• Meg Sechrest

The Throne - Preview

Updated: Jan 3


March 1817

Gwendolyn laid on her bed that frosty spring morning, listening to the birds chirping outside her window and watching the sun as it rose through the trees and cast a shadow onto her bed. Gwen had always been one to wake early, preferring to lie in bed and enjoy the quiet of the morning when no one was there to disturb her.

“What a beautiful morning,” she said as she laid admiring the view. “Could life be any more perfect than this? What say you, little birds?”

The birds sang sweetly to respond, showing Gwen that life was in fact perfect, almost.

“Gwendolyn!” Her mother, Duchess Rosalind Muirfield, banged on the door of her bedroom chambers.

“Ugh… leave it to my mama to ruin the quiet.” After tossing a pillow over her head and taking a deep breath, she replied, “Come in!”

The Duchess took her time walking into Gwendolyn’s chambers as she glanced around and criticized everything her eyes took in. From the dress that had been laid out to wear that day, to the art and paintings Gwendolyn had been working on in her spare time, the Duchess had turned on her internal critic.

“You need to prepare yourself for the day. Your uncle has invited us to dine with Lord Bramwall and his son, Lord William.”

“Oh, Mama. Please tell me we aren’t traveling all that dreadful way just to see that terrible young man and his callous boring parents.”

Gwendolyn sat up and wiped her hands with her face, her eyes pleading with her mother not to take the day’s travel across the county.

“That is precisely what I am telling you. Their nephew, the Duke of Florence, Lord Peter Doltham, is visiting from the north country and it would be good of the King’s nieces to pay him a visit.”

Gwendolyn groaned. “Why? Who is he to us?” She flopped her legs over the side of the bed as her mother rang for a chambermaid.

“Who is he to you? You are a princess! It is time you start acting like one! Gwendolyn Violette, you are the immediate throne succession, young lady, and though your uncle has plans to marry and will most likely produce an heir, you still have a reputation to uphold. If your father was still alive…”

“Well, he’s not,” she replied with an eye roll as she slid her feet into her slippers

“Your reputation is very important and Lord Doltham very well could be a good match for either you or your sister, though he is a tad bit older than…”

“Whatever you say,” Gwen replied as she reached for her dressing robe and stood to tie it around herself.

Duchess Rosalind grasped Gwendolyn’s hand, helping her stand and looked her in the face, studying everything about her skin, eyes, hair, and lips.

“You are very beautiful, daughter. I don’t know of any man who wouldn’t appreciate any glance or notice of you.” The Duchess stroked her hand across her daughter’s face and said, “You are young and there will be many men who seek your hand. Do not let your heart guide you; it will lead you down the wrong road. The heart is foolish and confused. Listen to the settled thoughts of your mind.”

Duchess Rosalind left the chambers without another word.

“The settled thoughts of my mind?” Gwen sat at her mirrored dresser and wondered as she brushed out her long, flowy hair. “What on earth does she mean? I never know what my mother goes on and on about. I wish my father were here. He would have sound advice as I choose a husband.”

“It is Lily, Your Royal Highness,” the chambermaid knocked at the door.

“You may enter.”

Gwendolyn studied herself in the looking glass as the chambermaid was fixing her hair. She thought about her mother’s words on her appearance as they continued to perplex her. “I’ve just considered myself an average girl, not ugly, but certainly nothing men would stand in the corner and talk about. Why does my mother go on the way she does?” she said and sighed.

“If I may, Your Royal Highness,” the maid said and curtsied, looking at Gwen in the mirror.

“Go on.”

Lily started to speak as she wrapped and twisted Gwen’s hair to get it off her shoulders and ready for the day. “I watch you every day and fix up your hair, pick out your dresses and such, but I feel you underestimate your true beauty, miss. I see the way the servants and gentlemen who come and go from the manor look at you, miss, but I believe you don’t notice their eyes. Perhaps that’s what the Duchess means, miss.”

Gwen stared at her reflection in the looking glass for a moment, pulling down on her hair, thinking over some of the ways that men smile at her when they danced, or the way the servants were so eager to hold doors for her and have always bowed to her as she walked past. She’d always assumed it was her title, but now she wasn’t so sure.

“Thank you for your thoughts, Lily. Please, help yourself to one of my scarves as a token of my appreciation.”

Gwen handed Lily a lace scarf.

“Thank you. It is so very generous of you. Your hair is all finished, Your Royal Highness,” Lily said. “Shall we get you into a dress? I say you should wear the royal blue one. It brings out your eyes the best, and I heard the Duchess talking about a Duke…”

Gwendolyn gave Lily a friendly but scolding look as the sternness in her eyes changed ever-so-slightly, and Lily held her finger to her lips to quiet herself as she went into the changing room to fetch the dress and a corset.

“Tell me about the Duke, miss,” Lily said when she emerged from the changing room as she began working on the laces of Gwen’s corset.

Gwen sighed. “I’m very certain he is nothing as you believe him to be. You imagine him to be handsome and charming, but none of the men ever are. If they are, they are cads and scoundrels, nothing any woman would want to call her husband. Most royal men are like that anyhow.”

“I would imagine any duke must be better than no duke to you.”

“One would think; however, I can assure you I have seen all the dukes and none is a much better choice.”

Lily laughed, her hesitance showing through, as she finished the laces and fluffed the gown. “All finished.”

“I’d better be on my way then before my mother comes and makes a scene.”

Lily giggled and nodded, agreeing to Princess Gwen’s statement.

“You look lovely, Your Royal Highness. I’m sure whoever he is will find favor in you.”

“No need for that, now. I have no desire for Viscount's nephew.”

“Well, then you’re dressed the part of making a show of turning him away.”

“Hm, that does bring me some satisfaction.”

Gwendolyn made one last glance at herself in the looking glass and was pleased that she could certainly make a show of turning away this Viscount’s nephew. Gwen headed out the door to meet her mother and sister to go to her uncle’s house to dine with the Viscount Bramwall, Lord William, and the Viscount’s nephew, Lord Whoever, certainly no one Gwendolyn wanted to meet. She’d had her share of dukes and lords, viscounts and earls, and she felt tired of life already at only 18 years old.

“You wore one of your best dresses, Gwen. Preparing to impress?” asked Princess Sophia—Gwen’s younger, sometimes nosy and bratty sister.

“Lily helped me decide. I like the royal blue one. It suits my eyes best. Do you not think?”

Sophia looked down to her pale pink one, feeling outdone in her choice and she said, “Your dress is lovely.”

“Come girls,” Duchess Muirfield said, hurrying her two daughters along. “Your uncle is expecting us soon.”

“I want to change,” Sophia said, considering the eye popping color of Gwen’s dress. “I didn’t know Gwen was wearing blue.”

“You haven’t the time now. Pink will have to do.”

Sophia’s lips turned to a pout and they walked out the front doors of their manor.

The ride seemed longer than usual, and Gwen stared out the glass, watching the rain fall for hours. Her mind drifted to the day that her father died and her whole world changed.

“Gwen?” her mother said when she saw her tears. “What’s the matter dear?”

“I am perfectly well.”

“Keeping secrets?” Sophia asked.

Gwen glanced across the carriage and said, “I just get nervous…” and she pointed to the window and the rain coming down.

Her mother nodded. “I miss him too.”

Gwen’s gaze returned back to the rain outside and she focused on a few droplets that rolled down the window, leaving long trails of water behind them like maps to be able to find their way to where they’d begun. “Why did you leave us?” she thought as she watched the water make maps on the window. Gwen so much wished she could take a water droplet map and use it to find a way to her father, who’d been gone almost two years now. She blamed herself, but it wasn’t her fault. Her father’s accident was truly no one’s fault, but as much as she missed his heart, hugs, and words, she watched the water and supposed she could blame those droplets of water, but they weren’t to blame either. It was an accident. That’s all it was. Ever since, she was anxious to travel when it rained, and as her mother and Sophia slept, she watched the rain fall, thinking of her father—His Royal Highness, Prince George III.

After at least 16 more miles, they ascended to the top of a woodsy forest where the trees ceased and Gwen’s eyes were caught by Boris House—her uncle’s home away from the palace—which rested on the opposite side of a small pond, where the road curved and wound around the pond back to the road. It was a large, beautiful, sandstone building, situated in front of a ridge of woodlands and next to a very vast and lovely gardens without any artificial appearance. Gwen was pleased at the sight for she had thought she was arriving at her uncle’s palace, which was a place she detested the mere sight of. Boris House, however, had more natural beauty than any other place she had ever visited and she felt nature had outdone itself and had not been disturbed by too much showy adornment. Her childhood memories of Boris House were etched in the back of her mind and as the carriage continued its ascent to the top of the road; her mind flooded with every good thought and praise or adoration for Boris House and continued until she stepped out of the carriage and into the people awaiting their arrival.

“Duchess! Princesses Muirfield, how good it is to see you!” Sir Jeremy Newell said as he and his wife exited their carriage along with their spoiled daughter, Maggie, whose jealousy of Gwen was always very evident, especially when Count Haverly and his sons were present.

“Here’s to a long night of talking to people I despise,” Gwen whispered to herself as she stepped out of the carriage and noticed Maggie approaching the Haverly’s carriage where it was stopped in front of Boris House just before theirs.

“What are you going on about back there?” Sophia asked as they walked up the long entry staircase of about 25 steps to enter the house’s tall double doors.

“Nothing. Just tired of life, really.”

“You’re only 18.”

“There is much to be tired of in the life we live. I think I’m bored of the same mundane things that we royals are always tasked with doing.”

“I rather like it,” Sophia said and grinned with a curtsey and a tilt of her head before hurrying her feet and catching up to her mother as she walked through the doors.

The large doors opened and they entered the beautiful home and were greeted by the footman, who showed them inside and to the parlor to the other guests.

“Right in here Ma’am,” the footman said and opened the door to the busy parlor.

“Welcome!” their Aunt, Princess Camilla, called out as the Duchess and her daughters walked into the parlor.

“How are my favorite girls?” she said, looking at her nieces.

“We are well, Aunt Camilla. Where is Uncle Phillip?” Sophia asked.

Camilla hugged both girls and motioned with her hand to the door on the right. “He is in the ballroom with the guest of honor, the Viscount Bramwall.” Princess Camilla looked to Rosalind and whispered as the girls walked away to bigger crowds, “Let us hope Lord Doltham is impressed with one of them. He is an excellent match!”

Rosalind eyed her daughters as they whispered to each other and walked away, “I fear your husband has other hopes for Gwendolyn.”

“You mean Prince Von Detton.”

Rosalind nodded.

“I’m working on putting a stop to that one. That young man has no interest at all in securing Gwendolyn’s hand, and if you ask me, he has no social etiquette.”

“Let us hope even more that Gwendolyn doesn’t say something to turn Lord Doltham off then!”

The two scheming women continued into the crowds of people where they were approached by King Phillip and Viscount Bramwall.

“Lord Bramwall, let me introduce you to my late brother’s wife and my nieces. Ladies, Lord Bramwall and the Duke of Florence, Peter Doltham.”

Peter bowed his head to the Duchess extending his hand to her, “It is a pleasure, Duchess.”

“Indeed, it is,” she replied, noticing his handsome face, certain his green eyes and dark brown hair would surely catch the attention of one of her girls.

“Let me introduce to you my daughters, Her Royal Highness, Princess Sophia Brigette Mayweather Muirfield,” she pointed to the younger of her two daughters.

“Nice to make your acquaintance,” he said, grasping the 15 year old princess’s hand in his. Peter’s gaze was not kept there. His eyes were moved by the beauty that was Gwendolyn, and he said, “This is?”

“My oldest daughter, Her Royal Highness, Princess Gwendolyn Violette Kostantopoulos Mayweather Muirfield.”

A smirk appeared on Peter’s face as he bowed his head to Gwendolyn. “Honored, Princess.”

The Duchess noticed his smile and said, “There is no room for an old woman where young people are present. I take my leave.”

Gwendolyn watched her mother walk away and said to Peter, “You laugh at me.”

“You have quite the name.”

“You are the kind of man who finds humor in things a person cannot control?”

“Not at all. Your name is beautiful. I do, however, find humor in everyday pleasantries. You would deny someone the happiness of finding pleasures in an everyday situation?”

Gwen smiled. “No. I admit I cannot deny you that. I also admit that my given name is ridiculous. Royals aren’t known for being precise in our introductions.”

“Indeed, you are not. Your Royal Highness, may I escort you to get a drink?” He pointed to the wine tables.

“You may.”

Gwen hadn’t anticipated finding pleasure in meeting the Viscount’s nephew; she wasn’t even expecting to want to hold a conversation with him. Yet, she stood across from him at the wine table, staring into his green eyes and felt very entranced by the sight of his green eyes, strong cheekbones, and the way his dark hair fell just across his eyebrow to the corner of his eye, giving her the urge to want to brush it away.

“Peter, tell me about your family,” she asked—trying to distract her mind from other thoughts—as they walked from the table, sipping their wine.

“Well, I have an older brother who is married with two children. I never fancied myself one for children, but I enjoy being an uncle. My niece and nephew are delightful. You are welcome to come and meet them sometime if you wish.”

Gwen smiled and nodded.

“I also have a sister who is younger than I.”

“What are their names?”

“You might know my brother as we both attend the court with your uncle.”

“You work closely with my uncle?” she asked and took a sip of wine, hoping the wine would calm her nerves as her uncle held a reputation for being very disagreeable and she didn’t want Lord Doltham to have the same image of her.

“I do.”

“Who is your brother?”

“Technically, he is my half-brother. My father was married previously and his first wife died. Then he married my mother and had my sister and I.”

Feeling impatient, Gwen widened her eyes and pursed her lips, waiting for a response.

“His name! Of course. He is the Chief Privy Council to His Majesty the King.

“Sir John Croker is your brother?!”

“As he lives and breathes, unfortunately. As I said, it’s only by our father.”

Knowing that John Croker was with her father the day he died and still having bitter feelings about all the details surrounding his death, Gwen needed to digest the information given, and she began walking away to the refreshments table to take a few of the almond biscuits, which were her favorite.

“Princess Gwen!” he hollered and hurried to catch up, also attracting the notice of a few onlookers, including the Duchess Muirfield.

“Gwen,” he said again a little softer now as he approached the table. “I’m sorry if I said or did something to have offended you. Please, give me the opportunity to make amends.”

Gwen took a bite from the biscuit, thinking on what to tell him because she certainly couldn’t tell him of her suspicions surrounding his brother and how she felt him to be the one responsible for her father’s death or at least to be closely linked to it. Surely not. She took her time chewing as Peter stared at her awaiting a response.

“It’s not you. I apologize. I was reminded of a terrible tragedy in my life.”

“A tragedy?”

“My father’s death.”

“Prince George’s accident. Of course. My brother was there. I am so sorry for your loss. I should’ve known. I’m sorry for my insensitivity.” He reached for Gwen’s hand and held it in both of his, hurrying to withdraw his hands from hers.

Looking down to where his hands were now rested across his chest, she reached hers out. “Apology unnecessary.”

“I am so very sorry about your father.”

A small smile appeared on Gwen’s face when she realized that Peter wasn’t at all what she perceived he might be—he was turning out to be nothing like the other dukes she’d met on previous occasions—and now that she’d met Peter, she was actually enjoying his company.

“Tell me more about your family, Peter,” Gwen said as she reached for another almond biscuit.

“Well, you have the displeasure of knowing my brother.”

“I take it you two are not on happy terms?”

Peter nudged her in the slightest way and motioned to continue their conversation in the corner of the room where their words would not be heard by nearby ears.

Once in the far corner of the room, Peter said, “There aren’t too many people who are on happy terms with my brother, Your Royal Highness.”

“Please, call me Gwen. Calling me ‘Your Royal Highness’ allows for no cordiality.”

“Using your Christian name seems so informal for the niece of His Majesty.”

“Please, I insist.”

Peter raised his eyebrows. “Very well, if you insist. Then I must insist you call me Peter and not Lord Doltham.”

Gwen glanced around Peter’s shoulder to notice that the one person she was trying to avoid this evening was headed her way and she needed to act now.

“Ask me to dance,” she said and pointed to Lord Haverly, who was almost to them.”

“Well, I’m not much of a dancer.”

Gwendolyn took his hand in hers and a playful smile appeared on her face. “Well, I happen to be a very good instructor.”

“If that is the case, then would Her Royal Highness…”

Gwen looked with squinted eyes and pursed lips to scold Peter.

“Pardon me, would Gwendolyn Violette Kost…”

Gwen giggled. “Lord Doltham!”

“Please, honor me with a dance.”

Before answering, she grasped his hand and led him to the row of dancers. As they began a Scottish reel, she said, “It would be my pleasure.”

As they danced, his mind and eyes were hypnotized by this beauty that was dancing with enthusiasm across from him and a smile wider than any woman he’d danced with before, and he wanted every reason possible to see her after this night. However, given Gwen’s rank in life, Peter was unsure if that would be possible. His desperation for Gwen’s beauty—more specifically her lips and the curvature and delicacy of them and how the rosiness gave a burst of color against her pale skin but also her sparkling blue eyes, which gave him hope even in the smallest essence as they followed his every move, that she wanted to see him again too.

“I so very much enjoy that dance,” Gwen said as they finished and moved to the side of the room.

“It was very… stimulating.”

Gwen giggled at Peter’s response.

“I’ve never heard anyone call a dance stimulating before, Peter.”

Sir Bartholomew approached and asked the princess for the next dance and though she did not want to leave Peter, she extended her hand and complied, fulfilling her obligation as the niece of the King.

“You didn’t think she’d stay with you all night now, did you?” John Croker said as he approached Peter while the Princess was enjoying a dance.

“Hello, brother,” Peter replied.

“I know what you’re doing, Peter. It will not work.”

“What, John? What am I doing?”

John turned and poked his finger into Peter’s sternum, giving a threatening tone to his voice and anger in his eyes.

“My job as His Majesty’s Chief Privy Council is to…”

“Counsel,” Peter replied.

“To care for the well-being of the King!”

“What’s that to do with me?!”

“That princess is his niece, who could potentially be your queen!”

“What is your point?”

“My business is to be sure…”

“I come nowhere near the throne.”

Peter pushed past John and walked away and out of the ballroom to cool off and settle his thoughts. He began walking back and forth in the hallway outside the palace ballroom.

“Lord Doltham?”

“Lady Colette?”

“It’s been a long time, Lord Doltham.”

“It has. How are you? How is your sister?”

Peter was surprised at seeing the woman he’d loved so long in the past, especially on a night when he was trying to win the heart of another. To have Colette Bellingside show up this night was of the highest inconvenience.

“My sister is well. I am well. Thank you for asking. And you? Are you well?”

“I’m…”

“Peter… I apologize for my prolonged absence. I couldn’t escape... my mother,” Gwen said, approaching where he stood with Lady Colette in the hallway. When Gwen saw Lady Colette standing there with him, her walking slowed and her words faded.

“Princess, let me introduce you to Lady Colette Bellingside,” Peter said.

Lady Colette curtsied and said, “Your Royal Highness, it is lovely to make your acquaintance.

“Why don’t you get better acquainted and I will get some wine?” Peter offered.

Gwen held up her glass. “None for me, thank you.”

“Thank you, Peter. I’ll take some,” Lady Colette said.

Peter walked away and into the ballroom.

“How long have you known Lord Doltham?”

“Oh, we have only just met this evening.”

“But you like him?”

“What isn’t there to enjoy about his company? Lord Doltham is very accommodating, and he is certainly polite and charming. He has been stimulating for the mind as well as. I find he is just the right kind of company.”

“Hm.”

“Do you not enjoy Peter’s company?” Gwen asked when she saw the look on Colette’s face.

“No, Your Royal Highness. That isn’t it in the slightest sense.”

Peter returned just then, noticing the look on Lady Colette’s face.

“A wine, Lady Colette. Anything you need at all, Princess?”

“No, thank you so much for your attentiveness, Lord Doltham.”

Peter held out his arm for only Gwen as they walked down the corridor and the amount of disdain searing out of Colette’s eyes was so sharp it could’ve pierced Gwen’s skin.

“Lord Doltham,” Lady Colette said as she eyed Princess Gwen and walked side by side with Peter. “How is your sister? It’s been so long since I’ve received a letter from her and I do very much enjoy her correspondence.”

“Mary is very well. I thank you for asking. She keeps busy with her drawing and piano playing and of course still loves to take her rides about the countryside on her many horses.”

“Yes, I do so enjoy the time I’ve spent at Gladwell House. I long for the time when I will have the pleasure of doing so again.”

“Princess Gwendolyn, you and your mother and sister will have to come to the north country soon and take a tour of Gladwell House and see our vast gardens and if you care for riding, you could visit the stables with my sister. She is always longing for a riding companion.”

“Thank you for the invitation. I do enjoy a ride through the country and would very much love to meet your sister.”

The three walked side by side down the hallway until Gwen decided she could handle Colette’s piercing eyes no longer and took her leave rejoining the ballroom.

“It has been lovely, but I fear I have been absent from the ballroom far too long. I’m certain my mother will wonder where I have gone and shall send a search party very soon.”

Peter chuckled. “Yes, no one wants that. I have enjoyed your company immensely, and I hope you will honor me with another dance yet this evening.”

“Most certainly if that is your wish.”

“It is.”

“I shall await your return then.” Gwen walked away and back into the ballroom.

As soon as Gwen was out of earshot, Colette said to Peter, “I know that you have your eye set on that princess, and I myself admit she is very lovely, Peter, but you should know His Majesty wants her wed to His Royal Highness, Daniel Von Detton, the Prince of Saxony.”

“Germany?! You are not serious, Colette.”

“So I hear,” Lady Colette said, hoping her plan to turn Peter’s attention away from the Princess was working.

“From whom?”

“My brother says so himself.”

“Our would-be queen to be married to a German?! The crime!”

“She isn’t going to be queen, Peter. Her uncle will be married in just a few short weeks and he will produce an heir. Gwendolyn will be nothing more than…”

“Nothing more than what?” Peter asked, feeling defensive of Gwen. “Even if she doesn’t become queen, she is still a princess, and you will address her as so.”

“Why are you so defensive of her?”

“My position and views are in defense of my country and its constitution.”

Lady Colette scoffed as Peter opened the door and walked into the ballroom, hoping to escape Lady Colette.

Colette hurried behind as she said, “I’ve not had a personal invitation to Gladwell House, Peter.”

“You live in the north country, Colette.”

Peter approached where Gwen was standing at the wine table and he said, “I would like to request my second dance now, Your Royal Highness.”

Gwen turned around, a smile on her face as his eyes moved to Colette, giving hint that he was trying to find his way away from her.

Gwen replied, “Certainly,” and took his hand in hers, pulling him against her side, widening Colette’s eyes.

“Colette, there you are,” Sir Bartholomew said. “I’ve been looking for you everywhere.”

Sir Bartholomew snatched her hand and led her away from Gwen and Peter and over to the refreshment tables. Gwen let out a small giggle as she covered her mouth and they walked away.

“That was interesting,” she whispered to Peter and they took their place to dance.

“He is.”

“What is their relationship?”

“That’s her mother’s business advisor, who also thinks he controls Colette.”

“I see.”

“If she seemed unfriendly with you…”

“You owe me no explanation for your life, Peter.”

They finished the waltz and before Colette approached again or anyone else could ask Gwen for a dance, he said, “Come for a walk outside with me.”

“A walk outside?”

“Yes. I feel in need of some air.”

Gwen nodded and held his hand as he led her to the closest door to the back gardens and away from scrutinizing eyes, continuing the hold on her hand as they walked all the way into the gardens.

“I must say, Gwen, that I never imagined the King’s niece could be so…”

“Tolerable?”

Peter smiled. “Yes. I would’ve said enjoyable, but you understand my point.”

“My uncle is certainly not known for his hospitality as King.”

“No. Certainly not. You are categorically opposite of what your uncle gives the impression he is.” Peter sighed and tightened his grip on Gwen’s hand, pulling her closer to his side, staring into her eyes as the blush on her face increased.

“I assure you that he is not as harsh as he lets on to be,” she said with a giggle.

“I have to admit to you, Peter, that I was dreading meeting you and wasn’t even expecting to even want to talk to you let alone...”

He brushed his finger under her chin, tilting it up for her eyes to look into his. “Let alone?”

“Like you at all.”

“Have I made all the difference?”

She nodded. “All the difference.”

Her eyes closed and she looked away.

“Gwen, would you be opposed to somewhere a little more private?”

“More private?”

“Follow me,” he said and led her down to the edge of the gardens where a few larger trees hid the path.

“Where are we going?” she whispered and looked around to be sure no one was watching as he tugged on her arm, leading her further down the path behind the trees.

He stopped about half way down the back path and pulled her to lean against the tree trunk.

Gwen blushed and giggled, “Peter! What are you doing?”

“Tomorrow, you will be gone from me, and who knows when I will see you again. I’m making the most of today.” He reached forward and held her face in his hands, pressing his lips against hers for only a moment before she pulled away. Blush filling her cheeks and showing her innocence, she looked at the floor, trying to compose herself.

“Am I in huge trouble?” he asked.

Gwen shook her head but was still looking away. She recuperated herself and took a deep breath, finally able to look Peter in the eyes, who stood there nervous and anticipating her reaction as he ran his fingers through his hair with his back to her.

Feeling shy and also embarrassed, she admitted, “I’ve never kissed a man before.”

“You’ve never had a kiss?” he replied and turned to face her.

“Well, no. I mean, I once kissed a boy when I was young as a childish game. But as for a man and experiencing my first real kiss? No. This is it.”

Gwen looked Peter in the eyes as she moved his fingers back and forth between each of hers where his arms rested at her sides. “Did you expect any different? I’m a princess who could very well be queen and they keep me locked up as though I’m in a tower, waiting for prince charming to come and rescue me or something of the sort.”

“Hm. Should I be your prince and come to your tower?”

Gwen moved closer to him, interlocking her hands fully in his as she wrapped them behind her back. “Or you could just rescue me today.”

Peter grinned at the idea and leaned in for another kiss.





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