I felt more comfortable letting Fiore dress me than Christine. I felt more myself. Ian had changed from a stylish designer jeans, and a button-up shirt to a pair of baggy jeans and a t-shirt. With a pair of dark sunglasses and a conductor’s hat he was unrecognizable. I had on a Ramones t-shirt with a pair of shredded jeans, bright orange aviator sunglasses and a fedora. Fiore was wearing a purple shirt-dress with black leggings and a checkered converse with a top hat.
“The media aren’t allowed on my property for fear that I will stab them with one of the antique swords or something equally offensive. But once you leave, you two are on your own. I’ve sent for a car. It’s less conspicuous, especially because I’m leaving in the limo. They’ll probably follow me, if they don’t, just do the car switcheroo. Good luck, and welcome to the chaos. And Ian, come visit soon.” Fiore warned him as she pulled me in for a hug. “Good luck.”
We waited about fifteen minutes then got into the car Fiore had called.
“It’s not so bad once you get used to it.” Ian assured me.
I nodded. “Thanks. I’m sorry if what I said earlier upset you.”
“You didn’t upset me.”
“Okay. I know I have this tendency to open mouth, insert foot.”
“That must taste lovely.” Ian teased.
“I don’t know what I’m doing here.”
“It doesn’t make any sense.”
Ian sighed as he leaned back into the seat. Ian watched me for a moment, his intense blue eyes locked on mine. “Would it make you feel better if I said my life didn’t make sense either?”
I shrugged with a weak smile. “Maybe a little.”
Ian shifted his gaze to the roof of the car then back to me. “I’m torn. I’m the heir to the throne, and as such I have responsibilities. I have to maintain an image. I have to prove to my country and the world that I am worthy of what’s been placed upon my shoulders. I have to base every decision on that. Do you have any idea how frustrating that is? To have someone telling you when and where to be twenty-four seven? Someone telling you what you can wear, what you can eat, who you can talk to, or worse, who you can love.”
“I have no idea.” I shook my head. “I’ve always just kind of done whatever I felt like.” I hung my head as I thought about it. “You’re like something trapped at the zoo, like a tiger. You’re pretty to look at, but you aren’t happy. You want to be free living as you choose. Not having someone schedule your life for you…you know, we are incognito right now.”
“Any chance you might want to go exploring?”
“What would you like to explore?”
“I’ve never been to England, so anything. I haven’t really seen anything other than Eastgate Estate. Can you maybe show me some of the sights?”
Ian sighed. “I’m probably going to regret this, but sure.” Ian looked eep in thought for a long moment. “Alright, let’s tour London.”
“But no one, and I mean no one, can know who we are.”
I nodded. “Want to use codenames?” I grinned.
Ian rolled his eyes. “What did I just get myself into?”
My grin widened. “I’m a great idea.”
Ian’s phone started buzzing and he turned it off. “No more interruptions. I haven’t been out in the city without being hassled in ages.”
Ian had the driver stop on a street corner and he led me by the hand. “Welcome to London.” Ian smiled.
“Can we ride a double decker bus?”
Ian laughed. It was a warm, rich, carefree sound. It was one of those laughs that just make you want to smile. Again, it seemed like something that wasn’t a common thing for him. “It you want.”
He let me choose codenames. Today, his name was Silver Duck and I was 0017. I think he was regretting letting me choose now.
“Who?” I interrupted.
Ian sighed. “0017?”
“Yes, Silver Duck?”
“Why can’t you call me Ian like a normal person?”
“I’m not normal.”
“That’s for sure.”
“If you want, we can go back. I know I’m kind of a lot to handle, especially when you first meet me. I mean, I’m loud, obnoxious, I can be immature, and I have a tendency to do and say stupid things. I mean, come on, I just told a prince what he will and will not call me and what he will and will not respond to. Who does that?”
Ian laughed. “It’s alright. I haven’t had this much fun in ages.” Ian looked at his watch. “I’m supposed to have a meeting in an hour.”
“I’m sure we can make it in time.”
Ian shook his head. “I’m already in trouble. I may as well make it worth my while, right?”
I shrugged. “Well then, oh captain, my captain, where to next?”
“How do you like parks?”
“I love nature.”
“I know just where to take you then.”
Ian led me to a tour bus and we boarded. We played tourist, ogling this and that, oohing and ahhing at the appropriate moments. Personally, I loved it all. I felt like a kid on Christmas. I was marveling at Queen Mary’s Gardens when I felt something hit my shoulder. I looked up just in time for it to start pouring. I looked at Ian who kind of looked like a cat thrown in a pool. His shoulders were tense and he looked annoyed.
“Let’s go get some tea.”
“I know, that’s why we should go get some tea.”
I had a brilliant idea. I felt a smile spreading on my face and shook my head. “Nah. Tag! You’re it!” I laughed as I tapped his shoulder and took off.
“Hey!” Ian shouted as he started chasing after me. “You’re going to get lost!”
“Come and catch me then!”
“Get back here, Juliet!”
“Who? Silver duck, I think you’re confused.”
“You’ve got rocks for brains!” I was darting through the gardens when I slipped and fell into the pond. “Juliet, are you alright?” Ian panted as he caught up.
“I’m not Juliet, Silver Duck. My name is 0017.”
Ian burst out laughing as he wiped some of the water off his face. “Yes, I think you’re just fine. Completely mad, but physically fine.”
“Can I get a hand?”
“Sure.” Ian sighed and offered me his hand. I gave a swift tug and he landed next to me in the pont. “That was uncalled for.” Ian growled.
“We’re already wet. It’s not like we’re getting any drier.” I shrugged. Ian rolled his eyes but I saw a small smile.
“You two!” we heard an official shout. I saw it. Our doom. I froze. “You are not allowed to be in there!” shouted a man in a uniform. I wasn’t certain, but I had a pretty good feeling he was a police officer and I was going to jail. Three other uniformed men were making their way over to us.
“Sorry, I slipped.” I muttered, as I tried not to smile. “My friend her saw me fall and tried to help me. I’m just such a klutz that I accidentally knocked him in too.”
“No, you didn’t. We’ve been watching you. Get out of there this instant.”
I hung my head and pulled myself up. Ian helped me up as he got out too. “We’re terribly sorry about this, gentlemen.” Ian smoothed.
I kept quiet and tried to look as innocent as possible while Ian did all the talking. Twenty minutes later we were laughing in the Garden Café waiting for the rain to pass.
“You’re going to get in trouble if you aren’t careful.” Ian warned. “You could have been arrested. I hope you know that.”
I nodded. “Not my best judgement call. I wish I could say that would be the first time.” I laughed nervously. “I have fun ideas, no doubt of that, they’re just not always smart.”
“That I believe.”
“Admit it, you had fun.”
“I’m soaked to my skin, seven miles from home, and no one knows where I am. I’m in so much trouble when I get back I don’t even want to think about it.”
“So don’t.” I suggested.
“I wish I didn’t have to. I’m pretty sure Lana is either having a brain aneurism or plotting my death. She’s going to be livid.”
“When was the last time you had fun?”
“In my line of work, fun isn’t exactly top priority.”
“You don’t have fun in life?”
Ian shook his head. “I didn’t say that, but business has to come first.” He leaned in close and whispered, “Comes with the family and all.” Ian ran a hand through his slowly drying hair and shook it off on me. He’d lost his hat in the pond and our sunglasses were sitting on the table between us.
“The rain looks like it’s stopped. Should we get going?”
“Probably.” Ian agreed. “I’ll call us a car…actually, my phone got thrown in a pond. I wonder how that happened?” Ian scowled.
“Why don’t we call a taxi? We’re still incognito, right Silver Duck?” I offered sheepishly. “We’ll just play tourist.” All of a sudden, Ian’s eyes widened and he paled slightly.
“Give me your hat.” Ian looked around. “We’re in trouble.”
“What?” I looked behind me and saw there were about a dozen photographers outside and a crowd of spectators. “Ian…”
“Uh oh it right.”
Ian was watching everyone and seemed to be gauging the situation. “We are going to have to move quickly and carefully. Have you ever encountered the paprazzi?” Ian asked, his face solemn. I shook my head. “i’m going to lead us to a taxi. Don’t say anything. They will turn it into something malicious. Be silent. Don’t make eye contact. I’ll get us out of here.” I nodded more than a little nervous. Ian led me by the arm and shoved us through.
“Prince Ian, who is this? Are things over between you and Amelia?”
“Oi you! Is he a good lay?”
“What?” I asked.
“Shut up, Juliet.” Ian whispered.
“Juliet? Her name is Juliet?”
“Prince Ian, what are you wearing?”
I felt someone grab my other arm and I was pulled away from Ian. “So tell us, who are you? And what do you have to say?”
“Where’d he go?”
“Juliet!” Ian shouted as tried to force his way through.
“So tell us, what does it feel like to be the other woman?”
“How long have you secretly been seeing each other?”
“What? No, we’re not. Eww.” I rolled my eyes trying to force my way back to Ian.
“Eww? Did you just say ‘eww’ about the prince?”
“He’s family.” I muttered as I was jostled by the crowd.
“Ian, you’re into incest?”
I was beginning to understand what Ian meant. Ian managed to get back to me. Ian covered his face with his hand and sighed. “This is my dear cousin. I am still very much with Amelia.” As Ian tried to help me out of the crowd I was yanked away again and thrown to the ground.
“Ow! What the fuck? Watch what you’re doing you stupid cow!” I shouted as I fell.
“What was that?”
“Mouth like a sailor.”
Ian grabbed my arm and jerked me to my feet. Ian bulldozed his way through the crowd and practically threw me in the back of a cab and jumped in behind me. “Buckingham Palace, now please.”
“Anything you say, Your Highness.” The cab driver seemed nice enough.
Ian sighed and scrubbed his face with his hand. “What were you thinking? I told you not to say anything!”
I shrugged. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to. My mouth just works faster than my brain.” I hung my head and let out a groan as I rubbed my arm. “I also kind of have a little bit of a temper. Sometimes it makes me stupid, well stupider.”
Ian shook his head. We pulled up to the palace and there were people waiting at the gate. Among them were Lana and Christine. There was a man with the same blonde hair as Christine and Ian’s strong jawline among the group. I had a feeling I was about to have an audience with the king. The paparazzi followed us of course. Ian carefully got out, his face stoic. When he looked up, he froze.
“Where have you been?” Lana hissed.
“Lana, make sure Juliet gets home safely.” Ian ordered. Lana looked startled and completely taken aback. Reluctantly she nodded.
“Fine, but we have to talk later.”
“Much later. I’m pretty sure Father is going to talk to me first.” Ian sighed. He walked up to his father.
“You’re a disgrace.” Was all the king hissed before he turned and stormed off. I heard, and I knew our little group did, but it wasn’t loud enough for the paparazzi to hear. I saw Ian’s face for just a moment before he procured a pleasant mask. He gave everyone else a pleasant smile and waved before following his father inside. Christine gave me a sympathetic smile before heading inside herself.
“This way.” Lana led me to a waiting car and ushered me inside.
I could feel the tension coming off her in waves. She seemed pale and flustered. Her eyes had a hint of redness and looked a little puffy. I’d guess she’s been crying. After a short while of the uncomfortable silence I couldn’t take it anymore. I cleared my throat. “Um, hey Lana?”
“What?” Lana asked as her head snapped to look at me. The anger was plain on her face.
“I’m in a lot trouble aren’t I?”
“Ian’s worse off, isn’t he?”
“Are you in trouble?”
“A lot more.”
I gulped absently tugged on my earlobe, desperate for something to do with my hands. “I’m sorry. I really am. I didn’t know. I don’t know. I’m rambling, but I really want you to know I’m sorry.”
Lana sighed. “You don’t know. You really don’t. Are you hurt?”
“No.” I shook my head.
“That’s good. I heard the paparazzi got brought with you. I was worried. We all were.”
“I didn’t mean to make you worry.”
Lana shook her head. “You need to think things through next time.”
“I’m not good at that.”
“I noticed.” Lana snipped. “But you can’t use that as an excuse anymore. I can’t say how things are run in America, where you’re from, but here we do things a certain way. Royalty does not behave that way. End of story.”
Guilt was eating at the pit of my stomach. “I’ve only been here a few days and I’m already ruining lives, aren’t I?”
Lana sighed. “I wouldn’t exactly say ruining lives, that’s a bit dramatic. But you’ve definitely made mine much more difficult than it has to be. Ian’s too. He’s going to be in a lot of trouble. I hope you understand that.”
I shook my head. “I could say I do, but I really don’t. I don’t know what happens when a prince misbehaves.”
“You don’t hear much about that on the news, do you?”
“That’s because it’s not tolerated.”
“Oh, that’s a good reason.”
“Ian is twenty-three. Twenty-three! If he was sixteen or something there could be the whole rebellious teenager spin, but he’s not. He’s twenty-three! He’s an adult and the future rules of this country. He must appear stable.”
I nodded, not knowing what else I could do. I wasn’t about to interrupt her, that’s for sure.
“If you ever want to see him again, you will have to schedule it through me. And I will at all times, no excuses. Do I make myself clear?”
I nodded. “Yes. For what it’s worth, I really did have fun with him. He did too.”
“It’s not about fun!” Lana gave me a serious look. “I hope you can grasp what you did today.”
I shook my head. “I really didn’t, but I won’t let it happen again.”
“I certainly hope not.”
“But I don’t know how…”
Lana sighed. “I’d suggest you start by getting an advisor.”
I laughed. “Are you,”
“NO! I have enough crap on my plate with Ian and Christine. I’m lucky Alex is still a little kid.” Lana cut me off.
“Do you know anyone?”
“I can make some phone calls.”
“I really am sorry.”
“Unfortunately, sorry doesn’t fix this.”
I nodded. I had a lot of growing up to do. I had a feeling my grace period had just worn out and my learning curve would have to be fast. I didn’t want to be an embarrassment. I didn’t want to make anyone’s life more difficult than it had to be. Whether I liked it or not, I was going to have to change.