Tuesday, March 1, 2022

Palace Envy, Chapter 5

 Prince Edward


Hannah is so brainwashed, it’s not even funny.

I admit it. When I first laid eyes on her, I was a little smitten. It was hard not to be. She’s beautiful in that fresh-faced open sort of way that I’ve always loved. And that flaming red hair—Jesus Christ. If I saw her on the street somewhere, I might try to work up the nerve to talk to her. I’d try to come up with something witty to say, hoping she’d laugh, but it would probably come out wrong, and then I’d have to hope my awkwardness was adorable enough that she might give me her number anyway.

I don’t let on to any woman I go out with that I’m the son of the king and queen until at least the tenth date. Because then you don’t know why they like you. It’s not like I’m brimming with self-confidence like my brother. I have very obvious physical limitations. It’s hard for me to tell if a woman likes me for me or because I’m a “prince.”

I’ve been fooled before.

But with Hannah, there’s no question. She knows who I am. She probably knows everything about me. I’m sure my mother made it out that I’m some kind of invalid who is an embarrassment to the family. But Hannah is dedicated to the royal family. She’d probably jump in front of a bullet for one of us if the opportunity arose.

That’s how people are about the royal family. Hannah probably had a poster of my brother up on her wall when she was a teenager. She was probably one of those people who sent my mother a present every year on her birthday, even though ninety-five percent of those presents went straight in the royal trash bin. And now she thinks it’s her lifetime duty to serve the royal family, even though I know for a fact that the palace staff doesn’t get paid nearly what they’re worth.

But she fiercely defended her life choices. And despite everything, I admire that about her. That kind of blind dedication.

Anyway, I’m never going to win this argument. For the next week, while staying with my family, it’s going to be a Prince Arthur love fest. And I’m going to pretend I loved him too. That’s the right thing to do.

And then I’ll go back to my real life in Ancaster. Thank God.

Hannah and I watch the television in the back of the limo for the entire ride. I let her do the channels, and she picks this baking show where they’re making cupcakes that look like dogs. It’s not my thing, but Hannah seems to like it. To each their own.

“Oh God,” she says at one point, “they’re icing the cupcakes too soon. They haven’t had a chance to cool yet. The design is going to slide right off.”

“How long do you have to cool cupcakes before icing them?” I ask.

“It depends,” she says thoughtfully, like she’s really considering my question. Like maybe I’m going to start making cupcakes at some point later today and we need to think long and hard about when we’re going to frost them. “In the air, I’d say at least ninety minutes to make sure they’re completely cool. But I’ve read you can stick them in the freezer for half an hour and they hold up better.”

I grin at her. “That is so interesting.”

Her cheeks color slightly. During this drive, I’ve noticed that when she’s embarrassed, she gets a little pink circle on each of her cheekbones. “You asked.”

“I did, didn’t I?” I glance at the screen, where the baker is struggling with his design due to his improperly cooled cupcakes. “Do you like to bake?”

“A bit,” she murmurs. She’s so cagey about answering questions about her life. As if she’s not allowed to have one interest outside of serving the royal family.

“You know,” I say, “you’re allowed to like things. It wouldn’t be treason.”

She shoots me a look. “I know.”

“It would be a misdemeanor though. I would definitely have to call the police.”

The muscles in her face relax slightly. “Fine. I used to do some baking in my last job, and I find it relaxing. Fun. That’s all.”

“Hey,” I say, “the kitchen at the palace is amazing. I bet you could do some baking there if you wanted to.”

At my suggestion, all the color drains out of Hannah’s face. I don’t know what was so wrong about that though. I’m sure it would be fine if she used the palace kitchen. The place is so big, nobody would even notice. I’m sure she would clean it up afterward so that you would need a microscope to find a speck of dirt.

“No, thank you,” she murmurs.

“I’m just saying—”

“I would rather not, Your Royal Highness.”

“Eddie,” I say weakly. But she has already rotated her entire body away from me. Apparently, our conversation is over.

As the limo rolls through the gate surrounding the royal palace, my heart sinks into my stomach. I hate coming here. It always fills me with dread. Even when I see the palace on TV or in a photo online, I get that automatic sick feeling. That’s why I only come here once a year. And even that is too much.

Despite the gates, there are reporters camped out all over the front of the palace. That makes me even sicker than the palace itself. I don’t want to deal with reporters.

“Go around back,” I tell Nigel. “Quick.”

“I know, Eddie. Don’t worry about it.”

Hannah is staring out the window, her eyes wide at the sight of all the paparazzi. She’s never seen it before. There’s something adorable about the blatant amazement on her face. It’s the same way she looked when she climbed into the back of the limo. She’s not jaded like I am.

It must be nice.

“Where are we going?” she asks.

“We’re avoiding the reporters.”


I try not to get too irritated by the question, but it’s hard. “You think I want them to get me on film hobbling up the front steps?”

Hannah looks down at my legs and I squirm in my seat. She’s already seen me walk. She knows what I’m talking about.

The back door serves two purposes. First, we avoid the reporters. Second, there are no stairs. The front entrance to the palace has about five million steps to get in—just a ballpark estimate. But the back is accessible. I remember my mother taking me out this way in my stroller when I was little. By the time I was five, the stroller was the only way I was going anywhere.

Nigel ends up helping me with my things and Hannah pushes my wheelchair. I’m glad to give her something to do because I didn’t love the way she was staring at me when I walked from my front door out to the limo earlier. She looked… horrified. She knew my brother—the perfect prince—and I’m not that. My walking isn’t great, even when my braces aren’t duct-taped together, which is why my parents never wanted anyone to see it. And the wheelchair is just as bad, if not worse.

I’m slow too. Nigel darts on ahead with my bag so he can get the door open for me. But Hannah lags behind, next to me. Which makes me feel even more self-conscious about how slow I’m going.

“You don’t have to wait for me,” I mutter.

“I do, actually,” she says. “It’s my job.”

And that makes me feel even worse.

When I get through the door with my bags, I freeze at the sight of my mother standing in the hallway. I had thought I’d have a little time to get myself together before seeing her—at least I remembered to tuck in my shirt. I don’t know why, but my mother always makes me feel like I need to be a better version of myself. A version I can’t possibly be because I’m not physically capable of it. And that’s part of why I hate coming home.

It’s funny because when I was little, I adored my mother. She was my entire universe. I couldn’t go to sleep at night without her coming into my bedroom, reading me a few stories, and singing to me. She always took care of me herself—Arthur was thrust on the nanny, but my mother took care of me personally. At the time, I thought it was because she loved me so much, but now I realize it was just because she didn’t want other people to see my physical limitations.

Despite the truly shitty day she must be having, my mother looks great, as always. She’s wearing a black skirt suit that shows off what are still some quite nice legs for her age. When she looks up at me, there’s no trace of tears or swollen eyes. Even on the day her favorite son died, she’s completely, almost eerily composed.

“Edward,” she says. “Welcome home.”

Home? No, this is not my home. My home is the one-story house I just left in Ancaster. Or short of that, the place where I grew up with Aunt Grace and Uncle Walt, who I promised to call when I got here to let them know I made it okay. This is not my home. This was never my home.

But it would be mean to say that today.

“Thanks,” I say instead.

This is when—if we were a normal family—she might have come over to me and hugged me. But of course, she doesn’t. Her eyes drop down to my legs and the crutches I’m clutching. There’s a flash of disgust on her face. Even after all this time, she still can’t accept my disability.

“Thank you for bringing him, Susan,” my mother says to Hannah.

I look over at Hannah, who simply nods and curtsies. Those curtsies are ridiculous enough, but I’m personally enraged that she’s letting my mother call her by an entirely wrong name. But again, I’m not going to pick on her today.

“Are you okay, Mother?” I ask.

She nods once, briskly. “We are managing.”

I glance over her shoulder. “Where is Father?”

“He’ll be around shortly,” she says vaguely.

I’m not surprised my father didn’t come out to greet me. The last time I was here, he barely seemed to know who I was. Once he called me Henry. I was a little worried about him, but when I tried to bring it up to my mother, she just shrugged me off.

“Nigel will bring your things upstairs to your room,” Mother says. “We gave you a room with an excellent view of the palace garden.”

I grit my teeth. “That’s great. Except I told you I’m not going up to the second floor. I want a bedroom on the first floor.”

“Oh, Edward.” She clucks her tongue. “The downstairs bedrooms are so dreary.”

“I don’t care,” I growl. “You know how hard the stairs are for me. You always do this. You never…” I take a deep breath, trying to calm myself down before I say something I’ll regret. “Please just let me stay on the first floor. I’ll take any room. I don’t care.”

“Fine. If that’s what you insist upon.” My mother turns to Nigel. “Please bring the prince’s luggage to the Indigo room.” Then she faces Hannah. “Susan, can you change the sheets in the indigo room for the prince? Right away, please.”

“Of course, Your Majesty,” Hannah says.

I gawk at the two of them. Have I lost my mind here? Why is Hannah just letting my mother call her by the completely wrong name? I mean, she’s not even close.

“It’s Hannah,” I say.

“Excuse me?” Mother says.

“Hannah.” I look over at Hannah, whose face is beet red. “That’s her name. Not Susan. Just so you know.”

My mother waves a hand, unperturbed. The worst part is she’s not even the tiniest bit embarrassed. She’s more interested in Nigel, who is carrying my bag in the direction of the indigo room, whatever the hell that means. Apparently, the room is purple-ish.

“Is that all your luggage, Edward?” she asks.


She tilts her head to the side. My mother is in her early seventies, but she has hardly any lines on her face. I’m certain she must’ve had a facelift, but she’s been very successful at keeping it out of the papers. And she sure didn’t tell me about it.

“I approve of packing light,” she says. “All your clothing is unacceptable anyway. We’ll start over again. And I’ll take care of the sale of your house.”

My jaw drops open so quickly, it almost becomes unhinged. “What are you talking about? The sale of my house? Why are we selling my house?”

She lets out an impatient huff. “It doesn’t make sense to keep the house when you’re living here, does it?”

Living here?” I repeat. “I’m staying here for a week. I’m not living here.”

“Edward,” she says. “Arthur is dead. You are next in line.”

My mouth is suddenly dry and my head is spinning. “What are you talking about?”

“You are the only successor.” She looks me in the eyes. “In six months, you are going to be King.”





Prince Edward looks like he’s going to be sick.

His arms tremble as he grips the handlebars of his crutches. I’m still holding the handles of his wheelchair, and I quickly bring it behind him. “Sit down, Your Royal Highness,” I tell him.

He must really be shaken because he doesn’t even correct me again. I hold the chair steady as he drops down into it. His fingers are trembling as he tugs at the collar of his white dress shirt like he’s trying to get some air. He is very pale. Although really, he had to know this was coming.

“Edward,” Queen Amelia says, “why do you look so shocked? You had to know that was what we were expecting.”

“I didn’t. I…” He looks up at her. “What about Mara? She could be Queen.”

Queen Amelia snorts. “Marabelle is forty and unmarried. On the slim chance we manage to marry her off, she’ll never be able to produce an heir.”

“Well, that’s too bad.” He shakes his head. “I’m not doing this. I don’t want to be King. I don’t even want to be a prince. I don’t want anything to do with the royal family.”

Queen Amelia’s eyes flash and her cheekbones turn a scarlet color. The queen is terrifying when she’s angry. I can just imagine her shouting, Off with their heads!

“So you are fine with letting the royal line die off,” she says. “You don’t care.”

“No.” Prince Edward doesn’t flinch. “I don’t care even a little bit. I’m here for my brother’s funeral, and then I’m going home. To my home in Ancaster.”

“And turn your back on your family?”

“My family?” He snorts. “You’ve got to be kidding me, Mother. You’re the one who didn’t want me around. You’re the one who was ashamed of me my whole life. And now I’m suddenly your last hope? Forget it. I’m not interested.”

Prince Edward spins the right wheel of his chair, which turns him in the direction of the first-floor bedrooms. He doesn’t even know which one is his, but it doesn’t seem like he cares. He disappears down the hallway while Queen Amelia watches him, her expression unreadable.

“Well,” she finally says, “at least he is here.”

I don’t know what to say to that, so I just stand there awkwardly. She didn’t even say it to me, just generally to the wall. I’m not even sure if she realizes I’m still standing here. And if she does, I’m pretty sure she still thinks my name is Susan, and I’m totally fine with that.

But then the queen suddenly swivels her head in my direction. Now I’m really terrified. It’s much better to be ignored by the queen than to have her attention. She narrows her eyes at me. “And you’re the one who got him here in our car, didn’t you?”

I swallow. “I… yes, Your Majesty.”

“Yes, you must’ve been very persuasive.” She straightens out the collar of her blouse and throws back her shoulders. “Hannah, is it?”

I nod. Oh no, she knows my name. This can’t go anywhere good.

She smiles at me, and it’s that same smile she gave me when I met her as a girl and I was so charmed by her. This is the woman I wrote the essay about in fifth grade, when I couldn’t wait to work for the royal family. This is the woman I would do anything for.

“I’m so sorry I called you by the wrong name before,” Queen Amelia says. “I hope you can forgive me for that.”

She’s apologizing to me! Two apologies from members of the royal family in one day. It’s got to be some kind of world record. “Of course, Your Majesty.”

“It’s been a horrible day,” she murmurs. “Arthur being taken from us so tragically.” Her voice breaks. “You can’t imagine how hard it is to lose a son.”

“I’m so sorry, Your Majesty.”

She nods, tears spilling over and falling down her cheeks. “It will just take time.”

“If there’s anything I can do…”

She pulls a handkerchief out of her jacket pocket and dabs at her eyes. “Actually, my dear, there is something you can do.”

I pull up to my full height, even though I’m quite a few inches shorter than the queen. “Your wish is my command, Your Majesty. I’ll do anything you want me to do.”

Her brow furrows. “You did so well convincing Edward to come home. I’m just wondering… you believe in the monarchy, don’t you, Hannah?”

I lay a hand on my chest. Do I believe in the monarchy? Of course! And I’ll do anything to prove it.  Does she want me to start singing the Norland national anthem? Because I’ll do it—I have known the words to “O Great Norland” by heart since I was four years old. “Yes, Your Majesty. I do. With all my heart.”

A tiny smile touches her lips. “Then perhaps you could convince my son of the error of his ways. Maybe you could show him that his destiny is to be king.”

My mouth falls open. She wants me to… what?

I just met Prince Edward less than two hours ago. And we didn’t exactly hit it off. But one thing I gathered is that he is not a fan of the monarchy. How could I possibly convince him to become king? I doubt I could even convince him to stay here a second week. Maybe one extra day. That’s the best I could do.

“It would mean so much to the entire kingdom,” the queen says. “You would be a hero. We would all be so grateful to you, Hannah. I would be grateful to you.”

The queen would be grateful to me. The thought of it fills me with a sense of longing. That’s all I’ve ever wanted. But…

“I want to help you, Your Majesty. I really do.” I shift between my sandals. I had put them on for the ride, but I feel awkward wearing them in the palace. “But I don’t know if I can convince him. He feels very strongly about… not being king.”

“On the contrary.” Queen Amelia lifts a perfectly shaped eyebrow. “I think you may be the only person who can convince him.”

I open my mouth to protest, but before I can, the queen lowers a hand onto my shoulder. She squeezes my upper arm as she looks into my eyes.

“I believe in you, Hannah,” she says. “You will serve as Edward’s personal servant this week, and you will dedicate all your time to convincing him of what he must do.” She squeezes my shoulder again. “The whole kingdom is counting on you. Please talk some sense into my son. You’re our only hope.”

And then she walks off, her heels clicking against the floor.


What on Earth am I going to do? I will never convince Prince Edward to stick around and become king. He does not want to be king. He doesn’t want to have anything to do with the royal family. He made it very clear in the car that he thought my life’s work was a huge waste of time.

But I don’t have a choice. Queen Amelia asked for my help. And whenever I think about Prince Arthur, I feel a stab of guilt. Maybe I could have prevented his death if I had told someone about his drunken exit or tried harder to stop him. If the entire royal family collapses, it will be partially on my shoulders. And I can’t allow that to happen. I have to save the family. I will save the royal family.

 To be continued...


  1. I have officially fainted due to the cuteness and sweetness emitting from Edward! :) Starting from the very beginning: " I’d have to hope my awkwardness was adorable enough that she might give me her number anyway." - I started to melt at that. And then, Edward being critical about Hannah's dedication to the Royal Familiy but also admiring this determination. And finally, standing up for Hannah while informing the Queen about her name - I'm swooning again! :) Not to mention that he "does the right thing" and is considerate towards the Queen, even if there are things that irritate him and he's got several barbs ready on his tongue.
    So, thank you, Annabelle, for those great moments with this chapter! I'm thoroughly enjoying the story as I have every other one you've written!
    BTW, is there a way to get a seak peak into the next chapter? :) :) I'm dying in anticipation here!! :)

  2. I'm loving this so much! I feel like I'm watching a netflix royal rom com unfolding and I love it!!! Edward is such a great character and so is Hannah. Thank you for sharing!! I'm so excited about the book.

  3. I'm really enjoying this story, I'm sooo excited for the book! The characters are amazing. Poor Hannah, can't wait to see her breaking free. Thanks for posting!