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There are at least twenty guys standing there, bagpipes at the ready, and as the car approaches, there’s this . . . blast of sound.
Even with the windows up, it’s loud enough to make my teeth rattle, and that first wheezing note as they all fire up at once makes me cover my ears even as I grin and look over at Ellie.
“Oh my god,” I say, but she ignores me, leaning forward to say to the driver, “This isn’t Sherbourne!”
She has to shout, that’s how loud the bagpiping is, and the driver raises his voice to reply, “This was the location I was given, ma’am!”
“I mean, obviously, El,” I say, elbowing her in the side. “Isn’t this the welcome you get everywhere?”
I honestly think she’d tell me to shut up, but that’s not very princess-y, so she settles for shooting me a look as the car pulls to a stop in front of the line of pipers.
Then we both just sit there for a second.
The music is still going, and now that they’re really into it—I realize now they’re not playing some traditional Scottish tune but a version of “Get Lucky,” which is . . . something—it’s really not bad. It’s kind of cool, actually, and I suddenly wonder if maybe I should pick up the bagpipes while I’m here. Now that would be a hobby to bring back to Florida.
“Shall I get the door, ma’am?” the driver asks, and I look over at El.
“If we open the door, it might actually be loud enough to kill us,” I say, and my sister grimaces, her hand flexing on the seat next to us.
She doesn’t laugh, but she does relax a little. “You are so weird,” she mutters, but then she opens the door and steps out.
I do the same, and I was right—the sound nearly rocks me back on my heels. There are twenty pipers exactly, ten flanking each side of the low, shallow steps leading up into the farmhouse. They’re all beautifully dressed in bright red kilts, sashes over their chests, and thick wool socks covering muscular calves.
I don’t want to be impressed, especially since these guys just nearly deafened me, but I kind of can’t help it. It’s just . . . we’re standing in front of this gorgeous stone house, behind which is this perfect valley full of soft, buttery light, and now we’ve been greeted by twenty—twenty!—literal pied pipers, and I can’t help but laugh, shaking my head.
“I get the princess thing now,” I tell Ellie. “For real. I might try to marry a prince, too, just so these guys can announce me showing up to, like, the mall.”
Ellie cuts her eyes at me before flicking her hair over her shoulders. “I’m still not sure why we’re here and not at Sherbourne,” she says in a low voice.
“Have we been kidnapped?” I ask in a near whisper, but before Ellie can tell me to get bent or whatever the new, Fancy Ellie version of that is, there’s another screech of bagpipes.
This time it definitely doesn’t come from the gentlemen in front of us, and unlike the song earlier, it doesn’t suddenly resolve itself into a recognizable melody. This is an actual assault on eardrums, and I look around, trying to figure out where it’s coming from.
The pipes get louder, and suddenly there are two guys basically skipping out the front door and down the steps.
They’re in kilts like the professional pipers, but their socks are pooling around their ankles and one of them is wearing an insane hat that sort of looks like a beret but has a sharp purple feather jutting out of it. He’s about my height, with shaggy dark hair, and then I glance over at the other guy and realize he looks nearly identical.
There are two cute boys in kilts murdering bagpipes and dancing toward us.
“Did we take drugs in the car?” I ask Ellie, but then the boys are there, and one of them spins in front of me before dipping into a low bow.
“Ladies!” he says as his twin gives Ellie the same treatment, his twirl so intense that for a second, I’m afraid I’m going to learn exactly what boys wear underneath their kilts.
Ellie gives a startled laugh. “Stephen?” she asks the boy in front of her before glancing at the one still bowing to me. “Donald? What—”
Oh, thank god. It’s Alex coming out the door now, and he’s wearing pants.
I never thought I’d be so relieved to see pants.
Alex is the closest thing to chagrined I’ve ever seen him as he rushes down the steps toward my sister, and when he gets to her and literally takes her in his arms, I wait for the bagpipes to start up again.
He gives her a hug, then, one arm still wrapped around her, opens his other arm to me.
Aren’t royals supposed to be all closed off and dead inside? Isn’t emotion embarrassingly common? Why do I now have to join a three-way hug with my sister and her fiancé?
But I do, letting Alex briefly press me against his Ralph Lauren and my sister’s Chanel, and then he pulls back, looking at us both before smiling hesitantly.
“It was a surprise,” he says, and Ellie, her hand still on his arm, looks past him to the pipers and the twin boys who are now no longer bowing but using their bagpipes in some kind of vaguely phallic swordfight.
“You planned this?” El asks, eyebrows raised, and Alex swallows so hard I can see his Adam’s apple move.
“Actually—” he starts, but then a voice interrupts him.
“I’m afraid it was all me.”
Prince Sebastian of Scotland may only be seventeen, but he’s already on every girl’s Dream Date List. And while not many of us can hope to land a prince, there are other options in Seb’s circle! Ever since his primary school days, he’s had a cadre of similarly well-heeled boys following him around. But who are these fellows, and are they interesting past their involvement with Prince Sebastian? Let’s find out!
  Andrew McGillivray, “Gilly” to friends, second son of the Duke of Argyll. Of all the Wreckers, Gilly is the richest, his family’s net worth said to rival the royal family’s. Only eighteen, Gilly has an appetite for expensive horses, good wine, and an assortment of “Instagram models,” whatever that means. I guess all that money helps them overlook his weak chin.
  Thomas Leighton, Marquess of Sherbourne, son of the Duke of Galloway. He’s the most highly titled of the Royal Wreckers, “Sherbet,” and also probably the best looking. We actually think he gives Prince Sebastian a run for his money in the Handsome Department. Those eyes! The cheekbones! Sadly, ladies, it’s well known that the marquess does not, shall we say, play for our team. He’s said to be dating Galen Konstantinov, son of shipping magnate Stavros Konstantinov.
  The Fortescue brothers, Stephen and Donald. If they have nicknames, we haven’t heard them, but these two brothers are always paired together, seems like, so I suppose they’re just grateful if no one calls them Tweedledee and Tweedledum. Both are the sons of the Earl of Douglas, and while they’re not twins, they’re only thirteen months apart in age. Recent additions to the Royal Wreckers, the Fortescue brothers are the only ones who didn’t attend Gregorstoun with the prince. They’re Eton boys and proud of it.