Isla gasped sharply as my hands pulled tight on the ties at the back of her dress.
"You did that on purpose!"
I smirked, wagging my brows at her.
Call it payback for the rough love she"d shown my hair twenty minutes before. Now, granted, I had a lot of hair, but she"d downright manhandled it into the elaborate twists and piles currently sitting atop my hair. My scalp was still smarting, but I had to admit, the long, golden locks held in place by an army of bobby pins, and of course my tiara, did look gorgeous.
My littlest sister stuck her tongue out at me in the mirror as I finished lacing up the back of her gown and stood back.
"Well, you can thank me now, because you look hot."
I stood next to her in the big, gilded mirror, both of us decked out to the nines for the evening " for the suitor"s ball, of course. Our father, King Lucian, regent of Avlion, had finally decided it was high time for his three daughters to start finding proper suitors. In keeping with tradition, he"d set up a "suitor"s ball," inviting single and eligible princes and princesses from all around the various kingdoms and countries together for a night of gowns, tuxedos, string quartets, and ballroom dancing.
Think of it like a themed prom, I guess.
The whole thing was "so incredibly dated and old fashioned!" as Isla kept reminding me. She wasn"t wrong, either. I mean, considering we lived in the twenty-first century, with iPhones, and social media, and Instagram and all that, it was pretty old-fashioned to throw a ball in order for younger royalty to dress up and mingle.
I think part of us knew it"d be fun to dress up and dance the night away with some handsome princes. But that hadn"t stopped all three of us from grumbling about this whole ball thing for weeks. Isla and Imogen bitched about it because it was old fashioned and antiquated. I just knew it was going to be dumb and pointless.
The thing was, I kind of liked old-fashioned. Our mother, Queen Jessica, had always told me I"d been born in the wrong century " that I was an old soul meant for another time. She said this out of love, smiling at me when I was younger and nuzzling my cheek as I demanded to know why we couldn"t travel by carriage to various functions like princesses in the movies did, rather than a helicopter.
It was why I think I"d had less of a problem with our father"s whole "no dating" thing than my younger sisters. Yes, it was maybe a little silly that now was the first time we were going to be allowed to actively seek out members of the opposite sex, with my being twenty-one, Imogen twenty, and Isla recently eighteen. And yes, maybe Dad was a little old-fashioned too, but I knew it came from a place of love, and that he just wanted the best for us.
Trust me, I knew this a bit more than both Isla and Imogen.
You see, two years before, when I was nineteen, I"d decided I was done playing by my parent"s rules concerning boys. At a dinner party thrown by our Uncle Lorne in Berne, I started chatting with a handsome young prince named Henry from another, neighboring kingdom. He was charming, and witty, and gorgeous, and his eyes had never left mine the whole night.
He"d even persuaded me to take a walk with him after dinner through the gardens " chaperoned, of course. But he"d whispered all sorts of wonderful things to me nonetheless. He"d promised me the moon, basically, telling me it was love at first sight, and that he"d been waiting for a girl like me.
You know, all sorts of things that now sound like complete and total lines. Because they were.
Days later, heart pounding, for the first time ever, I"d snuck out of my father"s palace and into the old carriage house to meet Prince Henry. My whole body had tingled when he kissed me, and even if I wasn"t entirely sure I actually wanted to, I let him put his hands under my dress. His fingers had been rough, and cold, and not that nice actually. But, the movies I watched and all the books I"d read said this is what princesses did. Awkward and uncomfortable or not, giving in to the ravishes of the handsome prince under the moon in a royal garden seemed exactly like what I should be doing.
So I"d let it happen.
It was fast, and awkward, and there hadn"t been one bit of the passion you read about in books as he"d climbed on top of me and just sort of pushed it in. It hadn"t hurt, so that was a plus I guess. But after around a minute of frantic thrusting, Henry had grunted and gasped before rolling off of me and telling me I"d "done great." Two minutes later, he"d left with a brief goodnight.