For a while, everything was quiet. Prince Xanders face fell into an expressionless stare, his eyes holding nothing of what he thought of her absurd request. It took a bit of time to process, and once he registered her demand, he broke into a feat of laughter, his hands clapping slowly.

”I, Prince Alexander Einar of Fermich…marry you? ”

She smiled. Her expression was unfazed, almost as if she was sure of his reaction and knew exactly how to tame him.

Like he was a man to be tamed.

”I did expect that, your highness. But…I shall go over the facts with you. If this scandal comes in front of the royal court, you might be stripped of your crown as a punishment, and relegated to one of the smaller palaces to spend your youth staring at the birds in the mornings and stargazing at night. That means, you will not become your fathers heir and being an only son, watch your royal blood end with your father. ”

Prince Xanders fist clenched, his teeth gritting hard against each other.

She smiled, a sickly sweet mocking smile, before she turned, walking slowly to one of the porcelain vases. ”Or if that does not happen, you will be forced into marriage with lady Lisette to avoid this scandal reaching the people. You may be fine but…the servant girl? Do you think His majesty will keep the woman who has so illicitly bewitched his only son? ”

”Do not dare, Lady Sophia. ”

”I can bet the locks of my hair that she will be traded off as a slave to the brutes or the vikings, and she will be sent off to them tied to the hinds of a horse or a donkey, bound by her feet and her neck, under the scorching sun, only to be abused and molested by those men, and all the while, she will have your name on her lips, cursing you, despising you for all the affection you claim to have for her. ”

”I said, do not mention Charlotte! Especially not in that way! ”

”That, is the price for your stubbornness, Your highness. ”

”How dare you speak of making me marry you when you very well know the woman with whom my affection lies? ”

Lady Sophia shrugged. ”She can have your affection, but I will have your ring. ”

Prince Xander took in a deep breath, the veins of his forehead popping from his restrained anger. ”Why are you bent on marrying me? Why have you left your hometown all the way here only to acquire me this way? ”

She smiled, her long finger caressing his name on a porcelain. ”I do have my reasons, your highness. And I have no obligation to divulge them to you. ”

Prince Xander went quiet, his mind darkening with clouds of his own wild thoughts. ”Do you think if I refute your claims in front of the court, you will leave unscathed? Do you think my royal father, His majesty will pick your words over his only offsprings? ”

She chuckled. ”Maybe not only mine. But when all of the witnesses I have testify for me, women and men who are willing to do anything, people I trust…when Charlotte herself has no choice but to admit your amorous relationship, I think then, it will be far too late to propose to me, Your highness. ”

His eyes widened with her threats, his blood boiling with the heat of his anger. Never had he felt so crossed in his entire life, yet so crucially helpless. It only served to make him livid, and he moved away from her for fear of his anger taking over.

He traced his steps to a large bench that sat in the middle of the green house, and his right hand cradled his forehead. Lady Sophia went on to examine the flowers with the faintest of smiles on her lips, his deep breaths like music to her ears.

”In a fortnight, ” he suddenly said, causing her ears to perk up. ”In a fortnight, I will make my decision. ”

She laughed sarcastically. ”I saw the security outside, Your highness. I believe you would have planned to completely cut me off from accessing the palace. ”

He shook his head. This was not the time to solve things like a warrior. ”I will give you a special pass with the royal stamp. Give me a fortnight. ”

She turned to him. ”When is your wedding with Lady Lisette? ”

He closed his eyes. ”In a month. ”

She smiled. ”A fortnight it is, then. Let me have the stamp and I will be on my way. ”

He did not reply, his body feeling suddenly weak and his heart even weaker, as he drew a plain paper from the large stacks of books he kept on a special shelf in the greenhouse.

It was his private scenery, books, ink and flowers, then for who looked close enough, a black sword in a far corner of the room.

He quickly wrote, then stamped it and folded it. He dropped it on the bench, then moved away a little.

She said nothing as she walked to it, then just as she leaned to pick it, his hand wrapped around her arm, stopping her.

”Do not even think of doing anything before that time expires. I will not forgive you for any foul play. ”

She smiled and pulled her arm away, leaning away from him. ”At times like these, your highness, you should be grateful not everyone is like you. I will keep my word. ”

His brows furrowed at her insinuation of him being a man who did not keep his word, but before he could ask her about it, she walked out of the green house, her hair slightly knocked off by the subtle breeze.

Prince Xander held his head, his heartbeat gradually slowing. Suddenly, the door opened again, and he looked up.

Lady Sophia was peeking in, her smile small. ”I forgot another condition, Your highness. ”

He bit down on his lips.

”During the fortnight…You should stay away from the servant. I can not guarantee what will happen if you refuse to. ”

Before he could say a word, she had closed the door again, leaving him with a broken ego.

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