4. My Prince Came

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How to Greet Your Prince in Bed When He's all Quested Out*

Prep Checklist:

1. Satin sheets, artfully rumpled.

2. Heart-shaped formation of rose petals on bed.

3. Curls carefully cascaded over a ruffle-edged pillow.

4. Sexy lingerie. (Be willing to sacrifice intimate clothing. A prince who shreds your panties is a happy prince)

5. Bottle of champagne sweating in a silver ice bucket.

6. A daub of musk oil behind each ear.

7. String quartet outside the window playing Bolero.

8. Candles, candles, candles. And more candles.

9. Feather within reach. (optional)

10. Handcuffs (advanced couples only)

That evening, lying in bed, an exhausted but happy Ashley could not wipe the smile from her face. Her prince would come at any moment! And he would be pleased.

All-day, the castle had been abustle with the preparations for Ashley's Plan of Ultimate Seduction. The cheerful castle staff had meticulously executed each item on the checklist. Having a common goal brought everyone together. And Ashley's genuine appreciation for their help had her team floating on air. (Not literally, except perhaps for one of the seamstresses who was rumored to have some fairy blood.) Everything went smoothly apart from a few titters when she requested a pair of handcuffs from the royal guard and a small mishap when someone dropped a flagon of musk oil inside the unicorn stalls.

At last, night had fallen like a mystery, a silken veil, a promise.

Ashley wore a very sexy feathered corset with lace panties, her exposed limbs caressed by "artfully-rumpled" satin sheets. Her golden locks cascaded over the pillow in eight equidistant lines, like an octopus of blondness. The handcuffs dangled from a bedpost.

A quartet of the kingdom's finest musicians played a constant loop of Bolero** beneath the open windows. A happy side effect of the music meant Ashley could no longer hear the fervent whinnies from the unicorns' nightly "activities."

The chambermaids had lit a hundred candles and spread them over every useable surface of the bedchamber. Each flickering taper staved off a bit of the darkness, till together they bathed the room in romance.

Sure, Ashley's muscles ached from the hours of Pilates, donning and undonning of lingerie, and something horrible called shiatsu, which was more painful than a stepmother's switch. Sure purple bruises had flowered on her pale skin. But she didn't care. For soon, she and Charming would be coiled in an embrace so passionate; even the moon would be jealous.

An hour passed, but Ashley still smiled.

Then another. Ashley smiled but far less broadly.

And another. OK, by now, Ashley's cheeks ached, and the smile was mostly gone.

The music died, and the candles sputtered and guttered as they ate up their length of wick. The wax dripped in spidery threads.

Spiders! Maybe they were the problem.

Perhaps her prince had been attacked by giant spiders on his way home! Or an evil witch had turned him into a frog. Everyone knows wicked witches love doing this kind of thing. Alternatively, he could have been disemboweled by ogres, crisped by dragons, eaten by orcs, led astray by goblins, or afflicted with a nasty case of dysentery.

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