Flicka von Hannover
Feel like hamburger and ground bones
In these damned shoes.
In the lobby of the Louvre museum, Flicka stood on the raised dais near the orchestra, surrounded by her friends at her third wedding reception of the night.
Above her, stars shone in the night sky through the glass pyramid of the Louvre. Half of the orchestra was on a break, so the remnants of the string section glided through a chamber piece, just lilting background music. Hordes of wedding guests thronged the appetizer buffets, steaming scents of pastries and sizzling meat. Black tuxedoes and bright ball gowns mingled among the round tables that studded the lobby, swaying with conversation and laughter.
Flicka’s previous two wedding receptions had been held in hotel ballrooms around Paris. Flicka and Pierre had made their entrance and worked the room efficiently together and taken so many selfies with hundreds of people. They had danced their first dance together at each, smiling as always, and then rushed to the next reception.
Flicka’s charities had received millions of dollars that night from people who had so desperately wanted to be invited to a royal wedding that they had paid handsomely for the privilege. Many millions. Flicka was more than pleased with the numbers.
At least three schools would be built and fully funded forever from this night, she calculated. Maybe four. Maybe even five.
This last reception in the lobby of the Louvre Museum was for their friends, family, and particularly large donors, though those three populations tended to overlap heavily. She and Pierre had descended the spiral staircase for their entrance, just like the other nobles and royals had done during the evening before them.
Flicka enjoyed being the center of the spectacle a little too much, but that is a princess’s job, right? She worked hard to do her job spectacularly well.
And if she had her way, she would be the last person ever to do it.
Flicka smiled over the crowd at her wedding reception, dressed in their jewels and satin and royal honors sashes. They surged and splashed around the vast floor of the Louvre Museum’s lobby. Human rivers ran through the people standing, first following other people breaking through the crowd toward the buffets and then carried along as they talked and met and flowed by.
Flicka had already made the rounds here, too, enjoying these rounds far more than the previous ones. She could joke and laugh with cousins and old school chums. Even her corset under her dress felt looser.
So many cousins and aunts and uncles. Hundreds. Probably thousands. All with royal and noble titles and old money wealth and sensibility.
She took Pierre’s strong arm, and they made their way around the room, meeting old friends.
Several of her old school chums and relatives had shown up, just for fun.
Alexandre Grimaldi, Pierre’s cousin and her friend from boarding school, insisted on a quick waltz. He left the emaciated model he had brought with him. She sought out the bar while Alexandre, who was as extravagantly tall as Wulfie and Dieter, held out his hands with a tired smile on his handsome face.
Flicka knew a little too much about Alexandre, and they both were aware of it. Yet he was an old friend, and now he was her cousin, and he waltzed gently with her. She teased him, “I can’t believe that you aren’t going to play your violin at my wedding. I don’t know how you weaseled out of it.”
He smiled a little more, but a glint of manic light lit his dark eyes. “It’s for the best. You never know what will happen when I play the violin.”
Flicka grinned prettily at him, but she shuddered inside. “We’d probably better not risk it, then.” She regarded the orchestra. “Maybe they could play one of your contemporary songs, and you could sing for us.”
Alexandre laughed out loud, his blond-streaked hair swinging by his shoulders. “I’m incognito, remember?”
“Yes, of course you are, Xan.”
Flicka made the rounds, dancing or conversing with every guest of the hundreds that attended.
Valerian Mirabaud, the patriarch of a Swiss banking family that owned the private bank Geneva Trust, was probably more wealthy and certainly controlled more money and power than most of the royals in the room. He led Flicka in a stately waltz around the dance floor, perfectly respectable the whole time and chatting reasonably about Swiss politics, while his middle-aged daughter Océane danced with Pierre. Flicka knew Océane’s husband, too. They were a nice couple, around forty or so. Valerian himself was tall and lean, and the dim lights glinted off his full, silver hair as he swayed and dipped.
Wulfie met with the Mirabauds and other Swiss banking families every year at the Davos summit, where the world’s wealthiest elites met to ski, look at new cars and airplanes, and discuss how they would direct the world’s economies for the next year.
Finally, she was quite sure that she had gotten to everybody.
Or most people, at least.
Flicka watched crowd in the dim Louvre lobby from a vantage point above the dance floor, taking a breather from the hubbub, and Rae Stone joined her.