2 Chapter 2

"It's not that bad, Mads. I can't see you passing the preliminary rounds anyway" Crystal tried to comfort me while I sulked as I looked through the finances I had used for the new store.

"I don't understand why the Empire sees any need to have us practice their traditions? What good is forcing a bunch of women to fight for a man? And all that trouble to become queen? Who even wants such a cumbersome title?!" I huffed as I closed the accounts book and opened the first letter among the pile addressed to me—all business-related.

"Everyone Madeline" Crystal rolled her eyes at me as she began to fan her face. Her eyes turned dreamy as she spoke, "Who wouldn't want to be queen? You have a huge palace, unlimited money and a king for a husband… the dream".

I, in turn, rolled my eyes.

Crystal was young. She is in her late teens but a romantic at heart. It wasn't as if I didn't fantasise about romances, but I knew well that being a queen was no dream.

"You have to deal with politics", I sneered, both at the thought and the contents of the unhelpful letter I read. "The landowners of an ideal property for the shop said no… it's as if nothing is going my way".

"Politics aren't bad… and anyway, a queen won't have to involve herself in them. That's a kings job," she shrugged, picking up her cup of tea just as I exclaimed.

"Yes! The Main Street landlord agreed on a lease! I need to reply immediately!" I hurried, grabbed a blank piece of parchment and began scribbling down a letter to decide on a meeting while Crystal grimaced at me.

"Why do you work yourself so hard, Madeline? I doubt your parents expect you to be a merchant. Why not just enjoy the money you were born into?" She complained.

I used to argue about this many times when visiting years ago, but I barely hear her nowadays. She wasn't wrong at all. But somehow, that thought drove me to do all this. It was because no one pushed me to do it.

My brothers had found themselves being pressured into the merchant lifestyle, and I had every choice on whether I wanted to pursue the career or just be myself. It came with being the youngest and a girl.

My father had been quite adamant that I enjoy myself with our riches as had my brothers and mother. They were ridiculously protective of me to the point where I did everything to escape them. But I noticed the occasional hostility from my brothers. The annoyance that I was free of the pressure they had ruthlessly been subjected to.

"I'm going to show everyone that I can stand alone", I declared before I recalled my predicament and slumped.

"You already have! I think you need to enjoy life. Maybe it was fate you got the letter," Crystal said just as there was a knock on the door from the footman.

"Your carriage has arrived, Lady Crystal", he spoke behind the door.

Crystal jumped up on her feet, her blonde hair bouncing up with her as she gave me a not so apologetic grin.

"I am happy we can attend the competition together, Mads, so please cheer up" she stood up and, with a final disapproving look at the paperwork, she left to whatever tea party she was going to attend.

Although Crystal was my direct cousin, her family, the Harts, were a pretty notable noble family holding the title of Count. And Crystal, with her blonde hair, green eyes and heart shaped face, was not only beautiful but a perfect example of a noble lady.

She received the letter, but it hardly made sense I did.

"I wish they looked into the character of the women instead of their family titles and achievement", I groaned.

I still had a week left before anything truly began, but it ruined all my plans. Since it would be looking to last a month, I would have to push back the store's opening.

I wasn't sure what was going to be tested, but I prayed I would fail quickly and so fast it wouldn't affect my plans at all.


The Capital's Main Street was a place everyone in the selling business wanted, but it was impossible to secure yourself a spot.

I had to thank my father because he must've had something to do with it. At least, I thought so until I met the Landlord and the familiar woman hanging from his arm.

"Anastasia?" I blinked to make sure as she smiled back at me in acknowledgement.

"Nice to see you remember me, Colter" she held out a hand, and I shook it while shooting a glance at the landlord, who I noticed shared a resemblance to her.

"I wouldn't forget my highest paying customer, but I never expected you to be the owner of a Main Street property" I glanced at the man she came with curiously. He had yet to speak, but he cleared his throat just then.

"The owner of the property would be me. Allow me to introduce myself, Connor Archangel. Anastasia is my cousin," he clarified, looking slightly uncomfortable with his situation.

He was a handsome man with brown curls that seemed to shine in the sun and green eyes naturally curved downwards. He looked like Anastasia, except his complexion was much more tan.

"When he said he had an offer from someone from the Colter family, I knew it would be you. I hope it's to bring one of your boutiques to the capital," she leaned to me eagerly, her eyes sparkling in excitement.

"Of course", I grinned, flattered. "Father said it was much too soon to start up in the capital, but I couldn't help feel challenged".

"Too soon? I've been waiting every day since arriving! Boutiques here only cater to clothes, and the makeup formulas are so irritating on my skin!" She complained as we made our way to the cafe we had agreed to meet at initially.

"Well, most of my formulas are thanks to my brother's apothecary, so that's not something I can entirely take credit for, but I'm glad I'll have a definite customer in the capital", I felt my mouth water as we entered the store, scents of cakes and tea wafted around us.

"Oh, the lemon cake here is divine; you must eat it!" She said, dragging her cousin, who looked increasingly uncomfortable, along with her.

"I've heard quite a few recommendations, but I've had my head buried in work, so I hadn't had the chance. Thank you for inviting me here" I could barely glance away from the menu. The variety greatly surpassed any cafe back home, along with the prices. "I guess I'll have that lemon cake with tea, thank you," I told the waitress.

"I'll have the same", Anastasia piped while her cousin shook his head when the waitress turned to him.

"Nothing for me", he confirmed.

"So, any news of an engagement?" I asked to pass the time as we waited for our desserts. I instantly regretted it as I saw dread wash over Connor's face and the anger fly over Anastasia. I quickly intervened, "Forget I asked".

"It's not what you think!" I flinched at Anastasia's loud voice. I wasn't convinced. "It's because of that blasted!"-

-"Anastasia!" Her cousin harshly whispered at her.

She pouted.

"Darren was going to propose on the same day I received that blast- that generous- invitation to crown princess selections" her face was red, and her lips mouthed the curses she kept at bay.

I might have given my condolences had I not been entertained that it wasn't just me who felt inconvenienced by this ordeal.

"You received an invitation before you got engaged? Now that is terrible luck" I grinned.

She glared at my enthusiasm.

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"Well, I thought when I was forced to delay my business plans, I was the only one who would show up to the selection with a scornful look on my face. So I'm a bit glad I get to see the esteemed Lady Anastasia also upset" I laughed in joy.

"You", she empathised with a pause, "are a menace. A talented menace" she pointed a fork at me in feigned threats.

I leaned back with a delighted grin, deciding to get back to business.

"Mr Archangel, about the property".

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