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First published October 17, 2019
“How does it feel to only be seen as the uterus of a future prince?” he asks.
“I’m guessing you’re used to being the most beautiful girl in the room. You are very pretty,” he whispers, “but take a look around… you’re just one of many here.”
It doesn’t take long to spot Luka. He’s the one surrounded by all the beautiful girls. A few princesses that I recognize— the paparazzi has hounded all of us since we were born— and a couple of other girls that I don’t.
I want him to come claim me right here, right now, in front of everyone, but he doesn’t.
he turns from me and kisses each girl surrounding him on the cheek. They throw their heads back and laugh at something he says.
“I’m sure it’s no secret by now that I’m not happy about this marriage,” he says,
“I want you to know that I’m looking forward to making every inch of you mine. One day. But we’re not married yet. And know that I will never be yours.”
A girl’s shriek catches my attention and I look across the way to the balcony to the left of mine. Any peace I’d found evaporates when I see Luka’s blond hair. He’s chasing Princess Nadia, one of the girls he was talking to last night— I only know for sure because I researched each girl after I came to my room.
They’re both in their underwear and she’s laughing hysterically.
He catches her and kisses her neck and she laughs harder, hugging him.
“Next time I’m visiting Nadia, why don’t you come over? I’ll let you get a closer look. See the goods you’re purchasing…”
“I should’ve known my dad would give me a pious bitch.”
“But I will not let Thaddeus or any other bastard touch one inch of you, even if that means escorting you to lunch when I could be fucking Nadia.”
I’m momentarily frozen but then straighten my shoulders and ignore Nadia’s table. She’s surrounded by the girls from the first night. They all turn and look at me first then search for Luka, Nadia’s shoulders relaxing when she sees him.
“This is not open to discussion. I will not have you get hurt on my time.” And then he adds under his breath, “Too much money is riding on this.” “You really are a bastard, aren’t you,” I whisper. “Yes. I really am a bastard.
I glance over at Luka and my eyes narrow when he scoots his chair closer to the girl next to him. I don’t recognize her. She’s beautiful. Of course she is.
Jadon sighs. “I think he’s had some sort of relationship with Nadia off and on, but it would never work. And I don’t think he’s interested in anything more than, you know… being a guy.” “You mean fucking around?”
“How about when he signed a contract to be engaged to me? How about then? I guess it’ll be okay then if I just go out and dry hump everyone in sight.” “Eden!”
“You sound like you’re making a business transaction.” I try for a joking tone, but it comes out plaintive. “It’s what we are, right?”
“I knew you were wet for me.” He leans back in his seat, leaving me cold and empty. Mission accomplished.
Humiliated, I turn away from him.
When I’ve sat there for nearly an hour with Luka chatting up the couple next to him and acting as if I don’t exist, I decide to walk to the dance floor. I make the mistake of looking back and see Nadia walk up to Luka. He smiles down at her and I see red.
“I’m not your whore,” I seethe. “Are you sure?” I pull back and slap him. “Get out.” “Eden—” “Go.”
The next day, Nadia is hanging on him again and he lets her. She juts her chest out and he traces his fingers along her neck and down to her cleavage as I walk past them in the corridor.
“Eden is just in shock and doesn’t want to get married in Niaps.” “I don’t want to marry him at all,” I spit out.
“We should come to an agreement now so there’s no confusion later. We’re too young to be married. I want to be honest with you and let you know that I will pursue other interests.”
I’ve dreamed of my wedding countless times in this bed. Now that it’s happening I feel nothing but dread. Naive for thinking anything close to a fairy tale could ever come true.
I’m married— I should be elated, floating on air. But I’m empty. It’s all a lie. A façade. I want to run and never look back. But I can’t. It’s hopeless.
“Your body is a revelation, Eden. I’ve never seen another so beautiful. I’m afraid it will haunt me—” He stops, as if he realizes he’s speaking too freely. “— When you’re with another?” I say it boldly, like it doesn’t shred my heart to say those words.
We both know the last thing you wanted to do was get married, so I didn’t think you’d mind being interrupted on your honeymoon.”
“Don’t get too comfortable here. This isn’t going to last. Nadia deserves him far more than you ever could.”
“Did you know my wife was a virgin when I married her?” he asks, nudging me with his elbow. My eyes widen. “Luka!”
“Can you pass the butter?” I ask him. “Can I?” he repeats. “I thought I told you to get out of my sight.” “What?” “It’s like you can’t take the hint: I. Don’t. Want. To. See. Your. Face.” He takes a long swig of coffee and slams the cup on the table.
I think what hurts the most is that he pretty much admitted he’d been pretending with me. That the times we’ve had sex or when he was affectionate were just him playing a part.
In all that time, I never see or hear from Luka. When he left, he really left.
“He can’t even be bothered to escort me to our reception?”
I hold up my hand. “No one is around right now. Save your lines for when someone else is around to hear them. That’s what tonight is about, correct?” I crinkle my nose. “And seriously, a wet dream? That’s the best you can do?” I shake my head. “Weak, crude imbecile.”
I nearly choke when I see Mara and Nadia laughing at something Luka is saying. He’s smiling— a smile brighter than I’ve seen on him in a while— and Nadia reaches out and grabs his arm as she laughs harder. Mara turns then and sees me looking and her smile gleams with malice.
“I don’t like the way he’s looking at you.” I shrug. “Someone has to look out for me while you fawn all over Nadia. It’s embarrassing.”
“You don’t need to worry about Nadia. It’s… not your concern.” “Not my concern…” I repeat. “Wow. Sometimes I forget how heartless you are.”
“I don’t want you to hear about this from anyone but me,” he finally says, his voice flat. “Pictures have come out of Nadia and me. Incriminating pictures,” he adds. I feel an ache in my chest, but when it hurts too much, I shut it down, shifting into a cold, calm nothing. “Oh. When did you—?” I don’t have to clarify. He knows what I’m asking. “That’s where I was when I left… with Nadia. I—” He stops when Basile quietly leaves the room. “And also the night of Elias’ party.”
“You knew what you were getting into— I told you—” he starts.
“Don’t touch me again. I won’t just be another conquest for you.” I hate so much that I cry when I’m angry, but I am furious right now and the tears threaten to spill over. “You couldn’t at least spare me the embarrassment of cheating on me in our first month of marriage by being discreet?” I
Or are you just missing Nadia so badly, your brain cells have disappeared, along with your integrity?
“I won’t stand in your way. If you want to be with her, go right ahead. Just don’t make the tabloids. I think that’s more than fair. Even your mother and father have figured that out.”
I start to shake as picture after picture shows him entering her apartment, multiple shots of them on her balcony hugging, two of them kissing, and him leaving in the early hours of the morning. And again a few days later… There are more pictures of them the night of Elias’s party.
I frown at him. “He’s humiliated me, whether there are feelings involved or not. No matter what kind of pretense we’re putting out to the world— what kind of start is that to a marriage? I don’t understand why we even came here if he was going to run off and do that.”
At night, images of him with Nadia invade my mind, along with memories of us in his bed, on the beach, in the shower. I wake up, sweating and turned on.
I’ve been such a fool. The hope was building inside me all along. One night with Nadia around crushes all of that.
I can’t fight the truth any longer. The first picture is of Luka and Nadia leaving the hotel we stayed in the night of the charity function. His fingers are threaded through hers and they’re huddled together.
The next article shows a series of her exiting the castle, so the shots are not the best, but it’s clearly her leaving after sleeping over. Luka hugging her goodbye, kissing her, and leaning over the car door when she gets in.
He’s got her on his shoulders in the ocean and Mara is nearby laughing like she doesn’t have a care in the world.
As news of our open marriage fills the airwaves and TV hosts discuss it over coffee on their morning shows, I fold more and more inside myself.
The pictures don’t lie though. His smile is just as bright, if not brighter, as it ever was with me. He has the charm turned up full-throttle in every picture with Nadia by his side. And there are dozens of pictures.
“Even sleep with your ex-girlfriend?” Jadon asks coldly. My face heats, but I can’t look away from Luka. He swallows hard. “I’m not proud of the things I did to get to the truth. I was being watched night and day, I had to make it look convincing. It felt like the whole world was my audience and one wrong move would wreck all the progress I’d made.”
I had sex with her. I’d do it again if it meant saving you.” “How noble of you.”