My Royal Temptation(4)

By: Riley Pine


“Nikolai—” the queen begins, but the prince holds up a finger as he returns to scanning the contents of the folder—the one I have been waiting for permission to examine myself. Apparently, the rumors are true—stepmother and stepson do not get on as they should. That explains the blatant disrespect.

His shuttered gaze roams the first page, then the second, and several more after that. I watch as his father crosses his arms and humors his son with a look that says no matter what antics the prince displays, the king will have the final word.

Prince Nikolai slams the folder closed and lets out a raucous laugh.

“Please, Nikolai,” the king says, steepling his fingers in front of him. “Do tell us what you find so amusing.”

The queen rests a hand on her husband’s forearm, but the man’s icy gaze remains directed at his son. All I do is stare, my head bobbing like I’m watching a tennis match in slow motion.

The prince narrows his eyes, pinning them on me, and my core tightens in disobedient response.

He takes his sweet time scrutinizing me, the corner of his mouth quirked in a crooked grin. Then he splays his hands on the table, leaning forward so that he’s close enough for me to smell the tang of alcohol on his breath.

“I find it hilarious,” the prince says with an edge to his words, “that you not only expect me to marry but that you think Little Miss Matchmaker-Dot-Com is the one to take care of the job. I mean, why not open me a royal Tinder account and be done with it?”

He has the nerve to sneer at me and my career? Oh, hell no.

Red-hot anger replaces that sensual tightening in my core.

The prince pushes from the table and smooths out his wrinkled shirt. “Father. Stepmother. As always, it’s a pleasure to see you both.” He doesn’t hide his sarcasm.

On instinct, I stand as he rounds the table, my cheeks blazing with repressed fury.

“I—I am not some dot-com organization. My matches are personal, well thought out…” I sputter as it sinks in not only what I’ve been called here to do but that my client is anything but willing.

“Save it, sweetheart,” he says. “I’d sooner fuck you than let you arrange my nuptials.”

The queen gasps, and King Nikolai slams his fist on the table.

“Enough,” the older man says, the finality of his authority dripping from the word. “Benedict is entering the priesthood. Damien is banished. If you do not marry with the intent to produce an heir, the throne falls out of the immediate family and to your cousin Ingrid. You will not fault on your duty.”

The muscle in the prince’s jaw pulses. “That’s right, Father. I’ve had enough.” His penetrating stare, though, stays on me the whole time. That’s when he leans in, hot breath on my cheek. “And you’d enjoy every goddamn second of it,” he whispers. “The word enough won’t even exist in your vocabulary.”

He bows toward his visibly shaken parents before making his dramatic exit.

I give myself a mental pat on the back for at least believing the stories.

The prince is a grade-A asshole.

My soaked panties, on the other hand, apparently did not receive the memo.

Perhaps they’re waiting for one with the royal seal.





CHAPTER TWO

Nikolai

“MARRIAGE? THAT’S IT, Father has lost his goddamn mind,” I mutter, ducking into the unobtrusive staircase, the quickest escape route out of the palace. Two floors down a young servant in a black dress and white apron takes one look at me and nearly drops the silver tray she carries, one laden with teapots, fine china and six different cakes. My mood is so foul that I ignore her alarmed squeal and don’t even smooth the situation over with a flirtatious wink.

She must have been assigned catering duty for the ambush upstairs, the one where my father invoked the ancient laws of our realm.

Sweat breaks out on my hairline. A sour taste fills my mouth.

My twenty-ninth birthday is just around the corner.

I am the heir to the crown.

The Royal Marriage Decree of 1674 declared that the Edenvale heir must wed before sundown on his or her twenty-ninth birthday or their claim is null and void. Plus, an Edenvale heir had to marry someone of aristocratic blood. My future bride doesn’t have to be a citizen of my country, but she does need to be nobility. Other than that, the requirements are simple: free consent.