I walk purposefully through the door of Guthrie House—the historical home of the Heir Apparent and my residence for the last year. Home Prison Home. I take the stairs two at a time to my bedroom. It feels good to have a purpose, a direction, a plan.
And my plan is to drink until I forget my fucking name. All of them.
The pages that cover the walls flutter like birds’ wings as I breeze into the room. I wasn’t joking when I said my grandmother had sent me a forest’s worth of documents. I taped them all around the room so I can read while I dress, fall asleep, first wake up. I have to keep my eyes closed when I rub one out—governmental doctrines are a boner-killer. I’m also secretly hoping to absorb the information through sheer proximity. Hasn’t worked so far; osmosis is bullshit.
I shrug out of my navy suit—a constricting, uncomfortable thing. Though I’ve been told I wear it like a boss, it’s not my style. Every time I put it on it feels like I’m sliding into someone else’s skin.
I remember when I was five or six, I tried on one of Dad’s suits. Mum took a dozen photos, laughing at my adorableness. I wonder if they’re in the attic somewhere or, more likely, in the possession of the royal historian who’ll publish them after I’m dead. To prove that Prince Henry was a real boy, once upon a time.
I idolized my father. He always seemed so tall to me . . . larger than life. He was wise and sure, there wasn’t a job he couldn’t do—but he had a playful streak as well. A bit of a rule-breaker. He’d take Nicholas and me to concerts and amusement parks even though it turned the security team’s hair gray. He didn’t mind if we played rough or dirty. Once he walked out of a meeting with the Prime Minister to join in a snowball fight we were having in the courtyard.
Some days, it feels like I’m still wearing my dad’s suit. And no matter how hard I try . . . it’ll never fit.
“What do you think you’re doing?” my crusty butler Fergus asks, glaring down at the ball of suit on the floor.
I shrug a faded T-shirt over my head and button my favorite jeans. “I’m going to The Goat.”
He harrumphs predictably. “The Queen tol’ you to stay put.”
I have two theories on how Fergus always seems to know the things he does: either he has the whole palace wired for sound and video, which he observes from some secret control room or it’s the all-knowing, all-seeing “lazy” eye. One day I may ask him—though he’ll probably just call me a cretin for asking.
I step into a worn pair of combat boots. “Exactly. And we both know I’m rubbish at doing what I’m told. Have the car brought around.”
IF THE CAPITAL WERE A uni campus, The Horny Goat would be my safe space. My cocoon. My Snuggie—if those came with bottles of alcohol in their pockets.
It’s an historical landmark, one of the oldest buildings in the city—with a leaky roof, crooked walls, and perpetually sticky floorboards. Rumor has it, way back in the day it was a brothel—which is quite poetic. Not because of the debauchery, but because of the secrets these walls have always held. And still do. Not a single news story about my brother or me has ever leaked out from under its rickety door. Not one drunken royal quote uttered here has ever been repeated or reprinted.
What happens in Vegas doesn’t always stay in Vegas—but what happens at The Goat never sees the light of day.
The man responsible for the hush-hush environment is the owner, Evan Macalister—The Goat’s been in his family for generations. When I slide onto the bar stool, he’s the stout, flannel-shirt-wearing bloke who puts a frothy pint in front of me.
I hold up my palm. “Step aside, Guinness—this is a job for whiskey.”
He grabs a bottle from behind the bar, pouring me a shot. “Rough day at the Palace, Your Highness?”
“They’re all I seem to have lately.” I bring the shot to my lips, tilt my head back, and swallow it down.
Most people drink to dull the senses, to forget. But the burn that singes my throat is a welcome pain. It makes me feel awake. Alive. It gives me focus.
I motion for another.
“Where’s Meg tonight?” I ask.
She’s Macalister’s daughter, and a former late-night rendezvous of my brother’s before he met little Olive. I’m not picky when it comes to women, I don’t mind seconds and there’s nothing sloppy about Meg—but I wouldn’t fuck her even if the world were ending. My one rule when it comes to the opposite sex is to not dip my wick anywhere remotely near where my brother’s has been.
That’s just disgusting.
Still, I’d rather be looking at her pretty face—and arse.
“She’s out with the lad she’s been seeing. Tristan or Preston or some other girl’s blouse name like that.” He pours a shot for himself, muttering, “He’s a useless bastard.”
“Aren’t we all?”
He chuckles. “That’s what the wife likes to remind me of. Accordin’ to her I was hopeless before she got her hands on me.”
I raise my glass. “To good women—may they never stop seeing us as we could be, and not what we are.”
“Amen.” He taps his shot glass to mine and we both drain our glasses.
“I’ll drink to that.”
This quip comes from a petite brunette who slips onto the stool beside me.
I can practically feel James, my light-haired, stalwart security shadow, watching us from his spot near the door. I’m used to security detail, it’s not new, but in the last year it’s gotten heavier, tighter—like a noose.