EXCERPT: Danielle Steele's 'HRH'

She opened the kitchen door quietly, hoping to escape attention for as long as possible, but as soon as she opened it, the enormous muddy dog bounded past her, dashed into the middle of the room, and barked with excitement. So much for a quiet entrance, Christianna smiled ruefully, and glanced apologetically at the familiar faces around her. The people who worked in her father's kitchen were always kind to her, and sometimes she wished that she could still sit among them, enjoying their company and the friendly atmosphere, as she had as a child. But those days were over for her as well. They no longer treated her as they had when she and her brother Friedrich were children. Friedrich was ten years older than she, and was traveling in Asia for the next six months. Christianna had turned twenty-three that summer.

Charles was still barking and, shaking the water off enthusiastically, had splattered nearly everyone around him with mud, as Christianna tried vainly to subdue him.

"I'm so sorry," she said as Tilda, the cook, wiped her face with her apron, shook her head, and smiled good naturedly at the young woman she had known since birth. She signaled quickly to a young man, who rushed to lead the dog away. "I'm afraid he got awfully dirty," Christianna said with a smile to the young man, wishing she could bathe the dog herself. She liked doing it, but she knew it was unlikely they would let her. Charles yelped unhappily as he was led away. "I don't mind bathing him . . . ," Christianna said, but the dog was already gone.

"Of course not, ma'am," Tilda said, frowning at her, and then used a clean towel to wipe Christianna's face as well. If Christianna had still been a child, she would have scolded her and told her that she looked worse than the dog. "Would you like some lunch?" Christianna hadn't even thought of it, and shook her head. "Your father is still in the dining room. He just finished his soup. I could send something up for you." Christianna hesitated, and then nodded. She hadn't seen him all day, and she enjoyed the quiet moments they shared when he wasn't working, and had a few minutes to himself, which was rare. He was usually surrounded by assorted members of his staff, and was in a rush to get to meetings. It was a treat for him to enjoy a meal alone, especially with her. She cherished the time they spent together. The only reason she had willingly come home from Berkeley was for him. There had been no other choice, although she would have loved to go on to graduate school just so she could stay in the States. She didn't dare ask. She knew the answer would have been no. Her father wanted her at home. She knew she had to be doubly responsible because her brother wasn't at all. If Friedrich had been willing to shoulder his responsibilities, it would have lightened the burden on her. But there was no hope of that.

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