I soon learned that traveling anywhere with the DuMont family was an event that required a lot of preparation. Everything was planned down to the last detail. Today, for example, just as Leopold had promised, we were going to a Canette Game. The five Royals, plus me, made our way down the front steps towards three black hearse cars. Felip and Beatrice went in the first, Hector and Phillipa in the second and Leopold and I in the third. It was a little excessive if you ask me.
When I finally managed to maneuver my fedora through the car door, M. Lefevre gave the okay and M. Arsnault took off.
“Couldn’t we just get a big van or a limo or something?” I asked Leopold. “I mean, this is a little flashy.”
Leopold smiled crookedly, “Everything in our life is flashy on the outside. This is for our protection though. It would be bad if all of us traveled in the same car. What happens if there was an accident? The entire family would be gone in an instant.”
He had a point, I guess. I settled into my seat, straightening out the wrinkles in my white sundress. Why anyone had decided to put me in white was beyond me. There was no way the poor dress was going to make it through the day unscathed.
I looked over at Leopold jealously. He was in chinos and a black polo shirt, sunglasses in place. At least he got flat shoes and pants. I had a severe lack of pants since I arrived here and was beginning to miss them.
“Nervous?” I asked, noticing his bouncing leg.
Leopold shook his head, “Plus exciter. I have lots of energie before games.”
“How do you play anyway? You said it was like football and polo?”
Leopold nodded, “Kind of. Each team has five players: one goalie, two defense, and two front men to score goals. We ride horses and throw a ball, much like a football, to score in the other teams net.”
“Wouldn’t that be kind of easy? I mean can’t someone just hand you the ball and make a mad dash down the field to score?”
“There are regulations that make it difficult. You will see.”
That was about it for conversation for the duration of our car ride. Luckily, it wasn’t too long before we were pulling up a cherry tree lined driveway. A stone clubhouse appeared at the end of the lane. I could just see the edge of what I hoped was the Canette field poking out the left side of the building.
M. Arsnault pulled the car to a stop. Leopold helped me out and we went to join the others who had gathered in the entrance of the clubhouse.
“Bonne chance,” Phillipa told Leopold briskly. Leopold nodded at his family, adjusting the strap of the duffle bag on his shoulder. It was strange that they all behaved so formally out in public.
Leopold headed down a flight of stairs, presumably to a change room. I followed the rest of the family outside to the field.
The stands where already filled with people, all dressed to the nines like us. They stood when we entered and I was suddenly grateful for the extensive brim of the fedora that hid my face. Apparently knowing where they were going, the DuMont came to a stop at a reserved box at the dead center of the field, front row. We all filed in and sat down, followed by the rest of the spectators in the bleachers around us. I ended up beside Phillipa, thankfully.
“It should be an exciting game today,” she stated excitedly. “Antoine DuBlais is on the other team.”
“Antoine DuBlais?” I asked not recognizing the name.
“Yes. He is the son of one of the Governors of parliament. He and Leopold have been at each other’s throats for years. He is a lying, cheating, dick but it definitely spices up the game a little. I will point him out when I see him.”
The players began entering the field then, running their horses to warm them up. To my complete and utter shock though, none of the horses had saddles or reins, all of the players were mounted bareback.
“They play without saddles?” I demanded Phillipa.
She nodded. “How do you expect them to catch the ball if they are trying to direct their horse with reins?”
“I don’t see why they can’t at least have a saddle. How do the riders even stay on?”
“That’s part of what makes it so hard to play. The horses have all been trained to respond to certain changes in the rider’s position. If they squeeze with their feet, for example, the horse will go, with their knees it will stop. Other than that, it’s all in the leaning or verbal messages.”
“Wow,” was the only semi-intelligent thing I could think of in response. These guys didn’t only go halfway did they?
“There,” Phillipa said pointing to one of the riders, “That’s Antoine.” I followed her finger across the field to a man in a green shirt, with broad shoulders and dark hair. I couldn’t see much of him from here, but he held himself very tall.
I was distracted, suddenly, when I realized that Leopold what riding towards our box. He had changed from the clothes he had been wearing earlier into the same tight pants, boots, and grey polo shirt as the rest of his team. He came to a stop in front of us, jumping off his very big, grey horse. At least they where coordinated.
The crowd seemed to have all eyes directed on us as Leopold came towards me. I rose to my feet to greet him, dipping slightly. Leopold reached into the collar of his shirt and pulled out the necklace with the shiny bits of metal that he always wore, bringing it over his head. He placed the chain in my palm, closing my fingers around it.
“Will you hold on to this for me? I can’t wear it while I play,” he told me, holding my gaze. I merely nodded, hypnotized by his eyes. Leopold placed a chaste kiss across my knuckles, making a murmur rustle through our audience. Then he jumped back onto the grey horse, heading for centerfield where the other riders were waiting.
“Good luck!” I called after him, finding my voice. He threw a crooked smile over his shoulder at me.
I sat down again as they did whatever it was they were doing at centerfield. Carefully I opened my fingers, curious about what he had given me. It was a simple metal ball chain with two flat rectangular pieces of silver and one disk that was gold on one side and green on the other. The two rectangles had the same information scrawled across them:
The disk was blank.
“Those are his dog tags,” explained Phillipa, “for the army.”
“But they are missing a bunch of info, aren’t they? And what does the disk mean? And who is Dauphin?”
“Because of his position it was decided that we should put as little information on the tag as possible. That way, if anything were to happen, it would put everyone at less risk. Dauphin is the last name that Leopold uses when he has to go somewhere or do something undetected. It’s easiest if you think of it like this: DuMont is the title of the Royal House, like the Royal House of Windsor for the English, our true last name is DuMont, Leopold’s cover name is Dauphin. Just like how you are from the House of Sinclair but your last name is Morgan. The disk is a quick way to identify him as the prince to anyone in his regiment. It symbolizes his eyes. He must trust you; he never takes those things off. Look they are starting.”
I fastened the tags around my neck hastily, hoping that I wouldn’t misplace them. That would be my luck. Then I looked out to the field. Leopold and Antoine were in the middle, on their horses, facing each other. There was a referee standing between the two of them holding what looked very much like a football. He blew a whistle and threw the ball into the air.
Leopold managed to catch the ball and threw it to one of his teammates who was waiting near by. The blond boy caught it and began charging toward the other end, ready to throw the ball into his opponents net. Suddenly though, one of the guys in the green shirts (Lancet, according to the back) went running full speed toward him, ramming their horses together. Blondie, lost his balance, fumbling the ball. The green team’s goalie ran out into the field and tossed the ball to one of his teammates.
They were bloody bonkers! The players just kept lobbing the ball down the field to each other and running their horses toward the opposing team. Every once in a while, if it wasn’t blocked by a goalie, someone would get a ball in the net.
Players would be thrown off the horses occasionally but they would just get up and jump back on. I kept waiting for someone to get trampled or something.
“Amazing, isn’t it?” asked Phillipa beside me.
“Oh, it’s something alright,” I replied, as my nails dug into my palms. Why would they be concerned about Leopold getting blown up when he could much easier break his neck playing a recreational sport?
After the initial shock had worn off, I actually found myself getting into the game. It was really quite interesting the way that the players communicated with their horses and Leopold was really quite good. He had scored five of the seven goals for his team. Unfortunately, the two teams seemed evenly matched and by the last quarter, they were tied.
Lancet had the ball and managed to score another point. There where only two minutes left on the clock and Leopold had the ball. He was racing towards the other end when Antoine came up beside him. I cringed, waiting for their horses to clash, but it never came. Leopold pulled back his arm, ready to release the ball but somehow Antoine managed to pull his feet up onto his horse and throw himself at Leopold. The two of them collided and in a tangle of arms and legs and crashed to the ground. The buzzer sounded, ending the game. The ball bounced across the field rolling to a stop.
Nobody was paying attention to the ball, though, because Antoine DuBlais and the oh so infamous Prince Leopold were rolling in the middle of the field, wrestling.
The players circled around the two of them, cheering on their teammate. Everyone in the stands rose to their feet, cranking their necks to get a better look at their idiotic Prince in all his he-man glory. The referees seemed to hang back, not sure whether they could intervene and separate Leopold and Antoine. I rolled my eyes. Apparently Felip had seen enough because he signaled to M. Arsnault and M. Lefevre and they hopped into the field, jogging toward the scuffle. The pair of bodyguards quickly pulled Leopold away, blocking him from getting at Antoine.
“Told you it was going to be interesting,” sighed Phillipa.
The players all went to line up and shake hands but Leopold walked right past, stomping toward the stables with the guards at his heels. Just when I though he was getting better, the arrogant jerk had returned.
“Come on,” said Phillipa pulling me to my feet, “we have to leave before the reporters get news of this.” I scrambled to my feet and followed the family back into the clubhouse.
Leopold was pacing furiously in the entrance, the guards on either side of him. M. Lefevre had his duffel bag in hand. Leopold hadn’t changed, he was still in his now dirt covered and grass stained uniform. His hand was at his nose which was oozing blood.
Felip walked right past his son without giving him any recognition. Leopold fell into step beside me, his jaw tense, lips pursed and anger flowing off him in almost palpable waves. He was mumbling furiously under his breath.
“What are you so angry about?” I demanded as we waited for our cars to pull up. I mean, he was acting ridiculous.
Leopold froze, looking at me as if I had grown a second head. The rest of his family turned to look at me, surprised, I guess, that I was confronting him.
“Didn’t you see what happened, Fred? We lost,” he growled, eyes flashing.
I shrugged, “So? You didn’t have to go and pummel the poor guy. That’s just bad sportsmanship.”
“We lost because he cheated!” Leopold roared. “If Antoine hadn’t jumped off of his horse we could have won.”
“That may be true, but you are being a sore loser. You are setting a terrible example by fighting with him and it was rude just to stomp off the field like some five year old having a tantrum instead of shaking hands. Your freaking bodyguards had to intervene! That’s a little ridiculous if you ask me, not to mention embarrassing.” I crossed my arms over my chest. I could be just as stubborn as he was. Leopold just gaped at me.
The cars pulled up then and I went to stand in front of Phillipa and Hector’s.
“What are you doing?” demanded Leopold grabbing hold of my wrist.
“Going with them,” I said freeing myself from his grasp. “I won’t talk to you until you have calmed down.” I ducked into the car. Leopold stood outside for a moment and then stomped off towards his own.
I sighed shakily when our car advanced, happy to be away from his toxic behavior.
“That was amazing!” cried Phillipa, bouncing in her seat beside me.
“Yeah, Winifred, I think you’re my new hero,” agreed Hector. “It’s nice to see Leopold having a taste of his own medicine for once. I can’t believe he didn’t take your head off.”
I smiled weakly, “Me too. It was close there for a moment.”
“Nah,” said waving her hand, “Leopold won’t dismember you, Winifred.”
Well I’m glad someone had confidence in that fact. Then again, maybe she was his accomplice. Phillipa and Hector discussed my heroics the rest of the trip. I leaned my head against the cool glass of the window hoping that the storm will have blown over before we got home.
It wasn’t long before we were in front of the white steps again. I jumped out of the car quickly and took my place behind Beatrice. We made it into the foyer before Leopold caught up.
“So you are angry with me because I got into a fight with Antoine?” he cried.
I froze in the middle of the marble entrance. He wasn’t really getting this was he? “No, I am angry with you because you responded to his threats and let your temper make a fool of you. You have so much potential and should be an example of good behavior but you keep letting your anger get the better of you and just lash out at everything. You have to man up and clean up, otherwise you are exactly the man that the public thinks you are. Even your family is scared of you and doubts your potential and to be honest, you aren’t doing much to help change that. Prove everyone that they are wrong and be the better man. I know you are capable of doing it, I’ve seen it, let everyone else see it too.”
I bowed slightly and ran off up the stairs, leaving a very surprised Royal family and a royally peeved Leopold behind. Angela, who had been in the hall to greet me, followed quickly at my heel, eyes wide.
I made it to my room and began undressing. Some of Leopold’s damn blood had gotten on the front of my dress. I sighed apologizing to Angela.
“Do not worry,” she assured, “The cleaners can get it out.”
I was just pulling a cardigan on when I heard Leopold stomping down our hall. He banged on my door.
“Fred, open this door. I’m not done talking to you yet,” he demanded.
Angela ran into my closet, taking cover. Deserter.
“No, Leopold. I told you, I’m not going to talk to you until you have calmed down,” I told him softly but firmly.
“Fred!” Leopold shouted furiously. Then something shattered. I cringed, thinking about the pretty vase on the table outside my door.
It was quiet for a moment, something shifting in the air. Then Leopold spoke again, much quieter this time. “Please Fred, je vous en prie. I am sorry, please come out.” He sounded defeated almost.
I shook my head, “Sorry Leopold, not yet. Please leave. Go cool down.”
I heard him sigh and then take off down the hall, muttering a string of curse words. His bedroom door slammed shut.
Angela reappeared from the closet, offering me a belt, as if in forgiveness for ditching me. I threaded it hastily. “Its okay, I don’t blame you. I probably would have done the same thing. He is just a big bully really.”
She nodded, as if she understood.
There was a soft knock at my door. I sighed, “Go away Leopold.”
“It’s Beatrice,” replied a soft voice on the other side of the door. I cringed, mentally kicking myself for my mistake. Angela threw open the door instantly, and I bowed low hoping to make up for my mistake.
“I was hoping you would come for a walk with me,” the Queen smiled.
“Of course, I am so sorry for shouting at you.”
She waved me off and we began making our way though the halls.
She was silent and I slowly began to panic. Maybe I had gone overboard and Beatrice was mad at me for yelling at Leopold and she was now taking me to be locked up in the dungeon. My eyes darted across the corridor, looking for possible escape routes should the necessity arise.
“Fred, may I call you Fred?” Beatrice began.
I nodded, pleasantly surprised. This was off to a good start. “Please do.”
She smiled, “I wanted to thank you for being such a good influence on Leopold.”
“Pardon?” I asked confused.
“I know you can not see it, how could you? You never new him before you arrived. Since you have come, Fred, my son has changed so much for the better. He has always been very alone and angry. I used to worry about him a lot, you know. Leopold’s behaviors are so self-destructive and I did not know how to deal with it. I suppose it is Felip’s and my faults, truly. We were always so preoccupied with Hector and Phillipa that Leopold sort of slipped though our fingers. It’s hard though, because Hector and Phillipa always showed some sort of need or attachment to us, Leopold just pushed us away. He was always so independent, never showed the slightest interest in anyone other than himself. And his anger, always so volatile,” she shook her head.
“I don’t see what this has to do with me,” I told her honestly.
“It has everything to do with you. From the day you arrived, Leopold has bee infatuated with you.”
I scoffed at her comment, “I would hardly say that.”
“You may not see it. Like I said earlier, you didn’t know him before. For the first time in his life, Leopold is showing interest in someone else and actually cares how his actions are affecting them. His eyes are always on you, he is always asking where you are, and jumping up at the chance to be near you or help you. This is the first time since he was little that I have seen Leopold volunteer to touch someone so delicately and warm. Felip thought that it was just Leopold finally growing up, but I think it is so much more than that. Please be patient with him, Fred. He has a funny way of showing his affections sometimes but really takes things to heart. Be careful with him.”
I found it unlikely that Leopold would ever need to be treated carefully but agreed, “I will do my best.”
“That’s all I ask. Keep doing whatever your doing. I am a little jealous to say that you are the only one who has ever managed to have him fall in line. This is why Felip and I are granting you are permission to do whatever it takes to get to him.”
“Why? I mean, I have made a complete fool of your family and am doing a terrible job with all of the etiquette.”
“That hardly matters. You will get the hang of it eventually and it is all really bothersome to tell you the truth. Right now it is more important to concentrate on being yourself. Will you do that for me?”
“Absolutely, and Beatrice, I wanted to thank you for having me. It has been a real honor spending time with your family.”
“The honor is all mine. Enjoy the rest of your evening.”
Beatrice disappeared down a fight of stairs, leaving me in front of the giant doors of the grand ballroom.
Well that’s just great! Now I had an angry Prince to deal with and his parents who were expecting me to whip their son into shape though some kind of miracle. At least I had avoided the dungeon for now.
I stumbled back to my wing of the castle, tired and just wanting this day to be over.
I was broken out of my daze as the soft sound of music filled my ears. I recognized the melody: Claire de Lune. Curious, I followed the sound to the door across the hall from my room. It was a living room or library of sorts with big windows, leather sofas and shelves filled with books. It was where I had found out, the telephone was located.
I turned into the room to find Leopold bent over the piano in the far corner of the room. His long fingers where stroking the keys delicately. It was strange to see such carefulness and gentleness after such his physical display earlier. The song ended, the final notes hanging in the air between us.
“That was beautiful,” I whispered.
Leopold jumped, but otherwise didn’t change his position, “Thank you.”
I walked over to the piano until I was standing beside him. “May I?” I asked indicating the bench. Leopold slid down, making room for me. I sat down beside him. Our legs were pressed together in the limited space. I placed my left hand on keys and tried to imitate the beautiful music Leopold had just being playing.
“My mother put me in piano when I was little. I learned all of the notes and fingering but the second I was placed in front of a piano it was like I froze up. The music just wouldn’t come out right.” I frowned when I hit a foul note.
Leopold’s brow knit together and his lips parted slightly as if he was searching for words. “Fred, I want to apologize for my behavior this morning. I was completely out of line speaking to you like that.”
“It wasn’t really my place to butt in,” I admitted.
“But you were right, I was being terrible. I’m not very good with using my words; it is in my nature to us my fists to get ahead. That really isn’t an excuse though. I’m trying, I really am. I just slip sometimes.”
“I shouldn’t have thrown so many accusations at you. I barley know you, it wasn’t really fair.”
“But it was accurate. I am everything you said. Will you accept my apology? It would mean a lot to me.”
“Of course, I will.”
Leopold smiled broadly, “You know, I have never had someone speak to me with the audacity that you do. It is extremely infuriating.”
“I do my best,” I said hitting another foul note.
Leopold scrunched his nose, placing his hand over the top of mine. “Here, it is like this,” he said guiding my fingers to the correct notes. Pure music filled the room again and everything felt light.
I finally took a chance to look him over. Leopold had changed into a pair of dark pants and a light blue button down. The front of the shirt was un-tucked and wrinkled, his sleeves pushed recklessly to his elbows. His hair was disheveled and there were crescent moons of dirt under his nails. He stunk of smoke. When I looked at his face, I winced. Leopold’s nose had stopped bleeding but was now slightly puffy and deep purple bruises were forming under his eyes. Antoine had gotten him good.
Despite myself, I found my hand reaching up, brushing my fingers across the bruises.
Edwards stopped playing, his eyes fluttering shut. “It looks a lot worse than it feels,” he stated.
“Will you do something with me tomorrow?” he asked suddenly.
“Sure, what did you have in mind?” I said.
A smile pulled at the corners of Leopold’s lips, “A surprise. Meet me in the garden at ten.” Then Leopold reached up, wrapping his hand around my own which still lingered on his skin. He slid our hands down his cheek and placed a lingering kiss across my knuckles. “Good night, Fred.”
Then he rose to his feet and exited the room leaving me on the bench trying to catch up with reality.
I was outside in the garden at ten o’clock sharp the next morning. It was the same place that Leopold had taken me that first morning with the horses. It was beautiful really; the gardens were extravagant, overflowing with different kinds of blooms, trees and dripping foliage. They were extensive but I hadn’t really had a chance to explore them yet.
Angela had dressed me in a simple pair of running shoes, jeans and a t-shirt this morning so I presume that whatever Leopold had planned wasn’t something over the top.
A couple minutes later, Leopold appeared through the doors. He was dressed similar to me but had a knapsack over his shoulder and the usual aviators in place. I was beginning to hate those things. “Bon matin, sorry I’m late,” he smiled.
“I’ll forgive you if you tell me where you are taking me,” I said falling into step beside him. Leopold had to shorten his stride, however, so that I could keep up.
“We are going on a picnic,” he said. “Is that okay?”
Well that explained the mysterious bag. “Sounds perfect.”
We began making our way across the grass in thoughtful silence.
“I had a question for you,” I said cutting the silence. “You said you were in the army but shouldn’t you be at a base or something then?”
Leopold adjusted his shoulder strap, “I was given a leave to deal with all of this. I have to go back periodically starting in August. That reminds me; do you have my tags?”
“Oh, sorry, I completely forgot,” I said pulling the necklace over my head.
“No problem. I knew they where safe with you,” he said putting them on.
“So what do you do there?”
“I’m in the air force. I drive helicopters and jets.”
He nodded, “It’s fantastic. How about you? Do you have any hobbies?”
“Not really. I enjoy reading and writing mostly but I can cook too.”
Leopold nodded again and we returned to the silence. Apparently I was going to have to do all the work because he appeared to be suffering from a sudden bout of shyness.
“So tell me about Phillipa and Hugo,” I offered.
“Hugo is the son of the Duke of Lamric on Carmencie and his mother is of British descent. He and ma soeur met at one of the state dinners and have been inseparable ever since. He is very good for my sister, calms some of her more erratic tendencies.”
“That’s so cute.”
“They are very good together.”
“I don’t mean to sound rude, but I have been wondering why you speak less English than the others.”
“No such thing as a bad question. You can ask me anything. I think I have had less exposure. Hector had to learn it much more in his studies to prepare for speeches and so forth and Phillipa from spending time with Hugo who was mostly raised by his mother.”
“Do you speak other languages?”
“Quite a few.”
This game was beginning to reflect badly on me. I mean how can reading and writing compete with a multilingual horse whispering, blade wielding, sword fighting, motorcycle riding, jet flying badass? I at least needed to take up crocheting or something.
“Voila,” said Leopold stopping suddenly. I looked around for the first time in a while, taking in my surroundings. We seemed to be in an orchard of some kind. There were endless rows of trees going off in every direction. They were in bloom, tiny white flowers scattered across the branches. I could smell salt in the air and hear the sound of surf crashing against stone.
Leopold put his bag on the ground and pulled a large, striped blanket from its depths, spreading it across the grass. I went and sat down the middle watching as he rooted further into his bag. After a moment Leopold pulled out two slightly squished squares and looked up at me, a slight blush spreading across his cheeks.
“Sandwiches are the only thing I can make,” he told me. “Would you like ham or turkey?”
I smiled, wondering why he would have gone through the effort of making food himself when he had a chef, especially if it made him so embarrassed.
He passed me one of the parcels. I could feel Leopold watching me as I peeled off the cellophane wrap quickly and took a bit of my sandwich. The bread was a little damp but otherwise okay.
“Very good,” I assured him. He smiled and unwrapped his own.
I finished my meal quickly, wiped my fingers on my jeans and then lay back on the blanket. The sky was clear and a brilliant blue, the sun bright and hot against my skin.
I turned and looked at Leopold. He was cutting a green apple with a short knife, the juice running down his fingers. When Leopold finished he wiped his hands and the blade across the grass and lay down beside me.
“Are we close to the ocean?” I asked after a moment.
“The cliffs are just a little further up. There is a beach down the property too. I will take you there sometime if you wish.”
“That would be so awesome.” I turned onto my side to face him and frowned when I was met with his glasses hiding his face. They made it very difficult to read his expressions.
“May I?” I asked taking hold of the frames.
“Si tu veux,” he responded.
I pulled his aviators off and folded them onto the collar of his shirt, giving him the option to put them back on if he wanted. “I like to see your eyes,” I told him.
Leopold laughed slightly darkly, “Well I’m glad someone does. They creep most people out.”
“But they are so unique.”
“Exactement. It a genetic trait, passed down from Leopold the first. That is how I got my name. They got me into so much trouble; there is no mistaken identity with them.”
“I don’t think it’s the eyes that get you in trouble. I think you manage to do that on your own.”
“I used to long for them to be ordinary and brown like Hector’s. I can’t blend in.”
“Why would you ever try when you were clearly meant to stand out?” I realized then how close Leopold and I had become. His face was mere inches from mine, his sweet breath fanning across my face.
I was surprised at the brief excitement that fluttered in my stomach. Leopold was going to kiss me. I didn’t really know if I wanted this or not, hadn’t ever really though about, but I was starting to find myself very attracted to the idea. My eyes fluttered shut on their own accord and I leaned closer.
“Fred,” Leopold murmured. “You are leaning on my tags.”
I frowned. That was something really strange to say before a kiss. Maybe it was a French thing.
“My dog tags, you are leaning on them,” he repeated.
His words hit me and I opened my eyes to find that I was, indeed, leaning on his necklace causing Leopold to come forward so that I didn’t choke him.
I shot up into a sitting position, blushing furiously. He hadn’t wanted to kiss me; he was preventing himself from choking. I had been ridiculous thinking that he wanted to.
Leopold cleared his throat and rose to his feet, offering me his hand. The glasses were in place again.
“We should leave,” he said briskly and began stuffing things into his bag again. His motions were quick and choppy, angry almost. Then, as if he decided something suddenly, Leopold threw the knapsack to the ground and stepped towards me purposefully. He took my face in his hands almost roughly and pressed his lips to mine in the most careful of kisses.
Our lips barely brushed at first, as if he was testing the waters. I unfroze from the shock, and returned the pressure eagerly. Leopold deepened the kiss, tilting my head back. My hands came up on their own accord and wound though the tangled locks of his hair.
Leopold pulled away after a moment, breathing heavily. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have done that.”
“Don’t be sorry,” I breathed, “You did fine.”
He let out a strangled laugh, pulling away. I was confused. Did I do something wrong? Leopold picked up his discarded bag and began walking back towards the castle.
“I shouldn’t have done that to you.”
“Why not? And I don’t think you should get all the credit. I helped after all.” I said tripping after him so that I could keep up.
Leopold muttered something in French, “Listen, Fred. I like you, a lot, more than I probably should.”
Well clearly, subtlety and clarity where not his strong suits.
“I like you too,” I said.
Leopold growled. “That’s the problem. I should be trying to stay away from you but I can’t. I’ve tried, but I just can’t do it. C’est impossible!”
“What are you trying to say?” I asked. He wasn’t making any sense.
“We shouldn’t be together. I come with a lot of baggage. You shouldn’t have to give up your life for that.”
“Don’t you think that’s for me to decide? Besides, you are the ones who asked me here.”
“That’s why I am giving you the choice. I am ready to try being with you, if that is what you want. I will not stay away from you unless you ask me”
I thought about this for a second. I was here to help Leopold, and I really couldn’t deny the fact that I was feeling a pull to be with him. There was a spark between us. I wasn’t sure what it was but I definitely wanted to find out. “I’m in,” I told him wholeheartedly.
Leopold grabbed hold of my hand, pulling me to a stop. “Are you positive?” He demanded, searching my eyes.
He must have found whatever he was looking for because he nodded and wrapped my in a tight embrace.
“So what does this mean?” I asked when we began walking again. Leopold had my hand held firmly in his own. My own small fit like a puzzle piece in his larger.
“Whatever you want, but we will have to notify my parents so that arrangements are made.”
That sounded awkward. Our relationship was going to be broadcasted across the world. I swallowed hard and made a mental note to call my parents and let them know before they heard it on the six o’clock news or something.