“They’ll want us to get married, you know.” Pippa looked up from her book and saw the boy sitting across the table from her. She recognized his portrait from the pictures of families her adviser made her study, and knew he was of royal blood, but she couldn’t quite remember who he was. He’d had so many names, it was hard to remember them all. Rupert James Bartholomew and so on and so on. “I’ve got the blood lines of the Winsfeld, Kensley, and the Kansey. You’ve got the Quinsen, the Bartus, the Wesleys and the Rogens. If we got married and had a kid–and if you and your brother named that kid heir, it would be the first time since the unified kingdom that all seven royal blood lines sat on the throne. My parents–your advisers–they are going to want us to get married.”
“Hmm,” Pippa answered, not sure how else to respond at this point. She looked back to her book, wondering if that was all he had to say.
“So–I have two questions for you.”
Apparently not. “You do?” Pippa finally closed her book, directing her attention to him fully.
“I do. Number one: what is your real name?”
“It’s like this. Paper says I am Rupert Bartholomew Alfred Sebastian–but that’s not my real name. My real name is Freddie. Unless you prefer to go by Philippa Guinevere Erin Margaret?”
“Oh. No. Pippa. And my brother is Riley.”
“Ah. Pleased to meet you Pippa. My second question is—do we want to play along or fight?”
“What do you mean by that?” Pippa found herself leaning forward, a little bit closer to him. She couldn’t help herself, she just found something about him– fascinating? Interesting? Appealing?
“Well—to be honest, you are very pretty, and you seem kind and funny, so if you want to just play along with the meddling of our advisers as they try to pair us off until we decide whether or not we like each other, I’d be okay with that. But—if you want to fight them for the sake of good and solid rebellion, I’m okay with that too. I like a good, non-threatening rebellion. Call it the after effects of being a middle child.”
“I see,” Pippa smiled, looking at him, “So, it’s my call?”
He nodded sagely, “Completely your call. After all—you are actually going to rule a country. Your marriage might be a little more important than mine.”
“If you say so,” Pippa answered without really thinking, but then, “No, wait. I might not rule the country. When we reach the legal age, we might decide that Riley is better suited to rule. In fact, he wants it more than I do. Why wouldn’t my advisors and your parents be trying to marry him off?”
“Because we only have boys. I’m the third of seven boys—my older brothers both already married with children of their own, and the younger brothers are too young to match with you logically without trying me first. While, they could try to match off my brothers to your brother, there is nothing wrong with a relationship between to men who love each other—it really wouldn’t help that uniting all seven blood lines of the kingdoms that people are rooting for. That leaves you, and me. I mean, if you think I’m wrong, we can wait to see what our advisers do, but—I’m pretty sure…” Freddie trailed off with a shrug.
Pippa considered him for a moment longer. “Seven bloodlines. That would be kind of cool, wouldn’t it?”
“Yeah, any child we have would make history.”
“There would be a lot of pressure on them, though.”
“Yeah. Big dreams on their shoulders from the entire unified kingdoms.”
“So, what should we do?” Pippa turned the question back on him, and realized they were both leaning forwards in their chairs, closer to each other than Pippa thought she’d been to anyone who she wasn’t directly related to.
“I’m up for playing the game if you are, Pippa. Until you decide you hate me.” Freddie smiled, leaning back into his chair.
“I think,” Pippa concerned him a bit closer before leaning back into her chair and picking up her notebook again, “We should make them work for it. If they want us to get married, they should sweeten the deal for us. Make it worth our while.”
Freddie put his hand to his chest in mock indignation. “I’m not good enough? The prize of marrying me isn’t sweet enough?”
“I don’t know you Freddie, and you don’t know me. We might be absolute terrors to be married to.” Pippa lifted the notebook even higher, so she couldn’t see Freddie’s eyes anymore, and hopefully so he couldn’t see her blush, “But, even if we aren’t, even if we are the best married couple in the entire kingdom—I think it would be remiss of us to not try to get everything we can out of the marriage. At least a couple of years’ worth of adviser favors or something. While settle for one prize when you can walk away with five?”
After a moment’s silence, She lowered the notebook enough to see his face again, and a shiver ran down her spine. The way he was looking at her was—intense. She’d never been looked at like that before, and she found she kind of liked it. “Pippa,” he said finally, “I think you and I are going to get along very well.”
“Yes, I do. It was a pleasure, Pippa,” Freddie pushed against the table to stand up, and Pippa thought for a second, searching for a way to convince him to stay, “And I look forward to ‘meeting you’ tonight at dinner. They can’t know we’ve talked if we want to get anything out of them.”
“Excellent point,” Pippa finally pulled her notebook away from her face. She tried to pretend the smile wasn’t from the thought that she’d be seeing him again so soon. “I look forward to meeting you, Rupert Bartholomew Alfred Sebastian .” She gave a little nod of her head.
“You as well, Philippa Guinevere Erin Margaret.” He gave her a formal bow, in the well-trained manner of a man close to the throne through several blood lines, before turning and sweeping his way out of the study. Pippa put her notebook back down onto the table, and tried to make her way back to her work—but she had nothing. She couldn’t focus on anything beyond the fact that she’d see him again at dinner. It was silly, of course, she just met the man and for all she knew he was just one of those dangerous men her mother warned her would show up as she grew older, a man who simply wanted to get closer to the throne—but she just couldn’t shake the feeling that something important had been put into motion.