"This is the way it is."

Circe King hated that sentence more than anything.

Being trained to be the perfect wife, even at 16, she heard that sentence too much for comfort. It's a shame she was anything but obedient and quiet.

Outgoing and a little rebellious, the Constantine Home faculty honestly thought she would never be bought – and that was just fine with Circe.

Too bad the faculty was wrong.

When one of the wealthiest men in the world buys Circe, making her his third wife, she doesn't settle for "This is the way it is", determined to make him regret buying her.

With a strong will, great attitude, slight temper, and talent, Circe is a forced to be reckoned with.

And it starts becoming very clear that Aiden Knight was hoping she would be.

But maybe the arrangement isn't as bad as Circe first thought it was. Even with the other two wives trying to take her down, she enjoys her time spent in the vast mansion, thrilled by her friendships with the staff, and fascinated by England.

Except, when she starts developing feelings for Aiden – the kind she never thought she'd feel – can she really share him with two other, conniving women? Or will they get rid of her before she even has the chance to understand the man that bought her?

One thing is certain: It's no longer "the way it is", because she's going to change it.

The Way It Is

Chapter One: The Lioness

"Honestly." I grumble, shoving my hands in the pockets of my Gir hoodie, "When will they just give up? It's obvious no one's going to buy me."

Valery, my purple-headed best friend, hooks arms with me, "I know, right?" She agrees, shaking her head, "There's a reason we've been here for over six years; it's because no rich man wants us."

"No, it's because no rich man can handle us." I correct, looking over at her, "There's a difference."

She chuckles, "Certainly. It has nothing to do with the fact that you and I never dress properly like the others or behave like the others or even look like the others."

I nod, "Eh, this is true."

Even now, walking down the long hallway towards the cafeteria, neither of us are dressed for the meeting waiting for us. Like Val, my long, straight hair is an unnatural color, showing bright teal that occasionally flashed more green than blue in the light. It trails just past my middle back, my bangs covering my right eye if I don't move them out of the way (something I rarely do). My brown eyes are outlined with a thin line of eyeliner – leftover from letting Val do my makeup – and a light sweep of pinkish-purple eye shadow, only causing both my hair and pale skin tone to stand out more. The small stud in my nose is technically supposed to be removed before I meet a new client, but I like it (and for some reason, they don't understand that I don't care what the men think).

Instead of wearing the "required" outfit (which is basically a short, white dress that barely covers our thighs and a pair of white heels more uncomfortable than walking on nails), I'm wearing green, fuzzy pajama pants, little grey clouds puffing around on it, each cloud making a different face ranging from vampire fangs to sticking out their tongues, with Gir slippers. The matching spaghetti-strap is hidden under my hoodie, covering my C-cup very well and making it look more like an A-cup (it's a well-known fact that most men of all ages prefer big boobs).

Val is wearing her dad's old sweats, paint and grease stains plastered all over the grey fabric. Instead of a hoodie, she's wearing a baggy, maroon shirt that used to belong to her older brother, the words 'Too Good To Be Yours' scrolled in block letters on the front. Her purple hair is pulled into a messy bun, only her bangs shaping her face, and her blue eyes are tired, slight bags developing from her insomnia – yet another thing we have in common. Luckily, the eyeliner trailing around her eyes covers up any signs of bags (or maybe it's unlucky, seeing as how we don't really care about our appearance right now), the teal eye shadow flaring above her eyes all the way up to her brow. She's barefooted, though because her pant legs are covering her feet entirely, you can't tell.

We emerge at the end of the hallway, both of us sharing a look with the other.

In all honesty, we're not worried about being picked, so instead of a frantic look like most of the friends in this place, we smirk at each other, anticipating the look on this one's face.

In the past, when we were the last ones to arrive like we are tonight, the looks were always our favorite part. Some get so shock, they clam up and have problems speaking; others send us disgusted looks while complaining to the faculty. It all depends on the type of person really, and they're all hilarious.

With unnecessary force, we each shove open one side of the double doors, stepping into the decent-sized gym.

As usual, the smell of floor wax is suffocating, causing me to wrinkle my nose. The white brick walls are cleaned of all the normal posters that the girls make in art classes, only the big, golden words "The Constantine Home" scrolled in huge, cursive letters left untouched. A few meters away from the west wall is a line of forty-something girls, each dressed in the short, white dresses and God-awful white heels. Unsurprisingly, their hair (as is required for all the young 'ladies' here at Constantine Home) is braided into two low braids dangling in front of their shoulders to show length and color.

My slippers and Val's bare feet tap against the polished wooden floors as we head to the line, glancing at each other and pretending to gag.

"Ms. King, Ms. Hall, it's so nice of you two to join us." Syrian says, sending us a stern look, "What's with your outfits?"

I shrug, lining up next to a short red-head, "It's past midnight, Syrian, what do you expect?"

She sighs, "Circe, you're too old to be acting this rebellious." She looks at Val, "You too, Valery Ann. How do you expect to wed a good man?"

"We don't." We answer simultaneously, shrugging almost in unison.

"Besides," I add, "I'm only sixteen and Val is barely seventeen. What makes you think we want to get married yet?"

Almost all of the girls gasp, as if it's so unusual to want to have a life.

Syrian shakes her head, muttering, "You two'll never change" under her breath.

She heads over to a single door on the opposite side of the room, one with a red and white 'Exit' sign above it.

With a click, she opens it, "You can come in now."

My eyes widen at the man.

He's one of the few good-looking rich guys I've seen.

Towering anywhere from 5' 9" to maybe 6' 1", he peers at the line of girls with calculating silver eyes. His thick brown hair trails down to his ears, tousled and messy with bangs falling to just below his eyebrows – thankfully not covering his gorgeous silver eyes. His shoulders are broad with semi-defined, muscled arms hanging at his sides, his left hand shoved in the pocket of his black pants while the other hung freely to his side. He's wearing a dark grey, almost black, tuxedo that has horizontal white lines lining both it and the matching pants. I can see the cuffs of his white, long-sleeve undershirt at the end of his tuxedo sleeve, near his wrist.

The black tie he's wearing tells me two things:

1.) He's a businessman

2.) He's boring

"Look at those muscles." Val whispers, "There's no way he's over twenty-five."

I smirk, "Bet you he's either 20 or younger."

"I bet he's in between 20 and 25." She shoots back.

"You're on." I agree, "Name the stakes."

"I get to wear those amazing pajama pants you're wearing now and you have to let me use your bathroom."

"And what if I win?" I challenge.

She sends me a cocky grin, "We'll worry about that if it happens."

"When it happens," I correct, "you have to do my share of the chores for a week."

"Deal." She agrees as the two approach the middle of the row.

"Sorry for the wait, Mr. Knight. We had two… late sleepers." Syrian says to the man, shooting us accusing glances before smiling politely, "These are the girls you requested." She continues, hand sweeping along the line, "All of them are talented in some form of art, fit, and are 16 and older."

I sigh, shaking my head lightly.

When a "client" (as most of the faculty calls the men that want to buy wives from Constantine Home) wants a certain type of wife (i.e. age, height, skills, weight, ect.), he or she must specify when they first come to the front desk. Apparently, this man wants a skinny girl who's over the age of sixteen (the legal age of an adult) and good in art, which ranges anywhere from music to actual painting.

Which explains why Val and I are here – both of us are majoring in the Arts. She draws some of the most gorgeous paintings I've ever seen and I play a few instruments.

"Ladies, Mr. Knight is the next in line for his father's business and he's only 19." Syrian's voice pulls me from my thoughts as she straightens up, "Please introduce yourselves to Mr. Knight, stating your name, age, and artistic skill. We'll start with Hannah."

All of the girls straighten themselves, shoulders back, head up, and look politely at what's-his-face.

"Hannah Sutton, 18 years old, writer." The first girl at the far end of the row says in a monotone.

I shudder and lean into Val, "Ever feel like we're in a mechanic's shop instead of a boarding school?"

"All the time." She says, "Sometimes, I have nightmares that the staff comes into our rooms at night to give us all tune ups on our rusted joints instead of checking to make sure we're in bed."

I chuckle softly, "Or maybe they have a tape that they play when we fall asleep to brainwash us."

"Speaking of brainwash, you owe me your pajama pants and bathroom." She grins.

"What?" I ask, "No way! I totally won that bet, so you owe me a week's worth of chores."

She snorts, "Whatever. I said he was under 25."

"Yeah, but I said he was under 20." I smirk, knowing I've won.

She sighs, "Alright, alright. You win. I'll do your freaking chores."

"Oh yeah." I chant.

"Whore." She mutters, causing me to laugh.

"Circe!" Syrian snaps.

I look over at the old woman, who's tapping her foot, waiting.

"Oh right." I say absently, "Circe King, 16, musician."

I get a glare before she turns to Val.

Before Valery can say anything, I wrap an arm around her neck, "And this is Val Hayes, 17 years old, and an amazing artist! If you pick this lovely, purple-headed freak, not only will you get a wild thing, but you'll also have someone to do all of your chores!"

We erupt into laughter, uncaring that over 40 pairs of eyes are staring at us.

"This is the first time, CK!" She argues in between laughter, smacking my shoulder, "You don't get bragging rights for winning once!"

"Hell if I don't." I say, smirking, "You're just jealous because I get to keep these amazingly soft bottoms all to myse-"

"Girls!" Syrian barks, looking angrier by the second as she points at the double doors, "Go. Now."

We look down, trying unsuccessfully to look guilty instead of laughing, and head towards the doors.

A strong hand clasps my wrist and I turn around with surprise, looking up into silver eyes.

"I want this one." He says in a melting, British accent.

I gape at him, my eyes threatening to pop out of my head if I widen them anymore, "Me?" I ask at the same time Val and Syrian say, "Her?"

He nods, his silver eyes dancing with amusement, "Her."

"But Mr. Knight, Circe is… well, she's Circe." Syrian warns, as if I'm that terrible, "We don't accept refunds if you find her unfit."

"Which you will find me unfit." I throw in, still staring at him in surprise, "Trust me, I'm not some trophy wife – I talk back. And bite."

He chuckles, his hand falling to mine, lacing our fingers together, "I'm looking forward to it." He smirks, referring to my threat to bite.

What's with this guy!

"I-If you're sure…?" Syrian says with a question, her head tilting with uncertainty.

"I'm sure." He says, removing his gaze from my face to look back at Syrian, "She's the one I want."

"Okay." She smooths over her features, her hands lacing together as she hides all surprise from her face, "I'll go get her paperwork then."

"Woah, Syrian!" I stop her, snatching my hand back from the rich man and running towards her, "There's obviously something wrong with that guy." I say, "I mean, do you people even check to see if the men are mental or not? He could be some psychopath that eats babies and kicks puppies!"

"That's enough, Ms. King." She scolds, though the shock in her voice doesn't make it sound as harsh as she probably wants it to, "From now on 'that guy' is your fiancé, so you should treat him with respect."

"That's my point!" I say, flailing my arms, "Treat him with respect? You and I both know I'm not capable of treating someone with respect that sees me only as an object! You and I both know that I'm not wife material. I'm less wife material than Val – and that's saying something!"

She sighs, patting my head as if I'm five, "I understand, Circe, but this is the way it is. Go and pack your stuff." She looks up apologetically at Royal Asshole, "If you'll follow me, we'll get everything settled."

I groan, trying to keep from gnashing my teeth in agitation.

The truth of the matter is that, no matter what was stated early, I honestly, with every fiber of my being, do not want to get married. Not to the men that Constantine Home expects us to marry.

No matter how much they tried to make it seem as if they were kind and caring men, there's one simple truth: They think of us as objects and toys, nothing more and nothing less.

And I'm not an object. And I sure as hell am not a toy.

"Circe, what am I going to do without you?" Val wails, wrapping her arms around my neck and leaning her body into me.

"On the bright side," I mutter, returning the hug, "You don't have to do my chores."

"Are you kidding?" She asks, pulling away with her hands on my shoulders, "I'd much rather do your chores than you leave! What was wrong with that guy anyway? Did he not see the way you were acting?"

"I don't know." I say, pursing my lips in concentration, "Something tells me it either has to do with wanting to rebel against 'daddy' or trying to crack me – you know, one of those guys that enjoy trying to break girls and make them grovel at their feet?"

She cringes, linking arms with me as we head towards my room, "Like taming a lion – he wants to make you his bitch."

"Exactly like taming a lion." I say darkly, glancing over at her, "Only this lioness doesn't roll over and play dead, she roars and attacks without mercy."

"That's what I'm talking about." She says, chuckling, "But seriously babe, what are you going to do? You're getting marr-!"

I shudder, holding up my hand to stop her, "Don't even finish that sentence, Val, or you'll be this lioness's first victim."

She laughs, shaking her head, "I'm going to die without you here. Honestly. I'll wither in a corner, waiting for my lioness twin to come back."

I nudge her with my elbow, "Oh hush, whore. I'm the one going to some unknown house with unknown people and unknown things. Hell, for all I do know, this guy could be a serial killer that kidnaps kittens and uses them as sacrifices to his wives."

"Oh hell no. If that bastard even touches a cute kitten, I'll cut off his hands and make them into cat food." Her face looks so serious, it actually makes me laugh.

We arrive at my oak door and I turn the knob, pushing the door open and flipping on the light switch.

Light floods the room, showing how messy it is.

As stated in the rules, girls enrolled in Constantine Home are required to keep their rooms clean and neat, just in case a man wants to come with her to get her stuff (which rarely happens). But because the staff had given up all hope on a man ever choosing me, they'd given up on me keeping my room cleaned.

Instead, my vast space (meaning a very small cubical) has clothes covering the brown carpet, probably three fourths of the outfits being clean. My bed, that's to my right, almost right next to the door, consists of a box spring and a semi-hard mattress on top, covered with thin, white sheets and a single, thin stretch of grey fabric bundle at the foot of the bed meant to be my comforter. Next to it, on the right side, is a nightstand – the only lasting relic from my old house besides the picture of my mom when she was twelve that's sitting on top of it. Across from my bed, on the opposite wall that I'm facing, is a medium-sized dark oak dresser with five shelves stacked on one another. Beside it, thrown messily against the wall, is my entire collection of shoes, a whopping five pairs all together – a pair of black converse (high tops), black flats, those white heels that I mentioned earlier that need to be burned, a pair of Jack slippers from The Nightmare Before Christmas, and black, knee-length converses (I dig converses, what can I say?).

I head over to the dresser, pulling a black duffle bag out of the bottom drawer and let it drop to the floor.

Valery plops down on my bed, causing it to scratch against the wall, "How many wives do you think he has?"

"Hopefully I'm not his first one." I say, dumping the contents of the first drawer into the bag.

"I'll say." She agrees, "If that was the case, he'd want more than just kisses before the wedding."

I cringe in disgust, "Thanks for that. I'll add that to my list of reason to worry."

"Sorry." She says, actually sounding sincere, "But on the bright side, if he has more, then you don't have to worry about him bothering you too much."

"Unless he's really trying to 'tame' me."

She snorts, "Trust me CK, I seriously doubt that if he had a choice of banging a girl or trying to break a stubborn teenager, he'd choose the stubborn teenager. He is a guy after all."


Packing barely takes me more than five minutes since I don't have many clothes and before I know it, I'm ready to leave.

"All joking aside, I'll really miss you." Val says, hugging me again, "Who am I supposed to prank the staff with now?"

I smile, but it's sad, and return the hug, "I'll miss you too, Val. Maybe I can talk Royal Tamer into coming and visiting."

"Or when you inherit his money, you could buy me." She says, winking, "After all, no one said women couldn't look for wives."

I laugh and squeeze tighter.

Someone knocks on the door, though it's open, and we both turn to a fairly old man. He's dressed in a navy blue uniform, the sign of some limousine company crested onto the left breast of his uniform jacket.

"I'm here to get your things, ma'am." He says in a raspy voice, bowing, "I'm also here to take you to the car."

I sigh, pulling away from Valery, "I can carry my own bags, thank you." I say, trying to sound polite but coming off as a little irked. To Val, I smile sadly, "Don't get in too much trouble without me, alright?"

"Me? Trouble?" She scoffs sarcastically, "Never."

I chuckle and pick up my duffle bag, "As soon as I get the time, I'll sneak the phone and call, okay?"

She grins, "Awesome. I expect a call within three days."

"Three days?" I scoff, "Don't you know me better? My sneaking skills are better than a ninja."

"Better hope. If I don't get that call within three days, I'll hunt you down." She smirks.

"Then maybe I shouldn't call…" I return the smirk

"Ma'am, the young master is waiting for us." The old man says nervously, worried that he'll get in trouble.

"Okay." I say, not wanting to be the cause of the poor old man's scolding, "Bye, Val."

"See ya later, lady Lioness."

I laugh and close the door behind me.