ond glance to the man.

   The director turned away and felt the heat rise to his cheeks as he heard a couple nurses down the hall giggling.
He had his target for his rising anger.

   “Prince…” Erna said. She involuntarily stepped away and blinked rapidly, as if doing so would blink away the scene in front of her.
He should not be here and had no reason to be here, so why was he here?

   The Baroness realized who had come into the room and made to sit up properly.
Bjorn did his best to dissuade her from moving and bowed.

   “Baroness, please don’t exert yourself on my account.
I am late in coming to see you, so I must apologise, I am sorry.” Bjorn said. His voice was a soft note that did not dare disturb the quiet serene of the hospital room.
Mrs Greve, who was sat in the corner near the door finally let out a breath.

   Erna closed the rest of the distance between her and Bjorn, more to check he was really there.
Why was he here, was he really only here to see the Baroness? The timing was very convenient if that was the case.
A lump of sadness rose up to her throat.
She hoped he had not come to trample her heart in front of her Grandmother.

   This was unacceptable.
He should not be here and tarnish what could become her last memories of her Grandmother.
Even though she appreciated him and his aid, this was unacceptable.

   “I am also sorry to you, Miss Hardy.” Bjorn said. He looked down at Erna and she could see regret in his eyes.

Was it genuine? The apology was unexpected.

   Go. She wanted to say to him, but she swallowed the thought.

   “I’m sorry.” He said again, reading the concern on Erna’s face.


   “Yes, its late, I’m sorry to have kept you waiting.” Bjorn gave the most charming smile he could.

   Erna didn’t understand.
She looked up at the prince and saw in his smile, but his eyes were calm.
They were deep and calm as they considered her.

   She shrunk back and sagged her shoulders as she tried to understand the prince.
It was then that the prince brought his hand out in front of her and revealed he had been holding a rose.
He held it out to her.

   Bjorn tried a softer smile when he noticed Erna was frowning at the rose, as if in doubt.
He came down onto one need and looked the woman directly in the eyes.
They were sad, concerned and definitely cautious.

   “Miss Hardy.”

   Bjorn’s voice was distant to Erna, as her mind raced.


  Would he be getting married soon?

  Bjorn asked himself the question for the hundreth time, looking down at the small silver coin flipping between his fingers.
Would it be appropriate to decide such a matter in this way?

   He didn’t have anything to gain from the marriage.
She was from a humble family, with more than its humble share of complications.
Walter Hardy.
The royal family and society in general, would never be accepting of that little problem.
It could mean it would be difficult to play the part of the Grand Duchess.

   It wasn’t such a big deal.
She might not benefit, but at least she wont cause any more harm.
Like Gladys, maybe she was still holding a thorn for him, behind her sweet, innocent smile.
But this weak woman’s thorns aren’t strong enough to hurt him.

  All Bjorn wanted was for Erna to live like a flower corsage she made with her own hands.



  and harmlessly.

   He considered the stake.
It would be the easy option, to forfeit the bet and take the stake.
Then he would be free of this tangle made for him, but that would only lead to his father breathing down his neck.

   Bjorn flipped the coin and watch it sail through the air, tumbling end over end.

   “Head I do, TailI don’t.” He muttered under his breath.


   “Erna Hardy, will you marry me.” Bjorn held out the flower to Erna.

   Erna closed her eyes and squeezed them tightly, as if trying to erase the bizarre reality unfolding before her.
When she opened them again, Bjorn was still there in front of her, kneeling on one knee.

   Is he really proposing me, the prince?

   The fact that this was right in front of her did not make the play of it any more real.
Her perception of reality seemed to slip away and the room span.
She found herself looking over at her Grandmother, who seemed moved to emotion.
The room span again as she looked back at the prince.

   How can you do this? Erna thought. You don’t love me, a woman of nothing.

   Erna could feel the mood in her mind settle on resentment, she resented Bjorn for coming unbidden to the hospital.
She resented that smile he wore as he looked up at her, waiting for an answer.

   Erna wanted to get away from this, to run as far as she could and forget about the mess unfolding before her.
She reached out with a trembling hand.
She would push the rose away and deny him, but as her fingertips touched the delicate petals, she hesitated.

   I’m sorry ~ he had said.

   The apology was so brazen, but she was still glad for it.
She doubted he really meant it, but she was still grateful that he came, late as it was.

  At the moment, when she wanted to hate him the most, she found herself clutching the rose of marriage proposal.
The room span again.

Erna fainted.

   Bjorn was quick to catch her and Baroness Baden immediately called out for a doctor.
The doctor came through the door in the very same second.
There were several doctors and nurses grouped up in the hallway.

   Within a heartbeat, the rumour that Prince Bjorn had proposed to the Lady Erna Hardy had spread across the city.
Overdramatised stories of impulsive acts of devotion and love and a fainting happy Lady filled up the many cigar lounges, gin bars, smoke rooms and libraries.

   Lechen’s love story abruptly ended, with a rather tragic end with the villain winning.

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