The Controversial Princess(2)

By: Jodi Ellen Malpas

“Felix took care of it.”

I deflate a little, silently thanking the head of communications at Kellington Palace. He won’t be happy with me either. No one ever is. “So there was something to take care of?”

“A few pictures.”

“How did they get them?”

“They must have followed you from the Royal Opera House.” Kim purses her lips. “I mean, really, Adeline. Separate cars going from the same venue to the same hotel?”

“It was his idea.”

“And I bet your arm took some severe twisting.” She reaches into her bag and pulls something out. “There’s this in Woman. Far more respectful, don’t you think?” Kim presents me with the magazine, where I’m gracing the cover. I take in the picture of me getting out of a car outside the Royal Opera House, being shielded by Damon, my driver and head of security. The headline reads: “To be blessed with beauty, style, and a royal title. What is it really like to be Princess Adeline? Let us tell you!” I roll my eyes and flip to the double-page spread, where they detail my life—all inaccurate. Carefree? Exciting? Fulfilled? I snap it shut and hand it to Kim, taking the stairs to the entrance hall. “My gown looked fabulous, so they got that much right.”

“I bet it looked fabulous on Gerry Rush’s hotel room floor, too.”

“Funny,” I quip, taking the last step and hitting the mosaic-tiled floor, nodding at Damon, who is waiting by the door. He nods back, his usual sharp acknowledgment. His customary black suit has been replaced with a navy one. “Going somewhere special?” I ask seriously, prompting a discreet smile from his worn-in face.

“Happy birthday, ma’am.” His deep, baritone voice does what it always does. Soothes me. Relaxes me. Damon has been my driver and head of personal protection for ten years and is a permanent fixture in my life. It’s a good job I’m quite fond of him, otherwise I might resent him and his intrusion on my life.

“Thank you, Damon. How is your lovely wife?”

“Very well. Thank you for asking, ma’am.”

“Wonderful to hear. Now, let’s get this afternoon out of the way, shall we?”

“It might not be that bad, you know,” Kim says as she stuffs the magazine into her bag, and I laugh, because of all people, she knows. She just knows. I straighten my shoulders and head for the door, looking down to make sure my chest isn’t showing … too much. Damon pulls the door open and stands back, letting me pass. “Thank you, Damon,” I say, coming to a stop at the top of the steps when I see someone blocking my path to the open door of my car.

“Happy Birthday, Addy.” Eddie grins at me, a bunch of white roses held under his chin.

“Eddie!” I virtually throw myself at my brother. “You scoundrel. You never said you were coming home.”

Catching me on a laugh, he swirls me around on the steps of Kellington Palace. “Don’t get too excited.” He places me on my feet and gives my dress a mild disapproving look. “I haven’t bought you a gift.”

“I don’t care,” I declare, looking at Damon. “Did you know?” My driver shrugs, his hand still resting on the door handle. I turn to Kim. “Did you?”

“He might have called last week.” She starts tapping at the screen of her mobile, leaving me to get back to my beloved Eddie, the youngest of my two elder brothers. My savior. The only one who understands me. He’s adorned in his military uniform, his green beret sitting perfectly on his gorgeous head. Part of me envies him serving our country, a daft notion, I realize, but at least he gets to escape this circus for nine months at a time when he’s on tour.

“So let’s party,” Eddie quips, throwing his bag and my flowers by the door. Olive, a member of our household staff, swoops them up before they’ve barely come to rest.

“At the palace?” I grumble, utterly unimpressed by his enthusiasm.

“Drink plenty of champagne and smile. I’m here. It’s bound to be more fun.” His hazel eyes gleam mischievously, and that will be his present to me. Some fun.

My birthday just improved tremendously. I can always count on Eddie. I watch as Kim, who I share with Eddie when he’s home, as well as Kellington Palace and all other staff members, rolls her eyes in mild dread. I grin. She’ll be jumping straight on the phone to Felix as soon as we’re in the car. Poor Felix is kept busy enough when I’m home alone. With Eddie back, he’ll be run off his Italian loafers trying to keep our royal reputations perfect.