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Royal Crush

Meg Cabot

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  Monday, November 23

  10:30 A.M.

  Royal Genovian Academy World Languages

  So I’m going to be an aunt.

  A year ago I never would have thought I’d be writing those words.

  But there are lots of words I never thought I’d be writing—let alone saying—a year ago, such as:

  • “I’m a princess.”

  • “Please have the limo brought around, Monsieur Henri, as I’m expected in half an hour to cut the ribbon at the grand opening of Genovia’s first Starbucks.”

  • “No, thanks, Dad, I don’t care to go salmon fishing in Iceland again with you this weekend, but I appreciate your asking.”

  Out of all these, the fact that I’m going to be an aunt (especially at age thirteen, which I’ll be exactly five days from today) seems the weirdest.

  Even weirder is that I’m going to be an aunt to royal twins. That’s the part everyone in the whole world is talking about.

  Seriously. You can’t go online without seeing a post from some celebrity—from Kim Kardashian to the president—guessing what sex Princess Mia of Genovia’s babies are going to be, or what she and her husband, Michael, are going to call them.

  It’s so weird to me that total strangers care so much about something that has nothing to do with them. Most of them don’t even live in Genovia!

  And okay, I get that royal twins aren’t born every day. But professional bookies in Las Vegas have begun taking bets on the babies’ sexes, names, and birthday!

  They’re giving two-to-one odds that both babies will be girls, their names will be Clarisse and Mignonette, and they’ll be born on December 3.

  It’s not like Mia and Michael are doing anything to encourage this craziness. The opposite, in fact: They haven’t posted the twins’ sonograms on their Facebook pages (they don’t even have Facebook pages—though there’s a page for the Palace of Genovia, where you can find out what time it’s open to the public for tours).

  They haven’t even told anyone in the family what the babies’ sexes (or names) are! All they’ve told us is the due date (it’s in two weeks).

  Which made Grandmère huff, “What good does that do us? How can I tell Tiffany’s what initials to monogram on the miniature gold scepters I’ve ordered if I don’t even know the babies’ names? I understand why you wouldn’t want the rest of the world to know, Amelia, but I don’t see how telling me the babies’ names could hurt.”

  Except that telling Grandmère the babies’ names could hurt. Every time Mia has suggested a name in front of our grandmother, Grandmère has said, “Oh, no, you can’t possibly name either of the babies that. There was a girl in my class called that, and she used to:

  • chew with her mouth open.

  • show off her double-jointed legs at recess.

  • brag about how many Chanel handbags she owned.

  “You simply can’t burden a child with that name.”

  This happened so many times that Mia’s blood pressure began to rise … so much so that the royal obstetrician had to put her on bed rest out of fear for the babies’ health. The doctor wouldn’t allow her to do any of her royal duties or have any visitors who might cause her stress.…

  This turned out to include Grandmère.

  You can imagine how unhappy this made some people (mainly Grandmère).

  But it worked. Mia’s blood pressure is almost down to normal (although the doctor still won’t let her get out of bed).

  And, as an added bonus, I have now seen almost every teen movie ever made! Because I’m one of the people who was judged low-stress enough to visit Mia, and she decided my entertainment education has been sadly neglected, so we’ve been watching nonviolent movies together in her room almost every day.

  Anyway, I guess given all of the above, I shouldn’t have been too surprised just now when I was Skyping with my best friend, Nishi, and all she could talk about was my sister and the babies.

  What did surprise me was the incredibly rude way she brought it up:

  “I saw a photo of your sister last night on Rate the Royals,” Nishi said.

  “How?” I asked. “She’s on full bed rest. She hasn’t been anywhere.”

  “I think they got a picture of her through one of the palace windows with a telephoto lens. I was shocked she’s gotten so fat. One of those babies has to be a boy.”

  “Excuse me?”

  I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Nishi lives in America, so if we want to talk, we have to call each other, FaceTime, or Skype.

  I know I shouldn’t have been Skyping during World Languages, and that I should have been practicing my German instead.

  But in my defense, everyone had their headphones on, including Madame Chi, so it wasn’t like anyone was going to hear me, and I’d already finished all my German homework.

  “I’m just saying,” Nishi went on, oblivious to how mad I was at her for calling my sister fat. “Your sister is as big as a house! She’s too huge to be having two girls. My mom says when a pregnant woman is that big, it’s got to be boys. Or a boy and a girl, at least.”

  Obviously I had no choice but to do what I did next. It was a matter of family pride.

  “You’re wrong,” I said, feeling my cheeks heat up. “You are so wrong, I will bet you that you’re wrong.”

  “What?” Nishi sounded confused. “Bet me? You want to bet me that I’m wrong?”

  “Yes,” I said.

  I get why Nishi was surprised. It’s considered “poor form” for royals to gamble. The last time Nishi had been to Genovia to visit—over the summer—one of my cousins (I have so many cousins, even I can’t keep all of them straight) had been caught in a horse-race gambling scandal, and Grandmère had gone on and on about how he’d disgraced the family, and what were we going to do, but that it was only to be expected considering the fact that he came from the Italian side of the family, and that side of the family is known for acting without thinking first, et cetera.

  And now here I was not only gambling but gambling on the sexes of my sister’s unborn twins!

  But in my defense, everyone was doing it. I’d even overheard Lars, my sister’s bodyguard, make a bet with Serena, my bodyguard, that the babies would both be boys, and that my sister would name one of them Michael, after her husband, and the other Phillipe, after our dad, about which Serena had had a long laugh, accepted the bet, then told Lars that when he lost, she wanted his money in American dollars, not euros.

  “I will bet you anything you want that both babies are girls,” I said to Nishi.

  Nishi looked even more surprised. She was in her bedroom back in New Jersey. Because of the time difference between Genovia and America, she hadn’t yet left for school. The only reason she was up so early was to chat with me.

  “Anything I want?” she asked, raising her eyebrows.

  “Sure,” I said, not thinking of the consequences (which, I have to say, is very rare for me. Norm
ally, I am much more levelheaded, being a Sagittarius). “You name it.”

  “Great!” Nishi said. “Then if I’m right and at least one of the babies is a boy, I want four photos of my crush, Prince Khalil.”

  That’s when I realized I’d made a really big mistake. REALLY big. “Wait. What?”

  “You heard me,” Nishi said. “I want four photos, taken by you, of Prince Khalil. I want two of him smiling, one of him looking serious—because you know how cute he looks when he gets all serious about something and those eyebrows of his get all squinchy in the middle—and one of him smiling in front of a sunset, preferably without a shirt on.”

  “But … but…” I could not believe what I had just gotten myself into. “That’s—”

  “That’s what?” Nishi demanded. “You said anything I want, and that’s what I want.”

  “But why?” I burst out, then realized I’d spoken too loudly when several people sitting near me in the language lab—including another one of my cousins, Lady Luisa Ferrari—turned to stare at me, wondering what I was doing, since it definitely wasn’t speaking German. I hunched my shoulders to cover my computer screen, and also lowered my voice. “Why, Nishi?” I whispered. “Why do you want photos of Prince Khalil? I thought you liked some boy in your English class—Dylan or something?”

  “I do,” Nishi said. “But I can like more than one boy at a time, can’t I? We’re in the seventh grade, Olivia, not college. We’re supposed to like a lot of different boys at a time.”

  I sighed, realizing that Nishi had gotten even more boy crazy than I thought since the last time I’d seen her.

  Not that there’s anything wrong with being boy—or girl—crazy. This is something that happens to people. I mean, I get it: Everyone grows and changes as they get older—they can’t help it. Look at me: I’ve grown two whole inches since I last saw Nishi. My riding habit barely fits anymore.

  We’d planned to see each other again soon—at my sister’s coronation, as a matter of fact. Since Dad gave up ruling in order to spend more time with me (he missed out on most of my crucial formative years), Mia has to take over the throne.

  But then the coronation got postponed, because the royal physicians didn’t want Mia risking her or the babies’ health by having her stand for a huge long ceremony in the throne room, which doesn’t have air-conditioning. It’s too old.

  (This was not the official explanation from the palace. They decided to say that the coronation would be held next December 31, so that they could save expenses by combining the annual New Year’s fireworks with the fireworks for Mia’s coronation. But really they knew the babies would have been born by then, the weather would be cooler, and they could cram more people into the throne room without them dying of heat prostration.)

  So we postponed Nishi’s next visit until my birthday ball this weekend.

  But now Nishi’s parents won’t let her come because she’s getting a D in English—which I don’t understand, since English is our native language.

  Nishi says it’s because of Dylan, whose cute lips distract her, making it very difficult for her to pay attention.

  So you can see why I found it hard to believe she suddenly wanted photos of Prince Khalil—without a shirt on—if she won our bet.

  “How am I even supposed to do that, Nishi? How am I supposed to get a photo of Prince Khalil with no shirt on, smiling in front of a sunset?”

  “I don’t know,” Nishi said. “That’s not my problem. You’re the one who made the bet. Can’t you just ask him to stand in front of a sunset without a shirt on and smile? I thought you two were friends … unless—wait.” Nishi’s eyes widened. “Olivia, do you like him?”

  “What?” I cried. “No! Of course not. What are you even talking about?”

  “Well,” she said, “you two danced at your sister’s wedding—”

  “Yeah,” I said. “But it’s not like we were ever going out or anything. We were only ever friends.”

  “Were?” Nishi echoed. “You aren’t friends anymore?”

  “Yes,” I said. “I mean, no. I mean … I don’t know. It’s hard to tell sometimes with boys.”

  “Ha!” Nishi let out a sarcastic laugh. “You’re telling me. Boys are an enigma wrapped in a mystery.”

  She wasn’t kidding.

  And it was especially true in the case of Prince Khalil. He had come over to visit a couple of times during the summer, and we’d played floating table tennis in the pool and talked about autotomy (the ability of lizards to drop their tails when threatened by a predator) and movies and stuff.

  And then suddenly I didn’t see him at all. He’d texted that he had to “go home,” and that was it.

  It wasn’t until school started up again that I saw him in class, and then he was just like, “Hi,” but he didn’t smile or ask how Carlos, my pet iguana, was doing or anything.

  It wasn’t like he was mean, but something had changed. The connection I thought we’d felt when we’d talked about Carlos and danced together at Mia’s wedding or played floating table tennis over the summer was gone, and all that was left was just … nothing.

  So now I don’t know what’s going on.

  “Well, whatever,” I said to Nishi. “It isn’t going to matter, because I’m going to win this bet anyway. And when I win, you’re going to send me a big jar of peanut butter, because we can’t get that here in Genovia.”

  Nishi gasped. “What? Why not?”

  “I don’t know,” I said with a shrug. “We have Nutella instead.”

  “Nutella is better than peanut butter,” Nishi said. “But fine, it’s a bet.”

  I would have asked her to tell me what other stuff people were saying about my sister, but Madame Alain had just come on over the intercom with an important announcement, and I needed to log off and listen.

  It was probably just as well, since anything else Nishi told me would only have made me mad. People say the stupidest things, especially about royals.

  Monday, November 23

  11:15 A.M.

  Royal Genovian Academy Still in World Languages

  I should have known when Madame Alain said she had an important announcement that it wasn’t going to be good news.

  I don’t know why I thought it was going to be something nice, like that we were all going to get to go home early because the new baby princesses of Genovia had been born (except that I had already made my dad promise that if Mia went into labor while I was in school, I’d get pulled out of class immediately and brought to the hospital so that I could be one of the first people to meet the babies, and they would imprint upon me like baby ducks and then follow me everywhere).

  But no. The announcement was nothing like that.

  Instead it was:

  “Your Royal Majesties, Highnesses, Graces, lords, ladies, and gentlemen, I’m sorry to inform you that I have only received twenty-seven permission slips for this week’s trip to the Royal School Winter Games in Stockerdörfl,” Madame Alain said after some of the hissing, screeching, and feedback had died down over the intercom.

  The Royal Genovian Academy is a very fancy school, with extremely high tuition fees (except for the two hundred or so refugee children who had recently been admitted—they are allowed to attend tuition-free), but it’s also housed in a building that was constructed before sound systems (or electricity) were invented, so it has a lot of technical problems.

  “As you know, unless I receive at least another thirty permission slips from those of you who signed up for the trip last week, the Royal Genovian Academy’s participation in this year’s Royal School Winter Games will be canceled due to lack of interest.”

  Of course as soon as he heard the name of his hometown mentioned, Prince Gunther Lapsburg von Stuben of Stockerdörfl stood up and gave a fist pump, causing a few of the younger girls in the language lab to squeal. (Prince Gunther is considered extremely good-looking, for a seventh grader.)

  This annoyed my cousin Lady Luisa, who flashed the
girls a dirty look. She and Prince Gunther have been going out since June, even though all “going out” means in the seventh grade at the Royal Genovian Academy is holding hands. Anything more than that would be a violation of the school’s “honor code.” If they get caught, the head of the school, Madame Alain, will probably expel them, and they’ll have no choice but to attend The Royal Academy in Switzerland, or worse—to Luisa, anyway—Genovian public school.

  Luisa grabbed Prince Gunther by the arm and tugged him back into his seat. He looked confused, not knowing—as usual—what he’d done to offend her.

  “It’s canceled,” Luisa hissed into Prince Gunther’s ear. “She just said our trip to the Games is going to be canceled. Why are you so excited?”

  Prince Gunther looked as hurt as if someone had punched him in the gut. “Canceled? No!”

  Luisa rolled her eyes. Except for the fact that the Games meant getting out of class for a few days, no one at the Royal Genovian Academy cared very much about them … no one except for Prince Gunther.

  “I know how much of a blow this might be to some of you,” Madame Alain went on over the intercom, almost as if she’d seen Prince Gunther’s look of sadness. “I am extremely disappointed that so many of our royals seem to be lacking in the kind of pride for our school that I have come to expect from students at the Royal Genovian Academy.

  “But it is not simply that we don’t have enough permission slips. This illness that so many of you are referring to as La Grippe—when it is, in fact, merely a little cold—has struck down many of our finest athletes. Princess Charlotte on our cross-country ski team. The Contessa Gerante on the girls’ hockey team. Even Lady Marguerite is apparently too ill to work a camera and take photos for the school yearbook, which I find somewhat hard to believe. But there it is.”

  I raised my eyebrows at this. Lady Marguerite is another one of my cousins. I knew she hadn’t been feeling well, but I also knew how much she’d been looking forward to going on this school trip. (She’d wanted to get out of a test we were having in Algebra on Friday.)