Royally Matched (Royally Series)(3)

By: Emma Chase

And just as lethal.

“You make jokes. If this legislation passes, it will roll back protections for low-wage workers. Exposing them to unfair and possibly dangerous labor practices. Do you think they’ll laugh at your jokes then, Henry?”

Damn, she’s good. Mother-guilt is effective—but queen-guilt is a whole other level.

My smirk is slapped from my face.

“I’ll put out a statement explaining that I was misled by Sir Aloysius and my words were taken out of context.”

She shakes her head. “Which will only serve to tell the world that you’re a fool who can be easily misled.”

“Then I’ll put out a statement saying I’ve reflected on the issue and changed my mind.”

“Which will demonstrate that your word cannot be trusted—that your opinions are fluid and you do not mean what you say.”

Christ, it’s like a Chinese finger trap—the harder you struggle, the stronger it holds. I don’t smoke, but I could sure use a cigarette right about now. Or a shot of whiskey.

A pistol might also be the way to go.

“Then what the hell am I supposed to do?”

“Nothing,” she hisses. “I will fix this. You will go to Guthrie House and stay there. Do not speak to anyone; do not entertain guests. Just . . . read, Henry. Educate yourself—for all our sakes.”

And that is how a queen sends a prince to his room.

She turns around, gazing out the window, her small, wrinkly hands folded tightly behind her back.

I stand and lift my hand toward her, meaning to say . . . something. An apology or a promise to do better. But after a moment it drops back to my side. Because it won’t matter—I’ve already been dismissed.

I walk purposefully through the door of Guthrie House—the historical home of the Heir Apparent and my residence for the last year. Home Prison Home. I take the stairs two at a time to my bedroom. It feels good to have a purpose, a direction, a plan.

And my plan is to drink until I forget my fucking name. All of them.

The pages that cover the walls flutter like birds’ wings as I breeze into the room. I wasn’t joking when I said my grandmother had sent me a forest’s worth of documents. I taped them all around the room so I can read while I dress, fall asleep, first wake up. I have to keep my eyes closed when I rub one out—governmental doctrines are a boner-killer. I’m also secretly hoping to absorb the information through sheer proximity. Hasn’t worked so far; osmosis is bullshit.

I shrug out of my navy suit—a constricting, uncomfortable thing. Though I’ve been told I wear it like a boss, it’s not my style. Every time I put it on it feels like I’m sliding into someone else’s skin.

I remember when I was five or six, I tried on one of Dad’s suits. Mum took a dozen photos, laughing at my adorableness. I wonder if they’re in the attic somewhere or, more likely, in the possession of the royal historian who’ll publish them after I’m dead. To prove that Prince Henry was a real boy, once upon a time.

I idolized my father. He always seemed so tall to me . . . larger than life. He was wise and sure, there wasn’t a job he couldn’t do—but he had a playful streak as well. A bit of a rule-breaker. He’d take Nicholas and me to concerts and amusement parks even though it turned the security team’s hair gray. He didn’t mind if we played rough or dirty. Once he walked out of a meeting with the Prime Minister to join in a snowball fight we were having in the courtyard.

Some days, it feels like I’m still wearing my dad’s suit. And no matter how hard I try . . . it’ll never fit.

“What do you think you’re doing?” my crusty butler Fergus asks, glaring down at the ball of suit on the floor.

I shrug a faded T-shirt over my head and button my favorite jeans. “I’m going to The Goat.”

He harrumphs predictably. “The Queen tol’ you to stay put.”

I have two theories on how Fergus always seems to know the things he does: either he has the whole palace wired for sound and video, which he observes from some secret control room or it’s the all-knowing, all-seeing “lazy” eye. One day I may ask him—though he’ll probably just call me a cretin for asking.

I step into a worn pair of combat boots. “Exactly. And we both know I’m rubbish at doing what I’m told. Have the car brought around.”

IF THE CAPITAL WERE A uni campus, The Horny Goat would be my safe space. My cocoon. My Snuggie—if those came with bottles of alcohol in their pockets.

It’s an historical landmark, one of the oldest buildings in the city—with a leaky roof, crooked walls, and perpetually sticky floorboards. Rumor has it, way back in the day it was a brothel—which is quite poetic. Not because of the debauchery, but because of the secrets these walls have always held. And still do. Not a single news story about my brother or me has ever leaked out from under its rickety door. Not one drunken royal quote uttered here has ever been repeated or reprinted.

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