbing me," she said in a cold tone and turned her back right away from the Princess, afraid that she might not be able to control her feelings any longer if she caught her wife smiling at her.

Suddenly she longed for that smile; Laura's cheerful mood was contagious that whenever she sees that adorable smile she cannot help but to kiss her Princess and just wrap her arms around Laura. She loved kissing and touching the Princess and the thought of her wife reciprocating her kisses and being aroused at her touches always drove her libido wild.

She tried to brush off all of those thoughts; she cannot think of them now. She cannot have an erection when she knew that Laura was just lying inches apart beside her. She does not want to scare her wife. But she felt that her body was not cooperating. She discreetly reached for her crotch and discovered her hard bulge. She removed her hand right away and tried to perform the breathing exercise that she used to do when she was younger and did not have an idea yet that she could use her hand.

*****

She woke up again and did not know how many times now. It was her first time to sleep on Laura's bed, and she cannot find a decent sleep. She was thankful that Laura was still sleeping. The weak light from the fireplace and the lack of curtains around her, and the fact that she was lying beside Laura were certainly the cause of her poor sleep.

She carefully removed her arm under Laura's head and tried to stretch her numb arm. She smiled and gazed at her wife. Sometime in between her dozing off and waking up, she found Laura snuggled beside her. She inevitably turned around and faced Laura's direction while she was asleep and Laura might have taken the chance to cuddle with her sleeping form. Her heart melted at the beautiful sight of her wife and she carefully kissed Laura's lips. Then she looked at her wife to check if she had woke the Princess, she sighed when she just found those eyes tightly closed and the sound of Laura's low snoring made her smile. She lay on her side, enclosed her right arm above the Princess' head and her left arm over Laura's waist and wrapped her wife protectively in her arms, before kissing Laura's forehead and whispered:

I love you.

She closed her eyes and she relished the feeling of Laura's sleeping form in her arms for the first time, and wished that they could just stay like that forever.

*****

It's the evening after her wedding night and after spending the afternoon and eating lunch with Laura's family before travelling to Hollis' kingdom, she now found herself sitting on the chair of her study table, relaxing. She was glad to have been back in the seclusion of her own chamber. She was about to close her eyes and just take some quick nap but the sound of the door opened caught her attention, and she knew right away who entered without knocking.

"You won't believe what they're talking about in the castle!" was LaFontaine's excited remark, as her Valet approached to where she was sitting and stood in front of her.

"When would you learn how to knock?" she asked desperately. "Leave me alone, I want to take some nap." She ordered but the thrilled look of her Valet's face told her that they have not been listening to any word that she was saying. "Why are you smiling like that?" she asked and was suddenly curious of the thing that was causing her Valet to smile like a fool.

"…Because you, my friend, are the talk of the town today!"

She lifted her left eyebrows and gave LaFontaine her undivided attention.

"And what kind of nonsense are they talking about this time?" she asked, knowing that the servants could gossip from time to time, but it never bothered her, since it was just petty gossips, and not harmful.

"After your stunt this morning with Her Majesty and the matrons, the news spread like fire inside the castle and among servants," LaFontaine proclaimed proudly.

She then recalled the awkward scene when her Queen Mother pointed out her 'sword', as her Queen Mother called it, standing and drew some attention among the matrons, including Laura's aunt.

"I am not sorry that it happened; that should teach them a lesson not to intrude on the morning after my wedding night," she reasoned out.

She knew that it could happen since she always has erections in the morning when she wakes up. But having Laura beside her and accidentally brushing her arms and feeling Laura's breasts, had made it harder for her to remain soft. "I requested my Queen Mother nicely not to come to Laura's chamber to check if Laura had bled; since I knew that my wife had never slept with a man. But she still insisted on doing the virginity test."

"Well, you should be thankful for the blood of that innocent poor chicken that saved you and Laura from being under the scrutiny of the matrons and Her Majesty," LaFontaine related, and turned quiet.

She noticed the sudden silence and changed of mood from her Valet and remembered how disoriented and trembling Lafontaine was yesterday.

"Are you still thinking about that chicken?" was her curious remark. "I told you to forget it."

"How can I forget it when I saw it died in my own hands?!" LaFontaine blurted.

"Calm down," she returned in a low voice and observed that her Valet have not yet overcome the shock of slaughtering a chicken. "Let's not talk about it, alright?" she said and she saw them relaxed. "And I'm sorry that I have to ask you. I want to thank you also for all the things that you have done for me yesterday. I really appreciate it. If it wasn't for you, I would have been grilled by my Queen Mother and the matrons for not consummating my marriage. They're going to think that I cannot let it stand, and my Queen Mother might bring in a mistress for me to practice to use it."

"Well I think you've already proven to them yesterday that you can definitely let it stand; when you made a group of women blushed and almost fainted at the sight of your morning glory," was Lafontaine's sarcastic remark. "By the way, how would you explain to them that you cannot touch your wife because she is afraid of your penis? And since we are on the topic of penis, how would you solve this little problem of yours? They'll going to ask for an heir soon, you know."

"I have just been married for one day, can't we not talk about this business of producing an heir?" was her irritated remark and stood from the chair. She walked towards the window and looked absent mindedly outside.

"I just want to tell you that you can always talk to me, if you need to vent or ask for some advice," LaFontaine said nicely. "You know, women need to be loved and cared all the time. They want to feel that they are the most attractive being in the eyes of their partners, and they always want to hear how their partner adore and cherish them."

Suddenly, her Valet's advice caught her attention. She turned around and faced LaFontaine. "And since when did you know what women want?" was her challenging question and raised her left eyebrows. Then she caught her Valet crimsoned and avoided her eyes. "Is there something that you're hiding from me?"

"Why would I hide something from you?" LaFontaine retorted. "I have made a solemn vow to her Majesty to protect you and be truthful to you, in everything that I do, and had promise not to get my personal life involved in my duty as your Valet."

"So, you mean to say that I cannot ask about your personal life, while you get to ask and intrude in my personal life?" She retaliated and wants to get to the bottom of this thing that her Valet was hiding from her.

"It's different when it comes to your personal life; you're the future King, your personal life is everybody's concern," LaFontaine reasoned out. "And whether you admit it or not, I would always be involved in your personal life. Who else would have thought about retrieving a chicken blood to save you from the embarrassment of having to tell the Queen and the Matrons that you haven't consummated your marriage yet?"

She silently conceded and accepted the fact that she needed the involvement of her Valet, not just for helping her with her daily needs as a Prince and the heir to the throne, but also as her friend; whom she could rely on and asked for advice or help when it comes to her relationship with Laura.

"Thank you, again, for suggesting that idea," she told her Valet, grateful for the help. "I was nervous that they won't believe that it was from Laura's, but once they saw it, they assumed right away that we've done it and that Laura was a virgin." She said, grateful. "I know that Laura would feel nervous about the wedding night, that's why I tried to tell my Queen Mother not to come to Laura's chamber."

"You're always welcome," Lafontaine replied with sincerity. "But what if I wasn't able to come up with such plan when you ask me to help you, would you still consummate the marriage?"

"I would rather face my Queen Mother and the matrons and tell them that I cannot do it, instead of hurting Laura and putting my wife in a horrible state, just so I could prove to them that I have proudly claimed my wife's virginity," she delivered with utmost sincerity. "I care for Laura and the last thing I want to do is for her to have an anxiety attack while I claim her virginity."

"And I am glad that you thought about Princess Laura's fear, and respected it; and that you did not force her to have sex with you, even if everyone is harassing you to produce an heir right away."

"I have told Laura that I would only do it if I have her permission," she said, and this time her voice turned serious, as she recalled that time, that they were still in good terms. "I may be her husband and have full rights on her, but I still respect her feelings when it comes to having sex. I don't want my wife to think that I am a beast and only want her body. I want to make love with her; not claim her virginity just for the sake of producing an heir. "

"I wish you could say that to her in person, so that she would understand how you care and respect her so much."

LaFontaine's suggestion suddenly struck her like a dagger. She knew that her Valet was aware of this sudden change of her attitude towards Laura, but they never knew how hard she was treating Laura. She had chosen to be cold, aloof and indifferent towards Laura because she did not know if she could follow her mother's orders, without her emotions getting in a way. If she would remain showing Laura her feelings, she might not be able to remain a strong and confident heir. She remembered her mother always telling her that her emotions were too strong and intense that she needed to restrain it. But in the process of becoming strong, she knew that she had to pay the consequences.

"Have you heard anything from her?" she asked nonchalantly. And she saw the smug look on her Valet's face.

"Why are you asking me that?"

"Nothing; forget that I asked," was her defensive reply, and regretted her action.

"Oh no, we don't avoid the topic when it involves the Princess," LaFontaine retorted. "Have you done something inappropriate again towards Princess Laura?"

 

The sound of her Valet's question was very protective and she knew that LaFontaine would definitely criticize her again. "She was suddenly not talking to me during lunch and dinner."

"And why is that, may I ask?"

She hated it when LaFontaine was being protective of the Princess and she always end up becoming the bad one after their conversation.

"I don't know… she preferred talking to her cousin than me, and she laughed while Johann teased her. But when it comes to me she turned serious and quiet at once," she related.

"Could it be that you've done something that she deemed inappropriate, that's why she was giving you the silent treatment?" LaFontaine suggested.

"I kind of told her not to touch me last night," was her courageous and honest remark.

"You told your naïve, kind, adorable, sweet and beautiful wife not to touch you on your wedding night?! That's just telling the angels and the goddess of love to go away!" was LaFontaine's exaggerated retort. "How can you reject her? Princess Laura is the epitome of adorableness and sweetness and goodness and gentleness?! She is literally the sunshine in this kingdom!"

She rolled her eyes and knew that this was about to happen. "Alright! I'm the bad one, and it's my fault and I'm the one to blame! Are you happy now?"

"No. You have to tell me why you are acting like this, if I am the one who is in a relationship with you, I would be mad with this constant changes of your feelings," was LaFontaine's serious remark. "You changed since she found out the truth," they accused. "Tell me, did she told you that she didn't like the way you are; which I doubt that she would find you unattractive in her eyes, because I just knew that she really likes you so much because she does not judge people and like them for what they are, and not who they are, and I simply wouldn't believe that she doesn't like you anymore, since she agreed to marry you even if you're being a pain in the ass to her."

After that long rant from her Valet, she become speechless and did not know if she would tell the truth, since it involved her family's integrity. Then she realized that honesty should come first.

"I was scared…" she started and hesitated for a moment. But when she saw LaFontaine listening intently she became confident and knew that her Valet would not judge. "I was scared that if I show my love to her and be honest to what I feel towards her, I would become soft and vulnerable, and my Queen Mother doesn't like that I am being too emotional. My Queen Mother is always telling me that showing my emotions is a sign of weakness, and in order for me to become a great ruler, I should learn to control it, since it might bring me to downfall. She said that I should learn to control my emotions to become stronger," she explained openly. "And in addition to Laura's fear of penis, I think she still cannot accept that I have a unique body."

After that honest remark, there was just silence around the chamber.

"Did it occur to you that in your process of becoming stronger, your deliberately hurting Princess Laura?" was LaFontaine's careful and honest remark.

She shook her head a bit and bowed her head and massaged her temple with her left index and middle fingers.

"Well, I don't have any choice, do I?" she replied and looked at her Valet again. "It's either you want a strong indifferent ruler or an emotional weak ruler!"

"But you do have a choice," LaFontaine responded softly. "You just need to try first and see what would happen. Because what I see now is, you're already closing your heart at the chance of finding true happiness. You're pretending that you don't care for her and treating her like she is your property, and not your wife. She has feelings too and I could see that she is hurting by the way you act towards her, like you're some arrogant Prince that doesn't care. The throne is already yours and would always be there for you; but Laura wouldn't be always there if you kept on hurting her."

"So, you're suggesting that I stop listening to what the Queen of Karnstein is telling me and just do whatever I feel?" was her sarcastic remark. She hated that everything that her Valet told her was true.

"What I mean is, listen to what your heart is telling you," LaFontaine replied firmly. "It doesn't hurt to tell and show your wife that you care for her, even if you wouldn't dare tell her that you love her."

"And who told you that I love her?" was her defensive reply.

"You don't need to, it shows. You're just afraid to admit it," LaFontaine retaliated.

Suddenly, she became speechless and did not know how to reply.

"And have she ever told you that she does not like what lies underneath those clothes?" LaFontaine added.

"I'm exhausted and I want to take a bath now," she commented in an authoritative tone. And her Valet knew that it was their cue to finish this conversation, as she saw LaFontaine silently nodded and went to the direction of the bathroom.

*****

Lying alone on her own bed, she woke up appeased even if they had not consummated their marriage yet. The most important thing was Laura was already married to her. She felt happy and overwhelmed despite the fact that they were not in good terms. She just wanted to enjoy this moment, knowing that Laura was officially hers and no one could steal Laura anymore from her. Her greatest fear was to lose Laura from Viktor. But right now, she had a reason to smile knowing that Laura had chosen her. Then she caught sight of her left hand, she brought it closer to her and gazed at the ring that Laura had chosen. It was the first time she looked at it closely. It was unique and beautiful; just like her and Laura. She loved the simplicity and elegance of the gold surface and platinum edge. She suddenly had the urge to read her wife's name on her wedding band and removed the ring from her finger.

Her heart gave a sudden lurch when she discovered what was engraved inside the ring:

Yours and only yours, Laura

She felt like crying after reading the text. Her wife definitely requested the goldsmith to add that special words and she knew that the Princess wants to reassure her of one thing…

That Laura belonged to her.

*****

After eating her midday meal she decided to take a break from writing some trading contracts and thought that she could use some fresh air and smells the roses in her garden.

Once she arrived at the garden, her eyes caught right away the sight of her Valet kneeling in one of the corner bushes. She walked to the direction of LaFontaine and saw her Valet in deep thoughts and their head bowed.

"What are you doing?" she asked and saw her Valet startled at the sight of her standing behind them.

"Please don't sneak like that again," LaFontaine replied. "I'm praying."

"What?" she asked and furrowed her brows. She moved a little closer and glanced down at where LaFontaine was staring, and she discovered a mound of dirt with a white rose on top of it. "Is that what I think it is?"

Her Valet rose and face her, "Yes, it's the chicken and don't complain that I buried her there. Because I think she deserved a proper burial right after that cruel night."

She remained silent and did not argued anymore, after seeing the distress look on her Valet's face. She was about to tell them that it was alright, but the familiar voice of her wife caught their attention and they both turned and focused their sight towards the Princess. Laura bowed to her at once.

"Your Highness," the Princess remark while curtsying. "I didn't mean to interrupt, but I just want to speak with La-" Laura was saying but was suddenly distracted at the sight of the Valet sniffing. "Laf? Are you alright? What happened?" the Princess asked and approached LaFontaine at once and held their arm, and looked at them with furrowed brows.

Seeing that her Valet became more emotional after Laura's worried expression, she answered the question.

"LaFontaine just buried the chicken that they killed," she said a she observed how sympathetic her wife was to her Valet.

"But why didn't you just let the butcher kill it if you can't tolerate it?" was Laura's puzzled and yet concerned remark. "It's not your job at all."

"I need to do it because His Highness was desperate and in need of a blood to prove to Her Majesty and the matrons that you're a virgin," LaFontaine stated.

"Oh." Was the Princess surprised remark. "You did that for me? Oh Laf, I'm sorry you have to get through with the pain and trauma of killing it." Laura exclaimed and embraced the Valet at once.

She felt a pang of envy as she witnessed her wife consoling her Valet. She knew that she should not feel this way, but she missed Laura's embraces and touches and she cannot take it that Laura was touching and embracing another person in front of her. Laura did not even bothered to look at her and just embraced her Valet. So, she decided to leave and walked discreetly towards the opposite side.

She had not even reached the middle of the garden when she heard Laura's voice calling her. Her heart throbbed and a discreet smile formed in her lips.

"Your Highness!"

She turned around carefully, and pretended to be not excited that her wife had finally noticed her. And her eyes caught the pretty sight of her wife running towards her. How her heart melt at how adorable and lively Laura was.

"Yes Princess?" she asked in a low tone and stood on the spot and waited for the Princess to come closer to her. She focused her gazed at Laura and furrowed her brows as the Princess stood in front of her; respecting her personal space.

Still panting, "I… I just want to thank Your Highness about the other night. It's so considerate of you to…"

Sensing Laura's uncomfortableness, "It's nothing," she filled in at once. Then there was silence as their eyes both met, and she saw the yearning in Laura's eyes. She suddenly felt self-conscious and broke the awkward silence. "Umm…" she uttered and considered the words that she was going to say. "I was very stressed out and exhausted on our wedding night… and I know that I have said some bad things to you…," she expressed and was having a hard time telling Laura how sorry she was, as she remembered LaFontaine reprimanding her of telling the Princess not to touch her. "What I'm saying is… I didn't mean it. I…" she was still fumbling for words, but she lost her concentration when she saw Laura's adorable smile. She sighed and wished that she could just kiss her wife.

"It's alright Your Highness, I understand," Laura replied immediately.

She gave the Princess a satisfied smile, thankful that she does not need to elaborate more. Laura really knew her when she was nervous and apologizing. She admitted that she was not used to it, and Laura was aware of it. But she had to try and be more open.

TBC

Chapter Text

Laura

"Laura, are you alright?"

She was torn from her contemplation as she heard the soft and low voice of Greta. She shook her head lightly and looked at one of her favorite people in the village.

"Umm… I'm sorry, I…" she fumbled for words and was sure that she heard what Greta said a while ago, but lost her focus as she remembered again how Carl together with the King had been busy after their wedding entertaining some of the guests who had chosen to stay in the castle to discuss some potential new trading partnership. She cannot deny that she missed him so much.

She was thankful that she had been busy also running the castle's household for the first time, as the Queen entertained the wives of their guests. The distraction made her think less how she missed Carl. She tried to conceal her disorientation and picked up the nearest cheese in front of her. "I'll take this," and then handed it to Greta.

But instead of packing the cheese, Greta put it back and walked to the nearby stall and talked to the young girl who was standing behind it.

She was surprised when she felt Greta's hand, gently took her arm and led her out of the cheese stall.

"What are you doing?" she asked as she was led to the way out of the village market.

"We're going to my place," Greta replied nonchalantly.

"But you cannot leave your stall… and Perry is going to-"

"I told Ida to look after my stall and informed her too that, if a certain curly redhead comes and looks for us, she could just tell the woman to go shop further," Greta explained. "And don't worry, I also told Ida that we'll be back before sunset."

Seeing that she had no choice, as Greta had already dragged her along, she nodded and followed her.

After almost a quarter she found herself sitting at Greta's small dining area, that happened to be beside the bed where Carl once slept on; she sighed as she recalled that day when her Prince had an anxiety attack and everyone got worried.

"Here, drink that, it would help you to relax," Greta suggested and took the seat across the other side of the small table.

She smelled the hot liquid in the cup and caught the smell of mint. "Hmmm, it smelled good," she uttered and blew on the cup before carefully taking as small sip. They both just sat in comfortable silence, and Greta did not utter a single question.

The mint tea definitely made her feel better and she drunk the remaining liquid in her cup. "Do you have some more?" she asked and motioned for her empty cup.

"Yes, of course,"

She saw Greta rose from the chair and took the kettle that was covered with coal and poured the tea on her cup. "Thank you Greta."

"Your welcome," Greta answered and filled the half empty cup of hers, before returning the kettle on the fireplace and sat again on the chair.

"I just miss Ca- I mean… Marcus," she uttered out of the blue and she was not surprised to be talking about her personal life to this woman whom she just knew lately; Greta evoked trust, care and loyalty. She waited for Greta to react, but the dark haired woman just looked at her intently. "He… he and I seldom had a chance to be together."

"Why?" Greta asked carefully.

"We've become busier in our daily tasks, but I think he's avoiding me too," was her doubtful remark.

"Well, maybe he really is very busy," Greta presumed. "Guarding the Prince of Karnstein can be a very demanding job."

"Actually, we've had a fight… but that was a long time ago," she related. "I don't even know if I could call it a fight, because we never fight on anything… maybe sometimes… but not that serious," she expressed and fumbled for words, on how to describe the cause of this problem. "I'm sorry if I don't make any sense.

"Let's just say you and Marcus had a disagreement," Greta supplied the word.

"Yes. A disagreement," she nodded and looked around her absent mindedly as she tried to tell the story. "It happened after his name day… I tried fixing the problem but the situation got worst and we did not get a chance to talk about it, until I have to go back to my hometown and stay with my sick father for a month."

"Oh Laura, I'm sorry to hear that. How is your father doing now?" was Greta's concerned remark.

She took a deep breath and then focused her attention to Greta. "Thank God, he's doing fine, or else I wouldn't go back in Karnstein Kingdom and would take care of my father," she said and suddenly missed her old man.

"It's good that you're allowed to take a vacation that long from the castle," Greta commented. "But of course, taking care of your father is more important than work."

"I have asked the Queen and explained my situation to her, and she understood it," she explained. "But Marcus didn't understand it. I think he interpreted it as, me getting away from him and breaking our betrothment."

"Didn't you tell him that your sick father needed you before you went back to your hometown?"

"I did. But not in person because he… he's not available or rather he was busy during that time and I did not wait for him to return, and I just wrote him a letter explaining everything," she relayed and suddenly felt sad at the thought of Carl not acknowledging her letters. "I even wrote him another two letters while I was at our cas- I mean home."

"Have you asked him if he receive all of it and how he felt about the content of your letters?" was Greta's curious remark.

"I did, and he plainly said that it doesn't matter," she returned and started to get frustrated as she recalled the lack of reaction from Carl about her letters. "I even wrote in the letter that I'm in love with him and that I never thought that it will happen, but it did! But he never said anything about it. And now I felt he is not acknowledging my feelings for him, and he's always working and didn't have time for me anymore. Because he told me that his duties to the kingdom come first before me, and that I shouldn't demand anything from him, not even his time or affection! Greta, I don't know what to do anymore!" she bursted out and for the first time all of those frustrations and anger resurfaced.

"Oh sweetie, I'm so sorry to hear that," Greta returned and rose from the chair.

And the next thing she knew, she was bawling as Greta embraced her tight and she just wrapped her arms around Greta's waist as she felt the dark haired woman's arms held her consolingly. She let out all of the hatred and frustrations that she was suppressing and just cried like a child.

When she felt relieve and had poured out everything inside her, she carefully released from the embrace and Greta took the chair that was across the table and placed beside her and sat near her.

"Here, take this," Greta handed a handkerchief to her. "Just let everything out and if you must cry again, then cry!"

She wiped the tears on her face as she whimpered and felt Greta's hand rubbing her back consolingly. "I hate him because he's taking me for granted and I felt like I'm just an ornament that he could keep and tell the people around us that he has a wife!" Suddenly she felt the hand that was rubbing her back disappeared and she saw Greta standing in front of her.

"Did you two get married already?!" was Greta's surprised remark, and waited eagerly for the answer.

"Y-yes," was her hesitant reply, and knew that she could not deny it anymore. "And I'm sorry that I didn't tell you before and didn't invited anyone to the wedding feast; it's just simple and just us and some family and closed-friends," she said sheepishly. "It happened too fast and I thought that everything would be alright again with me and him if we get married, but I was wrong. After our wedding, he resumed working and immersed himself in his duties."

"Oh Laura, I hope that you and Marcus could work this out," Greta commented and kneeled in front of her. "Have faith and patience. Sometimes men could be insensitive to our feelings and would seem indifferent, especially those men with noble bloods," Greta related and rose. "But if you could talk to him again, like a really heart to heart talk, then maybe he would realize his mistakes. Laura, being in a relationship is a very complicated responsibility, especially when you're already married and always see each other; your bound to discover something that he does suddenly irritates you and vice versa."

"But that's the problem! We don't see each other that often anymore!" she exclaimed. "And I don't get a chance to have a heart to heart talk with him, because I feel like I have to compete with his work, with his mother, with his father, just to have his attention."

"Wait a minute, are you living with your in-laws?"

She suddenly paused and had to think twice before replying; she reminded herself to control her feelings before she accidentally reveal everything to Greta. "Yes. They work and live in the castle too," was her lame excuse and hoped that Greta would not focus on the topic of her, living together with her in-laws. "But they are totally nice and decent people and they treat me like their very own daughter."

"It's good to know that. Because sometimes, living together with the in-laws can take a toll on a marriage."

"I don't think it would happen," she defended.

"Well, if you think it won't then I respect your judgment," the dark haired woman commented. "But if you ever need to vent or talk to someone about your problem, I want you to know that I'm here for you. You can always come here and even stay with me and Emma if you feel like you need a break."

"Thank you so much Greta, you had helped me a lot today," she returned and smiled. "I had never told anyone about it and I just kept it inside me, because I don't want to bother the people around me."

"But that's where you're wrong. Everybody needs someone they could rely on, that's why we have family and friends!" was Greta's high pitched remark. "You mean, you haven't told Perry about your problem with Marcus?"

"No. Because Perry admires him and thinks that he's a great person," she replied. "And besides, she knew Marcus and had approved of him to be my husband since we came in the castle."

"Well, your secrets are safe with me and I vow not to tell anything bad about Marcus either, but if he hurt you badly I would make sure that he would get his own dose of medicine," Greta proclaimed.

"Thanks Greta, I felt safe and cared," she added and hugged the dark haired woman.

"What are friends for?" Greta remarked after releasing from the embrace.

She smiled wide after hearing the word 'friend'. "Yes, you are truly a good friend and I'm glad that I met you."

"No Laura. You're the real good friend. You're naturally kind and generous to others also, not just to me, so thank you," Greta said with genuine sincerity.

She gave her a satisfied smile and hug Greta again. "What do you mean I'm kind to others too?" she asked out of curiosity.

"Laura, this is a small village, almost everyone knew each other," Greta informed.

She just stared at her new friend and raised her eyebrows.

"Do you think nobody would notice that you're always giving extra coins to us vendors whenever you buy something from the market? And that old lady who lives near the church, she told us that you and your husband, she thought that Marcus is already your husband, you both helped her carry the sack of wheat or something that she bought, and afterwards you gave her some money," Greta babbled. "And not only that, I heard that you helped someone who works in the brothel when you saw her in trouble."

"I have extra coins and I don't need so much, so I thought I could share it to those who need it," was her honest reply. "And it's Marcus who helped the old lady carry her sack, not me."

"But you're the one who gave her a pouch of coins."

"It was actually from me and Marcus, because we feel sorry that she lost her son and that they didn't have anyone to help them, and her husband was sick, and they don’t have any son to help them anymore," she said and tried her best not to sound boastful. Then she remembered Greta mentioning about the woman who works in the brothel and she became curious. "By the way, how did you know about the woman that works in the brothel?" she did not recall anymore the name, but she remembered that Perry warned her to avoid that person.

"Elsie is a very good friend of mine," Greta disclosed.

She suddenly wondered why her new found friend was acquainted with a not so liked and unwanted woman in the village. Her surprise did not go unnoticed to the dark haired woman in front of her, and she felt her shoulders tensed.

"You're probably shocked and wondering why I am friends with a prostitute?" the dark haired woman returned.

She shook her head lightly and tried not to act bothered by it. Perry had told her everything about brothels and what kind of women worked there after she had helped one. "No!" she defended. "I am not, I'm just surprised… but how did you became friends?"

"Elsie and I have been friends since we're young," Greta related proudly and her expression turned serious. "She was desperate for money; both her mother and father became ill, and she needed to support and helped them because her brother left the village and did not want to have the responsibility of taking care of their sick parents. That's why she was forced to work at the brothel because she needed money at once, and does not know any job that time. And when her parents died, she tried looking for a decent job, but nobody would accept her because most of the village people knew that she used to work in the brothel."

After hearing the truth from Greta, she suddenly felt ashamed at how she perceive the image of a prostitute; now she realized that not all of them were immoral women, as what she heard from the others.

"That's just sad and cruel… I mean, it's cruel because she was force to do something she disliked and the fact that it is degrading and unpleasant…" she was telling, and suddenly had to think twice what she was saying. "I'm sorry if I sound like an ignorant; I don't have any intention to judge her or the people that work there. But I was told to avoid the brothel and the women who are working there, because they're saying that it is a house of sin. But after you explained to me what happened to your friend, I realized how narrow minded and ignorant people are."

"I know Laura. I was one of those people too; until one of my friends became a prostitute and then I realized how people are so judgmental and hypocrite." Greta said and looked out at the small window absent mindedly. "I remembered how hurt Elsie was the first time she did it. People thought that it's pleasurable for the women who work in the brothel to sell their body to any man."

"I'm sorry to hear that," she felt suddenly affected by these revelations from Greta. "How is your friend now? Is she alright?"

"She is fine now; she said that it didn't bother her anymore that people cursed her job," Greta replied. "Elsie slowly accepted it and ignored everything the people say around her. She even became more confident because she is bragging that she could control most of the men in the village who had been her patron, because she knew what they want in bed."

She grinned sheepishly towards Greta.

"So, if you have any problem regarding… you know what I mean… just let me know, and we could ask someone who is expert on that field." Greta teased.

She just gave Greta a demure smile and did know how to response.

When she regained her composure, an idea flashed in her mind. "You know, now that you mentioned that there are women out there who want to change their work, but cannot find a decent job because of these image that they had from working in a brothel; I just thought, maybe we could help some of them, and we could create a livelihood for women who does not have a job, or have been rejected by some people," she babbled excitedly.

"That sounds like a great idea, Laura," Greta said in a hesitant tone. "…But what kind of jobs? And how could we start creating jobs when we don't have resources? Plus the fact that most of us here in the village were poor is one of the challenges that we'll going to face. Although there were farmers and noblemen who owned some lands and animals; I don't think they would be interested to join us; it would still be difficult to some of us to contribute financially for that plan of yours."

"You don't need to think about finances," she uttered excitedly. "My mother gave me some jewelry that she still inherited from my great grandmother and grandmother, I don't use all of them, I could sell or trade some of it, and then we could use it as a capital. I know that it sounded foolish, but since I'm married now and my father have already paid Marcus and his family the dowry, I think I could use some of the jewelry that remains in my possession," was her unbelievable remark.

"But Laura, that's yours. You should use it when you and Marcus start a family," was the dark haired woman reply. "You should be thinking of your future too and how you will provide for your children."

"Marcus and I haven't talked about it yet," she related, her tone suddenly changed and became somber. "We're definitely planning on having children… but I don't think it'll be now since we're both busy in our duties," was her honest reply.

"Wouldn't be Marcus furious if you suddenly use your jewelry on something?" Greta remarked. "I mean, that's part of your inheritance, so what's yours are his too."

"No, I assure you, he wouldn't get furious," was her confident response. "Marcus is generous too and wouldn't mind me using my money or jewelries to something. And besides, it'll be our little secret."

"So, you mean to say that you're not going to tell Marcus about this ambitious plan of yours?"

"Not yet. I want to do this on my own," she said, and was excited at the thought of this plan coming into fruition. "I want to prove to myself that I could be an independent woman and would not rely on my husband when I need something. Just like you." After that passionate explanation, she saw a wide smile on her friend's face. "It's true! I admire you for being independent and raising Emma alone. I can't imagine how you manage to work and at the same time take care of your daughter. You inspire me with your strength and independence."

"Thank you for that surprising compliment," Greta commented and seemed to be overwhelmed. "I never thought that I would be an inspiration to you. I only have determination and the two cows that my late husband left me. I never thought we would survive, but with God's blessing, and with help from some of my friends and neighbors, I was able to learn how to make cheese and make it as a source of our livelihood."

"And if you can do it, so is the other women who are alone or are left by their husbands, and felt that they're life is hard because they never have a man beside them," was her passionate remark. "We need to teach them to be independent and have hope and determination like you."

"You know, you care so much to all the people that you meet," Greta related.

"I don't know, I just thought that I need to share my blessings and I feel awful that there are people who are struggling and suffering, while I live in a big castle, sleeps in a warm bed and eat all those good food," was her guilty comment.

"When you said that you live in a big castle, you sounded like you really live there, as a queen!"

She suddenly paused after hearing those comment from Greta. She grew worried and stared at the dark haired woman for a moment and blamed herself for not being careful. She really needed to pay attention to what she was saying. But when she saw the smile on Greta's face she calmed a bit.

"Relax, I'm just teasing you," the dark haired woman said. "I won't tell the Queen of Karnstein that one of their kitchen servants is claiming that the castle is her home."

She sighed with relief and smiled towards her new friend. "But that's true! I'm one of the lucky servants that live in the big castle and can eat the same food as the royal family; but only if there were left overs. The cook there is very strict and she sometimes doesn't want us to touch or taste the food that is served to their Majesties and Royal Highnesses. But when it comes to baking those desserts, I and Perry got to taste those delicious sweets first, before it is served to the royal family. Actually, I heard from the footmen that it's mainly the Prince and the Princess who eat the sweets! Sometimes the King… but the Queen seldom eats dessert," She babbled in a high pitch.

"Really?!" was the dark haired-woman's fascinating reaction. "Speaking of the Prince and the Princess, how was the newly-weds?!" was the excited remark of Greta. "We were so happy and excited that they finally got married. But we're disappointed when they didn't get out of the castle, ride on a horse carriage and take a tour to the village to greet the people."

She was totally caught off guard and did not know what to say. It had been a tradition for the monarchies to parade around the village after a royal wedding, so that the people of the kingdom can greet the newly-wed. She knew that the people would asked for them to come to the village someday but she felt like she was going to lose one of the things that she liked doing in the Karnstein Kingdom once she revealed her real identity.

"Err, they were fine and the wedding was a success, but I didn't get to see the Prince and the Princess, because we're so busy preparing for the banquet," was her smart excuse, and felt relieved after coming up with that reason. "And with regards to the Prince and Princess not greeting the village people, I think it has something to do with the Prince's anxiety. The Princess is probably waiting for the Prince to come first to the village; maybe she doesn't want to deprive his Royal Highness' the chance of meeting first the village people."

She knew that her excuse was accurate and true, but felt a bit bad of having to use Carl's angst as the major reason.

"You are definitely right about that, and the village people understood very well, but of course, there would always be the longing from the people to meet our future King and Queen,"

"I guarantee that they would come to the village and meet all of you someday," was her confident remark. "…When they're ready."

"I do hope so. But we definitely had a wonderful time during the wedding, because the King and Queen had sent lots of food and ales to the village," Greta related with great enthusiasm. "Everyone was dancing, drinking and eating till the crack of dawn!"

"Really?!" was her excited and curious remark. "Was it like the same when Ca- I mean Prince Carl had a name day?"

"No, this time there's plenty of food and ales and the feasting lasted for two days," the dark haired woman informed with so much delight in the eyes. "But there were not enough sweets; Emma was disappointed when she didn't find her favorite creampuff."

"Of poor Emma, they must have served everything in the banquet," she reasoned out, knowing that she and Perry were the only ones who could bake the creampuff and no one else. "Tell Emma that I'm going to make a lot of creampuffs for her, and I will take them with me the next time I come here."

"Oh, she would be happy to hear that, thank you Laura," Greta returned.

"I think we better head back to your stall now. Perry might be waiting already for me." She said and faced Greta and then gave her new friend a hug. "Thank you again for being such a good listener, and for telling me that you're my friend. I never had a lot of friends, I'm so glad that I met you."

"It's my pleasure, and I'm thankful also that you trusted me," Greta returned and smiled, before walking towards the door.

*****

After hosting another dinner to th