Book 1 American Royalty series
Walking toward Westminster Abbey never failed to place Kat under a spell of awe. The magnificence of the structure and the incredible history washed over her just as it had the first time she’d seen it in person. But now it was different, stepping through the high arched entrance, clutching fiercely to her boyfriend’s arm, was far more humbling than it had ever been because she wasn’t just an average American exchange student. She was now the official girlfriend of His Serene Highness Prince Christian Josef of Höhenburg.
And she really hoped the butterflies in her stomach would not make her hurl during a worldwide broadcast of the royal wedding for the next heir to the British throne. Kat was glad C.J. shared her heavy course load and couch potato tendencies and never wanted to attend large public events. She didn’t know if she could have handled last night and this morning’s paparazzi spotlight on a regular basis the past two years.
Her nerves quieted when C.J. held her hand once the bride took her place beside the royal groom and the ceremony commenced. When the vows were spoken and the couple and their immediate families moved further into the abbey to sign the wedding register, C.J. leaned in a bit closer, raised Kat’s hand and gave it a feathery kiss.
So lost in that perfect romantic moment she was barely aware that the ceremony had officially ended and the couple was leaving, until C.J. gave her arm a soft nudge to get her attention.
Thankfully the incessant buzzing of the cellphone Kat forgot to turn off was muffled by her small clutch purse and the small talk of departing guests around them. Taking a quick peek at her phone Kat almost snorted seeing the text from her stepsister, who’d been a fashionista since Kindergarten. You wore that hat? THAT hat? Really? Text me!!!!!
Noticing C.J.’s questioning look, Kat whispered “Sorry.”
The wedding breakfast at Buckingham Palace was more of a swanky early afternoon cocktail party than actual breakfast.
After seeing the assorted canapés waiting to be served, Kat put her lips to CJ’s ear. “I wish this was a bit more All American brunch because I could really go for pancakes and bacon. Maybe an omelet.”
“I told you to have more than coffee before we left.” He laughed then led her towards a tall, bearded man in a uniform and a serious looking blond woman in a stunning peach suit.
“Let me introduce you to two of my godparents. Crown Prince Henri and Crown Princess Louise of Belgium.”
A Crown Prince and Crown Princess for godparents? Her godparents were a drill sergeant and a kindergarten teacher. Wait. Belgium had a king. This was the future king and queen. Was she meant to curtsey, or shake hands, or simply nod her head? Which countries preferred that double kiss on the cheek thing? She couldn’t remember, so she did a weird sort-of-a-curtsey. The older woman’s eyes twitched.
Kat could almost see tomorrow’s Washington Post.
American Girl Screws Up. A New Cold War Erupts–with Belgium this time.
Thankfully C.J. kept the small talk to a bare minimum and led her around to mingle a bit more. Although she tried not to notice, there was no escaping the way a lot of the women both old and young appraised her. The men didn’t seem to care if her lapis colored dress was a custom made original or not. Having hit puberty before her father retired from the military, she’d spent enough time around guys of all ages to gauge their looks. Mostly.
The tall, portly guy with the salt and pepper hair straight ahead being the obvious exception.
C.J. offered the older man a respectful bow of the head before speaking. “Katrina, allow me to introduce, my father’s dearest friend, The Grand Duke of Orach. Ernst, Miss Katrina Williamson.”
Although he did the courtly kiss of the hand thing, Kat couldn’t help but notice how the Grand Duke hit her with the same disregard he’d shown the maid passing out refreshments a moment ago. The reason for that became clear when he smiled at the girl making her way toward them.
Kat feared she’d be drenched by the waves of adoration the blonde gushed in C.J.’s direction.
“Miss Williamson, my daughter, Princess Marguretta.”
“It’s exciting to meet you, Katrina. Christian has told me so much about you.”
“Nothing too embarrassing I hope.”
Dead silence. Great.
Princess Marguretta really had it in the cleavage department, the hip and butt department, and the movie star glamour hair and makeup departments. Of course her assets were perfectly defined by her form-fitting lilac suit. The sparkle of her understated diamonds was nothing compared to the gleam in her eyes when she spotted the pearls Kat wore.
“What a lovely necklace, Katrina.”
“Thank you. C.J. gave it to me.”
“He is such a dear.” She turned to him. “I have one very much like it. Surely you remember.”
Kat practically snatched the glass of champagne a passing waiter offered.
“I suppose it is similar to the one your brother gave you.” C.J. touched Kat’s arm and looked towards the door to the hall. “If you will excuse us. I see someone else I’d like Kat to meet.”
“Ex girlfriend?” she asked quietly as he led her away to an unoccupied corner.
“Not really.” C.J.’s smile was cute but slightly guilty. “She’s like a sister to me.”
“I was just mildly curious.” Kat sipped her champagne, and scanned the area waiting for more royal ex-girlfriends to materialize.
C.J. grumbled softly and Kat followed his gaze to see a somewhat familiar face. “Isn’t that one of your cousins? Karl, the problem child, right.”
“Yes,” he said flatly. “And his bed partner of the week. Actually I think she’s lastedtwo months.”
“Must be true love, then.”
C.J. grinned and squeezed Kat’s hand. “I suppose I should formally introduce you to him. It will only take a moment.”
C.J. made no move to cross the room towards Karl and Kat didn’t either. “Your cousin is not exactly an ogre, but that girl is stunning, storybook princess stunning.”
“It is an odd pairing, but we’ve known her family forever, so there’s that.” C.J. exhaled a small sigh. “I suppose we should get this over with.”
Kat hesitated. “But who is she?”
“Princess Elisabeth of Belgium, a cousin of my godfather.”
Great. Another Belgian to offend.
Giving her glass to a passing waiter, Kat let C.J. place her arm through his and lead the way.
When Karl noticed them, his expression grew even harder.
Kat, squeezed C.J.’s arm. “I need to run to the ladies’ room. I’ll join you guys in a minute.”
Procrastinating by fiddling with her earring in front of the mirror, Kat’s inner military brat issued its own marching orders. Suck it up and carry on. She took a deep breath, straightened up and returned to the ballroom.
C.J. had moved a short distance away from his cousin and was having a conversation with two younger uniformed guys. Nearby, Karl was accepting a glass of vodka or gin or something clear while his girlfriend sipped champagne. She caught Kat’s eye and whispered something to Karl that elicited a smirk.
With C.J. facing away, Kat decided to get it over with and introduce herself. She came within earshot in time to form her first and last impression of C.J.’s ogre of a cousin.
“It should be obvious. He seeks a mother substitute in an American while she wants our fortune.”