Share
Add to cart

Prince Harming

By Bridget Midway



Description

Prince Lucian is the eldest son of the king and wants nothing to do with inheriting the crown when the time comes. He likes living free and having fun, only his type of fun includes disciplining young women. 

His lifestyle makes Helene Nix's job, as the public relations manager for Baldington Palace, very difficult. She wants to leave her job and work back in the United States. Since her father is the king's personal assistant, and her mother is the head of the kitchen department, Helene fears she will remain stuck there working at the palace. 

When Lucian's public antics gets the palace in trouble, they scramble to get him out of town. After some arguing, Lucian finally agrees to go but only if Helene goes with him. When they get together in closed quarters, they find out more about each other. Helene is discovering she likes the BDSM lifestyle, and Lucian likes having one steady woman to discipline, but for how long? 

Will their mutual love of the Lifestyle be enough to keep them together? Will Prince Lucian show himself to be Prince Harming after all?


Ratings


Excerpt

Chapter One

“That’s it.” Prince Lucian cocked a half-smile at the corner of his mouth. “That’s the way to serve your future king.”

He gripped the back of the burgundy, plush sitting chair in front of him as he watched the young, blonde housemaid lowering herself to her knees in his opulent living quarters. Fresh from his shower, he shifted his bare feet over the sturdy hardwood floor.

He rubbed his fingers over the velvety fabric of the chair that he had been told years ago by his mother had belonged to his great-great grandmother. Both ladies would probably be spinning in their graves if they saw him bracing for his evening surprise from the palace staff.

The young woman gazed up at him with her full blue eyes. When she smiled at him, it seemed like she did it out of obligation, not that she really wanted to be there, ready to take the royal shaft between her thin lips.

Lucian had flashed her one look when she had come to turn down his bed, and, without a word, she finished drying him from his shower and did what other female house servants had done since he had sprouted pubic hair fifteen years ago.

Lucian noticed her taking a breath before reaching up for the towel wrapped around his waist. Her small hands trembled when she touched him.

Shit. He had to pick the novice one, the female staff member who didn’t understand how things worked around Baldington Palace. If she played her cards right, this should be fun for both of them, not only him.

Lucian brought his gaze up just as his bedroom door burst open. He clutched the towel around his waist tighter and hoped that whoever dared to barge in on him wouldn’t be able to see the young woman on her knees.

“You’re late.” Prince Robert crossed his arms over his chest as he glared at his older brother.

“Good evening to you, too.” Lucian ran his hand over his still damp hair. “Ever hear of knocking?”

“Ever hear of a fucking clock? The banquet is going to start in thirty minutes, and you’re not even dressed.” Robert put his fists to his hips.

The move and sight of his brother, only two years his junior, reminded Lucian of their father. Robert must have seen their dear old dad posturing that way many times in front of Lucian. Just like with the king, Lucian didn’t pay his baby brother any mind either.

“Don’t get your panties in a bunch.” Lucian gave Robert a dismissive wave. “I’ve already bathed.” He nodded behind himself. “My clothes are all laid out for me. It’ll take me no time to get dressed.”

“And shave.” Robert rubbed his own clean-shaven face and then pointed to Lucian. “A king should look noble.”

“Jesus, Robert. This is not days of old, and I’m not the fucking king.” Lucian shook his head. “For God’s sake, Baldington Palace has a damn social media account. Wasn’t there a tweet or post yesterday that Father took his precious dogs for a walk? Are you telling me that centuries ago, our ancestor, King Simon, had his royal scribe report to his adoring subjects every moment he took a shit?”

The housemaid giggled. Lucian kept his stare on Robert and noticed the twitching in his brother’s eye. Robert already thought of Lucian as being reckless. No use trying to cover up his bad behavior now.

Before any questions could be posed, Lucian continued. “We are a modern royal family. We have all the perks with no responsibility. Enjoy it, will you? You’re young. Loosen that tie. Go commando. Don’t you ever go out on dates, or do that other thing we both like to do?” He gave Robert a wink.

His brother looked a lot like him. Same dark, wavy hair, except Robert kept his combed down neatly with a part on one side. Same hazel eye color. Same height, although on some days, his little brother seemed to best him by an inch or two. They differed on how to enjoy their lives.

“Get dressed. I’ll send in Quincy since it doesn’t look like your personal butler is around anywhere.” Robert shook his head and slammed the door behind himself.

“Sir, should I—”

Lucian held the young woman’s shoulders and brought her up to her feet. As he stared at her, a million thoughts ran through his head. As much as he desired her oral skills since Robert got him stressed, a deeper need called to him.

He rubbed his thumb over her smooth skin. A familiar stirring churned in his chest. He wanted to play to take off the edge. Maybe turn this woman around, bend her over this antique, and spank her until she cried or called her safe word, whichever came first.

That type of play required too much preparation. As Robert so rudely reminded him, Lucian did not have that kind of time.

“Thank you for the turn-down service.” He released her and bowed his head. “You may resume your other duties.”

“Um, yes, sir.” She curtsied, grabbed the folded sheets she came into his room with, and scurried out of the door, passing Quincy along the way.

“Whoa. Where’s the fire?” Quincy laughed a little as he walked into Lucian’s room. “Good evening, sir.”

“Quincy, you know I hate it when you call me sir.” Lucian padded toward his bathroom. “You’re like a second dad to me. Actually, more like a friend.” He’d known his father’s personal assistant all of his life.

“You know I can’t call you Lucian, and not because I don’t like the name. It wouldn’t be proper.” Quincy closed the door behind himself. The stately African-American man approached Lucian, dressed in a nice, dark three-piece suit, a common one he wore for occasions like tonight.

“At least in private, will you call me Lucian? I’ll even take dude.”

“I am not calling the next king of Lesilitho dude.” He followed Lucian into the bathroom and handed him his underwear.

Lucian dropped his towel and slipped them on quickly. Then he stared at his reflection in the expansive mirror over the sinks and vanity area. For a man who lived in an honest-to-God castle complete with a wait staff willing to do whatever he wanted, he felt like a child again. “I don’t feel very kingly. I’m approaching thirty.”

“You’re only twenty-six.” Quincy chuckled.

“I should want to live my life, not get stuck in the same place and under outdated rules, you know what I mean?” Lucian poured some cologne in the palm of his hand before applying the scent to his neck, chest and then his sac.

“Not really, sir. I don’t have royal blood coursing through my veins.” Quincy stood behind him.

Lucian turned to Quincy with his arm raised and his palm facing him. “Slice my wrist and take my blood if you think it’s so valuable.”

“Don’t be dramatic.” The tall man did what he always did to Lucian and his brother, and, as the personal assistant to the king, to Lucian’s father. Quincy offered a reassuring smile and placed his hand on Lucian’s shoulder.

The heat from Quincy’s palm sent a soothing feeling down Lucian’s body like he could conquer the world. The man needed to bottle up whatever power he had to make people feel better and sell it for millions.

“You are a good man. A young and sometimes impetuous man, but a good one nonetheless.” Quincy became serious. “As soon as you realize that life isn’t a party and you settle down, you will be the one people will see as the heir you are.”

Lucian wanted to believe that. The damage had already been done. “Let’s take this one day at a time, or rather one event at a time. Let me get through this dog and pony show first.” He started to retrieve his clothes, which Quincy stopped him by securing the garments first.

“Come on, Quincy. I’m not two, and I’m definitely not my father. As his personal assistant, shouldn’t you be doing this for him?” Lucian slipped on his pants first, still warm from ironing.

“Your father is already ready and waiting for guests to arrive, and your brother asked me if I would assist you.” He handed Lucian his belt. “I don’t mind being here for this family. Besides, I don’t see your personal butler around.”

“That’s because I fired him.” Lucian hated having someone wait on him hand and foot, and the man they had assigned to him annoyed the hell out of him. How the hell could anyone be that chipper at ten in the morning?

“And I don’t think that young lady who ran out of here earlier will help you get your clothes on.”

Lucian smiled. He didn’t encounter true loyalty lately. Everyone wanted a piece of him. As a result, he didn’t mind taking a bit from them, Quincy being the exception.

“You know your father would like your face clean.” Quincy pointed to Lucian’s face.

Lucian growled. “What is everyone going on about my facial hair? King Henry VIII had a beard.” After Quincy assisted him with his shirt, Lucian rubbed his scruffy facial hair. The follicles poked the pads of his fingers. “Besides, doesn’t it make me look mature?”

Quincy sighed and it almost reminded Lucian of the young woman he had in his room earlier. “He also had his wife beheaded. Besides, I don’t think you want to compare yourself to British royalty. You and your family are different.”

“You can say that again.” Lucian shook his head as he took a seat to put on his shoes and socks. When he noticed Quincy starting to lower himself to his knees, he held up his hand.

“You want me to help you shave that off?”

Lucian shook his head. “I got it.” He slipped on his shoes, gleaming from their recent shining.

“If there’s nothing else you need, I’ll go and attend to your father.” Quincy clasped his hands together in front of himself.

“I need one more thing.” Lucian picked up the cufflinks left out for him. “Assist me with these, please.”

Quincy beamed. “Just like when you were little. You said it in the same way, too.”

“I’ve always respected you and your wife.” Lucian held his arm still while Quincy affixed the pricey adornments to his shirt sleeves. “What desserts are we having tonight? I could never resist Ginny’s treats.”

After clasping the second link, Quincy patted his belly. “Neither can I. Ginny hasn’t shared with me what her staff is preparing tonight. I’m sure it will all be wonderful and up to the standard befitting this family.” He turned to the door. “I’ll leave you to handle the rest if that’s all you need.”

As Quincy headed to the door, Lucian asked another question. “Speaking of family, how’s Helene?”

Quincy grabbed the knob but didn’t open the door as he turned to Lucian.

Lucian continued. “I know the palace is large, but I would have thought, considering she also works for my family, that I would see her from time to time.”

Quincy’s lips tightened, and it looked like his eye twitched, too. “My daughter has been busy. Working public relations with your latest antics makes her job, um, challenging. Luckily, she has a good head on her shoulders. She can always see through what’s real and what’s fake, and she always does the right thing. With her, I never have to worry.”

That last dig reached its intended target. After Quincy had told Lucian how he saw him as a good man, he didn’t have a problem letting him know she wouldn’t fall for Lucian’s charms.

“I’ll see you down in the ballroom.” Quincy left the room before anything else could be said.

Lucian went to his bathroom and stared at his reflection in the mirror. “They want me to shave? I’ll take some hair off.” Time to shake things up in the palace.

 

****

 

Helene Nix strolled around the ballroom before the guests arrived. She didn’t doubt her mother’s staff would make sure to pay attention to every meticulous detail, but that didn’t mean a second eye wouldn’t hurt. She slipped on a white glove and slid her index finger over the backs of each chair. Dust could spell the death of a good event.

Prince Robert strolled into the room. Her heart fluttered, but not for the handsome prince. She suspected that, like when they were children, Lucian would be somewhere close. She wanted to avoid the oldest one of the duo.

“Helene, checking on everything, I see.” Robert smiled as he approached her.

“Sir.” She bowed her head.

He kissed both cheeks. “Everything looks perfect in here. Your mother is great at picking the right staff and making sure everything is set up properly. You should know this.”

“I should. But it’s a Nix thing. We check and double-check and triple-check if we have to. I’m also trying to make sure we don’t end up in the news for any reason.” Helene looked around. “Speaking of which—”

Robert cut her off. “He’s getting ready as we speak.” He exhaled. “You know Lucian. Expect nothing less but a grand entrance from him.”

Helene chuckled, but she knew what Robert meant. Lucian made doing her job difficult. She knew working public relations would be hard. She didn’t think that doing it for the royal family would be so thorny. All of her challenges came from Lucian and him alone.

“He wouldn’t be Prince Lucian if he did things the right way.” Helene glanced at her watch.

“I appreciate everything that you do. I questioned father’s decision to hire you.” Robert studied her with his head cocked.

Helene blinked at Robert’s candor. Even when they used to play around the palace as children, Robert pulled no punches when it came to expressing himself.

“I have to say that I’m surprised to hear you say that.” Helene fought against the urge to cross her arms. She didn’t need to look affected in front of the prince, her employer.

“We’ve practically grown up together. I remember us riding our bikes in the gardens and playing hide-and-seek in the east wing.” He smoothed his hand down his tie. “I never thought you would later become the mouthpiece for my family.”

“Don’t think of me that way. I’m simply the architect to how people perceive you all. So far, I think it’s going well.” Maybe if she sold herself, Robert would do the same if asked, like if she needed a reference.

“You, your father and your mother have been valuable assets to my family and the palace. I would have never thought an American family would have worked out as well as you all have in your jobs here. Still not sure how you all found our small country here in Europe, but I’m glad you did.”

Robert’s statements, meant to be complimentary, came out a bit condescending to Helene. Truth be told, she didn’t want the job working in the public relations department for the royal family. She did it because her parents pressed the king to give her a job after she graduated from Oxford.

“I can speak for my parents when I say that they love working here.” Helene gave the prince a polite smile and hoped he wouldn’t catch on to what she didn’t say.

Robert furrowed his eyebrows.

Uh, oh.

“Are you saying—”

Helene heard through her earpiece a commotion in the kitchen. “Excuse me, sir. Sounds like there may be something happening in the kitchen area.” She ran to the location, a feat considering her heels, a must to work in the castle.

Helene found the footwear demand a bit archaic, but at least she had a job. She burst through the kitchen door to find her mother standing in the center of the room and directing her staff in a calm, cool manner.

“Mom, is everything okay?” Helene approached her petite redhead of a mother.

She turned to her daughter and smiled. “Of course. Why would you think anything would be wrong?”

Helene tapped her ear. “I heard something.”

“Ah, Olaf. He dropped an empty tray. Not a big deal. Everything is ready to go.” Ginny kissed Helene on her cheek, which she had to get on tiptoes to do so.

Helene definitely got her five-foot-nine height from her father’s side. She found a stool at the end of counter and sat in it. She learned years ago to stay out of her mother’s way, especially during events like these. It also gave her a great spot to enjoy the smells wafting around her.

Her mouth watered when she caught the fragrant aroma of rosemary and beef. When Helene turned her head, she got a whiff of collard greens, definitely not native to Lesilitho but a new favorite of the king. Her undoing and what made her almost drool had to be the scent of her mother’s yeast rolls. She could almost see the butter glistening off each rounded, golden pieces of bread that she pulled from the oven.

Helene pulled out her phone. In her head, she had planned on checking all social media activity about the royal family. Prior to another previous dinner like this, she had discovered one of their guests could not make it due to a broken leg on a ski trip because the person posted a picture of herself in a cast on her Instagram account before she contacted anyone at Baldington.

After a clean sweep of the Baldington Palace account, Helene couldn’t help but look at her own social media account. She swore she did it to check for any updates from her friends back home in the United States. The engagement announcement that popped up on her feed first froze her in her position.

Helene kept staring at the picture with the caption, “I asked, and she said yes. I’m over the moon.” She stared at the woman first and made obvious comparisons. The African-American woman’s skin tone looked a hair darker than Helene’s. She styled her natural hair in a halo around her face. The gigantic ring on the woman’s left hand ring finger definitely caught Helene’s attention.

“Helene!”

Helene snapped her head up as soon as she heard her name. “Yes? What?” She peered over and spotted her mother with her hand on her hip.

“I’ve been calling you for the last couple of minutes. What’s got you occupied on your phone?” She pointed to the device in Helene’s hand. “You had better not say some game or app or something.”

“It’s something, all right.” She flipped the phone around. “An engagement announcement.”

Ginny rolled her eyes. “Not again. Prince Lucian fall in love with someone else in a matter of hours again?”

Helene shook her head. “Not this time.” She took a deep breath before continuing. “Norris.”

Ginny rolled her eyes. “Not even newsworthy.” She went back to the stove to continue cooking.

“Mom, I—”

“Why are you still worried about what your ex-boyfriend is doing?” Ginny pointed to the phone again with the knife she held. “Why are you still friends with him? He dumped you.”

Helene shook her head and placed her phone in her lap. “No. It was a mutual decision for us to split up.”

“Yeah. Right. By mutual you mean he wanted to leave you to see other people, and you mutually agreed to let him go.” Her mother shook his head. “I didn’t like Boring Norris anyway.”

“I wish you wouldn’t call him that still.” Helene tucked her hair behind her ear. “He is a nice man.” Despite telling Helene that he could never compete with the demands of the royal family and her duties to them. “And the reason we’re still friends is because we had an amicable split.”

Helene wouldn’t tell her mother that she still needed to know a reason why her boyfriend couldn’t make a commitment to her, but could so readily with his next relationship.

“So do you think this nice man will invite you to his wedding? It’s not like he doesn’t know where you live and work.”

Helene’s mother posed a great question, one that Helene couldn’t answer. Even though she maintained an account relationship online, since their breakup, she hadn’t talked to him at all, and he hadn’t reached out to her to check on her.

“Knowing Norris, he’ll keep the nuptials small and intimate. He was never flashy when we were together.”

Ginny stormed over to Helene and held her hand out. “Let me see that picture again.”

Helene cued up the picture on Norris’s page for her mother.

Ginny studied it for a moment. “I don’t know. That ring looks pretty flashy to me.” She turned the phone around to show Helene again. “Face it, honey. He has for sure moved on. You need to do the same. Find you a nice guy who will respect you and what you bring to the table.”

Helene took the phone from her mother. “Him respecting me wasn’t the issue in our relationship. It was time.”

Helene would never admit to her mother that her moniker for him as being boring for sure fit, especially in the bedroom. Norris’s idea of a fun night in the bedroom consisted of having sex with the lights still on or doing it during the day. She could have overlooked those antiquated notions had he been a decent lover. Two pumps and he would call it a night.

Why did she still keep up with him again? Oh, yeah. The why.

“I can’t wait until this is all over. It feels like we’re producing the Oscars or something.” Helene leaned back and crossed her arms.

“The palace opens up a few times each year for world dignitaries. It’s not often we do this.” Ginny looked like she wanted to skip from station to station. “I kind of like the excitement.”

Helene laughed. “I can tell. You and Dad are too much.” She looked at her fingernails as a way to distract herself from blurting the truth.

She decided it might be easier for her to broach the subject of her career if she spoke to her parents separately than as a unit. Divide and conquer.

Quincy walked into the kitchen. Helene smiled, but her insides knotted up tighter than her hair bun, another requirement of the palace.

“Hey, baby girl.” He kissed Helene on her cheek. “You doing okay?”

Helene nodded. “Hoping for a quiet night.”

“I think we all are.” Quincy headed to his wife. “The footmen are ready. Guests have started to arrive, and drinks are being served now.”

Helene heard one of the kitchen staff gasp before Helene focused her attention to the doorway and saw Lucian strolling in the room wearing the hell out of a dark blue suit and red tie, but with an interesting facial hair style. He had a soul patch below his lower lip. His moustache trailed down the sides of his mouth like a biker. He coupled the unorthodox look with longer-than-normal sideburns, almost to a mutton-chop level.

“Christ on a cross.” Helene shook her head.

Her mumbled curse must have been heard by her mother. Ginny elbowed Helene against her arm and shushed her.

Although for a royal, he looked ridiculous, Helene had to admit that he carried off the comical look with polish and panache and dare she say a bit of sexiness, like a naughty pirate.

“So that’s your idea of shaving?” Quincy tilted his head as he stared at him.

“What? I shaved.” Lucian winked.

“Fine. I’m sure the king will love seeing you.” Quincy turned to the staff. “No gawking. Come on. We have a dinner to put on.” He clapped his large hands to get people scurrying.

Within minutes, the kitchen emptied out except for Helene, Ginny and Lucian.

“You’re missing your party.” Helene started to stand, but Lucian stood in front of her to prevent her from moving.

She wanted to kick herself for buckling to his physical and implied presence. The man came from a long line of noble kings and queens who children now studied in school. Yet an irresponsible buffoon who thought he would never die stood before her.

“It’s not my party, and I’m definitely not missing anything.” He smiled at her.

Damn it. Good thing she didn’t stand. Her knees would have given out on her. How did he manage to have this power over her with nothing more than a wink and a smile?

Lucian cocked his head. “You’re staring at me.”

In an over-the-top manner, Helene snapped her fingers at him. “I got it.”

He scanned her. “That might be debatable, but go on.”

Her stomach lurched. “I have how I’m going to spin your new look. It’s a Make-A-Wish request. You’re doing it for a child who wanted to see a royal family member make a fool of himself.”

“There you go.” He tsked. “Always trying to make me out to be better than what I am.” He rubbed his fingers over his chin. “Just call it like you see it. I’m an independent thinker who marches to the beat of his own drum.”

“That you do.” She sighed.

He unbuttoned his jacket. “Come on, Hell’s Bells. Let’s not talk about me.”

She blinked. “I haven’t heard that nickname in years.”

“Maybe because it’s been a while since we’ve had a conversation that lasted this long.” He rested his hands on his hips.

“And a conversation that didn’t involve the questions ‘Are you sure she was over eighteen?’ and ‘Do you think they got a shot of your penis?’” Helene fought against the urge to bring her attention down to his waist area and below. She knew he would want that. “Thanks to you, I’ve been busy. And whenever your father goes out for an event or cause, which he does quite often, I’m there.” She crossed her legs to both put a barrier between her and Lucian and to tamp down her throbbing clitoris.

He carried a strong, musky yet fragrant scent that she had never smelled on another man, not that she had time to date. This job, this life, consumed her existence. Her parents might like being at the beck and call of the royal family. Helene didn’t.

“So shouldn’t you be in the ballroom with me?” Lucian’s voice dropped down to a low timbre that rumbled Helene’s body.

“Sorry. The help doesn’t eat with you all during these events.” She jutted her chin out.

“Helene! You apologize this instance.” Ginny rushed over to the Helene and popped a dishtowel against Helene’s leg.

“No, Mrs. Nix, it’s okay.” He kissed Helene’s mother’s cheek. “Helene is right. Like my brother, she definitely understands royal protocol and follows it to the letter.” He stared at her. “She’s very obedient that way.” He clasped his hands together as he stared at her. “It’s been a long time since we’ve had a conversation with each other. I mean a real one.” He motioned his hand between the two bodies.

“We don’t exactly travel in the same circles.” This time Helene did manage to get to her feet and move away from Lucian.

“But we used to play a lot together. Remember?” He unleashed a salacious chuckle that sent an uneasy ripple down her spine.

Helene remembered a lot of things, but didn’t want to acknowledge Lucian in his fishing expedition. Plus the type of playing Lucian probably recalled had nothing to do with the memories his brother had shared with her moments ago.

“I distinctly remember running around the hallways of the palace, chasing you, and never being able to catch you. Not once.” With his long-legged stride, Lucian managed to step in front of Helene and stop her trek. He held up one finger in front of her face. “I take that back. I did catch you one time.”

That one time still haunted Helene. At sixteen years of age on a night much like tonight, Lucian had pulled Helene away from the guests to a deserted portion of the castle. In the darkened room, he’d teased and tickled her like he’d always done as small children. That time, though, felt different.

Lucian had pulled off a rope tie holding a set of heavy curtains back. When Helene had asked him what he planned on doing with the rope, he’d bound her wrists together. Helene had laughed at first, especially when he started pinching the sensitive undersides of her arms and around her waist. When he’d pinched her thighs, she felt different.

Then and now, Helene’s breathing quickened. She remembered he had kept his stare on her, almost daring her to move, to scream, to react. At the time, she didn’t know what to do. It had all felt so foreign. The quick pinches felt like stings, so she shouldn’t have liked it. Yet she did. With each squeeze, she’d desired more.

Then he’d started to ask her, “Do you want me to pinch your—”

Robert had interrupted them by running into the room and calling for them to return to the ballroom.

Lucian had slowed to release her. “It’s okay if you want to scream. Do you?”

Helene hadn’t known what to do or say. She remembered how her mouth remained agape.

“Do you want me to stop?” Lucian had pressed.

Again, Helene hadn’t known how to answer. As he stood in front of her now, the memories overwhelmed her again.

“Lucian.”

Helene heard Prince Robert’s voice behind her, snapping her out of her memory, but she couldn’t turn around. Instead of dropping her gaze to the ground, she continued to stare at Lucian. In turn, he returned hers with an equally intense one.

“Yes, brother?” Lucian smoothed his hand over his slightly curled hair.

“Dinner is about to be served, and Father, who I’m betting hasn’t seen you yet, wants you in the ballroom now.” Robert’s voice came out stern.

“I’ll be there.” Lucian gave a curt smile to his brother before capturing Helene’s attention again. “We should catch up. Sooner rather than later, I hope.” Lucian nodded. “Enjoy your evening.” Before retreating, he grabbed a roll from a tray and took a bite.

“You have not changed since you were little.” Ginny laughed.

“Neither have these rolls.” He winked at her and gave Helene another seductive stare before leaving the kitchen area.

“Those boys. Like night and day.” Ginny shook her head.

“Men, Mom. No more boys here.” Helene’s soaked panties would concur with that statement.

Helene remained close to the action in the ballroom but tucked far enough away to not be intrusive. The U-shape formation of the tables, with King Clive, Prince Lucian and Prince Robert by his sides and sitting at the head table, had a whole Last Supper kind of vibe. Even with Lucian’s facial hair, no way would anyone mistake him for Jesus Christ.

Helene noticed one young woman sitting at one of the side tables closest to Lucian, trying desperately to get his attention. Helene consulted the seating chart on her tablet. The young princess from Monaco had an equally scandalous reputation as Lucian. Those two definitely didn’t need to be together.

She should have caught that detail in the seating arrangement. Keep only men close to Lucian…not that Helene cared. She didn’t need any more problems in the press with his behavior. Lucian had proved in the past that he had a weakness for women.

When Helene noticed him giving the young woman a similar wink like he’d given to Helene earlier, she returned to the kitchen. Dinner should be over soon, and then it would be on to mixing and mingling.

Helene found her mother in the open kitchen sitting at her desk. She strolled to her slowly. She wouldn’t get this type of alone time with her pretty soon. The kitchen staff would be back with loads of dishes to be cleaned and put away.

Helene took a seat next to Ginny. “Look, now that we’re alone, I need to tell you something.”

Ginny nodded but continued typing on her laptop. When Helene didn’t continue, she split her attention between the screen and Helene. “You’re looking serious. Maybe it’s a good thing I’m already sitting down.” She laughed.

While she caught Ginny in a jovial mood, Helene blurted out her news and decided to deal with the consequences later. “I’m looking for another job.”

“Here at the palace? You want to work in the kitchen with me? Or maybe you want to go to butler school like your father and I did, and work up the ranks that way?” Ginny scooted to the edge of her seat.

Helene shook her head. “I don’t plan on becoming a fixture here.”

Ginny’s smile melted from her face. “You don’t want to work here at Baldington?”

Helene needed to rip off this Band-Aid quick. “I don’t want to continue living here in Lesilitho. My job hunt involves moving back to the United States.”

There. She did it.

Ginny placed her hand over her chest. Her breathing came out labored. “Are you serious? Is it because of this Norris thing? This country may be small, but it’s big enough that you would never have to encounter him again if you don’t want to.”

Helene shook her head. “No, Mom. I was putting in applications long before I knew that Norris was dating someone else and that he would ask her to marry him.” Knowing that, though, had made her decision to leave a lot easier.

She would probably never encounter Norris anywhere in Lesilitho, but she for sure wouldn’t see him in the United States.

Ginny still made her appeal to her child. “This family has afforded us a great lifestyle. We live here.”

“We live in a small house on the property, not in this main house.” Helene raised her hands in the air to show off the home where they worked, not lived.

“We’ve saved on rent and mortgage payments.” Ginny closed the lid on her laptop to address her daughter directly.

“Twenty years here and you and Dad don’t have a home of your own to show for it.” Her mother had to see that staying there held them back, not propelled them.

“We were able to get you into the best schools.”

“My hard work and grades got me into Oxford. Had you not freaked out, I would have gone to Harvard.” Getting to go to England had given her a taste of freedom that she craved.

“Your father went to bat for you to get you the job that you have.”

Ginny didn’t seem to understand Helene’s perspective. Helene held her mother’s hand. “Mom, I’m not happy here. I feel stuck. Trapped. I’ve stayed here doing this job for five years to make you and Dad happy. But I can’t keep doing this anymore.” She shook her head. “And you and Dad should want more, too.”

Ginny wiped her eyes with the back of her hand. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Come on. Don’t make me say it.” Helene took a step back from her mom.

“Say what?” Ginny stood.

Helene swallowed hard. “Fine. We’re a black family serving this rich, privileged, whi—”

“Don’t you dare go there.” Ginny jutted her finger in Helene’s face. “I’m not sure where all of this is coming from, but you need to not say another cross word about this family. Your father and I trained very hard for what we do, and we enjoy working here. I thought you would see that our efforts are appreciated.”

Helene snickered. She let her mother’s hand go. “Appreciated? I want a 401K. I want holidays off. I want to have a vacation. I want to be able to bring a date back to my own place that I don’t share with my parents. Most importantly, I want to be able to say I secured a job on my own and not because my father got it for me.”

Ginny reached for Helene.

Helene took several steps back toward the door. “I haven’t told Dad yet. I would appreciate it if you wouldn’t say anything to him until I do. Then if you want to talk about it as a family, we can. But my mind is made up. I’m ready to go.”

Before Ginny could say anything else, Helene darted from the kitchen only to be netted in the arms of the man she wanted to run away from as well.

“Did I hear you correctly?” Lucian held Helene’s shoulders. “You want to leave Baldington?”