Tuesday, March 1, 2022

Palace Envy, Chapter 3



The palace is quiet at night.

After finishing up my work for the day, I retired to the servants’ quarters, which are connected to the palace. The term “servants’ quarters” makes you think of some sixteenth-century broken-down building where we lower class workers are packed inside with hardly any breathing room. But it’s not like that at all. It’s actually really lovely—so much better than what I experienced growing up at the Home for Girls.

A lot of people work for the palace. Last I heard, ninety-five employees are working here. This includes servants, chefs, footmen, cleaners, plumbers, gardeners, chauffeurs, and electricians. There’s even a man whose entire job is just to look after the clocks in the palace. (He’s a very, very nice man, and very knowledgeable about clocks. Like, did you know that the oldest working mechanical clock was made in 1386?)

Anyway, the palace is somewhat isolated from the rest of Claybrooke and all ninety-five of us work long hours, including the clock guy, so it makes good sense to have housing provided for us—and every room is fully furnished. My private room is small but perfect. The mattress is firm, but not too firm, and the bedsprings only creak just the tiniest bit when I lie down on them. It is a single room, but they provided a little loveseat and bookcase and I brought my own small television. I share a bathroom with only one other person. And I have my own private phone line.

Free room and board are amazing. It means every penny I earn here goes straight into my bank account. I’m slowly building a little nest egg. But I don’t need the money right now. I’ve got everything I want.

One thing I regret is that the servants’ quarters don’t have a kitchen. I do have a small microwave in my room, and the cook in the kitchen provides meals for all of us, so really, there’s no reason to have a kitchen. But when I was working for the duke, I cooked a lot of his meals. And even when I wasn’t cooking for him, I would go down to the kitchen and make something for myself. I found it incredibly relaxing. Especially baking.

So tonight, after most people are in bed for the night, I sneak back to the palace. To bake some chocolate cupcakes.

I lay out the ingredients on the counter: flour, eggs, cocoa powder, vanilla, and baking powder. The palace kitchen is stocked with everything you could imagine. The duke had a nice kitchen, but this is on another level.

I can’t imagine what it must’ve been like growing up here. We were packed in like sardines at the Home for Girls—the whole facility only had two bathrooms for all twenty-something of us. (Can you Imagine nearly thirty girls sharing only two bathrooms? No wonder we all hated each other.) There was a kitchen, but it was also tiny. Probably smaller than any of the closets in the palace. (This morning, I went into a room and couldn’t figure out why there wasn’t a bed for me to make. It took me an embarrassing few seconds to realize I was inside a closet.)

As I combine the wet ingredients in a bowl, I try not to think about Prince Arthur and the way he spoke to me last night. But it’s hard. Of course, I had heard rumors about the prince before I started working here. But I assumed because he was engaged, any shenanigans with the palace staff members would have to stop.

Maybe I misunderstood his intentions. The more I think about it, the more I’m sure I must’ve overreacted. Prince Arthur is an upstanding member of the royal family. He would never be unfaithful to his betrothed, and it’s not like I’m so irresistible. Iris was just teasing me because I’m new here.

Yes, she was definitely teasing me. I have nothing to worry about.

As I get the cupcake tray in the oven, I hear a sound coming from somewhere within the palace. The palace is so large that I can’t tell where any of the random sounds are coming from. And it’s old—so old. The Palace of Norland was originally built in 1703, and although it has been through dozens of renovations during this time, most of it is furnished in original early nineteenth-century interior design, in a cream and gold color scheme. The paintings on the walls span hundreds of years as well. The only part of the palace that’s modern is the kitchen, and even that is badly in need of an update.

If I were the sort of person who believed in such things, I might think the palace was haunted. But I’m not that kind of person. When I hear a loud creak, I am much more worried that the eighteenth-century ceiling is about to collapse on me.

The sound grows louder. It sounds like footsteps now. Somebody is walking down the main staircase.

I look down at my watch. It’s nearly midnight. The king and queen are elderly and usually are in bed by nine o’clock. It’s Saturday night, so Prince Arthur is out having another night on the town, this time without Charlotte. All the staff members are in their quarters. Except for me.

The footsteps grow louder and my heart is pounding in my chest. I back up against the oven, nearly burning my hand on the hot surface. There’s no way there could be an intruder in the palace. There’s a gate encircling the grounds, and there are multiple guards who stand watch at the only entrance twenty-four hours a day.

So who is walking around the palace?

“What’s cookin’, good lookin’?”

The voice comes from the far entrance to the kitchen. I spin around, brandishing an icing spatula. Not the best weapon, but… better than nothing? Maybe?

But then I lower my spatula. It’s just Prince Arthur. Oh, thank goodness.

“Hello, Your Royal Highness,” I say.

“Hiya, Hannah.”

He remembered my name. I’m not sure whether to feel pleased or uneasy.

I’m hoping he will move along, but instead, he enters the kitchen. He looks somewhat disheveled. His golden hair is flopping over his eyes, and his expensive white shirt is unbuttoned at the top revealing pale chest hair, his tie hanging loose. He’s giving me this strange look—is he angry to catch me using the palace kitchen at night? I can’t tell. So I do the only thing I can think to do: I curtsy for him.

I perform my usual curtsy, which is rusty but has been deemed acceptable by the queen and king. But then when I look up at him, he shakes his head. So I go lower.

He shakes his head again. “Lower.”

Again? Is he joking with me? I can’t go any lower than this. It’s not physically possible! But I do my best. Of course, it’s not a real curtsy because I’m wearing my pajamas instead of my uniform, but I try to get my knee down as low as I can.

Not surprisingly, I fall.

The prince starts to laugh, which is also not that surprising. I scramble back to my feet, avoiding his eyes. At least he’s wearing a shirt this time.

“I didn’t know you were home, Your Royal Highness,” I mumble.

“Clearly not.” There’s amusement in his dark eyes. “Or else you wouldn’t have snuck into the palace to use the kitchen.”

“I didn’t…” I clear my throat. “I wasn’t sneaking. Nobody was using it, so…”

“So you thought you would come in here and help yourself to what isn’t yours.” He lifts an eyebrow. “Isn’t that the definition of stealing?”

Oh no. He really does seem upset about this. “I’m so sorry, Your Royal Highness.”

Prince Arthur takes a step toward me. He looks handsome tonight, with his golden hair, brown eyes, and muscular build. Most women in the kingdom would kill to be alone with him like this. But all I can think is that I need to get out of here.

I let out a loud yawn and stretch my arms over my head. “Well, I guess I’ll head off to bed then.”

He jerks his head in the direction of the oven. “Don’t you have cupcakes in there?”

Yes, I do. Dang it. “Right. And I should be keeping a close eye on them. Then I’ll go to bed.”

He takes another step toward me, a smile playing on his lips. “How long until the cupcakes are done?”

“Um, ten minutes?” Close enough—I’ll take them out raw if I have to. I’ve lost my appetite anyway.

“I’d love to try one…”

The prince is only about two feet away from me. I back up against the kitchen counter, feeling the cold hard surface biting into my ribs. “I’ll leave them on the counter for you. You can have one in the morning.”

He flashes those perfectly white teeth at me. “What if I want a cupcake now?”

My voice feels hoarse. “They’re not ready now.”

He takes one more step toward me. Now he’s close enough to touch me. “Maybe you can entertain me in the meantime.”

“I… I should get to bed.”

“But you have to wait for your cupcakes, don’t you?”

For the love of God, why did I have to make cupcakes? Why didn’t I make… cookies? Those are ready in less than ten minutes. I would’ve been done by now. I squirm against the kitchen counter as he crosses the small gap between us. I feel his breath on my face. He smells like vodka.

“You’re sexy, Hannah.” His breath feels hot on my cheek. “I couldn’t stop thinking about you after you left my room last night.”

I suck in a breath. I wasn’t mistaken last night after all. “Oh…”

Even though I’m squirming, he reaches out and runs his fingers over the curve of my jaw. I can barely breathe. I never had to deal with this back at the duke’s house. Even when he thought I was his wife, he was always imminently respectful.

“Listen…” I cough into my hand. “I am so flattered, um, Your Royal Highness, but I’m not really interested…”

He smirks. “Yeah, right. Don’t be a tease.”

“I… I’m not…”

“You don’t have to play hard to get. Trust me.”

“No, I—”

Whatever I was about to say gets cut off by the prince jamming his tongue down my throat. It feels like an eel trying to squirm its way into my mouth. I taste the vodka and orange juice and cigarettes, and it’s all I can do to keep from throwing up in the prince’s mouth. Wow, that would be such an embarrassing reason to get fired—throwing up in Prince Arthur’s mouth.

Although I planned to renew my objections when he pulled away, he’s not pulling away. He keeps his lips on mine and he keeps pawing at me—his fingers are sneaking under my shirt. I feel a wave of almost overwhelming revulsion, and I try to push him off of me, but he won’t budge. He’s too strong. So I do what Gertrude used to tell me I should do if a boy got too grabby with me:

I raise my right leg and knee him in the groin as hard as I can.

It works. Really, really well. I’ve never done it before, so I’m very impressed and pleased at how well it works. I got him right in the sweet spot. In an instant, he is doubled over, clutching his family jewels, looking like he’s about to throw up.

“What the hell is wrong with you?” he snaps at me.

“I’m sorry,” I say, even though I’m not the slightest, tiniest bit sorry.

Although I have a feeling in another sixty seconds, I might feel differently.

Prince Arthur is still doubled over, his face bright red. “You know, every other girl in your position has been grateful. Anyone in the entire kingdom would be thrilled to have the attention of a crowned prince!”

Every other girl in your position. How many girls has he done this to?

And now I’m extra glad I kneed him in the groin.

“I’m so sorry,” I lie. “It was an accident.”

“Was it?” He manages to straighten out just a bit. “Well, let’s hope next time there are no other ‘accidents.’ Or else…”

I stare at him. “Or else what?”

“Or else.” A tiny smile curls his lips. “I don’t think it’s going to be very pleasant for you, Hannah.”

He steps toward me again and I’m scared he’s going to grab me, but instead, he reaches for a bottle of rum on the counter. He unscrews the top and takes a long swig. He glares at me, then he wanders out of the kitchen, just as the timer goes off on my cupcakes.




Okay, this is bad.

I just kneed the royal prince of Norland in the groin. After he groped me. When I imagined all the scenarios for what I would be doing three months into my stay at the royal palace, this was not in any one of them.

Iris’s room is right next to mine. I bang on the door until my knuckles hurt. It takes that long for her to open up, and I can tell she’s been sleeping. Her hair is disheveled and there are circles under her eyes.

“Hannah, what the hell?” she snaps at me.

I push past her and don’t stop until I reach her loveseat, which is a mirror image of the one in my room. I drop down on it, my hands shaking. My whole body is shaking.

“Hannah, do you know it’s almost one in the morning?” Iris folds her slim arms across her chest. “I’m exhausted.  You can’t just barge in here in the middle of the night and expect—”

“Prince Arthur attacked me.”

Her eyes widen. She drops down onto the loveseat beside me. “Are you serious? What happened?”

“I was in the kitchen.” I hug myself, rocking back and forth. “And he just started kissing me out of nowhere.”

She frowns. “That’s it? He kissed you?”

“That’s it? Iris, he just grabbed me out of nowhere. I was terrified!”

“Yeah, but it’s just a kiss…”

I can’t believe what I’m hearing. I expected the prince might hit on me, but I didn’t think he would just grab me like that. How could he do something like that? He’s royalty! It’s so… unbecoming!

“So what did you do?” she asks, a little more gently.

“I kneed him in the groin.”

Iris clasps a hand over her mouth. “You didn’t!”

“Oh, I did.”

She winces. “Hannah, look, there are some unwritten rules when you’re working here. Arthur is a bit grabby, but you have to go along with it. It’s not like he’s disgusting or anything. Most women would be happy for some attention from the prince.”

It’s exactly what the prince said to me. I hug myself and rock harder.

Iris sits down beside me on the love seat so that our knees are nearly touching. She has been far from maternal since I’ve been working here, but she does give me a lot of advice—almost like a big sister. Things were so lax when I was working at the duke's house, so it’s invaluable to have her advice. She’s got tons of it.

Always look the members of the royal family in the eye. Always use formal addresses. Always curtsy.

Never complain.

“You should know,” she says, “there was a girl here a while ago who made an accusation against Prince Arthur. She was very pretty and he was trying to seduce her. She wasn’t interested. She already had a boyfriend and she thought Arthur was an ass. So she told him to stay away from her and she quit her job. She didn’t even do anything to him. She just wanted to leave.” She pauses. “But then a few days later, a piece of the queen’s jewelry, estimated to be worth twenty thousand dollars was found in her home. She’s in jail now, Hannah. She was ostracized by her family and friends.”

I stare at Iris. “Why are you telling me this?”

“Listen to me, Hannah.” Her brows knit together. “You don’t go against the royal family. Ever. They’re too powerful. And everyone loves them. Especially Arthur.”

That sick feeling returns. Iris is right. Everyone loves the royal family. Prince Arthur is every girl’s first crush. And who am I? I’m nobody. I have nothing—even the bed I sleep on every night isn’t mine. I don’t even have money for a decent lawyer if they accuse me of stealing something.

“Just… keep your head down.” She looks down at her watch. “It’s late. I bet he was drunk. Maybe he won’t remember what happened in the morning.”

But I saw the look in Arthur’s eyes. He’s not going to forget what happened. He wants to make me pay for humiliating him.

There’s no way out of this situation.



Prince Edward


The phone wakes me at three in the morning.

I can barely open my eyes as I grasp blindly at my night table, feeling for the cordless phone I keep there. My fingers find the receiver and I yank it off the hook, blinking my eyes to try to focus in the dark.


It’s Mara’s voice. Why would my sister be calling at three in the morning? It can’t be for anything good. Also, she sounds like she’s crying.

It must be our parents. Something must’ve happened. Shit.

“What’s wrong?” I say.

She gulps loudly. “Eddie…”

I grip the phone so tightly, it hurts my fingers. “Mara, what’s going on?”

“There was an accident and…” Her voice breaks. “Arthur is dead.”

And then she dissolves into hysterical tears.

I sit up in bed, staring into the blackness of my bedroom, trying to wrap my head around what she just told me. Arthur is dead. Is she talking about our brother? Our young, healthy, virile brother is just about the most alive person I’ve ever met. I must’ve heard her wrong. Arthur can’t be dead. It’s not possible.

“Mara.” I swallow. “I don’t understand. How could…?”

“He was in a car accident,” she manages. “He was driving drunk. Again.”

I wince. A year ago, Arthur was pulled over for a DUI. But when you’re the prince, there’s always a way to get out of it. He didn’t even end up going to court. Maybe if he had, he would have learned his lesson.

“He bashed into a tree,” she sobs. “Nobody else was hurt but he…”

I rub my eyes. This doesn’t seem real. It feels like I could still all be part of some crazy dream. “Are you sure he’s dead?”

“Yes, I’m sure, Eddie!”

Mara is still crying on the other line. I rub my eyes again, but they’re completely dry. Arthur is my twin brother. This should have hit me hard, but somehow, I feel nothing.

“I’ll drive in tomorrow, okay?” I tell her.

“Okay,” she whimpers.

“I love you, Mara. I’ll see you soon.”

My thoughts are racing as I put down the receiver and lie back down in bed. Arthur is dead. My brother is fucking dead. Holy shit. I can’t believe it.

I squeeze my eyes shut. I’m supposed to feel sad over this. I should be holding back tears right now or else letting them fall. Instead, I just have this hollow feeling inside me. Only I know the truth.

I hated my brother.

Maybe hate is a strong word. But I didn’t love him. I didn’t even like him. I never have. The two of us never liked each other. I can just imagine us getting in fistfights in the womb.

My first clear memories of Arthur are from when I was about four years old. By then, I was walking badly enough that I needed to hold onto things around the house to keep from falling, or else I would crawl. Really, I needed crutches, but my mother would have died rather than buy me a pair. Anyway, she used to take us to the small playground in Claybrooke a few times a week. Arthur was great at making friends, so he would usually find kids to play with, while I would be relegated to sitting in the sandbox—if my mother allowed me out of my stroller at all.

I couldn’t stand up from the ground. Standing up from a chair or sofa was hard enough, but the floor was impossible. If I wanted to leave the sandbox, I would have had to crawl, but there was no way my mother would allow me to do that. She wasn’t going to let anyone see her four-year-old son crawling because he couldn’t walk. Crawling was forbidden outside of the house.

So I would just sit there in the sandbox, hoping Arthur would bring his friends over to play with me. And he never, ever did.

But one day, some of his friends went to play in the sandbox of their own accord. Given my physical limitations, I had a lot of trouble making my own friends, so I was very excited the other kids were coming to me. And even more excited when they showed interest in what I was making.

What’s that? one of the boys asked me.

I’m building a palace, I said. Like the one I live in.

The boy opened his mouth to ask me another question, but before he could, Arthur stepped between us. Don’t play with him. He’s my stupid, crippled little brother. He’s no fun.

And then Arthur kicked my palace of sand until it was nothing but a mound of dirt.

The truth is, I was glad to leave him behind when my parents sent me away. Arthur was the one thing about home I knew I wouldn’t miss.

And not much changed as we got older. Arthur wasn’t as cruel right to my face, but he always found subtle ways to jab at me. When I first met Charlotte, he nudged me and said, That’s what a real woman looks like. Not like your Kate. Sorry about that, by the way.

The last time I saw my brother—the last time I will ever see my brother—was at Christmas. I’ll never forget the last words he said to me before I left to go back home. I was sitting in my wheelchair in the dining room, looking at the family portrait over the dining table. It had been painted a few months prior, and it contained the entire Montgomery family: King Frederick, Queen Amelia, Prince Arthur, and Princess Marabelle. I was never aware it was being painted, and no invitation has been extended to me to be part of the family portrait. Not that I would have expected it. But it would’ve been nice if I didn’t have to stare at it during every goddamn meal since I got there.

Arthur caught me looking at the portrait. He could tell it upset me. I remember he put his hand on my shoulder, and I thought for a moment he might say something nice. You’ll always be my brother, Edward. I’m sorry they left you out.

But that wouldn’t have been Arthur. He wouldn’t have been my brother if he didn’t take every opportunity he could to make me feel like crap about myself.

Sorry we left you off the portrait, Edward, he said. But you must understand how important appearances are. We can’t have people coming into our dining hall and staring at you in your…

And then he looked down disdainfully at my wheelchair.

The words “fuck you” were on the tip of my tongue. The entire drive home, I was speeding and fuming about how I should’ve just said it. Of course, now I’m glad I didn’t. Because if I had, it would’ve been the last words I said to my brother. Instead, I just mumbled, It’s fine. I don’t care.

And now he’s gone. He’s never going to make a snide comment again about how badly I walk. Or what a good thing it was that he was born first, because can you imagine the alternative? My brother is dead. He’s dead.

Nothing is ever going to be the same.





My head is pounding and so is the door to my room. Every few pounds, they line up perfectly, and the effect is excruciating.

Go away, I silently will the person at my door. Please go away!

I couldn’t sleep last night. Surprise, surprise. All I could think about was Prince Arthur and his tongue jammed down my throat. I’m scared that’s not going to be the only thing jammed down my throat in the next few months.

But what can I do? Prince Arthur is one of the most powerful men in Norland. Yes, there is the Prime Minister who does most of the governing. But Prime Ministers come and go—the royal family is beloved by the entire kingdom. Everyone watched Arthur grow up from when he was a baby. He’s the most popular celebrity there is.

Even I loved the guy. Until I met him.

Working at the palace has always been my dream. I can’t believe this happened.

“Hannah!” Iris is shouting my name from the other side of the door. “Hannah, let me in!”

I swing my legs over the side of the bed and bury my face in my hands. I don’t feel like getting up. Not now, not ever. “Go away!”

“Hannah!” The banging gets even louder. “Please open the door! Prince Arthur is dead!”

Prince Arthur is…


The fatigue I felt a moment earlier vanishes in an instant. I jump out of bed in my pajamas and dart across the room. I yank open the door and Iris is standing there in her own pajamas, her blue eyes swollen and lined with red.

“Prince Arthur is dead?” I manage.

Oh God, what if they think I killed him? I had thought about it, that’s for sure. I mean, not in a serious kind of way. Like in that kind of way when you think about what would happen if you stood up in the middle of a movie theater and yelled “fire!” I wouldn’t really do it, but there’s that temptation…

And we were alone together last night. What if they think…

“He was in a car accident.” Iris’s voice breaks. “It’s all over the news.”

I start to ask what channel, but it’s a stupid question. The young prince of Norland is dead. That’s going to be on every channel.

Sure enough, it is. The second I turn on the TV screen, I see an image of the front fender of Arthur’s crumpled red Porsche. He loved that car. I watched him once from the window of my room, tearing down the driveway to the exit, nearly mowing down the gardener. The poor fellow had to leap out of the way.

“Prince Arthur was declared dead at the scene,” the newscaster reports, her eyes bleary with tears. “And now the entire kingdom is mourning the loss of their beloved prince.”

Oh my goodness…

I look over at Iris, who is wiping her eyes. Everyone in the kingdom is in mourning like the reporter said. They don’t know what that man was really like. You don’t know who a person is until he’s grabbed you and forced his tongue in your mouth. That says a lot about a guy.

And now nobody will ever know. Prince Arthur will be buried in a grave and the world will keep believing he was a saint.

“It’s so sad!” Iris cries.

I nod hesitantly. Prince Arthur was beloved by all of Norland. Everybody’s mourning today. Except… I don’t feel sad. Not even a little bit. All I feel is relief that I never have to deal with that horrible man ever again.

I… I think I might be glad he’s dead.

I suck in a breath, horrified by my own thoughts. I love the royal family. The duke rescued me from that terrible home for girls, and I’ve dreamed about working in the palace since I was ten years old. And Arthur is the prince. I should feel horrible about his death.

But… I don’t.

Of course, I can never say anything to anyone. Everything that happened last night must be buried with the prince. I can never tell anyone how I really feel.

“How drunk was he when he left you last night?” Iris says suddenly, interrupting my disturbing thoughts.

I swivel my head to stare at her. “What?”

“You told me he was drinking,” she reminds me. “Did you try to stop him from driving?”

A bubble of anger rises in my throat. “How was I supposed to stop him?”

“Well…” She wipes her eyes with the back of her hand. “If you had told somebody he was drinking, maybe they could have stopped him from driving. And then he would still be alive.”

I don’t know what she’s talking about. Who was I supposed to tell? Was I supposed to wake up the queen at one in the morning?

Although now that I think about it, perhaps I could have told the guard at the front gate. Maybe they could have stopped him.

My breath catches in my throat. I could’ve done something to stop him. Am I responsible for this?  After all, I was sober and I let him drive away.

But I didn’t know he was going to drive. He walked off with the rum, and for all I knew, he was going to his room.


Oh God. If a girl got sent to jail just for turning Arthur down, imagine what they would do to the person who might be responsible for his death.

“Please don’t tell anyone,” I beg Iris.

“Don’t worry.” She looks into my eyes. “We’re both from the Home for Girls—we're like sisters. I have your back.”

I wish I could believe her.



Prince Edward


When the sun comes up the next morning and I wake from a restless sleep, I’m not entirely sure whether I imagined it all or not. Did Mara actually call me in the middle of the night and tell me that our brother is dead? Did that really happen? Or was it all just a crazy, vivid dream? I’m not even sure anymore.

But then I turn on the television. It was not a dream.

Arthur’s death is all over the news. Every station. Image after image of Arthur’s mangled Porsche. The prince is dead. Of course, nobody mentions that he was drunk. That will be kept out of the news if my mother has anything to do with it.

As soon as possible, I’ve got to get in my Dodge and make the ninety-minute drive out to the palace. But I can’t just up and leave like nothing—I have to make arrangements if I’m going to be gone for a week or two.

The news station flashes an image of the king and queen standing in front of the palace entrance. My mother is dabbing her eyes with a handkerchief while my father stands beside her, his shoulders sagging in his navy blue suit jacket. The sight of my mother gives me a stabbing feeling in my chest like it always does these days.

“We are devastated by the loss of our son, Prince Arthur.” My mother’s voice breaks on his name. “Please allow us to have privacy during this difficult time.”

Shit, my parents. I’ve got to call them.

If I call the main line for the palace, I’ll never get through right now. I’m sure it’s clogged with dozens of people calling to offer condolences. Instead, I dial the private number to my parents’ bedroom. I brace myself for what is likely to be a very painful call. It’s a relief when nobody picks up.

I’ll have to try again later, but in the meantime, I hit the shower. I use my wheelchair first thing in the morning, and I’ve got a shower bench set up in my bathroom. The first thing I did when I bought this house was I widened all the doorways, but unlike in the palace, the bathroom is tiny. The palace has bathrooms larger than my whole house put together, but I can’t afford that.

I don’t get any money from my family that might help me upgrade my lifestyle. Why not? Well, first, I would never take money from them. Ever. Second, my family doesn’t have any money.

That’s another well-kept secret, like my brother’s drinking problem. The Montgomery family does not own the palace. The palace is the property of the kingdom of Norland. All the servants who work in the Palace? Employed by the government, not my family. Because they are the royal family, they are allowed the privilege of living in the palace and all the amenities, as well as a fund designated for the royal family. But if the public sentiment ever turned against them, my family would be homeless.

And that’s why appearances are so important to them. I don’t know what my parents have in their bank account, but it’s not a lot. It wouldn’t be good if they got kicked out of their home.

That’s why on some level, I get why they wanted Arthur to represent the family. Despite his character flaws, he was the kind of person who could make an entire kingdom fall in love with him. I can’t. And I have no interest in trying.

I spend far too long in the shower, letting the burning hot water scald my skin. I’ve got a portable shower chair I’ll take with me to the palace because it would of course be too much trouble to ask them to store one for me in one of their ten thousand closets. I left one there once, and it had been quietly disposed of before the next time I returned. But I need it. I can’t stand in the shower.

When I get out of the shower, the light on my answering machine is blinking. Without even checking, I’m sure it was my mother. I count to ten in my head, then I call her back. I don’t know how this conversation is going to go, but one way or another, it’s going to be painful.

“Edward.” Her voice is crisp, without any trace of the tears I saw on the television screen. My mother is the master of her own emotions. “You’ve heard the news.”

“Mara told me. Are you okay?”

“We are… as to be expected.” She clears her throat. “The funeral will take place on Saturday. We’re making the arrangements.”

“Okay…” I probably wouldn’t have said what I say next, except she sounds so calm: “I heard he was drunk.”

There’s a long silence on the other line. “I don’t think we need to talk about that, do we, Edward?”

Now I feel bad for saying it. “No. We don’t. I’m sorry.”

“Yes…” Somebody is speaking in the background—a muffled voice. “Edward, I must go. We are hoping to see you today though, as soon as possible.”

“Right. I’ll drive out this afternoon. I just need to take care of a few things.”

“Please don’t take that car of yours.” My mother doesn’t like my ‘84 Dodge. Even though it’s a perfectly reliable car. Again—appearances. “We’ll send a car for you this afternoon.”

“I’d rather drive,” I say through my teeth.

“Don’t be ridiculous.”

I don’t want to argue with her right now—even if she sounds calm, she’s got to be incredibly upset over the death of her son. But that said, I don’t want to take one of the limousines. If I let them give me a ride out to the palace, I’m stuck there. If I feel like taking off in the middle of the night, because I can’t stand it another minute, I won’t be able to do it. And there’s about a fifty percent chance of that happening.

“We’ll see you later today.” She sounds distracted now. “I’ll have Iris make up a room for you.”

“One of the ones on the first floor—” But I get cut off before I can get my request out there. She’s notorious for “forgetting” to give me a first-floor bedroom. It’s at the point where I’m beginning to feel like she does it on purpose. Like maybe the fact that it takes me half an hour to get down all the stairs will inspire me to walk better.

I turn the television back on. This time, Charlotte is on the screen—Arthur’s fiancée. Like my mother, she’s dabbing daintily at her eyes. I’m sure she’s sad, but probably not because she misses Arthur so much. I didn’t even get the sense she liked him all that much. But she liked the idea of being Queen someday. You know the type. Her father has some sort of title of nobility, which is why Arthur was allowed to marry her. But she isn’t really royalty. Marrying the prince would have been a huge step up for her.

And Arthur, on his part, liked the idea of having a beautiful woman on his arm.

I’m lucky I got out of there when I did. I can’t imagine growing up that way. It does a number on you.

And now I have to go back. But I won’t stay for long.

To be continued.... 


  1. Hey Annabelle
    Thank you for the new update. I'm really into this story. Looking forward for the next update and hopefully soon for the book release.

  2. A looooong awaited chapter, thank you! What a twist here,didn't expect that! Can't wait for the next Sunday and the whole book published!
    Thank you for writing and sharing!

  3. Oh it's getting exciting here! Love the story <3 Can't wait for the book!


  4. This is great! Royal romance isn't a genre I'm normally into but I'm so invested in these characters already. I love the little details and asides, they make it feel so real and funny. Even in a made-up setting, it feels so grounded. Looking forward to the book!