Hello! Here is the first chapter. Feel free to let me know what you like or hate about it...nicely. :)
Warning: this story does contain corporal punishment of a minor in the form of spanking, but it is not the focus of the story. I will give a warning at the beginning of the chapter if it is going to occur so that you may skip the scene/chapter if you wish.
Elaina de Chambrun stood up as slowly as she could manage, her weight shifting back to her feet as she brought her right hand up to her forehead. A small huff of disgust escaped her as she felt her right palm covered in sweat. She flicked her wrist toward the ground before running her fingers along her skirt, drying them on the fabric.
She leaned against the wall with her left hand, using it to steady herself as she stepped over to the mirror, leaning both of her hands against the marbled counter, bowing her head to stare down at it. She let out a few shaky breaths, beginning to feel her heartbeat return to normal as the room slowly stopped spinning.
She sniffed in a half-hearted attempt to take a deep breath, her eyes lifting to look up at her reflection in the mirror. Her red-blotched, tear-stained cheeks looked back at her, and she couldn't help but feel shame at just how pitiful she looked.
She was better than this. She was a princess. More than that – she was the Princess of France. The only one. The only child. The only heir. She was it. She was the future of her country, not some babbling, pitiful child.
She swallowed hard, flinching as her throat burned horribly, her stomach twisting into a knot as she once more felt a wave of nausea overtake her. She felt her head begin to ache, her mouth filling with saliva as she turned around and threw herself over the toilet once more, emptying the remaining contents of her stomach.
Her eyes closed tight as a few tears slid down her cheeks, her stomach churning as she forced herself to stand once more, returning to the sink.
I won't do it again, she thought to herself. I'm fine. I'm perfectly fine.
In reality, she knew she wasn't. This as the fourth time in only six days that Elaina had woken to extreme nausea – spending the better part of the morning in the very room she was currently in, instead of in her office.
The palms of her hands pressed against the cold marble as she released a long breath from her lips, her eyes on the sink in front of her. She reached forward, turning on the cold water and covering her shaking hands with it, even bringing her cool hand up to her forehead to try to combat just how stuffy the room felt.
Elaina took in a deep breath, her shoulders rolling back as she felt her lungs open up, breathing coming much easier as the cold water trickled down through her eyebrows and past her eyelids to her cheeks.
There was something wrong with her. She knew there was something wrong with her, but she couldn't bring herself to tell her parents. She didn't know how she had managed to keep it from them for so long. Her papa asked her daily how she was feeling, but she had somehow managed to simply shrug and tell him she was okay for almost a week.
The one day he had argued and insisted that she tell him what was wrong, three days before, Elaina had simply brushed him off, telling him that she was feeling off because of problems with her monthly cycle. That had shut him up and had stopped him from asking again for the next three days. Something told her that he would need a better explanation soon though. He wouldn't allow this to go on for longer than a week without forcing her to see a doctor.
She wished he would just take her word for it, although her words were a lie. A lie, but a properly calculated one at least. It wasn't a complete mistruth, but it was also misleading. There were problems with her cycle. Her most prominent concern, at the moment, was the fact that she was nearly three weeks late.
She could be late for several reasons, but Elaina knew exactly why, and it made her empty stomach begin to churn just thinking about it.
Just over a month prior, Elaina had left her school in Paris to accompany her parents, the King and Queen of France, to England for an international summit followed by a birthday celebration for the Crown Prince, Alexander, who also happened to be her boyfriend of almost four years.
Her eyes closed tight as she thought about the trip, her left hand raising to lightly pinch the bridge of her nose. She had enjoyed the trip more than anything. After spending almost an entire school year trapped in the boarding school in Paris that her mother insisted she attend, it was one of the only times, besides Christmas, that she was allowed to leave and spend time with her actual friends, and of course, Alexander.
While it was certainly a relief to see those she had missed so much while trapped behind the school's walls just outside of Paris, the trip wasn't all fun and games either. The Summit played host to the most powerful and influential monarchs of the world as well as other world leaders such as prime ministers, presidents, and dignitaries. The Summit itself was a combination of diplomatic meetings and negotiations and social events that helped to rekindle and strengthen relationships between the leaders of the world. It was a yearly tradition created at the end of the Third World War with the hope that personal connections and communication between allies, as friends, would prevent a misunderstanding from escalating into a war as they had in the past.
On the third and final day of The Summit, Elaina had been more than ready to stop attending meetings with her parents, and beyond excited for her boyfriend's birthday party later that evening. Thankfully, the final meeting of the afternoon wasn't all business.
It took place in King Arthur's office, and it was more a social gathering than anything else. His wife, Queen Waverly, had set the mood at the beginning of the meeting when she jumped up onto her husband's desk, resting her elbows against her knees as she asked how dreadfully bored everyone had been for the last three days.
King Phillip of Spain settled down in the chair across from her, chuckling softly as he confirmed that he had, in fact, almost fallen asleep at a few of his morning meetings. His oldest daughter and one of Elaina's closest friends, Sofía, sat to her father's left, falling back into the cushioned chair with a small sigh, muttering out a few words of agreement in her native Spanish.
Elaina simply smiled up at Waverly following her father over to the left side of the office and taking a seat as well. She looked around as she did so, hopeful that Alexander would be in the office. Her lips curled to the side, trying to stop from frowning as she glanced up to Arthur and Waverly. She decided she would wait a few minutes before she asked about him.
She didn't have to wait long, however, before he opened his father's office, ducking inside with a small apology and dropping a stack of papers on his dad's desk. "Here," he nodded toward them, giving his father a small smirk that could only be described as cheeky, "have fun going through those. Turning and leaning against the desk, he glanced around the room, "do we actually have business to discuss?"
"No," Arthur shook his head, leaning back in his desk chair, "we just always have a meeting together on the last day – and Waverly and I thought we would all be able to use the break before the late evening."
Elaina glanced down at her watch, it was nearly four in the afternoon. Dinner would start in an hour and a half, then they would have another hour after dinner to prepare for Alexander's birthday party that began at eight.
"Does everyone have masks for tonight?" Alexander's eyes darted between Sofía and Elaina mostly, not really expecting the adults in the room to participate. His parents were, but he and his siblings had practically harassed them into participating, and even then, they only conceded because there wouldn't be any media allowed in the ballroom. He couldn't imagine Phillip, or Elaina's Papa, Louis, being convinced to participate.
"Yes," Elaina's chin bobbed up and down as she glanced over to him, clasping her hands in her lap.
Sofía nodded as she stared up at him, "I'm excited. I think a masquerade party is an exciting idea."
Louis hummed softly, shifting in his chair to look over at the young prince, "yes, Adalyn and I had masks made as well. But I am curious, why did you decide on it? What gave you the idea?"
Alexander's eyes widened as he stared over at the man, frowning slightly, "I don't know. Liz mentioned it and I thought it would be interesting. I only have one more birthday before I'm an adult, I thought I might as well have fun with it." He glanced over at Elaina, meeting her eyes as he said the words, his lips curling into a knowing smile.
Her stomach fluttered, her heart beating rapidly in her chest as she stared back at him, smiling softly. He was planning something. He had to be. And she couldn't wait to see what it was.
Waverly glanced back at her husband before turning to look at Louis, "we all know each other well enough that the masks won't make it overly confusing either." She explained. "The security will be more than thorough. We have several guests that are arriving for the party that will have to check in with the guards before being allowed into the ballroom."
Alexander's shoulders stiffened slightly, frowning as he lightly tapped the pads of his fingers together. Elaina's eyes narrowed on his expression, watching as his nose curled upward, his lips pressing together into a small line. He was most certainly planning something.
The room was quiet for several long moments before Phillip finally spoke, leaning backward and resting his elbows on the arms of the chair he glanced up at Arthur and Waverly. "Have you heard anything from Egypt? Did you invite them to this little gathering tonight?"
"Papa!" Sofía groaned, leaning against the back of her chair with a small huff, "we've spoken about nothing but Egypt and its lack of presence at this Summit for the last three days! Can't we just let it go?"
Arthur chuckled softly, simply shaking his head at the princess's outburst. "We did not invite any of the Egyptian leaders to Alexander's birthday party. And there are quite a few leaders from other countries including Japan, Sweden, and Argentina, that have prior commitments in their own countries. They will be flying home after dinner this evening."
Phillip hummed softly, his chin bobbing up and down. "The party will be mostly English, I presume?"
"Yes," Waverly nodded her head, "although anyone that wishes to stay and attend is welcome. We didn't invite anyone for the Summit and not also extend an invitation to stay for his party, but we have invited several friends of ours, as well as our families to join us as we are celebrating Alex's birthday."
Sofía frowned, her head turning to look at her father, "this is too diplomatic for me. Can I go prepare for dinner?"
Phillip's shoulders shook slightly as he chuckled at the girl's words, glancing down to his watch. "Dinner isn't for another hour. What could you possibly have to do to prepare that is going to take an hour?"
"Could I as well?" Elaina piped in, glancing over to her own Papa. She hadn't seen Sofía alone in the last three days, and she was hoping to speak with her before Alexander's birthday party. She wanted to know if Sofía knew anything about her boyfriend's plans.
"Yes," Louis breathed out a sigh, waving his hand toward the door of Arthur's office, "go, just make sure you're at dinner on time, please. The press will be there."
His words caused everyone in the room to let out a small groan, their faces curling upward as they dreaded the idea of the media being present for the final event of the Summit.
Arthur and Waverly had done a phenomenal job planning the Summit, and keeping the media out of the offices and conference rooms while all the meetings were being held over the three-day-long event; however, because of their refusal to have reporters within the palace during the conferences, they had to compromise and allow them in during the final evening after all the meetings had come to a close.
After the media's persistence, and downright refusal to respect the royal's privacy the previous year in Argentina, it was necessary. Still, none of them wanted to have to put on their masks for the media after three exhausting days of negotiation and discussion.
Phillip breathed out a sigh, nodding at his oldest daughter as well, "you may go as well. Heed Louis's words though. Make sure you're at dinner on time. And behave yourself in front of the cameras, please."
Elaina couldn't help but smile. Sofía was nearly twenty-one years old and her Papa had just told her to behave herself. She stood, excited to hear what new and exciting things Sofía's life had entailed for the last few months.
"I always do," Sofía leaned forward, pressing a kiss to his cheek. "Thank you, Papa." It was only a moment later that she was standing, hooking her arm through Elaina's as they stepped through the door of Arthur's office, turning toward the staircase that would take them to the guest bedrooms that had been assigned to them for the week.
Elaina gave the cameras and reporters a reserved wave, forcing a smile onto her lips as she walked past them as quickly as she could. A sigh of relief escaped her lips, her shoulders deflating slightly as she reached the table of her friends in the back corner – thankful that they would be tucked away behind their parents and away from the press for the remainder of dinner.
Her heart rate slowly began to return to normal and she couldn't help but be thankful that none of the reporters had shouted any questions at her. Although she was told by both of her parents that she didn't have to answer any questions directed her way, she would have felt absolutely horrible simply ignoring it, and she probably would have stopped to answer it and been stuck over by the entrance to the room for a long while.
She was glad that she hadn't stopped. Being in the public eye in pictures and on camera was stressful enough, being questioned about her personal life, often in a language that wasn't her own, was not how she wanted to spend her evening.
As soon as she reached the table, Alexander stood from his seat, pressing a kiss to her cheek in greeting and complimented just how beautiful she looked. She thanked him kindly, kissing his cheek back before he pulled away. He rested both of his hands on the chair in front of her, pulling it away from the table for her, but before she could sit, someone else approached both of them.
Carlos, Sofía's younger brother and second in line for the Spanish throne, offered Elaina a kind smile, leaning forward to press a kiss to her cheek as well. "Careful," he eyed the two of them as he pulled away. "There are reporters here. You can't greet each other so affectionately and pretend the rest of us aren't here. Someone will catch on."
Elaina nodded her head ever so slightly, her lips curling into a frown as she lowered herself into the chair Alexander had pulled out for her. "You're right," she glanced up at him. "Thank you."
Save for their friends, Elaina's cousin who hadn't attended the Summit, and Alexander's parents, nobody knew about their relationship. Nobody could know. Technically, they were not allowed to be in a relationship at all. It was stated in the English Constitution that the English heir was not to marry the heir to another kingdom. Both she and Alexander knew that, but they were young, they didn't have to worry about who they were going to marry quite yet.
They had time. Although, it was slowly disappearing, as Alexander's birthday was the following day and he would be seventeen, one year closer to taking over the throne from his father.
Alexander responded by immediately turning and greeting Sofía with a kiss on each cheek as well, pulling out a chair for her as well before returning to Elaina. He lowered himself into the seat beside her, his eyes widening for a moment, "sorry, I was just excited to see you."
"It's fine," Elaina reached over and rested her hand on his shoulder, giving it a gentle squeeze, "nobody's going to make any wild accusations about us from a simple kiss on the cheek. It's not a big deal."
Alexander's eyes darted around the room, trying to locate the cameras to see if any of them were pointed in their direction. He decided after a few moments that they were safe, turning to face her as he breathed out his next words quietly. "I've missed you so much."
Elaina's cheeks grew pink beneath her perfectly painted foundation, her eyes prickling with tears for a moment as she bobbed her chin up and down. "I've missed you too. I'm sorry we haven't had any time together."
"It's okay," Alexander smiled, "that will change tonight. I have a surprise for you."
Elaina leaned against the back of her chair, raising a brow at him, "you have a surprise for me?"
"I do," Alexander nodded as he adjusted himself in his own chair, leaning away from her. "I think you're going to like it."
Elaina hummed softly, "last I remember it was your birthday, this evening. I thought I was supposed to be surprising you."
"And what did you have in mind?" Alexander's eyes darted around the table, taking note that both of his siblings and their friends from Spain were distracted and deep in conversation.
"I don't know," Elaina shrugged, her lips curling into a frown. "It's not your birthday yet. You've got a few hours left."
Alexander's eyes lit up, his gaze boring into hers as she continued speaking.
"However," Elaina spoke softly, "once it is…" she trailed off for a moment, noticing that Sofía's eyes were on her. She waited until the older girl looked away before she continued. "Your birthday, I mean. If you were to find my bedroom door unlocked, or cracked open," her shoulders shrugged upward as she lowered her gaze to the perfectly placed silverware in front of her. "That would probably mean you were welcome to enter."
"Probably?" Alexander questioned, raising his eyebrows for all of a moment as he continued to stare at her face.
"Definitely." She clarified, shifting on her seat slightly. "Positively. Absolutely welcome to enter. It would be encouraged, actually."
Alexander rested his elbow against the table, his head tilting to the side, "that is quite possibly the best birthday present I could have asked for," he grinned, pushing his glasses up on his nose.
"It's not your birthday present," Elaina's eyes rolled into the back of her head, "it's just because I miss you. Your birthday present is amazing, though, and I can't wait to give it to you before I leave tomorrow."
"You're leaving tomorrow," Alexander's eyebrows pinched together in worry, glancing up as his younger sister, Elizabeth, sat in the chair to his right. "I thought you would stay for another day or two."
"I thought so too," Elaina frowned, her shoulders deflating slightly, "my Ma isn't feeling well, though. Papa wants to get her home."
Alexander frowned, his lips curling to the side as he adjusted his posture in the chair, facing the table instead of her as Sofía, Carlos, and Alexander's older brother, William, all took their seats around it. He hadn't planned on that. He hadn't planned to only have one more night with her.
Several dates ran through his head, trying to come up with something soon that he would be able to invite her too. He had barely gotten to see her at all during The Summit. He had spent so much of it at his father's side, or running around helping his parents' interns keep their dozens of guests comfortable. He had wanted to spend so much more time with her than he had. And now she was leaving in less than a day.
His expression grew determined, knowing for a fact that he would see her for her birthday party in August, but hoping that he would be able to justify another visit before then. "We'll have to try to come up with another reason to get you here to visit soon."
"William's birthday is in about six weeks," Sofía announced to the table after hearing Alexander's words, trying to give him the idea to invite her to his party. She nudged William's arm with her elbow, glancing over to him with a small smile. "I simply can't believe it. My boys are growing up so fast."
"Your boys?" William raised a brow, chuckling softly as he took the napkin from the table and laid it in his lap.
"What?" Sofía asked, her eyebrows raising as her voice rose in pitch. "You're my boys. All three of you." Her eyes darted between both her brother as well as the English princes. "And Alex is the youngest and he's already seventeen!" She leaned forward, her lips curling into a frown as she looked over to him. "You're only a year away from being an adult. You're becoming a man and I'm so proud of you."
Alexander's eyes widened, coughing into his balled-up fist as he suppressed a chuckle, "You should hear my Mum. She's been saying the same thing all week. It's just seventeen. There isn't anything really special about it. I got my license last year, and I can't drink until next year. It's just this… in-between year of waiting."
Carlos chuckled softly, turning to his right to give Elaina an almost pointed look. "Are you going to help him with that?"
"Your birthday party next year can't involve all the foreign leaders of the world," Sofía insisted. "Just us. Just us and your cousin Matthew, and maybe a few of your other friends. We're going to spend the evening getting you completely drunk."
Alexander chuckled, his shoulders shrugging upward as he remained quiet, not arguing with her words.
Elaina turned to Carlos, blinking a few times as she took in his words and attempted to make sense of them. "What?" She inquired, her nose curling upward in confusion.
Carlos simply shook his head, waving his hand in the air, "never mind."
Elaina stared at him for a few more moments, "what did you mean?"
"Becoming a man," Carlos tilted his head from side to side as he repeated his sister's words in an almost mocking tone. "Are you going to help him with that?"
Elaina's felt her cheeks warm as the implication of his words finally processed, reaching over to shove his shoulder roughly. "Carlos," her cheeks grew a deep red color as she scolded him, gaining the attention of the rest of the table who had continued with their conversation about Alexander's birthday the following year. "I don't… I don't know. And I don't particularly think that it's your business anyway."
"What?" Sofía asked, her eyes narrowing on her little brother, "what did you say?"
Carlos just grinned, his attention turning to the staff behind them as they brought out a tray of food, setting it in front of him. "Gracias," he gave a small nod before returning his focus to Elaina. "I was simply inquiring, Princess. There's no need to look so flustered."
Elaina's eyes rolled into the back of her head so hard her eyes shuttered, "you're an imbecile." She shook her head as a bowl of soup was placed on her plate, her shoulders relaxing as she took in the scent of it. She hadn't realized how hungry she was before there was food in front of her.
Alexander held out a hand toward her once they all had a bowl of soup in front of them. "Should we pray before we eat?" He offered, holding his other hand out to his sister on his left.
"If Oskar was here, he would oppose," Carlos referenced the German prince, his lips curling into a small smirk at the fight the younger boy had put up last year when they tried to pray before their meal. He watched as Elaina slid her fingers through Alexander's and held his hand out for her. "I think we should do it just to bother him. I'm sure he's watching all the way from Germany."
Oskar had been more than adamant that they shouldn't be praying in front of cameras at the Summit that was held in Argentina the year before. It had become a running joke between the group since. Sofía, Carlos, Alexander, and even William once, despite his usual indifference to praying, had suggested that they pray before eating in public simply to annoy the thirteen-year-old prince when he saw it in the papers.
Alexander said a short prayer, squeezing Elaina's hand tightly as he thanked the Lord for allowing everyone to be with him for his birthday. When he finished, he released his hold on her hand, but leaned over and whispered a soft, "I'm really glad you're here El."
She smiled, picking up the spoon and dipping it into her soup as she tried not to blush too harshly from his words. There were cameras everywhere. The last thing she needed was the entire world's media reporting on the fact that she was blushing after holding Alexander's hand.
Alexander's smile was smug as he leaned back against the wall of the ballroom, crossing his arms against his chest as he watched his cousin, Matthew, waltz around the ballroom in the mask that everyone expected him to be wearing. His plan was working like a charm, but he couldn't help but feel nervous. There were so many things that could go wrong.
He kept his eyes on Matthew, seriously impressed with just how perfectly the slightly younger boy had mastered his mannerisms. If he wasn't himself, he would seriously question whether or not Matthew was him. And he was relieved. That was the plan. They needed it to be convincing if they were going to get away with it.
His shoulders tensed, his eyes widening as he watched a black-haired girl in a black sequined mask approach Matthew, Clara Harlow, the daughter of one of his father's advisors, and the girl that the media speculated Alexander was currently in a relationship with. Wrongfully speculated, of course, but they speculated all the same.
Clara dipped into a low curtsey, and Alexander could clearly read from across the room as she greeted him with his title, "Prince Alexander." He grinned. His cousin's presence behind his mask had even managed to fool Clara Harlow, the girl who practically threw herself at him every time she was at the palace.
His shoulders relaxed slightly, breathing out a long sigh as he took that small interaction as proof that his plan would work.
Matthew gave Clara a stiff nod as the song came to an end, nearly jumping as he turned to the side and spotted Elaina to his right. Despite the masks, it was not hard to spot Elaina in the crowd, her green eyes shone through the gold mask that covered the top half of her face. Her lips were coated in bright red lipstick that stood out against the dark, emerald green floor-length gown that trailed behind her when she walked.
"Your Highness," Matthew straightened his posture, his eyes meeting hers for a moment.
"You're not Alex," Elaina's eyes narrowed, her lips pressing together.
Matthew grinned, his eyes darting over to Alexander in the corner of the room. "You're right." He frowned for a moment, "I'm impressed, no one else has figured it out."
"I know Alex," Elaina said, lifting her chin, "I've stared at his face more times than I've stared at my own. I know… I know how I feel when I see him. And you're not him."
"I'm Matthew," he gave the girl a kind smile, "I'm his cousin. I don't think we've ever formally met, but I've heard a lot about you."
"And I, you," Elaina nodded, "it's nice to meet you. I would offer to shake your hand, but it appears that you're trying to convince people that you're Alex, and I already know him…quite well, I might add."
Matthew held out a hand, his palm facing the ceiling, "it's a pleasure to meet you, Your Highness."
Elaina nodded stiffly, stepping back with her left foot and lowering into a small curtsey, all the same, resting her hand in his. "Is he here?"
"He is," Matthew confirmed, resting his left hand on her waist, "your ten o'clock. Try not to make it obvious that you're looking at him though."
"Of course," Elaina's feet moved along the ballroom floor, her head turning to the left before her eyes rested on Alexander in the corner, leaned up against the wall. "What is going on? Why are you in the expensive suit if it's Alexander's birthday?"
"It's all part of the plan, Princess," Matthew smirked, blinking a few times as he crinkled up his nose, adjusting his own mask against his face. "You should go see him. He'll explain."
Elaina's lips pressed together, "something tells me this surprise is more intricate than I initially anticipated." Her words were spoken with a thick French accent, swallowing hard as they stepped off of the dance floor.
Matthew grinned, releasing his hold on her waist and pressing a kiss to her cheek. "It's lovely to see you, Princess Elaina," he spoke loud enough for the few people around him to hear. "Thank you for coming."
"Of course," Elaina spoke just as loud, leaning forward to give him a knowing look. "Prince Alexander. Thank you for inviting me." They both gave each other a small nod before Elaina turned away. She forced herself to wander around the ballroom for a few moments, not wanting anyone to see her leave Matthew and walk directly over to Alexander.
She found Sofía stepping off the dance floor with William, teasing them gently as they passed her and walked over to the table of food in the back corner. After a few more moments she finally decided she had waited long enough. She slowly stepped over to Alexander, attempting to make it seem as though she had stumbled upon him, instead of setting herself on a path toward him.
"That was some restraint you just displayed," Alexander turned to face her as she pressed her back against the wall. His words were quiet, almost a purr as he pressed a kiss to her cheek. "How long did it take you to realize it wasn't me?"
"I figured it out when he was dancing with Clara," Elaina's shoulders shrugged upward, her arms folding across her dress in front. "He was laughing… and he seemed genuinely interested in what she had to say. That's not… that's not you. Even when you're trying to be polite, you're still obviously annoyed by her presence."
"I'm polite enough to laugh at her jokes," Alexander rested his upper arm against the wall, reaching up to brush a piece of her blonde hair behind her ear. "But you're right, I never would have given her as much attention as he did. He's done an amazing job so far, though."
"Why?" Elaina's nose curled upward, feeling a small pit form in her stomach as she leaned away from him. "What's going on? Why aren't you in the expensive suit in the middle of the dance floor?"
Alexander stared at her through the dark mask covering her eyes, his golden-brown curls hanging over the top of it. "I can't spend time with you if I'm spending time with every girl in England that wants to dance with me. I can't enjoy myself if I'm spending my night with everyone but you. This way… This way I can."
Elaina took in a breath, feeling her heart warm at his words. She reached forward, wrapping her hand around his wrist and sliding his jacket sleeve up enough to see his watch. "How long do you think we have to stay before we could disappear unnoticed?"
Alexander stepped away from the wall, holding out a hand, "dance with me?"
Elaina's fingers pressed against the palm of his hand, "I think I asked you a question first."
"And you answered mine anyway," he stepped off of the wall, walking with her over to the dance floor. His eyes darted over to meet hers, seeing her narrowed eyes behind her mask. "Ten o'clock," he finally answered. "I think. Maybe a few minutes before if we're lucky."
Elaina's red-painted lips curled upward into a small smirk, "you're going to leave your own birthday party after only two hours? Whatever you have planned must be really interesting. It appears as though your parents poured quite a bit of money into this party."
"You're one to lecture on money," Alexander scoffed softly, reaching up to adjust his mask on his face. "All the money your parents have spent on your birthday parties in the past could probably end world hunger, or at least feed all of Venezuela for a considerable amount of time."
Elaina's head tilted to the side, "you're probably right. But—" she paused, reaching up to brush a finger against his chin, wiping off a bit of paint that had rubbed against it from his mask. "—I've always been present at those parties to appreciate them. You're going to leave this one. Why?"
"Because I want to spend that time with you," Alexander leaned forward, gently touching his covered forehead against hers. "I just want… I want the entire world to leave us alone for a few minutes. I'm willing to give up a party for that. I'd be willing to give up almost anything for that."
"You'll see," Alexander's gaze bore into hers, his voice growing quiet. "I promise, you'll see."
Elaina nodded softly, "okay."
"Can you meet me in my office at ten?" Alexander asked, resting his hand on her waist as they began to step to the right in beat with the music.
"Yes," Elaina nodded stiffly, "should I let my guards know that we're going somewhere?"
"No," Alexander's expression grew urgent. "Don't do that. Just…just come find me in my office at ten and I'll explain everything. I swear."
Elaina agreed, focusing on not stepping on his feet with her heels as they danced around the room. The song quickly came to an end and Alexander kept his hand wrapped around hers, silently pleading for her to dance with him one more time. She reluctantly agreed, insisting at the end of the second song that she had to go and spend some time with their other friends if they didn't want anyone to grow suspicious.
Alexander frowned but didn't argue, releasing his hold on her hand.
Her lower lip puckered out as she watched his lips curl into a frown. She leaned forward, pressing a light kiss to his cheek before murmuring in his ear, "I'm all yours in an hour. I promise."
Alexander managed to escape and find his way to his office nearly twenty minutes early. He sat down on the cushioned chair in front of his desk, sinking down with a small sigh, feeling as though his airways were opening up again after escaping the stuffy ballroom. He hadn't even been the center of attention and he was exhausted. He couldn't imagine how his cousin, Matthew, felt.
Matthew, much like his brother, had always been much more comfortable socializing with others than he had, though. When he was in a room full of people, Alexander tended to feel tense, the room growing stuffy as he quickly became overwhelmed. William and Matthew weren't like that. They took the attention in stride and held themselves very well in a room where they were the center of attention. Alexander didn't have that same ability, which he always despised, because he would one day be king, and they wouldn't.
Matthew was Alexander's maternal cousin, which meant he didn't, and never would have any claim to the English crown. And William, Alexander's older brother, hadn't been in the line of succession since before he was four years old. When he was very young, he had developed a rare and unpredictable form of epilepsy. It was mostly under control now, and William hadn't had a seizure that caused any major concern since the age of seven, but despite that, his parents didn't want William to have to worry about his illness resurfacing during the long, stressful days of being king.
William would never be king, but he didn't seem to mind much. He was attending one of the most prestigious universities in the nation. Because he was an adult, he would be twenty in just over a month and a half, he didn't have any further responsibilities to the country, only his family. He came home to see them on major holidays, and for large gatherings such as The Summit, mostly because Alexander begged him to, but other than that he mostly stayed away, content to hide away on campus, far from the media and the press.
When Alexander was six, his parents had announced to the world that he would be the heir to the English throne. Since a few years after that, when he realized what it meant, he had spent his time in public trying to prove himself to the English citizenry.
Part of the problem was the fact that William was the spitting image of their father. Despite the fact that he didn't like the media, he was wonderful with them. He was tall, strong, and his smile could charm anyone into agreeing with him, he was exactly how everyone imagined their next king would be like.
Living up to that wasn't easy for Alexander.
He was by no means unattractive, but his presence wasn't anywhere near as strong as his father's, or William's. His expression was softer, even when he tried to appear serious, and it was so much harder for him to hide his emotions behind a mask as William and Arthur were able to do so easily. None of those things were inherently bad, but when paired with his anxiety about public speaking, and overall lack of confidence, the media weren't always the kindest to him.
They often made comments, even when he was younger, about how much different he was from his father, and whether or not that was a good or bad thing. Their worry was only magnified when Alexander seemed to shut down in front of cameras, his eyes growing wide as he stumbled nervously through speeches or even just responses to questions. Sometimes, his struggle to articulate his thoughts made him appear less like a Crown Prince and more like a child trying to fill shoes that were far too large for him.
And that's exactly what he was doing, to be fair to him. Alexander was only ten years old when he started studying the basics of the English government and the history of the world. He was even younger than ten when his parents had begun to introduce him to much simpler versions of the problems he would one day face - the decisions he would have to make. He had been a child. He was still a child. No child could be expected to be as well rounded, in control of their emotions and thoughts, and confident as an adult that had been doing it for years.
It wasn't fair to Alexander, but nevertheless, the press persisted in their reporting that Alexander wasn't ready.
He spent many years of his life despising the press, thinking that they would never approve of him. He hated reading articles about how he looked so small standing next to his father. But worse than that, he absolutely despised when reporters wrote about how confused he appeared to be while at important events with his parents. He started attending The Summit with his parents, more for appearance and to keep Sofía company than anything else when he was twelve years old.
The press had reported on his confused look for weeks afterward. Most of it had been playful, almost teasing, but he hadn't appreciated it. Of course, he had been confused, he was twelve. No twelve-year-old could possibly understand the complexities of the international economy, no matter how much they had studied it.
He hated the press. He hated the cameras. He hated that he couldn't do a single thing outside of the palace walls without having to worry about someone taking a misleading picture of him and selling it to three news outlets before he even knew what was happening.
He knew he shouldn't care. When the time came, it didn't really matter if the media thought he was ready, it was mostly up to his parents. They had been training him almost as long as he could remember to act, look, and think as a king would. It was hard to not care though, especially when the media tried to infiltrate his entire life and take every piece of it for themselves.
Tonight, they wouldn't be allowed to do that. Tonight would be different. He was going to do something he had never done before. And he was going to take Elaina with him. She was the only one, besides maybe his siblings, that had always understood how and why he resented the media, and she was the only one that would appreciate being able to escape it all as much as he would.
With the help of his brother and sister, he had been planning this for almost six months, since just before Christmas the previous year. Originally, the plan had been to carry it out in Versailles, at the Christmas party that Elaina's parents, Louis and Adalyn, had hosted. It had been too soon though, and they didn't have everything they needed. Instead, they chose to wait until April, Alexander's birthday, so they could be positive they wouldn't be caught.
It had taken a considerable amount of planning, and Alexander couldn't help but feel almost nauseated he was so nervous that something would go wrong. If a guard would recognize them, or worse, if they couldn't get back into the palace undetected. Being caught upon their return to the safety of their guard details would be worse than being caught trying to leave.
No, he told himself, lightly shaking his head at the thought. It will be fine. We will be fine.
He had to be careful. He had to make sure they were safe. He wanted to escape the media for the evening. What he didn't want to do was throw himself and his girlfriend headfirst into a dangerous situation. He had done endless research with his siblings on where in London they could go that would be safe, but not dreadfully boring.
They had decided on a walk through one of the public gardens, even though the flowers wouldn't be in full bloom yet. Then, they would go to a small bakery on the opposite side of town, close to the campus of a local university that was open twenty-four hours a day. He had been there once or twice with William when they both found themselves needing to escape the palace for a drive. They had the best hot chocolate he had ever tasted, and he wanted Elaina to try it.
Even with the research, and the confidence in their plan that Alexander had, he still had to be careful. If one thing went wrong, he could jeopardize their entire relationship. If this ended with them caught, his parents would be almost impossible to convince to allow them to spend time together again, especially alone. Beyond that, he was sure that her parents would be adamant that the two of them couldn't spend any more time together.
His heart padded quickly in his chest, his jaw clenching as he swallowed hard, telling himself that they would be okay several more times.
"Lex," Elaina's voice pulled him from his anxiety-ridden thoughts.
Alexander pulled up the sleeve on his jacket, glancing at his watch, "I thought I said ten." He smiled, trying to hide the fact that he had been nearly panicking a moment before as his eyes darting over to the door through his mask. "You're early."
"Given the elaborate scheme you obviously have planned," Elaina's eyes narrowed, her hands lifting and sliding along the strings on her mask. Her fingers undid the knot beneath her carefully curled blonde hair, pinching the mask with her left hand and peeling it off of her face. "I don't think you should argue being graced with my presence for a few extra minutes." She leaned against the arm of the chair he was seated on, turning her head to look at him.
Alexander chuckled, his lips curling into a small smirk as he watched her pull the mask away from her face, her pointed nose a light pink color from the hard fabric resting against it for the last few hours. She blinked a few times as she tied the string on the mask before lowering it back to her side, lifting her chin to look up at him, a curious expression on her face. She opened her mouth to ask him why he had asked her to meet him in his office, but quickly closed it, deciding that he would tell her when he was ready.
Alexander took in a breath, his gaze fixing on her face, her fierce green eyes only punctuated by her thick mascara and perfectly blended eyeshadow. Her thin lips were curled into a small smile, her head tilting to the side as her eyes glistened in the light of his office, her expression growing affectionate as she raised her hands and carefully undid the knot on the back of his mask, pulling it off of his face.
His shoulders deflated, swallowing hard as he felt his heart physically ache at the thought of her leaving the next day. He leaned forward, quickly pushing himself up onto his feet and spinning to face her. His still masked forehead pressed against hers to try to hide the fact that his vision had blurred with tears in response to his thoughts.
"Alex?" Elaina's voice grew worried, her small hands reaching up to carefully cup his cheeks in her palms. "Are you okay?"
Alexander's chin bobbed up and down, his teeth showing as he gave her a smile. "Yes," he promised, lifting his own hands and resting them on top of hers. "I'm okay."
"How truthful are those words?" Elaina raised a brow, her lips pressing together as she tilted her head to the side.
It was a question that they both asked each other often, especially when they were on the phone. They were the future monarchs of their respective countries. Their lives were beyond stressful. Sometimes their default answer was to say I'm fine to everything, even if they weren't. One would ask the other how truthful their words were, and the other would answer with a number, from zero to ten. They're system help keep them true to each other.
"Ten," Alexander leaned forward, wrapping his arms around her and burying his face into her perfectly curled hair. "Eleven, actually. I'm okay. I'm more than okay."
"Because we're both here?" Elaina returned the hug, reaching up and tracing her nails along the back of his neck, "together?"
"Yes," Alexander breathed out. "I missed you so much."
"I missed you too," Elaina's lips pursed together as she kissed the side of his head a few times before she pulled away. She stood on the tips of her toes, her nose lightly brushing his as she stared into his gray, stormy eyes. "Happy Birthday," their lips interlocked for all of a moment. "I'm so happy I'm here with you."
"Me too," Alexander placed one more kiss on her lips. "I couldn't ask for a better birthday present."
Elaina's eyes widened at her words, "no, that's not your present." Her hands fell to her sides, stepping away from him as she turned and walked over to the bookshelf in the corner of his office. "Your present is over here."
"You hid my birthday present in my office?" Alexander raised a brow, watching as she pulled a book off of the third shelf, smiling brightly as she did.
"I did," she nodded emphatically, holding it out for him, "and you didn't suspect a thing."
"I didn't," Alexander took it from her, brushing his hand over the leather-bound book, staring at the intricate design on the front. "El, this is beautiful."
She smiled, guiding his hand to pull back the cover and look at the paper on the inside.
His eyes shone with excitement, his lips curling into a large smile as he opened the book to find it full of staff paper. He had mentioned to her a few weeks before that he had almost filled up his music journal. "Thank you," he closed the book tightly, wrapping his arms around her, "I love this so much."
Elaina laughed, tilting her head back to look at him as he embraced her, "Alex, that's not your present, well I guess it could be part of it, but there's another part too," she rested the palm of her hand against his chest, once more pushing him away. "You mentioned a few weeks ago that you needed a new one, and you surprised me with a new sketchbook with a note in it over Christmas, so I thought it was only fair that I do the same for you. There's a note in the front, you don't have to read it now though."
Alexander's fingers carefully opened the cover, his fingers lightly tracing over her perfectly neat cursive, his eyes scanning the page as he read a few of the last sentences she had written on the page.
"The world is a better place with your music. I can't wait to hear what you create next." His voice broke as he spoke the words, lifting his eyes to meet hers for a moment, "I love you."
She wasn't sure if he was saying it to her, or still reading her own words back to her, so she just gave him a small smile, "I do," she lifted her hand, gently nudging his arm. "I really love you." She blinked a few times, feeling tears start to well up in her eyes as she let out a small laugh to try to conceal it, "that's not your present though! Open it to the back. That's your actual present."
Alexander's shoulders deflated, "El, you didn't have to do all this."
Elaina's eyes widened, simply shaking her head, "all this," she resisted the urge to roll her eyes at him. "All of this is nothing compared to all that you have done for me."
And it wasn't a lie. Alexander absolutely spoiled her, offering her a new gift almost every time he saw her. Most of the time it was a new charm for the charm bracelet he had bought her several years prior. She didn't have the opportunity to return the favor very often, but she took advantage of the times that she did.
Alexander breathed out a sigh, "you are really the most amazing person I know," his lips curled into a loving smile as he flipped through the paper to the back cover.
Elaina watched excitedly as his gaze fixed on the object that was perfectly tied into the back of the book, hanging half-way down the page.
Tied into the back of the notebook with a thin, black ribbon was a golden cross inscribed with Alexander's initials, AMC. Alexander Matthew Charles. "El," he breathed out softly, carefully untying the chain from the ribbon, "it's… it's amazing."
"Do you like it?" Elaina's eyebrows furrowed down, "I didn't want it to be too… girlish. I made sure to pick one that was a little bigger, less dainty." She turned, leaning her shoulder against his as she pointed to it, "and I put your initials on it, too."
"It's perfect," Alexander's chin bobbed up and down as he carefully pulled it out of the book, holding it up in the air as he reached back and rested the book on his desk. "Thank you so much. It's amazing."
Elaina smiled, her teeth biting into her lower lip as she watched him admire it. "I know your dad has one, but I didn't think you did, and… and I have my charm bracelet from you that I can wear in public. I wanted you to have something that you could wear from me. That wasn't really easy, though." She frowned, turning her head to look at the necklace. "Wearing jewelry isn't something that most men do, but I saw your dad's necklace when you came to our Christmas party and thought you could use one like it."
"It's perfect," Alexander repeated, turning to face her as he repeated his gratitude. "I love it so much." He leaned forward, pressing his forehead to hers, "I love you so much."
"I love you too," Elaina grinned, reaching out to slide the necklace into her own hand, "would you like me to help you put it on?"
"Yes, please," Alexander turned around, waiting a few moments as she reached around his neck, carefully clasping the chain behind his neck. "Thank you so much."
"Happy Birthday," she said quietly, waiting for him to turn back around before she pinched the small cross between her thumb and index finger.
"Thank you," Alexander repeated again. "I don't know how I'm going to come close to this for your birthday."
"Alex," Elaina shook her head from side to side, breathing out a small sigh. She opened her mouth to argue, to insist that literally anything he gave her she would love, but she heard the door click open behind her and she felt a small panic run through her body, dropping her hands to her sides and stepping away from him. She turned to face the door, a small sigh of relief escaping her as she met the gaze of Princess Elizabeth.
"Liz," Alexander's tone grew scolding, "don't you knock?"
Elizabeth's eyes widened, pulling the door closed behind her, "sorry. I didn't know you two would be in here snogging. I assumed you would be explaining the plan."
"We hadn't gotten that far yet," Alexander took a few steps back, leaning against the front of his desk as he crossed his arms against his chest. "We can explain now."
Elizabeth's finger twisted the lock on Alexander's doorknob, stepping over to Elaina's mask that she had laid down on the chair beside her. She picked it up and looked it over, rolling her free hand in the air as if to prompt Alexander to start talking.
"Okay," Alexander took in a deep breath, letting it out through his nose as he tried to come up with a way to explain what they were going to do. "So, everyone we know thinks I'm in the ballroom. Even my Mum and Dad. We told them I would be wearing the mask that Matthew is wearing, and he has kept his distance from them enough that they shouldn't notice. We're… we're going to make everyone think you're in the ballroom too, without you being there."
Elaina's eyes narrowed, her eyebrows pinching together as she stared at him, trying to think of a reason they would do that.
"That's… Liz. We've… we've had a dress made that is identical to the one you're wearing, and she has a wig with hair that is curled just like yours is. She's going to put on your mask and spend time with Matthew and everyone will think we're there."
"Why?" Elaina couldn't help but ask. She didn't mind the idea of everyone thinking she was in the ballroom, especially if it gave her time with Alexander, but she didn't understand why it was necessary. They could just disappear from the party altogether. She could lie and say that she caught whatever her mother has, and he could claim that he was tired, there's no way he wasn't after the last three days.
Elizabeth grinned, "you're going to love it. Trust me." She stepped across the room to the closet in the corner. Elaina blinked a few times as she realized that there even was a closet, she had never noticed that before. "You're going to put this on," Elizabeth opened the door and pulled out a covered dress, hanging it over the chair beside Elaina. She pointed to the door that connected to an empty office beside them, "you can go right in there."
"Okay," Elaina's lips curled to the side, still not entirely sure why she was doing it, but she followed the younger girl's instructions all the same. She took the dress into the spare office, quickly reaching back and undoing the clasp and zipper on her own dress before stepping out of it. She laid it over the chair beside the cleared desk, opening the cover on the dress that Elaina had handed her.
She nearly flinched, resisting the urge to groan as she saw the dress. It was… boring at best, absolutely dreadful at worst. It looked cheap, as if it had been bought from a store that mass-produced its dresses for school dances. Her nose curled up as she slid into it. She supposed she would be able to make it work; she certainly wouldn't like it though. She tried to reach back to zip up the back, but she couldn't reach it. She murmured out a few curse words, stepping over to the door and opening it, giving the pair of siblings an annoyed look.
"I can't reach the zipper," her eyes landed on Alexander's, giving him an expectant look. She tried to hide her frustration with the dress, but was unable to bite back her next words, "and it looks like it was made for a thirteen-year-old's first school dance."
Alexander smiled, chuckling softly, "I thought you would say something along those lines. You'll get to change. I promise you don't have to wear it all night. We just have to blend in with the crowd for a little bit." He stepped around her, carefully pulling the zipper up her back. He allowed his fingers to linger for a few extra moments, pressing a kiss to the side of her neck. "I promise you'll really like it. And I'll let you burn the dress when it's over."
Elaina felt her cheeks grow warm at his actions.
"You look gorgeous," he spoke the words softly into her ear. "You look gorgeous in everything you wear."
Her lips curled into an involuntary smile, unable to contain her happiness at his compliment. He always knew just the thing to make her blush. She turned to the side, falling backward into the chair behind her, crossing her left leg over her right as she tilted her head back to look at him. "What's the plan?"
"The plan," Elizabeth grabbed a small box from the closet, lowering herself into the chair beside Elaina as she opened it and pulled out the blonde wig. "Is for you and Alexander to take a little tour of London while Matthew and I stay here and pretend to be you."
Elaina's expression fell, her eyes widening at the princess across from her. "You mean… what? Without guards?"
Elizabeth hummed, her chin moving up and down a few times, "nobody's going to know it's you."
"They'll notice I'm gone," Elaina shook her head, looking up at Alexander. "Alex, this isn't going to work. She can't… she's not going to be able to trick my parents. We'll be caught and alarms will sound and… and we'll be in more trouble than you or I could ever imagine."
Alexander lowered himself onto the small table beside her, his expression urgent, "El, we have it under control. I promise."
"No," Elaina insisted, "I can't leave this palace without a guard. I'm… I'm the only heir to France. What if something happens to us? What if something happens to you! The next in line is your little brother and he's only eight! We can't. Alex, it's not a good idea."
"Nothing is going to happen to us," Alexander assured her, resting a hand on her shoulder. "I promise that we'll be safe. Do you trust me?"
"Why can't they just pretend to be us, and we can sneak away and spend the evening in the palace gardens?" Elaina asked, her expression desperate. "We can… we can go up to my room and spend the evening together."
"We can," Alexander nodded his head, "we don't have to do this if you don't want to, but I promise you, my brother and sister have been more than thorough, and I have a copy of the guard rotations for tonight. I know exactly how to get out without any guards recognizing us. We'll get away with it. And when we do, we won't go anywhere dangerous."
"How are we going to get out?" Elaina's voice nearly cracked as she looked over to him, her eyes wide.
"Through the front doors," Alexander was careful to keep his voice calm, knowing that he could convince her to follow along as long as he was absolutely confident that it would work, and he was. "We'll be wearing masks. Nobody will recognize us."
Elaina watched as his expression faded into a proud smile, his eyes lit with excitement. She felt her stomach do a flip in on itself. She just wasn't sure. She had never gone anywhere without guards before. The idea of it made her nervous. It wasn't that she didn't think she could defend herself. She had taken countless self-defense lessons throughout her childhood. She could easily keep herself and Alexander protected in case of danger – she just didn't want to put herself in a position where that would be necessary.
If she wasn't the only heir… If he wasn't the Crown Prince… If she was anyone other than herself... If she was third in line like Liz… or even if she had younger siblings that would be able to take over for her if something happened… but none of that was true. There wasn't anyone else. She was the only heir to France. He was set to inherit the English throne in a few years. If something happened to them the entire world would grieve.
She wished that was an exaggeration, but it wasn't.
"El," Alexander leaned forward, "can you look at me?"
Elaina forced herself to lift her chin, meeting his gaze with an unrelenting glare. "No." She shook her head. "I can't do this. I can't leave. If we're caught… if someone finds out... My parents will never let me see you again. I'm not willing to risk that."
His lips curled into a frown, but he nodded all the same, "I understand. It's okay."
"It's too dangerous," Elaina's front teeth bit into her lip, "I can't… I won't."
Alexander rested a hand on her knee, his gaze boring into hers as he tried to sound as sincere as he possibly could. "We're not putting ourselves into any known danger, El. I promise. We're going to a public park that is patrolled constantly, and a bakery on the other side of town that has the world's most amazing hot chocolate. William will be a short walk away in a car all evening long. We'll be safe. I promise."
"Can you know that?" Elaina's eyebrows pinched together, her voice catching in her throat as she felt her eyes flood with tears. "Can you really know that? Because I'm it, Alex. I'm the only one. If something happens to be, we just screwed France. If something happens to you, your parents have to be king and queen for an extra decade while they train Alby! Is it worth risking that?"
"A night outside of the palace?" Alexander raised a brow, his voice soft. "A night with you without having to worry about guards and the press. A taste of what it's like to live the life we never will… I think it's worth a little risk. And I'm telling you, El, we will be safe. I wouldn't lie to you. I have complete confidence that we will be safe."
Elaina was quiet for a long time, her lips pressing together as her mind raced with his words, trying to decide what to do.
"Do you trust me?" Alexander asked, holding out a hand for her to take, his expression hopeful.
"Yes," Elaina nodded stiffly, not having to think for longer than a moment to answer his question. "I trust you." She waited for a few more moments, blinking a few times as she put her hand in his, giving it a gentle squeeze. "I trust you," she repeated.
Alexander smiled, helping to pull her up onto her feet before he wrapped his arms around her. "I'm not going to let anything happen to you," he spoke into her ear, his grip on her tight. "I promise."
"I know," she whispered back, patting his back a few times before they both pulled away. She turned to Elizabeth, quickly helping her to do her makeup similarly to her own before they parted ways. They all slid their masks into place, their stomachs churning anxiously, but they didn't dare tell each other that. They left Alexander's office. Elizabeth turned to the left, heading back to the ballroom, and Alexander and Elaina turned to the right, headed toward the front doors of the palace.
Alexander rested his hand on Elaina's back, leading her down the hallway to the main hallway of the palace. "We're going to be fine, just laugh and talk, tell me a story from school and we'll get past the guards without issue. All the guards that know me personally are in the ballroom, the ones posted at the front door have never met me. There's no way they'll recognize me with a mask on."
Elaina nodded stiffly, swallowing hard as she cleared her throat, attempting to sound as much like Elizabeth as she could, faking an English accent as she told him a story about Clara, the same girl Matthew had danced with earlier, who stayed only a few doors down from her dormitory at the school she attended in Paris.
She felt her stomach twist into a knot, her mouth running dry as they reached the front doors, attempting to sound as tired as possible as she told Alexander that she was ready to get some sleep and gave the guard at the front door a small wave. "Good evening!"
"Have a good night, Ma'am," the guard gave her a small nod, opening the front doors and allowing them both to walk out the doors and down the steps before he closed it behind them.
Alexander breathed out a heavy sigh, turning to look back at the door as soon as it was closed, "that was terrifying."
Elaina turned to face him, swatting at his arm, "you said you knew what you were doing!" She nearly shrieked, her French accent returning, "you said you were confident!"
"I was!" Alexander raised a hand to grip at his arm, his expression urgent as they kept walking down to the front gate. "But there was an extra guard at the front door. The one on the left talking to the on-duty guard. That was Jefferson. He's…He knows me. I was worried he might recognize me."
Elaina's eyes widened, a harsh breath escaping her nose as she gave him a fierce glare, "and what about Lewis?" She asked, questioning him about the guard that was in charge of his detail, realizing that she should have questioned him about this while they were still in his office. "Won't he notice that Matthew isn't you?"
"No," Alexander's lips curled into a small smirk, "he's in Italy for the weekend visiting with his wife's family. That's the only reason we thought about trying to do this in the first place. We wouldn't get away with it if he was here. He would know that something was off, and we'd be caught."
Elaina's eyes rolled into the back of his head, "and none of the other guards will?"
"There are close to five hundred people in that ballroom right now," Alexander pressed, reaching forward to open the palace gate. He heard a small click, stepping through it before he held out a hand for her to take and follow after. "And most of them are in masks. They are much more concerned about who is coming in than who is leaving." She opened her mouth to point out that they would have to get back into the palace at some point in the evening, but he was already equipped with an answer, smirking as he continued, "and William is going to be our driver this evening, and we'll hide in the backseat of his car and we'll get into the garage without a problem, which doesn't require any further security clearance to get us back into the palace."
"And if someone sees us coming in from the garage?" Elaina cocked an eyebrow, "that wouldn't exactly appear… professional."
"William got a new truck and he wanted to show it off," Alexander told her, "you wanted to see it and I wanted to come along because I needed a break from the party."
"Clever," Elaina smiled, their quick steps starting to slow now that they were away from the palace gate. "Very clever."
"I'd like to think so," Alexander smiled, slowing to a stop and leaning forward, his nose almost touching hers. "How are you feeling?"
"Nervous," Elaina responded honestly, standing on the tips of her toes and pressing a kiss to his lips, "but also excited. What are we going to do first?"
Alexander's wide grin made her heart flutter in her chest. Their hands interlocked and he began to pull her farther down the sidewalk – to a night that she would never forget.
The plan worked better than Alexander could have ever hoped for. They met William at the end of the block, and he drove them to a quaint park in the middle of town. They changed their clothes, not wanting to walk around in a suit and ballgown for the rest of the evening. Alexander brought along a small basket of food and they stopped a few minutes before midnight, both of them devouring a piece of cake.
Elaina kept a careful eye on the time, and when midnight hit, she kissed him, wishing him a very happy seventeenth birthday.
After they finished at the park, William took them to a bakery on the other side of London. They finished their evening with a cup of the bakery's famous hot chocolate.
Elaina loved it, she had insisted that he take her back there, with their guards, the next time she returned to London. He had happily agreed, promising her that he would work it out with Officer Lewis before she returned.
It was nearly one in the morning when they finally arrived back at the palace, quickly changing back into their clothes and switching places with Matthew and Elizabeth, who had played their parts perfectly all evening long.
They arrived at Alexander's birthday party at the perfect time – just when it was about to end. His father stood and gathered everyone's attention as the two of them walked back into the ballroom, both in their correct clothing and masks. Arthur wished his son a happy birthday and thanked everyone for coming to the party that he and his wife had thrown. Alexander stepped up next to his father's side, thanking everyone for coming as well, to both the Summit and his party afterward.
And with that, Alexander disappeared, he gave his Mum a kiss goodnight and told both of his parents that he was going to bed.
Elaina watched as he slipped out of the door behind his parents, turning to her parents and telling them both that she was also going to go to bed, and that she would be ready in the morning when it was time to go to the airport. She gave her Papa a kiss goodnight, and he asked if she had enjoyed herself at the party, making a comment out how she was so wrapped up in her friends that she seemed to have forgotten he was there. She assured him that she had really enjoyed herself before excusing herself, her heart beating rapidly in her chest. She tried to come up with an explanation for him, but nothing came to him. She usually checked in with him every hour or so when they were at parties like this one, she hoped that he didn't question her about it in the morning.
She pushed her bedroom door open when she arrived in the guest room that had been assigned to her for the week, careful not to close it completely behind her. She didn't want Alexander to come by and think that she didn't want to see him because her door was closed. She carefully undid the back of her dress, sliding out of it and retrieving a comfortable pair of pants and a t-shirt out of the closet of the room.
She quickly changed, feeling her eyelids grow heavy as she took off the remainder of her jewelry, setting it on the dresser. She could put it away before she left in the morning. It was nearly one-thirty, the last thing she wanted to do was sort through her jewelry box right now.
She crawled up into her bed, her hair falling in her face as she curled up onto her side, her chin tucked against her chest as she stared at the small ray of light coming into the room from the hallway. She wanted Alexander to come in through that door. She really wanted him to, and part of her wished she had been clearer about that, extending a more definite invitation for him to join her.
She and Alexander had been officially together since she was thirteen years old; she had only convinced him to stay with her in her bed four times, and the first time they hadn't even done anything other than sleep. Every time they had done so, Alexander had been beyond nervous that they would be caught, that his parents would find out.
His parents were deeply religious people, their devotion to the Bible surprising Elaina at times when she heard them speak. They raised their children reading them Biblical stories and praying every night before bed, attending church as often as they could. Elaina knew that some of the only non-royal friends that Alexander had kept consistently throughout his childhood were the ones he attended Bible study with.
In all honesty, she had always been just a little intimidated by their faith. Devotion. Obsession. She wasn't sure what the right word would be to describe it. She knew her Papa had been Catholic growing up, and she went to church on Easter and Christmas with him in Versailles, but not nearly as much as Alexander and his family did.
Just as she had known earlier that her parents would be angry with her for sneaking out of the palace, Alexander knew he would be in for it should he be caught in bed with Elaina. That was one rule that Alexander's father had made perfectly clear in the past, both for religious reasons and personal reasons. Logically, she understood. It made sense. One mistake, or accident, could end in a public relations nightmare.
She empathized with her boyfriend's desire to prevent disappointing his parents, but she also couldn't help the selfish hope that he would come anyway.
There was a possibility that they wouldn't be able to see each other again until her birthday in August. That was almost four months. And after that, it would be until Christmas before she returned home from school again, and there was no guarantee that they would see each other then. Their visits were becoming farther and farther apart. They needed to take advantage of the little time they had together while it lasted.
There was no definite age that Alexander was set to become king, but last time they talked about it, he estimated about four or five years. Alexander would become the King of England, taking over for his father and allowing Arthur to retire. Of course, that was not completely set in stone as they had yet, and it could change, but that was what they were planning.
That was five more years they had together, with a few visits sprinkled in each year. Five more years of their relationship before they would both have to move on and see other people for the good of their countries – unless one of them could be convinced to give up their position in the line of succession to their respective countries. And that was highly unlikely.
A light knock at the door pulled Elaina from her thoughts. She pushed herself up into a sitting position, her eyes wide as the door slowly creaked open.
"Is anyone in?" Alexander poked his head in between the door and the wall, a cheeky grin on his face. "Do they mind if I join them?"
"Not at all," Elaina was unable to contain her excitement, practically jumping out of bed and throwing her arms around him. "I didn't know if you would come."
"I'm sorry," Alexander frowned, pushing the door closed behind him with one hand as he gently patted her back with the other. "I had to at least be seen up in my room before coming down here or my parents would come looking for me. I told them goodnight and waited in my room for a few minutes until I knew they weren't going to see me sneak away."
Elaina pressed her face against his neck, "I love you so much."
"I love you too," Alexander spoke sincerely, "I'm sorry it took me so long. I'm sorry you thought I wouldn't come."
"I didn't think you wouldn't," Elaina shrugged her shoulders, "I just didn't know if you would. Those are two different things."
Alexander's hold on her loosened, helping to guide her over to her bed. "I'm sorry all the same. Did you have to wait long?"
"No," Elaina's head shook from side to side as she climbed up onto her bed, waiting for him to do the same before she curled up into his side. "Not long at all compared to the almost five months since Christmas."
"That was brutal," Alexander agreed sadly, turning onto his side and gently brushing his fingers through her hair. "I'm going to make sure that we have more excuses to see each other in the future. I promise."
"I'll try too," Elaina nodded against his chest, breathing out a small sigh. The room was quiet for several long moments before she finally said, "thank you for tonight."
"Thank you," Alexander corrected, "Thank you for coming with me. You really made it the best night ever."
"I loved it," Elaina's lips curled into a smile just thinking about it. "It really was the best."
Alexander tilted his head to the side, pressing a kiss to the top of her head, "was? Is it over?"
"It doesn't have to be," Elaina pulled her face away from his chest, staring at him through the darkness. "But… we can also go to sleep if you want too. I just want to be with you."
Alexander was quiet for a few moments, staring back at her outline in the dark, "do you want… do you want to? I don't want to do anything if you want to go to sleep."
"Alex," Elaina huffed, "yes, I want to, I definitely want to." She leaned her head forward, pressing her forehead against his chest. "But I just want to be with you if you don't want to. It's okay. I don't want you to get in trouble."
"El," Alexander shook his head, shifting his body so that his face was almost touching hers. "El, you left the palace without guards for me today." He barely breathed the words. "Don't worry about me getting into trouble, please."
Elaina wrapped her hand around his shirt, pulling him closer to her, "I love you," she repeated, pressing their lips together as she slowly began to unbutton his shirt, shifting beneath him.
"I love you too," Alexander's lips curled upward as their lips interlocked, feeling her tug him closer.
They hadn't been careful that night, but Elaina wouldn't have changed it for the world. Their time together was so limited that she had learned to appreciate everything. Every night. Every moment.
Elaina let out a shaky breath, her head bowing as her gaze fixed on the marble sink, taking several deep breaths as she felt her stomach finally begin to settle. She sniffed, wiping at her face to brush away the tears that had slipped from her eyes.
She released her hold on the sink, her hands shaking as she silently prayed that her fears were not true, that she was simply sick, and not pregnant. She couldn't imagine what the next few months would be like if she had to tell her parents she was pregnant. Tears welled up in her eyes at the thought of how disappointed her papa would be – how angry her mother would be.
She stepped away from the sink, still entirely lost in thought as she pushed the restroom door open and almost mechanically walked back to her office. She went through the list of tasks she would need to do for the day, knowing that her top priority needed to be calling Alexander.
He will know what to do, she assured herself, he will help me fix this. I'm not alone.