Chapter 1: Libby the Debutante

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"How long do you think he'll take to propose to you?"

It had been the question on my mind since the moment I'd closed the front door behind the prince on the second night of the masquerade ball.

"Xavier, my answer isn't going to change no matter how many times you ask me," I sighed, staring out the carriage window, "I don't know!"

"Judging by the budget he'd set us, I'd say sooner rather than later," my brother said, still fascinated by the fine new clothes we'd acquired during our weeklong getaway to Paris.

Once Andrew had left our house the night of the second masquerade, we'd received word that we'd be travelling to Paris for new wardrobes before the start of the winter Season. Hardly able to refuse our newfound benefactor, Xavier and I had gone willingly. The palace had sent along a valet and a ladies' maid, who'd carted us around the city, stopping at boutique after boutique. Xavier had attempted to refuse when he'd discovered exactly how much Andrew had intended to spend on our new wardrobes, but none of the tailors, seamstresses, milliners, or cobblers would listen.

As if he'd expected us to refuse, Andrew had ensured that tickets to all the grand museums and operas would be waiting for us in our hotel suite. Xavier was cowed by the promise of seeing the Mona Lisa, while I was all too keen to accompany him in an attempt to increase my appreciation of art.

In short, it had been the trip of a lifetime, but far too much time spent away from my prince.

"I suppose I'm expected to remain at the palace as well?" Xavier continued, as I watched us roll through the palace gates.

"Perhaps you could simply contain your curiosity for the next few minutes and find out when we arrive," I said. He made a face at me, his excitement so potent it was nearly contagious. I was already far too giddy to think properly, so I looked back out the window in an attempt to calm my nerves.

The trip, while wonderful, had seemed like an eternity. Andrew had been at the palace, concluding his first Season and preparing for his second while I was away. I couldn't quite shake the tension that had built steadily within me each day we were apart. In the short time that he'd pulled together our trip, he had also managed to insert incredibly thoughtful details here and there, which had only helped me to miss him more. It was all I could do not to throw myself out of the carriage and sprint into the palace in search of him.

When we finally pulled up to the same carriage block I'd dismounted on during my first stay at the palace, I grinned inwardly at how much had changed in a matter of months. Instead of wearing a shabby old uniform dress and hanging out the carriage window, here I was richly attired in Paris' best, demurely taking Xavier's hand to help me out. I couldn't shake the ridiculous feeling that I was returning home, even as I surveyed the far too opulent palace before me.

"Their Highnesses are currently taking tea in the dining room," one of the palace maids said, as a passel of footmen hurried to unload the mass of trunks and hatboxes Xavier and I had accumulated in Paris.

"Well then, what are we waiting for?" Xavier said with a grin, offering me his elbow.

We climbed the steps and my heart took to hammering in my chest. Sounds of conversation and laughter echoed through the hall. It was no secret that this Season would be massive, since both Princess Anne and Prince Thomas were now also participating. As such, a number of extra places had opened up. The gossip in Paris said that as many as twenty debutantes had been invited this time around.

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