Read American Royals Online

Authors: Katharine McGee

Tags: #antique

American Royals (44 page)

“I’m so sorry, Bee,” he whispered, shocked into forgetting protocol. “I’m so, so sorry.”

The entire world seemed to be spinning, and gravity was shifting, and Beatrice felt like she’d collided with something impossibly hard. Maybe this was all just a nightmare. That would explain why everything felt tinged with a slight glow of unreality—why the world had gone fuzzy and shimmering at the edges.

She dug her nails into her palm so sharply that tears sprang to her eyes, but she didn’t wake up.

“No,” someone kept whispering. “No, no, no.” It took a moment for Beatrice to realize that it was her. She felt fragmented by anguish, as if she’d reached some edge within herself she didn’t know was there, some boundary of grief and fatigue and pain that no one should ever venture to.

Connor was the first to come to his senses and bow—a deep, ceremonial military bow, lacking only a flourish with a sword to make it complete. Teddy quickly followed. Jeff gulped, then did the same.

Beatrice’s face was stinging. She wondered if it was tears, freezing on her very skin.

For a single drawn-out moment, she let herself be a young woman who cried.

She was crying for her father—her king, but also her dad. She missed him with a fierceness that clawed at her from within.

She cried for Teddy and Connor, for Samantha, and for herself, for this last moment of girlhood that she was about to leave behind. For all the kings who had come before her, who had faced this same precipitous moment when their entire world ground to a halt.

Samantha crossed one ankle behind the other and swept into a curtsy. Her face was tear-streaked, her eyes hollow with shock.

Queen Adelaide followed suit. She curtsied slowly, her back as unbendingly severe, as unflinchingly straight as a poker. “Your Majesty,” she whispered.

And then they were all bowing. Row by row, everyone gathered here—the silent crowds that had come out in support of her father—sank into bows or curtsies before Beatrice, causing a ripple of obeisance to domino silently back toward the street.

There was a creaking sound overhead. Everyone glanced up sharply as the American flag sank to half-mast, its fabric whipping and fluttering in the wind. The Royal Standard stayed where it was. It was the only flag that was never lowered, not even after the death of a sovereign—because the moment that one monarch died, another was automatically invested. The king is dead; long live the queen.

The Royal Standard represented Beatrice now.

Hundreds of eyes rested on her, camera lenses ready and filming.

Beatrice knew what was expected of her in this moment—what an heir to the throne was supposed to do in their first appearance as king or queen. She and her etiquette master had discussed it once, many years ago, but it had felt so distant and abstract back then. She felt suddenly grateful for that conversation, that this moment was planned out
for
her. That she had a script to fall back on, since her mind felt so utterly numb.

Facing the people, Beatrice plunged into a deep court curtsy, low and reverential. And she stayed there.

Her head was lowered, tears silently tracing down her cheeks. There was dignity and elegance in every curve of her body. Beatrice held the motion perfectly, like a dancer—honoring the people her father had served, promising that she, too, would give her life in their service. This curtsy was a symbol of the covenant she was making, to be the next monarch.

She stayed that way until she heard the peal of the church bells across the street, announcing the death of the king.

The bells began to echo throughout the city, clanging a deep and somber note through the capital. Beatrice imagined that everyone was frozen before their TVs or radios, or watching the live coverage on their phones—as if, for this single moment, the rush and clamor of the entire modern world had fallen still.

When she finally lifted herself up, she was Princess Beatrice no longer.

She had become Her Majesty Beatrice Regina, Queen of America, and long may she reign.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

When I first started working on the concept for
American Royals
back in 2012, I hardly dared to hope that it might become a published book. It all still feels like a dream come true! I am so grateful for the support and guidance of everyone who’s made this book possible.

To my editor, Caroline Abbey: thank you for taking a chance on me. I don’t know what I would do without your wisdom, your fierce sense of humor, and your willingness to spend hours discussing all things royal.

I couldn’t ask for a better publishing team than the one at Random House. Michelle Nagler, Mallory Loehr, Noreen Herits, Emily Bamford, Kelly McGauley, Jenna Lisanti, Kate Keating, Elizabeth Ward, Adrienne Waintraub, and Emily DuVal: thank you for everything you have done to bring
American Royals
to life. Your enthusiasm and collective brilliance never cease to amaze me. I also owe special thanks to Alison Impey, the creative genius behind this utterly striking cover.

Joelle Hobeika: thank you for your sharp editorial insights, your understanding, and most of all your belief in this project all these years. And thank you to everyone at Alloy Entertainment: Josh Bank, Sara Shandler, Les Morgenstein, Gina Girolamo, Romy Golan, Matt Bloomgarden, Josephine McKenna, and Laura Barbiea.

I am constantly in awe of my foreign-sales team, Rights People. Alexandra Devlin, Allison Hellegers, Harim Yim, Claudia Galluzzi, and Charles Nettleton: thank you for bringing
American Royals
to so many languages around the world.

I am grateful for the unwavering support of my friends, who have talked me through plot points and alternate-history timelines with far more patience than I deserve. Sarah Mlynowski, I appreciate all your creative help. Margaret Walker, you deserve a special shout-out for being my on-call scholar and American-history enthusiast.

None of this would be possible without my parents, who taught me to believe that I can accomplish anything I set my mind to. I love you higher than the sky. Lizzy and John Ed, you have always been my greatest champions and also my best friends. And finally, Alex—as you well know, sometimes even authors are at a loss for words. All I can say is thank you for being with me on every step of this journey.

THIS IS JUST

THE BEGINNING

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First published in the USA by Random House Children’s Books, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, and in Great Britain by Penguin Books 2019

Text copyright © Katharine McGee and Alloy Entertainment, 2019

The moral right of the author has been asserted

Cover design by Carolina Melis

Produced by Alloy Entertainment

www.alloyentertainment.com

ISBN: 978-0-241-36598-4

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Penguin Books

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