Chapter 23

"This is so totally embarrassing," Kurt said, rubbing his eyes.

"Indeed, sir?"

"What am I doing here? I mean, she practically knocks my block off, makes it clear I'm on her shit list, and she's been merciless with the teasing. Not to mention the prince is giving me the ole hairy eyeball every time we run into each other. So why didn't I get on a plane and go back to L.A.?"

"Lady Christina did not wish it, sir."

"Yeah, yeah." He sighed. Sometimes he thought he'd gone as cuckoo as the royal family. If he'd half a brain he would have left as soon as the swelling went down. Instead, Chris insisted he stay, telling him the devil she knew was better, whatever the fuck that meant.

And... if he was going to be 100 percent truthful... he stayed to redeem himself. To prove that he wasn't what she'd said: a pussy hound with no conscience. That foxy Princess Alex had put a few moves on him, but he'd treated her like she was radioactive. Her father wasn't just a big guy, he could, like, bomb California or something.

So here he was, standing outside Christina's rooms with Edmund.

He knocked on the door.



He knocked harder.


Edmund said loudly, "We're coming in, my lady!" and—whoa!—opened the door and walked in. Brave dude!

Not knowing Chris as well as he thought he did, Edmund tiptoed over to the head of the bed. "My lady? It's time."

"Unffff, unfff," she muttered.

Kurt walked to the foot of the bed and pulled the comforter up, revealing Christina's sleep-lined face. "Aaggh! I mean, good morning."

"Go 'way," she grumped.

Edmund gingerly picked up the comforter on his end and gazed at her feet. "I think, first, a pedicure."

"S'not time t'get up yet."

"Oh, yes it is, sunshine!" Kurt flinched as her filmy gaze landed on him. "Uh ... I forgot how... urn ... dewy fresh you look in the morning."

"Shut the hell up. Both of you pervs, get lost." She started to worm her way back under the bedclothes.

"Ah-ah-ah!" he sang. "You ignored your alarm clock, so Eds and I got the duty. It's time to get married!"


"Quite so, my lady, but we all have distasteful tasks we must attend to. Now come along."

"Is it really," she sighed, "April second? Already?"

" 'Fraid so, cutie." From Kurt.

"It seems like I just got here."

"Really?" From Edmund. "It seems like you've been here an eternity. A joyful eternity."

"Shaddup. Where's David? Whyn't you go wake him up?"

"His Highness has been up for four hours, my lady."

"Figures. Kurt, what the hell? Are you in here waking me up because you carry a sidearm?"

"I was specifically recruited for this hideously dangerous mission, yes," Kurt admitted.

"Smart of 'em," she said grudgingly, and tossed back the bedclothes, and stood, and yawned.

Both men stepped back from the bed.

"What?" the future member of the royal family snapped.

"Nothing, my lady. You're as ... refreshing... as always."

"Nothing," Kurt added, "except... could you go brush your teeth? Like, right now?"

"Assholes," she grumbled, and stumbled toward the bathroom.

Christina sat up abruptly, and the makeup artist nearly put her eye out with the eyeliner pencil. "Wow! Alex, Kath, Jenn .. . you guys look awesome!" Kathryn and Alex, doubtless used to looking unbelievably, mouthwateringly gorgeous, just shrugged.

Jenny blushed to her hairline. The dresses Horrance had designed set off the women's coloring superbly ... all three had dark hair, and Kathryn and Alex had the Baranov blue eyes. Jenny's big, dark eyes seemed to swallow up half her face, and she was very white. Even for her.

"Jenn, why don't you sit down before you fall down? You okay?"

"Fine, my lady. It's just... there are several details ... my list... I must find my list..."

"Siddown," Alex said, while Kathryn looked on with concern. "Naomi!"

A maid poked her head into the dressing room. "Highness?"

"Get Jenny something to drink and something for her stomach."

"At once, Highness."

"My lady... if you could please sit still..."

"Okay, okay." Christina slumped back. It was extremely weird to be fussed over by a stranger while she was sitting in her underwear. Well, at least Edmund wasn't doing her makeup. "I don't see why we have to do this, anyway. I'm perfectly capable of putting on my own makeup."

"Do you even know," Alex said, smirking, "which end of a mascara wand goes on your lashes?"

"Ohhhh, that's so funny I forgot to laugh."

"How old are you?" Alex muttered.

"The minister wants to talk to you," Kathryn added.

Christina nearly fell out of her chair. Kathyrn spoke! Without hurling eye shadow! It truly was a historic occasion. "Well, he can't. I'm in a damn bustier and panties and thigh-high stockings. He can just wait until I've got a few more clothes on."

"He's a man of God," Kathryn said. "He wouldn't give a shit if you had a rose in your teeth."

"Man of God, not eunuch. Besides, David gets weird about stuff like that. And your father! Cripes, don't get me started. And my, aren't we chatty today? What's gotten into you?"

"Well," Kathryn considered carefully, "it appears you're going to be here awhile."

"Oh, so now I'm worthy of speech, huh? That's just—"

"Close your mouth, please," the makeup gal said, and she obliged, and submitted to lip-liner. It gave her a chance to study Kathryn. Of all the royal siblings, she knew Kathryn and her brother, Alexander, the least. Because, of course, they were the most like David: stand-offish and cool. Pleasant (when she wasn't throwing pastries), but distant.

Kathryn was a smaller, slighter version of her sister Alexandria. Currently mired in her teens, she was a breath away from the promise of true gorgeousness. Once those braces came off, Chris figured the king would start stockpiling rifles. Meanwhile, it couldn't be much fun to be in Princess Alex's shadow. Maybe that's why she didn't talk much, Chris mused. With everybody busy staring at her big sister, why bother?

"And... done!"

"Thanks," she said, practically leaping up from the chair. "I can't remember the last time I had to sit still for so long. Oh, wait... yesterday. For rehearsal."

There was a rap at the door, and then Horrance was striding in, followed by three assistants, all lugging a flat black bag.

"Good morning, my lady! Your Highnesses," he added, bowing to Kathryn and Alex.

"Horrance, take a powder. I'm not dressed."

"Eh? No, of course not, I've got your dress right here."

"That looks like a body bag," she said suspiciously.

"I can assure you it isn't." He scooted behind Alex—he was a full four inches shorter—and did something to the back of her dress. Alex's neckline immediately straightened. "Ah ... much better, Highness."

The dresses really were amazing, Christina thought. The deep blue brought out the princess's eyes (although, unfortunately, it was also accentuating Jenny's pallor), and the square necklines were very flattering.

"Nice jewelry," she commented. Her bridesmaids were all wearing square blue topazes on gold chains so fine, it seemed like the large stones were hovering in the hollow of their throats. Their earrings were smaller topazes.

"David designed them for us," Kathryn said absently.

"He did? Really?"

"Uh-huh. He's got something for you, too— ow!"

"Sorry," Alex said. "My elbow slipped."

"Right into my ribs, thanks very much." She glared at her big sister.

"Quit it, you guys," Chris ordered. "One bitch per wedding, that's the rule. And it's me, in case you didn't get the memo."

"At least we read the memos," Kathryn sniffed.


"You sounded exactly like my father when you said that."

"Awwww. Now you're gonna make me cry."

Kathryn dropped the faux world-weary pose and snickered. Horrance clapped his hands, which made Chris jump. Thank God the makeup lady had put the mascara wand away!

"Ladies! Step back, please, we need some room here. Ah, that's very good. Now, my lady, if you'll just stand and turn ... like so ... yes, a little more ... uh-huh ... okay ..."

"Could you not get so close to me?" she whined. "I'm nearly naked, if you didn't notice."

"Eh? Oh, it doesn't matter."

"So ... you didn't notice."

"Now turn—wait!" He slipped two impersonal fingers into her bodice and jerked it up, nearly pulling her off her feet. Day-amn! He was short, but he was strong. "Much better."

"Could you please," she asked politely, "get your hand off my boobs?"

"Yes, yes. Now turn ... very good ... and step ... like so... yes... now stand still... ladies, some help, please ... yes ... no, not that one, the little buttonhook ..."


"You didn't think I was going to put a zipper into this dress, did you?" he replied, sounding aggrieved. She could feel him doing something behind her with his nimble fingers. It seemed she stood for an eternity until he finally said, "And ... there. Very good—turn around, please ..."

He stepped back and looked her up and down with a critical eye.

"I feel like an extra in Queer Eye for the Straight Guy," she commented.

"Wonderful, wonderful show," Horrance said absently. "Yes. That will do."

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