The last thing she wants is to join the royal family, but the sizzling tension between Blythe and Prince Tor of Tapt Oyer is about to explode and all her good intentions with it.
Blythe and Tor are friends, but the sexual tension has always simmered between them, just under the surface. Only he’s the younger brother (in law) of her best friend and a prince, to boot. So why can’t she stop fantasizing about the hunky royal?
Prince Tor isn’t like the rest of his family. He’s spending his military service in combat for one. A law unto himself, he doesn’t follow the usual rules and has no desire to give into his father’s pressure to marry and settle down with a suitable woman.
Tor wants Blythe and he’s not letting her hide behind the age difference, or his status as a royal. Once the passion detonates between them, is there any hope they can build something lasting despite how different their worlds are?
Prince Tor, youngest son of the House of Asgersen, stood silent, his expression grave, but stoic, as his oldest brother, King of Tapt Oyer spoke vows to his bride.
Reflecting the old Norwegian roots of the country, the centuries old Lutheran church was filled with royal guests, dignitaries, and representatives from some of the most wealthy and powerful families in the world.
Young distant cousins, one from Tapt Oyer and one from their family’s branch in America, dressed in white robes like the pastor, but without the vestments, approached the large brass candelabras on either side of the altar to light the candles as part of the wedding ceremony.
The small island country of Tapt Oyer was getting a new princess.
However, in that moment, Tor’s attention was not on the royal couple, but it was fully fixed on the woman standing as maid-of-honor.
Blythe Whitney-Jones, Travel journalist with a Vlog and her own show on a small cable channel. Best friend to the soon to be crowned princess, Blythe was also undeniably the sexiest woman Tor had ever seen.
Five feet, eight inches tall, she wore her brown hair long and wavy. No perfect curls or updo, even for the wedding. Just silky, brown waves Tor itched to run his fingers through. Could it be as soft as it looked?
Unlike a lot of the women who made their living on the small screen, she wasn’t rail thin, but had lush curves with gorgeous breasts and a sumptuous bottom. Neither were the result of augmentation. Blythe was too natural for that.
She might make her living in front of the camera, but she was not one of the plastic people.
And Tor liked that. A lot.
His world was filled with people who did whatever was necessary to present the perfect façade. Amidst all that fake, Blythe Whitney-Jones was real.
From her tendency to tease his dignified brother to shutting down anyone who even thought of criticizing her best friend, she was a breath of fresh air blowing through the palace every time she visited.
Her cerulean gown not only brought out the clear sapphire blue of her eyes, but also clung to the curves Tor longed to caress.
When they got within six feet of each other, Tor’s hands sometimes literally shook with the need to touch her. At first, he hadn’t liked how strong her effect on him was, but he’d gotten used to the sexual heat that surged through him in her presence.
Now, he craved it. Craved her.
At twenty-two, he had yet to have full on sex, though he knew all sorts of ways to give and receive pleasure without actual intercourse. He’d never met a woman who made him crave joining their bodies, not merely seeking pleasure from one another.
Not when that act could come with so many complications.
He was a prince and that was a fact he could never forget.
Blythe wasn’t on the make, looking to catch herself a prince though. Even if she had not been so vocal about how little she wanted what she called her friend’s fairytale, Tor would have instinctively known that Blythe was not one of the women who would trade sex for royal status.
She just wasn’t the type.
And that was rare in his life.
“Stop it.” A feminine voice hissed in his ear.
He looked sideways at his best friend and spoke without moving his lips. “I’m not doing anything.”
Tor had grown up knowing Else Kirkson. Her family had emigrated to America with his great uncle three generations ago, and had been instrumental in building the connections between the two countries that brought with them military, economic and technological benefits to this day.
In exchange for first rights to buy from the rich oil reserves of his country, of course.
It worked well for both nations.
Many assumed that since they got along so well, he and Else would one day marry. That was so not going to happen. They were more like siblings than friends.
She got a kick out of treating him like a little brother, even though she was only two months older.
“You’re drooling, Tor.” And she liked to tease.
He refrained from glaring down at his friend and knew better than to speak his denial out loud.
Eyes were always on him. He’d taken a risk responding to her first sally. To be seen talking to Else during the ceremony could lead to gossip and speculation that could run the gamut from him proposing to Else to him being unhappy with his brother’s choice in brides.
“I’m surprised she can’t feel the weight of your salivating stare from here,” Else said in a subvocal, barely moving her lips as she’d learned long ago to do, just as he had.
Privacy maintenance skills. They had them.
Tor’s gaze caught on sapphire blue eyes looking straight at him. Instant erotic heat zinged through him, and he was grateful for the cut of his tuxedo.
Blythe’s beautiful lips parted on a puff of air and in that moment, no one else existed for either of them.
He was sure of it.
“I told you,” Else hissed. “She’s into you too. You better do something about it, Tor.”
Blythe’s gaze shifted to Else, a slight frown marring her beautiful features and then she returned her full attention to the bride, groom and priest.
Refusing to acknowledge Else’s words, he wondered what had caused that frown.
Blythe smiled, watching Janice, new Crown Princess of Tapt Oyer, rush off to meet her new husband as they escaped their wedding reception early.
It was sweet, the way the King had arranged for them to leave for their honeymoon without the fanfare that Janice would rather avoid. He might be a king and part of the oligarchy, but that man understood romance.
Even if the marriage proposal had been anything but. A member of Tapt Oyer nobility, Janice had grown up knowing that if things played out a certain way, she could one day be a princess, or queen. Blythe shuddered at the very thought.
She had no desire toward what many would call a fairytale ending. She’d seen the cost that came with the title of royalty. Poor Janice had had to change careers to something that worked for the palace.
Blythe could not imagine giving up her travelog to marry anyone, much less a stuffy king like Holger.
“Did my brother and new sister-in-law abandon their guests?”
Blythe knew that voice. The sarcastic tone was all too familiar.
“Tor.” She turned to face the youngest Asgersen prince. “Don’t say anything.”
“You think I would?” he asked, affronted. “I live under the same microscope my brothers and father do.”
She forced down the totally inappropriate attraction she felt to the younger man. Seven years her junior, he was too young for her.
Not to mention, he was a prince. Another serious strike against him.
“Your brother is a king; I don’t think the microscope is on the same setting for you.” Blythe tried not to wince at how disparaging she sounded.
She didn’t mean to put Tor down. For a prince, he was a nice guy. Funny and caring about his family, even if there always seemed to be some kind of barrier between him and the rest of the Tapt Oyer royals.
Tor frowned, but shrugged. “If you say so.”
That was another thing she liked about the younger man. His wasn’t defensive or egotistical.
Which probably made her less careful than she should be with the stuff she said to him.
Regardless, she couldn’t afford a lot of alone time with the prince that, in Blythe’s estimation, was twice as sexy as his two older brothers. Combined.
“I need to get back to the reception.” Blythe went to move around him.
“Why?” he asked, conspicuously not moving out of her way.
“What do you mean, why?”
“You’re not a member of the royal family,” he reminded her practically. Tor moved toward her half a step. “You aren’t obligated to entertain the guests.”
Blythe wasn’t part of any family really. She’d figured that out when she was little, but she didn’t appreciate having that fact shoved into her face.
And his nearness? Was dangerous to her self-control.
“Well, you are one of the hosts, as a member of the royal family, and I am part of the wedding party. We both have a social obligation to return to the reception.”
He frowned, studying her like trying to figure her out. “I never thought you worried about that kind of thing.”
“Then you thought wrong. Janice is more precious to me than a sister. Anything I can to do to make her life easier, I will do it.”
“And being in there, talking to people you don’t know, will do that?” he asked, his sarcasm in full throttle.
“Maybe I can keep people from speculating immediately on her and Holger’s disappearance.”
An expression, like he’d just considered that possibility, came over Tor’s handsome features. “You’re right, but we’re going to talk later.”
She didn’t ask about what. She’d seen this coming since first meeting this man.
Because that inappropriate attraction she felt? It wasn’t one sided.
Tor looked at her like she was a meal prepared by a Michelin starred chef and he was a starving man. When other guys looked at her like that, well never quite like that, but like they wanted her, it did nothing for her.
Turned her on. Wildly.
And he was her best friend’s new little brother.
Completely and totally off limits.
Tor waited until they were back in the ballroom to ask Blythe to dance.
“Dance?” she asked, like it was an unheard of concept.
“Yes. You know, that activity where two people move to the beat of music together.”
“I don’t dance.”
“I know that isn’t true.” She liked clubs and dancing back in Seattle.
Pictures posted at least every other weekend to her social media proved as much.
Blythe waved her arm toward the couples moving on the dance floor. “I don’t dance like that.”
“Everybody can waltz. Just follow my lead.” With that instruction, Tor pulled Blythe into his arms and started moving them toward the dance floor, whispering instructions on how to place her feet and body.
Blythe was naturally rhythmic and allowed her body to take a formal stance easily. Just as he’d known she would.
Tor was careful to let her catch the rhythm and his lead before spinning them in a gentle circle that landed them amidst the other couples.
“You’re good at this.” The surprise in her voice could have offended him.
It didn’t. Tor liked surprising her.
He winked at her. “Eight years of ballroom dancing.”
“Eight years?” she asked faintly.
“From the age of eight to sixteen.”
“You don’t seem like the ballroom dancing type.”
“Is there a type?” Tor spun Blythe out and guided her back in.
Their movements weren’t competition worthy, but they were good together.
Flushed a lovely pink, Blythe shrugged. “I just would have thought you’d have other hobbies.”
“Dancing was never a hobby.” No more than any of the things he had to study to be a proper prince had been. “My brother insisted on it as part of my curriculum.”
Holger had told Tor that not only would ballroom dancing be a necessary skill for diplomacy, it would also help him in his martial arts training.
Tor’s older brother had been right on both counts.
Holger was always right, and if there was a tinge of sardonic bite to Tor’s thoughts, no one had to know that.
“Your brother? Not your dad?”
“When my mother died, my father used work to assuage his grief.” At least that’s what Tor had surmised.
It wasn’t as if his father had ever admitted to any emotion, even grief, to his sons.
“So, your brother stepped in?”
“You could say that,” he said noncommittally, the tendency to obfuscate now so ingrained, it was his natural response to any question of a personal nature.
“But he was still a child himself.”
“Holger was eighteen when our mom died.” And he’d seen how dismayed his eight-year-old brother had been at the effective loss of both his parents in one fell swoop. “He did not think of himself as a child, but a fully grown man.”
Being raised as a prince, with the weight of the country on their shoulders, none of them had wallowed in childhood. Had there been play? Certainly, but always with a purpose. To teach Tor and his brothers strategy and diplomacy, etc.
“I never realized King Holger was more like a father than a brother to you.” Blythe wore her compassion like he’d once worn a school uniform. No mistaking it for anything else. “Janice always talks about you like a good friend.”
“She and I have become friends.” Unlike his brothers or father, Janne texted him randomly.
She made time in her schedule to hang out. Even though it was his brother she was marrying, she’d made an effort to get to know the entire royal family personally.
“My brother is, and has always been, my brother.” And his sovereign for the past 8 years.
When their father’s health had forced him to abdicate the throne, Holger had been crowned their king and the new monarch had no longer had time to take a personal interest in his teenage brother’s life.
At fourteen, Tor became the first prince in Tapt Oyer’ history to be sent to boarding school.
His arguments against it were dismissed as a youthful lack of understanding of what was best for him. The only argument he won was to be sent to New York, rather than England to school. He’d spent time there every summer with the relatives descended from his great uncle.
But Else had been there two and if Tor couldn’t be near his family, he wanted to be near his friend.
He had missed his family at first, but he’d learned to do without them.
Tor had drawn further away from the brothers and father he no longer trusted and had followed up his boarding school years with attending university in the States as well.
He no longer believed the old adage: Når problemer kommer, er det familien din som støtter deg. When trouble comes, it’s your family that supports you. But he still firmly adhered to Du må forsvare din ære. Og din familie. You have to defend your honor. And your family.
Tor was still Holger’s brother. Their relationship might be distant now, but they were still family.
Blythe looked at him musingly. “I suppose your dad stepped back into the parental role after he abdicated the throne.”
“Do you?” Then she supposed wrong.
“That must have been hard for your brother, too.”
“Perhaps. He has never said.” Tor didn’t want to think about his family any longer.
Not his father who might as well be a stranger, or his brother who was also his sovereign, or his other brother who had closed himself off from all of them on some level while following their father’s example of becoming a workaholic.
“You’re a very good dancer,” he told Blythe, his smile filled with heat he made no effort to deny.
She stumbled and then laughed. “Don’t say that, you’re jinxing me.”
More like she reacted as strongly to him as he did to her.
“We fit very well together,” he said meaningfully.
“Say stuff like that.”
So, she’d taken his double meaning. He smiled.
But then the song ended and Blythe went to pull away.
Tor held on though. “One more. You’re just getting the hang of this.”
She bit her lip, her beautiful sapphire eyes filled with confusion and attraction she could not hide.
“Please, Blythe. Just one more.” He was a prince, he never pleaded for anything.
But for this woman? Tor would make an exception.
“Just one more,” she finally acquiesced.
He pulled her a little closer and spent the next song teaching her steps which she seemed to enjoy very much.
His brother Geir tapped his shoulder and right then Tor could have consigned his entire family to a glacier wasteland.
Older brothers could be such a pain the ass.
But Blythe smiled up at Geir, like she wanted to dance with him, no convincing required.
Disgruntled, but undaunted in his plan, Tor relinquished his hold, giving his brother a look that warned him to keep his playboy hands to himself.
Geir’s eyes widened, but he gave an infinitesimal nod to acknowledge Tor’s warning.
Tor waited until the social niceties had been observed before tracking Blythe down again. Dancing with her had been amazing, but it had had a predictable effect on his body.
Since he did not want to walk around with a hard-on, he kept his distance from her.
But the major dignitaries had left, including his father, which meant that Tor could leave without being censured for it.
He found Blythe talking to a diplomat and his wife. It sounded like they were discussing the best spots for Spring travel. He wouldn’t mind taking Blythe on a trip in the Spring, preferably someplace warm they could spend most of their time in swimsuits and with no paparazzi.
He tapped her smooth shoulder, left bare by the haler neckline of her gown. That small connection to her skin sent messages zinging to his libido. “Miss Whitney-Jones, I would like a word, please.”
She startled as if he’d yelled rather than speaking in the moderate tone he’d been trained to since childhood.
Turning, she faced him, her expression guarded. “Of course, Your Highness.”
Blythe was really good at remembering to use formal address in public, even if she called him Tor in private.
He led her out of the ballroom and toward a little used study he’d prepared for them.
“Where are we going?” Blythe asked, her heels clicking on the marble floors as she kept pace with him. “What did you need to talk to me about? Couldn’t this be handled back at the reception?”
Tor opened the door the study and ushered Blythe inside. “No.”
Though it was summer, he had a fire going in the grate.
Although the Gulf Stream made for a milder climate than the country his ancestors had come from, temperatures rarely rose above sixty in the summer. They almost never dropped below forty in the winter though.
There was a small table where he’d placed chocolate dipped strawberries and champagne.
“What is this?” Blythe demanded, stepping wide of him and what Else had assured him was a romantic repast. “Tor, what is going on?”
She wasn’t usually slow on the uptake, so he had to wonder if the question was more for form than substance.
Either way, he answered it. “I thought we could spend some time together, getting to know each other.”
“You said you needed to talk to me.” She sounded accusing.
“I do.” Couldn’t she see that?
“No.” Blythe took another step away from him. “Just no. This is not happening, Your Highness.”
“My name is Tor.” She was the one person he did not want seeing him as only a prince. Especially not the youngest prince.
Blythe grimaced, her kissable lips twisting. “Are you even old enough to drink that champagne?” she demanded of him.
“I am twenty-two.” And she damn well knew it. Just as he knew she was twenty-nine.
A year younger than Janne. But what did their age matter? It wasn’t as if she was old enough to be his mother, or something.
“I’m seven years older than you. We aren’t dating.”
“Why? What is seven years?”
“Life experience, for one. You’ve never even held a job.”
“Are you kidding me?” he asked, offended. “I’ve had the job of being a Prince of the Royal House of Asgersen since my birth.” All the time she’d spent with the royal family and she still didn’t understand that?
“Yes, such a hardship,” she said, her tone dry.
While Tor usually appreciated sarcasm, he did not appreciate her implication.
“Being a prince is a twenty-four hour a day, seven days a week job.” He’d had that truth drilled into him since birth.
“On top of my studies for the past four years, I have had numerous diplomatic responsibilities as well as the job of maintaining our family’s blog,” he explained to her, wondering why he felt the need to do so.
Transparency to the masses had sounded great in theory, but since his father was too luddite and his brothers too busy, it had fallen to Tor to research and write the weekly family news since his junior year in high school.
All from America, where he had to get that news from the palace’s press office, among other sources.
Blythe rolled her eyes, clearly unimpressed. “Yes, I’m sure it was hard rubber stamping whatever your PR team wrote for you each week.”
“I wrote those articles,” Tor said, disappointment in her reaction hidden, as he hid all his emotions.
Emotions were the luxury of others. Or so his father had told Tor time and again.
It was a good thing he didn’t feel anything soppy toward Blythe. If Else had been right when she’d teased him about being in love, Tor might be bleeding inside right now.
He wasn’t. He didn’t bleed inside for anyone.
He stuck with what he knew. “We’re attracted to each other.”
“And because you are used to getting what you want, you think you can have me.” The beautiful woman’s voice just dripped with disdain.
Damn. She really didn’t know him at all.
“I thought we could have each other.” The words and tone were confident. He’d learned to put that kind of front up like a second skin, but inside rejection stung like a wasp.
“Cute, but no.”
He stepped toward her, feeling the zing of mutual attraction that she tried to deny with that small closing of the distance. It was like the air between them rose several degrees, though the room around them remained the same.
“Are you sure about that?” he asked.
“Okay, yes, I’m attracted to you, but I’m not proud of that.” She frowned. “You’re too young for me.”
“Age is just a number.”
“Says the infant.”
Tor stepped back, that wasp stinging agan. “I am no infant.”
“No, you’re a young man who thinks you can have whatever you want.”
If only she knew how much he could not have because of his birth and upbringing. “You do not know me.”
“And you don’t know me.”
“Hence this.” He indicated the room prepared for a date. “An opportunity to get to know each other.”
“Oh, be honest. This is a scene for seduction.” Her beautiful blue eyes sparked with challenge, daring him to deny it. “You want sex.”
“Yes,” he acknowledged without hesitation. He had no reason to lie. He was not ashamed of wanting this woman. “But I wanted your friendship too.”
“Look, Tor, even if I wanted to date a university student, which I don’t—”
“I graduated with my bachelor’s a week ago.” There had been no celebration this close to The Royal Wedding of the Century, but that didn’t mean it hadn’t happened.
“Right, but you’ve got two more years to get your master’s.”
“So…” She blew out a clearly frustrated breath. “So,” she repeated. “I am not risking my friendship with Janice for sex with you.”
“Sex with me would not be risking your friendship with my sister-in-law. What happens between us is no one else’s business.”
“Until we break up,” Blythe said with a frown.
He couldn’t promise they wouldn’t break up. Tor didn’t know how their future would roll out, but he didn’t like her assumption that was the inevitable outcome either.
“I am interested in the present, not what ifs.” He thought it was a good argument.
Blythe’s expression said she didn’t agree. “You’re taking a gap year, for goodness sake. You’ve got no concept of real life.”
“Lots of people take gap years,” he informed her.
“Between high school and university, to figure out what they want to do with their lives. Your future is already set.”
He was well aware. Tor’s future had been set before his birth. So, he wanted one year where he could travel and experience life as a man and not a prince, at least not in every aspect. That did not make him irresponsible.
He’d hoped to spend a good part of that year traveling with Blythe.
What a fool he was. Maybe he was the callow youth she seemed to think, because looking at those plans now, he realized he’d been daydreaming.
She might be sexually attracted to him, but just like the rest of the world, she only saw who she thought he was. And that person wasn’t worth risking anything for.
His pride smarting, Tor pulled all emotion behind the armor he’d erected long ago to deal with loss he had no control over.
Straightening his shoulders, he said, “We are not friends.”
Blythe bit her lip, but then her own expression hardened. “No, we are not. I am Janice’s friend, not yours.”
Tor nodded. “Then, in future, I would prefer you address me as Your Highness, or Prince Tor.”
He sounded like an arrogant prig, but Tor did not care. Blythe had misjudged him because she had not cared to get to know him or learn about him at all.
She did not see him as a man, but only as a prince; so, she could address him as such.
He had misjudged her attraction to him as the potential for something more. He would never make that same mistake again.
“If that’s the way you want it, Your Highness.”
“Miss Whitney-Jones.” He inclined his head in dismissal.