By Heather Long, author of SOME LIKE IT DEADLY
No one ever said being a prince’s best friend was easy and you’d never hear Richard Prentiss admit to anything of the kind. He’s known Armand since their first year in college and, while he didn’t know about his wealthy or privileged background right away, nothing between the two friends changed once he found out.
To be perfectly honest, one of the best parts of the Going Royal series for me is the friendship between Richard and Armand. I love these guys so much.
For Armand, Richard is the voice of reason. He’s the guy who will call him on his crap and he doesn’t stand on ceremony. It helps that Richard is a killer attorney who can run block passes against the press and corporate raiders alike.
For Richard, Armand is the guy who’s never judged him or asked him to be anything more than a friend. They play racquetball together, they are extremely competitive and they synchronize perfectly when it comes to business—cool-headed and ruthless, the pair of them.
Armand is a control freak and Richard isn’t much better. The only time they truly clash is over Richard’s personal security. Armand wants him to have more, Richard wants far less. So, what is a best friend to do?
Well, hiring a personal bodyguard to double as a secretary is Armand’s choice. What Richard doesn’t know might just save his life. Thankfully, Kate Braddock—retired Army—is more than up to the task. The last thing any one expected was a wild attraction to spark to life between Richard and Kate.
Armand is willing to do anything to make his best friend safe, but his choice may cost him the very thing he values so much: Richard’s friendship.
Favorite Richard Moments
Some Like It Royal – Reaching Out to Alyx
No matter how much she practiced with Victor, it was always a jolt when someone else said it. She glanced up at the reflection in the glass behind her. She didn’t recognize the gentleman, so she turned, a polite smile on her face. “Please, call me Alyx or Miss Dagmar. It’s a little less of a mouthful than Your Highness.” And so much easier to respond to, but she avoided adding the caveat.
“Miss Dagmar. My name is Richard Prentiss.” He withdrew a card and handed it to her. She glanced down at the heavily embossed cardstock. The symbol in the corner was an elegant crest—one she recognized.
It represented her family.
She studied him. He didn’t resemble any of the photos she’d memorized nor did his features suggest a personal relationship with her. “Mr. Prentiss, it’s a pleasure to make your acquaintance.” Extending her hand, she wasn’t surprised when he bowed over it and brushed a kiss lightly to the air over one knuckle. It was a kind, respectful greeting.
“And a rare pleasure to make yours. I understand that you are attending this function to support your fiancé, Mr. Voldakov.”
She didn’t have to manufacture the soft smile curving her lips. “Yes, he’s done some wonderful work for the Takahashi Corporation and they are showing him a rare honor with this party. I would introduce you, but…” She motioned to the conference room Daniel vanished into.
“I would enjoy such an introduction but I am actually here for two reasons and I hope you’ll forgive the minor subterfuge.”
Sipping the wine, she resisted the urge to rub her suddenly damp palms against her dress. What subterfuge? The vellum card weighed heavily in her hand. Instead, she focused on breathing, calm, and canting her head to suggest a hint of patient curiosity. Hours of drills with Victor paid off in that moment. “And what subterfuge would that be, Mr. Prentiss?”
The man had the good grace to flush, a hint of red staining his ears. “To inquire whether you would accept an invitation from your cousin, His Highness, the Grand Duke Armand.”
A second jolt in as many minutes and her confidence wavered. The grand duke divided his time between his native Norway and France most of the year. The newspapers referred to him as a playboy, often featuring photographs of the prince with a host of women at various functions throughout Europe.
“Because an invitation cannot be extended if I will not accept.” It was a statement, not a question. Protocol demanded that no one could turn down the royal family, whether they were a displaced one or not. It was how the royals played.
“Precisely, Your Highness, and I apologize for putting you on the spot. His Highness recognizes that you may be reluctant to see him and asked that I extend to you his deepest desire to make your acquaintance. If you could see it in your heart to accept his invitation, he would like a chance to speak with you in person.” There was a subtext to his words, a suggestion that the grand duke wanted to do more than just talk to her. The jittery butterflies in her stomach flapped harder. This was exactly the type of invitation Daniel wanted, the reason he’d approached her. Access to the grand duke and his European connections could help him launch Spherecast’s influence in the EU.
So why did she hesitate?
“I’m not entirely sure what my schedule is.” That seemed the safest answer and her heart beat against her ribs so hard, she was certain he could hear it. “But if you would let me pass this card to my assistant, I can have him get in touch with you.” She tucked the card into her clutch, careful to make sure it slid inside before she snapped the little purse closed.
“Absolutely.” Prentiss’s expression relaxed and he smiled. “Which brings us to the second reason for my approach.”
The reminder that he had two reasons ramped her already emotionally unsettled state closer to full-blown panic. She took another sip of the wine and prayed the alcohol would relax the jangling of her nerves. Amazingly, her voice didn’t betray a quaver. “I am filled with curiosity.”
Prentiss actually grinned at that, some of the stiffness leaving his shoulders. Dark haired and dark eyed, he cut a striking image in his equally dark suit but she cataloged his looks more from a clinical standpoint.
His darkness couldn’t compete with the sunshine in Daniel.
“To give you a gift. Your birthday is approaching and whether you accept the invitation or not, the grand duke wanted you to have this.”
He held out a small box, wrapped in a simple gold foil. She had to set her wineglass down and slipped her clutch purse’s strap over her shoulder to take the box. Eagerness flared inside, pushing away the anxiety. “I’m surprised he would send such a gift, considering we have never met.” Maybe it wasn’t politically correct to say such a thing, but the sentiment remained genuine.
“He has many years to make up for and while this simple gift cannot possibly repair such a history of oversight, he hopes that you will wear it with the pride you should. His words, exactly, Highness.” Prentiss gave her another kind look and party or not, she slid one manicured nail through the tape and revealed a velvet jewelry box. She glanced at him before lifting the lid. Inside nestled a lovely cameo on a silver strand. But instead of a profile, it was her family crest set against a background of royal blue.
The breath caught in her throat and tears swam across her vision. “How can he accept me? Just like that?” She forgot about the rules, the manners and the control she’d worked to perfect.
“You are the image of your great-grandmother, Your Highness. If you’ll look beneath the necklace, he included a small photo of her. He has no doubts that you are indeed the grand duchess and he is most eager to welcome you to the family.”
The tears prickling her eyes threatened to spill. She chewed at her bottom lip and blinked at him. Prentiss shifted with just the barest hint of discomfort. Daniel appeared in her periphery, an arm snaking around her waist.
“Are you all right?” He murmured the words to her, but set a hard look on the gentleman talking to her.
She gave a watery little laugh and nodded, holding the necklace over to show him. “Daniel, this is Richard Prentiss, he’s—I’m not sure if you work for him or are just associated with the grand duke?” She glanced back to Prentiss.
“I’m a personal friend. Armand and I went to university together.” He extended a hand to Daniel, who accepted it only briefly, but continued to stare hard at him until Prentiss cleared his throat and retreated a step. “If you will excuse me, Your Highness, Mr. Voldakov. I will await your assistant’s call.”
Some Like It Scandalous – Calling His Best Friend on His Crazy
Armand said nothing; he stared at the green felt table as though it might reveal the answer.
“Armand, seriously?” His best friend looked up from his shot. “You didn’t.”
The problem with Richard lay in how well he knew Armand. “I didn’t plan on groveling on bended knee.” But yes, I thought she would be more…more her…
She’d refused to drink out of the bottle, then ignored the glass he’d poured for her.
The attorney angled his hand against the edge of the table, balancing the cue stick between the thumb and forefinger. He snapped the stick forward and it tapped the cue ball, sending it careening after the blue stripe and sinking it. “You’re an idiot.”
“Helpful.” Armand sighed. His body hummed at the memory of her perfume, sweet and exotic. She’d rarely worn any when they lived together, but her shampoo—it had smelled of citrus and orchids, just like she did today.
“Look, I can do a lot, but the fact you even thought she would be happy to see you based on a summons to appear or lose her funding? Where did your diplomacy go?” Richard circled the table and cleared a second ball from the table.
“It’s been ten years. I thought—hoped—her temper might have cooled.” Ten years to regret leaving him—to regret never calling. When Richard sank a third shot, Armand set the pool cue aside and walked over to the bar. He needed something a lot stronger than water. From the moment she walked into his office, his response swamped his good sense and judgment. He’d wanted to run his fingers through her hair.
She was beautiful—heart-wrenchingly beautiful—but too pale. She’d squinted, as if her head bothered her, and for just the barest of seconds he glimpsed an unsteady step, a waver in her professional façade. He’d caught her arm—he just wanted to help—but she jerked away as if he’d hit her.
And the anger had flared in her eyes, a fiery beast if ever there was one. God, but the woman possessed a temper. Why the hell did he arrange to spend the rest of the week with her? She’d clearly wanted to be anywhere except his office. And the last thing I need is to spend it with her. But he’d wanted to know if she’d gotten over them—over him. Clearly, she had. So why hang on to something that never had a chance in the first place?
He poured in three fingers of brandy and tossed the whole thing back. The liquid heat burned through his system, churning his already agitated gut.
“Call Nikole. Get laid. You’ll feel better.”
“The wisdom of the ancients there, my friend.” Armand snorted, ignoring the curl of disgust at the very idea. “Nikole wants a marriage proposal and has informed me that if I wish to enjoy time with her, I must be prepared to put a ring on it.”
Turning to stare at his friend, he couldn’t help his own reluctant smile. “Yes, exactly so.” He poured another drink. “And Nikole is not the one I want.”
“I know.” The attorney sobered and finally missed a shot. He joined Armand at the bar and poured his own drink. “So, give yourself a few weeks and pick out another model. You like them, they’re easy and you can forget today.”
“I’m spending the rest of the week with Anna.” He waited for Richard’s reaction, and the man didn’t disappoint.
He choked, sputtering on the brandy, and swung his gaze up to stare at him. “Why?”
“She will be administrating Alyx’s scholarship fund and we’re folding it under the Dagmar Foundation. She’ll need to be brought up to speed.” Any of a dozen executives and administrative staff could handle it
“Bullshit.” Few people ever spoke to him like that—none while he grew up—and only two in his adulthood. Of those two, only Richard remained. “And when were you planning to tell me we were adding that program to the Dagmar Foundation?”
“Tonight. I need the paperwork pushed through by morning.” He looked at the amber liquid in the glass and swirled it around. She’d never liked wines or decanted liquors. She preferred beer—in the bottle—the cheaper the better. She liked seven-topping pizzas and sticky caramels mixed in with her popcorn. She’d always tasted of sin and sweetness when they kissed.
Richard snapped his fingers in Armand’s face. “Dude, you have it bad.”
Shaking off the alluring memories, he took another drink. It would be his last for the night. He would require all his wits about him in the morning if—when—she arrived for their session. “You haven’t called me dude in years.”
“You haven’t been this stupid over a woman in years.” The attorney leaned on the bar. “Tell me this—when did you decide to fold in that scholarship?”
Armand didn’t answer. The visceral blow he’d experienced when he saw her name in Alyx’s email lingered. He couldn’t believe it was really her—life and fate were not that cruel. Or so he always believed.
“When, Armand?” Richard repeated the question.
“After I found out Alyx hired her to be in charge of it.” He wasn’t proud of the admission. He’d spent an hour talking Alyx into placing her scholarship fund under the oversight of the Dagmar Foundation and then promised the newlywed he would handle all the details. The further he put Alyx out of Anna’s reach, the more in control he could exert.
“And the goal of this exercise?”
“To provide educational opportunities to underprivileged youth.” He drained the brandy and grabbed his pool cue, avoiding Richard’s knowing gaze and the truth. He could dance around both for some time. He lined up the shot and sank two balls. He completed two more shots before glancing up. “I want her back.”
“Okay.” He nodded slowly. “Then we need a plan.”
“I’ve got her attention—well, I commandeered her attention.” If she shows up—if she doesn’t just refuse to work with me altogether…
The attorney pulled out his phone. “So that’s step one, what’s the next step?”
Armand stared at the shot he lined up and blinked slowly.
“You have a next step—right?” Richard sighed.
No, he’d barely managed to push through that meeting with her today. Bringing her back tomorrow bought him some time.
“This isn’t you, Armand. You don’t twist in the wind and act all indecisive. What do you want to do next?”
He wanted to pin her against the wall and kiss her senseless. He wanted to lap up all that radiant passion she so easily shared with him. He wanted to find out what movies she liked and what book she curled up in bed with at night. He wanted…
Slamming the pool cue down on the table, he ignored Richard’s wince. “I want to know everything about her life. Where is she living? Is she living with someone?” The thought made him sick, but he pressed on. “What does she spend her free time on?”
Richard nodded, his thumbs moving swiftly as he typed on the miniature screen. “And while we dig up all this information?”
He cleared his schedule. Anna was his only talking point. “She hates the title.”
“That’s resentment, not hate.” Richard corrected. “But it’s an advantage. Use it.”
“To do what? Chase her away again? Let her box me up and put me squarely in the category she believes I belong?” He scowled. For someone so tempestuous and grounded in reality, she maintained a very black-and-white view of the world.
Thirteen years before, a busty little brunette burst into his introduction to business ethics class, interrupted the professor’s dry as hell lecture, and set the whole classroom laughing. With few seats to be had in the packed hall, he’d offered her his and she’d made him sit back down, while she squeezed into the narrow space next to him.
Their thighs touched for the entire class.
He never did hear what the professor droned on about with regard to compliance laws. He’d introduced himself, but she barely shook his hand before racing off. He didn’t even know what color her eyes were. A bribe at the register’s office earned him her schedule, and he’d waited for her outside her next class. The workload surprised him, but a week of putting himself in her path worked.
She’d said yes when he asked her out.
“Find all that out, but where does she jog in the morning? What coffee shop does she frequent? Where does she shop?” He drummed his fingers. “Her address is in the file, get that for me…”
“There’s a law against stalking.”
“Don’t be my attorney, Richard. Be my friend—help me.”
“Call her. Make up some excuse and get her on the phone.” Richard glanced at his watch. “It’s late, but it can’t hurt if you’re the last thing she thinks about before she goes to sleep.”
“Unless she hates me.”
“Oh, she’s probably angry, and like I said earlier, she resents the title. And the lie.” The droll response didn’t make him feel better. Richard held up his hands. “Look, you made a mistake and you paid for it—but at the end of the day, she was the one who walked.”
“She walked away because I’m a prince.” The bitter churn of that fact burned.
“You can’t change the fact that you’re a prince—or I guess you can, but it’s not like you can’t drop the titles altogether and walk away from your family.” Richard always knew what buttons to push. Armand was the head of his family, he couldn’t—and would never—abandon them.
“You are very good at poking holes, Richard, but do you have any suggestions?” He bit off the next words because his friend didn’t deserve the anger. Not this time. If anyone was at fault it was Armand himself.
“You can’t stop being a prince, Armand. So why bother?” Richard rolled his sleeves down one at a time and buttoned them at the cuffs. Their billiards game was over.
“What’s your point?” They’d already established that his position had an undesirable effect on Anna.
“My point, Your Highness.” Richard shrugged on his jacket. Disapproval rang in his words—he only used the appellation when Armand annoyed him. “You can’t stop being a prince, so why not use it to your advantage?”
Use it to my advantage how? She doesn’t like the damn title. He frowned.
Richard pulled his keys out of his pocket. “I’ll call you in the morning. I have some strings to go pull so you can stalk—court—your lady.”
Being the best friend to a prince isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. As attorney and spokesperson for the royal Andraste family, Richard Prentiss lives under a microscope. Fair or not, he’s not able to date like a regular person. So when his personal assistant retires, Richard knows her pretty replacement, Kate, is strictly off-limits.
Kate Braddock’s resume includes special forces training and enough profiling work to pick a threat out of a crowd. None of that prepares her to resist the charming, down-to-earth attorney she’s assigned to protect. Determined to treat him like any other body to guard, she struggles to maintain her distance. It’s her job to step in front of the bullet with Richard’s name on it, nothing more.
When threats against the royal family take a deadly turn and his new assistant foils two attempts on his life, Richard’s grateful–and more than a little intrigued. There’s more to Kate than meets the eye, but what is she hiding? He’ll have to trust her with his life when the danger proves to be closer than either realized…
Book three of Going Royal