Suddenly Royal
Author:Nichole Chase

“It’s not the same thing, Jess. He’d need someone from a respected family.” I wrapped my arms around my chest. “I’m not really royal. I’m an American related to someone who was a royal.”

“That doesn’t seem to matter to Rose and Alex.”

“Jess.”

“Don’t Jess me. I saw the way you looked at him. The way he looked at you. Don’t be stupid, Sam. You overthink things.”

“I do not! I make educated decisions.” I shook my head. “I have way too much going on to be mixed up in anything complicated.”

“Complicated is the best kind.” Jess smirked.

“I’m going to bed.” I threw the blanket off and stood up. “I have to pack tomorrow and get ready for the trip.”

“I see my argument skills have forced you to retreat. I claim victory.”

“Shuddup!” I looked over at Becca, who was leaning against the kitchen doorframe. “Do you need anything?”

“I have everything I need.” She smiled at me.

“Okay. Spill. Why do you have a Southern accent but work for Lilaria?” I frowned at her.

“I went through training with the FBI. When Rose came over a few years ago, I was part of the team assigned to her.” She smiled. “I stopped an attempt to kidnap her and she asked me to work for her.”

“Someone tried to kidnap her?”

“Holy shit.” Jess stood up and walked over. “You stopped a kidnapper?”

“Yes. Did you think I was just here for looks?” Becca asked.

“Well, no. I just thought you were to keep people from bothering Sam.” Jess looked at Becca with weighing eyes. “I bet people underestimate you a lot.”

“It works to my advantage.” Becca shrugged.

“Do I need to worry about something like that?”

“I’m just a precaution,” Becca assured me.

“I’m so done for tonight. I’ll see you guys in the morning.” I started to turn away.

“You want help tomorrow?” Jess asked. She normally didn’t have any classes on Thursday and often worked from home.

“That would be great.”

As soon as my head hit the pillow, I was out. It had been one of the longest weeks of my life and it was nowhere near being over.

The next morning I was woken up by the sounds of voices in the living room. It was barely seven o’clock and I already had twelve e-mails according to my phone. I sat up and stared at the sun streaming through my window.

I grabbed some jeans, a long-sleeve T-shirt, and tennis shoes. Once I was ready, I threw open my door and went in search of coffee. Sarah was sitting at the kitchen table with Jess and Bert. I nodded my head at them but went straight for the coffeepot. I didn’t have the brainpower yet to deal with why Sarah was in my house.

I poured a healthy amount of creamer and sugar in and stirred until my coffee was creamy brown. I took a sip and sighed. Just right. I rummaged around in the refrigerator and found some yogurt. Grabbing a spoon, I took the last chair at the table.

“Good morning, Duchess.” Sarah smiled at me.

I grunted.

Jess snickered. “Wait until after the first cup.”

“Ah. I understand.” Sarah smiled brightly. “It usually takes me two before I’m fully awake.”

I grunted again. I bet Sarah woke up ready for anything. She probably slept in her clothes with that notebook clutched in her hand. She had it open next to her with a bunch of notes scribbled in the shorthand I had noticed the day before. I took my time with my coffee and yogurt, listening while Jess asked questions and Sarah answered.

Finally I got up and threw away the yogurt cup and poured some more coffee. I turned to look at them and sipped from my cup. “Okay.”

“That’s her way of saying tell her what’s going on,” Jess explained.

“Well, I brought you some more information about your arrival in Lilaria. There will be a ceremony to welcome you home. After that there will be a delegation to bring you to the palace to meet Queen Felecia. You’ll be spending the night there before being given a small reception the next day where you will be introduced to some of the other nobility and members of parliament.” She took a breath and I waved my free hand in the air.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa. I’m going to be presented to the queen after flying across the Atlantic for hours and hours? What type of plane are we taking? Will I be able to take a shower? I mean, I’m supposed to go meet the Queen of Lilaria just like that?” I turned around and fished through the cabinets. “Shit. I need a bigger cup.” I grabbed the giant mug with the saying I said good day, sir!

“It’s customary that the queen welcome visiting dignitaries or nobles. The fact that you are ‘coming home’ is an even bigger reason for her to invite you to the castle. Prince Alex also asked that you stay at the palace before being taken to your lands. I believe he wants to escort you to your home.” Sarah smiled politely, but I caught the twinkle in her eyes. Apparently my moment with Alex hadn’t gone unnoticed yesterday. Or maybe it was because he had spent the day before with me.

“That’s not necessary. I’m sure he has more important things to take care of.”

Jess glared at me, her nose wrinkled and her mouth pressed into a firm line.

“He was quite adamant.” Sarah smiled again before turning back to her notebook. “Chadwick is going to the Rousseau estate today to make sure everything is ready for your arrival. There has been a steward appointed to the lands while your family was away, so I’m expecting everything has been kept in good shape.”

“What is the Stewards name?” I grabbed the grocery notepad off of the counter and looked in a drawer for a pen.

“Stanley Wessex.” Sarah looked over her notes. “He is in his late fifties and has been in charge of the estate for the last twenty years. I’m sure he will be an extraordinary help when you take over.”

“Or he’ll hate me for taking his job,” I muttered under my breath while scribbling down his name.

“I’ve also set up a secure e-mail for you and arranged for a new cell phone.” She reached into the bag next to her and pulled out a white phone. She rattled off the new number while I quickly copied it down in my notes. “I’ve set it up so the monthly payments will be deducted from your primary account.”

“Will I be able to use this worldwide?” I looked at the iPhone and frowned. I’d been an Android user for years.

“Yes, ma’am. It’s a Lilarian number, so you will have to use the country code when calling a number in the States.” Sarah pulled out some more paperwork. “I e-mailed you the press release we sent out this morning—have you seen it yet?”

“Yeah… That would be a no.” I frowned at her. Apparently I was going to have to start getting up at the butt crack of dawn to keep up with these people.

“Well, here is a copy for you to look over. I also went ahead and sent a contingent to your father’s house. It’s likely there will be some reporters sniffing around for a story.” Sarah looked at me carefully. “Once they realize your father has cancer, I fear it will be a bigger story.”

“I see.” And I did. The Cinderella comment from yesterday would be blown out of proportion when they found out my stepfather was sick. “How do I go about hiring people to stay with him?”

“I’ll take care of that. How many do you think would be appropriate?” Sarah held her pen ready over her pad of paper and looked at me expectantly.

“Um, two?” I swallowed. “So they can take turns and stuff, I guess?”

“That sounds like a good plan. While he will likely have to deal with some of the media, it won’t be as much as you. Not to mention it should calm down once you leave the country.”

“Heh.” I didn’t know what else to say, so looked over the press release. The queen had announced that after a long, thorough search, they had located one of the missing royal families in America. There was a quick bit about me, my schooling, and that I was returning to Lilaria to accept my title. It was brief and to the point. I approved.

“Samantha, I think you’re going to have to leave the packing to me and Bert.” Jess crossed her legs in her chair and propped her chin on her hand.

“What? I have to get this stuff over to Dad’s today. I leave tomorrow.”

“Exactly. And you need to go shopping.”

“What on Earth for? Toiletries? Travel soaps?”

“Clothes, Sam. Clothes. You can’t meet the Queen of Lilaria in blue jeans.” She turned to look at Sarah. “Am I right? There has to be a dress code of some sort for that type of stuff.”

“Yes. The reception at the palace will be black-tie formal. Your reinstatement will be white tie. And I’m sure that there will be other things that would require dresses or skirts.” Sarah didn’t look up from her notebook.

I stared at both of them. “Black tie? White tie?”

Jess sighed. “Black tie—you can get away with a fancy cocktail dress. White tie requires a long gown, gloves, jewels.”

“Yes, for white-tie affairs you would need to wear one of your family diadems.” Sarah was still scribbling in her notebook.

“Diadems. You mean tiaras? Crowns?” I shook my head. “My family has diadems.”

“Diadems, never crowns.” Sarah looked up at me. “And yes. I believe you have several. I recall a painting of one with gorgeous emeralds.”

“Emeralds.” I shook my head. I needed to stop repeating everything that was said to me. “Okay. So, shopping. And packing.” I started to think about how much money I could spend on a dress and then realized I had three other accounts to consider. “What time are we leaving in the morning?”

“I’ll send a car for you at four.” Sarah closed her notebook. “There are several shops downtown that would have appropriate attire. When would you like to go?”

“I guess now.” I looked around the kitchen, feeling lost.

“Wear some comfortable shoes—we’re going to be busy.” Jess hopped out of her chair and scurried down the hall. I guess that meant she was going with me. Thank God for stylish roommates.

How to Pick a Dress for the Ball

—The Jolene Waters Show

After the third store I was ready to kill Jess and hide her body under a mountain of snow. Sarah seemed amused by Jess’s way of talking to me. Then again, it probably looked funny to everyone that saw me standing in front of a mirror in a giant monstrosity of a pink dress.

“I will not wear this.” I glared at her. “I wouldn’t bury an enemy in this dress.”

Someone sniffed beside me and I realized the store owner was watching us. Apparently she didn’t think much of my style choices, either. The fact was that I was incredibly nervous about meeting a queen, parliament, and a bunch of royals. The thought of trying to walk in this dress while meeting a queen, parliament, and a bunch of royals made me hyperventilate.

“It’s gorgeous! You look like you could be in a magazine.” Jess fluffed the skirt a little more. I stared at her until she finally sighed. “Fine. Let’s try something a little more boring.”

“Good idea.” I stepped off the little platform and gathered up the skirt in my arms. Jess followed close behind so she could help me undo the four thousand little buttons along the back.

“You know, this is a huge moment. Your chance to make a big statement.” Jess looked at me seriously. “You need to go in there, large and proud. Don’t let them treat you like the dirty cousin from America. Show ’em you’re someone to contend with.”

“You make this sound like high school.” I wiggled out of the dress and helped her put it back on the hanger, which promptly bowed in the middle, struggling to support the weight of the dress.

“I’m serious. You need to go in there and let them know you’re Samantha Effing Rousseau. You’re gorgeous, you’re brilliant, and you won’t take any shit.” Jess stood up and looked at me. “They need to know that right away.”

I thought about what she was saying. First impressions were important. If I would dress up to give a speech at a bird convention, there was no reason I shouldn’t dress up for a meeting with the queen. I turned and looked at the next dress on the rack and contemplated it.

“Okay.”

“Okay?”

“Okay, but we need to make the right statement. No froufrou stuff.” I pushed the hangers aside and met Jess’s eyes in the mirror.

“I know just the dress.” She ran out of the little room and I stood there contemplating what I was doing. I hated that I was making these decisions. I felt like I was doing this blind. And the worst part was there were people standing outside the store with cameras, trying to see what I was buying.

When Jess came back she and held up a dress, I knew she had nailed it on the head. It was simple but elegant. Sexy but discreet: simple cap sleeves with an A-line skirt, the black material shining softly in the dressing room lights. There was a simple black belt that added a little something extra and gave it even more personality. I ran my hands over the gown and almost squealed in delight. There were pockets.

“You’ve been saving this one.” I turned my eyes to Jess and glared at her. “You made me try on those God-awful dresses, knowing full well I would hate them. And this was in the store the whole time!”

“So you like it?” Jess smiled from ear to ear.

“You sneaky bitch! That last dress was torture!” I held my hand out for the hanger and she laughed.

“It worked, didn’t it? I could have brought a trash bag in here and you would have been excited.” Jess helped me pull the dress up and work the hidden zipper.

When I turned around to look in the mirror, I froze. The dress fit perfectly, which was lucky considering there wasn’t time for alterations. Jess did something to my hair, twisting it up off my neck in a messy bun that countered the streamlined look of the dress.

“Understated elegance.” Jess nodded her head like she had designed the dress herself.

“It’s perfect.” I turned so I could see the back of the dress.

“Let’s go show the others.” Jess swung the door open and motioned for me to go out first. I had to pick the skirt up to walk, but with heels it would be perfect. Outside, the curtains had been pulled over the large front windows and Sarah was waiting in a chair, her notebook in her lap. She looked up and a smile pulled at the corners of her mouth.

“Oh, you look lovely.”

I stepped onto the little block in front of the mirror and looked at myself. It was silly, but I suddenly felt royal. I guess that was the magic of a beautiful dress. The shop owner brought over a pair of black high heels in my size. I slipped them on and looked again at the mirror. They were the perfect height. The skirt no longer hung too low, but they weren’t so high I couldn’t walk.

A phone beeped and I looked around to see who it belonged to, but no one moved to answer it. The phone beeped again and I looked at the shop owner, but she shook her head. I stepped down from the pedestal and walked over to my bag. I picked up the new phone and looked at the screen.

“Who has this number?” There were two text messages.

“The duchess and the prince, Jess, and your father.” Sarah looked back through her notebook. “And your security detail.”



651-555-1212: How is the dress shopping going?



I grabbed my other phone and checked to make sure it really was Alex’s number before replying.



ME: I hate it, but I found one.

Alex: Send me a picture.

ME: Nope.

Alex: Then send me a picture without the dress.

ME: Pervert.

Alex: You have no idea.