She should’ve known to be suspicious of the castle residents. On the surface they appeared to be friendly, outgoing and helpful people. Who knew underneath all that amiability lay a bit of vipers.
The phone call from her oldest brother told her the truth. Her carefully planned life was sliding, horribly, irrevocably out of her control like a starship sucked into a black hole.
Resting in her room she thought nothing of her communication screen buzzing. The palace staff often called to inform her of the king’s schedule for the day in case she wanted to match her food to the king’s activities.
Unfortunately, the face appearing on the screen wasn’t the palace secretary.
“Greetings sister.” Her older brother Tyme stared at her through the connection.
“Hi Tyme. How are you doing?” Nice peaceful words for a woman who’s stomach started spinning like a top in a tornado.
Tyme’s dark green eyes bored into her as if daring her to confess all, but she wasn’t a sixteen year old staying out after curfew any more. If he wanted her to tell him something he’d have to damn well have to ask.
“I hear you are petitioning to be a queen.”
Darn. Bella had hoped no one would contact any of her brothers. “You are mistaken.” She met his gaze straight on. She’d go to her grave denying everything.
Tyme scowled. “What do you mean I’m mistaken? I got a call from that palace you work at for a character reference. I asked them why the hell they needed a reference now when you already work there and the idiot who called told me because you were petitioning to be queen. How could I misunderstand that?”
Bella shrugged. “I don’t know who called you but I didn’t petition. They put my name on the list but I don’t want anything to do with it.”
“Why not? Is he ugly?”
“No!” Bella snapped and immediately realized her error. Damn she should’ve agreed the man was two steps below a dung beetle.
“Aw Bella you’d make a pretty queen. You’ll be happy to know we’re going to be there to help you compete with the other girls.”
“What!” Bella cleared her throat. That had come out much louder then she’d expected.
Tyme’s smile chilled her. “You know your brothers? The men in your family who need to watch out for our sister to make sure some creepy monarch isn’t taking advantage of you.”
“He’s not creepy!” Bella rolled her eyes. She usually negotiated much better than this.
“Well, we won’t know that until we come to see for ourselves will we?”
“Really, you guys don’t need to come out here. I’m sure they’ll kick me off the selection committee list soon. I already told them I wasn’t interested in being a queen.”
“If you didn’t put yourself on the list who did?”
“I’m pretty sure the prince had me put on it.”
“The king has kids?”
Bella nodded. “Three of them.”
Tyme folded his arms. “And you don’t want to be bothered by another man’s brats?” His voice indicated they both knew that was a lie since she adored children.
“Forget it Tyme! You’re not going to dare me to be a queen. I’m past those kinds of childish names.”
Tyme shrugged. “Well if you don’t think you can take handle being queen or taking care of another guys kids we’re all behind you.” Tyme always stood as the speaker of her four brother. Even when they disagreed they would still come to a consensus and Tyme would announce the final decision.
“I could handle being queen and those children are a delight.”
“So it’s the king that’s the problem.” Tyme rubbed his chin. “We can take care of him.”
“I don’t want you taking care of anyone,” Bella said through gritted teeth. “Truly Tyme I can get myself out of this.”
Tyme’s smile returned, sharper and even more disturbing. “No trouble baby girl. You hang tight we’ll be there soon.”
Before Bella could protest, or scream or smash her screen with the nearest object, her brother’s picture disappeared. She flopped down on her bed. “What am I doing to do now?”