Though there is a very lovely Danish Royal Family in real life, it must be noted that I’ve taken complete liberty in this story and all characters and situations are completely fictional. With regards to the language, while I did have a native Danish speaker go over the book, any mistakes you may find in here are mine.
Also, it may help for you to know that the “J” in Danish is pronounced like a “Y.”
Two Years Ago - Madeira
Everyone remembers the moment they fall in love.
That moment where seconds seem to slow down and for the first time you realize you’re not just living life but feeling it in the biggest, grandest way possible. Like you’ve been let in on a secret that the whole world has known about but you.
Maybe it’s a look, the flirty downward cast of the eyes and a sly smile after you’ve told a painfully bad joke.
It might be the moment when you’re finally vulnerable, a gaping wound of a human being, and they take you all in with open arms and without question.
Perhaps it’s wrought from you after a couple of orgasms, all that sex and pleasure culminating into something more than just physical release but a total takeover of your soul.
There is no one way to fall in love.
It may scar you, make its mark, but that fall, that impact, is different for everyone.
Yet, despite all the various ways you fall in love, there is a distinct, singular feeling in that very moment you realize that someone you love no longer loves you back.
The moment you realize the love you had is gone, having slipped through your fingers when you weren’t looking.
It doesn’t come at you fast, with a blow to the senses. It’s not a bolt of lightning striking you, or a tidal wave crashing over you, or the rug pulled out from under you.
Instead it’s slow and insidious, slinking through you like ink through water, until it permeates every inch of your soul.
It’s a shallow wound to the gut, the kind where pain takes its sweet time to arrive, where you end up on your knees, wondering why you didn’t address it sooner.
Because you thought it would go away.
By then your ruptured heart will slowly bleed you to death.
There’s only one feeling when you know you’ve lost love.
I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.
Except, right now, as I sit in my chair in the sitting room, my eyes locked with the roaring fire, I do wish it on them.
My enemy right now is my wife.
The very woman I so reluctantly fell in love with years ago.
The woman that chased me and hounded me until I agreed to be hers. The woman that promised me that she would be a perfect queen, and that we would raise perfect children, and I’d have that life I thought I missed out on when I was young.
A life where you are loved.
I was wrong.
I know my place in this world. I know I became a king far too young, far before I was ready. And I know how this all works, that marriage for love rarely exists for royals like us. But that didn’t stop the disappointment when I found out about Helena’s…indiscretion.
Instead the anger got stronger. Kindling to a fire.
Disappointment fueling the flames.
I can’t ignore it anymore.
I can’t be that person, that King.
I’m supposed to lead this country and yet I can’t even face the hard truths.
My wife doesn’t love me.
And I don’t think she ever did.
It was all just part of the game, the game of bringing a man like me to my knees, head into the guillotine. She wanted the glory. She wanted to win.
I think about Clara and Freja and I wonder when they’ll realize that everything between their mother and I is a lie. I think about how old I was when I discovered my own parents hated each other. Pretty young, I’d say. It wasn’t hard to miss. You know when there’s a lack of love in the house, a fracture in the family. I don’t know what it’s like to grow up with all of that intact but I know I’ll do whatever I can to ensure my girls don’t have the same upbringing as I did.
Which is why I’m here in the royal estate on the island of Madeira.
Waiting for her.
It’s April, just after Easter, when the two of us used to come here as a kick-off to the summer season. It’s too wet in Denmark to go sailing but Madeira is just warming up. The nights can be cold where the estate is, high up on the slopes of the central mountain range, hence the roaring fire. Helena always complained that we were too far from the beaches but with most of Scandinavia spending their winters here, this site was chosen for absolute protection and privacy.
She doesn’t know I’m here.
You’d think she would but that would require her actually talking to me on a daily basis. We might share the same palace but we don’t even share a bedroom anymore.
She’s flying here, landing in about an hour.
It’s dark already, eight p.m.
If she thinks of me at all, she probably thinks that I’m in Norway still, having a meeting with King Arvid, which is where I was this morning. But in the air on the way back to Copenhagen, I told my advisor Ludwig and the pilot that I didn’t want to go back home.
I wanted to come to Madeira, to surprise my wife.
I hadn’t been with her on a proper holiday in some time, so naturally everyone thought it was a romantic gesture.
“Sir,” the voice of Ludwig breaks through my thoughts. “It’s almost time. Should I have Edward pick her up?”
Edward is the sole caretaker of the estate here, which means he doubles as a driver.
I turn in my seat to see Ludwig standing by the door, his posture rigid as always. Ludwig was my father’s advisor until he passed away, and now he’s mine. I like the old man, even if he seems too formal at times. I’ve always been taught to never treat your staff like friends, but it would be nice to have a friend sometimes.
“Don’t worry about it,” I tell him. “I’ll drive.”
“Sir?” Ludwig says, somehow standing even taller.
I ease myself up off the chair. “It would be a better surprise, don’t you think, for her to see me at the airstrip?”
“Your Majesty, it’s dark and it’s a terrible road, you know this.”
“And you know that I’m a more than capable driver.”
I’m not being modest. Back in the wild child days of my twenties, I was one of the top rally drivers in Denmark. Then I suffered a terrible crash and at the demands of my parents and the public, I switched from cars to boats. Less collisions on the water, less chance of losing the heir to the throne.
“It really isn’t right to let you drive. The risks…”
“But I’m the King,” I point out as I stride toward him.
He sighs, looking down at his feet. “Precisely.”
“You can’t stop me, Luddie.”
“I won’t, sir,” he says. He gives me a wary glance. “Just … you’re the only king we have. Promise me that you’ll let Nicklas drive the way back.”
I can’t help the sour smile on my face. I pat Ludwig on the back and move past him.
No one has any idea, do they?
Or if they do, they’re incredibly good at keeping Helena’s secrets.
I ought to have a secret of my own one day, one that’s better than faking a loveless marriage.
Because that’s the truth now. She may have fallen out of love with me but I was soon to follow. How can you let your heart beat for someone when they’ve already torn it in two?
I grab a light jacket from the hall and head out towards the black SUV. Normally Helena insists on riding in a Rolls Royce or Town Cars but with the rugged terrain here on the island, a Land Rover is better.
I get in and start heading down the long winding driveway past the dormant rows of our own on-site winery and out the gates.
I’m struck by a vague memory, of being a child when we used to come here as a family. Running through the vineyards with my sister Stella, hiding from my nanny when it was bedtime. I was so young and so free, only because I didn’t know any better. I didn’t realize the trap of royalty, that having money and privilege came at a terrible price that you could never ignore.
I was groomed to be a king from the day I was born.
I just never knew what that meant.
I never knew what it would take from me.
My hands tighten on the wheel as I drive through the dark, under old oak trees. The road twists and turns like an artery.
I’m trying to think about what I’m going to say to them.
But whenever I form words in my head, rage takes over.
So I let my mind go blank for the rest of the drive until I’m pulling up just outside the airstrip, thirty minutes later. Normally I wouldn’t go anywhere without Ludwig, or a royal attendant such as Edward, but as King, I can make my own rules and tonight I needed to be alone. Besides, no one would even suspect that it’s me behind the wheel at this tiny private airstrip at the base of the mountains.
I keep the car running, peering over the steering wheel to see one of our small private jets. Helena and Nicklas are walking away from the plane. She’s a little ahead of him, keeping up appearances. For now.
They walk through the gate in the chain-link fence, Helena spotting the car.
But as they get closer, her gait slows, her brow is furrowed as much as the Botox will allow. Rain has started to fall, blurring her image through the windshield. She knows it’s me.
I get out of the car and nod to her and Nicklas.
The look on her face is priceless. I wish I were a bigger man than to relish such petty desires but it’s the truth. She’s looking at me with pure disappointment, realizing now that she can’t spend her trip fucking Nicklas. Followed by fear. Fear that she’ll be found out, fear that I know something—why else would I be here?
“Did you have a nice flight?” I ask them, keeping my voice steady and light. It’s amazing how well I can do that. My features rarely betray the inferno inside.