This insta-love, royal romance novella was part of Aleatha Romig’s bestselling Fidelity Kindle World until earlier this year. It is now being offered as a first taste of sorts for the upcoming Full Circle Security Incorporated series that will be debuting some time in 2019.
Heavy is the head that wears the crown.
Having your entire life mapped out for you from birth has its perks, but it also comes with serious drawbacks.
For Ida Montoya, escaping her predetermined destiny means leaving behind everything she’s ever known and making her own way in the world. No more easy money. No motherly hugs to soothe her hurt. No soft place to fall when she messes it all up.
Felix Von Sonderberg—Crown Prince of a country he wishes he could change, son to a father he despises, future husband to a woman he’s never met—yearns to experience life out from under the shadow of his family name. For him, the offer of one year to do as he pleases, in a country where nobody knows him, seems like the perfect salve to his scarred soul.
Employing the services of a beautiful young woman to pander to his every whim during his year of freedom should be the perfect plan. All the fun with no strings to cut when the time comes to leave.
What could possibly go wrong?
Only everything. Ida might become the one thing he’s not willing to give up in order to have the heavy crown that has belonged to him since birth finally placed upon his head.
Note from the Author: Invictus is a prequel novella to the upcoming Full Circle Security Incorporated series. This series is a spin off from Kylie Hillman’s bestselling Centrifuge Duet.
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“Expectation is the root of all heartache.”
One Week Earlier
They can pretty it up as much as they want. It still means the same thing to me.
Total loss of freedom. Never-ending constraints. Complete surrender.
“I’m ready to step down, Felix,” my father states. While desperation claws at my throat, his bland tone matches the bored expression on his lined face as he moves his gaze from one of his minions to me and back again. “My health isn’t what it once was, and I feel that a smooth transition of power before I deteriorate any further is in everyone’s best interest.”
Wretched despair turns to anger, and I barely refrain from pounding my fist on the opulent desk that separates us. Displays of emotion from anyone but my father isn’t acceptable within my family. His feelings are the only ones that count.
“Yeah, everyone’s interest but mine.”
As usual, my muttered negativity disappears into thin air. Nobody skips a beat. The advisor closest to me steps forward. He’s one of three who fill this office with their air of pious awe toward the man who sits in front of us. The manilla folder filled with paperwork—documents that would, no doubt, sentence me to a life in gilded shackles—flutters in his hand before they’re laid down with deference in front of my father.
The monarch of the country I call home ignores the offering. Instead, he pins his stern gaze back on me, then steeples his hands under his chin. It’s a curious contradiction. Hard eyes and soft posture. If I didn’t know better, I’d think he was about to go against his better judgement and say something fatherly.
“Son,” he says in a tone I haven’t heard since I was a boy. “I know you feel trapped by my age and our family circumstances. In view of this, I’m offering you a fair proposal. A rather non-negotiable demand if you will.”
And, there it is. As quickly as he gives me hope, he pulls it away. In the three seconds it takes for him to voice his offer, my heart flips in my chest then drops to my stomach, as heavy as a stone and as miserable as a miser who’s lost his last dollar. This is vintage King Maximillian III—he giveth before he taketh.
Preferably with as much stealth and as little regard as possible.
“And, what ultimatum would that be?” My question is posed with as much cynicism as I dare.
Which isn’t much—my sense of self-preservation runs strong.
It doesn’t matter how much I might detest the man who rules my life with an iron fist; he is my father, my monarch, and the sole arbiter of my future. He can quite literally take everything I possess from me with no more than a flick of his wrist, and as much as I might complain about the gilded handcuffs that bind me to this life, I’m well aware that the world outside these walls is a lot harsher.
“I’m giving you one year, Felix.” Steely resolve straightens his spine as he provides the answer I sought in a hard and deliberate tone. “One year to be anyone but a Von Sonderberg. One year to put aside your duty to this country. One year to decide if you’re capable of being the man I raised you to be.”
Sometime during his proclamation, my mouth falls open. It matches my overall disposition. I sit completely still in my seat before his great desk, shocked into silence, waiting for the ultimatum that he’s so far disguised an offer to drop on my head.
My father flips through the folder that was placed in front of him and extracts a photograph. Sliding the sheet in front of me, he taps his finger against the frosty blonde who smiles from the centre of the image. “Princess Annabelle. Isn’t she beautiful?”
I peruse the photo, my gaze roaming over the aristocratic-looking beauty with the sharp cheekbones and the perfect pout, then incline my head. “Yes, she is.”
“I’m glad you agree because she’s yours.” My father states this as a matter of fact. I guess, for him, it is exactly that.
“How so?” Trepidation skips through my veins once the question is posed. Something tells me I’m not going to like the answer.
“Princess Annabelle is the daughter of our closest ally. Her pedigree is impeccable. She is my choice for your Queen.”
Bang. The sound of his hand slapping against the hard wood forces me into temporary silence.
Bang. Bang. This time, my father pounds his fist twice against his desk. My protest dies, and I swallow down the impotent anger that threatens to engulf me. Furious shaking aside, I’m willing to let him have his say before I decide whether my complaint about his declaration regarding mine and Princess Annabelle’s marriage is worth objecting against.
Knowing my father, marriage is probably the least of my problems.
“I will no longer entertain your incessant need to disrespect my legacy.”
The man in front of me has lost the small amount of fatherly tenderness he possessed.
Now, I’m facing King Maximillian in all his regal glory.
The hard, no-nonsense, impenitently imperial disposition that has seen our country grow from a major player on the world stage to unconquerably powerful under his forty-year rule stares me down from across the solid oak desk. His gaze is harsh, his lips pressed together in a tight line that telegraphs his displeasure, and his large hands are no longer balled into fists. No, instead they lay face down on top of the photo of Princess Annabelle.
“The time has come for you to make a choice, Felix.” The manila folder is pushed to the advisor who handed it to him, who then slides it over to me. “Inside that folder is the receipt for a wire deposit of ten million US dollars into your personal account, a new identity and all documentation that pertains to your new life, and a plane ticket with a return flight scheduled for exactly 365 days from today.”
I flick the folder open and find exactly what my father describes. A lump grows in my throat. It threatens to choke me. What he’s offering is a once in a lifetime opportunity, yet the logical part of my brain knows that this reprieve has to come with strings.
They always do.
“My son, I’m giving you one year. One year to get your distaste for your future out of your system. One year to become the man that this country needs—to become the heir I require to continue my life’s work. One year to grow up and choose to do the right thing.” He pauses. His shoulders droop just a bit before he lifts them back into place and manages to sit up impossibly taller. When I look him in the eye, I see nothing but steely resolve. “When that year is finished, I want you on that plane ready to take your rightful place as my replacement. When you return, you will marry Princess Annabelle, and you will bring our countries together to solidify the superpower I’ve been creating throughout the last forty years as our new King.”
“And if I don’t get on that plane?”
My father doesn’t skip a beat. His reply glides from his lips with utmost certainty and unrelenting promise. “Then, you will no longer bear my name or any title I have previously bestowed. Your cousin, Andrey, will be promoted in your place.”