Summary: Alice skis the deck in Lythikos, learns more about Drake’s family, and has a private dance lesson with Bastien.
Notes: I again used a lot of the original PB dialogue, but I bedazzled it a bit.
New to the series? Catch up here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8 , Part 9, Part 10, Part 11
“Are you sure you won’t come?” Liam asked at the bottom of the ski lift.
“Yes, I’m sure,” Alice said. “Seriously, go! Have fun! I’ll be in the lodge by the fire while the rest of you enjoy your frostbite.”
Hana laughed. “See you later!” she called as she joined Drake on the chair lift. Tariq and Maxwell got the next one; Liam and Olivia the one after. Liam turned as their chair began to rise to give her a wave. Alice waved back before she walked back to the lodge and went inside. To her surprise, the room was fairly empty, save for a couple people here and there, paired off at small tables. Alice headed for the marble-topped bar and sat down heavily on a bar stool.
“What may I get for you, my lady?” the bartender asked.
“Green Spot, please. A double.”
When the bartender handed her the glass, Alice left some cash on the bar and headed over to an open table by the window that gave her a perfect view of the slopes. She’d barely taken a sip when her phone buzzed.
Not a skier?
Alice smiled and texted back.
I’ll have you know I’m doing an excellent job skiing the bar
I can see that
She turned around and saw Bastien sitting at the bar with a mug. He smiled, raised his cup, and took a sip.
Not going to join me? she texted.
Wish I could. You look incredible, the snow really suits you
You really suit me
Alice glanced over her shoulder at him again in time to see him blush slightly when he read her last text before she returned her gaze back towards the window.
What are you drinking? he texted.
Whiskey. I’m using it as medicine to heal my bruised ego after my impressive display on the ice
You looked good out there.
You clearly weren’t watching me if you think I looked good while ice skating
I mean, okay, you weren’t graceful, but I still enjoyed watching you.
Alice bit her lip and resisted the urge to look back at him. They didn’t need any prying eyes noticing that the American suitor couldn’t keep her eyes off he head of the royal guard.
What are you drinking? Alice texted.
I thought you already had breakfast
I’m always up for another round.
Are we still talking about coffee?
Were we ever?
Alice looked back out at the slopes. She was pretty sure she recognized Hana’s pale pink jacket as she effortlessly skied down the slope, coming to a graceful stop. Shortly behind her, Tariq pulled up, unnecessarily spraying snow everywhere. He vaguely reminded her of a villain from a John Hughes movie, the one who conspired to destroy the rec center while the heroes had to band together and challenge him to a downhill ski race in order to save it.
Can I see you later? she texted.
I’m in the east wing, second floor, last door on the left.
She smiled. That’s directly below my room
Alice glanced up from her phone, surprised. “Hey, Drake. Done skiing already?” She felt her phone buzz again in her hand, but she resisted the urge to look at it just yet.
He shrugged. “I did one run, but wasn’t really in the mood. Mind if I join you?”
“Sure,” Alice said, gesturing to the open seat beside her.
“Thanks. Let me go order a drink and I’ll come back–can I get you another?” he asked, pointing at her glass.
“Sure. Green Spot. Thanks.”
Drake nodded and headed to the bar. Alice turned in time to see Bastien finish his coffee and set the mug on the bar before he stood to leave. He said hello to Drake, briefly patting him on the back, before he left. Alice looked down at her phone and saw a quote from Virginia Wolf:
“In case you ever foolishly forget: I am never not thinking of you.”
Alice smiled, a warm flutter making her heart beat a little faster.
“What are you reading?” Drake asked as he set down the whiskeys and sat beside her.
“Text from my friend back in New York,” Alice said before tucking her phone in her pocket. “So, skiing wasn’t everything you thought it’d be?”
Drake shrugged. “It was fine.” He took a sip of his whiskey. “Are you ready for the ball tomorrow?”
“There’s a ball tomorrow?”
He chuckled. “I’ll take that as a no.”
“I mean, I guess so. I feel like I did okay at the masquerade.”
“Ah, yes, but at this one, you have to do the Cordonian Waltz.”
“I’m sorry, the what now?”
“The Cordonian Waltz. Has Maxwell seriously not told you about this?” Drake asked.
“No…” Alice said slowly. Dammit, Maxwell.
“Basically, all the suitors will be participating in the Cordonian Waltz. It’s a traditional dance and it’s sort of a way to…show off the suitors.”
“Like prized pigs at a county fair?”
Drake laughed. “I wouldn’t necessarily call you a pig, but yes, like that.”
“Necessarily?” Alice asked, raising an eyebrow at him. Drake sighed, looking a little flustered.
“You’re very hard to compliment, you know that?” he asked.
“I’m actually very easy to compliment; I just don’t consider ‘not necessarily a pig’ to be flattering.”
“Fine, I’m sorry,” Drake apologized. “I’m sure you’ll look beautiful and won’t necessarily trip over your own feet in front of the entire court.”
“So close, and yet so far,” Alice said with a laugh. “I guess I’ll take it.”
Drake hesitated before taking a deep swallow of whiskey. “If you want, I could teach you the dance.”
Alice gasped in mock surprise. “Drake! You dance? Voluntarily?”
He blushed. “Okay, not a lot, but I do know how to do it. I could help you if you wanted.”
“Thank you, I appreciate the offer,” Alice said carefully. “But I feel like Maxwell owes me one for neglecting to tell me about this whole show pony thing.”
Drake nodded. “Of course,” he said quickly, taking another sip of whiskey. “I just thought I’d offer.”
“Which I appreciate,” Alice said. “And don’t worry, I won’t tell anyone you did something nice. Your reputation is safe.”
He chuckled. “Thanks, I appreciate that.”
They both turned their gaze out the window to watch the skiers glide down the slopes. After a minute, Alice pulled out her phone to send a text.
Any chance you know the Cordonian Waltz?
Bastien’s reply was immediate. Of course. Need a lesson?
A while later, everyone else came into the lodge and Alice and Drake joined them for hot cocoa by the roaring fire.
“Did you have fun today, Alice?” Maxwell asked as he took a sip, whipped cream dotting the end of his nose.
“I did,” she said. “Although this might be my favorite part,” she said, briefly lifting her mug of cocoa.
“This is wonderful,” Hana agreed. “I love the little marshmallows shaped like hearts!”
“Just…adorable,” Drake said. Alice lightly kicked him in the shin. “Ow, hey!”
“Watch yourself,” Maxwell said, nodding over Alice’s shoulder. “Incoming.”
“Well, hello, my dear guests,” Olivia said as she walked over to the group. “I hope you’re enjoying my spectacular hosting.”
“Please don’t sprain yourself patting yourself on the back on our account,” Alice said. Olivia narrowed her eyes, but Maxwell interjected before Olivia could say anything.
“I always enjoy my time here with you, Olivia,” he said graciously.
“It’s…something,” Drake said. Alice kicked him again. “Ow, what? You got to say something.”
“Did you see that we have eclairs, Drake?” Olivia asked, her tone frosting at the edges. “They always remind me of dear, darling little Savannah. She’d gobble them down like a sow at the trough.”
“Don’t talk about my sister,” Drake said, his face angry and dark.
“Why ever not?” Olivia asked with exaggerated innocence. “She was such a fixture at court, and then she just up and disappeared. You never told us what happened, and usually gossip is quick to spread.”
“She left because of people like you,” Drake snapped. The rest of the group had grown very quiet during this exchange and Alice’s eyes flicked back and forth between Drake and Olivia.
“She always was the sensitive sort,” Olivia said with a sigh. “Ladies like that don’t last long here.”
Alice watched as Drake’s jaw clenched and she readied herself to stand in case he jumped to his feet. Instead, he glanced down at his watch and his face visibly relaxed.
“You know what? I just remembered I’ve got to be somewhere I need to be. If you’ll excuse me…” he said as he stood. He bowed curtly to Alice, Hana, and Olivia before he turned and quickly walked away.
“Wait, Drake!” Olivia called after him. “Come back! I wasn’t finished with you!”
Alice stood up. “Olivia, you know you don’t always have to be a raging cunt, right?” she asked. Olivia’s face went slack with surprise but before she could say anything in return, Alice set down her mug and went after Drake.
When Alice went outside, the sky had already darkened ominously. She vaguely remembered Hana mentioning something about an incoming storm when they’d gone shopping in town earlier, and it looked like the weather was about to make good on its threat. Alice pulled her coat a little tighter around her and surveyed the landscape, looking for Drake. The ground outside was a mass of snowy footprints from the day’s activities, making tracking him useless.
If I were a moody grump, where would I go? Alice wondered as she looked around. She glanced over towards the woods and saw Drake just as he headed into the trees. Alice quickly followed, hurrying after him before she lost him.
“Hey!” she called as she reached the tree line. Drake stopped and turned around, surprised.
“Alice? What are you doing here?”
“You’re calling me by my first name? You really are upset,” Alice said as she walked over to him. “It’s getting dark and a storm’s coming. What are you doing out here?”
He sighed, shoving his hands in his pockets. “I just…needed to get out of there.”
“And what exactly was your game plan once you got out here? Freezing to death isn’t going to prove anything to Olivia.”
“I can show you…but you’ll have to trust me,” Drake said.
Alice eyed him suspiciously. “This sounds like the opening of a horror movie. You don’t have any bodies stashed out here, do you?”
Drake laughed. “No, nothing like that. I hide all the bodies back at the palace.” Then, without warning, he shoved Alice into a snowbank.
“Hey!” she protested. “What the hell?”
Drake flopped down next to her in the snow. “Look up.”
Alice did as he said and was momentarily rendered speechless. The sky overflowed with stars, more brilliantly lit up than any night in New York City. Shooting stars flew by, animating the night.
“Wow,” she said softly. “This is…”
“Yeah,” Drake agreed. “It is. Nothing beats a clear view of the sky during a meteor shower.”
“I had no idea this was happening tonight,” Alice said. “I’m glad I didn’t miss this.”
“Really?” Drake asked. “You wouldn’t rather eat bon-bons and dress up tiny dogs, or whatever else Olivia has planned for the night?”
Alice kept her gaze on the sky. “Not my scene.” She wished Bastien was there with her to see this.
As Drake and Alice stared at the sky, clouds began to creep across the stars, obscuring the tiny lights.
“Looks like we were just in time to see this before the storm comes,” Alice said as she sat up in the snow.
“Yeah. I didn’t want to miss it,” Drake said, sitting up beside her. “I used to do with with my younger sister, Savannah, every year. We grew up around the royals. My dad used to do security for Liam and his brother, and my sister and I were allowed to hang out with them. Liam and I ended up getting close, even though I didn’t have the lineage to merit it.”
“That doesn’t seem to matter much to Liam,” Alice pointed out. Drake nodded.
“It doesn’t, but it does to other people,” he said. He thought for a moment before continuing. “Unlike me, Savannah got along with everyone, and they were all friendly with her. She loved living at the palace when we were kids, being around all the pretty dresses and jewelry…but it got harder when she was older.”
“She…” Drake hesitated. “It was hard on her. She couldn’t take it, I guess. After what happened with…I…I failed her. I couldn’t protect her from his place…or these people.”
Drake put his hand over his face and was quiet for a moment. “Sorry, it’s…I guess I’m still not ready to talk about it.”
“It’s okay, you don’t have to if you don’t want to,” Alice said gently. He nodded and stood up, offering a hand to her.
“We should probably go inside. You must be freezing,” he said. Alice accepted his help and stood before brushing the snow off her coat.
“Hey, I’m fine,” she said. “You’re the one who stormed out here without a coat. Now who’s inappropriately dressed for the weather?”
He chuckled. “Alright, alright. Fair enough.”
Even after changing into dry clothes, Alice still felt chilled from her walk in the snow as she made her way through the silent chateau. She hurried down the stairs, trying to be as quiet as she could, but she couldn’t slow down. Being so close to Bastien and yet so far was maddening and it took all of her restraint not to run. Finally, she reached his door and knocked lightly. It opened immediately and Bastien grinned at her, reaching out to catch her by the waist and pull her inside, shutting the door as quietly as he could before he pressed her against it.
“Hey,” he said softly, cupping her face in his hands.
“Hey yourself,” she said, tilting her mouth up to meet his. He kissed her slowly, teasing her lips with his tongue as she pulled him tight against her.
“How are you?” he asked when he finally broke their kiss, taking her by the hand to lead her to an expensive, stiff-looking couch off to the side of the room.
“Cold,” Alice said as she snuggled against him. “I’m clearly not built for the snow.”
“I can help you with that.”
“Oh really?” Alice asked with a teasing lilt as she leaned in to kiss him. “What’d you have in mind?”
“If I tell you, it’ll ruin the surprise,” he said. “Close your eyes.”
She did as he said and was surprised to feel his weight leave the sofa. “Bas?”
“Stay there,” he called behind him, his voice receding. A few moments later, Alice heard water running in the bathroom. She opened her eyes and briefly hesitated before she stood up and walked over to the doorway.
“What are you doing?” she asked, a smile growing across her face. Bastien turned to exasperatedly look at her from where he sat on the edge the bathtub.
“Okay, it’s not a surprise if you don’t follow the rules and just come in here,” he said as he stood up, sliding his arms around her waist.
“Maybe I need to be punished…” Alice teased. Bastien grinned and smacked her lightly on the ass.
“Later,” he said. “First, you need to get warm.”
“On one condition.”
“Gray, this isn’t really much of a surprise if you break the rules and make your own conditions.”
“I know, I know,” Alice said, brushing his hair back from his forehead. “But you’ll like this condition, I promise.”
“What is it?”
“You join me.”
He smiled. “I think I can do that.”
As the water filled the tub, Bastien gently helped Alice out of her clothes before removing his own. He retrieved a thick robe and wrapped it around her shoulders, holding her close. He rested his cheek against the top of her head, closing his eyes for a moment as he breathed in the comforting smell of her hair. It had only been, what, a week? How was it that he was so ready to give up so much for her? The practical, analytical side of him wanted to make excuses, but standing there with Alice in his arms, he was willing to give anything to stay here with her forever.
“Tub’s almost full.”
Bastien opened his eyes and let her go so he could lean over and shut off the water. He eased the robe off her shoulders, hanging it on a nearby hook, and offered her a hand to help her into the tub. Once she had lowered herself into the steaming water, he climbed in behind her. He leaned back against the tub as she rested against him. Bastien wrapped his arms around her and kissed her ear. Alice sighed as she closed her eyes, fingertips tracing lazy pathways on his legs.
“Feeling warmer?” he asked.
“Much,” she said.
They lay there for a while, neither saying a word, until the water began to cool around them. Bastien wondered if Alice had fallen asleep until she turned over in his arms to face him.
“Hey,” she said.
“Thank you for this,” she said.
Bastien smiled. “You’re welcome.”
She kissed him then, slowly, drawing out the moment.
“Tell me I don’t have to go,” she whispered.
“I want you to stay,” he whispered back, nuzzling against her. They were both all too aware of the minutes ticking away, but for a moment there was no time, no restrictions, and no secrets. There was only the two of them, a man and woman falling in love, together in each others’ arms.
“Okay, come on, this is serious!” Alice protested with a laugh, pushing Bastien away from her. With her hair still wet and wearing only one of his t-shirts, she positioned them back into proper dance form. “I have to learn this waltz.”
“Alright, alright, fine,” Bastien said with a resigned sigh, clad only in his black boxer briefs. “The Cordonian Waltz is is a choreographed with very specific steps. As long as you know your part for each of them, you can easily follow your partner.”
“Shouldn’t we have music?” Alice asked. Bastien raised an eyebrow at her.
“Why don’t we take it one step at a time?” he asked.
He laughed. “Pun not intended. Okay, so, to start, we’re going to do a box step. It’s really basic and is going to act as a bridge between the different parts.”
Alice nodded. “Okay, sounds good so far.”
Bastien led her through the box step and she easily fell into synch with him, matching his movements as they danced across the floor of his room.
“Very nice,” Bastien said. “Break time?” She swatted at him and he laughed, kissing her temple. “Okay, okay. Moving on, your next moves are going to be the reverse, spin, and twirl. First, I’m going to lead you into the reverse.”
Alice felt him shift his weight as he stepped towards her and she followed his lead, stepping backwards as he led her backwards in a graceful path.
“Good,” he said with a smile.
“All I did was follow you.”
“Yes, but that means you’re an intuitive dance partner,” Bastien pointed out.
“With you, maybe.”
“Did you feel when I put a slight pressure on your hand?” he asked, demonstrating again on their clasped hands. “That’s a cue for you to move backwards.”
“Does everyone know about that?” she asked.
“Everyone who can dance the Cordonian Waltz does,” Bastien said. “Think of it like this: the waltz is like a conversation. You and your partner make a connection, responding to each other to make the dance work.”
“That’s kind of romantic,” Alice said as Bastien led her back into the box step.
“The Cordonian Waltz is actually a courtship dance, which is undoubtedly why it was chosen for the ball,” Bastien explained. “Actually, the last two moves are meant to be the most flirtatious. First is the spin…just relax into it.”
Bastien grasped both of her hands and led her into a spin before returning her to the box step. He wasn’t sure anyone else had ever looked quite as elegant in an old t-shirt as Alice did.
“How am I supposed to do that without getting dizzy?” she asked.
“There’s actually a trick for that,” Bastien said. “It’s called spotting. Just focus your attention on one spot…”
“Like my dance partner? Or the handsome royal guard standing along the wall?”
Bastien grinned. “You should probably focus on your partner, but, as it happens, the two are the same at the moment.”
“Lucky me,” Alice said with a smile as she stared into his gray eyes.
“Now, finally, we have the twirl,” Bastien continued. He released one of her hands and twirled her around so that she was facing away from him. He wrapped his arms around her and swayed with her for a moment, dropping his face down to kiss her neck.
“Excuse me, sir, is that an official part of the dance?” Alice teased. Bastien laughed and released her, turning her back to face him.
“It should be,” he said. “Alright, ready to try it with music?”
She nodded and Bastien retrieved his phone from the night stand. He tapped the screen a few times until delicate waltz music began to play. He set down the phone and walked back over to Alice. Bastien bowed slightly and she curtsied in return. He held out his hand to her and she took it, letting him pull her close. She followed his lead, dancing through the steps as if she’d known it for years.
“You’re a quick learner,” Bastien commented.
“Thank you. I have an excellent teacher,” Alice said. “But after all this hard work, I think I’ve earned a break…”
Without another word, Bastien grinned, scooped her up, and deposited her on the bed.
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