The reason Violeta had been called to the hall of the entrance was that her guests were beginning to arrive. She had been so immersed in the thoughts of her new rights that she had lost all sense of the passing of time.

Now, men and women were walking in through the Palace's main entrance, showing their invitations to a guard before greeting the princess and her mother.

"Thank you for attending," the princess had to say many times but she grew tired of it not for along with the replies of "It was my honour, Your Highness",  and "It will be great fun" came compliments and cries of "Oh, it is so wonderful to see you after so many years!" which were accompanied by affectionate embraces. One of the guests was her favourite cousin, Prince Zack, a mischievous sort of boy who never acted his age. Said he to her "I do not like to think what Aunt Mariana would do to me should I miss one of your Palace's celebrations." That was accompanied by a wink which made her laugh. So in fact it was very difficult for the princess to become bored.

The last person to greet was a stranger. His name Violeta did not recall placing on the list of those she would invite, one night in the previous month, for his name she ws unknown to her. She watched with interest and slight apprehension as the tall brown-haired, brown-eyes prince (no man who was not royal would wear such finery or walk with quite the same confidence in a palace) as he held out a golden invitation card to the guard and then walked forwards towards her and her mother.

Violeta's anxiety instantly dropped as she gazed upon the prince and it became replaced by further interest. His expression was soft and his eyes contained a warmth that Violeta suddenly desired to intensify and melt her. The prince was strong: Violeta could see the muscles in his limbs through his clothes. His jaw looked as though it could set handsomely in determination and Violeta wished to be one of his concerns so that he could steady her with gently but firmly-placed hands when she was anxious or sad or afraid. 

Violeta returned to reality, realising that her eyes were fixed on the stranger. But he was before her now and to look anywhere else would be rude.

Said her mother "Violeta, this is Prince Robert. Your father and I desired that he came so the two of you could be acquainted like his parents and us."

Prince Robert. That explained her instant attraction to him: he was the most handsome prince in the land. What an honour it was for their parents to be acquainted.

Violeta curtseyed politely and said she "It is a pleasure to meet you, Prince Robert. Thank you for attending this celebration."

Robert was gazing directly into her eyes - could it be that he was transfixed too? Violeta willed him to look away and when he did not, hoped she would not faint.

Lowering his head and bringing her hand up to kiss it (his touch was indeed gentle, though gratifyingly a great deal more solid than it had been in her imagination) and sincerely said he "I am so glad I came."

His voice was rich and halfway between medium-pitched and deep, and seemed to caress Violeta's ears as silk caresses the skin. She found him positively enchanting.

"Shall we proceed to the ballroom?" asked Queen Mariana, startling the youngsters. She was smiling, evidently pleased that her daughter and Prince Robert appeared to like each other.

"Yes," answered Violeta, and she took it upon herself to walk alongside Robert and point out interesting paintings and pieces of furniture and parts of the architecture along the way.

He seemed to be interested in all her facts and stories but at times when perhaps he should have been looking upon the subject of her tales, he gazed at the princess, watching her face as if he were observing the words as they tumbled out of her mouth.

Heat rose to Violeta's cheeks as she felt his eyes upon her but she continued relentlessly, filling the entire journey with history, tradition and culture, all too aware that her mother was walking behind them.

They reached the doors to the ballroom and Violeta stopped.

"I hope you have the most wonderful afternoon," said she.

"I am certain I will," replied he, gazing at Violeta so keenly that she could not fail to understand that he was calling her own self wonderful.

She blushed and pushed open the gold-framed doors which were predominantly the colour of ivory, and together they entered.

The End

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