Claimed Princess (Princess Series Book 3)(6)

By: Alexa Riley

“Really?” I feel my eyes start to water all over again.

“To be honest, though, I thought I’d get a request from King Carlos or his family. Every time I got a new offer for your hand, I thought it would be from them.”

My heartbeat picks up just thinking about Carlos, wishing that he had asked for my hand because he wanted it, not because he felt bad for me. My face must turn a shade of red because Giselle giggles and my brother raises his eyebrows in question.

“I thought about marrying Romy,” I admit. My brother shakes his head at that, making a face. “What? He’s nice and funny. Whatever.” I give up trying to talk Romy up. It’s fruitless. He’s all those things, but he’s also a bad boy, and everyone knows it.

“What does Carlos think about this idea of you marrying his brother?”

I shrug, unsure if I want to talk about it yet.

“You look beautiful,” I tell Giselle grabbing her and pulling her in for a hug. Yeah, definitely not ready to talk about Carlos. I think I might burst into tears if I do, and I know my brother will be on his doorstep two seconds later.

One of my hands goes to her belly. I’m going to be an aunt soon, and the thought of that makes me so happy. She’s really brought so much out in my brother in such a short time. Maybe making him chase her had something to do with that. “Let’s feed you. You must be hungry.”

“You’re hungry?” my brother asks, worry in his voice. I’d roll my eyes if I didn’t secretly think his constant doting on her was adorable.

“Come,” I tell them. My brother picks up the bags he dropped, and they both follow me into the house. I go straight for the kitchen, where my brother puts Giselle in a chair before getting her something to drink.

I watch them for a moment, thinking about how much I want something like this, about how angry I got when Carlos said I’m to marry him. I know it doesn’t make sense. I’ve been in love with him for what feels like forever, even though I said I would marry his brother, knowing it would never be a marriage of love. Something about doing the same with Carlos feels so wrong.

Thinking of having a loveless marriage with him makes my heart ache. He would love me, but not the way my brother and Giselle love each other. It would slowly eat me alive until there would be nothing left of me. Would he have a mistress? He doesn’t even want me in his bed anymore. My stomach turns at that notion, and I shake my head to free myself from those gloomy thoughts. No, he wouldn’t have a mistress. Carlos is too loyal for that. But we’d likely have separate rooms.

I know Carlos is just trying to do what he thinks is best for me. It’s what he’s always done - been my protector. It’s how he sees himself. I’m the little girl from next door who needs a keeper. The annoying sidekick that he lets hang around. Maybe it’s time I let it go. For a moment I thought maybe I could love him from afar, but who was I kidding. Seeing him with a wife will kill me, too. Maybe I need some space to clear my head.

I start making noodles in butter. I used to make it when I was younger, and my brother and I always loved it. We’d sneak down to the kitchen late at night when we were supposed to be in bed and I’d make it for both of us. This was before either one of us had a care in the world. Then we lost our parents, and things changed. I realize now how much he’s like his old self again. More laid-back. It’s crazy what love can do to a person.

“Maybe after my birthday I could come back home for a while.” My brother stops petting his wife’s hair as she sips her drink to look at me.

“I tried to get you to come home last month and you told me you loved it here.”

He did. He’d asked me to come home. He apologized for letting me ever come and live out here with my grandma in the first place. At first I’d been upset to leave my childhood home, but it was for the best. Karim had so much on his shoulders as it was, dealing with his own grief and having to take his place at the throne. Being here saved me. Carlos saved me, but maybe it’s time to go home. Though I’m not sure it’s my home anymore.

I shrug. “Maybe I need a change.”