Punished by the Prince Penelope Bloom ~ Page 2

Kerry and Angel are nice to me, but I have no illusions about how deep our friendship runs. If it"s convenient for them, they will be nice to me. If it comes down to choosing between me and something more fun, then I know they will choose the fun. I can"t blame them though. My parents are always lurking around when friends are over, glaring and making everyone so uncomfortable that the thought of hanging out with me gives them the creeps.

I"m just about to officially give up on the evening when I notice the two men who walk into the restaurant. Even from the corner of my eye, I can tell they are both beautiful–it"s not normally a word that comes to mind when I see men, but these men defy normal. The first man through the door has dusty brown hair that"s cut short on the sides and longer on top, where it"s carelessly pushed to the side. There"s a few days" stubble across his chiseled jaw that I involuntarily imagine tickling my face as I kiss those perfect lips. But most noticeable of all are his dark eyebrows that make his blue eyes scream for attention. The clothes he wears would probably seem goofy or out of place on most men, but somehow this man"s athletic, powerful build helps him pull it off.

His jacket is high collared and tapered at the waist, but it reaches down to his upper thighs. Beneath, he wears a collared shirt with some sort of subtle, embroidered gold pattern that stands out against the white of his shirt. There"s also a large, expensive looking ring on his finger bearing some kind of insignia.

The man behind him is built like he rips tires in half in his spare time. He has blonde hair that"s a little long for my tastes, though I can see it driving some women wild. His eyebrows are the same shape as the other man"s, but slightly less dark and less arresting, and the gray eyes beneath carry a coldness that is absent in the man I assume to be his brother"s face. He"s stunning, though, but where the first man is breathtaking like sunrise in a warm forest, this man has the cold, harsh beauty of an icy mountain range.

The blonde’s outfit is similar too, but his jacket is red where his brother"s is black.

My sisters don"t fail to notice the men–and even my mom is gawking. When both men turn to look directly our way, my sisters immediately break into an argument about which one of them the men were checking out.

I nearly fall back out of my chair. The restaurant is packed and we"re near the back, but those men definitely looked straight into my eyes. My eyes. Not my sisters, not my parents. I"m sure of it, and the intensity of those eyes on me practically scorched my skin.

After a short silence, Erica and Anise start a silent but intense shoving match to be the first to get up and walk toward the bathroom–which is coincidentally in the same direction the two gorgeous men just went.

My dad turns to my mom with a grave look on his face. "It"s time, then, isn"t it""

My mom nods, eyes darting to me.

"What"s going on"" I ask.

My dad clears his throat and sets his napkin down on the table, grimacing. It"s not like him to stop eating, let alone pause for breath before he has finished.

"Dad," I say. "What is it""

"We"ve planned a little surprise for you, Elizabeth."

"Are you going to throw me in a dumpster"" I ask.

My mom glares at me. "Elizabeth, don"t interrupt your father."

My dad holds up a hand to her, tilting his head. "It"s okay, Carol." He sighs dramatically through his large nose. "We haven"t been kind to you, I know that," he says.

I frown in confusion. Hearing my dad even talk about anything remotely related to the way they treat me is alien. I replay his words over and over again as fast as I can, making sure I understood him correctly. I learned not to even bring it up from a young age because talking about fair and unfair always earned me a few weeks of the silent treatment.

"But you"ll understand everything soon. There"s, uh, a car waiting outside for you. It"s part of the surprise."

"Do you want me to go outside now"" I ask, voice still quiet, as if I"m afraid speaking too loudly will break the curse. It"s the first time my parents have ever even talked to me like I was more than a nuisance.

"That would be best," says my dad, a little stiffly.

"Okay"" I say, getting up and moving toward the front door of the restaurant. I look back at my parents once before I go, half-expecting to see them snickering because I"m walking into some elaborate prank. But they both look solemn.

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