The Royal's American Love

BOOK: The Royal's American Love
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The Royal’s American Love

By: Sophia Lynn

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Rights Reserved. Copyright 2015-2016 Sophia Lynn

 

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Chapter One

Marianna prided herself on her timeliness, but asking her
to get ready for a star-studded gala in just under twenty-four hours was too
much. Most of her clothes were suitable for typing in front of her laptop or
heading out to the club. She had utterly nothing fancy enough to wear to the
event Opal Featherstone had impulsively invited her to.

The former child actress had turned up in person, tiny dog
and personal assistant in tow. It was definitely something to see the woman
described as Hollywood’s greatest disappearing act pull up to Marianna’s tiny,
dingy apartment building in her black Cadillac, tottering up the drive in her
tall, orange heels. Luckily, Marianna caught sight of her and had come out to
meet her before she could try to get up the rickety steps.

“I don’t know how it happened, dear, but when I found out
that you weren’t invited to the gala, I was shocked, just shocked!”

Marianna looked around quickly before turning to Opal.

“Opal, it probably has something to do with the fact that
it’s
your
big event. You wrote a potentially award-winning
autobiography, and umm… I’m the last person your agent and your PR people want
snooping around.”

“Oh fiddlesticks,” Opal said, waving her hand. “Do you
think I care about that? No, dear, I want you there. Even if it’s not
the
thing
to have one’s ghostwriter present for one’s literary successes, I
cannot think of any one I would rather have at my side. You must show up, or if
I must I will send Henry to pull you out bodily and drag you to the gala
kicking and screaming.”

Henry, Opal’s personal assistant, looked as if it was news
to him, but he nodded. “You’ve been the driving force behind this book. Miss
Featherstone does owe a great deal of this to you.”

“And to her extraordinary life and gift of gab, let’s not
forget,” Marianna said, but it seemed as if Opal and Henry were set.

“Oh pish-tush, my gift for gab and extraordinary life were moldering
in my mansion in Bel-Air before you dragged me out of hiding. Do come, darling.
I’ll be prostrate with grief if you don’t.”

Some people might have mistaken Opal Featherstone’s speech
for hyperbole, but Marianna, who had worked with the old woman for some four
months, knew it was not. Behind the brazen child star was a sensitive woman who
never quite understood if people genuinely, truthfully liked her. There was
something nervous about the way Opal ask her to come, so Marianna nodded
reluctantly.

“All right,” she said, “but I can’t be there as you’re
ghostwriter, okay? I’ll be someone else, just please remember that.”

Opal brightened as if the sun had come up.

“Well, you can be my grandniece then, if anyone asks. Oh
thank you, dear! It would have been so empty if you won’t come…”

Opal had given her a surprisingly strong hug and
disappeared in a wisp of
L’air du Temps
perfume. Marianna had gone back
up to her apartment only to realize she was in a bit of a bind.

Marianna looked at the mirror in dismay, wondering if she
could plead illness.

If anyone could understand “unable to attend due to
terminal lack of fashion sense” it would be Opal
,
she thought, but
the truth of the matter was the old star would be heartbroken.

Sometimes, Marianna regarded getting the job as Opal’s
ghostwriter as some sort of strange quirk of fate. A friend of a friend had
clued her in on a strange ad on one of those work forums. At first, it had been
so shrouded in mystery that Marianna thought it must have been some kind of
joke. Then, after a week of interviews, it had been revealed that the subject
was Opal Featherstone, a woman who had won hearts as “America’s Little Sweetheart”
in dozens of fifties movies. Legend had it, sometime around the age of
seventeen or so, Opal had disappeared from the public eye, and no one knew what
happened to her.

Now, however, Marianna knew. She knew about the secret
marriage to a much older man, she knew about the daughter who died tragically
at less than six years old. She knew about the aimless flitting around the
world, and the attempts to do some real good on a planet that seemed to be
spinning hopelessly out of control.

Opal wasn’t always a very cooperative subject, but
together, over long interviews at Opal’s Bel-Air mansion, the story had come
out. When Marianna could see it in its entirety, she saw a narrative of a brave
woman who had seen so many incredible things over her long life. She set out
share Opal’s story with the world, and now, almost six months after those first
difficult interviews, she had done so. Tonight was Opal’s triumph, and she didn’t
want to take it away from her.

During the course of the interviews, she had come to
realize she enjoyed the process of compiling someone’s biography completely.
She loved getting into the details of Opal’s life, what made her happy, what
made her afraid. At first, it had been a way to make some money while she was
recovering from losing her job at the local newspaper when it went belly up.
Now she wondered if she had a career ahead of her.

Well, no use resting on my laurels
,
she
thought.
Time to get out there and see who’s running around.
After all,
she might find new clients at the gala, and that thought made her a little more
interested in going. However, she couldn’t go dressed like a reporter to the
gala, and she certainly couldn’t put on her old clubbing clothes.

Suddenly, inspiration struck, and she remembered she had
friends with expansive wardrobes who owed her favors. Five seconds later, she
was on the phone, her excitement building with each ring. This evening might be
some fun after all.

* * *

Nikolos was awakened from a deep slumber by a ringing phone.
He groaned, thrashing around in the enormous bed until he found the source of
the annoying sound. Before he did so, he encountered a plush female leg that
resulted in a giggle when he squeezed it. The giggle was so diverting that he
nearly let the phone go, but when he glanced at the screen he found that, in
fact, it was someone he could not ignore.

He swiped the screen and muttered a terse, “Hello.”

“Good afternoon, Prince Nikolos,” came the prim, slightly
disapproving tone of his mother’s personal assistant.

“Good afternoon, Philip,” he said, stifling a yawn. “What
is it?”

“Where are you at the moment, please?”

Nikolos glanced around at the luxury hotel suite. It had
been in better shape when he’d checked in the night before. There were the
remnants of a lavish dinner, and some broken furniture from when two of his
guests had decided they wanted to try bouncing from bed to couch and back
again. A good party, over all.

“Where am I supposed to be?” he asked, and he was answered
by a slight sigh. Somehow, Philip managed to roll irritation, disappointment,
and frustration all into one sound.

“Well, last night, you were meant to be at the journalist’s
convention in downtown Los Angeles,” Philip replied. “I take it you didn’t go?”

“I made it to the hotel it was being held at,” Nikolos
offered. He had. One of the women he’d brought back was a bartender at that
hotel.

“Your mother is hardly pleased with these developments,”
Philip said, “but I am sure that she will take that up with you herself. As it
is, I want to remind you that in just a few hours, there will be an author’s
gala at the King’s Head ballroom.”

“Why am I going to an author’s gala?”

Philip’s chuckle was thin. “The author in question is Opal
Featherstone. Despite the name, she is Greek-American, and it would be
appropriate for you to go pay your respects to someone who shares your
homeland.”

Nikolos sighed. “I see. You want me to go out and polish up
my image, is that right?”

Philip made a tutting noise. “That is not something that I
said at all, but if you could, it would be quite a good thing.”

Philip hung up, leaving Nikolos shaking his head.

Nikolos was a lean-muscled man with broad shoulders and a
tumble of inky black hair. He had features that were slightly heavy for real beauty,
but he had never had problems getting the attention he wanted from women. However,
neither his good looks nor his good taste got him anywhere with his family, who
seemed compelled to put a limit on his lifestyle.

This trip to the United States to hunt for a family
biographer was just the most recent attempt to get him into something a little
more productive. He would have been irritated if it hadn’t been so much fun.

Well, it looks like I’m heading out to meet a child star
,
he thought wryly.

Then the woman in bed with him stirred, reaching for him
sleepily, and he grinned with delight.

Philip did say that I have a few hours…

* * *

I…can’t help but think that Mei went a little overboard.

The moment she had described her dilemma to her friend, she
could imagine Mei lighting up like a Christmas tree.

“Come over first thing tomorrow, and we’ll get you set up.”

Marianna had intended to spend the day searching for
freelance jobs. She figured spending an hour or two at Mei’s loft would be
enough, and then she could search out clients before the gala in the evening.
The fashion designer had other ideas in mind.

The moment Marianna walked in, Mei ordered her behind a
screen to take off her clothes. While Marianna was behind the screen, she heard
Mei greeting some other people. In her underwear and surrounded by strangers,
Marianna felt suddenly very vulnerable.

“Mei… Mei, if you have invited people over to kill and eat
me, I’m going to be so mad at you…”

“No, silly, I just put together a team of people to get you
ready for tonight.”

“A…team? Seriously, I know I don’t go to the fancy places
on Rodeo Drive, but I don’t dress that badly.”

“Just trust me.”

Marianna could scarcely believe it, but it really did take
them almost eight hours to get to the “final product,” as Mei called it. By the
end, she barely recognized herself in the mirror. She had shown up in jeans and
a T-shirt, expecting to walk out with a dress in a garment bag. Now she stood
in front of Mei’s mirror, a flame-haired memory of a Hollywood gone by.

After some debate, Mei and her team decided to go retro
with Marianna’s look, something suitable for the event. The result was a
clinging, icy-white gown that showed off Marianna’s lush curves, paired with
glassy heels that were at least four inches tall. A frowning young woman with
an arsenal of hair care products had put up her hair in an elegant chignon,
while a determined young man gave her nails a beautiful polish in the palest
blue.

“I’m…so pretty,” Marianna said, looking at her reflection
in awe. She had always been the girl behind the scenes, the stage manager and
not the star. A part of her understood it had taken Mei and four other people
to create the look, but that wasn’t something she was going to dwell on. Not
right now, at any rate.

“You’re beautiful,” Mei declared. “You are just going to
stun at the party.”

As Marianna drove to the gala, she couldn’t help but feel a
spark of excitement in her belly. She could feel that something interesting was
going to happen tonight, and she couldn’t wait.

* * *

Nikolos knew the night held absolutely nothing interesting
for him. It was an enormous party, but he would spend the evening bored out of
his mind, begging for something to happen, and it never would.

No one knew who he was, and he didn’t care to be known. He
had started introducing himself as an emissary rather than a prince to curtail
long conversations, and at this point, he was ready to cut the evening short
and find something more entertaining to do.

He was just getting ready to ask for his car when there was
a rustle in the crowd. He heard a few people exchanging interested whispers.
With an experience born of many interminably long events in his past, he found
out who they were speaking about immediately.

Up on the second story landing, looking down at the
ballroom itself, he could see who they were talking about quite clearly. From
his vantage point, she looked like a fire-haired siren dressed in sparkling
white. She walked with a tremulous grace and an iron surety. She approached
Opal Featherstone, the woman of the hour, and bent down to kiss the old woman’s
cheek.

A few moments ago, he had been ready to leave. Now, it was
as if someone had put a hook through his heart and he had to stay.

Nikolos was a man who lived his life close to his own
desires. He didn’t question this one.

There was something captivating about this woman, and now
he headed down the stairs to find out exactly what that was.

* * *

The crowed stirred around her like eddies in the stream.
When she first entered the ballroom, she felt as if she were under a
microscope. Finally, though, she realized she had a choice: she could either
cling to the walls, hiding all of Mei’s team’s good work, or she could own it,
walking out unafraid. In the end, it was no choice at all.

She squared her shoulders, clutched her ridiculously small
purse a little bit tighter, and strode into the ballroom. She had never been a
woman who turned heads before, and now she was finding that she quite enjoyed
it.

The moment Opal spotted her, the actress immediately
beckoned her over. When Marianna leaned down to say hello, she gave Opal a
tender kiss on the cheek.

“Why, you look lovely tonight, my dear. I knew you had it
in you. You are my very favorite grandniece.”

Marianna grinned. “And you are my very favorite
great-aunt,” she said warmly.

“Run along now, make all of those wealthy, greedy hearts
flutter. Who knows, you might find a grand affair of the heart before you
leave.”

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