Alek looked up from his paper, setting it down on the table in front of him. A nasty cold breeze was coming in through the window, making him shiver. He stood, walking across the beautiful floor to shut it, drawing the curtains.
"Deryn, have you read the paper yet?" he called out. Footsteps sounded from the other room, and Deryn entered. She was wearing trousers and a buttoned up shirt, hair cropped short as ever.
"No, why? Something good?" her eyes were bright.
"Yes, actaully, I think you'll find it amusing." he handed her the news, crossing his arms and watching her as she read the front page.
Her face went from curiosity to astonishment. "Blisters, Alek, your a genious! How did you know?" she looked up at him, amazed.
Alek chuckled. "I know Volger about as well as I know myself. The wildcount gets what he wants. He wasn't going to let a little thing like my 'death' stop him from finishing the wishes of my father. Volger is a loyal man, I suspected he might go this far."
"But seriously, Alek, how? You said this to me, almost word for word less than a month ago." she cleared her throat, reading the headline aloud. "'Count Volger of Austria to take Throne after Archduke's death' Barking spiders, Alek. Your brilliant." she continued. "Prince Aleksandar Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary was killed less than 5 months ago in the terrible crash of the famed hydrogen breather, the Leviathan, whis next voyage has yet to be announced. His whereabouts had been revealed to British officials the night of the devastating accident. Bodies were found among the crash, some unrecognizable. One was determined to be the prince himself. Count Volger, the boys attendant for years, determined the body was indeed that of Aleksandar, and has since been meeting with officials from Germany, Austria, and Britan. He has given evidence of the previous archduke's will, requesting Volger be next in line if the prince were to be killed. Sources say Volger is trying to work out a truce between the Darwinist and Clanker Powers, with the help of Doctor Nora Barlow, but no word of a treaty has been released.'" Deryn paused, her eyes getting wider. "No, that bum-rag! Did you see who wrote this?"
Alek smiled wider. "Eddie Malone, the scoundrel."
Deryn tossed the paper onto the table, not wanting to continue. "Well, he did say he wouldn't stop until he had the whole story." she walked over to Alek and took his hand, peering out the window onto the streets below.
New York City was quite the sight. Busy, nonstop action everywhere you looked. More crime than most places in the world. You could hide anything there...even a prince.
They had used the rest of Alek's gold bar to buy their tickets to America and lodging until they could find themselves work. Alek had found himself a spot fixing Clanker knockoff machines at a local garage, while Deryn worked at a local grocer, tryign to weasle her way into working at an airport. She remained a man, as of right now, but planned to make herself one of the first female pilots as soon as she could. Her name was Derrek Stone, while Alek reffered to himself as Alex Frasier.
The trip to freedom had not been pleasant as they hoped, having been forced to hide several times on their way out of Japan. Alek had been recognized once, but they were able to talk themselves out of it. But once they got on that ship, they never looked back. A new life was at their fingertips.
Some nights, Alek had nightmares about the past, the crash, himself as archduke of Austria. He hated it. He had everything he wanted, but he couldn't help but feel like it wasn't over yet.
Alek toyed with the ring on Deryn's finger as they watched the streets four stories below them. She hadn't taken it off since the day he put it on her, and she had no plans to do so in the immediate future. He had tried to offer getting her a new ring, a proper engagement ring, but she refused, her mind set on wearing that thing for the rest of her life. Stubborn. He loved it. He wanted to marry her now, but it wasn't plausable, not with the events of their past so close still. A year, perhaps, maybe two. To be safe.
"I should be heading to work, love." he said, kissing her forehead. "If I'm late again, the boss said he will have my head. I'm not so sure he's kidding." Deryn smiled at him. She kissed him, then fetched his lunchpail from the cabinet.
"I love you" he told her. He touched her cheek, then headed out the door, trotting down the stairs. The street was packed, and he was jostled away by the throng. He took a quick glimpse back at the apartment they shared, seeing Deryn waving from the window. He blew her a kiss then continued on through the crowds.
Soon he came upon the quiet alley he always took as a shortcut to work. He skipped along, whistling something he had heard the other day. Suddenly, a hand reached from behind him, covering his mouth and bringing a knife to his throat. In a panic, he froze, listening ot his captor.
"Just hold still. I don't mean you any harm at all. Trust me." He felt satin against his skin, the hand over his mouth was soft. No.....
His captor kept their hand over his mouth and turned him. Lilit stared back at him, her eyes relaxing as recognition flashed across Alek's face.
"It is you!" she whispered. "Don't panic, you must come with me. It's urgent." Then, in a flash, they were running, Alek confused as he ever had been in his life.