Read Royally Lost Online

Authors: Angie Stanton

Tags: #Young Adult Fiction, #Romance, #General, #Social Themes, #Dating & Sex, #Performing Arts, #Music, #Juvenile Fiction, #Love & Romance, #Dating & Relationships, #Social Issues

Royally Lost

BOOK: Royally Lost
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Dedication

For Kevin

 

You have the heart, soul, and integrity of a prince.

1

Crown
Prince Nikolai forced a print-worthy smile as he exited the antiquities museum. The flash from a sea of cameras blinded him as onlookers called his name. He nodded through the bright glare. In the two months since he finished school, every day had been filled with tedious dedications, droll speeches, and royal appearances. He paused as his mother, Queen Elana, and his sister, Princess Alexandra, entered the limo.

The demands of the monarchy—and his parents—threatened to suffocate the life right out of him. As each day passed, he lost more of himself.

Nikolai entered the vehicle last and eased back against the leather seat as the door closed. He released a polished brass button at the collar of his uniform, and finally drew a deep breath as the limo smoothly eased away.

“Nikolai, at tomorrow’s events, would you please act more interested in the proceedings?” The queen frowned while removing her long white gloves. Her stylish blonde hair framed her smart blue eyes and porcelain face. “The last thing we need is for you to show up at the dedication of the new hospital wing with a perfunctory look on your face.”

His sister, Alexi, kicked off her heels and sat on her legs, crushing her gown.

“Alexandra, sit like a lady!” the queen exclaimed.

“Why? My feet hurt from those stupid shoes. It’s not like anyone can even see inside the car.”

“It doesn’t matter if the press sees you, I see you.” The queen pursed her lips.

As their mother looked away, Alexi rolled her eyes.

“Mother, give her a break. She’s not hurting anything,” Nikolai said.

“You have no room to talk. Your behavior of late has not been helpful to the image of the royal house. You do realize the press will be covering all of the events, and the people expect a regal young man, not a bored teenager.”

“The press has photographed my every move since the day I was born.”

He gazed out the window as his mother droned on about the next day’s schedule and his attendance at the annual placing of flowers on the tomb of his ancestor, the centuries dead King Nikolai. At least his namesake was a real royal and not a holdover from archaic traditions that should have been put to rest decades earlier.

“Nikolai! Pay attention. At the state dinner tomorrow evening, I want you resplendent. Your father will be introducing you to the leaders of the European Union as well as foreign policy makers.”

Alexi shot him a sympathetic look. He grimaced. These important political figures would be respectful to him, protocol demanded they do so, but they knew what Nikolai’s parents and the Mondovian government refused to acknowledge. Nikolai would have no more power in the political future of Mondovia than the homeless people who dined at the government-funded soup kitchen he’d recently visited.

Nikolai was no more than a handsome face to keep the masses distracted from the real problems troubling his country. How could his parents not see this?

He couldn’t take it anymore. He’d been their puppet. He’d gone to the schools and the military academy they demanded. But he was eighteen now.

The queen continued on. “It is essential we ensure that the political leaders of Mondovia continue to honor the importance of the monarchy.”

He turned to her. “Why is it so important they honor us? What have we done for them?”

“Nikolai! What has gotten into you? I don’t know who your friends were at the academy, but clearly it’s good you are finished so you can think straight again.”

The limo pulled down a long, oak-lined lane, into the circular drive, and stopped before the marble pillars of Mersch Palace.

“This has nothing to do with who my friends are. I’m allowed to have a mind of my own. You may be able to dictate everything else in my life, but you can’t control my thoughts.”

“In a few weeks, none of that will be an issue because you’ll be installed into the royal officers’ academy,” she stated matter-of-factly.

“What?”

The palace doorman opened the limo door.

“Nikolai, don’t act surprised. You knew this day was coming.” His mother stepped gracefully from the vehicle.

He scrambled after her. “No, actually, I did not. You can’t force me into the military. This is a free country!”

“It’s a free country
because
we have a strong military. Your father entered the armed forces at your age as did his father before him.”

“Yes, but we were at war then. We aren’t now.”

“It’s time you take your place in history. This is just the first step.”

He followed his mother through the mammoth-sized double doors into the Grand Hall. Alexi made a quick dash past them.

“Mother. I will not join the military! I can’t!”

There, he’d said it. The idea of carrying a gun, let alone shooting one, went against everything he believed in.

She turned on her heel. “You can and you will. You are Crown Prince of Mondovia, Nikolai. It is time you grow up and show the people that they can have faith in their future king.”

Nikolai fought the urge to scream out his frustration. He looked around the opulent room filled with gilded chairs and priceless paintings. A massive chandelier made of Austrian crystals hung from the ceiling. From his parents’ point of view, this was normal, but they lived in the Dark Ages. This was the twenty-first century, for crying out loud.

“You are living in the past, Mother. The people of Mondovia don’t need a king. How can you not see that?”

“That is enough!”

“And they sure as hell don’t need a crown prince.” He whipped the medal-adorned sash over his head and tossed it on a teak side table next to a crystal lamp.

“Nikolai, whether you like it or not, the blood of the most powerful rulers in European history runs through your veins.”

The queen approached him with the grace and poise that had been instilled in her from the moment she could speak. She grasped his chin with her delicate hand and lowered his gaze to hers.

“You are of age. It is time to put aside your childish ways and step into the role you were born to.”

“And what is that? To dress up like a fairy-tale character and spend the next forty years with people bowing and curtsying to me as I parade around acting as if I’m better than the rest of the world? That might work for you and Father, but I’m a realist, Mother. The monarchy is dead!” He stepped away from her hold.

His mother gasped, a rare occurrence for Her Royal Highness.

“And I refuse to sacrifice my life to play some antiquated figurehead who possesses no actual power beyond that of an artificial title. I’m sorry to disappoint you but I didn’t choose this. I will not live my life to suit your schedulers. I can’t stay here another minute.”

“You may disagree and you may walk away, but one thing I can guarantee. You have a responsibility to your country, to your king. You cannot deny your birthright.”

“Yeah? We’ll see about that.” He stormed up the wide marble steps of the winding staircase, past the paintings of former Mondovian rulers. Perhaps they didn’t have a choice in their destinies, but he did.

 

Nikolai stalked into his suite of rooms and tossed his uniform jacket over the Louis XV armchair as he entered his closet. He changed into jeans, pulled on a dark T-shirt, and ran his fingers through his neatly combed hair, mussing it back to the way he liked it.

Finally he could breathe freely. Rummaging around, he pulled out a backpack and stuffed a few items inside, essentials to get him by for a while.

“Sir, may I assist you?” Dmitri, his personal secretary, asked from the doorway.

“No, Dmitri, thank you. The less you are involved, the better off you’ll be.” He dropped a pair of sunglasses into the pack. “My mother may think this is just a sign of me acting out or trying to get a moment of her attention, but it isn’t.”

“You misunderstand, sir. I wish to help in whatever way you need.”

“My plans will only get you into trouble. Trust me when I say you should walk away now, while you can. I’ve seen what this life did to my parents and grandparents. They were not happy people. This cannot be my life.”

Dmitri stepped closer. “Sir, if your plans are to leave the palace grounds, I will not stop you. However, I do wish you to go prepared.”

Nikolai stopped packing and looked with fresh eyes at the man. “Why would you risk your reputation, possibly your job? I expect to make a bit of a stir, and anyone who helps me will likely go down at my side.”

In his early thirties, Dmitri had been Nikolai’s personal secretary since the king and queen increased Nikolai’s royal duties three years prior. Today Dmitri looked at him with a compassion and understanding he’d never noticed before.

“Sir, you’ve been patient with your parents. Perhaps you are correct to deliver your message in a new way. You are the future of Mondovia, and I support your belief that change is needed. This is my way of helping the cause.”

Nikolai grinned. “Well then, what am I overlooking?”

“I imagine you plan to travel light, but one thing you’ll need is cash. You won’t get far with empty pockets.”

“Of course, I’d hate to have to come running back in two hours like a wayward child. I need to disappear for as many days as possible. Have we got much in my safe?” God, he hoped so. This was one more reason their system was archaic. If you were royal, you never needed money. Unless you were on the run. His lip curled in anticipation.

“I’ll see what there is.” Dmitri disappeared into the office of Nikolai’s private quarters and soon returned with a stack of bills. “There is just over three hundred euros. If we add what I’ve got in my wallet, that will bring you to over four hundred. That should provide for a couple days’ holiday.”

Nikolai stared as his only confidant pulled out his wallet and handed over all its contents. “Dmitri, I can’t take your money. Thank you, but it would be wrong.”

“I’m a betting man, and I bet that your act of dissent makes an impact with the king.”

Nikolai saw the sincerity in Dmitri’s eyes. “I’ll pay you back. I promise.” He accepted the cash and put it in his wallet.

“Don’t forget your phone, Your Highness. I’m here in case anything goes awry.”

“It won’t,” Nikolai said, sliding the phone and charger into the nearly full pack.

“I’m sure you are right, and what car were you planning to take?”

“Whatever is the least noticeable.”

“Might I suggest the motorbike gifted to you on your last birthday?”

Nikolai had totally forgotten about the motorbike he’d received from the shah of Borganistan. He’d enjoyed two rides through the countryside before his father’s security detail deemed it too great a safety risk. “Dmitri, you’re a genius!”

“I do my best.”

Nikolai scanned the room one last time; his desk, used by every Mondovian prince before him; the formal sitting area; and the fireplace so large he could walk into it, a centuries-old clock on the mantel. He was happy to leave it. There was nothing drawing him to stay.

Alexi popped into the room, now wearing jeans and a tank top, and her blonde hair in a ponytail. “What are you doing?”

“Nothing,” he answered, then glanced at Dmitri. “I’m set, thank you.”

Dmitri nodded and discreetly departed, closing the door behind him.

Alexi plopped onto the edge of his bed. “I wish I were you.”

He grabbed the book he’d meant to start reading and stuffed it into his pack. “No you don’t. You’d hate it.”

“If I were a boy, I could say what I felt and tell Mother and Father I didn’t want to go to another stinking charity dinner. I hate it. I hate them!”

Nikolai stopped packing and sat next to her. He took her hand in his. “You don’t mean that. They are old-fashioned and live on tradition, but they love us very much.”

“You hate them.”

“No, I don’t hate them. I just don’t want to live my life for them. I need to get away from here before they brainwash me.”

Alexi noticed his backpack. “You’re leaving?” She aimed her bright blue eyes on him. “Take me with you! Please!”

He sighed. “You know I can’t do that.”

“Why not? I’m just like you! I can’t stand it here. I don’t want to be Princess Alexi. I want to shop at the mall, eat fast food, and go to a rock concert. Please take me with you.”

“It’s bad enough what they’ll do to me. I can’t ruin your life, too.” He stood up, knowing he’d better leave now, before Alexi dissolved into a puddle of tears and changed his resolve.

“It’s not fair. You get to have all the fun. Where are you going to go?”

This wasn’t about fun. This was about taking back his life. He bumped her shoulder with his.

“I’m not sure where I’m going yet, but I have to leave now while I still have the nerve. I’ll call you while I’m gone, promise.”

“When are you coming back?” Her eyes turned watery.

“I honestly don’t know.” He gave her a quick hug. “Be good while I’m gone.” He slipped on a hoodie, grabbed his pack, and walked to the door.

Now why did he tell her to be good? He sounded just like his parents. He turned in the doorway. “I take that back. Don’t be good, give ’em hell.”

Alexi grinned. “I will. I’ll tell Mother that you were angry and snuck out to that little pub on the edge of town. That should buy you some time.”

“Thanks. You’re the best.”

Satisfied he’d cheered Alexi up and given her new purpose, he disappeared down the corridor and out a servants’ side door.

BOOK: Royally Lost
6.43Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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