"I gave you a year to find a bride." King Jun of Gojoseon glared at his one and only son, Kim Hyun Joong. "In three weeks time that year will be up and you are no closer to marrying."
"I haven’t found anyone appropriate yet," Hyun Joong replied.
"Nonsense. You have dated women from all over the world, any one of which would have made a fine wife."
Kim Hyun Joong sighed. He couldn’t very well tell his father that although the women he dated were beautiful, sophisticated, and charming, he’d been looking for something more. "I thought it might be interesting if I married a woman I loved."
King Jun snorted with displeasure. "Love is overrated. If you are to one day be king, you can’t wait around for sentimental foolishness. If I’d had my way, I would have chosen a woman for you a long time ago, but your mother indulges you and she insisted I give you time to find your own wife."
Hyun Joong bit back an angry retort. When his father had told him he had a year to marry, it hadn’t sounded like an indulgence, it had been a royal dictate , as had most of his father’s words to him over the years.
And as usual, Hyun Joong’s first instinct was to rebel. He drew a deep breath. "Appa, I have tried ?"
"Not enough," King Jun said. "A wife gives a man an aura of stability and if you are not married by your 30th birthday, then I will not allow you to succeed the throne."
Hyun Joong wanted to protest the three-week deadline, tell his father it was a ridiculous ultimatum, but he knew it was useless.
King Jun rose from his chair and looked at his watch. "You’d better get dressed; the ball starts in an hour. Royalty from a dozen countries will be in attendance; surely you can find a woman that will make an appropriate princess."
Without another word, the king swept out of the room. As always, after a talk with his father, frustration gnawed at Kim Hyun Joong.
He knew his father was right. It was time, past time that he chose a wife. He picked up his dress jacket and ran his thumb across the embroidered family crest on the lapel.
Besides, he’d spent the past year searching for love and had found it elusive. His father was right. Love was nothing more than sentimental foolishness. It was time to put aside such foolishness. It was time to do his duty; Time to choose a wife.
* * *
He knew the moment he saw her that she was the one. Prince Kim Hyun Joong watched the dark-haired beauty from across the room. She stood by his cousin, Princess Koo Hye Sun of Dongyi, and Hye Sun’s husband, Lee Min Ho.
He moved across the polished dance floor toward her. As he approached, she threw back her head and laughed at something Min Ho said and in her smile, in her rich laughter, Hyun Joong made up his mind.
He stopped in front of the woman, bowed, and held out a hand. "May I have this dance?"
Her brown eyes widened slightly as she nodded and smiled.
"Are you enjoying your visit to Dongyi?" he asked, noting that she smelled as sweet as she looked.
"Very much, although I’m finding things quite different here from my home in America." Again she offered him a shy smile. "I know you’re the Prince of Gojoseon, but I’m afraid I’m not exactly sure where Gojoseon is."
Hyun Joong smiled, finding her confession charming." A long way from Dongyi. Gojoseon is in South Korea."
"Have you visited here often? I understand you’re Hye Sun’s first cousin."
"Actually, this is my first visit. Our families have not been close, although I enjoyed a long lunch with Hye Sun yesterday." And throughout that lunch, Hye Sun had spoken quite highly of her husband’s relative, Jung So Min. Now Kim Hyun Joong tried to remember what his cousin had said about the lovely woman he held in his arms.
They spoke no more through the course of the dance. Kim Hyun Joong’s father’s words rang in his ears. Time to find a bride. And why not the woman in his arms? Jung So Min appealed to him more than any of the women he’d dated over the past year. Though she is Korean but she grew up in America, and a commoner to boot, would irritate his father, but that only made her more desirable as far as Hyun Joong was concerned. Lust at first sight might make the best reason for marriage after all.
When the dance ended, Hyun Joong escorted her over to where his father stood. The King raised an eyebrow and Hyun Joong nodded.
So there would be no mistaking his intentions, he acted on an ancient custom. Reaching out to a nearby floral arrangement, he plucked out a flower, kissed it, and then tucked it behind Jung So Min’s left ear. "May I present Jung So Min."
The king kissed So Min first on one cheek, then on the other. "May this union be blessed with many heirs," he replied in their native language, following the custom.
So Min smiled blankly, but as the king’s words were repeated and swept around the room, a cheer went up. "What’s going on?" she asked curiously.
He smiled. "My father has officially pronounced that he accepts our betrothal. You are to be my wife and the next Princess of Gojoseon."
To be continued?
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