~ Syndra Jones ~
“Here are a couple more,” my best friend, Sheridan, said as she clunked down a pile of dishes.
“Couple?” I asked. My arms were elbow-deep in suds, and I’d thought I was almost finished with the work.
“You know what hoarders Claudia and Jandan are,” she said.
Hoarders…slobs. With those two it was the same thing. They had maids in their homes, but here in the dormitory, they acted as if the rest of us were their servants.
Technically, I was. Part of the time. That was how I supplemented my tuition at this school. For three hours every day, I did whatever cleaning needed to be completed in the main living areas of the house. Everyone was supposed to deliver their dishes to the kitchen and pick up after themselves. Claudia and Jandan rarely did.
“Let me help you,” Sheridan offered, starting to roll up her sleeves.
“No, don’t worry about it. Don’t you have a paper to write?”
She groaned. “Maybe I’m avoiding it. You know my grasp of Vindelici politics sucks. Not great with Thracia or Uxinas government systems, either.”
“Maybe get started on it and I’ll help you when I’m finished,” I suggested. As the only Americans attending the Vindelici Veritas University, Sheridan and I had bonded fast. Most of the other students were either Vindelician, Thracians or Uxisian, coming from the same principalities of Northeastern Europe. Thankfully, the primary language here was still English, so I got by okay.
The monarchy systems were a mystery to us Americans though. We understood there was royalty but not how everything meshed together with kings and prime ministers and all the lot. I’d gotten better at it, but Sheridan had more trouble.
And we had a paper due on the sister principalities tomorrow.
“Still scrubbing away?” Claudia said, stalking into the kitchen and plunking down a glass. It smacked into a puddle of water and splashed up onto my shirt, also managing to spray into my face. Huffing, I wiped my cheek on my shoulder.
“Well, I was almost done, but this new pile of dishes just magically appeared,” I said dryly.
“Don’t joke about magic,” Jandan, her constant shadow, chided.
I rolled my eyes, keeping my focus on my task. Supposedly, the royalty of these countries had magical abilities and it was what set them apart from the commoners. Sounded farfetched to me. I mean if they wanted to have a fantasy about their royals having powers, whatever.
I exchanged a covert side-eye with Sheridan that had her curling in her lips to hold in a laugh. My teeth sank into my own bottom lip to contain my giggle. Thank God for Sheridan.
“So are you two going to the ball?” Claudia asked.
“It’s kind of mandatory,” Sheridan said.
All the fourth-year students from the all-girls university were required to attend or risk losing points from their grades. Rumor was, the guys from the boys school would be there, too. Good thing. I could only imagine a couple hundred college girls and one prince. Sounded boring for us and a little hellish for him. Especially since everyone in the free world knew his father had mandated he find a bride.
“So we have an offer,” Jandan said. “A bargain, if you will.”
“A dare?” Sheridan asked with narrowed eyes. Claudia and Jandan were always throwing out dares to our classmates, who they considered to be their subordinates. By now, most of us were able to navigate around those landmines.
Jandan shrugged. “Maybe, but this one you’ll want to take.”
“No,” Sher growled.
“We’re not talking to you,” Claudia snapped, and my gut clenched with dread. Crap.
“What?” I asked between my teeth.
“It’s really easy,” she said.
Sure it was.
“You’re going to the ball, anyway. All you have to do is dance with the prince.”
“And…?” I knew both girls, who came from high-born families, had their eyes on Prince Jacob. They just wanted to dare me so they’d see me fall on my face, then they could laugh at the poor scholarship girl from America for the rest of the semester.
“That’s it. Just get him to dance with you,” Jandan said.
“Because if you do, we will do the dorm’s dishes for the rest of the semester.”
“Right,” I scoffed. I doubted Claudia’s hands had ever touched dishwater, unless she was being nasty and splashing someone.
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