Home > Royally Screwed (Royally #1)(4)

Royally Screwed (Royally #1)(4)
Author: Emma Chase


Finally, the adjoining door to the blue drawing room opens and Her Majesty Queen Lenora stands in the doorway.

There’s a species of monkey indigenous to the Colombian rain forest that’s one of the most adorable-looking animals you’ll ever see—its cuteness puts fuzzy hamsters and small dogs on Pinterest to shame. Except for its hidden razor-sharp teeth and its appetite for human eyeballs. Those lured in by the beast’s precious appearance are doomed to lose theirs.

My grandmother is a lot like those vicious little monkeys.

She looks like a granny—like anyone’s granny. Short and petite, with soft poofy hair, small pretty hands, shiny pearls, thin lips that can laugh at a dirty joke, and a face lined with wisdom. But it’s the eyes that give her away.

Gunmetal gray eyes.

The kind that back in the day would have sent opposing armies fleeing. Because they’re the eyes of a conqueror…undefeatable.

“Nicholas.”

I rise and bow. “Grandmother.”

She breezes past Christopher without a look. “Leave us.”

I sit after she does, resting my ankle on the opposite knee, my arm casually slung along the back of the chair.

“I saw your interview,” she tells me. “You should smile more. You used to seem like such a happy boy.”

“I’ll try to remember to pretend to be happier.”

She opens the center drawer of her desk, withdrawing a keyboard, then taps away on it with more skill than you’d expect from someone her age. “Have you seen the evening’s headlines?”

“I haven’t.”

She turns the screen toward me. Then she clicks rapidly on one news website after another.

 

PRINCE PARTIES AT THE PLAYBOY MANSION

HENRY THE HEARTBREAKER

RANDY ROYAL

WILD, WEALTHY—AND WET

 

The last one is paired with the unmistakable picture of my brother diving into a swimming pool—naked as the day he was born.

I lean forward, squinting. “Henry will be horrified. The lighting is terrible in this one—you can barely make out his tattoo.”

My grandmother’s lips tighten. “You find this amusing?”

Mostly I find it annoying. Henry is immature, unmotivated—a slacker. He floats through life like a feather in the wind, coasting in whatever direction the breeze takes him.

I shrug. “He’s twenty-four, he was just discharged from service…”

Mandatory military service. Every citizen of Wessco—male, female, or prince—is required to give two years.

“He was discharged months ago.” She cuts me off. “And he’s been around the world with eighty whores ever since.”

“Have you tried calling his mobile?”

“Of course I have.” She clucks. “He answers, makes that ridiculous static noise, and tells me he can’t hear me. Then he says he loves me and hangs up.”

My lips pull into a grin. The brat’s entertaining—I’ll give him that.

The Queen’s eyes darken like an approaching storm. “He’s in the States—Las Vegas—with plans to go to Manhattan soon. I want you to go there and bring him home, Nicholas. I don’t care if you have to bash him over the head and shove him into a burlap sack, the boy needs to be brought to heel.”

I’ve visited almost every major city in the world—and out of all of them, I hate New York the most.

“My schedule—”

“Has been rearranged. While there, you’ll attend several functions in my stead. I’m needed here.”

“I assume you’ll be working on the House of Commons? Persuading the arseholes to finally do their job?”

“I’m glad you brought that up.” My grandmother crosses her arms. “Do you know what happens to a monarchy without a stable line of heirs, my boy?”

My eyes narrow. “I studied history at university—of course I do.”

“Enlighten me.”

I lift my shoulders. “Without a clear succession of uncontested heirs, there could be a power grab. Discord. Possibly civil war between different houses that see an opportunity to take over.”

The hairs on the back of my neck prickle. And my palms start to sweat. It’s that feeling you get when you’re almost to the top of that first hill on a roller coaster. Tick, tick, tick…

“Where are you going with this? We have heirs. If Henry and I are taken out by some catastrophe, there’s always cousin Marcus.”

“Cousin Marcus is an imbecile. He married an imbecile. His children are double-damned imbeciles. They will never rule this country.” She straightens her pearls and lifts her nose. “There are murmurings in Parliament about changing us to a ceremonial sovereignty.”

“There are always murmurings.”

“Not like this,” she says sharply. “This is different. They’re holding up the trade legislation, unemployment is climbing, wages are down.” She taps the screen. “These headlines aren’t helping. People are worried about putting food on their tables, while their prince cavorts from one luxury hotel to another. We need to give the press something positive to report. We need to give the people something to celebrate. And we need to show Parliament we are firmly in control so they’d best play nicely or we’ll run roughshod over them.”

I’m nodding. Agreeing. Like a stupid moth flapping happily toward the flame.

“What about a day of pride? We could open the ballrooms to the public, have a parade?” I suggest. “People love that sort of thing.”

She taps her chin. “I was thinking something…bigger. Something that will catch the world’s attention. The event of the century.” Her eyes glitter with anticipation—like an executioner right before he swings the ax.

And then the ax comes down.

“The wedding of the century.”

 

 

MY WHOLE BODY LOCKS UP. And I think my organs begin to shut down. My voice is rough with pointless, illogical hope.

“Is Great-Aunt Miriam marrying again?”

The Queen folds her hands on the desk. A terrible sign. That’s her tell—it says her mind is made up and not even a gale-force wind could sway her off course.

“When you were a boy, I promised your mother that I would give you the space to choose a wife for yourself, as your father chose her. To fall in love. I’ve watched and waited, and now I’ve given up waiting. Your family needs you; your country needs you. Therefore, you will announce the name of your betrothed at a press conference…at the end of the summer.”

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