His Royal Highness

His Royal Highness by R.S. Grey




Author’s Note:


His Royal Highness is a full-length standalone novel. At the end, I’ve included an excerpt from my bestselling romantic comedy Not So Nice Guy.


His Royal Highness concludes at around 90% on your device.





Happy Reading!

XO, RS Grey





Chapter One





Whitney





My life is a fairytale. Or rather…it takes place inside of one. Smack-dab along Georgia’s southern coast is the largest theme park in the world. When guests turn off the highway, they drive beneath a colorful two-story welcome sign and leave all vestiges of the outside world behind them. A winding road cuts through patchy pine forests and sprawling grasslands. Long minutes pass. The trek continues, seemingly endless. Children grow restless in the back seat of a rented minivan. Tiny shoes and crackers start to fly. The leader in the driver’s seat fears he took a wrong turn and wonders to himself if—nay, when he should admit he has no idea where he’s going.

This is all intentional.

That drive is a black hole, transporting theme-park-goers from their mundane 9-to-5 lives and plopping them down into a world filled with magic and wonder.

At the precise moment in which a U-turn seems all but inevitable, a sight appears on the horizon: a medieval French castle with purple-roofed spires jutting toward the sky, so large and imposing, there’s no way to miss it.

The driver is unsure if his vision is failing him. He convinces himself it’s just a mirage right up until his children start to scream with glee. “We’re here! We’re here!”

Both parents wipe beads of sweat from their brows. The driver can now admit, with a relieved laugh, that he was near tears there for a second.

Welcome to Fairytale Kingdom.

I work inside that castle on the horizon, on the bottom floor inside a room designed to mimic a great hall. It has stone floors and tapestry-covered walls. A spiral staircase leads guests up to a restaurant that requires reservations one year in advance. I stand across from the staircase, in front of an oversized hearth wearing a pale green iridescent gown. Soft music plays from a harp in the corner and several hundred children stand in line waiting for their turn to meet me.

“IT’S HER! MOM! IT’S THE REAL PRINCESS ELENA!”

A toddler stares at me starry-eyed. Another girl cries with excitement when I glance in her direction then she quickly shoves her face into her mom’s dress, overcome with shyness. I smile and wave gracefully and continue to act my part.

All the while, security tries to extricate a little boy who has wiggled his way up underneath my dress.

It’s not the first time this has happened.

My tulle skirt is a sparkling poof of temptation, a fabric cloud begging to be repurposed as a hiding spot. I knew the little boy was trouble as soon as I laid eyes on him. He wiped snot from his nose with the back of his hand while he scanned my dress, eyes alight with possibilities. Beside him, his older sister waited patiently with her autograph book clutched to her chest, shaking with excitement. When it was finally her turn to meet me, her brother didn’t miss a beat. He bypassed her and nosedived for my dress, too quick for his mom to grab.

Now I laugh lightheartedly, all the while trying to signal to Ryan to hurry it up down there. Under my dress, the boy wraps his skinny arms around my leg and shifts my center of gravity a smidge to the right. For the first time, my mask crumples. Oh no—I’m going down. In a second, I’ll be lying face down in a heap of fabric and this carefully constructed idyllic scene inside Elena’s Castle will be ruined as paramedics rush in to tend to my broken nose. Hundreds of children will be scarred for life by the image of blood raining down across my gown.

There’s protocol for this situation. Under no circumstances should I break character. Under no circumstances should I put my hands on the child and forcibly remove him myself. The Knightley Company doesn’t want photos circulating on the internet of one of their princesses manhandling a little boy. That’s Ryan’s job.

Ryan is the man cast as His Royal Highness, Princess Elena’s love interest. On top of playing his part, he’s supposed to function as a form of first-level security. He should have this situation under control, but he doesn’t. He’s too gallant and sweet. He kneels down and tries to goad the boy out from under my dress with promises of candy—“You like Skittles? Yeah? How ’bout I buy you a pack? Ten packs?”—but the boy just giggles with glee and clings to me tighter. I waver on my heels, wide eyes finding Ryan’s.

“Please hurry!” I whisper.

With gathered courage, Ryan flips up the bottom of my skirt, sticks his upper body underneath, and tries to grab ahold of the little boy. Oh dear god. Ryan’s hand accidentally glides against my bare calf—the one I forgot to shave this morning—and the boy wiggles away like a little snake. My face turns the same shade as my hair: blazing red.

Children and parents start to worry. I try hard to spontaneously combust but am still fully intact when Ryan shouts, “Gotcha!”

He rips the little boy out from under my dress. The boy cries with rage. His mom apologizes profusely. More park security rushes into the great hall, brushing past the boy’s sister with her autograph book still clutched to her chest. She stands in mortified shock, her mouth agape. This was her moment. She traveled from somewhere far away, waited her turn for hours, and now it’s ruined. She won’t get to meet me.

Security wants to check that I’m okay, but I brush past them and, without hesitating, crouch down in front of the girl, my hands clasped daintily. I tilt my head and smile. My cheeks are still stained red with embarrassment, but other than that, I’m Princess Elena.

“Hello there. What’s your name?” I ask, tone soft and sweet, just a pinch higher than my normal voice.

“Mc-McKenna,” she stutters.

I smile. “McKenna, it’s a pleasure to meet you. That’s a pretty book you have there. May I see it?”

She nods and hands it over, and just like that, the situation is salvaged. Five minutes later, McKenna has a shiny new autograph and three photos with Princess Elena ready for her mom to purchase in the gift shop. Her smile is permanently affixed to her cheeks—or it will be until her brother does something else to annoy her.

For the remainder of my shift, I smile and chat and pose with children, but inside, I am dead. Not only did I bypass my razor this morning, I also said, Eh, screw it, and decided to leave on my cotton granny panties—y’know, the droopy ones that cover your entire butt and then some—and I know Ryan saw them.

I know.

They’re an ugly, faded pair the color of eggplants, but I can’t bear to part with them.

I glance at him out of the corner of my eye, but he doesn’t meet my gaze. His vision is undoubtedly clouded by a shabby purple hue.

Wonderful.

I’ve had a crush on Ryan ever since he first assumed his post as His Royal Highness ten months ago. He walked into the training room, sheathed in the requisite emerald green coat and tan pants, and my heart pitter-pattered in my chest. His light brown hair is infused with the shine of a thousand diamonds. His eyes are the color of a summer sky. He smiles and the moms waiting in line sag in defeat. We chat before every shift, and sometimes, he walks me back to my locker when we’re done. Through our exchanges, I’ve started to gather intel on him, and I hoard the facts close to my heart. He likes country music. He’s never seen Armageddon. He went to college for two and a half years to pursue a theater arts degree before dropping out to work at Fairytale Kingdom full-time. He is, in short, the love of my life.

Of course, I also have a small crush on a guy who works in the bakery across the street from the castle. He sometimes gives me free coffee or fudge samples. For simplicity’s sake, and because he never wears his name tag, I call him Fudge Guy, and I’ve had a crush on him almost as long as I have on Ryan.

There’s also Jake from accounting. He’s older. Quiet. He passes out staff paychecks, and my feelings for him wax and wane every two weeks.

This might seem confusing, but I have it all organized in my fictional Rolodex of love interests. Though they never seem to amount to much of anything, I don’t let that deter me. I love love. The butterflies, the hopeful promise of what tomorrow might bring. I fell in love for the first time when I was eighteen. It was unrequited and silly, wrapped up in teen angst. Still, none of my crushes hold a candle to that one. To this day, that crush eclipses all the ones that have come after it. An annoying but enduring fact.

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