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Suddenly Royal(9)

By:Nichole Chase

“Occupational hazard. If I’m rude, there’s a story in the paper about me mistreating the staff. If I do nothing, it could go either way.” He raised an eyebrow. His words made me narrow my eyes; I was obviously not cut out for diplomacy. I was also a little surprised he had decided to explain it to me. “But thank you for stepping in. I was afraid to breathe or I might fall into her shirt.”

“No problem.” I shook my head and looked back at Rose, who was watching us. “You were telling me about the family trying to take over.”

“Yes. Well, they didn’t have much support, so began going after the royal families they thought would put up the most resistance. Several royal families died in bizarre accidents and that’s when everyone became nervous. There was a lot of anger and finger-pointing, but no hard evidence. Our family was left with no way to legally arrest the traitors.” Her sigh was laced with frustration. It was obviously something that had caused her relatives a great deal of stress. “Eventually, some of the families felt threatened enough to leave the country. At times with no notice, leaving everything behind like they would be back any day.” Rose leaned forward, her keen eyes brightening. “One of the largest families to leave was that of Duke Rousseau.”

I was glad I didn’t have anything in my mouth, because I was pretty sure I would have spit it out on the table. “You think I’m part of his family?”

“I know you are part of his family.” Rose’s grin was victorious. “My sister, the queen, has been searching for all the families for years in hopes of bringing them home. We’ve traced your family all the way back to the day they set sail from the French coast for America.”

I sat there for a minute, completely unable to form a coherent thought. Images of my mother passed before my eyes. Snippets of conversation repeated themselves. I knew that at one point my family had come from money, but my great-grandfather had gambled most of it away. Then there was the fact that my family had supposedly run. Run away and deserted our homeland. I felt sick. Confused.

“Why? Why are you telling me this?” I looked up from the plate of food I was no longer interested in.

“We want to reinstate your title and lands, Samantha. They are yours and have been kept in trust until we could find you.” Rose watched me, apparently not sure of my reaction.

“It’s true, Samantha. My mother has been searching for the missing families for years. If my aunt says you’re from the Rousseau line, then you are.” Alex reached out and touched my hand, the one that was clutching the fork so tightly my knuckles had turned white. Heat washed up my arm and I met his eyes.

“Why? Why would she want to find the people who abandoned their country?” I couldn’t wrap my brain around the thought.

“Samantha, in our country, the most important thing to us is family. Not just among the royals, but all our citizens. Our work laws are geared to protecting families. Duke Rousseau did what he did to protect his family. There was no legal way of safeguarding themselves, and he knew they would be targets.” Alex squeezed my fingers and I looked down at our hands. His was much larger than mine, and somehow, even though I had just met him, I found his touch comforting.

“What does this have to do with me? What do you want?” I thought I’d come here tonight to discuss a donation for the raptor program. Instead, my whole life was being turned upside down.

“As I said, the queen wants to reinstate your lands, Samantha.” Rose calmly folded her hands in her lap. “She wants to reinstate your title.”

“Title?” My mind was mush. I couldn’t make sense of what they were telling me.#p#分页标题#e#

“Yes. By all rights, you are the Duchess of Rousseau. You are the legal heir.”

I stared at her and tried to wrap my brain around what she was telling me. “That can’t be right. There must’ve been a mistake. I’m not a duchess. I’m a grad student.” I gently pulled my hand out from under Alex’s.

“Samantha, ask yourself this: Why did your mother keep her maiden name? Why did she not take your stepfather’s last name for you and herself?” Rose sat patiently, her face blank as she waited for me to think about it.

Unbidden, my mother’s voice filled my mind. There are two things you must never forget. One, you are a Rousseau and you should always be proud of that. Two, family always comes first. Always. She had told me those things a hundred times, but I’d always thought she was telling me to be proud of who I was, it didn’t matter that I didn’t know my father. And we were a family until we met Dean, my stepfather. And then they became family. The saying never changed. Family comes first.