the secret.

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that night, arabella's bed became my new happy place.  the rose colored sheets smelled fresh and clean.  her room only had a small skylight that opened to the rooftop, so it was dark except for the small window where you could watch the moon and stars at night.

i laid in bed for nearly an hour and a half before d.j. came tip-toeing in.  he slid under the covers next to me and drew circles on the sheets.

"you talked to her lately?" i asked.

d.j. rubbed his chin.  "nah, i called, but she doesn't answer.  guess she still needs more time."

"i'm sorry," i whispered.

he patted my hand.  "wanna go eat breakfast?" i asked.

i nodded and rolled out of bed.

* * *

we were sitting in the kitchen eating.  if there was one thing isabel was struck about, it was how we presented ourselves in the public areas of the palace.  unfortunately, the grand dining room was one of those places, so, if we wanted to eat in our pajamas, it had to be in the kitchen.

"your highness," chef mcgregor said as he sat a stack of pancakes and strips of bacon in front of d.j.  "and for the beautiful lady," he said to me as my omelet was slid under my nose.

d.j. and i sat there eating, talking about preparing to go back to school in a month.  we were excited now that we got to live in the harper house together.

as we were discussing whether to have a total back-to-school rager or just invite a few people over for drinks, the doors to the galley came flying open.

"what the hell was that last night?" charlie shouted as he slammed his hands down on the island.

"what was what?" d.j. asked, stunned.

"her!" charlie barked.  "i tried to take care of her last night after she fell asleep in my tub and she returned the favor by barging into my room and towel-whipping my date!"

i stood up in protest.  "i did not towel-whip your date! i lightly tossed it into your room.  it's not my fault the bimbo happened to be standing in the way!"

"lightly tossed my ass!" charlie retaliated and then we started yelling over one another.  d.j. attempted to calm us down, without resolve.

suddenly, the kitchen doors came flying open and all of our eyes slowly turned as the doors crashed against the wall.  "what is going on in here?!" his deep voice bellowed.

i shrunk down in my seat.  i would call isabel by her first name or by mom, but king dominick was always king dominick.  "sir," i whispered.

charlie and d.j. obviously got their looks from their dad.  isabel was absolutely beautiful, but she was short, ghostly pale, and blonde, with a little bit of a heftier frame.  king dominick was tall, his eyes and eyebrows were dark against his tan skin.  his body was square and chiseled.

"dad," charlie whined, his stupid navy-and-green-plaid robe falling open, "i had a date last night and nora barged in and ruined it."

king dominick's eyes looked enraged.  "i have guests in the dining room.  you two take it somewhere private and away from here.  d.j., get dressed, i want you to get dressed and come in to meet some people."

i shoved my omelet away and tied my silky, pink robe tighter around me.  i gave d.j. a look, and his eyes responded.  he knew i didn't want to go, and i knew he was going to finish my omelet and clean up my plate and glass of juice.

charlie pushed out of the room, and i reluctantly followed.  he led me into the recreation room in the back hallway.  he held the door open for me and then shut and locked it.

"what the hell, nora?" charlie whispered.

his face was stone-cold and serious.  i'd never seen him like that.  he didn't look at me.  he was leaning against the pool table, his arms folded, and he was biting on his bottom lip.

"what the hell, charlie?" i asked, shaking my head, exasperated.

he looked at me confused.  "excuse me?"

i stepped toward him.  "not even twelve hours ago, you kissed me.  you told me you couldn't stop thinking about me, and-and then all of a sudden, you're going out partying and bringing home random girls.  what? were you just lying to me?  did you just say all of that to mess with me?"

charlie sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose.  "no," he shook his head and wrapped his arms around my waist, trying to pull me in, but i pushed away.  "nora, i- i- you are," he sighed and swung his head, "you are so special to me, okay?  i can see this could work.  you and i.  when we were up talking all night, i didn't feel like me.  i felt like the person i want to be, but i don't want to subject you to the craziness that would come with that.  not just yet."

"but i'm used to the pr-"

he shook his head.  "being the potential princess is completely different than the baby prince's best friend."

my eyes fell.  "so what?"

he sighed, "keep it a secret. for now." i nodded in understanding, now leaning fully against him.  he brushed hair back from my face, and as he did, he said,  "but i'm still going to probably bring girls home."  my face flew up so it was eye-to-eye with his.  "just girls like blair and donna and nadine.  for show.  the press is still freaking out about the girl that spent the night, and i wanna keep them guessing."

my eyes rolled, "yeah," i snorted.

charlie lifted my head up. "hey, don't worry about that.  i found out who it was, and i took care of it.  the person that leaked it is long gone from here."  he ran his hands down my back.  it send chills down my spine.  "look at me," he whispered.

i looked up and he smiled.  he left a kiss on my lips like nothing i'd ever felt before.  it was gentle. "you know what scares me?" he whispered so very quietly that i could barely hear him, even though we were inches apart.

"what?" i asked back, my voice as quiet as his.

he rested his forehead on mine, so that his eyes were invisible to me.  "that i just want to stand here and hold you for as long as i can.  just kiss you, run my fingers through your hair.  not throw you on this pool table and destroy you."

oh, i thought, but you totally could.

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