hile the world looks on. Don’t show emotion. Keep it together. Only half a mile more and we’ll be within the safe walls of St Paul’s. Safe? Nowhere is safe. Nowhere is private. My life-long sense of suffocation has been put to shame in light of recent events. I can’t breathe, and to add to my agony, the one person that made my life bearable has gone.
THE THIS MAN SERIES
Beneath This Man
This Man Confessed
With This Man
All I Am—Drew’s Story (A This Man Novella)
THE ONE NIGHT SERIES
THE SMOKE & MIRRORS DUOLOGY
The Controversial Princess (Book #1)
“The Controversial Princess, told from Adeline’s POV, is thick on plot, rich in character development with Kindle-melting sex and the perfect blend of twists and turns, shockers and villains!”
—SueBee, Goodreads Reviewer
“The Controversial Princess is an all-consuming, scorching hot, modern royal romance with twists, turns and a jaw-dropping cliff-hanger that will leave you begging for more.”
—Mary Dube, USA Today HEA
“The Controversial Princess provided us with the romance our hearts needed, the passion our hearts craved, with jaw dropping twists and turns that kept us guessing and eagerly flipping the pages.”
“A brave, cutting-edge romance . . . This is a worthwhile read.”
—Library Journal on The Forbidden
“Unpredictable and addictive.”
—Booklist on The Forbidden
“The Forbidden proves that Jodi Ellen Malpas is not only one of the romance genre’s most talented authors, but also one of the bravest. In this raw and honest portrayal of forbidden love, Jodi delivers a sexy and passionate love story with characters to root for. The Forbidden is easily my favorite read of 2017!”
—Shelly Bell, author of At His Mercy, on The Forbidden
“The Forbidden is a gut-wrenching tale full of passion, angst, and heart! Not to be missed!”
—HarlequinJunkie.com on The Forbidden
“Every kiss, every sexy scene, every word between this pair owned a piece of my soul. I could read this book a hundred times and still react as if it was the first time. The Protector is a top 2016 fave for me.”
—Audrey Carlan, #1 bestselling author of The Calendar Girl series on The Protector
“4.5 stars. Top Pick. Readers will love this book from the very beginning! The characters are so real and flawed that fans feel as if they’re alongside them. Malpas’ writing is also spot-on with emotions.”
—RT Book Reviews on The Protector
“With This Man took this already epic love story to a whole new, unthinkable height of brilliance.”
—Gi’s Spot Reviews
“Super steamy and emotionally intense.”
—The Library Journal on With This Man
"Jodi Ellen Malpas delivers a new heart-wrenching, addicting read."
—RT Book Reviews on With This Man
“We really don’t have enough words nor accolades for this book! It had everything and MORE with added ghosts from the past as well as a surprising suspense. But mostly, it was about a love that proves it can conquer anything and everything placed in its way. A beautiful addition to one of our favourite series!”
—TotallyBooked Blog on With This Man
His True Queen
First published in 2018 by Jodi Ellen Malpas Ltd
Copyright © Jodi Ellen Malpas 2018
The moral right of Jodi Ellen Malpas to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act of 1988. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior permission of Jodi Ellen Malpas. All characters in this book are fictitious, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
Cover design by:
Cover photo by:
Rafa G Catala
Interior Design & Formatting by:
Christine Borgford, Type A Formatting
HIS TRUE QUEEN
Also by Jodi Ellen Malpas
Praise for Jodi Ellen Malpas
About the Author
To women everywhere.
THE ATMOSPHERE IS EERIE, THE sea of people stretching as far as the eye can see. They are all silent. But I can hear them breathe. I’m sure I can hear the wings of birds flapping up above, too.
In my grieving haze, I look up to the sky. There’s one bird circling, a spectator with the best view. A magpie. A single magpie. One for sorrow. Maybe it’s silly, since I’ve never bought into old wives’ tales, but I search for another. Two for joy.
There is no second magpie.
There is no joy.
I drop my eyes back down to the concrete before me, now focused on the sounds of my footsteps. Loud footsteps—footsteps that seem to bang and echo through the streets of London. The world is watching. Eyes are on us from every corner of the globe. The King of England’s body is being carried on the most elaborate gun carriage, pulled by two dressed stallions. My family and I are following on foot. Quiet. Somber. Out in the open for the world to see. Our grief exposed.
Nine days on, I still feel utterly numb. I would think I was in a horrific nightmare if there weren’t reminders at every turn. A silent crowd. Back-to-back TV reports and newspaper articles. Claringdon Palace swarming with officials. Almost every media outlet descending on London to soak up the grief and report the latest on the death of the King and Heir Apparent. A broken mother and wife. A bitter brother and son. A country in mourning.
I glance to my left and find Eddie staring directly forward at our father’s elaborate coffin, his face expressionless, though cut with lines of resentment. I can smell the alcohol on him. Can see his poorly hidden anger like a coat of arms embellishing his chest. His suit is creased. His hair is disheveled. His face is sallow.
The Fallen Prince.
The man who will never be King.
Tears creep up on me, and I quickly divert my eyes to the ground again, willing the water back. I don’t know why I’m crying anymore. For my family’s loss? For the world’s loss?
For my loss?
On cue, an image of Josh sweeps through my mind and takes hold, fogging my vision further. A single teardrop leaves my cheek and plummets to the concrete, forcing me to quickly brush at my face to prevent more from coming and betraying my duty to remain composed w
My already heavy legs seem to fill with lead, putting one foot in front of the other becoming more of a slog. Never before have I needed to be held and told everything is going to be okay. Never before have I wished so hard for a man’s arms to take me in them and hide me from the cruelty of this world. But only one man’s arms are what I want.
And I can’t have him.
I look up once again, as if I may find him amid the dense crowds. Of course, I don’t, and my heart aches a little more.
The procession comes to a gradual stop, and gunfire sounds loudly, making me startle and my heart lurch. I dart my eyes to where I know Damon to be. He’s unfazed, and he nods to the doors of St Paul’s. I follow his eyes and find two neat lines of soldiers forming a walkway into the cathedral, their weapons pointing to the sky. Quickly gathering myself, I wait for my mother to lead before Eddie and I follow my father’s coffin into the sacred building. I expected it, but the sight of the TV cameras still makes me falter in my steps toward the altar. And as I settle on the pew, surrounded by world leaders, fame, fortune, and supremacy, my grief is masked for a few moments by something else.
Something formidable in its power.
I glance over my shoulder and lose a few breaths when our eyes meet. He looks as defeated as I feel. And then he looks away, and I know it isn’t because he’s fearful of someone seeing us staring at each other and what that might mean. It’s because he can’t look me in the eye. He can’t accept that our story has come to an end. He can’t accept that my guilt is superseding every other emotion I possess. Guilt is a horrid emotion. My father and my brother are dead, and it is because of me. I don’t deserve to be happy. I deserve all the losses that come with wearing a crown. And the biggest loss of all is losing Josh.
I FINALLY BREATHE STEADILY FOR the first time today once the doors of Claringdon Palace close behind me. As soon as my legs have carried me to the Claret Lounge, I close my eyes, take hold of the sideboard, and focus only on the oxygen hitting my lungs. I feel utterly exhausted. “Your Highness,” one of Claringdon’s maids says tentatively, holding a tray out to me. One single glass of champagne rests atop of it, the bubbles almost hypnotizing. I look at her and find a soft smile. Your Highness. Not Your Majesty. No one knows of the scandal. No one knows my disgraceful arse has landed on the throne. The world has been waiting for Eddie to be sworn in, his devastation and unstable frame of mind being blamed for the delay. Not the fact that he’s not the late king’s son.
Returning her mild smile, I accept the glass.
“Anyone would think you are celebrating,” As always, my father’s sister, Victoria, the eldest of his siblings, looks at me like I’m something she’s just stepped in. “It’s your father’s funeral, for crying out loud, and here you are disrespecting his life with your red lips, sheer stockings, and champagne.”
A gentle hand lands on my forearm, and Uncle Stephan’s straight lips softly warn me from attacking. I don’t attack, but something deep and desperate urges me to smack her down. I take the glass and give the maid a reassuring gesture, since she’s only offered what she knows I need. “You may leave,” I say to Victoria, short and sharp, leaving no room for discussion.
“Excuse me?” Her indignation would make me smile if there was anything much to smile about. Of course, she doesn’t know she just insulted her queen.
“Leave,” Eddie says, pointing a deadly expression Victoria’s way before casting his eyes around to the rest of the family.
It takes that one word from my brother, the man they believe to be King, for Victoria to put a sock in it and everyone to leave the lounge. Even the footmen heed the bitter vibes, shutting the door on their way out, leaving my mother, Eddie, and me.
Eddie flops down on the couch and pulls a hipflask from the inside pocket of his suit jacket, knocking back a good dose. “Thank God that’s over,” he mutters. “Can we please now tell the world I’m not King? That my mother fucked a member of household staff behind the late King’s back and birthed me as a consequence?”
“Edward,” I cry, horrified by his harshness. I look at my mother and find glassy eyes staring blankly at her son. “Have some respect.”
“Respect?” he snorts. “I’ve lived a lie for thirty-three years. I’ve been forced to endure this life, wasted years following protocol, and all for nothing. Forgive me, but I have a life I’d finally like to start living without the constraints of this godforsaken family holding me back.” Another long glug of his drink. “So when are we telling the world that they have a queen and it’s their precious Adeline? I’m sure they’ll be delighted.” He sneers at me, and it’s all I can do to stop myself from slapping his smug face. I don’t like this Eddie. Where’s my beloved brother, the man I’ve leaned on for years? Bitterness doesn’t look good on him, though I realize he has every right to be angry. Yet his rage shouldn’t be directed at me.
“You need to stop drinking.” I look at my glass of fizz and place it on the table in front of me, suddenly turned off by the liquid I usually savor.
Eddie chuckles and takes another defiant swig. “Even as Queen, dear sister, you cannot tell me what I can and cannot do.” He toasts me with his hipflask. “Your Majesty.”
Queen. That word makes my skin crawl each time it’s spoken. “Stop it,” I warn. “Just stop it.”
“Why? You going to have me beheaded?”
“Edward,” I yell.
“Yes, Your Majesty?”
I rise from my seat, brushing down my skirt to busy my hands and prevent them from swiping at his face. “Just grow up.”
“Enough.” Mother stands abruptly, landing us both with eyes full of annoyance. “In the past few days, I have buried one of my children and my husband. You will have some respect.”
Eddie and I both snap our mouths shut as there is a tap on the door. Mother quickly composes herself before calling for whomever it is to enter. A rather cautious-looking Sid, Claringdon’s long-serving Master of the Household, clears his throat, addressing Eddie. “Your Majesty, your guests await.”
“Thank you, Sid,” Mother says on Edward’s behalf. “We are taking a few moments.”
“Very well, ma’am.” He leaves and closes the door, and Eddie struggles to his feet with the help of the arm of the Chesterfield.
“I’ll be in the library,” he mumbles, wobbling his way to the doors at the other end of the lounge.
Mother reaches for thin air before her. “But, Edward—”
“I will be in the library,” he repeats, not turning back. “The sooner this circus is over, the better. Have fun.” The door slams loudly, making Mother flinch and my eyes close hopelessly.
Just like Eddie, facing the army of mourners is the absolute last thing I feel capable of, but one look at my despairing mother unearths a duty in me I never knew existed. I can’t let her face this alone. So curling my arm through hers, I lead her toward the masses of people who are ready to shower us with sympathy. “However are we going to approach this mess, Mother?” I ask quietly, knowing as soon as today is over, truths will have to be told.
“Like we’ve approached messes all of our lives,” she answers, looking at me with a strength I’m familiar with. “Like royals.” Her neck lengthens, and an air of determination carries her toward the Grand Hall as gracefully as it always does. “With smoke and mirrors.”
I glance at her, a little wide-eyed, just as I’m attacked from the side by Jenny, who quickly and efficiently reapplies my red lips and dabs my cheeks with a powder brush. “I’m fine,” I tell her as Mary-Ann, Mother’s chief lady-in-waiting, works on Mother. “Smoke and mirrors?” I ask as we’re given space once more. “Isn’t it time to
clear them, Mother?”
“One doesn’t clear smoke and mirrors, darling. One preserves them.”
Of course one does. I close my eyes and ask her a question I’ve wanted to ask for weeks. “How did you know Helen was lying?”
Her back visibly straightens. “Mother’s instinct,” she says simply, not giving any more than that. I sigh, shaking my head to myself, but I’m soon distracted from my mother’s stoic face when the doors to the Grand Hall are pulled open and the bustle of chatter drops like a mute button has been pressed, all attention pointing our way. The absence of Edward is obviously noted, some people looking beyond our static forms in the doorway for my brother. Their King. Mother squeezes my hand before she releases me and glides to the first of the people waiting to greet her. The Prime Minister, Bernie Abrams, a man famed for his antiquated approach to leadership, who is hanging on to his power by the skin of his teeth. My father never liked him. I could tell from the umbrage in his tone at the mere mention of the man who has run our country for the past four years. I smile on the inside, remembering my father’s sheer exasperation each Wednesday morning when he’d have to endure his weekly roundup on all things political from the Prime Minister. I always found it amusing that the King thought Bernie old-fashioned in his political views. My father was a dinosaur in all things traditional where royalty was concerned.
As Mother moves onto the next in line, I brace myself to endure the Prime Minister myself. Two minutes in his company is enough to need to jump-start one’s brain, his voice monotone, his personality severely lacking passion. The man is entirely boring. Watching paint dry is more interesting, and to think I will have to sit in a room with him for an hour each week and listen to him drone on about political issues. It should be one more reason for me to fight my fate with everything I have. Yet the fight in me has diminished. My fate is written. This is my punishment.