Lucas slapped his smartphone against his palm. Technically, the ball had begun, but the necessary bottleneck at every door kept the current party population ludicrously low. None of his friends were there yet, and his phone had no signal.
“Bloody jammers,” he muttered. “I just wanted to play Angry Birds.”
He glared up at the nearest security camera, tempted to make a face. Thanks to iron self-control, all the cameras recorded was the steady gaze of a handsome, slightly wispy blond man.
At least the bartender had shown up on time. Lucas ordered a highball, then wandered off with it. Better to be rich than famous, as his father was known to say, but as far as Lucas was concerned, both were better than being royalty. Of course, he was only one of the three.
The rest of the people milling about the ballroom could have been any mix. There were some faces which were familiar, if not overly so. Then there were the tourists who had donated to receive their invitations–likely the rich, or the woeful combination of rich and famous. These strangers actively worked the room. They were the loudest, chattering up new acquaintances.
All of them lit upon the same topic at one point or another. Matteus had always been a spoiled kid, with a physically and metaphorically big head. His body had grown into his head, but the latter was still a problem.
Lucas sauntered close to a group of gossipy Americans. One of the more artificial blondes therein huffed while trying to hide her impatience. “Why isn’t he here yet? Is this a trick?”
He ducked away so that he could snort. It was a bit of a trick. But she wasn’t the one being played. That honour belonged to Matty. In return for getting the media circus of his life, the kid had to take on a serious courtship. Of course, he could always get out of it by choosing an American suitor at the end of this. That wasn’t an alliance that Queen Vanessa would encourage.
Suddenly, the south entrance slammed open. Lucas jumped at the bang. It was a wonder the doors hadn’t bounced back to shut themselves.
He started to raise a glass, but this was not a royal entrance. Not entirely. He set his glass down and waved instead. Eight-year-old Princess Elisabet marched at the head of a group of guests. Some were more of the same, but Lisbet wasn’t the only friendly face adding to the room.
Lucas rushed over to join her, his face already starting to relax into a beam. This wasn’t the time or place for a demonstrative hug, but he was gratified to see that Lisbet’s greeting was not yet a curtsey and hand offered for kissing. She slapped him a high five, then bumped fists.
A nearby duchess aunt shot them a disapproving look. Lisbet composed herself, straight-backed in her lilac ball gown with a gathered skirt. In her best royal tone of voice, she told him, “Matty nearly had a row with Mum, but she’s still saying he can’t come to the ballroom until certain people get here.”
Where another girl her age would have shrugged and muttered, Idunno, Lisbet tilted her head and pouted as she said, “I wasn’t told.”
Then the disapproving duchess aunt appropriated Lisbet to make social circles around the room, leaving Lucas to seek out what other friends of his had come in on Lisbet’s tide.