A Pearl Among Princes

A Pearl Among Princes by Coleen Paratore Read Free Book Online

Book: A Pearl Among Princes by Coleen Paratore Read Free Book Online
Authors: Coleen Paratore
of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked.
If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers,
Where’s the peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked?
    When I reach the royals’ den with the basket, I see the two most handsome PITs of the twelve, Sir Richard the soldier and Sir Peter the pirate, seated at a table staring intently at a chess board. Father taught me the game when I was seven and it fast became one of my favorite sports. I’m a bit of a chess champ. Father hasn’t beaten me in years.
    I walk close enough to see the carved wood figures, quiet so as not to disturb the play. Sir Richard finishes calculating his options. He lifts a knight and moves it up and over. Sir Peter smiles and quickly sweeps his rook across the board. Oh dear, he’s left his queen open to attack.
    â€œLady Grace,” Sir Richard says, looking up. He stands and Sir Peter follows. They move toward me.
    Sir Peter nods at the basket. “A present for me?” he says, smiling, crossing his arms over his chest, his silver earring glinting in the candlelight.
    Nuff was right. This prince is a looker. And of good humor too.
    â€œNo, sir,” I say, “sorry. Sir Richard requested this from the kitchen.”
    Sir Peter chuckles and looks at Sir Richard, impressed with his fellow PIT.
    â€œThank you, Lady Grace,” Sir Richard says, claiming the basket, my eyes, and my attention all at once. He smiles at me, his blue eyes glistening. I feel my face flushing.
    â€œLady Grace, is it?” Sir Peter says, coming closer.
    â€œGracepearl,” I say.
    â€œA winsome name for a winsome lady,” Sir Peter says, bowing with a flourish. “Allow me to introduce myself, Sir Peter of Elmland, at your humble service.”
    Sir Richard laughs. “Well done, Elmland, charming indeed.”
    â€œA pleasure to meet you, Sir Peter,” I say with a curtsy, trying to hide a smile. About this, the Muffets seem to know something— flirting is fun.
    Then I gather my wits back about me. It’s late and getting dark. I must go if I want to see Father. “Good evening to you, sirs.”
    â€œWait,” Sir Peter says, “stay.”
    â€œYes,” Richard says, “our match can wait.”
    â€œNo, thank you. I really must be off.”
    Sir Richard follows me into the hallway. “May I call on you?” he says.
    Sir Peter comes up beside Sir Richard, slyly dropping the napkin from the food basket on the rug. “You dropped something, Sir Richard,” he says.
    When Sir Richard looks, Sir Peter leans toward me. “May I call on you?” he says.
    Sir Richard snaps the napkin at Sir Peter’s head. “Here’s a pretty scarf for your ponytail, Peter,” he teases. “I know some royal girls who’d give their last glass slipper for such ravishing hair as yours.”
    Sir Peter roars in laughter. “Yes, Sir Richard, and I know some. . . .”
    Two five-star PITs in a verbal joust over me? My head’s in a swirl. “I must go,” I say. “Good evening.”
    â€œWell, my lady?” Sir Richard calls down the hall.
    â€œWell, my lady? ” Sir Peter echoes.
    I turn and smile, first at one and then the other. “Yes and yes,” I say.
    They laugh good-naturedly.
    â€œOh, and, Sir Peter . . .”
    â€œYes?” he says.
    Recalling the positions on the chess board, I know the only way he can spare his queen is to sacrifice his bishop. “I’d pay tithes to the bishop if I were you.”
    â€œWhat?” Sir Peter says, confused.
    â€œThe chess game,” says Sir Richard, roaring with glee, getting it right away. “So the beautiful Lady Grace is clever too.”
    Amazed at my new brazenness with boys, I hurry off to the hospital to see Father.

    It is too late. He is asleep. Another nurse, Sister Anne, short and rotund with a pleasant reassuring smile, says that when Doctor Jeffers made his evening rounds

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