the rumors.

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my mother wasn't always so bad.  growing up, there were five of us:  courtney, joanna, leslie, me, and my brother, jeff.  my dad had always been an alcoholic, and my mom made excuses for it.  he was fifteen years older than her.  she'd married him straight out of high school for money.  that's why she never left him after he was driving jeff home from karate practice one night, after spending time at jesse's pub.  he ended up wrapping his car around a tree.  my dad was fine, he didn't have his seatbelt on and was ejected from the car, but jeff didn't make it.

god, i wish drunk driving was still illegal.

that's what i thought about the whole way back to d.j.'s.

the paparazzi were still camped outside of the back entrance when i pulled up. danny, the valet, rushed up to me, taking my keys and hopping in my car to park.

"nora! nora!" one of the paparazzi called out, "can you give us anything about the girl who spent the night?"

i walked across the cobblestone driveway to where the paparazzi stood. "john, you've known me for how long? you know there's no kissing and telling in this palace." i winked and headed for the back door.

as i climbed the staircase back to d.j.'s room, mariana, the boys' housekeeper was coming down with a heaping basket of laundry.

"he's not up there," she said as she hoisted the basket higher. "his highness is taking prince dominick to the senate hearing over the new taxes."

just as mariana had said, d.j.'s room was empty. the hearing had started about an hour ago, and would most likely go on for several more, but i refused to go home.

i crept down the hall. peter wasn't outside, so i walked faster toward charlie's room... that is, until i heard a girl's blood curling scream. my eye's widened and i spun around on my heels and sprinted for d.j.'s room.

i stood in the hallway, panting my breath.

"i'll lead you this way," i heard peter say, followed by the familiar click-clack of experienced feet in stilettos walking across the marble floors. when i heard the footsteps fade off down the stairs, i peeked around the corner to see an empty hallway. my feet felt like cement blocks, but i pushed myself down the hall anyway.

i took a deep breath and lifted my arm to knock with the flick of the wrist. before i finished the knock, the door quickly cracked open and i got pulled in. the room was dark, except for a lamp that was on in the study. he held my wrist in his warm, sweaty hand against his chest.

"whoa," i breathed.

we locked eyes for a few seconds, then it happened. his lips crashed onto mine, his left hand twisted in my hair, and his right hand ran across the small of my back. the kiss felt like it lasted an eternity, but it ended too soon.

"whoa," i breathed again.

he looked deeply into my eyes. his hazel eyes were shining in the lamp light. "i have been thinking about that since last night," he said, leaning so he was eye-to-eye with me.

"the gir-"

he put a finger to my lip. "loyalty weekend."

that's when we heard a knock at the door. "your highness," the deep voice called from the other side of the door. it was peter.

"shit," charlie mumbled under his breath. he grabbed me and tossed me onto the bed, then started toward the door. "get under the bed!" he whispered sharply.

i stared at him confused for a second, but then quickly obeyed.

i laid next to his beige bedskirt and listened as charlie cracked the door open. "hey, man," charlie said to peter.

"sir, shall i bring up another girl?" peter asked.

charlie rubbed the back of his neck. "you know, actually, i'm not feeling so good. why don't you go ahead and cancel the rest of my appointments for the day."

"but, sir, this is the last day of the weekend. we don't have time to reschedule the remaining appointments."

"uhh, marvin is in town. he's staying in the diego house. call over and see if he'll take them."

"yes, sir," peter sighed.

"and, pete," charlie said, "go ahead and take the rest of the day off."

"should i call the practitioner for you?"

charlie coughed. "uh, no, but can you leave that paperwork from the pass outside my door before you go? i'm gonna try and get some sleep, so you can just leave it and go."

they parted ways and then i heard the door shut and lock. i slowly peeked over the side of the bed. he was sitting on the opposite edge of the bed and patted a spot next to him. "get up here," he smirked.

cautiously, i climbed onto the bed. he lurched on top of me, wrapping his arms around my shoulder blades. "i can't stop thinking about last night," he said quietly with a smile.

i smiled, but it faded, "the girl."

he shook his head. "don't worry about that, it didn't happen."

i furrowed my eyebrow. "the scream?"

he shook his head, "the details aren't important. just don't worry." we laid there, tangled up in each other's arms, and smiling. "is d.j. waiting on you?" he asked.

i shook my head. "he and your dad are at the senate hearing all day."

"you not going home tonight?"

i turned my eyes. "i don't think i'm going back until the end of the week."

he smirked, "well, now i get more time with you."

there was a light rapping on his door, and we both held our breath. he got up and slunk to the door.  charlie cracked it open and peeked out.  he bent down, letting his robe fall open.

"god damn," i heard him whisper.

he came back over to the bed with a puzzled look on his face and a thick stack of papers in his hands.

"everything okay?" i asked.

he kept the puzzled look on his face, "uh, fine, just the paperwork for me using a pass."

"for me?" i questioned.

he nodded.  "we've gotta talk about some of this."

my stomach dropped.  "like what?"

"if i sign this," he sighed, "you'll get a letter that states all of this.  uh, if you don't want me to do sign it after i read it, just tell me."

i swallowed hard, "okay."

"i'll just read it directly," he said, looking at the paper and never me. "any royal who chooses to opt out from engaging with an of age female within the confines of the loyalty law weekend, shall adhere to the following rules: he may not engage sexually with the woman unless they enter a relationship that has reached the level of engagement or marriage. the female who has been passed on will be eligible for the next loyalty law weekend with the closest royal, who is not the royal who has passed on her," he stopped reading and looked up, "that's marvin," he sneered, then went back to reading. "if said female chooses not to engage in the following loyalty weekend, she must remain a virgin until marriage. as such, if she remains a virgin until marriage, any children resulting from that marriage, must be named after the royal family members in power."

he looked up, and i could see the fear building in his eyes. "what do you think?" he asked.

i bit my lip and thought for a minute. "so, i either sleep with marvin next month or i name all my kids after your family?" i asked, thinking out loud.

he rolled his lips. "or," he breathed, "i could shred this right now and we one-and-done, right here, right now."

charlie swallowed and i bit my lip harder. my body was screaming one-and-done, but my head and my heart could only think of d.j., and what that would do to him.

i sighed. "sign it."

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