Twice Upon A Time (Unfinished Fairy Tales #2)(7)

He drops his arms and backs away, but still, he remains annoyingly close to the cot. Close enough that if Jason suddenly enters, I doubt he’ll believe that I have nothing to do with this guy.

“I thought the old Katriona came back,” he says slowly, “but instead, you showed up in your world’s . . . is that what you normally wear?”

His gaze flickers to my chest, and even though I’m fully covered under the blanket now, my cheeks still heat up.

“Look, I don’t know if I have an unknown twin out there, but you’ve got the wrong person. You’d better go to some other place to find her—Katriona? That’s her name, isn’t it? My boyfriend is going to show up any minute, and your being here” —I scoot farther away from him— “is definitely going to give him the wrong impression.”

“I have no idea what you are talking of.” He studies my face with the wariness of a cat eying a bird about to take off. “You do look a little different from what I know. Your face seems rounder, your hair is shorter, and most of your freckles have disappeared. You are Katherine Wilson, are you not?”

He knows me. He knows my name. Then why was he talking about some girl called Katriona in the beginning? And what does he mean by my looking different—the version he described of me is more similar to what I looked like several years ago. Can I have met this guy such a long time ago? I’m pretty sure I’d remember if I had met someone like him. He’s so impossibly handsome that he could be a rising star in Hollywood.

I dart another frantic glance at my surroundings. The more I try to ascertain where I am, the more suspicious this place seems. It’s too small, too threadbare, too stuffy—there aren’t any windows—for a hospital room. The tin cup the guy brought looks worn and has floral patterns embossed along the rim. It doesn’t look like something a hospital would use. Ha. Maybe I am in Hollywood.

“Who are you?” I find myself saying. “I don’t know why—how—I ended up here, and everything you say is so confusing! What on earth happened?”

His answer is so shocking that I don’t think even Darth Vader can top it.

“We are married.”

My jaw drops so low it could have hit my collarbone. “MARRIED? I’ve never seen you in my life! Listen, buster, if you think . . .”

There’s a knock on the door. Someone is asking if everything’s all right.

“Just a moment,” the man calls. Then, to me, he lowers his voice. “Until we find the cause of your extraordinary return, you must know my name is Edward. I am the prince of Athelia, and as my bride, you are now the princess of Athelia.”


This is freaking insane.

PRINCESS? Me? I suddenly wake up and find myself accidentally married, and a princess on top of that?

Ridiculous. Outrageous. Impossible. I’d sooner believe I won the lottery.

The term Athelia sounds familiar, though. Just when I am struggling to figure out what I should do, the door opens again. This time, a young woman enters, carrying a bulky sack.

“Your Highness.” She dips a brief curtsy, then sets the sack on the cot. A flash of amazement appears in her eyes, but it’s gone in a second. “Would you please step out of that . . . that atrocious apparel and get properly dressed?”

I gape at her. “Me?” I point at myself. “You’re addressing me as ‘Highness’?”

She raises her eyebrows. “Or would you prefer ‘Her Royal Highness of Athelia’?”

I roll my eyes. “Royal Highness, my ass. And I have no idea what Athelia . . .”

Athelia. A name that is familiar—the name of a country, I think. But where did I hear about it?

While I’m musing, the girl steps forward and yanks off my slip. Before I can yell sexual harassment, she has slipped a creamy white top over my head. Actually, it’s more like a smock that artists use. It goes way past my thighs, barely covering my knees. But it’s more high-class than a smock—the material is pure silk, smooth and cool, sliding over my body like a waterfall.

“Hey! What do you think you’re doing?”

She ignores my protest. “Raise your arms. Now.”

From the sack, the girl draws out an item that looks suspiciously similar to a corset and wraps it around me. It feels like a giant’s hand squeezing my ribs to the point of bruising.

“Oy!” I tug the ribbons on my back, trying to rip them off. “You’re suffocating me.”

A second later, I can feel my lungs inflate. Immediately, I take a deep breath and exhale. Thank God. The air has never felt sweeter.

And before I can stop to wonder why I’m wearing a corset instead of a bra, something heavy is slipped over my head. There’s a light thud of fabric hitting the floor. I look down.

Oh, my God. I’m wearing a gorgeous white gown embroidered with golden threads and rose-pink pearls. The girl weaves a wide silken scarf around my waist, twice, which makes me look slenderer than I really am, ties a knot at my hips, and lets the rest cascade down my side like a shimmering mist.

Wow, this is super elegant. I don’t dare to move, lest I trip or something. I’ve gotten over my stupid clumsiness, but sometimes, on occasions like this, the awkwardness resurfaces.

But it isn’t over yet. The girl brings out a glittering object that looks like a diamond tiara, the kind you only see in movies, and places it firmly on my head.

Aya Ling's Books