Once Upon A Time
The long hotel hallway, lined with doors, stretched in front of Flicka von Hannover as she ran as hard as she could.
Her ankles wobbled in her gilded, stiletto sandals every time her feet thudded on the carpeting. Her slim, crystal-encrusted skirt was bunched around her thighs so she could stretch her long legs. Her purse dangled from her wrist and bounced against her thigh with each stride.
Just a few more doors.
—432, 434, 436--
If she could reach room 460, she had a chance.
She glanced behind her, risking a stumble as she sprinted.
Doors studded the silent hallway behind her. Shimmering sconces threw dim light over the grand hotel’s gold carpeting, and black night pressed against the windows. She could still taste the metallic tinge of blood in her mouth.
No other hotel guests were standing around in the hallways at four in the morning.
—442, 444, 446--
When she had escaped from her own suite minutes before, the Secret Service men, armed with handguns and large knives, had been chasing her. Flicka had leaped into the closing elevator, rolling on the floor and slamming her shoulder against the back wall. It had been a stroke of luck that the elevator was at the penthouse and the doors had been closing just as she had run. That little bit of luck had allowed her to make it this far.
At the fourth floor, she had pushed all the buttons to send the elevator lower into the hotel, hoping to confuse her pursuers.
—450, 452, 454--
Flicka ran harder, trying to make it.
She looked back again.
The hallway behind her was still empty. Her husband’s Secret Service men hadn’t expected her to be able to sprint so quickly in high-heeled shoes and a slim ball gown, but princesses are accustomed to wearing evening dress. She could probably rappel down a cliff face in petticoats and pumps.
Flicka von Hannover was a real, modern princess, not a fairy-tale one, and she had run for her life more than once.
The Secret Service men must have made for the stairwells, splitting up to search each floor for her, planning to communicate her position to each other for reinforcements. That’s how she would have orchestrated the search. They would come thundering out of the stairwells at each end of the hallway at any moment and see her racing through the hotel with her pale pink dress hiked up around her hips and a diamond tiara glittering in her blond hair.
Flicka pounded on the door and held her hand against the wood, willing it to open right now.