Main The Bookworm Meets The Prince: A Young Adult Romance

The Bookworm Meets The Prince: A Young Adult Romance

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Year:
2019
Language:
english
ISBN:
B07Y56W1PV
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Year:
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Copyright © 2019 by Klarika Nuque

All rights reserved. No part of this text may be reproduced, transmitted, downloaded, decompiled, reverse-engineered, or stored in, or introduced into any information storage and retrieval system, in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, now known, hereinafter invented, without express written permission of the publisher. For permission requests, write to the publisher, addressed “Attention: Permissions Coordinator,” at the address below.

Typewriter Pub, an imprint of Blvnp Incorporated

A Nevada Corporation

1887 Whitney Mesa DR #2002

Henderson, NV 89014

www.typewriterpub.com/info@typewriterpub.com

ISBN: 978-1-64434-073-8

DISCLAIMER

This book is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents, and dialogue are drawn from the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real. While references might be made to actual historical events or existing locations, the names, characters, places, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, business establishments, events or locales is entirely coincidental.





THE BOOKWORM MEETS

THE PRINCE





KLARIKA NUQUE





Table of Contents

Chapter 1

The Bookworm Meets the Prince

Chapter 2

Away from the Crowd

Chapter 3

The Boyfriend? Say What?

Chapter 4

The Family Heirloom

Chapter 5

Reality versus Fiction

Chapter 6

My Cousin and a New Friend

Chapter 7

Realization

Chapter 8

Secrets from Three Years Ago

Chapter 9

Choices

Chapter 10

Decisions Made

Chapter 11

Being Paranoid Leads to a Conflict

Chapter 12

He Has Some Big Surprises

Chapter 13

I Smell Trouble for the Couple

Chapter 14

Not so Perfect Prince Charming

Chapter 15

For the Whole World to Know

Chapter 16

Support from the Crazy Bunch

Chapter 17

The Start of the Chaotic Life

Chapter 18

Fears Are Catching Up

Chapter 19

Being Sarconian Girlfriends

Chapter 20

Is It Worth It?

Chapter 21

This Is One Weird Welcoming Dinner

C; hapter 22

Their Evil Schemes

Chapter 23

The Biggest Surprise of All

Chapter 24

Please Tell me this Isn’t Happening

Chapter 25

Me, My Memories, and My Broken Heart

Chapter 26

His Explanation Is Worth Listening To

Chapter 27

My Father’s Small Wish

Chapter 28

Enjoying the Simple Life

Chapter 29

An Ending Fit for Lizzie





This work is dedicated to my first fans:

my mom, Marilyn, and my dad, Rudy.

Without them, I wouldn’t be here…literally.





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Chapter 1





The Bookworm Meets the Prince





“Just remember, my little Lizzie, no reading until you learn your lesson.”

I knew what you’d probably be thinking, why did my dad ban me from reading? Well, everyone had their vice: mine turned out to be reading.

“Yes, Dad. I’ll try my best,” I said over the phone.

I was completely lying, but I just couldn’t help it. Though maybe as a compromise, I could tone it down to four books a week. That was me keeping my end of the bargain. That could work, right?

Book bans were the worst punishment. I meant zero access to your book collection and zero access to a book store. Could you think of anything crueler? Now I had to add going to the library on my schedule just so I could read books that were already part of my collection.

The funny thing was when I was a kid, they demanded that I had to read a certain number of books every year and a certain number of chapters every day. But when I got older and addicted to reading books, they were concerned it was all I only did and I was ruining my eyesight.

So what was the perfect solution? I was banned from buying and reading books until I learned my lesson.

“Alright, sweetie, I have to go now. My client just arrived, and this deal might mean that I can finally buy that surprise gift for your mom,” he said in an excited manner. “I’ll see you later, and I love you, my little Lizzie.”

“Love you too, Dad,” I said before ending the call.

While placing my phone inside my bag, I couldn’t help but laugh a little at Dad’s antics. Fortunately, before my phone went to sleep mode, I saw the time and almost screamed. The library was closing in fifteen minutes, and there were a few books I needed to check out. So I sprinted my way to the library and made it with just ten minutes to spare.

I said a quick hello to Mel, the school librarian, before I proceeded to collect the books I wanted to read that week. I picked up Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Persuasion, and Emma because I decided it would be a Jane Austen week. Book bans made me sad, and you could never go wrong with Austen to cheer you up.

I was on my way to Mel to check the books out when someone suddenly bumped into me, causing my books to fall onto the floor.

“What the—” I was not able to finish my sentence because I locked eyes with the most captivating blue eyes I had ever seen. The guy was so good-looking, he could be a model. He had black hair, perfectly tanned skin, and let us not forget those captivating blue eyes. For a moment, I forgot that I was in love with Mr. Darcy.

Time stood still, and I genuinely felt that we were the only two people in the whole world.

“I’m so sorry,” the blue-eyed guy said. Oh my gosh! Even his voice sounded enchanting.

He then broke eye contact with me, picked up some of the books that fell, and then gave them to me. After doing such, he went on his way, and for some odd reason, I got the vibe that he was running away from something or someone. Strange vibe? It was, but I guessed he was also in a hurry to pick up a book he needed like me, which reminded me of my books to check out.

“Shit.” I quickly gathered my stuff, ran to Mel’s desk, and checked out my books before they close.

“Let me guess, Lizzie. Are you banned from reading again?” Mel asked while she was encoding my books on her computer.

Melissa Daniels was not the typical scary librarian who’d shout at every person when they’d hear a noise. She was cooler than that. She actually became my friend the first time my father banned me from reading three years ago, back when I was a freshman here in Midview High.

“Yeah. Though this time, they didn’t mention an end date to the punishment. This means you’ll be seeing more of me in the next few weeks—hopefully not months. I already miss my babies,” I said while pouting.

Today, while watching her check my books out, I was given the time to see her outfit properly. She was wearing a white blouse tucked by a black pencil skirt and a slim red belt around her waist; a typical librarian outfit, but she accessorized it with bangles and a four-inch red stiletto.

It never ceased to amaze me that she could walk and keep the library as orderly as it was in such high heels. Meanwhile, I still couldn’t walk in a straight line in my flats. Every time I told her that, Mel would simply laugh and say, “It takes years of practice, Lizzie.”

“Well, good luck with that, Lizzie. But if I know one thing, this is for the best. I haven’t seen someone as addicted to reading as you. This might be a good opportunity for you to look beyond your books and start living in reality,” she suggested while giving me the check-out receipt. I guess she had a point; I’d try and tone it down.

I waved goodbye to Mel and walked by the parking lot. I got into my Montero when I noticed something different in the parking lot: a black Lamborghini. The kids who went to Midview were well-off but were not rich enough to afford a luxury sports car. But what shocked me even more was the fact that the same blue-eyed guy who bumped into me in the library got into the expensive car. What was weirder was, he was looking around whether someone saw him going inside the car.

I wondered what he was doing here. There was no talk about a transfer student this year; that would have made the rumor mill go wild if ever. Oh well, whatever he was doing in school, he must have a purpose. It was something that shouldn’t involve me because I had Austen to read when I got home.

Well, that was the plan until my phone rang. It was at times like this when I found myself thankful for Bluetooth technology.

“Hello,” I greeted while I was backing up the car.

“Lizzie, I’m picking you up in exactly forty-five minutes so we can go to that party I was telling you guys about last week. So get pretty and sexy for the night, and I mean wearing contacts, not glasses,” Rissa said on the other line.

I totally forgot about that. Rissa, my best friend on the entire planet, would always invite me to parties.

I pouted my lips while contemplating on whether I would give her the parents-can’t-let-me-go or the I-have-homework excuse.

“Uh, Rissa. The thing is—”

She cut in before I could tell her any excuse.

“There are no buts on this one, Lizzie. I talked to your parents, and they gave me the go signal, saying that you have nothing better to do because you were banned from reading again. Plus I have the same classes as you, except for gym, and I very well know that we do not have any homework or quiz in the next few days. So yeah, I have basically ruined all your excuses. You’re going to this party, and that is final. See you in forty-three minutes, and you better be dressed. See yah, beotch.” She then hanged up.

My best friend really knew me well.

After ten minutes, I got home, had a quick shower, wore one of my black dresses, curled my hair a bit, and put some lip gloss on. If you hadn’t figured out that I was hopeless in the makeup department, then yes, I was hopeless in the makeup department. It was an art I never really mastered.

I decided to wait for Rissa in the living room where I saw my mom approaching.

“Hey, Rissa told us you were going to a party tonight. Have fun, darling. It makes me so happy there is something to keep your nose out of a book tonight,” my mom said while hugging me.

“You know, Mom. Some parents would die just to see their kids read a book and not go out.” I pointed out while hugging her too.

“Yes, but those parents do not have a kid who spends more time reading than socializing with people. We want you to love reading, Lizzie, but we also want you to have a life. Balance is very important, and that’s what we are teaching you now,” my mom answered back while looking directly into my eyes.

We then heard a honking sound. Rissa just arrived. Mom accompanied me outside to say a quick hello to Rissa.

When I got into Rissa’s Camry, I noticed that she already picked up Lisa and Carrie, her other friends.

“Anyone would like to tell me what this party is all about?” I asked.

“Chad wanted people to come and celebrate their football season win in his house. So that’s where we’re going,” Rissa answered.

“You mean to say you dragged me from home to attend some high school party thrown by your quarterback boyfriend?” I asked in an irritated voice.

Rissa and Chad had been dating since sophomore year—the typical quarterback and head cheerleader drama. Well, yeah. That was them.

Rissa and I had been best friends since we were three years old, and as we grew up, we never let go of that bond even if I became a nerd and she became a cheerleader. She tried her best to keep me in her world, especially after she became the captain. Her following had to do what she said, so they tried their best to be nice or, at least, civil towards me. But the fact was, they would never accept a nerd like me to their popular clique.

As she parked her car, I noticed something on the driveway. It was the same black Lamborghini sports car I saw earlier. I wondered why it was here.

“Wow, I never knew Chad had a new car, Rissa,” Lisa said.

“No, that’s not Chad’s car. I don’t know who owns it. Maybe one of the guests does,” Rissa said, who just shrugged it off.

“Well, whoever owns it must be totally loaded if he can buy a Lambo,” Carrie said.

I was about to comment that I knew—no— that I saw the guy who owned the car, but Chad saw us and immediately went to greet us, especially his girlfriend.

“Hey, guys. Well, I hope you enjoy the party, but I will now snatch my girlfriend. Bye,” he said after giving Rissa a kiss, and then they disappeared.

“I guess I’ll see you guys later. I will go find Marco,” Lisa said.

“Do you think Matt is with him? I’ll go look for him too. See yah later, Liz,” Carrie said.

You know now why I hated going to parties. Ever since Rissa had a boyfriend, she somewhat started ditching me during parties. She apparently wanted me to socialize with people and possibly hook up with someone who’d be too drunk to remember my name in the morning. Oh well, since I couldn’t go home yet and I am here, I decided to look for a quiet spot in this mansion called Chad’s home.

I went to the garden and found a lighted gazebo. It was still early, and all the guests were still inside. I went inside the gazebo and sat on one of the benches. I wished I brought a book with me, but I guess technology would keep me sane until that friend of mine decided to go home. I got my phone out from my bag and started reading stories on Wattpad.

I was halfway done with the sixth chapter of the book when someone cleared his throat. I looked up and saw the same captivating blue eyes I saw in the library. He was smiling at me but seemed confused, like he was wondering what I was doing here away from the crowd.

Well, whatever that look was, one thing was for sure, he looked like he wasn’t in a hurry to leave this time.





Chapter 2





Away from the Crowd





“Hi, umm—what are you doing here?” the blue-eyed guy asked. He genuinely looked confused seeing someone inside the gazebo.

It took me a few seconds to gather my thoughts and come up with a solid reply.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to intrude. It was just that I wanted a quiet place to read.” I then motioned to show him my phone. I had every intention of leaving, but for some reason, I stood frozen in my spot.

“Oh, I think I am the one intruding. I just want to know why you are here instead of the party inside.” This time, he said it with a smiling face. I didn’t know why, but he looked like he was assessing every move I made.

“Well, my friend went and ditched me with her boyfriend, and I wanted a quiet place so I could read until she’d be ready to go home. I’ll be on my way now then,” I answered, finally having the guts to move.

He smiled wider like he found my answer and gestures amusing. He then blocked the way out and stared at me intently.

I looked at him; he was wearing a black button-down shirt, jeans, sneakers, and messy hair. I could truly say goodbye to my dear Mr. Darcy. I was finally admitting that I was not the right Elizabeth for him.

“You don’t need to leave. I know the feeling. My cousin ditched me to hang out with his girlfriend as well, and the crowd was getting too wild for my taste. I just wanted to get away. You wouldn’t mind me hanging around here, would you? I promise to be really quiet while you read.” He even raised his right hand up, making the promise gesture.

I laughed at this, and we sat beside each other, leaving enough space as we were not yet familiar with each other.

“Anyway, my name is Andrew, but you can call me Drew,” he said, extending his hand for me to take.

“Elizabeth, but everyone calls me Lizzie,” I said while shaking his hand.

He took a good look at me and smiled again.

“You’re the girl from the library, right? The one who had so many books?” he asked, and I nodded. What he said next was quite funny, “You look better in contacts.”

I laughed when he said that. I chose to wear my glasses because I didn’t really like to be noticed that much. It was all about embracing the nerd part of me rather than the girly one.

Yes, I admit I am weird, I thought.

“Uhh, thanks, I guess,” I said, still finding this whole conversation amusing.

When Rissa first saw my glasses, she was shocked, but after a while, she simply shrugged it off and accepted I was different from her other friends. In reality, this was why we were friends in the first place: we love our differences.

My mom would love for me to wear contact lenses all the time. She even brought up LASIK surgery so I wouldn’t wear glasses anymore, but wearing glasses had always been my dream. So I told her we should just save the money for other things—like books.

“You should take it as a compliment. You’re really pretty when you don’t wear your glasses. I’m not saying that you’re not pretty with them on because you totally are. Especially the way you’re dressed right now, you’re really pretty. And yeah, I’m blabbing. I am going to stop now, but before I do that, I’d say I’m way smoother than this—usually,” he said while looking at anything but me. With this, I laughed again.

I didn’t know what was with him. He made me want to laugh so hard every damn time. I guess I found his gestures just too cute.

“It’s fine, I guess. My best friend actually finds it amusing that I blab a lot when I’m around her. She sometimes tells me that when I blab, she gets something useful and does not feel like a total airhead all the time. I don’t get it because she’s really smart too. So, basically, I’m not sure how and what to feel about it,” I nervously laughed. “I mean, for crying out loud, I am just blabbing. I don’t even understand half of what I am saying,” I said.

I was not sure what moved me to tell him that. I was not someone who’d open up too easily to a stranger, though a sexy male stranger at that. But for some odd reason, I felt safe and relaxed. I could easily say that this blue-eyed guy had definitely changed my game plan: avoiding everything that involved guys.

I blamed this on my excessive reading. I had this belief that every guy was a jerk who would either hurt you or become your lover. I was neither ready to break my heart nor fall in love.

“I know what that feels like. People always analyze your words, and then for some odd reason, they pick up something useful for them even when you are just saying what is on the top of your head. Then they treat you differently because of it,” he said in a serious tone like he was having troubles only he knew.

After this, we fell into an uncomfortable silence. I checked the time through my phone to see if I could already go home. Great, I still had a few hours to endure this whole party scene.

“I mean no offense, but I never really picture you as a party girl,” Drew said.

I was not sure how to process that piece of information, so I decided to just go with the truth.

“You know how it goes. If you have a popular friend, somehow you’re popular too. Then if she decides to go to a party, you have to go too for some cracked-up reason. It’s supposed to be your bonding time even if you don’t really spend time together,” I said.

He stared at me like I was some kind of puzzle he was trying to figure out. Then, he stared at the distance and contemplated something.

“I get that. Look at me. I’m supposed to be spending time with my cousin, but he’s now with his girlfriend. I guess the substitute isn’t that bad.” He smiled at me when he said that, making me blush. “By the way, I know it isn’t any of my business, but how come you have so many books a while ago in the library?” he asked.

“My parents banned me from reading books. If I want to read, I have to go to the library so they won’t catch me. It’s really a long story, but you get the gist, right?” I said.

“I have time to listen. Looks like I’m not going anywhere in the immediate future.”

I sensed the sincerity in his comment, so I went on full story mode. “Prepare for the most boring story of your life.”

I told him about how I got banned and how many times I got banned; by the way, it totaled to fifteen. I told him that the first time I was given the book ban punishment was when I finished reading the Harry Potter series in just a week and a half. My parents were not happy that I read the series in such a short time while I was also reading my lessons.

I also told him the main reason why I was banned again was that I read the Hunger Games trilogy in three days. I also argued my side that three books a day was not excessive. There were even those who’d read way more than I did. Also, there was that undeniable fact that you just couldn’t put those books down.

After my boring story, we just talked about the different books we had read and our opinion about it. For some odd reason, we shared a lot of inside jokes from all of our book adventures. He even suggested that I should read The Lost Symbol of Dan Brown, considering I read all of his works. I told him I was supposed to buy a copy myself, but I got banned the first attempt, so it got pushed off my mind all this time. I also told him he should check out J.K. Rowling’s new book since he was a Potterhead like me. In short, we never ran out of topics to discuss. He seemed well-read, and I enjoyed debating or arguing with him about our different opinions on stuff.

We were so into our conversation, the only thing that broke it was the ringing of my phone.

“Rissa?” I answered while giving Drew the one-minute gesture.

“Where the hell are you? I have been looking for you all night. Tell me you didn’t ditch me. I wanted you to socialize, not hide from people,” Rissa said.

Really, was she thinking I was the one ditching? Wow, if only I didn’t love her like a sister.

“I didn’t ditch; I’m still here. Where are you? I’ll go to you.”

“Fine. Meet me at the entrance. There’s something important I need to talk to you about,” she said, then hung up.

I didn’t really know how to react to this sudden behavior, but I guess it might be pretty damn important since she wanted me to meet her right away.

“That was my friend. She said she needed to talk to me. I think it’s kind of important. So, I guess I’ll see you when I see you,” I told Drew and then started fixing my dress.

“It was nice meeting and talking to you, Lizzie. I think I’m actually thankful my cousin ditched me,” he said with a bright smile.

“Yeah, me too. I’m glad my friend ditched me too,” I replied.

“See you when I see you then. By the way, did Mel inform you that the library is looking for a volunteer? I think this will be a great excuse for you to read all you want without being caught by your parents,” he suggested.

That was a great idea. I made a mental note to ask Mel about it.

“Mel never told me about that, but yeah, I think I’ll sign up for that. Thanks, Drew. Guess, I’ll be seeing you around then. Bye.” I waved him goodbye and tried to find Rissa.

Getting inside was harder than when I left a few hours ago. There were so many people dancing awkwardly.

I thought, Seriously? Get a room or something.

I was not suggesting it or anything. Well, whatever. They could do whatever they’d want to do; I was just really having a hard time on my way out to the entrance.

I saw Rissa, and when she saw me, you could see she was a bit giddy. From what I saw, she had her devious smile on—she was up to something. I was not sure if I would like it or not.

When I came to her, Chad’s arm was around her waist, but I guess I couldn’t blame him. Especially with the sexy green-eyed blonde girl he was dating, also known as my best friend, who would not get territorial?

“Hey, I have someone I want you to meet. Ryan, this is my best friend, Lizzie. Lizzie, this is Ryan. He is in the football team with Chad.” She motioned towards this blonde guy who had brown eyes, more than six feet height, and a model-like body. He was attractive but not necessarily my type.

“Hi, Lizzie. Can I get you a drink, or would you like to dance?” Ryan asked. There was no way I’d drink anything he would give me, especially by the way he was looking at me. It seemed like I was something he wanted, and he was used to getting what he wants. He practically screamed player. I was not sure why Rissa thought I would want to know he exists.

“No, not really. I don’t drink or dance,” I said with finality.

“Wow, I don’t think I’ve heard that before,” he said, moving closer to me. I was about to glare at Rissa for setting this up, but I couldn’t find her. I was not even aware that Chad and she had left. “But I want you to know that I don’t give up easily, especially when I am challenged, sugar,” he said in a manner that shouted, Challenge accepted.

I rolled my eyes at him and proceeded to speak my mind. To begin with, what was up with the sugar comment? Please tell me he wasn’t thinking I was going to fall for a player like him.

I began to regret leaving Drew’s side to meet Rissa. I should shout at her for this later. Hopefully I wouldn’t forget.

“You know what, player? I have no time for this. Excuse me,” I said and then tried to walk away, but I felt a hand on my arm. He looked like I offended him by not fawning all over him, but he was trying to cover it up by acting like he was strong and mighty.

“Feisty! I like it. But I have to remind you: I am Ryan King, I get what I want, and guess what? I want you. There is no getting out of this one, sugar. I will have you one way or another,” he said with a determined smile and left.

I was left standing—frozen—when a beaming Rissa suddenly walked up to me.

“Well, isn’t Ryan hot or what? Guess what? Apparently, he has been crushing on you for a while now, so he asked me to set you guys up. How did it go?” she asked. Judging by the way she was smiling, it looked like she was thinking she’s doing me a favor.

Little did she know I was in trouble. Ryan’s words scared me, and I was not sure how I could get out of this one. I know Rissa was still talking, but I was not listening. I was too busy thinking of the threat Ryan said. These things only happened in the books I read. How come I was now living in one? A player never went for a nerd like me, right? Players went for the sexy vixen everyone wished they have.

But one thing was for sure, I’d be in deep shit.





Chapter 3





The Boyfriend? Say What?





I woke up at exactly six in the morning to get ready for my seven-thirty class. Whoever thought it would be fun having morning classes for high school was a serious pain in the neck. I would love to kick them so hard right now.

I barely had time to sleep because of the threat Ryan made. What would he do to me? Was he joking, or was he serious? And above all, what could I do about it?

For now, I tried to keep my mind off it as I was preparing for school. I got up, showered, and dressed. I really dreaded going to school and facing Ryan, but I had to keep it cool. So I went down and joined my parents for breakfast.

“Lizzie, I never really had the chance to ask you about the party you went to with Rissa. How was it?” my mom asked while she placed a stack of pancakes onto my plate after I sat down.

I was avoiding this topic. I technically didn’t want to think about Ryan or his threats. I was also not so sure if they would like the idea that I spent most of my time at the party talking about books with Drew. Well, come to think of it. They did tell me I needed a life! Maybe this was what having a life would be like: having a player after you and a cute bookworm to help you solve your bookworm problems.

Anyway, I tried to lock myself in my room all weekend, pretending I was either doing my homework, watching shows, or just chatting with Rissa online, but I was secretly reading PDFs. What could I say? I loved reading, although nothing could compensate for the thrill of reading from an actual book.

“It was fun. We drank a little and danced. It was just a typical party, I guess.” I did not elaborate more than I needed to.

They just nodded. They seemed happy that I was at least trying to find some normal things to do other than reading. Sometimes, I’d think my parents were just programmed differently from other parents. But you should trust me; they were just unpredictable.

As I finished my breakfast, I excused myself for school. I checked my things to make sure I had everything and then drove to my dreaded destination.

When I arrived, it was ten minutes before the bell rang. I secretly looked for the black Lamborghini, hoping that Drew was here and was somehow a transferee, but I didn’t see it. I shrugged it off and made my way to class. But before I could go inside, I heard the voice I was not too pleased to hear right now.

“Hey, sugar, let me walk you to class,” Ryan said.

I glared at him and continued walking on my own, but he was still beside me. He was trying to talk to me, but I shut him off. Maybe if I’d try to ignore his presence, he’d just leave me alone. Unfortunately, this was not the case because he was still following me and talking to me, earning me glares from the entire student body. Well, they were just from the girls in this instance.

“Will you leave me alone?” I asked. Right now, I was really getting irritated with him. Could he not see I was not interested?

“No, can do, sugar. I told you I want you, and I always get what I want,” he said, then glanced at my classroom door. “Well, this is your stop. I’ll pick you up when your class is done, and then I’ll walk you to your next class. See you later, sugar. I’ll be late for my class,” he said, emphasizing on the “sugar” comment, earning me not just glares but death stares from every girl possible. I never knew Ryan was so popular with the ladies.

What a way to know that! I thought. I had to receive glares and daggers just to know.

This was going to be a long day.

I think it was safe to say that Ryan would never leave my side the entire day. He walked me to each of my classes just to make sure I couldn’t get away. I still tried my best to avoid him, though. Unfortunately, his football teammates always alerted him on my whereabouts. Talk about stalker, right?

On my way to lunch, he still caught up to me. How he knew my schedule was beyond me.

“Hey, wait up, sugar,” he said while running towards me.

“What do you want this time? You’re really being a pest right now,” I said. I was irritated, so I tried to hasten my walking.

“Oh, don’t be like that to your boyfriend.” He smirked, knowing fully well that everyone was eavesdropping on our conversation.

“What the hell are you talking about? You are not my boyfriend. You’ll never be my boyfriend, so go away,” I said, almost shouting.

He shrugged me off like I had no choice in the matter. It was settled in his mind, and in his world, that was all that mattered. I was in deeper shit than I initially thought.

I brought my food, which he paid for, and made our way to my regular table. During lunch, I’d sometimes sit alone or sit with Rissa in the popular table. She understood that when I was reading a book, I needed to eat alone. Otherwise, I’d just a big dead weight. This time though, Ryan had his way and lead us to the popular table. Well, this day was going to be really great. I was welcomed by a very happy Rissa and a very angry set of cheerleaders.

“Hey, so are you guys official or what?” Rissa asked.

I said no, but Ryan shouted yes at the same time.

“Rissa, listen to me. This player is not and will never be my boyfriend,” I said, trying to make my point clear.

“Oh, why do you have to be like that, sugar? You’re hurting my feelings,” he said, faking he was hurt. He even put his hands on his chest to put some emphasis.

I just rolled my eyes because there was no winning this and sat down. I was trying to eat my food peacefully, but one cheerleader just had to talk about some prince who was coming to town.

“So they’re saying that the Crown Prince of Sarconia will be staying here for a few months. Unfortunately, to avoid any hype, he’s doing it incognito,” Carrie said.

“Oh my gosh! I wonder how he looks like, but how can he be incognito?” Lisa asked. She had always dreamt of being swept off her feet by a real prince. I was guessing this was her chance. Poor Marco, he wouldn’t stand a chance.

“Well, here’s what I heard; he wouldn’t be bringing any bodyguards to avoid suspicions. He’d dress normally and not in the military uniform he usually wore in public. He’d look like an average Joe,” Carrie explained.

“I really don’t think you can hide a crown prince. Someone is bound to recognize his face one way or the other,” I said in a sarcastic voice.

“I agree, but have you ever seen the Crown Prince of Sarconia for you to recognize him?” When I shook my head, she smiled. “I guess not. They were careful to send him here since we have never heard of their country, Sarconia.”

“You do know you can always search his picture on the net, right?” I said.

“Pictures are currently blocked. You will have zero result when you search,” she said smugly.

“So how exactly do we know if he’s for real? Do we even have proof that this prince truly exists? Who knows? He might be an imagination of some bored person,” I said.

“Well, that’s where you’re wrong because I did search Sarconia, and it did produce results. He exists. It’s just that his pictures are blocked,” she said.

“How can they even block all his images?” another cheerleader asked.

“Well, they are the royal family. They can pretty much do whatever they want,” Carrie concluded.

I just shook my head and tried to eat my lunch as peacefully as possible. This was probably one of those things they made up just to make this town a bit more interesting.

When the lunch bell rang, Ryan once again walked me to class.

“How the hell do you even know my schedule?” I asked while walking to my next class.

“I have connections. Again, there’s no getting rid of me,” he said smugly, and I continued walking in silence. I tried hard to think he wasn’t there.

When classes were over, I was glad to get rid of him. I snuck into the library, planning to apply for that volunteer job. I thought spending time in the library would help me ease the pain of being away from my babies while on ban. Then again, I’d seriously have a problem if I get any more attached with my books. Maybe my parents were right. Oh well, this was my thing, and I loved it.

“Hey, Mel,” I said when I saw her arranging some books into their proper places.

She was wearing a striped below-the-knee black and red dress, completed with a four-inch black pumps. What could I say? She was a well-dressed librarian.

“Hey, Lizzie, what can I do for you? Any book you want to read?” she asked while she was walking towards her desk.

“Not really. I heard you were looking for a volunteer here in the library. I was just wondering whether I could apply or something,” I asked.

“Oh, yeah. Well, you’re accepted. I guess you know the Dewey Decimal System?” she asked, and I nodded. “Well, get that cart over there by the first bookshelf, and help me put things in their proper places,” she said with a smile.

I nodded and started working. I loved this kind of activity. In fact, I used to do this in my own library. It was not as big as this one, though. After placing everything in their proper places, I helped Mel put plastic covers on the newly acquired books.

She mentioned there was a rich family who gave a big donation so the library could acquire more books and build a new wing. I was so excited they were expanding the library, and I could tell Mel was excited about it too. She told me it would require more work from her, but she couldn’t wait. We were talking a lot while doing our work, and she was so easy to get along with. I could really consider her as one of my friends.

She then got a call and told me she had to drop by the principal’s office. I just nodded and continued with my work.

“I see you took my suggestion and volunteered?” a familiar voice asked behind me.

I turned around and saw Drew standing there in a white shirt, black leather jacket, and jeans. He was smiling at me, and I couldn’t help but smile back.

“Yeah, well, it was a good suggestion. My parents allowed me to volunteer somewhere. I was vague about the details,” I said while putting the books I was holding on to the table beside me.

He laughed and took a seat next to where I was fixing the books.

“What are you doing here then?” I asked while trying to continue on the job Mel left me with.

“Oh, I am just picking up some books I need and hoping to catch a certain bookworm I know,” he teased.

I laughed then shrugged it off, going back to work. Drew, on the other hand, just sat there next to me and watched me do my work. This went on for a while, and when I couldn’t take it anymore, I just had to say something.

“Don’t you have something more important to do than sit there and watch me work?” I asked, feigning irritation.

He smirked and just moved his shoulder upwards.

“Andrew, what are you doing here? Oh, by the way, this is Lizzie.” Mel motioned toward me. “But it looks like you two know each other,” Mel said while looking at us.

“Oh yeah. We met here in the library, Mel. Remember when I told you I bumped into someone last Friday? Apparently, that was Lizzie,” Drew explained.

“Yeah, now I remember. Were you also the one who told her of the volunteer job?” Mel asked.

“Yup,” Drew said.

“Well, thanks for that Andrew. She’s a big help here. Besides, she’s always coming here because of the ban,” Mel said, who then proceeded to help me get everything in order.

“You’re very welcome. At least while I’m here, I’ll be less bored since I have someone to talk to besides you, boring Mel,” Drew said, who then went back to reading something on his phone.

“Oh, so you know each other?” I asked.

“Yeah, I guess you can say we were neighbors. My parents are working for Andrew’s parents, so technically, we grew up together. The doofus is like my long-lost brother,” Mel explained.

“Cool. Wait, why are you here Drew?” I asked because this was a puzzle I couldn’t solve.

“Oh, I just decided to bother Mel here and cool things off with the family. Let’s just say we’re not seeing eye to eye at the moment,” Drew said who glanced at me before looking at his phone again.

As the afternoon progressed, I got to see the two bantering. They actually looked good together. I guess it was time I get over this silly little crush of mine. It was obvious that they were a better match. They’re almost of the same age and did grow up together. How could I compete with that?

But my thoughts were disrupted by a phone call.

“Oh, wait. Luke is calling. I have to take this. He told me he was picking me up and were going to have a date tonight,” Mel said ecstatically. She seemed to be really excited with her date plans.

So she has a boyfriend! I guess I can still continue my crush on Drew. Thank goodness.





Chapter 4





The Family Heirloom





I got home from my work in the library. I went straight to my room and fixed myself. Assessing my activities, I realized I had an eventful day. I had Ryan, the player who was following me like crazy, and I also hanged out with my own version of Mr. Darcy, Drew. It was only Monday, and I had this much on my plate.

Please tell me the rest of the week won’t be as eventful as today.

I was lying down on my bed when I heard the buzzer. I knew it was time for dinner. My parents placed a buzzer in my room so it would be easier to call me during family-bondings or mealtime. Yes, they’re weird like that. It was a wonder why I loved them to pieces.

As I got to my seat, my dad immediately asked me how things were at school and if I needed to report anything interesting to him; aka my nonexistent love life. Alright, at the time being, it wasn’t so nonexistent. It changed status without my permission.

Dinner was just like that; they asked me questions, and I answered. We were just like a normal family. Well, until they got to my dreaded subject.

“Have you read anything the past few days, Lizzie?” my dad asked while getting another slice of meatloaf.

“Nothing besides the necessary reading list for school,” I answered. This was technically true though. I only read A Tale of Two Cities, which was a required reading, and Perks of Being a Wallflower in PDF. This was a step up. If I wasn’t banned, I would have finished two books and have probably started my third one.

He nodded, convinced with my answer. My mom then proceeded to show off the new set of pearl necklace dad bought for her. Apparently, the business deal was a success. He immediately bought the necklace Mom wanted even if she never told Dad about it.

After dessert, I made excuses and went straight to my room.

I was doing my homework when my phone suddenly buzzed. Without looking at the caller ID, which I should have, I answered it.

“Hello,” I answered while solving the problem on my Math homework.

“So, sugar, thinking about me?” the incredibly annoying Ryan King asked.

When would this pest stop? I was not interested on him. Besides, hasn’t he ever thought of the fact that I was in the wrong social bracket? I was a nerd, and he was a jock. Surely that should have been enough for him to stay the hell away from me.

“Uh, what do you need? And wait, how the hell did you get my number?” I asked

“I missed my girlfriend. Is it wrong that I miss you? I mean, we are going out now. I can call you whenever I want. Plus it’s normal for a boyfriend to know their girlfriend’s number,” he said, and I groaned because he was really irritating.

“I am not your girlfriend! You are not my boyfriend! Get that into that thick head of yours!” I screamed just to make a point.

“And when will you get it in your head that I always get what I want? Which at the time being, is you,” he insisted.

“You are insufferable, you know that? I don’t even know why you waste your time on me. One, I’m in the wrong social bracket. Two, I don’t like you. Last, I am not your girlfriend!” After saying my piece, I didn’t give him the time to reply. I turned of my phone so he couldn’t bother me for the rest of the night.

In the school the next day, Ryan was still being Ryan. It was as if my words last night didn’t affect him in the slightest. He was still following me around, telling people that I was his girlfriend and that we were one happy couple. I received daggers for it.

He just wouldn’t stop until everyone knew and accepted that lie. It was like a written memo announcing to everyone that I was his girlfriend. Too bad, that memo never reached me.

When I went to the library, I felt a bit better. I was surrounded by books, and Mel was there to listen to my rant.

“I just don’t know what’s going on. How come all of a sudden Ryan is making such a big fuss about me? He never really cared to look at me. I know for a fact he never even knew of my existence before. Now he’s spreading lies about me being his girlfriend. What the hell is up with that, Mel?” I asked, irritated.

I hated being the center of attraction. This was the reason why I chose my books. You could say I hid behind them, but then, it was better company than most teenagers my age. Now it was like I was forced into a famous cliché wherein the player noticed the nerd, or something like that.

“You know, I never really mentioned this, but I always knew Ryan liked you. For one, he never shuts up about you to a point that it gets annoying. During family dinners, it’s always Lizzie that, Lizzie this. Sorry, but it gets irritating at times. If I didn’t know you personally, I would really hate your guts because family dinners were all about you,” Mel commented in a casual tone.

“Wait, hold up. I think I’m missing something here.” I stared at her in the most confused manner I could muster. Did she say family dinners? Were they related or something?

“Oh, well, uh—The thing is—Ryan is—well… he’s my half brother. His dad married my mom when I was three years old. My old man died after I was born, so when Raphael entered my mom’s life, she gave him a chance. He actually wanted to adopt me and change my name. You know, the whole shebang, but Mom refused. She said it wouldn’t be fair to my father. It doesn’t mean if he died I’m going to forget him. Raphael respected that. Then after a year, they had Ryan.”

When she finished her story, she was looking at anything but me.

“Oh, so when you mentioned your parents were working for Drew’s parents you were talking about your mom and stepdad?” I asked.

“Yeah, Dad’s the adviser of Drew’s father. When my mom and I entered the picture, they also gave my mom a job in the accounting department of their—business.” She finished.

Well, that definitely changed some things especially the way I looked at Ryan. Mel was a great friend of mine, so if they were siblings, they might have similarities. Okay, who was I kidding? Ryan was still a pest in my eyes.

“Can I ask something from you, though? Ryan has issues that he has to deal with, but just give him a chance. He’s not so bad once you really know him,” she whispered.

“Mel, all I really wanted was for him to not spread lies about us. I don’t even know why this is happening. It was like I woke up one day and my life became one of those cliched stories I liked to read about. I don’t know how to cope,” I said in an exasperated voice.

“One thing I know is he must have seen a threat, that’s why he’s acting on the defense. Now it’s up to you to figure out what that threat is. You see, all his life, he’s taught to fight for what he wants. It’s just that maybe he’s going overboard this time. I’ll talk to him,” she said and went back to fixing the books on the return shelf.

I looked at her and thought about her words. Should I actually give this prick a chance?

I was done with my work for today, and I was walking towards the parking lot while contemplating about the whole Ryan drama. I had to make him see that I was not a property that he could just put a claim on when he wanted to. I was a decent human who was trying to get through high school as unscathed as possible. I was so caught up in my own world that I almost didn’t hear someone calling me.

“Liz!” someone shouted on top of his voice.

When I turned around, I could see all the clichéd scenes unfolding in front of me. A handsome guy was running from the entrance of the school library towards me. It was like he needed to tell me something important. He also had that charming smile, which would make all the girls swoon. His hair was caught by the wind, creating that wind effect seen on movies; and for a fraction of a moment, I could have sworn that time stood still—with him in slow motion.

I was too caught up in the moment. When he reached me, I had to shake my head and stop daydreaming about my very own Mr. Darcy, Drew.

“Hey! I just wanted to give you this.” Drew started while giving me this girly paper bag. “You mentioned your ban, and I thought maybe this would make you feel better,” Drew said with his usual smile.

When I took the bag and saw what was inside, I couldn’t contain my excitement. For a moment, I actually thought I was dreaming and was floating in the air.

It was the first edition of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. I was jumping up and down like a kid who got her first taste of candy, cake, and soft drink all at the same time. I was that ecstatic. Unfortunately, when I realized the price of one of these books and the sentimentality it might have to a person, I couldn’t help but feel I should give it back.

“Drew, thank you so much for this gift, but I can’t accept it. It’s way too precious for someone to just give away,” I said while giving him the paper bag containing the book. I just couldn’t accept such an expensive gift.

My expression of disappointment might have been very clear because Drew laughed at me. He looked like he found something new and refreshing.

“You really are different. I saw your eyes light up when you saw the book, but you’re actually giving it back because you think you don’t deserve it? The thing is, Liz, my grandma was an avid reader of Jane Austen. She completed the writer’s works in first editions. But when my grandma died, she wanted me to find them a good home, someone who would appreciate them as much as she did. This was the first one I could find, and I couldn’t help but think you’d be the new owner of these books which she loved so much. My grandpa would tease her that she loved those books more than she loved him, then she would just laugh it off and said it wasn’t true. Please accept it. Help me fulfill the wish of my beloved grandma.”

How could I decline after that? I guess I would just have to do something that would show how much I appreciated his gift. The thing was, I was never comfortable with people giving me gifts, especially if it was not Christmas or my birthday. It always felt like I was abusing my friends’ kindness, and I didn’t like that feeling.

“Thanks, this is really thoughtful of you. I promise to take care of this. As of now, it’s one of my prized possessions. I just hope I can live up to your grandma’s expectation about loving this book like how it should be. This is antique, hard to find, and a diamond in the rough. You don’t know how much this means to me,” I said while hugging the book like my life depended on it. By far, this was the sweetest gesture anyone had ever done to me.

“It’s no problem. When you told me your story, I couldn’t help but feel like my grandma was telling me to give it to you. I’ll give the others on special occasions so it’ll mean more,” he said while swaying back and forth.

Was this guy for real or what? It was like he was ripped out of a romance novel or something.

“Please don’t take this the wrong way, but do you want to have a snack? My treat, as a way of saying thank you for this gift. Please…” I said with those puppy-dog eyes I’d use to convince my father about something.

“Sure, let’s go,” he said, laughing.

This might not be a date, but it sure was a start. I might still have the whole Ryan drama, but I was putting that aside and enjoying my time with the guy I liked.





Chapter 5





Reality versus Fiction





Drew and I agreed that we would meet in the diner nearby. It was the type of place where you would normally hang out with friends, so I was sure that Drew wouldn’t think this was a date. We were just two friends hanging out, even with the fact that I had a crush on the said guy who happened to be really cute. My name was Elizabeth, so I should have my own Mr. Darcy, right?

When I parked my car, I saw Drew was already getting out of his and making his way to me. He then assisted me as I got out of my car as if I was some kind of princess. If he was not careful, a girl could get really used to this.

“So, what’s good here?” he asked when we were walking to the diner.

I then talked about their specialty burgers and shakes. I also mentioned my love for fries dipped on their chocolate shake. He laughed and said that he was also doing the same in his hometown.

When we entered the diner, I could easily spot some of the snotty cheerleaders and their football player boyfriends. In all honesty, I sometimes thought that it was some sort of initiation for them to have football player boyfriends before they could enter the squad.

From the corner of my eye, I could see Lisa twirling her hair and blinking her eyes constantly to Marco, her boyfriend. Opposite them, Carrie was being enveloped in a hug by her possessive boyfriend, Matt, who constantly glared at anyone who looked at his girlfriend. Plus, there were some other couples that I just didn’t have the time to know.

I was glad that Rissa and Chad weren’t here. Otherwise, I would have some serious explaining to do. And thank goodness, Ryan the player wasn’t around. That would have spelled trouble.

After the waitress took our orders, I couldn’t help but look at Drew. He was like someone written in stories, which was why I couldn’t help but wonder what his flaws were. Nobody was perfect, and I knew the person sitting in front of me was no exception.

This was something I had developed over the years. I knew I’d fall easily in love with the fictional characters I read about simply because they were perfect. You know the whole deal: tall, dark, handsome, smart, fun to be with, hopeless romantic… whatever the author saw fit to make the dream guy character. The hard part was, in reality, this character became our standards, making us constantly disappointed when no one fitted the bill. We expected a guy to look and act one hundred percent like a fictional character, which could never happen. This was why I tried to look for flaws. It was something that helped me determine if the guy was real or not. If he turns out to be someone I could put on a pedestal, it would simply be because he looked like the fictional character I had fallen in love with.

It would never be fair for a guy to be compared to a fictional character, just like it wouldn’t be fair for them to compare us to a Victoria Secret Angel. That’s why I tried to be as fair as possible to Drew, even if I was dying inside to make him my own Mr. Darcy. He was his own person, and I wanted to know him for who he was and not what I had conjured up my head. I had to admit though, this was a difficult task.

Time went by, and I was having a really great time hanging out with Drew. It felt like we’d known each other for years, and we felt comfortable talking and listening to each other. It was like a vibe that could only be forged through years of friendship.

We talked about different things, like where I wanted to go after graduation and which university was my preference, while we were busy eating fries dipped onto our chocolate shakes.

He mentioned some of his childhood experiences with his younger sister, Andie, and Mel. Apparently, his parents had a bonsai made from a flower called santan or Ixora coccinea shipped from the Philippines. Drew’s mom had a certain fascination towards this flower, and she wanted one for herself.

His mom was so excited to show them the latest addition to her bonsai collection. She even raved about the fact that if you picked the flower, pulled out the string-like thing in the middle, and sipped on it, you can taste its sweet nectar. Unfortunately, what she didn’t know was that when she left for work, she left three kids curious about the taste of the said nectar. When his mother returned to her new plant, it was missing something important—the flowers.

They liked the taste of the santan’s nectar a lot, so much so that they’d just pick one flower after another, dropping them to the ground to serve as evidence for Drew’s mom to see. According to Drew, she went ballistic.

“You had to see her face. It was as red as the santan flowers we finished. She went on and on about the loss of her plant. My dad, on the other hand, laughed hard at the whole incident. He simply said, “What do you expect from five-year-old and three-year-old kids? You told them about the nectar, and they explored.” After my dad said those words, my mom just walked out on us. She didn’t talk to us for a few hours, and then, lo and behold, my dad shipped another one the next day.” He then looked at the distance.

“They really do love each other. Growing up, I understood that my dad couldn’t love another more than he loves my mom.” He then smiled at me like he forgot who he was talking to.

“Well, I don’t have that much childhood stories with siblings and such. I just have stories with Rissa. She’s the sister I never had. I always wonder what it would feel like having a sibling. But yeah, I know what you mean when you talk about your parents. I see that with my own parents and wish I could find the same thing they have with each other,” I said in a wishful tone.

We just talked and talked, not noticing the fact that someone was approaching us from a distance.

“Sugar, I didn’t know you would be here. Oh, and Andrew, I didn’t know you were already in town. Mel didn’t say anything about it,” a familiar irritating voice said.

I looked to my right and saw Ryan taking a seat beside me. Great, another moment with Drew was ruined because of his presence. Ryan was wearing a grey T-shirt that showed off his toned body.

“Hi, Ryan. Please stop with the pet names because they are totally not appreciated,” I said while rolling my eyes, a habit I had acquired since the time I met him. I tried to move away from him as much as possible.

“I arrived last week. I’m staying at Chad’s place right now. You know, the typical parental problems,” Drew answered Ryan’s question like he was talking to his younger brother.

I couldn’t help but look at them while they talked. It was like they knew each other for years. They were bantering like old friends. Then I suddenly felt a little stupid, finally remembering Mel. She mentioned being connected to Drew’s family, and that Ryan was her brother. So technically speaking, these two did know each other for years.

While I was thinking how and why they knew each other, I didn’t notice Ryan suddenly wrapping his arms around my shoulders. The moment I got out of head and noticed it, I made it known it was not appreciated.

“Get your stinking arm off me, player,” I said while trying to get his arms off me.

The jerk simply laughed like he was enjoying himself. On the other hand, Drew seemed to look at Ryan disapprovingly; like he did not like what Ryan was doing.

“Aw, sugar, don’t you like being with your good old boyfriend?” Ryan asked in a really irritating voice. His pitch suddenly went up. It was something I only hear when Chad was teasing Rissa about something.

“How many times do I have to tell you that you are not my boyfriend?” I said. Well, almost shouted.

“Whatever you say, sugar,” he said. When he felt the matter was settled, he focused his attention back to Drew. “So, Andrew, how long will you be staying here?”

He totally ignored anything I did to get some space between us and dismissed the fact that I wanted him out of the way. He was busy talking animatedly with Drew so that Drew wouldn’t be able to talk to me.

This went on and on, and I just gave up. I got my trusty phone out and started reading again. This time, I was able to finish the last chapter of the book I was reading and was starting a new one. I heard the bell from the door rang, and to my utter disappointment, I saw Rissa and Chad walking in. They were walking towards our way!

“Sup, Cuz? I didn’t know you were going to be here,” Chad asked Drew, while his arms were conveniently placed around Rissa’s shoulders.

Okay, was this the new way of staking a claim?

“Yeah, I was here with Liz for a quick snack, and then Ryan found and joined us. Hey, Rissa, nice seeing you. Haven’t grown tired of Chad yet?” Drew said in a teasing manner.

Rissa laughed like she heard it numerous times before but suddenly stopped when she realized I was looking at her.

So Drew knew Rissa well. He did say that he was staying at Chad’s, and Rissa is Chad’s girlfriend. Yeah, that made sense.

“Wait, how do you know Liz?” Rissa asked, giving me a death glare.

Okay, the best friend code stipulated we were obligated to tell each other everything, especially if it was a cute guy we recently met. Unfortunately, I was so caught up daydreaming, I forgot to mention this detail to her. I was also foolishly hoping she wouldn’t know. I liked keeping things to myself, so she’d better sue me.

“Yeah, we met at the library on the same day as Chad’s party. Then, we saw each other again during the party,” Drew explained in a matter-of-fact tone. Typical guy, he didn’t even know he was practically digging my grave. Rissa started giving me death glares for keeping too much information from her.

At this point, I was trying to look at anything but Rissa. It was a rare moment; I would consider looking at Ryan just so I could avoid the glares Rissa were giving me.

“Alright, so how about we leave these two alone, Ryan? They obviously don’t want any other company,” Rissa said while grabbing Ryan’s arm, effectively dragging him out of his chair. For someone small, Rissa was really strong; probably from all that training. It should be normal for me, but it still surprised me that she could drag a guy twice her size out of his chair.

“Oh, by the way, expect a call from me later, Liz. You have some things you failed to tell me about,” she said and walked to the cheerleader slash football player table.

Drew and I watched as Rissa and the gang settled in the other table. The encounter was so weird that I honestly didn’t know how to start the conversation again. It was a good thing Drew talked first, but I wasn’t really a fan of the topic he decided to open.

“So, Ryan is your boyfriend?” Drew asked casually.

I immediately shook my head and gave him a death glare. I might have done this a little too much as I felt my head ache.

“Are you serious? I’m never dating that guy,” I said in the most irritated voice I could. “Unfortunately, he never understands that memo even after my constant protests. He, somehow, has it in his head that I am his girlfriend even when I can’t stand his arrogant attitude.” I decided to get another set of fries and dipped them onto my milkshake.

For some reason, Drew laughed at what I said. He was very amused about something I wasn’t invited to know.

“Well, that’s typical Ryan for you. The only difference is that this is the first time I see a girl give him a run for his money. He always gets the girl. When he was four years old, he was able to charm his way to the heart of my twenty-year-old cousin. Of course, she thought nothing about it, but the fact still remained that Ryan was able to make that girl blush when no one ever got a smile,” he said at the memory. He then looked at me and whispered to himself, “Looks like I have my work cut out for me,” and then laughed.

I didn’t really read too much from his last statement since I was still irritated with Ryan’s presence.

“Whatever! This is not a laughing matter, Drew. I mean he’s practically announcing to everyone I’m his girlfriend even when I’m not,” I said, pouting.

He just smiled and held my hand, causing me to blush. Alright, I had to find his flaws fast or else I’d be in so much trouble.

“Hey, don’t take Ryan too seriously. I guess he just doesn’t want anyone destroying his chances with you like I don’t want someone else sweeping you off your feet. But I guess there are just some things we can’t control no matter how much we want to,” he said, looking at me straight in the eyes. It was as if he was making a promise. Whatever it was, I had yet to find out.

I was seriously praying that Drew would eventually like me as much as I liked him because, for the first time, I liked someone real, unlike the fictional characters I had fallen in love with.





Chapter 6





My Cousin and a New Friend





It was already around seven when Drew and I left the diner. He walked me to my car before he proceeded to enter his own car and waved at me. When he rounded the corner, a thought suddenly came to my mind.

What happened to his black Lambo?

I had to ask him one of these days why he was suddenly driving a blue Pajero when he could have driven that sweet cool car of his.

I was adjusting my car’s radio volume when Rissa tapped my passenger window. When I unlocked the doors, she opened one and went inside my car. She got comfortable, fixed her bag, and reclined the chair to her preference.

I took that as a sign I was driving her home, so I proceeded to back the car up and headed to her house. After a few minutes of silence, she started telling me what was on her mind.

“So, when was I supposed to know about Andrew?” she asked after she got everything to her liking. I didn’t bother to ask why Chad wasn’t driving her home. I knew the answer to that. She was looking for a way to corner me about Drew. Her mission was clear; she would make me tell her every detail, so she could analyze it and give me her thoughts. This was the main reason why I didn’t tell her about Drew; I was afraid of what she was going to say.

“Well, it was a long story,” I responded, but she gave me the ultimate glare, so I spilled the tea. I told her about our initial meeting in the library, the talk I had with him in the gazebo at Chad’s party, and our moments together while I was working with Mel. I told her everything she needed to know while I was driving towards her house.

I found it odd that a black SUV was following us since we left the diner. I couldn’t point this out to Rissa as she might panic, but I got a weird vibe about that SUV.

Call me crazy, but isn’t it a cliché when a black car happens to follow you around? Was black the in thing for hooligans? But when I rounded the corner, it stopped following us and turned the other way. Maybe I was just being paranoid with all the books I had read.

“Interesting. I shall dig deeper into this, but I have one question. Who do you like better, Andrew or Ryan?” she asked.

“Who do you think?” I said in a sarcastic voice.

Did she really ask such a stupid question? She knew I didn’t want to date at the moment; I had better things to do. Yes, even with my school-girl crush on Drew, I wouldn’t count it as relationship material. Besides, Drew didn’t like me like that; we’re friends, just friends.

Ryan was a nice guy according to the people who knew him, but he just couldn’t get a hint. He was a borderline stalker, someone you would want to report to the cops. Drew, on the other hand, was perfect. The only problem was he was so perfect, it seemed he was impossible to reach. Right now, I just wanted to stay away from this drama that made my life a total cliché story.

“Hmm. Well, I’ll update you when I learn something new. By the way, in case you haven’t gotten the idea, you are no longer allowed to hold any information about your affairs. Bye,” Rissa said as she went down the car.

All I could do was shake my head at my friend’s weirdness. Since I didn’t want to think more about Ryan or Drew while driving home, I switched on my radio and decided to put it on full blast. It just so happened that Maroon 5’s Misery was playing. I was singing on top of my voice.

I had mentioned that my ultimate crush of the century was Mr. Darcy, but other than him, it would be Adam Levine. He was just so drool-worthy, I couldn’t help but wonder what it would be like to meet him in person.

But all fantasies must come to an end. As I parked my car, I noticed a blue car I didn’t recognize parked in the reserved area for our guests. Our garage had spots for five cars: two for my dad, one for my mom, and another one for me. The last one was reserved for unexpected guests who might bring their car.

When I entered the house, I could hear laughter coming from the living room. I peeked, and I couldn’t help but let out a scream as I saw who was laughing. My cousin Jam was talking to my parents.

Jam is the daughter of my mom’s brother. She looked a lot like her mother, though. She had black curly hair that reached her shoulders, white skin, a fuller figure (since she’s an excellent cook), and dressed like an ultimate artist. Side note, I always told her that I envied her curves.

Right now, she was wearing a black beret hat, a black and white striped shirt, and black pants tucked inside her knee-high boots. To say she was the epitome of a French artist was an understatement.

She was currently enrolled in one of the most prestigious art schools in France. She would visit though every three months for three days to update us on what’s happening with her life. She had been doing this for the past three years since she started school at sixteen. Now she looked like she wouldn’t go back to France.

“Why didn’t you tell me you were coming?” I screamed before hugging the life out of her.

“I wanted to surprise my lovable cousin, and may I say kudos because you don’t have a book attached to your hand? But I am also wondering… why?” she asked. She knew about the constant book ban, but she just loved to pretend not to know about it. She had more liberty than I did; her parents divorced when we were younger, so it made it easier for her to do the things she wanted.

“You know the answer to that. Let’s go to my room. I have loads of things to tell you,” I said while I grabbed her arm, making our way to my room.

When we got to my room, she immediately pointed out things that needed to be fixed. I loved my cousin, but her artistic side would never stop. One thing we had in common was our passion for reading. We even made a bet before on who could read the most books in a year. I had beaten her by twenty books. Unfortunately, there was a catch; she was also doing some of her paintings and stuff, so those took away some time for reading. She admitted I was a bigger bookworm than she’d ever be, however.

“I honestly want to meet this Ryan and Drew; they sound interesting. I just want to ask you though, did you hear that the Crown Prince of Sarconia is in town? Like, here?”

I wanted to kill her on the spot for believing those rumors. They were called rumors for a reason; they were not proven, and I don’t think they will ever be.

“Please tell me you don’t believe those rumors, Jam,” I begged her, tossing the pillow I was holding at her.

“Seriously, Lizzie! It’s true. Have you forgotten I have been staying in France for a few years now? I have seen it everywhere. European media is in a major buzz right now because they couldn’t find him. Well, wouldn’t it be hard to hide the freaking crown prince? But a few weeks ago, they suddenly had a lead. They spotted his black Lamborghini around this neighborhood before promptly losing him again. They said the car left town, but who knows, he might still be here.” Jam then started arranging some of my stuff according to her style.

I thought about what she said. Could it be the same car I was thinking of right now? But for some odd reason, I couldn’t picture Drew as a prince. I mean, he did look like Prince Charming, but a real prince and a crown prince at that? I just couldn’t see it, but I also couldn’t stop thinking about the possibility.

“Ok, so what is the 411 on this crown prince?” I pried. If that irritating cheerleader was right the other day, then I wouldn’t be able to know these things on the net.

Jam grew excited. I just gave her an opportunity to talk more about the royal family of Sarconia. She immediately found a comfortable place to tell the story.

“Well, the buzz began during Prince Phillipe’s twenty-second birthday last month. The king announced that he had to find someone to marry by the time he reached twenty-three, or else he would be forced to marry this certain Lady Catherine. After that whole announcement he vanished from Sarconia, and the next thing we knew, most of his images were blocked from the net,” she said in an animated voice. She made it sound like it was a murder mystery she wanted to solve.

Well, Phillipe was not Drew’s name. So, he would probably not be the Prince, but how would I begin to explain the car situation?

“Anyway, enough of this missing crown prince drama. How are you?” I asked.

After that, we talked all night long about her latest crush, books, movies she could recommend, and many other things. It was really nice hanging out with her. It was like hanging out with a twin; we were alike and different in many ways. We then slept at around two in the morning, but not before she mentioned she was staying until the weekend. Her school had this weeklong festival, and they let their students off. She was also planning on visiting her parents for a few days.

The next day, saying that I lacked sleep was an understatement. I wanted to go back to bed and sleep like Jam. This was so unfair since she could still sleep while I had to go to class.

Good thing I was able to sneak in a few naps during classes when the teacher wasn’t looking. I could say I was good at this, sleeping in class while no one was noticing. It was a secret power.

At lunch time, I grabbed a cup of coffee to make me last a little longer. I chose to be alone, so I could catch a few z’s. Rissa knew the drill, though; she would wake me up five minutes before the bell rings.

But things didn’t always go my way. Ryan had to be there to ruin things.

“So, I didn’t know you knew Andrew?” he asked, putting his tray on the table and sitting in front of me.

“What’s it to you?” I snapped. I didn’t have to answer him, and my lack of sleep made me cranky.

“I don’t think you should hang out with him. He’s not who you think he is. If you don’t want more drama in your life, stay away from him. I get the fact that you don’t really like me, and yes, I did come out as a cocky bastard who gets everything he wants. I still do, but I’m willing to change. Please give me a shot, a fair shot against Andrew,” he said with sincerity in every word.

I sat there staring at Ryan, who was just sitting there looking at me. Should I give him a chance? I was not really looking for anything at the moment, but I could not stand to see the pain in his eyes. He was suffering from the inside.

“Friendship… that’s all I can offer anyone right now. I’m not looking for anything. We can start again, but on the right foot—as friends. I’m not your girlfriend, and you’re not my boyfriend, and you don’t dictate who I can hang out with.”

He looked like he was contemplating my conditions. He then nodded his head.

“I have one thing to point out, though: I will still be here. If you only want to be my friend for now, so be it. But please, let me show you the real me. Give me that chance,” he said

It was my turn to nod my head and resume eating since I was no longer sleepy. When the bell rang, he asked if he could walk me to class, which I reluctantly agreed to. Friends could do this for each other, right? The rest of the day was uneventful after that. Ryan’s change was a nice one. I was not as irritable around him.

When I got to the library, Mel and Drew were nowhere to be found, so I just continued what I did yesterday. While working, I thought about what happened today between Ryan and me.

Being friends with Ryan? That was an interesting turn of event I had never thought of.





Chapter 7





Realization





Days just flew by, and it was now weekend. I was so excited to hang out with Jam without repercussions the next day; I had been sleeping in class way more than I should. Well, it was totally worth it because I got to bond with my cousin.

Rissa was meeting us in the mall since she had to finish something first. So Jam and I decided to just go ahead and look around. Window shopping was Jam’s favorite hobby. She’d always say that it kept her style updated. She also wouldn’t shut up about the outfit I was wearing, which only consisted of a T-shirt, jeans, and sandals. She loved my bag, though, and said I shouldn’t worry if it goes missing for a few months because she’d be treating it to an all-expense stay in France with her. I just laughed at it.

We passed by the local bookstore, which was basically calling me. I couldn’t resist and asked Jam if we could go in even for a short while. She laughed and said yes.

“You know, I should stop calling you a bookworm. You’re more of a bibliophile or bibliomaniac. It’s like your whole life revolves around books,” Jam said while looking at the synopsis of a book.

The more I thought about it, the more it made sense. I loved collecting as much as I loved reading books, so it made total sense, but I just rolled my eyes at her.

“Yeah, I guess. But for the time being, I have to be a window shopper for books. Dad has cut down my book allowance, and he knows I won’t be giving up my food just to buy one. This just sucks, though; I just don’t get it. When we were younger, they were the ones telling me that one has to appreciate reading, but now, they’re taking it back,” I ranted. Yes, I did get around their words by borrowing at the library, but buying a book was harder to keep from them.

My parents taught me since I was young how to handle my finances properly. They told me it was all about budgeting my finances so I could get everything I needed. So I had separate allowances for food, books, clothes, and other things. On top of that, I had to save ten percent from my allowance every month to a bank account I couldn’t touch until I’d reach college.

Jam laughed, shook her head, and rolled her eyes. She always thought I was a bit ridiculous about my finances. She would always tell me I should just spend it the way I saw fit. Let me point out that she was the type of person who would spend her money on the same day she got it. I was not sure how she survived, but she was happy, so who was I to judge?

“Right, we wouldn’t want to rearrange the whole financial set up. On a different note, what time is Rissy getting here? I haven’t seen her in a few months. I shall kill her for spending more time with that boyfriend of hers than me. She sees him every day, and I’m here for only a few days,” Jam said, a little disappointed.

Rissa and Jam were also friends. They’d usually hang out because of me. But now, it was like a ritual; they had to see each other when Jam would visit. They might not be as close as Jam and me, or Rissa and me, but they were not far from it.

“So, homies, who missed me?” Rissa said just in time before Jam could pick up her phone and shout at her for being late.

“I was supposed to say me, but I’m too irritated with you to say so,” Jam said even if she was already smiling and hugging Rissa.

“Whatever! You know you did; no one was as crazy as me in France. At least I think none, but with all those artistic friends of yours, I may be overruled,” Rissa said.

Jam had some weird friends, but I would like to think of them as artistic. They might not dress or act the same way as we did, but they sure had some talent that would leave you speechless. They were the type to talk about artsy stuff you couldn’t understand if you are not one of them. Rissa called them weird because the last time we talked to them, we were somewhat left out of the conversation, and she hated that feeling.

“Geez, I haven’t seen you in less than a minute, and you’re already bashing my friends? Thanks a lot, Rissy. So how are things with your boyfriend?” Jam asked while picking a new book.

Rissa just blushed the way she’d always do when asked about Chad. I mean they had been dating for close to three years. You would think they should have gotten tired of each other, but nope, they just became stronger. They were even planning on going to the same university when we’d graduate. Who knows? They might be planning a wedding soon, though I hoped they would not since I was not ready to let Rissa go yet.

“We’re fine. Nothing new to report. You should ask Lizzie over here about her love life. It has changed from nonexistent to extremely active,” Rissa reported.

I glared and thought of throwing the book I was holding at her. The only thing that stopped me was the guard standing ten feet away from us.

“Well, she has mentioned a few things. Though at that moment, I’m thinking she downplayed it so I wouldn’t ask too many questions,” Jam commented.

I really didn’t blame her for not being interested initially. There wasn’t really much detail to it. Drew and I spent time during Chad’s party. I did not mention those times we were spending together at the library, the family heirloom he gave me, and our diner escapade. Then, there was Ryan, the player who constantly bugged me and suddenly turned into someone I could tolerate. Well, sometimes, he’d go back to being a pain in the neck, but he seemed to be tolerable for now. I was glad I didn’t expound further on the topic.

But Jam and Rissa being themselves, they demanded I tell them the entire story. So I told Jam the entire situation when we got to the food court. Rissa was putting her two cents on the story while we ate. Jam nodded her head and told me her thoughts about the two guys who were present in my life.

“You know what? I think I’m definitely staying over for the Christmas break. I mean, it is a few weeks away, and Mom is busy with her new restaurant. Dad also has to look over some paintings in New York for his collection. I will be free to join you on the break. I really want to meet these guys. Plus, once I go back, I will have the latest gossip about this missing crown prince. I’m so excited!” Jam said as she finished her taco.

When she mentioned the crown prince again, I merely rolled my eyes. It seemed unlikely for him to go unnoticed this long. Rissa, on the other hand, had a totally different reaction. She seemed to stiffen a bit but regained her usual composure after five seconds. Yes, I counted. Don’t judge.

“What do you mean by crown prince, Jam?” Rissa asked casually while twirling her pasta.

“The one from Sarconia. There are rumors he’s staying here. I mean, people have seen his car, the black Lamborghini, around the neighborhood. Well, now that I mentioned it, I guess the proper word is ‘stayed’ because I got a message from my friend saying the car already left. I just want to know what happens next,” Jam said.

While she was saying this, Rissa looked a bit fidgety. By this time, I knew she was hiding something from me. I knew her every move, and she’d never fidget unless she was really nervous about something.

“But I can’t seem to take my eyes off that chocolate sundae. I’ll be back,” Jam said and proceeded to buy the chocolate sundae she just needed to have.

When Jam left, I couldn’t help myself and asked Risa what was on her mind.

“Ok, what’s up? You’re fidgeting, and you never do that unless you’re hiding something. So, spill,” I said—well, somehow demanded.

She looked me in the eyes which showed she was debating about something. Her green eyes, usually filled with humor and amusement, was now filled with some unspoken emotion I never saw from her before. It must be painful for her to hide something from us.

“Well, it’s about the Crown Prince,” Rissa started, “he’s really—”

“This chocolate sundae is really the bomb. I have to say they don’t make it like this in France,” Jam said when she got back.

At the same time, Rissa’s phone rang, and she looked at it.

“Yeah, I have to go. I’ll see you later, Jam, or perhaps when you go back. Chad just texted, and I need to meet him. So, yeah. See yah,” Rissa hurriedly said, almost sprinting out of the food court.

“She’s acting weird. I don’t know what’s going on, but she is. I am going to find out,” I said while staring at her quickly disappearing figure.

“Good luck with that then. You know how Rissa is. She could keep a secret. If she thinks she should tell you, she would, but if not, she wouldn’t.”

When we were driving home, I couldn’t help but feel like someone was following us again. It was the same black SUV. Unfortunately, it wasn’t near enough for me to see the plate number. Just when I thought I was going to see more details of the SUV, it again turned towards a different direction. Maybe I was just being paranoid about this.

When I parked the car, I excused myself and read through the internet. Rissa mentioned that crown prince again. I guess it was time to actually look into what all the fuss was all about. I clicked the first website made for him and started reading.



“His Royal Highness Phillipe William Andrew Martin, oldest son of His Majesty King George and Her Majesty Queen Diana, is the Crown Prince of Sarconia. He is the first in the line of succession in Sarconia, fiftieth in Switzerland, and eighty-first in the United Kingdom. He is also one of the great-great-grandsons of the late Queen Victoria.

It has been noted that after the prince’s twenty-second birthday, King George announced his supposed betrothal to Lady Catherine...”



Alright, I knew these things from Jam. Where are the other things about this guy? I skimmed through different websites and found out a few random things about the crown prince. They were mostly trivial matters like his color preference (blue), his favorite watch (two-tone, blue-faced Rolex watch), and such.

Then after a while, I came across one picture; the only picture you could find about this prince. It was supposedly a picture of the crown prince during one of his car races. Apparently, he was an avid fan of racing, and his coveted car was always with him. Unfortunately, he was facing away from the camera, only showing his backside. His arm was leaning against a black Lamborghini. It was the same car I saw Drew driving the first time I saw him. But there was more about this car; it was a Lamborghini Reventon. It was listed as one of the rarest cars in the world, and the crown prince was a proud owner. There were only twenty of these cars made. Out of all the things I had found out, it was the backside of the crown prince that got my attention. It looked so familiar. The more I looked at it, the more I tried to search my brain for answers.

“Oh, my goodness!” I almost screamed when I realized. It couldn’t be, but here it was in front of me.

The rare car, the misunderstanding with his parents, his cautious nature when he got in his car the first time I met him, the expensive firsthand edition of Pride and Prejudice, Rissa’s reluctance, and Ryan saying he wasn’t the person he seemed to be… It was all dawning on me. My crush, my own Mr. Darcy, seemed to be too perfect because he was the crown prince!

His Royal Highness Phillipe William Andrew Martin, Crown Prince of Sarconia, was also known as Andrew or Drew, my friend and crush.

Was this the universe’s way of a sick joke? I wanted my own Mr. Darcy, not a freaking crown prince.

“You figured it out, I see,” a familiar voice said from my bedroom door.

As I turned around and saw his face, I knew I was in deeper shit than I initially thought. I thought a player who was after me was bad. Well in my clichéd universe, it was only the tip of the iceberg.





Chapter 8





Secrets from Three Years Ago





I couldn’t breathe, talk, or move. The revelation was too huge for me. It’s not every day you find out you’re friends with someone considered somebody in another country—a freaking crown prince at that. Granted, I had never heard of him, but who was I to mingle with royalty? Really, I was just a commoner in their eyes.

At this point, I had so many questions I had no answers to. How does Ryan, Mel, and Chad fit into the picture?

But as I looked into Chad’s eyes, I knew that Rissa couldn’t keep it any longer. It seemed like she had known things for a while now. How long had she been keeping this from me? She needed Chad’s permission to tell me everything I needed to know. I assumed he was here to shed some light to some of my questions or to warn me not to talk about this huge secret. Chad was his cousin after all. Wait, does that mean that Chad was also a royal? What about Ryan and Mel? They said their parents were working for Drew’s family and that they grew up with him. To think they also kept this from me. Was I the last one to know about this huge secret?

Chad made his way inside my room. He suddenly looked at the top of my dresser filled with pictures. There were three that stood out: Rissa and me on the beach when we were fifteen, Jam and me during my visit to France last year, and our family picture. He just stood there like he was remembering something, but I couldn’t take the silence anymore. I needed to know why exactly he was here.

“What are you doing here?” I asked with a low voice.

He looked at me for five seconds and stared at the pictures again. Obviously, he was giving the picture with his girlfriend on it more attention.

“Well, you’re in my house and in my room; I’m guessing there’s a reason for this?” I said, this time with a firmer voice.

“We both know why I’m here. You have some questions, and I’m the only one who can answer them without any bias. Ryan would make my cousin the bad guy because he would want you to trust him. You know his intentions, and Andrew is the one involved here. I’m guessing you have an inkling about his intentions as well,” he said this without looking at me, just the pictures.

“I remember this picture of you and Rissa. It was the day I realized I had my first crush. You guys were fifteen, and I just turned sixteen. I wanted to approach you and possibly introduce myself, but I had my hesitations. I was the new kid, after all. Even if I had been staying here for thirteen months at that point, I was still the new kid. Rissa was very pretty, but you had more things going for you. You have these eyes that captures people. It has a pull that would make anyone want to know you more. It’s like you wouldn’t want to look away. It is so expressive, anyone can practically read you just by looking at them,” he said, still looking at the picture.

I was shocked. I didn’t even remember most of that day. Rissa and I were just messing around like usual. But looking at him staring at those pictures, I could tell he remembered everything that happened that day. And what was up with my eyes?

“Would it be weird if I tell you that you were my first crush? But don’t think of anything of it. Before I had the time to react, my cousin saw you and said he would come back here and introduce himself to you. You were just too young then. After all, he was already nineteen, and you were only fifteen. He was not staying here long; he was only here to visit us over the weekend and make sure we were adjusting well.

“I knew he wasn’t kidding about coming back, so I took my hint and moved on. It wasn’t until I joined the football team in sophomore year that I really saw Rissa. She was everything I was looking for, and soon, I took the courage to ask her out.” He smiled at that; he really did love Rissa. He had that certain glow he only had when he talked about her.

“This still doesn’t answer anything. I mean, I’m flattered, but it still doesn’t explain why you’re here,” I said.

This time, he took his sweet time answering, like he was really planning his words. One way or the other, this was still a confusing issue. He drew out a sigh and continued talking.

“Look, Lizzie, I’m only here to tell you that Andrew is the crown prince, but it has changed nothing about him. He’s still the Andrew that you know. If it helps, you know more about him than the world has ever known. His parents want him to get married and secure the family lineage, but he has always been different. He appreciates the little things more than the luxuries of his life, something that his parents couldn’t understand. All I’m saying is, don’t shut him out because of what you found out. He really likes you, and well, he’s been waiting for this shot for five years. Don’t let the title get in the way. If you want to know more, you need to talk to him. He’s downstairs,” Chad explained.

I couldn’t comprehend all of this. I mean, I didn’t know how to cope. One minute, Drew was just my crush, now he was the freaking crown prince. I wondered if this was how Mia felt when she found out she was a princess.

“By the way, don’t be too hard on Rissa. She only found out about this after she introduced Ryan. It’s been hard on her keeping this secret from you. She convinced us to tell you the truth.”

I looked at him and around the room. I was trying to contemplate more on the situation. I wanted to evaluate everything first.

“Ok, I think I need to talk to him,” I said

He nodded and made his way out of my room.

“So, what were you? The one that made sure things were clear before he steps in?” I asked before he could go out of the room.

“Somehow. Please don’t be too hard on him. He did what he did for a reason. Please let him explain that first,” Chad said before walking out of the room to call Drew.

This was some serious shit I had uncovered, and I hadn’t heard the entire story yet. I sat down the bed and put my face in my hands. I would have a long night ahead of me.

“Hey,” Drew said hesitantly as I looked up.

“Hey, so is it safe to assume there would be no secrets this time?” I asked with a strained smile.

“Hope so, but this is one complicated story.” He walked towards me and sat beside me on the bed.

“Then don’t make it complicated. We have time to discuss, I guess. But before anything, why? Why’d you hide your true identity? You lied,” I said

“I didn’t lie. I just kept some information secret,” he justified.

“Omission is also a form of lying if I’m not mistaken,” I countered.

I looked him in the eyes to check whether he would lie or leave out something important again.

“Right. Well, if we are going to discuss this, I better start from the beginning then.” He then looked at the ceiling as if he was trying to remember everything. “Five years ago, I went here to visit Chad’s family. They just relocated after what happen in the palace. I was very close to Chad because he was my little cousin and he was my wingman at that time. I was the cool older cousin, and he was the one being initiated to the cool world.”

He then stood up and started pacing the floor.

“On that visit, we decided to go to the beach nearby to hang out. That was where I first saw this girl. She was splashing water with her friend and her friend’s brothers. She was having fun and didn’t notice that I was watching from afar. I know this would sound like stalking, but I couldn’t keep my eyes off her. But one thing had to be noted, she was really young. I decided to keep my intentions to myself until she reached a decent age, and then I will make my move.

“So, I went home and thought of coming back in five years when it would be legal and socially acceptable to actually court her—properly court her. I just couldn’t screw it up. I thought when I finally had enough courage, I would do it with no complications as much as possible. Everything was going to plan. Chad said she just celebrated her eighteenth birthday.” He smiled when he said that

“But then a few months ago, King George, my dad, announced my betrothal to Catherine. It crushed my world. I still wanted to meet that girl I saw when I was nineteen. I never got the chance to do that. I asked my dad if there was a possibility I could be given a chance to meet my wife on my own. My dad wouldn’t hear it at first, which put a strain on our relationship. Eventually, he agreed under one condition: I was to bring her to meet them before my twenty-third birthday. So, I took every precautionary measure I could to meet that girl without all the baggage that comes with being a royal.”

He then sat beside me once again and looked at the ceiling once more.

“I wanted to meet her without the titles, the fame, the glitter… and I think I succeeded. It’s just that I forgot she’s smarter than you would think. I hadn’t thought of her figuring it out before I got the chance to tell her,” Drew said while looking at me.

“I wouldn’t change any of it, though. I knew her as a normal person, and she knew me as a normal guy as well. We created that bond that the media wouldn’t be able to break. So, was it really a failed attempt?” he said, looking at me in the eyes.

“I don’t know. Why don’t you ask her? I mean, why are you here telling me this when you can go to this girl and finally make your move? You did wait five years for that,” I said with a strained smile.

So, he was here to meet this girl. What did I expect? That he would take notice of me? It was already impossible when he was just Drew. Now it was ten times worse because he was the crown prince and she’s in love with that girl he saw before.

Oh, why couldn’t I like someone who could like me back?

“Liz, I am asking her. I am asking you. The moment I saw you three years ago, I knew I have to meet you. Even if I had to wait for that chance, I would. Our meeting in the library was unplanned, though. I made a huge mistake of bringing my car here, and it attracted media attention. That’s why I was running in the library so they couldn’t find me, but I knocked out your books in the process. I couldn’t even move or speak the first time I saw you that close. I froze and went hiding from the media. I knew I would be meeting you later that day at Chad’s party. I asked Chad to make sure you attend, which worked out. I couldn’t help but ramble and stutter the first time I spoke to you, though. I was so nervous; that was the shot I waited for years, and it was there.”

“Wow, that is a complicated story. I don’t even know what to say,” I said. I know that sounded so boring, but I didn’t know what to say.

“I know it’s too much to handle right now. It’s unfair to dump this all on you, but you said no more secrets, right?” he asked, and I just nodded. “How about I take you out tomorrow night, and we can have dinner. You can ask me anything you want after processing all this. Sound good?” he asked again, and I just nodded.

He nodded in return, said his goodbyes, and promised to explain more tomorrow night.

As I sat there reflecting on the reason why he was here, I couldn’t help but think my life just reached a new level of cliché. But who cares? I had a date with my own Mr. Darcy tomorrow night, and there was nothing anyone could say to stop me from going.





Chapter 9





Choices





“I must be dreaming. I was about to see you and say goodnight, and I saw the freaking crown prince got out of your room! He looked like he solved world hunger and world peace. He has been MIA for what, few months? Care to explain, cousin dear?” Jam said when she entered my room, sitting comfortably on the couch near my bed.

I was wondering why she came to my room now when Drew had already left. I was already reading A Walk to Remember by Nicholas Sparks. If you were wondering, I was able to borrow this book from Rissa.

Oh, book ban, when will you end? I already miss my darling books so much.

I placed my magnetic bookmark to the last page I read and placed the book on the nightstand beside my bed.

“Wow, world hunger and world peace? Just because he’s the crown prince, you really have to use that metaphor? I’m not even sure if he has enough power to solve those problems. Also, he left about twenty minutes ago, why did you just enter my kingdom now? Were you stuck outside for a full twenty minutes drooling or something?” I said, smirking. I know very well she stood outside and stared as Drew went by the hall went a few minutes earlier.

“Whatever. So, care to tell me what’s going on? Because I would really like to have the latest gossip before I go back to France, you know,” Jam said, and I told her the entire story.

“You do know that for a smart girl you are really stupid, don’t you? When will you wake up and smell the coffee, dear?” Jam asked and lightly smacked me on the head.

I was very confused by her statement. I mean, why would she say such a thing? I know I had some catching up to do with reality, but wasn’t her statement a little too harsh? Or was it just me getting offended because I know she was right? I really needed to find a book that properly described how I could read signs and whatever crap a guy would throw at me. It would make my life a hell lot easier.

“Ok... I’m going to take the bait and ask what the heck you meant by that?” I asked, preparing myself for her usual bluntness. I loved her to death, but sometimes, sugar coating it would nice.

Jam rolled her eyes and shook her head side to side. It was like she was trying not to laugh.

“Let me lay down the facts to you, missy. Fact number one, Chad went off to tell you that he had a crush on you and that he backed off because his cousin told him that he was going for you. That’s total bro code. You might have heard about it since girls even have it. It’s called dibs. When someone lays a claim on someone, you’re supposed to back off. Especially if it’s a family or a friend.” She stood up and walked towards my window.

“Fact number two, Drew, Chad’s cousin,” she pronounced ‘cousin’ with emphasis, “told you he met the girl he wanted to date under the same circumstance when Chad realized he liked you. That still didn’t ring some bells for you? Did you not realize they were talking about the same girl? He was talking about you! Seriously, sometimes, I don’t know if you’re really dense or acting like you’re dense. There’s a difference you know. But no, because fact number three, you went off on your own world, thinking that Drew was talking about a different girl. Only you, Lizzie, only you,” she said, shaking her head.

I had to admit, I did sound crazy. If it were a book I was reading, I would have dissected it down to every detail and not miss a beat. But, with this? I had no clue. Maybe I really needed to find a more realistic book. I might have missed a few lessons on this.

It was always easier when everything was laid down in text, and you could just figure out everything from there.

“Oh, well, you might as well have your beauty sleep since you will have your date with the freaking crown prince. Wait, shit, you’re going on a date with the freaking crown prince! You have to look absolutely perfect, you know, like a princess. Oh, wow, this is just like a fairytale,” Jam said while on her way to her bedroom.

I couldn’t believe she really went there: fairytale and princess. I have been reading these were words since I could remember. I just never thought I would somehow be living it.

Oh, fairy godmother! If you are real, I wish there’s no evil stepmother or an ugly ogre on the way.

Jam walked back to my room. “It’s a good thing Uncle Richard and Aunt Maxine are on a date night. Otherwise, this would be extremely hard to explain.”

It was around two in the afternoon when Jam left to pay a quick visit to her mom and dad. She did say she was coming back around midnight so we could drive her to the airport since her classes would resume the next day. Apparently, she would immediately be attending her classes after landing, meaning she’d be sleeping during her flight.

However, she still found time to fix my outfit. She chose an above-the-knee black dress that I didn’t even know I owned. The upper part was a bit loose, and the lower part was tighter. It actually looked like one of those dresses ancient Greek women used to wear. Then, she made me wear my black wedge to give me additional height, perfectly pairing the dress.

It was around three in the afternoon, and I was just waiting for Drew. He said he was fetching me at three-thirty, so I have had some time to double-check everything I needed. I was scrolling down my phone to