Princess Moments

The Chosen Rose

By Joy Crain


It shouldn’t have hurt but it did.

And Florence wasn’t sure why.

I don’t love him, so why do I care?

Lady Florence glanced at her father, who was still glaring at Prince Aiden. Father was trying so hard to maintain his composure but from the moment the prince had taken that woman in his arms, there had been fire in her father’s eyes. Florence watched the couple twirl across the ballroom, Aiden’s smile brighter than the sun. She had never seen Aiden like this in the whole year she had dated him.

Breaking up had been the right choice.

If only her parents could see that.

Her father had exploded when she told him, ranting about how she hadn’t tried hard enough. His words still echoed in her head, battering her heart. Mother had been more understanding, though just as disappointed. In their eyes, Florence had failed. She could have been Prince Aiden’s bride, securing her place in the monarchy as Andelar’s next queen. She hadn’t only given up a chance at love when they broke up, she’d walked away from her future.

Aiden whispered something to the mystery woman in his arms, making her blush. Bile rose from Florence’s stomach to her mouth. It wasn’t that she loved Aiden—she knew deep down that she didn’t—but rejection washed over her nonetheless.

That should have been you.

What was the press going to make of all this? Her family would have to make a statement. She would have to put on a brave face. Tell the world that she and the prince weren’t a good match and had made the mutual decision to move on.

She’d been content with their decision until tonight, seeing Aiden with another woman. It wasn’t Florence’s heart that had taken a beating by her pride. Despite her beauty, her connections, and her royal title hadn’t been enough. He hadn’t chosen her.

He might have married her anyway out of honor—promises had been made—but she would have always known that he loved someone else. That their marriage was one of convenience, of duty, not of love.

A tear threatened to roll down her cheek. She might not love him, but she’d come to care so much for Aiden during their time together. He was a good man. A good man that she thought she could love. She’d spent many a night trying to think of ways she could win his heart or make him notice her more. To spend time with her apart from those times he was forced into it.

She had tried her best to support him in everything he did and prove that she was a worthy wife. To make her parents proud of her. To make the country proud of her. According to the Queen Mother, Florence’s marriage to Aiden was a done deal.

But nothing changed. And for the life of her she couldn’t figure out why. Not until the day she had mustered up the courage to set foot into his study to ask to take a walk together and he finally shared his heart.

He was in love with someone else. Someone the law deemed unsuitable for him. Someone the law prevented him from being with. Though it hurt, she accepted he’d never love her as much as he did his mystery girl, but she’d been confident that they would eventually find their own way to love each other.

She’d been wrong.

Florence turned from the dance floor, from Aiden and his love—the one who got away yet apparently was back in his life—and made for the nearest exit. She wasn’t sure if it was the tight bodice restricting her breath or the pain in her heart. The moment the night air hit her face, she removed her golden mask and let the first tear fall.

She regretted it immediately. Because with the first tear came others. First a drizzle, then a flood. She needed a place to hide. A wooden bench caught her eye, and she stumbled to it, weeping into her hands.

Her father and mother would never forgive her for this. For ruining their chances of making her queen and becoming part of the most powerful family in Andelar. As she wanted to hate Aiden, she couldn’t bring herself to. Whoever this woman was that he loved, she was glad that Aiden was with her.

But what about me?

“Excuse me, miss?”

Florence jumped and turned toward the voice. A man in a dark tuxedo stood a few steps away from her. The moonlight glinted off his shiny black mask.

She made quick work of wiping her face and replacing her mask, thankful that it would cover the mess her tears had made of her makeup. When she looked up again, the man had removed his mask, revealing his face. Before her stood a handsome man she had never seen before.

“I am so sorry to disturb you. I was just getting some fresh air and heard you.” He fumbled the mask between his fingers. “I just wanted to make sure you were all right.”

“I-I’m fine.” She was amazed she got out that much.

“Forgive me for doubting, but I don’t believe you. A lady crying outside alone in the middle of a royal ball”—he waved his arm past the pristine palace gardens to the ballroom beyond—“is most certainly not all right. Let me help you.”

Bitterness tinged the laughter that escaped despite her better judgment. “I don’t think there is anything you can do.”

“Oh?” he asked. “I am sure there is something I can do that will put a smile on your face. And I bet you I can do it with relative ease.”

That piqued her curiosity. His boldness, his playfulness—she liked it. And it made her want to be as playful as he, though she had been brought up better than to engage in such frivolity. But then again, what was the harm? He didn’t know who she was, so why shouldn’t she reinvent herself for the night?

“Is that so, sir?” she challenged.

“It is,” he replied. “Allow me…” He raised a finger then darted away behind the bushes. When he let out a little yelp, she jumped to her feet.

“Are you okay?”

“Just fine.” He reappeared again, this time with a rose in his left hand. He sucked on his right pointer finger as if a thorn had pricked him.

She couldn’t help but laugh.

He held out a rose. “A most beautiful rose, for a most beautiful lady.”

She took it from him and felt the soft petals. It had worked. He had made her feel better. She looked back up into his kind eyes.

He bowed his head. “I am YunLei,” he said, “but my friends call me by my English name Gavin.”

She offered her hand out to him. “It is a pleasure to meet you, Gavin.”

“Believe me, the pleasure is all mine.”

She went to drop her hand, but Gavin didn’t let go. “Come back to the ballroom. We’ve missed the first dance, but it would be my honor to dance with you for the second.”

Florence focused on the notes coming from the palace. The notes had, indeed, changed from the song that had been playing when she’d run.

“Please?” he cajoled.

She nodded.

Hand in hand, they walked back to the ballroom. He put his mask on again as he spun her to the dance floor and into his arms for a waltz.

“Gavin,” she said halfway through the song.


“There’s probably something I should tell you.”

His eyes glinted. “Go on.”

She took a deep breath after glancing at the rose still clutched between their hands. “I’m Lady Florence.”

He grinned. “I know.” He twirled her out and brought her back in. “And I am Prince YunLei, second cousin to King Myron.”

Florence’s breath caught in her throat. A prince? How had she not recognized him? Though being King Myron’s second cousin set him far down the line of succession. Perhaps that was why. Minor royals hardly got any press coverage, which she supposed was a good thing.

Her look of surprise must have shown even through her mask as Gavin laughed. The song ended all too soon, but Gavin never took his eyes off of her, nor did he leave her side. She couldn’t help the butterflies swirling in her stomach that stayed there throughout the night. It wasn’t until the ball was over that she realized she hadn’t thought about Aiden for hours. Thoughts of Gavin had filled her mind too much to leave any room for sadness.

She pressed the rose he had given her to her heart. It was wilted now, after having been carried for the duration of the ball, but no less precious. It reminded her of the dating shows where the bachelor selected the women he wanted to spend more time with until the last rose was handed out to the chosen one. Florence couldn’t help but wonder if this was the start of her own love story.

The one where she was chosen.

Books by Joy Crain