Did you guys enjoy the cliffie? Neither did Bella.

(Edward's POV)

I could hear her coming closer, the fabric of her dress swishing against the polished wood floor. It was as if my heart had completely stopped in my throat and I couldn't breathe.

What if I can't satisfy her? I'm not ready for another woman in my life. What if I'm rejected from the palace? Do I just go home? Will I be punished severely?

A thousand questions ran through my head at one time, and I could feel the anxiety taking over my body, until I was pulled back by the bottom of her dress entering my peripheral vision. It seemed to be of a white, sheer material, thin, silky. I could see her feet through the bottom, bare, with the milky-white skin color of royals.

"Oh, uh...good evening, Your Highness," I replied, awkwardly. Get a grip! You are NOT off to a good start!

"You may look up," she said, coming closer, her body inches from mine.

I looked up, but far too much. She barely reached my chin in height, and when I looked down, she smiled at me. Her dark eyes contained a happy kind of twinkle that only genuinely content people have. I'd only seen that kind of twinkle in my sister, when she was cutting hair or shopping for clothes.

"Please, when we're in here," she said quietly, almost whispering, her breath fanning my face, "call me Bella."

I had an aching feeling in my arms, like I wanted to reach out and touch her. I quickly shut that down by reminding myself of Victoria, even though I shouldn't have even been feeling guilty. We weren't together anymore.

But in two years, you're going back to her. You're going to find her again and run away with her. Far away. So you either have to be faithful to her then, or be faithful to her now?

But why not both?

Because being faithful to her now is going to get you thrown out of the palace.

But...

It's not like you're together now. You broke up in the meadow.

I sighed internally.

"Uh, yes, of course, Your...um...Bella." The words tumbled out of my mouth like diarrhea.

She laughed.

"That's exactly what the others did, too. Mix up 'Your Highness' or 'Your Majesty' with 'Bella'. It's such a simple name, so I guess people can't wrap their head around the idea that royalty is human, too. Laurent predicted that would happen."

I smiled.

She stepped back a step. "I think it's also why you thought I was taller."

I looked at her, confused. "What?"

"Earlier," she continued, "when I told you that you could look up. You looked above my head before you looked at me."

"Oh," I replied, "Yes. I suppose that goes along with what you meant about royalty being advertised as more than human."

She grinned, more than smiling. It seemed to be the right answer.

Wrapping her hand around my forearm, she pulled me to the couch to sit next to her. She made herself comfortable, curling up in a ball on one side of the couch, her toes kneading the cushion under them, her dark hair falling in waves around her shoulders.

"And why do you think that is, exactly, Edward?" she asked me, continuing our conversation.

I made myself as comfortable as I could formally be, so I crossed my legs and turned my torso so I faced her.

"Oh, well, I guess it's because the royalty makes the decisions that the whole country has to abide by. The names of the royals are known by everyone, even though everyone is not known by the royals. Because they rule the country, they must be successful, the family that all else looks up to. They end up not seeming human to everyone else because they don't live among them, they live above them."

She was quiet for a little bit. "That is some interesting insight, Edward. I'll have to remember that in future years."

"If I may ask, Y-...Bella," she smiled, nodding to indicate I could go on, "why did you ask?"

"Oh," she waved her hand in the air dismissively, "it was just that I had been thinking about it for a while now. Since I have less experience in the world of my subjects, I need the insight and advice of those close to or of the common areas of my kingdom."

I was a little insulted at being referred to as a commoner. Even though it was true.

"Since my father's death, I've only travelled to Ovea to take care of the tribute and kingdom-merging. I am not very welcome there." She looked down, a cloud of sadness washing over her face.

"The royal advisors told me it might be a good idea to find the last of Ovea's royal family and, well, not give back their throne, but restore them to honor so Ovea doesn't see us as a cancer anymore, even though we are their leaders now."

She looked back at me.

"But enough of that, what about you, Edward? What of your family? What is it like in Ineas? My, I haven't been there since I was a young child. I thought it quite a magical place, but Claire thought it was dirty and bad for Stephen's health. He was never healthy, that boy." More sadness came across her face. I wished to dispel it as soon as possible. It nearly broke my heart to see her so sad.

"Ineas is indeed lovely," I said quickly, watching as she perked up, watching me with her eyes smiling, "I've lived there for as long as I can remember."

I declined to tell her my uncle had lived in Ovea, as he had told us, as a butcher. It seemed to be a sore subject for her, but my uncle had generally been on her side since she passed many policies to settle the neverending post-war shocks with Ovea.

We sat there talking for a while, and I could feel myself getting more and more comfortable with sitting next to her and just talking.

If we just sit and do this for entertainment, then I'll be set for life.

Soon, we heard the clock strike. It was time for me to leave, according to the schedule the others had been on for the past week.

I turned to look at Bella. She had been talking animatedly about a capital city zoo that a businessman had proposed to her. She wanted the zoo, to be sure, but she didn't want it in the capital city. If she placed it somewhere else in the country, somewhere that desperately needed money, it would generate currency from tourism and would lessen the financial pyramid that had built itself up in her father's reign.

I stared at her in amazement. Every minute I spent with her, I felt myself drawn in to her presence, mesmerized by the way her lips curled up when she spoke about something she admired or enjoyed doing, or the way her eyes twinkled when she thought I said something humorous.

She was a dangerous creature.

I can't do this to myself. I'll end up having a crush on someone who does this with seven other men, and maybe even more with her more familiar men, and then there's Victoria, who might be waiting for me, might not be.

The clock finished chiming, and Bella looked up.

"Oh," she said, her face falling, "I guess it's gotten late."

She turned to me, forcing a smile.

"You are dismissed, Edward. I enjoyed being with you tonight." A corner of her mouth turned up in a suggestive manner, and I laughed, bowing to her.

"Good night, Bella."

"Good night, Edward," she whispered, waving to me as I walked out the door.

Emmett was at the door, waiting for me. We walked silently for a few yards before he spoke up.

"So?"

"It was fun. She's a very talkative woman."

Emmett chucked. "That's always been the first thing people say about her."

I smiled, thinking about her excited face when she talked about the animals she would put in the zoo and the care she would lend them.

"Emmett?"

"Yes?"

"Is she...a virgin?"

Emmett paused, but kept walking.

"No. No, she's not."

I cocked my head.

"How do you know?"

He sighed.

"Edward, there are some questions that you need to ask directly, not through close, but still male, relations."

"I was just wondering."

"I know you're a virgin, Edward."

"No, you don't. I have a girlfriend."

Had.

He kept going.

"You're a virgin. If you weren't, you wouldn't have asked if she was."

"What?"

"You're insecure about knowing less than she does. You were hoping that if she was, then she'd be more hesitant to ask sexual favors of you. That way you could remain faithful to your former girlfriend back home."

"Am I that transparent?"

"I've seen a lot of men through here. I make sure she doesn't have contact with any sketchy guys. I make sure she's never touched by any man that would take advantage of her royal line."

"How? You picked me up off my relatives by giving them money. You don't know if I've done things."

"Trust me, it's a lot more complicated than that."

"How?"

"I can't tell you. But I can assure you, I know about at least the private parts that she's going to be in contact with."

I blushed. He was right. I had never done anything with Victoria other than kiss her. Even then, they weren't full of passion. They were light, soft kisses that some of the teenagers in the village made fun of. We usually just kissed in private.

There wasn't any particular reason we had never done anything else. It was mainly just that we didn't feel compelled to rip off our clothes and make passionate love surrounded by wildflowers.

Of course, there were many times I thought about it, but it was usually during my dreams, and while I was cleaning up the mess afterward.

We reached the doors of the harem and Emmett left me to go to his own chambers. I found my way to the bedroom, this time on the receiving end of Mike and Seth's relentless questions.

I said nothing, but headed straight for my bed, falling into deep sleep, but not before I heard Mike say to Seth, "Do you think they did more than we did?"

...

I awoke the next morning feeling refreshed, before realizing everyone was gone. I made my way out the bedroom door and down the hall to find Mike, Jacob, and Seth dressed and lounging in the common area, listening to Riley talk about Bella. Alec and Laurent were gone, along with Jasper. I sat down on the floor next to Jacob, who had his head laying back on the couch, his eyes closed.

"Her Highness doesn't really have a favorite," Riley was saying to Seth, "If we were to go on frequency of visits, then Laurent would be her favorite, I guess, but that's mostly to keep the runners miserable. They love having 'juicy' stuff like saying 'Queen Isabella is snubbing Gaol by snubbing their gift to her'. Honestly, Laurent doesn't like it. He doesn't like to be referred to as a present."

"I don't think anyone does," I muttered under my breath.

"Mostly we stick around by buttering up the court ladies. They love having an on-call entertainer, if you know what I mean," he said, winking at Mike.

"Have you ever had sex with her, though?" Seth asked.

Riley paused, but only for a moment.

"Yes. But only once. She was being courted by a young noble who turned out to be not-so-noble of heart. She said she was feeling vulnerable and needed some company. I ended up being a rebound," Riley frowned at this, but smiled again, "but the sex was amazing. You wouldn't believe the things she can do with her-"

A cough came from behind him, and we all looked up. Emmett was standing there with a young lady-in-waiting whose blush turned her head and most of her neck red. She coughed and spoke with a stutter.

"H-h-her high-ighness would l-like Ed-dward of Inea-as to accompan-ny her today t-to the city. P-please fol-llow me." She turned and swiftly walked out of the room, as if to get away from Riley's company as soon as possible.

"What? Twice?" Mike asked incredulously.

"Maybe the queen has a new favorite," Jacob said in a slightly mocking manner back at him.

I got up and followed the lady-in-waiting, all too aware of my repellant appearance and morning breath.

I know it's a little shorter, but I'd like to have them have a kind of "date" chapter all to themselves. What did you think? Please review :)