Prince Ever AfterBy: A.C. Arthur
The breeze cut across his face like a million tiny pinpricks. Beneath him the engine purred like a satisfied female as the wheels smoothly took on another sharp turn on a road where there was only one lane’s worth of space.
He’d traveled this road so many times before and most times at the same rate of speed. His fingers hugged the steering wheel in an easy embrace, his back and body comfortable against the smooth leather seats of the silver-metallic Jaguar XJ220. Night had fallen over the mountains and cliffs of the island an hour ago, and he’d itched to get out of the confines of his everyday dress clothes and the formal dining room of the royal palace. It reminded him of his teenage years. Prince Roland Simon DeSaunters tossed his head back and laughed.
He’d been such a hellion back then. But eleven years ago didn’t seem that long, surely not long enough for him to mature into the prince that everyone expected him to be. He’d had too long to practice being reckless, adventurous and fearless, to bottle all that spirit and simply sit still as a member of the royal family of Grand Serenity Island. That wasn’t Roland’s speed at all.
His speed was fast. Fun. Borderline rowdy.
With that thought, he took another curve, going downhill as he headed into town. The moment he’d been able to escape the clutches of another tension-filled family dinner, Roland had climbed into his car and driven to the small house hidden in the clefts of the mountainside that he adored. It had been his first major purchase the moment he’d been old enough to spend a part of his inherited fortune without adult supervision. The house was a high school graduation gift to himself, although he hadn’t actually been able to live in it until his four years in the Royal Seaside Navy had been completed. His place was located on the southern tip of the island, where construction had not yet reached. Therefore, this part of his homeland was still flanked with dense forestation. Two of the island’s tallest mountains dubbed the Serene Mountains for their location thrust through the greenery.
Roland loved it here. The scent of the tropical air rejuvenated him. The stretch of the empty road encouraged him. This was where Roland thrived and very few people knew about it. Of course, there were guards here, he was a prince, after all. But he did not keep a formal staff, preferring to do for himself when he was there. That was the reason he drove himself tonight. He had an important appointment to keep and so he pressed harder on the gas and made yet another sharp turn, smiling into the breeze as his car handled perfectly.
Fifteen minutes later Roland pulled into a dark alley. He parked his car alongside a white stone dwelling. He got out and took the steps two at a time, until he reached a door that was painted a vibrant orange. Windows climbing up the front and back walls of the building had bright white borders and orange window boxes with flowers pouring out of each one.
A slender woman answered after he knocked on the door once. She stood quietly as Roland stepped inside. The hallway was narrowand he walked slowly, anticipation bubbling in his blood. The tips of his fingers tingled and his mind emptied of anything and everything that could be a distraction.
That included the attacks on his family that had resulted in the royal palace being on lockdown for the past six months. The palace had even stopped having guests, and any staff member who hadn’t been vetted, questioned and watched on a daily basis was dismissed.
His father’s wedding would take place in just four weeks. His father’s fiancée was one royal pain in the ass. His older brother, Kris, was married and still worried about a few accounts at their family bank. His sister, Sam, was married and glowing with love—she’d begun turning over the majority of her responsibilities on the island to Landry, his sister-in-law. And, of course, Malayka, the pain-in-the-ass soon-to-be princess.
Roland pushed all of that out of his mind. He focused instead on red and black, diamonds, hearts, clubs and spades.
“We thought you might have changed your mind.”
That was the first comment that greeted Roland after he’d cleared the steps and walked down a short hallway into a brightly lit room. The walls were painted white there, too, and were covered in framed pictures of children, teenagers and older people. All photos had been taken on Grand Serenity, all faces appeared happy and content.
The round table in the center of the room had six chairs surrounding it, one of them empty.
“Game time is at nine,” Roland replied and looked at the Harry Winston Ocean Tourbillon watch he wore. “It’s eight fifty-five.”
“In the nick of time,” a second man spoke as Roland made his way to the empty chair and took a seat.