Royally Matched (Royally Series)(10)

By: Emma Chase

“No, thank you.”

He turns, then pauses, and looks back at me, quietly adding, “It was the same with the Queen.”

“What was the same?”

“The lack of sleep. When she was a lass, after just three hours she’d be up and about like that grotesque rodent with the bass drum.”

He means the Energizer Bunny.

“I didn’t know that about Granny,” I say softly.

He hobbles over to the bookshelf, running his finger along the bindings before sliding a thick book out.

“Reading used to help. This was her favorite.”

The heavy volume gets dropped on the desk with a thud.

Hamlet. Interesting.

“You realize they all die? The King, Queen, and sweet Prince are all dead at the end.”

Not exactly the stuff of pleasant dreams—especially for my family.

“I said it was your grandmother’s choice, not mine.”

He shuffles off without another word.

I flip through the pages. And talk to myself.

“This above all, to thine own self be true. Easier said than done, Polonius.”

Because this isn’t supposed to be my life. None of it is me. The title, the responsibility, wandering around this cold, ancient stone behemoth with nothing but the echo of my own damn footsteps for company. And although I’m supposed to be “acclimating,” it’s just not happening.

Because Nicholas is wrong. I’m his blind spot; I always have been. I used it to my advantage when it suited me. He is good and well-meaning . . . but he is wrong.

And we’re all fucked because of it.

The silence closes in, making me twitchy. Reminding me of a damn tomb. And the words repeat in my head like a whispering ghost.

To thine own self be true, Henry.

Maybe that’s the problem. And the solution.

I hop to my feet, pacing. Thinking—I think better when I move. I think a lot better after a good fuck, but, if wishes were horses . . .

The point is, I haven’t felt like myself in a long time. I need to get my groove back. I need to get my freak on. I need to do me for a while.

And then I need to do ten women—maybe a full dozen.

I’m shit at politicking and golfing, terrible at wise decision-making or doing what I’m told, but what I’ve always been good at is entertaining. Putting on a show. Making people happy. I’m the life of the party and one hell of a host.

I push and pull at the idea—like Play-Doh—and after a moment, it starts to take shape. I didn’t ask for this, but it’s time I own it. If I’m going to fail spectacularly, I want to fail my way. Go out with a bang.

And a party. A month-long party, the castle brimming with twenty beautiful women falling all over themselves for my attention. Matched: Royal Edition suddenly seems like a bloody fucking brilliant idea.

What could possibly go wrong?

And as if God is speaking to me, the pressure on my shoulders loosens. The weight that’s been sitting on my chest, making me think I’m constantly having a goddamn heart attack, relaxes.

And I feel . . . good. In control.

I stand up, leaving the documents and ridiculous laws behind me. I go straight up to my room, grab my wallet off the bureau, and slide out the sharp-edged business card that’s still inside.

Then I pick up my mobile and dial.

“OH, balls.”

I stare at the email on my mobile—at the summons—from Mr. Haverstrom, my boss. And though the sunny afternoon air is crisp, sweat immediately prickles my forehead.

Annie’s blond ponytail snaps like a whip as she turns toward me. “Oh my God, tell me someone sent you a dick pic!” She holds out her hands. “Let me see, let me see! What kind of balls are we talking about? Big balls, odd balls . . .?”

“Schweddy balls?” Willard adds, unhelpfully, from his chair across the small, round patio table.

Annie claps her hands. SNL reruns are big in Wessco. “I love that bit.” She eats a mouthful of salad off her fork. “Did I ever tell you about Elliot’s balls?”

I meaningfully meet Willard’s brown eyes, then check the time. Three minutes, seventeen seconds.

That’s how long it’s been since Annie last mentioned Elliot Stapleworth, her giant douche-canoe ex-boyfriend. He broke it off with her two weeks ago, but she’s still hopelessly hung up on him. She deserves so much better. Especially since he’s not just any douche-canoe—he’s one who’s never heard of manscaping.

“They were the hairiest little monsters I’d ever seen. Like two baby hedgehogs curled between his legs, but not at all in a cute way. I used to get pubes caught in my throat all the time.”

There’s an image I don’t need in my head.

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