Danielle Steel: H.R.H.

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Danielle Steel H.R.H.
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“I'll see you before dinner,” her father said as he kissed the top of her head. Her hair was still damp, and she looked up at him with her enormous blue eyes. The sadness in them tore at his heart.

“Papa, I want something else to do. Why can't I go away like Freddy?” She sounded plaintive, like any girl her age who wanted a big concession from her father, or permission to do something of which he was unlikely to approve.

“Because I want you here with me. I would miss you far too much, if you went away for six months.” There was suddenly a spark of mischief in her father's eyes. He had been at his best when her mother was alive, and had led a life of responsibility and family ever since. There was no woman in his life, and hadn't been since Christianna's mother died, though many had tried. He had devoted himself entirely to his family and his work. His was truly a life of sacrifice, infinitely more than hers. But she also knew that he expected as much from her. “In your brother's case”—he smiled at his daughter—“it's a great relief at times to have him away. You know how outrageous he is.” Christianna laughed out loud. Freddy had a way of getting into mischief, and then being caught by the press. Their press attaché had had a full-time job covering for him since Freddy's Oxford days. At thirty-three, he had been a hot item in the press for the past fifteen years. Christianna only appeared in the press at state occasions with her father, or when opening hospitals or libraries.

There had been only one photograph of her in People magazine during the entire time she'd been in college, taken while she attended a football game with one of her royal British cousins, a handful of photographs in Harper's Bazaar and Vogue, and a lovely one of her in Town and Country, in a ballgown, in an article about young royals. Christianna kept a low profile, which pleased her father. Freddy was entirely another story, but he was a boy, as Prince Hans Josef always pointed out. But he had warned him that when he returned from Asia, there were to be no more supermodel capers or starlet scandals, and if he continued to draw attention to himself, his father would cut off his allowance. Freddy had gotten the point, and had promised to behave when he came home. He was in no hurry to return.

“I'll see you tonight, my dear,” Prince Hans Josef said as he gave her a warm hug, and then left the dining room as the footmen he walked past all bowed low.

Christianna went back to her own apartment on the third floor of the royal palace. She had a large beautiful bedroom, a dressing room, a handsome sitting room, and an office. Her secretary was waiting for her, and Charles was lying on the floor. He had been groomed and coiffed and bathed, and didn't look anything like the dog she had run in the woods with that morning. He looked gravely subdued and somewhat depressed over whatever they had done to clean him up. He hated being bathed. Christianna smiled as she glanced over at him, feeling more in common with the dog than with anyone else in the palace, or maybe the entire country. She disliked being coiffed and groomed and tended to as much as the dog did. She had been much happier running with him that morning, getting soaked and covered with mud. She patted him and sat down on the other side of the desk, as her secretary looked up at her and smiled, and handed Christianna her dreaded schedule. Sylvie de Maréchale was a Swiss woman from Geneva, in her late forties, whose children had grown up and gone. Two were living in the States, one in London, one in Paris, and for the past six years she had handled everything for Christianna. She was enjoying her job much more now that the princess was home. She had a warm, motherly style, and she was someone Christianna could at least talk to, and if necessary, complain to, about the boredom of her life.

“You're opening a children's hospital today at three, Your Highness, and you're stopping at a home for the elderly at four. That should be quite a short stop, and you don't need to make a speech at either place. Just a few words of admiration and thanks. The children at the hospital will give you a bouquet.” She had a list of names of the people who would be escorting her, and the names of the three children who had been chosen to present the bouquet. She was impeccably organized, and always gave Christianna all the essential details. When necessary, she traveled with her. At home, she helped her organize small dinners of important people her father asked her to entertain, or larger ones for heads of state. She had run an impeccable home for years, and was teaching Christianna to run hers, with all the details and attention to minutiae that made each event go well. Her directions were seamless, her taste exquisite, and her kindness to her young employer without limit. She was the perfect assistant to a young princess, and she had a nice sense of humor that bright ened Christianna's spirits when her duties weighed heavily on her. “You're opening a library tomorrow,” she said gently, knowing how tired Christianna was of doing things like that, after being home for only three months. Christianna's return to Vaduz still felt like a prison sentence to her. “You'll have to make a speech tomorrow,” she warned her, “but you're off the hook today.” Christianna was looking pensive, thinking of her conversation with her father. She didn't know where yet, but she knew she wanted to go away. Maybe after Freddy got back, so her father wouldn't feel so alone. She knew he had hated it when she was gone. He loved and enjoyed his children, and royal or not, he enjoyed his family more than all else, just as he had loved his marriage, and still missed his wife. “Do you want me to write your speech for tomorrow?” Sylvie offered. She had done it before and was good at it. But Christianna shook her head.

“I'll do it myself. I can write it tonight.” It reminded her of her homework in her college days. She found she even missed that now, and it was something to do.

“I'll leave the details about the new library on a sheet on your desk,” Sylvie said, then looked at her watch, startled by the hour. “You'd better dress. You have to leave in half an hour. Is there anything you'd like me to do for you? Or get out?” Christianna shook her head. She knew Sylvie was offering to get jewelry out of the vault for her, but all Christianna ever wore were her mother's pearls, and the earrings that went with them, all of which had been a gift to her mother from Prince Hans Josef. Wearing them meant a lot to her. And it always pleased her father to see Christianna in her mother's jewels. With a nod at Sylvie, she went to change, and Charles got up and followed her out of the room.

Half an hour later Christianna was back in the office, looking every inch a princess in a pale blue Chanel suit with a white flower and black bow at the neck. She was carrying a small black alligator handbag that her father had bought for her in Paris, with matching black alligator shoes, her mother's pearls and earrings, and a pair of white kid gloves tucked into the pocket of her suit.

She appeared elegant and youthful, with her long blond hair pulled neatly back in a long smooth ponytail. She was impeccable as she got out of the Mercedes sedan in front of the hospital and was warm and gracious as she greeted the head of the hospital and its administrators. She spoke a few words of thanks, acknowledging the work they would do there. She stopped to chat and shake hands with all the people pouring down the front steps to see her. They oohed and aahed at how pretty she was, how young and fresh she looked, how elegant her suit was, how unassuming her manner, and how unpretentious she was in every way. As she always did when she made public appearances, representing her father and the palace, Christianna went to considerable effort to make a good impression on all who met her, and as she drove away, everyone standing outside waved, and so did she, wearing the impeccable white kid gloves. Her visit to the hospital had been a complete success for all of them.

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