Authors: Sophia Lynn
The Royal’s Obsession
By: Sophia Lynn
All Rights Reserved.
Copyright 2015-2016 Sophia Lynn
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Table of Contents
The gallery opening at the Metropolitan Museum of Art was a star-studded event that attracted New York's best and brightest. Everywhere Anastasia McFadden looked, she saw another luminary, another genius, another gleaming socialite or eager playboy. She knew that fortunes and connections were going to be made tonight, and people's lives were going to change forever.
So why wasn't she more excited?
Anastasia was not a tall woman, but she always said that she made up for it by being enthusiastic. With chocolate brown hair that tumbled in an artful fall around her shoulders, wide blue eyes and a heart-shaped face, she had the looks and background to be one of New York's elite if, as her mother said, she would “just put a little more effort into it.”
As a matter of fact, her mother was heading for her right now, a slightly inebriated older man in tow.
“Anastasia, there you are. I've been looking everywhere for you!”
Holding her glass of punch as if it were a shield, Anastasia smiled weakly.
“Hi, Mom. I'm sorry—I was off talking with Senator Crawford about the clean water initiative going on in Boston…”
Her mother made a polite little noise that nonetheless managed to convey her entire lack of curiosity about what her daughter had been doing.
“Well, that's very nice, dear, but I've been wanting you to meet Jack here. Jack's the executive vice president of Goller and Sons, the chemical concern, and…”
Suddenly Anastasia's mother narrowed her eyes at her daughter and briskly turned to the man who was standing behind her and looking just a little confused.
“Jack, dear, don't move a muscle, all right? I just want to have a word with my daughter for a moment, and then I'll let you two get to know each other.”
The man started to say something, perhaps to protest, perhaps to simply ask which way to the bathroom, but her mother's gorgon stare froze him in his spot.
“Not one muscle!”
It was fascinating, Anastasia thought, how her mother could put so much threat into just a few words while she was smiling so happily. That smile dropped the moment she hustled Anastasia behind a tall pillar, relatively screened from the rest of the crowd.
“I did not bring you here so that you could trap Senator Crawford in a conversation that will not end about some dirty water.”
Anastasia smiled a little, because if there was anything that irritated her mother, it was someone who refused to cower.
“His fault, Mom. He started speaking about how rowdy the protestors were, and I just wanted to tell him all about why they were there.”
Her mother eyed her, a spark of anger in her blue eyes.
“You are acting as if you don't want to be here at all. This event is one of the highlights of the season, and you are kicking your heels like a girl trapped at a middle school dance.”
Anastasia sighed, because her mother wasn't wrong.
“I'm sorry. I know I'm out of sorts. I…I don't know what's going on with me recently.”
Her mother looked at her more closely, some of her ire being diluted with genuine concern.
“Your father and I have both noticed it, sweetie. You've been down.”
What could Anastasia really say to that? She had been. At twenty-five, it felt like she had been making the social rounds of New York for a lifetime. She did what good she could, she made friends, and she went to the parties, but it was all beginning to feel so false and tiring. She dated, of course, but it didn't help that the men that her parents kept introducing her to were all wealthy and fantastically dull. At best, they were amused by her conservation projects. At worst, they simply assumed it was an adorable hippie phase that she would grow out of once she had been “settled” with children.
“I think I'm just getting a little tired of New York,” she admitted.
Her mother seemed to take heart at that.
“Oh, well, you just need a new perspective. Come on, come talk to Jake, and…”
“I thought you said his name was Jack.”
Her mother made a waving motion of utter indifference, and Anastasia had to smile. Regardless of their differences in opinion, her mother really did have her best interests at heart. The only problem was that what they thought was best differed a great deal.
“Either way, he's a catch, dear…”
“And Amy Schillinger just walked off with him.”
Her mother turned towards Anastasia's prospective match and glared. Then she sighed, shaking her head and touching her daughter's hand.
“Well, sweetheart, if you're not having any fun, you're not having any fun. Why don't you take the car home for the evening? Your father and I are going to be heading out to the Hamptons with the Feinbergs tomorrow anyway, and we'll just go home with them tonight.”
Anastasia nodded with relief, squeezing her mom's hand.
“Thanks, Mom, that sounds great.”
“And when we come back on Thursday, I might have the scoop on Jeff Reynolds—you know, the man who designed that car retrieval app? He's supposed to be there.”
Anastasia loved her parents. She truly did. Her mother was old money, and her father was an entrepreneur who made his first billion before thirty. Together they had always sought to give her the perfect life. They wanted to give her everything that they could, and when they couldn't get her the perfect husband as well, they were increasingly confused.
She relaxed in the backseat of the Lincoln, gazing out at the lights of New York. She loved this town, but sometimes it moved too fast for her. It cared about things that she didn't care about, and sometimes it was simply too loud.
Anastasia shook her head. She wouldn't be the first one New York had run into the ground. Her feelings of restlessness weren't new, and if she let them become old, there was a better than average chance that she would find herself bitter and furious sooner rather than later.
Of course, that meant that she had to leave, but where would she go?
The vision that immediately came to mind was a place of clear water, bright sun, and soft breezes. The vision was so strong that she could nearly feel the way the breeze brushed against her skin, the way the sand would shift under her feet.
Well, I've been working for clean water so long, I guess it's time that I actually went and saw some
, she thought ruefully.
Almost as if her thoughts were being answered, her phone beeped. Frowning, expecting a string of questions from her mother about how she felt about phone apps, she picked it up. To her surprise, it wasn't her mother at all. It was Trinity.
She and Trinity had been boarding school friends, and then as they got older, that connection had strengthened into something surprisingly lasting. She had been around for the fallout when Trinity left her father's enormous mansion in San Diego, determined to strike out for Hollywood. She listened to her friend's struggles, and then…Trinity had disappeared for a month. When she came back, it was as the fiancée of Prince Apolo Buros of Greece. After a reality television show that still left Anastasia confused, they had married. She had attended that intimate wedding on a secret Greek beach, and even now, she could remember how blue that water had been.
“Trinity? What's up?'
Trinity laughed, the joyful bell-like tones making Anastasia smile in return.
“Why do you always sound so worried when I call you?” she said. “You always sound like you're waiting for someone to tell you they're dying.”
“Eh, it's been a long night,” said Anastasia. “I had a thing at the Met, and my mother seems intent on setting me up with New York's dullest and least interested in conservation.”
“My poor Ana. Well, believe me—if I had an exciting activist around I thought was worthy of you, I would send him right over. We're going to have to do the next best thing instead. I want you to come sailing with me next week.”
Anastasia had to laugh.
“Around it, anyway. A bunch of us are getting together to borrow my brother-in-law's luxury yacht. Seriously, this thing is like a miniature cruise ship, and we're going to do a tour of Greek waters. We're hoping to make it at least a two-week trip, and when I thought about people who I want on a boat with me for two weeks, your name came up.”
Anastasia thought about it for a moment. It would be amazing to get out of New York, and seeing the Mediterranean sounded like a perfect antidote to the gloom of New York’s early winter.
Trinity seemed to take her hesitation as reluctance.
“Come on, there's only so much do-gooding you can do before you turn into a withered little husk of bitterness. Come out, take care of yourself, and learn about some of the water you’re trying to save…”
Anastasia found herself grinning at her friend's enthusiasm.
“All right, you sold me on it. I've wanted to get out for a bit, and this sounds perfect. Thank you, Trinity.”
“Don't mention it,” her friend said warmly. “Book a flight as soon as you can. Don't worry about packing too much, and I'll see you soon, okay?”
After she hung up, Anastasia wondered what she was getting into. She had never been a party girl, not like Trinity, who had an actress's love of crowds and attention. While she wouldn't call herself bookish, she wasn't sure what being on a yacht for two weeks might do for her.
Ah, well, it'll be something different, and that's meant to be good for me, right?
Apolo knew that he was getting closer to his brother because a gorgeous woman in an expensive dress was storming away, her face red with anger. Apolo sighed inwardly and went on to find his younger brother.
He finally located him in the empty library, holding a whiskey on the rocks to his cheek.
“Did she slap you?” Apolo asked.
Augustine looked up with a wry glance. Physically, the two were very similar. They were both tall men with the thick dark hair and olive skin that marked all of their family. Where Apolo was a little more muscled, Augustine was leaner, with a swimmer's build. Where Apolo was accustomed to wearing a rather stern look, Augustine was more inclined to smile.
“She did,” Augustine said with a shrug. “At least she didn't dump her drink on me. I didn't want to have to go upstairs to get another tuxedo.”
“What the hell did you say to her?”
“I simply told her that she was being a little overly friendly for a woman who had gotten married just three months ago.”
“Was that really necessary? She's a duchess.”
“She's a duchess with a strong right arm, I'll tell you that for nothing. She came up, she asked to speak with me, and the moment we were alone, she started making all sorts of ridiculous innuendos about chemistry and quiet enjoyment. What was I supposed to say?”
Apolo sighed, shaking his head. He came to sit on the armchair, watching his brother closely. Though he wasn't going to say anything out loud, he was worried about him.
“Well, if it were me, I would have simply let Trinity handle it. She doesn't care for people who are too forward.”
At the mention of Apolo's wife, Augustine smiled with real pleasure.
“Yes, I've seen her run off some of the more insistent women who want your time. She's a real treasure, brother, and I hope you know it.”
“You didn't always think so,” Apolo pointed out, and Augustine shrugged, slightly embarrassed.
“I'll admit I thought you two got married too quickly. And all for a reality show? It was…a little unsettling. You had never done anything like that before.”
“I was never this happy before,” Apolo pointed out. “And if you did something besides being painfully blunt with everyone, perhaps you could be happy as well.”
Augustine groaned, shaking his head.
“Not this again. Look, now that you’re happily married, don't think that everyone needs to follow your shining example, all right? I'm having a good time, and with you and your lovely wife taking up the limelight, no one cares if I'm just doing as I please.”