I twisted my hair into a ponytail, tucking it under my cap and lowering the brim. Then I took a final look around the room full of strangers, wondering which of them would help me escape, and which would try to kill me. Deciding to chance it, I step out of my hiding place and head warily for the door. “Oh, Lynnette!”
I groan at the sound of my sister’s voice, not faltering in my steps toward the door. Evangeline grabs my arm a moment later, stopping me in my tracks. “Lynnette! I know you heard me calling you. And get that dreadful hat off your head! What are you doing, trying to leave?”
I roll my eyes as she yanks the hat off my head, knocking my hair down from its ponytail in the process. “That’s exactly what I’m doing. Eva, how many times do I have to say it before you realize I’m being completely honest with you? I don’t want to be here. I don’t want to get married.”
“Don’t be ridiculous, of course you do. Every young girl wants to marry a prince.”
I cross my arms, giving my sister a look. “Not me. Ever since you married Charlie, you’ve been obsessed with trying to set me up with his friends. But did you ever stop to think that I don’t want the same things you do?”
Evangeline pauses for a moment uncertainly, then squares her shoulders, messing with my dress in a motherly fashion. “The very idea is preposterous, Lynnette. Now, come on. There’s someone I want you to meet.”
I groan, but let her pull me along rather than make a bigger scene. She comes to a stop in front of two men, one whom I recognize as her husband Charlie. Charlie, or rather, Charles, was the prince of, Denmark? Netherlands? Definitely not England, but I forget the specifics. The point is, he came along, swept my sister off her feet, and turned her into a princess and royalty junkie. Since our parents had died when we were in college, Eva had no one to focus on for her new obsession, except me. Leaving me to deal with ball after ball after ball as she tried to get me as happily married into a royal family as she was. It was sickening. Especially since I told her time and time again that I never wanted to marry. Marriage meant obedience, compliance, loss of all individuality. I’d rather die.
I sigh as I turn my attention to the other man in front of me. He was decent. Then again, so was every man Eva had thrown at me so far. “Lynnette, this is Lord Edward Temple. He’s a baron.” Eva says, a smile on her face.
The baron bows slightly, smiling and offering me a hand. “It’s a pleasure to make your acquaintance, Miss Lynnette.”
I smile politely, allowing him to take my hand and kiss it before pulling it back tactfully. “The pleasure is all mine, Lord Temple.”
“Just Edward is fine, actually,” he corrects, smiling.
Eva claps her hands with glee, mistakenly sensing a match, as usual. “Oh how wonderful! Why don’t you and Edward dance for a bit, Lynnette?”
Before I can graciously come up with an excuse, the baron extends his hand. “Shall we?”
I accept it reluctantly, the polite smile remaining on my face. Considering the eagerness with which “Edward” had agreed to my sister’s suggestion, it was clear that he was one of the kill me types. Kill me with kindness. I resist the urge to groan and, unfortunately, allow the baron to spin me right into another turn. Just when I’m about to make up an excuse and flee, a hand taps the baron on the shoulder. “Mind if I cut in?” a male voice asks cordially.
I can’t see who it is from my position, but Lord Temple releases his hold immediately, bowing away. I turn to my savior, shocked to find a stunning specimen of man before me. Now, where had he been during this whole fiasco? He offers me his hand, smiling. “Shall we?”
I manage a nod and accept his hand, allowing him to sweep me into the dance. I study his features as we dance, still surprised by his appearance. He was handsome, that much was positive. He had short brown hair and baby blue eyes. His build was, well, much more athletic than Edward Temple’s. His eyes crinkled when he smiled, as he did now, and I feel a frisson of awareness shoot through me. Well, well, well. It might not be so bad to let him kill me.
As the song ends, my dance partner takes my hand and tugs, smiling. “Follow me?”
I return his smile, nodding once more, and follow him as he leads me out the ballroom to the balcony. We stop, alone in the night and I turn to look at him to find him watching me. “I’m Ryan, by the way.” he introduces himself, smiling.