Royals & Rogues

By: Heather Long



So, he had paid attention to her recent choices. Her gift for languages made her university studies simple, almost boring, and it lacked the challenge she craved. “I needed to focus my efforts on a new goal.”

“I see.” As they entered her third circuit and his second, her father’s longer stride forced her speed higher. “I would prefer to be alerted prior to contacting the university to make payment for your next semester only to find you have withdrawn.”

Ouch. “Fair point Papa, my apologies.”

“Accepted. What’s your new goal?”

He’d opened the door to the conversation, so time to dive in. “I wanted to join the Royal Marines, to follow in your footsteps.”

“Not possible. Women are barred from admission to the units, save for the band.” Bless him. He didn’t even assume she would choose the only avenue open to her.

“I know. However, in the United States, combat positions have opened for women.” She’d done her research. “I can meet all the qualifications for their Marines Corps.” Excitement thrummed her already increased pulse. “Save one.”

“Residency.”

“Yes, but if Armand is amenable, I could establish that within six months to a year, either in Los Angeles or New York.” Her cousin and head of the family had many properties throughout the U.S. Since the birth of his son and his wife, Anna’s, subsequent second pregnancy, he preferred to stay close Los Angeles. When her father said nothing, she pressed on. “I wanted to discuss it with you before I approached Mother and Armand.” In their family, the chain of command for permission was the way of things.

They could trace their lineage to the Russian Czars and, had fate been kinder, they would still rule. Four generations removed, she had no desire to lead a country or stand as a figurehead, nor did most of her family. They still obeyed old rituals, routines, and accepted etiquette. For all intents and purposes, she was Princess Francesca, Grand Duchess of absolutely nothing. Yet her title and pedigree meant the family expected her to seek permission before she did anything rash…like make her own life choices.

“So, your plan is to move to the United States, establish residency, then enlist in their military?” Not one note of emotion betrayed his opinion. Unlike the rest of her maternal relatives, her father had grown up in a military family, the only son of a proud Royal Marine and his wife. Like his father and his grandfather, he put himself to a life of service. Only a happy coincidence introduced him to her mother. Their love affair enchanted Frankie when she was younger—her father had no aristocratic blood, yet he’d pursued a princess and won her heart.

It was enough to make even a jaded woman swoon. The family approved the union  , and they’d been happily married for several decades and three children—all girls. The sisters Grace—a name, she and her siblings despised, but when the newspapers referred to them in conjunction with the Andraste family, the moniker stuck as though they were some kind of pop singing group.

“At its bare bones, yes. Papa, I am good with languages, but more, I’m an excellent shot. I can carry my own weight on a trail. I have never let up on my physical conditioning, and I could do so much…I can do what you did.” She wanted to go where the orders sent her, help build peace, settle wars, and maybe, just maybe, foster peace in a world going increasingly mad.

He said nothing and they ran in silence for several meters.

“Papa?”

“A moment, Francesca. Allow me to sit with this.” It was as close as her father ever came to saying he would think about a decision. The weight of it pressed in on upon her so she focused her breathing and the burn in her legs. The pre-dawn dampness gave her the impression of sucking her air through a straw. Her father increased his pace, and she gritted her teeth.

Unlike her sister Ella, she didn’t identify patience as the best virtue. Thankfully, she didn’t flout authority and make a scene to get attention as Rose would have done. Sometimes, she simply had to accept her father would take the time he needed to mull over his thoughts. He would never act on impulse—one of the reasons she approached him on his run and chose to discuss her plans with him prior to approaching her mother or Armand. If Major Grace took her cause as his own, he could smooth the path for her.

And if he doesn’t? A knot cramped her stomach. No need to anticipate failure. If her father didn’t agree, her approach had only been the first in her arsenal. Joining the Marines might seem like a pipe dream to some, but she wanted it. She wanted to do what he’d done. She wanted to make the world a better place.

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