The Girl Who Loved Two Princes: The Her Before You
- Genre: Romance
- Status: Completed
- Language: English
- Author: Scarlett Jane
[2017, June 4th]
Another insufferable ball. And the excuse for it? It was his birthday.
Lord Bartholomew Arden would rather be sitting in his room preparing for midterms than be here with his parents and all of these pretentious people. Duke Arden took Bart around the room, drilling into his head the name of every nobleman and noblewoman in attendance and their current dealings with the Arden House. As though Bart wasn’t already aware of them all. He would have given many things to not have to endure this night.
Grievances aside, there was one thing Bart looked forward to about tonight. He would get to see her. At least he hoped he would. Things between their families were still very unstable and he hadn’t seen her since the last time she came home. Mind you, there was no guarantee he would see her tonight. She had elected to spend this year at a prestigious boarding school abroad, intending to shun her father’s wishes for her by attending fashion school next year. He didn’t know if his birthday was reason enough to bring her home right before midterms.
Relief washed over Bart as his mother approached with a friend in tow.
“Look who I found,” she said in greeting, shutting down Duke Arden’s potential deal, the nobleman they were talking to excusing himself.
Bart held out his hand, a ghost of a smile on his face.
“Hey Barry,” Ethan grinned, picked up his somewhat larger friend and crushed his arms around his ribs.
Duke Arden scowled at his wife, whose voice he still had not learned to find bearable even after being married to her for 20 years.
“You just have the best timing, don’t you?” Duke Arden hissed.
“Play nice, dear. It’s Bart’s birthday,” she said, holding out her hand to him.
Duke Arden watched his too serious son’s face soften for the first time in days and took his wife’s hand.
“I know,” he said begrudgingly as they walked off.
“Don’t hurt yourself now,” Bart said arrogantly as Ethan set him down.
Ethan held onto his lower back. He wasn’t a freaking giant like Bart, but being the captain of an army necessitated that he looked after himself so Ethan’s own routine was rather rigorous. Still, no one could keep up with this guy. Ethan had never seen anything like it. Didn’t matter what it was, Bart seemed to do it better and more efficiently than the rest of them. Bart kept telling Ethan that he’d probably just been slacking off since he got to Terres Somnia, which was likely true. Ethan was sure combat training would be a bitch to get back into when he went home in a few weeks.
“Shit Barry, you must have gained 20 pounds since the last time I saw you three months ago, all of it pure muscle too. Look at you, you’re a fucking beast!”
“Mind your language, Your Highness,” Bart chided. “How was the visit back home?”
“Oh, you know how it is. King’s on my case about coming back full time. Same old,” Ethan said, shrugging the serious stuff off as usual. “I brought someone with me this time that I want you to meet,” he continued, changing the subject. “Better do it quickly too, I bet the chicks are lining up to check you out.”
Ethan put his hand on Bart’s bicep. Bart slapped it away. He wouldn’t know if they were and it didn’t matter anyway. They would never be her.
“This isn’t UC, you dweeb. And you’re here representing your country. Act accordingly,” Bart whispered, himself straightening up.
Ethan was about to respond when they walked in and Bart’s deep blue eyes glazed over. Bart folded his arms and zeroed in on her. She was a 6’1” goddess with long, silky, chestnut brown hair pulled back behind her. Her piercing, blue-green eyes and beautiful fair skin. Everything about her seemed to alert you that she’d arrived even before her party was announced. The dress, the shoes, the tiara on her head. Her stance, every elegant step she took. Ethan had seen enough of them to know when a princess walked into the room. She was definitely a princess.
As soon as she heard the announcer say, “Presenting their majesties King Henry, Queen Mary and Their Highnesses, Princess Caroline and Prince Aaron” she was looking too. Until her eyes found Bart’s. When she found him, she broke out into a dazzling smile. Bart, in true Bart fashion, only continued to stare blankly, making no effort to show pleasure or displeasure. But Ethan was becoming familiar with reading his new best friend.
“That’s her then. Your girl,” said Ethan, watching Bart intently.
“She’s not my anything,” Bart returned sharply, turning his back on her.
“Someone should maybe tell her that then. She’s coming for you, dude,” Ethan said, watching her make her way through the crowd.
Every few seconds, she threw a glance back up to where they were standing on the second floor.
Bart struggled against his rapidly beating heart, telling him to turn back around. To go out and meet her, to give himself a dance with her as a birthday gift. A dance was hardly a proposal. A dance was okay. But Bart was an Arden and Ardens made decisions with their heads. So instead, he pulled Ethan towards him, so that his back was now to her too.
“That bad, huh? Hey I get it. She certainly is a bombshell,” Ethan grinned, throwing another glance at her over his shoulder.
“Stop looking at her,” Bart growled.
Ethan snickered, raising his hands in the air in surrender.
“It’s not me you should be worried about.”
Caroline (CC) Condor was about halfway through clearing the lower level of the Arden House’s grand ballroom, steadily making her way to the stairs. He came out of nowhere. Was in front of her before she knew it. She tried to sidestep him, the way she had every man who had tried to ask her to dance up until now, but this one was not to be turned away. This man was a prince.