The Backup Princess Sneak Peek…


Prince Alexander the Great, as you know I so love to call our Prince of Royal Hotness, is nothing short of a runaway success in America. Are you surprised? Of course you’re not. He’s Prince Alexander Archibald George Canossa of Ledonia., aka Prince McHottie. Everyone adores him! And if they don’t, well they clearly don’t know him.

Americans are certainly not immune to his charms.

Much like when European Royals have visited their fair shores in the past, our Prince has been whisked from glamorous function to glamorous function, always representing Ledonia with the flair and charismatic presence we have learned to expect from Prince McHottie, the future heir to the Ledonian throne.

Which is more than I can say for our neighbor these days. Poor Malveaux, losing its heir when Prince Nicolas decided the job wasn’t for him. With no obvious backup option, this reporter wonders whatever will the Malveauxian royal family do?

We’ve got no such problems in our fair country, thanks to the delectable Alexander and his fine siblings. It is true we are blessed, and we’re counting the hours until you’re back home with us, Prince Alexander. God speed!

Your ever devoted royal correspondent,

Fabiana Fontaine xx




Chapter 1


I know it’s weird, but I’ve never really felt like I fit into my own life. Like something went wrong in the planning a life part of my creation and I’m here by some kind of freak cosmic accident, when I was in fact meant to have an entirely different life.

Although I’ve got no clue what that other life might be, what I do know is being a sales assistant for a glazing company in an industrial area of Houston, Texas, doesn’t feel like the life I was meant to have.

Told you it was weird.

I search the database, blinking at the screen with its serial numbers and product descriptions until I land on that line item I’m searching for. “We do have that item in stock, sir,” I say into my headset. “How many were you looking for?”

I feel an elbow hit my ribs in rapid succession and look up from my spreadsheet at my best friend, Chloe. Her brown eyes are wide, her not so naturally pink hair pulled into a top knot, as she gestures in the least subtle way I think I’ve ever seen as someone breezes past my desk.

I open my mouth to say “What?” but if I’m honest, I already know what. Or rather who.

Eric Camden.

Office flirt, contender for most handsome salesman in the whole state of Texas, and my crush for one year, three months, and about four and a half days, aka the day Eric started working here.

He’s tall and broad, with dark blond hair and dreamy blue eyes. He told us he’s descended from Vikings, and I’ll admit, sometimes I lie in bed at night and imagine him dressed as a Viking, all manly and strong.

But let’s not go there.

At the sight of him, my heart rate picks up and I swallow, my throat suddenly dry.

His eyes flash to mine as he saunters past with his long-legged stride, and I can only imagine the way his firm muscles must ripple with each and every step.

“Like a gazelle,” I murmur to myself.

“Good morning, Maddie. You’re looking particularly fine in your—” his eyes sweep over me and every part of me tingles, “—cardigan.” A smirk teases the edges of his mouth, and even though I know he’s toying with me, I do not care.

When it comes to Eric Camden, I’ll take anything he wants to throw my way.

“Thanks,” I mumble, enough heat to scramble eggs blooming in my cheeks. “You look good in your…everything.”

Good grief.

“My everything?” he questions. “Thanks.” His eyes shift to Chloe, but all he does is throw her a scowl before he pushes through the door.

As it swings closed behind him, I let out a sigh.

Eric Camden, my favorite Viking.

“Hello? Are you still there?” the voice on the end of the telephone asks.

The customer. Right.

I clear my throat. “Oh, sorry. Yes. Still here, sir. I think this is a bad line or something? Anyway, what was it that you wanted again?”

He has a distinct tone as he tells me what he wants and I promise to place the order for him before I hang up.

“Girl, you need to either make a move on that guy or move on,” Chloe tells me. “And you know which one I would recommend.” She makes a neck slitting movement with her thumb.

“I’m not moving on, but the idea of making a move?” I let out a laugh, the very idea making my belly tie up in a tight knot even a fisherman would be proud of. “There is no way I’m ever doing that.”

“Why not? That’s better than sitting here all day dreaming of becoming Mrs. Madeline Camden when you haven’t even kissed the guy.”

Kissing Eric Camden.

That fisherman’s knot turns to warm jelly.

Chloe shakes her head at me. “You’re thinking about kissing him now, aren’t you?”

“No,” I reply indignantly, but we both know I was. “I was thinking about how much work I have to do.”

“Sure you were. And I’m salivating over stock levels.”

We share a smile. Chloe may not agree with my choice of crush, but we’ve been work buddies and besties since we met when I started working here almost two years ago. Where I can be awkward and shy, she’s confident and sassy.

The perfect opposites attract friendship.

I always tell myself Chloe’s the way she is because she’s happy in her life. She fits. She’s who she is and she fully accepts herself.

Me? I’m more of a work in progress thanks to that whole not belonging in my own life thing I’ve got going on.

One day, everything will click into place for me and I’ll be happy.

Chloe gestures at her screen. “Your crush isn’t anywhere near as hot as this guy.”

“Who?” I push my chair over to her desk to look at her screen. I’m met with a dark-haired man with a close-cropped beard that looks too perfect to be real, with dark, smoldering eyes, and a self-satisfied smile that fits with his classic tux and air of privilege.

“Hot?” I question. “He looks to me like he thinks the sun comes up just to hear him crow.”

Chloe bats me on the arm. “You’d be vain if you looked like that. He is dreamy.”

“Seriously, Chlo, the guy looks so self-satisfied he probably broke his arm patting himself on the back.”

Chloe giggles. “You are such a Texas gal, Mads.”

“Born and raised. Who is this Mr. Smooth?”

“My future husband,” Chloe replies on a sigh.

“I thought that was Patrick Dempsey, or whoever the sexiest man alive is this year.”

“No, Patrick is still number one on my list, but this guy? A close second.”

“Well, congratulations on your upcoming nuptials.” I roll back to my desk.

“If I married him, I would be a princess. You know, I always thought I’d make a great princess.”

I chortle. “He’s some kind of prince?”

“Are you seriously telling me you don’t know who Prince Alexander of Ledonia is?”

I return my attention to my spreadsheet. “Nope.”

“Girl, you’re missing out. He’s the total royal smoke-show from Europe.”

I shrug and Chloe rolls her eyes.

“You know he’s here in the States?”

“That’s great news!”

She narrows her eyes at me. “Why?”

“He can pop into the office and propose to you.”

“He’s in DC, so first, I’d have to wrangle myself an invite to the White House.”

Chloe could probably pull that off.

“Can you imagine? Prince Alexander, the President, the First Lady. All that glamor.”

I give an involuntary shudder. “Give me a bubble bath and a good book any day of the week.”

“You would say that.”

“We can’t all be extroverts like you, Chlo. I prefer quieter things.”

She arches an eyebrow. “Like soaking in your tub on your own, dreaming about so-called Vikings?”

She’s nailed it. But I’m not about to tell her that.

“All those people is a lot of…pressure.”

“Makes you anxious, huh?”

I downplay it. “A little.”

“You’d be with me, so you’d be fine.” She grins and I don’t doubt her. With Chloe’s confidence, I bet I could do anything—even if it involved attending a lavish party at the White House to meet some prince.

My phone rings and I glance down to see a picture of my dad’s smiling face.

“Hey, Dad.” My dad and I have always been close, particularly since Mom passed away when I was only nine years old. He’s a good man and he’s always looking out for me, his only child.

“Hi, princess. I need to talk to you about something.”

“I’m at work. Can it wait?” It might be just me and Chloe here right now, but our boss, Deidre, is never far away.

“Can we meet for dinner tonight? Manuel’s at say six?”

“You had me at Manuel’s.”

Dad and I have a tradition of going to our favorite taco place about once a week. We know the owner, Mateo, and his very pregnant wife, Sierra. They welcome us with big smiles and lots of free chips and guacamole, and free chips and guac is never a bad thing in my books.

“Good, good, good. I’ll see you there tonight,” Dad says, and I pick up on a tension in his tone.

“Everything okay, Dad?”

“Of course, princess. I just need to talk to you about something.”

“Something good?” I lead.

“It’s…news. Good or bad. Probably good. I don’t know.”

I smile. I can guess what this is. Dad is getting all nervous about telling me that he’s met someone. I helped set up a profile for him on a dating app a couple weeks back, not that he was exactly into the idea. The truth is, if he has met someone, I couldn’t be happier for him. For the longest time I’ve wanted Dad to find someone. It’s been 15 years since my mom passed away, and he’s barely even been on a date since. It’s time he put himself first and found someone.

Eric breezes back into the room, accompanied by one of the other salesmen, Terrence.

“Dad, I gotta go. See you tonight,” I say into the phone.

“Love you, princess.”

“Love you, too.” I quickly hang up as Eric approaches my desk.

“Ladies,” he says.

“Twice in one morning,” I reply, smiling up at him.

“Yeah. We were thinking of going to grab Starbucks,” he says in that deep, velvety voice of his that does things to my belly. “Want anything?”

“You’re…offering to get me a…a coffee?” I stammer, not quite believing my ears.

Eric Camden wants to buy me a cup of coffee? This is a major new development in our relationship.

His eyes flash. “Sure thing.”

“That would be great,” I reply with a smile. “Thank you, Eric.” I pull my purse from my bottom drawer and fumble around for some cash when I feel a warm hand fold over mine. Startled, I look up into Eric’s eyes.

“My treat,” he says.

For a moment, I allow myself to get lost in the fantasy that somehow, despite the fact he’s never done anything other than flirt with me since the day we met, he’s suddenly overwhelmed with passion for me and can’t help but scoop me up in the most breathtaking and wonderful kiss of my life.

Of course, in my fantasy this doesn’t happen at my desk, and not with Chloe and Terrence watching. (It happens at sunset in Memorial Park, with us sitting on a picnic blanket and him telling me how he’s always loved me but has never had the confidence to tell me, before he sweeps me up in a kiss, murmuring that one day, he intends to make me his wife.)

“That’s so sweet of you,” I say, and as he pulls his hand from mine, I miss it. I actually miss it.

He straightens. “Wait. I just remembered. We’ve got that thing. Right, Terrence?”

Terrence nods. “We sure do.”

Eric tsks. “I cannot believe we forgot that. How stupid.” He turns to me. “Maddie, you wouldn’t…? Nah. Forget it. That would be me taking advantage of you.”

“I wouldn’t what?” I ask, my voice breathless, because as terrible as it sounds, Eric Camden could take advantage of me in any way he wants.

“You wouldn’t go grab the coffees for us this time and I’ll get the next one for you?” he asks.

Wait. Did this just get turned around on me?

I just know Chloe is rolling her eyes like they’re a planet orbiting the sun.

“Oh, sure. Yes. Of course,” I say brightly.

“Thanks, babe,” he replies with a wink, and my stupid heart squeezes.

He pats his thighs. “Dang it. I forgot my wallet and I need to get to that thing. Right, Terrence?”

Terrence nods again. “Right.”

“Maddie, I don’t suppose you could get them and I’ll pay you back later?”

“Sure,” I breathe.

I do not look at Chloe.

The door opens and in walk two men dressed in black suits, sunglasses hiding their eyes. They look every inch the CIA cliché you see in movies, only bigger and scarier, their collective bulk filling the space.

I blink at them, wondering whether we’re about to be infiltrated for some highly secretive ops—or worse—when Eric steps over to them and puffs out his Viking chest. “How can I help you gentlemen?”

One of the men removes his sunglasses, revealing a face with the squarest jaw I’ve seen outside of a cartoon, and a heavy brow that more than hints at Neanderthal origins.

He looks Eric up and down before he says, “I’m looking for Madeline Josephine Turner. I understand she works here.”

Wait, what?!

Why the heck are these two guys looking for me?

Eric regards the two men—who, in a sinister turn of events, I’ve decided look a lot more like undertakers than CIA operatives—in obvious disbelief before he turns to me and says, “I didn’t know your middle name was Josephine?”

“Good one, Eric. Now you’ve gone and outed her,” Chloe snarls, which is a good point.

Eric looks shamefaced, but of course I forgive him. He was taken unawares, that’s all. Easy mistake to make.

“Lucy’s clearly failing at her job if she let you guys just waltz in here,” Chloe says, naming the office’s receptionist. “What do you want with my girl, Maddie?”

Undertaker #1 turns his attention to me, and it’s clear I’m not what he expected. “Are you Madeline Josephine Turner?” he asks in a clipped British sounding accent. But it’s not quite British. It’s almost as though it’s pretend British, if that makes any sense. Although there is something familiar about the way he sounds.

In fact, if I really think about, his accent reminds me of my mom’s.

“What did you do, Maddie?” Eric asks, his eyes bright. “Break some federal law?”

“What? Of course she didn’t,” Chloe snaps. “You’re an idiot, Eric.”

“No, I’m not. You are,” Eric replies. Not exactly mature.

Tentatively, I rise to my feet, my eyes on the Undertakers. “I am she,” I announce, my voice shaky.

I wonder about my sanity. These guys might be hired killers, or worse! Not that I can think of what could be worse than hired killers right now, but still.

Undertaker #1 and #2 size me up.

I tug at my cardigan, wrapping it around myself, and cross my arms. “What’s this all about?”

“I ask that you come with us, ma’am,” Undertaker #1 says.

He wants me to go with him and the other guy? I might not be street smart. I might not have graduated anywhere near the top of my class. But I know one thing from watching cop shows on TV: you never go anywhere with someone who looks as threatening as these guys.

And what’s more, he’s calling me ma’am? How old do I look? I take a mental note to review my skincare regime.

“Oh, I…no thank you. I’m good,” I reply weakly.

“What’s going on, Mads?” Chloe asks. “Who are these guys?”

Eric steps forward. “I’m not happy about all this. What do y’all want with Maddie?”

Oh my, if I don’t swoon a little, right here in the office. Eric is coming to my rescue, like a knight in shining armor. Or a Viking in…braids?

It’s a lot sexier in my head.

“That’s between us and Ms. Turner,” Undertaker #1 replies curtly.

“Can I ask what it’s about? I mean, I’m more than happy to talk to you guys but, to be honest, you’re making me a little nervous,” I say.

Or a lot nervous.

Definitely a lot.

“There’s nothing to be nervous about, ma’am. We’re here on official duty. Is there somewhere we can talk?” Undertaker #1 asks.

Chloe brandishes a finger at them. “You’re not taking my friend anywhere, scary suit dudes. If you have anything to say, you can say it right here, right now.” She hooks her arm through mine and straightens her shoulders. “Right, Maddie?”

I press my lips together. “Right?”

The undertakers share a look.

“Is this—” Undertaker #1 gestures at Chloe, “—person your designated chaperone?”

I snort laugh at the thought of Chloe being anybody’s chaperone, let alone mine. She’s the one who’s always trying to get me to go dancing and drink shots. She’d be a horrible, horrible chaperone.

Chloe nudges me.

“She is my…err, chaperone,” I tell the men.

“We’ll have to clear the area. Everyone but her goes,” Undertaker #2 says.

“But I want to stay and see what happens,” Eric protests, and his knight armor loses some of its gleam.

Eric and Terrence are ushered from the room, and as the door swings shut behind them, Chloe folds her arms and glares at the undertakers. “Okay, scary looking dudes. Spill.”

Undertaker #1 pulls his brows together in confusion.

“She means explain,” I clarify, certain, despite their proficiency, that English is their second language.

He clears his throat and shoots me a meaningful look. “It is my responsibility as a representative of the Crown of Malveaux—” he begins.

“Crown of Mal-what-now?” Chloe interrupts.

But it all begins to fall into place for me.

Malveaux. The country of my mother’s birth. The country she left to marry my dad.

The country where she was a princess.

“—to inform you that your presence is required at the Royal Court with immediate effect.”

“The Royal Court?” Chloe chortles. “Mads, this is hilarious.”

“Why?” I ask, my heart doing double time.

“With the expected abdication of Prince Nicolas, you have become the next heir to the Kingdom of Malveaux by right of your royal birth.”

The ground beneath my feet turns to quicksand.

I’m now the heir to the Malveauxian throne?

Chloe barks out a laugh. “These guys are good!” She flicks her eyes to mine, only for her expression to drop. “Mads?”

“I’m kind of a…princess. Kind of. Not official or anything,” I say with the reluctance of a cat taking a bath.

“Wait, what?”

“My mom was a princess before she left Malveaux to marry my dad. But there was no way I was going to ever actually be a princess, let alone the heir to the throne.” I glance at the Undertakers, who I now realize are in fact royal security. “This is…unexpected.”

My parents chose to raise me as a regular American girl, away from all things royal back in Europe. I might know I’m a princess on paper, but it’s never meant anything.

Until right now.

Chloe pulls back from me, her eyes the size of soccer balls. “No. Freaking. Way. You’re a real-life princess?”

I shrug, although I know it to be true.

“Wait. Does this mean you’re Prince Alexander’s sister?”

“Prince Alexander?” I ask, feeling like I’m not quite in my body anymore. Why is she talking about him?

Undertaker #1 ignores Chloe. “I’m sorry to tell you, ma’am, but time is of the essence.”

“Is it because she needs to get to the White House to hang with her brother?” Chloe asks. “’Cause I’m totally free to go there with her. I am her official chaperone, as you know.”

“Prince Alexander is no relation whatsoever to Princess Madeline as he is a member of the royal family of Ledonia and not Malveaux. Two entirely different countries,” Undertaker #1 says as though speaking to a toddler.

“Whatever you say, dude,” Chloe replies. She winks at me. “You’re going to have to introduce me to Prince McHottie for sure.”

My thoughts bounce around in my head. Prince McHottie. Ledonia. Malveaux. Prince Nicolas abdicating.

My mom.

Panic slices through my belly like ice, my heart thudding, my breaths short and shallow, my head tight enough to explode.

Is this…really…happening?

Suddenly, I feel myself falling forward as though in a dream. Falling, falling, falling. And as everything turns black, the last thing I see is the gleam in Undertaker #1’s shiny polished shoes.




Chapter 2


He wouldn’t be our Lord of Lusciousness if Prince Alexander wasn’t seen out with a veritable bevy of American beauties at his beck and call. Last night’s soiree at the White House saw him stepping out with a senator’s beautiful daughter. They looked happy and relaxed, but this royal correspondent wonders what happened to one Carlita Perez, the beautiful supermodel our Prince of Perfection was spotted enjoying a drink with only a few nights ago at New York’s Plaza Hotel. Poor Carlita. It looks like you’ve already been replaced. Such is life as a love interest of the future King of Ledonia.

Your favorite royal correspondent, Fabiana Fontaine xx





I think I love America. Seriously. Although I can’t quite be fully anonymous here, what with journalists following me from Ledonia on my official visit, it’s still a far cry from my life as Crown Prince back home.

What’s more, here in Washington DC, I can go sightseeing along with every Tom, Dick, and Harriet without being trailed by the entire freaking royal guard.

Of course Antony and Hans, my ever-protective, ever-present bodyguards, are watching my every move, but they’re doing it at enough of a distance that I can chat with the pretty girl who asked me out when I met her at the White House last night without feeling like I’m on display.

“So, you’re telling me that you’re not only a prince but you’re the first-born son, so that means you’ll become king someday?” Freya, aka the pretty girl, asks me as we walk up an expansive set of steps.

“Yes, although personally, I think it should be the first-born regardless of gender. It’s very old fashioned that Ledonia still insists on the male line ruling. Malveaux changed their law back in 1983 so that the first-born child would become the monarch, regardless of their gender.”

“Sure,” she replies and I wonder if she’s actually listening to me. “I can’t believe you’re going to be king.” She places her hand on my forearm. “I’m touching a future king. That’s c-razy.”

I suppress a sigh. “Crazy indeed.”

She giggles. “You’re so proper. ‘Crazy indeed’,” she repeats, putting on the worst imitation of my accent I think I’ve ever heard. And I’ve heard a few.

A change of subject is required. Anything to get her to move on from her delight in my royal status, which I’m quite happy to forget about on this sunny afternoon in the American capital.

“Remind me again why you get to go to functions at the White House?” I ask her as we come to a stop in front of a hugely oversized seated statue of a former president.

“I told you last night, silly. My daddy’s a senator,” she replies in that attractive southern drawl of hers.

Really, she could say anything and it would sound pretty. Anything but commenting on my status as a prince, that is.

“You don’t know what a senator is, do you?”

“Don’t they go around wearing white bed sheets, speaking in Latin?” I tease because of course I know what a senator is. My father ensured I studied world politics and history. As the heir to the throne of Ledonia, I need to know who’s who when I visit a country, particularly on a PR junket like this one, trying to get more American tourists to my country. When you’re a small principality on the large continent of Europe, you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do to survive.

Freya lets out a tinkling laugh. “That’s Roman senators, like on the movie with that guy who had to fight everyone else at the Colosseum in Rome, Italy.”

I arch my eyebrows. “Do you mean Gladiator, starring Russell Crowe?”

“You’ve seen it?”

Hasn’t everyone seen it? It’s a classic.

“I may have. The thing is, where I’m from we don’t have senators. We have Lords and Ladies of the Royal Court, with a parliament that represents the people.”

“The Royal Court? It sounds so fancy, Your Royal Highness.”

“Alexander, remember?”

“Okay.” Freya blushes when she adds, “Alexander.”

“That’s better.” I smile at her, thinking what I always think when I meet a new woman. Most of them, if not all, get goo-goo eyes for the royal part of my title. Even the Americans.

Not that I’m complaining, of course. I’m not a poor little rich boy yearning for a different, simpler life. Heck no. Being a prince is one sweet gig—if you ignore the perpetual media interest, the fact I need to live up to my father’s expectations, and women like Freya, blinded by my title.

It’s being the heir to the throne that I’m not so keen on.

“Who’s this guy?” I ask as I gesture at the imposing statue looming above us.

“Abraham Lincoln, of course!”

“Is that why this place is called the Lincoln Memorial?” I deadpan, because yes, I knew it was Abraham Lincoln.

She nudges me. “You know, it’s lucky you’re a handsome prince.”

“Why is that?”

I already know her reply. Pretty but dumb. I’ve heard it before.

“Because I bet you didn’t have to go to college and learn stuff.”

I attended Cambridge and graduated with a first-class honors degree in history before I joined the Royal Ledonian Navy as an officer. But I’m not going to bother Freya with that kind of irrelevant detail. She’s made her mind up about me already.

Prince equals not having to know stuff.

Oh, and being pretty, too.

I feign a smile. “You’re so right.”

“I knew it!” She beams. “Did you see that we were talked about on TMZ today?”

“I don’t generally follow the media coverage of the events I attend. If there’s anything I need to know, my chief of staff will tell me.”

“It wasn’t the event so much as you and me.” She gestures between us. “Here, I’ll show you.”

“It’s fine.”

“No, really. I want to.”

Before I can stop her, she’s pulled her phone from her purse and is showing me an image of us dancing at the White House last night. Her eyes are bright, her smile broad as she gazes at me in her sequined silver dress.

“You look lovely,” I tell her, barely glancing at my own image.

We look lovely,” she corrects. “Everyone is saying I’m your new girlfriend.”

“I imagine they are.”

What Freya doesn’t know is any woman I’m photographed with—be they a friend or a cousin or someone I’ve known for less than five minutes—is labeled as my latest girlfriend. At last count I believe I had dated close to 259 women in the last four years alone.

All in all, they’ve been right a grand total of never.

And yes, I know that makes me sound like some sort of sad sack with no actual relationship experience. But there you have it.

“It’s so funny because last night was the first night I met you, and they’re already saying we’re dating, which we’re not.”

“Facts should never get in the way of a good story,” I reply.


Thankfully, she slips her phone back into her purse.

“Tell me more about what it’s like to be an actual prince.”

Do I have to?

“Why don’t you tell me what you think it’s like to be a prince.”

“I’d love to! I figure you sit in a gilded chair, wearing a crown, and make decrees as peasants line up to give you their suckling pigs and baskets of strawberries for your feasts.”

Not even close.

“Then on Sundays you go and inspect the guard at the Trooping of the Color.”

That’s Britain.

“During the week you’ll turn up at charity events and sip tea and cut ribbons.”

Far too accurate, although I prefer coffee, not tea.

“And I bet you’ve got a castle in the mountains somewhere where you go and ski and relax.”

It’s on the Mediterranean, and it’s more water skiing than snow skiing.

“Anything else?” I ask.

“Oh, you sleep in a four-poster bed with curtains that you close around you.”

“Do I wear a night shirt with matching cap?”

“I bet you do!”

“I think you’ll find that’s Scrooge from the Charles Dickens novel, A Christmas Carol.”

“You mean the duck?”

And she thinks I’m the one who didn’t “learn stuff” at university.

I give her an impassive smile. Why did my father’s PR people think it was a good idea for me to go out with this woman today? “The duck. Exactly.”

“Oh, you are way cuter than that duck.” She nudges me with her shoulder. “Now, where was I? Oh, that’s right. I bet I’ve got it all a hundred percent right.”

“Right down to Scrooge McDuck.”

She beams. “I bet you get woken up by a chambermaid every morning instead of an alarm clock like us regular folk, and she curtsies to you before she draws the curtains and says ‘good morning, your Royal Highness’ and then she hands you tea and crumpets for your breakfast.”

She falls into a satisfied silence, and I realize she’s finished.

“You have quite the imagination,” I reply.

“Oh, I’ve watched The Crown. I know all about royal life.”


Her eyes widen. “Oh my gosh, do you know William and Kate?”

“Of course. We meet up regularly in our night shirts and matching caps to eat suckling pig and strawberries brought to us by well-meaning but impoverished peasants.” I do my best to keep a straight face.

I can tell she’s trying to work out whether I’m pulling her leg.

She must decide I am when, after a beat, she lets out a laugh. “You’re so funny. I love that about you. I never would have thought a prince could be funny.”

“Fancy that,” I reply, suddenly tired.

What I wouldn’t do to be sightseeing on my own in blissful, anonymous silence.

The thing is, when you’re seen as an exciting European Prince, people want to be with you. Women want to be with you. But here’s the thing. They don’t really want to be with you, more the idea of who they think you are.

Looking into Freya’s eyes right now, I know she has no interest in me.

In fact, it’s been a long time since I met a woman who wants to know me. All they see is the fancy title and the fancy clothes, the lavish events and the media coverage. And that’s great.

Or it was great.

I’ll admit, I’ve had dalliances with my fair share of the women of this world. Probably more than my fair share, if I’m going to be totally honest.

It’s been easy. Very easy. It’s like I’m some kind of royal rockstar, with women flocking to me wherever I go. Beautiful women. Smart women. But I never feel that real connection that I want. Call me maturing or getting old, but I no longer want flings and ego boosts with models and actresses and It girls.

It was fine for a while, but not anymore.

I want what others have: a loving, committed relationship with someone who actually knows me, someone who loves me. I want the kind of solid permanence of love, a love that lasts more than a few weeks.

I want a love that lasts a lifetime.

I blow out a puff of air. I sound like a romantic sap who’s watched too many Hallmark movies and needs to grow a pair. For the first part, I blame my little sister, Amelia, who makes me watch a seemingly endless list of romantic Christmas movies every year. Well, I say she makes me, but really, I relish the chance I get to spend time with her. We came to a compromise a long time ago: I would watch her movies with her—determined not to enjoy them, of course—and she would tell Father all the things I want him to know about me—not what they say in the media.

And for the other part? I’m safe in my masculinity. I don’t need to grow anything.

I’m a man who knows what he wants, and I’m not going to stop until I get it.

Knowing what Freya wants from me and not feeling willing to give it, I walk her to her car, where her father’s driver has been patiently waiting. I say goodbye to her with a kiss to the cheek.

“It was just wonderful to spend an afternoon with a prince,” she breathes as she takes my hand in hers.

An afternoon with a prince. Just what I thought.

“Safe travels back to your home state.”

“Goodbye, Your Royal Highness.”

I open my mouth to ask her once more to call me Alexander, but close it. There’s no point. To her, as to the rest of the world, I’m nothing more than a prince.



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