Home > OBSESSION (Royally Hot #3)

OBSESSION (Royally Hot #3)
Author: Dani Wyatt

 


CHAPTER 1

 

 

Anika

 

 

“I doubt anyone is forcing my brother Maskim to go. Or wear something ridiculous like this dress.” I glared at it as though it was my sworn enemy even though it was blindingly beautiful. The venom I spewed about my attire barely distracted me from my thundering heart, calling him my brother instead of my...

Maria shrugged. “You know your brother—”

“Step brother,” I corrected her but I was honestly more correcting myself. The thoughts I had for him were unseemly enough. As the blood rushed to my face, I tried to channel it into anger and a childish tantrum. “If nobody is making him go, then they can’t make me either!”

“Your mother insists—”

“I don’t care what my mother says!” I shouted, throwing my arms wide. Maria frowned and I instantly felt guilty. She was my best friend, and right now I was treating her like just another servant. “Sorry, it’s not your fault.”

She sighed. “I know you don’t like it, but you know how she is about these things. And if you’re not ready…”

“You’re the one who’ll get it in the neck. I know, I know. What is this dreadful event about anyway?”

Maria glanced at the door, then crossed the room to come closer, lowering her voice. She was at least six inches shorter than me, and plump in the kind of way my mother wished I could be. My mother made no secret of the fact she disapproved of my looks. She probably wished I had hair more like my maid’s as well, brown and elegant, pulled back in a neat braid down her back instead of wild, loose and as red as fox fur.

My father’s hair.

My real father, that is. The one who went off to war before I was born and never came back. The man who sounded a lot like me, from the stories I’d heard.

Perhaps if he’d lived, I’d just be a foreign dignitary in this country, free to love whoever I want. Maksim would not be my brother by every law under the sun.

Who knows, maybe he’d even like me, and not treat me like the dirt he just wiped off his boot.

“Nobody seems to know,” Maria said. “Maybe some of the guards to the king and queen, but not anyone I have a chance of speaking with. All I’ve heard is that it’s a delegation from Nemenia, and I’m to make sure you look pretty when they arrive.”

I laughed. “Pretty? What am I, five?”

“Those are my instructions. From your mother. The queen.”

“Nobody thinks I’m pretty, Maria. Nobody ever has and nobody ever will. Whatever this thing is, I’ll go if it makes my mother happy but I won’t wear this.”

I stared at the dress in the mirror, all puffed sleeves and blue velvet, frills at the bust to draw attention to what exactly? No amount of padding and shaping was going to give me the kind of breasts the court thought womanly. My mother didn’t even buy me this dress. It came from one of my apparent suitors.

Yuck, even the idea of being tied to a man made me shiver with disgust.

Most men anyway. But there was no point thinking about him. My stepbrother. He hated me, and sometimes how I wished the feeling was mutual.

But, it is not.

“Well, you can’t wear breeches and a man’s shirt,” Maria said in frustration. “Pick something your mother will at least grudgingly accept. Please. Just think, Maksim might be there. If he is, you want to look—”

“I don’t care,” I said, feigning disinterest. “If he’s there or not, I don’t care. He wouldn’t even notice if I was naked.”

The very idea. Naked with him…

I shivered.

“I think he would notice that,” Maria said with a deep breath. “I think he’d notice a lot.”

“I don’t. And I don’t care anyway.”

“Then do it for me.”

“Ugh, very well.” I tried to control my breathing, still stuck in the fantasy of being naked with him. What would I see in his eyes? “I’ll wear the gray one.”

“The gray one? That…it’s like a fabric box!”

“I’ll allow you to cinch it at the waist. But not too much.”

“Oh good, aren’t I lucky?” Maria put her hands on her hips and rolled her eyes. A dark shape flitted past the window behind her, drawing my eye, and a shiver raced through me.

It was probably just a bird. A grouse or bustard, most likely. But it could have been Eyrie.

My mom’s eagle always gave me the creeps. Something about the way he stared at me whenever I was around, almost disapprovingly, like he shared my mother’s opinion of the way I dressed and behaved.

Or perhaps he guessed my unhealthy infatuation.

Like Falroy, my fox, Eyrie was her animal companion, a special bond that went beyond owner and pet. Although my people weren’t able to talk with animals, exactly, some of us were able to communicate after a fashion, with a thought or a feeling, and there were those of us who formed a special lifelong bond with one animal in particular. For my mother, her eagle found her when she was fifteen. The story goes that Eyrie pecked out the eyes of a boy who was paying her the kind of attention she didn’t like. Falroy, my fox, on the other hand, was injured in the woods and I found and helped him. Those bonds marked me and my mother as outsiders in this magicless country, and should have made our familial bond stronger. But ever since we arrived in this place, all we’d done was grow further apart.

Eyrie stayed in my mother’s suite in the castle, and was given the freedom to come and go through the open windows at will.

Falroy was forced to remain outside and find shelter for himself.

“The gray,” I said decisively, suddenly needing to be out of there. “Go fetch it.”

Maria narrowed her eyes suspiciously, but I held my nerve. Sometimes, being the princess had its advantages. She would be forced to back down.

Eventually.

After a long, awkward silence, she finally huffed. “Fine. Wait here, your majesty.”

I ignored the sarcasm in her voice and watched her go through the door to my parlor and from there to my dressing room. As soon as she was out of sight, I slipped out of the room, checked nobody was around, and ran, ignoring Maria’s annoyed shouts from behind as she tried to chase after me.

She wouldn’t catch me, that much I knew. I was faster than any of the servants, and with more stamina. In fact, even with the dress restricting every movement I could probably give the guards themselves a run for their money if I had to. Outside in the courtyard, I concentrated hard, forcing my mind to calm, and silently called for my fox as I ran for the small gap in the wall he’d shown me just two weeks after our arrival in Estana.

As soon as I heard the familiar chirrup of his voice, I felt the smile slide over my face.

Back in my home country, they said that familiars and humans bonded based on personality more than anything else. I liked to think that my driving need for freedom brought me to Falroy that day in the woods, my need for freedom just like a wild fox running over the countryside. Though what that said about my mother and Eyrie, I’m not sure.

Falroy led the way through the tiny gap and I wriggled through behind, soon finding ourselves on the other side of the wall, and from there heading quickly through the city streets and into the forest.

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