Prince Albert:A Billionaire Stepbrother Romance(3)

By: Sabrina Paige

I look around the room with a clinical kind of detachment that means I’m probably in shock. I haven’t even had a chance for a tour of the palace. I wonder if this room is the place where they announce bad news. Do royal palaces have designated bad news rooms? They should.

I suppose my mother and the king – Leo – only think their nuptials are good news.

The girl – I can’t even remember her name; it’s like my mind has gone completely empty -- pops her gum loudly. “Sweet. A broken engagement? At least I’m not the only one causing drama for once.”

Leopold gives her a disapproving look. “Yes, Alexandra,” he says, scowling at her. “That’s certainly a silver lining.”

“So the two of you are getting married,” Alexandra says, crossing her arms over her chest. “I think we’re all pretty clear on that. You’ve been seeing each other all summer. It’s not exactly a big secret, okay? We’re one big happy family. Smile for the press and all that. Are we done now?”

“Alexandra!” Leopold bellows, his deep baritone thundering through the room. The sound makes me jump, and it seems to surprise him, like he’s not used to losing his temper, because he clears his throat immediately. “Yes. Sofia and I are getting married.”

Am I the only one in the world who didn’t know?

Even isolated in a rural village in Africa before I came back to the States – to Vegas, because of my engagement -- I got mail. My mother could have told me before this.

She could have sent a postcard or something:

Wish you were here. P.S. I’m marrying a European monarch. You’re going to be a princess!

The King continues, saying something – using words like decorum and public eye and propriety – but I don’t hear what he says. It’s like he’s speaking in a tunnel, his words coming from someplace in the distance, and my head is swimming. I know I’m standing still, but it feels as if I’m on a boat, the floor rocking back and forth. Someone asks me if I’m okay, but I can’t seem to muster up a response.

Instead, I turn and run headlong through the room. My palms slam against the heavy, ornately-carved wooden door, pushing it open without waiting for the assistance of the man standing beside it. Is he a butler? Do palaces have butlers, or is there a fancier term for them?

When I burst out the door, a bulky, imposing man in a suit with an earpiece in his ear catches my elbow. “Are you okay, Miss Kensington?”

I shake my head, mute. The fact that he knows my name is fucking creepy. But of course he knows my name. I’m sure they know everything about me.

Oh God. What if they know about what happened in Vegas?

The thought brings a fresh wave of nausea to the surface, and I barely choke out the word “bathroom.” The bodyguard points me in the direction of a room ten feet down the hall, attempting to escort me, but I shake his hand off my arm and shut myself inside, barely making it to a velvet-covered bench that must be several hundred years old before my legs give way.

My breath comes in short gasps, and I feel lightheaded, on the verge of hyperventilating. I try to slow my breath, reminding myself that I can't freak out.

Not here. Not now.

Closing my eyes, I think of other things -- things that don't involve being the center of what's potentially the biggest scandal in the entire world.

Or, if not the entire world, at least the Western one. Or Europe.

Any way I think about it, it's a scandal involving several countries. It's the worst possible scenario for someone whose idea of a nightmare is being in the public eye at all.

I've successfully avoided any public attention for the last two years. That’s not easy to do when your mother craves the public eye the way mine does, a whirlwind of charity functions and testifying before Congress and trips as a United Nations ambassador. In fact, escaping all of that meant I had to flee to another continent entirely.

I've been so disconnected from the outside world that I had no idea who he was.

And now, I feel like a complete and total idiot for not recognizing Prince Albert. He’s only one of the most famous princes on earth. Notorious would probably be a better word for it, known more for his antics in the bedroom than any kind of political activity.

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