Excerpt for The Inherited by , available in its entirety at Smashwords


Chapter One

I glared at the clock with a scowl, trying to make the hands turn at my will. It felt as if time had come to a stand still, refusing to move. Beads of sweat sat at the nape of my neck. It was the last class on a hot Friday afternoon and I only wanted out. Tearing my eyes from the clock I tuned back into the drone of the presenter's voice.

"Solis, or the Solisian Islands, is a small country off of the west coast of France. It is made up of a cluster of three major islands. The largest is DuMont, which is named for the Royal Family and is where the capital, Dumasville, is located. The second is Mortimer and the third is Carmencie. Currently, the head of government is his Royal Highness King Bellamy IIV. Ranking second to the king is the Prime Minister, Guillaume LeBlanc. Over the course of its history the Royal Family has only lost their rule for a brief time in 1704 to France but latter gained back their independence in 1752."

I tuned Ben out again. We had each been assigned a country for our final project in World History and because of this, had been listening to presentations for the last three classes so that our teacher could have them marked for the final grades in two weeks. Mine had been on Canada because I figured it would be easy. I had never really liked history; I found all of the dates, facts, names of dead people, and past events boring and tedious to remember.

"The Solisian flag," continued Ben, "is made up of three horizontal stripes that are supposed to represent the view of the islands on the horizon. The blue is the sky, the white is the famous marble cliffs and the grey is the water."

I turned to look at my teacher, Mr. Maxwell, who was nodding his head in agreement as he scribbled furiously on the paper in front of him. He was a nice man, if not a bit eccentric, and very enthusiastic about the subject he taught. I glanced at the clock again; five minutes were left.

"Because the islands are so isolated there are a few delicacies that are unique to the country. These include the traditional Solisian red wine and chocolate pastry, as well as the Solisian Horses which are native only to the island. Solis is also the world's largest exporter of snowshoes."

Ben paused dramatically before taking one last breath and rushing out the last sentence.

"In conclusion I think that Solis is a very interesting country and would like to visit it someday."

The class broke out into a boisterous applause, happy to finally be free of the presentations. Mr. Maxwell walked up to the front of the class commanding our attention.

"Thank you so much for your presentation, Ben. For homework please complete the questions Ben made up for his presentation and for a little bonus, I will add an extra percent to anyone who can give me one of the princes' full names before the exam. Be wary though, this is not something that can be found easily on one of your 'Wiki' or 'Google' searches. You are dismissed." With that the bell rang, sending everyone running for the door.

I pushed my way though the crowed halls to my locker, finding Tess and Alexander already there. I tuned into their conversation as I spun my combination lock.

"I don't understand why Mr. Maxwell is making us do so much research on the princes of some random French country." complained Alexander.

"Dunno," replied Tess with a shrug. "I don't mind though; they're hot. Did you see the photos in the presentation?"

Alec scrunched his nose in disgust. "Eww, but the one guy's eyes are so weird. He must have a contact or something."

"Why would someone only wear one contact?" Tess demanded, "I think I heard it is some genetic family trait or something."

I reached into the depths of my locker, stuffing any papers and books I could find into my knapsack. Exams were next week and I hadn't even started studying yet.

"Whatever it is, it's creepy," Alec declared.

I slammed my locker shut with my hip, seeing as my hands were occupied. Not all of the text books fit in my bag, so some were now stacked precariously in my arms as we made our way to Alec's car. Tess and Alec continued to bicker the entire time, not letting me get a word in edge wise. The car pulled to a stop out front of my house, finally silencing them.

"Who's that?" queried Tess indicating the black car in my driveway. It reminded me of a hearse.

"I'm not sure," I replied with a frown. The car was completely black, onyx like an airport limo. The windows were tinted dark like pitch and edged in shiny silver. There wasn't a speck of dirt on the thing. Alongside John and Renee's beat up Jeep, it made quite a scene.

"I hope everything's alright," worried Alec.

"Me too," I said hopping out of his car. "Have a good weekend studying, guys. I'll call later tonight."

"Yup, see you Fred."

I somehow manage to work my way into the house and placed my books on the bench in the hall. "Mom, John?" I called. They weren't usually home this early, but their cars were in the driveway.

"We are in the living room, Honey," my father answered.

I walked into the living room to find my parents on the couch. John had his arms around my mother who was sobbing softly.

"Oh hey, what's wrong Mom? And what's with the car-" I started but my mother burst into tears and leaned farther into John who was doing his best to console her.

I stopped unsure of how to proceed. I couldn't figure out what was wrong. Both my Mom and John were still in their uniforms; they had clearly left work in a hurry.

Suddenly I heard a slight shuffle behind me and someone cleared their throat. I whipped around to be met with two huge men in dark suits, hats and sunglasses. They stood facing me and bowed their heads slightly. They reminded me of the guys in the Men in Black movies. I half expected them to whip out those memory eraser sticks.

"Hi." I said confused, "Who are you?" The Men in Black made no move to answer.

"These are Mr. Lefevre and Mr. Arsnault. They are representatives of the DuMont family." said John in a thick voice.

"Alright," I said tightly. This wasn't really clearing things up. "What do they want?"

One of the Men in Black answered this time. His voice was thick with a French sounding accent, "You."

Renee burst into a new round of tears.

"Look, Fred, maybe you should sit down," John suggested lightly.

I was getting frustrated now. The Men in Black had just stated that they were here to kidnap me. I didn't understand. Had I done something wrong? What did they want with me? Something was clearly going on and no one was filling me in on the situation.

"No, I want to know what's going on!" I shouted.

John sighed shakily.

"Perhaps it would be best if we explain," said one of the suits. Renee nodded in consent.

"As your parents have already explained, Winifred, M. Arsnault and I work for the Royal Guard of the Royal Family DuMont of Solis. We have come here to see you."

"Okay, but why?" I interrupted. The French man raised a hand to silence me.

"It is a story of great length. Long ago our country of Solis was allies with the country of Acadis. The two royal families were very close so they made a promise to one another that there would always remain a bond between them. The Kings signed a declaration that stated that if the heirs to the throne of either kingdom were not married by their eighteenth year they would marry an heir or heiress of the partner country. This way, the bond would remain and the values of each country would be intact. It also assured that the kings were married by eighteen and their assent to the throne could proceed as is law. As it turned out, this law never had to be utilized and it was not long before Acadis was taken under French control and their Royal Family went into hiding. This has caused an uncomfortable predicament for the family DuMont, because the treaty has been recently been called upon by their Royal Majesties."

"I still don't understand why you need me."

"Does the last name Sinclair mean anything to you, Winifred?"

I shook my head no.

"In the last few months M. Arsnault and I have been working hard to track down the bloodline of the Royals of Acadis, the family Sinclair. We discovered that they migrated to the Americas to make a new life in the area that was named for their lost country, Acadia. As time moved on Acadia was divided and renamed into what is now the region of Halifax in Canada. The Sinclair's changed their name and blended further with America. The current head of the family is living in Forks, Washington under the name Morgan. As fate would have it, his sole heir is his daughter Winifred. This makes you, Winifred Marie Morgan, the youngest and only heir of the Sinclair bloodline and the betrothed to His Royal Highness le Prince de Solis."

"Pardon?" was the only thing I could muster up. This had to be a joke. "That's a good one John, you almost had me for a minute." I started to laugh, but no one joined. The men in black didn't even crack a smile. I began to realize that they might actually be serious and collapsed into one of the chairs.

"They are telling the truth, Fred," my mother sniffled speaking up for the first time. "They have the DNA test to prove it." She indicated some papers on the coffee table. I picked them up and began to flip through the sheets as if they held secrets. It was useless; I couldn't make out any of the text.

"You can't be serious, I'm no princess."

"It would appear that you are Mademoiselle," said one of the men, Arsnault I think. "And because of this, it has been requested that you return with us to Solis."

"For what, princess training?" I guffawed.

"As a matter of fact, yes. Also you are bound by treaty to marry the Prince."

"You can't make her go, I'll call my lawyer," cried John defensively. I appreciated the effort.

"No, we cannot force her to leave as per the direction of the King and Queen but your lawyer will do no good. We have already spoken to the United States Government and they have given us permission to remove Mlle. Morgan if it became necessary. They have voided Winifred's American citizenship so she is no longer under the protection of your laws. Your daughter is now only a citizen and princess of Acadis, a country which no longer exists. You may also want to take this fact into consideration; if Winifred does not marry the Prince, the Royal family will be stripped of their titles and power and the throne will be passed to a family that will create much trouble for many people."

I couldn't speak, I only gaped at the men who were essentially blackmailing me into marrying a stranger. The sad thing was I was falling for it.

"I-if you-you'll just give us a moment…" I stuttered as I coaxed Renee and John into out kitchen.

The Men in Black bowed again and I began to wish that they actually had the memory erasers. I think that would have been a preferable situation.

My parents bombarded me the second we were out of earshot.

"You know you don't have to go. There is always another option," insisted John.

"They can't take you from us!" cried Renee.

I raised my finger to silence them. "I think I should go." I admitted quietly, "I can't let other people get hurt because I won't try. I have to give it a chance and if it doesn't work out I can always come home like you said. We can have a trial period, just for the summer. I have to at least give it a chance." I paused and then amended, "I want to go."

"My parents watched me in surprise for a moment, then my mother spoke up. "You have always known what is best for you Fred and there is nothing we can do to make you stay. I want you to know though, that we will stand by you and love you no matter what you choose, just please give it a day or two to percolate first."

I nodded and hugged them both, "Seems fair." We returned to the living room. The Men in Black hadn't moved.

"I have decided that I will come with you to Solis," I announced.

"Excellent, everyone will be very excited to hear this!" said almost smiling. "We will be leaving on Monday. A car will arrive at seven in the morning." We shook the men's hands and they drove off in their hearse leaving us behind to catch up.

Renee, John and I spent along time talking after the men left. John called his lawyer and found out that everything Mr. Lefevre and Mr. Arsnault had said was true. There were many more tears and final arrangements made. I was going to be missing exams and needed to have most of my stuff shipped to Solis.

We googled Solis and the DuMont' but found that what Mr. Maxwell had said to be true, there wasn't much out there. The only thing we managed to dig up was a small blurb on a blog that stated that King Bellamy had visited Quebec last year. There wasn't much on Acadis either.

I even called up Louis to see if he knew anything, but he said that he hadn't even been notified, not having custody of me. That brought on an entirely new round of questions, yelling and tears.

It was late when I finally made it to my room and dialed the familiar number. "Hey, Alec, you're never going to believe what I'm about to tell you."



































Chapter Two

"Can't we at least look around a little?" I asked irritably. "I mean I didn't get to see any part of Spain or even Paris except for the airport."

"Sorry Mademoiselle," said M. Arsnault, "but we have to make our seaplane connection."

"Seaplane?" I demanded, stopping dead in the middle of the train station we were currently in.

"Mademoiselle, I know you are tired but our voyage is almost complete. I realize that we are in Acadis and you are curious but we have no time. All that is left is an automobile ride to the airport and a short plane ride, then we will land in the river in the square."

"Airport? I thought we might be going on a boat or a nice snowshoe. Ben said that there would be snowshoes."

"We are living in the age of technology, Mademoiselle, and will be taking a seaplane. What is wrong with that? You were on a much longer plane ride just this morning."

"Yes, but that was a normal plane, not a seaplane. I've seen seaplanes and they land in water. I don't deal well with lots of water. Why do you think I moved from Forks and live in a desert?"

"I assure you that the seaplane is completely safe."

M. Arsnault sounded a little frustrated. I had to admit, I did sound slightly hysterical but I had barely slept last night; I was too busy saying my final goodbyes to Arizona.

On Saturday I had gone out with Tess and Alec. We decided to hit it old school and went to the library to see if we could dig up any more information about Solis, Acadis, the DuMont or Sinclairs. Eventually we came across a National Geographic with some info and a few old magazines.

"Looks like there are five of them," said Alec as he flipped through one of the magazines. "Here's some family pictures."

"Oh let me see," cried Tess, ripping it out of his hands, "I want to see if Fred's prince charming is hot."

Alec rolled his eyes as we all crowded around the glossy pages. "That must be the king," she deducted. He was an attractive, tall man with a full head of blond hair that was just beginning to grey. To his right was a petite woman, very kind looking with soft features and caramel waves. I presumed this was the Queen, Beatrice. Next to her was a small girl with pixie like slightness and spiky black hair, Princess Phillipa, according to the caption.

"Oh, he's hot alright," affirmed Tess pointing to the giant man on the king's right side. He was well over six feet and built like an Olympic weightlifter. His dark curls were cropped short, his brown eyes warm and dimples pressed into his cheeks.

"Henri, the Crown Prince of DuMont." she read off, "He's the oldest, heir to the throne, and I guess your betrothed."

"Better than that guy," said Alec pointing to the boy next to Hector, "something about him puts me off and I can't get past the eyes. He just seems unnatural or something."

Tess nodded as if she agreed, "True, and according to the magazine I was reading, he's quite the bad ass. Apparently he's always disappearing and out with girls at bars or motorcycle racing, and gets into a lot of trouble with the press and stuff. He's even at military school." She looked at the picture, "Kind of sexy though."

They were talking about Prince Leopold. He was the only one in the picture that wasn't smiling. He looked almost out of place in the family with his shock of copper hair and the strange eyes. Alec was right, they were unnerving. The iris on the right was amber like a golden flame and the left was bright green like young grass. He was not as tall or solidly built like the other two men, but rather finer and leaner, more delicate somehow.

We didn't find much else and nothing more recent than a year ago. There were some pictures of scenery on Google that we skimmed through. The national geographic turned out to be about the fishing industry of Solis so it wasn't much help unless for some reason being a princess involved needing knowledge of aquatic life or boat riggings. It also stated that the national language was French, but we had already assumed that.

"So strange," Alec had said, "it's like everything just stopped. There can't be no new information on an entire country. Something has to have happened in a year!"

"Look," I told M. Arsnault, "I decided that I can't be your missing princess anymore. Nobody notified me that there would be large amounts of water in Solis."

"Mademoiselle, it is a country made up of islands." He sounded exasperated.

I crossed my arms over my chest and glared at him, doing my best to appear defiant. M. Arsnault glanced at M. Lefevre. They had a rapid conversation in French and then M. Lefevre hurried off.

"We have decided on a plan B," M. Arsnault announced, "M. Lefevre has gone to make arrangements. Would you like something to eat while we wait for his return?"

"Yes, thank you," I decided, pleased with myself.

I followed M. Arsnault to a small café where he ordered coffee and some sort of tiny pastry. We went over to one of the tables and I kicked my knapsack under my chair. I contemplated the pastry for a moment and then stuffed the entire thing in my mouth.

"This is delicious!" I exclaimed around bites. I had been too nervous to eat this morning so my last meal had been at dinner last night.

I took hold of my tiny cup of coffee. I wasn't one to drink it normally, but I was tired and cold and if the pastry had been any indication, it would be delicious. I tentatively took a sip of the dark liquid.

"Blech!" I exclaimed pushing the cup away.

"Yes, the espresso is very strong. Perhaps you would like some Solisian wine to sweeten it?" suggested M. Arsnault pulling a silver flask out of his breast pocket.

"Are you kidding me? That's illegal. Actually, I'm pretty sure this entire escapade has been illegal. Just, never mind, I'll survive."

This was true. I wasn't entirely sure how we had gotten this far without being caught or stopped. I was beginning to seriously doubt the government and security services. For one, I was being blackmailed into coming and was essentially being kicked out of the country I was born in. I was currently in the process of being kidnapped and not one of the security guards or border control people had questioned the teenage girl walking around with two strange men in dark suits. For another thing, my passports and ID was all useless and had been voided, yet we were still getting waved through all of the check points. M. Arsnault and M. Lefevre just kept flashing some sort of ID badge or a shiny gold card and we were waved through like magic. The card seemed to instill awe and fear in people.

We sat in silence, my eyes nodding closed as M. Lefevre came running up again. There was another exchange between my two guards. "Finish up," Arsnault told me, "our limo is here. A ferry has been arranged to meet us."

I dumped about ten sugar packets in my expresso and downed the rest of the cup, even the dregs at the bottom.

M. Arsnault came around and took my arm, helping me up. I was grateful for this because suddenly I was feeling a little woozy.

"My knapsack," I murmured, "don't forget my knapsack." M. Lefevre retrieved it from under the chair and shouldered it. We made our way to a black car that looked suspiciously like the one that had been in my driveway two days ago. We took off down the French countryside and I was slowly lulled to sleep.

"Mademoiselle, we have arrived," M. Arsnault said far too soon.

I stretched and began feeling around for my bag, "Mmm kay, I'm ready for this ferry. How long will the ride be?"

"Ah, Mademoiselle, there is something I must admit to you," M. Arsnault wouldn't look me in the eye. "I have not been truthful."

"Excuse me?" I asked fully awake now.

"I told a fib. There is no boat, we are at the seaplane."

"What?" I shrieked, "But you said that there was a boat. You promised a boat!"

"I know, and I am very sorry Mademoiselle, but I swear on the crown of His Majesty King Bellamy IV that you will be safe."

This made me pause. I figured it had to be a pretty big deal if he was swearing on the King. He was the big man after all. So I took a deep breath and nodded, letting them lead me to the plane.

M. Lefevre threw my bag up front and the proceeded to climb in next to the pilot's seat. I stood on the dock beside M. Arsnault looking up at the plane. To get in I would have to step up onto the pontoon then climb up a small ladder and crawl through the door.

I glanced skeptically at M. Arsnault, "I hope you have a better way for me to get down, because if this is the only option, you are going to end up with a much bruised missing princess."

"There will be steps," he assured me before helping me up and locking the door behind us. I noted, with concern, that the cabin's windows were open.

The pilot climbed in, pointed at me, mumbled something in French, and then laughed. I closed my eyes tightly and pulled into crash position, preparing for the worst.

The engine kicked up and I could feel the plane turn in a circle and then we were weightless.

"When we land I'm going to get my future husband to have you beheaded!" I cursed, "Maybe we can make a new record like King Henry VIII, but instead of wives we will kill bodyguards."

"There is no death penalty in Solis, Mademoiselle," sighed M. Arsnault. "I really wish you would look out the window. You are missing some good sights as we make our approach."

"Approach? I thought you said it would be a short ride. Besides, I've seen it already on Google."

"We are coming up to Dumasville now. I really urge you to open your eyes, this is the first look you will get of your new home."

"Fine," I snapped and slowly unwound from my ball, opening one eye cautiously.

We were flying between two sparkling, white marble walls topped with green grass. There were a few stupid horses on top that didn't seem to see why they should run from the plane. There was aqua water below us, glistening in the sun.

"Wow," I said as the cliffs opened up to reveal a mass of land in front of us. We were coming up to a small city with a strange layout. The top part was made up of a bunch of white buildings surrounded by a small wall. The further west you went, the higher and darker the buildings got until they slowly petered off into countryside. There was a river winding through the city, dividing it. I didn't have much time to contemplate this though, because we were suddenly descending towards it.

"Eek!" I cried curling into a ball again. "At least close the windows!" I cried in desperation but my pleas were ignored.

"Ahh!" I screamed as we landed in the river and water burst up, surrounding the plane. Then all was quiet. The pilot mumbled in French, laughing again. I was seriously beginning to question his sanity.

"Mademoiselle, it is safe to open your eyes, we have landed."

"Really, that's it?" I asked, looking around. It was true, the plane was now at a dock at the far end of a market square. It was filled with people cheering and hollering. There was a great white castle across from us with a long red carpet leading up to it. A crew was tethering the plane to the dock and rolling a set of steps up to the plane's door.

"Do you know how to curtsy, Mademoiselle?" asked M. Arsnault.

"Nope, but I can fake it." I was practically bouncing out of my seat now.

"Very well, I will be getting out first, you will follow. Wave and pause for photos on the first step and then follow the carpet to the castle. Climb the steps and then curtsy to the Royal Family."

"Did all of these people come to see me?" I asked distracted.

"Yes," he replied, "you are their saviour."

Before I had time to ask what he meant, the door of the plane was pushed open and I stepped out into Solis.

The crowd went wild. "Vive la Princess, vive Winifred!" they chanted, pushing on the barriers. I waved in what I hoped to be a graceful manner and started my way down the steps. Flash bulbs popped, blinding me as I made my way towards the five dark figures at the other end. It felt like I was walking up to the steps of the Parthenon to stand before the Greek gods. The royal family DuMont were lined up beside each other on the glistening steps of the palace, each as beautiful as the next.

Something wasn't right though. They looked different from the pictures in the magazines. They were standing as a united front, but something about them seemed broken. There smiles were forced, formal, not reaching their eyes. King Bellamy stood at the center, Beatrice on his left and Phillipa next to her. The thing that was different was that Leopold was directly on Bellamy's right side with Hector on the end next to him. Hector looked nervous but I suppose I would be too if I was meeting my kidnapped, mail order bride for the first time. Maybe they had just gotten bored and decided to switch it up. Maybe Leopold had complained that his massive brother was always casting a shadow on him, resulting in bad lighting for the beauty shots he used to attract potential party girls. I reached the top of the steps and bowed low to my supposed in-laws.

I was taken to a conference room. Most of the chairs were already filled with old men who stood when we came in; I presumed they were counselors. Everyone was seated and Bellamy began to speak in accented English, presumably for my benefit. "Welcome Winifred Sinclair, we are very appreciative of your cooperation. We understand that this is an uncomfortable situation and wish to be upfront with you." The king looked at the faces of his family. I wondered vaguely if he was speaking for them or if he was using the royal we. "There have been some current events in our family that have caused great trouble within itself as well as for our country. My eldest son, le Prince Henri, has renounced his claim on the throne."

I frowned. Did this mean that they didn't need me anymore? Had I been kidnapped for nothing? I mean the reason they needed me here was so that I could marry the Prince so that he could be king. If he had thrown in the towel why was I still here? This was going to be a cinch. Either I could go home or have a nice vacation in a castle for two months.

"Luckily," Bellamy continued, "I have two sons and Leopold will now be taking up the role."

Uh-oh.

"We asked you here, Winifred, because our hand was forced. The people of Solis were angry that their great Prince resigned and bribing them with you was the only way to placate them. You see, unlike his brother, Leopold does not have the best reputation with the public and has not had the proper training. They doubt his worth and in all honesty they have no reason to. They began to rebel. That is why we tracked you down and why we waved you at them. The Solisians were so enrapt with you, the missing Acadian Princess, that they forgot about their…mislead Prince."

"So you lied to me," I stated. I wasn't here to marry a prince just to clean up a sticky situation and distract the commoners.

"No, everything we said about the decree made by our ancestors is true and we would like it if all of its terms were fulfilled as intended. We merely had to withhold information in order to get you here, Winifred, and I apologize for this. If you wish to leave, we will understand, but please sleep on it tonight. You can give us your decision in the morning."

M. Arsnault suddenly appeared at my shoulder, drawing upright. The councelors stood with me.

I was lead through a labyrinth of halls and corridors decorated in a variety of different colors, wallpapers and art. Finally we came to a door, that looked the same as all the others and M. Arsnault waved me through.

I wondered how I was ever going to find my way back out. Maybe this was their plan; simply get me so lost in the castle that I will never find my way out so that I am forced to stay. I felt like the Minotaur of Crete minus the eating of sacrifices. It could be a possibility though, if I could never find the kitchen.

The room was enormous, probably the size of the entire main floor of my house back in Arizona. There was a wall of floor to towering ceiling windows across from me with a grand desk in front of them. On the left wall there was a giant canopy bed, dripping with luxurious fabrics and heaping with pillows and blankets. On the right was a huge fireplace with a couch in front of it. There was a door on either side of it, which upon further examination, one led to a walk-in closet, which already held my clothes, and the other to a bathroom.

M. Arsnault cleared his throat after a minute, putting an end to my exploration. I turned around to find him standing beside a very tall, dark haired girl in a maid's outfit. "Mademoiselle, this is Angela. I must leave you now but she will help you with anything you need." He left me with Angela.

We stood in awkward silence for a moment. I wasn't up to date with my maid protocol and wasn't sure what to do with her. Perhaps I should make conversation.

"Hi, Angela, I'm Fred. It's nice to meet you." I stuck out my hand. Angela looked at it shyly but made no move to take it.

"How long have you worked her?" I tried again and again I was met with silence. Perhaps this was a rude question.

"Have you seen that new Brad Pitt movie? I mean wow!" Angela smiled weakly and something suddenly occurred to me. "You don't speak English, do you," I asked. She glanced at me confused, like she was trying to piece my words together. I wracked my brain, trying to remember any of the French I had learned in school. "Ahh, parlez-vous anglaise?"

"Non, désoler," she replied meekly.

This must be part of the plan as well. There was no way I could get anymore withheld information from her if I couldn't even ask for pretzels.

"Well that's okay," I assured earning a confused stare, "we will manage just fine. We can practice with each other. Me, my French and you, English."

And manage we did. Angela helped me have a nice bath in the claw foot tub. When I came out she had dinner laid out on my desk which I promptly devoured. I felt really bad taking advantage of her like this but it was comforting to have someone else around when you were potentially imprisoned in a castle labyrinth. She was just helping me fight my way into the gargantuan marshmallow bed when someone knocked on my door.

"Come in," I called, "umm, I mean, entrez."

To my utter shock, Princess Phillipa walked in. I scrambled out of bed, trying to stand to I could curtsy but she waved me off and came over to sit on the edge of my bed. I stood at its side not sure what to do. Phillipa spoke quickly to Angela and the young maid excused herself. "Don't worry, Winifred. Please sit down; I only want to talk with you." I did as she said. The petite girl watched me with her pretty green eyes, examining me. "I wanted to come and talk to you, explain a few things and answer any questions I can. I think that you deserve that much." Her voice was lithe, the accent adding somehow to her strange delicateness. "I am not sure how much you know, but as Felip told you earlier we have been going though hard times lately."

"Who is Felip?" I interrupted."

"My father, the King."

"I thought he was Bellamy?"

"That is his title. All kings and crown princes take on a different name then the one they are given at birth. Felip is Bellamy just like Hector was supposed to be Henri. Anyway, I know that you thought that you were coming here to marry Hector and were surprised when they gave you Leopold instead. Please don't be hard on him. Leopold has a bad reputation and does some bad things, but he has a good heart. He is my twin brother and I know him better then anyone else. He is really quite kind and gentle once you get to know him. Most people are just scared of his cold exterior. You have to understand that Leopold has had a hard time." I had to hold back a laugh at that. What about being a prince could be difficult? "Being the second son of a king can be challenging. Hector was trained from birth to be a king. He has always been praised and fawned over. The people love him and he is amazing at what he does. Being the second boy is like being a spare tire. He is there if something goes wrong with the first but will never be capable of everything the original tire was. He was not constructed to be as strong or have as much integrity. For this reason Leopold has somewhat sabotaged himself. He has rebelled against laws and pushed boundaries trying to see how much it takes for people to take notice, knowing he won't actually be punished because of his status. He cannot be normal because even though he was not born to be king he is still a royal and must live a royal life. Now put yourself in his place, feeling bored and useless and then all of a sudden the tire pops and you have to take its place and carry the weight of the car. Suddenly Leopold was thrust into Hector's position, a position that he was never made for, and the people reject him. Imagine how that feels."

"So what am I in this analogy?"

Phillipa smiled, "I'm not sure. I didn't really get that far. Just understand that you are here to distract the people while Leopold tries to catch up to Hector's level of excellence or at least until they accept him for whom he is. So please, don't leave, give my brother a chance. You don't have to marry him or even see him for that matter, our house is huge after all. Just stay so that Leopold has a chance to get comfortable in his new role and so that my family can heal from all of the damage that has been done."

"Don't worry," I told her, "I was going to stay. I came all this way to help out and even if it is Leopold instead of Hector, I intend to do what I came here for."

Phillipa suddenly pitched forward and wrapped her thin arms around me. "I'm so glad you are finally here. Thank you so much. We are going to be great friends, I know it."



































Chapter Three

I couldn't fall asleep that night, even after Phillipa had left. Jetlag seemed to be holding me in its grasp. Plus the fact that I was supposed to have called my parents when I landed was clawing at me.

With a sigh, I pushed back my marshmallow like blankets and decided to go in search of a phone. I stuffed my feet into my slippers and padded over to the door. I froze with my fingers on the handle as I heard noises coming from the hall.

I smiled, thinking that I was in luck and that Angela was outside my door and could direct me to a phone, despite the fact that it was three in the morning. Unfortunately, when I threw open the door; it was not my petite French maid, but a very tall man with a shock of copper hair staggering down the hall. He was well over six feet, dressed in a pair of giant boots, ripped jeans and a military jacket. There where a pair of aviators shoved up his nose, pieces of the strange copper hair falling between his face and the lenses and silver glinted at the man's throat. Fumes of alcohol and smoke rolled off of him. We stood there, starring at each other for a moment, me in complete shock and fear, him swaying unevenly on his feet.

Something seemed to click in his drink-stooped mind because he grimaced at me and then continued on his way, disappearing behind the door at the end of the hall.

I slammed my door shut and ran for the bed, hiding under the covers. My parents would have to wait. There was no way I was going back out there while that man was wandering about. Where was my knight in shining armor when I needed him or, at the very least, M. Arsnault? Someone would be hearing about this.

"So do you speak any French?" asked Phillipa around a piece of bacon the next morning. Angela had appeared in my room early and had stuffed me into a skirt and blouse. I had followed her, semiconscious, down the hall only to arrive at a dinning room. The entire royal family was there already, minus one.

I swallowed my bite of muffin, "Un petit peu. Only what I learned in school. I understand a lot more as long as you don't speak too fast."

"M. Arsnault will have to make arrangements," noted Beatrice cryptically.

"Please tell us about you, Fred," said Felip warmly, glancing at me over his reading glasses.

"There isn't much to tell. I'm originally from Forks, Washington but moved when I was young to live in Arizona with my mother. My favorite subjects are Biology and English. I have a pet fish," I offered unsure of what they wanted to hear. Felip chuckled lightly.

"Do you play any sports?" wondered Hector throwing in his two cents.

"Not really. I used to dance when I was really young and I do a bit of track."

"Do you play any instruments?" asked Beatrice.

I shook my head, "Sorry, but I've heard I can sing okay."

"How about cars, any interest?" demanded Hector.

"My friend back home is really into auto stuff and I actually go riding with him sometimes."

Phillipa choked on her orange juice. "You can ride motorbikes?" she glanced at Hector, grinning broadly. "Excellent!"

It was like I was being interviewed or playing on a game show. I was a little stressed though because I didn't know what answers they were looking for. I half expected a knight to come crashing in and pull me to the dungeon if I answered incorrectly.

The dinning room door flew open suddenly and the man from the hall last night stumbled in. I repressed a yelp. He was wearing pajama pants and a t-shirt that showed off his lean, yet impressive muscle. His face was scrunched, squinting against the light. Everyone but Felip rose to their feet when he entered. The man ignored them, collapsing in the empty chair on Felip's right, beside Hector, and seized the cup off coffee that was placed before him by a nervous maid.

"Bon matin, Leopold," Felip said making me freeze. A flash of terror suddenly ripped through me. The drunken man from the hallway last night was the prince, Leopold, my betrothed? I swallowed thickly, not so hungry anymore. What had I gotten myself into?

"Are you excited?" asked Phillipa beside me.

"Pardon?"

"We have a lot to do today. I have to help you prepare for the TV appearance tomorrow, and we have to see Mme. DuBeche about your clothes, and…"

"I think that it would be appropriate for Leopold to become acquainted with Winifred," interrupted Felip.

Beatrice nodded enthusiastically beside her husband, "There will be plenty of time for your lessons later Phillipa. Rose has not even arrived yet."

"But - " Phillipa protested. Felip shot her a glance silencing her, "Leopold?"

Leopold stared into his mug, his voice thick when he answered, "D'accord. Meet me at your chambre dans dix minutes." He downed the rest of his coffee and slumped out of the room, the others standing in his wake.

I was left very confused and frightened. I think that I had just been signed up to spend the morning with a hung over prince. Before I could protest, Angela appeared at my elbow and led me back to my room. She left me standing in the middle of the Persian carpet, disappearing into my closet. The maid emerged from its depths a few moments later handing me a pair of white, skinny pants, tall boots, and a blue, long sleeve shirt. I put them on unquestioningly. Angela had probably been informed about what was going on, unlike me. The Prince could be kidnapping me for all I know and I was pretty sure that no one could stop him even if he did. Was it even legal to arrest royalty?

There was a knock on my door. Angela answered it, curtsied and exchanged a few words rapidly in French with the person on the other side. Then, to me, "Mademoiselle, le Prince Leopold est ici pour vous."

The nervousness grew inside me as I approached the door. I curtsied briefly, awkwardly. Leopold was wearing clothes very similar to mine but completely black. He had his sunglasses on again. Leopold pursed his lips and then turned on his heel down the hall, leaving me to catch up.

I followed him wordlessly, fidgeting nervously with the sleeves of my sweater. We passed though endless hallways, staircases and doors. Every time we passed someone in the hall they would scurry out of the way, bowing or curtsying and avoiding eye contact. It was strange and almost eerie. Finally, we broke through a door and we were outside. There was a man in front of us holding onto the reigns of two giant beasts.

My eyes flew open and I stopped mid-stride. Things began to click into place, the clothes and the giant beast horses in front of me, Prince Leopold wanted me to go riding; he was trying to kill me. I started to back up, looking around nervously. I wondered if I could back out now and go back to hide in my marshmallow bed. The guards at the door shot me dubious glances along with the horse guy. How could he be standing so close to those monsters? I had seen the shows on the Discovery Channel. The one's with all of the crazy, wild horses that bit and kicked and attacked people.

I guess Leopold realized that I had stopped following him because he stopped too and turned to face me. "Est-ce qu'il y a un problème?" he asked sharply.

I was too afraid to respond. I guess he thought it was a language barrier thing because he tried again in heavily accented, broken English, "Is a problem?"

"Yes, is a big problème," I said finding my voice, "There is no way I am going to get on one of those – those vicious beasts."

Leopold tilted his head in confusion, "Les cheveaux?"

I nodded.

"I promise, they will not hurt you," he assured.

I shook my head and took another step back, "No way José."

Leopold sighed, pinching his lips together, rubbing the back of his neck in frustration, "Alors rest ici, it causes me no pain." He turned on his heel, seized the reigns from the crazy horse guy and mounted the black beast fluidly.

Fury grew inside me. How could he be so mean and arrogant? Clearly, Phillipa had a warped perception of her brother. I huffed and marched forwards towards the giant brown horse. The one left unoccupied. I would show him.

I put my foot into the stirrup and pulled myself up into the saddle. The horse man handed me the reigns and I thanked him, smiling brightly on top of my horse. This wasn't so bad.

Leopold sighed and nudged his horse with his heels. It started walking towards the woods on the far side of the expansive garden. I copied his actions, nudging my own horse that began trudging after Leopold's. I smiled, "Good monster, nice monster." This wasn't so bad; the swaying motion was nice even.

Leopold looked over his shoulder at me and I grinned smugly. I could do this. I nudged my horse again, urging him faster. What I wasn't expecting was my horse to take off like a speeding bullet. I screamed, the reigns slipping from my hands.

"Ahhh, isn't there a middle speed?" I yelled, clinging to the beast's neck. We shot past Leopold who did a double take, his mouth opening slightly. He was the one frozen in shock now.

My horse came to the tree line but didn't stop. He darted between the giant trunks, the world blurring past. "Ahhhh, stop, stop. Arrête!" I ordered. I don't think the bloody horse new French or English though because he just kept going.

We broke though the trees again and I found myself in an expansive field, full of long grass and bright flowers. "Somebody help me!" I yelled.

Something rushed past my right shoulder suddenly, a giant black blur. I turned my head and found Leopold on his own monster riding at break neck speed beside me. Was he crazy? We were going to be killed. Then Solis would be down one prince, a stolen ex-princess and two crazy horses.

Leopold stuck his hand out, grapping hold of the reigns I had dropped and pulled hard. My horse began to slow down. When we finally stopped, I jumped out of the saddle and onto the ground. I stood there shaking, my heart beating franticly. Leopold jumped down to, running over to me.

"Are you hurt?" he demanded taking hold of my shoulders. I shook, and then surprising us both, wrapped my arms around his neck, "Thank you so much!" Leopold cleared his throat, and I backed up awkwardly. "Ahh, sorry," I mumbled looking at my shoes.

"It's fine. Are you positive you are not harmed?" he asked sounding worried.

"Yes, I'm fine, just a little rattled. Where did you learn to ride like that?"

Leopold shrugged looking away, "We are far from the chateau. If I am to have you back to Phillipa, we must leave immediately. Do you trust me?"

For some reason I found myself nodding.

"I think, perhaps, that it would be bad to put you on your horse again. Will you ride with me?"

"Alright, I guess," I said cautiously joining him beside his black horse.

"Her name is Jacqueline," he told me, "She is very soft."

I think he meant gentle.

Leopold took my hand in his, stroking Jacqueline's neck. "There, see, she is nice."

Leopold left me there, beside his horse and went over to my crazy brown one. It was munching on some grass innocently. Leopold took the reigns again, fastening them to the saddle and then hit the horse across the ass. The beast took off like a bat out of hell.

"He knows how to get home," he offered as explanation. I could have cared less if it never found its way back.

Leopold jumped up into the saddle and then, offering me his hand, pulled me up behind him. "You should hold on, yes," he said. I wrapped my arms around his center then we began to move. I cringed, waiting for the rush of wind again, but it never came. I sighed happily, resting my head on Leopold's shoulder. He froze for a moment but then relaxed back into the saddle. I guess my knight in shinning armor had finally revealed himself, just in a very different form than I had expected.

I was sitting in some sort of living room, waiting for Phillipa. Angela had whisked me away the moment I returned, forced me into new clothes that didn't smell of horse and then brought me here. Apparently it was time for my education to begin.

The door suddenly opened. I rose to my feet automatically. A beautiful blond woman walked in, making my self-esteem drop about ten notches. She was absolutely stunning, with her golden waves, pale skin, bright blue eyes, and perfect body. She frowned when she saw me.

"Bonjour."

"Umm, hi," I replied utterly confused.

Her face softened, a smile tugging at her full, red lips. "You must be Winifred. I am Rose." She held out her hand, which I shook.

"It's nice to meet you. Are you here for princess lessons too?" I asked confused. Maybe she was the spare, someone to fill in if I failed.

"Yes. I was told that I had tome come and learn how to behave properly when I am out with Hector's family. I have to learn how to behave like a prince's fiancée."

I balked, dropping her hand. Fiancée? I thought that I had been asked here because there was a lack of fiancées. Why would Hector have renounced the throne with her on his arm? Rose would have made a great queen. She definitely looked the part.

We sat on the plush couches across from one another. "Where did you learn to speak English so well," I asked curiously, noting the clear and crisp English.

Rose blushed, looking down. "My parents own the bakery in the old town. I am used to having to speak with the tourists."

I nodded, "That's cool. My dad's a police chief and my mom's a kindergarten teacher."

"Have you met Leopold yet?" she asked, voice darkening.

"Yes, I went riding with him this morning."

"Please be careful around him. I haven't known Leopold for long, but he is a dark boy. I urge you to be cautious."

The door burst open and Phillipa rushed in, hands full of papers. Rose and I started to stand but she waved us off. Phillipa dropped her papers on the coffee table and then stood back, clapping her hands together. "Alright ladies I would like to welcome you to what, for lack of better term, we are calling Princess Lessons. I am going to be your main teacher but other members of the family and staff will join us when necessary. Unfortunately, Rose, our schedule will be focusing around what Winifred is required to know."

I raised my hand. "Yes Winifred," Phillipa said.

"I actually prefer to be called Fred. I didn't want to say anything before."

"No, you don't. You will be addressed by your full name. That will be our first rule. Only those close to you may call you 'Fred'." I shrunk back into my seat.

"Now there is a lot of information I must give you in a short time. I do not expect perfection because of this but please do your best. Today we are stating with the basics because you are appearing on the TV for an interview."

I raised my hand again, "Will I have to speak French?"

"There will be a translator and the majority of the questions will be directed at Leopold," she assured. "Now let's start with introductions. As I said before, you will be introduced with your full title. People are named in the order of their importance, highest ranking being first. This is also the order you will enter a room in. You may never touch a member of the royal family unless they offer their hand first. Then you are free to shake. Never speak unless spoken to. You must address a person of higher ranking with their title first and thereafter my call them Sir or Ma'am. If you were introduced to King Bellamy for example, he may say 'hello' and extend his hand you are then free to shake and respond, 'Hello, Your Majesty' or 'Your Royal Highness'. If you are being introduced to a man, he should kiss your knuckles. Clear?"

Rose and I starred back at her, a little stunned. I felt like I should be taking notes or something.

"Unfortunately, we do not have enough time today to talk about protocol around the Castle, or interaction with the Royal family because I must get Winifred to her appointment with Mme. DeBeche but I will tell you basic rules about being in public with your partner.

"In the eyes of the law the two of you are beneath my brothers and because you have no official union there are specific rules to abide by. Winifred, you are actually a little different because your betrothal through the ancients but we will not get that deep today. The important things to remember in public are that: you must always walk two paces behind the Princes, you may never touch unless they initiate it, you must not be the first to speak but can say whatever you want once introduced and that if you are meeting your partner, you must curtsy or bow your head.

"Both of you are currently protected from mass media exposure through a newly instated privacy act but if there are ever any security issues or problematic paparazzi, please follow the directions of your security team or Leopold or Hector."

"These are the basics and things will get more hands on and technical as we continue," Phillipa finished. I was frozen on my seat agape. Phillipa stepped forward and scooped up the papers again, "Rose, I think Hector is meeting you in the Salon Vert. Winifred please follow me." The small princess danced out of the room leaving me running to catch up.

By the end of the day I was exhausted. Mme. DeBeche, as it turns out, was in charge of clothing me. She and Phillipa had spent three hours measuring, taking-in, letting out and designing the wardrobe that I was going to need. Between my lack of sleep the night before, my near death, Princess Lessons, and Barbie Fred time, I was pooped and fell asleep the second my head hit the pillow.

The black car was back and I, along with M. Arsnault, was in it. I was beginning to see a pattern here. This morning was my television debut. I had been woken up early by Angela (another pattern that was emerging) and taken to eat breakfast, alone this time. Then I was put into a beautiful light blue silk dress, had my makeup done and my hair curled to perfection. M. Arsnault appeared at my door and led me through the labyrinth to the car.


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