The sky was a perfect baby blue, the sun warm and bright, its rays shining down on Christine. She’s running free and happy through the grass, her bare feet sinking into pure soil, long blonde curls bouncing behind her. She laughs and turns back to see her brother Jack, a year younger but almost as tall, his hair shaggy and dark, thin legs try to keep up with her sprint.
“Hurry up, slow poke!” she laughed at her brother, not stopping to let him catch up.
“One day, I’ll catch you,” he told her, giving everything he had to go faster.
She threw her arms out beside her, turning herself in a graceful spin without losing momentum.
“How do you do that?” Jack called to her.
“I don’t know,” she replied, “My feet just take me.”
She reached the tree they were racing for and immediately began to climb.
“I’ve got you now,” Jack said, “You know I’m the better climber.”
It was true, he did not have her speed, but he could hide from wolves in a tree. Gasping for breath, they hopped on the tallest branch that supported them, Jack making it just as Christine did. They both laughed in childish glee.
They were facing away from the city, perched high in the tree where they could see for miles, “I wonder what else is out there.”
“Trees,” Jack said, “And somewhere beyond that; people. Father says no place in the world is as beautiful and happy as here though.”
“Father says a lot of things,” Christine scoffed, “You don’t think about seeing for yourself? One day, when we are older, finding out what is beyond those trees. Just taking your horse and riding until you have nothing left. Perhaps meet a witch, or a unicorn.”
“Bedtime stories, Christine,” Jack said trying to sound older than he was, “When are you going to grow up?”
Christine gazed out at the world, her eyes sparkling with the possibilities, “The stories came from somewhere. Perhaps I would meet a Prince, and he would fall in love with me. I would be his Princess and we will live happily ever after.”
“A Princess?” Jack looked disgusted, “You could never be lady enough for that.”
“I could!” she objected, “I would be the greatest Princess there ever was.”
“Prince Daniel seems to fancy you,” Jack said.
“Prince Daniel will never be King,” Christine said, “I would have to marry Prince Thomas.”
“Prince Thomas?” Jack looked at her like her head had flipped all around, “He’s nearly thirty! And you’re barely ten. Father would never approve.”
Christine leaned on a branch looking dreamily at the sky, “I wonder where he goes on those long trips of his? He is gone for weeks, or months at a time. Perhaps he goes to meet Princess suitors and they’re never good enough. Or fights filthy pirates at sea,” she leaned her cheek to her hand with a swoon, “He is so dashing.”
“Yeah,” Jack laughed, “For an old man.”
Christine scrunched her nose at him, “Have you no lady you fancy?” she asked.
Jack’s cheeks went red and Christine’s eyes widened with a new excitement, “Oh you do, don’t you? Who is she?”
“I’m not telling,” Jack objected.
Christine squealed and clapped her hands, “I will have to look out for her now. Oh it’s so exciting.”
“It’s nobody,” Jack tried to convince her, but she wouldn’t hear it. She was lost in her happy dream land.
A trumpet sound captured both of their attention. Christine clapped again, “Oh! Prince Thomas is back from his trip.”
She was scurrying down the tree immediately.
“I wonder if he brought home a lady,” Jack said, his feet hitting the ground seconds before Christine.
“Don’t tease,” Christine scolded, and they were both off.
She made it back to the castle gates just in time to see Prince Thomas pull his horse to a stop, “Woah, boy,” he told his horse, and hopped to the ground.
“Well hello, my Lady,” Prince Thomas said seeing Christine, her cheeks flushed from running and hair a frizzy mess. He bowed to her, and she gave him a curtsy back.
“Hello, Your Majesty,” she greeted, “Welcome back.”
“Thank you,” he replied, taking a knee in front of her so they were level, “How is your family? Are you keeping that brother of yours in line?”
She giggled, “Yes, Sir. If he does anything I don’t like, I just run. He can never catch me.”
Thomas smiled, “Good. Never hide your strength, not from anyone.”
She nodded, “Yes, Prince Thomas.”
Just then, Jack ran up behind Christine, “Hey, Prince Thomas,” he greeted.
“Jack,” Thomas bowed his head to greet him, Jack did the same, “Will the two of you be at the ball tonight?”
“Mother doesn’t want me to go,” Christine scrunched her nose, “But I’m ten years old now, nearly a lady,” she straightened her back, lifting her chin high in an effort to look older.
Thomas laughed kindly at her, “Well, if you do come, promise me you will honor me with a dance.”
Christine blushed, “Yes, Your Majesty.”
“Good,” he touched Jack’s shoulder, “You look out for your sister.”
“I always do, Majesty,” Jack said.
Thomas rose to his feet, nodding his approval and mounted his horse to ride up to the palace, “I will see you both soon,” and he was off.
Ever since the day David and Elena came with Christine to find refuge in Hanton, Thomas had felt protective over her like an older brother. She didn’t know why he was so attentive to her. The truth was, he spent most of his days rebuilding her Kingdom, and with every bit of progress they made, he grew more anxious to put that spunky little girl on her throne. It had become a very personal mission to him, and he put everything he had into it’s completion.
Christine and Jack watched him ride off and she said, “Yes, I will most certainly be a Princess one day. I was made for it.”
If you like this excerpt and want the chance for a signed copy upon release, go to: Rose of Dancé by Erika Sams