Home > Royal Line (Tattered Royals #1)(3)

Royal Line (Tattered Royals #1)(3)
Author: Carrie Ann Ryan

“I am not snarling. Princesses do not snarl.”

“No, they smile daintily and nod their little heads while they curtsy, and they also use big scissors to cut through ribbons when they open up buildings.”

“And what do princes do?” I asked, doing my best to hold back a smile. It was not good to encourage him, but I couldn’t help it. I loved my brother, even if he was a bit much to handle.

“Princes smirk, they bow, they kiss princesses’ hands,” he said, lifting my hand to give my knuckles a brush of his lips. “And they wink,” he added.

“They wink,” I said. “And that is the best you can come up with?”

“I’ve had short notice. I promise I will come up with something better in the future. Just give me time.”

“And yet, it always feels like I’m running out of time.” I hadn’t meant to say the words aloud, but there was no taking them back.

“What’s wrong? Talk to me.”

I shook my head. How could I make him understand? “Nothing, I guess. Just having a rough day.”

“It’s your birthday party. You are the center of attention, the literal belle of the ball. You’re home in Alden, in the palace our forebears shed their blood, sweat, and tears for to create their own kingdom.”

“I’m pretty sure there are a few oxymorons in that statement.”

“Why do I feel like there was an implicit ‘moron’ in that remark?” he asked with a smirk.

Brothers and princes, you didn’t know what to do with them until it was too late.

I could do this. Put on the happy face for him. “I will smile, and I will laugh, and I will eat cake, and I will enjoy myself. I just needed a minute to act like a spoiled princess and sulk in a corner.”

“You don’t need to hide yourself from me.”

I didn’t think that was actually the case. I hid myself from everyone. That was how I got things done. And I knew for a fact that Breck, and my other brothers, Wilder and Roman, hid as well.

That’s what made us royals. We hid from the public, and sometimes from ourselves, but we got things done.

And we helped our people.

And that was enough of that.

“Okay, I want cake.”

“That’s my girl. First, you must dance, cake is much later. Aunt Rebecca wouldn’t allow us to cut the cake too early.” Breck screwed up his face when he mimicked her voice. “That just isn’t done.”

Laughing, I rolled my eyes as I slid my hand into his, following him out onto the dance floor, my dress swinging around my ankles as others joined us.

“Why do we let her run everything?”

Breck twirled me around the polished marble, demonstrating the three-times-a-week dance lessons that had been forced on him as a child.

“Because she helped raised us, because she has been the one organizing the social schedules of the kingdom since we lost our parents, and because if you don’t let her do something, she’ll do it anyway and scold you about it, all with a polite smile.”

I laughed at that, ignoring the warning look from one of the husbands of a councilwoman who didn’t like the idea of royals amongst them. It might be my birthday, but they were sure to remind me that they paid for everything and I was just a pretty princess on a cloud with no job and no prospects.

What was with me tonight?

I pushed those thoughts out of my head and turned back to Breck. “Oh leave her alone. Aunt Rebecca doesn’t snap. Or yell. She’s...kind.” And pushy and overbearing, but I didn’t say those things. My brothers had, of course, had to deal with Aunt Rebecca’s needling and orders as she helped raise us. But as we had all said before, it was for our own good. Truth be told, she was a larger part of my life than my brothers were. They had been well into their teen years when my parents died.

We had lost our parents long ago, and when Roman became king, we had been shoved to the front of the news, the country, and into the eyes of the world. And Aunt Rebecca had been there in the wings, waiting, making sure we were taken care of. And I would never be able to thank her enough.

There was always a part of me that wanted to be somewhere else. Even if it wasn’t grateful or what a princess would do.

“How is planning for the trip?”

I shrugged. “I’m still not sure I’m going.” I held back a growl since my latest attempt had once again been thwarted.

“What? Why? You should go,” Breck said, as if he could read my mind.

“We both know Roman won’t let me.” And he’d already sent his henchman, aka our brother, to make sure I couldn’t.

“You’ve been mumbling about this project for how long? Just do it.”

“Working princesses can’t be travel photojournalists. I want to go out and experience the real world, and not from behind bulletproof glass or with pearls around my neck. I want to get to know what’s truly beneath the surface, and I can’t do that. It’s just not done.”

“And when has that ever stopped a Waterford before?” Breck asked, that haughty tone back in his voice that made me smile.

“We always do what’s expected of us.”

“If that were the case, Roman would be married.”

I gave my brother a sharp look, and he had the grace to wince. “Sorry. I don’t know where that came from.”

“We’ll all do what we need to do, what’s expected, but you know as well as I do that Roman’s not ready.”

“When is he going to be, L?”

Luckily the waltz ended. I shook my head and moved off the dance floor as the music shifted to a more upbeat song.

“Let’s talk about something happier. It’s my birthday. I should be happy.”

From behind me, someone said, “It is your birthday. Last one before you hit the big 3-0.”

I turned to find my other brother, Wilder, and smiled, holding out my arms as if I hadn’t just seen him a few hours earlier. He hugged me tight, kissing the top of my head, and I sank into his hold. I knew I shouldn’t have favorites, but Wilder had always been mine—even if I hated him just a little bit for not letting me leave as of yet. Maybe if wasn’t for the party, he’d have helped me live my dream. I had to believe that. But for now, I was still hurt about the whole thing.

All my brothers were big, muscular, and handsome as sin, according to the tabloid magazines and paparazzi that hounded us. Each of them had dark hair and light, bright eyes that seemed to shine in every photo.

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