🌹🌹The Swedish Prince 🌹🌹
🌸🌸(ROYAL ROMANCE) 🌸🌸
“Can you marry a…a commoner?” April asks.
“We can. Things aren’t as stuffy as it used to be.”
A tiny smile flits across April’s face which she immediately tries to hide with a drink. “Well then I hope she says yes.” Then she frowns as a guilty expression comes over her. “I think I should tell you something.”
“What?” This can’t be good.
“You wrote Maggie those letters, right?”
“Yes. My very personal love letters.”
“Oh, I didn’t read them,” she says quickly and I think I believe her. “But I started going to the mail box and hiding them before she could get them.”
I shake my head. I had a feeling but I hadn’t wanted to say anything.
“Just like The Notebook,” I mutter.
“I’m really sorry,” she says. “I was just angry and jealous and I don’t know, I guess I also didn’t trust you.”
“But you do now?”
“I do now.”
“Do you think Maggie will say yes?”
“She’s an idiot if she doesn’t.”
I laugh and then lift my bottle. “Here’s to that then.”
“Here’s to that.” She lifts her class and clinks it against mine.
I catch another hint of a smile which she quickly buries with a frown but having April’s blessing in all this is a big step in the right direction.
I just hope that Maggie
The word never had much meaning to me until I was hounded. Until I was the fox running through the woods, frantically trying to find a place to hide, a place to stay alive, while packs of hounds chased my tail, threatening to rip me to shreds.
How cruel it is to the fox.
How cruel it is to us.
When Viktor first asked me to come with him to Sweden and bring the kids, he warned me that it could get ugly. That the paparazzi might follow me. That there might be pictures and articles and rumors. He said there would be a media frenzy, much like the ones I’d seen in the news when Prince Harry or Prince William got engaged.
At the time it didn’t matter. It seemed like a worthy trade-off to be with him. And honestly I just didn’t think it would be that bad. This is the Prince of Sweden and outside of his own country, I didn’t think he mattered. And then there was me. I couldn’t matter at all. What could people say about me?
Well it turns out, a lot. It turns out everything.
I went into this relationship, into this journey, willing to sacrifice a lot in order to have Viktor. He was worth quitting my job over, he was worth uprooting the kids, even if for a vacation. He was worth giving it a shot because who knows where it might lead.
He is still
Viktor is still my rock.
And while we’ve been hounded every single time we leave the house, he’s there by my side. He doesn’t leave us alone. He’s the protector of my family as much as I am and I love him all the more for it.
I’m also protected by Nick and a score of special agents, all who know my safety and the safety of my brothers and sisters are of utmost priority. They no longer follow us everywhere, they are with us everywhere. They’re walking in front, blocking the cameras, they’re pushing photographers out of the way, they’re making sure that no one touches us.
But it doesn’t stop the photos. It doesn’t stop them from digging into my once very private life. It doesn’t stop them from making shit up either. I mean, after all the shit I’ve gone through, the obstacles and the heartache and the sorrow and yes, the god damn tragedy, you would think they wouldn’t need to make up a thing. This shit writes itself.
And yet there are articles saying I used to be a stripper. Or a prostitute even. I’ve read that I faked my grades to get my NYU scholarship. I’ve read in one British tabloid that I murdered my parents to collect on their insurance.
I’ve read a multitude of horrible things and though none of them are true, they each kill me in thinking that others might believe it. Hell, even the truth kills me, all my dirty laundry is spread out for the world to see.
It’s been nearly two weeks since the news broke and the kids got here and we’ve probably only gone out into Stockholm a handful of times. Sometimes if the kids get really bored of making snowmen outside or wandering the halls, we pile in a couple of cars and Nick and another driver will take us outside of Stockholm to one of the many estates that the family has spread out through the country.
Once we even went to a private ski hill on the border with Norway so that Rosemary, Thyme and Pike could try it out for the first time (Callum was happy sledding and April was happy flirting with the lift attendant).
Luckily, for the most part, the kids don’t really care. Unless they’re cranky, in which case everything bugs them. Being the oldest, Pike knows the harm that the press can do but when I’ve talked to him he says it doesn’t really matter what anyone says because he doesn’t live in Sweden, so who cares. He’s also more likely to go into Stockholm by himself (albeit with a guard). If people bug him (and he draws stares because of his tattoos anyway) he takes it all in stride.
Callum loves the attention, of course. Rosemary and Thyme are pretty chill. It’s April that hates them the most, to the point where she’s started fingering the photographers and honestly, I let her do it. I’m living vicariously through her. In all the photos of me you can tell that I’m using all my power not to throat punch someone.
I haven’t had a chance to meet Viktor’s parents again and neither have the kids but tonight is Christmas Eve and we’re invited over to celebrate.
I was worried there for a moment that we wouldn’t be. I know it’s not exactly the height of sophistication and elegance to have a bunch of foreign kids running around a palace. I also know that this is the family’s first Christmas without Alex and I hate to intrude on a time in which they might want to mourn in private. The first Christmas after our parents died was the hardest and this being our second, I know it’s not going to be easy either.
In fact, there’s been more than a few times these last few weeks that I’ve desperately wished for my mother to be at my side. She’d give all the right advice, have all the right guidance. She’d approve of Viktor so much and love him as much as I do. She would encourage me to follow my dreams, just as she did when she was alive, even if my dreams are of love.
Love is the best dream you can have.
A knock at the bathroom door snaps me out of my forlorn thoughts. I’ve been soaking in a hot bath with a glass wine, trying to prepare for tonight. I guess I’ve been in here long enough because I’m starting to wrinkle like a prune.
“Can I come in?” Viktor asks.
I can’t help but smile at his politeness. “Yes,” I tell him and he pops his head in the door. “What happened to the Viktor that would barge in and take me in the bathtub?”
He grins sheepishly and comes inside, holding something green from his fingers. “This Viktor has been under a lot of stress lately,” he says.
“What is that?” I say, frowning up at him as he comes over to the tub.
He holds it above my head. “Mistletoe,” he says. He leans down and kisses me softly. Then he pulls back and holds it above his crotch.
“You are the worst!” I yell, playfully splashing him.
He moves out of the way, narrowly missing getting soaked. “Hey you wanted to be taken in the bathtub,” he points out.
I’m almost considering it. He is half dressed in his boxer briefs and an undershirt and he does happen to have a rather delicious-looking erection. “What time is it?” I ask him, wondering if we have room for a long overdue quickie.
“Actually it’s time to get out,” he tells me reluctantly. “Sorry, we have to leave in ten minutes.”
“Ten minutes!” I startle, water splashing out of the tub. “I can’t get ready in ten minutes!”
“You’re going to have to try,” he says. “Sorry, I didn’t want to disturb you and then Callum ensnared me with some riddle and then I realized we’re running out of time.”
“Argh,” I grumble, getting out of the bath and snatching the towel that he’s holding out for me. I hate, hate, hate having to rush, even though it happens to me more often than not, but I really hate having to rush before I meet his parents for the second time. Plus it’s Christmas, so I have to look extra sweet, plus I have to make sure the kids look good as well.
I quickly dry off in front of him, no modesty here. “All you need to do is just put on a suit, right?” I tell him.
“Yes. And don’t worry, I’ll make sure everyone looks presentable.” He leaves me in the bathroom and starts to throw his stuff on while I get myself ready at lightning speed.
Somehow I’m only two minutes late by the time I’m grabbing a clutch and heading down the staircase. Everyone is at the bottom of the stairs and it makes me pause half-way down and fish out my phone.
I frantically wave for everyone to squish in together by the Christmas wreath and decorations in the foyer and take their pics. God, if only mom and dad could see them now, Thyme and Rosemary in dresses that match in style (though not color), Callum in an adorable vest, Pike in a suit and April in a little strappy number with a faux fur shawl. I’m not sure if this is what people wear in Sweden for Christmas Eve and maybe we’ve gone overboard, but I’ve honestly never seen my little family look so good before.
They look happy too. Despite the crazy situations we’ve been in, they’ve been kept safe and sound, so far. Maybe it’s even been an adventure to them.
At the very least, they’re getting to meet the King and Queen tonight and it’s Christmas so their excitement meter is off the charts.
While everyone goes out the back door and piles into the waiting limo, Viktor grabs my hand and pulls me toward him.
“You look beautiful,” he whispers to me.
I couldn’t decide what to wear in my rush so I picked something I thought was both fancy and homey, festive and not, a black satin pencil skirt and a white mohair sweater adorned with faux pearls. Red lipstick, nails and an updo to finish it off.
“You don’t look so bad yourself,” I tell him. He’s in an ice blue dress shirt that matches his eyes and black pants. It’s probably the most casual I’ve seen him in a long time since he’s almost always wearing a suit and tie these days.
He leans in and kisses my cheek just beside my lips, not wanting to ruin my lipstick. “I’m…I’m so proud of you,” he says, his voice low. “I know how hard this has been for you, for everyone.”
I nod, swallowing the sawdust in my throat. I don’t want to think about it tonight. “I’m just surviving,” I admit.
He frowns. “You shouldn’t be surviving anymore, Maggie. You should be living.”
And he’s right. I was surviving back in Tehachapi. Going from day to day just trying to stay alive. Have things really reverted back to that? Did I mean what I said?
“It will get easier,” he says as he’s said a million times before. “I promise.”
“How?” I can’t help but blurt out. “When will they ever leave us alone?”
He sighs. “They won’t. But it will get easier to us. We will get used to it. Soon it won’t matter anymore because it’s just a part of the job.”
“I never signed up for a job, Viktor. I love you and I want to be with you no matter what but that’s not a job, that’s a choice.”
He stares at me for a moment, his eyes searching mine as if he can find something to convince him. “It will get easier. You’ll be fine. There’s no cow on the ice.”
“No cow?” I repeat. “Oh there’s a cow. A big fucking fat cow and she’s seconds from going through.”
He closes his eyes briefly, exhaling a shaky breath through his nose.
“Not everyone is fine with this lifestyle, Viktor, not everyone can handle it,” I add and he knows I mean his brother.
Which explains the sharp look it brings out of him. I probably shouldn’t have used him as an example.
A throat is cleared behind us and we break apart to see Bodi standing by the back door and looking at us with raised brows. “Sorry to interrupt but they’re ready to go.”
I can hear Callum doing a Swedish Chef impression from somewhere in the limo.
I sigh and nod at Viktor, giving him a small smile.
He doesn’t smile back, just turns and heads into the limo.
Merry Christmas to me.
The rest of the evening there’s a strain between Viktor and I, which isn’t the best feeling to have on Christmas, let alone with his family. I need to feel like he’s on my side and when he barely looks at you, it feels like I’m in an isolation chamber.
Fortunately, Viktor’s parents are quite accommodating with the kids and I would go as far as to say that they’re charmed by Callum, rather than terrified, which is nice for a change.
The kids love it, too. The palace would be jaw-dropping to them on a normal day but with Christmas decorations everywhere, the fancy kinds, like real gingerbread stars hanging from the tree and candy cane adorned wreaths, plus butlers walking around with trays of hot mulled wine and cider, they are in heaven. Even April is impressed and she’s hard to please.
Unfortunately, I still think his parents aren’t that impressed with me. Though his mother has warmed up a bit and has started to go out of her way to ask me opinions on things (even if it’s just “does this cardamom cake have too much cardamom?” to which you say, “you can never have too much cardamom!”) or to include me in conversations (usually about cake for some reason).
His father though, well, he acts like a king in every way. I think to him I don’t really exist and why should I. I’m nothing like the girl that he imagined would be sitting on the throne beside her husband. Because that’s what they have to be thinking, isn’t?
I’m not here with my brothers and sisters because Viktor is just a fling.
I’m here because we love each other.
And because we love each other, our relationship is serious.
Do I want to marry Viktor?
Of course I do.
If he asked.
Does Viktor want to marry me?
I hope so.
I hope that’s why I’m here.
He wouldn’t invite me all this way for nothing.
I’m here because this is the next step.
This is a trial, to see if we’re compatible in the real world, in this very big scary important world of Viktor’s, and not just one flirtatious week in Tehachapi, to see that we can work.
Honestly, before the paparazzi showed up, I had no doubts. Now, well, those doubts are in my head. And it’s not just the paparazzi and being in the middle of a media storm. It’s his parents too.
Yes, I know that he can marry a commoner.
But can a commoner like me ever feel welcome in this family?
Will I ever feel like I truly belong?
Will I ever fit in?
I used to hate working as a housekeeper, not because of the actual work, but because of the way people looked down on me. Now, here, it’s like that all the time. It’s not just the media writing shit. It’s the people who matter, who will matter if we stay together. The king and queen.
Viktor has always made me feel worthy of him.
But ever since coming here, my worth seems to be sliding through my fingers, like sand.
Viktor had told me once that his father dressed up as Santa every year. I didn’t expect that this time since they normally don’t have kids over for the holiday, but to my surprise there was a Santa sneaking through the house. Probably one of the butlers or servants, maybe even Dolf Lundgren. It was timed so that when the kids were leaving out risgrynsgröt (which is like rice pudding) for him (they do this instead of milk and cookies), they happened upon him finishing up with the presents.
I’ll never forget the sight of the kids running to the window to stare at the red-cloaked figure running through the snow and disappearing into the trees of the endless gardens. If I had actually seen reindeer flying through the air, I think I would have believed it myself.
All in all, the kids had a wonderful time, especially after opening their presents.
But when it was time for us all to go to bed, I was still in a nasty mood from earlier and all the sweet hot glögg didn’t help either.
Viktor and I retired to his old bedroom while the kids went to theirs and all I wanted to do was just pass out on that bed and sleep until noon. All the formalities, food, alcohol and being on my best behavior were bearing down on me.
“Do you think your parents had a good Christmas Eve?” I ask Viktor as I pull out my nightgown from my overnight bag. “They seemed to be doing okay.”
He sighs and walks over to his side of the bed, getting in. I hate how quickly he gets ready for bed. He just discards his clothes and walks on in, meanwhile I’m washing my face and putting on moisturizer and flossing and brushing my teeth and getting changed and I swear a million years seem to pass between us.
“My mother was crying in the kitchen,” he says simply.
“What?” I quickly slip on my nightgown and don’t bother with anything else. I get into bed. “I didn’t know that. Really, she was crying?”
“You think she isn’t human?” he says and his tone has an edge to it.
I should tread carefully here. We’re both tired and our nerves are frayed.
“Of course she’s human. This is the first Christmas without Alex for you guys. I think for us it all felt a little unreal being here but I’m sure tomorrow it will sink in that our parents aren’t here…”
“Yes, well she was upset. I could tell my father was as well. It’s harder on him in some ways because he can’t show any emotion.”
“Is that a rule?”
He narrows his eyes at me. “He’s the king.”
“Don’t kings have emotions?”
“I can’t tell if you’re joking.”
“What? Just because you’re a king…”
“You wouldn’t understand,” he says. “It’s a tough job. Why do you think I go and see Dr. Bonakov once a week? You have to be strong at all times, never show weakness. Why do you think King Aksel has gotten even worse since his wife died?”
“Because he’s grieving?”
“Because he can’t show weakness.”
“Rule with an iron fist, that sort of thing?”
He cocks his head at me, jaw tense. “You know I will be king one day.”
“So you’re going to turn into an emotionless robot too?”
Fire flames in his eyes. “Did you just call my father an emotionless robot?”
I shrug, regretting that but feeling stubborn for some reason. “Can you blame me? He seems to hate me.”
“He doesn’t hate you, he doesn’t know anything about you,” he says. Our voices are starting to rise. “And no, I hope I won’t turn into an emotionless robot but you of all people should know what that’s like. You said you were surviving this last year. You did everything you could to not feel. Don’t be a hypocrite.”
“I am not a hypocrite,” I snap. “I’m calling it as I see it. And your parents don’t like me at all, just admit it! Admit that I’m not princess material! Get it out in the open and not this buried wedge between us.”
“They like you Maggie…”
“Then how come when they look at me, all I see is their wish for me to be something else.”
“You’re seeing what you want to see. You’re amazing and you know it.”
“You’re a prince!” I cry out. “You’re a prince and I’m nothing.”
“Don’t you dare say that,” he hisses twisting in the bed to grab me by the shoulders. “You are not nothing and never will be nothing. Do you understand that?”
“You are nobility. You are royalty. And the public, your country, they all look at you and they admire you and respect you and want to be you and who am I? I’m no one. I’m just some girl, just a girl.”
“You’re a girl but you’re the strongest girl I know. Strongest person I know. You should be admired and respected because of all the things you do and everything you’ve survived. Any other person in your shoes would be crushed but you rose up and you made sure that you would not go down without a fight. I don’t care if you don’t see it that way, that’s how I see it. That’s how everyone should see it.”
“But they all expect you to marry someone better. Richer, skinnier, prettier, more educated, more European. You’re the most sought-after man in this country, you’re the one who everyone wants, you’re—“
“I don’t care who I am to everyone else! All that matters is who I am to you. Who am I to you, Maggie? Please, tell me.” He shakes me lightly and I can see he’s struggling to keep his voice under control. “Am I your lover, your friend? Your boyfriend? Soul-mate? What? What am I to you?”
I sigh, my heart heavy. “You’re everything to me.”
He’s getting so worked up that I feel terrible about even trying to fight with him. We shouldn’t be doing this, not now.
And he looks like he doesn’t believe me. “And you’re everything to me. I’m not sure what I can do to convince you of that but it’s the truth, Maggie. Sometimes all I can offer you is the truth.”
I nod, pulling the covers over me. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry I’m being a pain.”
“You’re never a pain, Maggie,” he says, reaching over to kiss me on the forehead. “I guess this is just part of us trying to fit into each other’s lives. Everything you say and feel, I understand. Okay? I do. I don’t want you to ever think that I’m not on your side, because that’s exactly where I am and where I’ll always be.”
God. He has such a way of soothing me.
I give him a soft smile. “Merry Christmas, Viktor.”
“Merry Christmas, Maggie.”
The light goes off and he lies back in bed.
I hear him let out a long, disappointed sigh just before I fall asleep.
Even though Christmas Eve is celebrated in Sweden, there are a lot of activities and events going on Christmas Day, especially for the royal family.
For us, we had to wake up at the crack of dawn for Julotta which was something the kids really didn’t want to do. I didn’t want to either. Don’t get me wrong, though I’m not especially religious I do like church on Christmas and Easter but it was crazy early and I wasn’t feeling the best.
Julotta, Viktor explained, was a church service traditionally done in the middle of the night, though as the decades went on, and Midnight Mass became more popular, the old four a.m. wake-ups of Julotta were chucked in favor of more reasonable times.
Though to me, eight a.m. is not a reasonable time to be in church.
Luckily, the fact that it was so early meant the kids were extra sleepy (AKA quiet) and because the sermon is in the church located on the palace grounds, we didn’t have to hustle them too much.
It wasn’t just for the royal family either, there were a lot of people there (who were mostly upper class or perhaps related to the royal family), and actually, even though I couldn’t understand it all in Swedish, it was beautiful with lots of lights all over the church.
There was a sense of respect and peace in the air that made me feel warm inside and with Viktor beside me, his strong and handsome face lit by the candle light, I felt like everything we argued about last night was being put to bed. It all had to come out but now it was out and we could deal with it and move on.
I hate fighting with him and I hate how much conflict there is in our lives now. I closed my eyes and prayed that I could take the peace I felt in that church everywhere.
When the sermon is over though and we exit the church, Viktor decides we should head right back to our place to get the kids ready for ice skating later in the day.
So instead of heading toward the palace, we follow the crowds of churchgoers out along the snow-packed path that leads to the parking lot.
Everyone is very cheerful and respectful, all wearing fancy hats and suits and pearls, bright festive colors that stand out against all the snow. There’s a nice feeling in the air and I don’t at all feel threatened by anyone. Sure there are some side-eyes I’m getting, especially from older ladies, who literally look like they’re about to clutch their pearls, but for the most part people are friendly to me. Maybe it’s the Christmas spirit. Maybe I’m finally being accepted.
But when we go through the gates and into the lot, we’re ambushed by a frenzy of paparazzi, dozens of them with their cameras out. They actually burst through the crowd toward us and I don’t know where the other agents are and Nick seems too far ahead.
I’m actually scared.
The flashbulbs are flying, they’re yelling in Swedish and English, stuff like “Are these all your children?” and “Who is the father?” and “The Swedish people don’t want an American princess.”
Viktor does his best to make sure they back off and I can tell from the way his fists are curling that he’s very close to punching someone out, which is probably a bad move for a prince.
Then April starts to run away and a paparazzi steps right in front of her, taking her picture. The flash blinds her, the camera collides with her head and she’s down.
One minute she’s there, next I can’t see her through the crowd anymore.
“April!” I scream and push through everyone to find her lying on the snow, trying to get up, the churchgoers helping her. She’s holding her head and from the looks of it, trying hard not to cry.
“You bastard!” I yell at the photographer and I fling myself at him, pounding him with my fists.
“Maggie!” Viktor yells from behind me but I am a pit of rage. I am an angry mama bear and no one hurts my babies! Not even the snarky ones.
I feel strong hands grip me by the shoulders and arms and pull me away and Viktor is pushing me back so I’m behind him and now he’s ripping the photographer’s camera out of his hands and throwing it on the ground, stomping on it with his boot.
With April on her feet I grab her hand and pull her toward me. “Are you okay?” I cry frantically searching and feeling her head for any bumps.
She nods quickly but doesn’t say anything.
From behind us, poor Callum is crying at the whole scene, red-faced with big fat tears rolling down his cheeks.
Rosemary and Thyme are holding onto each other.
And Pike is doing his best to become a wall against the other photographers, shielding us from them as they try and take pictures of the aftermath.
Then in seconds, the crowd is swarmed by agents and we’re whisked away through the crowd to the limo where we’re ushered in.
We’re all breathing hard as the car peels away, Nick apologizing for not being quick enough, Viktor looking like he wants to punch a hole in the wall, the others looking scared.
“We should take her to the hospital, she could have a concussion,” I tell them.
“Will do,” Nick says.
“I’m fine,” April says. “It doesn’t even hurt.”
But it does hurt.
The fact that this happened hurts.
And I know there’s only more hurt to come now.
I know that this was the last straw.
This is a life that I don’t want, a life that endangers the ones I have been sworn to protect and watch over.
This is when it all changes.
“Please don’t cry,” April whispers to me. “I’m okay.”
I sniff, not realizing that a tear had escaped my eyes.
Even if April is okay, I know I won’t be.
My fists clench and unclench.
There’s a stinging small cut on the inside of my fingers, perhaps from grabbing that guy’s camera and it’s not enough. I should have split my knuckles open on his face. I should have made it so he could never operate a camera again.
But these damn rules. It’s one thing for Maggie to attack him, which, considering he technically didn’t attack anyone, can be considered assault if the court wanted to rule it that way. It’s another if I do it.
It looks like that won’t be the case. The press was in the wrong. They were in the very wrong. There were a bunch of witnesses to tell them what fucking garbage it was for them to ambush us after a Julotta service. Especially when you factor in a fourteen-year old girl had to be taken to the hospital.
I know this wasn’t my fault but at the same time, how could it not be? I’m the one who had the idea to fly everyone over here. I knew the risks. I knew that the kids would be subjected to shit like this. I knew that things could go horribly wrong and they have gone horribly wrong.
I’ve been in the military. I’ve seen my brother, dead. I’ve seen countless horrible things but what I saw this morning was something uniquely horrific.
I saw the woman I care about and the children that I now consider to be family, be attacked by a bunch of hyenas with cameras.
This isn’t anything new.
This has happened before.
But today, Christmas Day of all days, this crossed the line.
I saw them all in this extremely joyous, open, vulnerable state, having just come out of a church. The perfect picture of their smiling faces and rosy cheeks from the cold and all the color of their outfits against the soft white. We all felt the peace, the sense of acceptance that I know Maggie didn’t feel last night.
At that moment, I knew that Maggie was letting her guard down.
🌸🌸T. B. C🌸🌸