‘What on earth are you thinking?’ Vincent said as he paced up and down outside the changing room where Rowena was having another fitting for her dress. ‘He’s only marrying you to save his own skin, and the man who has told him to do this doesn’t want you in power. Alarm bells should be ringing.’
Vincent’s attitude towards Rowena had changed over the last few days, following the announcement of Rowena’s marriage to Prince Felipe. Of course Rowena had told Vincent everything she had heard before the Prince’s proposal, but her new best friend couldn’t understand why she was still willing to marry Felipe.
‘What else am I going to do with myself?’ Rowena said from behind the screen. ‘Felipe is a nice guy and I like him a lot. I don’t want to see him homeless because no country will accept him.’
‘But you’re settling for second best,’ Vincent insisted. ‘Surely after all that time you spent in the tower, dreaming of the handsome prince riding up to save you and you both falling deeply in love, that is what you deserve. You should marry for love, not convenience.’
‘Well unfortunately my chance for love has passed me by,’ Rowena said sadly. She had been thinking about Artem more than normal over the last few days. She had insisted the wedding take place as soon as possible, so the cathedral had been given orders to be prepared for a royal wedding within a week. There were questions flying around about how quickly the couple were getting married, but Rowena didn’t pay any attention to them. She had nothing to hide.
‘That is not true.’
‘Yes it is,’ Rowena said firmly. ‘Artem is gone.’
‘But you can’t only get one chance at love. The world is not so unfair that there is only one person in the world you can love. You have to be allowed a second chance.’
‘What if Felipe is my second chance? What if I am in love with him and I just don’t know it?’
‘Do you feel the same when you’re with him as you did with Artem?’
‘No,’ Rowena confessed after a long pause.
‘Then you have your answer.’
‘But what if I grow to love him? I didn’t love Artem from the first time I set eyes on him. And Felipe makes me feel good. He treats me as an equal and doesn’t talk down to me or try and simplify what he is saying just because I’m a woman. And he’s far better suited to me than Artem ever was. He’s a prince and Artem was a thief.’
‘But not just any thief,’ Vincent pointed out. ‘King of Thieves.’
‘It makes no difference. He was still a criminal, even if he was kind and loving and generous.’ Her hand went to her chest where the silver locket hung, clasping it in her hand almost without noticing what she was doing. ‘My father would never have approved.’
‘You can never know that. From what I know of your father all he wants is for you to be happy.’
‘But that’s because I’m marrying a prince. He doesn’t know anything about Artem, and his isn’t going to,’ she said in tone which clearly said to Vincent ‘you are not going to tell him’.
‘Yes but if he did know about him, I’m sure he would be happy for you to marry him as long as it was your choice.’
‘As long as Felipe was my choice,’ Rowena muttered so Vincent couldn’t hear. ‘Ow!’
‘I’m sorry your highness but you are going to have to keep still,’ the dressmaker said as a pin pricked the Princess’s skin through the ivory material.
‘Sorry,’ Rowena said apologetically. Vincent slumped into a chair, letting out a huge sigh.
‘So if you didn’t want my advice on your new husband, why have I been called away from my work? You know there is going to be a big feast tonight in honour of your marriage in two days. They really can’t spare me in the kitchen if I’m just going to sit up here and wait for you to get dressed.’
‘If you’re going to be like that then I won’t tell you why you’re here.’ She let out a hiss as another pin jabbed at her skin as Rowena leant backwards to see around the screen.
‘My lady, if you are not going to stay still then I will have to ask him to leave.’
‘Do you want me to leave?’ Vincent asked standing up. ‘Because I can come back later if now isn’t a good time.’
‘No I want you to see this dress,’ Rowena said. ‘We’ll be done in a moment.’ Vincent resumed his place in the chair by the wall, waiting in silence. Ten minutes later and he heard the dressmaker tell Rowena to step down from the stool and look in the mirror.
‘Are you alright in there?’ He asked, leaning forward.
‘I think so,’ Rowena said, her voice slightly unsteady. There was a rustle of fabric and she appeared from behind the screen. Vincent’s jaw almost went straight through the floor it fell so fast. He felt the need to stand up as he looked at the woman standing before him. ‘What do you think?’ Rowena asked nervously.
‘You are beautiful,’ he breathed.
‘Do you think so?’ She said, turning to the full-length mirror and examining herself in it. ‘I’m not sure, I think the shape is wrong and I don’t know about the detail on the bodice. It’s just-‘
‘Don’t change a thing,’ Vincent said, walking over to stand behind her in the mirror. From there he could see a few delicate wisps of Rowena’s hair were falling down from the nape of her neck, and the rest was pinned up messily onto the top of her head so the dressmaker could work, unhindered, on the dress. Her skin was as white as marble, almost matching the colour of her dress, which fell in waves of fabric to the floor. Her shoulders were bare, making her look pale and vulnerable in the cold light of the fitting room. The detail on the bodice, beautiful swirls, like waves crashing onto the shore and intertwining with each other, was exquisite, the finest Vincent had ever seen.
She looked so beautiful and delicate he was scared to touch her in case she might fall apart. ‘Don’t change a thing.’