Excerpt for Royal Duty by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

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Published by EVERNIGHT PUBLISHING ® at Smashwords

Copyright© 2017 Matilda Janes

ISBN: 978-1-77339-483-1

Cover Artist: Jay Aheer

Editor: M. Allison Lea


WARNING: The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal. No part of this book may be used or reproduced electronically or in print without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in reviews.

This is a work of fiction. All names, characters, and places are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.


First and foremost, I’d like to thank Evernight Publishing. This is a dream come true. Thank you to my wonderful husband for all of the sexy inspiration. Wink, wink. My sister Vicki for her words of encouragement. And a big thanks to my family and friends for being so supportive and putting up with all of my silliness. Never stop reaching for the stars. xoxo


Royal Duty, 1

Matilda Janes

Copyright © 2017

Chapter One

Elsie opened her mouth wide as if she were yawning, feeling instant relief when her ear finally popped from the altitude change. Aloha. Elsie and her sister were en route to Honolulu National Airport, and she nearly wept with relief when drink service finally approached. After the past few weeks Elsie was in need of a big girl drink. She put the “everything is awesome” smile on her face, gave the stewardess their order, and accepted their drinks before she continued to spin her tale of woe.

“‘We want you to be happy for us,’” Elsie told her sister as she recounted the worst night of her life. A week ago today, her fiancé of four years and her former best friend since college had decided to tell her they were suddenly in love.

“That bitch did not freaking say that!” Bethany sounded righteously incredulous on her behalf, and Elsie had to smile. They might have their differences, but her younger sister always had her back. Elsie took a drink of her vodka tonic before answering.

“That she did, right after they assured me that they hadn’t slept together … yet. He swears he didn’t cheat on me, but they had feelings they felt they needed to explore,” Elsie said sardonically. The breakup had come completely out of left field, leaving her reeling. Elsie had suspected nothing, thinking life was going along like normal. Then bam—her fiancé needed to “explore” her best friend … literally. What stressed Elsie even more was the fact that they were all coworkers. Returning to work is going to be fun … not. Elsie sighed loudly. She deserved a little wallowing. Life had just taken a hard, hard left.

“Then she had the nerve to finish me off with the cliché: ‘Elsie, the heart wants what the heart wants,’” she said, mimicking her former best friend Joyce’s high-pitched voice.

“Oh my God. No, she didn’t,” her sister groaned, sipping her Bloody Mary. “Who says that shit in real life? I’m so sorry, Elsie.”

Elsie shrugged. At least she’d gotten this vacation out of it, and now she and her sister got to be roommates for the first time in their adult lives. The past week had been a fun bonding experience, even with the cloud of Dan and Joyce overhead. Elsie was six years older than Bethany, and now that they were thirty-one and twenty-five respectively, they could hang out more as equals instead of the big sister, little sister dynamic they’d grown up with.

Dan had told her he felt badly about the breakup and insisted Elsie take the honeymoon he’d already booked. Knowing how upsetting this was, he said he wanted her to relax and recharge. She suspected he just wanted to get her away from the hospital while he and Joyce announced and established their new relationship with their coworkers. God, how embarrassing. Elsie groaned inwardly. Dan, Joyce, and Elsie all worked together as ER nurses at Mercy General. Now everyone at the hospital was going to know their business. Who am I kidding? They probably already knew. She hated being the center of attention. The whole mess sounded worthy of daytime talk show fodder. Ugh. Elsie was in no hurry to return to work. In fact, the idea of a change of scenery didn’t sound bad at all. She sure as hell didn’t need to stick around and have Dan and Joyce flaunt their supposed fledgling romance in her face.

“Honestly, Elsie, I feel like you dodged a bullet. I’m sorry, I love you, but I do. He was such a douche. I know you loved him, but … thinking of having him as my brother-in-law for the rest of our lives? Dinners, holidays?” Bethany shuddered dramatically. “Real downer, Else, real downer. Plus, Mom and Dad couldn’t stand him, and Mom and Dad like everyone.”

It was true; her parents were overly positive people who were hard-pressed to dislike anyone, but for some reason they’d never taken a shining to Dan. They had tolerated him because she was in love. She realized now Dan had always been a bit of a Negative Nelly. At first she’d enjoyed his dry humor. He was witty and fun to work with, but she started to notice how he never had anything nice to say, which drove her mother nuts and to be honest, was starting to wane on Elsie. Dan would be the first one to tell you he could do it better. He couldn’t just be happy for someone, he liked to one up them, and her. Now that he wasn’t around all the time, Elsie realized what a real downer he’d been.

“Dodged. A. Bullet!” Bethany repeated heatedly, bobbing her head up and down to emphasize each word.

The second Bloody Mary Bethany guzzled must be kicking in. Her sister wasn’t usually quite this animated and loose. Elsie sighed loudly. She heard what her sister was saying, but she just wasn’t quite ready to voice her agreement out loud. What could she say? Yeah, I was an idiot? She sure felt like one. Didn’t mean she wanted to admit it.


Oh boy, Elsie thought as she settled into her airplane seat, waiting for whatever amazing, tipsy insight Bethany was going to dispense next. Elsie quickly decided, as she downed the last bit, that it would be in their best interest if this was her one and only vodka tonic.

“You’re bummed.” Bethany looked at her pointedly.

Elsie raised her eyebrows. No shit, Sherlock. She gave her sister a look.

“Okay, that’s an understatement. You’re depressed, and rightfully so. No one’s going to tell you this isn’t a royally fucked up situation. Because it is, but—”

Elsie opened her mouth, but Bethany cut her off. “No. Hear me out. You aren’t devastated, Elsie, not like I think you’re supposed to be. I haven’t fallen in love yet, true, but I would think that if he really was the love of your life, you know, your soul mate? You’d be more upset.” Bethany chuckled. “I think you cried harder when your Siamese fighting fish was murdered.” Her sister shook her head and rolled her eyes. “You cried for, like, days over that thing. Jesus, when you called, I thought Mom or Dad had been in a freaking car accident, you were so incoherent and blubbering on the phone. Let me reiterate: you were blubbering over a fish, Elsie. You didn’t blubber over Dan.”

Elsie chuckled at the memory and had to admit even to herself that yes, she might have overreacted a bit when she’d come home from the hospital one evening to find her beloved fish missing from his bowl instead of safe, up high on his specially installed shelf. She’d found that Dan’s cat Cupcake had shimmied up the wall and played with her beloved Drago to death. His rainbow scales and fins had reminded her of a dragon, and as she’d always loved fantasy and science fiction, the name had seemed fitting. She’d found Drago’s shredded body under the couch.

If Elsie were being honest with herself, she suspected her sister was right. Thinking back on it, she had felt more devastated when her fish had died. She’d put a lot of work into keeping him alive, cleaning his bowl and feeding him. With Dan, she felt embarrassed and naive at being so blindsided. Maybe if she’d suspected something it would have been an easier pill to swallow. Though, her sister was one to talk about overreacting.

“Don’t you judge me, Bethany Ann Johnston,” Elsie said, pretending to sound affronted. “You cried at the end of Casper. I think you win the overreacting contest.” Elsie grinned, remembering how inconsolable Bethany had been after watching it as a tween.

“Oh my God, Devon Sawa should have lived!” Bethany whined shrilly.

Elsie cringed and glanced around, hoping they weren’t disturbing anyone.

“I mean, I love Bill Pullman now, don’t get me wrong. Total hottie, but c’mon, that was devastating. I loved me some Devon Sawa.” Bethany took a sip of her drink and smacked her lips. “So hot, and nice tangent, sister, but I’m not done,” she announced. “You weren’t even crying when you called me to help you move out of the apartment, and Captain Douche and Bitch Face had just confronted you minutes earlier, right? Else, am I right? I know I’m right.”

Only her family got away with calling her “Else.” “You’re right, Beth. When you’re right, you’re right,” she said quickly and sighed, feeling a little lightheaded. God, when did I turn into such a lightweight? Working twelve hour shifts in the ER didn’t leave much time for partying anymore. It felt like her tolerance level had tanked to diddly-squat. Maybe gulping the last of her vodka tonic was a less than wise decision. She figured they still had about three hours until they landed. Plenty of time for this lightweight to sober up, she thought.

“Good, forget about Captain Douche, ’cause we’re about to get our freak on,” her sister sang, and squealed quietly in her seat.

“Not too freaky this time, okay?” Elsie told her. She didn’t want to spend the week babysitting her sister. She’d done enough of it when Bethany was an older teen and young adult, and handling a drunk Beth was like trying to wrangle a one-hundred-and-twenty-pound drunk octopus. Her sister would reach out, trying to touch and grab at everyone she passed. Elsie couldn’t help but grin, thinking back. Those were fun times. Inappropriate gropings and all. Luckily, most people had taken Bethany’s attention as a compliment, male and female alike. Elsie wasn’t having any shenanigans, though. Not this weekend. She was here to relax and start a new chapter in life.

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