Chapter 7: Tailored Assistance

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Rob kept his eyes pointed at the ground as he walked home, in part because he wanted to think about the Godmother's marriage ultimatum, and in part because an uncomfortable number of young women were smiling, waving and greeting him by name.

"Hello, doctor!"

"Good afternoon, doctor!"

"You're looking well, doctor!"

Had things been like this before? Rob didn't think so, but maybe he just hadn't noticed until the Godmother put the idea in his head. When he'd first arrived here, Rob had been preoccupied with trying to find a way home. 

Later, the work of starting up a medical practice had kept his sex drive at bay. Then he'd connected with Maggie, so Rob had never really considered dating, if that was even a thing people did here.

"Lovely day, Doctor!"

"Well met, Doctor!"

"Looking good, Doctor!"

Female voices continued to call out for Rob's attention. Could the Godmother be toying with him? A stunt like this felt beneath her, and besides, he might have seen a little of this behavior well before their carriage ride. 

Still, Rob knew the limits of his animal magnetism, even with a supposed pot of gold buried in his backyard, and these catcalls were exceeding those limits. Clearly, something was going on. But before Rob could finish his diagnosis, a ball of mud slapped him across the back.

"Hey!" he said, spinning around to face a mounted man with flowing blonde hair and a gaudy, red-colored tunic.

"Excuse me," the man said coldly, bringing his horse around. "I didn't see you there."

Rob stuck his nose over his shoulder. "Gah, that smells awful."

The young prince—Rob knew enough to realize this was a prince, or at least somebody who fancied himself one—sneered back at him. "Oh dear. I may have ridden through a slaughter yard or two. Your tunic is ruined, but by the looks of it, at no great loss."

"Why did you—"

Quick as lightning, the prince slapped Rob across the face with his stiff, leather-clad hand. Rob collapsed to the ground where his clothes soaked up another dose of the offal-laden mud.

"Be careful, doctor. Mud can be slippery."

His face stinging, Rob slowly got to his feet. Foot traffic along the boulevard had stopped, the friendly voices that had been calling out to Rob just a moment ago fell silent, and his heart raced to beat the band. He glared at the prince; there was no way he could fight this guy, but he hoped the prince wasn't going to kill him with so many witnesses around.

"I think," Rob said, his voice a little more shaky than he would have preferred, "you owe me an apology."

The prince smiled without showing his teeth. "None is offered."

Rob thought back to his conversation with the Godmother. "Is this about princesses, by any chance?"

"You think I'm worried about competing with you?" The prince laughed at his own remark. "Come closer, doctor. I wish to strike you one more time before I take my leave."

"Yeah. No thanks."

"If you make me chase you," the prince said, flexing his leather-clad fingers, "I'll hit you three times instead of once."

"Ho there," came a deep, rich voice from inside the crowd that had gathered to watch the prince v. Rob show. "What's all this about chasin' and hittin', now then?"

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