Just perfect. What should have been her triumphant fashion reboot was now quickly looking like the end of her career, Tracy Lewis thought as she stared into the furious eyes of the usually poised Princess Grace, Duchess of Dorset, third cousin of the soon-to-be-wed Prince Richard of Wales. Princess Grace, or Gracie, as she was commonly called, was downright fuming. Her wide blue eyes, shooting daggers; her cheeks, shot with bright spots of red fire; while her normally smooth, soft ginger hair seemed to take on a life of its own, frizzing up and growing wilder and larger with every wave and exaggerated flourish of the hat she held in her hand.
Tracy focused on the princess. What could have gone wrong? The hat was perfectly fine when she’d delivered it yesterday. As a matter of fact, when the princess had tried on her mock-up for fitting the month before in New York, she had loved it. Commenting that most other things she’d tried looked like piles of poop on her head.
As Tracy took in Princess Gracie’s fit of temper, she tried her best not to flinch. Not in fear, mind you. As a custom hat designer, she’d come across far more formidable clients over the years. One developed a thick skin when it came to designing for the stylish and always-on-the-edge-of-fashion Harlem church set. But right now she was more afraid for her poor creation. Though she was confident in its construction, one still didn’t jangle around a one-of-a-kind, delicately sculpted, totally hand-beaded cloche.
The design was perfection. The way it dipped low and swooped sassily around one ear but rose higher on the other. The hat also bore the intricate, architectural design elements that were Tracy’s signature. Watching the princess wave it around was just about giving Tracy a twitch. Even if she was dealing with a royal, she wanted to snatch it out of the princess’s hand.
“Jasmin, my phone!” Goodness, Gracie was out-yapping the corgis down the hall.
Tracy stood still, trying her best to hide her embarrassment; she never imagined a scene like this would be played out before her eyes in the gorgeous Green Drawing Room in the east wing of Buckingham Palace. The maid, who had just entered carrying a tea tray, only nodded, all calmness with a serene smile, though she had done nothing to deserve the princess’s harsh tone. She put the tray down and went the few steps over to the nearby sideboard and retrieved the cell phone, handing it to Gracie with a quick curtsy. “If that will be all, Your Grace, I must go and tend the wedding flowers now, ma’am.”
The sweet girl’s soft tone brought the princess up short for a moment and she gave a nod and a small smile that seemed to hold an apology for her outburst, before turning back to Tracy, her cell phone now in her other hand.
Tracy was about to reach out and rescue her hat when Princess Gracie pushed her cell forward. “How am I supposed to wear this to the wedding tomorrow when this has been leaked to the press?” Her voice and her hands were vibrating.
Tracy’s head bobbed as she tried to focus on the small screen. “Your Grace, please,” she said with as much calm as she could muster.
Gracie took a breath and stilled her hands, swiping the screen and bringing it closer for Tracy to view.
Tracy opened her mouth then closed it again. Her dream of finally making it on the international fashion scene seemed to vanish before her eyes as she gazed at the photo on the princess’s phone.
There before her was a picture of Princess Georgina, twin sister of Princess Grace, and, at least in the press, chief rival to her sister in every way. The photo was a grainy paparazzo shot of Georgina trying on a hat that looked almost identical to the one Tracy had designed for Princess Grace. The caption of the photo read:
Exclusive preview! Thanks to eagle-eyed paparazzo Gwen Parker, we have a sneak peek of what the always-fashion-forward Princess Georgina will be wearing to tomorrow’s royal nuptials. Here she is doing a private fitting in the studio with master milliner Finley Nye!
Freaking Finley Nye. Tracy felt her blood begin to boil. How could this be happening? How could her ambitions once again come to a crashing halt because of that piece of trash Finley Nye?
This was supposed to be her big breakthrough. It was the reason she was back in London from New York in the first place. To hand-deliver the wedding day hat to the princess herself. The world would be watching the wedding between the most eligible Brit and the American commoner tomorrow. As if being a multimillion-dollar recording star made you a commoner, but that was another story altogether. In the eyes of royal watchers everywhere, she was a commoner, and to top things off she was African American. Tracy, being a black girl from Harlem, could not help the extra bit of pride she felt over that.
But she couldn’t think of...