“You’ll have to be mindful of your interactions when you’re in public. Everyone knows the princes; you’ll be observed constantly. And we are a conservative country. No ‘PDAs’ as you young people call them.”
Huh. Sounds fun.
“We’re not that conservative,” Henry objects. “You and Nicholas will just have to find a nice shadowy nook to get your public freak on. Or, if you really need to stick your tongue down someone’s throat, I’m always available.”
Nicholas glares heatedly at his brother, who shrugs innocently. “Just putting it out there.” Then his voice drops to whisper to me, “No one cares what I do.”
“Of course they care,” Bridget consoles him.
“You just don’t care that they care,” Nicholas says dryly.
And Henry plays the intro of “Stairway to Heaven” on his guitar. “One of the perks of being second born.”
It’s just before sunset when the plane lands in Wessco. A warm breeze, with a hint of ocean, fills the cabin when the plane doors are opened. There’s a carpet on the steps leading down to the tarmac—purple, the color of royalty. Soldiers in full dress of red coats and shiny gold buttons and black boots gleaming in the fading sunlight line the path from the plane to the airport.
Nicholas steps out first—I hear a deep bellowing call to attention from an officer on the ground and the snaps of hard heels against the stone pavement as the soldiers salute. I take a minute when I step out behind him to look, take it all in, so I’ll remember.
But then, as we get closer to the airport door, there’s another sound, this one much more ominous. It’s jeers and shouts—and it’s coming from a crowd of people on the side of the building, cordoned off behind a fence. Some of them hold signs, and all of them look angry. And they’re yelling and cursing—at us.
What starts as a roar of indecipherable disdain becomes more individualized as we get closer.
“I don’t have a job and you’re flying about in a fucking private plane! Bastards!”
“Fuck you! Fuck the monarchy!”
I stay close to Nicholas’s back. He reaches behind, holding out his hand without turning, searching for me. I take it and he squeezes.
“Stick it up your arses boys, and your grandmother’s too!”
Nicholas’s back stiffens, but he keeps walking forward.
Henry has an altogether different reaction.
Though the security men try to keep him away from the fence, he swaggers right up to it and calls one of the men forward with a flick of his hand.
Then Henry rears back…and spits on him.
And the world explodes.
People scream, the fence rattles, soldiers close in around us—jostling and pushing us toward the door. Nicholas pulls me forward by my hand, tucking me safely under his arm as we’re practically carried into the building.
Inside, after the shouts are drowned out behind the closed door, Nicholas turns on his brother.
“What the hell were you thinking?”
“I’m not going to let them talk to us that way! You didn’t do anything, Nicholas!”
“No, I didn’t!” Nicholas shouts. “Because what I do matters. My words, my actions, have consequence. Spitting on people isn’t going to win them over to our side!”
Henry’s green eyes flare and his cheeks are red with anger. “Fuck them! I don’t need them on our side.”
Nicholas rubs his eyes. “They’re our people, Henry. Our subjects. They’re angry because there aren’t any jobs. They’re terrified.”
Henry glares at his brother, stubborn and unyielding. “Well, at least I did something.”
Nicholas snorts. “Yes. You made it worse. Congratulations.”
Taking my hand, he turns on his heel, telling James, “Olivia and I will ride alone in the first car. He can follow behind in the car with Bridget.”
No one hesitates to follow the command.
And that is our welcome to Wessco.
In the limo, Nicholas pours himself a drink from the cool blue-lit minibar in the center console. He’s all tense muscles and scowly jaw. I rub his shoulders.
“Are you okay?”
He scrapes out a sigh. “I will be. Sorry about that, love.” He plays with my hair. “This isn’t how I wanted to bring you home.”
“Pfft.” I wave my hand. “I grew up in New York, Nicholas. Protestors and crazy people on every corner. That was nothing—don’t worry about me.”
I want to bring the playfulness back into those eyes, that delicious, devious smirk to his beautiful lips. I think about sliding down to the floor between his knees and giving him a blow job. But, to be honest, with the driver in front and his brother and so many staff members following behind us, I just don’t have the guts to follow through.
Instead, I squeeze up close to him, letting my boobs press against his arm. He kisses my forehead, breathing me in. And that seems to make him feel better.
About an hour later, we pull onto the road that leads to the palace. Nicholas tells me to look out the window to see—and I’m gob-smacked.
I’ve never used that word before: gob. Gob-smacked.
There was never a reason—but, holy shit, there’s a reason now. I’ve seen pictures of the castle but seeing now is…unreal. The massive stone building is lit from the bottom up—practically a hundred beams of light illuminate the façade. More windows than I can count dot the front, framed by a giant black-and-gold-trimmed iron gate. I can’t see clearly from here, but there seem to be intricate etchings, statues and carvings built into the stone. There’s a lighted fountain in the center, shooting half as high as the castle itself. A tall, stately flagpole holds the waving burgundy and white Wessco flag. And flowers! Thousands, maybe millions, of flowers surround the front and the sides, bursting with color even in the night.