Gwendolynn Strobel
by on December 1, 2015
Disclaimer: Story takes place in an alternate reality. I mean no offense, this is written for fun. Here, France is once again ruled by a royal family-and is doing very well for it (of the Merovingian line).

Sébastien was not worried about the small box waiting for him in his bed stand. He wasn't worried about how Caroline might feel about the ring. She had picked it out months ago, leaving not-so-subtle hints anytime she saw Sébastien. His lady had made it perfectly clear she was expecting his proposal. He wasn't worried about what the press would think of the engagement. It was not that she wasn't a lovely woman... She was a perfectly acceptable match for him. The Marquise Caroline was full of beauty and grace, practically a goddess on earth. He just did not love her as she seemed to love him... but she deserved the best. The life he was setting himself up for did not worry him at all...

It was his father that worried him.

His Majesty, King Alphonse de Mérovingé rarely called a private meeting with Sébastien. Usually the weekly family dinner was plenty enough time to go over business and upbringing. Sébastien could almost be certain this meeting had something to do with his planned proposal to Caroline de Beauchêne. His father had already ended one relationship in Sébastien's love life, and then practically forced him to court Caroline. Was he going to brag about how things always worked out his way? Or did he want to demand the proposal happen his way too?

Sébastien thought about the ring he had recently purchased. It was heavy, gaudy, and expensive, exactly what he expected she would want. It showed how much he was willing to give her, and that was everything. He looked around absently at the presence chamber of his father's apartments. It looked like most of the other presence chambers in the house, tall ceiling and barely used. It was a good room to showcase art you didn't want to look at all the time. His father was currently showing off a fine collection of African masks. Not well suited to the beautiful Christmas decorations all through the house, but the tourists were loving it. A man Sébastien recognized easily as one of his father's many assistants entered from Alphonse's sitting room and bowed respectfully to Sébastien.

"Your Royal Highness, His Majesty apologizes for the delay, but is now ready for your appointment."

Sébastien thanked the man politely, but couldn't help thinking how sterile this all was. he allowed the man to see him into his father's office and was thankful with the assistant left them alone. The sitting room was just a long rectangle, full of antique furniture. The walls are lined with tall crowded bookshelves and a few filing cabinets. On one end of the room was the door where Sébastien had entered from and on the other side was the large, solitary window in the room. A desk was positioned by the window and a small sitting area sat in the middle of the room. Sébastien half expected his father to be sitting at his desk, and twirl around in the chair to face him, but the older man was sitting in a luxurious lounge chair by the short table, drinking coffee. Sébastien approached his father, but did not sit even when his father gestured for him to do so. There was a stack of papers on the table much like the one waiting in Sébastien's office.

"You needed to see me?" Sébastien pushed. He didn't hate the man, but since the death of Sébastien's mother, the pair had been tense with one another.

"Sit down 'Bastien, we need to talk," Alphonse said calmly. Sébastien stiffened, he had grown out of that nickname over six years ago. His friends didn't call him that anymore, he never expected his father to try out the childish name.

"Is this about Caroline?" Sébastien asked, trying not to sound annoyed. Alphonse sighed and looked to the stack of papers in front of him.

"Do you remember the Bellini's?" He asked. Sébastien frowned. Bellini's? Was that a family he needed to remember? Alphonse took his cue. "You met them when you were seven. The mother and daughter stayed at the summer home with us." Still nothing. Sébastien didn't remember much other than his mother's declining health. "We visited with them again briefly on your trip to the United States..." Alphonse sighed when Sébastien still didn't seem to remember. He had met quite a few people on his visit. "Seventeen years ago, I was in America... I met a young woman in some financial and legal trouble. I helped her through that time... It turned out that our family and hers have a long relationship and after some time... We agreed that her daughter would marry you." Sébastien's brow furrowed.

"Is this some bizarre attempt to keep me from proposing to Caroline?"

"You need to break it off with the Marquise Beauchêne. You are formally betrothed to a very polite young woman in North America." Alphonse kept his tone consistent and calm. Sébastien slowly realized this was not a joke. He collapsed into the closest chair. His father passed him a thick file. "I have been visiting every few years. She is very smart and polite. I believe that her mother may have conveniently forgotten to send her. You will need to go and get her."

"Go and... go and get her? Do you even hear yourself?" Sébastien didn't touch the papers. He touched his face, trying to understand. "I'm betrothed? You arranged my marriage when I was seven, and you think this is fine?"

"It is very traditional, not at all uncommon for families like ours."

"I won't, it's ridiculous," Sébastien said firmly. "You can't honestly expect me to marry some girl just because you say so."

"That is exactly what I expect you to do, Sébastien."