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the heiress episode 25

THE HEIRESS
EPISODE 25
From U.S Bah ❤ ✌🏽

I posted episode 24 B yesterday
if you haven’t read it yet go and do so first
******

After her disappointment at breakfast, Isabelle
couldn’t bring herself to face an afternoon pent
up in the queen’s sitting room.

Over breakfast,
she’d asked both Sam and Violet if they’d care
to join her in exploring the palace, but the pair
of them had exchanged an uncomfortable look.

“We’ve agreed to join the whist tournament that
Cora and Henrietta are organizing,”

Violet said
finally. “I’m to play with Henrietta while Cora
plays with Sam…”
Isabelle’s eyes had strayed to where Cora was
holding court beside Henrietta at another table.
The blonde’s eyes had been on her, sliding
away when Isabelle had looked over. Cora’s
l!ps had curved into a smile as she listened to
Henrietta’s conversation.
So this was how she’d be punished, then.
Rather than ostracize both Violet and Isabelle,
Cora was drawing Violet back into the fold to
isolate Isabelle even further. Pairing Violet with
Henrietta s£nt a message that Violet was very
much a friend and not someone who should be
ignored by the other debutantes. It made
s£nse, especially now that Violet was receiving
the attentions of one of the court’s most
eligible bachelors.

Before the [email protected] dread that
everything was spinning out of her control
could overwhelm her, Isabelle had excused
herself from the breakfast table and fled to her
safe place.
The solar was dim and quiet in the dreary
morning light, but a fire had been lit to chase
the gloom. Outside, the flaming colours of
autumn cut through the grey morning air, the
dark, w-et bark of the trees making the leaves
even more luminous.
With her father’s letter wedged into her corset
and weighing heavily in her thoughts, Isabelle
turned to the bookshelves lining the back wall.
There had to be something useful here,
perhaps something on the history of Pretanian
relations with Germania. At the very least, she
could hunt for a distraction so the mounting
anxiety within her would remain at bay until
that evening, when she would have another
chance to corner the prince.

If he even attended that evening’s ball.
Banishing the thought, Isabelle forced her mind
to remain calm as she scanned the shelves.
There was nothing that could answer any of
her questions, but there were still plenty of
fascinating books. Pulling out the book on
codes and ciphers that she hadn’t finished
reading, she settled herself on the bay window
seat and prepared to while the day away.
Towards noon, when the clouds had finally
cleared and Isabelle was thoroughly engrossed
in deciphering a practice code, the solar door
opened. She glanced up instinctively, only to
return her attention to the book as her stomach
coiled into a delighted little knot.

“What do you want?” Isabelle asked the prince,
her eyes locked onto the page. She focused
on the chill of the windowpane behind her
rather than the man standing in the doorway.
Graham waited a beat before speaking, attired
in a sharply tailored black jacket and trousers,
formalwear befitting a session of the king’s
council.
“It is my palace, you know. I have every right
to be here. More so, perhaps, than you,” he
said, turning away from her to peruse the
shelves. He made quite the show of paying
even less attention to Isabelle than she was to
him and, to her, that was quite fine.
Especially since her thoughts kept returning to
the last time they’d been alone in this very
room.
Chasing such thoughts away, she remembered
the letter wedged in her bodice. She needed
answers and, by some miracle, the one man
who knew anything useful had found her.

“Of course, your Highness,” she said smoothly.
“May I ask what brings you here?”
He paused, his hands in his pockets as he
turned to study her. She ducked her head
under his scrutiny, returning her gaze to the
book in her lap.
“Besides your objectionable choice of attire?”
he asked, his gaze dropping to her tartan sash.
Isabelle bristled. “You should have heard
mother go on about it,” he continued. “Count
your lucky stars that you had me to defend
you, otherwise you’d be on the road to
Kentshire as we speak.”
“Why would you waste your precious royal
breath defending me?” Isabelle asked. “You’ve
clearly tired of me, if last night was any
indication.”
The words were out of her mouth before she
could stop them, her horrified eyes leaving the
book on her lap to gauge the prince’s reaction.
The prince’s brow furrowed with amusement as
he regarded her, as if puzzling something out.
“No further demands to be released home?
How interesting,” Graham mused. “What’s even
more interesting is that I’ve succeeded in
making you jealous again.”
“I most certainly am not,” Isabelle replied,
trying not to bristle. He laughed, that arrogant
grin back in place as he crossed the room.
Isabelle found herself leaning away from him
as he approached, all too aware of his
pres£nce as he flopped down onto the bay
window seat next to her. She forced herself to
focus on the book in her lap rather than the
heat rising in her middle at his proximity.
“Your face last night suggested otherwise,” he
said, reaching over to tip up the spine of her
book for inspection. “Codes and ciphers? I
thought it was all poetry and love stories in
here.”
“It was tucked away on the shelves,” she said.
“Though I was under the impression that
someone had been curating the books that
rotate through this particular room…”
He slowly turned his head towards her, staring
at her with amusement until she relented and
met his gaze. Something lingered in those
emerald depths, but he wasn’t looking at her
expectantly. It was almost as if he was
debating with himself as he watched her.
Isabelle realized she’d been holding her breath
when he sighed, apparently having made up his
mind.
“I think I shall have to confiscate that,” he said,
plucking the book from her clutches before she
could protest.
“There are a thousand books on those shelves,
why must you take the one I’m reading?” she
demanded, reaching for it until he held it at an
arm’s length away. To reach any further would
mean nearly tumbling into his lap and she
realized that was most probably what he’d
intended. She reeled back and crossed her
arms instead.
“We can’t have future Germanian queens
learning Pretanian ciphers, now can we?”
Graham asked, amused by her reaction.
“Then if you won’t give me back my book, at
least answer a question for me,” Isabelle said.
The idea had occurred to her as she’d pulled
away from him, intent on using his own game
of rapidly changing the subject to catch him
wrong-footed. It was a bold move, but she
needed answers that he alone could provide.
“A question?” he repeated, pleasantly
surprised. “What could a meddlesome prince
like me possibly know that you’d be interested
in? The latest court fashion, perhaps? Because
even I know that it’s not Kentshire tartan.”
“I want to know what’s happening in the king’s
council meetings,” Isabelle said, cutting
straight to the heart of the matter. Graham’s
eyebrows rose with genuine surprise before he
turned his gaze to the book in his hands.
“Dare I ask why you have such a sudden
interest?” he asked, his voice quiet in the
silence of the solar.
“A little bird tells me that I should be curious,”
she said. A smile flashed across his face
before it returned to being unreadable.

“So you have been listening,” Graham
mumbled, as much to himself as to Isabelle.
Once again, he seemed to be debating
something as he turned the book over in his
hands.
“Why don’t we make a trade, then,” he said
finally, turning his attention back to her. She
was unnerved by this quiet, pensive version of
the arrogant, [email protected] crown prince she’d
grown used to. Clearly whatever had transpired
in the council meeting had brought on this
change of demeanour, which made her both
curious and apprehensive.
“A trade?” she asked. He nodded once.
“You answer my question and, in return, I
answer yours,” he said.
That look had returned to his face, the same
look that had made her hold her breath the
last time he’d cornered her in this very room.
“What question is that?” she asked, unable to
tear her eyes from his.
“If Leopold arrived tomorrow, would you leave
with him?” Graham asked. Isabelle’s hand went
instinctively to her bodice, pressing her corset
against her skin to be sure her father’s letter
was still concealed there. Why had Graham
asked her that? It was almost as if he’d known
the contents of the letter…but that was
impossible. It had arrived sealed and she had
been the one to break it open.
Unless there was some other reason he was
asking…
“No,” she said, hoping that his reaction would
give something away. His green eyes held her
gaze before he nodded once, his eyes dropping
to the book. His face, however, betrayed no
emotion. No hint of a grin or a wince, simply
the stone-faced expression of a king.
“The law will [email protected],” Graham said, still not
looking at her. “It took quite a bit of
negotiation, on my part and the council’s, but
he’s agreed to sign it.”
“What law?” Isabelle pressed. Graham glanced
over at her, so lost in his thoughts that it was
as if she’d forgotten that she was there.
“It has to do with inheritance,” Graham said,
watching her. “The nobility now has the right to
[email protected] property, possessions, and titles to their
first-born, regardless of their gender or marital
status, provided there are no other direct
heirs.”
The room spun, Isabelle’s hands flying out to
prevent her from falling off the bay window
seat under the weight of such information. So
caught up in her racing thoughts, she hadn’t
realized that one of her hands had settled
square onto the prince’s thigh.
Such a law would mean that property rights
could be [email protected] down to heiresses, as long
as there was no other direct male heir.
That changed everything.
Isabelle would no longer a trophy attached to
her lands. She could be a duchess in her own
right. She wouldn’t have to marry a man to
keep her home and its bountiful farms and
mines, she’d inherit it all in her own name.
She’d have a title of her own without needing a
man to validate it.
This was why her father had s£nt her to
Highcastle. If she’d married Leopold as she’d
wanted to months ago, she would never have
been able to reap the benefits of such a law.
Leopold would want her bound to him before
any such legislation was signed, since she
would no longer need him to inherit Kentshire.
It meant she could be free, if she chose to be.
But that would mean breaking her betrothal to
the only man she’d ever loved…
She looked up at Graham, snatching her hand
back when she realized the firm, warm cotton
beneath her hand was his leg and not the seat
cushion. He smiled down at her, something
rueful in his eyes.
“Congratulations, your Grace,” he said. She
opened her mouth before clamping it shut
again, grasping for words that wouldn’t come.
Graham watched her with that same, sad smile
before the neutral stone mask of a king
sl!pped back onto his face. He rose with an
easy grace, setting the book of ciphers down
beside him.
“I must admit, I’m quite proud that you came
up with that question all on your own.
Apparently you have been paying attention to
all my lessons,” he said, his trademark
arrogance back in place.
“Why did you ask me about Leopold?” Isabelle
asked, reaching out to seize a fistful of his
jacket sleeve to prevent him from leaving. He
looked down at where she’d grabbed him
before looking back up at her.
“To decide whether I was going to tell you the
truth,” he said. She released him, frowning.
“You would lie to me about something as
important as this?” she demanded, rising so
he wouldn’t tower over her quite so much.
Whatever she’d felt soften at the rueful look in
his eyes [email protected] back to ice.
“No, not willingly. You, of all people, should be
among the first to learn about what transpired
today. That is why I sought you out when you
weren’t with the rest of the debutantes. I came
to tell you because I thought you had the right
to know, the right to make up your own mind,”
he said, drawing himself up to his full height.
For the briefest of moments, Isabelle could
see the king this man would become,
determined and relentless, pragmatic and
@ssiduous.
He paused, the facade crumbling as he
inhaled, steeling himself.
“But I had to know whether you’d stay, before
becoming a duchess was an option,” he said
quietly, that rueful look in his eyes for the
briefest of moments before it disappeared
again.
For once, there was no acid reply on Isabelle’s
l!ps as he bowed to her, turning on his heel to
leave. He’d rendered her speechless, with all
his talk of her right to be informed about the
new law. Arrogant, self-important Prince
Graham believing that a woman had the right
to decide her own future. Perhaps the man
behind the crown wasn’t all sarcastic laughter
and petty jibes after all…
“Thank you for telling me,” Isabelle said as
Graham’s hand closed around the door handle.
He paused before pulling the door open,
glancing back at her with a nod before he
disappeared.

To be continued…..

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