Taming the Prince
Book 4 in the Royal Weddings Series
Reigning Prince Rafferty “Rafe” DeSaunters has had his heart broken and his personal life upended for the last time. He raised his children to be loyal to the crown and to put nothing before their Caribbean home on Grand Serenity Island. Now, he will do the same. Even if it means denying the feelings he’s always had for his secret American lover.
Davina Daniels is living her best life securing roles as a mature actor. With her second divorce behind her she’s ready to hit the road to promote her newest blockbuster movie. Always one to live life on her own terms, Davina is elated when she runs into Rafe again. Falling into his arms once more is as easy as breathing. Continuing her life with no emotional attachments is a necessity.
But when Davina’s past mingles with the future of Rafe’s family legacy, they both must decide which will come first, love…or the crown.
Taming the Prince
Dunkrikholm County, Sweden
Trembling hands touched the doorknob.
A deep breath was inhaled and released slowly. This could be done. It had to be done. The fate of the monarch depended on it.
Once the door was opened and then closed again quietly, black sneakers moved in silence across the wood-planked floor. The boards glistened with a golden shine as they gave way to thick Aubusson rugs in navy blue, burgundy and cream hues. There were no lights on in this room, only the shadowy glow from the moon through the tall stately windows.
But light was not necessary. Everything in the room had been committed to memory. From the ornate gold foil design etched around the doorframes and along the crown molding on the tray ceiling, to the stretch of dark blue wallpaper decorated with gold flakes. There were exactly sixty-five steps to the back wall of the room where the “Points of Light” oil painting from the John-Richard Jinlu collection hung solemnly. The painting was pretty in an odd sort of way. It was also sorely out of place in a room so regal. It wasn’t there by design, but to serve a purpose, one that made sense when all the facts were known.
Lifting the painting off the wall came next, setting it down slowly to lean against the papered wall. A 13×13 patch in the wall was revealed and the hands began to tremble once more. This was it.
Gloved fingers touched the small numbered buttons on the keypad in the center of the patch slowly. 1 0 2 2
A low beep sounded and those same fingers immediately pushed back the sleeve of the black hoodie to tap buttons on the Apple watch. 1 0 2 2
In seconds, the watch flashed green signaling the alarm was disabled and a stop clock appeared on the screen. Twenty-eight steps to the built-in bookshelf that had pushed out from the wall the instant the code was inserted into the keypad.
The glossy black lacquer door of the safe was revealed once the portion of the bookshelf pulled fully away from the wall. There was no time for trembling fingers. Instead they moved swiftly over the state-of-the-art control panel pushing a series of numbers to unlock and confuse the inner security mechanisms of the safe simultaneously. Seconds ticked by before the release of steel bolts sounded throughout the room. The latch was turned and the door pulled open. Inside were two top drawers with eight watches secured against black velvet holders.
Included in the watch collection were Tag Heuer, Patek Phillippe, Hublot Big Bang, Louis Moinet Meteoris, Rolex, Vacheron Constantin Tour de I’lle, Super Avenger Breitling, Baume & Mercier, and a Graff Diamonds Hallucination which had to be one of the most ostentatious creations in the world.
There were five more drawers beneath the watches. The fourth drawer was opened and the black tablet inside was removed. The other drawers were to be ignored according to instructions. There was only one minute and forty-seven seconds left.
After too many conflicting thoughts and not enough subordination, the fifth drawer was opened and sparkling rubies, emeralds and diamonds were removed and stuffed down inside the hoodie. The tablet was placed carefully between two foam boards that clasped shut before going into the backpack. The safe door was closed and re-engaged. The bookshelf returned to its normal appearance. The painting re-positioned on the wall and once the door to the room was firmly closed, the same numbers were dialed into the Apple watch.
1 0 2 2
The sneakers remained soundless as they moved down the back staircase and headed to the staff entrance of the kitchen.
“It’s done,” was spoken into the watch.
“Good,” he replied.
Dunkrikholm County, Sweden
“I return to Grand Serenity at the end of the week,” Prince Rafferty DeSaunters spoke into his cell phone. “We can meet first thing Monday morning to talk in more detail about the mines. I have the notes Jose sent and I’ll look them over again.”
Rafe stood at the window of his bedchamber staring out to the glistening waters of Lake Mälaren. It wasn’t the warm turquoise waves rolling onto the white sand beach he was accustomed to seeing. Instead, rivulets rolled over a darker blue surface that stretched to meet several patches of land cluttered with tall mature trees. Easing his arms behind his back, Rafe, clasped his fingers. Looking further toward the left he could see the bustling activity at the Port of Pasternholm. Tourism was not heavy here. The home of the royal family was surrounded by a more peaceful town with quaint buildings and a healthy fishing industry.
Rafe could get used to the quiet beauty here. It was a place he visited at least twice a year for business, but had taken to it on a personal level. At least he had before alarming events changed his outlook on life. There used to be a time when Rafe had loved traveling. When visiting the homes of fellow members of the monarch throughout the world, experiencing their culture and learning how their government operated in comparison to the DeSaunters rule on Grand Serenity, was a highlight of his duty. He had enjoyed seeing new lands and landmarks, marveling over nature’s creations and the way in which man would leave his mark on the world both literally and figuratively. This was a large part of the job of the Prince of Grand Serenity, a Caribbean island located just north of Columbia and Venezuela. The job that Rafferty DeSaunters had held for the last thirty-one years.
Now, at fifty-seven years old, realizing that those times were no more brought about a melancholy feeling that Rafe was becoming far too accustom with.
He ended the call with Matek Lawrence, a longtime member of Grand Serenity’s Ruling Council, and slipped his phone into the side pocket of his suit jacket. Dinner with the royal family of Pasternholm, King Rolof, Queen Marguerite, Crown Princess Amelia, a British ambassador, two Swedish dignitaries and a recently added American couple, would start in thirty minutes. He should go down to the reception hall to prepare for the monarch’s entrance.
But Rafe did not move. He continued to stare out to the water, enjoying the quietude he felt in this moment. It had been too long since he’d felt anything but contempt and disappointment. Both of which he’d kept carefully tucked beneath his crown and the duties that rested on his shoulders. To his family and his constituents he showed unfaltering strength and dignity, the way his father had always taught him. Josef DeSaunters would have never imagined the mess in which Rafe had found himself and his family in last year. Malayka Sampson and her cohort, Amari Taylor a.k.a. Amari Vansig, had crafted a plan to take his family down. Rafe frowned as the memory replayed in his mind and the heaviness in his chest almost outweighed the fury at how he’d opened the door to their plan with the blinders of emotion firmly intact.
Malayka and Amari were both in jail now, awaiting sentencing in an American court because they had committed more crimes in the United States, than they had while in Grand Serenity. It had been Rafe’s decision—against the advice of his Ruling Council—to allow the U.S. Government to take the first crack at punishing Malayka and Amari. He’d wanted the twosome nowhere near his family, ever again.
These days, Rafe hadn’t wanted to be around his family either. While he was proud of his three children: Crown Prince Kristian, Prince Roland and Princess Samantha, and the happy marriages they each were part of, Rafe could not easily dismiss the way in which he had disappointed them.
He should have protected them from Malayka and Amari’s evil plot and from the ploys devised to harm them as a way of getting to Rafe. Vivienne, his first wife and the mother of his children, would have been disappointed by his actions and his father would have looked on with contentment for his only son’s weakness. A weakness which Rafe vowed to never show again.
A brief knock at the door pulled Rafe’s attention from his thoughts and he turned away from the window.
“Come in,” he ordered.
The door opened and in stepped, Klaus, the attendant who had been assigned to Rafe upon his arrival three days ago.
“Your presence is requested in the reception hall, Your Highness.”
Klaus gave a stiff bow as he delivered the words in English, with a heavily Swedish accent. He was a rail-thin man with stiffly-styled white hair and cool gray eyes. The simple black suit Klaus wore with a crisp white dress shirt and thin black tie resembled the attire of Rafe’s palace staff. The thought gave Rafe an unexpected jolt of homesickness that he quickly pushed aside.
Crossing his arms in front of him, Rafe buttoned his suit jacket and walked toward the door.
“Then let us be going,” he replied and walked past Klaus.
The man quickly moved until he was in front of Rafe, leading him down the three tiers of marbled steps. At each tier there was a stone statue mounted on a podium connected to the balustrade. Towering paintings of former royalty who had lived in Pasternholm Palace draped the walls while above, the domed ceiling was decorated in an ornate gold design.
Rafe walked with his shoulders back, chest out, and chin lifted. Using his thumb he touched the back of the band on his right ring finger. The ring moved slightly and Rafe reminded himself of his duty. He had worn the monarch ring since receiving it only hours after his father had succumbed to cancer. The thick gold band’s flat top was tinted royal blue on the space that was embossed with Grand Serenity’s coat of arms. Below that, imprinted on a scroll were the Portuguese words Deus e a coroa—God and the Crown.
Those were his priorities.
Rafe stepped down from the last step, falling in line with Klaus who continued to walk in slow, measured steps. Unlike the cool elegance of pristine white and lighter tones that decorated the palace in Grand Serenity, Pasternholm boasted opulence in its gold outlined mural ceilings and crown molding, marble walls and crystal chandeliers. When Klaus moved to the side, Rafe stepped onto the gold runner that covered a portion of the deep navy blue carpet. He walked what seemed an interminable length of hallway with royal guards standing at attention in measured intervals, until coming to the entrance of the main dining hall.
This room was decorated in red from the carpet, to the rich brocade lined walls with more large framed portraits hanging in massive gold frames. Rafe was escorted to the long dining table and offered a seat in the red-cushioned, high-back chair. He had been taking in every detail, walking and giving only the slightest nod to those already in the room. This was just another formal dinner during his visit to Sweden. The important meetings had begun earlier this morning and would resume tomorrow. Tonight, was as laid-back as a dinner would get in the palace with King Rolof and Queen Marguerite in attendance. He was happy to be seated a distance from Princess Amelia, who had a tendency to talk just a little too much for Rafe’s liking. She was young, not even close to her thirtieth birthday, and had a suggestive allure that Rafe was sure would get her into trouble one day, if it had not already. He wondered how now he could have such a keen eye for women and their ulterior motives, when he’d managed to be blind as the proverbial bat in the recent past.
“Good evening, Prince Rafferty.”
Irritated that he had to be once again pulled from his inner thoughts, Rafe looked up to return the greeting to the man sitting across from him. He was an American, as his accent revealed. Handsome with serious eyes, close cut black hair and a healthy beard. But it wasn’t the man that had rendered Rafe momentarily silent. It was the woman sitting next to him.
“Good evening,” Rafe responded to the man eventually.
But his gaze rested on the woman. He swallowed hard and offered her a nod. She smiled in response.
And when Rafe sat back in his chair and reached for the glass of water in front of him, he thought his contemplative and solemn mood had just been lifted.
Dinner lasted much longer than Davina had expected.
And even longer than she thought she could endure.
What the hell was Rafferty DeSaunters doing here?
Considering he was the prince of a Caribbean island and they were in the palace of the King and Queen of Pasternholm, the more appropriate question was the one in which she’d been asked more than a dozen times in the less than twenty-four hours that she’d been in Sweden.
Who are you again and why are you here?
Although it hadn’t been phrased in quite that way, Davina was certain that’s what everyone she’d met since arriving was thinking. The answer was, that last week Triskelion Pictures announced that Evan Beauchamp would direct their next superhero film. Davina wanted a part in that movie. Her agent had immediately reached out to Evan’s people and an appointment was set. All she’d had to do was meet Evan here in Sweden where he was vacationing. The impromptu dinner invitation to join the king and queen had come—as Evan told her just a few hours ago—as a result of him showing interest in possibly filming on one of the islands surrounding Pasternholm. She wasn’t really in the mood for a formal dinner with anyone. This was supposed to be a quick trip to take a meeting, get an idea of where she stood with the movie and return home to prepare for the upcoming promotional tour for her new movie in two weeks. Besides that, Evan hadn’t talked about much more than location scouting for the movie. Not one word about a part that she could play. After thirty years in the business, Davina knew this routine. This wasn’t her first meeting with a director, so flying to wherever he was and meeting with him at crazy hours, while he was getting a haircut, manicure and pedicure, sitting across from him at a late night dinner in the hotel’s restaurant, and arriving with him tonight, was all the norm. Only, she did get tired of the norm sometimes.
Still, Davina had put on her black cocktail dress—she always packed a cocktail dress wherever she went, for impromptu appearances just like this one—and donned her brightest smile to meet Pasternholm’s royal family.
Needless to say, Rafe was the last man in the world she expected to see tonight. She’d first met him nineteen years ago. Their affair had lasted for four years before coming to a screeching halt. Now, it had been fifteen years since the last time the two had been in the same room together. But distance hadn’t stopped her from thinking about him in that time. Or for the last forty-five minutes of the torturously long dinner.
Following the second round of after-dinner coffee and brandy, the dinner party adjourned to another room. Pasternholm Palace was huge. Davina had been in her share of mansions—had even owned one with her second ex-husband, movie producer Gideon Ducusson. But none that would compare to the regal elegance of this place. This room was smaller than the dining room they’d just left, and yet was bigger than at least three of the rooms combined in the beachfront home Davina had purchased after the demise of her second marriage.
Oak paneled walls, elaborate wall sconces, luxurious rugs and a gorgeous mahogany piano were just some of the eye-catching details in this space. And then there was Rafferty DeSaunters.
He was standing near the fireplace. Princess Amelia on one side of him chatting his ear off, while he casually held the glass of scotch he’d requested instead of the offered brandy. Davina couldn’t hear what they were saying from the distance in which she stood, but she could imagine Rafe’s deep, raspy voice and the way it had a tendency to rub her in all the right places. It was his first step to seduction, even though Davina was sure Rafe had no idea his allure started with something as simple as speaking. But it did, at least for her. She could listen to the sound of his voice for days. He could read the TV guide and she would be mesmerized.
“The duke over there just informed me that in addition to receiving verbal approval from the king, I’d still have paperwork and licenses to contend with once we select which island to film on. I’d need to schedule a more detailed scouting trip before I could figure that out. But it’s great that they’re so excited about the collaboration.”
Evan had approached and began speaking while Davina continued to stare at Rafe. Until Evan pushed a glass of wine into her hand and she was forced to look at him.
“That sounds like a great plan. I haven’t seen a script yet, so I’m not able to offer my thoughts on setting. I thought we’d speak more about what possible role I could play in the film,” she replied before taking a sip from her glass.
It seemed like she’d repeated that last phrase a dozen times since arriving for this so-called meeting. Yet, Evan had comfortably discussed any and everything else. In that moment Davina decided that she would leave in the morning, with or without an answer. She was too old to play these games for too long. She was a two-time Emmy nominated, Tony award winning actor and she knew her worth. If Evan couldn’t tell that she would be an asset to this movie—no matter how desperately she wanted to do something in the superhero genre—that was just too damn bad.
“We will, just as soon as this little dinner party is over. I need to speak to the princess. She’s the only one we did not get a picture with earlier,” he continued.
Evan was no longer looking at Davina, but instead was using his hand to smooth down the dyed hair of his beard as he stared in the direction of Princess Amelia. The rail-thin woman stood regally in a red coat dress and matching pumps. Her rich auburn hair was pulled back neatly in a bun and pouting lips were painted just a shade lighter than her ensemble. The princess was now standing alone, Davina also noted.
“That’s fine,” Davina told Evan.
She was tired anyway. “I’m going to head up to my room. I’ll be leaving tomorrow so you can contact my agent if you think we’ll be able to work together.”
“Oh no,” Evan said glancing over to her once more. “I’ll talk to you about my thoughts tonight. Just give me a few moments to take care of this.”
“No. I’m going to bid my goodnight to the king and queen and then I’ll be retiring for the evening,” Davina told him.
“Then I’ll come up to your room. We can have a drink and discuss the movie,” he said and this time touched a hand to her elbow.
Davina did not like being touched by men. Not unless they were acting or it was her husband or her lover, neither of which she had at the moment. Blame it on years of working in Hollywood and on Broadway before that. In this industry the only thing that ran quicker than the mouths of gossipers and tabloid articles, was water. She took an easy step back until she was out of Evan’s reach before responding, “That’s not necessary. My agent will be in contact with you. It was nice speaking with you again. I think your ideas for the movie are great and I’m sure it’ll be a success.”
Not if she wasn’t in it, was the thought Davina kept to herself. She turned and walked away from Evan before he could say another word. He wouldn’t follow her out because the younger, and obviously available Princess Amelia had already captured his attention. Davina almost turned up her lips at that thought because it was so predictable. Every man she knew thought with his dick and followed wherever it took them, whether out of their wife and children’s lives or into the clutches of a scandal waiting to erupt. It didn’t matter to them, as long as they were physically satisfied, even for the shortest period of time. But instead, she affixed her most professional smile on her face and made her way over to where the king and queen stood speaking to one of the British ambassador and another woman whom Davina did not recall being at dinner with them.
“Pardon me,” she said as she approached. “I just wanted to extend a gracious thank you for the invitation tonight, Your Highness.”
Davina addressed King Rolof first and then nodded to Queen Marguerite. “Your palace as well as the town of Pasternholm are gorgeous and your hospitality has been impeccable.”
Queen Marguerite extended a hand and Davina immediately accepted it for a shake.
“We are grateful to have you here, Ms. Daniels. My husband and I have long been fans of your work on the screen,” the queen said.
Warmth flooded through Davina’s chest as pride and gratitude filled her. “Thank you, Your Highness,” she said before releasing the queen’s hand.
King Rolof shook her hand as well. “What will you star in next?” the King asked.
“Vindication Road,” the ambassador replied.
Davina wished she could recall his name, but Evan had been talking when the man was introduced during dinner. He was a man of average build. Olive complected skin with a receding hairline that managed to give him more of an aristocratic appearance, than that of a balding middle-aged man.
“Yes,” she said nodding to him. “Vindication Road will release at the end of this month.”
“Oh, that sounds quite interesting,” Queen Margaret said. “I will look forward to seeing it.”
“We both will,” King Rolof added with a genuine smile.
“Thank you, again,” Davina said. “I’m going to retire for the night.”
“I hope we did not tire you with the tours this afternoon,” the king said with a chuckle.
Davina laughed in response. “No. Not at all. It was wonderful to see your home. But I plan to return to the States tomorrow and need to pack.”
“I understand,” Queen Margaret told her. “We bid you goodnight, my dear. And hope to see you tomorrow at breakfast before you leave.”
That wasn’t part of Davina’s plan, but she wasn’t about to go against the king and queen. “Definitely,” she told them with another smile before she gave a slight bow and walked away from where they were standing.
With steps as quick as she could manage without running out of the room, Davina made her exit, all the while thinking of what she needed to do once she was in her room. She would call Romel, her assistant, and have him find her a flight out of here that would coincide with her having a quick breakfast with the king and queen. Then she would pack her bags and take a relaxing hot bath in that soaker tub that was large enough to accommodate at least six people.
As she moved down the hallway with the gold runner and navy blue rug, the thought of that bath soothed her irritation with Evan’s nonchalant attitude away. Davina knew she was lucky. At fifty-five years old, she was still booking roles in movies and television shows. She was an African-American actor who had studied at the Yale School of Drama and graduated from Yale University with honors. The first in her family to graduate from college and a twice-divorced woman known for being a consummate professional in the industry. She’d worked hard for everything she had and wasn’t about to let some young up and coming director handle her as he would an inexperienced groupie looking for a job.
Elsa, the woman who had been assigned to assist Davina while she was at the palace, quietly appeared as Davina walked up the steps. Elsa did not speak a lot of English, so she only nodded as Davina smiled at her. Davina knew Elsa would walk behind her and follow her into the room to offer assistance, but once Davina finally came to the door of the room she’d been assigned on the second floor, she let Elsa know that she was fine on her own. With a nod and a curtsy, Elsa moved with quiet steps down the hall and Davina let herself into her room.
She had just stepped inside and closed the door behind her when a quiet, but persistent knock, had her jumping in surprise.
That surprise was replaced by something more familiar when Davina opened the door to see who was standing on the other side.