Arriving at the Palace, Rebecca had tried her best to smile, but it was not reaching her eyes. The only one that had noticed was Sebastian. He did not mention it, though he had offered his arms to her. Her constant support she would lose now that she might marry Prince Aaron. If the way her parents spoke of it were any sign, that might was looking more likely. Of course, she wanted them to be happy, but did that have to come at the cost of her own? Looking down as she stepped out of the carriage, she could not help but sigh. There was nothing happy about this day, despite all the happy maidens around her.
They would be happy. They stood a chance of marrying into the Royal Family, the ultimate blessing among nobilities. Unfortunately, she could only feel saddened by the prospect because she did not want to marry. At least not Prince Aaron. She wanted to stay with Sebastian and her parents. That would make her happy. Rebecca could still remember when the four of them to play together in the garden until sunset or the way her father would always comfort her when she fell. Her shoulders sagged when she released another sigh. As they walked through the Palace Entrance into the Ballroom, she tried her best to keep to the shadows. Luck was not on her side.
“Miss Bennett, I believe my brother is looking for you.” It was the Crowned Prince she had walked into accidentally. “Ah, and this is my Beloved, Evangeline.”
“Your Highnesses. I apologize, I was not paying attention to where I was walking.” Rebecca replied, keeping her eyes on the floor. “Please forgive me.”
“That’s alright, Miss Bennett. Won’t you look up?” The soft voice of the Princess said questioningly. “You seem sad today. Has someone within the Palace offended you?”
“No, Princess, no one has offended me.” She continued, still locked on the floor. “I am merely tired, as I did not sleep well last night.”
“Haha, you must have been excited. Prince Aaron has been asking after you.” Prince Landon said with a smile in his voice as Rebecca tried to back away. “Ah, Aaron, over here. Miss Bennett was so excited to come, she slept little last night. We’ll just leave you two alone.”
Rebecca sighed as the sound of footsteps from someone’s approach followed their retreating forms. Keeping her head down, she did her best to avoid eye contact, but it seemed her suitor would not allow it. Inwardly sighing, she forced a smile as he lifted her chin with his hooked forefinger. The warm touch of his hand made her stomach turn, and her smile wavered as she locked eyes with him. This always happened when he touched her, which always made her wonder if she was the type of person to get ill at someone’s touch. A bright smile lit his features as he gazed into her eyes before his mouth opened.
“Miss Bennett. I’m so happy you could make it today.” Aaron picked up from where Landon left off as he released her chin. “You are even more beautiful than when I saw you last. My family has been discussing a dowry for your hand for a while now.”
“I see, Prince Aaron. I did not know my family was already discussing an arranged marriage.” She was trying her best, but the tears sprang to her eyes unbidden. “Are you sure you are okay with one as low as I, Milord?”
“Of course!” His voice was merry, though he did not notice the sadness in her eyes. “Who else but you? When I first saw you, you reminded me of Princess Eva. So kind and pure. So beautiful.”
Prince Aaron did this every time they met. They had first met half a year ago when Aaron had a fascination with Princess Evangeline who is to marry his brother, Crowned Prince Landon. He had taken one look at Rebecca and put in a request to arrange a marriage with her immediately. But his comparisons did not stop. Not that she could blame him, as Princess Evangeline was beyond kind and beautiful. But Rebecca wanted to be seen as herself, not someone else. Sebastian was the only person who had ever cared for her as herself. She remembered back when she first met the prince and did her best to keep her smile up.
The very first thing he said to her was hello, followed by a list of things he thought similar of her to the Crowned Princess. While she should consider it a compliment of the highest order that he even thought of her on the same level, she could not. It made her sick to her stomach. If he loved Princess Evangeline so much, perhaps he should tell her and get over his lost love. That is what Rebecca thought about the situation. She glanced around the room, her eyes falling on Prince Landon, who was escorting Princess Evangeline around the room, both of them smiling lovingly at each other. Perhaps Prince Aaron did not want to create a rift between the pair.
“Pardon me, Prince Aaron, I must find the ladies’ room,” Rebecca replied, trying to excuse herself. “It was a pleasure talking to you.”
“Oh, shall I escort you there?” Aaron countered, offering his elbow. “Though I would love it if you stopped with the formalities. We are to be betrothed soon, after all.”
Unable to find a reason to turn him down, she took his offered elbow and allowed him to lead her to the ladies’ room. The more he talked about how she was so similar to Princess Evangeline, the sicker she felt. Nodding in all the right places, she sighed in relief when the room came into sight, only to frown when someone called Prince Aaron’s name. Pulling her to a stop, he gave a friendly smile to his twin brothers. Rebecca winced as she remembered Aaron asking her if she could tell the twins apart like Princess Evangeline. To be honest, she could not and did not understand how the Princess could, but Aaron brushed it off, telling her she may if she is around them more.
“Miss Bennett!” They shouted, making her head pound louder. “Oh! You aren’t looking so well. Brother, are you treating our guests well?”
“Excuse me, Prince Aaron. The lady’s room is right over there.” Rebecca spoke up before removing her hand from his arm. “Thank you for escorting me.”
“What a lovely woman,” Aaron said, watching as she walked away. “So kind and beautiful.”
“Aaron…” The twins shared a look before turning back to him. “You treat her like Landon does Evangeline, but she does not seem all that receptive.”
Aaron had wondered about that as well, but he did not want to give up. Perhaps once they married, she would open up more to it. Turning his attention to the twins, a group of women approached, but Aaron’s mind was on the lady’s room Rebecca had disappeared into. He did not want to come across as rude, but he felt concerned since she seemed pale. She had yet to exit that room as well, further increasing his worry. Turning to the ladies, he bowed politely and asked that she look for a sickly woman in there, eyes narrowed in concern.
“Milord,” After a few moments, she returned with a frown. “There was no one in there. Maybe she retired for the night?”
“Maybe so. Thank you, Miss.” Aaron replied with another bow. “Jayden, Jorden, I need to see if Miss Bennett left for the evening. Excuse me.”
Walking towards the entrance, he frowned. Why had she not bid him farewell? Or, if she had remained, why did she not return to him? Aaron felt he had been expressing himself well with her, but perhaps she still did not pick up on his meaning. Taking a walk around the ballroom, however, he found she was nowhere in sight. Where could she have gone? He wondered, thinking about how fun it was to speak with her. The flutter of dresses and soft music sounded in his ears, but his attention was solely on finding the woman with whom he was about to spend the evening wooing. With a frown, he was about to head towards the entrance when he bumped into Evangeline.
“Princess Eva! Are you enjoying tonight’s festivities?” He asked, grabbing her wrist before she could fall. “Has Landon left you to your own devices?”
“No, he had something to discuss with your father,” Evangeline replied with a smile before looking at the floor. “Miss Bennett seemed ill tonight. More sad than happy. It was as though she did not really desire to be here.”
“Ah, our father is always pulling him away. I respect he works so hard while loving you at the same time.” Aaron countered before meeting her gaze questioningly. “She was smiling when I escorted her. Did she not seem happy then?”
Aaron watched as Evangeline shook her head no. Looking into her icy blue eyes, he felt the concern for Rebecca fade away, replaced by a shameful desire he tried his best to hide. Were he to confess to her, nothing would happen and it would only cause Landon issues. Looking away from her and around the richly decorated ballroom again, he frowned. So even when he was escorting her, Rebecca had seemed sad. Why was that? Was he not a suitable partner for her? Whatever that may mean, he had every intention of marrying her. She was the only one in the Kingdom of Rel that did not care about his status.
“Prince Aaron, I know you are far too serious for your age, but…” Evangeline seemed to hesitate over what to say next. “I don’t think…”
“There you are, Love.” It was Landon that interrupted her. “Ah, Aaron, how are things going with Miss Bennett? Has she accepted you as a suitor?”
“No, though you know our family is communicating with hers,” Aaron replied, glancing away from his brother as he wrapped his arm around Evangeline’s waist. “I love her, and that is all I need. It is all you two need to get by too.”
“But…” Everyone knew Evangeline did not hesitate, so this caught his attention. “Does she love you?”
Why would she not? Aaron may not be the next in line for the throne, but he was one of the handsome princes of this country. He was royalty. He had wealth, power, and luck on his side, so who could turn him away? Thinking about it, when he had seen her before, with her friends and her brother, she was always smiling and talking, but with him she was quiet. So quiet. In fact, he wondered if it was just because she was shy around people she liked. Could that be the answer? She just does not know how to act, so she acts quiet. To appeal to him? But he wanted her to act towards him the way she did with her family and friends.
“She could just be shy.” He supplied, hoping that was the answer. “After all, when you and Landon got together…”
“You are not us, Little Brother.” Landon countered, pressing a kiss to Evangeline’s forehead. “I just hope you will consider her feelings and not force the issue. She seems like a lovely woman.”
That was how she compared to Evangeline. Out of all the brothers, Aaron was the only one that did not confess to Evangeline. He knew his brother’s feelings for her were real, and could see that she clearly returned Landon’s affections, so he could not bring himself to interfere. But now that he had seen what was his ideal woman, every other woman seemed frail in comparison. Rebecca Bennett was so similar to Evangeline that he could see himself happy with her at his side. Aaron bit his lip before locking eyes with his older brother and his future sister-in-law, his determination clear.
“Once I set my mind to something, it is difficult for me to back down, Brother. You know this.” Aaron said sharply. “I want to marry her, so I will."