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The Trouble You Can Cause When You're Underestimated

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Alexandria stepped outside. The house was full of people she didn’t really know and or care to know and she needed a break. It wasn’t really her scene. Even if she had grown up in the world of the upper class, she never felt like she fit in there. She had gotten to talk to the Prince for a short while and she would be lying if she said that she hadn’t had a crush on him growing up.

He was handsome, in a way. And thirteen years older than her. He dated her cousin for a time. He dated a lot of women from the aristocracy for a time. Never for long and always ended things before the women got any ideas about him being serious. Alexandria was almost grateful that she was so much younger - she was easy to look over because she was just the younger cousin tagging along, the daughter of an earl and that was all anyone needed to know or cared to know.

She liked it that way. No one had expectations for her, except to marry well. But at nineteen, no one in her life were pushing her too much on that. Her mother would occasionally ask about potential suitors, but Alexandria didn’t see much of a reason to humor her. She had left them shortly after Soleil was born, running off with her boyfriend and leaving Alexandria to help her dad raise her siblings.

Maybe that was why Alexandria was a kindergarten helper. Her father didn’t think it important to nurture her education, had laughed like it was a joke when she had brought up the topic of University and told her that it was her looks that was going to get her married, not her brain. But Alexandria hadn’t wanted to be like the other girls she grew up with so she had decided to get a job and she hadn’t been qualified for much. But she knew kids and she knew how to talk and relate to them. It made her feel like she was making a difference and she didn’t care if others found it odd.

She was brought out of her thoughts by the doors to the balcony opening.

“His Royal Highness was wondering where you went,” a voice said, “he asked me to look for you.”

“I just needed some air,” Alexandria replied, “The largest crowd I’m usually around are my kids.”

“Pardon?”

“I’m a kindergarten helper,” Alexandria explained, “I… I don’t really know why I came tonight. These kinds of things aren’t really my scene.”

“His Royal Highness is glad you decided to come,” the woman responded, “He’s taken quite a liking to you.”

“Really?” she couldn’t help the confusion that slipped into her voice, “Thank you for letting me know, umm.. Sorry, I didn’t catch your name.”

“Mrs. Tyson Barrie,” the woman replied with a small smile, “His Royal Highness and I have been...friends for a long time.”

“It’s nice to meet you, Mrs. Barrie,” Alexandria nodded, “I’ll be back in shortly.”

“Come find Nate,” Tyson smiled.

Alexandria nodded and pushed it out of her head as she looked back over the grounds of the Tavares estate.

Usually Michelle would be there with her, pulling her around and making her feel comfortable. But Michelle had decided to go to Toronto for University, wanting to put as much distance between her and this life as she could. She had started going by Mitchie and had apparently met a Maple Leaf player that she was quite smitten with. She was enjoying life the way any nineteen year old should. And Alexandria was happy for her, she just missed her terribly.

She sighed and pushed away from the balcony before heading inside.

“Lady Alexandria,” the Prince smiled as she approached, “where have you been?”

“I just needed some air,” she replied.

“I don’t usually see you at these things without Marner with you.”

“She’s decided to go to University,” Alexandria replied.

“Really?” Nathan huffed out a laugh, “Never pictured her as the type.”

“She’s smarter than she lets people believe she is.”

“And what about you? Are you considering University?”

“I wasn’t given that option.”

“Alexandria,” Morgan approached her, tipping his head respectfully to the Prince, “your car is here.”

“Thank you, Morgan,” she replied, looping her arm through his so he could escort her outside.

“I’ll escort you,” Nathan stepped forward, handing his champagne flute off to one of his friends.

Morgan looked hesitant but dropped her arm and gave her a look as Nathan looped her arm through his and led them toward the door.

“Are you sure you want to leave so early?” Nathan asked, “I would love for you to stick around.”

“I can’t, Your Highness,” she replied, “my sister has a tennis match in the morning that I promised to attend.”

“I suppose that’s a valid excuse.”

“Have a good evening, Your Highness,” she nodded her thank you as the valet opened the door.

“Call me Nate,” he replied.

“That seems a little too familial.”

Nate huffed out a laugh before saying, “I hope to see you soon, Lady Alexandria.”

“Good evening, Your Highness.”

The valet shut the door and the car pulled away from the curb.

“So,” Tyson asked as she approached Nate, “what do you think? Will she do?”

“She’s certainly pretty enough,” Nate replied, “she’s never dated anyone. Young. Doesn’t seem all that bright.”

“Young and dim,” Tyson smiled, “perfect to mold into a future queen.”

“My mother would certainly approve.”

“She would,” Tyson nodded while Nate wrapped his arms around her waist.

“Is your husband waiting for you at home?” he asked.

“No,” she smirked, “he’s gone on business for the weekend. Come over.”

Nate kissed her and took her hand, leading her to where his driver was waiting.

+

He had known it was going to be bad when his mother’s personal aide had been the one to show up at Tyson’s to summon him to the Palace. And he may be thirty-two, but his mother was the Queen of England and it would just get worse if he didn’t respond immediately.

He kissed Tyson good-bye and told her that he would call before heading to the Palace.

As soon as he sat down, tabloid after tabloid was tossed on the desk in front of him, the cover of each displaying photo after photo of Nate with various women and headlines along the lines of “Playboy Prince Needs A Lady”.

“Nathan,” Queen Erika sighed, leaning forward, “this behavior was fine when you were younger, but you’re thirty-two years old and it is no longer acceptable. It’s time for you to find an acceptable lady and settle down.”

“I did find someone.”

“That someone is married.”

“I’m well aware, mother.”

“Our popularity has been in decline over the years and your… philandering doesn’t help. Your wife will be the future queen and it would be very helpful if the public liked her. She should be elegant but personable. Smart, but not too smart. Someone we can easily mold into the perfect Royal. And, above all, pure. She can have no past, Nathan.”

“There…” Nate replied slowly, “there may be one possibility.”

“Who?”

“The eldest daughter of Earl Kerfoot, Alexandria.”

“The Kerfoots are a good family,” the Queen nodded, “Alexandria is certainly an ideal candidate.”

“Do you think she would be keen?”

“Why wouldn’t she?” the Queen replied, “You’re the Crown Prince of England.”

‘Because this has to be the worst job in England,’ Nate thought to himself.

“Besides,” the Queen continued, “her family has been grooming her to marry well since the day she was born.”

“She would fit the part remarkably well.”

“You dated your cousin, did you not?”

“Not for long,” he replied, “she started running her mouth to the press.”

“Stupid of her.”

“Alexandria is nothing like her. She’s shy and doesn't seek out attention. I don’t think this is something she would want.”

“What’s not to want?” his mother countered, “She’ll be adored by the English people, she’ll have her own staff, everything she ever wanted. She’ll be the pride and joy of our country and go down in our history.”

“A Royal Wedding would be good press,” Nate replied with a nod, “And she’s a kindergarten helper. They’ll see her as one of them.”

“Make it happen, Nathan.”

“Yes, mother.”

“Dismissed.”

Nate nodded and stood, bowing before leaving her study.

+

The process of courting Lady Alexandria was eased by the fact that her parents and stepparents never gave her the chance to turn him down. There was always a parent or aunt or cousin or uncle around when Nathan would call that would push Alexandria to accept. He kept the dates discrete - private dining rooms, in through the back doors - but could only keep that up for a month.

The press had sniffed out that his newest girl was most likely Alexandria and he decided that the best course of action was to take her on a public outing to the symphony - a charity performance of Bach’s greatest works that was on the Social Calendars for anyone who was anyone in English society. He had never taken any of his other girls to an event like that so it was bound to spread like wildfire. It seemed like the quickest way to spread the news.

Nate called her as the gift he sent was due to arrive. A diamond necklace that was sure to turn heads and send the desired message.

“Did my surprise arrive?” he asked, putting on his cufflinks as he cradled the phone against his shoulder.

“Yes, it’s… lovely,” Alexandria replied, sounding appropriately awed.

“Good,” Nate grinned, “I’ll pick you up at seven.”

“I’ll see you then.”

He set the phone back down on the receiver and said, “She really is the perfect candidate.”

“I told she would be,” Tyson replied from where she was lounging on the bed.

“I think she’ll need a little help,” Nate continued, “I would love for you to assist her. Be her guiding hand.”

“Should be easy enough,” Tyson waved a hand, “I spoke to a friend of her stepmother, she said that Alexandria has always been eager to please.”

“I was a little worried, inviting her to this event. She has the music taste of a teenage girl.”

“Nate,” Tyson laughed, “she IS a teenage girl. That’s part of the reason we chose her.”

“Have you heard of this ‘Duran Duran’ group?” Nate placed his hands on her hips as she tied his tie for him.

“They’re fairly popular,” Tyson replied, placing a hand on his cheek, “but not my taste.”

“She loves them. She actually asked me if I wanted to go to a rock concert with her.”

“That’s not going to happen,” Tyson laughed, “She’s still learning.”

“And you will make an excellent teacher for her.”

“But not too good,” Tyson smiled, “can’t have you preferring her over me.”

“Never.”

Nate kissed her and she laughed, pulling him back in by his tie when he pulled away.

+

“I hate Bach,” Alexandria lamented, pulling out another formal black dress, “and these types of events period. Even before I was going on the prince’s arm.”

“You could have said no,” Morgan reminded her from where he was lounging on her couch.

“Ha!” Alexandria replied going back into her closet, “Right. You try saying no when he’s asking you, in person, in front of your mother.”

Morgan winced at that. He had to give the prince credit, he had orchestrated this relationship perfectly. And Morgan was more than a little concerned for her.

“What about this one?” Alexandria asked, stepping out of the closet in a floor length navy dress, long-sleeved and showing a little too much shoulder but was made appropriate by the white shawl.

“You look wonderful,” Morgan replied.

“Do I need gloves for this, do you think?”

“No.”

If Morgan was going to say anything else, it was cut off by the family’s valet knocking on the door and entering with a box.

“This arrived for you, just now, Lady Alexandria.”

He handed the box over and left. And when Alexandria opened it, she gasped.

Nestled on the velvet was an extravagant diamond necklace that looked like it belonged in a museum.

‘Something that shines as bright as you, Nathan,’ read the note.

“Bloody hell,” Morgan gasped when he saw it.

He continued to stare wide-eyed at it as the phone rang. And kept staring at it as she lied through her teeth about being excited for the concert.

“Morgan!” she snapped her fingers in front of his face and got his attention back, “Can you help me put it on?”

“You’re actually going to wear this thing?” he asked, staring at her with wide eyes.

“He asked me to and I couldn’t exactly tell him no,” Alexandria replied, turning around and needing to re-steady herself as she felt the weight of the necklace for the first time.

“Well,” Morgan replied when she turned around, “you certainly look the part.”

And Alexandria found she couldn’t argue with that.

+

The photos from the Event start off a firestorm. And what started as one pap following her turned into three turned into a mob of them.

It got so bad that she could barely go to the shop on the corner for groceries and on some days, the school called her to tell her not to come in - that there are too many media members outside the school and that it wouldn’t be safe for her or the children.

They would yell things at her, trying to provoke, trying to get any reaction that would allow them to sell the photos for more than they would if she didn’t react.

“How does it feel being the Prince’s new Girl Of The Week?”

“Can see why he likes you.”

“You’re the hottest one by far!”

“Give us a smile, Lady A!”

“God only knows how long you’ll last!”

“Smile for me, baby.”

“Are you a virgin?”

“Prince Nathan finally got it right with you!”

She would get called a bitch if she ignored them, they would say she was too stuck up. That she needed to learn to accept them if she was going to marry the prince. And she didn’t even know if she wanted to marry the prince. Even though that was clearly the road she was heading down. If she didn’t pull off of it soon…

It finally crescendoed and she ended up locking herself in a phone booth, desperately trying to get ahold of Nathan as the paparazzi swarmed outside and blinded her with their camera flashes.

“Nathan,” she pleaded into his voicemail, “please! I… They won’t go away. I can’t get home and I’m scared!”

She hung up the phone and closed her eyes, trying to get her breathing and emotions under control. She would not let them see her breakdown.

She didn’t register the whistle until the rapping on the booth got louder and more insistent.

“My Lady,” a muffled voice called, knocking on the phone booth again, “I was sent to fetch you.”

Alexandria spun around and relief flooded her when she recognized one of the royal family’s personal guards. She opened the door and let him usher her to the waiting care, removing her hat to shield her face so the photographers couldn’t get their shot.

She didn’t even process that she was being driven to the palace until the car was through the gates.

“Please extend my thank you to Nathan,” Alexandria said as the car door was opened for her, “But, I don’t mean to sound ungrateful, but I have work tomorrow and I need to go back to my flat.”

“Unfortunately, you won’t be able to tonight,” the man informed her, “the Queen is ordering security to be increased around your flat. I will take you home tomorrow once we are sure it’s safe.”

“Well, at least Nathan got my messages.”

“The prince has not been home today.”

“But -”

“A servant heard one of the messages you left and passed it along. The queen sent me to come get you.”

“It wasn’t Nathan?”

“He has been with...a friend.”

“Well,” Alexandria replied, “pass my thank you on to the Queen, then.”

“As you wish, my Lady.”

“You don’t need to call me that,” Alexandria replied with a soft smile, “My name is -”

“Alexandria.”

“You know mine but I don’t know yours.”

“Tyson. Jost. My friends call me Josty so as not to confuse me with Mrs. Barrie. She is often around so it makes things easier,” Tyson offered his arm, “May I escort you up to the room the Queen had set up for you for the night?”

“Yes, please,” she replied, “I have only been here a handful of times and it’s easy for one to get lost.”

They walked through the halls in silence until they reached a bedroom the size of her flat.

Tyson left her there with a bow and Alexandria stared after him for a moment before entering the room. She looked around, moving toward the wardrobe and opened it, looking at the dresses hanging inside. They were clearly meant for someone and Alexandria wondered if this was the princess’ room.

“They’re for you,” a voice made her jump.

She spun around and found the Queen’s sister standing in the doorway.

“Sorry to scare you, dove,” she replied, eyes shining mischievously, “my sister has had this room set aside for you for some time. Since it became clear that Nathan had chosen you.”

“Choose me?”

“Yes, dear,” she stepped into the room, “you must know.”

“I… I’ve just never heard it said out loud.”

“You don’t sound as excited as many others would in your position.”

“He spends a lot of time with his friends,” Alexandria responded, “One in particular.”

“He has many friends, every king does. What matters is that his queen rises above it. There’s a nightgown in the dresser. Have a good night, Lady Alexandria.”

Alexandria stood there blinking as the door was shut and she was left alone.

+

She changed into the nightgown and paced the room. Sometime while she had been in the shower, someone had apparently returned from her flat because there was a suitcase of personal items and her dog sitting on the bed.

Coconut had eagerly greeted her and was now gnawing on a bone while laying on one of the chaise lounges in the room. She glanced at the clock and grabbed the phone, dialing the familiar number and hoping she wasn’t interrupting anything.

“Hello,” Michelle’s familiar voice washed over her and she felt a flood of relief.

“Michelle,” she grinned.

“I’ve told you, Allie, it’s Mitchie now,” the other girl lightly corrected, her familiar accent seeping back in. The accent that had slipped away from her the more time she spent in Canada.

“How’s university?”

“Calc is kicking my ass,” Mitchie replied, “but after this semester, I’m done with math.”

“That’s great.”

“What’s wrong?”

“Nothing’s wrong.”

“Allie, I’m in Canada, not on another planet. I see the tabloids.”

“You see those.”

“You’re a hit. They love you.”

“But I don’t know if Nathan loves me.”

“You still have time to pull out of this, Allie.”

“I...I love him.”

“Oh, Allie.”

“Am I stupid?”

“Of course not.”

“Because I feel like the universe is giving me all these signs that I should run away from him but then he looks at me and he smiles and I don’t want to run away anymore.”

“....Be careful, Allie,” Mitchie replied cautiously, “we grew up in that world. You know that that family only looks out for themselves. And they’re just as likely to protect you as they are to throw you to the wolves. Right now, you’re good press for them. Watch your back if that changes.”

“I know.”

“If you need to escape, my dorm room is always open to you.”

“And that boy you’re seeing?”

“Auston is everything Little Michelle dreamed about,” Mitchie replied breezily, “and he has a friend who is everything Little Alexandria dreamed about.”

“Prince Nathan is who Little Alexandria dreamed about,” Alexandria corrected.

“Only because her family made her,” Mitchie’s eye roll could be heard through the phone and hundreds of miles away, “but the Little Alexandria who I would sneak out of parties with always dreamed about a very different kind of prince charming to come save her. One who cared about her interests and who loved her for who she was and not because she was a pretty face who came from good breeding.”

“Mitchie.”

“Sorry,” Mitchie replied, “Auston got me glass seats for their game the other night. Dylan and Connor didn’t like that much, harder to protect than a private suite but….”

“How are they adjusting?”

“Oh, my God,” Mitchie cackled, “I thought Connor was going to tackle a frat boy on our first day on campus. He was coming up to the car to see if he could help move my stuff up and Connor did not react well.”

Connor and Dylan’s families had been protecting Mitchie’s family for generations, they both had older brothers charged with Mitchie’s older brother’s protection.

“So being a normal nineteen year old is going well?”

“I wish you were here with me, Allie. It feels weird not having you right here.”

“I miss you, too, Mitchie.”

“Call me more, okay? Anytime. It’ll be a nice break from all this homework.”

+

Eating breakfast with Queen Erika and Prince Gabriel was not how Alexandria expected her morning to go. And yet she had been awake for less than ten minutes when Josty knocked on the doors and informed her that her presence at breakfast was being requested.

She rushed through making herself presentable and pulled on the teal dress that wasn’t her style but was still appropriate. It was nice, complimented her skin tone, but looked like something her mother would wear.

When she entered the dining room, the royal couple were already seated and clearly waiting for her.

“I’m sorry to keep you waiting,” she apologized, curtseying before taking the seat that was clearly meant for her.

“It’s no problem, dear,” the Queen smiled warmly, “you had quite the trying ordeal and we weren’t sure if you were awake yet.”

Alexandria noticed the Mirror sitting on the table next to the Queen’s elbow, a photo of her hiding in the phone booth and trying to keep her face hidden blown up on the front cover.

“Thank you,” Alexandria said as a plate was set in front of her, “for sending Mr. Jost to come get me. I… I don’t know what I would have done if he hadn’t come.”

“I’ll be giving you my personal assistant’s number should it ever happen again,” the older woman replied, “Nathan can not always be relied on to be home by a decent hour.”

“I suppose he’s rather busy,” she looked down at her eggs, “I… I didn’t know who else to call.”

“Perhaps we should send young Mr. Jost with you back to your flat this morning,” Prince Gabriel responded, “He’ll be able to keep an eye on you, make sure you’re safe.”

“That’s not necessary,” she replied, “perhaps if I just request -”

“You cannot request they stop following you,” the Queen replied, “we have a precarious relationship with the Press. We let them get their photo and they’re happy. Mr. Jost will ensure that you do not get put into dangerous situations because of the photographers again.”

“How is your uncle doing?” the Prince asked, “I was supposed to see him on a hunting trip the other week, however he had to cancel at the last minute, feeling under the weather.”

“He’s recovered and pheasants everywhere wish he weren’t,” she replied.

“Splendid. Have you ever joined him? He’s got the best shot I’ve ever seen and I would hope he passed it along to someone.”

“He tried but my mother threw a fit. Said it wasn’t proper. But he would still teach me when she wasn’t at the estate.”

“Sounds about right for him. He’s a good man. We served together in the Navy.”

“Yes, he speaks very fondly of you, sir.”

Prince Gabriel beamed in response.

The rest of breakfast passed quickly and then she was on her way back to her flat, Josty with her and Coconut sticking her head out of the window. She couldn’t shake the feeling that she wouldn’t be home for long.

+

“You asked to see me, mother,” Nathan said as he entered the Queen’s study.

“You didn’t come home last night,” she responded, “Lady Alexandria got mobbed by the paparazzi last night. Lord knows how long she was stuck in that phone booth until one of the maids overheard one of the undoubtedly many voicemails she left for you and alerted Joe. She stayed here last night so we could increase security measures in and around her flat. She knows you didn’t come home last night because she had breakfast with us. She surmised that you were with a friend. Am I to assume it was Mrs. Barrie you were with?”

“Mother -”

“Nathan, you need to make your decision. Mrs. Barrie is out of the question and you have a young lady who would be perfect for the role waiting for you to pull the trigger and ask her to marry you. It’s been long enough.”

“Mother -”

“Enough excuses. You have a duty. And duty comes before happiness. Thus is our burden.”

“I want to be in love with the woman I propose to.”

“Nathan, the woman you’re in love with is married to a British officer in the army. Either propose to Alexandria and end things with Alexandria and find a suitable replacement.”

“....Were you in love with father when you married?”

“I was,” she nodded, “He wasn’t the man of my dreams, but I liked him enough. And I knew that he would be the perfect partner for me once it would be time for me to take the throne. And over time that like grew into love.”

“What of Tyson? I can’t -”

“Men take other friends in marriages all the time. I don’t know a single man in Society who has not strayed from his marriage bed. As long as you do your job and sire heirs, you can sleep in whoever’s bed you like, so long as it does not result in illegitimate children.”

“You’re not asking, are you?”

“My mother’s ring,” she pushed the small box toward him, “I would recommend a romantic setting.”

Nathan paused, opening his mouth to say something but shut it and took the box, leaving the room, nodding to his father as he passed.

“What was that about?” Prince Gabriel asked, entering the room and kissing his wife’s cheek.

“Nathan will be proposing to Lady Alexandria,” the Queen replied, sitting back down at her desk.

“Really?” Gabriel raised his eyebrows, “And what of Mrs. Barrie?”

“Men have their dalliances,” Erika replied, looking down at the papers in front of her, “Alexandria was raised in our world. She knows the realities of what keeps a marriage working.”

“Erika -”

“Don’t insult me by pretending I don’t know about your friends,” she fixed him with a look, “even if I weren’t the Queen, I would still have known. You were not subtle. But then never was my father nor his father before him.”

Gabriel was silent for a moment before nodding and saying, “I’ll leave you to your matters of state.”

+

Nate knocked on the door of the townhouse, nodding politely as Captain Barrie opened the door.

“You couldn’t wait to see my wife until I leave for Training Supervision tomorrow?” the Captain asked.

“I wouldn’t have come here if it wasn’t important,” Nate replied. He and Tyson rarely met at her house. They had friends who let them borrow flats around London, estates in the country, quarters in Buckingham and Kensington. They didn’t need the house she shared with her husband.

“Nate?” Tyson stepped outside, kissing him in greeting and letting him pull her to the car. As she got in, she asked, “What’s wrong?”

“My mother has decided it is time I propose to Alexandria,” Nate replied, looking down at the ring box in his hand.

“We knew this was coming, Nate,” Tyson smiled softly, “it’s why we picked her. The public will be too distracted by your young and pure wife to care about what we do. You’ll have her to look pretty for the cameras and you’ll have me to speak to about matters of import.”

“And to pleasure, of course,” Nate kissed her neck, “I could never give you up. I would never give up. I would sooner run away with you to Paris, like my great-uncle did with the woman he loved.”

“Propose to Lady Alexandria, Nate,” she laughed lightly, “You will survive needing to deflower her and you will do your duty to ensure you have heirs. And my bed will always be open for you when you’re bored.”

“I shall be in your bed often then.”

Tyson gave a throaty laugh and pulled him in for a kiss as the driver made his way to the closest of the flats they frequented.

+

Nate took Alexandria to the gardens at Kensington to propose, an official Royal Photographer an appropriate distance away to ensure that the photo they wanted was the one printed in the papers.

“I brought you here to ask you something,” Nate started, “are you happy? With me?”

“I’m as happy as I’ve ever been,” Alexandria replied, glancing over at him.

“Good,” Nate nodded, “I suppose we should proceed forward with our relationship.”

“Pardon?”

“I know you’re only…”

“Nineteen.”

“Yes, thank you,” Nate smiled, “I know you’re only nineteen but you have a maturity about you and a grace, an ability to charm others and connect, which is everything our country could want in a future queen. And I was wondering if that would interest you.”

“Are… are you proposing right now?”

“Yes. Was that not clear?”

“To be honest, it’s not the proposal I imagined.”

“Do girls imagine that kind of thing often?”

“Yes, we do,” Alexandria replied, “We imagine a man coming in and sweeping us off our feet. We imagine a proposal filled with words of love and promises of a happy future together.”

“I apologize for the formality of it. I’m not exactly a man comfortable with that kind of flowery language.”

“I don’t expect you to be anyone other than who you are,” Alexandria replied, “I was merely telling you what I imagined as a child.”

“Are you going to accept my proposal?”

“That depends on your answer to my question,” Alexandria responded, “Do you love me?”

Nate paused for a beat before saying, “As much as I can at this moment, and I look forward to growing to love you more. You are everything I could ask for in a wife.”

“Then, yes,” Alexandria replied, “I will marry you.”

Nate smiled, slipped the ring on her finger, and kissed her hand.

And that was the photo plastered across tabloids across the world.

+

Josty was waiting for her outside her flat when she returned.

“I’m meant to help you pack your belongings and bring you to the palace,” Josty told her, “I’ve been assigned as your personal valet, assigned to assist you with anything you need.”

“Where am I to move to?” she asked, “And what about my job?”

“It’s unsafe for you to stay here and the palace has informed the school that you will not be returning due to your new duties as well as concerns about the school’s security measures.”

“I -”

She was cut off by the movers arriving, “I haven’t even had time to pack.”

“We should get you started then.”

“I guess so.”

Packing up her personal life was easier than she thought it would be. She didn’t have as much as she thought she did.

“Are you ready to go, Ma’am?” Josty asked as she took one last look around the now empty flat.

“I guess so,” she replied, sliding her coat on and grabbing her purse before clipping the leash onto Coconut, “Tyson, we’re going to be spending a lot of time together. Please, call me Alexandria when we’re in private.”

“Will do, Alexandria,” he replied.

She smiled softly and walked out of her flat for the last time.

+

“I suppose congratulations are in order,” Mitchie said as soon as she answered the phone, “Had to get your new phone number from Morgan, which at least means that I didn’t have to call your mother, but still. I thought I was your best friend.”

“I’m sorry, Mitchie,” Alexandria replied with a small smile, Mitchie was always much more dramatic than was proper in a woman of her social standing.

“Anyway,” Mitchie continued, “I saw the photo they released. You look lovely in it. He… he looks like Prince Nathan.”

“He’s kind,” Alexandria responded, “and he can be sweet. And he may not love me the way I would like him to, but he promised to try and said that he was looking forward to his affection growing.”

“Honey -”

“I know it’s not my dream, Mitchie, but… Let’s be honest, this was always going to be my life.”

“It didn’t have to be.”

“You’ve meant my family,” Alexandria rolled her eyes, “If I decided to go with you to University, I would be their greatest disappointment.”

“So instead, you’ve spent nineteen years pretending you're not the smartest person in the room.”

“Mitchie.”

“I just want you to be happy.”

“I am happy. As happy as I’ve ever been.”

“That’s not staying much, Allie. This is me you’re talking to, not some mindless socialite or your mother.”

“Right now I’m just thinking about the fact that the unsolicited advice from Mrs. Barrie will pick up now.”

“Ugh,” Mitchie’s face was definitely scrunched up in disgust, “as if she knows anything about class.”

“She seems nice enough,” Alexandria replied, “and I know she and Nathan have been friends since their youth but… she told me on the night of the symphony that Nathan likes clever girls. And she’s been trying to control what I say or wear or read in ways I’m sure she thinks are subtle.”

“You listen to me, Alexandria Kerfoot,” Mitchie’s tone was strict, “you change nothing about yourself to make that woman happy. Prince Nathan picked you before she offered you one piece of ‘advice’ and he’s marrying you. You outclass her in every situation. And you’re young while she’s….not.”

“She’s the same age as the prince, Mitchie.”

“Thirty-two isn’t nineteen, babes,” Mitchie laughed.

“I was going to call soon. I have a question for you.”

“Is it about the wedding night?” Mitchie’s smile was heard through the phone, “Because I’ll have you know, Alexandria, that I am not that kind of girl.”

“Oh, please,” Alexandria rolled her eyes, “I believe you were the one who called me after -”

“Anyway!”

“Will you be my maid of honor?”

“Yes.”

“Thank you. I don’t know who I would have asked if you had said no.”

“Understandable. No one is better than me.”

Alexandria laughed and curled her feet up onto the couch, “Now that that’s over with, what’s going on in your life.”

“I tried going to a party and I thought Connor’s head was going to explode, Dylan has a crush on a guy on my floor so I have not had to go down to the galley for anything because he always offers in case he can run into Alex, Auston is on a goal streak and says it’s because of me, his teammate is still the man of your real dreams - I swear, Allie, I would totally believe that he was part of the Swedish Royal Family if I hadn’t met every member of that family several times. Oh, and Auston said that he loves me.”

“I’m really happy for you, Mitchie.”

“Thank you. And… I’m happy you’re happy. And if you’re ever not happy, you can talk to me about it. I’ve been there for you our whole lives. A little thing like distance isn’t going to stop that.”

“I know, Mitchie,” Alexandria smiled softly, “I’ll let you know dress fitting details.”

“Oh, my god….” Mitchie groaned, “Please don’t put me in some kind of poofy monstrosity.”

“I make no promises.”

+

Nate spent the night before the wedding with Tyson and dreaded the morning.

“It’s not too late to call it all off.”

“It is,” Tyson gently reminded him, “But it doesn’t change anything. You’ll have your beautiful young wife at home when you get tired of me.”

“I will never get tired of you,” Nate replied, “but I suppose I’ll have to go home to her occasionally.”

“Go,” Tyson chuckled, “get ready for your wedding. I’ll see you at the Abbey.”

Nate kissed her once more before he got up and left.

+

“I can’t do this,” Alexandria breathed out, looking at Mitchie with wide eyes, panic and anxiety slowly taking over, “Everyone is going to be looking at me and I haven’t eaten in three days and I think I’m going to faint.”

“The latter might be related to the not eating for three days,” Mitchie responded, “which you and I have talked about in detail several times and you were supposed to call me if those problems started again.”

“It’s just been so busy and… this is my wedding and I didn’t even get to pick out the dress which…” Alexandria glanced over at the dress hanging on the wardrobe, “I’m going to look huge.”

“It’s very…” Mitchie ran her hand down the material, poking at the shoulders a little, “poofy.”

“God, I think I need to throw up.”

Before Mitchie could respond, Alexandria was grabbing the trash bin and doing just that. Mitchie moved quickly to swoop Alexandria’s hair out of the line of fire and rubbed her back.

“If you want to run away, I’ll cause a distraction,” Mitchie offered, “I’ll go to the front of the Abbey and fuckin’ flash the Archbishop of Canterbury or some shit.”

“No,” Alexandria replied, shaking her head, “I’ll be fine, I’m just… nervous.”

“You have every right to be,” Mitchie replied, “the eyes of the world are all fixed on their tellies if they aren’t lining the streets of London.”

“Thank you for reminding me, Michelle.”

“Sorry.”

“But you’re right. They’re all just waiting for me to fail.”

“Most are waiting for you to succeed,” Mitchie gently corrected, removing the bin from her lap, “and they’re right. You’re going to be great at this.”

“I don’t even know what this is!” Alexandria responded, going into the bathroom and brushing her teeth again, “I have no idea what is expected of me.”

“Well, I’m sure popping out heir after heir is part of it,” Mitchie replied, smiling when she got a laugh in response.

“What… I don’t know what to expect tonight and my mother doesn’t think I need to be prepared.”

“Every time you remind me that your mother doesn’t know you, I hate her more,” Mitchie grumbled. Looking over at her, Mitchie sighed and said, “I won’t be much help. Every time Auston and I try to go all the way, my mother’s voice comes blaring in my head screaming about letting some American ruin me for future prospects. But… he’ll be gentle. And… if you don’t feel adequately….prepared, then ask him to...touch you. He should know what that means.”

“Mitchie -”

“The fact that your mother did not think to educate you in these matters…”

Before they could continue, the rest of the Ladies arrived and the room became a swirl of bridal preparations.

Alexandria didn’t know what was expected of her in her new role. And whenever she asked, she was just told not to worry about it, that the English people would love her and she needn’t worry. But she would like to know why they would love, and what she would do to earn that love.

She stared at her reflection as Mitchie pulled the veil over her face and she resolved that she would do whatever it would take to earn their love, just as she would do what it took to earn Nathan’s love. She was smarter than anyone gave her credit for and it was time for her to use her brain.

+

The ceremony breezed past, She only stumbled on her vows once and she omitted the vow to obey - as agreed upon by Nathan and the Queen. She ignored that Nathan’s eyes would occasionally flick over to where Mrs. Barrie was sitting, in the box reserved for family and close friends. She may have stumbled over the massive dress as well but it appeared that Mitchie was the only one who noticed - her amused smile barely hidden by her flowers and Alexandria regretted not making the bridesmaids’ dresses as poofy as they were originally going to be.

Then Nathan was helping her into the carriage to go back to the palace and her dress took up most of the space inside. They waved to the crowds gathered on the streets as they passed and reality crashed down on her. This was her job now - to smile and wave and look adoringly at her husband.

“You really do look beautiful,” Mitchie muttered as they stood to the side while the photographers got set up for the photos and the rest of the family and wedding party milled around.

“Mrs. Barrie was in the box,” Alexandria whispered, “I know they are friends, I know they were lovers, but…. Do you think now that we’re married, he’ll stop seeing her?”

Mitchie bit her lip and she didn’t need to say anything for Alexandria to know the answer to the question.

“If she’s going to continue her affair with him, she shouldn’t have come,” Alexandria replied, “I… I didn’t want her there anyway, but her husband is a Captain and his father is friends with Prince Gabriel, so we had to invite them.”

“If you had it your way, your wedding would have been in that small chapel in the village by your family’s estate in Sussex,” Mitchie replied, her expression turned serious and she said, “Be yourself, and the people will fall in love with you. You’re not just the pretty face on the prince’s arm. You are Lady Alexandria - Princess Alexandria now - and that’s all you need to be. You. And if it gets to be too much, you let me know, or you let Morgan know, and we will get you out of here.”

“You’re my best friend, Mitchie.”

“And you’re mine.”

“We’re ready for photos,” the photographer announced and the room filled quickly.

Photos went by in a blur, as did the reception, and all too soon she was being escorted to her new room - the chambers set up to be hers and Nathan’s rooms - by Mrs. Barrie.

“You looked lovely today,” Tyson told her.

“Thank you,” Alexandria replied, glancing over her shoulder and spotted Mitchie practically asleep on Dylan and shook her head affectionately.

“I wanted to give you some advice,” Tyson continued.

“I think you’ve given me enough advice,” Alexandria responded, Tyson’s comments about Nathan liking clever girls, quiet girls, skinny girls ringing through her head.

“Nate likes to know he’s making a woman feel good when he’s in bed with them,” Tyson breezed over Alexandria’s comment, “Let him do what he wants to do, he likes to be in charge.”

“I really don’t want advice from you on this.”

“Who else would you get it from?”

Alexandria didn’t have a response to that and she was grateful when they arrived at the room. She was less grateful when Tyson followed her inside.

“I got for you and Nate as a little wedding night gift,” the older woman pulled an item out of the wardrobe.

It was a tiny dress in emerald green, sheer with feathers around the bottom and neckline.

“Best to conceive quickly,” Tyson handed the hanger to her and left, “don’t want there to be any doubts about your fitness.”

Alexandria stared at the negligee and sighed. Duchess Claude-Marie Crosby had pulled her aside after several glasses of Champaign - enjoying her first party after giving birth - who told her that sex was super easy, just ‘pretend you’re a toddler and put everything in your mouth’. Alexandria had turned bright red and tried to form a response as Morgan laughed and pulled her away. Mitchie had been too busy laughing to be much help.

She touched the material and hated herself a little as she went into the en suite to change, clearly Tyson expected her to be ready when Nathan arrived and if she expected it it was probably because he expected it. She wished that the older woman had stayed long enough to help her out of the monstrosity of a dress but she managed to get out of it, thanking god that Mitchie had loosened it halfway through the reception.

She felt wrong in the negligee. Every part of her was on display and she hated it. Still, she put on what she hoped would be a seductive smile and arranged herself on the bed.

And when Nathan entered shortly after, he stopped short at the sight of her.

“Tyson told me there was a surprise waiting for me,” Nate approached the bed and removed his tie, and she felt her skin heat up as he looked at her, “I had no idea it would be something this delicious.”

She took a steadying breath as he climbed onto the bed and held himself up over her.

“You’re beautiful,” Nate whispered before kissing her.

+

Nate fell asleep right after, arm wrapped possessively around her waist and snoring loudly.

Alexandria, however, lay awake, facing the windows that looked out over the courtyard - not even a view of the city or of the gardens - and tried to will the tears away. He wasn’t gentle with her and it hurt. It didn’t feel good. She was already sore and knew it would be worse in the morning. And she really hoped it took because she did not want to have to do it again.

She tried to will herself to sleep and all too soon, it was morning. Nathan wasn’t in the room and it hurt her more than she expected.

As she emerged from the bathroom, long robe wrapped securely around her, Josty was entering with a tray of food.

“I figured you would be hungry,” he said, “you didn’t get to eat a lot yesterday and don’t think I didn’t notice that you weren’t eating in the days leading up to the wedding.”

“Thank you,” she replied, “Do...do you know what is expected of me? On any given day?”

“I don’t, Alexandria.”

“Could… would it be possible to go to the park?”

“I’m afraid not,” Tyson replied, “For you to go anywhere in public, we need a heads up, to make sure we have the security arrangements made.”

“Oh.”

“You can go in the gardens, though!”

“Would you keep me company?”

“Of course.”

She wasn’t naive. She knew that Josty’s job was to make her happy. But she wanted to forget, wanted to trick herself into thinking that she had someone, had a confidant that she could turn to in the Palace.

+

She and Nathan left for their honeymoon the following day to Paris. And she thought things were starting to improve. He had definitely put more effort into making love to her, oftentimes more than once a day and she was pretty sure it was only in an effort to get her pregnant as soon as possible. His father had hinted as they were leaving that grandchildren sooner rather than later would be nice.

But when they got back home, moved into their apartments in Kensington, Nathan was rarely home. And when he was, it seemed that he was only home so he could fuck her - and all the love and gentleness he had shown on their honeymoon was gone and it was much like it had been on their wedding night. He was back to being rough and demanding with her. He apparently enjoyed fucking her mouth, never letting her control the pace - not even on her first time.

And she still had no idea what was expected of her. Her days were spent with Josty, wandering the gardens or playing cards. Her nights were spent wondering when or if Nathan would be home and dreading what would happen when he did get home.

“Nothing’s going to change unless you make it,” Mitchie told her, eye roll evident in her voice.

“But Tyson said that he liked girls who just let him do what he wanted,” Alexandria huffed.

“Of course she told you that,” Mitchie replied, “She doesn’t want him to drop her and she knew she could tell you anything and you would believe her. But you’ve been devirginized and apparently got a glimpse of how good it could feel on your honeymoon. I think it’s time you take the reins. Make him see what you like.”

“How -?”

“Auston didn’t like the idea of eating a girl out but he did it for me, and hadn’t since. So after a while, I got tired of sucking him off and I sat on his face and made him eat me out until I was satisfied. He loved it.”

“Michelle!”

“What? Sex is a two way pleasure street, Allie, you deserve to get off at least once each and every time. God gave women the ability to have multiple orgasms for a reason!”

“Anyway. How’s school?”

“I am rocking my public speaking class and I think I’m actually good at this college thing.”

“You’re smarter than everyone thinks you are, Mitchie. You always have been.”

“So are you, Allie. So, what’s on your agenda tomorrow?”

“The Queen wants to meet with Nathan and me.”

“Grandbaby check-in?”

“God, I hope not.”

Mitchie cackled in response and Alexandria found herself smiling.

+

“Your first official appearance will be in Wales, on Sunday,” the Queen informed them as they entered, “As Prince of Wales, Nathan will introduce you to the Welsh people. He’ll teach you the language, it will endear you to them.”

“What will be expected of me?” she replied.

“Everything will be set up already, dearie, all you have to do is show up. Be open, but not too open. Make yourself relatable, but not too relatable. Nathan will show you.”

Nathan spent the train ride trying to teach her Welsh but she could not for the life of her grasp it. Languages had always come easy to her but this one just wasn’t sticking.

And when they got off the train, a large crowd was gathered to greet them, lined up behind ropes and holding Welsh flags and flowers and bundled up in coats like they had been waiting for hours to make sure they got front row seats to their arrival.

And then it became clear that she was meant to say...something. But she had not been given a speech or any notes, she spoke no Welsh - maybe if she had had more than a couple hours to learn so would at least have the proper greeting down. So she nervously stepped up to the podium, Nathan’s hand on her back as he guided her, and said, “Hello. I’m Alexandria. I’m still learning but I’m very excited to be here, to meet you all, and speak with you. You’ll have to forgive my Welsh, I haven’t had much time to learn it. But I promise I will try. Here goes nothing, right?”

She took a deep breath before saying, “Helo. Rwy'n gyffrous iawn i fod yma.”

And the gathered crowd erupted into cheers.

Alexandria slowly made her way toward the rope line, smiling when she saw the little girl holding her mother’s hand and holding up some flowers.

“These are for you, Princess,” the little said.

Alexandria smiled softly as she knelt down and accepted the flowers, extending her free hand, she said, “I’m Alexandria. What’s your name?”

“Aeli,” she replied.

“Well, Aeli,” Alexandria took her hand, “I’m very pleased to meet you.”

The rest of the day was much easier than that.

+

“It’s incredible how quickly everyone fell for her,” Tyson said as she flipped through another paper, “they absolutely adore her. She has no clue what she’s doing but she’s taken to it like a fish to water.”

“What do they say about my speech,” Nathan asked, “I thought it went rather well.”

“There’s…. There’s no mention of it in this one,” Tyson replied, picking up the stack and flipping through them all again, looking for any hint of a message, “Oh! Here’s something - nevermind.”

Tyson went to close it but Nate was taking it from her and reading it, “The Prince of Wales gave a poignant speech on the modern economy, however his young wife stole the show when she spoke to a local educator about children learning to read from an early age and the importance of parents reading with their children at home.”

“Remarkable,” he huffed, “No training and she’s a hit. Meanwhile, I train for this my whole life and I’m relegated to a blurb.”

“She’s new,” Tyson rubbed his shoulders, “the shine will rub off and when it does, they won’t care about her any longer. Especially after she pops out two or three children.”

“She’s rather dull in bed,” Nate replied, “She doesn’t take the initiative you know I like.”

“She’s still a child in many ways,” Tyson replied, “I heard she tried to get arrangements made for her to go to some concert.”

“She wanted me to go with her,” Nate laughed, “Can you imagine me at a rock concert? I don’t know why she enjoys that noise.”

“You can blame that on her age as well.”

Nate laughed and wrapped his arms around her waist, “Let’s not speak of her any more tonight.”

+

Mitchie’s words played over in Alexandria’s head as she sat in bed. Nathan had been gone the past two nights and while no one would tell her where he was, she had an idea of who he was with.

“Allie,” Josty grinned as he entered, “I have your schedule for tomorrow. Sorry, it’s so late, there were some issues with coordination.”

“That’s hardly your fault,” she replied, “what does my day look like tomorrow?”

“The only real item on your schedule is a meeting with the Queen,” Josty responded, “to discuss your upcoming Commonwealth Tour. It’ll just be you and Prince Nathan and it’ll be to introduce you to the people of the Commonwealth. She wanted to brief you on it herself and had to rearrange her day to accommodate that.”

“Will… do you think Nathan will be inviting any of his… friends to join us?” she asked carefully, looking down at the book in her lap and tracing her fingers over the cover.

“It would never be permitted,” Josty replied, “He is showing you off as his wife. To have his mistress along for the ride would not send a good message.”

“Thank you.”

“For what?”

“For… being honest about who Mrs. Barrie is to him.”

“Princess Alexandria, I promise you that I will always be honest with you. You can trust me.”

“Please never call me that when it’s just us. But… I appreciate that.”

“I will be attending the Tour with you, just as Andre will be attending with the prince.”

“Hopefully you’ll make it bearable for me.”

“I will do my best.”

“Tys… never mind.”

“You can tell me.”

“Can you please arrange a lunch with Morgan Reilly before we leave? It’s been a while since I saw him last and he’s a dear friend of mine. I would like to see him before leaving for the Tour.”

“Of course. Anywhere in particular?”

“If he’s willing to have me at his place, that would be preferred. If he can’t, then here is fine.”

Tyson nodded and bid her good night before leaving and Alexandria turned her gaze to look out of the window, idly fiddling with the Athena pendant on her necklace that Morgan had gifted her when they were children.

And she pretended to be asleep when Nathan returned home.

+

She had been at Morgan’s for ten minutes before he asked, “What’s wrong?”

“What do you mean?” she replied, focusing on the framed engagement photos of him and Tessa hanging on the wall by the stairs of the townhouse.

“Don’t act like I don’t know you. Your assistant was pretty adamant that you didn’t want to met at your place -”

“There’s ears everywhere at my place and the only person I know I trust is Josty.”

“Talk to me, Allie. You’ve always been able to do that.”

“I’m not pregnant yet.”

“I’m -”

“I’m not pregnant yet and no one is saying that they’re worried, but I can tell they are. Nathan… Nathan doesn’t seem to want me when he can have Mrs. Barrie whenever he wants. We… I thought that things would change after our honeymoon. He… he cared about me on our honeymoon and now… He wouldn’t even humor the thought of going to see Madonna when she was here. He has no interest in my interests. And he only comes home when he needs to.”

“Allie -”

“He called me a ‘silly little girl’,” she looked down at her lap, “not to my face, but I overheard him on the phone. I… I don’t know what he wants from me. Every time I try to make him happy… it’s like he doesn’t care. And no one will tell what’s expected of me. My meeting with the Queen about the Commonwealth Tour was just a discussion of the Commonwealth and nothing about what I will need to do on the Tour. I feel… I feel I’m just there to be an ornament for Nathan. And a disappointing one at that considering I’m not with child.”

“You, Alexandria, have never been a ‘silly little girl’. You’ve always been bright and creative and beautiful. There’s a reason I gave you the Athena pendant. You’ve got the mind of a great strategist and you’ve never been allowed to use it,” Morgan’s voice was full of conviction, “And you are ten times the woman Tyson Barrie could ever hope to be. You’ll get pregnant when it’s meant to happen. Right now, focus on what YOU want to do. If they won’t tell you what’s expected, then create your own expectations. Like you always have.”

Alexandria sniffed and blinked back her tears as she hugged him. Pressing her face into his chest as he wrapped his arms around her, she said, “Thank you.”

“Anytime,” Morgan pressed a kiss to her hair, “anytime you need to be reminded of who you are, I’m here.”

+

The drive to the airport was quiet and Alexandria got the feeling that Nathan was upset with her about something but couldn’t think of what she could have possibly done to upset him as they had not spent any time together in days, not her lack of trying.

“Did I do something to upset you?” she finally asked.

“Why did you have lunch with Reilly without telling me?”

“He’s an old friend of mine. I hadn’t seen him in some time. I wanted to talk to him before leaving for the Tour.”

“It’s not a good look.”

“Neither is being gone for days with ‘friends’ when everyone knows you’re with Mrs. Barrie.”

“What I do in my spare time is of none of your concern.”

“Neither is what I do in mine.”

“You have a job to do.”

“A job no one will tell me what is expected.”

“What is expected is for you to produce heirs. Something you are currently failing at doing.”

She looked down at her lip and bit her lip, willing the tears away.

When they pulled up to the tarmac, she slid her sunglasses on and accepted his hand as she stepped out of the car, dropping it as soon as they were on the plane.

+

It was a long flight to New Zealand and shortly before starting their descent, Josty came back to where she was sitting with a sensible skirt suit.

“The first stop is a rope line leading up to the Prime Minister’s ranch. Wear this. I’ll grab your most comfortable heels and your make-up from your carry-on.”

“Thank you.”

She stepped into the bathroom to change into the blush pink outfit and wrinkled her nose a little. She had nothing against skirt suits, they were sensible and had their functions, but she did not care for the color. It wasn’t her. She had never worn pink very often until she had married Nathan and her wardrobe had begun being supplied for her, with little to no regard for her opinion.

When she returned to her set, Josty had the mirror set up and her make-up arranged the way she liked. And once that was done, she fixed her hair. And then they were landing.

She took Nathan’s hand and exited the plane, smiling for the cameras and waving like she was supposed to.

The ride to the Prime Minister’s ranch was long and quiet and she kept her eyes glued to the passing scenery.

The car stopped some distance away and she could see the crowd gathered.

And as soon as she stepped out of the car, taking Nathan’s offered hand, they began cheering. She and Nathan made their way down the line and there were yells of her name, people vying for an ounce of her attention. She tried to focus on everyone equally but it was hard. She didn’t want it to seem like she was trying to rush or that she was purposefully ignoring anyone.

She had always been good at connecting to people. Supposedly, it made up for her many faults, according to her grandmother. She found it simple to talk to someone, finding that common thread of humanity with even the lowest person in society.

When a child broke under the rope line, his mother screaming his name frantically, she bent down to meet the little boy’s eye and smiled when he held out a little bouquet of wildflowers he had picked on the side of the road. She picked him up and returned him to his mother, brushing off her apologies and assuring her that there was no harm and that she had a lovely young man.

The Prime Minister and his wife were waiting for them at the gates of the ranch and they greeted them with handshakes cameras before getting into the car to drive up to the house.

Once they had been shown to their room, she slipped out of the shoes and suit jacket.

“How do you do that?” Nathan asked her.

“Do what?” she asked, flipping through the dresses Josty had hung up while they had been doing the rope line, trying to find an option for dinner.

“That,” Nathan gestured toward the window, “they don't even react to my mother like that. And they love my mother.”

“I just treat them like I would want to be treated,” Alexandria replied, “with kindness.”

She settled on a dark green number. It wasn’t her taste but it was close.

“Unfortunately, you’ll have to wear the heels you don’t like,” Josty informed her as he and Andre entered the room, Andre going over to Nathan to review the remarks Nathan was meant to give before the food arrived and the points he was supposed to go over with the Prime Minister when the men retired for brandy after dessert.

“Princess Alexandria,” Andre turned to her, “the Prime Minister’s wife -”

“Her name is Megan,” Alexandria cut him off, “if you can refer to her husband by his name, you can refer to her by her name.”

“Megan will have tea with you following dessert,” Andre continued, “I would suggest keeping the conversation away from politics.”

“Why?”

“Why what?”

“Why would we keep the conversation away from politics? If she has an issue that she isn’t getting heard, maybe she needs to talk about it with someone who could help.”

“Her pet project isn’t something we know much about.”

“Well, then I must find out more.”

“Alexandria,” Nathan cut in, “you will do no such thing.”

“I find that you only ever tell me what I cannot do and no one has told me what I can. I wish to learn more about her project.”

“I’ll have some information brought to you,” Josty told her, handing her the unfortunate heels that always hurt her feet.

“Alexandria -”

“Nathan.”

Nathan didn’t say anything and Alexandria went into the bathroom to change her outfit, hair, and make-up.

Nathan looked up from his book when she stepped out of the bathroom.

“You look beautiful,” he told her, offering his arm, “I apologize for earlier. I should not have snapped at you.”

“You’re only apologizing because we have to get through dinner acting like a happily married couple.”

“Alexandria, please. Don’t commit to anything when you speak to the Prime… to Megan.”

“I want to know more about her cause. Andre and you wouldn’t tell me. I am interested to see what other women in positions similar to mine choose to champion. Maybe I can do something similar back in England. I want to help people. I’m just… not sure where to start.”

Nathan didn’t respond. But he did smile. The first real smile he had given her in longer than she wanted to think about. And he kissed her hand. And when she noticed the photographer, she put all her effort into hiding her disappointment.

Dinner was dull and when the men retired to drink brandy and discuss politics, she was led to a smaller room for tea.

“I’m still new to this role and I wanted to start some side projects - charities, fundraisers, donations - and I have no idea where to start,” Alexandria sipped her tea and looked over at Megan, “What are your causes? I’m hoping it may help me find some direction.”

“You were told not to ask me about it, weren’t you?” the older woman asked.

“Yes. But I’m interested.”

“HIV/AIDS.”

Alexandria nodded and asked her to go on. She listened as Megan told her about the orphanages and hospitals and how understaffed and under supported they are, told her about how she was trying to help those affected with the disease in New Zealand, told her about resources that could tell her more. She made a point to ask Josty to get ahold of the books, journals, and possibly schedule meeting with the leading experts, and to make sure to set up visits to some of the orphanages and hospitals when they would be in Africa - Nathan wouldn’t be able to be informed of these trips so she needed to make sure the cover story was airtight.

+

“You, darling, were magnificent,” Nathan grinned as he entered their room that night, “David was so charmed by you that he agreed to our proposal with little argument.”

“I didn’t really do anything,” Alexandria replied.

She had sat through dinner and smiled and laughed when she was supposed to.

Nathan just kissed her and said, “Anything you want to do tomorrow, we can. We’ll spend the day together.”

Which is how she found herself running through the open field on horseback, wind flying through her hair and laughter bubbling out of her as her husband - acclaimed polo player and self-proclaimed greatest horseman - trailed behind her. She had the time she spent with just her governess for company at the country estate. The older woman had been a great horse rider when she was younger and had taught Alexandria - the only one of the Kerfoot children with any want to learn.

“We should stop for lunch,” Nathan suggested when he finally caught up to her.

She nodded and followed him over to the trees, where a blanket and food basket had been set up, apparently a planned stop. They loosely tied the reins to low hanging branches and sat down.

After they finished their light lunch, Nathan held a hand out to her and said, “Come here.”

And she did. She manveured herself into his lap and kissed him, rolled her hips down against him and sighed into his mouth.

It wasn’t long before clothes were removed and she was riding him at her pace, right there in the open air. He was looking at her with an awe that she had never seen on his face before. His thumb brushed over her and she pulled him into a kiss as she trembled apart.

+

They made love several times while in New Zealand and Australia. It was so much different than when he fucked her at home. He took the time to make sure she was enjoying herself. He didn’t just worry about getting himself off, he endeavored to get her off several times. She suspected it was because he couldn’t sleep with anyone but her, but she was going to take it. And she wanted to be good enough that he didn’t want to back to Mrs. Barrie when they returned to England - as big of a long shot as that was, she wanted to try.

By the time they got to Kenya, she knew she was pregnant. She didn’t tell him, however, wanting proof first, so as not to get her hopes up. She kept up the appointments she had had Josty make, still kept them a secret from her husband, and started formulating ways to help the people affected by HIV/AIDS and added several other causes she wanted to champion to her list. The list she only shared with Josty. She knew that she needed to figure out a plan before she could bring any of the items to other people.

Morgan had been correct. She did have a mind for strategy. Literacy would be a good starting point. Reading events in schools and libraries, at children’s hospitals. Which would be a good lead-in to raising funds for children’s hospitals and improvements to care at the hospitals that were not as well funded as they should be. This could lead into cancer research and bettering the equipment at hospitals and clinics throughout the Commonwealth. Which could then lead into increasing care for people with HIV/AIDS and those that were left behind by the sickness, both in England but throughout the Commonwealth, particularly in Africa. She hoped that all of her projects would lead to improving conditions for the people of all the Commonwealth countries, but especially the lower income people in those countries.

If she wanted it to work the way she planned, she needed to be careful. And that meant making sure no one caught onto the grand scheme. Which meant that she and Josty only discussed when they were sure they were alone. Andre was nice enough but he worked for Nathan and was loyal to Nathan and would not hesitate to tell Nathan everything.

She would need Nathan to believe she wasn’t intelligent, make him continue to believe that she was dim, if she wanted to succeed.

+

The last stop on the Commonwealth Tour was in Toronto and she had plans to go to the Leafs game with Mitchie while Nathan was meeting up with some friends he had from his stint in the Air Force.

“Oh my God!” Mitchie flung herself at Alexandria, hugging her tightly as soon as she entered the private suite, “Look at you!”

“God, I missed you,” Alexandria returned the hug just as tightly.

“What are you wearing?” Mitchie asked, pulling back and looking at her.

“I don’t have many casual clothes,” Alexandria responded.

“That’s a good color on you.”

Alexandria just laughed in response.

“You mentioned you had something to tell me,” Mitchie hooked their arms together and led her toward the seats in the front of the box.

“I took a test this morning,” Alexandria responded, “I’m finally pregnant.”

“Oh my god… How- how do you feel about that?” Mitchie’s eyes were wide.

“Relieved, mostly,” Alexandrie replied truthfully, “I mean, I’m excited to be a mom, I’ve always wanted to be a mom. I know Nathan and his family will be relieved. And...and maybe this will cause Nathan to finally drop Mrs. Barrie.”

Mitchie looked like she wanted to argue that was ridiculous but bit her tongue and said, “I’m so happy for you.”

“Thank you.”

“If you need anything, you call me. I will be on that first plane back to London.”

“I know.”

The game passed quickly and the Leafs won and Alexandria found herself being pulled down to the locker room by Mitchie.

“Michelle -”

“I want you to meet Auston,” Mitchie replied, “your security dudes are fine with it.”

Alexandria looked over her shoulder and her detail did, in fact, seem okay with it. They had been enjoying catching up with Connor and Dylan.

“He’s… I found a ring he thinks he hid well,” Mitchie whispered, “and his sisters cannot keep a secret.”

“Mitchie,” Alexandria breathed out, stopping them and pulling her into a hug.

“I’ll call you when it actually happens, lord only knows with that man,” Mitchie rolled her eyes affectionately, “Anyway, he wants to meet you. He knows how much you mean to me.”

Alexandria smiled and nodded and let Mitchie continue pulling her toward the locker room entrance.

It didn’t take long for Auston to step outside.

“Good game, babe,” Mitchie grinned, stepping into his space and pulling him into a deep kiss.

“Thanks, Mitchie,” Auston breathed, looking at her in wonder when he pulled back, like he couldn’t believe she existed. It made Alexandria’s heart hurt a little. But mostly it made her happy that Mitchie had a person who loved her.

“Aus, this is Alexandria,” Mitchie grinned, pulling away from him and pulling Alexandria closer.

“Oh, uh, nice to meet you, Your Highness?” Auston fumbled, clumsily bowing to Mitchie’s great amusement.

“God, I forgot that’s, like, actually a thing people are supposed to do now,” Mitchie managed through her giggled.

“It’s not necessary for friends,” Alexandria rushed to respond, “Nor friends of friends.”

“Mitchie’s told me a lot about you.”

“Good things, I hope?”

“Got nothing bad to say about you, Allie dearest,” Mitchie grinned widely, “you’re simply the best.”

Alexandria laughed loudly, with her whole body, at that and said, “God, I miss you at home.”

“I promise to visit more often,” Mitchie said seriously, “especially after the baby is born.”

“You better,” Alexandria replied, “they have to know their favorite Aunt, Lady Michelle.”

Mitchie laughed brightly, “God, no one has called me that since…”

“Since you left.”

“I guess so.”

“It must be nice. To just… get to be Mitchie. The normal university student.”

“It can be lonely. I have Connor and Dylan. But…. I do miss you. I don’t miss home and I don’t miss THAT life. But I do miss you. I miss sneaking away and hiding from the other socialites and potential suitors. I… If I hadn’t left, you wouldn’t be…”

“I would be, Mitchie,” Alexandria cut her off, “My family had been hoping for this outcome my whole life and they would have made it happen. And Nathan was very persistent.”

“Still. I could have at least worked harder on convincing you to come with me. Not that U of T would have been a good fit for you. You belong in the Ivy League. Or Cambridge, Oxford. The best of the best schools.”

“My mother would have dropped dead of a heart attack if I told her I wanted to go to University, are you kidding me? I was meant to marry and marry well. If I’m lucky, they’ll let Solie pursue whatever passion she wants since I married as well as possible.”

“Allie…. There’s always divorce.”

“No, there’s not. He’s to be Head of the Church Of England. It would be a scandal. And… with the baby on the way, it’s even more out of the question. I will do whatever it takes to save this marriage. I wouldn’t put my baby through the same pain my siblings and I went through when my parents divorced.”

“Allie.”

“We’ll fix things, Mitchie. The baby will… he’ll stop seeing her.”

Mitchie bit her tongue and Auston looked like he wanted to reach out for her. Before either could say anything, a young blond man stepped out of the room and swooped Mitchie up.

“Matts didn’t say you were coming!”

“Because Matts knew you’d react like this,” Auston muttered to himself as Mitchie and the blond laughed.

“Allie, this is Willy,” Mitchie grinned, introducing them.

Willy looked at her with wide-eyes and bowed his head, “Princess Alexandria.”

“You can just call me Alexandria,” she replied, holding her hand out to shake his.

Instead, he kissed her knuckles and smiled charmingly at her.

And Mitchie giggled when she noticed Alexandria’s cheeks turning pink.

+

Alexandria waited until they were back in London before telling Nathan. It still didn’t happen the way she wanted it to happen.

“Where are you going?” she asked, emerging from the bathroom and tying her robe closed.

“Out with some friends,” Nathan replied, not looking up at her.

“You’re going to go see her, aren’t you?”

“Alexandria -”

“Would it change your mind if I told you I was pregnant?”

“You’re -”

And he looked up at her, expression full of wonder. She never wanted him to stop looking at her like that.

“I… I just need to make a phone call. Why… why don’t you pick a movie for us to watch?”

Alexandria smiled and left the room.

Nathan sighed and ran a hand through his hair before picking up the phone.

“Hello.”

“Tyson,” Nathan greeted.

“Hello, darling,” her voice was warm.

“Alexandria is… she’s finally pregnant. Took… took her long enough. I… I won’t be able to make it tonight. I… I don’t know when I’ll be able to see you again.”

“We’ve talked about this, Nate,” she replied, “We’ve talked about stopping this… us… once she conceived. So you could focus on being there for your wife and then for your family.”

“I suppose we did. And it’s the sensible thing to do.”

“And you’ve always been sensible.”

“I… I love you, Tyson.”

“I love you, too, Nate. With all my heart.”

Nathan took a moment before joining Alexandria on the couch in the living room and wrapping his arm around her shoulders. She placed her head on his shoulder and he kissed her hair. As his mother reminded him often, he could do a lot worse for a wife. She was beautiful. And she cared. And she was compassionate and very good at her job, despite her insistence that she did not know what her job was. He suspected she was smarter than she wanted anyone to know she was.

+

Nine months flew by and he found himself in awe of her.

Despite being increasingly more pregnant as the days went on, she kept her schedule. She had begun organizing fundraisers for charities that Nathan hadn’t known existed. And she kept a smile on her face as the press got even more obsessed with her, hounding her to end. Even with her increased security.

She was often asleep before six and Nathan struggled to make sure she ate dinner. He tried to do everything he could to help her. He often accompanied her when possible.

And at the end of those nine months, he held a healthy baby boy in his arms.

“Well done, Alexandria,” he kissed his exhausted wife’s forehead, “he’s perfect.”

Alexandria smiled tiredly and felt herself fall asleep.

+

Something was wrong with Alexandria. Josty knew it. She wasn’t eating, she was sleeping all day. It was a struggle to get her out of bed to so much as walk around the gardens. She would hold Henry but sometimes it was like she didn’t recognize that she was holding her son. Sometimes she would watch him sleep and it was like she didn’t know who the child was in her baby’s cradle.

And that was nothing compared to her mood swings. Not even Josty could predict her emotions from one minute to the next. The Queen had told Nathan that he needed to be there for her, that the doctors said it was postpartum and she needed her husband’s support.

“Sir,” Andre entered the room, “it’s Mrs. Barrie. Should I tell her you’re unavailable?”

Nathan blinked and looked away from the closed bedroom door, “No. I’ll take the call now.”

He accepted the phone, “Tyson.”

“Nate,” she breathed out.

“How are you?”

“I’m better now that I’m talking to you.”

“Congratulations. He looks like you.”

“Henry brings me a joy that I didn’t think anyone but you could bring me. I… I miss you. Every day.”

“I miss you, too, love.”

“We should… I would not be opposed to meeting up with you soon.”

“I would like that. I’ll talk to our friends, see where we could meet.”

“I love you.”

“I love you, too.”

“Is that -?”

Nathan whipped around and spotted Alexandria standing in the entrance of their bedroom, in her nightgown and looking haunted. He knew she had heard everything.

“It was nobody.”

“It was Mrs. Barrie. You’re…. You’re still in love with her.”

“You misunderstood. Go back to bed.”

“I need to feed Henry.”

“I can feed him his bottle, darling. You look like it’s taking all your strength to stand and we have Henry’s Christening tomorrow that you need to be well rested for.”

She let herself be ushered into their bedroom. She looked at her reflection and the words she had heard whispered around her swirled in her head.

Disappointment.

Crazy.

Attention Seeker.

Dangerous.

So many words were buzzing around in her head until they turned into a high pitched sound and then she was punching the mirror and couldn’t register that the blood on her hand was her own.

And when she came back to herself, she was in her bed, her hand wrapped and Josty and Mitchie stood talking to her personal physician.

“She hardly eats, her moods are unpredictable,” Josty whispered.

“She’s threatened to harm herself,” Mitchie added, “I’m worried about her. She wasn’t like this before… She’s never been like this.”

“It’s postpartum depression,” the doctor replied, “I informed the Queen of it as soon as I noticed. She should have been receiving treatment.”

“I manage the princess’ affairs and I can assure you it was never mentioned to me nor have I received any treatment plan or medications,” Tyson replied.

“Is Alexandria even aware?” Mitchie asked, “I’m her best friend and she has never kept a secret from me. She would have mentioned this.”

“I do not know if she’s aware,” the doctor pulled a pill bottle out of his pocket and handed it to Tyson, “Have her take one of these every day, at the same time, preferably with food.”

“What happens when she has her next child?”

That made the two men pause. They hadn’t even considered that Alexandria was expected to have as many children as she could. But Mitchie knew. Mitchie had been worried about this from the moment Josty had called her to tell her that something was wrong with Alexandria. She was thankful she was already going to be there for the Christening but she did move her flight up earlier.

And Auston had held her as she cried because she was so worried about Alexandria. Alexandria, who was always so bright and happy, so easy to make smile. Who had disappeared into a different person when she married the prince. Who was hurting so much and Mitchie was at a complete loss of how to help her.

And now the doctor was telling her that he had no idea if Alexandria had even been told about what was wrong with her.

“It’s likely to get worse if not treated.”

The doctor left and Josty followed, leaving the women alone together.

“Allie -”

“He still loves her. She… she called. I… I thought he was done with her. That he was finally going to give us a real chance and then I heard him tell that bitch that he still loves her.”

Mitchie’s eyes widened in shock - because Alexandria never said those words out loud, she thought them but never spoke them - and she felt her anger build. Prince Nathan had done this to Alexandria. This was his fault. But then Alexandria started crying and Mitchie pushed her own anger down - she would be unloading on Auston as soon as she returned home because Alexandria didn’t need to hear it - and pulled her into a hug as she sat on the bed.

“I don’t know what’s wrong with me,” Alexandria sobbed into Mitchie’s shoulder and Mitchie just tightened her arms around her.

“We’ll figure it out,” Mitchie replied, voice thick and blinking back her own tears, “We’ll figure it out. Okay, Allie? You and me. Together. I’ll help you get through this. I’m not leaving until you’re okay.”

It took some time, but she got Alexandria calmed down and they were discussing how Auston had proposed to her - he tried three separate but they kept getting interrupted and finally he had pulled her into a storage room and locked the door and proposed quickly, rushing through his speech in case someone tried to interrupt again.

And then Nathan walked into the room and her walls went back up.

“Alexandria,” Nathan bent his head and shot Mitchie a look.

The other woman rolled her eyes but stood up and walked out of the room, tipping her head out of habit rather than respect and she hoped he knew it.

“She’s never liked me much,” Nathan said as he walked further into the room.

“She’s always marched to the beat of her own drum,” Alexandria responded.

Mitchie was never destined to be a lady of upper English society and everyone who knew her knew that.

“How are you feeling?” Nathan asked.

“I don’t know,” Alexandria replied, “the medication the doctor gave me can take a couple days until I start to feel the effects of it.”

“You should have talked to me.”

“You should have told me what was wrong with me. I had no way of knowing and I spent these last few weeks lost and scared and you knew why. What else have you hidden from me?”

“We did what we thought was best for you. We didn’t think having you taking medication would have this effect. And I apologize. It was an error in judgement.”

“What other errors in judgement have you made?”

“Alexandria -”

“Be honest with me, Nathan,” Alexandria looked up at him, “are you seeing her again?”

“I -”

“Don’t lie to me. Don’t insult my intelligence like that. I hear things. I’m depressed, not deaf.”

“I was going to,” Nathan replied, “but… I truly am worried about you, Alexandria. I want to be a good husband to you. And my past behavior may have contributed to this happening. You were unhappy before your diagnosis.”

“She called and you said you still loved her.”

“It was an error in judgement. You are my wife and I will endeavor to love you the way I love Tyson. I will be here for you. For whatever you need.”

+

The next morning, Mitchie helped with her hair and make-up and into the sensible gray dress for the Christening.

They got through the service and photos and the reception - there had been a fight to make Mitchie the Godmother and Alexandria had not backed down and she was so grateful for that because if she hadn’t been Alexandria didn’t know who she would have made it through the day.

She fell asleep as she rocked Henry to bed that night.

Josty entered the nursery and gently took Henry from her and tucked him in before waking her gently and guiding her to her bedroom.

“Thank you, Mr. Jost,” Nathan replied when they entered, “I can take her from here.”

“Of course, Sir,” Josty nodded.

“And cancel her schedule tomorrow,” Nathan added, picking her up effortlessly and carrying her to the bed, “she needs her rest.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Mr. Jost.”

“Yes, sir?”

“Thank you. For being there for her.”

“With all due respect, sir, someone had to be.”

Josty didn’t wait for a response, just turned and left, closing the door behind him.

+

Two years passed and Alexandria felt better every day and Nathan was attentive to her. He was affectionate and caring. He planned holidays for them when things got hectic and he knew she needed a break. And they were happy.

And then baby number two was on the way and she had to assure Mitchie that she did not have to fly to the UK for the duration. Things were different with Nathan this time.

And then she heard him on the phone with Mrs. Barrie shortly before her due date. And she pushed those thoughts back. He had promised it was over and he had started keeping his promises to her.

But then she heard him on the phone in the bathroom when he thought she had been sleeping. And he was definitely having an...intimate conversation with Mrs. Barrie.

And then she didn’t have time to dwell on it because around the time that he was finishing, their child decided to make his appearance in the world.

Five hours of labor and then she was holding her son. She had done her job. And heir and spare, as the old saying went. Nathan would be proud of her. And he would stop with Mrs. Barrie once and for all.

“Another boy, I see,” Nathan said when he entered the room and picked up his son, “What about that girl we discussed?”

“So our son isn’t good enough for you, either?” she asked, glaring down at her hands.

“You’re being ridiculous,” Nathan replied with a heavy sigh, “It was a joke.”

“But you don’t deny that you’re seeing her again. She’s still in your life, in our lives. She’s still a part of this marriage. Why can’t you just drop her?”

“Because you drive me to her,” Nathan spat out, gently setting their son down on the hospital supplied cradle, “You and your childish outlook on love and marriage. You think that these things are simple. Well, they aren’t. You’re my wife, you’re the future queen, you’re a symbol. That’s all you are.”

And then Nathan stalked out and Alexandria curled up on her side and sobbed.

“Oh, darling,” Mitchie breathed out as she entered, coming straight from the airport, her own baby bump just barely visible, “what happened? What’s wrong?”

Alexandria couldn’t get the words out, just sobbed harder as Mitchie wrapped her arms around her and tried to comfort her.

+

Alexandria focused all her time and energy on Henry and Theodore. And when she wasn’t focusing on them, she was focusing on her causes. She refused to slow down, even when Nathan insisted she slow down.

“You need to pace yourself,” he told her as he watched her get ready for a ribbon-cutting of the new cancer research wing she had helped raise funds for.

“Why?” she demanded, putting on her earrings, “I’m finally making a difference, helping people. Why should I stop?”

“Because you’re giving too much of yourself. It’s not the way things are done, how they’ve ever been done.”

“Well, maybe it’s time to change that,” she replied, “society changes and the monarchy should evolve with it.”

+

“She’s incredible,” the Queen said, putting down the newspaper - a photo spread of Alexandria at various charity events, fundraisers, openings, dedications, reading to children, stopping in the middle of the sidewalk to speak to someone, looking all too human than a woman in her role should - splashing across the pages, “even in my younger days…”

“You do what is expected of you to do,” Prince Gabriel replied, looking over the photos.

“I’m afraid that she’s modernized her role far too quickly for the Monarchy to keep up. It’s not good for her to be so far ahead of the rest of the family.”

“Perhaps Nathan can talk to her?”

“Nathan would have to stay away from his mistress long enough to speak to Alexandria for that to happen.”

+

“How does a woman so obviously desperate to please become so popular?” Tyson spat out, glaring at the paper.

“She’s popular because she understands the public,” her husband replied, “you only dislike her because she married the prince.”

“I dislike her because she disgraces the Crown and Nate every time she does one of these… photo-ops. She can’t care that much about that many causes.”

“Tyson, she’s a young woman with a big heart who spends her days knowing that her husband would rather be with another woman. If she chooses to focus that energy on bettering the world, then that should be applauded. Other women in that position have done less productive things with their time.”

+

“Well, look at her,” Mitchie smiled down at the paper, “Allie just opened a new orphanage in Nairobi. Complete with a school on the campus to educate the children of the nearby villages - boys and girls.”

“Impressive,” Auston replied, handing their daughter to his wife, “when are you planning to visit her next? I want to try to go with you.”

“We can try for the Summer,” Mitchie replied, “She’s departing for the Commonwealth Tour soon, they’re bringing both boys with them. Allie said they’re not stopping in Toronto on this trip.”

“Where are they stopping?” Auston replied, “I’m sure we can ask my mom to come up to go with you and Josie.”

“I’ll ask her next time we talk,” Mitchie replied, pointing out the photos, “Look, Josie, that's your Aunt Allie. She loves you very much. Would you like to meet her?”

Josie nodded and ran her hand over the photo of Alexandria on bended knee next to a child at an orphanage in a poorer part of London.

“Pretty,” Josie said, patting the photo.

“She is,” Mitchie agreed, kissing her daughter’s head, “but she’s so much more than that. Your Aunt Allie is one of the strongest, smartest, most loyal people I know. She’s going to change the world.”

+

The Royal Ballet’s Christmas Gala was one of the biggest fundraisers for the Ballet on the calendar and she wanted to do her part for it. She had grown up attending the ballet and had dreamed of being in it when she was a child, excelling in ballet but getting pulled before she could get too good. After all, he future was planned out and it did not involve being the Prima Ballerina at the Royal Ballet.

“I want to do more this year for the Gala,” she said, “I have the time. I want to do more than a speech.”

Which is how she ended up secretly practicing with the principle male dancer of the company three times a week until the show.

And right before the end of the first act, she excused herself to go to the bathroom.

When she hadn’t returned, Nathan asked Andre, “Where is my wife?”

“I believe she’s still in the restroom, Sir. Perhaps there was a bit of a line.”

“Great,” he scoffed, “we only came to this thing because she likes it.”

The lights dimmed and the voice of the emcee filtered through, “We are very excited to open the second act with a very special performance by a rising star of our company and a very special guest.”

And Nathan saw red as he watched his wife perform.

“Get the car,” he ground out to Andre as he stood, “we’ll be leaving once she’s done making a fool of us.”

He stalked out of the box.

“She’s incredible,” Josty breathed, beaming proudly.

“She’s a disgrace,” Andre glared at his counterpart.

“Look at the reactions,” Josty gestured to the enraptured audience, “they love her. And that means they’ll be pretty loose with their pocket books, which means more donations for the ballet.”

“It’s an embarrassment,” Andre fired back, “Yet another attention grabbing spectacle unbefitting of the future Queen.”

“The people love her.”

“The PRESS loves her. Every embarrassment splashed across the front page.”

“Embarrassment? What’s embarrassing about book readings and ribbon cuttings?”

“It’s not the way things are done.”

“Well things have to change if the Monarchy is going to remain relevant.”

“Enough,” Andre snapped, “Prince Nathan has instructed us to get the car.”

Josty made a face at Andre’s turned back and followed him.

+

“What were you thinking!?” Nathan exploded as soon as Alexandria entered the dressing room, “Have you gone completely mad?! Are you trying to embarrass me?!”

“No, I -”

“You’ll do anything for a fucking spotlight. Well, enough is enough. You’ve crossed a line tonight, Alexandria. I have told you time and time again to stop. And time and time again, you refuse to listen. Well, for once you are going to listen to your husband. I raised you up and I could just as easily put you back down.”

“I was just trying to make you proud of me,” Alexandria responded, wrapping her arms around herself, “It’s all I ever want. Is to be enough for you. For you to love me the-the way you love Mrs. Barrie.”

“We both know that if that hasn’t happened by now, it never will,” Nathan replied, “Get dressed and meet me in the car. We’re leaving now. And do dry your eyes. You’ve created enough of a spectacle already today.”

She waited until after the door was shut behind him to sink down to the floor and start crying.

+

The car ride was silent and she shut and locked the bedroom door behind her once they got back to Kensington. Nathan could sleep on the couch, in another bedroom, at his whore’s house, she didn't care. She just knew that she could not look at him.

She woke up the next morning with a renewed vigor.

He wanted an attention seeking wife, he would get one.

“Josty,” she asked as he entered the room with her breakfast. She turned to her open wardrobe and asked, “when you look at my clothes, what do you think?”

“That you look fabulous in them,” Josty replied.

Alexandria laughed and said, “No, the clothes themselves.”

“That it’s a miracle you can make them look good,” Josty replied, “they’re… a little outdated.”

“They look like the Queen hand picked them,” Alexandria replied, “And she probably did.”

“What do you want to do?”

“I need a whole new wardrobe.”

“Would you like me to get you a personal shopper or -”

“No,” she replied, “I need to make sure everything fits the way I want to.”

“I’ll get the car.”

“Thank you.”

“Do you want discretion?”

“No. Nathan thinks me to be someone I’m not, so why change that delusion? He wants to see a drama queen, I’ll give him one. It’s time I start using the Press the way they’ve been using me.”

+

It had been several days of cold silence between her and Nathan - when he was even home at all.

She had been reading, decompressing after her day at the children’s center she had set up. More press than usual had been there, as had become the usual with her wardrobe change. The increase in press meant an increase in attention which meant an increase in donations. It had become the same story with all of her Events.

“Aren’t you tired of this?” she asked, setting her book down and looking over at him.

“Yes,” Nathan breathed out, “but I don’t see a solution.”

“Maybe,” Alexandria bit her lip and tucked her hair behind her ear, “maybe we could start over. A clean slate. Just us and the boys. We could try to be a family. For once.”

“Alexandria,” Nathan sighed, “the world loves you. Isn’t that enough for you?”

“No,” she replied, “I don’t think it’s crazy to ask for my husband to love me the way I love him. I would do anything for you, Nathan. I… I have given you everything I can and I have only asked that you try. And you’ve never tried.”

“Alexandria, I can’t promise you that.”

“What do we do from here then? Because we can’t continue like this.”

“Divorce is out of the question.”

“I would never agree to it, anyway,” she replied, “I would never put our boys through that.”

“I think you should take the boys out to the country for a while. You’ve always enjoyed the horses and they’re old enough to start learning. I’ve hired someone to teach them. He’s an Army man.”

“We’ll leave in the morning. It would be nice if you join us. They need their father.”

“I shall consider it. However, I have duties here that require my attention.”

+

Lieutenant Joseph Compher - JT as he insisted on being called - was not what Alexandria had been expecting. He had fiery red hair, eyes that carried a heat whenever he looked at her, and a wit unlike any she had been subject to since she had married Nathan. She was so used to the dull men, those who were polite to her because of who she was, those who leered at her, those who were just as eager to tear her down as they were to support her.

Joseph looked at her with wonder. He laughed at her jokes. He was good with the boys. He was eager to spend time with her. While the boys napped, she would go riding with him. He admired her and didn’t resent her skill. He listened to her and offered his own perspective while not expecting her to agree with him. They had healthy debates and he challenged her intellectually like no one ever had.

One night, long after the boys had gone to bed, they were sitting in the library and looking over her plans for the polo match she would be expected to host at the estate come Summer. She had just told him that she was quite the polo player when she had been given the chance to play and he had replied that he believed her, that he didn’t think there was anything she couldn’t do.

No one had ever had such blind faith in her before.

The next thing she knew, she was kissing him. And he was kissing her back and lowering her back on the sofa.

“You are the most amazing person I have ever met,” he breathed out as he looked down at her.

“I could say the same about you,” she replied, trailing a hand down his chest before pulling him back down into a kiss.

“What are we doing?” he asked, pulling back and pressing a kiss to her neck.

“I don’t know,” Alexandria replied, “but I don’t want it to stop.”

JT kissed again and trailed a hand up her thigh.

+

“I slept with Joseph,” Alexandria whispered in a rush as soon as Mitchie picked up the phone.

“The Lieutenant?” Mitchie’s eyes widened as she processed Alexandria’s words.

“Yes,” she replied, “the man my husband hired to teach our children how to ride horses.”

“Sounds like he could give you a very different kind of riding lesson.”

“Michelle!”

“I don’t see anything wrong with it. Your husband has had his affair dragging on for years. You should be allowed to have your own. And this one would be in the privacy of your country estate. You wouldn’t be causing anyone any harm or embarrassment. It’s not like you would be parading him around in front of the prince and all of his friends.”

“Two wrongs don’t make a right, Mitchie.”

“You deserve someone who loves you. If… if you’re going to be stuck with Nathan for the rest of your life then you should find someone who brings you happiness. And it’s not like Nathan would notice it. He would have to pay attention to you in order for that to happen, which means pulling his head out from between Tyson Barrie’s legs for more than a couple of minutes.”

“Michelle!”

“What? It’s true!”

“That doesn’t mean you should say it out loud!”

Mitchie just laughed in response.

+

She kept her distance from JT until the boys went up to Scotland with their grandparents.

“Your Highness,” JT bowed his head respectfully as he entered the room.

“Do you want me, Joseph?” she asked.

“Very much so, Your Grace,” he replied honestly, “and I apologize for the other night. I… that shouldn’t have happened.”

“I wanted it to happen.”

He looked at her with wide eyes and said, “But your husband -”

“Is too busy with his mistress to care about what I do.”

“What do you want?”

“To feel desired.”

“I can do that for you.”

JT swooped her up and she kissed him as he carried her off to her bedroom.

+

He looked over at her as they basked in the afterglow. He gently moved her hair out of her face and kissed her softly and whispered, “You look happy.”

“Do I usually not?” she asked.

“No,” JT shook his head, “your smile is bright but your eyes hold a sadness a woman like you shouldn’t have to feel.”

“No one has ever noticed that.”

“I notice a lot about you.”

“Like what?”

“I noticed that you're brilliant. You have probably the quickest wit of anyone I’ve ever encountered. You’re absolutely radiant, especially when you smile genuinely. Your eyes are the color of melted chocolate and when you’re amused, they shine. You care, you care so much about your sons, about your friends, about your people. You are going to make a change in this world and I want nothing more than to watch you make them. You’re much stronger than anyone gives you credit for. You’re an inspiration.”

“I’m really all that?”

“And more, Alexandria, so much more.”

She looked up at him for a moment before pulling him down for a kiss and pushing him onto his back as she straddled him.

+

Andre had hoped he wouldn’t have the envelope in his hand. He had asked one of the maids to keep an eye on the Princess while she was away from London. He had not been prepared to be sent photographic evidence of the Princess having an affair. And he was, naturally, the one stuck with presenting the evidence to the prince, who had been in a sour mood since Mrs. Barrie had left for Holiday with her husband.

“Sir,” he knocked on the study door as he entered, “I… have some news. About your wife.”

“What is she complaining about this time?” Nathan replied, looking up from his desk.

“She appears to be… well, see for yourself,” Andre handed over the photos and watched his boss’ expression carefully.

Andre watched as Nathan flipped through the photos.

“Well,” Nathan smirked, “perhaps she’ll be more tolerable.”

“Sir, if this gets out -”

“You will see to it that it won’t. She can carry on her affair until he gets his new orders. In fact, I encourage it.”

“Nathan, she claims to love him.”

Nathan huffed out a laugh and said, “She does not know love from a crush. It will pass and he will either move on to his next assignment or she will get bored.”

+

JT got his Orders, he was being sent to Germany, and they both spent an emotional last night together before he left.

The boys would be returning to London with their grandparents the following day, so Alexandria packed and decided to be home to greet them when they returned.

“Mommy!” they cried as she stepped outside of Kensington Palace.

She knelt down and caught them as they hugged her.

“Did you boys have fun?” she asked, pulling back and looking at them. It had only been a couple of weeks but they had grown up so much.

“I made friends with a sheep!” Henry grinned, “His name is Chester. Granny said he may be able to come live here with us!”

“Really?” Alexandria replied, “I’m sure we could figure something out.”

“But daddy said no pets,” Theodore replied.

“Maybe he’ll change his mind if you ask him,” she kissed his forehead. The last time a pet had been brought up, it had been brought up by Alexandria and Nathan had shot it down immediately. Glancing up at the Queen, she said, “Why don’t you two go inside and say his to your dad?”

The boys both hugged her again before running inside.

“Did you and Nathan enjoy your time together?” Prince Gabriel asked as she stood back up.

“What do you mean?” she replied, “Nathan stayed here.”

“He didn’t come up?” the Queen asked, “Part of the reason we took the boys for so long was to give you two a couple of weeks to reconnect.”

“With all due respect, I don’t think a couple of weeks is going to be enough for us to reconcile our differences, Your Majesty.”

“Surely if you just spent -”

“Every time we spend time together, it ends in a fight.”

“Perhaps another child, a little princess would -”

“Sir, in order for that to happen we would need to want to…. And bringing another child into this relationship isn’t going to fix things. I wouldn’t want to do that.”

“Perhaps you should -”

“Your Grace, I can’t do any more than I already have done. He does not wish to reconcile, so I can only stay the course. As much as I would love to, I don’t see us fixing it. I… I would rather us continue sleeping in separate bedrooms than put the boys through a divorce. You don’t have to worry about a scandal.”

“And the rumors I heard? About you and an Army Lieutenant?”

“A blissful couple of weeks,” she responded honestly, “but he’s en route to Germany and it’s over. Your son, meanwhile, has continued on with his affair with a married woman for our entire marriage, and I don’t see him ending it any time soon. I’m… I’m done fighting him on it. So long as he causes me no public humiliation.”

She bowed her head to the Monarchs and walked into her home. She had to unpack and go over her schedule for the next day with Josty. It was going to be an emotional one.

+

“I know where you’re going,” Nathan said as he stood in her doorway, “Andre took a look at your schedule.”

“You’re not going to change my mind,” Alexandria responded, fixing her hair.

“I know,” he replied, “you’re far too stubborn. Just… protect yourself. Wear a mask, gloves. Don’t touch -”

“I have done my research and talked to the leading experts,” she cut him off, “I won’t be treating these men as anything but human. Because that’s what they are. They are humans. And they are sick and scared. And they deserve to be treated with compassion. Especially when the government isn’t doing anything to help them.”

“We do not make policy. That is the job of the elected officials of the government.”

“Well maybe we should exact our influence. Do something useful for a change.”

Nate huffed out a laugh.

“What?” she asked, narrowing her eyes.

“Nothing,” he replied, “just… you sound like my mother, when she inherited the throne. She wanted to leverage her influence, wanted to learn about policy.”

“You would think that would be a good thing.”

“She got reminded why it is that the Monarchy leaves power to the elected officials. She was stubborn, like you, but she learned to listen to council. And she knew when it was time to back down and accept the way things are.”

“With respect, that was the fifties and times were very different. I think we should be vocal on social issues. Thousands of people are dying from this disease every day, around the world. And no governments are treating it with the urgency they should, all because of the demographics that are largely affected by it. They don’t care because it’s homosexuals, and black people, and drug addicts, and others that they few as the lowest members of society. Did you know that in the US, President Reagan hasn’t even mentioned it? Not once. And our country isn’t faring much better.”

“Alexandria, if you won’t do it for me, then do it for our sons.”

“I’ll be fine, Nathan. I have done my research.”

As she left the room, she paused and said, “And, please, tell Andre that the next time he wants to snoop through my schedule to please tidy up Josty desks after.”

Nathan watched her leave with wide eyes.

+

Josty went over the talking points with the photographer they were bringing with them. She had decided that she wanted to pick the photographer, so that the truly important moments would be documented. These would then be given to the papers along with a testimonial she herself had written.

She stepped into the clinic and was met with shocked silence, the patients clearly not believing that she would really be there.

“Hello,” she greeted, “I’m Alexandria. I’m very pleased to meet you all and I hope we can sit and talk for a bit. I brought a photographer but I promise he will take no photos of anyone who doesn’t wish to be photographed. I just… I wanted to share the humanity.”

Slowly, the men introduced themselves and she shook each of their hands and held eye contact as she asked them about their treatment, their interests, their lives. As she asked them if they needed anything and promised to have it sent to the Clinic for them, having Josty keep notes of each name and request. As she took the time to connect with them in a way that, for many of them, no one had since they came out. She listened and she cared and she promised to do everything in her power to help them.

And by the end of the day, they were eager to get their picture taken with her, because they knew would help them with the inevitable backlash from those who didn’t know they were sick or gay or both.

And the snap heard round the world was the one of her shaking the hand of one man, no gloves, no mask, just kind eyes and a smile.

+

“Sid told me that Nate informed him you were unable to make it to our anniversary party tomorrow,” Claude-Marie said as soon as Alexandria was handed the phone, “which is a shame because Nikolya promised a speech and you know how she despises public speaking.”

“How did you manage to get her to promise you that?” Alexandria asked, holding a hand out for her day planner to try to find out what commitment she was forgetting about that was causing her to miss the anniversary party.

“She lost on Poker Night,” Claude-Marie shrugged, “Now, what is so important than coming to my party, drinking fancy champagne, and watching Nicke give a heart-felt speech about love and shit?”

“I...I don’t know. I’m not seeing anything in my planner. And… and if Nathan had mentioned it, it would be included in this,” she glanced over at Josty, who shook his head, “Josty doesn’t have anything about it either.”

“Odd,” the older woman replied, “he said he passed it along to you.”

“No, he never mentioned,” Alexandria pulled her pen out, and jotted down the event, “What time does it start? I’ll see if I can find anything to wear.”

“It starts at seven,” Claude-Marie replied, “and you should wear that little number we bought on our trip to Milan. I’ve never seen you wear it and you looked ravishing in it in the store. The designer practically made it for you.”

Alexandria thought about the dress tucked in the back of her closet. She had bought it once upon the time as a surprise for Nathan, thought he might enjoy seeing her in something much more revealing than anything she would normally wear.

“Possibly.”

“I’ll see you tomorrow, darling. And… I know Sid is oblivious to it because he and Nate have been friends forever but… he’s a jackass.”

“Thank you, Claude-Marie, but you don’t -”

“He’s a jackass. And if he wasn’t next in line for the throne, I would have punched him years ago. Unfortunately, my husband went and named him the godfather of our children.”

Alexandria laughed and said, “Good-bye, Marie.”

When she hung up, she stood and walked into her bedroom, opening the wardrobe and pulling out the dress hanging in the back and looking at it. The dress was short, with a slit. Off the shoulder and low cut. Black and tight. Claude-Marie had been right when she said the designer practically made it for her. All the adjustments had been in the shop and had changed it into a new dress, one of a kind.

“What do you think, Josty?” she asked lightly, holding the dress up to her body and looking in the mirror.

“I think that’s the best ‘fuck you’ dress I’ve ever seen,” Josty replied, “and the sapphire choker would be the perfect accessory.”

+

She arrived purposefully late and all eyes turned to her as she entered the ballroom. Her eyes found Nathan and Mrs. Barrie easily, both looking at her in shock.

She ignored them and made her way over to Claude-Marie who gushed over her.

“That looks even better on you now,” Claude-Marie told her, kissing her cheek, “so happy you could make you, darling.”

“I wouldn’t have missed this for the world,” she replied, “I hear Nicke is giving an emotional speech in your honor.”

Said woman grumbled and downed her glass of champagne, “I’m gonna need a couple more of these first.”

Claude-Marie laughed as Nikolya walked away, visibly rolling her eyes at whatever her husband and Geno were arguing about.

“That woman is a bitch and I love her,” Claude-Marie laughed. She and Nikolya had grown up together, married men of higher social standing than them together, had children together. Every milestone in life they seemed to have reached together.

Alexandria laughed before making her way over to Morgan and Tessa.

“How do you have two kids and still look like that,” Tessa asked, looking over Alexandria, “Seriously, you look incredible.”

“Thank you,” Alexandria replied, blushing lightly.

She chatted with them lightly, laughing and enjoying catching up with them, until Morgan cleared his throat and gestured behind her.

“Husband incoming,” he muttered.

“And he looks ready to throw a royal fit,” Tessa added.

Sure enough, when she turned around, the guest seemed to be parting to make way for Nathan.

“Nathan,” she smiled serenely when he approached, “it was a good thing Claude-Marie called me or one might think you didn’t tell me on purpose.”

“I didn’t think you would be interested.”

“Why wouldn’t I have been interested? Claude-Marie is one of my dearest friends.”

“You haven’t been one for parties lately, that’s all.”

“I haven’t received any invitations to parties lately. Have I missed many? Oh, well, I’m sure Mrs. Barrie has kept you company while I have been sitting at home, presumably painting my nails and watching telly?”

“The boys -”

“Have a full time staff of their own. You don’t think I need nights away from home?”

“Considering how you are dressed and how you’re acting, I would assume you need an etiquette refresher.”

“This dress is designer and the hostess herself suggested it.”

“Everytime I think you’ve grown up -”

“Do not finish that sentence,” she caught him off, “just because you are not happy that I am at a social event you chose not to tell me about does not make me the immature child you think I am.”

“Now is not the time for this… show. You’ve made your point, now go home.”

“I don’t think I will,” she replied, placing a hand on her hip and cocking it, narrowing her eyes, “I think I’ll stay, and mingle with my friends, and catch up on everything I have missed. You can choose to either stay and mingle yourself or go home. But whatever you decide, take your tart with you.”

Nathan grabbed her arm in a vice grip and she hissed as he said, “I think you need to go home.”

“I think you need to let go of me before I slap you and cause an even bigger scene than the one you created.”

They glared at each other before Nathan roughly dropped her arm and backed away from her before turning and heading back to where Mrs. Barrie was glaring at Alexandria - who gave the older woman a petty little wave.

“Now,” she turned back to Morgan, “where were we?”

“Mitchie is pregnant again,” Morgan replied.

“Yes,” Alexandria nodded, “she’s having awful morning sickness. And Auston is hovering. His mom has practically moved to Toronto because she’s worried that Mitchie will kill him if he asks her how she is one more time while she’s puking.”

“How big did she get with the first two?” Tessa asked, “From the photos, it didn’t look like she got that big.”

“She barely showed,” Alexandria replied, “which was very unfair.”

+

“You showed up tonight looking like a harlot.”

“Nathan,” Alexandria responded, slipping out of her shoes as she moved around her room, “I wasn’t expecting you to be home tonight.”

“We need to talk.”

“There is nothing wrong with this dress. Claude-Marie suggested it and I hadn’t had the occasion to wear it since I bought it.”

“Why did you come tonight?”

“Why haven’t you been passing invitations on to me? These are not just your friends, Nathan. I grew up in the same world as you, I have known these people my whole life. Do you know how humiliating it is for me to know that you have apparently been parading your whore around at parties? At parties I should have been attending with you. Because I am your wife!”

“You were my wife when you were fucking Compher!” he fired back at her.

“I had an affair with a man who genuinely cared about me for a couple of weeks. It was wrong. I felt guilty about it. But that is NOTHING compared to the pain you have put me through! Ten years of this! Ten years of you not even HIDING your mistress. Ten years of knowing that everyone knows you would rather be with her! Ten years of trying to be someone I’m not just to make you happy! And you don’t even care about how it makes me feel. About how much it kills me to know that I will never be enough! To know that I will forever be stuck in a marriage with a man who thinks so little of me. A man hates me for a reason that I don’t know. All I have ever done is love you.”

“You were picked,” Nathan said, “Tyson and I picked you, because we could mold you. You were young and a virgin and your family would make sure it happened. You had a young girl’s optimism and idea of marriage. That’s why I married you.”

Alexandria bit her lip and looked up, trying to will her tears away. She would not give him the pleasure of seeing her completely broken.

“Alexandria -”

“Get out,” she whispered, “please. Get out of my room. Get out of my home.”

He took a step closer to her and she backed up, “Don’t touch me. Don’t you ever touch me again.”

“Alex -”

“Please leave, Nathan. I will see on Sunday at service. But I don’t want to see you until then.”

+

Her heartbreak turned to anger the next day. And while the boys were at school, she formed a plan. If she wanted out of her marriage, she would need to make it happen herself. And what better way for that to happen than a public scandal.

So she called up a reporter and told him everything, under the promise of anonymity. She also aired her own dirty laundry so that Nathan wouldn’t have anything to fire back at her with.

And then she waited.

+

“How true is it?” the Queen asked, slamming the book down on the table in front of Nathan.

“All of it,” he muttered.

“Pardon?” the Prince asked, leaning forward.

“All of it,” Nathan repeated, louder and clearer.

“She didn’t exaggerate at all?” the Queen asked, “No colorful additions?”

“No,” Nathan muttered, “She… she aired everything.”

“And we’re sure the source is Alexandria?” the Prince asked.

“Yes,” Nathan replied, “she’s the only one who could know all of that. She’s the only one who would have overheard some of those conversations.”

“You’ll be divorced,” the Queen stood up, “and the boys will of course remain in your custody but she will have access to them whenever she wants. She has been nothing if not a good mother. Mrs. Barrie is not to be consulted on their care. Any decisions will be made between you and Alexandria. Should Mrs. Barrie obtain a divorce, I see nothing wrong with eventual marriage as your sons with Alexandria are legitimate. And you will make a statement apologizing for your actions.”

“Apologizing -!”

“The public loves her,” the Prince responded.

“And every other bloody housewife in England can relate to having a husband who strays.”

“You have a lot of work to do on your image. Work that starts with sincerely apologizing to Alexandria.”

+

Nathan knocked on the door of his now ex-wife’s room. The boys had said their tearful good-byes to their mother - Nathan had insisted that Alexandria didn’t have to leave Kensington but Alexandria had replied that she would never be truly free if she stayed there - before their grandparents picked them up to go to the Scottish retreat, away from media scrutiny, Nathan and Mrs. Barrie would be joining them the next day.

“Come in,” she called, putting the last of her clothes in her suitcase.

“Where will you be going?” Nathan asked, opening the door and looking around the room that had once been filled with pieces of Alexandria.

“Paris for a couple of weeks,” Alexandria replied, “there’s a charity there I would like to do some work with. And there’s a bookshop that - Sorry.”

“You don’t have to apologize to me,” Nathan replied, “Ever. After all the shit I put you through, I don’t deserve it.”

“Nathan, a part of me will always love you. You gave me our boys.”

“What will you do after Paris? You’re always welcome here.”

“I don’t know,” Alexandria replied, “I’ll probably spend some time in Toronto. Get to know my godchildren.”

“Let me know if you need anything,” Nathan said, “I owe you probably a thousand favors.”

“Probably more,” Alexandria smiled softly, “This rack is being picked up by an auction house this afternoon. Andre has the instructions.”

“What is it?”

“My most famous outfits,” she replied, “they’ve each been assigned to a charity that is not to be disclosed. The money from each item will be donated to the assigned charity.”

“The car is here, Alexandria,” Josty said, entering the room with his own bag.

“You’re going, too?” Nathan asked.

“Alexandria’s been a friend before a boss for ten years,” Josty replied, “I couldn’t leave her side.”

“Look out for her,” Nathan responded, “like you’ve been doing from the beginning.”

Josty nodded and loaded Alexandria’s bags onto a cart.

“Take care of yourself, Alexandria,” Nathan said, pressing a kiss to her forehead.

“I’ll be back in a couple of months,” Alexandria replied, kissing his cheek before leaving the room.

Nathan sank down onto her bed and looked around the room. Something in the closet caught his eye and he stood up, picking up a rolled up poster that was tucked away in the back corner. He unrolled it and smiled sadly as he looked at the faded Duran Duran poster.

“Andre,” he called.

“Yes, Sir?” Andre asked, entering.

“Tell me how much each outfit sells for and which charity the money is going to. I’d like to add additional funds,” Nathan replied.

“Yes, Sir.”

“And… have this framed. I think I would like to be hung in the boys’ playroom. A piece of their mother with them.”

“Will that be all, Sir?”

“Yes. I’ll be picking up Tyson and then heading up to Scotland. You have the number should anything happen. You have my blanket permission to tell the press to fuck off if you get any calls regarding Alexandria. She’s a private citizen now and they don’t have any right to any information regarding her.”

“Yes, Sir. Have a good trip.”

Nathan nodded and headed to his car.

+

“BREAKING NEWS OUT OF PARIS,” the broadcaster’s voice interrupted the music that had been playing on the radio during the team party, “Princess Alexandria has been involved in a car crash. It appears that a mob of paparazzi chased her car into a tunnel where it collided with a concrete barrier. Her longtime assistant, Tyson Jost, has been reported as dazed but okay. The driver has died from his wounds. We know that the Princess has been rushed to the hospital and we have no update on her status.”

“No,” Mitchie breathed.

“Mitchie -” Auston tried to calm his wife, his teammates and their wives watching them.

“Allie, no,” Mitchie’s breathing picked up and tears formed as she rushed to get her coat.

“Mitchie, it’s okay. She’s going to be okay.”

“I need to get home, Auston!” Mitchie sobbed, “I need to be by the phone in case… in case she…”

“So you can answer it when she calls you to tell her that she’s okay.”

“Yeah,” Mitchie nodded, “yeah.”

“Come on, let’s go home, okay?”

“I don’t know what I’ll do if she’s… if she doesn’t make it.”

+

“She’ll be okay, Morgan,” Tessa whispered as he stared at the news, waiting for an update.

He had heard about it as soon as he had woken up. The accident had been at two am. That was at seven am. It was now nine am and there had been no update.

“I don’t know a world without Alexandria a phone call away,” he whispered as the tv showed the crash site again.

“I know,” Tessa sank down next to him and took his hand.

+

“If she doesn’t make it…” Nathan whispered, staring blankly at the tv.

“She’s stubborn,” Tyson reminded him.

“If she doesn’t make it, it will be my fault.”

“Nate, you can’t -”

“I did nothing to protect her from the Media. I did nothing to make them think there would be consequences for this behavior. This… this same thing has been happening to her since I entered her life. Her car got chased while our boys were with her. I should have stepped in but I didn’t.”

“You -”

“Don’t tell me I couldn’t have done something to prevent this!” Nathan snapped.

“Don’t snap at me,” Tyson fired back, “I’m trying to help you!”

“I don’t need help!” Nathan shot back, “I need my wife - I need Alexandria to be okay.”

+

“We have received an update from the Princess’ Personal Aide. Princess Alexandria is out of surgery and is awake and alert. Scans show no signs of brain damage. She sustained a couple broken ribs and a broken arm. She sends her love and condolences to her driver’s family.”