Crown Prince Alexander Lennox absent-mindedly drummed his fingers on the mahogany desk. He could already feel his mind drifting as the old man in front of him talked endlessly about things that didn't actually matter to anyone in the long run.
Diplomatic missions were always such a hassle—ceremonial meetings with stuffy and self-important people, all for optics, accomplishing very little. Days like these meant just another day spent envying his younger brothers, who despite sharing the royal Lennox name, were allowed to slack off and party away their teens and twenties.
It might have sounded conceited, but Prince Alexander spent a lot of time thinking about the fact that he’d never had much of a life. His royal duty—that’s what his life had always consisted of.
As the oldest son, he had been expected to join Dalvana's Royal Navy right out of University, quickly rise through the ranks to captain his own ship, and begin acting as a distinguished and proper diplomat when he wasn't in service, and that was precisely what he had done. Had he ever stopped to think about whether it was what he wanted? No, not really… but would it have mattered if he had? He asked himself the question, his brows furrowing, but he knew the answer the moment the thought entered his head.
His whole life had been planned out from the moment he was born, right down to the woman he would marry. His life was boring; privileged, extraordinary, newsworthy even… but boring. He'd never quite been able to shake the sense that he'd been sleepwalking through his entire adulthood.
The French diplomat in front of Alexander cleared his throat, drawing his attention to the fact that he'd been staring off into the distance and out the window at the stunning Parisian views for far longer than was probably appropriate or could be chalked up to deep and thoughtful musings.
The elderly statesman pointed to the table where Alexander's phone was now buzzing its way across the table and was on the verge of falling to the floor. Alexander muttered a half-hearted apology and grabbed it before it tumbled over the edge.
Ahh, his “darling” fiancé Whitney's name on the caller ID; there was no suppressing an Olympic-level eye roll as he pressed the “ignore” button and stuffed the phone back into his suit-jacket pocket.
“My apologies, sir. Please continue.” Alexander gave the diplomat the charming smile that had helped land him on the cover of People magazine’s “Most Beautiful” issue. It was a smile that naturally won people over and helped him get his way.
As the man continued his soliloquy, Alexander felt his mind drifting once more, this time to the caller ID on his persistently ringing phone. Whitney Bishop-St. Claire. He couldn't even stand her name. They had been betrothed at birth by their parents in a handshake agreement that included increasing trade between the two tiny European nations of Dalvana and Estia.
When they had been kids, Whitney had bossed him around, demanding he give her all of his favorite toys. She had been spoiled and deceitful as a child, and as an adult her behavior had not improved. Starting at age ten, Alexander had begun begging his parents to break the engagement, but forested Estia supplied their coastal country of Dalvana with all of its lumber, and angering Whitney’s parents and causing a trade disruption between the countries was a non-starter. Calling off the engagement simply wasn't an option, or so he had been told over, and over, again.
In all these years, Whitney had never stopped being bossy, but what she had become was a drunk.
She believed it was her royal duty to be a cliché modern princess: drinking, smoking, attending all the most important gallery openings and fashion shows, while being seen tumbling out of limousines and stumbling up red carpets. While Alexander spent his days commanding an entire naval fleet, Whitney threw plates of food at unsuspecting waiters and slept until three in the afternoon.
Marrying her was the furthest thing from his mind, yet even as he sat here in this meeting with the French diplomat, their countries—Estia and Dalvana—were preparing for their royal nuptials. “Your wedding,” his mother liked to remind him, “Will bring over 3 billion dollars in tourist and advertising revenue this year alone!” The cameras of the world would be trained on their little monarchy, and it would be their chance to sell the kingdom as the next hot vacation spot for jet-setters and starlets.