Happily Never After

Annabelle Hearst is just another person in the Headow kingdom, ruled by the Tomlinson family. Pressured by his father the king, Prince Louis is searching for a bride, a wife to make him a heir. He stumbles into Annabelle, one of the few who doesn't venerate the royal family. Can he convince her to come to the live the royal life with him willingly, or will he have to force her into it?

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17. You & I

 

My heart is beating wildly in my chest as I see the king turn to me.

 “Princess, it’s your turn now to decide who shall replace Stefan this year,” he says with a sadistic grin, motioning the three people in front of me. I start crying when I realise that my mother and the twins are the ones bowing before me.

“No! No I can’t do that!” I protest shakily.

“You have to, or I’m keeping all three of them.” The king snaps his fingers, guards immediately grabbing my mother and siblings.

“No!”

A gunshot rings loudly into the air. Pain hits my side. I can’t breathe.

“Annabelle!” Louis shouts, advancing towards me. His eyes are filled with horror as I cup my bleeding side.

“No please!” I beg, reaching out to them. I fall to my knees, the burning in my flank forcing me to stay put as I watch the guards take my family away.

“Annabelle―”

“No please!” I get out wretchedly, flooded with tears. The prince tries to wrap his arms around me but I push him away, staining his clothes with my blood. “No!”

“Annabelle, love wake up.”

My eyes pop open, my breathing uneven as I realize I’m fighting against Louis, on the brim of tears. The tears roll down my cheeks as I begin sniffling and weeping.

“Darling, shhh its okay,” Louis’ soft voice reassures me as he wraps his arms around me. I’m shaking as I hold on to his shirt. “It’s over. You’re safe,” he whispers, letting me hold onto him. I dig my face into his neck, sobbing. “It was just a nightmare. It’s over,” he repeats, rubbing my back soothingly. “Shhh,” he lulls softly, swaying me slowly in his arms. I shut my eyes, breathing in and out shakily. “Do you want to talk about it?” he enquires once I’ve calmed down.

I shake my head no, wiping my tears with the back of my hand before pulling away.

“It was only a nightmare,” I hiccup. “It wasn’t real.” I touch the side where I’d felt the bullet in the dream just to make sure.

Louis sighs, his blue eyes gazing into mine.

“You can tell me anything love. It’s just you and me,” he persists, his hand sliding into mine.

I shake my head, passing my hand through my hair.

“I don’t want to relive it. I’ll be fine,” I repeat, shutting my eyes. The prince purses his lips, but doesn’t add anything to the matter.

“Do you want to do something in particular today?” he enquires. “We have this farmhouse to ourselves for the next couple of days. Zayn is currently patrolling around but unless you want to go into town, he won’t be seen.”

I nod distractedly, taking a good look at my surroundings. The room has little furniture and doesn’t seem to be oozing royalty like I thought it would. In fact, it seems to be something someone a little under the nobles would possess. The ceiling is a faded beige, and the wall is recovered with simple daisy-patterned wallpaper. I gaze down at myself.

“You changed my clothes,” I state in shock, clutching the sheets to cover the silk nightgown on my body.

“I did. You wouldn’t have been able to sleep at ease in muddy trousers love,” he points out, frowning.

“You invaded my privacy without my consent!” I say, distressed to say the least at the thought of Louis changing my clothes.

“Princess, we’re a married couple and it’s not like I haven’t seen you in the nude prior―”

I shake my head, scooting away.

“No. No this is not going to work,” I declare, grabbing as much of the sheets as I can to cover myself. Louis gazes at me with incredulity.

“What isn’t going to work? Love, I’m lost,” he exhales, passing his hand through his hair. “I haven’t done anything wrong.”

I shut my eyes.

“All of this is wrong,” I deny, motioning all around us.

“Annabelle, I know you’re still not particularly pleased with the whole marriage idea but that is no reason to start―”

“The hasty marriage was to please your father, right?” I cut in.

“Yes―”

“And what you meant at the meadow the other day, about making me fall for you, was that true?”

He frowns.

“Of course it was, but―”

“Then this is what this honeymoon is going to be about,” I say.

Louis exhales loudly.

“Three times. You’ve interrupted me three times,” he states, taking his head in his hands. “What am I going to do with you?” he exhales.

“You’re going to have to prove me Louis that this marriage is more to you than something you did to please your father,” I continue, still hiding my body with the sheets.

“Annabelle of course marrying you wasn’t simply to please my father!” the prince exclaims, eyes wide.

“How many days do we have on our honeymoon?” I counter.

“About seven.”

“You want to know what I want to do today?” I say.

“Please Annabelle. That’s all I’m asking. You’re making me dizzy with all these sudden subject changes,” he gets out, rubbing his temples.

“I want you to make me fall in love with you. Transform this mandatory marriage into a real marriage,” I say. “Sweep me off my feet as you put it.”

He simply gapes at me, speechless.

“What?” he murmurs finally. I see a flicker of fear in his blue orbs.

“Your father’s not there to scrutinize your every move which means you can act as your true self for seven days. We have seven days to learn how to work as a team, because that’s what a married couple is ultimately,” I decide.

“What does all of that have to do about me changing your clothes while you were sleeping?” he counters in disbelief.

“Teammates don’t see each other naked,” I retort curtly. “I do not feel at ease knowing you eyed my naked form while I was asleep.”

“I’m deeply sorry that the fact that I’ve seen you naked makes you uncomfortable…But that’s just what lovers do.”

“We are not lovers Louis. We are two people united by marriage and that’s it. I had sex with you because I had to. Not because I wanted to,” I reply, looking down at my fingers anxiously. “I’m in this marriage whether I want it or not, but I’m giving you the chance to show me you and I can work.”

He takes his head into his hands.

“You make me sound like a rapist,” he gets out under his breath as he stands up. “I need time to think your proposition over,” he ends curtly, before leaving the room, shutting the door behind him.

 

*****

 

I’m sitting on the farmhouse’s wooden stairs, playing with a daisy when Louis comes back to me. The sun is at its highest, warming my skin pleasantly. The prince takes a seat beside me, following my gaze on the field of daisies.

“Your idea makes sense,” he says finally. I turn to look at him, only to find him staring back at me. “But if we do this, we need some ground rules,” he exhales, arms resting on his thighs with his hands intertwined in front of him.

“Why would we need rules? The whole point of this is to live by no rules―”

“I know Annabelle,” he exhales, almost aggressively. He rubs his face. “I know. But I need rules. I’ve always had them and I’m not going to stop now,” he elaborates.

I bite my lip.

“Are these rules open to negotiation?” I question.

“Maybe.”

I nod.

“Very well then. What rules do you wish to establish?” I give in.

“I need to know something first, Princess. What are your limits concerning our physical relationship?” he counters. My stomach coils.

“I would prefer if our physical relationship started slowly? Really slowly,” I say, focusing on the daisy in between my fingers. “We are but teammates after all.”

“For now. But I agree. I rushed you and it was not okay. Are you alright with sleeping in the same bed as me though?”

“I am,” I acknowledge.

“Good,” he sighs deeply. “So rules: you must accept every single one of my gifts without arguing.

“How many gifts are you planning on giving?” I reply, eyes growing.

“That’s for me to know and you to find out,” the blue-eyed prince responds. I purse my lips.

“I get to choose what I want to do with these gifts?”

“Anything but throwing them away,” he agree.

“Alright. I can work with that.”

He smiles, pleased.

“Next: what happens in this farmhouse stays in this farmhouse, just like when we’re at the meadow. Don’t expect me to act like I do here back at the castle.”

I acquiesce. Makes sense.

“And last rule: basic manners are a must. This means no interrupting, no anger fits and proper vocabulary.”

“Why?”

“We are returning to the castle after the week is over love, and I have a feeling the reintegration won’t go smoothly if certain measures aren’t enforced. I don’t want to have to deal with your childish antics again. You need the practice,” he elaborates.

I take a deep breath.

“If you want this to work, I need you to be patient with me. I need you to stop seeing me as a child that needs to be taken care of, but rather as a girl that’s been ripped away from the life she’s had for nineteen years and thrown into a completely different one,” I demand seriously.

“I’ll work on my patience if you work on your attitude, alright?”

“This means that so far, we’re up to two things,” I agree. “You need me be to be a little more independent and put an effort on my attitude.”

“And you need me to be a little more patient and more precise when I want things to be done,” he completes, recalling our compromise in the meadow.

We both smile, content of the result of our discussion. Both of our gazes shift back to the field of flowers in front of us and we stare at it in silence, letting nature do the talking. It feels nice.

 Louis breaks the silence after a couple minutes, uneasy.

“I want you to know that out of the seven days, there has to be at least three intimate intercourses,” he begins, features set into a saddened grimace.

My heart skips a beat. The prince must’ve noticed my apprehension because next thing I know, his hand is sliding into mine.

“It doesn’t have to be on separate days, nor does it have to be on the same one. I said we’d be working on our physical relationship slowly and that’s what we’ll do, but you know what this marriage was for better than me Annabelle. We need to give it a shot,” Louis explains.

Right. A royal heir. A boy.

I take a deep breath, shutting my eyes.

“I know.”

“I won’t rush you Annabelle. If it ends up being twice, then so be it. But the people of Headow expect the news of a royal baby soon. My father especially.”

“What if I’m unable to get pregnant?” I question. “It happens. Some women are infertile. What if it’s my case?”

“I’ll have you checked by doctors when we get back to the castle,” he reasons, rubbing my back. “But I’m pretty sure that’s not the case. If it happens to be well,” he sighs deeply, “we’ll deal with it when we get there.”

There’s a pregnant silence, ruined by the sound of my stomach rumbling. Louis laughs.

“Let’s go make some food, shall we?” he suggests, standing up. He holds out his hand for me to take.

“You mean we have no servants?” I ask, surprised.

“No. It’s only you and I,” he smiles, hoisting me up to my feet. “By the way, you’re going to have to show me how to cook because I have no bloody clue what to do,” he chuckles.

I giggle, following him to the kitchen.

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