The Royal Assassin

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The princess finished her perusal and nodded to him. “We shall go inside.” She gave Sussex her arm and he escorted her up the steps and through the massive front doors.
 
Blackford held out his arm to me. “Miss?” he said in English.
 
“Thank you.”
 
“Are you her chaperone this afternoon?”
 
“I suppose I must be, since her chaperone doesn’t know she’s out of Hereford House.”
 
Blackford raised his eyebrows. “Whose idea was that?”
 
“Hers.”
 
He murmured so quietly I barely heard him say, “What is she up to?”
 
Once inside, blinking in the dark after the bright sunshine outdoors, we wandered a bit before we stumbled across recent French paintings. Apparently, that was Princess Kira’s cue to begin her lesson. She said words in French; I gave the English translations. When a painting term was too obscure for me, one of the dukes supplied the English equivalent.
 
She obviously loved the paintings. She’d gaze at them and sigh, pointing out the mix of colors and brushstrokes. While she stared at the canvases with admiration, Sussex gazed at her with adoration.
 
This continued for half an hour, until the men wandered at a distance out of boredom. The princess said the French word for bus.
 
“Bus, or omnibus,” I replied.
 
“Horse.”
 
I translated. “Why?”
 
“I must have a general knowledge of English.”
 
“When does a duchess need to know the word for bus?”
 
Her answer was “Bread.”
 
We went through several more common words until the men rejoined us. Then she switched to painting terms again.
 
Walking into the next room, the princess froze. Then she started talking about the painting to our left in rapid French. To me it was an ordinary painting in the impressionist style, but the princess and Sussex were not the only ones studying it carefully.
 
A blond woman in her early twenties was also looking wistfully at the canvas. Her mauve-colored dress, with dried mud imperfectly brushed from the hem, was out of style, at odds with her stylish hat with two large feathers and her pristine gloves. She was the same height as the princess and at a distance could pass for her. Up close, however, the two women wouldn’t be mistaken for each other for an instant.
 
I wondered if there was a plan to swap this woman for the princess. It would only work if the impersonator kept at a distance from all who knew her. I found myself looking over my shoulder for thugs to drag off Princess Kira and replace her with this woman.
 
Was this the reason her bodyguard needed to be killed?