Reluctantly Royal(5)

By: Nichole Chase

Wrong. My brain refused to tell my legs to move.

This was a terrible idea.

I should leave. Why were my feet not moving?

“Marty, go up to your room please.” Meredith’s foot tapped against the stone entryway.

The little boy shot a look at the people in the sitting room, another at his mother, and beelined for the stairs. I didn’t blame him. The heat coming off the top of his mother’s head was enough to make me want to turn tail and run. But there was also something tempting in that white-hot anger. Which was an even better reason to flee. Even in her grief, Meredith Thysmer was enticing.

“What is wrong with you?” Meredith was glaring at the blurry-eyed man sitting on the couch. The reporter perched across from him looked torn between excitement and fear. The room smelled strongly of liquor and stale cigarette smoke.

“I’m telling my father’s life story.” The man who must be Meredith’s father sat up a little straighter and pulled at his rumpled suit jacket. I thought his name was Arthur, but I could be wrong.

“He’s not even in the ground!” Meredith shook her head. “And you’re selling interviews?”

“What does that have to do with anything?” Arthur leaned forward. “And who is that?”

He pointed at me with disdain and I felt my eyebrows rise. It wasn’t often that I wasn’t recognized in my own country. The journalist looked at me with wide eyes and began to collect his stuff.

“That. Is. The. Prince.” Meredith bit out the words. “His Royal Highness, Prince Maxwell of Lilaria. He was kind enough to come tell me that my grandfather died before the media did. Then he brought us home.” The frustration and hurt in her voice was unmistakable. While her father was trying to make a quick buck, she had just found out a loved one had passed away.

“I’m sorry for your loss, sir.” I bowed my head.

He snorted, and his red eyes traveled over me in disdain, but he didn’t respond otherwise. His blurry attention went straight back to his fireball of a daughter. That was self-preservation at its best.

“I was here dealing with everything that happened.” He picked up a snifter from the table and twirled the contents before dumping the amber liquid down his throat.

“You left us to find out—” She stopped abruptly and looked at the journalist. “I’m sorry, but now is not a good time. Could we reschedule? I’m sure you can understand that this is a difficult time for all of us.” She paused and I could see her temper flare again. “Being that my grandfather just passed away, none of us are in the right state of mind to be giving interviews. And I’m sure that anything you print would say the same thing.”

Damn. She had just put that journalist in his place better than my sister-in-law’s sidekick Chadwick. That man had a way of making people feel small. It was a gift that apparently Meredith shared.

Another reason I should be making a hasty retreat and leaving her to deal with her family drama.

“Of course, Lady Meredith.” The man bowed his head as he stood and almost tripped on his own feet. “I’ll be in touch, Duke Thysmer.”

I could hear Meredith grind her teeth from where I stood. Apparently being reminded that her father was now the duke of the estate was the last thing she needed.

“You can’t excuse my guests, Meredith.” Her father stood up, much steadier than he should have been considering the smell of alcohol coming from his breath. “You heard the man. I’m the duke now.”

“The only thing you’re fit to be duke of is the wet bar,” Meredith scoffed at him.

“I think that’s my cue to leave.” I took a step backward. It wasn’t that I hadn’t seen my share of family drama, but it was another thing to deal with someone else’s.

“Oh God. I’m sorry, Max.” Meredith shook her head and composed her face, but I could see the embarrassment underneath her calm mask. “Thank you for everything.”

“I was happy to help.” I bowed my head. That might be an exaggeration. I was glad that I could keep her from learning about her grandfather’s passing in a horrible way, but I hadn’t been happy to do it. “If you need anything else, please let me know.”

She chewed on her lip for a minute, and I had to fight my fascination with the way it plumped around her teeth. “I had an e-mail from the palace about funeral arrangements. We should be fine.” Straightening her shoulders, she shot me a more assured smile. “Thank you, again. Martin loved riding in the jet.”

“I’m glad I could brighten his day a little.” And that was the truth. Seeing his eyes clouded with pain had brought back a lot of memories. It was nice to be able to give him something else to focus on for a little while. Hopefully Meredith’s father wouldn’t cause too much trouble for what was left of their little family.

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