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The Princess assumed she must have seen Duke Erik at other royal functions, the bolt of familiarity between them had definitely been present. He was handsome and not in a polished, regal manner. More simple and a trustworthy face, but we shall see. Of course all these suitor's were the same and only wanted to inherit the royal fortune one day and carry the title of King.

 

Samira eventually shook off her maid's as she strode into the dining room, her bold red dress fell softly off her shoulders and rubies glittered off her ears, throat and wrist. She had dressed a little more promiscuous than usual, if the Duke was her final chance before having to marry her father's guard Vlad, she would take the Duke closer to her age and handsome.

 

The dining room and it's guests sparkled and glittered in the strategically candlelit room. The candles made everyone's skin appear to be glowing, the silverware glinted expensively and the food looked intricate and expensive.

 

"Your highness Princess Samira of Marwah," the guard announced as she entered the room, which then followed this announcement by sinking into a bow.

To her annoyance the Queen had the floor and was in the midst of telling a highly amusing antidote and when Queen Alexia spoke, everyone listened.

"Princess," Vlad had peeled away from the crowd, "may I say you look breathtaking this evening."

His eyes lingered too long on her bare skin and she immediately wanted to cover herself up. He reached for her hand as soon as his lips had pressed into the back of her hand, she felt her heavy necklace drop.

"Allow me," he dutifully placed the necklace back around her throat and gently clasped it back together, his fingers brushing the back of her neck.

"We can't have your highness looking dishevelled in front of his grace now can we?" His breath was sour and seemed to linger at her ear.

"Of course not," she smiled and slid out of his clutches, "forgive me Vlad I must mingle with our guests."

"Let me know if you need help with the Duke," he bowed deeply.

 

Smiling politely Samira escaped from Vlad although she could still feel his eyes watching her. The Duke was looking more and more appealing the more time she spent with Vlad. She could have very happily have settled for the Duke and keep Vlad at bay. If only she had never met Dante, she never knew about the spark or the connection until she met him, even though it was brief, it was unlike any feeling she had ever had before.

 

She did her best to smile and laugh at all the right moments in front of her guests. And to her frustration the Duke did not approach her, she suddenly felt very foolish in the gown she chose.

 

While a new round of extravagant cocktails was being served, Princess Samira stepped out to the balcony. The air was crisp with salt from the ocean and the sky was littered with stars caught in an inky black sky.

She sat on the edge of the marble balcony her dress fanning over the marble like a red flame.

"Your highness?"

 

It was the Duchess Simone, holding two crystal goblets of wine, her blonde hair twisted in a sleek knot and a gown of robin's egg blue fluttered around her ankles. She was an exquisite looking woman.

She handed her the goblet, "I apologise you seemed as though you needed a refreshment."

"Thank you your Grace."

"Please call me Simone," she sat gracefully down her back as straight as an arrow.

"Call me Samira," she raised her glass is a small toast.

"Forgive my brother, he is quite shy."

"Not at all, I despise these events, everyone watching to see how we interact so they can gossip to their circles about what they saw," Samira sipped the wine.

"May I suggest accompanying him to the stables tomorrow? He is most confident when he is around his horses and it might be away from prying eyes," Simone asked.

"Of course," Samira agreed, "you are a very kind sister."

"Thank you, you must miss your brother."

Samira was taken aback at how brazenly Simone had mentioned her brother, he was known as a bit of an outcast amongst the royals, after all, who would choose to give up this lifestyle?

"Oh sorry," the Duke appeared and blushed.

"Erik really! We travelled all this way the very least you could do is sit by Princess Samira," Simone rose and handed Erik her drink with a condescending pat on the shoulder and a smirk that Samira saw briefly she left her anxious brother alone with Samira.

"Your sister seems like a lot of fun," Samira said genuinely.

Erik rubbed the back of his head and took a large swig of wine, "sometimes…she ah… has always been very bossy ever since we were young."

Samira smiled attempting to relax the jittery Duke, "my brother was like that also, the eldest always knew best according to him."

He smiled briefly and Samira noticed again how handsome he was.

"So why did you decide to meet me?"

He took another gulp of wine, "can I be one hundred percent honest with you?"

"Please," she urged.

"I use all these suitor engagements as a way to travel, my parents aren't big on travelling too far from home but I love experiencing the different culture and food and environments, there's so much to see…", he looked bashful admitting this.

"I would definitely do the same if I was in your position."

This seemed to put Erik at ease and he sat, "your country is beautiful, the beaches here are unlike anything I've ever seen before."

"Perhaps we could take you there during your visit," she smiled.

"You're not mad?"

"Why would I be?" She raised her eyebrows, "I've been begging suitors to be honest with me for this entire ordeal and finally here you are."

"Why would they lie?"

Samira gestured at the palace and the view of Marwah.

"Oh right," Erik bowed his head, "don't you think the whole suitor process is a bit…"

"Absurd yes! A princess must do this, a princess must marry a complete stranger?"

"I know Simone is glad she's a Duchess," he faltered, "I'm sorry your highness."

"It's fine, please call me Samira," she paused watching him nervously fiddle with his goblet.

"Despite what everyone says, it's very nice to meet you Samira," he smiled and Samira thought maybe this wouldn't be so bad.

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