Saving the President’s Daughter by Dezi Dixon

1

Ursula

“Congratulations, Ursula,”my mother said as she fixed the hem of my party dress. She was the only person in my family who refused to call me by my chosen nickname, Yuri.

I’d given up arguing with her over it because she would start in on another one of her lectures on how the name Ursula was beautiful and then list the reasons she picked it, even though deep down inside I figured she’d been obsessed with the movie The Little Mermaid. She would never admit it, so rather than roll my eyes and complain as I did the first twenty-four years of my life I put a smile on and nodded.

“This was the right dress for such an occasion. You’ll look stunning in the papers tomorrow.” My mother stepped back and looked at me in the mirror, praising my choice of attire.

Few people had to worry in regards to the dress they wore for their college graduation party making it into the local paper. But being the daughter of a former United States president, every time I sneezed it made the news. At least as long as I lived under my parents’ roof.

“Thanks, Mom.”

She smiled in a way I could see how happy she was with the woman I’d become. “Your father and I haven’t been around as much for you the last few years, but we’re so proud.”

I grabbed her hand and squeezed. “It’s okay, Mom. You were busy running the country.” Jennifer Pane wasn’t only my mom but also the former first female president of the United States of America. She had tons on her shoulders.

My mother had been a two-term president, spending the last eight years of her life in the White House. I lived there the first four years with them in DC and then during the second term I’d attended college back in our home state of Nevada. As much as I missed my mother and father, I much preferred my time in the college dorms half a country away from the craziness of the District of Columbia.

A random photographer had popped up here or there in college, but the Secret Service helped me maintain a low profile.

“We’re both home now and plan to take a few years to enjoy retirement,” she lied. My mother’s idea of retirement started with a 5 a.m. wake-up yoga session and was followed by working with various charities and political affairs until 11 p.m.

Now as a college graduate, striking out on my own, things were changing. At least for me. I had my apartment and my very first job. I was becoming my own woman. The time had come to get away from my parents’ security detail and go on living my life out of public scrutiny. My parents always had security around them, but I got to break free. I had obtained the dream.

“Your dad and I want to give you our graduation gift before the party. He’s waiting in the study.”

I sashayed once more, my skirt’s knee-length fabric bouncing off my legs as I twirled. “Okay.”

I hadn’t lived in my parents’ Nevada home in over eight years, but the hallways were still familiar and loving. Even though it wasn’t as large as the White House, I was happier there than anywhere else. Well, besides my apartment. Everything in that space was mine. There were no paintings from weird famous artists from long-past decades, and I wouldn’t be continuing my mother’s tradition of lining the hallways with busts of former presidents.

I planned to take one of those painting classes where you get drunk while you do it and then fill my apartment up with tacky canvas paintings I’d done myself. Then when people came over, I’d make them gush all over them as if they were Picassos.

Okay… fine, sometimes being the daughter of a president had its perks. I’d only make the annoying people pretend to love my crappy painting skills.

I followed my mother through the hallway and she knocked once before opening the door to the study my father used. It was across the hallway from the one where my mother planned her run for president a decade earlier.

Tall, dark mahogany bookcases lined the walls of my father’s study and his desk, which three people could sleep on, took up space in the middle. Two ornate leather chairs sat positioned on the other side and I took a seat in one of them, leaning back and getting comfortable.

The last time my parents purchased me a gift, I spent the summer in Europe with a friend. We had paparazzi following us the entire time, and the news ran reports with complaints by the American people over the cost of the trip, even though my parents had paid the expenses themselves. I only hoped they had something just as exciting planned for me this time.

My mother walked further in the room and leaned against my father’s knee, drawing a sigh from my lips. They were the only two people I knew who were still in love. Even after over thirty years of marriage and a political career, they still oozed romance. I wasn’t contemplating a boyfriend or future husband, but when I found that special someone, I hoped we had a relationship similar to my parents.

“Did your mother tell you about your gift?” my father asked as he patted my mother’s knee.

I shook my head as my excitement grew. Would hoping for a safari or trip to Iceland be too presumptuous of me?

“Good,” my father’s eyes twinkled. “Safety is always important and we realize you’ve been looking forward to venturing out and making your own life, but the reality is we have to face a unique path. With your mother’s political career, we can never live as normal citizens.”

My head bobbed along in agreement. “I agree, Father. That’s why we picked the apartment with the best security. It’s the safest building in Nevada.” My dad had a secondary system installed before he agreed to let me move into the building. There was an on-duty security guard and a doorman. As their only child, they wanted to keep me safe—the only reason I’d agreed to the terms.

I agreed to anything if it meant getting out on my own. My parents’ Secret Service guards were absolute bores. They had no fun, didn’t believe in smiling, and as far as I’d heard were similar to the men in black with no personality to speak of on the surface. Sure, the dudes promised to jump in front of a bullet to save me, but they refused to let me partake in shots at the bar even after I turned twenty-one.

Boring people tired me. If that made me shallow, then oh well. A girl needed to live a little. Drink wine, and dance too late into the night, wake up with a hangover. How could I experience those fun things in life if I always had security there making sure I drank one glass of water in between each barely alcoholic drink? It was time for me to live. A lot.

“I believe in the safety of your building, pumpkin, but what will happen when you’re out? Since you insist on having a job, who will keep you safe at work?”

“The building. They have security.” I left out the part that I once caught the man, more than likely over sixty-five years old, sleeping in his chair when I went in for an interview as the new marketing assistant.

I was certain my father had run the man’s background check all the way to his great-grandchildren. If he hadn’t figured out that detail yet, I refused to be the one to tell him.

“We just want to make sure you’re safe.”

“You do and I’ll be safe. Don’t forget that I know the rules and have agreed to them.” I’d spent my entire life following the rules. Don’t go into a building alone. Don’t drink from any cup you haven’t had control over the entire time. And no social media that wasn’t first approved by the PR team.

“You need more, Ursula, but we understand you’re an adult now and want more control of the situation and freedom,” my mother said with a smile.

I smiled. “Exactly.” At last, something from those arguments I’d had with my parents over the last six months had gotten through to them.

“That’s why you deserve this gift because we want you to strike out on your own and flourish.”

My mother smiled, resting her hand on my father’s knee. “It’s time for you to go out into the world and find out who you are in the safest way possible.”

“Absolutely. I agree.” Yes, my freedom was coming. It was so close I could taste it. After I finished this college graduation party, I’d finish with my last mandated gathering and could go back to my apartment to begin my new life.

My father continued to smile, looking only at me as he called, “Mr. Knight, you may come in now.”

The door to the study opened and a tall man wearing a tight black polo shirt that stretched over his muscles paired with dark wash jeans stepped into the room. He stopped in the space between my father and me and then crossed his arms over his chest, his large biceps stretching the material to the point I worried he’d rip it.

My first thought caused me to reach my tongue out and lick my top lip. Who was this precious piece of man meat? Was he here to deliver my gift?

But then a second or two ticked by with no one commenting, and true horror gripped my chest.

No, they wouldn’t.

The warm fuzzies I’d first experienced fizzled up and died.

I tipped back in my chair, wrenching my eyes from the hot beast of a man to bore them into my father. “Who is this, Daddy?”

My dad’s smile grew even wider. He was so pleased with himself. “Mr. Knight is your new personal protection liaison.”