Dating the Prince(8)

By: Addison Quinn

He didn’t push the subject and instead mulled over where he should take her. They couldn’t wander the hallways all night, and he couldn’t take her to the family’s private quarters. Finn would definitely freak out if Alex tried that. Besides, if Libby didn’t know he was the prince—and he was ninety-nine percent sure she didn’t—that would be a dead giveaway.

He wasn’t ready for her to know who he really was. He liked being Alex, the man who saved her from arrest. Libby seemed to like Alex. And since no one liked His Royal Highness Prince Alexander, he preferred not to be him for a while.

“What have you always wanted to see in a palace?” Alex asked, deciding that might be the easiest way to decide where to take her.

“Everyone always talks about the palace gardens like they’re amazing,” Libby said, her voice enthusiastic. “In books and stuff, I mean. Taking a stroll about the gardens feels very Jane Austen.”

The gardens. That was actually a perfect place to take her, because the only staff he’d run into were the groundskeepers, and they were good at making themselves scarce when the royal family went outside.

“Let’s go see the gardens then,” he said.

“It’s not too hot?” She motioned to Kenzie. “I don’t want her to get too much sun.”

“No, it’s really shady this time of day.”

“Perfect. I can’t wait to see them.”

She had a bounce in her step that hadn’t been there before, and a surge of pride swelled through Alex. He’d put that lilt in her voice and lightness in her steps. Maybe he couldn’t make Durham stop hating him, but he could show Libby the palace gardens and give her a tour to remember.

They turned down a hallway and a maid looked up in surprise, then scurried into a room with her bucket of cleaning supplies in hand. Alex glanced at Libby, but she hadn’t seemed to notice and instead was admiring a painting on the wall as they passed by.

“So what’s Christmas like in your family?” she asked.

The question caught him off guard, but luckily it was something he could easily answer without giving anything away. “We do a lot of charity work around the holidays. On Christmas Eve we all attend midnight church services, then have a big feast and open presents.”

“You must have a close family.”

He thought of the way Emma and Charlotte had immediately wrapped him in a tight hug after finding out what Isla had done. How Stefan, Henry, and Oliver had promised to help him through this, whatever it took. The phone call his mother had placed to his aunt in Galia, asking if Alex could come for a visit. The way his father had gruffly told Alex to take some time for himself. “Very close,” he agreed. “They’re the best.”

“Do you have a big family?” Libby asked.

“I guess you could say that.”

A rustled sounded up ahead, then the soft click of door closing. Speaking of the devil. Alex barely held back a curse. Charlotte was headed toward them, her head bent low as she read a book.

“This way.” Alex threw open a door and tugged Libby into the kitchen. The likelihood of Charlotte looking up from her book was slim, but if she did he’d face a game of twenty questions that he wasn’t ready to play.

“Holy cow.” Libby looked around the kitchen, her eyes wide. “This kitchen is amazing. I think it’s bigger than my parents’ entire house.”

Alex glanced at the room, with its restaurant-grade appliances and ample countertops. “Only the best for the royal family,” he quipped.

Libby laughed as he led her from the kitchen and down another hallway. “You were telling me about your family.”

“Right. There are eight of us.”

“Wow, that is big.”

He nodded, holding open the door that led to the gardens. “I’m the oldest. I’ve got two younger brothers and a younger sister, plus my parents.”

“That’s only six.”

“My two cousins came to live with us after my aunt and uncle died in a car accident. I consider them siblings, too.”

“That’s so sad. About your aunt and uncle, I mean.” The door swung shut behind her, and Libby let out a gasp. “Whoa.”

Alex grinned, holding out an arm to his family’s private gardens. Archways covered in greenery shaded the gravel walkways, which were dotted with shaped topiaries, and the air smelled decidedly floral. “The palace gardens, m’lady.”

She set a careful foot on the gravel path, her sundress swishing around her ankles. “I’ve seen pictures of geometric gardens like this, but never in person. It’s incredible. Like a piece of art.”