First he was angry. Screw her. He was doing his best to keep all the balls in the air. Family, business, kingdom. He’d expect her to understand.

Then he remembered what she’d said to him a few days ago. Don’t make promises he couldn’t keep.

So he dialed her number again and this time she answered. But she didn’t say anything—all he heard was the rush of wind and the faint sound of music in the background.

“Don’t hang up. I’m sorry. My days over here are insane and I ended up being cornered by someone from the royal court. This is the first time I’ve been alone since I texted you.”

After an excruciating pause, she finally spoke. “It’s okay. I know you’re busy. But even busy men can take a moment to text.”

“Point taken. Honestly, Em, I feel like I’m running from one thing to the next and I can’t catch up. I’m not used to this. And I feel like I have to play nice and by their rules. This means a lot to my family.”

That was the problem. He wanted to tell them what he’d do and then say take it or leave it. But that wasn’t an option. Tia Isabella was so excited to be returning home. He couldn’t and wouldn’t disappoint his great-aunt or any of his other relatives by ruining this for them. They’d looked to him for leadership and he was stepping up.

But he was losing himself.

“I’m trying to figure this out.”

“Who says you have to do it all?” she asked. “Being the monarch and the head of a huge company is a big task for anyone. I think in most countries that isn’t allowed.”

“I know. But I like running the company. There I’m only answerable to the board and I have a certain degree of anonymity to deal with problems on my own. Here...I sat in a meeting today about what color napkins we should have at the coronation.”

She laughed. “What color did you decide?”

“I have no idea. I tuned out,” he said. “I’d never do that at a board meeting.”

“Well,” she said at last. “I’m no expert on that sort of thing but I think you’re going to have to find what makes being king exciting to you. I bet at Montoro Enterprises there are tasks that would normally bore you but you do them because you want to be successful.”

She was right. “Good advice.”

“Thanks. And thank you again for the mermaid. I hung her up after I got back from paddleboarding and am looking forward to seeing my kitchen lit up when the sun sets tonight.”

“I wish I was there with you,” he said.

“Don’t.”

“Don’t what?”

“Don’t say things like that. Let’s keep this light,” she said. “That way I don’t start thinking something else and you don’t have to worry about calling me.”

Hell. “I do want to call you, Em. I like talking to you and you make me...you’re the only thing that feels real right now.”

“That’s because I have nothing to do with Alma or the throne. And you know with me it’s just about the baby and getting to know each other. But that’s running away from your obligations in Alma. And I think that for a little while that might suit you, but eventually it won’t.”

“I’m not sure what you mean by that,” he said. Afraid very much that he did know what she meant.

“That once you decide to commit to Alma and the people there, you will realize that you can’t have me. I’ll have been the distraction you needed to make the decision, and then I’ll be left by the wayside.”

Damn. He knew she was right. He didn’t want to admit it to her, but then with Emily he didn’t have to. “That’s not my intention.”

“Whether that’s true or not, you can’t change who you are and with you, Rafael Montoro IV, it’s all about your family legacy. And we both know you aren’t going to turn your back on it.”

She was right. She’d taken the debate he’d been having with himself and boiled it down to its essence. He was a man who was all about family; it was the compass he used in every decision he’d ever made. Now he just had to decide if he could shift away from the Montoro legacy to pursue his own future with Emily and their child. And the decision would be a tough one.

After he hung up with her he went to his office to work. He put on a little Jimmy Buffett because he needed to hear some sounds of home.

There was a knock on the door and he rubbed the back of his neck. “Come in.”

“Sir, I have a few more questions for the coronation,” Hector said as he entered. Hector was the head of the Coronation Committee. Since Alma hadn’t had a monarch in several decades, they were anxious to make sure the coronation had all the bells and whistles.

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