The Controversial Princess(8)

By: Jodi Ellen Malpas


“Are you flustered, Adeline?” Matilda asks, giving me another nudge in my side as she flanks me.

I sniff and straighten my posture. “Whatever are you talking about?”

My pathetic question has her chuckling discreetly. “I never thought I’d see the day.”

“You haven’t.” I smile brightly when Mother opens her arms to me.

“Adeline, darling, how are you enjoying your celebrations?” Her Spanish accent is nearly lost completely now, masked by the plums that have been forced into her mouth since she agreed to marry my father. Something that hasn’t been completely masked is her love of my flair and vitality. She should love it, since I inherited it from her, but naturally, she can’t openly approve. Although I can see from her small smile that she secretly likes my choice of dress for today’s event.

“Wonderful, Mother.” I tap each of my cheeks with hers and glance over my shoulder. Josh Jameson catches my eye again and winks. He bloody winks at me. The nerve. Who winks at a member of the Royal Family? I raise my nose and turn away from him, outraged again by his behavior. And hot. So very hot. “A new baby. So wonderful.” I collar John and Helen from a nearby group, apologizing for stealing them. “Congratulations.” I hug them both like I really mean it, because I do. They’re not my favorite people in the world, all holier-than-thou and respectfully proper, but more attention on them in the future means less on me. Hopefully.

Helen, with her perfect lipsticked lips, smiles a fake smile, ever cold and disapproving. “Sorry for stealing the limelight on your birthday.”

“No, you are not.” I laugh, waving off her apology. Neither John nor Helen pretend to be offended, and instead allow themselves to be pulled away by more guests, without so much as a happy birthday to me.

“This is torture in its best form,” I say to Matilda, resting my weight on one hip and sipping my champagne with a lack of anything else to do, while Prince John and Princess Helen lap up the fervent attention and congratulations. Not that I’m slighted by the lack of well-wishes coming my way, more irritated that, as traditional in this godforsaken family, the future of the Monarchy takes precedence over everything.

I sigh and look down at my empty crystal flute, but the glass in my light hold is removed and replaced with a full one before I can see to it myself. I lift my gaze and find Josh Jameson standing before me.

“Miss me?” I ask cheekily, raising my glass to him, playing it cool.

“Maybe, Your Highness.”

“Please, not so formal.”

“It doesn’t seem right to address you so personally, since you’re third in line to the British throne.”

I laugh softly, and something in his blue eyes changes. There’s a hint of amber washing over the aqua, making them appear greener. I watch as Matilda wanders away to join her parents, a definite subtle shake of her head as she goes. It is a shake to suggest she is aware that I’m in a rebellious mood, and she wants no part of it. I’m always in a rebellious mood. Now that mood is being fueled by this dishy American man and the constant rush of pleasure he encourages. Josh Jameson is not a suitable man for me to date, to see, to screw, to even kiss. Which makes me want to do all those things all the more. Temptation to defy the rules is almost too much to resist.

He’s staring at me, his striking face perfect. Here before me stands a man who has made my blood hot just by looking at me. I have to glance away for a moment and blink. “Don’t let my position in the line of succession intimidate you,” I say, braving returning my eyes to his. I bring my flute of champagne to my mouth as I maintain our stares over the rim. I sip. I swallow. Slowly.

“Intimidate me?” he questions, interested.

“Yes.”

“Why would I feel intimidated?”

“Well.” I laugh, as if he needs to ask. “My eldest brother is the Heir Apparent. My other brother, Eddie, is a backup heir to the Heir Apparent. I am a backup for the backup, but neither Eddie nor I will be required. The heir’s wife is pregnant, therefore with every baby born to my siblings, I fall further down the line of succession.” Or fall further from grace, I add to myself. Both apply. “I am really not as important as they would have everyone believe.”

“I’m not intimidated,” Mr. Jameson says quite frankly. “Not at all.”

His words surprise me, though I maintain my composure. Just. Never has a man had the audacity to say such things to me. Most men tiptoe around my royal status, eager to please. And never has a man had my blood pulse with excitement. I’ve had lovers, many in fact. But this man? He’s igniting something in me far too easily. I’m almost tempted to move away from the challenge. But where’s the fun in that? “I am a challenge for you,” I say, just as frankly. If he can be upfront, I don’t see why I cannot be, also.