The Crown

The Crown by Colleen Oakes Read Free Book Online Page A

Book: The Crown by Colleen Oakes Read Free Book Online
Authors: Colleen Oakes
Tags: Fiction - Fantasy
when Harris began teaching Vittiore in the evenings instead of Dinah, or when her father had forgotten to send her tea on All Tea’s Day.
    Wardley wiped his hand on the Julla Tree’s fuzzy trunk, looked deeply into her black eyes, and kissed her. His lips were cool and soft, and his mouth tasted like lemons. Dinah leaned in, but he had pulled back, resting his hands on her flaming cheeks, his eyes filled with curiosity as he took in her face. He was trying to understand something; she could see it in his eyes. Dinah gasped, purely out of shock at the sudden heat rushing through her veins, and Wardley gave an easy shrug. “Just wanted to see what it felt like.” He swung himself back into the Julla Tree with a laugh, and Dinah walked, dazed and giddy, toward the castle.
    A year had passed since then, and Dinah could still feel the touch of his lips upon hers as she wound her way out of the stables. Layers of pink snow dusted the swirling gold spires of Wonderland Palace, and the entire kingdom seemed to hold its breath with a still glow. A large group of Spade Cards was lounging near the red-glass doors that led into the palace. Dinah pulled her cloak over her head, hoping to hide her face, but her lips gave an uncertain jerk as she grew closer to them. They stood with an exaggerated ease, snickers escaping their blackened mouths. She HATED the Spades.
    “Your HIGH-ness.” They gave slight bows.
    As she passed, she heard one of them murmuring under his breath: “The King’s daughter, disgrace to the throne. Looks nothing like her mother.”
    “Recard,” whispered another.
    Dinah’s heart was flapping wildly now. An uncontrollable rage started at her fingertips and worked its way into her chest. She stumbled, and the tiny wooden seahorse that Wardley had given her dropped from her hand. It rolled to a rest against the steel-tipped boot of a Spade.
    “Aye, what’s this?” He bent down and picked it up, the figure minuscule against his large hand. “A toy? Aren’t yeh a bit old for toys, Princess?”
    “It’s a seahorse, and it’s MINE. Please give it back.” Dinah raised her eyes to meet his, hoping her trembling lip wouldn’t betray the shame she felt. “Please.”
    The Spade gave Dinah a hard look. “Come and get it, Yer Majesty.”
    His eyes were a mottled gold, she noted with surprise. It was such a stark color against his black-on-black uniform, his long gray hair, and the black symbol of a spade tattooed underneath his right eye. The other Spades remained motionless, half-bowed, as Dinah took a timid step toward him. She started to extend her left hand for the seahorse and then thought better of it. I am a Princess of Wonderland, she told herself. Remember what Harris says. Someday, I will be Queen.
    “No.”
    The Spades jerked their heads up with curiosity.
    “I am the Princess of Wonderland, and you will put it in my hand.”
    The gold-eyed Spade gave a deep hoot. “Aye, indeed you are, although the other princess has the look of one. If it were up to me, pretty Lady Vittiore should be the one getting the crown. . . .”
    Rising anger burned her spine. With a swift movement, Dinah reached up and struck the Spade, hard across his face. One of her pearl rings left a thin trail of blood across his left cheek. He lunged at her, only to catch himself, his fist inches from her face. Dinah reveled in his shock.
    “The Lady Vittiore is not a princess, she is only a duchess. Now, you will put the toy into my hand.”
    The Spade gave her an amused smile. “No problem, Princess.” He reached out.
    “No. My other hand.”
    He looked down with a grimace at her other arm, tucked firmly within her cloak. She made no move to pull it out for him. The other Spades watched in shock as he tried in vain to get the seahorse into her hand without groping her, an action surely punishable by death. Dinah watched the farce silently, as if her arm was detached from her body and she was merely a spectator to this man

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