“Tell us about the new transportation initiative you’re working on, George,” the Queen says.
George Fulton seems young to be a mayor—maybe twenty-seven or twenty-eight. He’s cute in a tall, blond, lanky JFK sort of way. His accent is nice and he smiles easily.
He explains the cutting-edge technology they’re installing on the Tube that would propel the trains with magnetic power instead of electricity.
“That’s brilliant,” the Queen comments. “Isn’t that brilliant, Eleanor?”
I don’t correct her about the name. I’m not an expert on etiquette, but I get the feeling if it’s rude to correct your host, correcting the Queen of Wessco is a major freaking no-no.
So I nod and smile. “It’s really interesting.”
“We’re planning on renaming the first renovated station the Margaret-Ana, after your mother, Your Majesty.”
“That would be lovely,” Queen Lenora says. “Mother was a forward thinker—ahead of her time.” Then she turns to my sister, motioning to her big baby belly. “And speaking of names, Olivia, I’ve been meaning to discuss the children’s names with you.”
Liv sets her teacup down. “Their names?”
“Yes. Although we don’t know if it will be two boys, two girls or one of each, it’s crucial that they are well thought out. Symbolic and representative. Nicholas’s grandfather’s side of the family has been neglected in recent years, so you and he will be expected to make up for that now.”
“Oh. Uh . . . well, what were you thinking?”
There’s a pause in the air—even the bees stop buzzing—and the word just sort of hangs there, like a bad smell.
My sister’s not sure if she heard right.
She heard right.
“Yes. A fine, strong name, with history behind it. And for the boy—”
“Ernstwhile is the girl’s name?” Liv asks, wide-eyed and horrified.
“Yes, of course. Nicholas’s great-great-aunt Ernstwhile; she was a very resilient woman.”
With a name like that, I think she’d have to be.
“And for the boy—Damien,” the Queen declares.
Cue The Omen music.
Olivia’s one, true fear. She watched the movie secretly when she was nine, after our parents went to bed one night, and it scarred her for life. I still remember her combing through my four-year-old hair, searching for a 6-6-6 tattoo—just to be safe.
“Nicholas and I were thinking of more . . . common names.”
The Queen shakes her head. “If you had wanted to name your children Bob or Tina, you should have married a plumber. You married a prince. The grandson of a queen. That comes with obligations.”
My sister is usually spirited, lively—the spunk is strong in our family. But the pregnancy, the move, the pressure of carrying the new generation of Pembrooks, the relentlessly dickish press who still haven’t gotten over her bagging Wessco’s favorite son—it’s been hard on her. Sapped some of her toughness. So now, Olivia . . . wilts, before my eyes.
“I think I’m going to lie down for a little while.”
“Do you want me to come with you?” I ask.
“No.” Her voice is quivery. “I’m fine on my own.”
Without another word, she waddles up the path to the palace.
And it takes only about ten minutes before my brother-in-law comes charging back down, his eyes bright green and shooting sparks.
George bows. “Your Highness.”
“Fulton.” Nicholas nods, while looking hard at his grandmother. “Ellie, George, would you excuse us, please?”
We start to get up, but the Queen lifts her hand.
“No. We’re in the middle of tea. I’m sure anything you need to say can be said in front of them.”
“All right, then—stop it.”
The Queen looks taken aback.
“You know what. We’re not chess pieces; stop trying to control the board.”
Queen Lenora folds her hands. “Is this about Olivia?”
Nicholas raises his arm toward the palace. “She’s in our room, crying her eyes out right now.”
The Queen huffs. “Well, that’s ridiculous. She’s being entirely too sensitive.”
Nicholas throws up his hands. “Of course she’s sensitive—she’s seven and a half months pregnant with twins! She’s uncomfortable all the time. She can’t sleep—she can barely breathe! The paparazzi are climbing the palace walls, the press is tearing her to pieces and there’s not a damn thing I can do to stop it, and a psychopath is leaving sadistic notes addressed to her on our doorstep. And now you—”
The Queen’s words crack the air like a whip. “Watch. Your. Tone.”
My brother-in-law stops and takes a deep breath. He rubs his hand down his face and looks off toward the horizon. When his gaze turns back toward his grandmother he’s calmer, but cold.
“I brought her here so she could rest in safety. So she could relax. If you make that impossible, I will take her someplace else. And if you wish to have a relationship with your great-grandchildren, then I’m telling you now, Grandmother—stop it.” He pauses to let the words sink in, then adds, “We won’t be having this conversation again. I hope that’s clear to you.”
The Queen doesn’t respond with words, she just sort of breathes—like a dragon who wants to smoke a prince’s ass. Nicholas waits for her to nod, and when she does, he bows to her and walks away.
“Never have children, Eleanor,” she tells me stiffly. “Ungrateful to the core, the whole lot of them. Write that down.”
Dutifully, I tap on my phone.
Then, George, Queen Lenora and I sit silently. And it’s so awkward.
I try to fix it. “I think Ernstwhile’s kind of cute. Maybe we can call her . . . Ernie.”
Her Majesty doesn’t crack a smile.
Then George makes a sound. “Ballsack.”
My face scrunches and I turn to him. “Uh…gesundheit?”
He grins, gesturing to the Queen. “I was just agreeing with you, Your Majesty, names should be carefully considered. I have family on my father’s side—the Ballsacks—who made the unfortunate decision to name their oldest Harry. They didn’t think that one through at’all.” He shakes his head. “Or say it out aloud.”
I hear the name in my head and snort.
Then I add my two cents. “I went to school with a girl named Alotta. Alotta Bush. She was captain of the cheerleading squad. Strange but true.”
George chuckles and while the Queen doesn’t join our discussion, I see her lips twitch.
“The first girl my brother loved was named Constance Uma Natasha Theresa,” George says. “Turned out to be a fitting acronym.”
And I full-out laugh, “Oh my God.”
The Queen sips her tea and resumes our regularly scheduled “non-cheeky” conversation.
“The National Museum has a new Monet exhibit opening this evening, George. Will you be attending while you’re in the city?”
George grins. “I had planned on it, Your Majesty, yes.”
“You should bring Eleanor with you.” She looks at me. “You haven’t been to the museum, have you?”
“No, not yet.”
Queen Lenora nods. “Then it’s settled. You’ll go together and have a wonderful evening.”
George meets my eyes over his teacup and his cheeks turn pink.
Because he senses the same thing I do—we’ve just been royally set up.
Not cool, Lenora . . . not cool at all.
A little while later, I’m walking down the hall to Nicholas and Olivia’s room, to check on my sister. And I see Logan at the opposite end of the hall. I didn’t think he was working; I hadn’t seen him yet today—and my body reacts the way it always does when he’s close. My pulse picks up, my breath quickens, hope and attraction swirl in my stomach, making me feel slightly nauseous, but not in a bad way.
His strides seem purposeful, and they’re aimed directly at me. We meet up outside Olivia’s bedroom door. His eyes are dark, almost black with intensity, and I wonder what he’s going to say.