Suddenly Royal

By: Nichole Chase


Lilarian Healthcare Makes Headway with Homeopathic Medicines

—Durren Pathology Center

It had taken a lot of arguing to get my security detail to stay in the car. Becca had insisted on standing at the door, but I finally convinced her she would get frostbite if she did. I used my key to let myself in and sighed in relief. It was nice to be back in my childhood home.

“I’m in here.” Dad’s voice drifted over the sound of the television in the living room. The smell of lasagna meant he was in the kitchen.

“Hey.” I hung my coat on the back of the chair and smiled at Patricia. She gave me a hug and then held me out at arm’s length.

“Girl, what on Earth have you been up to?” Apparently she had been watching the news.

“It’s a really long story.” I shook my head.

“A really crazy one, I’d guess.” She narrowed her eyes at me and lifted my chin. She tsked under her breath and gave me a knowing smile and wink. “You’re all flushed.”

“It’s minus ten outside. Of course I’m flushed.” I tried to not grimace when she laughed.

“That’s not the same kind of flushed.” She lowered her voice. “I bet it has something to do with that gorgeous man I saw you on the cameras with.”

“What?”

“There’s video of you walking around on campus laughing with that prince. He’s a good-looking guy. I’d let him get me all flushed, too.”

“I’ll let him know you’re interested.” I laughed as I walked past her and into the kitchen. I threw my arms around Dad’s neck and pressed my face against his shoulder.

“Don’t make me spill this!” He was trying to transfer the lasagna from the dish onto plates. I had learned with my mom you never took time for granted, so hugged my dad as often as possible.

“I’m gone, you old fart!” Patricia hollered from the living room.

“Get out of here, woman!” Dad yelled back. I could hear her laughing even after the door closed behind her. I knew for a fact that even though they enjoyed pestering each other they were the best of friends.

“So, I thought you had a headache today.” I carried our plates to the table and then went to get glasses out.

“I did, but feel a bit better tonight. I figured you might need your favorite dinner after I saw you on TV.” He smiled at me as he brought the milk carton to the table. “Lasagna is always good for dinners where there’s stuff to discuss.”

“Did you know?” I sat down and looked at him. “Did Mom tell you?”

“I think you’re going to have to start at the beginning.” He passed me a piece of bread. “All I know is I woke up today to seeing you on the news and had voicemail from several news stations.”

“Oh, Dad, I’m so sorry.” I sighed and poked at my food. “I should’ve asked them to send someone over for you.”

“Who to send who over?”

“Mom was from a royal family. I don’t know if she knew or not, but I sure didn’t. But they gave me a detail to keep the press away and I should have asked them to send someone over here for you too. I mean, the duchess that came to tell me about my family assigned a detail.”

“Huh.” We ate in silence for a few minutes, each of us working through things in our heads. “I don’t guess they’re going to bother me too much, since I’m just your stepfather.”

“You’re not just my stepfather. You’re my dad.” I knew he would understand the differentiation.

“I know, but that probably makes a difference to the people wanting to ask questions.”

“Did she know?”

“Your mom was always a mystery, Sam. That’s one of the things I loved about her. She was brilliant, funny, and the most loving woman. But I knew there were things about her I would never learn.” He smiled at me, his love for her still as alive as ever. “She never told me she was from a royal line, but I know she placed a great deal of emphasis on family. I suppose that could mean something.”

“I have this folder full of birth certificates and a family tree. Of ship itineraries and land deeds.” I frowned. “And it all leads back to Duke Rousseau of Lilaria.”

“Why did they hunt you down?” Dad had always been practical. It was probably why he had done so well in the military. “Seems like a lot of work just to tell you your great-great-great-grandfather used to own some land.”

“They want to reinstate my title.” I bit into my bread and chewed thoughtfully. “Supposedly the queen has made it her life task to bring back the families that left.”

He looked at me, processing what that could mean. “They want you to move back, then?”

“Yes. I think so.” I frowned. “They aren’t pressuring me, but there’s a lot to accepting the position. I’d be on the council to the queen.” I laughed. It was such a ridiculous thought. “I’d be in charge of lands and a house.”

“That’s a very big honor.” Dad looked at me seriously and I stopped my giggles.

“It is. But me? On the council to a queen?” I shook my head. “Can you imagine?” I snorted. “I don’t know anything about their country and let’s face it, I’m not the most diplomatic person.”

“Maybe that’s what they need. New insight and someone that isn’t constrained by centuries of protocol.”

The fact that he was echoing what Alex said scared me. I stared at him while he ate. Did he really think it would be a good idea?

“They also have a really great healthcare system.” I watched him for any indications that this would excite him. “They have a really great specialist that would be willing to work with you.”

“Don’t base your decision on me, Sam. The truth is if it’s my time there isn’t anything to be done about it. You know that.” My heart clenched and I fought the tears that gathered at the back of my eyes.

“Anything has to be better than what you’re going through.” I reached out and grabbed his hand. He was only fifty-five and yet his hands looked like those of an eighty-year-old. There were bruises from all the IVs, shots, and blood work. This was only his second round of chemotherapy, and yet it had already taken so much out of him.

“I’ve had a wonderful life, Sam. You and your mom have given me everything I could need.”

“Don’t talk like that,” I snapped at him, angry he seemed to have given up. He smiled and squeezed my hand, not bothered by my anger.

“Baby, I’ve always told you that you should travel. Here’s a chance in a lifetime.” Traveling had been Dad’s favorite part of being in the service. He’d told me and Mom countless times about the places he had seen.

“This isn’t the same thing. This wouldn’t be a vacation.”

“I know. If you decide to go, you need to do it for the right reasons. You need to do it because you’re ready to accept the responsibility.” He laughed. “Though I bet there are some amazing perks as well. It can’t be all bad, can it?”

I smiled, even though I didn’t feel like it. I remembered the media hounding me as I left the center and how the people I’d known for years had treated me differently.

Later that night, Dad fell asleep in his chair in front of the television. I went to the kitchen and sorted out his medicine for the night and got him a glass of milk. When I came back into the living room, I stopped and watched him for a minute. He looked so tired and worn out it made my heart ache. He’d barely started the chemo and I hated seeing him so vulnerable. He was my father; he was supposed to be invincible.

As I worked on setting up his medicine, I caught the glint of something out of the corner of my eye. I turned around to look out the kitchen window and froze. There was a man with a camera standing just on the other side of the glass. The light above the kitchen table must have reflected off the lens, because he wasn’t using a flash. From the way his finger moved over the button on the top of the camera, I knew he was taking pictures.

Anger surged through my chest as I stalked to the window and turned the blinds down. Taking slow steps so I wouldn’t wake Dad, I walked into the living room to close the blinds. Standing outside was a woman taking pictures of Dad asleep in the recliner.

“Get the hell out of here!” I ran to the window and twisted the blinds closed.

“What? What’s going on?” Dad tried to sit up in his seat.

“It’s nothing. Go back to sleep.” I couldn’t disguise the anger in my voice. They had been taking pictures of my father! He was sick. Did they have no morals?

“Doesn’t sound like nothing.” He wrestled with the handle on the side of his seat. “Is someone outside?”

“I’ve got it, Dad. I’ll tell the security detail.” Grabbing my coat, I yanked the door open and waved at the car idling in the driveway.

“Becca!” The sound of a camera drew my attention to the side of my house. The female photographer was snapping pictures. “Get the hell out of here! This is private property.” I dug in my pocket for my cell phone, intent on calling the police.

“Stop where you are!” Becca was moving across the lawn in angry strides.

“I’m calling the cops, asshole!” The other photographer ran past the house and toward a van at the end of the street.

The cops said they would send a car out, but they wouldn’t be able to stay at the house all night. I growled in frustration and asked Becca to stay and make sure no one bothered my dad. After she made some calls, another bodyguard showed up to stay. I grilled him, making sure he understood no one was to come on the property at all.

Dad spent a good amount of time trying to calm me down, but it only made me angrier. No one should be taking pictures of my father. Especially to sell to papers or tabloids. When I realized my anger was making him agitated I tried to relax—no reason to have him stressed over something I was handling.

I got him his medicine and helped him to bed even though he tried to wave me away. Patricia would be over bright and early so I didn’t have to worry about him tomorrow. He hated having someone check on him every day, but I needed to know he was okay.

I didn’t say anything in the car on the way to my house. When they told me someone would be staying overnight, I didn’t argue. Duvall seemed to understand my quiet and spoke to Parker, who had taken a seat on the couch. Jess and Bert had already gone to bed, so the house was relatively quiet. I showed Parker where the bathroom was and told him to help himself in the kitchen before I went to my room.

Opening the computer, I searched for the specialist Alex had provided information about. Dr. Bielefeld was originally from Germany, but currently worked in France and Lilaria, enjoying a dual citizenship. He’d been written into many medical journals for his work with holistic and natural methods for dealing with cancer. I read for hours, searching through the articles for patient health and longevity. While some of his patients responded well to his methods, others required a balance of the normal medicines with the herbal supplements.

From what I could tell, he seemed to believe each person required a program tailored for their individual needs. He apparently didn’t have a problem mixing the more Western medicines with his holistic approach and obviously had a great understanding of them both. All the testimonials were glowing and happy; even the families of patients who died seemed to believe he had helped their loved one’s quality of life.

At some point I switched topics. I read through all the paperwork about my family and their flight from Lilaria. Before they left, their name could be traced back for centuries. It was intimidating to see an outline of every ancestor and their achievements. There was so much history that I got sucked in and didn’t realize how much time had slipped by. It was a bit like reading a historical novel, only I was somehow related to these people.

Eventually I leaned back on the bed and glanced at my clock. It was after three in the morning. I dragged myself down the hall to the bathroom. If I waited until the morning, I’d likely not get a shower. Jess and Bert were both bathroom hogs.

I leaned against the tiled wall and let the hot water run over my back. In less than two days my entire world had been turned upside down. Not just tilted or spun around and confused, but turned completely inside out. Nothing made sense. Every decision felt wrong. Every direction I looked led down a path I was unsure about. For years I had worked toward one goal, stayed focused on the one place I wanted to get. But now that goal felt like it wasn’t quite right. I wanted to know more about where I came from. I wanted to take my father to a place where he could get the best possible care. I needed to know if I was meant to sit on the council of a queen or if this was all just a weird fluke in my life.

So I held onto the one thing I knew to be true. Family always came first.

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