"Why are you doing this, Eric?" Shane looked at his brother as the black vehicle pulled away from the palace, taking Giselle with it. Eric looked at him, surprised by his expression. Shane looked furious. Rose stood next to him, her eyes meeting Eric’s gaze with sadness and disappointment. Shane lifted his arms. "You’re letting her go. Why?" Shane demanded. Eric lowered his head and pressed a hand to his brow. He massaged his forehead, exhausted by his own emotions, now he had to deal with Shane’s as well.
"No, listen to me for once, you can’t let her go. You’re love her, you moron."
Eric lowered his hand and met his brother's eye with a steady gaze. "I know."
Shane’s arms dropped as well as his expression. He stared blankly at his brother as he tried to comprehend what Eric had said. Even Rose seemed stunned.
"You . . . what?"
"I know," Eric repeated and turned to face his brother squarely. "She’s not ready to hear that yet, so I’d appreciate it if both of you kept this to yourselves." His eyes flickered to Rose then looked back at Shane.
"We talked about it. She’s going to help her father. We’ll take a few weeks to evaluate how we both feel and try to figure things out when we get the chance."
Even as Eric said it, he felt his spirits lower. When would either of them get the chance to have a conversation that was this important? Work would undoubtedly get in the way somehow.
She’d want to follow her music and he could do nothing to stop her even if he wanted to. She lived not one, but a few flights away. So many things worked against them.
He wasn’t thinking clearly when he kissed her. But somehow he knew he would have regretted it if he hadn’t. She deserved to know, and he couldn’t keep it to himself for the rest of his life.
"Daddy!" Giselle felt like a child again when she spotted the familiar tall, elegant figure of her father waiting for her outside the airport. She nearly dropped her baggage as she rushed towards him and hugged the man dressed in the gray suit. His temples were starting to turn white and he seemed a bit weary from all the time spent preparing for the shows, but his green eyes brightened when he saw his daughter. Giselle’s emotions rose quickly to the surface when she inhaled her father’s familiar cologne and heard his surprised laugh.
"Giselle, it’s good to have you back," he said and stroked her hair. Giselle shut her eyes tightly when her eyes stung with tears. Her father pulled away and looked at her, as if to assess if she was alright. He noted the tears in her eyes and gave a joyful laugh. "Aw, don’t tell me you missed me that much," he said, giving her shoulders a squeeze. As she laughed, she saw her father give a slight squint. "You look different, sweetheart. I guess the air in Palanadia does something to your skin."
She lowered her eyes, pulled up her shoulders and sighed happily. "I feel different, daddy." She shook her head when she felt her chest give a flutter at the thought of Eric. "There’s so much I want to tell you. That kingdom . . . it’s the most amazing place I’ve ever been in."
Mr. Balaco stared at his daughter for a moment as she babbled in pure excitement about her visit. Taking in her smile and the way she radiated with joy as she spoke about Palanadia, he felt his own heart mimic her joy but also felt a sadness hit him. "Okay, okay, clearly you have a lot to share."
"I do! I’ve got somethings to play for you," she said and gave a light bounce on her toes. He chuckled. In some ways, she would always be his little girl, bouncing and giggling, eager to share her music and what she had learnt with him.
At least he’d always have that.
Marie was the more mature one. Much more reserved and quiet, reliable and ready to help when anyone needed it. He loved them both more than life itself but he couldn’t deny that Giselle took after him much more than Marie did.
"Alright, I can’t wait to hear what you’ve created," he said and took her bags then gestured toward the car waiting for them.
When he heard her music later that night, it confirmed all his suspicions; his daughter was falling in love.
Eric stared at the dark ceiling with his arms crossed behind his head. Watching Shane say goodbye to Rosaline had been emotional for all of them.
Eric liked Rose. Besides being a good influence on Shane, she was growing up to be an incredible woman. Since Giselle left, Rose had been expected to make more conversation with the queen, something that would terrify most people, but she held up well. Though a bit nervous at first, Rose quickly showed that she was assertive and intelligent enough to keep up with the best of them. She entered a mode that seemed almost emotionless when she went into debates. She had calculated answers for everything, they came so quickly, as if she had rehearsed the conversation and prepared for it.
But she had been very far from emotionless when she had said goodbye that evening. Shane brought a light to Rose that Eric hadn’t noticed before. She was well organized, witty, graceful, proper, nearly mechanical. If someone could program the perfect princess, she’d be the result. But as soon as Shane stepped into the room, she lit up and softened. Eric had found great entertainment in observing the two of them apart and together for the last few days. He remembered the way Rose had cried in Shane’s arms, not able to hold back any tears. Shane’s eyes had filled with tears as well.
Eric closed his eyes slowly as he thought back to the day Giselle had left. He felt the all too familiar tightening of his chest. He thought back to that morning after he had kissed her often, it almost never left his mind.
Sitting with her on the wide windowsill while she sat, cross legged, her one hand on his thigh, the other touching his cheek. He sat with his back to the window and his feet on the floor, mesmerized by the way her hair slid between his fingers. "I can’t believe you just kissed me," she said, making him look at her. Eric felt his stomach do a lazy turn now the way it did then at the memory of the way she looked at him, like he was something wonderful, her fingers tracing his jaw while he played with strands of her hair. He loved her hair. He loved the way it felt and the way it smelled. More than that, he loved that he was allowed to freely touch it. That she sat so close to him, content. He had lifted his hand to cup the side of her face again, the look in her eyes fueling his confidence. He moved his fingers to bury them deeper into her hair.
"I couldn’t hide what I felt anymore."
She placed a hand over his. "And what do you feel?"
He took a while to answer, not even sure how to start. He let out a quiet breath. "Everything I never thought I’d be able to," he admitted. He turned his hand and took hers then brought it to his chest. Giselle lowered her eyes to their hands as he felt his own racing heart through her hand against his. She smiled slightly then looked at him. "How?" She asked, tilting her head a bit, a frown forming between her brows. "You’re a prince."
"You’re more world renowned than I am."
She laughed and shook her head. "That’s different and you know it."
Her smile melted and she dropped her eyes. "So where do we go from here? Aren’t you supposed to get married to some princess that can help your kingdom."
Eric heard he animosity she tried to hide and felt a tug at his lips. It was nice to think he wasn’t the only one that struggled with jealousy. He braided his fingers between hers.
"That depends, how do you feel, Giselle?"
She lowered her eyes at that and gave a small shake of her head.
"I don’t know," she said, shattering something inside of him. "I mean I know there’s something about you, Eric, that . . ." She blew out a breath of air and looked at the ceiling. "I’m pretty crazy about you," she admitted before dropping her head again. "But I guess I never actually believed that . . . that you would even consider . . ." She looked at him then and pulled up her shoulders. "You’re . . . you’re . . ."
"Indifferent, reserved –."
"Amazing, kind, sweet . . ." She held his gaze steadily with hers. "I’ve never met any guy like you before. . . Maybe if-if I wasn’t leaving today we could try to figure this out and-and . . ." He saw her emotions start to rise and pressed another kiss to her lips, as if he could reassure her somehow. Of what, he wasn’t sure himself. He broke the kiss and looked at her.
"Tell you what." Eric lowered his eyes. "Go to Paris. Perform with your father." He looked at her and gave her fingers a squeeze as he smiled. "Be incredible. Take the two weeks and a bit afterwards to think this through. I’ll do the same and we’ll . . ." he shook his head and shrugged, something that was so uncharacteristic of him. "We’ll come back to this conversation," he said and held her gaze for a moment before kissing her again, trying to curb his emotions that were too wild for him to understand.
Eric let out his breath slowly now and opened his eyes again. He ran his eyes over the swirls on the ceiling art. He wanted to talk to her. He hadn’t heard her voice since she left. She had sent him a text after she landed to let him know she was safe in Paris, afterwards they had messaged back and forth but hours apart. She had rehearsals and the show and he had business as always. He’d send a message then she’d reply hours later when he was in a meeting, he’d reply when he got out, she’d be asleep and reply when she woke up, he’d be asleep . . . Communication wasn’t going well on either of their sides.
He wouldn’t be able to do this. It had been barely a week away from her and he was already questioning whether that moment they had shared before she left was as real as he thought it was. He was so sure that . . . Eric shut his eyes again and groaned with frustration. What did he know about love anyway? He hadn’t felt anything close to this in his life.
He rolled his head to the side and stared blindly at the clock on his bedside table. Growing up he had met girls that caused nothing but minor infatuations, had even dated a few times but the hassle of every journalist in the kingdom wanting every detail of the relationship outweighed whatever he felt for the person he was dating. Shane had broken hearts and had his heart broken countless times before. It was a senseless pattern that eluded Eric to this day.
Okay, he had to admit that there was something different about Rose and the way she was with him . . . What did they put in the water over in Cashadin?
The digital numbers that glowed in the darkness somehow sent a signal to his brain. He lifted his head from the pillow. One-six. He did a quick calculation. It would be just past seven in Paris. Would she be at breakfast now? Rehearsals started at eight-thirty.
He reached for his phone on his bedside table. She hadn’t responded to the last message he had sent her yet. Eric’s heart begun to race when he saw the ticks next to his message turn blue.
Without a moment’s hesitation, he sat up and called her number.
"Well good morning, Prince Eric."
At the smile in her voice, he gave a breathy laugh, his chest feeling light and joy tingling through his body in an instant.
"Morning, Miss Balaco," he said, bringing his one knee up. She laughed and he lowered his eyes, smiling.
"I didn’t expect this. Isn’t it like one AM over there?"
"I couldn’t sleep," he said simply.
"I’ve been struggling the last few days, too. I guess I could play it off as jet lag but . . . How’s work? I assume the kingdom’s still standing," she said. He leaned back against the bed frame and eased into the conversation, enjoying the sound of her voice. He filled her in on basic news, let her know the staff was doing well, about Shane and Rose’s heartfelt goodbye, about how his mother missed her. Giselle told him about rehearsals and shows, strolls she took through Paris, the dinner dates with her father.
"Ooh, I’ve got to go. My dad’s calling me for breakfast."
"Okay," Eric said, feeling dejected. "We should really plan these call sessions. I’ll be back in Cashadin next week, then at least the time difference will be three hours," she said.
Eric almost sighed. She said it as if it really made a difference. She’d still be an ocean away. He brought his hand to his forehead and rubbed the space between his brows. How was this ever going to work? They barely knew each other but he wanted to be with her all the time. He wanted her ten minutes away, not ten hours. Scratch that, he didn’t want her away at all.
If he could, he’d probably be in Paris. There were so many things he wanted to ask of her that he couldn’t. Not right now. Not until things were much more serious between them, and he might never get the chance to get to that point with her if they were constantly separated.
"I miss you."
Giselle stopped walking when she heard the barely audible, tender words. She lowered her eyes and felt like she could cry. She looked at her father who sat at one of the tables inside the dining hall of the hotel. His brows came together questioningly when he saw her pause. She tried to smile and lifted a finger, signalling that he give her a minute then pointed at the doors on her right. He had barely given her a nod before she stepped out onto the patio.
"Me too," she said with a sigh. She pressed a hand through her loose hair then wrapped her arm around her middle. "It’s really cool being here in Paris with my dad but I’d rather be back there."
She shook her head, unable to believe what she had just said.
Eric chuckled, making her bite her lip on a smile. "Any chance we can get the ball rolling on that? You know your accommodation is sorted here."
She laughed. "Well listen to you. Imagine me staying at the palace without Rose or any other royal business. I’m sure the media will have a field day with that. Besides, it’s almost wedding season back in Cashadin. I’ve got a few bookings waiting for me. Then there’s classes starting soon, and I also have to sort out the arrangements for Kayley’s audition."
"Don’t you have people to organize that?"
"Last time I checked I didn’t live in a castle and don’t have a tiara. They allowed the audition, I’m taking care of everything else."
There was a pause. "So the flights, the accommodation, food, funding . . ."
"You didn’t tell me that."
"I didn’t think it mattered. Plus, I don’t mind. I’ve learnt early on how to dig for sponsors, and I’ve traveled enough to know how to sort out everything else."
Another pause. "You really had no idea how I feel about you, did you?"
Giselle’s heart gave a squeeze. "Giselle, I can help. I want to help, not just because it has something to do with my people, but because it’s you."
Giselle lowered her eyes, her heart tripping over itself. "Oh, Eric . . ." She couldn’t find the words.
She heard him scoff then give a low groan. "Please don’t tell Shane I said that," he said, his voice coming out a bit muffled. "I’m not keen on the dating banter he’ll throw at me for over-sharing."
Giselle squeezed her middle tighter and bit hard onto her lip. "Dating?" she asked. The line was quiet for a while. "Uh . . . That is a word I should probably have kept until I saw you face to face but . . .Yes, Giselle, I want to date you," he said. Giselle brought her fist to her mouth and bit onto it to conceal the sound of her squeal. She gave a small bounce on her toes.
"I’d love that too," she said when she got a grip of herself. He gave a nervous laugh.
She laughed and brought her hand to her mouth when she realized how loud it was. When she removed her hand, she noticed how her fingers were trembling. "I’m booking a flight to Palanadia as soon as I can," she decided. The money she was getting for this show should just about cover a ticket and accommodation for a couple of days. "Which would be . . ."
"In about three weeks." Her excitement dropped when she faced the reality of the situation. She turned on her heels, her eyes low. Giselle blew out a breath of air. "That sucks," she muttered and lifted her eyes. When she did, she met her father’s gaze through the open doors. He lifted his brows in amusement. Giselle felt heat rush up to her cheeks and covered her face with embarrassment when she realized he had been watching her antics. She gave a muffled laugh. "Uh, Eric, I’ve got some explaining to do to my dad. I have lunch at one, that should be your seven AM. You know, the actual time you’re supposed to be awake. Can I call you then?"
Eric gave a sound of amusement. "You just technically agreed to be my girlfriend. I don’t think I’ll be able to sleep, Mrs. Balaco," he said. Giselle lowered her hand to her mouth and bit onto one of her fingers. She smiled at nothing on the ground, trying her best to keep calm when all she wanted to do was jump around. "I’ll call you. Enjoy rehearsals," Eric said. She giggled. "Try to get some sleep, Prince Eric," she said. "Bye."
Giselle brought the phone from her ear and pressed her free hand to her mouth again. She bent her knees and screamed into the sleeve of her jacket. What on earth just happened?!
Edwin Balaco didn’t seem to need anymore encouragement than that. He stood from his table, forgetting his breakfast, and met his daughter on the patio. Giselle saw him walk towards her but couldn’t seem to bring herself to stand up straight again. She could see Marie in the back of her mind shaking her head. Giselle had never been able to hide her emotions, especially when she was excited.
Her father tilted his head to the side and regarded her with a shadow of an amused smile on his lips.
"Who was that and should I be worried?" He asked. Giselle shook her head and felt her grin somehow widen. Her father laughed. "Come on, sweetheart, have some breakfast and tell me all about it. If you can eat, that is," he said and held out a hand to her. Giselle took it and allowed him to help her stand.
"Dad . . ." She shook her head. "I don’t know if this is a good talk to have before rehearsals," she said with a laugh.
K: Absolutely made my day with all those comments! Haha! Especially the shipping part.
Miha: Haha! Thanks so much, love :) So sweet x.
Butterfly: I laughed harder than I should have for that one. Lol!
Monicka: Aw, sweet :) Thank you, girl.