Queen of My Country, Queen of My Heart

by Alex Tryst

copyright November 2002

Disclaimers: First and foremost in order to enjoy this piece to its fullest, you must employ what is referred to in literature as "the suspension of disbelief". Secondly I must note here that I neither condemn nor condone certain medical technologies such as cloning. Additionally you need to throw everything you know about the American government and monarchies in general out the window. Lastly but just as important, this book isn't like my others. You must know ahead of time that there is anguish like I've never written, so tissues are a must. My beta reader even recommends a whole box.

Dedication: As always, to my wife, you are my fondest wish. To the specific inspiration for this particular piece though, I must credit my father-in-law in as much as it stems from one of his casual history lectures over a leisurely dinner where he so proudly informed me that back after America had won its independence from England, there was debate over whether or not George Washington should become king of our new nation. You will see American historical icons as you have never seen them before as I have grossly manipulated U.S. history, but all in fun of course.

Now on with the show..................................................................................................................

Part 1

Chapter One: Falling into Blue Eyes

Sun was streaming in the large windows that morning as Alexa lay peacefully in her bed. Even though she was awake, her dark eyes remained closed as she desperately wished she could fall back into her dreams. Turning away from the window, her body bumped one next to her, and her eyes opened in confusion. Lying next to her was a stunning blonde with long flowing hair and green eyes that were on her.

"Morning, Gwennie." she whispered. "Been awake long?"

"Morning, Lex. No, I just woke up a few minutes ago. That sun is really bright."

Alexa nodded sleepily in agreement. Curling an arm around her bed companion's waist and placing her head on the elegant woman's shoulder, she replied, "I just want to go back to sleep. I was having the best dream."

"About some girl no doubt." Gwen teased.

"Well, what can I say? I have the most beautiful woman in the world as my best friend. I'll never find anyone like you Gwen. It's just too bad you're straight."

Gwen smiled. "True but if you asked me to marry you, I'd still probably say yes. You are after all the crowned princess. How could I walk away from that simply because I don't want to sleep with you? I'd be a fool as would any woman." she joked.

"You really think I could get any woman I want?" curiously Alexa inquired propping up on her elbow and looking down at her friend.

"Oh, don't even ask me that. You know you can. Look at you, tall, dark, and sexy, not to mention you are the sole heir to the throne. Women fall at your feet for that reason alone."

"I know, but I've always wanted to find that special one. It's hard to know who is being real with me and who is only out for what I can offer. With my parents getting on me about marrying, I don't know what to do really. They want a woman at my side as does the nation, but I want to be in love, Gwennie. I want to find her, but I just don't know where to even look."

"I know. You'll find her though. I promise you, Lex. Someday you'll find that princess of yours, and she'll be the luckiest woman in this world."

Hearing noise outside the bedroom door, the brunette asked, "Who's here?"

"Alfred came in a little while ago. He was ordering up some breakfast. We really should get up."

Alex groaned playfully and flopped down into the mattress. "I don't want to. Can't you all just go on without me? They won't miss me." she stated lightly.

Gwen laughed at her tall companion. She gave the princess a gentle push on the shoulder. "Get up, you lazy bum. I'm going back to my room to get dressed. You better be ready when I return."

Alexa watched the tall thin blonde rise from bed. It really was true that Gwyneth Jefferson was the most beautiful woman to ever grace the earth in her opinion, but the pair had known each other since they were infants and formed a bond that went beyond friendship. They were as close as sisters, including the fights that naturally came with such territory. As much as the media embellished the precise nature of their relationship, both of them knew it never could grow into what popular opinion deemed it to be.

When the blonde was gone, Alex reluctantly got out of bed herself and headed into the bathroom. The hotel accommodations for the princess were impeccable, but she hardly even noticed as she stumbled over to the shower. Her head was pounding from all the wine she and Gwen had consumed the night before, and she wondered why the blonde seemed unphased by it. Hoping a shower would rejuvenate her, she stripped off her clothes from the night before and slid under the warm spray.

Half an hour later she emerged from her room dressed in a dark grey suit with a silk red shirt to accentuate her dark hair. Gwen was not back yet, but her secretary, Alfred Simon, was standing in the living area on the phone. He gave her a smile and nod gesturing toward the dining room table where an extravagant spread of food was waiting as well as several of her staff members.

"Good morning, all." she greeted taking a seat at the head of the table.

"Morning, your majesty." they replied in unison before taking their seats as well.

Alfred joined them moments later. "Good morning, Lex. Feeling all right?" he teased lightly.

"I'm just fine, Alfred. And you?"

"Good. I was just on the phone with Gwen. She'll be here shortly. We need to be leaving soon. The presentation is at nine, and it will take about an hour to get there."

"Fine. As soon as Gwen gets here and gets something to eat, we can go. Tell me again what this is about exactly?"

"You're presenting this year's 'Teacher of the Year' award to a Miss Lara Monroe. Here is your speech." he stated handing her a copy. "Read over it. There will be a teleprompter there for you as well. Remember though that this is a surprise. The school doesn't know which one of their teachers won, except for the principal." Alexa nodded taking the speech. The remainder of the morning during breakfast and the ride out to the school where the winner taught, she perused her notes as Gwen sat at her side.

When they arrived at the tiny elementary school, the press was already surrounding the building. Alexa just gave Gwen a demure smile and then waited for her door to be opened. As soon as it was, the flashing began as Gwen stepped out of the limo first with Alexa right behind. Extending her arm to the exquisite blonde, the princess escorted her best friend inside. Thankfully the press had been barred from entering the building, leaving them in semi-peace. As with any ceremony there was a certain amount of spectacle that preceded Alexa's entrance, and this day was no exception. After the auditorium was full for the presentation, she was formally announced and paraded in with her entourage close behind. Everyone stood and gave a bow as she passed by them on her way to her seat in the front row.

Being that Gwen was one of the top directors of the national education program in the country as well as being Alexa's companion, the tall blonde spoke first after being introduced by the principal of the school. The twenty five year old princess tried to listen as attentatively as possible, but her thoughts inevitably strayed. Instead of listening to Gwen's words, she began to focus her thought on the beautiful woman at the podium. Alexa had received a lot of pressure lately from her parents about choosing a mate, and Gwyneth Jefferson was their prime choice. Another noble from the distant lines of Thomas Jefferson himself, she appeared to be the ideal candidate to carry on the Washington line, and she had the beauty and intelligence to be a true compliment to the princess. "Now, here to present this years 'Teacher of the Year' award, is a woman who needs no real introduction. Nevertheless it is an honor and privilege to invite her majesty, the crowned princess of America, Alexa Washington, up to the podium to make the presentation to this year's lucky recipient." she stated.

Alexa stood as the clapping commenced and took a moment to straighten out her suit coat and button it. Making her way onto the stage, she gave the crowd a friendly wave and smile. She came to Gwen and leaned ever so slightly down to kiss the blonde on both cheeks. Alexa then waited for her to leave the stage before stating, "As many of you know, Lady Gwyneth Jefferson is my dearest friend, and she is the executive director of our country's educational program. I would like to take a moment to extend my heartfelt thanks to her for all her dedication in helping mold our youth. Please join me in applause as I salute a real gem to our children." Gwen then stood for a moment as she was acknowledged before Alexa moved on to the item of business at hand. "Well, as you know once a year the national board of education recognizes one outstanding teacher in order to honor them for their dedication to our children. Each school nominates the teachers they think are most worthy of this esteemed reward, and the winner is then picked by the board of education, his majesty King George IV, Queen Victoria, and of course Lady Jefferson. This year I have the highest privilege of presenting this award to one of the teacher's in this school. In addition to the engraved silver cup that is sitting right here for the winner, that teacher will have the highest honor of representing our nation at the international education conference being held this year in Washington, D.C. with Lady Jefferson. Furthermore there is a generous stipend coupled with this award as well as the title of interim assistant director for their appropriate grade range, in this case, elementary, with the national board of education to work in conjunction with the board on a lecture series for the next year. Of course as an added bonus being that the international education conference is in our nation's capital, the winner will be residing at the palace for the duration of the conference." Alexa paused as the audience clapped. After the appropriate time, she started again. "Now I must admit I have not had the pleasure of meeting this year's winner, but I have been told that you have an extraordinary teacher among you. In the brief time she has been with the school, she has been instrumental in bringing a music program to the children, volunteering her time after school until a music teacher can be found. She has also found ways for getting parents more involved with the school by producing semi-annual plays for the whole student body using the parents as vital parts of the programs, and she has single-handedly improved the scores of those students that had previously been classified as unreachable with her after school tutoring program for kids of all ages. A native of Nashville, she has lived here her entire life and attended Vanderbilt University on academic scholarship where she graduated magna cum laude. After that she joined this staff. From what everyone has told me about this woman, she is a real treasure to the school and the educational community. This year it is my great delight to present this year's award to the winner, who additionally I might add is the youngest and newest teacher ever having received such prize. This year's award goes to your hometown lady, Miss Lara Monroe. Miss Monroe, if you would please come forward and allow me to look upon the face of the future of our children."

Alexa's eyes scanned the crowd for the teacher. When a petite little blonde rose from her chair, the princess felt her knees begin to weaken. The young woman was beautiful. Taking a hold of the podium with both hands to hold herself up, the tall royal watched as the pixie of a girl floated down the aisle toward her with an adorable blush gracing her cheeks. The little teacher climbed the stairs and glided across the stage to where Alexa was standing, temporarily mesmerizing the brunette with the way she walked. However she came to as Lara bowed her blonde head in reverence in front of her. Alexa flashed a bright smile at the short woman as her eyes met the bluest ones she had ever seen. The younger woman was smiling slightly as well. "Miss Monroe, congratulations." she stated extending her right hand to the woman formally and holding the silver cup with her left.

"Thank you, your majesty. It is an honor to even meet you." she stated softly so only that tall woman could hear.

"I'm sure the pleasure is all mine, Miss Monroe. Please. The floor is yours." she said gesturing to the podium.

Allowing the blonde to approach the podium, Alexa moved back a few steps to give Lara her moment. "Well, I hardly know what to say. I never expected to win this award in my entire career, not to mention in my first year of teaching. This is the greatest honor I have ever been given, and the feeling of receiving this personally from Princess Alexa, is just more than I can even articulate at the moment. I'm overwhelmed. Teaching and children are my life, and I am just fortunate enough that our principal was kind enough to nominate me for such a distinguished award and that the committee that voted saw fit to give this year's prize to me. For that I am most thankful, Lady Jefferson. Along with this award comes great challenges, which I will strive to meet and exceed, and I am honored to be the one chosen to represent our prominent nation at the conference. Thank you all. I will serve you well."

Once the ceremony had come to an end, a tour of the school had been scheduled for Alexa and her group. As the middle-aged balding principal showed them around the building, the princess wondered about the young teacher. She had hoped to spend a little time with her, but she had immediately returned to her classroom. Fortunately though as the tour was winding down, the man mentioned where Lara Monroe's classroom was. Taking the initiative Alexa walked directly over to it. She heard the blonde's melodious voice before she saw her. Coming to a stop in the open doorway, she spotted the small woman sitting in a child-sized chair in the front of the room with her students on the floor around her, all of them riveted to her every word as she read them a book. The teacher never even noticed the princess, allowing Alexa time to watch her in action. The little woman was as captivating to the princess as to the kids, and when the book had come to an end, Alexa clapped for the reader to announce her presence. Lara's head jerked up in surprise to see the dark-haired woman with her group dawning the doorway.

"Your majesty, I didn't know you were standing there." she stuttered rising to her feet and bowing.

"I was just listening to your story. Do you mind if I come in? I would hate to disturb your class."

"No. Please do. Kids, we have a visitor. This is her majesty, Princess Alexa. Can you all say hello?" she asked of her seven year olds. The tall woman smiled as the young children did as they were told. "I was just reading to them. We had one more story to go before we started our math. Perhaps I could be so bold as to ask if you would like to read?" she suggested.

Feeling delicate hands pressing a book into her own and seeing hopeful blue eyes upon her, Alexa knew she was helpless to resist. "Sure. I could read one. However I'm not sure I could do as well as you."

The blonde blushed lightly. The princess noticed Lara's hand resting on her arm for a moment as the petite woman addressed the kids. "Princess Alexa is going to read our last story today. Everyone please stay settled." Looking back at the tall woman, she said, "They're all yours."

"Thanks." the princess softly replied as Lara moved off to the side. Alexa felt the loss of contact immediately. However she didn't have time to do anything about it as twenty pair of expectant eyes fell on her. Looking around for a suitable chair for her large frame, she found none, so she took to the floor. "All right, kids, here we go." she stated launching into the short book. Ten minutes later it was over, and Lara asked them all to go back to their desks to prepare for math. "Miss Monroe, I was wondering if I might have a word with you in private." Alexa requested.

"Certainly, you highness." she answered coming to where Alexa was standing at the back of the room. "What is it?"

"Well, I was wondering if I could invite you and your significant other to dinner with Lady Jefferson and myself this evening to celebrate your achievement?" she offered, hoping that the little woman was not married.

"Your highness, that is quite an offer, and I would love to join you. However my boyfriend Ryan is out of town on business, and since my father is as well, my mother and I were planning on having dinner together this evening."

"Well, please bring your mother with you then. I would love to meet the woman who inspired such greatness."

Another flush adorned the blonde's fair cheeks. "Your majesty, you are too kind. I wouldn't want to impose you on."

"Nonsense. I would not have invited you otherwise. Please. Will you and your mother join Gwyneth and myself?"

"Yes. That would be wonderful. Thank you."

"Great. We're staying at the Vanderbilt. I trust you can still find your way down to your alma mater. The hotel is right across the way. How does seven sound?"

"That's fine."

"Good. Nothing fancy. Come as you are. One of my assistants will meet you in the lobby and escort you where you need to go. See you then."

On the limo ride to their next meeting on the agenda, Alexa looked over at Alfred who was busy conversing on the phone. However seeing her staring at him, he quickly ended the call. "What is it, Lex?"

"I need some flowers delivered up to the suite, Alfred."

"Fine. What kind?"

The princess shrugged. "I don't know. Roses I guess." she stated gaining Gwen's attention.

"Roses? For what, Lex?" the blonde inquired with a teasing grin. "Would these happen to be for a blonde that we met today?"

"Yes, they are for Lara. I need a card as well I guess. A congratulations one. What color should they be, Gwennie? I don't want to give off the wrong impression."

"That rules out red. Go for a white or a pale peach. That would be nice."

Looking back at him, Alexa said, "What Gwen said, Alfred."

"And how many for the young lady?" he questioned beginning to take a note of the request.

"Let's not get crazy. Three dozen should do it. Have them put on the side table in the dining room. I want them to be near her but not on the table where they will impede anyone's view."

"Certainly. I will call the hotel and make sure that gets done right away."

"Also, Alfred, see what you can dig up on this woman. I want to know everything you can find out about her and her family."

"Most certainly, Lex. I'll get on it right away."

Fifteen minutes to seven that evening found Gwen and Alexa alone on the balcony of the spacious hotel suite. Alexa was nursing a whiskey and water as she looked out over the city of Nashville. Gwen stood close by her, sipping her wine and taking in the same view. "What's on your mind, Lex? A certain blonde beauty?"

"She was so amazing, Gwennie."

"You really took a shine to her. Lara seems like a sweet girl."

"Too bad she has a boyfriend." the princess mumbled into her drink.

Gwen smiled. "That doesn't stop you from taking interest though, does it?"

"Is it that obvious?"

"Not to her if that's what you are worried about. I think she's clueless. I know you well enough to know that look you were giving her though. Lex, if you really wanted to, you could persuade her to switch teams. You have everything women want."

"Yeah, I know, the money, power, etc. You know I want her to like me for me though. That's just not going to happen. I'll just enjoy this evening with her and leave it at that." she said as there was knock on the door of the suite. Moments later Alfred announced the arrival of their guests. Taking Gwen by the hand the tall couple entered the suite to find Lara and an older woman standing there. The little blonde was wearing a sleeveless black dress that came to mid-knee with a black sweater draped over her shoulders. Alexa smiled at how wonderful she looked as she moved to greet them. "Good evening, Miss Monroe. You look stunning." she boldly stated with open admiration. Alexa figured she had nothing to lose by making her interest known. After all she would never be rebuffed publicly by any woman being who she was, so she knew she could get away with it.

Lara blushed deeply at the comment. "Your majesty." she whispered, unable to suddenly find her voice with the way the heir to the throne was looking at her.

Without waiting for any sort of introduction from the teacher, Alexa turned to the older woman. "You must be Mrs. Monroe. It truly is an honor to meet the woman who brought this treasure into the world."

"Katherine, sire, the honor is all mine." she stated with a bow of her head.

"May I present Lady Jefferson?" Alexa introduced. Once Katherine had greeted Gwen as well, Alexa gestured to the dinning room. "Dinner was brought up a moment ago. Please, let's sit." She allowed all three towheads to lead the way into the other room and subtly enjoyed the view of the teacher's backside. Going into the dining area, the teacher noticed the roses sitting on a side table with a card with her name on it leaned against the vase. Walking over to it curiously, she looked at Alexa, who nodded for her to continue. The petite blonde picked up the card and opened it. It was simple and yet Lara felt such an honor that Alexa had signed it personally with a note attached. Turning toward the tall woman, she gave a slight flush. "Thank you, your highness. These are absolutely beautiful."

"They pale in comparison to your blue eyes." the brunette mentioned not meeting Lara's gaze as she was busy inspecting the wine for their meal. However Gwen noticed the teacher turn a deep shade of red at the comment while her mother faded to white. She cleared her throat discreetly to warn her friend that she had gone too far and then invited their guests to sit.

Most of dinner focused on what Lara would be doing at the conference and the role she would play during the coming year in her new position with the board of education. However during the meal the phone rang. Both Alexa and Gwen let it go for one of the servants to get, but after just a moment, Alfred dawned the doorway.

"Your highness, you are needed on the phone."

"Who is it? Can't it wait? I'm in the middle of dinner."

"No, sire. It's the queen, and she requires your immediate attention."

Alexa sighed. "Very well. I'll take it in the other room. Excuse me, ladies."

When she was gone, Gwen turned to their guests and smiled. "Her highness is so glad you were able to make it this evening." she stated.

"Well, it's not everyday, the crowned princess invites me to dinner. I wouldn't have missed it for anything. I'll admit that she is not what I expected."

"How's that?"

The little woman shrugged. "I don't know. She's real. I guess there was some mystique about her when I would see her on tv, but now having met her, she's just like everyone else."

"That's how she wants people to see her. She hates being treated differently simply because she's the heir. You'll come to learn that as we all work together at the conference."

"She's going to be at the conference as well?"

"Oh yes. Princess Alexa likes to be extremely involved. She will be at as many meetings as she can. I have no doubt that she will want to help prep you as well. You'll be spending a fair amount of time at the palace beforehand I'm sure." Before any more could be said, the brunette returned with a somber countenance. Forgetting their company for a moment, Gwen slipped in her address when she saw her best friend's face. "Lex, what is it? What's wrong?"

"Ladies, I'm terribly sorry, but I'm urgently needed back at the palace. You'll have to excuse me."

"Well, we should go then." Lara suggested, sensing that whatever was wrong was quite serious.

"No. Please stay and enjoy the rest of your meal. Gwen, I need to speak with you a moment."

"Certainly." she replied following Alexa out of the room.

"What is it, Lex?"

"My father, Gwennie. He's in the hospital. I need to go back in case something happens."

"Is it that serious?" she questioned in concern for her friend and her nation.

"He's in a coma. Apparently he had a massive stroke. I have to go right away. The people need to see someone on that throne, and that someone is me."

"Do you want me to come with you?"

"No. I need you to stay here with Lara. If nothing else, find out more about her for me, and if you can slip in some good things about me." she tried to joke.

"Of course. I'll come home later tonight. Call me and let me know if you want company. I don't care what time it is."

"Okay. Now go on. We can't let them know this is going on. The press doesn't know about it yet. They are waiting on me to make it public."

"Of course. I'll leave you to pack then, and don't worry about Lara. I'll take care of her."


Half an hour later Alexa stepped into the dining room to see the three blondes still having dinner. "Again I'm terribly sorry that I must depart so suddenly. I'll be in touch though in regards to the conference."

"Yes, your majesty. I do hope everything is all right." Lara replied.

"It was a pleasure meeting you, Katherine. Hopefully next time we see each other it won't be for such a short time."

"Likewise, your highness."

Gwen stood from the table and came to hug her. Leaning to her ear, she whispered, "Everything will be all right. You'll see."

Alexa nodded in response before quickly pecking the blonde's lips in affection. "I'll see you later tonight."

"Yes. I'll come by your place as soon as I get in. I love you, Lex."

"Love you too. See you in a bit." Breaking away from her friend, she looked at Lara and her mother. "Excuse me, ladies."

As the teacher watched Alexa rush from the room, she knew something was terribly wrong. Even though it was not her right to ask what was going on, she was concerned for the princess. Alexa was obviously putting on a strong front, but she saw the vulnerability there embraced in Lady Jefferson's arm. The mutual adoration so evidently displayed between the two confirmed her curiosity regarding their relationship. All the major publications made it known they were a couple even though both denied it. However seeing the intimate demonstration, she assumed they were definitely involved.

Looking upon the face of Gwen, Lara pondered what it might be like for her. Lady Jefferson had everything, notoriety, education, money, and the arm of the most available woman in the country. The teacher wondered what her life was like, being with Alexa constantly and dealing with the press. It seemed as if the two never had any privacy, and she felt special that they had allowed her to share in their private time.

Knowing that it was inappropriate to inquire of the situation, Lara smiled at Gwen. "We don't mean to keep you, Lady Jefferson. If you need to go as well, we will understand." she said.

"Actually Princess Alexa has requested that I stay here and take care of some business before returning. Tell me more about yourself, Lara. Have you always wanted to be a teacher?"

"For the most part, yes. Of course I think I had the adolescent dreams most girls have of being a princess or ballerina, but teaching has always been my fantasy. Although I must admit I never thought this would happen. The award was nothing that I had ever considered even though I have heard about it obviously. I really am appreciative of it and the opportunity that goes along with it."

"I know you will do a fabulous job, Lara. We have all the confidence in the world in you and rightfully so by your accolades. You have impressed us all, Princess Alexa, King George IV, and Queen Victoria included. For once I am not so concerned about our presence at the annual international education conference."

"Well, thank you for such faith. I won't let you or Princess Alexa down."

That evening after Lara and her mother left the hotel, and the teacher was taking her mother home there was a news brief that interrupted the song on the radio. It was about the king's serious condition, and the little blonde knew that was the call Alexa had received that evening that had sent her rushing back home. The small woman thought of the princess, the image of strength and composure even in such a moment.

"I sure hope the king is all right." she stated aloud as she drove.

"Well, the Princess Alexa's departure makes more sense now. Poor child. She's too young to lose her father. I hope that he recovers."

"She certainly was interesting to meet, wasn't she?"

"To say the least. She seemed to be flirting with you, dear. I don't see how she could do that in front of her intended."

Lara shrugged. "I don't know, but Lady Jefferson didn't seem to care too much. Maybe it's a different kind of relationship. I could tell that they love each other regardless of how much they deny it in the press. That was quite obvious. Who knows though? They live differently than we do, and I guess it's not my business anyway."

Her mother nodded in agreement. "Makes you wonder though, doesn't it? They are interesting to watch together. I can see where the love they share could be taken a romantic sense, but I saw more there. It seemed more familial to me, as if they were sisters. I didn't see a sexual undertone there. However I did see it when the princess was speaking to you." she pointed out. "Maybe they have an arrangement. Regardless of that though, she did take a shine to you. Surely she knows that you are not available in that respect."

"I don't think something like that would matter to her, Mom. She's the princess after all. I'm sure she's used to getting her way. She could probably have anyone she wanted, whether or not they were of the same sexual orientation. I mean think about it. Having sexual relations with the only heir to the throne for fame and money, not to mention a crown of your own. I think that could be appealing to lots of women if they are motivated by that kind of thing regardless of their orientation."

"Would it appeal to you, Lara?" her mother questioned hesitantly.

"I don't know. I'd much prefer to marry for love than obligation."

"Too bad because I think the princess has an interest in you." her mother teased.

Lara blushed. "She does not."

"Oh no? You think she gets all women three dozen roses or compliments their eyes?"

"What does it matter anyway?"

"It doesn't. It's just fun to speculate."


Chapter Two: Learning to Woo Her

Several weeks later Lara had been invited up to the king's country castle in the foothills of the Shenandoah Valley for a working vacation with Alexa and Gwen to help prepare for the conference. Alexa had insisted that the royal jet bring her to the country, so Lara was whisked to the royal palace via the plane and a helicopter. When the helicopter landed in the back rolling yard of the castle, she was surprised at the sight that greeted her.

Alexa was standing there in a pair of riding pants, boots, and jacket. A helmet was tucked under her arm, and she was grinning brightly as a pack of hounds sat obediently beside her. Just beyond her in the shade under an umbrella were the queen, who was fanning herself lightly and the king close beside her looking frail as he sat in a wheelchair. The press had made it clear that the king had not been the same since his stroke and for all purposes, he was unable to serve in his former capacity, leaving the twenty-five year old princess the unofficial leader of their country.

The tall woman moved to the helicopter as it landed and opened the door for the teacher. "Welcome, Lara." she greeted extending her hand to assist the blonde to the ground.

"Thank you, sire." she replied bowing as usual.

"Come. I would like for you to meet my parents." she said moving her hand to the teacher's lower back and directing her over to them. "Father, Mother, this is Lara Monroe. She was the one that won the 'Teacher of the Year' award. Lara, my parents, his majesty King George IV and Queen Victoria." she presented.

"Your majesties, it is an honor." Lara stated bowing humbly before them.

"Please, sit and have some tea with us, my dear. You must be tired after your journey." Victoria offered gesturing to a chair. "Alexa, go inform them that our guest has arrived so that Lara's things may be taken to her room."

"Certainly. I'll be right back." she responded depositing her riding helmet on the table and moving away to do her mother's bidding.

"So, you are the one that Alexa has said so much about? She was most impressed with you when you met. I am so glad that you seem as splendid as your resume. There was a strong pool of nominations this year for the award. I'm glad it appears we made the right choice."

"Your highness, I am thrilled for the chance to work with the board and represent our country."

"Lex mentioned that she sat in on your class while she was there. She had only the highest remarks concerning your methods."

"She did step in for awhile. It was a pleasure to have her there. The children loved her. She was even obliging enough to read them a story."

"She does love children. I hope it won't be too long before she gives us grandchildren. If we could just get her settled down with a wife first." the older woman teased. "The country needs that now, but she's determined to remain single much against her parents' urging."

"I'm sure when the moment is right, she will find the one. Whoever she is will be lucky to have such a role. Following in your footsteps won't be easy for any woman Princess Alexa chooses."

The queen smiled. "You are as charming as Lex said you were."

Lara flushed lightly at the compliment and the thought of Alexa speaking about her to her mother. The blonde spared a glance at the king, who had said nothing. He did not look good, his eyes almost vacant and skin ashen. Throughout the many years he had served as king, he had presented himself as such a strong person and to see him so frail hurt Lara's heart. He seemed on the very edge of life, and her heart couldn't help but go out to the young princess for her father's infirm condition.

Seeing where Lara's eyes had strayed, the queen looked at her husband. "Have you had enough sun, my dear?" she asked of him. He merely gave a nod. "Very well. I'll have Lex take you in when she returns." Moments later the brunette came back to the table. "Lex, be a good daughter and take your father inside, will you?" Victoria asked.

"Sure, Mother. Come on, Dad." she said to him. Lara watched as Alexa embraced him under the legs and around the back to lift him from his chair. As the tall woman carried the ghost of the man that had helped bring her into the world, the blonde saw the complete adoration the princess had for her father by the smile she gave him as they walked off toward the palace. "Where would you like to sit, Father?" she inquired as they moved away from the table.

Victoria noticed Lara watching the display. "She's always been her father's girl." she stated.

"The king is worse than the press even admits?" the blonde questioned despite herself.

"I'm afraid so, Lara."

"He will recover though, won't he?"

The queen didn't respond at first. "The time is fast approaching that Alexa will take over her official duties of the throne. That's why she needs to marry so soon. She needs a queen to sit beside her when that moment comes." Victoria replied.

A few minutes later Alexa came back, but this time she had Gwen in tow. The teacher observed the way they held hands as they came to the table. Seeing Lara there with the queen, Gwen smiled brightly. "Lara, how are you?" she inquired taking a seat next to the smaller blonde.

"I'm fine, Lady Jefferson. How are you?"

"I'm doing well. Are you ready to get to work?"

"Whenever you are."

"Well, I'll admit that I hadn't planned anything for the rest of the afternoon. I thought we could relax today and start early tomorrow. How does that suit you?"

"That's fine. Whatever you two want."

"Well, I was about to go for a ride when I saw the helicopter land. Perhaps after we've had some tea we could all go together." Alex suggested.

"What a splendid idea, Lex." Gwen responded. "Wouldn't that be fun, Lara?"

"That does sound like fun. I've always enjoyed a good ride."

"Wonderful. It's settled then." the princess said digging into the refreshments that had been served.

The rest of the afternoon was spent riding. Alexa spent most of her time riding ahead of the two blondes with the dogs, jumping over everything she could and generally doing what Gwen would have considered showing off. The two fair-haired women though followed at a more gentle gait.

"Princess Alexa is quite the equestrian." Lara mentioned after watching her for a while.

Gwen gave a wry smile. "Yes, she certainly is. Horses have always been one of her pastimes. She loves coming here when she can. It's her favorite getaway."

"Lady Jefferson, may I ask how long you two have known each other?"

"Lara, I think it would be best if you started calling me Gwen. After all we are going to be working together, and I foresee us having a friendship. My friends don't call me Lady Jefferson."

"Very well. Gwen it is."

"Lex and I have known each other since birth. Our families are steeped in history together, our ancestors fought together to win our independence from England. For eight generations our families have been friends, and it was my ancestor Thomas Jefferson who actually nominated Alexa's great grandfather seven times removed, George Washington, to be king of this great nation. In turn King George I gave my family nobility, and Thomas Jefferson became lord over most of the southern Virginia territory. My family still occupies the house at Monticello just outside Charlottesville. My parents live there."

"Where do you live?"

"In the D.C. area. That is where the headquarters for the national board of education is, so I spend my time there. I suppose there will come a time when I must occupy the house my parents do unless I marry another noble. My family is held in the highest regard by the Washington line due to the relationship our ancestors had though, so there is really no other royal that could be of as much importance." she stated matter of factly.

"Except for the princess herself." Lara supplied.

"Yes, except for Lex herself." Gwen agreed casting a glance at her riding companion. "I think I know what you are wondering about, so allow me to put your curiosity at rest, Lara. The press believes that Lex and I are to be married, but such is not the case. We are dear friends, but she has not asked for my hand despite popular opinion."

"You are the obvious choice, though, aren't you? Would you accept if she made a proposal?" Lara inquired, thrilled that Gwen seemed to be willing to discuss intimate details with her.

"It's true that I am the obvious choice, Lara, but I am not the best choice for, Lex. For the country maybe that is true, but Lex and I both want love. As much as we love each other, there are no romantic feelings between us. A marriage between us would strictly be an alliance of our families. I'm not sure if either of us really wants that, even though our parents do. Regardless of what happens, it would be in her best interest to marry another noble."

Lara nodded. She couldn't really comprehend having to live the way the two women she was coming to know did. She couldn't imagine having to do things for others all the time instead of just themselves. As much as she had envied the life of the royals, she was quickly coming to realize it was not all fun. They had to give a lot of themselves to others. Curiously she asked, "If Lex could marry for love, what type of woman do you think would strike her fancy?"

"Frankly I think a tiny little blonde with a sweet personality would be exactly what she would want, someone like you, Lara." Gwen stated staring directly at her.

The teacher's heart stopped momentarily with the way Lady Jefferson was looking at her. Gwen was making the obvious point that Alexa's interest could be in her, and Lara didn't know exactly how to respond. Not knowing what to say, she merely mentioned, "But I'm not a royal."

Just then Alexa rode up to them sporting a large grin. "What are you two talking about?" she inquired shooting Lara a smile that made her eyes sparkle with mirth.

"Oh, nothing important, Lex. Just girl talk you know." Gwen answered for them.

"Oh, great. Just what I need." she teased falling in beside Lara with her horse.

"So, Lara, tell me more about this boyfriend of yours. What did you say his name was? Ryan?" Gwen inquired trying to change the subject. She knew Alexa wouldn't really enjoy it, but it might be useful information for the princess if she was going to try to woo the teacher.

"Oh, there's not much to tell. His name is Ryan, and we've been dating for about a year. He's in sales."

"Is it serious? Do you think you'll marry him?" Gwen asked in casual interest.

Lara shrugged. "I don't know. He hasn't asked, and I don't think I would call it serious. He's traveling so much that even though we've been together a year, it seems like much less. Only time will tell I guess." she answered sparing a look at the princess. She felt self-conscious discussing her relationship with her boyfriend in light of what Gwen had just told her.

Alexa just smiled at the little woman before consulting her watch. "We should be getting back. Dinner will be in a bit, and I'm sure you'd like to retire early after your long trip, Lara." she stated turning the house in the direction of the stables.

Later that evening after their evening meal, Lara was left to her own devices as Alexa had business to attend to with her parents. Being on her own, she had a chance to wander the palace and the front grounds.

Meanwhile Alexa was holed up in her father's office with her parents for a serious discussion. Sitting on the couch, she looked at her father, who sat by the fire. "Alexa, I know you know what this conversation is going to be about. It is far time you choose a mate." the king began.

"Father, why? I'm only twenty-five. I'm not ready to settle down yet."

"Alexa, please." her mother implored. "You need to be wed and soon."

"Mother, why is this so imperative? I've been doing just fine without a wife."

With a shaking hand, her father touched her on the arm. She looked into his hollow eyes. "Alexa, you know my time is near. I want to see you married before I leave this country in your hands. Please? Appease me and marry Gwyneth. I want to see you two wed before the year is over. I'm not sure I can even make it that long. You know what the doctors have said. I need to see you walk down that aisle. It would please me as your father. Don't make me order you as your king, Alexa."

The dark-haired woman sighed. She was torn as to what to do. She so wanted her father to be at her wedding when it finally did happen, but she knew he didn't have long. The doctors had made it very clear it was less than a year. She also realized the importance of being wed before she took the throne. No heir had ever ruled alone, and the people would feel most secure if she were married and producing heirs to carry on the line.

"Please, darling." her mother pleaded.

Shrugging in defeat she mumbled, "Fine. You two win. I will ask Gwennie to marry me."

"Thank you. You are making the right decision." her father assured her.

She looked at the two of them before quietly saying, "I guess I need to go talk to Gwen now. If you'll excuse me."

With a heavy heart Alexa went off to find her best friend. Gwen was sitting on the back porch watching the last bit of sun as it set behind the mountains. As soon as she saw Alexa, she asked in concern, "What's wrong, Lex? Is it your father?"

The princess shook her head. "I just had a talk with my parents. They have beseeched me to wed before the year is over. As you know my father's condition is getting worse, and he would like to see me take my vows before it's too late."

Gwen reached for the brunette's hand. "What are you going to do?"

Looking down at the blonde, she answered, "I told him I would do it, that I would marry before then."

"What?" she asked in surprise. "And how do you propose to win Lara's affections in such a short amount of time?"

"I don't." Alexa replied. "My interest in Lara may be love, or it may not be. I need a woman I can count on to sit beside me as my queen. I need a confidant and a friend. I need you, Gwennie." she said. Kneeling down in front of Gwen's chair, she took her friend's hands. "Gwyneth Jefferson, I need you as my queen. It's what my father and mother want, and it's what this country needs. Please, Gwennie, say you'll marry me."

"What about Lara?"

"What about Lara? I'm not even sure of what I'm feeling for her. I know nothing about her or her family. I need someone of nobility. It's what is expected. If I were truly in love with her, then maybe I could persuade my parents to make an exception, but there is not time for that. She's involved with someone anyway. There really is not a moment to lose. Please, Gwen, will you marry me?" she asked again.

There was a moment of stillness as Gwen pondered the offer. However before she could make any sort of reply, they heard footsteps along the stone path just before Lara turned the corner of the porch. Seeing the princess on her knees in front of Lady Jefferson, the teacher felt for sure she had just interrupted something intimate between them and turned flush in embarrassment.

"Oh, I am so sorry, your highness. I didn't mean to intrude. I was just walking the grounds and watching the sunset. I'll go." she stammered.

Alexa jumped to her feet. "No. Please. Stay here. You didn't interrupt anything important. It can wait. Join us for the sunset. I insist." she said gesturing to a chair.

Lara looked at Gwen who was nodding in agreement, so she took the offered seat. There was an awkward moment as the three of them sat there, no one really knowing what to say. Alexa wondered if Lara had heard anything that had been said, but she didn't ask. She just cast a look at Gwen. The tall blonde shifted nervously as her eyes found her friend.

"You'll have to excuse me." Gwen stated after a moment. "I just remembered some business I had to take care of after dinner, and then I am going to retire early. I'll see you both at breakfast. All right?"

"Sure, Gwennie." Alexa replied standing as Gwen did.

"Good night, Gwen." Lara said.

"Night, Lara, Lex."

When the little woman was alone with the princess, she said, "I really am sorry if I interrupted you two."

"It was nothing." Alexa mentioned.

"It didn't look like nothing." Lara insisted.

"I assure you, Lara. It was not important." A brief moment passed before she inquired, "Would you care to continue your stroll of the grounds with me?"

"Sure. That would be nice." the blonde replied.

As the two women stood, the princess whistled loudly, and her pack of dogs came running toward them. "Let's go this way. There is a lovely spot down by the stream." Lara followed her lead, walking just a step behind the powerful woman. "Tell me, Lara. What do you want out of life?"

"Oh, I don't know. I want to be married and have a family I guess. I'd like to be able to help people. I think that's what life is about really, leaving the world a better place than how you found it if you can. I'd like to be able to change one person's life for the better. It would please me greatly."

"I'd say you've already accomplished that with your teaching. The kids in your classroom are blessed to have you whether they recognize that at the moment or not. Trust me. Years from now when they are adults with their own lives, they will look back in fondness as they think of Lara Monroe. You truly have a gift. I'd like to see that gift utilized on a broader scale, and I think working with the board will be a start."

"It certainly gives me opportunities I've never had. I look forward to it very much. Gwen tells me you are really involved with the board."

"I try to be. Education is an important aspect of development, and our country can't remain at the top of the pack if we do not take the time to educate our children. I'm a firm believer that education is the basis for brilliant thinkers. We have quite a few brilliant people in this country who are doing wonders for the world, and I would like to see that trend continue. It's teachers like you that assure that future, Lara."

The teacher nodded. Changing the direction of the conversation, she questioned, "And what would you like out of life, your majesty?"

"Well, first of all, I think I would like it if you were to call me Lex when we are alone. It's hard to feel friendly when you are addressing me so formally."

"Of course, Lex. Whatever you would like."

Alexa smiled lightly as her name slipped from Lara's tongue. It was so soft and sensuous the way the blonde whispered it. "Say my name again." she requested.

"Alexa." Lara said wondering why she had been asked to do so.

The tall women grinned. "That sounds so beautiful with your slight southern drawl. Your boyfriend, Ryan, is a lucky man, Lara. You're beautiful, intelligent, educated, and I can tell on top of that you are a sweet woman. He really has it all."

The teacher blushed at the words. The tall woman's words warmed her spirit, because it was rare that people complimented her. "Sometimes I wish he realized that." she said sadly.

"You mean he doesn't? Is he blind or just stupid?" the princess quipped. "Look at you. I know plenty of men and women that would give their lives to look into a pretty face such as yours." she mentioned softly as her hand instinctively came to cup the petite woman's fair chin. Alexa tilted the bashful woman's face, so their eyes could meet. "I am one of those women." she admitted.

"Your majesty." Lara whispered breaking their gaze.

Alexa couldn't be dissuaded however as she felt drawn to the little woman. Her arm slipped around the teacher's waist. She heard the anxious exhale of the blonde. "Lara, I must admit that the first time I saw you I wanted to know you." she whispered leaning down to Lara's ear. "I wanted to know you intensely and intimately." she murmured as her breath swept over the blonde's neck.

"Sire." Lara managed to squeak as she felt the mouth of the future queen kiss the top of her ear. Instinctually her hands came up to Alexa's stomach.

"Lara, I know you're involved with someone, but is there anything I could say to get you to retire with me this evening?" she inquired softly running her fingers through golden tresses.

Being completely caught off guard at the question and forgetting exactly who she was addressing, Lara asked loudly before she could catch herself, "Excuse me? Did you just ask what I think you did?"

Sensing that she was not going to get the response she wanted, Alexa stepped back and shoved her hands into her pockets. "Listen, Lara. I'm a woman who knows what she wants, and I'm used to getting my way. I didn't mean to offend you. I was just wondering if there was a possibility of us getting to know each other better."

"Correct me if I'm wrong, your highness, but you just asked me to go to bed with you."

"That is correct, Lara. I did just do that, and you have not given me an answer."

"What kind of answer can I give to that, sire?"

"An honest one. If you don't want to, you can say so."

"I can? You would really accept it if I told you no?" she questioned.

"Of course. I will not force you to do something you don't want to. What do you make me out for? There are plenty of women that would appease me. I'm asking you though. A simple yes or no will suffice."

Lara looked at the expectant eyes of her sovereign before casting her gaze elsewhere. "In that case, no, your majesty." she stated quietly.

"No?" Alexa questioned in surprise.

Lara met her eyes this time as she repeated firmly, "No, sire. There is nothing you could say to get me to do such a thing."

The tall princess was taken back by the firm rebuff for it was unusual that anyone deny her anything. However she had given the blonde her word, and she was not about to go back on it even though she wanted the woman in front of her. "Very well, Lara. I understand." she replied looking away for a moment. Regrouping her thoughts she stepped closer to the younger woman again. Reaching out she put her hand on the blonde's arm.

Instantly Lara shied away from her touch uncomfortably. "Your majesty, I would appreciate it if you would refrain from touching me." she softly stated.

It was obvious to Alexa that the feeling of her repulsed Lara, and it was a shot to her heart. Never had any woman demanded that she not place her hands on them. The princess pulled away. "I'm sorry, Lara. Could I ask you something? What is it about me that you find so unappealing? Is it because I'm a woman?"

The teacher glanced up into the dark eyes of her majesty. "If I may be honest with you, sire, I am utterly offended that you would think me a person that would casually have sexual relations with anyone, you included. I am not that type of woman. You don't even care for me. You just want what you see, and I find that atrocious. Now if that is all, I think I would prefer to retire to my room."

"Of course. I'll walk you back." she suggested.

"No thank you, your highness. I'd prefer to go alone. I will see you tomorrow." the blonde said before rushing off, leaving Alexa simply standing there wondering how everything had gone so horribly wrong in a matter of minutes. It was clear that she had not only offended the teacher, she had somehow hurt her as well, which grieved the princess. Unsure of what to do, Alexa slowly made her way back to the palace. Determined to make it right somehow, the brunette took a seat in the garden to ponder how she could make amends.

She had never had to apologize to anyone nor did she know how to court a woman, because no one had ever even admitted to their offense when she had done something, and most of the time women were more than amiable with whatever she wanted. However Lara had shunned her, but she still felt the need to pursue the younger woman at least to apologize. It was a strange situation for the princess, as she had never had to deal with such a problem. Figuring that it wouldn't hurt to at least give the young woman some flowers, she began to pace the garden looking for the perfect one in which to present to her. Her mother found her studying the rose bushes several minutes later.

"My dear, what are you doing?" she inquired of her daughter.

"I'm looking for the perfect rose." she answered plainly deciding on the one she wanted to pick. Reaching for it she went to snap the stem.

"Is this for Gwen?"

"No, for Lara." she stated. "Ouch." she grumbled as the top of her hand scraped against a thorn and breaking skin. However she smiled in triumphant as her flower came free.

"Oh, Alexa, you're bleeding." her mother mentioned reaching for her daughter's hand. "Are you all right?"

"I'm fine. It's nothing, just a scratch." She retrieved a tissue from her pocket and dabbed at the blood running down the back of her hand.

"That isn't just a scratch. You need to see to that."

"I will, Mother."

"Now exactly why are you out here picking flowers for Lara?" she inquired curiously.

"Because I need to apologize, and I thought this might be a good way."

"Apologize? To her? For what?"

"I offended her, so she's upset with me."

"What did you do to offend her, and why do you even care?"

"I just do. Okay?"

"No. Not okay. What's going on?" Alexa shrugged. She wasn't sure she wanted to speak to her mother about what was in her heart, because she wasn't sure she would understand. "Alexa, you can tell me anything." her mother pressed.

The princess shrugged again and looked at the queen. "Mom, I think I might be falling in love." she quietly confessed.

"With Lara?" Alexa nodded in confirmation. "Oh, my. Alexa, why didn't you say something about this to your father and me?"

"I don't know. I know that you two want me to marry Gwen, so I thought it wouldn't even matter. Besides she's not exactly royalty."

"But you care for her. This makes sense. You've spoken about her practically nonstop since you came back from Nashville. I should have guessed, but I just passed it off as you being impressed with her professionally. Do you think she returns these feelings?"

"No. She just left in a huff, because I said something she found offensive and told me so."

"She told you?" the queen questioned in astonishment.

"Yeah. No one has ever dared do such a thing with me before. It threw me. I feel terrible about hurting her feelings, but in a way I'm impressed she had enough character to stand up for what she believes even if it meant telling me how horrible I was."

"Oh, Alexa, I wouldn't say you're falling in love. I'd say you were already there if you let that little woman walk all over you. You are the crowned princess. She should be catering to you not the other way around. The fact that you are out here trying to do so confirms the fact that you are in love."

"I don't know what to do, Mother. I really don't want to marry Gwen, but I promised Father."

"Listen, Alexa, your father only wants you to be happy. He's extremely ill, and he doesn't have that much time. He would feel more ready to leave this earth knowing you were settled with someone that made you happy. That's all he wants. If you would rather marry Lara, I'm sure he would understand."

"I don't think Lara would marry me though. She has a boyfriend, and she made it clear that she finds offense in the way I treat women."

"How is that possible? What could you have said to make her think that?"

The young brunette flushed in embarrassment. "It's not exactly something I want to talk about with you, Mother."

Her mother nodded. "So, you asked her for sexual favors." she stated as if it was obvious.

"Mother, you make it sound so unromantic. I tried to do it smoothly."

"Alexa, listen. Let me give you a little advice. I know you think I don't know about your escapades, but I do. I'm your mother after all. If you want to win Lara's affections, you can't treat her like any of the other women you've been with. She's different and should be treated that way."

The princess shook her head. "What does it matter? Even if she loved me, we couldn't get married anyway. She's not of nobility."

"If you wanted to marry Lara, I'm sure I could convince your father to make an exception. He wants your happiness after all. You're about to inherit this country, and you need to be married when you do. He just wants Gwen, because she's the closest thing you have to a girlfriend of any sort. It's not her really, just the idea of her."

"None of this matters anyway. I already asked Gwen."

"You did? What did she say?" the queen asked.

"She didn't have time to give me an answer as we were interrupted by Lara. I'm not sure Gwen wants to marry me either, Mother. She would I think for the obvious reasons, but she wants love in her life. She's my best friend, and I want her to have that. She won't with me."

The queen gave a nod in understanding. "This is a life of service, Alexa. It's not all fun and games. Whoever you married would have to understand that. Gwen knows that life and would be able to handle it."

Alexa agreed with a nod herself. "Well, I should go try to find a vase or something for this. You'll have to excuse me. Good night, Mother."

"Good night, Lex. Don't worry. Things will work the way they are supposed to."

After Lara had departed from Princess Alexa's company, she locked herself into her room. She had called her boyfriend and spent quite a while on the phone with him, but in the back of her mind, she kept thinking about the brunette. Ryan had even mentioned several times during the conversation that she seemed distracted, but she didn't tell him what had transpired. She still couldn't believe she had actually said what she had or that the princess took the brutal spurn with hardly any show of emotions. She wondered how Alexa truly felt to extend such an invitation or how it was for her to take the rejection. Briefly she wondered what consequences she might incur for her disrespect, making her toss most of the night.

When morning arrived she leisurely dressed for the day. She was nervous about facing Alexa after what had taken place, but she knew there was no way around their eventual meeting. Gathering the things she would need for the day, she made her way over to her door and opened it. As soon as she did, her eyes caught sight of a beautiful single red rose in a vase with a note leaning against it. She recognized Alexa's hand from the other card she had received. Her stomach flipped nervously as she reached down to retrieve the items and bring them into the room.

Lara took a moment to admire the flower. The red bud had just started to open, and she wondered where the princess had gotten it. Carefully she opened the envelope to read the enclosed card. The stationary was Princess Alexa's official stock with the crest of her family embossed in gold at the top center and her named printed elegantly just below. Lara's eyes perused it, opening a little wider with each passing line, as the princess made her a humble apology for her behavior the prior evening. The note left the teacher in such shock that she had to read it a second time. As the idea of her sovereign issuing any sort of apology, not to mention one that seemed so heartfelt, took hold in her mind, the blonde realized that she was no longer upset about what had happened. It was now easy to forgive and forget the event even took place.

Alexa was alone in the dining area when Lara found her way there. The princess stood for her as she came to the table. "Good morning, Lara. I trust you slept well." she greeted as calmly and stoically as possible, not allowing any of her emotions to be seen on her face.

"Morning, Lex. I slept all right. How about you?"

"Not well at all. I was up most of the night wondering if you would ever forgive me for what happened." she tentatively said.

Lara was caught by surprise at the comment. The small woman gave a little nod. "I got your note. Thank you for what you said. I'd just like to put it behind us if that's all right with you."

"Whatever you would like, Lara. Please sit." she said gesturing to a chair near her.

It was only moments before Gwen appeared dressed immaculately as usual. "Morning, Lex, Lara. How is everyone?"

"Fine. How are you, Gwennie?"

"I didn't sleep very well. I had a lot on my mind." she replied looking at her best friend. Noticing the cut on the brunette's hand, she grabbed it and inquired in concern, "What happened to you? Did you get that seen to?"

"It's nothing, Gwen. I just cut my hand on a thorn in the garden. I swear you are as bad as my mother."

Lara looked down at the Alexa's right hand enfolded in Gwen's. There was a large gash that started just under the knuckle on her index finger and made a diagonal path across almost the entire length of the back of her hand. It was red and obviously infected by inattention. Suddenly the thought occurred to her that the princess had received the injury while finding her rose.

"Are you sure you're all right, Lex?" the teacher asked.

"Yes, I'm fine. Thank you both for your concern however. It's just a scratch." Just then Alfred entered the dining room breaking the brunette's attention away from her company. "Alfred, good morning. How are you? Would you care to join us for some breakfast?"

"No, thank you. I already had some. I wanted to speak to you if you had a moment."

"Is it important?"

"I have the research report for you." he stated, being intentionally vague as to its matter as he handed it to her. "I thought you'd like the highlights."

Alexa lifted the blank top page to see Lara's name written at the top of the second. "Oh, I think maybe you should give the highlights. Excuse me for a moment, ladies." Moving from the table, she followed Alfred out into the hallway. "So, what do we have? Anything interesting?"

"Well, first I must say that Miss Monroe comes from a family that is well off. Her father is a surgeon, and her mother is an M.D. and teaches at Vanderbilt University Medical."

"Wow. That is impressive. What else?"

"One of her ancestors was the president of Princeton University."

"That's good, but you know what I'm looking for. Is she related to anyone of truly historical importance?"

"Well, Alexa, that took some in depth research. I've had the best investigators and genealogists on this matter. It took a very long time, but we can relate her to a man that actually signed the Declaration of Independence, and you'll never believe who."

"Who? Tell me." anxiously Alexa asked.

Alfred smiled as he put his hand on her shoulder. "My dear, Alexa, she is related to John Hancock."

"The John Hancock? The one that signed the Declaration of Independence large enough that the king could read his signature without his glasses? Sir John Hancock, the one King George I knighted for his efforts during the revolution? The one who began one of the largest, most successful financial institutions in this country?"

"The very one."

"You're kidding me, Alfred."

"I'm not, Lex. She is related, distantly but related."

"How distant?"

"There is her family tree the best we could fill it in on the last few pages, so you can see. It seems she is the daughter of the daughter and so on. That's why she holds no nobility currently. The royal line of the Hancocks was passed down through the oldest children, all who happened to be male. However the fact remains, she is a Hancock in blood. It might not be full blood, but it's there."

Alexa grinned widely. "Oh, Alfred, you are the best." she said hugging him tightly and kissing his cheek. "I love you."

"I love you too, Lex, as if you were my own." he responded affectionately cupping her face. "You deserve happiness, and I know she could fulfill your desires."

"How did you know that is why I wanted this report?" curiously she inquired.

"Because I know you and I've never seen you this way. You are in love, my child, and I'm so happy for you."

"I should get back."

"Certainly. Have a good day. I'll be out with your mother most of the day."

"All right. See you later."

Going back into the dining room, she placed the paper on the table face down and returned to her breakfast nonchalantly. When the meal had come to a close, Alexa looked over at the teacher. "Lara, Gwen and I have a little something we need to discuss. Would you mind meeting us in my office in about ten minutes?"

"Of course not, Lex. Whatever you want." she replied standing.

The princess watched her leave the room to make sure she was truly out of ear shot before turning to her best friend. "Well, I think you need to give me an answer to my proposal." the brunette stated.

"I know I do. I've been up most of the night thinking about it, Lex. I know you need me to do this. My country needs me, and I should be thrilled at the idea of becoming a queen. However looking at you, I see that your heart is elsewhere. I can't accept your proposal, Lex, if you feel so strongly about Lara. We both deserve to be with people we love. As much as I do love you, it's not in the way I want to love my spouse. I think you should ask Lara."

"But she's not going to say yes, Gwennie. I'm not her favorite person."

"Well, I've decided that you should ask Lara first. If she won't marry you, then I guess I will do the duty our parents designed for us when we were still children. I want Lara to be your queen, Lex, but if she will not take the responsibility, I will take up the crown and sit next to you. However I really want you to ask her first."

"So, if she says no, then you'll marry me?"

"Yes, I will marry you, Alexa, but only after you have pursued your heart."

The princess nodded. "I guess that's fair. Thank you, Gwennie. I knew I would be able to count on you. However I should tell you that I know have the evidence I need to even pursue Lara. Alfred just brought it to me." she mentioned picking up the report.

"What does it say?"

"She's a Hancock." plainly the brunette announced.

"What? How? Are you serious? That's amazingly lucky. That means your father won't have to make an exception for her."

"I know. I haven't read the full brief, but Alfred assures me that it's true. I can marry her now rightfully if I so choose. The problem presently is that she doesn't necessarily think me worthy of a companion."

"What makes you say that?"

"Well, she does have a boyfriend, and she thinks I'm a womanizer for a lack of a better word."

"Why does she think that?"

"Oh, I propositioned her last night."

"You didn't? Lex, how could you do that? Don't you know how to court a woman?"

The princess cracked a grin. "Um, my idea of courting a girl is asking if she'd rather be on top or bottom." she teased.

Gwen rolled her green eyes. "Of course it is. Why didn't I guess that? Well, in that case you need to learn how to woo this girl, and I'm going to teach you."

"Mom said she would help too. Maybe with the two of you I'll have half a chance."

"What we need is an opportunity for the two of you to be alone where you won't let your mouth get you in trouble. Well, this will have to wait for a while. We have work to do. Come on. Your queen awaits." Gwen stated making a move to stand.


Chapter Three: And So the Dance Begins

A month later the conference began in Washington, D.C. Lara stayed in the town palace with Alexa for the duration, while the king and queen were away for some private time. Since Gwen had a place of her own in the city, the princess was given her first real opportunity to have alone time with the teacher. One the first night of the conference a gala was held at the palace for all the nations' representatives, so Lara dressed her best for the formal occasion. Alexa had gone out of her way to make sure she had everything she needed, even going so far as sending Alfred with the teacher on a shopping trip to prepare, with her majesty paying for the blonde's new dress.

During that time alone with Alfred, Lara was entertained by stories of a young Alexa, which amused her greatly. She also had the chance to learn more about Alfred, finding that he had been in the family's service since before Alexa was born. The man spoke about the future ruler with such open affection and admiration that Lara's opinion of the princess began to shift to a more favorable one.

That night as she stood in front of her full length mirror looking over herself and the elegant black evening gown, she wondered what the night would hold. She pondered how the princess would act in front of such a large crowd. Lara knew that the informal manner in which she had started addressing Alexa and Gwen was not allowed at the function, even though over the course of the past few months, she felt like she had gained two new friends in them. Just then a knock broke her musings. Going to the door, she asked who it was. When Alfred announced himself, she opened it quickly.

"Alfred, hi. What do you need?" she questioned with a smile.

"Her majesty wanted to know if you might like to borrow this for the evening?" he asked opening the jewelry case he was holding.

Lara felt her heart stop for a moment as her blue eyes widened in surprise. Within the box was a stunning diamond necklace worth more than the teacher could even fathom. "Oh, my. Alfred, is she sure?"

He nodded. "She thought it would go well with your dress. Would you allow me?" he inquired taking it out and holding it in front of her. Lara leaned in a little, so he could clasp it around her neck. Stepping back Alfred gave a smile. "There you go, Miss Monroe. You are a beauty."

She blushed lightly. "Thank you, Alfred, and thank Alexa for me."

"Certainly. She was wondering if she could escort you in this evening unless you have made other arrangements."

"No. I was just going to go alone."

"Then she would like to be your escort. May I tell her that you will meet her at her room in a few minutes?"

"Okay." she answered hesitantly.

"Wonderful. She'll be pleased to hear that. Well, I will see you in there."

Closing the door again, the blonde raced back to the mirror to look at herself. The diamonds shimmered in the light, and the small woman felt faint at the thought of what she was wearing. She thought for sure she had seen the queen herself in the necklace. Knowing that Alexa was expecting her, she made her way to the tall woman's quarters. When she gave a knock, Alfred was there to answer and allow her inside, but then he was gone, leaving the two women alone.

Alexa was still in the bathroom, leaving Lara a moment to look around the large room. It was elaborately decorated with antiques, but the linens on the bed were tiger stripes, making the blonde giggle lightly at the young heir's personality infiltrating the grand room. Books and papers were strewn about the bed, so letting curiosity guide her, Lara made her way closer. Most everything was in reference to the conference, but something unusual caught her attention. There was a report with her name within the text and several highlighted sections. Instinctively she picked it up and started reading.

Her stomach dropped as she realized the whole paper was about her. It was information that she had not shared with the princess, so she wondered how it had been acquired. As she continued to read, her anger surfaced for Alexa's deliberate inquisition of her life. As she came to the section about her boyfriend, Ryan, she lost her temper as intimate details were there in writing, including the fact that she was still a virgin.

"Oh, I didn't hear you come in." Alexa mentioned seeing the blonde by her bed, making Lara jump in surprise.

The blonde turned her scowl on the princess. Totally forgetting exactly whom she was addressing, she thrust the paper into the brunette's chest angrily. "How dare you do this to me? What gives you the right to invade my privacy?" she yelled, blue eyes turning stormy in her indignation. "Why did you have people investigate me?"

Taken back by the fury of the little woman, Alexa stuttered incoherently for a moment. "Uh, I, um, wanted to know more about you." she feebly explained.

"You could've asked! I would have told you anything you might have wanted to know! What gives you the right to inquire into my intimate life? Who wrote these things about Ryan and me? How did you find out anything about our relationship? Why is this whole section about Ryan highlighted? Why do you care about him so much?"

Alexa sighed. She knew the answer to that question, but she wasn't ready to admit it to the blonde. Seeing the infuriation of the small woman though, she wondered if it would be better just to be honest with her. "I wanted to know what my competition was like." she confessed quietly.

"What? What competition? What are you talking about?" Lara asked in confusion at first. However when Alexa didn't respond, she realized what the princess was alluding to.

"I'll be honest with you, Lara. I needed to know some things about you. This really isn't the time to discuss this. I have much to say, but we're needed in the ballroom. I'm terribly sorry that I have upset you, and I will explain myself. However may I ask that this wait until tomorrow evening? I really can't do this right now." she pleaded.

The blonde didn't let her off so easy however as she screamed, "I don't care that the whole world is waiting on you! I want my answers, and I want them now!"

Even though Alexa could have allowed her own temper to guide her, she took several calming breaths. "Very well. Wait here." she replied going over to her phone. Quickly she called Alfred and informed him that she was running late due to a serious situation that had to be seen to immediately.

As Lara watched the princess on the phone, she realized that the tall woman was angry, very angry by the way she held her posture, and it dawned on her that she had just berated her sovereign in a fit of rage. Lara realized that she had truly overstepped her boundaries that time and wondered exactly how the princess was going to respond. Seeing dark eyes turn to her, she felt her body tremble in anxiety. "Your majesty," she squeaked.

"Sit down, Lara." Alexa commanded crossing her arms across her chest. "I want you to come sit right here on the couch."

The teacher quickly did as she was told, as to not further infuriate the brunette. "Sire, I'm so sorry. I lost my temper. I never should have said what I did." she tried to apologize, but Alexa cut her off.

"Be quiet, Lara. You want to know why I had you investigated, I'm going to tell you, but you have to keep your mouth closed!" Alexa barked unable to control herself. As much as she loved the woman in front of her, the blonde was her bane when it came to her emotions. She wanted to kiss and kill her with equally intensity at times.

"Yes, sire." meekly the petite woman answered, knowing that she had pushed the tall woman too far. Anxiously she waited for Alexa to begin speaking.

The princess looked down at the blue eyes she adored. Seeing their dread she knew she was going about this in completely the wrong way. Turning her back on Lara, she gave herself a moment to calm herself. The moment of truth was at hand, and even though Alexa didn't feel she was ready, she knew now was the time for her to disclose her feelings and intentions.

Taking a deep breath, she looked back at the blonde again. She took a seat on the coffee table directly in front of the teacher and leaned forward propping her arms up on her thighs. "Lara, when I first met you, I was intrigued. I wanted to know you better as more than a friend. Additionally I wanted to know you as more than a lover. From the moment of our first meeting, I have fantasized about what it might be like to have you for my queen." she quietly admitted. Lara felt herself stop breathing, but she didn't say anything as Alexa had ordered her not to speak. "Lara, you may or may not know this, but currently there is a law that someone of my place should only marry a person of nobility. That's why I had Alfred hire some investigators. I wanted to see if you could be traced to anyone of historical or political importance, because I was hoping to make a case to my father for an exception. However that won't be necessary now as you have been traced to a noble." Pausing for a moment, she reached for the blonde's quivering hands. Looking upon the teacher with all the tenderness she felt, the princess slid onto her knees. "Lara, I know you have a boyfriend, but I also know that you have not had relations with him or anyone else, making this even easier than I thought it might be. You give me the impression that I am not your favorite person in the world, but you are mine. As you know my father is extremely ill and the doctors give him less than a year. He has asked me to marry before the year is over, and I told him that I would. My choice for marriage is you, Lara. Please? I am offering you the crown. Will you take it by joining with me to lead this country? Will you marry me, Miss Monroe?"

"Marry you?" Lara repeated in utter shock.

"Yes, marry me, Lara."

The teacher sat there for a moment trying in vain to wrap her mind around the idea of what Alexa had just proposed, but she couldn't. Pulling her hands away from the brunette's she rubbed her forehead. "Honestly, Lex, I don't know what to say to that." she confessed.

"Well, at least tell me that you'll consider it? If I don't marry who I want, then I'm going to be forced to marry for political reasons. Gwen and I don't want to marry each other, but we'll have to if you do not wish to sit beside me."

Still trying to come to terms with what had just been said, Lara stated, "Lex, I don't love you that way."

"You don't have to. You just have to like me, and we have to be able to get along in public. This arrangement can be whatever we make of it. There will be obligations for you to fulfill such as having my children and at least pretending we're happy in front of the press, but other than that, we can still remain only friends if that's what you want."

"Do you love me, Alexa? Is that why you're asking this of me?" she questioned in confusion.

"I'll admit, Lara, that I do love you. I've been trying to hide that fact, but I'd rather not have to. I love you, and I think I will continue to do so. It would make me extremely happy for you to accept my proposal. As I said though, we can make this arrangement whatever we so choose. I am willing to work out an amiable agreement with you. I really want to discuss it with you further, but the world is waiting for me downstairs right now. I really have to get down there. Please. Tell me you'll at least be open to discussing this further before giving me an answer?" hopefully she asked. Lara looked at the dark eyes of her future queen and saw so clearly the love the sovereign had for her. Not knowing what to do, she simply gave a nod in response to the question. "Wonderful. Now let's go. I believe I am supposed to be escorting you in."

Quietly the pair made their way downstairs to the ballroom. Alfred was there waiting and looking concerned, but he never asked what the delay was, only moved to inform everyone that Princess Alexa was about to make her entrance. It took a few minutes for people to get settled, standing on either side of the ballroom in a long line to watch her procession. When Alfred came back to them, he smiled at Lara. He handed Alexa her crown to place on her head. The princess rolled her eyes in annoyance but did as her secretary silently instructed. Alexa grinned at the small woman as well as she extended her arm. Lara took a hold of it just above the elbow before Alexa nodded in Alfred's direction.

He moved to the entrance of the ballroom and formally and loudly announced, "Her majesty, the crowned princess of America, Alexa Washington escorting Miss Lara Monroe."

Allowing the tall woman to lead her, Lara eyed the crowd. Everyone bowed to them as they passed and murmured quietly amongst themselves. The teacher had no doubt she was the subject of such speculation as she was not only on the arm of the princess, she was wearing family jewelry, and Alexa was making an obvious show of her affection for the little blonde by smiling sweetly at her. Moving her to the end of the room, Alexa took Lara to her seat and in an unprecedented gesture, pulled the chair out for the blonde before looking at her expectantly. Realizing the princess was waiting until she was seated to take her own, Lara suddenly felt a wave of authority overcome her. She realized everyone in the room was waiting on her to take their seats, including her sovereign even though it was usually the royal family that sat first.

"Thank you, Lex." she whispered softly sitting.

"My pleasure." Alexa replied with a smile sitting next to her.

As soon as the brunette was in her chair, the congregation began to disburse and find their own tables for the dinner. Gwen came toward them though before going to her own table and gave a large grin. "Well, you look lovely this evening, Lara." she complimented. "Queen Victoria's necklace looks even better on you than it does her."

"Thank you, Lady Jefferson." she responded. Her thoughts strayed to the fact that if she took Alexa's hand in marriage it would be Gwen bowing to her, an intriguing image the teacher admitted to herself. As much as she did like Gwen, the woman did have an air of superiority about her, one that most people catered to as the teacher had in the beginning. "You look beautiful yourself as usual."

"Thank you, Lara." Turning her eyes to Alexa, she commented, "Doesn't Princess Alexa look stunning too? That suit on her just makes her look all the sexier. That red shirt sets off the rubies in her crown."

Lara looked over at Alexa who was already busy speaking to other people at the table. She did think that the princess looked especially handsome in her crown, but she didn't voice those thoughts. Instead she said, "She does look nice."

"Well, enjoy your dinner. I have rounds to make. Excuse me."

Over the meal Lara watched Alexa in action. She had a natural way with people, a magnetism that drew people in. Lara could see that she would be a powerful leader if she was already able to sway people's opinions as a princess. As she sat there pretending to attentively listen, she pondered what her life would be like as Alexa's queen. Everyone in that room would have bowed to her as she processed with the brunette that night. Not only that they would have gone out of their way to impress the blonde. Suddenly the idea of being on Alexa's arm didn't seem as foreign to her as it had a few minutes earlier in the evening. It might not be so bad to be in the position the princess had requested of her.

However she wasn't sure she could come to love the future queen. She had feelings of friendship for the tall woman, but she knew if she married the woman, there would be some sexual responsibilities that came with the role she would be asked to play. First and foremost she would have to pretend that she was as in love with the princess as the brunette was with her. Secondly she would be responsible for producing heirs to the throne. She knew it would be ideal to have at least two children with Alexa to assure the succession of the Washington name. The more thought she gave to the proposition, she realized that Alexa had requested a life of servitude from her. It was true that with this service came great benefits, but the idea of not being able to marry for love bothered her.

It wasn't as if Ryan was a large obstacle. She did care about him, but in her heart she knew he was not her true love, making the idea of separation from him not difficult. However looking at the stately woman sitting next to her, she was unsure whether or not she could ever truly and completely love the princess with the passion and magnitude she wished for her longtime partner.

Once the meal was over, people were simply wandering around conversing with each other. Lara watched them all from her position at the head table as she listened to the orchestra play. However it struck her as odd that no one was dancing even though there was a large floor designed for that purpose.

Just then Alexa leaned over to her ear and quietly asked, "Having fun?"

Lara nodded. "Lex, why isn't anyone dancing?" she asked curiously.

The dark-haired woman grinned. "Because they are waiting on me to do so first. Protocol demands it. I guess I should go ahead and take a turn about the floor just in case someone wants to. Would you like to dance, Lara?"

"Um, okay." she stated.

With her answer Alexa stood and extended her hand to the blonde. She led Lara over to the dance floor and took the little woman in her embrace, one hand around her petite waist and the other clasping the teacher's hand. Gently the princess began to guide the teacher around the floor. Lara noticed that within moments other couples joined them. One song led to another and then several more before the blonde requested a break. Alexa complied escorting her back to the table.

"You'll have to excuse me, Lara. I really should do some mingling now. As much as I would love to just stay right here with you, duty calls." she explained.

"Go ahead. I'm fine." With a small nod of her head Alexa turned and waded through the sea of guests. However Lara wasn't alone for more than a moment before people approached her.

A few hours later Lara was still engrossed in conversation when her eyes sought out her sovereign, wondering what she could be doing. Blue eyes found the princess on the dance floor, tightly enfolded in Gwen's arms. The tall blonde had her arms securely around Alexa's neck, elegant fingers threaded through her majesty's short thick hair. In turn Alexa's arms were around Gwen's waist, roaming lightly over her back as their hips ground together in a slow rhythm. It was obvious by the way Lady Jefferson was laughing that the princess had just said something witty. Lara felt an unfamiliar gnawing in her stomach at the sight. The two women looked quite comfortable with each other to Lara, even more so than either of them had ever admitted, once again making the teacher wonder about their relationship. She thought she knew them well enough to know they were only friends, but this display in such a public forum left her with doubts suddenly. Gwen was so stunningly beautiful and graceful that Lara didn't see how Alexa could resist such a woman, making her wonder why the princess had even made her proposal. She didn't feel as if she could match Lady Jefferson's sense of style and power, and all the feelings of confidence she had entered the ballroom with abruptly disappeared, leaving her deflated.

She excused herself from her present company intent on leaving the gala for the evening as she suddenly wasn't feeling social, but as she made her way for the door, a hand on her arm stopped her. Quickly she turned to scowl at its owner when she realized it was only Alfred. "Miss Monroe, would you care to dance?" he offered. Lara looked toward the dance floor. "I can explain their behavior." he mentioned guessing what was bothering the little woman.

"All right." she conceded.

The older man took her to the floor and began to lead her. "Lara, please don't be upset with Alexa. It's only an act." he stated.

"An act? That looks pretty real to me. How could she do that after what she has done tonight?"

"Lara, she mentioned to me that she had proposed to you. She loves you, but she's not sure you feel the same. One of you two ladies will become her queen. I wish it would be you." he said looking into her eyes. "Don't get me wrong. I do like Gwyneth, but Alexa loves you, and I want her happiness. Alexa will give you both equal attention until you have made up your mind, because she doesn't want the press reading too much into either relationship. However I am sure they will be thrilled to write about what has occurred this evening. Do you realize you are the first woman other than her mother to ever be on the Alexa's arm when she has made an entrance?"

"No. I didn't know that. She hasn't even asked to escort Gwen?"

"No. I mean the press has seen her with Gwen, but she's never escorted Gwen for something formal like this. She made her preference for you known to the world tonight when she pulled out your chair. She's never done that for Gwen." Lara took another look at Alexa and Gwen who seemed completely involved with each other. Alfred's words were contradicting what she was seeing, so she wasn't sure what to believe. "Lara, are you jealous of Gwen?" he inquired.

"No, of course not. I just don't like it. If she were serious about her proposal, she wouldn't do this."

"Lara, you have to understand what Lex is going through. She has a lot of pressure on her for marriage right now. She needs to look as if she's serious about it. If I'm not mistaken, you have a boyfriend, don't you?" The blonde nodded. "Well, Alexa doesn't want to drive a wedge between the two of you. She wants you to make your decision about her with the understanding that if you say no, you still have someone to go back to. She wants you to be happy as well, Lara. She doesn't want to break up your relationship with your boyfriend if you really would rather be with him by acting so intimately with you. She's already made her intentions known by her actions here tonight. She won't do more without your permission, because she respects you and your position. She's trying to give you space to make up your mind."

"Really? Is that truly all, Alfred?"

He nodded. "Lara, she wants to be with you, and she wants to marry you. Alexa can give you everything you ever wanted. Why not take her up on her offer?" he asked.

"She can't give me love, Alfred." she stated.

"Do you think you'll never come to feel for her the way she feels for you?"

"I really don't know. I've never been attracted to women, Alfred. It's true she can give me things, but I'm wondering if it is enough to make up for the lack of love I will endure."

"You will not be short on love, Lara. Alexa adores you. She has ever since she laid eyes on you. Don't you feel it in the way she is with you?"

Lara looked over at the princess. "I have felt it tonight." she confessed.

"Lara, the most powerful woman in the entire world loves you. That's an honor no other woman can claim, not even Gwyneth Jefferson. Surely you can love her."

"I do love her, Alfred, as my sovereign and as my friend. I just don't know if I can look upon her the way she looks upon me. Is that fair to take the hand of the future queen when I know those feelings aren't returned?"

"It's what she wants. Lara, she knows what she's doing. If she didn't want you, she wouldn't have asked. She wants to take you as her queen. It is the greatest honor that could ever be bestowed on any woman in this country."

"But the price I will pay for such a position." she stated.

"Talk to her. I know she's willing to do whatever you want in order to make this reality. I know she will be amiable to whatever you need. She's a woman in love, Lara. Give her a chance."

The teacher shook her head in confusion. "I still don't know how this happened. We've only known each other for three months. How can she be so sure that I am the one she wants?"

Alfred shrugged. "Love is a strange thing, and royals often have to do without it. Most royal marriages happen for circumstances other than love. She didn't want that to happen to her, but it's going to at the end of this year whether or not she's ready. The only hope she has to marry for love is with you, Lara. She'd rather take her chances with you than marry Gwen. They will never have anything more than a friendship, but she hopes that more can become of her relationship with you. However she knows that it might not be possible, that you may never feel for her what she does for you. Regardless of that though she wants to take that chance. At the very least she'll be marrying a friend. The country needs a queen on her arm right now. The country needs you, Lara. There is great honor in serving one's nation. This is your opportunity."

Lara sighed. Alfred's words were even more moving than the brunette's, making Lara wonder if she really could go through with what Alexa had suggested. She just didn't know. Turning to her dance partner, she smiled. "Alfred, thank you for the dance and talk. I think I'm going to retire now. Please let Alexa know, will you?"

"Certainly. May I escort you back to your quarters?"

"I'll be all right alone. Thank you though."

"Very well." he replied. Taking her by the hands, he bowed slightly as he raised them to his lips, kissing the back of each one. "Pleasant dreams, Princess Lara." he whispered quietly.

"Good night, Alfred." she said moving away. Inside her heart was fluttering in confusion at his words. The very idea that she would hold the title he had so casually whispered further fueled her turmoil.

Heading back to her room, she immediately called her parents. When her mother answered, she stated, "Lara, I was just watching the news. I saw you on the arm of the princess. What were you wearing? Where did you get that necklace?"

"It's Queen Victoria's. Alexa let me borrow it." she replied.

"You're wearing the queen's jewelry? Lara, what's going on?"

"Mother, you wouldn't believe it if I told you." she said softly.

"I think I'd believe anything at this point. Tell me."

"I really don't want to talk about it right now. I promise I'll tell you when I get back in town. I'm coming home this weekend to see Ryan anyway. We'll talk about it then."

"All right but I'm here for you, honey. You know you can tell me anything."

"I know, and I want to talk to you and Daddy about it but not over the phone. Anyway, so how are you two doing?" she inquired trying to change the subject.

The following morning Alexa and Lara met for breakfast together before the conference. As they sat alone on the terrace in awkwardness, Alexa kept looking over at the teacher intently. She wanted to discuss what was on her mind, but she wasn't sure how to approach the subject. Unable to think of any way to do it delicately, she came right out and asked, "Lara, would you like to discuss the proposal this morning?"

The blonde's heart froze for a moment. Knowing she would not be able to avoid it, she decided to just go ahead. "What would you like to discuss about it, Lex?"

"Have you thought about it?"

"Yes." plainly she responded.

"Have you come to a decision?"

"No, I haven't. I was wondering though. You said that we could make this arrangement whatever we wanted. What exactly did you mean by that?"

"I meant that we could come to a formal agreement, a contract of sorts I suppose. We get married, we have some kids, and at some point in the future if you find yourself truly unhappy, I will release you from your obligation."

"You mean you would grant me a divorce in the future if I so chose?"

"Yes. I obviously hope it would not come to that, Lara, because I love you, and I want to be with you. It is my greatest wish that someday you return that love, but I truly just want you to be happy. My proposal would be that after we've had three children you could leave, but I would take care of you financially for the rest of your life. You would retain your title, Queen of America, Lara Washington. Of course that is assuming that I take over the throne during our marriage, which seems likely at this point. Otherwise you would just be Princess of America, Lara Washington. Either way you would retain that title and all the privileges that go with it. Well, you would unless you remarry anyway. I think I'm asking for about a five year commitment depending on how quickly you can get pregnant."

"What of the responsibilities?"

"Those you would have to retain as well. Once a royal, always a royal, Lara. You wouldn't be able to return to teaching. However I could see that you have a permanent place on the national board of education, and you can still carry on your mission of reaching children through that medium."

"So, I would definitely have to give up teaching for good?"

"Unfortunately yes. However from a financial position, you'll be taken care of, and you could have great influence on the board. There are other ways of achieving your personal goals, which I am all for, Lara."

"Okay. What about our public relationship? What would be expected of me?"

"I would expect that you act as if you and I are happily married. You will not shy away from my touch or affection in public. We give the impression that we are truly made for each other. The country needs to see that. I would also expect that you have three children by me."

"How would you propose to accomplish that?"

"Medical technology. We could do it different ways. One option would be to use my eggs, and you carry. Another option would be to combine our DNA, and you carry. Of course I could just clone myself and have you carry."

"I'm beginning to get the idea, Lex. You really want me to be a surrogate mother."

"Yes. I don't have time for pregnancy myself, but you will. You would simply be a surrogate unless we combine the DNA, which I would love to do. The children would most definitely be ours together that way, but they would also only be girls. However the idea of our children growing inside of you is a rather pleasant one I admit."

Lara nodded. She knew she could not offer the same sort of sentiment, so she remained silent about it. "All right. That's the public life. What about our private one? What happens there? What would you expect of me?"

"I would expect us to remain friends. I expect a consummation of our marriage, but after that has taken place, I won't expect any sort of sexual favors unless you are so inclined to give them. I know you don't feel that way for me, Lara, so I don't want to put you in a position of resenting me."

"But you do want to have sexual relations with me at least once then, huh?" she asked nervously. "You want to be the one to deflower me so to speak?"

Alexa leaned closer to her, staring deeply into blue eyes. "Lara, I am the crowned princess of this country. I am used to getting my way. I am requiring one night in your bed. That point is nonnegotiable. You will give yourself to me for an entire night. After that point you will be free to have relations with whomever you choose as long as you do not conceive from any of those activities. If that happens the whole agreement becomes null and void. If someone other than me impregnates you, you will be stripped of your title, divorced, ostracized by society, and left to fend for yourself. That would be standard protocol. On that point we must be absolutely clear." firmly she stated. "Now I am prepared to put all of this in a prenuptial agreement and whatever else you might want. Just tell me what you require, and it is yours. Is there anything that we have discussed that would pose a problem for you?"

Lara shrugged. "I think what you've said thus far is reasonable. As far as whether it poses a problem, I'll be honest with you, Lex. The consummation of marriage does not sit well with me."

"Nonnegotiable." Alex stated in unshakable resolve.

"Nonnegotiable." the blonde mumbled with a nod of her head.

"Lara, I promise it will not be as horrible as you are thinking it might." she said moving her chair closer to the little woman. She leaned toward the blonde's ear, nuzzling the teacher's fair hair as she whispered, "I can be a gentle lover, Lara, attentive and caring. I can give you pleasure you've never known. I won't hurt you." The brunette's hand came up to Lara's cheek, cupping it gently and turning it so their eyes could meet momentarily. "I just want to love you." she confessed quietly leaning to the blonde's mouth.

Lara's eyes reflexively closed as soft lips met her own. Arms embraced her, pulling her closer to the powerful woman as Alexa probed delicately into her mouth. Lara just allowed the princess access, unsure of exactly how to respond. As the kiss continued on for several seconds, the blonde couldn't help but notice that the princess was indeed a good kisser, but the thought of having sex with her suddenly made Lara pull away. Alexa just looked at her expectantly. Lara took a few calming breaths.

"I think we need to get going. It's getting late." she mentioned consulting her watch.

Alexa nodded. "Think some more, Lara, and we'll talk again."


Continued in Part 2.
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