Royally yours, p.1

Royally Yours, page 1

 

Royally Yours
 



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Royally Yours


  Royally Yours

  Four Royal Christmas Romances

  Melissa Tagg

  Betsy St. Amant

  Liz Johnson

  Ashley Clark

  Copyright © 2019 by Melissa Tagg, Betsy St. Amant, Liz Johnson, Ashley Clark

  All rights reserved.

  No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the author, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.

  This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, incidents, and dialogues are products of the authors’ imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

  Cover design: © Jenny Zemanek/Seedlings Design Studio

  Contents

  One Royal Christmas

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Epilogue

  About the Author

  Books by Melissa Tagg

  The Reluctant Princess

  12. Chapter 1

  13. Chapter 2

  14. Chapter 3

  15. Chapter 4

  16. Chapter 5

  17. Chapter 6

  18. Chapter 7

  19. Chapter 8

  20. Chapter 9

  21. Chapter 10

  22. Chapter 11

  23. Chapter 12

  24. Chapter 13

  Epilogue

  About the Author

  Books by Betsy St. Amant

  A Royal Wonderland

  25. Chapter 1

  26. Chapter 2

  27. Chapter 3

  28. Chapter 4

  29. Chapter 5

  30. Chapter 6

  31. Chapter 7

  32. Chapter 8

  33. Chapter 9

  34. Chapter 10

  35. Chapter 11

  Epilogue

  About the Author

  Other Books by Liz Johnson

  A Tinsel Holiday

  36. Chapter 1

  37. Chapter 2

  38. Chapter 3

  39. Chapter 4

  40. Chapter 5

  41. Chapter 6

  42. Chapter 7

  43. Chapter 8

  44. Chapter 9

  45. Chapter 10

  46. Chapter 11

  47. Chapter 12

  48. Chapter 13

  Epilogue

  About the Author

  One Royal Christmas

  Melissa Tagg

  Chapter 1

  Jonah Davies’ signature on the document spread before him could change the course of a nation’s history.

  His nation.

  All he had to do was pick up the pen and scribble his name. Jonah Harrison Archer Davies VI.

  His fingers closed around the smooth wood of the black ink pen, customized with the royal insignia etched into its handle, crafted by the same artisan who’d produced his father’s writing utensils.

  A moment later, he dropped the pen. Why did he have to think of Father just now? The man would climb out of his grave to wring Jonah’s neck if he knew what his son was about to do.

  Give up the throne.

  Even if only a temporary abdication, the move would destroy whatever feeble confidence the former king might have had in his successor. But then, Father probably wouldn’t have been all that surprised either.

  Jonah might be the oldest son, but he’d certainly never been his father’s favorite.

  Nor, at the moment, his country’s.

  Or probably any of the men or women standing around his desk now, awaiting his decision while the rumble of the Freedom Day festivities out on the palace lawn seeped through the walls.

  “You don’t have to do this, Your Majesty. There are other ways.”

  Robert Brickston, one of Father’s most trusted advisors, broke from the huddle to round the sprawling mahogany desk. Father had always called the man by the fitting nickname everyone else did—Brick. But even after two years in Father’s seat—literally, from the leather chair he occupied now to the gilded throne in the assembly hall—Jonah couldn’t muster the familiarity.

  Brickston didn’t have the same struggle, it seemed. He stopped beside Jonah, placed one palm on his shoulder. “You could simply take a vacation. No one would blame you. You’ve had a horrid year.”

  A vacation. Thirteen months ago, Jonah’s wife had passed away. Ten months ago, the trade agreement he’d negotiated so successfully in that initial honeymoon period of his rule had begun to fall apart. And every week of every month since, the papers had spilled his grief and failure in bold newsprint.

  And Brickston thought he needed a vacation?

  It wouldn’t have been so bad if it were only the tabloids embellishing and conjecturing as always. But last week, The Concordia Times had run an editorial: “A King Without a Vision Means a Country Without Direction.” A pointed reprimand from his small country’s most reputable publication.

  The worst part of it all was he couldn’t disagree.

  “On a vacation, I’d still have to travel with an entire royal entourage,” he finally replied. Probably eight guards—six if he were lucky and could talk Hamish into lightening the watch.

  Stalwart, faithful Hamish stood near the office door now. The head of palace security had less than a decade on Jonah’s thirty-two years, but he could’ve been several dozen years older for all the knowledge and experience he harbored behind that impassive-as-ever expression. His bulk is what impressed most who encountered him.

  But it was his calm, decisive manner that impressed Jonah. Jonah would part with half the books in his library to have an ounce of Hamish’s inner strength.

  Well, perhaps a quarter of the books. Too many empty shelves would never do, especially for a lover of books like him. The wry thought almost drew a grin.

  Until a memory barged in.

  “An appreciation for books is one thing, son. Hiding inside them is another.”

  How was it possible Father’s voice bellowed even louder after his death?

  Brickston squeezed his shoulder and removed his hand. “All of us only want what’s best for you. I fear—”

  “And I want what’s best for this country.” Jonah’s voice came out sterner than he’d intended. Something flickered over Hamish’s face. It almost looked like . . .

  Pride?

  “O-of course,” Brickston stammered. “That’s a given.”

  “Is it?” Jonah rubbed his chin—freshly-shaven, just as his hair had been trimmed and a new suit tailored for this weekend’s festivities. He was scheduled to be out on the balcony in ten minutes to give a speech about his country’s history, their fight for freedom two hundred and sixty years ago, his hopes for the future.

  Instead, he was one signature away from either the wisest or worst decision of his life.

  “If anything’s a given, it’s that I’m not fit to rule at the moment.”

  Half-hearted protests came from each member of the Advisory Council standing before him, but surely every one of them felt the pulsing undercurrent in the room. Something had to be done and they all knew it.

  Jonah had been falling apart at the seams for months. He couldn’t sleep. He couldn’t think. He’d sit in meetings as conversation darted around the table, but the second all eyes turned to him, awaiting a decision, awaiting action . . . he froze.


  Exactly as he’d frozen a moment ago, the abdication letter blurring in front of him.

  “The 18th Decree gives the royal head of state, be it king or queen, for reasons personal, medical, or otherwise critical to the nation at-large, the freedom to temporarily step down from the throne, turning over power to the next in line.” He recited it as much for himself as anyone else in the room, needing to hear it again, to feel the possibility and, yes, the thin swathe of comfort—maybe even hope—he had when one of the advisors had first presented it as an option two days ago.

  It’d seemed like the ideal solution. He’d step down. He’d leave the country, travel abroad, clear his head. It was the end of November now. He’d stay away until Christmas Eve, return in time to give the traditional Royal Christmas Address on December 25. He’d rest, he’d think, he’d find his vision for Concordia—the one the newspapers insisted he lacked.

  He’d figure out how in the world to rule a country without Adelaide at his side.

  Jonah lifted the three-page letter, crammed with legalese. He’d read it countless times throughout another sleepless night. One signature and he’d no longer be king.

  “It’s the right thing to do.” And yet, his hands shook and his voice wavered.

  Why this hesitation? Was he simply reluctant to face his people? Humiliated at the thought of admitting he couldn’t pull himself together while possessing the crown? Or was this shame he felt? Was he using the 18th Decree as an excuse to run away? To hide from his responsibilities?

  “At least the timing is ideal,” another advisor spoke up.

  True. State business always slowed in these last four weeks before Christmas. Though relations with neighboring Harthingland had been tense since the collapse of the trade agreement earlier this year, they’d reached a sort of stalemate. Neither country would make a move this close to the holidays. Negotiations could resume after the new year.

  “But it does send a certain . . . message.” Brickston again.

  Yes, they’d been over this already. The people milling out on the palace lawn, the citizens watching their TVs at home or reading Internet articles—they might call him weak. They might lose their trust in the monarchy. They might laugh at him or pity him.

  Or, worse, they might not welcome him back come Christmas Day.

  “I wonder if I might speak with His Majesty for a moment. Alone.”

  The voice, at once commanding yet unobtrusive, came from the corner, behind the parting throng of advisors.

  “I’d almost forgotten you were back there, Geordie.”

  He didn’t miss his brother’s wince at the childhood nickname. Dash it all. How many times had Adelaide reminded him to use George’s proper name?

  “Everyone else stopped calling him Geordie years ago. He doesn’t like it anymore. It makes him feel like a child.”

  See? Even in this, he needed Adelaide. Theirs might not have been a conventional marriage, but it’d been a true partnership. An unbreakable friendship.

  Jonah’s brother approached. Geordie had inherited their mother’s light hair and slight build. Her dimples, too. Whereas Jonah had Father’s thick, dark hair. His height, as well, and eyes one of the palace photographer’s always compared to chestnuts.

  But he didn’t possess a speck of the man’s personality.

  Unlike Geordie. Who would’ve been his father’s first and only choice of successor if birth order weren’t such a pesky but undeniable factor.

  “A moment?” Geordie stopped in front of him.

  Jonah nodded at Brickston.

  The older man’s posture stiffened. “You need to be on the balcony soon.”

  Jonah caught the flash of dry amusement in his brother’s eyes. “I’ll be brief,” Geordie said. “Promise.”

  Brickston glanced at the letter in Jonah’s hand once more, then at the two stacks of papers at the corner of the desk. “We’ve prepared two speeches. One if you sign. One if you don’t.”

  Another nod and the advisors moved toward the door, filing past Hamish, until it was only Jonah and Geordie facing one another across Dad’s old desk.

  “I’ll be just outside, Your Majesty.” Hamish closed the door.

  The minute the latch clicked, Jonah dropped into his chair. “Brickston thinks I’m a fool.”

  Geordie leaned over the desk, both palms flat on either side of a framed photograph of Mum. “It doesn’t matter what Brick thinks. Only what you think.”

  “And you. If I sign this, I’m not just stepping down. I’m handing you the crown.”

  Geordie pushed away from the desk with a carefree grin. “For one month, brother. Hardly long enough to mark a place for myself in the history books.”

  “You’d have to stay in Concordia for the holidays. No gallivanting across Europe with your friends this year.”

  Geordie perched on the arm of a wingback chair facing the desk. “Maybe I’ll throw a rave in the palace instead. Give poor Brickston a heart attack.”

  Jonah might laugh at the thought, if not for the sounds of the crowd outside filtering in, if not for the letter still in his hand and the two speeches at the corner of the desk, and the swirl of emotion churning inside him . . .

  And Dad’s ever-present voice.

  “Jonah is sensitive. Too sensitive. Bookish. Quiet. I’m worried he’s not cut out for—”

  “Do what you need to do,” Geordie cut in. “Concordia can survive without you for four weeks.”

  He glanced at the photo of Mum—her smile radiant, her blonde hair nearly as white as the rolling American landscape behind her. “You know where I’m thinking of going?” Tinsel, Vermont. It’d be snowy there this time of year, wouldn’t it? There’d be Christmas lights. Evergreens ribboned in white.

  He remembered an ice-skating rink. Sledding down a massive hill. A festival in the town square. Chocolate covered pastries at the bakery.

  And a library unlike any other he’d ever been inside, housed in a little cottage that made him think of Hansel and Gretel. Except in place of an old witch, the librarian—Mrs. Bell—had been the grandmotherly sort. Always ready with a hug and just the right book for his every mood and whim.

  “I think you loved that town even more than Mum did,” Geordie said quietly. “She always wished we could go back.”

  One vacation—just one in all their years as a family of four. He’d been eleven; Geordie, nine. For those eight glorious days, they hadn’t been royalty. Hadn’t been rulers. Just a family.

  Tinsel had been the perfect place for a getaway then and it’d be the perfect place now. Everywhere Jonah went in Europe, he was recognizable. But in Tinsel, with its remote location and media ban—literally, no media outlets were allowed in town other than the little local paper—he could blend in with all the other famous folks who vacationed there to escape the paparazzi.

  “It’s okay to think of yourself for once, Jonah,” Geordie said.

  “A king puts his country first.”

  “Stop parroting Father.”

  “It’s hard not to when you’re sitting in this chair.” Behind this desk. In this wood-paneled office that still smelled of Father’s pipe tobacco.

  The door opened and Hamish ducked his head inside. “Two minutes, Your Majesty. Brick is about to keel over from anxiety.”

  “So I should keep stalling?” How he managed a joke at a time like this, he certainly didn’t know.

  One corner of Hamish’s mouth quirked.

  Jonah rose. “All right.”

  Geordie twisted in his chair. “You’ve decided then? Which speech is it to be?”

  Jonah reached for the speech to the right. Met Geordie’s eyes for a weighted moment then strode toward the door.

  “Aren’t you forgetting something?”

  When he turned, it was to see Geordie standing, pen in hand.

  A deep breath and Jonah retraced his steps. It took a mere second to pluck the pen from his brother’s fingers, lean over the desk . . .

  And sign h
is name to the letter that changed everything.

  Chapter 2

  Nothing ever changed in Tinsel, Vermont. At least not for Rowan Bell.

  Another day, another dollar—too many of them—spent on library building repairs.

  Another night, another meeting in the library basement descending into chaos.

  If that first part weren’t such an unfortunate reality, there’d be no reason at all for the second part. No Committee to Preserve the Historic Tinsel Public Library. No disorganized gathering, no agenda long since forgotten.

  And Rowan wouldn’t be sitting here at the front of the room, stuffing her face with another of Hattie Cormack’s homemade scones to keep herself from laughing or crying—she honestly wasn’t sure which—while a dozen voices all spoke over one another from three rows of folding chairs.

  Peter the Postman—that’s how the whole town referred to him, probably would until the day he retired and most likely even after—thought they should start a letter-writing campaign.

  Lester Schneekloth—which is how the whole town referred to him, always by his full name, because who wouldn’t use an excuse to say a name like Lester Schneekloth at any possible opportunity just for fun?—recommended a public protest.

 
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