Read The Royal Treatment Online

Authors: MaryJanice Davidson

The Royal Treatment (9 page)

BOOK: The Royal Treatment
10.33Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads
Chapter 14

From
The Queen of the Edge of the World,
by Edmund Dante III, © 2089, Harper Zebra and Schuster Publications.

Alaskan royalty has never had much trouble dealing with international and local press. The reason is simple: Alaska is 656,425 square miles, over twice the size of Texas. And quite a bit of it, even in this century, is difficult to get to. Thus, any time the royal family has wanted privacy, they could disappear into the wilderness, and no one—“Not even God with a telescope,” as King Alexander was fond of saying—could find them.

Thus, there wasn’t the hostile relationship between the House of Baranov and the press that was sometimes seen with other countries’ royalty.

For example, England is a small island. It’s difficult to hide there. Alternatively, there wasn’t the manipulation of the press that was sometimes credited to Princess Diana, King William’s mother.

What does this mean? It means that “scoops” were often more a case of a reporter being in the right place at the right time than the result of endless royal-stalking.

T
he greatest day of Don Cook’s life started out horribly. The Check Engine light went on as soon as his car started, his boss ripped him a new one for missing his deadline the night before, and his mother left him a voicemail telling him she was coming to stay with him for the rest of the winter.

The lead reporter for
The Juneau Empire
decided to flee his life’s problems by going out into the bitter cold to buy an extra-large coffee, extra cream, lots of sugar. And while he was waiting patiently in line at the coffeehouse counter, he happened to glance across the street and see the crown prince’s fiancée, and the palace press officer.

Even better, they were entering a psychiatrist’s office.

“Holy God,” he replied when asked what he would like to order, and immediately fled the line.

Later, Don was to say, “It was pure chance I saw her. Thank God I had my camera in the car. And she was just—even before she was queen, there was something about her. A no-nonsense thing. And she was just so pretty, even in blue jeans and a T-shirt. Plus, she gave me a helluva quote. Probably got in big trouble for it, too. Not that she would have cared. She wasn’t like that. Not at all.”

 

“F
or the record,” Lady Christina announced, “this is a big waste of time for both of us.”

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, too,” Dr. Pohl replied. She was a woman in her late fifties, with curly white hair, piercing brown eyes, and bifocals that made her look like a kindly grandmother instead of one of the country’s leading psychiatrists, with a high triple-digit I.Q. and a brain like a razor.

Her office was decorated in Modern Duck. They were all over the place…duck prints on the walls, duck decoys on the credenza, even a duck pencil holder on the woman’s desk. “I appreciate you taking the time to see me.”

“Hey, Doc, let’s cut the shit, all right? We both know this wasn’t
my
idea. That minister’s got it in for me.”
What’s the term for fear of ducks? Duckophobia? What would she do if she had a patient who was scared of waterfowl? Redecorate? Treat them at home?
“He, like,
hates
me.”

“I doubt that very much, my lady.”

“Okay, if I’m gonna have to sit in here for fifty minutes—and get charged for an hour, and don’t think I didn’t notice how fishy
that
is—you’re gonna have to stop with the ‘my lady’ stuff right now. Chris is fine.”

“Very well, Chris. Why do you think Minister Cray sent you to me?”

“Because he hates me and is evil?” she guessed.

“Close, but not quite. He’s concerned about your motives in agreeing to marry Prince David.”

“The king didn’t care why, and the prince doesn’t care, but that’s not good enough? Now I have to justify myself to a shrink?”

“Do you think you need to justify your actions?”

“Shrink talk,” Christina muttered. “Are you going to be like that cool shrink in
Good Will Hunting,
or the annoying shrink in
Girl Interrupted?”

“That raises an interesting point…have you noticed that Robin Williams seems compelled to play brilliant, yet misunderstood, men?
Good Will Hunting, Patch Adams, Dead Poets Society, Awakenings?
I wonder what he’s trying to tell us.”

Momentarily startled—whoa, the doctor actually sounded like a real person for a second—Christina replied, “Actually, his new thing is playing psychos.
One-Hour Photo, Insomnia.
Like that. He was great in
Insomnia.”

“I agree. It’s interesting, the choices people make.”

“Oh, here we go. By the way, you’re about as subtle as a brick to the forehead.”

“Thanks—I went to school for many years and learned just how to swing that brick. But we were talking about choices—”

“Speaking of choices,” Christina interrupted, “I read up on you.”

“I’m flattered, yet alarmed.”

Her mouth twitched, but she refused to give the shrink the benefit of a smile. “Yeah, well, I read that you did your master’s thesis on the royal family. And you’re considered an expert on them. So who chooses to spend their life studying
other
people’s lives?”

“Someone with no life of their own,” the doctor said cheerfully. “You can’t annoy me by saying things that are true, you know.”

“Oh, yeah? Well, give me a chance. How about—”

“Do you miss your work?”

“—the way you—hmm?”

“Your job with the cruise line. Do you miss it? You’ve been staying at the Sitka Palace for a few weeks now. And my understanding is that you and the prince will live there after your wedding.”

“We will?”

“That’s what I was told,” Dr. Pohl replied carefully.

“Well, we’ll see about
that.
Although I guess there are worse things. Anyway, my job—no, I don’t miss it. When you cook for that many people, it’s hard to be creative. Do you know how many loaves of bread I went through on French Toast Tuesdays?”

“No, I—”

“Six hundred and forty-two.”

“That’s a buttload of bread,” Dr. Pohl observed.

“Tell me! So, no, I don’t miss it. I have the run of the kitchens at the palace—let me tell you, that really weirded out the kitchen staff. Took ’em a while to come around.”

“Well, you very likely will be queen someday,” Dr. Pohl pointed out. “They probably prefer you to stay out of the kitchen.”

“Tough. They were all, ‘This isn’t your place,’ and I was all, ‘I’ll be the judge of that,’ and they were all ‘We’re telling Edmund!’ and I was all ‘Fine, see if I care.’ And they did! They ratted me out to that skinny weirdo. But we get along okay now,” she added hastily. “Once they saw that Eds couldn’t make me quit cooking.”

“You traveled quite a bit for your work?”

“Different port almost every day, sure. Great way to see the world for cheap.”

“Difficult to make friends, though.”

“Well, you know. We were all pretty busy. The geese—I mean, the passengers—come first.”

“That’s very interesting to me. Do you know why?”

“Because you have no life?”

“Not only that. I was told that you moved around a lot as a child.”

“My, my, they’re like a bunch of fishwives over at the palace, aren’t they? Yeah, we moved a lot. So? My dad took off when I was a baby, and my mom bounced around the country, chasing work. She had a kid to feed.”

“Uh-huh. Probably not much fun for you. Growing up that way, I mean.”

Christina shrugged.

“What’s interesting is, you’ve chosen one of the few professions that also makes it impossible to set down roots. In essence, you’ve duplicated your childhood.”

Christina opened her mouth, but nothing came out.

“You can see how, as an impartial observer, that would be interesting to me.”

“So, what?” Christina said defensively. “You’re saying I like to be alone?”

“I’m saying we choose what’s familiar, for good or ill. And now you’re going to be a member of the royal family.”

“Which is deeply meaningful how?”

“My understanding,” Dr. Pohl said, “is that a big reason you agreed to marry His Highness is because you want your children to have roots. But I think you may have overlooked the fact that you, also, will have roots. At last.”

“Well, what if I did? I mean, what if that’s my big reason? So now I’m a nutjob?”

“Good heavens, I hope not. I’m not equipped to treat nutjobs.”

“Well. You know your shit, I’ll give you that much.”

“Dare I hope you will return?”

“I have to,” she said gloomily. “David and Jenny and I made a pact. They’ll get me out of most of the rest of the wedding meetings, and in return I come here.”

“That seems like a fair deal.”

“You have
no
idea.”

 

“S
o, how did it go?” Jenny stood the moment Christina entered the room, and slung her purse over one shoulder. “You didn’t break this one, too, did you?”

“Hardly. She looks like a sweet old lady and she’s as sharp as a shuriken.”

“A what?”

“Never mind. I’d have an easier time breaking a steel girder. She was okay. Not too shrinky. I guess.”

“My heart! Can it stand the strain?”

“Ho-ho, I’m convulsed with laughter.”

“Do you want to grab a bite before we head back?”

“I can’t,” Chris replied glumly, following Jenny out through the entryway. “David’s going to show me how to feed the penguins today.”

“Oh.”

“Yeah, I know,
très
lame, but he really wants me to, and it’s, like, the thing he thinks is the most interesting thing in the whole world, so I guess it wouldn’t kill me to go back in the penguin room. You know. Once.”

“So you’ve crammed all your—ah—less—um—desirable errands—”

“Into one never-ending, hellish day, yes.”

“Good practice,” Jenny predicted. “And speaking of undesirable errands—”

Christina groaned.

“—has anyone spoken to you about Boston?”

“You mean from a historic standpoint? Do they want my thoughts on the Big Dig?”

“His Highness gave quite a bit of money to the New England Aquarium, and they’re anxious to show their appreciation. He’ll be going late next week, and he thought it might be nice if you joined him.”

“David did? David asked if I could come?” That changed everything! “Because if he wants me to go, I’ll go. Y’know, if I don’t have anything else on my schedule.”

“Well, perhaps we could discuss it with him when we get back.”

“Yes, perhaps we could. New England Aquarium, huh? Wait a minute…aren’t there, like, a thousand penguins in that exhibit?”

“I don’t know,” Jenny said seriously. “I never counted.”

“Remind me to kill you one of these days,” she grumped.

Jenny laughed, which made Chris laugh and, still giggling, they shrugged into their coats, and when Jenny pushed the door open they both heard the
snap
of a camera shutter.

“Lady Christina! This way, please.”

Poor guy had less of a life than Dr. Pohl if taking
her
picture was part of the job description. “Why don’t you take a picture? It’ll last longer. Oh, wait, you just did.”

“Don Cook,
Juneau Empire.
Are you seeing a psychiatrist, Lady Christina?”

“Don,” Jenny said, exasperated, “you know perfectly well we’ve got a press conference set up next—”

“Yes,” Christina replied. “I am.”

Snap!
“Why?”

“Because,” she said, feeling absolutely evil but deciding to go with it, “the pressure of marrying into the Alaskan royal family has turned me into a drooling psychotic.”

“Chris!” Jenny nearly howled.

“I hope you’ll send me a copy of the story,” she added sweetly, grinning for the camera and then walking away.

“Don…” Jenny said pleadingly.

“Sorry, Jenn. Does the Sitka Palace have anything to add about our future queen’s rampant psychosis?”

“Don, please.”

He was smirking. “Give me a break…if you were me, would you go with it?”

The press officer clutched her head, then hurried up the street after Christina.

Chapter 15

“S
o, how’d it go?”

Wrinkling her nose at the stench, Christina said, “It was okay.” She decided not to mention her comments to the reporter. David would find out soon enough. “When do
you
have to go?”

“In another hour. C’mere, I want to show you how to feed them.”

“Can’t we spend this time playing, um, hide-and-seek?”

He smiled at her. “This is important to me, too, Christina. Although, admittedly, not as fine as feeling your—”

“Okay, okay, I get the gist. It doesn’t actually involve touching the dead fish, does it?” she asked, gingerly crossing the room. Her voice practically echoed off the walls; the penguin palace was a cavern. A zillion of the funny birds were walking and swimming and preening and shitting all over the place.

“Says the cook!”

“Hey, if we’re talking a nice fillet or maybe a decent gumbo or chowder, I’ll touch the dead fish, all right? But unless you’ve got some butter and flour in that little cart of yours…”

“Sorry. Just hoses and buckets.”

“Oooh, sexy.”

“Now, just toss it lightly—it’s a little early for them to start eating out of your hand.”

“Years too early.” She picked a smelt or whatever the hell it was out of the bucket and tossed it. One of the penguins snatched it out of the air. Yeesh! Carnivore birds who couldn’t fly. But who came up to her knee and could make lunch out of her patella. This got better and better. “Well, this has been fulfilling and all, and I’ve certainly learned all sorts of new and interesting things about you—”

“Nice try. How about another one?”

“How about not?” But she grabbed another smelt, and threw it at a penguin about three yards in front of her. “So, this is what you do all day?”

“Not all day. Some days I have to go see a shrink because my fiancée is really stubborn.”

“You’re a real fucking comedian.”

“Are you nervous about Boston?”

“That was a subtle subject change. Actually,” she said, tossing another fish, “I just heard about Boston.”

“Jenny?”

“Yeah, she asked me. But you know, David,
you
could have asked me.” She was trying hard not to pout.

“Well,” he said, looking faintly surprised, “I put it on my list and delegated it to Jenny. She wouldn’t have asked you without my say-so. So it really was like I’d asked you.”

Christina sighed. “David, David, David…”

“What?”

“Never mind. To answer your question, I’m looking forward to it. Except for the penguin angle. I seem to be totally unable to get away from penguins in my new life.”

David laughed and gave her a quick hug, which she enjoyed entirely too much, given that this was a marriage of convenience. “Sorry about that. But they’ve been talking about opening the new wing for quite a while, and I didn’t want to put them off any longer.”

“You’re a prince. They’ll wait.”

“Well, yes. But why should they have to?”

“Good answer.”

“Anyway, now that they’ve expanded their exhibit, they’d like me to come down for the dedication ceremony. It’s what Jenny and Edmund refer to as a fluff job…no real pressure, no tough questions, just smiling for the cameras, cutting ribbons, and looking appropriately modest. Piece of cake, right, Christina?”

“I guess.” She still had a hard time believing she was news, but supposed her fellow Americans needed to be distracted from their economic woes. More, she loved Boston, and was anxious to get out of the palace for a few days.

And she kind of liked the idea of traveling with David as a couple. Weird, but there it was.

“If you get nervous,” he was saying, “just hold my hand really tightly and smile.”

She had planned to do that anyway.

 

“W
ell, well,” he said the next morning, looking considerably less amused, “if it isn’t my fiancée, the drooling psycho.”

“Uh…good morning?” She looked up from chopping chives for her scrambled eggs. “Want something?”

“Yes, but I doubt it’s anything you’re going to actually do.”

“Oh, sit down. And calm down.” She watched as he stalked across the large palace kitchen and slapped the paper down on the chopping block, nearly upsetting her chive pile. It didn’t escape her notice that the kitchen instantly emptied of the few servants who had been there. Apparently the prince in a temper was a rare sight, and nobody wanted to be around for it. “Hmm, not a bad picture. You can see my teeth. Probably nobody knew I had teeth.”

“The picture is fine. More than fine,” he added grudgingly. “It’s the headline we’re all having a little trouble with.”

“Yes,” she said, taking in
ROYAL FIANCÉE TREATED FOR RAGING PSYCHOSIS.
“I can see that. By the way, I never used the word ‘raging.’

“Really, Chris.” The corner of his mouth twitched, but he still looked severe. Severely cute! His dark hair tumbled across his forehead and he looked like he’d thrown his clothes on. He hadn’t shaved yet, either. Yum. Someone had clearly hauled him out of bed and tossed him the morning paper. “What possessed you?”

“The devil?”

“That’s what Jenny thinks. She’s been lying down with a cool cloth on her forehead all morning.”

“Oh,” Christina said, feeling fresh guilt. She didn’t mean to make Jenny’s job eight times as hard. It just sort of happened naturally. Like acid rain. “I’ll go see her, if you want.”

“That would be nice. Do you know what
else
would be nice?”

“No,” she said humbly, “but I can guess.”

He gave in and laughed. “Christ! I just about wet my pants when I saw this.”

“What’d your dad say?”

“Never mind,” he said, getting stern all over again, so she knew the king had thought it was hilarious. Sometimes she thought David was more Edmund’s son than King Alexander’s. “Look, just try to ignore these impulses toward wickedness, all right? For all our sakes.”

“Well, I’ll try,” she said doubtfully.

“Thank you.” He snatched her plate—onto which she had just piled her three scrambled eggs with chives and cheddar—and her fork. “As penance, I’m going to eat your breakfast.”

“That’ll learn me.” She cracked another three eggs into the bowl. “Sorry about the rude wake-up call.”

“Why didn’t you tell me yesterday?”

Christina deduced that Jenny hadn’t ratted her out, and made a mental note to do something especially nice for the woman. Maybe even (ech!) go shoe shopping with her. “There just wasn’t a good way to bring it up.”

“Try harder next time,” he said sourly.

“I will,” she promised, shutting off the burner, “for a kiss.”

He looked around, seeing the now-deserted kitchen. “I’ll give you more than a kiss, you little—”

Shrieking, she darted away from him. He caught her in one of the dry goods cupboards, which they promptly defiled.

BOOK: The Royal Treatment
10.33Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

The Rock by Chris Ryan
Twilight Children by Torey Hayden
Weird Tales volume 28 number 02 by Wright, Farnsworth, 1888-€“1940
The Boy in the Black Suit by Jason Reynolds
Heart of Glass by Zoey Dean
Let's Kill Uncle by Rohan O'Grady, Rohan O’Grady
The Need by Ni Siodacain, Bilinda