31,744
07.03.2019

"Well, we'll be in Boston in a few more hours. Why don't you take a nap, relax."

"In here?"

"Sure, in here. This is as much your room as it is mine, now."

She laughed unwillingly. "Ah, no. I don't think that's right at all." Just as much hers? What had he been smoking? He was the prince; this was his dad's jet. She was a mongrel nobody.

Still…

She looked longingly at the bedspread, which was the same color as the flight attendant's blazer.

"It would be weird . . . damn, there's that word again . . . sleeping on a plane while actually being comfortable."

"God forbid you experience anything weird," he said. She looked at him narrowly, but from his innocent expression she had no idea what he truly meant by that. "Here, come on. Lie down."

She crawled toward the head of the bed, felt him pull her shoes off, then flopped beneath the covers and sighed. "All right. You're right. This is very relaxing." She drained the last of her Bloody Mary while lying down, then set the empty cup on the bedside table.

He slipped into bed beside her and she settled comfortably into the crook of his arm. Instantly she was no longer relaxed. Instead she was tense and almost. . . nauseated?

"You know, my father didn't come along on this trip," David whispered, making all the hair on her left arm stand up.

"Uh-huh."

"And it's just the two of us in here."

"Picked up on that, did you?"

"I'm a Ph.D," he said solemnly. "We're very observant."

"Unfortunately, there's a problem with that."

"Oh?" He was rubbing her shoulder with his right hand and nuzzling her ear. Under ordinary circumstances, that would be delightful. "What's that?"

"The thing is, if you grab my tits, I'm probably going to throw up."

He let go of her like she was hot. "Oh."

"Sorry. Too much to drink, too tense, too weirded out."

He sighed. "That's all right."

"Not that I don't want to join the Mile-High Club with you. But while we lust to reach that peak, I probably shouldn't be struggling not to puke."

"I agree. It's a good rule of thumb for any romantic occasion, actually."

"I mean, I'm gonna be really pissed at myself later. Because, frankly, since the cedar closet, I've been dying to—"

A sudden pounding on the door. "Your Highness! My lady! Stop it at once! "Jenny's voice, sounding harassed. "The king made me promise! No touchy!"

"For heaven's sake," the prince muttered, while Christina giggled. "Come in, Jenny."

The protocol officer fairly burst into the room. She had her hands tightly over her eyes. Her lips were curved into a grimace. "I'm very sorry to interrupt. But His Majesty made me promise. Could you please get dressed now?"

"Jenny," David said, exasperated, "open your eyes."

She slowly pulled her hand away and cracked one eye open. Then they both opened. "Oh. Oh! Very good, then."

"It's nap time," Chris explained. "Not nookie time. Really, Jenn. You've got such a filthy imagination."

Blushing harder (if that were possible—Christina feared the woman's head would soon blow up), she said, "I'm very sorry. Of course, you're tired … the trip … the preparations … the … uh … I'm going now. With your leave, Highness."

"Leave," David said.

Jenny bobbed a quick bow and practically ran out, shutting the door behind her.

"Gotcha," Chris said, giggling, then moaned and clutched her head.

"Remind me to put a lock on that door," he muttered.

"I'll put it on my to-do list from hell."

"Go to sleep."

"Is that on my list, too?" Before she could add something more sarcastic, she was asleep.

". . . thanks to a generous endowment from Prince David, our feathered friends will have more room to play, interact, and do all the things we all love to watch them do."

"We?" Christina muttered out of the side of her mouth.

"Don't start," David muttered back.

"So, without further ado, I'd like to introduce Prince David and his American fianc, who I understand loves the city of Boston—"

Wild applause. Cheers.

"—Christina Krabbe!"

"The 'e' is silent," she sighed. Then she stood with the prince and grinned like a monkey and waved like a fucked-up prom queen while about a thousand flashbulbs went off in her face.

They were outside the New England Aquarium, but as it was cloudy, all the photographers had brought their flash packs. So she stood and smiled and was privately amazed … didn't these reporters have anything better to do? Sure, they were entertainment reporters, but shouldn't they be tracking down Tom Cruise or Johnny Depp or Jennifer Aniston?

"Miss Krabbe! Miss Krabbe! Darrell Hanson, Fox News. How does it feel knowing you're going to be the queen of Alaska someday?"

"It's unbelievably alarming," she said into the microphone. There was a burst of laughter from the press corps, and out of the corner of her eye she saw Jenny had started rubbing her temples again. She cleared her throat. "Actually, David and I want the king to live a long, long time. We'd love it if we were never in charge of the country. He's great, and he does a terrific job."

Abruptly, Jenny stopped rubbing. She and the prince traded a glance. The prince was smiling. "Actually," Jenn said in a low voice, "that's—that's okay. That's .. . it's very nice, actually. Keep her up there."

"Alison Smith, Miss Krabbe, Entertainment Weekly. When's the wedding?"

"A few more weeks. I guess all your invitations got lost in the mail, because we want tons of reporters to be there," she added wryly.

More laughter.

"Mark Spangler, Channel 10 News. Where are you honeymooning?"

"New York."

The prince's eyebrows arched in surprise, but he didn't say anything.

"Entertainment Weekly, Miss Krabbe . . . you could go anywhere in the world . . . why New York?"

"Are you kidding? Some of the best restaurants in the world are in New York City." She rubbed her hands together with glee. "And we're gonna try 'em all!"

"Miss Krabbe—"

"Christina."

"Christina, is there pressure on you and the prince to provide an heir to the Alaskan throne?"

She shook her finger at the reporter from MSNBC "Now, now. How the hell is our sex life any of your business?" But she said it with a smile, and it was the lead in all their stories that evening. Along with the picture of the future princess yawning with her fingers over her mouth during the prince's speech.

"That was really nice, what you said about Dad."

"It's the truth." They were touring the aquarium, along with about sixty thousand other people. The security team was, as usual, as tense as cats in a dog pound. "I don't want to be queen. And come on, do you really want to be king? Wouldn't you rather be a prince forever?"

Frankly, he had never thought about it before. It would never have occurred to him to think about it in those terms. "It's my duty."

"Nice, but I notice you didn't answer my question."

He felt a stir of impatience, and quelled it. It had been a long day; no need to take it out on the pretty blonde at his side. She hadn't been born to duty, as he had. She still had the luxury of questioning fate. "That's because it's an irrelevant question. It's my duty. It will be your duty. For what it's worth, you'll be a fine queen."

"Thanks. For what it's worth, I don't like it when you tell me I'm being irrelevant."

He blinked in surprise. She didn't sound like she was kidding. "Noted."

"Chris! Christina!" A strong baritone reached them, and then a piercing whistle split the air. "Hey! Krabbe-with-a-silent-e!"

She stopped in her tracks and he nearly stumbled into her. "Stop!" she said, seeing the security team all twitch toward their handguns. "Let him through. I know this guy."

David watched as the blond, broad-shouldered man in jeans and a black T-shirt with the logo FREE MARTHA worked his way through the crowd.

"Christina, who is that?"

"Kurt Carlson." She was waving furiously at the stranger. "You remember how I told you I could count all my lovers on one hand? That's number two. Kurt!" she cried as he finally reached her. Her feet left the ground as he picked her up in an exuberant hug. "How the hell are you? What are you doing here?"

"You kidding?" David could hear California surfer in the man's voice, although he had to be close to thirty. "I had some leave from the department coming, and I read in the papers you were gonna be in Beantown. So I hopped a plane and here I am."

Christina looked disturbingly thrilled. "You came all the way out here to see me? You big dummy, you should save your vacation time to see your mom."

"She's in Greece with Stepfather Number Six. Hey," he added casually to David. He didn't bow, which was entirely appropriate, as the man was American. Americans, since time out of mind, did not bow, curtsey, or obey any sovereign on earth. Still, some acknowledgement of his station would have been nice. Anything instead of, "How's it hanging, guy? I'm Kurt. Chris and me go way back."

"He was supposed to take a cruise with his mom," she added, "but she stood him up to honeymoon with Stepfather Number Three. So we got to know each other. It's so great to see you!"

"Nice to meet you," David said, interrupting another hug by sticking his hand out, forcing Kurt to shake it "I've heard… well… nothing about you."

"Oh, that's Chris for you. She never volunteers shit if she can help it. But boy, dynamite tattoo, eh?" The peasant actually elbowed him in the ribs.

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