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How to Propose to a Prince
A Royle Wedding
It was raining . . . a bit.
Only a bit, her sister had said.
Elizabeth Royle looked down at the dripping embroidered skirt of her jaconet muslin walking frock and became instantly nauseous. It was surely ruined.
She and Anne had only been walking for two minutes and already she was soaked to her knees. The umbrella they shared had done nothing to protect her dress or azure crape mantle from the white sheets of rain sweeping down Pall Mall.
Her Bourbon walking ensemble would never be the same.
Had her sister Anne not been leaving for her honeymoon in Brighton on the morrow, Elizabeth would have never agreed to shop with her for a few sartorial essentials on such a horrid day as this.
But she well understood her sister's need for the proper traveling attire. Elizabeth had long ago learned the great importance of appearing impeccably groomed and clothed at all times.
Why, a carefully chosen bonnet, for instance, could not only camouflage a mass of less than fashionable red hair, but protect bone-white skin from the sun and stave off the sprinkling of freckles across the nose and cheeks that would inevitably follow any accidental pinking of the skin.
So, who better than she could appreciate the value of a wardrobe specifically selected to highlight physical attributes while distracting the eye from other less than desirable features?
At least the outing this day had afforded her the opportunity, before Anne left on her journey, to begin to tell her sister about the manshe intended to marry. After all, it was possible that Anne would wish to delay her honeymoon in order to attend the nuptials. Though, Anne's postponing her journey would probably be more likely if Elizabeth had a date for the wedding.
Or, at least, her fiancé's name.
"Oh, heavens, Lizzy, that means nothing. It was just a dream," Anne said, rolling her amber eyes.
"No it wasn't. It was far more." Elizabeth stopped abruptly, causing an annoyed couple to unexpectedly veer off the damp pavers into the squishy mud edging the street.
"How so?" Anne's tone lifted with false interest, and she seemed to be trying ever so hard to extend the limits of her patience.
Elizabeth shoved a loose copper lock that dangled before her eye over her ear. "I swear to you, Anne, last night I wrapped a sliver of your wedding cake and put it under my pillow, exactly as Mrs. Polkshank had advised, and it worked—I dreamed of him, the man I would marry."
Frustrated, Anne peeled a mist-dampened curl of her golden hair from her brow, then grabbed her sister's arm and started her down Pall Mall again. "And he was a . . . prince?"
Heat surged into Elizabeth's cheeks. "Well . . . yes."
"Do you not see how preposterous this notion is? How are you so sure he is royalty? What did you see in your dream?" Anne raised a cynical eyebrow at her as they walked, but only waited a moment for a reply before prattling on. "And, I must remind you, it was just a dream—a dream, Lizzy."
"I—I did not see anything to indicate his royal standing. I just . . . felt it," Elizabeth tried to explain. How could she make Anne understand when she herself did not? She just knew.
"What did you see, then? It is entirely possible you are only misinterpreting what you saw, you know." Anne had obviously noted her embarrassment and sought to placate her.
"That he is gloriously handsome, though there is an air of controlled strength about him. I could see it in the purposeful way he moved. The way others moved about him, deferred to him." A smile touched her lips.
"What about his hair, his face? Has he got a long nose, a mole with a hair jutting from it, or a weak chin—some feature that might help you identify him in a crowd?" Anne grinned impishly.
"His face is beautiful. Perfect." She scowled at Anne. "And I would recognize him anywhere. His eyes are so unusual." Elizabeth bent and glanced upward, past the dripping brim of the umbrella. "They are as leaden gray as this sky, but a thin ring of summer blue surrounds them. I have never seen eyes like that—except in my dream."
Elizabeth drifted off, lost in the memory of those haunting eyes. Instinctively, she turned to the sound of a team of horses clopping past. She strained her eyes, but in the rain and the thick fog rising up from the street, she could see nothing but a huge shadow slowly passing them by.
"Lizzy! Keep walking. We're nearly to the draper's shop." Anne squeezed Elizabeth's arm and urged her along, chattering as they walked. "Tell me more about your gentleman."
"If you insist." She grinned. "His hair is thick, dark and wavy, and his skin is almost golden, as though he'd spent a goodly amount of time out-of-doors."
"Well, it's clear then." Anne laughed teasingly. "You are to marry a farmer." She paused for a moment, then fashioned an expression of mock concern. "Oh, dear, Lizzy. Your guardian won't much like that."
"Anne—" This was not amusing to Elizabeth at all.
"Gallantine and the Old Rakes of Marylebone will accept nothing less than a peer of the realm for the only unwed secret daughter of the Prince of Wales." She feigned a mournful sigh. "But . . . if you dreamed of marrying a farmer, I suppose it must be true." This earned Anne's arm a hard pinch from Elizabeth.
"Please do not tease me about this. And, I told you, he is a prince, so I will be a princess. I am quite sure of it. All my grandest wishes are about to come true."
A barely concealed smirk twitched at Anne's lips. "A princess, hmm? Be careful what you wish for, Lizzy. I daresay, a princess's life is not all balls and baubles."
"I am not taking this premonition lightly, sister."How to Propose to a Prince. Copyright © by Kathryn Caskie. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.