Royalty, murder and scandal combine in this thrilling new series about an American girl who becomes the British Monarchy’s greatest nightmare.
Start reading an excerpt of Royal Blood now!
An Introduction from Author Aimée Carter
With all the recent headlines about the British royals, it’s sometimes easy to forget that the royal family is exactly that—a real family. But the complicated dynamics between the fictional royal family of Royal Blood and the novel’s American protagonist, Evan, the seventeen-year-old illegitimate daughter of the king of England, made the scenes between them the most dramatic and inspiring to write.
How would King Alexander II feel speaking to his secret daughter for the first time? What would his wife, the beloved Queen Helene, say to the living, breathing evidence that her husband was unfaithful? How would seventeen-year-old Princess Maisie, the haughty heir to the throne, react to meeting her half sister, whose very existence could threaten the monarchy’s future? And would Evan even really care what they think when she doesn’t want to be there at all?
While Royal Blood is full of twists and turns and romance and murder, these are the scenes that shape the heart of the story and the characters in it, and I hope you enjoy this first meeting between Evan, King Alexander, Queen Helene, and Princess Maisie at Windsor Castle.
by Aimée Carter
. . .
I try to focus on unpacking the few things that haven’t already been taken care of for me—apparently no one in the palace knows what to do with a lopsided ceramic mug full of small rocks, a collection of photos from my childhood that I’m admittedly relieved to find, and a stack of fantasy novels that were, technically speaking, considered contraband at St. Edith’s. But before I can finish arranging the books in any coherent order, my stomach gurgles. Loudly.
Jenkins is right—I haven’t eaten anything today, and food sounds like a decent distraction. I eye the silver button embedded into my nightstand, but no matter how hungry I am, I can’t make myself push it. The thought of forcing someone to walk those long corridors to get me a cheeseburger is absurd, and so, even though I know Jenkins will have my head for it, I slip out through the sitting room and into the main hallway. The lights are on—I have a feeling they always are—and thankfully Jenkins hasn’t had the chance to station anyone outside my room yet. A matter of timing instead of oversight, no doubt. I’m simply breaking the rules faster than he expects.
I’m not sure what I’m looking for. A cozy kitchenette nestled between drawing rooms? A narrow staircase that leads to a dungeon filled with pots and pans? There’s a smaller dining room set within the sharp angle where the two corridors meet, which means there has to be a secret entrance to the kitchen somewhere nearby.
As soon as I think it, I notice a door that’s cracked open and spilling soft yellow light into the hall. Enormously pleased with my own powers of deduction, I stick my head inside. But unlike the stairwell or narrow hallway I expect, it opens into a sitting room even more luxurious than mine, with a crystal chandelier hanging from the ceiling and gold-framed pictures decorating the mantel.
There’s no way the staff would risk carrying trays of food through a room that looks like it belongs in Versailles. Before I can back away, however, I hear murmurs of tense conversation.
“. . . can’t believe you’re allowing this,” says a woman, her voice soft but vicious. “Think of Maisie. Think of our daughter, not just your bas—”
“I have thought of only Maisie for far too long. Now I am thinking of both my daughters.”
The second voice is thin, but unmistakably Alexander’s. Hearing him call me his daughter makes my body go cold, and the woman—his queen consort, Helene—scoffs. “Since when have you ever wanted to be a father to that insubordinate parasite?”
“That is none of your concern,” he says, so low now I can barely understand him.
“Isn’t it? Have you any idea what you are doing to Maisie? How do you think she’ll feel, knowing her father is an adulterer who is flaunting his indiscretion right under the public’s nose?”
“She knows about Evangeline,” says Alexander tiredly. “I told her ages ago.”
“You told—are you mad?” gasps Helene, while my eyes widen. “You had no right to do so without my permission.”
“Evangeline is her sister,” he says, “and she has every right to know the truth about her family.”
“The American is inconsequential,” snarls Helene. “A footnote in history. A mistake that should have been corrected in the womb.”
I inhale sharply, feeling like she’s slapped me across the face. I never imagined she would like me, but her sheer loathing is staggering.
“Evangeline is of royal blood,” says Alexander, and he sounds more solid now. Like he did with Jenkins and Louis. “And you will be civil to her. Is that understood?”
“The only thing I understand is that you are refusing to do the right thing and send her back to the States, where she belongs.”
“She belongs where I say she belongs,” he says. “I have spent a very long time doing all I can to earn your forgiveness. I have apologized again and again, and I have kept her out of our lives. But she is nearly eighteen now, and I have a right to know my own—”
“Pardon me,” says a voice inches from my ear. “But who the hell are you?”
I whirl around. Standing behind me, with two teen boys flanking her, is the last person I want to see right now. Or ever.
The important thing is not what they think of me, but what I think of them.
—Queen Victoria (b. 1819, r. 1837–1901)
We look nothing alike.
I know that’s a ridiculous thing to think as Maisie and I stare at each other, me shocked into silence and her waiting for my reply. But we don’t. She has wavy strawberry-blond hair that makes her look like she’s just stepped out of a world-class salon, and her eyes aren’t icy, like they seem in some photos, but a vivid ocean blue. She’s taller than me, too, by a good four inches, which makes it easy for her to look down her button nose at me.
“Are you deaf?” she says in a honeyed voice that sounds almost exactly like her mother’s. “Or simply stupid?”
“Maisie,” says one of the boys behind her, and there’s no mistaking the gentle warning in his tone. He has dark hair that’s a touch too shaggy for royalty, and he holds my stare, his expression somber. I look away.
“What? It’s a fair question,” says Maisie, and she refocuses on me. “You have one more chance before we call security. What are you doing in my—”
“Maisie?” The door I’m leaning against flies open, and I lose my balance, nearly stumbling directly into the Queen. Helene gasps, and I manage to avoid her by an inch, grabbing the doorway instead.
“I’m sorry,” I croak, desperately wishing the ground would open up and I could disappear. “I was looking for—for the kitchen.”
“The kitchens?” Maisie glances at her mother, seemingly bewildered. “Are you a maid?”
I consider lying and saying yes—anything to get out of here—but before I can come up with a coherent reply, Alexander appears behind his wife. “Evangeline?” he says, his face draining of color. “What are you doing here?”
“Evangeline?” The Queen instantly goes cold, and her eyes narrow into slits. “Alexander—”
“It’s Evan,” I say, my voice shaking, “and I’m leaving. I just wanted a sandwich, all right? And there aren’t exactly any signs in this place.”
“There’s no need for you to leave,” says Alexander, but he’s wrong. As I try to escape this sudden nightmare, however, Maisie blocks my way.
“Is someone going to tell me what’s going on?” she says. “Or am I supposed to guess?”
The silence that follows is profound. Helene looks to Alexander, and he looks to the floor as if he’s also waiting for it to swallow him whole. Neither of them says a word, and I can feel Maisie’s frustration building.
“Fine,” I say. I already know hell will freeze before I win Helene over, and I doubt it’ll be any better with Maisie. I have nothing to lose, except the chance to get out of here with any shred of dignity I have left intact. I turn to Maisie and stick out my hand. “I’m Evan Bright, the royal bastard. From what I hear, we’re half sisters.”
She recoils like I’ve offered her a rotting limb. “Is this true?” she demands, speaking past me to her parents. “This is your illegitimate issue, Father?”
“This isn’t how I’d hoped you would meet,” says Alexander stiffly. “If we could all sit down . . .”
But I have no desire to stick around and hear him apologize for allowing a stain onto their impeccable family tree. “Excuse me,” I mumble, forcing my way past Maisie and the two boys who stand behind her. The shorter one—a blond with glasses who looks unnervingly familiar—gapes at me, while the dark-haired boy with a solemn gaze simply watches. I don’t know who they are, and I don’t care. All I want is to get as far away from this circus as possible.
My range is limited, though, and so I race down the corridor until I reach my sitting room. Bolting inside, I slam the door hard enough to wake the corpse of Henry VIII, and as the reverberation gives way to silence, I slide down to the floor and press my knees against my chest, burying my face in my trembling arms.
I don’t cry. Even though Helene’s words echo endlessly in my mind, and even though the disgust on Maisie’s face is etched onto the back of my eyelids, I swallow the lump in my throat, refusing to give them the satisfaction. I’m nothing to them, and there’s some small amount of comfort in that.
Twenty-five days, and I’ll be gone. And after I leave, I will never, ever come back.
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