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The Crown
Author: Samantha Whiskey






How the hell was this happening?

Six months ago I’d been in New York, arguing a human rights case in front of the United Nations. Then the call came, and my entire life turned upside down.

I drew a shaky breath as they slid the last piece of marble in place, effectively sealing my father’s coffin in the tomb. It was as if my lungs had simply forgotten how to function since he died almost two weeks ago...as if I didn’t know how to breathe in a world where he couldn’t.

I was twenty-eight years old and drowning in a sea of regret. Had I learned enough from him? Had I listened when he’d asked? Done as he’d wanted? Why hadn’t I spent more time here in the last few years? The cancer had been quick—both a mercy and the worst case scenario, and though he’d told me his soul was ready to leave this life, mine was anything but ready to let him go.

“Your Highness,” one of the workers said, tipping his hat as he walked by. His coworker repeated the gesture. I nodded in acknowledgment, but my powers of speech had apparently left with my oxygen supply.

They were finally all gone. The press, the aristocracy, members of parliament, even my mother and sisters had left with the formal processional. But I needed to see this, needed to stay until he was truly at rest.

“It feels very Game of Thrones down here,” Jameson said, sipping from his flask as he came to stand next to me. In age, my twin was only two minutes my junior. In maturity, there was at least a decade between us.

“It’s a catacomb. How would you like it to feel?” I asked, reaching for the flask.

“Less like the Middle Ages. Be careful there. It’s straight whiskey.”

I took a swig and relished the sweet burn as it slid down my throat, warming the chilled numbness that was my torso. “It was built in the Middle Ages, jackass.”

He took the flask and threw another swig back. “And one day we’ll be buried here, Xander. You, me, Mother, Sophie, Brie, and even your precious Charlotte. This is our future.” He spread his arms out and spun slowly as if I needed a tour of the Generations of Wyndhams buried down here. “You will be married to Charlotte, the leader of our people, and I will continue the life of debauchery only the spare to the heir can have.”

He was right. No matter how I’d fought this destiny, how badly I didn’t want it, this was mine—every cold, bleak, practiced and rehearsed moment. Even Charlotte. As much as I loved her like a sister, I’d never wanted more—even if our parents had betrothed us as children. As if Jameson’s words had a direct line to my throat, it tightened, and I loosened the knot of my tie.

I was supposed to have another decade or so of freedom. A decade to pursue my passions after I’d finished law school and two subsequent years serving in the Ellestonian military—a hard-won career as an international human rights lawyer. Years to learn from my father after I’d accomplished my own goals, to become the kind of leader he was naturally. But death didn’t work on anyone’s timeline but his own.

“We need to get up to ground level with the members of our family who still breathe,” Jameson said, running a hand through his wreck of a hairdo. He took two steps forward and placed his hand over our father’s tomb. “Rest easy, Dad. Xander’s got this.”

He turned and clapped me on the shoulder as he passed. A moment later I heard his heavy footsteps on the stairs out of the catacomb into the cathedral above us.

I walked to my father’s resting place and ran my hand over the smooth marble, my fingers tracing the lines of our family crest.

One by one, I erased the items off my bucket list and tucked them away to the furthest corner of my mind. My hopes of a career, a family that wasn’t in the public eye, a wife who wanted me for my heart and not the title behind my name, or because she’d been told it was her legal obligation. I scraped together every selfish thought I could find, and I buried them there with my father.

From now on, my personal wants and needs didn’t matter.

“I will make you proud.” My voice echoed through the stone structures.

Then I opened my eyes, stood tall, and straightened my tie before turning on my heel to embrace the future I wanted no part in.

I was Alexander Gabriel Edward Wyndham the Fourth, and within the next year, I would be crowned the next King of Elleston and her sixty million people.

Fuck. My. Life.






Six Months Later


“Alexander, I need to talk to you,” Mother hissed in my ear with a smile as she waved to the dignitary from France. Our suite at the Palace was packed to the brim with foreign dignitaries. The cocktail party had been her idea, a way to see everyone in New York City in one event.

“Of course,” I said, mirroring her smile. “Did you see that Nicolai is here?” I nodded toward the Prime Minister of Dronovia. He’d gone toe-to-toe with Damian, our Prime Minister more than once. Of course, Damian hadn’t given an inch. That man had zero moral flexibility.

“Don’t let that tux fool you. He’s a shark under that Armani.” Her voice was smooth and still sharp, which pretty much described Mom to a T. “Let’s find somewhere private.”

I cringed but walked her toward the private office. She’d been trying to get me alone all day after she’d heard my address to the United Nations this morning. Maybe I’d gone off on refugee status and humane treatment by EU nations...maybe it had been too much...or not enough.

I opened the door to the office and led my mother in by the small of her back. She was more than a head shorter than my six foot four, but damn if she didn’t tower over me when she was pissed. And right now...the woman was livid.

I looked out across the crowd to see Charlotte raise her hand with a small smile. Of course, Mom had made sure Charlotte and her father had been invited to the party. As a Duke in our country, he had every right to be here, but I knew her purpose in New York City was for me, not the UN.

I gave Charlotte a small smile and a nod, then rolled my eyes at my brother, who stood by her side, giving me the god-have-mercy-on-your-soul grimace as Mom entered the office ahead of me.

Mom’s smile stayed in place until I closed the door, then promptly fell to a disapproving scowl. “Alexander,” she sighed. Her fingers rubbed the small stretch of skin between her eyes.

“Mother,” I answered, leaning back against the door. “Are you enjoying our trip? I thought two weeks here might be a little much, but it’s a welcome break from the monotony of Elleston, isn’t it?” Any topic of conversation was preferable to what she was going to throw at me.

Her sharp blue eyes could have cut a hole through my head. I missed her smile. The one she had before Dad died. The one she shared with Jameson, ever the rogue with his dark, constantly messed up hair. Mine was always respectably tamed. Though we were identical, it was as if our styles had taken on aspects of our personality—mine always within the limits of propriety, and Jameson’s as wild as he was. And though our Mother expected me to be the epitome of every etiquette class, she loved Jameson more for that wildness he was allowed to keep.

“Enough. Alexander, it’s been almost six months since your father passed—”

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