Nicholas sighs. “Fine.”
There’s the sound of more shuffling chess pieces, and several quick moves later the Queen declares triumphantly, “Checkmate.”
There’s a silent, shocked pause, and then Nicholas stutters, “How . . . did you do that?”
“You become too aggressive when victory is at hand—you lose sight of anything else. It makes you vulnerable.” There’s a rustling of fabric as the Queen rises to her feet. “Work on your long game, my boy.”
One month later
THERE’S A LOT THAT’S AWESOME about living in a palace. The rooms—one huge, historical, beautifully glamorous room after another, are better than any museum exhibit. The flowers—miles of blooming gardens in colors I didn’t even know existed, and giant vases filled with fresh-cut blossoms of every kind, set in hallways and on table centerpieces. The servants—a tray of tea is waiting in my sitting room every morning when I wake up, my bed is made for me, my laundry cleaned and folded without my asking and my room is straightened twice a day.
This is definitely the life.
But, there’s a downside too—not to living in the palace, but to being among the elite who do live in a palace:
“A stalker? What do you mean I have a stalker?” Livvy asks.
We’re in Winston’s office. He’s the head of palace security, and from what I can gather, he’s like Cher, he only has the one name.
We were called here—me, Olivia, Nicholas, Henry and Sarah, for a security briefing. Logan is here too, standing close to the wall, behind Winston’s desk. And my heart does a flaily, off-beat pitter-pat. Because I haven’t seen much of Logan lately. If I were the paranoid type, I’d think he was avoiding me.
“Stalker isn’t exactly the term I’d use,” Logan says. “More like . . . an obsessive, who doesn’t like you very much.”
Nicholas sits in the chair next to Olivia, holding her hand.
“But why me?” she asks.
“Royal pregnancies tend to get the mad ones all worked up,” Winston, a gray-haired but solid looking man, replies.
“How many notes have been sent?” Nicholas asks.
“This is the third,” Winston tells him.
“What post are they coming from?” my brother-in-law asks.
“Different every time—West Rothshire, Averdeen, Bailey Glen. No fingerprints, no DNA. Each note is threatening and focuses on Lady Olivia and the children.”
“What do the notes say exactly?” I ask, feeling sick.
Logan answers before Winston can.
“The specifics don’t matter. We’re monitoring the situation. We notified you so you’ll all be aware, but . . . don’t worry. Nothing is going to come of this.”
“Don’t worry?” I parrot. “This is like some Game of Thrones bullshit right here—how the hell are we supposed to not worry?”
“It’s not as if we don’t ever get hate mail. Or online threats—it happens all the time. I had five stalkers by the time I was sixteen.”
Henry shrugs at my sister. “You’re not really a royal until you have a stalker—welcome to the club, Olive.”
Nope. That doesn’t make me feel even a little bit better.
Despite the news about the psycho stalking Olivia and Nicholas, apparently, the show goes on. This is what it means to be a public figure, a royal. With Henry and Sarah’s Big Fat Royal Wedding just a few months away, there have been a ton of brunches and lunches and other events all geared toward celebrating the upcoming event. Which is why, the next night, I’m in a limo feeling like a movie star wearing a gorgeous, shiny, silver cocktail dress, with Nicholas and Olivia looking every inch the fairytale royal couple. We’re on our way to Starlight Hall, where Henry and Sarah’s friends are throwing a party in their honor.
There are photographers and fans waiting outside, in roped off areas behind a wall of security. I shiver when I think the man obsessed with my sister could be in the crowd. But then the door opens, and Logan is holding out his hand to me.
When I touch him, when I slide my hand into his and feel his fingers wrap around mine, a mixture of thrilling electricity and warm comfort races through me. Touching him is my drug, my addiction—though I try not to be a freak out about it. And knowing he’s here, watching over us like a powerful, invincible guardian angel, settles my nerves and, like always, makes me feel safe and cared for. Because Logan would never let anything bad happen to any of us.
And I believe with all my heart that there’s nothing he can’t do.
The Starlight Hall is aptly named. It’s a beautiful room with murals of lush rolling landscapes on the walls and a domed ceiling of thousands of small white iron-framed panes of glass. The guests are similar to the ones at other events I’ve attended with Olivia—a mix of young, sophisticated blue-bloods and older aristocratic lords and ladies wearing clunky jewels and big intricate hats.
Olivia and I sit at a table, chatting with Simon Barrister and his wife, Franny. I’ve met the couple a few times over the years—through Simon’s business with my father and because he’s Nicholas’s closest friend. Liv met Franny on her first trip to Wessco and she was a good friend to her, fierce and honest, when my sister really needed a friend. Franny is the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen in my life, with perfect, porcelain skin, glittering onyx eyes and mahogany hair.
She’s also one of the funniest. Because she’s so direct. Practically brutal.
“Death.” Franny tells my sister emphatically. “Childbirth is like death. You’ll think that you’re dying and the pain is so bloody awful, you’ll wish you were already dead.”
Simon and Franny have a three-year-old little boy, Jack, with sparkling blue eyes and red hair just like his dad.
“So you’re saying it’s . . . not so bad?” Liv jokes.
Franny laughs and Simon gazes at her like it’s the most magical sound he’s ever heard.
“I’m just trying to prepare you.” Franny insists. “I wish someone had prepared me.”
Then she looks over at her husband adoringly and strokes her hand down his arm.
“But, afterwards, when you haven’t died and they place that little bundle in your arms, you feel reborn. Like you’ve just accomplished the most perfect, important, wondrous thing you’ll ever do. And you want to do it again and again.”
Later, the topic turns to nannies.
Liv holds Nicholas’s hand in hers, toying with the wedding ring on his finger.
“I don’t know about nannies—I don’t think I want one.”
“One?” Franny exclaims. “You’re having twins, you need an army of them.”
My sister tilts her head from side to side, unconvinced.
“Don’t be an American Bitch, Olivia. Nannies are a part of our culture—especially for you and Nicholas. I can’t imagine how I would have turned out if I was left to be raised by my mother. It would have been a disaster.”
Simon nods to Nicholas. “Hopefully, you’ll have better luck at keeping them employed. Ours quit, often—dropped like flies.”
Franny smirks, looking devilish and beautiful. “I can’t imagine why.”
And Simon grins, delighted by her. “It’s because you threaten them, darling.” He turns toward us. “When they take Jack to the park, Franny reminds them if anything should happen to him, she’ll slit their throats when they return.”
Franny shrugs adorably. “I’m just being honest. They should be forewarned.”
Later, I’m on my own, sipping a vodka and cranberry, while my sister and Nicholas are on the dance floor, gazing into each other’s eyes. Simon and Franny are there too, clasped together, rocking in time to the music. I see Henry at the other end of the room, talking animatedly, surrounded by a group of people who are listening and laughing in response to his every word. Sarah is a few feet away, chatting with her blond sister, Penelope. She an actress in LA, only visiting for a few days, and then she’ll return for the wedding.
A new song comes from the band—an instrumental version of “Play That Song” by Train. I watch Henry leave his group and go over to Sarah—swooping her up, holding her around her hips, above him—both of them laughing and loving. I can’t help but smile when he moves them onto the dance floor and slowly slides Sarah down his body until her feet touch the floor.