Tuesday, March 1, 2022

Palace Envy, Chapter 4



The whole kingdom is in mourning over the death of Prince Arthur.

For the most part, the servants attempt to go about business as usual, even though things are very much not usual. But every free second we get, we are whispering about Arthur’s accident. Everybody knows he was drinking—Arthur was notorious for his binges—although nobody knows about me kneeing him in the groin minutes before he left the palace in a fury.

First thing in the morning, I usually make up the bedrooms. I start with the king and queen’s bedroom. Their bedroom is about the size of the entire Home for Girls, maybe larger. There’s a gigantic bed in the center of the room that’s only slightly smaller than a swimming pool, with an ornate wooden headboard. I’m fairly sure that only the king sleeps in that giant bed at night. Because there is a second equally enormous room a few doors down that I’m supposed to make up as well, and I’ve noticed the bathroom in that room contains the queen’s toiletries. But I’m not a gossip or anything, even if I hadn’t signed a fifty-page nondisclosure agreement.

After I finish taking care of the king and queen’s bedrooms, I make up the rooms of any guests that are staying at the palace. And last, I make up Prince Arthur’s room since he wakes up late and tends to get cranky if I disturb his slumber.

This morning, I go straight to Prince Arthur’s room.

Even though I cleaned it yesterday morning, it’s a disaster like it always is in the morning. He never even attempted to throw his clothing in the laundry basket, even though it was right in the corner of his room. Iris once said she considered putting a sign on the basket that said: “clothing goes here.” Like, maybe he didn’t know? And he changed his clothing multiple times a day, so at the start of every day, there were always at least seven or eight pieces of clothing on the floor. I also usually find multiple crumpled pieces of paper on the ground, some scattered coins, and a few empty bags of chips.

And his private bathroom is usually even worse. More clothing is always on the floor as well as sopping wet towels covering every inch of the tile. How many towels does one man require to take a shower? And there’s always piss on the toilet seat. Never fails. You would think they would teach you how to aim in prince school, or wherever they sent him.

I inhale deeply, taking in the scent of Arthur’s cologne. Thick and musky and expensive. After I scrub it down, the smell may linger for a day or two, and then it will be gone. I’ll probably never clean this room again.

“Please leave it.”

I nearly drop the mop in my hand at the sound of the sharp voice behind me. I whirl around and find the queen standing in the hallway, right outside Prince Arthur’s room. Staring at me.

The people of Norland might love Prince Arthur, but they absolutely adore Queen Amelia. I’m certainly not the only one. There is nobody in the kingdom—possibly in the universe—more beloved than our queen. Her beautiful smile makes her look just like the queen in a fairytale. And even in her seventies, she’s still a very beautiful woman.

After seeing her that one time when I was ten years old, my obsession with Queen Amelia grew. She was truly my idol. When I was in sixth grade, we all had to write an essay about the person we admired most. I didn’t even have to think about it—I picked her. And the essay was like ten pages long even though it only had to be five hundred words. I was just bubbling over with everything I had to say about my queen. As much as I wanted to return to the palace, I was most excited about serving the queen.

And then I came to work here.

It turns out Queen Amelia is very different up close and personal. In the three months I’ve been working here, she hasn’t smiled at me once. Not even a slight twitch of the lips. She barely even looks at me. When I serve her food, she doesn’t thank me. I would bet any amount of money that she doesn’t even know my name. And I don’t have much money to bet.

But somehow, that makes me all the more desperate to impress her.

“I… I’m so sorry, Your Majesty,” I mumble as I curtsy.

She nods once, briefly. Her eyes are slightly swollen, but other than that, she looks remarkably put together for a woman whose only son was just tragically killed. She’s wearing a black dress suit that doesn’t have a single crease on it. Her golden hair is immaculately pinned up behind her head.

“Are you sure you don’t want me to at least…” I glance at the floor of Arthur’s room, which is littered with an almost shocking amount of dirty clothing and food wrappers. I mean, it would be shocking for most people. Not for Arthur. Anyway, if they leave it like this, it will attract insects. “I can just tidy up quickly.”

“That’s fine.” She pushes past me into the room. She sits down on her son’s bed, staring at a crumpled candy bar wrapper on the ground. “Actually, perhaps you can pick up the food items, at least.”

“Of course!” I’m happy to pick up a few candy wrappers. Anything to cheer up the queen. “I’m so sorry for your loss, Your Majesty.”

“Thank you,” she says quietly. “It was a loss to the entire kingdom.”

Right. In six months, Prince Arthur would have been king. And now what will happen? Without him, there’s no male heir to the throne. The law states that if there is no male heir, the throne would go to Princess Marabelle, but only if she were married. Since she is unmarried, it’s not clear who would be next in the line of succession.

Queen Amelia sits on Arthur’s bed while I pick up the junk on the floor. I can feel her eyes on my back. She’s watching me clean. When I straighten up to look at her, her eyes are narrowed at me.

My legs turn to rubber. Why is she looking at me that way? Did she figure out what went on between me and her son shortly before he died?

Oh God, am I going to end up being hanged? There are still gallows in the town square in Claybrooke. And they’re only slightly dusty. Totally ripe for a good ol’ hanging.

“What is your name?” she asks me.

“Hannah,” I squeak.

She gives me an impatient look. “What did you say? Speak up!”

I clear my throat. “Hannah,” I say in a very slightly less squeaky voice.

“Hannah.” She rolls my name around her tongue. For a moment, I’m wondering if she’s going to ask me to consider changing it. But instead, she says something incredibly unexpected: “I would like you to go with Nigel to fetch Prince Edward.”

She’d like me to… what?

I try to wrap my head around this request. Apparently, even though she looks put together right now, Queen Amelia has completely lost her marbles. The death of Prince Arthur has pushed the poor elderly queen over the edge. Because now she somehow wants me to go “fetch” her other dead son.

“I see,” I say carefully.

“Nigel will be leaving in about an hour.” She clears her throat. “Will that be a problem for you?”

I’m supposed to have the afternoon off. I had been looking forward to a few hours of relaxation, but that’s not the only problem with this request. The bigger question is: how exactly are we going to fetch a dead prince? Because I don’t have a shovel.

“Of course, Your Majesty.” I swallow. “I just… how are we supposed to fetch him exactly?”

She sniffs. “Nigel will take you to him. But I’d like you to ensure he gets into the limousine.”

My stomach turns. She doesn’t really expect me to dig up a grave, does she? And what if I can’t do it? What will she do to me? This woman is unstable.

“Um, so…” I squeeze my hands together. “Which cemetery will we be going to?”

Queen Amelia stares at me, her eyes darkening. “Cemetery? What are you talking about?”

“I’m so sorry, Your Majesty,” I choke out. “But Prince Edward… he’s…”

“Oh Lord.” The queen lets out an impatient huff. “Prince Edward isn’t dead. Is that what you think?”


“He lives in Ancaster.” She rolls her eyes. “He usually visits on the holidays. I suppose you haven’t been here long enough to meet him.”

I frown, trying to figure out if she’s for real. She certainly doesn’t seem crazy. And she’s giving me very specific details. Now I’m starting to think Prince Edward might actually be alive. I read all about the twin sons born to the royal family thirty years earlier, and then, after five years, one of them was gone. So everybody assumed…

But I don’t get it. If the prince is still alive, why doesn’t he live with the royal family? He’s not even in that portrait they have over the dining table.

“Prince Edward… isn’t well,” Queen Amelia says, answering my unasked question. “He’s an invalid. We sent him to get medical care in private when he was a boy—far from Claybrooke, so he wouldn’t have to be in the public eye. But he never recovered.”

I cover my mouth. “Oh…”

Her voice lowers to a hush. “He’s severely disabled and he prefers to stay out of the limelight, which of course, we respect. But unfortunately, the situation has changed. He needs to come home and embrace his new role.”

She winces as she makes the statement. Prince Arthur was the golden boy. He was the shining beacon of good looks and good health. Now he’s dead. And the only remaining heir to the throne is his twin brother, who is apparently a mess.

“You’ll help him pack his belongings,” she says. “I’m going to put you at his disposal for whatever he needs. Obviously, given his disability, he will require a great deal of assistance. When you see him, make it clear to him that you are there to help him with whatever he needs.”

“Of course, Your Majesty.”

I don’t feel at all daunted by this task. In the last year of the duke’s life, he was mostly confined to a wheelchair and I was doing a lot for him. I helped him get dressed and bathed. The last few months, I was spoon-feeding him. I felt good about helping him through the final stages of his life. So if I have to do all that for Prince Edward, I’m okay with it. Not that I’m excited by the idea of having to spoon-feed a prince, but I’ll do it. And if I have to spoon-feed him when he is the king, I’ll do that too.

Queen Amelia looks me up and down, the corners of her mouth turning down. “Also, do you have something else you could wear for the trip?”

I frown. “Like… scrubs?”

“Oh no.” She picks up one corner of my shapeless black frock and lets it fall back down. “Something pretty. A dress, perhaps? This uniform isn’t terribly appealing.”

I don’t want to point out the obvious, which is that she approved these ugly uniforms we all have to wear. “Yes, Your Majesty. I can wear a dress.”

“Very good.” She nods her approval. “Then please go change and meet Nigel in the front.”

I start to pick up my mop and cleaning supplies, but the queen shakes her head. “Leave it. Just go get changed quickly and meet Nigel. I’d like you to leave as soon as possible. You don’t want to keep Prince Edward waiting, after all.”

“Yes, Your Majesty.” I curtsy for her. “I’ll get changed right away.”

“One more thing, Hannah.” She gives me a sharp look. “Don’t come back without the prince.”

I don’t know what she’s talking about. We are driving out for the sole purpose of picking up Prince Edward at his home—or nursing home or wherever he is. Why would we come back without him? It doesn’t make any sense.

But I’m not about to start asking questions. When the queen asks you to do something, you better do it. This is my chance to impress her. I’m not going to let her down.

“Yes, Your Majesty,” I say. “I’ll be back with him before you know it.”



Prince Edward


I spend most of the morning on the phone, making arrangements to be out of town for the next week. I haven’t taken a vacation in… Well, there haven’t been any since Kate and I broke up.  I admit I’m a bit of a control freak, and I don’t like the idea of leaving important stuff to other people.

Fortunately, everyone heard about my brother on the news, and even though they don’t know I’m the prince, they know I’m closely related to the royal family. So none of the managers are surprised when I call them and tell them I’m going to be gone for a few days.

“You okay, Eddie?” Oscar, the manager at my second restaurant, asks me.

“I’m fine,” I say honestly. “I hardly knew Arthur. He’s… you know, just a cousin.”

The lie feels bitter on my tongue. Arthur isn’t my cousin. He’s my brother. He’s my twin brother. But nobody can know that.

And then Oscar asks timidly: “How is Mara?”

About a year ago, Mara was here for dinner and Oscar stopped by with some business to discuss. I mumbled my usual lie about her being my cousin, and after being momentarily starstruck, he accepted my dinner invitation, and the two of them hit it off big time. Despite being a princess, Mara is really down to earth. She might live in the palace, but she avoids the limelight as much as possible. She loves volunteering for worthy causes—it’s how she spends most of her waking hours—as long as there won’t be any cameras around.

I was hoping the two of them might start seeing each other more seriously, but she won’t break the tradition that the princess must marry somebody from a royal family.  I told her it was total bullshit and she should marry whoever the hell she wants—or at least give Oscar a shot—but my sister is a rule follower to the end. Even if it means sacrificing her own happiness.

“Mara is very upset, of course,” I say. “You should give her a call.”

“Oh,” Oscar mumbles. “She’s a princess though. She wouldn’t want to hear from me.”

“She would. I’m sure she would. I’ll give you her number.”

I read off Mara’s private number to Oscar, and he makes me repeat it twice to make sure he’s got the number correct.

After I finish squaring things away with my restaurant, I pack a bag for the trip. I toss in about a week’s worth of clothing—nicer stuff than I usually wear. I’m sure my mother will do her damnedest to keep the cameras off me, being that I’m an embarrassment and all, but the paparazzi will inevitably get some shots of me. I don’t want to look like some bum in jeans and a T-shirt. Also, the palace has a dress code. I’m on my crutches today, but I bring my wheelchair to the door so I can throw it in the trunk. I’m just about ready to go when I see the limo pull up in front of my house.

Great. That’s just great.

I had been planning to be on the road already by the time it arrived, so I’d have an easy excuse. I see my mother’s driver and bodyguard, Nigel, behind the steering wheel. He’s a mild-mannered guy in his fifties who doesn’t take any bullshit, and he will have no problem getting my mother on the phone so that she can guilt trip me personally.

It doesn’t matter though. Nigel may be massive with biceps that strain the fabric of his suit, but he isn’t going to physically force me to get into that car. I want my own car, and nobody is going to guilt-trip me into getting into that limo. The important thing is that I’m coming out to the palace. It doesn’t matter how I arrive. They’re just going to have to deal with my shitty Dodge being in the parking garage.

And then the passenger’s side door opens.

I watch from the window as a girl in her twenties gets out of the car. She’s wearing a pale yellow sundress, and her vivid red hair is loose around her shoulders—it looks almost like fire under the light of the sun. She has this little nervous smile on her face so that just the very corners of her lips turn up. And she has a button nose that makes her face look impossibly cute.

I have to admit, after what happened with Kate and the number she did on my head, I haven’t been able to think much about other women. The truth is, I haven’t even been on a date since my broken engagement. I haven’t even wanted it.

But now I’m looking at this girl, and for the first time, I’m starting to wonder why I’ve been torturing myself all year. Because I can’t stop looking at this girl. And all of a sudden, the limo doesn’t seem like such a bad idea.

Christ, my mother is a really smart woman.






Prince Edward lives in a completely normal, unremarkable house. It’s small, only one story, and very much in need of a paint job on the outside, with some visibly loose shingles on the roof. It doesn’t seem like the sort of place where a prince would live.

Perhaps the prince’s caregiver lives here, and that’s why he’s here now. That makes a bit more sense. Especially since there is a dented blue Dodge parked in the driveway that certainly couldn’t belong to the prince.

I’ve been dying to ask Nigel questions about Prince Edward, but Nigel is a man of few words. He’s a big guy—you can’t see his muscles under his suit, but they’re there. Nobody has said the word “bodyguard,” but that’s his job. It’s my job to serve the royal family, and his job is to protect them. That’s why he’s here with me.

By the end of the drive, if somebody informed me that the only words Nigel could speak were “yes” and “no,” I would absolutely believe it. All I managed to get him to say was that he had met Prince Edward before, just to reassure myself one final time that we would not be digging up any graves during this trip.

“How will we get Prince Edward into the car?” I ask Nigel as he kills the engine.

He gives me a strange look. “The usual way.”

I don’t know what “the usual way” means. Queen Amelia described her son as “severely disabled.” I wish I had a little more information. Especially if I’m going to be doing some heavy lifting.

“Who lives here?” I ask him.

Now he’s looking at me like I’m a total moron. “Prince Edward.”

“Oh.” I take another look at the peeling paint on the house. “But…”

“You do understand why we’re here, right?”

“Yes. Yes. I just…” I take a deep breath. “Maybe I should go knock on the door.”

“I agree.”

I get out of the car and smooth out my faded yellow sundress. I throw my shoulders back and try to smile. It’s a crooked smile, but it’s the best I can manage under the circumstances. I wonder how Prince Edward is taking the news of his brother’s death. Or maybe he doesn’t even understand that Prince Arthur is dead. Oh no, am I going to have to be the one to tell him?

My hands are trembling only slightly as I get to the front door and push my thumb against the doorbell. At the palace, there’s a doorbell that sends the most beautiful chimes all around the hallways. This doorbell sets off an annoying buzzing noise that continues even after I lift my finger off the doorbell.

A second later, the door gets yanked open. I take a step back as a man leans out of the doorway and slams his fist against the doorbell. Repeatedly. The buzzing finally stops.

“Sorry,” the man says. “It does that sometimes.”

I open my mouth to ask for Prince Edward, but I notice two things simultaneously. First, the man in front of me is gripping crutches in both of his hands with metal that goes up to his elbows. And second, he has an uncanny resemblance to Prince Arthur.

Oh my goodness. This is him. This is Prince Edward.

“Hello, Your Royal Highness.” I grab the skirt of my sundress and curtsy as low as I can. “It is an honor to finally meet you.”

I look up at the prince, hoping my show of respect has been acceptable to him. But when my eyes meet his, he’s gawking at me.

“What are you doing?” he says.

“I’m so sorry, Your Royal Highness.” I try another curtsy. “Is this better?”

“No. I mean, stop it. Just… get up. Why are you doing that?”

I frown at him. “I’m curtsying. It’s a show of respect.”

He blinks at me. “Seriously? They still make you do that?”


“Jesus…” He lets go of one of his crutches and tugs at the hem of his dress shirt. It’s not tucked in—the Queen will go nuts if she sees it. Prince Edward notices me noticing, and he adds, “I know. I’ll tuck it in before I get there.”

I don’t know quite what to make of Prince Edward. He looks like Prince Arthur, but he talks completely differently. You could tell Prince Arthur was royalty from a mile away, but you would never think this man was a prince. He seems completely down to earth. And even though he shares a similar nose and jawline to Prince Arthur, there’s something gentler about Edward’s looks. Even though his hair is blond like Arthur’s, the light color seems more from the sun than the unnatural shade of gold in Arthur’s hair. Arthur looked like a prince, but Edward is the boy next door.

I never felt a moment of attraction to Prince Arthur, but standing next to Edward, I’m surprised when I feel that tug. No, it’s a little more than a tug. It’s more like a yank.

Of course, I don’t really like him. He’s a prince. And I’m a servant who works at the palace. Any sort of attraction for him will be fleeting and pointless, naturally. But if he tried to kiss me in the kitchen at midnight, I wouldn’t knee him in the groin. That’s all I’m saying.

“We should get going,” I say. “The queen is expecting you.”

“I’m sure.” Prince Edward flashes a lopsided smile. Unlike Prince Arthur, his teeth are not blinding white. They are a normal amount of white, with a slightly crooked incisor on the left. “So here’s the thing, um… what did you say your name is?”


“Hannah.” He nods. “So listen, Hannah, here’s the thing. I already have a car.” He nods at that dented Dodge. Oh my God, that’s his car? It looks like it barely runs. “And I’d like to take my own car to the palace.”

Okay, I get it now. This is why the queen sent me. She didn’t believe Prince Edward would want to take the limousine back to the castle.

Well, Queen Amelia has been my hero since I was a kid. And I am not going to let her down.

I lift my chin. “The queen asked that you come to the palace by limousine. Those were her explicit instructions.”

“Maybe.” He leans in a little closer to me, putting more weight on his crutches. He doesn’t smell like expensive cologne. He just smells like soap, and some of the aftershave you would get at the supermarket. “But unlike my brother, I don’t have to do everything the queen tells me to do.”


“Look, don’t worry.” He shifts his weight. “I’ll get to the palace myself, no problem. I’ll probably get there a lot faster than slowpoke Nigel over there.”

Obviously, he has ridden in a car with Nigel before. At one point, a little boy on a tricycle passed us.

I can see the determination on his face. He wants his own car. And I don’t entirely blame him. I don’t have a car, and I hate relying on other people to get into town. But Queen Amelia gave me a job to do. And I’ll be damned if I return to the palace without having done it.

I don’t know much about Prince Edward. But I have a feeling he’s the sort of guy who can’t resist a damsel in distress. I have to at least give this a try.

“That’s fine,” I say quietly. “Queen Amelia asked me to bring you to her in the limousine. But you don’t want to go.”

He opens his mouth as if to say something more, but then he just says, “Right.”

“So I have not done my job.” I lower my head, my lower lip trembling. “This is the first task the queen has asked me to do, and I have failed. I’ll probably be fired.”

“Come on. She’s not going to fire you over this.” But he doesn’t seem certain.

“You don’t know that,” I shoot back. “But don’t concern yourself. I’ll find a new job and a new place to live if I have to.”

I venture a look at Prince Edward’s face. This never would’ve worked on Prince Arthur, but then again, Arthur would have been happy to jump in a limo. Finally, I see his eyes soften.

“Okay, fine. I’ll leave my car.” He heaves a sigh. “Man, you know how to land a guilt trip.”

“I’m so pleased, Your Royal Highness!” I clap my hands together. “Why don’t you head into the car and I’ll take your bags.”

“I can handle my bags,” he says through his teeth.

But I’m already waving to Nigel and he joins me at the front door. Prince Edward tries to insist he can handle it, but even though he’s not nearly in as bad shape as I had anticipated, he’s still on crutches. He can’t just throw his luggage over his shoulder like it’s nothing.

“Thanks,” he mumbles as Nigel puts his bag in the trunk. He also has a wheelchair that I push down the walkway and that goes in the trunk as well.

I’m surprised he only has one bag though. If he’s coming to the palace to take his place as the new heir to the throne, he’s going to need a lot more stuff than that. Maybe he intends to come back for it.

Prince Edward goes slow walking down the walkway. He takes each step carefully, and he’s limping like he has pain in his left leg. I imagine the queen looking at him walking when he was a little boy and thinking to herself this was unacceptable. The thought gives me a jab in my chest.

Once he gets to the end of the walkway, Prince Edward takes one last look at his Dodge. I’m worried he’s going to change his mind, so I quickly open the back door to the limo.

“Please get in, Your Royal Highness,” I say.

He makes a face at me. “You don’t need to open the door for me.”

“It’s customary.”

“No.” His knuckles turn white on the handles of his crutches. “It’s customary for the man to open the door for the woman. Not… this.”

I don’t understand this man. Why does he have to be so difficult about every little bit of this? Most people would be thrilled to ride in a limo! I’m tempted to close the door and let him open it again himself, just to shut him up. “Please get in, Your Highness,” I repeat instead.

He starts to get into the back of the limo. Ordinarily, I would wait for him to be inside and close the door, but I have a feeling he won’t like that. So I start to get into the passenger seat again. But as I open the door, his eyes widen.

“You’re not going to sit back here with me?” he asks.

I can’t help but laugh. “No!”

“Why not?”

I stare at him. “Wait. Are you serious?”

“Of course I’m serious.”

I frown. I don’t understand Prince Edward. Yes, I know he didn’t grow up in the palace. But does he not know anything? “Because it’s not customary.”

“Customary? What’s not customary?”

“Please, Your Highness. The queen is expecting us.”

His jaw tightens. “I hate this stupid limo.” He looks into the limo, then back at me. “This is a mistake. I’m taking my Dodge.”

No.” I grit my teeth. “Fine. I’ll sit in the back with you. But you must tell Queen Amelia that you insisted.”

“Okay.” He smiles at me now. He’s about five years older than I am, but there’s something very boyish about his smile. Even though he looks like Arthur, he has an approachability that his brother never had. “Thank you for keeping me company, Hannah.”

I mumble something as I slide into the back beside him. I am so going to be in trouble for this. But at least I’m returning with the prince. Hopefully, all will be forgiven.

When I climb into the back of the limo, I have to stifle my excitement. Why was Prince Edward so difficult about being back here? This is incredible! This limo is nicer than the room where I live. The seats are made of plush, buttery leather, there’s a television screen mounted on the wall, and there’s even a minibar. I run my hand over the material of the seats, trying not to let on how insanely excited I am to be back here. There’s even a phone back here! I could make a call if I wanted!

Not that I have anyone I would want to call. But still.

“I know.” Prince Edward rolls his eyes. “It’s ridiculously decadent.”


The engine starts up and now we’re heading back to the palace. The drive is about ninety minutes, and I am going to enjoy every moment of it.

Prince Edward doesn’t look like he’s enjoying it though. He tucks his crutches below the seats and drops his face into his hands. He rubs his temples with his fingertips. He looks like he’s being led to his execution. But I have to remember, the man just lost his brother. This must be hard for him.

“I’m so sorry for your loss,” I say.

He raises his eyes in surprise. “My loss?”

“Prince Arthur.” My brows knit together. “I’m very sorry.”

“Yeah, well…” He squeezes his eyes shut. “We weren’t exactly close. But… thank you.”

I’m dying to ask him more. After all, Edward and Arthur were twins. How could they not be close? I would have given my right arm for a sister of any sort, much less a twin. But it’s not my place to ask. Iris can give me the dirt later. I’m sure she will, whether I like it or not.

“How are my parents doing?” he asks.

I think back to the morning, at the lack of expression on the queen’s face. And then the way she sat down on Arthur’s bed, staring at the wall. “As well as can be expected.”

“What about Mara? Is she okay?”

I look at him blankly. “Excuse me?”

“Mara,” he repeats. He quickly adds, “My sister. Princess Marabelle.”

“Oh!” I never heard the princess referred to as anything but Marabelle. “Sorry, I didn’t realize—”

“It’s fine.” He rubs his knees. “I’m probably the only one who calls her that. When I was a little kid, I couldn’t say her name. I mean, Marabelle? So I just called her Mara. I still do.”

There’s a look of affection on the prince’s face. Whatever he felt for his brother, he obviously cares a lot about the princess. I remember how Princess Marabelle said she was visiting him the other night. Yet neither the king nor the queen has made such a trip. Prince Arthur certainly never did.

“I hadn’t seen her before I left,” I say. “I’m sorry.”

He nods almost imperceptibly, a crease between his eyebrows. He rubs his jaw with his thumb, lost in his own thoughts. He looks so much like Prince Arthur, yet he doesn’t look like him at all.

“Would you care for a drink, Your Royal Highness?”

He blinks a few times as if he’d forgotten I was sitting across from him. “Listen, can you please stop calling me that?”

“I’m sorry,” I say quickly. “What would you prefer? I can refer to you as Your Royal Highness Prince Edward. Is that better?”

“No.” He snorts. “That’s not better.”

“What about Your Royal Highness Prince Edward of the Kingdom of—”

No. Stop. Jesus. I really don’t want you to call me that.”

I take a slow breath.  “Well, what would you like me to call you?”


I can’t help myself—I start giggling. It’s been a very long day and an even longer night the night before. And once I start giggling, somehow I can’t stop. This is completely unprofessional, but tell that to a woman who can’t stop giggling.

I’m terrified to look up at Prince Edward after my giggle fit is finally calming down. But he doesn’t look furious. More like equal parts amused and baffled. “What’s so funny?”

“I can’t call you Eddie!” I cover my mouth before I start laughing again. “Do you think I can just go up to the royal prince of Norland and be like, ‘Hey, Eddie!’ You don’t see how ridiculous that is?”

He raises his eyebrows. “I really don’t.”

“Well, you should.”

“Sorry, I don’t. And anyway, I’m not a prince.”

Is this guy for real? “I disagree, Your Royal Highness.”

“I told you not to call me that.”

I stare across the limo at Prince Edward. I only now realize an important physical difference between him and his brother: their eyes. They both have light hair, but Prince Arthur’s eyes were much darker. Edward’s eyes are more of a hazel color.

He actually has quite nice eyes.

“I’ll tell you what,” he says. “You can call me Prince Edward if we’re around other people, but if it’s just you and me, I want you to call me Eddie.” Before I can protest, he adds, “Please. I hate royal titles. It only reminds me of how they kicked me out.”

“Fine,” I agree, knowing full well that I will never ever be able to call this man “Eddie.”  

His shoulders sag slightly. “Why don’t we have that drink, huh?”

“Of course.” The mini bar is on my side, so I reach in and open the door, peering inside. “What would you like? There’s some Irish cream, Bailey’s, whiskey—”

“I’ll take the whiskey.”

Prince Edward locates a couple of small glasses on his side, and he holds them out for me to pour the whiskey into. I don’t know what he’s doing now. I’m on duty right now. So I just pour the whiskey into one of the glasses.

“And yours,” he says.

I shake my head. “I can’t.”

He raises an eyebrow. “You don’t drink?”

“I’m working.”

“I won’t tell anyone.” His second eyebrow goes up. “Come on. I’ll feel like a loser if I’m sitting back here drinking by myself. And I think we could both use this.”

Well, that last part is right. “Fine. Just a small one.”

I pour about half an inch of whiskey into my glass. I’ve been feeling edgy ever since last night, but after I down that whiskey, I feel just a little bit better.

“For whiskey from a minibar, this is good.” Prince Edward looks at his glass in amazement. “I’m not used to stuff like this.”

“Do you want more?” I think of how much Arthur had been drinking the other night. These things run in families, don’t they?

But Edward just laughs. “Better not. Can you imagine if I showed up at the palace drunk? And I’m not much of a drinker.”

“Prince Arthur was,” I blurt out before I can stop myself.

Edward’s eyes widen. Oh God, I should not have said that. It wasn’t my place at all. And now he’s going to tell the queen that I called his dead brother a drunk.

“I’m so sorry,” I say quickly. “I shouldn’t have—”

“Don’t be sorry.” He drains the last of the whiskey from his glass. “I know my brother. I know he was drinking when he got in an accident. You’re only telling the truth. I’m just glad nobody else got hurt.”

I can’t help but think again about how different Edward seems from his brother. He doesn’t seem like a prince at all. But like it or not, that’s his role from now on. After all, Norland needs a prince. And when the king retires in six months, they’re going to need a king. And it’s going to be this man.

Right now, I can’t even imagine it.

“So,” he says, “tell me about yourself.”

I blink at him. “What?”

He glances at his watch. “It’s a long drive. So… let’s talk. You go first. Tell me about your life. Where are you from? What do you like to do in your free time?”

“I…” I sputter. What’s going on here? Doesn’t he realize how inappropriate this is? “I like to work for the royal family.”

“Fine.” He waves his hand. “I realize you think you have to say that. But what about when you’re not working for them?”

I squeeze the empty glass of whiskey in my hand, wishing I had more. “This is my job. It’s my honor to work for the royal family.”

He looks at me for a long time—long enough that I start to squirm. “Wait. Is your name Hannah Clarke?”


He snaps his fingers. “You wrote that article I read. In the Gazette. About the privilege of working for the royal family. That was you, right?”

My cheeks flush. I’ve gotten so many positive comments about that article. It’s my proudest work. “Yes, Your Royal Highness.”

“Eddie,” he says.

I don’t respond to that.

Like I said, most people have showered praise on me for my article. But the way Prince Edward is looking at me, I don’t think he’s going to do that.

“So let me get this straight.” He leans back in his leather seat, shaking his head. “You feel like it’s a privilege to wait on a bunch of pompous assholes?”

“My privilege is to serve the royal family.”

“Same difference.”

“I beg to differ,” I say through my teeth. I quickly add, “Your Royal Highness.”

“I’m sorry,” he says, “but I think that way of thinking is nuts. I mean, there must be something else you want to do in life besides that.”

“It’s an honor.”

“An honor?” He laughs. “Please. I know what my family is like. They probably treat you like crap.”

My face burns. “They treat me very well, thank you very much.”

“And that’s all you ever wanted to do? To quit high school and go into servitude for the royal family? How do your parents feel about that?”

“My parents have been gone since I was a baby,” I say, much more sharply than I intended.

His head jerks back. “Oh,” he says quietly. “I… I didn’t realize. I’m so sorry.”

“There’s nothing to be sorry about,” I say tightly.

“But even so,” he presses me. “You’re not a kid anymore. You could find another job that—”

“I don’t want another job!” I snap at him. “I’m happy working for the royal family. I love it.”

I’m surprised at myself. I’ve been dealing with members of the royal family for a long time, and I’ve never been anything but respectful. And now, over the course of two days, I have physically attacked one prince and now I am snapping at a second. I don’t entirely know what’s wrong with me. I’ve been taught better than this.

I should apologize. That’s what any servant who speaks out of turn should do. But then again, why should I? Maybe he doesn’t live in the lap of luxury, but he doesn’t understand what it’s like to have absolutely nothing—no money, no family. He’s always had people to take care of him.

Also, he’s been going on and on about how he isn’t a prince. So maybe I should go ahead and treat him like the commoner he claims to be.

But no. I can’t do that.

“I apologize, Your Royal Highness,” I say finally. “I should not have spoken out of turn.”

Prince Edward looks at me for a long time, playing with a loose thread on his white shirt. “Eddie,” he says.

“Your Highness, I—”

“And I’m the one who should apologize,” he says.

“You… you should?”

“Yes. I mean, if you want to spend your whole life waiting hand and foot on a bunch of spoiled rich people, then who am I to judge?”

Hmm. I sort of feel like that was a judge-y kind of apology. But it’s more than I’ve ever gotten from a member of the royal family so far. So I’ll take it.

“Hey,” he says. “Want to watch some TV?”

I really, really do.

To be continued.... 


  1. Oh, thank you for the new chapter! I'd been checking the site for your update millions of times on Sunday! :)
    I'd been in suspense for the whole week about how they're gonna meet but your version was not in my scenario! :) I can't stress it enough how your heroes are my heroes - they've got the exact amount of sweetness without losing their credibilty and down-to-earth-ness. And Hannah and Eddie's budding chemistry was fun to read.
    So I'll be looking forward to the next Sunday!
    Thank you for writing and sharing!

  2. Sorry, I'm back again, rereading the chapter. What I missed for the first time (in the eagerness to find out what happens next) is the dialogues! They are so vivid and funny that it felt as if I was watching a romantic comedy! If only some film makers saw your story... :)
    Thank again,

  3. I'm in love with this entire concept, thank you so much. Awesome story and amazing characters.