• C. R. Riley

Her Royal Highness Prologue



13 years earlier

I’m not sure how we got here, but I cannot for the life of me seem to care.

I must admit I’m surprised to find the Captain of the King’s Guard, Sir Edward Perez, standing at my door, soaked to the bone by the rain. It appears he’s been out here for a while debating on whether he should or shouldn’t be banging on it at this hour.

While he works for the Royal family, I am no longer considered his concern. My ex-husband made that clear the day I walked out of his office with the intent to leave him. He voiced it loudly to anyone listening. The only guard willing to stand up to him was Edward. He put himself between the King and myself when he was certain harm would come my way.

It wasn’t a new reaction for him. He’d been placing himself between us for several years when life with the king got messy. Made it his responsibility to ensure I stayed safe while he sat and talked with me. All while I did my best to cope with living a life full of lies.

This man and I had become friends, but only friends. Even though there may have been an attraction, one neither of us would dare act on or admit, friends were all we could ever be. His loyalty, after I walked away from that life, remained with the King. I’ve not seen or spoken to him without others present since that day. Our encounters were always focused on matters regarding the children, the heirs to the kingdom’s precious throne.

I’m not sure what is going on or why seeing him standing there feels oddly familiar. And for the life of me, I cannot seem to care why that may be. It isn’t as if I am doing anything wrong anchored in this spot admiring him. I am no longer a married woman. Haven’t been for three years now. I can admire whoever I wish to without guilt.

This man is available, as far as I know. A single man, married to the job he does, opting to pass on ever having a wife and children. A few rumors are floating around as to why that may be, but one cannot always believe what others presume they know. No one can possibly know what we ourselves have never acted on or admitted. After I left the palace, nothing ever went anywhere, our friendship even seemed to fade. And had there been anything more, it seems logical to expect his intentions would be revealed before now. More logical for him to keep the lines of communication open at least, instead of remaining silent.

So why is he here? Why are we staring at each other, afraid that if we move or speak something will spark the desire energizing the air?

There can be only one explanation on why he made the trip and I begin to panic. “Is there an issue with the children?” I hold my breath while I wait for him to respond.

Sir Edward shakes his head fervently as his grip tightens on his wool trench coat. “I’m not here because of the children.”

Relief washes over me as I take a step back and motion for him to enter. Once he is inside, I close the door and linger there for him to explain further.

“I probably shouldn’t be here.” Edward pauses and looks anywhere but at me. “In fact, I should go.” Conflict overtakes him, making him appear unsure about his decision to show up unannounced to my home in Prieto. “This was a mistake. Have a nice evening, Angela.”

Before Edward can open the door and escape with such a horrible explanation, I block it with my body. He drove all this way, stood in the rain for what looks like hours. Therefore, I plan on finding out why. “What was a mistake?”

He shivers, his soaked clothes visibly the source. Not even a man with his physique can fight the chill in his state of saturation. He may be strong and healthy, but he will not remain that way if he doesn’t dry himself before bolting.

“You’re cold and wet. At least dry off before leaving. We cannot have the Captain catching a cold.” I lift my hands and place them on his shoulders to help remove his coat.

Edward immediately grips my wrists to halt my movement. It is then our eyes lock. For the first time since we’ve known each other, I allow myself to get caught up in them. His handsome green-hued eyes set my entire body on fire like never before. It’s so overwhelming I almost don’t hear his next comment.

“Fuck me.”

As the phrase stumbles from his lips, I shiver, but not because I’m chilly. While I know he is not actually asking me to do just that—even understand his words are a slip of tongue that happens when you find yourself in a curious situation­—it is as if my mind envisions the act and reacts. Realization washes over me on why we never once took the time to get caught staring or touching longer than those quick, brief moments.

I’m no saint, not by a long shot. King Ramon and I fell into bed months before we ever became engaged. I wasn’t even a virgin when that happened, I lost mine before I set foot on Hermosa Islas soil at age sixteen. I understood my fate was to become the future queen to a country and man I knew nothing about. Before I promised my life and soul to such an existence, I decided I was going to allow myself to live a bit first.

I find myself speaking my next words as I grasp how long it’s been since I’ve been allowed to really live. “Yes, please.”

The shock in his eyes has me snickering like some silly schoolgirl. “Did you not mean that literally? Because that would be a shame since you drove all this way to do just that. I am certain I’d very much enjoy being fucked by a man like you.” I’m not even sure how I mustered the boldness to speak, but I’m not sorry.

If the response in Edward’s gaze reveals the truth, I’m almost positive I am about to get just that and possibly more. He blinks several times as the lines in his face harden. I’m not sure if he is surprised by what I expressed I would like him to do, or more to do with me doing something so unladylike with a man who just showed up in the manner he did.

It is out of character for me to jump so quickly into bed with a man. However, for some unknown reason whatever is transpiring between us advises me I should act. I know him better than I have any other man, trust him even. So, while I would not do this with just any chap, falling into whatever this is with Edward seems almost natural. Like fate.

“Are you okay?” I act braver than I feel when he simply stands there instead of responding.

Edward growls as he takes a slow step toward me, my wrists still in his hands. “Do not tease me. You have no idea how long I’ve thought about you like that. If my King knew, he’d have taken my head a very long time ago.”

“Which one?” I snicker, completely flabbergasted by the words leaving my mouth. My eyes travel to the large outline behind his trousers all on their own. I do not know what has come over me, but I revel in the feeling of being so bold and free.

He releases me to pace down the lengthy entrance of my home. Only to stop when he is thirty strides away and turns to face me again. There is no denying he is a man fighting with himself and his desires. “This is wrong. I shouldn’t be here.”

Almost four years have passed since I fled the palace with him by my side. He insisted on escorting me because he didn’t believe I’d be safe until I was off the premises. It was him who drove me and my children to De la Pena Citadel, then made sure we were secured and protected before he headed back.

I’ve often wondered why when he left that day it felt like the end of our friendship. Sir Edward had been an ear I could count on when frustration set in. Sat with me the night I’d blown up and made a wreck of the dinner dishes. He always found a way to be there when my husband was screwing it all up, not once caring how his behavior affected me. It was comforting to believe I had one friend who offered me support and understood why I eventually walked away.

How had I not caught on to the reason why that might be, until now? Why had I been so blind to this man? How had I never seen what I am seeing now and not acted on it? I’d been so imprisoned in my inadequate life with a husband who never saw me, I had overlooked the one man who likely didn’t want to see me but had anyway. Duty over desire had kept him from revealing his true self to me, protecting both of us until this moment.

When I begin to move, he speaks again. “He will not allow this to happen. Even now, he will discover a course to put a stop to this. My life could be in immense danger should I dare to do all those things I’ve dared to dream of doing. You deserve a man who can…”

Despite the fact he is a foot taller than me, double my size all the way around, I almost knock him off his feet when I practically jump him. It takes all his strength to keep himself steady until he can locate the closest wall and trap me against it. Tugging on his wet clothing, I strip him of them as fast as they will fall.

“You reminded me of an anjo the first time I saw you stroll into the garden,” he whispers in my ear before he nips my neck. “A fallen beauty who stole my breath away.”

His words barely make it through the fog that clouds my mind, but I remember that day as well. Ramon moved us into the palace two days prior to him taking the throne. Our boys were six and three. They needed to run off some energy and my husband was becoming impatient. I’d taken them to the garden to do just that, all while providing him the space he required to keep the peace.

An hour later Edward had been sent to retrieve us. What he came upon when he found us was me and my sons splashing around in one of the many fountains, laughing, enjoying life the way boys were meant to. He’d watched until I’d noticed him. I had blushed at how crazy we must have looked. I was soaked from head to toe, my cotton dress clinging to me. The boys were no better.

It was the expression on Edward’s face that sent a warm intense fire down my spine. My husband never looked amused when he discovered me playing with his heirs. He always wanted them to be proper unadventurous children who snubbed all those beneath them. I, however, desired to teach them the joys life could bring, even if it meant I’d have to suffer a scolding and lecture for letting them act like little boys. Edward had regarded us as if he was really seeing me, and I hadn’t been seen in almost ten years.

I grab his face and force him to look at me again now. “For that long?”

I swear the man blushes. “It was when I first took notice. I never allowed myself to give it much thought. You were my Queen, my King’s wife. When he began embarrassing you by his actions, not appreciating what he had been blessed with, that is when I couldn’t help thinking on how I would.”

My lips find his again, and I whisper, “I am not his any longer, Eddie.” I use a name I’ve heard a few of those closest to him use, wanting to make this more intimate.

A sadness washes over his face. “But my loyalty will forever remain with him, the realm, until his time ends. Which means I cannot really be with you because it would…”

“Then have this night with me. Show me what it could have been like had we been handed a different set of cards when we entered this world. Make me yours for a night and remember this night to get you through all the others. I know I will forever relive it for as long as I live.”

He does just that. Not only for the night, but we spend the entire weekend together. We soak it all in and pretend no one will ever find out or be allowed to take this away from us. But when the day for him to depart comes, it turns out to be harder than either of us imagined. Tears are shed as a finality of what can never be settles in, making me wish for things that are beyond even my reach.

Edward is a man who places his loyalty above all else. A moment of weakness prompted him to my door. But it will not keep him there. Therefore, I’ll be forced to deal with it. I vow to forge ahead the best I can. Promise to do what I need to do to get over the man who could have brought me happiness for longer than one weekend. I hate myself for not realizing how hard moving forward was going to be after experiencing something I will never get to have again. I chose the game we played and now I have to live with my choices.

🐝Her Royal Highness: The Royal Series Book 4 🐝

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New Release Date April 19th ✨

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