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Dating the Prince

By:Addison Quinn

Dating the Prince
Addison Quinn

 CHAPTER ONE



Prince Alexander of Durham had grown up with the best of the best, and  that included his education. But all of his highly skilled and extremely  well-paid teachers, tutors, and professors had failed to tell him what a  train wreck falling in love created. Right now, he was definitely  cursing the day he met that harpy Isla Martin.

"So there's been no improvement in public opinion?" The king's voice  boomed around the council room, bouncing off the fifteen foot tall  ceilings. The crystals on the chandelier hanging directly above the  two-hundred-year-old mahogany table shook. His icy blue eyes pierced  each adviser in turn, and Alex watched as they visibly shrank in their  crushed velvet chairs.

Six months ago, Alex had thought that one day he'd command a room in a  similar way. Now he'd be lucky to command an ant, let alone a country.

"Approval ratings continue to drop, Your Majesty." Maggie adjusted her  red glasses, pushing the frames up the bridge of her nose. She was  perhaps ten years older than Alex, with frizzy red hair and a typically  happy demeanor. But her smiles had been noticeably absent since Isla  began telling every media outlet who would listen what a cheating  scumbag the crown prince of Durham was.

The dull ache behind Alex's eyes grew more piercing. Isla flashed into  his mind, with her tousled bottle-blonde hair and ruby-red lips pursed  together in a pout. She was half American, so he'd tried to ignore her  advances. But eventually he'd fallen prey to her charms.

He'd been toying with the idea of proposing when he found Isla with  another man. She'd wasted no time spreading lies about the breakup,  proving just how talented an actress she was.

"How much lower can the approval ratings get?" His mother's mouth pulled  down in a deep frown and her eyes narrowed. Queen Nicolette was used to  things going her way.

Maggie adjusted her glasses again. "Isla appeared on another talk show  this morning. A small one, but the clip is circulating on social media."

"Surly she's spoken with every reporter in Durham, the United States,  and most of Europe by now." A hint of a Galian accent slipped through  the queen's words-a sure sign that she was upset.

"Apparently there are still a few left," Maggie said.

Frustration made Alex's chest tighten, but he refused to let his  emotions show. "I'm avoiding the press as much as possible. I could go  on talk shows and tell the truth, but we've agreed that trying to change  the narrative is too risky. What else is there to do?"

Nicolette sniffed. "We keep our heads held high and hope this storm  passes. Royalty do not engage the media. I refuse to let Isla drag you  into the mud with her."

Alex gave a mirthless laugh. "From where I stand, it's looking pretty  muddy. The only thing that will make Isla back off is ruining me for  good, or wearing the crown herself." Initially, Alex had wondered if  Isla went to the press in hopes of hush money. But their only discussion  after the breakup had made it clear she was after something money  couldn't buy-fame. And being dumped by the crown prince of Durham had  put her on the radar of every producer and director in Durham and the  United States.

Nicolette laughed, scorn making each note a sharp barb. "I will die  before I allow a gold digging American to become a member of this  family."

At least they were in agreement on that. "Then I don't know what you want from me."

"What about a new girlfriend?" one of the advisers suggested. "Someone to take the attention off Isla."

Alex leveled him with a glare. "You can't be serious."

The man's face paled and he looked down at the tabletop. "Only a suggestion, Your Highness. I apologize."

"A ridiculous suggestion."

"I'd be lying if I said it hadn't crossed my mind," Maggie said. "What  we need is a bigger news story to steal the spotlight. A blossoming  relationship might accomplish that."

"You can't be serious." Alex's shoulders ached from the tension lodged  there. "I'd never subject some poor girl to Isla's wrath."

Maggie held up a placating hand. "It was just an idea that crossed my mind."

"Well, get it off your mind, because it's not happening."

"I want everyone to take the day to think up possible solutions to our  PR problem," King Geoffrey said. "We'll revisit the issue at tomorrow's  briefing. Now, where are we with the president's upcoming visit?"

The moment the meeting ended, Alex strode from the room. What he  wouldn't give to escape the palace and sit on a bench in Castlebridge  Park, an anonymous citizen of Durham enjoying the late summer breeze as  he spent a relaxing afternoon people watching. But anonymity wasn't in  the cards for royalty. So instead he headed toward the administrative  wing of the palace, where a room full of monitors was constantly watched  by an entire team. It was as close to his fantasy as he got in the  palace.         

     



 

He pushed open the door without knocking, his shoulders instantly  relaxing. At least fifty monitors filled the space and five uniformed  men sat in chairs watching them.

Alex's personal bodyguard, Finn, glanced over at the sound of the open  door, then instantly rose. The other men jumped to their feet as well.

"Your Highness," Finn said with a short bow. He was a mountain of a man,  with a barrel chest, dark skin, and a face that rarely smiled.

"Please sit," Alex said. "Don't let me distract you."

The guards all nodded and returned to their tasks, used to Alex's frequent visits.

"Is there something I can assist you with?" Finn asked.

"No, thank you. I just needed a few minutes to breathe." Alex dropped  into the chair with a sigh and motioned to the monitors. "Anything  interesting today?"

"A few things." Finn pointed to the throne room. "These parents have  their hands full. They've got five children who couldn't obey a command  if their lives depended on it."

Alex chuckled as a small boy of perhaps three tried to slip under the  velvet rope that kept tourists from sitting on the thrones. The mother  grabbed his arm and yanked him back.

"He's a curious one," Alex said.

Finn nodded and pointed to the music room. "The new tour guide has mixed  up the facts for each room. Right now he's giving the script for the  Hall of Victory."

The guide's navy jacket hung loose on his frame, giving the appearance  of a boy wearing his father's suit, and his hand shook as he pointed out  the features of the room. Alex shook his head in sympathy. "Poor guy."

"I think he'll be alright in a month or two," Finn said. "He seems determined to do well."

Alex slowly let his eyes travel over the dozen monitors that comprised  the tourist section of the palace. He never bothered watching the other  feeds, which covered the governmental wing and the royal family's  private quarters-that felt like an invasion of privacy. But he'd always  loved watching the tourists. The look of wonderment on their faces  reminded him how blessed he was to be crown prince of Durham. Although  these days it felt more like a curse.

His eyes lingered on the group Stan led. He was definitely the palace's  crankiest tour guide and Alex always felt bad for the visitors in his  group. His eyes skimmed over the elderly couples wearing fanny packs,  passed by the young backpackers wearing baseball caps, and landed on a  woman with a baby strapped to her chest.

He leaned forward, examining the woman. She didn't fit the typical  tourist profile, but didn't seem like a local, either. Like many of the  tourists, she carried a backpack. But this one was small and had the  fancy look of a purse. A diaper bag, perhaps? She took a step forward  and he noticed she was wearing sandals, not tennis shoes-another  indication she might be a local. Her sleeveless dress flowed to the  floor while her hair hung down her back in loose curls. Something caught  her attention on the wall, and her face turned upward toward the  camera, making his heart lurch. Even on the grainy black and white  security screen, her beauty was evident. She had a pixie nose, wide  eyes, and high cheekbones. The look of wonderment on her face was  definitely not one locals usually wore.

The woman disappeared off the screen, and Alex quickly found the monitor  for the throne room, the next stop on the tour. But the woman didn't  immediately appear on the screen.

"Where did she go?" he muttered.

"I'm sorry, Your Highness?" Finn asked.

"The woman from the Hall of Victory. She was just there  …  oh, there she is." He pointed to the woman.

Finn leaned forward and raised an eyebrow. "She's pretty."

That was like saying the palace was merely nice. Alex watched as the  woman stayed near the back of the group. She seemed entranced by the  thrones. The others wandered around the room, admiring the artwork and  statues, but she stayed put, even when the rest of the group moved  toward the crown jewel exhibit. There was a relaxed ease in her posture  that Alex craved. She seemed so at peace with her surroundings. What  would it be like to feel that kind of calm?

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