Prince Charming

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XI.
Prince Charming

There was a knock on the bedroom door, startling Grace out of her half-sleep stupor. Luca was leaning up against her doorway, his hands shoved in his pockets. He had an amused glint in his eye, almost as though he found it funny that Grace had been asleep with a book on her chest. His other features, however, did not let on to the amusement she wasn’t even sure that he felt.      

“May I come in?” he asked.               

Grace sat up straighter on the bed, attempting to brush the wrinkles out of her skirt. She must have fallen asleep after Russo brought her home. A blush tickled her cheeks as she continued her impossible task. She could feel Luca’s eyes on her.        

“Of course,” she said just loud enough for him to hear.    

He walked a foot or two forward and stopped again, looking rather unsure as to what to do next.   

“I heard you went into the city today.” He looked everywhere but at Grace.               

“I did. Your mother insisted that I needed an entirely new wardrobe,” she sighed, looking to the corner where her clothes were- or had been- lying in her suitcase. 

“It seems that she even took the liberty of throwing my old clothes out.” Her eyes narrowed in annoyance as the realization hit her. 

Luca laughed. Grace’s head whipped around to face him. She had never heard him laugh before. It was nice. Not too loud, or obnoxious, like she hated to admit she thought her father’s was.

“That sounds like my mother.” He rubbed his chin with his thumb. 

“I’m sorry your clothes are gone.”                      

“Well, the seamstress said my new things would be ready tomorrow morning,” she explained.

Luca nodded, and the two fell into a silence. Grace wished she had something to say to him, but every time she tried to think of something, she felt like it would be the wrong thing to say and he would either want to leave, or she would embarrass herself. So, she kept her mouth shut and waited for Luca to continue the conversation, or leave. At this point, she felt sure she’d be fine with either.        

Luca’s eyes wandered around the room, taking in the new things that hadn’t been there before Grace arrived. There were cosmetics on the vanity, a pair of silk slippers by the side of the bed, a photo on the desk, and the book she had just recently placed on the bedside table. 

“Fairytales?” he questioned, peering at the book’s cover.  

“I found it in the closet with several other children’s books,” Grace tried to explain, realizing how odd it must seem that an almost fully-grown woman was reading a book for children.   

“This was the nursery a long time ago. Mother must have put our old books on the closet shelf.” He walked over to the book, taking it in his hands.

He examined it like one would an item lost to them for several years.                                           

“I used to love this book,” he said.Grace’s eyebrows furrowed.

“It’s yours?"

He nodded, turning the book over in his hands.                                                                                               

“I used to pretend that I was the prince or the warrior coming to save the beautiful dame.” Luca’s eyes stared intently at the worn leather cover that was beginning to fray at the edges from old age. 

“But, now, I understand how foolish that was.” Grace thought she saw him grimace, but he recovered so quickly she couldn’t be sure.                                                                                  

“What do you mean?”  She cocked her head to the side.                                                                        

“Prince Charming doesn’t exist in the real world. He never has,” He said, turning back to Grace.       

“I think he could,” she countered, thoughtfully. “Maybe he doesn’t exist because we are looking for someone he isn’t. Maybe he’s not perfect.”                     

Luca raised his eyebrow with a cynical huff.                                                                                            

“What about you, have you found your Prince Charming?” He shifted his weight from one foot to the other. Grace thought about offering him a seat, but that would make this too comfortable, and she wasn’t sure she wanted it to be comfortable.                                                                        

“Not yet."

Luca scoffed sarcastically.   

“Are you alright with… this?” Grace asked, searching her brain for the right word. Nothing seemed to fit quite right.                                                                                        

“This?”                                                                                                                                                                

“Our arrangement,” she clarified.                                                                                                               

Luca’s eyes seemed to search hers for a moment. He was picking his brain for the proper response.

“I suppose I have no choice but to be. Despite the fact I may not like it, it’s what we have.”                 

Grace was sincerely surprised by his response. He was so cordial with her, distant yes, but cordial nonetheless. From what she had seen, he was handling the idea of his future changing so radically far better than she was.                                                                                                                 

"Yes. I guess you are right. Luca, I am sorry for getting us into this mess.”                             

“Excuse me?” he sounded surprised. Had no one told him that Grace was the one to suggest all of this?                                                                                                                                    

“Oh,” was all she could muster. “No one told you?”                                                                                 

“Told me what?” His deep brown eyes were smoldering. They weren’t angry, just very intense.          

“I practically asked for this marriage.”

She made a poor attempt at keeping a stray tear from escaping the corner of her eye.  It wasn’t a sad tear; it was more of a grieving one. In a way, Grace felt like she was grieving the life she could have had if she hadn’t landed herself in such a strange mess.      


“But you have been so kind to me, and I’m not sure why.”                                                                      

Luca let out a sigh. He took Grace’s cheek in his hand, gently forcing her to look up at him.  She shuddered as his strong fingers dipped under her chin.                                                                 


“Grace, we both know this isn’t your fault. You have nothing to apologize for. We will get through this. I’m willing to make all this work, if you are. There’s no reason either of us should have to live in hell for the rest of our lives. I’d like to get to know you, Grace, if you’ll allow me to do so?”                   

His eyes gazed at her face softly. Her cheeks flushed again. Luca certainly did know how to lure her into a sense of security rather quickly. It made her wonder how much practice he’d had. How many women had he been with before her? She brushed the thought aside.                                           

“Yes.”                                                                                                                                                          

Gently, Luca took Grace’s hands in his. He brought them to his lips, and pressed a soft, almost careful, kiss to her skin.                                                                                                                   

“Thank you, Grace.”

All she could do was glance up at him standing in front of her. There was something about him that left her feeling unnerved, but there was a larger part that left her feeling safe. She didn’t want to trust him, but here she was, melting in his arms.

He baffled her.

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