Royals & Rogues

By: Heather Long



“It depends on the package purchased.” Since the major had more questions, Hugh let himself back into the house and detoured to the kitchen to flick on the coffee pot. It bubbled to life as he settled against the counter. “Currently, we offer four different vacation packages, with the longest being three weeks. Drills are conducted on weekdays at sun up, winter or summer. We have four runs staged to begin as early as 0500 and as late as 0700. For first week, the run is two miles, and we’re up to six by the third week. Standard calisthenics at the end of the run, then thirty minutes to shower before chow is served. After breakfast, we break into survival activities. I have a shooting range, we have a hike, and we ramp up the challenges.”

After pouring a cup, Hugh took one long swallow of the black coffee before adding. “If I knew what you were looking for, I could probably give you a better idea.”

Silence stretched out along the open line. Finally, the old man sighed—an odd, almost defeated note in the sound.

“Major? Everything all right?”

“Not particularly, however I am looking for the best bad option, my friend, and I think you might have the exact skills required. I need a favor.”

“Name it.” Whatever, wherever he needed him.

“My youngest daughter has expressed an interest in serving in the military. As the Royal Marines do not allow women in their units, she wishes to explore your country’s options, because your military allows women to serve in combat positions.” He paused a beat, then added, “She is capable, my Francesca. Exceptionally so. Determined. Bold. Stubborn. If she sets her mind to something, she will accomplish it.”

“Sounds like a great girl.” So where was the rub?

“Very much so. However, due to the nature of her bloodline and that of her maternal family, the last place she needs to serve is in the military. I want to send her to you—to engage in a real boot camp experience—and I want you to make it as tough as possible.”

“To be clear, are you asking me to make it possible for her graduate boot and succeed or to wash out?”

“I am asking you for neither, Sergeant. I need to know whether she can succeed legitimately. Not because she is too stubborn to give up but because she can do it.” Whether the major realized it or not, a hitch in his voice betrayed his trepidation. “If she were to wash out and could return to university of her own volition, this idea no longer in her head, I would be profoundly grateful.”

“Understood, sir. When should I expect her?” He didn’t want to make any promises, but no way could Hugh tell him no.

“When does your next, toughest camp begin?”

“Monday.” It would give him six days to put a real experience together.

“Expect Francesca at that time.”

“Yes, sir.”

“And Hugh?”

“Sir?”

“Thank you.”

The call disconnected leaving Hugh to ponder his coffee and the prospect of his run. He’d give the princess a taste of real life and send her packing for home. No matter his level of respect for the major, daddies weren’t the most impartial judges of their daughter’s capabilities.

Cup drained, he set it in the sink and turned off the light before heading to the front door. He had a five mile run and a lot of work to plan. Of course, the princess may get one taste of the Georgia humidity and roll up shop, but we’ll see.





Chapter Two





It took thirty minutes for her and her bodyguards to clear customs. A week after discussing her desire with her father, and she was on her way toward her goal. Her sisters would never understand the drive to follow in their father’s footsteps. Sometimes Frankie didn’t fully comprehend it. She wanted a life with meaning and purpose. Her cousins fought to preserve their life and her mother—her grandmother—these women lived as examples of aristocratic generosity. How did her cousin George phrase it once?

“We won the genetic lottery, though sometimes I wonder what it would have been like to draw some normal numbers.” Frankie appreciated the concept. Her father had been born into a military family. He knew from a young age he would serve, and the only deviation from his ordinary choices in life had been to fall in love with a princess. It changed how he did things, how he had to view the world, yet he remained himself even in light of her family’s eccentricities.

After collecting her suitcase, Frankie continued to follow the line of foot traffic to the final stop on her admission to the United States. The Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport was a major hub. The current lines testified to how many passengers disembarked from their long flights from all over the world, cleared immigration and customs before stepping onto a U.S. domestic flight or, as in her case, meet the car sent to take her to her final destination.

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