o n e | The Beginning

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o n e | The Beginning


It looked cold and beautiful.

I wasn't really a huge fan of that combination.

But being the person I was, I decided to suck it up and deal with it. I didn't usually dwell on the unchangeable.

Otherwise I'd never be here in the first place.

Happy thoughts, I ordered myself as I closely followed the man who led the way inside. After all, it wasn't every day one was invited to Maybury Castle.

It wasn't everyday one became a temporary royal.

The goosebumps on my arms had nothing to do with the cold, I knew, as I took in how our footsteps echoed off of the walls in the grand hall the castle doors opened into. Each step felt like walking into the living fantasy I knew it was.

It was surreal.

Was it crazy to now be nervous—or even a little excited—when I'd already had a year of getting used to the idea of being here one day?

Maybe.

I took in the intricate patterns engraved on the walls, the big windows on the right that let in an extraordinary view of the snow-crusted trees outside, all of it. It all looked like it had been mapped out and designed by the very best, which in all fairness, it probably had.

Of course it wouldn't do to have the royalty of Bellewynn live in anything mediocre.

We reached the large, winding staircase at the left and for a second I wondered what the turn at the right led to. I didn't have much time to think on that as the man in front of me started jogging up the stairs and so I hurried too, keeping a hand on the railing just in case.

"We're here," he announced to me just as we reached the top of the stairs, right outside the first room in the hall. He pointedly sidelined himself to the wall, clearly to show me that that was where he was going to stay and I'd have to venture inside myself.

Okay then.

It's not like I expected any camaraderie from the man who only knew me as far as picking me up from the airport half an hour ago.

I knocked on the door, suddenly feeling the little bit of that excitement I had leave me as I was flooded with nerves. Maybe I could jet it to the airport really quick and get a flight out of Europe? Maybe I could come back later—like, really later?

"Come in!" A strained voice called out and all thoughts of retreat deflated.

There was no time for that now.

Happy thoughts, I reminded myself once more as I gave one last look to the man in the suit, who at this point was busily tapping away on his phone. I took a deep breath and then pushed the door open.

I hadn't taken in two steps before I stopped, seeing Uncle Albert in bed. His hair, scattered with silver, was swept back and there was tube in his nostrils along with another one in his wrist. He looked way too pale but worse than that was the weary look on his face, like a man dragged around way too long.

God, he was really sick.

Oh boy.

What now?

What was I supposed to say to him? Would something as casual as a hello do, or was I supposed to curtsy or something?

Heck, what did I even know of this man?

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