Suddenly RoyalBy: Nichole Chase
Royal Donors Cause Congestion on Campus
To say my day was not going well, would be like saying the French Revolution had been a bit troublesome for Marie Antoinette. My truck had coughed and sputtered all the way to school. Only half of the students in my first class showed up, and then I couldn’t find the tests I had spent the entire weekend grading. My entire day was turning into a bad country song. By the time lunch rolled around I had been more than ready for a break. I snagged a sandwich and ate it on my way to the library. The server for our building was down and I needed to do some research.
That’s when I ran into all of the people. It was like the entire student body had gathered in the middle of the school for a pep rally. Hordes of giggling freshmen were pushing their way to the front and one of them elbowed me, making me drop the notebook I was carrying. The fraternities and sororities had painted signs and hung them on trees to welcome someone. I grimaced when I realized one of them was actually a sheet that didn’t look very clean. I looked from the signs to the crowd and realized I would never be able to make it up the stairs to the library. Standing in the middle of the steps was a group of people, but my eyes focused on the tall blond man. I couldn’t pull my eyes away from him. He was joking with a girl while she batted her eyes and twirled a lock of hair around her finger.
I tried to see exactly why everyone was so excited, but none of it made sense. Donors came to the school all the time and most of the self-absorbed student body never noticed. The man on the steps was attractive enough to be a movie star and had to be what had brought the mob out.
“Do you see him, Sam? The prince?” One of the girls in my first class pulled on my arm.
“Prince? Yeah, I see him.” A prince? A real-life prince with a crown and throne? No wonder the masses were out in the snow. A royal donor would bring out everyone. Movie stars were one thing, but a prince? That wasn’t something you saw every day. I wondered why royalty would be donating to our school, but standing out in the cold watching some guy flirt was not part of my plans. I only had a little longer before I had to be at the research center and a lot to get done in the meantime.
“He’s gorgeous,” the girl gushed while her friends made noises of agreement.
“Yeah, I guess.” I rolled my eyes.
“Even you have to admit he’s hot.” She laughed at me. What the hell did that mean? I wasn’t blind. Of course I noticed he was hot. What the hell kind of good would that do me? I’d never see him again. He was a freaking prince!
Spinning on my heel I headed for a side entrance only to see it was blocked by police. Gritting my teeth I stomped through the snow to the back entrance. It took forever, because I was dodging mobs of people. I almost tripped on a cord and the news reporter hollered at me. I gave him my best eat-shit-and-die look, but he wasn’t fazed. By the time I reached the back steps I was ready to murder someone.
There was a group of cops standing at the door, but I didn’t care. I marched up and went straight for the entrance.
“You can’t go in there, miss.”
“Why not? I pay tuition so I can use this library.”
“It’s closed right now. Should be open again in an hour or so.”
“I’ll be busy in an hour.” I gave him my best imitation of puppy eyes. “I just need to use the Internet and check out some books. Please? I’ll be good. One of you guys can come in with me.”
I took a deep breath, the cold air stinging my lungs, and turned back toward the parking lot. I went straight to my truck, cranked it up, and headed for the center. The stars had aligned and I would not be doing what I had needed to, so I might as well throw myself into the other part of my work.
Working with the birds brightened my mood. After checking through the cages to make sure there were no problems, I moved to weighing and measuring the birds. When I got to Dover, an owl who had been hit by a car, I cooed softly. She had lost an eye, so tended to be nervous when people approached her mew.
“Hi, sweetheart. Time for some food.” I unlocked the cage door and stepped in slowly. I untied the string that held her to her perch and gave her a good look-over.
Once I had her in the office, I weighed her, careful to note the exact amount in our logs before getting her food.
“Eat up. You know you want it.” I lifted the mouse to her beak but she turned away. “Aw, c’mon, Dover. It’s yummy mouse guts. Your favorite.”
She ruffled her feathers and sighed. Dover was beautiful, but getting her to eat was always a frustrating process. I lifted the mouse to her beak again, making sure she could see the food out of her good eye. Delicately, as if she was doing me a favor, she took a small bite.
“That’s it,” I hummed. “Eat up.”
Slowly she lifted her claw and grasped the mouse. I sighed in relief. She needed to eat to keep her weight up. It was also how we administered her medicine. Dover was a smart bird and I suspected she knew we were putting something in her food.
Once she was done, I took a few measurements and took her back to her mew. I checked the cage quickly and then cleaned up any mess she had made. I checked all our log books to make sure nothing had been missed, made a few notes about a Harris hawk with an injured wing, and closed up shop.
I felt much better by the time I was ready to leave. The annoyances from earlier didn’t seem like such a big deal and I was looking forward to getting home. After double-checking the medicines and the food for the next day, I flipped the lights and headed out the door. I fished out my keys to lock the gate as I neared the entrance. No one else would be in until the morning.
I looked up at the man standing just outside the gate to my research center. Dark pants met with a black blazer and an equally boring tie. The only thing remarkable about him was the expensive pair of sunglasses sitting on his nose and the little gizmo tucked into his ear, complete with a curly cord running down into his shirt collar.
“Yeah?” I finished locking the bottom of the gate and stood up. He wasn’t a very tall man, possibly my father’s age, but he radiated power. Since I tend to have issues with authority, I immediately disliked the guy. He hadn’t really given me a reason to not like him, but people that think they’re better than you or know more than you make me itch.
“Are you Samantha Rousseau?” he asked again. He didn’t introduce himself or make an attempt to appear friendly. No offer to shake hands.
“Who wants to know?” I slung my bag over my shoulder as I headed toward the old pickup I drive. Authority dude followed close behind, making my hackles rise even farther.
“If you are Samantha, I need to speak with you privately.”
I threw my bag into the back of my truck and turned around to look at him. I didn’t bother to keep the annoyance off my face when I realized how close he was standing to me. “Well, if I was Samantha, you’re in luck. There isn’t anyone else around.” I motioned toward the unoccupied parking lot. We were the only two people.
His frosty expression seemed to crack a little and he gave me something that could almost pass as a smile. “Miss Rousseau, I would like to ask you to accompany me. I have someone who would like to speak to you downtown.”
“Uh, yeah. That’s not going to happen, Mr. Uptight. Look, if you’re here about my father’s medical bills, I made a payment today. If he could make any more payments, then we would, but since he can’t work I doubt that’s going to happen anytime soon.” I yanked open the door to my truck and started to climb in. A hand landed on my shoulder and I reacted without thinking. Grabbing his fingers, I twisted as I turned and swung my other arm around in an attempt to clock him. Unfortunately he seemed to be expecting this move and countered smoothly. Taking his hand back, he ducked under my swing and danced out of way.
“Who the hell do you think you are?” Brushing some of my brown hair out of my eyes, I glared at him. The fact that his weird smile had grown made me even more irritated.