Bella spent the next three days cooking and avoiding the king and his sneaky children. She heard through the palace grapevine that the search for the next queen had started.
Possible brides were coming from all across the universe to be interviewed by the king’s council.
She didn’t need to know their names. That’s what Bella told herself while needing dough and tempering chocolate.
“Hmm,” Bella looked up from dusting sugar to find, Trell, her favorite guard watching her. ‘What are you doing here?”
“Checking up on you.”
“Why?” Had she done something to warrant a guard hunting her down?
“Because I’ve been given guard duty.” His expression told her she should be picking up on some sort of hidden message.
“And you are supposed to be guarding me?” She hazarded a guess.
Trell nodded. “All the queen candidates are given a guard to protect them against kidnapping.”
Bella closed her eyes and took a long slow breath before opening them again. “Please tell me the prince didn’t put me in the candidate pool.”
Trell’s grin didn’t reassure her. “I could tell you that a prince didn’t put you in.”
Bella’s mouth dropped open. “Then who did?”
“All the princes. You were their top pick.”
She could barely hear the guards next words through the rushing in her ears. “No. I’m not queen material. Why didn’t they take me off the list? The council must know I’d make a terrible queen.”
Trell shrugged. “Apparently they have a different opinion.”
Bella walked over to the sink and washed her hands as her mind spun with the implications. “I think I’m going to have to talk to the king about this.” Her heart pattered against her chest in a panicky rhythm.
“Can’t. He’s turned over the search to the council. As a potential candidate you can’t have access to the royal family until you reach stage three.” Trell’s amused look made her want to kick him.
“What exactly is stage three?”
“First you have to have to interview with the council, then you have to go through a series of lessons and questionnaires regarding compatibility and then they make their decision.”
“How do I get off this list?” There had to be a way. She couldn’t go through a series of stupid tests. No matter how gorgeous the king might be.