April 26, 2007

Dear King Alexander,

My name is Nicole Krenski, and I am your illegitimate daughter. My mother was Tanya Krenski; she was formerly a bartender at the Suds Bucket, which is where you met. You saw her socially for about three weeks before you married Queen Dara. (She—Mom, not the queen—used the money you gave her to finish paying for her journalism degree, moved to America, and we lived in Los Angeles for many years while she worked as a reporter for the Times. Not the queen, Mom.)

I’m sure you get these kinds of letters all the time, so I’ve enclosed my DNA results, as well as most recent blood work. If you prefer your own physicians to examine me, tough nuts…I hate needles.

My mother passed away recently without ever telling me who you were. When her attorney read me her last will and testament, I was pretty shocked, and it’s why I had to write to you.

To tell you a little about myself, I am five foot seven, with blue eyes and dark brown hair. My birthday is March 20, 1972. I enjoy tennis, cooking, and the collected works of Pat McManus and Carl Hiaasen. I work as a hunting and fishing guide for the Outer Banks Co. out of Juneau, and in my spare time I punch up scripts for Hollywood. The former is infinitely more satisfying, but the latter pays the rent.

I don’t expect to hear from you, so don’t feel bad. To be blunt, I can understand how a bastard popping up out of nowhere would be awkward for you and the rest of the royals. I just wanted you to know about me, but I understand you have many responsibilities, both family and professional.

I’ve attached my contact information in case you want a lackey to reach me. But if I don’t hear anything, no hard feelings.

Sir, I hope this letter finds you in all good health.

Sincerely yours,


Part One


Chapter 1

“H oly mother of God!” King Alexander II yowled. Jeffrey Rodinov, who had been casually leaning against the closed door of the king’s office, instantly sprang back, then went through the door. He didn’t open it and run through. He went through the door, his nine mil in his left hand. The safety was off. It was always off.

“Sir, get down!”

“I’m having a heart attack here, Rodinov, so don’t point that thing at me.” The king had a piece of paper crumpled in a large fist. “Holy Jesus! My God!”

Jeffrey snatched his two-way from his right hip, pressed the Call button, and barked, “Code seventeen, the Boss’s office, yesterday.” In other words, Dr. Hedman, get your ass up here pronto.

“Can you believe this? I can’t friggin’ believe this.” The black-haired, blue-eyed king, head of the Royal House of Baranov, was normally the picture of ?orid health. Right now he was as pale as the paper he was clutching.

Jeffrey had never seen him like that, not even after he’d been shot four years ago. (The first, and last, vacation Jeffrey had ever taken. Left the country for one damn month and the whole place fell apart.)

“Sir,” Jeffrey began, only to be interrupted as Edmund Dante, the king’s majordomo, galloped through the shattered doorway, then screeched to a halt in front of the large mahogany desk.

“My king,” Edmund gasped. “How may I assist you?”

It was a day for surprises; Jeffrey had never seen Mr. Dante so rattled. The king’s special assistant was as tall as His Majesty, but thin as a stick. He had served the Baranovs since time out of mind and as such, had no fear of any of them.

He also had two master’s degrees, one in Alaskan history, the other in Alaskan literature. The princesses had nicknamed him Ichabod Brain, something no one—not even the king—would dare say to his face.

Edmund Dante ruled the royal family with equal parts love and uncompromising ruthlessness. The RST (Royal Security Team) had as much respect for Dante as they did for any of their charges. They also took bets on whether Mr. Dante had ice water for blood or nothing at all.

“Is anyone going to tell me what’s going on?” Dante asked mildly.

Jeffrey shook splinters out of his hair. “He yelled. I came. Nobody’s here; it’s clean. Doc’s on the way.”

“I don’t need a damned doctor!”

Edmund stared critically at the doorway. “No, but you certainly need a carpenter. At the risk of wasting time by repeating myself, my king, how can I be of service?”

The king gargled in reply and thrust the smushed paper at his assistant. Edmund read it in four seconds, then read it again.


“That’s it? Hmmm? I’ll hmmm your scrawny butt, Dante.”

“I tremble before your wrath, my king. May I see the envelope?”

“I thought you screened all the king’s mail,” Jeffrey asked, dying to know what was in the mysterious letter, but too proud to ask.

“Ninety percent,” Edmund replied absently, glancing at the envelope, which had been neatly slit by one of the battalion of royal secretaries.

“Yeah, and I keep telling you to ramp it up to ninety-five,” the king said, gesturing to the piles of paper all over his desk.

Mr. Dante ignored the king; he was probably the only person in the country who could get away with it. “A few things slip by. Perhaps one of the admins read it and felt it was for the king’s eyes only.”

“Ya think?” The king ran his blocky fingers through his thick black hair. Although in his early sixties, he looked fifteen years younger, with very little gray in the hair he had passed on to nearly all of his children. “I got another kid running around?”

“Or not.” Edmund was now looking at a piece of paper that was still in the envelope. “DNA tests can be faked. This entire thing may be a fake. You have not forgotten you are the seventh richest man on the planet, I trust.”

“Well, holy old cripes, I guess it slipped my mind.”

“Mr. Rodinov, will you kindly holster your weapon? Goose season is several months away.”

“Yes, sir.” Jeffrey didn’t bother to point out that a nine mil would be a poor weapon for hunting geese. “Majesty, if you don’t need me, I’ll be at my post.”

“Thanks, Jeff.” Only the king got away with that; he hated the nickname. “And thanks for the response time. Sorry I scared you. Cancel the doc, okay?”

“Quite all right, sir. And I will.” Jeffrey bowed but, as Baranov royal protocol was much less rigid than most other royal protocols, was able to turn his back on the king and walk out.

He canceled the code seventeen, then took up his usual position, but since there was no longer a door, could hear everything. That was fine. That was more than fine. He liked being invisible. It made his job infinitely easier.

The Boss and Mr. Dante’s voice drifted into the hallway. Jeffrey took it as a mark of trust that neither of them bothered to lower their voices. “My king, there is one question on my—”

“Yeah, you know I had doubts about marrying Dara.”

“I was always surprised you went along with an arranged marriage.”

“Hey, my dad was sick and it was what he wanted. And you know how it is—a crown prince without heirs makes everybody nervous. But I still felt like they were jamming that wildcat down my throat. So I had a fling before the wedding. Nice gal. Really nice gal. Bartender, like the letter said. The woman made a mean Rusty Nail and that’s no lie.”


“We had a good time. She knew who I was and didn’t give a ripe shit. I liked that. Hell, I loved it.”

“And then…?”

“And then I got married. She knew the score; we had a nice good-bye and that was that. She never told me about any baby. Why didn’t she tell me?”

“I’m still trying to deduce why she bedded you,” Edmund admitted.

“Shaddup. Not a peep. Never asked me for a thing, never wrote me, never called. I just thought…you know. A nice memory and that was it. Then Dara got knocked up right away with David and we were off to the races.”

“So you’re saying it is biologically possible.”

“You kidding? I was barely out of my teens. I could go all night in those days. And we did, believe me.”

“Majesty, could you hand me that trash can? I’m feeling the uncontrollable urge to vomit blood.”

“Knock it off, tight ass. First thing we gotta do is find out if this, uh—”

“Nicole, Majesty.”

“Yeah, if this Nicole is the real deal. And then—”

“Perhaps it’s best if we take it one thing at a time, my king.”

“Yeah, perhaps.”

“I will contact the lab that did these tests. If they verify the blood work, I will make arrangements for our own tests.”

“Yeah, but she says she doesn’t want any more needles.”

Jeffrey heard a short silence, and then a distinctive sound: Edmund snorting. “You are her king, sire, and your will is Alaska’s will. Her wishes have no bearing on the situation.”

“Great, Edmund. Spoken like a true Nazi.”

“I live to serve, Majesty.”

Chapter 2

N icole Krenski, bastard princess of Alaska, daughter of a bartender and a king, counted to ten.

“Hey, I almost got that one,” her client chirped, yanking on his fishing rod with all his might.

“That’d be great, Jim, if we were fishing for pine trees. Give that to me.” Before I stick it up your ass. With a few practiced tugs, the Daredevil lure freed itself from the tree and plopped into the water. Nicole slowly started reeling it in, and felt a nibble. “Okay, you got a bite. Now remember what I told you.” Twenty-five times. “Carefully set the hook and—”

He snatched the rod from her hands and gave a mighty yank, which only ripped the lure out of the fish’s mouth.

“Hey, I think I’m getting the hang of this!”

Nicole scowled at the short (her height) balding stock broker on vacation from New York City. “Jimmy?” Copyright 2016 - 2024