A/N: Thank you all so much for the follows, favorites, and reviews!
Mia frowned. "Uh, Gran'ma?"
"What is it, Darling?"
"This dress…it…" Mia looked down at the wedding dress she was wearing. She didn't want to hurt anyone's feelings…but…it was awful…and it wasn't hers.
Clarisse looked up from the papers she'd been going over. "Oh my!" she exclaimed as she looked at the dress Mia wore.
"This isn't my dress, Gran'ma." Mia felt the panic begin to set in.
"Don't panic, Darling." Clarisse could see it in Mia's eyes, and the last thing she wanted or needed was for her granddaughter to go crazy with panic. "I'm sure it was just a simple mix up and that your gown is just fine."
Mia sighed…what a mess this all was. An arranged marriage, a man she liked…but just as a friend…and a man she was in love with…but who was trying to steal her crown. If only she could go back to college…at least life had been as simple as she could have it since finding out she was a princess. "Gran'ma?"
"What was it like?" Mia gladly let the dressmaker's assistant help her out of the dress.
"What was what like, Darling?"
"Oh." Clarisse's voice was sad.
Mia groaned. "There it is again. Please, Gran'ma…you have to tell me what is making you so sad."
Clarisse sighed. The girl was right. Besides that…she wouldn't leave her alone if she didn't. "I'll tell you, Darling, but not here. Let Madame find the right dress. After you try it on to make sure everything is right, we'll go back to my suite and I will tell you the story."
Joe felt sick to his stomach when he heard Clarisse's father introduce her to the King and Queen. The thoughts of his Clarisse with another man…but there was nothing he could do…she was no longer his Clarisse. She hadn't been since the day she'd told him she wouldn't run away with him. He swallowed passed the lump forming in his throat as he caught her gaze. He knew she was searching for the hurt, and he knew that she'd found it, but he would remain cold and indifferent. He had to…it was the only way he would survive.
Joe shook himself to clear his head and rolled his eyes when Lionel shouted again. "Lionel, I can hear you."
"Yes, Sir." The young man stopped in front of Joe.
"What is it you wanted?"
"Where do you want me?"
"You're supposed to be watching the Viscount's nephew, Lord Nicholas."
Joe drug his hand over his face in exasperation as he watched the young man rush away. This was one thing he wasn't going to miss. He was a man of great patience, but Lionel was sorely trying that patience. How could one young man be so…so…stupid?
Joe couldn't believe how stupid he'd been. How could he have missed the man hiding in the bushes waiting to attack? Prince Rupert was now recovering from the attack, thankfully, but it made Joe question his ability to fully do his job. Could he guard the man that was now married to Clarisse, without letting his feelings get in the way? No matter how hard he tried, she was still in his thoughts day and night…every hour of the day. He watched her with Rupert, and heard their laughter. How could she be so happy? How could she live with herself for hurting him as she had?
Over time, those thoughts turned into bitterness, and Joe climbed the ranks to become the head of the security team. He was finally able to do his job without being distracted with thoughts of her by the time the first son had been born, and by the time the second son had been born…Joe's heart was completely buried behind a stone wall.
"A wall she's broke through." Joe mumbled. Why had he let her in again? How could he have forgotten the pain and rejection he'd felt? How could he have let her make him forget the years he'd spent getting over her and forcing her from his mind? Why had he thought she would choose differently this time? "How could I have been so stupid?"
Mia sat with a stunned expression on her face. Clarisse had just finished telling her the story of how she and Joe had known each other and the love that they had shared and lost by her arranged marriage. "Oh Gran'ma. How did you ever develop your fondness for Gran'pa? How were the two of you such good friends?"
"He didn't know, Mia. He wasn't behind the arrangement. Rupert, although he never told me, was also in love when we were forced into the marriage. He realized as our marriage went on, that I was in love with someone, but he never knew who it was, and he never asked." Clarisse's voice was quiet as she watched Mia's face. "I'm so sorry, Darling. I'm no better than my father was."
Mia frowned. "Gran'ma, you aren't gaining anything from this marriage…so far…you're losing."
Clarisse blinked as she looked at her granddaughter. "You mean…you're not upset with me?"
"Why would I be?" Mia didn't understand her grandmother sometimes.
"Oh Mia." Clarisse pulled the girl into her arms and held her tightly. "I was so worried that you would be mad at me for doing to you what my father did to me."
"Gran'ma." Mia said in exasperation. "You aren't doing anything to me. You told me that I didn't have to do this. You aren't forcing me, I chose this. Your father forced you into that marriage because he wanted the power and position he'd been offered. He sold you." She frowned…what kind of man had her great grandfather been?
"He wasn't always like that, Mia." Clarisse read the girls thoughts. "When I was a little girl, my father was wonderful, but power and the hunger for money changed him. Mother hated the man he became, and left him a year after I married Rupert. I never saw her again."
"I'm sorry, Gran'ma."
"It's alright, Darling. I understood. I didn't want to see Father, but because of who I was married to, and because of Father's new position…I saw him at parties and other occasions. Rupert wasn't the most observant man when it came to things other than running his country, so he never noticed how cold I was to Father."
"Was your father still alive when Gran'pa became King?"
"Yes, but he died about a year later."
"Gran'ma…why did Joe stay?" Mia looked into her grandmother's sad eyes as she waited for her answer.
"I don't know, Mia. Sometimes I think that he would have been better off, and been much happier, if he would have left and gone away. He might even have had a wife and family of his own, if he had."
Mia shook her head. "No, I don't think so. He loves you, Gran'ma…and it's a deep love."
"How do you know that?"
"It's in his eyes, Gran'ma. I see it every time he looks at you or when he says your name. Why do you think he so easily became my babysitter back in San Francisco?" Mia giggled.
"He loves you, Mia. He's never said so, but he does. You're the closest thing he's ever had to a child of his own."
"I like that." Mia smiled. "I love Joe, and I love you. I hate what my mess has done to the two of you. Because of me…" she let her sentence hang.
"No, Mia. It isn't your fault. The fault is all mine. I chose my duty to the country over Joseph, again, and this time I fear that I'll never have another chance." Clarisse's voice cracked and she looked away.
"Oh Gran'ma. Don't say that. He has to give you a second chance."
"Mia, I've already had a second chance."