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  1. #1
    aka EB phoenixnz's Avatar
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    Princess of Metropolis

    Author: phoenixnz
    Title: Princess of Metropolis
    Pairing: Lois/Kal (Clark)
    Rating: PGGenre: Romance, drama, AU (no powers)
    Warning: character death

    Summary: Lois is a princess who is set to marry Kal-El of Krypton. Trouble is, it's an arranged marriage.

    a/n: This is a modern-day setting with some very outdated customs and some parts are based very loosely off The Crown (Netflix series). There are 17 parts.

    Chapter One

    There were times when Lois hated being who she was. There were always certain expectations, being a member of a royal family. This one, however, was the worst.

    She paced in the palace corridor, holding the decree in hand. This was so unfair, she thought. Why did she have to be the eldest daughter of the ruler? Why did she have to be the one stuck with this?

    “Darling, do stop pacing so. You’ll wear a hole in the floor.”

    Lois looked around at her mother’s voice. Ella was watching her from the parlour, her hazel eyes dancing with amusement.

    “Mother …”

    Her mother pushed back a lock of dark brown hair.

    “You know your father is in his usual audience with the Prime Minister. Pacing in the corridor will not end the meeting sooner.” She approached her, gently stroking her cheek. “Perhaps I can help.”

    Lois thrust the document before her mother so the older woman could read it. Ella’s expression remained carefully neutral.

    “Do you see what it says?”

    “Yes, darling, I do see. But what is wrong with it?”

    “What’s wrong? Mother!”

    “Lois, there is no need to raise your voice.”

    “But it says I have to …” Lois wanted to stamp her foot, proclaim the unfairness of it all loudly to the world.

    The servant at the door to her father’s drawing room continued to stand calmly, waiting, presumably until her father rang the bell to summon him. He shot her a look, ending her tirade before it began.

    “Now, Lois, you are twenty-years-old,” her mother said gently. “I know this is not what you wanted to do with your life, but one day, your father will not be here, and you must take his place.”

    “But … I …”

    The servant turned to open the door and a tall man walked out. He was bearded, with long, flowing hair. Lois glared at him as he stopped in the corridor.

    “Lois do not glare at the Prime Minister,” her mother admonished. “It’s very rude.”

    Prime Minister Luthor nodded. “Ma’am. Your Highness.”

    “Prime Minister,” Ella replied.

    The servant cleared his throat and shot Lois another look. She turned another pleading look at her mother, but Ella propelled her forward toward the door.

    “There. Your father is ready for you now. Go on.”

    Biting her lip, Lois entered the room and stood just beyond the doorway. The door closed softly behind her. She waited, looking around the room. A fire was lit in the grate. A few feet away, a chair sat, its back to the fire. This particular chair matched nothing else in the room. It was luxuriously finished, its wooden frame curved and highly polished. The legs curled from beneath the seat’s frame, having been lovingly carved into shape by the chair’s maker. Lois could remember many an afternoon as a child curled up in this chair, feeling almost dwarfed by its size. She’d once fallen asleep in it, comforted by its warmth and soft padding.

    Facing it was a long sofa. The sofa was nowhere near as comfortable as the chair and had clearly been purchased with that in mind. This was a sofa that was meant for business and whoever sat in it would not be staying long.

    Her father was standing beside the fire, smoking a cigar. He was a stocky man, his hair thinning on top of his crown. She had heard some say he was not the handsomest of men; his face appeared to be permanently stuck in somewhat of a glare. Lois considered herself biased, as to her, he was the man against whom she would judge all men.

    “Papa?”

    He turned and smiled at her. “Lois.”

    She inched forward. Lois was not a shy girl, but this news had rattled her. She waved the document.

    “Papa, I don’t understand.”

    He frowned slightly, looking concerned. “What don’t you understand, my dear?”

    He came over and sat down in the chair. Lois sank down on the sofa.

    “I don’t want to get married,” she said.

    The papers in her hand were an announcement that would be sent to the local press in the next week. Lois was to be married, to a young man the same age as her, from a distant country.

    “I’m afraid it is the law, sweetheart.”

    She wrinkled her nose. Her upbringing had taught her that she wasn’t allowed to utter so much as a snort in public, but in private, she could express such things without censure.

    The law was stupid, she thought. Centuries ago, the church had decided that in order for a princess to inherit the throne, she must be married. It was sexist and old-fashioned and completely unfair.

    “Papa, you’re the king. Can’t you change the law?”

    He raised an eyebrow at her as he puffed on his cigar. “And risk the ire of the church?”

    “Well, it sucks!” she proclaimed. “And don’t tell me I can’t use such language,” she continued, seeing her father was about to scold her. “I don’t care.”

    “I am sorry you feel that way, sweetheart, but you have no choice. You are my eldest child and when I die …”

    “Oh, Daddy, please don’t say that!” she cried. The thought that her father might someday not be there was not a pleasant one.

    “When I die, you will inherit the throne.”

    She sighed heavily, reading the paper once more. “Who is this man, anyway?”

    “His name is Kal and he is the only son of Lord Jor-El and Lady Lara of Krypton. Theirs is a republic, rather than a principality, but Jor-El is descended from royalty. His ancestor, Kal-El, ruled his country as king until the revolution.”

    Lois had read a little history on Krypton and knew about the revolution in which the country’s monarchy had been overthrown. In the two centuries since that time, the country’s inhabitants had made their peace with the descendants of the ruling class and allowed them to keep their royal titles.

    That didn’t change the fact that she was now engaged to a man she didn’t know.

    “But I don’t even know him!” she protested.

    “You will have time to get to know him. Kal is coming here at the end of this week. On Saturday, we will be holding a ball to announce your engagement.”

    Lois fumed silently. Her father was not fooled by her silence.

    “Lois, I know this news does not make you happy, but this man will be a good choice for you. He is smart and capable. And …”

    “What?”

    “We need the good relations this match will bring. An alliance with the family will strengthen the bond between us and Krypton.”

    She looked again at the documents. She knew men who would be only too happy to marry her, but they didn’t have titles. Only someone with a title could marry the daughter of a king.

    She had to admit, the man in the photograph was rather good-looking. Tall, dark and handsome, as her mother would say. He had dark, wavy hair that she guessed would be unruly if not kept in line; green eyes that seemed to bore right through a person and a tall, well-built frame.

    She left the room, knowing she would never win the argument with her father. He was a good man and a great ruler, but he was always conscious of his obligations, not only to the public, but also to the church, which apparently had the power to overrule any objection.

    Her mother sat in the parlour, knitting. She looked up at her over wire-rimmed spectacles.

    “What did your father say, dear?” she asked as Lois flopped down on the comfortable sofa.

    “That I have no choice.”

    “Perhaps it’s for the best, dear. And you know your father wouldn’t allow it if he wasn’t suitable.”

    “But he could be anybody! He could be an axe murderer for all I know!”

    Her mother peered at her keenly. “An axe murderer?” she asked incredulously. “Surely not!”

    Lois rose to her feet. “I’m going to see Chloe. Maybe she can do some digging into this Kal.”

    “Darling, is that really necessary?” her mother said with a sigh.

    “Yes,” she returned, going to the door. “Maybe if I can find something really awful about him, I can stop this nonsense.”

    Her cousin Chloe lived in one of the manor houses bordering the estate the family owned. While Lois, her parents, and her sister Lucy usually lived in the palace, they often went to the Smallville estate if her father needed a break for a day or two.

    Lois wasn’t usually allowed to drive herself around the city unless she had an escort with her. Not that that stopped her. When her grandfather had been king, his youngest daughter, Lois’ aunt, had been out driving when someone had stopped her car and tried to kidnap her. Fortunately, her aunt had been made of stern stuff and she had quickly dealt with the would-be kidnapper. Since then, however, it had been a requirement that the young princesses were to be escorted at all times, either with a bodyguard in the car with them or following behind.

    She left the palace and went out to the courtyard. The guard on duty stopped her before she could enter the garage.

    “I’m just …”

    “You know your father’s rules, Your Highness. Wait for your driver.”

    She wanted to stamp her foot in frustration. She settled for glaring at the guard, crossing her arms over her chest.

    The driver came out of the garage a few minutes later, driving the sedan. Lois tried not to pout as the man got out and held the back door open for her. She got in and sat back.

    “Seat belt,” the driver told her. He was about a year younger than her, a freckle-faced teen with reddish-brown hair.

    Lois waited until they’d left the palace gates behind before undoing the clasp and leaning over the back of the driver’s seat.

    “Jimmy …”

    He turned and looked at her. “Put your seat belt back on,” he admonished. “Do you want me to get in trouble with the cops?”

    “Party pooper!” she grumbled, sitting back as she was told.

    “Your father’s rules, not mine,” he told her. “And don’t stick that lower lip out. You’ll trip over it.”

    She snorted. “You think you’re so funny, Olsen.”

    “At least I don’t have a tantrum when I don’t get my own way. What’s bugging you, anyway?” he asked, glancing at her in the rear vision mirror.

    “Nothing,” she said with a shrug.

    “Really? So, nothing has got you sulking like a five-year-old, instead of the grown woman you are?”

    “I’m not sulking,” she said.

    “Right! I forgot. This is you being your usual charming self.”

    “I really hate you, Olsen.”

    She’d been friends with Jimmy most of their lives. They’d practically grown up together. His father had worked for the palace as a driver for years, but heavy drinking and smoking had taken a toll on his health and he’d died two years earlier. Jimmy had begged Lois’ mother to take a chance on him and let him take on a job as a driver for the princesses.

    “So?” he asked.

    She looked at him. “Promise you won’t tell?” she asked.

    “Who would I tell, anyway?”

    “Well, it doesn’t matter, since there’s going to be an announcement next weekend. I’m getting married.”

    He seemed stunned by the news but waited until he’d stopped the car at the traffic lights before turning to look at her.

    “I take it this is not happy news.”

    “No. It isn’t. I don’t even know the man I’m supposed to be marrying. His name’s Kal. He’s from Krypton.”

    Jimmy turned back to drive through the now clear intersection. “So, why are you getting married?”

    “Because I have to. It’s the law. I can’t be queen if I’m not married by the time …”

    She didn’t want to say it. Losing her beloved father at any time was something she just didn’t want to think about.

    “I’m sorry,” he said. “I wish there was some way I could make things better.”

    “Me too,” she replied, glad he didn’t try to use any kind of platitude about how this might be a good thing. As far as she was concerned, it was the worst thing imaginable.
    Last edited by phoenixnz; 08-27-2019 at 08:38 PM.

  2. #2
    aka EB phoenixnz's Avatar
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    Chapter Two

    “Kal?”


    “Here, Father,” Kal said, glaring at his reflection in the mirror. He turned as his father entered the room. “I can’t decide which works best. The grey tie or the red one.”

    He turned back to the mirror and frowned, holding up each tie to the dark grey suit. The white shirt he wore beneath the blazer had dark pinstripes through it.

    Jor-El gazed at him with a critical eye. “Hmm, I think your mother would be best suited to answer that,” he said. “She knows far more about fashions than I. She’s in the solarium if you wish me to fetch her.”

    “No, that’s all right. I think I’ll use the red one.”

    “Why are you wearing this suit now? We do not leave for Metropolis for another three days, Kal-El.”

    “I know, Father, but I wanted to make sure the suit fit.”

    Jor-El brushed at his lapels. “The tailor did a good job, my son. It fits you well.”

    He smiled at his father. Jor-El was practically a mirror image of himself, only twenty years older. He would only have to look to the older man to know what he would look like in twenty years.

    Kal quickly changed out of the suit and back into the jeans and t-shirt he normally wore at home. While they were reasonably well-off, he felt it would be too pretentious to parade that in front of everyone.

    He left the suit on the bed to be packed by one of the servants and left the room with his father. Jor-El gestured toward the study.

    “How are you feeling about the coming announcement?” the older man asked once they'd sat down.

    Kal shrugged. “Fine. I’m fine about it, I guess. I mean, it’s not like it would be a hardship, marrying the daughter of a king.” His father sent him a sceptical look. “Okay, maybe I’m a little nervous.”

    He’d seen the photographs of Princess Lois and had liked what he’d been shown. She was pretty. Her features were too strong for her to be considered model-gorgeous, but she was a striking young woman just the same with her rosy cheeks and soft smile. She had long, wavy brown hair which suited her fair skin and enhanced her hazel eyes.

    His father had made it clear when he had arranged the marriage with King Samuel that Kal would be considered a lower rank than the princess. It was nothing less than what he was already used to. The aristocracy of Krypton, while it hadn’t exactly died out, no longer had the power it had two hundred years ago.

    “This alliance is very important to both our countries, Kal-El. I am proud of you for agreeing to this marriage.”

    He didn’t comment. It had always been a tradition among the aristocracy. Their parents usually chose a suitable match for them if they had no other prospects at a certain age. This was no exception.

    “What are your plans for the rest of the day?” Jor-El asked.

    Kal shrugged. “I might go out later if that’s all right.”

    His father smiled. “You have no need to ask my permission, Kal-El.” He knew he didn’t have to, but he had asked to be courteous. His father went on. “You are twenty years old. I do remember what it was like to be your age. Will you be meeting your friends?”

    He nodded. He’d been close friends with Oliver Queen and Bruce Wayne since his early teens. They’d all met at the private school they all attended. Oliver was the oldest, at twenty-six, while Bruce was only two years younger than the other man.

    Kal had met them when they’d defended him against a school bully. The young man who had tried to assault the new pupil had been from Metropolis. His parents had sent him away to the private school, hoping he would ‘smarten up’.

    Lex Luthor had been one of those boys who considered himself superior to all others, not only because of his family’s vast wealth but also by the fact that he was highly intelligent.

    Oliver had once told Kal that the Luthor family title had been bought and the money hadn’t been inherited. Lionel had apparently made it through investments, although how he had come to make that much money in such a short time was a mystery. Kal’s friends suspected some kind of fraudulent activity was involved, but since the man was a minister in the Metropolis government, he was considered too powerful for any investigation to succeed.

    There was another reason Kal hated Lex. For years, he had had a crush on a young woman named Lana. When she had been in her early teens, he had fallen for her apparent sweetness and innocent doe-eyed looks.

    They’d begun dating when he was fifteen and for a while he had been very happy, thinking he was in love and that she returned that love. They’d even gone so far as to talk about getting married in a couple of years after he was done with his education.

    A year ago, Lana had broken up with him, telling him she had fallen for someone else. He had been heartbroken when he had seen the engagement announcement in the local press. Lana was marrying his old school enemy – Lex Luthor.

    There had been some gossip over the impending nuptials. Most Kryptonians questioned why Lana would have chosen to marry someone from another country. Especially one that was ruled by a monarchy. Kal wondered what they would say about his forthcoming marriage.

    Kal had sought the support of his best friends, who had told him that even while he and Lana had been dating, she had been seeing other men. Those others had come from just as powerful families, but with more say in how their country was run. They’d even told him how they had hacked into Lana’s email account showing him proof that she had not only been cheating on him but had also told friends that she was stringing him along until someone with ‘mutual interests’ came along.

    He slowly realised that any feelings he’d had for the young brunette were gone and that any hurt he’d felt over the way she had treated him was fleeting.

    The bar where he normally met his friends was crowded as usual but he soon spotted the blond head of his oldest friend in the corner. Oliver saw him and waved him over. Bruce had his back to him but turned and smiled.

    “Kal,” he greeted.

    Oliver held his hand out and the two men shook hands. The dark-haired man offered his own hand for Kal to shake in greeting.

    “What are you drinking?” he asked.

    “Beer will be fine,” Kal told him, seeing the jug of ale on the table. It was clear they had been expecting him as there were three glasses in front of them. Oliver’s was only half full while Bruce had barely touched his.

    “So, Kal, what’s the big news?” Bruce asked as Kal helped himself to a drink.

    “I’m getting married.”

    Oliver almost dropped his glass in shock. Bruce stared at him, stunned.

    “Uh, what?”

    “I didn’t even know you were seeing anyone,” Bruce said, finding his voice.

    “I’m not. It’s an arrangement.”

    His two friends looked confused. “I’m sorry. I don’t think I understood you,” Oliver said.

    “My parents have arranged for me to marry the heiress to the Metropolis throne.”

    “Kal, that’s crazy! You don’t even know this girl.”

    “Arranged marriage? That’s like something out of the dark ages,” the blond man commented.

    “I know what you’re thinking, and I know you don’t get it, but it’s not like I have so many other prospects lined up.”

    “How can you be okay with this?” his friends asked.

    Kal shrugged. “It’s the best thing for both our countries. What with all the tension between the government here and over there, my father thinks it will strengthen the relationship. And I happen to agree with him.”

    “So, this is a political match?” Oliver asked. “What does she think?”

    “I don’t know,” he said. “I haven’t even talked to her yet. Let alone met her. We’ll be leaving for Metropolis in three days.”

    “Can’t you get out of it?” Bruce asked.

    “Why would I want to?” he said with a shrug.

    He tried explaining everything to his friends but they either didn’t want to understand or just thought it was too bizarre. He supposed he could see it from their point of view. They weren’t descended from royalty. No matter what had happened since the revolution, or who ran the country, nothing changed the fact that his ancestor, the one whom he’d been named for, had been the last king of Krypton.

    “Sorry, Kal,” Bruce said. “But that is totally f**ked up. Why would you want to marry someone you’ve never met?”


    “Especially one who will outrank you one day,” Oliver put in. He frowned. “Wait. Is she ugly?”

    Kal scowled at his friend. “She’s attractive. What kind of question is that?”

    “The kind of question a guy would ask if he didn’t want to be stuck with an ugly chick,” his friend laughed.

    “Just for that, you two have to come with us.”

    “Oh, hell no,” Bruce said.

    “Do we look like suckers to you?” Oliver replied.

    “You really want me to answer that?” Kal returned evenly.

    Bruce raised his glass. “Touche, Kal!”

    Three days later, Kal, followed by his parents and his friends, stepped down from the plane onto Metropolis soil. The group were met by airport security and quickly checked through customs before being escorted outside. A limousine was waiting for them.

    Kal observed a family struggling with several bags. Two young boys were darting in and out of the parked cars. He moved quickly to intercept the youngest when he ran out into the road. While it led to a parking lot, it was busy with vehicles coming in to pick up passengers.

    “Whoa,” he said. “You shouldn’t do that if you don’t want to get hit by a car.”

    The little boy just giggled and ran back in the direction of his parents. Kal approached the father, who was trying to pick up a heavy suitcase to load it into the back of the car.

    “Let me help you,” he said.

    The man glanced at him and smiled gratefully.

    “Thank you,” he replied.

    Kal helped the man load the bags, learning that they had just returned home from a vacation half a world away. Their flights had been delayed several times, making a journey that would have been roughly twelve hours almost twice that much. It had also taken three hours to get through customs, so they were all exhausted. Kal considered himself privileged to have been able to fly in on a private jet.

    His parents and his friends were still waiting for him at the car.

    “Always the boy scout, huh, Kal?” Oliver asked.

    Jor-El shot him a look. “You could learn a thing or two about courtesy from my son, young man.”

    Bruce guffawed, only to subside quickly when he received the same look from Kal’s father. Oliver ducked his head, looking chastened.

    The waiting driver looked a little younger than Kal. He was a few inches shorter with reddish-brown hair and freckles.

    “Lord and Lady El,” he said. “I’m James Olsen.”

    “Hello James,” Lara said softly, giving him a brilliant smile. She gestured toward Kal. “This is my son, Kal, and his friends, Bruce and Oliver.”

    “It’s good to meet you, ma’am.” He held his hand to guide her into the limo. The men followed suit, making themselves comfortable.

    Kal watched the passing scenery as James drove through the city. It didn’t seem that much different from where he had grown up. He wondered if he would be happy living here. The culture didn’t seem to be that different. He supposed it was just a question of whether he could live with the princess.

    After a few minutes, he could see a huge building. It didn’t look out of place with the surrounding architecture but didn’t look anything like what he imagined a palace would be.

    Two huge iron gates opened before them and James drove down a long, sealed driveway, turning into what appeared to be a forecourt. Two guards stood beside double doors. As the car came to a halt, the guards stepped up to open the car doors.

    Someone must have been told of their arrival as a man with thick blond hair and horn-rimmed glasses came out to greet them. Jor-El shook his hand.

    “I’m Jonathan Kent,” he said. “The King’s private secretary. If you’ll all like to follow me.”

    “Thank you, Mr Kent,” Kal’s father replied.

    Kal heard his friends talking in low voices, exclaiming over the palace.

    “Bet this place costs a bundle to run,” Bruce murmured.

    Kal was about to lightly scold his friends for their tactlessness, but his mother got there first.

    “Boys, how about you choose a subject that is a little more polite.”

    “Yes, ma’am,” Oliver said.

    Just as Jonathan turned to another set of doors, which Kal assumed was the king’s private rooms, a girl came running down the corridor. She was dressed in a crop top and running pants and her brown hair had been pulled back into a ponytail. Her eyes widened as she took in the visitors.

    “Oh!” was all she said.

    Jonathan appeared unfazed. “Been for a run, Your Highness?”

    She grinned. “Something like that.” Her eyes sparkled with mischief as she looked at them all. “Company. Good-looking company, if I may say so.”

    “No, you may not,” Jonathan told her. “Now upstairs with you.”

    She grumbled. “I miss out on everything,” she complained.

  3. #3
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    Chapter Three

    Lois didn’t want to greet the guests. She wanted nothing to do with this whole thing.

    “Darling, hurry up.”

    She looked at her mother and sighed. Ella was wearing what she liked to call her ‘Sunday best’, a skirt and matching jacket in a light crimson colour.

    “I don’t want to go down there!” Lois grumbled.

    Ella ignored her and went to the closet, picking out a dress in salmon pink.

    “Why don’t you wear this?” she said. “It looks nice.”

    “It’s pink,” Lois told her. She much preferred wearing jeans and t-shirts to dresses.

    “What is wrong with pink?” her mother asked. “Lois, darling, I know you’re not happy but your father only wants what’s best for you.”

    Her bedroom door burst open and Lucy came in.

    “We’ve got company!” she said, sounding breathless. Her next words came out in a jumble. “You should see them. I mean, there’s three of them, and this older couple and boy talk about hot!”

    Lois stared at her younger sister. Lucy was eighteen and, like any other eighteen-year-old, boy mad.

    “Darling, why don’t you take a breath before you speak. And we do not talk about our guests in such a manner.”

    “What do you mean, hot?” Lois asked. Her mother shot her a look.

    Lucy began to describe what she had seen. There was a blond man who was tall and lean and apparently had very cute dimples, a dark-haired man who was as tall as him but very well-built with almost a baby-face, and a third man with dark hair who was only slightly shorter than his two companions, but just as good-looking.

    “I thought it was just going to be Kal and his parents?” Lois asked her mother.

    “Well, apparently, Kal invited his friends to join them. We couldn’t exactly say no, now could we?”

    Lucy frowned at her. “Wait. You know these people?” she said.

    “I’ve never met them,” Lois replied.

    “Wait. I’m confused.”

    “A frequent occurrence, I’m sure,” Lois muttered, earning a light slap upside the head from her mother.

    “Lucy, go and change. And I expect you both to be on your best behaviour with our guests tonight.”

    Lucy obeyed their mother. Lois sighed and took the dress, grumbling under her breath.

    “Lois, act like a lady,” her mother said with a sigh of exasperation before leaving the room.

    Lois waited until her mother had gone before she threw the dress onto the four-poster bed. She picked up the phone and dialled a number.

    “Hello?”

    “It’s me. They’re here.”

    “Well, you did say they would be,” her cousin replied.

    “Chloe …”

    “I know what you’re asking and as much as I would love to dish the dirt on your favourite Kryptonian, don’t you think you’d be better asking him?”

    “He’d just lie,” Lois said. “Come on, Chlo …”

    “You know people usually get upset when I do my thing.”

    “I don’t care.”

    Chloe huffed. She had had thoughts of becoming a journalist, but her parents, especially her mother, had been adamantly against it. As far as they were concerned, there was no way their only child was going to lower herself to the gutter press and report on nothing but gossip about the royal family.

    Lois’ mother, who was Moira’s sister, had been just as opposed. Ella was very protective of her girls.
    Still, that didn’t stop Chloe from digging for dirt on various people when necessary. Lois had asked for her cousin’s help when Lex Luthor had requested permission to court her. She had been barely eighteen. Chloe had discovered that Lex had had a string of affairs and treated women shamefully.

    “Chloe, please.”

    “All right, all right. I did look him up. He’s just your average, normal guy. Except …”

    “What?”

    “Well, he went to the same prep school as Lex Luthor and those two are basically sworn enemies. I don’t know what Luthor did to earn his enmity back then, but I know why they’re at odds now. Lex married his ex-girlfriend.”

    She hadn’t known Lana Luthor came from the same country Kal did. The woman was considered a social climber. It appeared Kal just wasn’t rich enough or powerful enough for her. Lois did feel a little sympathy for the man.

    “Well, I’m not surprised they hate each other then. What else? I mean, he’s rich. Has he dated anyone else?”

    “Not that I can tell. There are a few gossip rags with pictures of him with a blonde. She’s pretty, but it’s clear they’re just friends. I mean, the only time he’s seen out with her is for these big society events.” Her cousin paused. “If you’re looking for dirt, I don’t think there really is any. I mean, from all reports, he’s actually a nice guy. Doesn’t look for trouble. He’s never even had a traffic ticket.”

    “So, he’s a goody-goody then?” she asked. Damn it, she thought. So much for finding something so awful about him that her father would refuse the marriage.

    “I know this girl who went out with him once. She told me he was a complete gentleman the entire time.”

    “So why did she only go out with him once?”

    “Well …”

    “Chloe …”

    “She said he was kind of boring.”

    “Oh, great. So, instead of the obnoxious boor I was expecting, I’m going to be marrying a bore.” She sighed.

    “Maybe you should talk to your father again.”

    “I can’t. It’s all been arranged. And you didn’t hear any of that from me.” Her father had told her not to tell anyone, even Lucy, until they were ready to make the official announcement.

    Her mother called from the doorway. “Lois. Are you ready?”

    She sighed again. “I have to go. Thanks for the info, cuz.”

    She dressed quickly and joined her mother in the hallway. Ella eyed her critically.

    “Darling, you could at least have tried to make an effort. The dress is all creased.”

    “Sorry, Mother,” she said contritely.

    Her mother huffed. “Well, it will just have to do.” She looked around. “And of course, your sister is late, as usual.”

    Lucy ran up to them. She was also wearing a dress in a light blue with high-heel sandals in a contrasting blue. How she had run in those heels was anyone’s guess.

    “Lucy, dear, do try to act like a lady. You know better than to run in the palace.”

    Lucy made a face, but nodded. “I’m sorry, Mother.”

    They followed their mother downstairs to the King’s rooms. Lois’s father smiled at them as they entered.

    “There you are,” he said. “I was getting worried.”

    Lois frowned. He seemed pale and looked tired. He noticed her curious gaze and shook his head.

    “It’s all right, sweetheart. It has just been a rather tiring day. Shall we go?”

    Lois let her father take her arm and walked with him to the formal dining room. When it was just the family, they ate their meals together in the breakfast room. This one was set up with the best dinnerware and fancy silverware, although it was not quite as big as the ballroom.

    An older man turned to greet them as they entered. He was wearing a formal suit and tie and stood beside the table. Lois studied him. He was good-looking, a few years younger than her father, with black hair flecked with grey.

    “Your Majesty,” he said in a deep baritone. “It is good to see you again. You, of course, know my wife, Lara.”

    Lois glanced at the woman standing beside him. She was beautiful with long, blonde hair. She wore a white summer dress that seemed to create a glow around her.

    The King lifted her hand and kissed it, bowing formally as he spoke with the older couple. It was clear the two men knew each other well.

    “My daughter, Lois, and my youngest daughter, Lucy,” he said, a hand on Lois’ back.

    Jor-El smiled at Lois. “Ahh, you are just as lovely as your photograph.”

    Lois couldn’t help overhearing a whispered conversation between three men gathered behind Jor-El.

    “Is that her?” one said.

    “She’s definitely not ugly,” another one said.

    “Shut up,” the third one replied. Lois looked at him and suddenly felt a weird kind of sensation. Almost like the dreams she often had between wakefulness and sleep where she felt herself falling. His green eyes bored into hers as their gazes met.

    For a moment she wondered if he’d felt the same kind of jolt as his eyes widened slightly.

    Lucy had been right. The man was hot. Hotter than hot, she thought. His photograph had not done him justice at all.

    “Hi,” he said. “I’m Kal.”

    “Umm …” She was so tongue-tied she couldn’t even tell him her own name. He smiled, as if sensing her sudden nervousness.

    “You’re Lois?” he said, continuing to speak politely.

    “Uh, y-yes.”

    “It’s great to meet you,” he said. He turned to the other two men. She vaguely remembered seeing them when she’d entered the room, but all her attention was focused on the gorgeous man in front of her. “My friends, Oliver and Bruce.”

    She was barely conscious of the two men bowing.

    “It’s nice to meet you, Princess,” one of them said. There was a whispered admonishment and he immediately corrected himself. “I mean, Your Highness.”

    Her father called for them to sit down at the table. Lois was sat next to Kal. She did her best not to react to his closeness but was just too aware of him sitting right next to her. They both reached for salt at the same time and she accidentally touched his hand, pulling back as if she’d had an electric shock.

    She risked a glance at him, but he just smiled at her and offered to season her food. How could he be so cool, she wondered. God, her heart was pounding so hard she wouldn’t have been surprised if everyone at the table had heard it.

    She had no idea how she managed to eat all five courses. Her mouth was so dry she could barely taste it, drinking copious amounts of water. Yet Kal remained polite throughout, even attentive, asking her various questions which she supposed were meant to get her to open up.

    Her father kept shooting her concerned looks. She was never this quiet at the dinner table and her family knew that.

    “So, Kal, tell me a little about yourself,” her mother asked.

    “Oh, there isn’t much to tell, really,” he replied. “I suppose that makes me sound kind of dull. I write, when I can. Mostly blogs. But I do have a little bit of a following. One day I hope to write a book.”

    “What kind of book?” Lucy asked.

    “Mostly about our family history. The revolution and how that changed the country.”

    “In what way?” Lois asked hesitantly.

    “Well, we had what you’d call a bloodless revolution. When the republic decided to seize power, they chose to do it without bloodshed. So, my ancestor, Kal-El, was allowed to retire to the countryside estate.”

    “A bloodless coup,” Lois replied, finding her voice at last. “Isn’t that kind of an oxymoron?”

    “Lois!” her father warned.

    “What? Come on, Daddy, I find it hard to believe that when someone overthrows a monarchy, said monarch just retires to the country without fuss.”

    “I did say he was allowed to retire,” Kal answered. “From all reports, he was given two choices. One, he could go quietly, or two, his entire family, and anyone allied with him, would suffer the consequences for his resistance. If he hadn’t gone quietly, we wouldn’t be here to tell the tale.”

    “Wouldn’t that be a shame!” she returned smartly.


    “Darling, don’t be so rude!” Ella admonished.

    “I’m sure if the same thing had occurred here, our family would have made the same decision,” her father put in. “Why risk bloodshed, or a deadly war when you can save thousands of innocent lives?”

    “Exactly, Your Majesty,” Jor-El responded.

    “Please, call me Sam,” he told the man, saying he didn’t think there was a need for such formality when it was just family.

    With dinner over, the parents decided to retire to the king’s private rooms to talk more. Lois had no doubt they would be discussing the ‘engagement’. She and Lucy were left to talk with the three men in her mother’s private rooms.

    Lois sat in the armchair with her legs folded under her, determined not to engage in any kind of conversation with Kal-El. Polite or otherwise.

    “So, Lucy, what do you do?” Bruce was asking.

    “What doesn’t she do?” Lois answered sarcastically.

    “I can answer for myself, thanks, Lo,” her sister replied. “I was thinking about going to university, actually,” she continued. “When I finish school.”

    “What school is that?” Oliver asked, smiling at the younger girl.

    “It’s a private school. I don’t think you’d know it.”

    “Yeah, you have to be ‘connected’,” Lois answered, the words coming out sounding more like a sneer than a casual remark.

    Kal nudged her. “I don’t think the tone is appropriate,” he said quietly.

    She stared at him. “You telling me what to do?” she asked.

    “No, but I don’t think it’s good manners to sit there and sulk like you are doing.”

    Lucy ignored her but her sister’s expression suggested she thought Lois’ behaviour was rude. Lois sat in silence, listening to the conversations going on around her. Lucy was telling the men about her wish to study to be a fashion designer at university. It was an option that had never been open to Lois, who had been taught from a young age that her duty was to the kingdom. She had been taught subjects like constitutional law and history, both subjects that bored her to tears.

    It was both upsetting and frustrating that she would never have the freedom her sister had.

    She continued to sit for an hour or so, glad at least that they didn’t try to draw her into the conversation. Finally, she huffed loudly.

    “Ugh! I’m not going to just sit here and play happy families,” she said with a growl. She got up from her chair and left the room, running upstairs.

    She was damned if she was going to sit there and play nice with the man, no matter how hot he was.

  4. #4
    aka EB phoenixnz's Avatar
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    Chapter Four

    Kal watched her go and turned toward his friends. Bruce cocked an eyebrow at him as if to ask what that was all about.


    He decided to at least try to talk to her. They would have to put on a good show in front of the press in a day or so, and they needed to at least be on the same page where that was concerned.

    “Excuse me,” he said politely, for Lucy’s benefit.

    He went out and looked around, not exactly sure where to go. He hadn’t been told where Lois’ room was and they hadn’t exactly had a tour of the whole castle.

    “Is there something I can help you with, sir?”

    Kal looked at the young man. He had dark cocoa skin and a friendly smile.

    “Uh, you didn’t see where Lo … Her Highness went, did you?”

    “I think she went upstairs, sir.”

    “Kal,” he said. “Just Kal.”

    The other man smiled, showing even white teeth. “Pete. I’m the assistant to the King’s private secretary.”

    “Will you be able to show me where Lois went?” he asked.

    “I would, but I doubt she’ll be there.”

    Kal frowned. “What do you mean?”

    “The Princess is what we would call ‘high maintenance’. Or, to put it another way, a bit of a wild child.” Pete canted his head and smirked. “She’s probably snuck out her window by now. I imagine she’s gone clubbing.”

    “Does she do that?”

    “Oh yeah, she does that a lot. Especially when her father wants her to do something she doesn’t want to do.”


    “Do you know where?” he asked. Given that they were supposed to be engaged, he felt a responsibility toward her. Even if that meant keeping her out of trouble.

    “I can give you a couple of names. But you’re new to Metropolis, so I would suggest taking your friends along with you. I can also ask Jimmy to drive you. He and Her Royal Pain in the Rear have been friends since childhood so he knows her pretty well.”

    Kal laughed at Pete’s put-upon expression. He wondered if Lois was really that bad, but considering her sulky behaviour that evening, he decided her reputation was probably well-deserved.
    He returned to his friends and spoke softly to them. Lucy didn’t look surprised when he told her that her sister had probably left the palace. Unaccompanied.

    “Daddy is going to be so mad!” she said almost gleefully. “Don’t worry about Lois,” she added. “She’s like a cat with nine lives.”

    Kal left the room with his friends. Pete was waiting for them and led them outside to the car. Oliver looked at him with a sardonic lift of his eyebrow.

    “This is the woman you’re supposed to marry?” He patted Kal on the shoulder. “Better you than me, my friend. She’s gonna be a handful.”

    Pete spoke to the young man who had picked them up from the airport.

    “Jimmy, you know where Lois likes to hang out.”

    “Sure.” He looked uneasily at Kal. “Uh, you want me to …”

    “I just want to make sure she’s all right,” Kal told him. “She seemed a little upset earlier.”

    His friends got in the back of the car while Kal sat next to the driver. Jimmy concentrated on his driving but Kal could tell from the other man’s tension that he was wondering what was going on.

    The first club they went to, Lois was nowhere to be seen. Disappointed, and more than a little worried, Kal turned to Jimmy as they left.

    “Do you know this other club?”

    “Yeah, I do. Look, Kal, can I call you Kal?” He nodded. “Lois is pretty independent. And she can take care of herself.”

    “That may be so, but she’s not supposed to …”

    “Yeah, I get that, but the thing about Lois is, she doesn’t like anyone telling her what to do. Even her father. Don’t get me wrong. She adores her father, but she hates the fact that he expects so much of her. Like she’s afraid to just be herself because it might cause some sort of scandal.”

    “But this is different,” Kal told him.

    “Why? Because you’re supposed to get married?” Kal looked at him in surprise. Jimmy shrugged. “She told me. I mean, I haven’t told anyone else, if that’s what you’re worried about, but Lo and I … we’ve known each other practically all our lives. I mean, my dad was the family driver, so we just about grew up together.”

    “So, what do I do?”

    Jimmy raised his eyebrow. “I don’t know, man. I’m just the driver.” He sighed. “Look, I’ll take you to this other club but, if she’s there, don’t ambush her and try to drag her back home. She won’t thank you for it.”

    Kal thought about it on the way over to the club. Jimmy was right. Forcing Lois to return was probably the wrong thing to do.

    The club was crowded when they entered. Kal looked around and spotted the runaway royal over by the bar, chatting to a shorter girl with blonde hair. He quickly pointed her out to his friends.

    “What are you planning?” Bruce asked.

    “Don’t know. I’m just making it up as I go along,” he said. He led them over to the other side of the bar and ordered drinks for them, pretending to ignore Lois. He turned his back on the two girls and stood talking to his friends.

    “Who’s the cute blonde?” Oliver asked, looking over his shoulder.

    “I don’t know,” he said.

    “We’re about to find out,” Bruce murmured. “They’re coming over here.”

    Lois looked annoyed as she approached them.

    “What the hell are you doing here?” she asked. “Why don’t you go back to the palace and leave me alone?”

    Kal canted his head. “What? And miss the pleasure of your ‘charming’ company?” he returned, with as much sarcasm as he could muster.

    She shot him an odd look. “Whatever!” she scoffed, tossing her head.

    She’d changed clothes and was now wearing jeans and a sparkly top that was at least reasonably modest. She’d also let her hair down from the loose knot she’d had it in at dinner.

    The blonde smiled at him. “Hi,” she said. “I’m Chloe. Lois’ cousin.”

    Kal returned the smile. “I’m Kal. These are my friends, Bruce and Oliver.”

    The two men began chatting to Chloe. Kal looked her over. While she was an attractive girl, and seemed friendly, he wasn’t interested.

    “Typical!” Lois said with a snort. “Show a man a pretty face and it’s like all bets are off.”

    He rolled his eyes. “Are you always this annoying?” he asked.

    “No. Are you always this obnoxious?”

    He cocked an eyebrow. “Me?” he said incredulously. “When just about every word out of your mouth since the moment we met has been dripping with disdain.”

    She scowled and started to walk away. Kal pursued her, grabbing her arm.

    “What is your malfunction?” she hissed, trying to pull herself out of his firm grip.

    “I’m not the one who has been hostile from the second I got here.” It wasn’t strictly true. At least, he hoped it wasn’t. He’d seen she was flustered from the moment they’d met but when she’d spoken up at dinner, he had sensed the hostility. She’d made it perfectly clear she didn’t want them there.

    “Well, if you don’t like it, leave!” she spat.

    This was the girl he was supposed to be engaged to? he thought. She was rude, she was stuck-up and he couldn’t stand her.

    “You know something, if either one of us had a choice in this, believe me, you would be the last woman I would choose.”

    “Yeah?” She leaned forward, her face mere inches from his. “Well, the feeling’s mutual, jerk!”

    Kal was angry enough to do something drastic. He’d never believed in hitting a woman and he wasn’t about to start now. So, he did the next best thing. He kissed her. It wasn’t just a normal kiss designed to shut her up. No, he kissed her hard enough to let her know who was boss, pulling her into him, his arms around her waist. She resisted at first, clearly startled by his action, but for a moment she responded, opening up to let him in.

    Then it seemed sanity returned as she stepped back and slapped him hard across the cheek. Before he could react, she pulled away and disappeared into the crowd. He stood staring into the space left vacant by her sudden departure, wondering what the hell had just happened to him. It felt like he’d been hit by a ton of bricks. His whole body felt on fire, as if he’d suddenly developed a 103-degree fever.

    He had meant to punish her by the kiss, but it had backfired on him. His body had responded to hers like it never had with any other woman. Kal wasn’t usually given to feelings of impulse but if Lois had been receptive, he would have had her right there and then on the dance floor.

    “Smooth moves, Kal,” Bruce said behind him.

    His friend’s voice was like being dunked in a bucket of ice-cold water, clearing his head. He realised Lois could be anywhere and looked around worriedly for her. The dancers were packed like sardines and he couldn’t see her anywhere.

    He returned to the bar to find Oliver and Chloe were now on the dance floor. It appeared the two had hit it off almost straight away.

    Kal ordered a beer and stood drinking it from the bottle, watching the dance floor. He could see the couple talking and laughing as they danced.

    Bruce was approached by a woman who invited him to dance and the pair joined Oliver on the floor. Kal finished his beer and continued to watch, looking out for Lois. He couldn’t help thinking about what had happened. Why had he kissed her? What had possessed him?

    He had to admit that despite her sullen attitude, he did like her. He could understand her reticence. The only reason they were engaged was because the church couldn’t allow an unmarried woman to take the throne. It was outdated and sexist but it wasn’t about to change in a hurry. The church was a very old institution and didn’t like being forced to change its rules. No matter who was on the throne.

    A girl approached him. “Do you want to dance?” she asked.

    He shook his head. “I’m waiting for someone,” he said, as politely as he could.

    “If you’re talking about that girl you were with, she’s dancing with someone else.” The girl nodded toward the dance floor and Kal saw what she was talking about.

    Lois was dancing with a man who was probably two or three inches shorter than Kal and appeared to be quite a few years older. She didn’t seem to be enjoying herself, her expression almost a deep frown. Kal didn’t know if it was the music or the man she was dancing with, or both. He kept reaching for her and she would pull away. The music was an odd mix of hip hop and something he couldn’t quite identify.

    As he watched, the music came to an end and she started to walk away from the man. He didn’t appear to like that, grasping her wrist. Again, she tried to pull away, but he kept a tight grip on her, clearly trying to force her to leave the dance floor with him. Kal immediately moved toward them. Bruce and Oliver must have seen him coming as they moved to back him up.

    “Leave me alone,” Lois said, trying in vain to pull away from the man, who had suddenly become very aggressive. She was pale, and from what Kal could tell, shaking.

    “Uh uh, Princess.”

    Oh sh*t, Kal thought. He must have recognised her.

    He quickly stepped behind the man, blocking off his escape route.


    “Is this man bothering you?” he said.

    Lois sent him a grateful look, making one final effort to pull out of the man’s grip as he turned to look at Kal. He appeared startled and almost fearful as he saw the three tall men behind him.

    “Uh, look, it was just …” He turned and quickly left.

    Lois was rubbing her wrist. Kal could see her skin was a little red and chafed.

    “We’ll take you home,” he said gently.

    She didn’t resist, letting them accompany her out to the car. She sat in the back seat, between Bruce and Oliver. Jimmy kept shooting her concerned looks as she continued to rub her wrist.

    By the time they returned to the palace, Kal could see her wrist was slightly swollen. The man who had attacked her had obviously done more than just grip her tightly. His friends offered their help but he shook his head, telling them to go up to bed and he’d take care of it.

    “Where’s your room?” he asked.

    “Upstairs,” she said, her voice trembling a little.

    Pete greeted them, looking concerned. “Is everything all right?”

    Kal shook his head. “Lois is hurt. Could you organise someone to bring up some ice? Maybe a crepe bandage.”

    “Of course. I’ll send someone up to her room right away.”

    Lois led him to her bedroom, still not saying much of anything. He sat her down on the chaise longue at the end of her bed and gently examined her wrist. She hissed in pain but let him check it over.

    “I don’t think anything’s broken,” he said. “But it might be sprained.”

    “That guy was holding onto me pretty tightly,” she said. “I tried …”

    “I know. I saw.”

    He answered the knock on the door and took the ice pack and bandage from the maid.

    “Thank you,” he said.

    He returned to her side and placed the ice pack on her wrist. She hissed again.

    “Is it hurting?” he asked, looking at her with concern.

    “No. It’s … it’s cold,” she said, snickering a little. She watched as he held her arm and continued to press the pack on the bruise. “I’m sorry.”

    “For what?”

    “For what I said at dinner. For hitting you. Take your pick.”

    He shrugged. “I probably deserved it.”

    “Yet, here you are, taking care of me, when you didn’t have to.”

    He didn’t answer, wondering if she expected him to say something biting. She’d almost been kidnapped tonight and while she probably wouldn’t admit it, she had been badly frightened by that.

    “I didn’t want to dance with that guy,” she went on. “I was just dancing by myself and he came up to me. I didn’t ask him.”

    “You don’t have to explain,” he said.

  5. #5
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    Chapter Five

    Lois couldn’t help sneaking glances at the tall man beside her. He was so gentle, which seemed odd for such a big guy. It was late and he probably wanted to get to bed, but he chose to help her.

    She should have known that other guy would have been trouble the moment he stepped into view, but she’d been so distracted, thinking about that kiss. She had been kissed by a lot of men, but nothing like that. Nothing so … demanding. Even as aggressive as it was, she had sort of liked it.

    She wished she hadn’t slapped him, but she’d been so startled by her own response to him that it had shaken her to her core. The last thing she would have wanted him to find out was that she would have given him anything he wanted in that moment. The trouble was, she had no idea if he had kissed her because he wanted to or because he was angry with her. Probably the latter, she thought.

    Needing to regain some sense of equilibrium, Lois had slipped out to the bathroom, locking herself in a cubicle. She’d felt dizzy after that kiss, but more than that, she had felt something she had never felt before, with any other man. It wasn’t the first time she had experienced lust but this had felt more than that. Like the entire room had disappeared and it was just the two of them, alone. She had forgotten herself for a moment. It was only when she pulled away and looked up at him that she remembered she was supposed to hate him.

    She’d gone back out onto the dance floor, trying to lose herself in the music and forget Kal. So, when the other guy had come up and started dancing with her, she hadn’t said ‘no’. When he’d grabbed her and started pulling her, his grip so tight on her wrist, she’d panicked. She supposed she’d been spoiled because she had never had any issues with anyone before.

    When Kal and his friends had showed up, she had been so relieved she’d nearly thrown her arms around him. They hadn’t even had to do anything but just stand there. Even Kal would have been more than a match for the man – the three of them combined would have scared anyone.

    She shuddered, thinking about what could have happened. Kal looked up from bandaging her wrist.

    “Hey,” he said softly. “It’s okay. Nothing happened.”

    “But it could have,” she said. She sighed. “I can’t believe I was so stupid. I know better than that.”

    “Lois, don’t beat yourself up. You couldn’t have known he was going to do that.” Kal applied some tape to the bandage to fasten it. “You should get some sleep,” he said.

    He picked up the ice bag and went to the door.

    “Thank you,” she said.

    He offered a small smile. “Goodnight.”

    She waited until he was gone before pulling her pyjamas from the dresser and putting them on, careful not to hurt her wrist. It was throbbing, but not as painfully as before. The ice had definitely helped.

    She went to bed and lay on her back, thinking about Kal. He’d been so kind when she’d been so rude. She would have to find a way to make it up to him, she thought as she fell asleep.

    Next morning, she chose to have one of the maids bring up a breakfast tray, wanting to avoid questions from the rest of the family. She had hoped to be able to avoid them all for the whole day but it wasn’t to be. Her father sent orders up for her to come down to his office for more of his lessons.

    She dressed in linen trousers and a light blouse, knowing he preferred her to wear something less casual in case they had to meet with someone from the Prime Minister’s office.

    Jonathan was waiting outside for her. She saw him look down at the bandage on her wrist, but he didn’t comment. He led her downstairs to her father’s office and let her in.

    “Your daughter, sir,” he said.

    “Thank you, Jonathan. Come and sit down Lois,” the king instructed.

    She sat down in front of the long oak desk. Her father looked at her over the tops of his glasses.

    “Do you have something to tell me?” he asked.

    “Uh …” She looked down at her lap. “Papa …” It all came out in a rush. How she had sulked most of the evening and decided to go out. How the man had attacked her in the club and Kal defending her, taking care of her. Of course, she omitted the kiss.

    “I see,” he said quietly when she finished.

    “I didn’t mean for it to happen.”

    “But the fact is, it did happen, Lois. Sweetheart, I’m not angry, but I do need to remind you that this behaviour is not fitting an heir to the throne. When you become queen you will need to curb these rebellious tendencies of yours.”

    “If,” she said quietly.

    “When,” he responded. “This is a serious matter, Lois. You could have been hurt. Or worse. Actually, I see from the bandage on your wrist that you were hurt. What do you think it would have done to me, or your mother if you’d been kidnapped or killed?”

    Lois wasn’t normally the type to cry at the drop of a hat but the events of the night before and her father’s disappointed tone had her bursting into tears.

    “I’m so sorry, Daddy. I know it was stupid and I feel really awful. If it wasn’t for Kal, I don’t know what would have happened!”

    He came around the desk and hugged her. She could smell the faint aroma of cigars and the cologne he wore. Some kind of men’s scent that was popular with men in the military. He’d served for a few years before his father had died, leaving him to take over the throne.

    It was a while before she calmed. Her father offered her a tissue and she wiped her eyes. She was finally able to look up at him and could see he was smiling.

    “Feel better?” he said kindly.

    “Yes, Daddy. Thank you.”

    He sat down on his side of the desk. “I have to say, I’m even more assured that I have made the right choice in a husband for you. Kal seems to be a very bright, very kind young man.”

    She nodded. “He could have chosen to do nothing, but he helped me. Took care of me.”

    “Lois, I know this is not what you wanted, but this marriage is important to both of us.”

    “I know, Daddy. I mean, I’m still not totally thrilled at having to marry someone you chose for me, but I think I can work with Kal.”

    “Good. I’m glad.” He opened a large volume. “Now, let’s get to those lessons, hmm?”

    Late that afternoon, her father had a meeting and Lois left the office. She found Kal in the solarium, surprised to also see her cousin there, talking with Oliver.

    “Chloe?”

    The blonde smiled. “Hi, Lois. I hope you didn’t mind my dropping in.”

    People normally didn’t just ‘drop-in’. Not with the strict rules about guests in the palace. Chloe would have been told she was busy with her father, and it was not hard to guess that the shorter girl hadn’t come just to see her. As distracted as she’d been the night before, she’d quickly realised her cousin and Kal’s friend appeared to like each other.

    “No,” she replied. She looked at Kal. “Um, can I talk to you for a second?”

    He smiled at her. “Of course.”

    She gestured toward a small corner on the far side of the solarium. It overlooked the vast gardens behind the palace and she often sat there reading when she wanted peace and quiet.

    “How’s the bruise?” Kal asked as they sat down.

    “It’s better,” she said. “Thank you, again, for last night.”

    He nodded, then frowned slightly. “May I ask you a question?”

    “Of course,” she said.

    “Why? I mean, why did you take off the way you did?”

    “Honestly? I didn’t want to be here. Around you and your friends.” When he looked as if he wanted to say something in reply, she raised her hand. “Don’t get me wrong. I mean, first impressions and all that, you seemed like a nice guy, but I didn’t want to get married. This whole thing just feels …”

    “Wrong,” he said. “I know I can never understand what it feels like to be in your shoes. To be told that it’s your duty to take over for your father one day. Or to obey the church. Frankly, I think the practice of a future queen being forced into an arranged marriage is outdated and rather chauvinistic. But that’s just my opinion.”

    “So, why did you agree to it if you feel that way?” she asked.

    “I have to admit, when my parents told me, I didn’t fight it. It’s always been the practice in Krypton when you’re part of the aristocracy. I never really thought any differently.”

    “So, what changed?”

    “I did a lot of thinking last night. After I left you, I mean. I knew you were unhappy but I just didn’t know the extent of it.”

    She bit her lip. “The thing is, we can’t really fight it. I mean, my father’s the king and what he says goes.”

    “So, you want to go through with it?”

    “I don’t want to disappoint my father,” she replied. Even though he’d been disappointed with her behaviour the night before, she knew he was only trying to do what was best for all of them. At least he hadn’t chosen someone who might try to overrule her or control her. She had the feeling Kal was not like that at all, in spite of the way he’d kissed her last night.

    She thought again about that kiss, her lips tingling a little at the memory. He’d definitely been kissing her out of anger, but she wondered if he’d been just as affected as she was. Not that he’d said anything to her.

    They quietly decided they would talk to her father that night just before they sat down to dinner and reassure him that all was well.

    Just before the main course was served, Sam stood up, tapping his glass with his spoon.

    “I would like to make an announcement,” he said. Those gathered around the table stopped chattering and turned to look at him. “I am proud to announce that my beautiful daughter, Lois, has agreed to marry Kal-El of Krypton.”

    Of course, most of them knew about the engagement but this made it official. Lois saw her sister looked surprised at the announcement and guessed she hadn’t been told.

    “I would like to propose a toast to the happy couple and wish them many wonderful years of marriage.” He raised his glass. “To Lois and Kal-El.”

    The others echoed the toast, while the king beamed happily. Lois smiled and sent her father a loving look. She couldn’t help but notice he was perspiring a little. While it was the height of summer, the palace was well air-conditioned. She glanced at her mother, but Ella didn’t seem to notice.

    Early the next morning, Lois was called to her father’s office. Kal was also there, looking smart in a grey suit and red tie. Her mother came in.

    “Darling, didn’t you get the message I left on your dresser? You need to wear something appropriate. The press photographer will be here soon.”

    Lois looked at her mother. “No, I didn’t, Mother. What press photographer?”

    Her father interjected. “Jonathan sent a press release late last night announcing your engagement. The Daily Planet is sending a reporter and a photographer.”

    Kal sent a sympathetic smile her way as she grimaced. She sighed.

    “Oh well, the sooner we get this over with, the better.”

    Her mother held out a hand. “Come, darling, we’ll find something appropriate for you to wear.”

    Ella chattered enthusiastically as she went through Lois’ closet.

    “I think you should wear something blue, or perhaps cream. You always look lovely in cream. Hmm, should you have your hair down?”

    She emerged from the closet with a cream dress which had been designed especially for her birthday. The older woman held it up against her.

    “Yes, I think this will do. Go change, sweetheart.”

    Lois obeyed her mother and quickly changed, putting on some make-up. She brushed her hair, deciding to leave it loose and flowing down her back. She presented herself to her mother.

    “Lovely, darling,” her mother said, ushering her out of the door of her room and down the stairs.

    Kal gazed at her admiringly. “You look beautiful,” he said. He took something from his pocket and held it out. “Uh, this was my grandmother’s. I thought you should have it.”

    She took the velvet box and opened it, looking down at the diamond and sapphire ring nestled there. It was modest but lovely. The sapphire was shaped like a teardrop and surrounded by small diamonds.

    “It’s beautiful,” she said.

    Kal took it from the box and slid it on her finger. She was surprised to discover it was a perfect fit.

    Jonathan entered and informed them the reporter and photographer had arrived and wanted to set up but was waiting for their call on where to conduct the interviews. Lois looked at her father.

    “What about the solarium?” she suggested. “There’s great natural light there.”

    “You’re right, darling,” her mother replied. “The gardens are looking lovely at the moment.”

    A few minutes later, they met the reporter and photographer in the solarium where the man set up a tripod to take various shots. They sat down together on the loveseat, facing the reporter.

    “So, how did you two meet?” she asked.

    Lois hesitated. Her father had told her to be as honest as possible but not to let the press know it had been arranged. Kal spoke up.

    “Our families have actually known each other for years.” It was at least partly the truth. Jor-El and Sam had been involved in mutual business interests for more than ten years, despite being from two different countries.

    “So, how does it feel, knowing you’re going to be marrying the future queen of Metropolis?” Kal was asked.

    He grinned and looked at her. “Well, she’s bossy. I guess she’ll be even more bossy.”

    “Kal!” Lois said, trying to sound outraged but couldn’t help laughing at the way he’d said it. “I am not that bossy!”

    He looked at her meaningfully. “I didn’t say I didn’t like it,” he replied.

    It was almost as if her heart had stopped beating for a moment. She looked deep into his gorgeous green eyes and wondered if he was going to kiss her. She’d been gently warned by her father that public displays of affection were usually frowned upon. Stiff upper lip at all times when out in public, he’d told her.

    The interview went on and they managed to get through it without revealing that it had been arranged. The reporter assured them the article wouldn’t go live until the next day since the ball was being held that evening and the announcement would be made to the King’s Court.

  6. #6
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    Chapter Six

    Kal wanted to spend time getting to know Lois but it appeared she was kept busy with her lessons on how to do her father’s job. He had realised after the other night that he had misjudged her. He had thought her spoilt and stuck-up but after what had happened, he knew now she was struggling with the thought of getting married to someone she barely knew.

    He had been a little surprised when she’d come to him and told him she was going to go through with it. He guessed she would do anything to please her father. It was clear she loved and respected him.

    Bruce was in a room that Pete had told him was set up for exercise. Given that the family were very well-known and had to be guarded wherever they went, they couldn’t exactly go out jogging. Kal watched his friend running on the treadmill for a few moments.

    Bruce punched a button on the machine and it slowly came to a stop. He grabbed a towel and wiped the sweat off his forehead.

    “What’s up?” he asked, picking up a bottle of water and opening it to take a few gulps. “Thought you’d be spending time with your fiancée.” He grimaced as if he was struggling with the word. He’d once told Kal that he was never getting married.

    “She’s in with her father,” Kal told him. He began working on one of the weight machines.

    His friend frowned. “Don’t you think this whole thing’s kind of weird? I mean, you didn’t even know the girl before you agreed to this.”

    “Okay, I admit, it probably looks a little strange to someone who didn’t grow up with those expectations but it’ll help strengthen ties between Krypton and Metropolis and it’ll allow Lois to become queen. If her father were to die before she got married, the church would choose a new ruler.”

    “Sort of a scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours, kind of deal?” Bruce sipped the water. “But here’s the thing. What’s the rush? I mean, you’re both twenty years old. That’s a little young to enter into a lifetime commitment. Don’t get me wrong. I like the old man. I do. But why is he pushing her into something she clearly doesn’t want?”

    That was a good question, Kal thought. Why was Sam so adamant that Lois get engaged now? Was there something he was missing?

    He pondered the question the rest of the day until it was time to get ready for the ball. As he was changing, Oliver came in, flopping on the sofa beside the bed.

    “Where have you been?” Kal asked.

    “Chloe took me out to show me the sights. She’s pretty cool. Smart, funny, cute as hell.”

    Kal smiled at his friend. “Sounds like she made quite an impression on you.”

    Oliver was quiet for a moment, watching as Kal struggled to knot his bowtie. He got up and approached Kal.

    “Let me do that. I’ve had a little more practice at this.”

    “So?” Kal asked as his friend tied the knot.

    “So, what?”

    “Chloe!”

    “I like her,” the blond man said. “I mean, I really like her. Like, not in a platonic way.”

    Kal frowned. “You’ve known her two days!”

    His friend shrugged. “Well, sometimes you just know. What about you and Lois? You like her, right?”

    “I don’t know her well enough to like her,” he said, despite his thoughts from the other night. “We’ve barely spent any time together.”

    “Still, you think she’s cute.”

    “She’s very attractive, yes.”

    “Way to avoid the question, Kal.”

    He shrugged. He really had no idea what to say. He was engaged to the woman and he was attracted to her but loving her was a completely different thing.

    There was a knock on the door and Pete entered.

    “They’re ready for you downstairs,” he said.

    Kal was supposed to meet Lois in the family sitting room before they headed to the ballroom together.

    “Thanks, Pete,” he said.

    He followed the shorter man down the stairs to the sitting room. Oliver made his way to the ballroom instead of following them.

    Lois’ mother and father were already there, waiting. As was the custom, Ella was wearing a small tiara denoting her status as Queen Consort. Her husband had dispensed with his own crown. As he’d remarked earlier when asked if he was going to wear it at the ball, it was such a heavy thing and rather uncomfortable on his bald head.

    Kal’s parents also stood waiting. Lara smiled as she approached him.

    “Kal, darling, you look very handsome. Doesn’t he, Ella?” The other woman smiled, clearly pleased.

    “Oh, yes. That tuxedo suits you very well. Doesn’t it, dear?”

    The king nodded, fidgeting slightly. He was wearing a military uniform. As king, he was considered the head of all military forces in the country. The uniform looked as if it was a little too big for him.

    Ella smiled and went over to him, brushing his lapel.

    “Now, don’t fidget, dear.”

    He grumbled, saying something about having lost a little weight since he’d last worn the uniform. Ella kissed his cheek and whispered something in his ear and he stopped grumbling.

    The double doors opened to reveal Lois, wearing a long shimmering gown coloured grey. It was sleeveless, the neckline dipping a little to show a tiny bit of cleavage. The skirt was silk and covered in chiffon in a slightly lighter shade of grey. She’d chosen to have her hair up in a French knot which framed her graceful neck. Pearl drop earrings completed the look. It was modest but beautiful.

    Kal was utterly bewitched by this vision of loveliness. He started forward to greet her only to catch his foot on the rug. He was able to right himself in time but felt embarrassed by the little trip. Lois just smiled at him as he took her hand.

    “Don’t worry,” she whispered. “I trip over that damn thing all the time.”

    She looked him over, her gaze assessing. She smiled again, clearly appreciating what she saw.

    “You look good in that tux,” she said. “At least I won’t have to worry about you embarrassing me.”

    He cocked an eyebrow at her, bristling a little until he realised she was teasing. He narrowed his eyes.

    “You better behave, Princess.”

    “Or what?” she challenged, grinning.

    Grinning wickedly, he wrapped his arms around her waist and pulled her to him, dipping her body and planting a deep kiss on her lips. She was dazed when he finally let her up. He kept an arm around her waist to steady her.

    She seemed surprised to hear laughter from all four parents.

    “Now that’s what I call showing her who’s boss,” Sam said with a laugh.

    Ella turned on her husband. “Is that so, Samuel?” she said with a growl. He had the grace to look shamefaced.

    “Uh, Ella, sweetheart …”

    She stalked him. “Don’t you dare!” She kept up a steady barrage of scolding but the grin on her face showed she was not being serious. The couple continued to tease each other, exchanging barbs back and forth.

    Lois punched his shoulder. “Now look what you started,” she accused, but she was laughing.

    They linked arms as they walked to the ballroom. It was a huge room in the centre of the palace. At least a century earlier, there had been a devastating fire that had gutted much of the building, but the ballroom had survived. While the palace had been rebuilt and modernised, this room had mostly been left alone.

    There were several sets of French doors which opened out onto a terrace overlooking the vast gardens and these had been opened to let in the summer breeze. However, no one was outside as they all waited to be presented to the royal family.

    Kal supposed he would have to get used to such presentations once Lois became queen. However long that would be. He felt a little awkward as he walked a few paces behind his fiancée, shaking hands with the guests. He exchanged a wry grin with his friends, noting Oliver standing next to Chloe. She was looking extremely pretty in a raspberry-coloured satin gown that went perfectly with her blonde hair and fair skin. She’d chosen to wear her shoulder-length hair pinned up in a loose knot with a jewelled comb.

    Once the meet and greet was over, music began to play and Sam led his wife onto the dance floor. Jor-El and Lara followed suit. Kal heard Lois give a soft sigh and he looked at her.

    “Everything okay?” he asked. She appeared to be watching her parents with a dreamy look on her face.

    “Yeah. I just love watching them dance,” she said.

    “Would you like to dance with me?” he said, offering his hand.

    She looked askance at him as if a trifle uneasy. “I don’t know. With those huge feet, I’d be wondering if I needed insurance.”

    “I can dance, thank you very much,” he said, sniffing, pretending to be insulted at her teasing. “It’s practically compulsory to learn to dance from the moment you can walk.”

    “I was just teasing, Kal-El,” she returned. “Don’t you know when I’m yanking your chain?”

    He had to laugh. Now that she’d warmed up to him, so to speak, she appeared to relish the idea of teasing him.

    “You seem to like busting my chops,” he replied. “Why?”

    “Because it’s fun,” she said with a mischievous grin. “So, come on, since you claim to be so good at it, how about you put your money where your mouth is.”

    Bruce had obviously heard that last remark as he passed by, his arm linked with Lucy’s.

    “Definitely a handful,” his friend commented. “Sure you can handle her?”

    Kal snorted and swept Lois onto the dance floor. He did his best to observe the custom, keeping the requisite distance between them but her nearness was doing odd things to him. She was wearing a light scent that was almost intoxicating.

    Their dancing caught the attention of both sets of parents, who smiled in approval. Kal was quick to notice, however, the glare from the far corner of the room. He realised it was his ex-girlfriend, Lana.

    A state dinner was to follow the initial dance. As Kal took Lois’ arm to lead her into the huge banquet hall set for such occasions, he overheard her father talking with a tall bearded man. Kal recognised him from his school days as Lex’s father, Lionel.

    “I must apologise for our tardiness, Your Majesty. We were unavoidably detained.”

    They were stopped on their way to the dining room by none other than the man’s son.

    “Well, fancy seeing you here, Kal.”

    “Lex,” he said coolly.

    Lana stood behind her husband. She was smiling but her eyes were like ice.

    “It’s good to see you, Kal,” she said. “But I must admit I’m a little confused at you being here.”

    “There’s no mystery,” Lois replied, interjecting before Kal could answer. “Kal and I are engaged.”

    “Engaged?” Lana laughed, but it was a high, false sort of chuckle. “Why?”

    “I don’t think that’s any of your business,” Lois returned.

    Kal kissed her cheek and squeezed her hand. Lana’s eyes flashed with annoyance.

    “I would have thought you would have chosen someone from your own country,” she scoffed. “Kal is a nobody.”

    “Careful, Lana,” her husband admonished. “You don’t speak to Her Highness that way.” Lex bowed and smiled. “Please allow me to apologise for my wife’s lack of decorum.” His manner was even colder than his wife’s, if that was even possible, Kal thought.

    “Excuse us,” he said. “I believe we’re being called into the dining room.”

    He guided Lois into a quiet corner. “That was …”

    “I know who she was,” Lois said quietly. “You dated her.”

    He sighed. “Yes. But now I think I may have had a lucky escape when she married Lex.”

    Lois frowned. “You went to school with that guy?”

    He blinked. “How did you know?” he asked.

    “Chloe. I asked her to do a little digging. I’m sorry. I know it was wrong of me to pry, but I just wanted to know a little bit about you.”

    Knowing Lois as he did, the admission was unsurprising.

    “It’s all right. It’s not like I have any secrets. Yes, I went to school with Lex and he bullied me. I was ten. That’s how I met Bruce and Oliver, incidentally. They defended me.”

    “Why was Lex sent to Krypton?”

    Kal shrugged. “I suppose because his parents thought our education system might make him sharpen up. Our schools tend to be a little stricter when it comes to discipline. Or so I’ve heard.”

    “So, he stole Lana from you. Is that why you hate him?”

    He shook his head. His hating Lex had nothing to do with Lana. His ex-girlfriend had been the one to seek Lex out. He had mentioned he’d gone to school with the man when he’d come to Krypton on business but hadn’t said anything about hating him. Whether she had known about their past enmity was unclear, but she had obviously thought marrying someone with high ambitions would give her what she needed.

    “He didn’t steal her from me. She walked away all on her own. I guess my family just wasn’t powerful enough for her.”

    Lois tossed her head. “Well, it’s her loss. If she can’t see what a great guy you are, she’s blind.”

    He smiled. “Thanks.”

    The announcement of the engagement was made at dinner. Lana continued to shoot killer glares at both Kal and Lois. She was clearly jealous. The remainder of the guests congratulated them heartily.

    “So, have you chosen a date yet?” the Prime Minister, Lionel Luthor asked.

    “Let’s hope it’s sooner, rather than later,” Lois’ father put in before either of them could reply. “Lord knows my daughter needs someone to rein her in.”

    “Papa, you make me sound like a horse,” Lois said, laughing. Kal caught a slight edge in her tone and her mother shot her a look but didn’t comment.

  7. #7
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    Chapter Seven

    Lois was glad when dinner was over. They always tended to be rather tedious, especially having to watch the likes of the Prime Minister kissing up to her father. Lionel Luthor was not a pleasant man to be around at the best of times. Lois wondered if he’d actually bought his way into the governing chair.

    She was happy when Kal suggested they go for a walk in the gardens. It was dark but there was plenty of light from the various lamps placed around the paths.

    Lois had no idea how big the palace gardens were but had heard her mother say they were at least five acres. The palace grounds themselves were around 40 and much of it was farmed.

    When she was little and her grandfather had been alive, she could remember being made to wear a white lacy dress with a pink ribbon sash and a little sunhat to attend one of her grandmother’s garden parties.

    “What are you thinking about?” Kal asked softly as they strolled along the path.

    She paused in her step and looked at him. “Do you really want to know?”

    He huffed a little. “Lois, we’re going to be married. It’s kind of a given that we should know everything about each other.”

    “I guess you’re right,” she said. “I was just thinking about the garden parties my grandmother used to hold. My mother made me wear this horrible dress which was covered in lace. It was scratchy and hot and I wanted nothing more than to run around on the lawn and play with my cousins. But I wasn’t allowed to.”

    “Let me guess. Your mother told you you had to act like a lady.”

    She nodded. “Yes. I hated dresses back then. Actually, I still do, kind of. I was always a rough-and-tumble kind of kid. Anyway, this one party, Jimmy and I were playing tag and this other kid wanted to play too. Then he and Jimmy got into some sort of fight and …” Kal had an odd look on his face. “What?”

    “Uh, I think that kid was me.”

    Lois stared at him. “What?”

    “I was about six. My parents brought me to Metropolis because my father had some kind of business to discuss with your father. I think he was still serving in the military then. It was back when relations between Krypton and Metropolis were closer than they are now. I remember watching you and Jimmy playing tag. You were wearing this pink dress and you kept pulling at it and making these weird faces like you hated the dress. Jimmy yelled at me because I tripped you up to tag you and we ended up pummelling each other until my father hauled me off.” He laughed. “Father was so mad.”

    Lois couldn’t help joining in the laughter, wondering how she had never realised they’d known each other before. Then again, maybe she had never actually known his name.

    They continued walking, bumping into Jonathan and his wife Martha. The redhead smiled at them. Lois was sure the older woman knew the truth of the engagement; she maintained the little deception nonetheless.

    “Don’t they make a lovely couple, Jonathan?” she said after she had congratulated them on their engagement.

    “Yes, they do, sweetheart.”

    The couple’s twelve-year-old son, Clark, dawdled behind them. Ella had once told her daughter that Martha had been told the chances of her conceiving naturally were extremely slim. Feeling sorry for the couple, Ella had helped them find a doctor who could try invitro-fertilisation. Little Clark had been born more than a month early but hadn’t let that hold him back. Jonathan often spoke proudly of his boy and how well he was doing in school, both in academics and in sports.

    They stopped beside the fountain where Clark stood. He turned to look at them.

    “Um, congratulations,” he said shyly.

    “Thank you, Clark,” Lois said graciously. His parents called out for him and she smiled. “Guess you better catch up to them,” she added.

    He nodded and ran to his parents.

    “He seems rather shy,” Kal said.

    “I think it might have something to do with him being an only child,” she replied.

    “That’s true,” he agreed. “I was kind of shy when I was that age.”

    “You?” she said, turning to him. “I can’t imagine you being shy.”

    “I can hold my own. Now, anyway. But yeah, when I was his age, I would barely talk to anyone.”

    “I was the opposite,” she said. “I would talk so much my father used to have to tell me to quiet down.”

    Kal grinned. “Now that I can believe.” They continued walking around the fountain. “You seem close with the staff.”

    She shrugged. “Well, I know you think I’m a spoiled brat and everything, but I grew up with a lot of the people who work here. It’s hard to order around someone who used to make mud pies with me when I was little.”

    “That’s true. My parents taught me that having money or being descended from royalty doesn’t make me any better than anyone else. I guess it’s kind of a reactionary response to what happened during the revolution. I mean, my ancestor wasn’t a horrible person by any means, but he still considered himself above everyone else.”

    She nodded. She had learned enough about her father’s position to realise that while he had certain rules of etiquette he had to follow, he didn’t consider himself superior.

    “My father sometimes hates the rules he has to follow. He tells me he’s a servant of the people and it’s his job to make sure people have what they need. I hope one day when I take over as queen that I’ll be at least half as good as he is.”

    Kal stopped walking and turned to look at her. “You really love your father, don’t you?”

    She looked up at him. “You sound surprised,” she said.

    “Not surprised, exactly. I can see he means a lot to you.”

    She nodded. She didn’t know what she would do without her father. He and her mother were her whole world. When she and Lucy had been little, even as busy as he was, her father had always set aside time to spend with her.

    “One of my earliest memories of my father was him taking me with him for a ride on his horse at the Smallville estate. I must have been about three. We were riding over the fields and he had his arms around me. I felt so … safe.”

    “That’s a great memory,” Kal said. “I hope one day I’ll be as good a father as yours is to you.”

    “You want kids?” she asked.

    “Yes,” he replied. “At least two or three. I mean, don’t get me wrong. I love my parents. But being an only child can be kind of lonely.”

    “Why did they stop with you?” she asked, then shook her head. “I’m sorry. That was a stupid question.”

    “No. No, it wasn’t. See, I was their miracle child. They thought my mother wouldn’t be able to have children and it was a complete surprise when she got pregnant with me.” He went on to explain that his mother had had a difficult birth where she had almost died. The doctors had warned her that if she did conceive again, she would be unlikely to carry a baby to full-term. Even if she did, the pregnancy would be very dangerous for her.

    “I’m sorry,” she said again.

    “It’s all right. I would rather have my mother than lose her to have a sibling.”

    Lois agreed with his sentiment. She had spent an hour or so with Lara and found her to be a lovely woman. She could see where Kal had learned how to be kind.

    A cool breeze had her shivering slightly.

    “We should go back in,” she said, preparing to turn to go back up the path. Kal caught her hand.

    “Lois,” he said softly.

    She found herself gazing up at him. It had grown darker still in their short walk and she couldn’t see what he was thinking, but it didn’t matter. She took a tentative step toward him, her hand lightly grasping his bicep. She tilted her head toward him, feeling his cool lips touch hers.

    His kiss was soft at first, but she found herself responding to him, allowing him to pull her closer as the passion flared between them. She lost all sense of time as the kiss grew deeper. She felt lightheaded yet her body seemed to be buzzing with some kind of electricity. Every part of her wanted whatever he was prepared to give.

    Suddenly, there was a flash of light. They broke apart and Lois stared in the direction of the flash. Kal growled softly.

    “What the hell are you doing?” he asked, his deep voice almost a menacing growl.

    Lois didn’t hear what the other person said in reply but felt Kal pull away.

    “Kal, don’t!” she called out, but he had already left her side, pursuing what she now realised was a press photographer. The article hadn’t even been published yet, but somehow word had got out.

    She heard voices and Jonathan was suddenly there by her side.

    “Are you all right, sweetie?” he said.

    Lois nodded. “I’m fine. There was a photographer. Kal … Kal …”

    “I saw. We’ve already alerted security. Don’t worry.”

    She found herself led back inside. Her parents and Kal’s parents began asking what had happened and she told them, leaving out a few details. What had happened between her and Kal was private as far as she was concerned.

    Lucy, however, decided to speak up.

    “She and Kal were making out. In the garden. Where anyone could see.”

    “Lucy!” Lois admonished her sister.

    “Now, Lucy, your sister is an engaged woman,” her mother told her, continuing to lightly scold the younger girl, implying that it was perfectly acceptable for Lois to kiss the man she was engaged to. It wasn’t like they were breaking any rules by doing so.

    Kal returned a few minutes later saying he had lost the photographer when the man had climbed over the wall. He had no idea what newspaper if any, the man was from. The paparazzi were known to break a few ethical boundaries to get pictures and sell them to the highest bidder.

    They didn’t find out exactly who the photographer was until a couple of days after the interview about the engagement had come out in the daily newspaper. The local tabloid rag had come out and on the front page was the photo of them kissing.

    “Ewww,” Lucy exclaimed as she looked over the page. Jonathan had brought in the newspaper while they were eating breakfast.

    “Actually, it’s not a bad photo,” her father responded.

    “Daddy!” Lois exclaimed, glancing at Kal, who just shrugged in reply.

    “Lois, you were photographed in a private moment with your fiancé. Emphasis on ‘private’. Am I happy that the photographer breached security to capture the moment and blew it up on the front page of the paper? No. But I am happy that the two of you seem to be very happy in that moment. That is what I choose to take from this incident.”

    Jonathan entered the room holding a tablet. “Emails, sir,” he said. “All congratulating Lois and Kal on their engagement.”

    Lois saw her father reading over the emails. He looked up, beaming, telling the family there were thousands of messages saying how happy people were for Lois and Kal. It seemed the buzz had already begun for a royal wedding.

    Her father left shortly after breakfast to attend a meeting with the Prime Minister, telling her that they would resume her lessons following his return. Meanwhile, her mother wanted to go over plans for the wedding.

    Kal decided that was his cue to leave, taking his friends with him. Chloe had promised her new beau that she would take them all out on a tour of the city. She’d already shown Oliver around but this time all three of the men were going.

    Lois sat in her mother’s rooms with her mother and future mother-in-law, pretending to be interested in poring over bridal magazines with the two older women.

    “Mother, we haven’t even chosen a date yet,” she said in exasperation after Ella showed her yet another selection of photographs of bridal gowns.

    “Oh, but it’s never too early to start thinking about designs, darling,” her mother replied. “We need to book a designer. Some of them can take over a year to complete a gown.”

    Lois sighed. “Why can’t we just elope and tell them afterward?” she said.

    “Now, you know that isn’t possible,” Ella scolded lightly.

    She rested her chin on her hand, wishing she could have just gone with Kal and his friends. Lucky SOB, she thought.

    By the time her father returned, she was glad of the break. She left her mother’s rooms to sit in her father’s office. He smiled at her.

    “What have you been doing this morning?”

    “Mom wanted to look over bridal gowns,” she said.

    He snickered. “Oh, I remember what it was like before your mother and I got married. Her and her mother would be locked in their rooms for weeks. I barely got to spend any time with her.”

    “She sure takes this seriously,” Lois observed.

    “Well, there hasn’t been a royal wedding since your aunt, sweetheart. The people do seem to enjoy the spectacle of it all.”

    “In other words, there’s no hope of just a quiet ceremony.”

    “I’m afraid not,” he said with a chuckle. “Now, I wanted to talk to you about something else. Firstly, I think it would be a good idea for you to stay at the Smallville estate for a few days. Just until the excitement of your engagement dies down a little. It will give you and Kal a chance to spend some time together without all the added pressure.”

    “How long?” she asked.

    “Perhaps a week.” He appeared thoughtful. “Yes, I think a week will be enough. Then I want you and Kal to take a short tour together.”

    She frowned. “Is that really necessary, Daddy?”

    “It’s just a few public engagements, sweetheart. You will have to get used to it once you become queen.”

    “But that’s a long way off,” she told him. An odd expression crossed his face, but he said nothing. She frowned but didn’t question him on it, agreeing to do the tour as he asked.

  8. #8
    Forum Regular Sykobee's Avatar
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    I have no idea how you manage to juggle the various stories and assorted plot bunnies. I'm in awe, with a dash of envy and a sprinkle of fear. Regardless I'm happy to enjoy the fruits of your. . . labor, love or obsession? 😉 Glad I found this one and am lock on for the ride. Thanks🤗

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sykobee View Post
    I have no idea how you manage to juggle the various stories and assorted plot bunnies.
    Years of training Seriously, it's my passion and even I'm amazed at how I manage to keep track, but I do.
    I'm in awe, with a dash of envy and a sprinkle of fear. Regardless I'm happy to enjoy the fruits of your. . . labor, love or obsession?  Glad I found this one and am lock on for the ride. Thanks珞
    Aww, thank you. At least with this one there won't be too many delays in updating as it's complete. Next chapter coming right up.

  10. #10
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    Chapter Eight

    Kal was enjoying the afternoon, even if he felt like a third wheel, or a fifth wheel – whatever the expression was. Lucy had apparently decided to tag along on the sightseeing, clearly taken with Bruce, while Oliver was occupied with Chloe. More than once, he’d watched his friend whispering and laughing with Lois’ cousin.

    He was happy his friend had found someone. Oliver had dated a girl all through school and they had planned to get married, but Laurel had died in a car accident shortly before Oliver’s twenty-first birthday. His friend had been completely heartbroken.

    He’d tried dating other girls but they had just never measured up. Chloe was the first woman Oliver had shown any interest in beyond a single date. He looked happy, Kal thought.

    His own thoughts turned to the woman he was about to marry. Well, not about to, he thought, since they hadn’t decided on a date as yet. He’d already heard enough from his future mother-in-law to realise that a royal wedding was going to be a huge affair and planning was going to take time. Yet he couldn’t shake off the feeling that there was some urgency to this wedding. As if the king was wanting to see his daughter married for some as yet unknown motivation of his own.

    He didn’t want to voice his concerns. Certainly not with Lois. Knowing how close she was to her father, he didn’t want to say anything that might upset her. For all her pretence at toughness, she had a good heart.

    “Penny for your thoughts?” Chloe asked.

    He frowned and looked at the blonde. “Excuse me?”

    “You looked miles away, Kal,” Oliver said. Bruce nodded his agreement.

    “What’s up?”

    “Nothing.”

    “If it’s about that photo in the local rag,” Chloe began, “don’t worry about it. Uncle Sam isn’t worried.”

    Glad for an excuse to talk about something other than what was really on his mind, he shrugged.

    “I just wonder how that photographer even knew about it. I mean, the interview didn’t come out until the next morning.”

    Chloe chewed on her lower lip. “Well, not that I’m one to tell tales, but I wouldn’t look any further than a little bird with the initials L.L.”

    He stared at her. “You mean, Lana?”

    “Word is, she’s jealous as all hell. I don’t know if there’s any truth to it, but if the heir to the throne is a woman, and she’s not married before the king, well, passes away, the church can basically force Lois to step down and the throne goes to the next eligible male.”

    Bruce stared. “What? They can’t do that. Can they?” he asked, looking at Lucy, who shrugged. Kal had already told his friend that might happen, but Bruce had either forgotten or was still questioning it.

    “I don’t know. I’m just a kid,” she replied. “Lois is probably the best person to ask. I mean, she had to study the constitution and all that.”

    While his friends thought it was outrageous, Kal knew it was just the law and Lois’ father wasn’t about to demand it be changed. Still, he wondered if there was another, deeper reason for Lois to be pressured into getting married at only twenty.

    “And you know, Lionel isn’t going to overrule the law of the church, is he?” Chloe said. “I mean, since Lex is the next eligible male.”

    “How does that work, exactly?” Oliver asked. “I mean, it’s not like Lionel inherited his title.”


    Kal sighed. He knew why. “Lex’s mother,” he said.

    “What about her?” Bruce asked, looking at him.

    “Lillian’s grandmother was Lois’ great-grandmother. Which makes her and Lex cousins. Fourth, or fifth. I’m not really sure on that.”

    Lucy made a face. “Ugh. I’m related to that guy? Barf!”

    “How do you know about all this?” Chloe asked.

    “Because I went to school with Lex. Remember? He told me when I was ten that he stood to inherit the Metropolis throne.” Lex had taunted him with his family’s history, telling him his ancestor had betrayed his family and the bloodline by giving up the throne in the revolution. Even if it had been to prevent bloodshed.

    Until Lex had graduated, he had continued to remind Kal of his family’s so-called fall from grace, while Kal had considered his ancestor’s decision to be a noble one.

    “That’s why you hate him so much?” Bruce asked.

    “No. I hate him because he is an arrogant, conceited son-of-a-*****,” Kal told his friend.

    “Do you think his wife knows?” Lucy asked.

    “Yeah, she knows. How could she not?” Chloe returned.

    They returned to the palace later that afternoon. Ella served them coffee in her private room and they chatted quietly with her and his mother for a while. She’d told them Lois was still with her father in his office.

    Lois entered the room a short time later, giving Kal a quick smile before sitting down with her mother. Kal had noticed a pile of magazines and realised Lois had been discussing wedding plans with her mother. His fiancée must have seen his glance at the pile as she rolled her eyes at him and snickered.

    He was about to move to sit with her when Pete came in, approaching his chair quietly.

    “Kal-El, the King wishes to speak with you in his office.”

    Kal nodded. “Of course.” He smiled at the women and excused himself as he rose from his chair, following Pete out of the room and down the corridor. A servant opened the door to the office so they could enter.

    The dark-skinned man stood just in the entry-way. “Lord Kal, Your Majesty.”

    “Thank you, Peter. Would you leave us please?”

    Instead of sitting at the desk, the older man stood by the fire. He turned and smiled at Kal.

    “Don’t worry, I don’t bite,” he said.

    Kal returned the grin. “I wasn’t worried about that, sir.”

    He studied the other man, careful to keep his gaze from being too probing. Lois’ father appeared pale, almost as if he was unwell.

    “Forgive me, sir, but you don’t look well.”

    Samuel nodded and gestured toward one of the armchairs. “Sit. Please. There is a grave matter I wish to discuss with you.”

    Kal hesitated, but sat on the sofa, while the man stepped across the room and sank into the armchair. His movements were purposeful but showed he was not a well man at all.

    “Sir, if this is about the other night, with Lois …” He trailed off.

    The King waved his hand dismissively. “No. It’s not about what happened the night of the ball, or at the club,” he added, giving Kal a sly look. “I know all about that. I’m glad you were there to keep an eye on her. Lois is, dare I say it, rather a wilful child when she wants to be.” He grimaced. “I shouldn’t say ‘child’ since she is, after all, a grown woman. About to be married.” He coughed and appeared to be in a little pain. “It is the subject of this marriage that I wished to address.”

    “Lois …”

    “My daughter can be rather stubborn. I have it on good authority that she gets that from me. At least, that is what my wife constantly tells me.” He smiled ruefully.

    Kal smiled back at the man, struck by the fondness in the older man’s expression. He clearly loved his daughter dearly but knew just how difficult Lois could be when she was determined.

    “I have no sons. Not that I don’t love my daughters. It would have been far easier, I think, if I’d had a son who could have inherited the title, instead of forcing my daughter into something she clearly doesn’t want. Didn’t want,” he added with a frown. “I’m guessing I have you to thank for that.”

    Kal shook his head. “I think it’s more that Lois loves and respects you too much to defy you. She knows sometimes there are things you have to do, even if you don’t always agree with it.”

    Sam smiled. “My daughter is very astute. You’re right, son. If there had been a way for her to still inherit the throne without the marriage, I would have agreed to it.”

    “If we’d had the time to get to know each other, I know she would have felt differently,” Kal said.

    “I’m afraid time is something of a luxury,” the King replied. “Even if it were not, I’m afraid it would still not convince her that I am trying to do the best thing for her. And this country.”

    “Yes, sir. I understand.” He didn’t bring up the subject of Lex perhaps inheriting the throne should Lois be forced to step down. Even marriage was no guarantee. If things should break down, she could still be forced to abdicate her position.

    Something the king had said worried him.


    “Sir, forgive me, what do you mean by time not being a luxury?”

    “A year ago, I went for my normal medical examination and was told there was a spot on my lungs. Further tests revealed it was cancer.”

    Kal gasped but didn’t comment further. The older man went on to explain that, on the pretext of taking a well-earned break on the Smallville estate, he had undergone radical treatment which the doctors had hoped would shrink the tumour. The treatment had succeeded, to a point, but the tumour had returned recently and was growing.

    He was having further treatment but the doctors weren’t making any promises.

    The King fell silent. Kal now understood why the urgency.

    “Lois doesn’t know, does she?” he said quietly. “Sir, I understand you want to protect her, but this would break her heart.”

    The older man nodded. “I am doing my best to prepare her with lessons on how to take my place.”

    “Sir, that is teaching her how to be Queen. That isn’t preparing her for this.”

    “Yes, of course, Kal. You’re right. Thank you.”

    “I promise, sir, I will do my utmost to support her through this difficult time. To be a friend to her, as well as a husband.”

    The older man smiled. “That is why I think this will be a good match. I know from your father that you are indeed a good, kind man. However, I must ask … will you be able to accept her as your Queen? Knowing that in all instances you must defer to her?”

    “I can’t pretend it will be easy, sir. My parents assure me I’m as stubborn as you say Lois is. But for your sake, and for hers, I will try my best.”

    “That is all any of us can hope for.”

    He appeared to relax for the first time since Kal had entered the room.

    “I’d like for you to spend a week on the Smallville estate. Your friends may wish to go with you. I understand from my niece that she and your friend Oliver have begun to develop a relationship of their own.”

    Kal wondered if the man approved of the budding romance.

    “Chloe and Lois are very much like. Both rather impulsive. I see your friend being, perhaps, the steadying influence she needs.”

    “Your Majesty …”

    “This will give you and Lois time to really get to know each other,” the king added. “Away from prying eyes. Do you ride, Kal?”

    “Yes, sir. I enjoy riding.”

    “Good. Lois is a very skilled horsewoman and we have a few horses on the estate.” He picked up a glass of what appeared to be water from the silver tray and drank almost half of it. “Now, when you return, there are a few small engagements I wish you and my daughter to attend. There will be a few rules you have to follow. I’m sure you understand.”

    He nodded. He had already been told of a few rules where he would have no authority over her and would have to walk a few paces behind her. It didn’t bother him.

    With that, the interview was over. Kal went up to his room to prepare for dinner and to decide what to take with him to the Smallville estate. Sam had told him they would be leaving in the morning.

    There was a light tap at the door and he walked over to answer it. Lois stood in the hallway.

    “Can I come in?” she asked quietly.

    He nodded and let her in, studying her for a few moments.

    “You look tired,” he said, watching as she sat down on the chaise longue.

    “I am,” she replied. “Mom and I have been looking over magazines.” She huffed. “It’s not a wedding. It’s a three-ring circus.”

    “I’m sure your parents just want the best for you,” he said.

    “I wish we could just, you know, run away and get married. Or something.”

    He chuckled. “Yeah, I don’t think your father would like that very much. Nor would mine.”

    “What’s it like for you in Krypton? I mean, are weddings so … involved … over there?”

    He sat next to her. “Sometimes. Yes. I guess it depends on how wealthy or connected your family is.”

    He’d once decided that when he got married, it was just going to be something simple. Of course, that wasn’t going to be possible marrying a princess.

    Her smaller hand traced circles on his larger one. She looked thoughtful.

    “Do you sometimes wish …”

    “What?”

    “That your life could be, I don’t know, ordinary?”

    Kal sensed that was something she had dreamed of. He twisted his body and looked deep into her lovely hazel eyes, brushing her hair back with his fingers and cupping her jaw.

    “Lois, your life could never be ordinary.” She sucked in a breath but didn’t speak. “Even if you weren’t a princess,” he went on. “Because you are extraordinary.”

    Her eyes were doing an odd little dance as she looked at him. For a moment, he thought she was going to cry. She leaned forward and tentatively captured his lips with hers. He reached out and pulled her closer so she was practically in his lap, deepening the kiss.

    He felt her wrap her arms around him, her tongue slipping in to explore his mouth. Her movements were still tentative, as if she wasn’t quite sure what she was doing, but none of it mattered. All he could feel, and taste, was her. The rest of the world just disappeared.

    He was sure that if Pete hadn’t chosen that moment to inform him that dinner was about to be served, he would have taken things a lot further. Lois was dazed as they broke apart, her eyes wide, her expression almost confused.

    “What is happening to me?” she asked softly.

    He had no idea how to answer that. He was just as confused by his feelings as she was by hers. He reached for her again, but she got up and ran from the room.

  11. #11
    Forum Regular Sykobee's Avatar
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    I'm liking this AU story. It's got enough of the familiar themes and faces even if they are in altered states and places. And King Lex?! Yikes! Big foreshadowing of potential doom. Nine more chapters. Can't wait for more. . . 😉 hint hint.

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    Great story!

    Loving this story so far. Thanks for another wonderfully creative read! Looking forward to seeing this AU relationship develop.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sykobee View Post
    I'm liking this AU story. It's got enough of the familiar themes and faces even if they are in altered states and places. And King Lex?! Yikes! Big foreshadowing of potential doom. Nine more chapters. Can't wait for more. . .  hint hint.
    Yep, that's what I love about doing these AUs. Taking familiar themes and changing things up. Lex is definitely the villain of the piece. More will be revealed about his plotting. New chapter coming right up.

    Quote Originally Posted by theo67 View Post
    Loving this story so far. Thanks for another wonderfully creative read! Looking forward to seeing this AU relationship develop.
    Thank you, I really do love creating these different worlds for our favourite couple.

  14. #14
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    Chapter Nine

    Lois leaned against the door, trembling. The kiss had been amazing. More than amazing. She had no idea why she had initiated things with him, but the way he’d looked at her, she had felt like he really saw her. She had never felt that with anyone else and she had dated a boy for about a year before her parents had told her she would not be allowed to continue seeing him. Not because he was unsuitable, but because they hadn’t liked the way he’d treated her.


    Wes’ parents weren’t commoners, so if her parents had approved of the match, she wondered if she would have ended up marrying him instead. Except for the fact that Wes would never have given her the deference her status dictated. He would never have been satisfied with staying in the background, quietly supporting her. No, he would have wanted her position.

    It had been patently obvious by the way he had chosen all their outings and given all the orders that he wasn’t going to observe the rules of etiquette that had been set down for centuries. Her father had noticed the way Wes had behaved and had shown him the door after one incident too many. Looking back, Lois realised she had been so infatuated with him that she had ignored all the red flags. Now that she was older, she knew if she’d stayed with him there would have been no way in hell he would have stood for her becoming queen. She knew she’d had a lucky escape.

    Kal was a complete contrast to Wes. He was sweet, kind, thoughtful and appeared to have no issues at all with her inheriting the throne. Maybe the first time he had kissed her, he had been a little aggressive but she realised she hadn’t helped the situation by being obnoxious. The fact was, he hadn’t been obligated to help her when she’d got into trouble but he’d done it anyway.

    She started at the knock on the door and turned to open it. Her mother stood with Lara.

    “Darling, are you all right? You haven’t even changed for dinner.” Ella frowned at her with concern. “Sweetheart, you’re trembling and you look very flushed. Are you ill?”

    “No, Mother. I’m fine. I’m sure it’s just the heat.” She offered her mother a smile trying to assure her she was fine, but Ella didn’t appear to be reassured. “I’ll be down in a minute.”

    “Very well, but don’t dawdle.” She turned and walked off with Lara, the two women chattering like old friends. Which she supposed they were considering what Kal had told her the other night.

    She changed clothes quickly, putting on a blouse and skirt and brushing her hair. She normally didn’t like to use make-up but as she examined her reflection in the mirror, she decided she did look a little flushed and applied some lipstick.

    She went downstairs to join the family in the dining room, conscious of her tardiness. Her father frowned at her but didn’t comment. Kal shot her a questioning look as she sat next to him.

    “Everything okay?” he asked softly.

    “Fine,” she replied back. “I’m fine.”

    Dinner was torture. She couldn’t help thinking about the way they’d kissed in his room and all the other times they’d done so. God, what was wrong with her, she thought. It was just a kiss!

    As she glanced at Kal, who seemed to be unperturbed, she knew it wasn’t just a kiss. She’d always found him attractive but realised it was far more than that. She’d felt his passion in his kisses and the power in his body. Lois wasn’t naïve, even though she had never actually slept with a man before. The thought of sleeping with this man, making love with the man next to her had her body tingling.

    Stop it, she told herself.

    “Lois, sweetheart, you’re not eating,” her father said, peering at her with concern. “Are you all right? You’re not sick, are you?”

    She shook her head. “No, Papa, I’m fine. It’s probably just the heat.”

    “It has been rather warm today,” Kal said in agreement. His hand squeezed her knee gently under the table in a gesture of comfort. “Chloe took us to a few spots around the city. I liked your museum. They have a very interesting exhibit on at the moment. All to do with space.”

    “Do you have an interest in astronomy, Kal?” Ella asked.

    “If I hadn’t wanted to be a writer, I think I would have liked to study it, sure,” he said.


    “Why can’t you do both?” Lois asked, glad of the distraction from her traitorous thoughts.

    He smiled at her. “You think I wouldn’t have enough to keep me busy, keeping you out of trouble?”

    She laughed softly. “Oh no, that would definitely be a full-time job,” she replied.

    “Don’t I know it,” he murmured, much to everyone else’s amusement.

    “Especially when you go sneaking off to nightclubs in the middle of the night,” her father put in.

    “And almost getting yourself kidnapped,” Bruce added.

    She rolled her eyes at him. “Am I ever going to live that down?” she asked.

    “Well, at least you had the handsome prince to rescue you,” Lucy said, causing more laughter to erupt around the table.

    “So, it’s pick on Lois tonight?” she protested, unable to resist joining in the laughter.

    “Well, there’s just so much to laugh at,” Kal replied with a cheesy grin.

    She dropped her knife and fork on her plate and reached over, punching his shoulder. His parents laughed as he adopted a mock hurt look. Lois giggled, loving the way her fiancé responded to her teasing. The chatter at the table became more relaxed and she was able to brush off those earlier unsettled feelings.

    She stole glances at the man beside her, wondering if he had felt the same thing she had. He’d catch her watching him and send her a questioning look.

    “Can you read my mind?” she asked silently, hoping he couldn’t. So many images flashed through her mind when she thought of kissing him, loving him.

    How had this happened? How had she fallen so hard for a man she’d known barely a week? A man her parents had decided she was going to be joined with in marriage.

    After dinner, Kal asked her to join him for a walk in the garden. As they were about to head for the terrace, her father called for her.

    “Lois, would you come in here for a few minutes?”

    She frowned. “I was just going out for a walk in the gardens with Kal,” she said.

    “It will only take a few minutes. I promise.”

    She glanced at her fiancé and he shrugged. “I’ll be here,” he said with that gentle smile she loved so much.

    She joined her father in the small sitting room her parents used when they wanted to spend some time together without any interruptions. Her mother was sitting on the comfortable settee. She patted the seat next to her and Lois sat down.

    Her father sat in the armchair opposite.

    “Lo, I want you to know how proud I am of you for going through with this marriage. It means a lot to me knowing that you will have someone to take care of you. And you like Kal. I can tell.”

    “I do,” she said, although she wasn’t going to admit just how much. “He’s so much more than I thought he was.” She remembered Chloe telling her a girl he’d gone out with had said he was boring, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. He was charming, articulate, intelligent and far more than his good looks. They’d managed to spend a few hours together here and there and had talked about everything from favourite books to movies.

    “I’m glad. I know this hasn’t been easy for you, and I know you think we are perhaps rushing you into marriage.”

    She had wondered about that. After all, she was only twenty. Of course, it wasn’t uncommon to marry so young, but it wasn’t the fashion these days.

    Her mother squeezed her hand. “Darling, there is something we have been putting off telling you, but you need to know.”

    She listened with a growing unease as her father slowly told her of his illness. While it was being treated, his doctor was not optimistic. She was alarmed to learn that he had known for a year but hadn’t told her.

    She stared at him, realising that all the things she’d noticed over the past few months – her father’s pallor, his constant exhaustion – they had all been signs of ill health that she had ignored.

    “Daddy?” she said, her eyes full of tears. “Are you … are you dying?”

    He sighed heavily.

    “Sweetheart, I don’t know. If these treatments fail … We don’t really know how long I have.”

    “But you’ve been sick for a year. Why didn’t you tell me?”

    Her mother squeezed her hand. “Your father thought it was best. He just wanted to protect you, sweetheart.”

    “But now that the tumour has come back and seems to be more aggressive this time, your mother and I agreed that you needed to know. We really don’t know if the treatment will succeed this time around. Which is why I think it is imperative we plan this wedding as quickly as possible.” He told her he wanted her to marry Kal in three months.

    “Three months?” she said. “Papa, I can’t …”

    “It can be arranged,” he replied. “Your mother has already spoken with the archbishop and the abbey will be available for the date we have chosen for you. I know this is sudden, Lois, but I really would rather not see the kingdom in the hands of the likes of Lex Luthor. Goodness knows what he will do with that kind of power.”

    Lois was crying in earnest now. She got up from the settee and went to her father and he wrapped his arms around her. She stayed in his embrace, reluctant to move. Her beloved father, the man who had held her on his knee when she was little, who had read her stories of great heroes, who had taught her to ride a horse. She couldn’t lose him.

    She left the room a few minutes later, having taken some time to compose herself. As soon as she saw Kal, however, she wanted to crumple again. She tried to shake off the feelings but knew he’d seen she was upset. He took her gently by the arm and led her out to the garden.

    They walked toward the fountain.

    “Is everything all right?” he asked.

    She shook her head. “I don’t want to talk right now.”

    It wasn’t that she didn’t want to tell him what was going on. After the incident with the photographer, she was worried another paparazzi might have jumped over the high wall and was waiting to get another shot. Her father had told her that nothing was going to be said to the press. Not, at least, until they had a definitive answer about his treatments.

    Kal had obviously done some exploring as he led her to a little pond near the edge of the garden. It was private but open enough that they would be able to see anyone approaching. When her mother held garden parties, some of the guests would play croquet on the lawn near the pond. Lois could remember quite a few mishaps with the wooden balls being hit a little too hard and ending up in the water. As a little girl, she had made a game of fetching the balls and refusing to hand them over until the player gave her candy.

    They sat on the lawn.

    “What happened?” he asked. “What did your father want to talk about?”

    She picked at a blade of grass. There hadn’t been any garden parties for a while and the lawn was looking a little dry.

    “He’s sick,” she said. “The doctors say it’s cancer.”

    “I’m sorry,” Kal said quietly.

    She told him everything her father had told her about the treatments.

    “The doctor … he doesn’t think the treatment’s going to work.” She felt the tears beginning again. “I don’t want my father to die,” she wailed.

    He said nothing, but wrapped his arms around her. He held her as she cried, patting her back gently. They sat that way for a long time.

  15. #15
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    Chapter Ten

    Kal urged his horse on, trying to overtake Lois as her horse galloped over the fields. She turned, her long hair flying and sent him a look he couldn’t decipher, then kicked her own mount. They sped off; the stallion she was riding sure-footed, obviously familiar with the path they were taking.

    They reached the lake and brought their horses to a halt. Pete had told him that the lake was man-made, rather than a natural feature of the landscape. His best guess was that about a century earlier, some rich landowner had decided they wanted to build the lake and had done it with little regard for the surrounding environment.

    Lois was laughing at him as he reined in his own mount.

    “I win,” she said. “I demand my prize.”

    “I wasn’t aware it was a competition,” he returned, following her lead as she got off her horse and left it to drink while she sat down on the grass. He sat next to her.

    “Liar,” she proclaimed. “You were trying to beat me.”

    He rolled his eyes. “Fine. I give. What do I have to forfeit?”

    She gazed at him with an unreadable expression. He wondered what she was thinking and was about to press her for more when she took in a deep breath.

    “A kiss,” she told him. “I demand a kiss.”

    It wasn’t quite what he’d been expecting. Then again, he never really knew what to expect with her. She was unpredictable, mercurial at times.

    They had been in Smallville four days. For the first two days, she had been quiet, obviously thinking about her father’s revelation. He knew she was hurting. She loved her father and was afraid of what might happen. Kal knew little about cancer. While it was a common enough disease, he had never known anyone who had gone through it. He knew enough to know that if a tumour returned in less than a year after treatment, it was not good.

    He’d done his best to keep up his fiancée’s spirits, letting her know that if she needed to talk, he would be there for her. She had taken up the offer of his company although hadn’t talked much at all. He didn’t mind. She needed comfort more than words, especially when he really didn’t know what to say.

    They hadn’t told his friends, but Oliver and Bruce had seemed to sense something was wrong. Thankfully, they were astute enough to not press for information and had left them alone. The two men were in town with Lucy and Chloe.

    Lois was looking at him expectantly and he turned, giving her a quick peck on the cheek, laughing as she punched him.

    “You call that a kiss, Kal-El?” she scolded. “I mean a proper one.”

    “Come and get it, then,” he teased.

    She practically leapt on him, pushing him onto his back. She grinned down at him. Kal pushed her long hair back from her face and pulled her down to kiss her thoroughly. She moaned softly.

    He rolled over so she was now the one on her back. Everything else seemed to disappear around them as he kissed her again.

    The one thing he could say about Lois compared to other girls he’d dated was that in spite of her uncertainty, she was far from passive. Most of the girls he’d been with were rather wooden in their response to him. Even Lana, the only girl he’d ever slept with, had barely responded.

    Lois was warm and passionate and gave as good as she got. He didn’t know if he loved her, but he imagined himself already halfway there. They still knew so little about each other and there were times when she had acted rather spoiled, but every now and then, she would show him glimpses of the true Lois. The woman who was kind and loving, sweet and loyal. He knew that this marriage would be it for her. Even if she wasn’t in love with him, she was clearly prepared to commit herself fully.

    “Wait,” she said breathlessly, beginning to pull herself out of his embrace.

    “What’s wrong?” he asked, a little confused. He sat up and watched as she also sat up, putting some distance between them. She was flushed, her lips swollen from his kisses.

    “I can’t,” she said, grimacing. The buttons on her blouse had come undone and she set to doing them back up again with trembling fingers. He moved to help her, but she pushed his hand away. “It’s not that I don’t want to,” she said. “I mean, I do. Did. I just …”

    “You want to wait?” he asked softly.

    “I … I don’t know.” She looked away for a moment. “I’m just not sure how Papa would feel if we …” She looked up at him with an earnest expression. “It’s three months,” she went on. “Would it be so bad?”

    He hesitated. He wanted her, but the last thing he wanted to do was upset her by trying to push her into something she wasn’t ready for. She must have taken his hesitation as a bad sign as she looked upset anyway.

    “Please tell me you’re not mad at me. I couldn’t bear it if you were angry at me.”

    He frowned. “Why would I be angry?” he asked gently.

    “I … There was this guy. Wes. At first, he seemed nice. He’d bring me flowers and take me out to restaurants. That kind of stuff.”

    “But?” he prompted.

    She chewed on her lip. Kal had noticed she often did that when she was nervous about something.

    “You know how sometimes you can tell how good a person is by the way he treats others? Even those who are supposedly below, um, beneath them? I’m not saying that right.”

    “You mean, like waiters in restaurants?” he asked, choosing not to correct her choice of words. He knew what she meant.

    She nodded. “Yes. There was this one night he took me out and the food wasn’t cooked to how he liked it. The thing is, he never actually told the waiter that was how he wanted it, so the poor guy hadn’t given instructions to the chef. Well, it was all his fault. Certainly not Wes’. The poor man couldn’t do anything right, even though he hadn’t done anything wrong. I just sat there. I didn’t know what to do. Daddy always taught me to be polite, even to the maids in the palace, but Wes … I guess he just didn’t get the memo. He was horrible to that man.”

    “I’m sorry you had to witness that,” Kal said. He’d been taught the same thing by his parents. To always be polite and treat people how he wished to be treated.

    “I’d been dating Wes for a few months by then and I already had some red flags, but I was so infatuated I thought I could just overlook his behaviour. Well, then we got into this argument about when I take over for my father and he told me that when we were married, that there was no way I was going to take over the throne. I was just a woman. What did I know about ruling a country? Even if it was something I’d been taught from the moment I could read.”

    “So, what happened?” he probed gently.

    “He hit me. I guess Pete or one of the servants saw it as Pete told my dad.”

    Kal was sure the older man would have been furious at Lois’ boyfriend.

    “I can imagine that wouldn’t have gone down so well with your father.”

    She smiled. “You know how over-protective he is. He pretty much kicked Wes to the kerb and told him never to darken our doorstep again.”

    He shuddered inwardly at the thought of her being married to someone like Wes, who had obviously never appreciated her position or treated her right. He reached over and gently took her hand.

    “Lois, I want you to know that I would never treat you the way Wes did. I meant what I said the other night. You’re extraordinary. And anyone who doesn’t see that is blind.”

    She sighed, moving over to sit with him. He wrapped his arms around her, letting her lay her head on his chest.

    “Why are you so good to me?” she said.

    “Because you’re special, Lois. I’ve always felt that. It’s not just because you will one day be queen.”

    There had always been something about her that had attracted him. He didn’t know what it was and doubted that he would ever know, but he’d felt it from the moment they’d met. Officially, anyway.

    They sat for a long time, not even talking, just enjoying the peaceful sound of the waves lapping on the shore. One of the horses came up and nipped his shoulder. Lois looked up and laughed.

    “Looks like Chesterfield is telling us it’s time to go back,” she said.

    He got up, brushing off his trousers, before reaching out a hand for her.

    “Race you back,” he said. She took his hand and he pulled her up, holding her for a moment.

    “I’ll still win,” she told him.

    “Is that a bet, Your Highness?”

    Her expression was mischievous. “What will you give me if I win?”

    “You haven’t won yet, Princess,” he replied.

    She cocked an eyebrow at him. “Gonna put your money where your mouth is, Kal-El?”

    He grinned cockily. “You know I just let you win before.”

    “Is that so? Well, game on, Krypton-boy.”

    They each mounted their horses. Lois looked at him.

    “On three,” she said. They had no sooner begun the count when she kicked her horse hard enough to make it almost bolt.

    With a growl, Kal kicked his own horse into moving and urged it forward. They raced over the fields, not slowing until they saw the gates of the estate. Kal managed to pull ahead of her as they rounded the turn and his horse galloped into the yard.

    Lois looked very put-out as she came to a halt behind him. He smirked at her.

    “Don’t look at me like that,” he said. “You’re the one who cheated.”

    She rolled her eyes, letting the stablehand take the reins of her horse and walk it into the stables for a brush down. She sidled up to Kal.

    “All right. What do you want?”

    Kal grinned at her and took her in his arms. “This,” he said before taking her lips with his in a deep, passionate kiss. She giggled softly as they broke apart.

    “Well, that wasn’t too torturous,” she said. “In fact, since, as you pointed out, I cheated, how about we double it?”

    He laughed and kissed her again, pulling her close. They were still deep into it when he heard a wolf-whistle.

    Kal turned and shot a glare at Bruce. Oliver and Chloe were also standing by the stables, along with Lucy, who was grinning at her sister. They’d clearly been watching for a little while.

    “Don’t stop on my account,” Bruce said.

    Lois blushed. “Um, I should go give Chesterfield an apple. Or something,” she said. She walked away, her cousin and sibling following.

    Oliver and Bruce turned to him.

    “Things seem to be going very well between you two,” Oliver observed.

    Kal shrugged. “What of it?”

    “Nothing. You just look … happy, is all. You wouldn’t be falling for the Princess of Metropolis, would you?”

    He frowned. “What if I am? I mean, what’s wrong with that? She’s cute, smart and we have a lot in common.”

    “Except the fact that she’s going to be queen someday,” Bruce pointed out.

    “I don’t care about that,” Kal told him. “I mean, underneath the royal protocol and the crown, she’ll still be the same Lois.”

    “Still, better you than me,” Bruce said, clapping him on the shoulder. “I wouldn’t want to live like that.”

    “What? Live like what?”

    “Having my every move dictated by some stupid rule.”

    His friend was exaggerating, Kal thought. So far, he hadn’t seen any evidence that every move he would make as Lois’ husband would be dictated. At least in private. Whatever happened in public was just a part of being royalty. Maybe his family hadn’t had the same experience, but he was sure two hundred years ago it would have been different.

    Of course, Lois had talked about the things her father had to do on a daily basis and even that could be wearying. Kal wasn’t about to discuss that with his friends. As far as he was concerned, it had little to do with them.

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