My mouth hangs open as Prince Ferguson saunters to the empty chair next to Faith. He gives her an obvious wink before seating himself and thanking the king. “The invitation to participate was such a thrill.”
All eyes turn to the king, except for Faith’s. She rolls her eyes and scoots her chair a little closer to the king, away from
I can’t blame her.
Next to me, Felicity turns almost as pale as her hair. “Father, what does he mean by participate?”
The king snaps at another servant behind him. The man bounds out through the double doors as fast as the first one. “Since my daughters have refused to give away the whereabouts of their late-night escapades, I’ve had to rely on other methods.”
He pauses and seems to enjoy the curious, anxious faces all around him.
flashes Faith his most winning smile like he’s done something amazing. From
over Felicity’s shoulder, I try to catch Ferguson’s
eye. I sort of saved his life this past summer; he could at least acknowledge
The king continues. “Prince Ferguson, whom you all know, will spend an evening in your common room, guarding your bedrooms.”
A small gasp comes from Felicity, but no one else seems to hear her.
“If he can tell me where you girls go, or what has happened to the other six of my little girls, he’ll have his choice among you for his bride. And you will be married.” The king pins his gaze to Faith, who holds his stare without moving.
Charity snickers softly. “Any guesses who he’ll pick?”
Chastity catches the whispered question and tilts her head, keeping a completely fake, innocent look on her face, like she’s trying to guess. She’s right.
exactly been subtle about his choice. He’s practically modeling his perfect
chin for her. I guess I should feel snubbed that he didn’t give anyone else a
chance. Then I remember that this is Prince Ferguson we’re talking about.
A line of servants walk in, including the ones that left earlier. Each one holds a covered dish or some kind of serving tray. It’s amazing how fast they can move without dropping a dinner roll. I’m guessing the king isn’t a very patient man when it comes to food. Or anything else.
Plates of food land in front of everyone at the table. A big chunk of meat with four legs, a bed of greens, and some kind of foul-smelling white sauce. I lean closer to Charity. “What is this?”
The twin closest to me stabs the small animal with one of her forks. “I guess Father’s trying to punish us by skipping a few courses. He knows soup is my favorite part of the meal.”
I shake my head and prod the meat with the handle of my fork. “No, I mean what is this?”
Charity gives me a look. “Rabbit, of course.”
I drop my fork. It sings against the gold plate. Rabbit. I can just picture this poor thing, running away from dogs and hunters, through the woods and trying to find a safe place to hide. I’ve been hunted before. It kind of sucks.
Then I notice Felicity’s plate. A pile of fresh greens, no gross sauce, extra bread and butter, and—be still, my heart—a small heap of yellow corn. I swallow to keep from drooling on her plate. I don’t think princesses are supposed to drool. “Um…” I tap Felicity on the shoulder. She looks at me like I’ve done something offensive, but she’ll forgive me anyway. “How can I get some of that?”
Felicity beams at me, then tosses her hair back and calls a servant over to her. She mutters something, the servant nods and runs out of the room. Do they have to leave like they’re on fire all the time?
Felicity turns back to me, smiling like I just told her
is going to leave forever. “I’m so glad you’ve decided to join me. Having one of
us refuse to eat game always seems to upset Father, but now that there are two
of us, maybe he’ll be a little more understanding.”
“Oh.” My eyes flicker to the king. I’d rather not draw attention to myself. Especially if the king’s upset. But then I catch a whiff of corn and I relax. It’s totally worth it.
Soon, the servant returns with a plate identical to Felicity’s. He makes the rabbit disappear and he rushes through the double doors like the plate is about to explode.
While I unceremoniously shove food into my mouth, Faith turns to the king, who’s ripping into the poor rabbit in front of him like it’s a piñata. I hope he doesn’t think there’s candy inside.
“Father,” Faith says, pulling her hand from
grasp. “What would happen to the prince if, say, he fails to produce a
satisfactory answer to your questions?”
The king replies with syrupy-fake concern. “Dearest, we’ve worked out the details. Don’t worry. The prince is thoroughly motivated. Aren’t you?”
He lift his chin to address
who seems a little put-off with having to compete with the king for Faith’s
attention. “Oh yes, Your Majesty. Don’t trouble yourself. I think I can handle
your lovely daughters.” He leans toward Faith. “Even if they are very determined.”
Faith persists. “But what would happen, hypothetically?”
Even though she asked her father,
takes it upon himself to answer. “Don’t concern yourself. What are six females
against a prince?”
I almost lose a mouthful of greens. Did he just say that?
The king quickly raises a hand to silence whatever words are about to come from Faith’s mouth. “Prince Ferguson has signed a contract, which gives me permission to execute him if he doesn’t provide proof of his claim. But I’ve given him the whole evening and the key to your common room. There’s no leaving without his knowledge.” He pauses to brush crumbs out of his beard, then turns to his oldest daughter. “Your secrets will be exposed.”