She does so, and I put my hands on top of hers.

This is the most intimate we’ve been in public.

To Johan or the girls below or the royal attendants on the other boat, it looks like I’m giving her a sailing lesson.

They don’t know that I’m kissing the top of her head, salt spray on my lips.

They don’t know that I’m pressing an erection into the curves of her ass.

They don’t know that I’m whispering in her ear.

“Jeg elsker dig.”

I love you.

Though I can’t see her face, I can feel her smile. She hooks her thumb onto the side of my hand and squeezes.

“Jeg elsker dig,” she whispers back, but I barely hear it, her words caught by the wind.

I’ve never felt so much in my element before, I’ve never felt so alive. Here, on the boat with her protected between me and the wheel, I feel pure happiness rise out of me, like a phoenix from the ashes of the person I once was.

Nothing can take this moment away from me, I think. Not even death will erase this from my mind.

I’m not sure if Aurora is picking up on how I’m feeling or if she’s just doing better, but she doesn’t go back inside. She stays at the wheel, even as I’m pulling ropes and letting out sails.

She’s made of hardy stock, that’s for sure. When she first took the job, I thought that her “roughness” would be a detriment to the position. After all, it was all about poise and grace and raising two princesses. But instead of poise and grace, she brought grit and guts. She rose to every challenge that the girls and I threw her way, and more than that, she rose up against me. She did it for the things she believed in and if it didn’t go her way, she’d argue her way out.

In other words, she’s the perfect woman to take sailing, because even with feeling seasick, she’s still toughing it out, because that’s what she does.

She’s the perfect woman period.

And now I’m tasked with figuring out how to make her stay.

Forever.

With me.

Naturally the biggest issue so far is that I haven’t been entirely honest with her and I know that day of reckoning is coming. I just pray that what we have is strong enough to survive it.

“Hey!” she says excitedly, pointing in the distance where the strait opens up and the Baltic Sea spreads before us. “A rainbow!”

I’m currently bringing in the main sail to adapt to the changing wind and look around it to see a defined rainbow in the distance where the clouds are parting and the sun is coming in.

“The wind should be dropping soon as it comes around Sweden,” I tell her. “The seas should calm.”

She gives me her happy grin. Her mouth has always been wide for her face, her smile so beguiling, but when she’s really, really happy, that’s when you see her incisors. I call them her glade tænder or “happy teeth.” She becomes a sexy adorable vampire.

“It’s smooth sailing from here on out,” she starts singing a Queens of the Stone Age song, doing a goofy little dance at the wheel.

I laugh, wanting to join in but don’t.

“Oh, you’re too cool to dance with me,” she says with a scoff.

“I’m not the best dancer,” I admit, quickly tucking the ropes away and coming over to her.

“I don’t believe it,” she says. “You’re way too good at f….” she trails off and laughs loudly, covering her mouth. Dear god, she almost didn’t stop that admission. Neither my daughters or Johan need to know how good I am in bed.

“I’m good at footless, yes,” I say, as way of a cover-up. “But not proper dancing.”

“Well, I’m sure you’re good at slow dancing if anything. Kings have to know all that shit, don’t they?”

“Yes, we have to know all that shit.”

“Then perhaps one day you’ll ask me to dance.”

She’s still smiling as she says this, but there’s something heartbreaking about it. Like we both know the only dancing we’ll ever do is in our bedrooms.

I hate this. I love this so much and I hate it at the same time.

I hate that we’re trying to stifle whatever this is meant to be.

A muzzle on a dog that was never given the chance.

“It’s sunny!” Clara exclaims as her head pops out of the hatch and looks around. “Can we come up, Papa?”

“Of course,” I tell her. “Mind the deck, it’s a bit wet and slippery and stay down in the cockpit by Aurora.”

The girls climb out and go over to her, seemingly impressed that she’s steering the boat. I put on my sunglasses and scan the water in front of us, looking for any driftwood that sometimes blows out along here.

“Are those, like, X-ray vision?” Aurora asks.

I come over to the wheel and hand them to her. “They’re just polarized. It cuts out the glare so it’s easier to see into the water.”

She lets go of the wheel as I grab on to it and puts the sunglasses on her face.

“Wow,” she says softly, looking around her. Her smile is so bright, and I can see my reflection in the glasses. I’m smiling too. “It’s like a whole new world.”

“A whole new world,” Clara starts to sing dramatically. “A new fantastic point of view.”

I shake my head at her. She loves her Disney cartoons, but she didn’t quite inherit her mother’s singing voice.

Aurora is still looking around, then she takes them off and puts them back on again. “It’s hard to tell what’s reality now.”

“It’s all the same, it’s just you’re seeing it through a different filter,” I tell her. “It makes everything you’ve known seem brand new again.”

“It’s like another dimension.”

I chuckle at how enthralled she is and carefully remove the sunglasses from her face, staring at her. “Well this is the dimension you live in. It’s still beautiful.”

But love, I guess that’s the difference. Love is like looking at the world through polarized glasses. Every single thing has changed for the better. Everything murky becomes clear again.

“Papa,” Clara says, tugging at my jacket. “When do we get to the anchor place?”

“Soon,” I reassure her.

Though some of the best anchorages are on the Swedish side across the strait, we head down the Danish coast until we get to a little cove framed by a white sand beach. Much like the beach I took Aurora to around New Year’s, it’s deserted and won’t start filling up for another month.

Which is great because we have full privacy here.

We put the anchor down and then the royal attendants’ boat does the same right next to us and then we get started on dinner.

I hate to admit it, but I’m not much of a cook. Call me spoiled or having grown up a prince with countless cooks, but I certainly lack the culinary talent.

Aurora, on the other hand, takes charge. Down in the galley, she whips up a Spanish paella that rivals even the greatest chefs at my disposal. She even makes enough to give to the RAs and Johan rows over to deliver it.

“Another hidden talent,” I tell her after a few bites. We’re all sitting around the table, digging in, a nice bottle of Bordeaux between us. Johan can’t drink it because he’s officially on duty, so it’s just between Aurora and me.

“Believe me, this was easy,” she says. “I’ve made so many meals for so many families, this is the first time I’ve been able to show off for you guys.”

“How many families did you cook for?” Freja asks.

“Oh, I wasn’t a cook. I was just the nanny. But in those houses, they didn’t have a cook, so I did that as well. I was also the driver. I did everything.”

“Was their mother dead too?” Clara asks.

I nearly drop my fork, but Aurora handles it all in stride. “No, their mothers were alive. They just needed the extra help because they worked too much.”

“Like Papa,” Freja says quietly.

Ouch. I hate having that reminder.

“Everyone has to work,” Aurora says gently. “If I had children of my own, well I’m sure they’d be upset with me for spending all my days with you.”

“Why don’t you have children?” Clara asks.

“Clara,” I hiss at her. “That’s not an appropriate question.”

“Why not?”

“It’s fine,” Aurora says, giving me a sweet smile. She looks at Clara with kind eyes. “You only have children with people you love. Or, at least, you hope it ends up that way. But as you know, and often remind me, I don’t have a boyfriend or a husband. So, for now, you’re all I’ve got.”

I know she’s saying this in a glib sort of way, just trying to move past the conversation and go back to eating but I definitely catch the strain in her voice.

“For now,” Clara repeats. “What family are you going to go to after?”

“Where are you going?” Freja practically yells in horror.

“Nowhere,” Aurora says quickly, wiping her lips with a napkin. “Absolutely nowhere.”

Clara looks at me closely, like I’m going to tell a lie. “Aurora is staying with us forever, right?”

I meet Aurora’s eyes. “I hope so,” I say gravely.

Aurora nods. “I hope so too.”

Thankfully, after that the subject is dropped, the girls start talking on and on about the Minecraft game they like to play, which normally would bore me to tears but I’m just thankful they’re not grilling Aurora with the hard questions anymore.

If one of the advantages of being on the boat is that you get to get out of the palace and go on a vacation of sorts, the downside is that there really is no privacy.

Even with a yacht of this size, there are only so many cabins to sleep in. Johan gets one at the stern and Aurora gets the other one. The girls get a bunk cabin along the side, just above the salon, and I get the V-berth at the bow.

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