"I'd love it if you stayed."Truth ? She examined the statement even as she was spiraling down into a dreamless dark hole.Yes. Truth .
"Just let her sleep, Jenny, will you for Christ's sake let her sleep?"
"But she might be sick!"
"She's not sick, she's tired, you get tired, right?"
"Dr. Rivers, will you please let me past before I get Mr. Krenklov and his Sig Sauer in here?"
"Keep your voice down!"
"For God's sake!" Alex said, opening her eyes and sitting up. "I can't believe you two woke me up! Whatis it?"
"It's ten o'clock in the morning, Princess," Jenny hollered over Shel's shoulder.
"Go back to sleep," Shel ordered.
Alex could see he was planted squarely in the doorway, and Jenny had to jump up to see into the room. She looked like an agitated, well-clad rabbit. "You've missed your first two appointments."
"It isnot …" She blinked. Yes, that was sunlight. A lot of it. Sunlight.Morning . "Oh my God, I slept all night? And didn't…" She shut her mouth, though why she bothered she had no idea. Jenny certainly knew about the nightmares—there were no secrets in the Sitka palace, or at least not very many. And of course Shel knew. "Why—why didn't you wake me?"
Shel looked over his shoulder and quirked an eyebrow at her. "You're kidding, right?"
She flung the covers back and jumped out of bed. "Come in here and shut the door. Both of you. Oh my God. I've missed appointments!"
"Yeah, that sound you heard was the worldnot coming to an end," Shel snarked.
She ignored him, frantic, "Jenn, help me. Where's the yellow Donna Karan?"
"I have it right here. If Dr. Rivers will excuse us, we'll get you ready."
"I have to go," she said, rushing to him and giving him a distracted kiss as Jenny went to the closet for the shoes that matched the Karan. "I mean, I have to stay, but other people have to come up. I'm sorry. See you tonight?"
"Sure." He grinned. "At least put some underpants on before you start your first meet 'n' greet."
She looked down at herself. "Good advice."
"… and tomorrow the king insisted you take the day off, so there really isn't anything on the schedule."
Ican't believe I slept all night. In his arms, like some fairy tale princess. Which I certainly am not. No guns in fairy tales .
"And then, of course, we'll be test driving Ferraris and driving them off cliffs, … la Thelma and Louise."
And he was so great about it. He's been great about everything. He's so nice to me and he doesn't give a holy old crap about the money or the title or any of it. He didn't even want me to pay for his meal! He never wants me to pay for anything.
"Then we'll have sex change operations, and you will be Alan, and I'll be Jon."
"If I'm going to be a man, my name will be Fred, and very funny, Jenny. I heard everything you said."
"Perhaps you got too much sleep," she suggested slyly.
"Boy, that was weird, wasn't it?"
"Nothing, Princess. If we're finished here, I can—"
"No, come on, let's hear it."
"Well." Jenny shifted her weight; she had clearly been ready to get up from the small table, and now had to stay put. "I think part of your… difficulties… stem from being unable to give up control. But once you do that, you can relax."
Alex sniffed. "I don't think psychology is your field."
"No, but it certainly could be."
She bit her tongue so she wouldn't say something nastier. Of course, Jenny was wrong. It wasn't that cut-and-dried… what was? Oh, so she let Shel tie her up and fuck her and that's how she could come? Because it was all out of her control? And so was Shel? And once she gave up enough control she could sleep? How completely, totally, utterly ridiculous.
"Dr. Rivers has called," Jenny said, apropos of nothing. "He'll be here within the next thirty minutes."
"And the king will see you for breakfast tomorrow."
"Where is he now?"
"Fishing with some locals."
"Of course. Should have guessed. Did he put on one of those dumb beards to disguise himself?"
"I didn't see him leave, Princess, but I would bet my clothing budget that you're right."
"He doesn't want me to doanything tomorrow?"
"Apparently not, Your Highness."
"That's weird, don't you think?"
"That you should have a day off? Highness, look who you're asking."
She laughed again. "Good point. Sorry. I don't suppose I could talk you into taking tomorrow off, too."
"Well… if you want me to…"
She blinked. What had Jenny just said? Was the universe about to implode as well? "You want tomorrow off?"
"No, no. Of course not. But then, if you don't think you'llneed me …"
"Oh my God! You're into Teal Grange!You're intoTeal Grange ." Talk about opposites attract! Not that she was in any position to judge. "That's great! Good for you. Of course, take tomorrow off, take my credit card, have a party."
"It's not Teal."
Whoa. She blinked. "Jenny, you're shockingly quick. We've been here, what? Less than two weeks? And you've got how many men on the string?"
"Not at all. His brother is in town. His identical twin, violin playing, doctorate at Berkeley brother." Jenny cupped her chin in her hands and sighed. "Ohhhhhh, his brother."
Alex stared for a moment, then recovered herself. "Well, that's great. That's—I mean, Teal's a great guy, but you guys didn't strike me as—I mean—have fun tomorrow."
"And you might as well know, Highness, I'll need some time off for the wedding."
So completely taken by surprise at the conversation, Alex didn't immediately follow. "You mean the invitation came? Elizabeth unbent?"
"No. My wedding."
"You've known this guy since…"
"Last night. We decided, after a 1947 Bordeaux, that we were going to be together forever." At the princess's flabbergasted expression, Jenny added, "Teal had a Zipfer."
"Jenny, whoa, put the brakes on! Are you sure you know what you're doing?"
"Yes, really, Your Highness."
"But you barely know the guy!"
"I know. Isn't it silly? But when you know, that's all there is." Jenny stacked some papers together and gave her boss a penetrating look. "There's no use fooling myself."
"Well… have a good day tomorrow… maybe you can bring him up. I'd love to meet him."
"Which reminds me, I must meet with the king. I have a first violin player ready to come help put together a Juneau orchestra. I would be grateful for any support you feel you can give us."
"Of—of course. I'll talk to Dad. He's always bitching because there's not enough culture in Juneau. Like he'd make it through a symphony without snoring."
"And your call to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth will be going through in…" Jenny glanced at her watch. "Four minutes."
"Great. Thank you."
"I'll see Dr. Rivers up when he arrives."
"Great. Thank you."
"Princess, are you all right?"
"Oh, fine. There's just… a lot going on right now."
"Yes indeed," Jenny said cheerfully, and excused herself.
"It's very good to hear from you, Alex. How is your dear niece?"
"Dara's great, Queen Elizabeth, thank you for asking. And thank you for speaking with me."
"It's my pleasure, dear. How may I help you?"
"Well… I wanted to congratulate you on William's upcoming wedding."
"Alovely girl." Pronounced, in the way of the upper British class, "gull." "An impeccable family. And she loves dogs; she has six of her own. Six!"
"Yes, she sounds wonderful. I—ah—I was wondering—I don't want to seem forward, but it seems like our invitation has been lost in the, uh, mail."
There was a pause. Alex plunged ahead. "And in case you were waiting for RSVPs, I didn't want you to think we weren't. RSVPing, I mean."
"Oh?" the queen managed.
"Because, unfortunately, I wanted to tell you that I'm afraid my family—not asingle member of my family—can make it to Will's wedding. And I beg you not to be offended, and I apologize on behalf of the Baranovs."
"You—your father can't—you won't be able to come?"
"I'm afraid not, Your Majesty."
"Oh! That—that's unfortunate, dear. William will be so disappointed. I had been, ah, looking forward to introducing you all at the blessing."
"Maybe at Harry's wedding."
The queen laughed. "Bite your tongue, darling! I'm sorry about the invitation; I'll be sure to send another one round at once. These mails! Dreadful!"
"Really dreadful," Alex agreed, sprawling with relief in her chair. "Thank you again for taking my call."
"Say hello to King Alexander for me, darling. And you take care, too. May I say, and I hope you don't find me forward, but may I say I thought you looked after him splendidly after that nasty business last year." Naw-stee business lahst yeah. "A parent prays for a daughter like you, dear, and I hope your father appreciates what a gem you are."
"Oh," she managed. What an odd thing for the queen to say, and how happy it made her feel. "Thank you so much, Queen Elizabeth. I—I look after him as best I can."