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Authors: MaryJanice Davidson

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BOOK: The Royal Treatment
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“For hors d’oeuvres I want a nice variety of open-faced sandwiches, maybe some cucumber and watercress, cream cheese, and you can dress it up with caviar, sesame seeds, whatever. Some nice crostini would be good, too, but make sure the tomatoes are ripe…I don’t want a bunch of red potatoes served with the mozzarella. Actually, yellow tomatoes would be really great with that, if you think you can get them. They’re so pretty. And fresh basil, please, nothing out of a jar.

“Some asparagus, maybe steamed and served with a really tangy vinaigrette, would be good, too. No need to go for the white—green asparagus will do fine. And shrimp cocktail. I love shrimp cocktail, and I bet you guys could get a great price.

“Now, for entrees, let’s do some poached salmon—no halibut, it’s too friggin’ expensive—and serve it with a nice homemade mayo, maybe some cukes, too. Do
not
make a salmon mousse—I don’t expect the guests to choke down whipped fish. I’d also like to do a couple different pasta salads, one with meat, one without. I mean, there’s gonna be some vegetarians there—be nice if they had something to eat, too.

“A cheese course would be good, but only if you can protect it from the heat…nothing worse than sweaty cheese.”

“Nothing
worse?” David asked, managing to get a word in edgewise.

“I’d also like lots of fruit—I love fruit. Minted melon balls, strawberries, and a really good fruit dip—try two parts cream cheese to one part marshmallow fluff—that’s good stuff. Melon wrapped in prosciutto would be good, too—yum! Oh, and lots of crusty bread, and I’ve got a great recipe for strawberry butter. It sounds weird, but it’s actually very good. Especially if you can keep the rolls warm.”

Don, the caterer, was managing to take rapid notes, while everyone else’s jaws were hanging open. Even the king had awakened and was paying attention.

“Now, dessert. I do not, repeat, do
not
want colored Crisco on the wedding cake. Real butter cream, please. I want a multi-tiered cake, and I’d like each tier to be a different flavor. Chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, mocha, lemon. Something for everybody. Fillings can be fruit, mousse, whatever, but again, no colored Crisco. And I’d like a pearlized fondant to decorate the cake, and have each layer be a different color. You know—blue, orange, pink, green, yellow, whatever. You can pipe swirls over the fondant to create a what-d’you-call-it?—a Wedgewood effect. My mom,” she finished defiantly, “loved Wedgewood.”

“Gaaaaaaah,” Marge said, trying and failing to articulate her startlement.

“Oh, and I’ve got a great idea for Penguin Boy’s groom cake…we could do a chocolate cake with white fondant icing and cut out black fondant in the shape of playing card symbols—you know, decorate it with aces, hearts, spades, clubs. It’d be really dramatic and kind of fitting, too, because of the black and white, you know? Anyway, we can have that the night before, and on the big day, the tiered cake. And a Croquembouche. It’s so pretty, and so good. I love cream puffs. I know it’ll be a pain, but I’ll help.

“Anyway,” Christina said into the dead silence, “those are my ideas. And whatever David wants to eat, too.”

“Of course!” David burst out. “She’s a chef!”

“I’m a cook,” she corrected. “Chefs go to school.”

“This—this is all very fine, my lady,” Don said, still scribbling furiously.

“Nice and specific, you mean, you lucky bastard,” Marge muttered.

“Okay. And don’t worry, Don, I’ll help.”

“My lady, that’s really not—”

“Oh, I want to! With the cakes, at least. What’s left? All this food talk has me starving.”

“Me, too!” the king said. “I’m ready to go for some of that croakembooch right now.”

“Just some minor details…transportation—”

“Where? I thought we agreed the wedding would be here.”

“Yes, Lady Christina, but the people will want to see you,” Edmund explained. “I thought we could use the royal carriage—”

“Forget it.”

“How come?” David asked. “It’s romantic. Isn’t it?”

“Trotting behind a steaming horse butt? Pass.”

“I, uh, never thought of it that w-way,” David said, his voice almost breaking on “way” as he choked back a laugh.

“And on that note,” Edmund sighed, “I suggest we adjourn for the day.”

“Good call,” Christina said. “I’m missing
Jeopardy.”

Chapter 13

S
he had no idea where they were—closets weren’t as big as living rooms, right? But what other room was bulging with coats on hangers? Anyway, they were groping and she heard a seam tear and then she was clawing at the clothes for purchase, finding the pole beneath the furs and hanging on for dear life as David’s tongue parted her lower lips and slipped inside her. He was on his knees in front of her, his big hands on her thighs, spreading them apart, as he licked and teased and kissed and stroked, and she thought she was going to scream.

She must have made a sound, some sound, because he said, “Shhhhh,” against her slick flesh, and she whimpered in reply. His tongue sped up, no longer leisurely licking, finding the quivering button that was the very center of her, sucking it, licking, stabbing at it, and her uterus clenched as her orgasm bloomed within her, as fire raced down her limbs and she let go of the pole, tumbling to the floor of the closet in a heap of furs.

His mouth was instantly on hers and she tasted herself; she was groping wildly for him, found him, felt him sliding inside her with delicious slowness, came again as he started to thrust, cried out in his mouth. They still had their shirts on (and their shoes) but his hand found her left breast and squeezed it through the cotton, and through it all his mouth never left hers, not once, and he shuddered above her when she came again, as if he could feel it, as if they were reading each other’s minds.

 

“I
s it me, or is it sort of depraved to do
that
before we go see a minister?”

“Oh, it’s just you,” he said seriously, then laughed when she tickled his ribs.

“Are you sure you wouldn’t rather go find that closet again? Those furs felt awesome! And a cedar closet! Yum! What floor was that, anyway? We’ve got to make a mental note of that room…”

“We’ve defiled it enough for one day.”

“Nice! Defiled! Hey, I’d prefer to do it in a bed like a regular person…” A rather large lie. David was fiendishly inventive in closed spaces. “…but if we did, we’d give Nicholas a real education. Or one of your sisters. Or the king would burst in, or—yech!—Edmund. Or Jenny. Or—”

“I,” David said loftily, “always excelled at hide-and-seek as a child.”

“You were the prince. They let you win.”

“Possibly. But we’re getting off topic again. Come along, Christina, we promised to go.”

“I think ‘we’ means ‘you’,” she grumbled.

“Look at it this way,” Prince David soothed. “Lots of people get premarital counseling before the big day.”

“Do I strike you as ‘lots of people,’ Dave? Come on, this is a big waste of time.”

“Oh, you’d rather be shoe-shopping with Jenny?”

“No, I’d rather be—”

He grinned. “Don’t change the subject, minx. Because Jenny told me she’s been trying to pin you down for two weeks—”

“Fine, let’s go see the minister.”

“Actually, he’s coming to us,” David said, not quite apologetically. He glanced at his watch. “In fact—”

“The Reverend Jonathon Cray to see you, Your Highness, my lady.”

“Swell,” Christina muttered as Edmund escorted a short (finally!) man in a minister’s collar and sober dark suit. He wore glasses, behind which merry blue eyes twinkled, was bald as an egg, and had the full cheeks and slight paunch of a man who didn’t miss many meals. His cheeks were rosy and there was a bounce in his step as he crossed the room.

“Your Highness,” Minister Cray said, bowing. “My lady.”

“It’s nice to meet you, Minister Cray.” David put a hand on her shoulder, the better to keep her from fleeing. “This is my fiancée, Christina.”

Christina actually looked around for a second—
fiancée?
Yep, he was talking about her. She stuck out a hand. “Pleasedtomeetcha,” she mumbled. Small he might be, the minister had a grip like a starving anaconda. She extricated her mashed paw with difficulty.

“Thanks for coming up to the palace,” David said, and she barely restrained a snort. Sure, like anybody was going to say no to the crown prince! Well, why should they? She sure as shit didn’t. Well, she did, but he snuck in under her defenses and weakened her. Bum. And
now
look at how she was spending her time. Making florists cry and getting her fingers broken by men of the cloth.

“Why don’t we get started? I’m sure you both have a thousand details to tend to.”

“Don’t remind her,” David said wryly.

“If you’ll just fill out these questionnaires, we’ll go from there.”

“Oh, great! A test!”

“Yes,” Minister Cray said, handing her a stapled set of papers. “But I will give you candy when you’re done.”

“I see you’ve been briefed on the lady,” David said, accepting his own set of paperwork.

“Extensively,” Cray replied.

 

“I
foresee problems ahead,” Cray said forty minutes later.

“It was a hard test,” Christina whined.

“Mm-hmm. My lady, I see here for question number one, you do not appear to know your fiancé’s full name. You’ve written,
‘It’s David something something something Baranov, and there’s probably an Alexander in there somewhere.’”

“Well, I was close, wasn’t I?”

Prince David stopped in mid-snicker when Minister Cray added, “And you, sir, don’t appear to know the name of anyone in your fiancée’s family.”

“But they’re all dead!”

“They still have
names,
” Christina hissed.

“And, my lady, in answer to question six,
‘How will you go about fulfilling your duties of a wife?,’
you have written,
‘By keeping my head down and spending a lot of time hiding from my in-laws.’”

“That was a joke,” she said weakly.

“Har-har,” the prince replied.

“And, sir,
you
have replied to question six,
‘By letting my wife spend as much time as she wants in the kitchens.’”

“What?”

“Because you’re a chef!” he shouted, fending Christina off with his questionnaire. “Not because I’m a chauvinist!”

“It appears,” Minister Cray said loudly, before a real fight could begin, “that you two know very little about each other.”

“I know everything I need to know,” Christina grumbled. “Jerk.”

“Shrew,” Prince David coughed into his fist.

“This is problematic,” Cray added, distracting Christina with a Charms Blowpop, “as you’re getting married in two months.”

“God, is it really two months? Already?”

“Ah, it seems like just yesterday you were an illegal alien, sponging off my father and eating all the cocktail sauce in the palace,” Prince David said, wiping away an imaginary tear.

“Shut your face, Penguin Boy.”

“Now I really
will
cry.”

“Look, Minister Crepe—”

“Cray, my lady.”

“What difference does any of this make? We’re each getting married for our own reasons.”

“And that,” Cray said, “is exactly why I’m here.”

She ignored this. “He’s healthy, I’m healthy, and, thank God, the king’s healthy. We’ll have, like, forty years to get to know each other. And lots of time before we actually have to, you know, do anything.”

“Hopefully so, my lady, but that’s not the end of it. You both come from—ah—that is to say, both of your parents—no offense to the late Queen Dara, or your mother and father, my lady, but—ah—that is to say—”

“Cough it up, Cray.”

“He means neither one of us grew up close to a happy marriage,” the prince said. “Your dad left and my mother was a terrible wife.”

“Yes,” she said, “but she looks dynamite in a painting.”

“Thanks. But the question is, how can we know how to make a happy marriage on our own?”

Christina was silent, except for the crunch of her teeth breaking into the lollipop to get at the succulent bubblegum center.

“So, two months.” David cleared his throat and plunged in. “Well, let’s get to it. Uh, Christina, my full name is—”

“Crown Prince David Alexander Marko Dmitri Baranov,” she said, still crunching. “Also known as the Prince of the Penguins, the Dork of Allen Hall, and my black-haired nemesis.”

Cray’s eyes widened so much she feared his glasses would fall right off his face. “My lady, if you knew—”

“She likes to mess with people’s heads,” Prince David said, not quite able to keep the grudging admiration out of his tone.

“Also, we’ve been in here an hour. Can we do this another time?”

“Oh, yes, certainly. In fact, I strongly recommend we all take a break.”

“Cool. ’Bye.” She handed the lollipop stick back to the minister and exited the drawing room, snapping her gum.

“Ah…Your Highness…a word, please…”

Prince David sat back down, resigned.

 

C
hristina, he was gratified to see, was waiting for him. “What’s that?” she asked with faux casualness, popping a bubble and pointing to the small piece of white paper in his hand.

“It’s a prescription,” he replied grimly. “You’ve broken the minister.”

“Oh, come on. Broken?”

“Broken. As in, he doesn’t want to counsel us anymore. As in, he thinks we both need professional help. And by ‘we’ he means ‘you.’ So now, instead of talking to a kindly minister about our hopes and dreams, we’ll be talking to a shrink.”

“Oh, shit.”

“My sentiments exactly.”

BOOK: The Royal Treatment
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