I burst out laughing. It’s not even funny what he said, I just can’t help myself. Joy invades me from all corners of my heart.
“What?” he asks, frowning.
“Nothing,” I say, and if I don’t stop smiling, I think my face will permanently stay this way. “Nothing at all.” I grab his hand and start pulling him toward the French doors.
“Where are we going?” he asks.
I give him a flirty look over my shoulder. “If you want babies, Your Majesty, then the first thing we have to do is start making them.”
He lets me pull him into the bedroom. “Not that I’m complaining, but don’t you have to be off the pill for a few days for it to, uh, not work?”
I lie back on the bed. “There’s nothing wrong with a little practice.”
“No,” he says with a lustful grin as he unties his shorts. “There definitely isn’t.”
A buzzing noise keeps interrupting my dreams.
I groan and roll over, my body still worn out from the endless baby-making sessions. I slowly open my eyes. There’s a glow in the room but it’s not from the moon outside, it’s from my phone on the nightstand.
Who the hell is calling me at this hour?
I look over at Aksel who is asleep and lightly snoring—he’s always out cold after he comes—and then I reach for the phone.
My pulse quickens. God, I hope everything is okay.
But before I get a chance to answer it, the phone stops buzzing.
I open it and check the time. It’s 3 a.m. here in St. Croix, which means it’s 8 a.m. in Paris.
I’m just about to text her and ask why she called when a text from her comes in.
It’s a photo of something, a screenshot, and I can’t get a good look at it until it’s open.
It’s quickly followed by a link to a UK tabloid.
My heart drops like a stone.
This is not going to be good.
I open the first pic, where Amelie had texted underneath: is this true??
And to my utter and total horror, it is true.
It’s completely true.
It’s the front page of an article with a picture of me.
A picture of my mug shot from back in the day.
The headline says Danish Royal Nanny a Criminal!
I can’t breathe. I can’t blink. I can’t even feel my heart anymore.
Everything I feared, everything I tried to bury, everything I left behind me, hoping to never face again, has come back in full force. I’m no longer haunted by my past.
My past is here.
With shaking hands, I clink on the link and read the rest of the article, ignoring all the texts coming through from Amelie, question after question.
What was reported was completely true, albeit not telling the whole story.
It makes me out to look like an actual criminal genius, not some young, fucked-up girl who was manipulated and abused.
That’s what hurts most of all. Maybe I’m a villain as much as a victim but without even knowing the facts, about what I’d gone through, my truth has turned into a lie.
I drop the phone in my lap, feeling like the world is crashing in on me.
It’s all over.
All of it.
Him, the girls, my job.
I can’t continue after this.
I wasn’t worthy before.
I’m a criminal now.
“What time is it?” Aksel says beside me, his voice thick with sleep.
But I can’t even talk.
He shifts in bed to look at me and I must look like a ghoul illuminated by the phone in my lap, staring at it in horror.
“What happened? Why are you up?” he asks, sitting upright.
My head shakes, a wobble, really, and my mouth opens to speak but no sound comes out.
The weight on my chest is a thousand pounds of bricks.
“Aurora, are you all right?” His voice is urgent. He grabs my shoulder so I’m facing him, his eyes searching my face. “What happened?”
The phone light goes off and the room goes dark.
It’s better this way.
I can tell him the truth without the light in my face.
“I have to tell you something,” I whisper.
A long beat. “Okay,” he says, trying to sound calm but failing. “What? You can tell me anything.”
“Yes, well. Apparently, I thought I couldn’t tell you this. And now I have no choice.”
“What is it?” His voice is low now, prepared for the worst.
“I have a past.” I stare ahead in the darkness, feeling that darkness creep into my soul. “I did some bad things.”
“I’m sure you did,” he says softly, running his hand down my naked back. “I know about your past. We’ve all done bad things.”
“My name isn’t Aurora James.”
The bomb goes off, leaving only silence behind, like when a star implodes in space.
“What are you talking about? What is it then?”
“My given name was Rory Jameson. I changed it, to separate myself from my past.”
“Okay, well. That’s fine. You’re still Aurora to me.”
God, he’s so understanding, so good. He doesn’t get it.
“Rory Jameson did some bad things.”
I hear him swallow. “What did Rory Jameson do?”
I take in a deep, shaking breath, knowing it won’t steady me or make things easier. “She met a guy called Dan. She fell in love with him because she didn’t know any better. She was too young. He was old enough. He got her into drugs, an escape from her shitty life. Later, he got her on the road, helping him commit crime. She stole some wallets, mostly. Then shoplifted. Finally she helped him rob a friend’s house. She was never caught, neither was he, they just kept driving on and using until one day it all caught up to them. He was doing a drug deal, the guy tried to screw him over, take his stuff. I was there, and I shouldn’t have been. The guy came for me, Dan attacked the guy. Killed him. It was self-defense, sure, but that didn’t really matter given the circumstances.”
I pause, afraid to glance at him. I’m wringing my hands together until they’ve gone numb. “We were both arrested. I was tried for drug use and being an accessory, but it was later dropped. Dan went to prison. It wasn’t just the manslaughter account. It was years and years of theft and robberies and money laundering and drug dealing. Things that happened even before he met me. Even I didn’t realize the extent of the person he was and the things he’d done. But by the time I realized it, he was put away and I had to make a new life for myself. I altered my name a bit, moved to Brisbane, was pretty much homeless for a month before I could get a job. Then I worked and worked and saved and saved and left for Europe, never to return.”
I hear him exhale sharply from his nose, the only noise in the room. “Why didn’t you tell me this earlier?”
I gnaw on my lip, bracing for the blow. “Because I’m stupid.” I open up the phone and pull up the article and hand it to him. “I’m very stupid.”
I stare at the phone in my hands, mind still reeling from the bombshell Aurora just dropped in my lap, only to find another one.
A worse one.
I read the article in a daze.
An article that reiterates everything that Aurora just confessed to me but without any of the real details and idiosyncrasies. An article that paints Aurora as a lying, half-wit villain, trailer trash that weaseled her way into the Danish royal family.
An article that ruins all that she’s worked so hard for.
A life as Aurora James.
And yet, as I sit here, my world splintering off, my heart in jagged pieces, I’m angry. I’m angry and I’m hurt.
How could she do this to me?
How could she keep it all to herself?
How could she not trust me after all the trust I placed in her?
Why wasn’t I good enough for that?
“Aksel,” she says. “Please, say something.”
I stare at her beautiful face and I only feel the pain in that she never gave me her all, never let me into the truth.
She never let me in.
“How could you do that?” I whisper.
“I’m sorry,” she says, crestfallen and crumbling and I know she’s in pain too. “I was so stupid and young and—”
“No,” I say, sharper than I meant to. “Not that. How could you not tell me the truth?”
“You wouldn’t have understood.”
“Not understood?!” I cry out. “How dare you say that to me!”
She stares at me in shock for a moment before she yells back, “You would have acted like this!”
“No!” I yell. “I wouldn’t have. Aurora, for fuck’s sake, you kept this from me and now I’m finding out from a fucking tabloid. What the fuck were you thinking? We could have prevented this if you trusted me enough with it!”
Her mouth opens, chin trembling.
“Fuck,” I growl. I get out of bed and slip on my pajama pants from the floor, trying to think, needing space. My hands go into my hair, pulling, trying to get my temper under control.
“Aksel, I am sorry,” she says again. “Please.”
“Please nothing.” I turn to face her, breathing hard, my heart pinching in my chest like it’s in a vice. “I confessed to you my biggest secret, my crime, and you just kept yours to yourself. I trusted you with it because I trust you and your big heart, but it’s obvious you don’t trust me at all.”
“I do trust you!” she yells, pleads. “I do. I was going to tell you.”
“When? When?” I throw my arms out. “One day? Is this why you don’t want to tell the girls, is this why you didn’t want us to become anything?”
“I want us to become something!” she yells. “But, damn it, Aksel. You’ve got your head in the clouds.”
In the clouds? “Is that what you think? That the fact that I want babies with you, that I want to tell my girls, the world about you, the fact that I want to marry you and make you my queen, you think that means I have my head in the clouds?”