I wasn’t looking forward to the ball my father was holding to celebrate Markus’s success in the tournament. It would be unbearable without Lucian there to make me laugh and I would have to spend a lot of my time with Markus, a thought I didn’t relish after our meeting earlier.
But I behaved appropriately when Julian came to escort me downstairs. I wasn’t going to enjoy myself, but I could pretend at the very least. I didn’t want to get into more trouble with my parents for doing the wrong thing.
‘Could you at least try to smile?’ Julian said as we approached the Great Hall.
‘I’m not going to smile until I absolutely have to,’ I said firmly.
‘Look I know that Mother and Father want you to marry Markus, and that’s not something you want, but you can’t sulk forever.’
‘Yes I can,’ I protested. ‘Besides, you can hardly comment. You got to choose your wife; I don’t even get a word to say on the matter.
‘I don’t know what you want me to do Lili.‘
‘Stop treating me like I’m a spoiled brat might be a good start!’
‘But you are behaving like a spoiled brat. You’re like a small child who’s throwing a tantrum because they can’t get what they want. You’re going to have to learn that not everything in life can go your way and you’re going to have to make compromises.’
‘I am not going to make a compromise about the man I marry. Markus is not my choice.’
‘We all know who you would choose and you know how Father feels about that.’
‘Well he has to learn that he can’t always have things the way he wants them then,’ I said, taking my arm out of Julian’s and walking briskly down the hall.
‘Lili,’ Julian said, grabbing my arm and forcing me to stop. ‘You have no idea how angry Father will get if things don’t go his way. He is very powerful, both you and I know this and I hate to think of what he will do if he finds out about you and Lucian. I know about what happened after the competition.’
‘What do you mean?’ I said, trying to hide my guilt.
‘You and Lucian meeting in the stables,’ he hissed. ‘You should be thankful Father’s spies weren’t watching you or you would be in so much trouble.’
‘You’re not going to tell him are you?’
‘Of course not. But it can’t happen again or you’ll land us both in hot water. I can cover for you once but I won’t do it twice.’
‘Then I’ll just have to make sure I don’t get caught.’
‘Lili you will get caught. Father isn’t a fool, he’s having you watched every moment of every day. He knows you’ll try to disobey him by seeing Lucian and I don’t want to see you get hurt when Lucian is sent away.’
‘But it’s not your decision to make. I’m not going to let my every action be dictated by what other people want. Even if I can’t choose Lucian to be my husband I can take advantage of the fact I am still free now.’
I stopped Julian from responding by sweeping into the Great Hall, where everyone dropped into bows and curtsies as I passed. I saw Lucian standing at the edge of the room, a goblet in his hand, which he raised to me as I walked past. I gave him one quick glance but flicked my eyes forward almost immediately. I couldn’t have my father suspecting anything.
I curtsied in front of my father’s throne, where he was sitting in all his royal magnificence.
‘My daughter,’ he said loudly enough so the people close to us could hear. ‘How wonderful you look tonight.’ He took my hands bringing me out of my curtsy and up to my full height. ‘I know about your earlier conversation with Markus,’ he whispered as I was lead to my seat. ‘I have assured him that it was all a misunderstanding and you are very sorry for the way you behaved. I expect you to behave properly towards the Prince tonight, and by that I mean be friendly. If I hear of another incident like that I will have to take some action against it.’
‘I understand Father,’ I said obligingly. ‘I will be the perfect princess.’