Once upon a time……
It’s how every fairy-tale begins or, almost every fairy-tale.
My tale begins on the night of my prom, but would I capture my prince?
Would I have the happily ever after?
Everyone expected us to attend my prom together. As a couple. Dalton and I have shared everything in our lives. The good times and the bad—the cuts, scrapes, bruises and broken hearts. Throughout everything, we’ve been there for each other. But no, we are not attending the prom as a couple. We will be there, hand in hand, as best friends.
We’ve known each other since I was born – Dalton was four years old. Our parents are best friends, both of our fathers serve in the Navy and have been posted to the same places together. So, we’ve always been neighbors. Dalton and his older brother, Mitchell, my protectors. Where Mitchell is my knight in shining armor, Dalton is my prince.
I can’t wait to see him. Much to our father’s dismay, Dalton joined the Army – Special Forces and has been posted out of Fort Bragg for the past three years. It’s been almost a year since he was last home. He promised to take leave for my prom and he kept his word, like he always does. He flew in late last night.
Turning to the mirror, I check myself one final time. My gorgeous dress was carefully selected because the deep blue matches my eyes. The strapless bodice is lacy and dotted with sequins. The plain silk skirt flares ever so slightly over my hips and falls to my knees. My stiletto-heeled shoes afford me some much-needed height and I pray I can manage to stay upright in the damn things. My cornsilk blonde hair is swept up at the sides with sparkly clips while tendrils of loose curls have been left to dance over my face.
I twist from one side to the other in an effort to capture every angle. Does my ass look enormous? Why don’t I have more than bee stings for breasts? I sigh deeply. There is nothing more I can do; Dalton will be here in ten minutes. There is no time to change into anything else. Not to mention, I have nothing else suitable.
My mother’s voice floats up the stairs. “Piper, Dalton has arrived.”
“Coming.” I swipe on a final lick of lipstick, gather a wrap in case it becomes cool and leave my room. My descent down the stairs is calculated and slow. The last thing I need is to faceplant at Dalton’s feet.
Dalton whistles and I feel my face heat. He’s never seen me dressed so formally before, I was ill on the day of his prom and like the good friend he is, he’d refused to attend without me. On occasion, I’ve worn dresses, but mostly jeans and a shirt fit the bill. I guess you would say I’m a tomboy.
My date offers his hand as I reach the bottom and I slip mine into his. I laugh as he twirls me around. “You’re absolutely gorgeous. Where have you been hiding?” He kisses my cheek—a chaste, brotherly kiss.
“Thank you. You look pretty hot yourself.” Dalton is mind-blowingly sexy in his tux. Tall at more than six and a half feet, he dwarfs me even in my stilettos. Without them, I don’t reach his shoulders. Our height difference is hilarious.
As I take him in, I notice his shoulders have become broader in the past couple of years. His waist is narrow, hips are slim. His body is a testament to his daily workouts and sensible diet; he carries not one ounce of extra fat. He says he has to be fit and strong to be part of the Special Forces.
He tugs at his tie. “I’m glad you approve. I have something for you.”
Dalton holds a clear box toward me. A gorgeous purple orchid with glossy green leaves is inside. I open the top and remove it at the same moment mother and father step into the foyer. My mother leans over my shoulder as Dad shakes Dalton’s hand. “It’s beautiful, sweetheart. Would you like me to pin it on?”
I glance at Dalton and see the disappointment in his eyes, but I don’t understand why. I turn back to Mom. “Dalton will pin it on. After all, it’s his gift to me.”
My dad glares at me and I try not to giggle. I know exactly what he’s thinking. No man is going to put his hands anywhere near my eighteen-year-old daughter’s breasts. The fact Dalton and I are only best friends means nothing to my dad.
Dalton takes the orchid from my hand and moves closer. His hand trembles slightly as he positions the flower and reaches inside the top of my dress to secure it. His hand brushes my breast and my body responds with a powerful tingling sensation. Our eyes lock and I search for any sign that he felt it too.
“It looks beautiful, sweetheart.” Mom kisses my cheek and then kisses Dalton. “Have fun.”
“Not too much fun,” my dad growls. He moves to peer through the glass at the side of the front door. “The car is here.”
I stand on tiptoe and kiss my father’s cheek as we leave. “I’ll be fine, daddy. Dalton will take care of me like he always does.”
“Peter, stop fussing. Dalton isn’t one of your sailor’s you can order about. Let them leave.” Mom takes dad’s hand and they stand in the doorway watching as we descend the steps and head for the stretch limousine which is parked out in front.
Dalton manoeuvres the driver out of the way and holds onto the door. “Your carriage awaits, m’lady.” He kisses my cheek before I slip onto the soft leather seat. As he closes the door, I fasten my seatbelt and within seconds, the other door opens and he climbs in beside me. After fastening his seatbelt, he gathers my hand into his.
“Excited? This will be our last school function. Probably our last function together with me in the Army and you joining the Navy.”
I tense at Dalton’s words, I’ve been avoiding telling him my plans. “When we arrive, can we find somewhere quiet so we can talk? I have something I need to tell you. Something I’ve been keeping from you.”
Dalton swivels on his seat. I can barely see his face in the darkness, but I know if I could, disappointment would be clear.
“You’ve been hiding something? We never keep secrets from each other. It sounds serious.”
“It is. It’s time you knew and I didn’t want to tell you over the phone.”