The third book in the New York Times bestselling American Royals series by Katharine McGee is out on May 31, 2022, and a meeting of monarchs will test everyone’s loyalty to the crown…and their own hearts. Read an excerpt and pre-order now!
Sneak Peek Excerpt
Daphne breezed through the revolving door to the King’s College library, where students were busy typing at their laptops or flipping through books. She wasn’t particularly worried about being seen; anyone who recognized her would assume she was on campus to visit Jefferson.
The guy behind the reference desk looked up at her approach. From his blank expression, it was clear that he had no idea who Daphne was. “Can I help you find something?”
“I’m looking for Nina,” Daphne said brightly. “She’s still on her shift, right?”
“She’s here,” he started to say, just as Nina emerged from the back room. Her eyes widened when she saw Daphne at the desk.
“I’ve got this one, Greg.” Nina’s voice was deadly quiet.
Greg shrugged and vanished into the back. The moment he was gone, Nina whirled on her.
“Seriously, Daphne? You’re stalking me now?”
Daphne held her gaze. “I tried calling you, but you never answered.”
“Because I have no desire to talk to you!” Nina spluttered. “How did you even get my number? Did you hack my phone?”
“Don’t be so dramatic. I asked Jefferson for your info.” At the mention of the prince, Nina hesitated, and Daphne hurried to keep talking. “I told him that we bonded at the library event, and said I wanted your number, since we’re friends now.”
“You and I are not friends,” Nina snapped.
Daphne gave a cool smile. “Of course not. But I want to talk. I have a proposition for you.”
“I’m not interested.”
“Just hear me out, okay?”
Daphne wasn’t used to working this hard for attention. Her words were falling on deaf ears; Nina grabbed a cart laden with books and began pushing it toward a freight elevator. “I have to shelve these.”
“I’ll come with you, then.”
Nina rolled her eyes but didn’t argue as Daphne followed her into the elevator. She leaned over the cart and pressed the lowest button, presumably taking them all the way to the basement.
“We’re going somewhere quiet, right?” Daphne wished they weren’t having this conversation in a public place.
“You don’t want anyone to overhear your dark, twisted plots?” Nina asked sarcastically.
“Not really. I’d prefer the dark and twisted stay between us.”
Nina made a hmph sound, though Daphne detected a note of amusement beneath the annoyance.
When the doors opened onto the C floor, Nina pushed her cart out into the deserted stacks. The lights of each section flickered on at her approach, only to dim again when she’d passed. Daphne trailed along in her wake, footsteps echoing in the stillness.
It should have been creepy down here, but Daphne didn’t really mind. There was something oddly comforting about being surrounded by thousands of books.
“I’ve been thinking a lot about our respective problems,” she began, “and I realized that we can work together.”
Nina removed a cloth-bound volume labeled Theodore: The Boy King and knelt down, her finger trailing along the spines until she found whatever call number she was looking for. She wedged the book into its spot on the bottom shelf, then stood. “I’m not interested. Find someone else to be the pawn in your scheme.”
“Even if the scheme is to take down Gabriella?” Daphne replied, and Nina fell still.
This was an outrageous, outlandish proposal. A week ago, the thought of asking Nina for help with anything would have made Daphne burst into laughter. Yet she’d been toying with this idea for a few days now, and the more she thought about it, the more appealing it seemed.
“I don’t like this any more than you do, but it makes a weird kind of sense. We both want to get out from under Gabriella’s thumb,” Daphne hurried to explain. “We just need to find something on her—”
“Find something on her? What does that mean?”
“Something incriminating. That way we can hold it over Gabriella’s head: threaten to use it against her unless she gives back your scholarship and lets my family keep our title.”
A flurry of emotions darted over Nina’s face, stunned shock giving way to incredulity. “Is this seriously how your mind works? You went straight to blackmail?”
“You’re right,” Daphne said crisply. “We should just walk up to Gabriella and ask her to pretty-please stop bullying us.”
Nina grabbed the cart with both hands and began pushing it again. “Even if that’s true, there’s no way I could work with you.”
Daphne trotted to keep up. “You don’t have to like me, Nina. You just have to team up with me against the person who’s ruining both our lives.”
“Why are you so desperate for my help?”
“This is a two-person job,” Daphne began, but Nina’s eyes narrowed in sudden suspicion.
“You’re setting me up to take the fall, aren’t you? If you get caught, I’m the one who’ll go down for it, not you!” Nina shook her head. “I’m not going to be your scapegoat.”
“See, this is why I need you—because you’re smart!”
“Did you actually just compliment me?”
“I was stating a fact. You are smart. Smart enough to second-guess me, and I respect that.” Daphne met Nina’s gaze. “But I swear I’m not going to sell you out.”
“Maybe I’ll sell you out,” Nina warned.
“Maybe,” Daphne agreed, “but I don’t think you will. You’re too honorable to betray someone like that. Even someone you hate,” she added, in a softer tone.
Nina said nothing for a long time, but she didn’t tell Daphne to leave, so Daphne stayed. She trailed alongside the cart as Nina reshelved books throughout the biographies section. The silence between them was heavy, but not uncomfortable, probably because neither of them expected the other to fill it. It was a simple, undemanding silence, the kind of silence that falls between two very good friends—or between two people who don’t care about each other at all.
Daphne watched, a bit curious, as Nina led them to a door along one wall marked oversized. She flicked on the lights, revealing a storage room filled with various items that wouldn’t fit on the shelves: atlases with pages the size of a poster, scrolls rolled up in cylindrical tubes. Nina pulled an oversized book of maps from the cart and shelved it. Finally she cleared her throat.
“If we were going to do this—and that’s a very hypothetical if—what would our plan be?”
Daphne tried, and failed, to hide a smile. “Gabriella is having a birthday party at her family’s house this weekend. You and I will both be there.”
“She won’t let me in the door. I insulted her in front of all her friends,” Nina reminded her.
“She can’t turn you away if you come with Jefferson. Even Gabriella wouldn’t dare tell him no.”
Nina frowned. “And then what?”
“We snoop through Gabriella’s room, look for something incriminating. Or, I do the snooping while you stand guard.”
“What do you expect to find?”
“Anything! Prescription drugs that were prescribed to someone else. Love letters. Sexy photos. A diary would be best, though I doubt we’ll get that lucky.”
Nina sounded dubious. “What if we snoop through her room and don’t find anything?”
“We’ll find something,” Daphne assured her. “Everyone has made a mistake. Everyone is hiding some kind of secret.”
Nina met her gaze, and Daphne wondered if she was thinking of the various secrets she’d buried. Or maybe Nina was so genuinely open and honest that she had no secrets, and was really just remembering all of Daphne’s. There were certainly plenty of them.
“Okay. Let’s do it,” Nina said at last. “Just to be clear, though, I still hate you.”
“That makes sense, because I still hate you,” Daphne said pleasantly. “I just happen to hate Gabriella more.”