1913 brought the tercentenary of the Romanov dynasty to Russia and the last glory days to Nicholas II and his family. It is in this world that Olga Romanov finds herself coming of age. When she and her sisters meet three strangers who become their friends, she learns not is all as it seems.
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Across the Fickle Winds of History
SG Cardin Online
Tsarskoe Selo was a huge complex, consisting of two palaces, the Catherine and Alexander. We lived in the smaller Alexander Palace, which was also known as the Winter Palace. The Catherine Palace was mere feet away, and Father would go there to conduct official matters of state. I cannot begin to adequately describe the Catherine Palace’s long façade, the classical colonnades or the curved spires that shot up toward the sky except to say it was very intimidating. The courtyard of the Catherine Palace was wide and spacious, and over the years hosted several military inspections, parades, and announcements.
As Tatiana and I made our way across the cold ground and dead winter trees we thought we heard giggles coming from near the wrought iron fence by the roadway. There was no snow on the ground, but it was hard and frozen. The trees were lifeless, their shivering branches without leaves to warm them, and several large boulders, gray and rugged, dotted the woods that surrounded the palace.
Soldiers normally patrolled the roadway from an elite Cossack regiment, of which my father had made me an honorary colonel. Tatiana was also an honorary colonel of a Cavalry regiment. Marie would receive an honorary title on her sixteenth birthday as well, which was still two years away.
Tatiana suddenly stopped and caught my wrist.
“Do you hear that?”
I shrugged my shoulders and Tatiana frowned at me with her big, hazel eyes, pulling me to a nearby rock to hide ourselves. There was nothing that exasperated me more than when my sister looked at me like I was a ten-year-old. Mind you, Tatiana and I shared all our secrets, and were each other’s closest confidantes, but she was far more outgoing and bold than I. She peered around the side of the thick, gray boulder, and I looked over her shoulder.
I was totally unprepared for what I saw. Marie and Anastasia were talking to three young people, two men, one girl, closer to my age. They were laughing and giggling over some unknown joke, but the sight of him nearly stopped my heart from beating. I stumbled against Tatiana, accidentally pushing her to the ground, collapsing on top of her. She screamed my name at the top of her lungs and he immediately ran to our position. His strong hands helped me to my feet while his companion helped Tatiana to hers. The electricity that jolted my body sent waves of pleasure rippling down my arms, and I had no idea a touch could inspire all that.
The minute our eyes met I stumbled again on the hard ground, and he wrapped his muscled arm around my waist to prevent me from falling. His firm lips curved into a sweet, sincere smile, and his almond brown eyes held me riveted to the spot. His thick black hair gleamed in the beams of the sun. He wore a long overcoat to keep warm, but underneath he wore a simple shirt, with the top button undone to reveal manly wisps of dark hair curling against the opening. I had no doubt he was used to the cold and that he enjoyed it. My mystery man had an air of authority and confidence of one who commanded respect. As his body pressed ever so gently into mine, I could feel his granite-like muscles and I knew in that moment he was a man fickle history would recall as a hero.
“Are you all right?”
His deep, masculine voice seemed to purr in my ear, and I thought my cheeks might color under his heavy gaze.
“I’m fine, just a little…”
“Embarrassed?” Anastasia volunteered.
“I think Olga likes you, Paul. I’ve never seen her blush like so,” added my sister Marie.
I took a step away from him, glaring at my young sisters, as I brushed off the remnants of the ground’s hard dirt from my jacket’s sleeves.
He stopped my hurried, flustered actions by taking my hand in his. Another warm jolt of electricity seemed to shoot down my arm the minute he touched me. Then, like an imperial gentleman, he bowed before me, sweeping his lips lightly over my knuckles.
“It is a pleasure to meet you, Grand Duchess Olga. I am Paul Kerensky.”
He was Russian! I swore to Tatiana I wanted no man unless he shared my nationality. Could a man be so perfect?
I watched him stand up, his height perfectly complementing mine. I wanted to lean closer to him, to smell his wonderful, musky scent, to feel his hard body next to mine. I wanted to shamelessly flirt and say something witty like I know Tatiana would, but under my sisters’ teasing eyes, nothing witty came out.
Tatiana, as usual, took charge of the situation. As I stood there, trying to admire Paul without being obvious, she fired question after question at the three pleasant intruders. And that’s what they were – trespassers to Tsarskoe Selo. They admitted their crime freely, relating they had done so out of curiosity. They were from America and had never seen such grand buildings and pageantry before. They were curious about the celebration, so we explained to them that it was the tercentenary, and as we talked, time escaped us.
How they came to trespass upon Tsarskoe Selo none of us really paid attention to, or cared; however, I did conduct a brief scan of the fence, and to my surprise, I found no bent bars or damages that might have given them access.
But my curiosity as to how they came to enter the compound quickly left as Paul and his friends asked questions about Russia. They seemed to absorb everything we told them, yet they were brief and vague when it came to answering our questions about them. I also noticed that when we spoke they listened intensely, but did not reply back immediately. There was a moment’s hesitation before they replied back to us. It was as if they there thinking of the right words to say in Russian. Now, I totally understood, after all, being from America, their first language was probably English, and that was a language all of us were tutored in and spoke fluently, yet they seemed intent on talking to us in our native tongue.
I wanted to know everything about Paul and what brought this handsome trespasser to our woods. Their explanations were brief, yet plausible, and I suppose since they charmed us all, we easily believed them. Paul’s parents had died recently in America and he wanted to come to Russia to search for his family. His friends, Ian and Stephanie, accompanied him on this quest.