Recently docked after a voyage abroad, Emmett wants only to find a warm bed and good food, for himself and the cabin boy he's taken into his care. Those plans are impeded, however, by an altercation in the streets -- with a man he realizes too late is England's heir to the throne, Prince Andrewe.
When the encounter unexpectedly leads to a position in the royal household attending the prince, Emmett is not certain what to think. On one hand, it's a reliable income and ensures the safety of his charge. On the other, it's neither the life Emmett knows, nor an environment that he's comfortable in. Left to learn his lessons the hard way, Emmett spends his days contending with a spoiled, infuriating prince who leaves him in a constant tangle of emotions.
Then he begins to hear whispers of treason and must make a choice: defend Prince Andrewe or betray him.
He rode the horse furiously, his anger mounting with every step the beast took. He didn't pause for the stable hand to secure the animal, nor pay attention to the watchmen at the door of the castle. Emmett strode in like he owned the place -- for all of about four seconds. He wasn't even aware of the guards' intentions until the first slammed into his back and he found himself being tackled to the floor.
"Unhand me," Emmett growled. "I wish to speak to the king."
A snort sounded in his ear. A knee dug into his spine and Emmett roared in both fury and pain.
"Gentlemen, gentlemen," a known voice reprimanded in an amused tone that only increased the anger coursing through Emmett's blood.
Emmett twisted his neck to glower at Andrewe. "Call them off!" he barked.
Andrewe lifted an eyebrow and walked casually towards Emmett. He squatted just as leisurely and stared Emmett in the eyes. "Perhaps you'd like to repeat that request as a request instead of a command?"
"Andrewe?" Emmett was sure it was the queen that spoke but he was unable to gain visual confirmation. "Why are there men rolling about on the floor of our entrance?"
"I am unsure, Mother," Andrewe grinned at Emmett's distress. "Although I am finding it quite entertaining." He nodded at the guard pinning Emmett to the ground and as if reading Andrewe's mind, Emmett was lifted back to his feet. "Emmett," Andrewe asked calmly, "is there something upsetting you?"
Though Andrewe's tone was composed, Emmett could see the delight dancing in his eyes. It annoyed Emmett to no end. He spoke through gritted teeth, "I have come to decline your offer, your Highness. Although one can hardly call it an offer when it was never presented to me in the first place. Perhaps next time his Highness wishes to ask a favour," Emmett lifted his eyebrow at the word and glared at Andrewe knowingly, "he will think to ask that favour of the man he wishes to acquire it from instead of skulking behind that man's back to make deals with family members."
The way Andrewe's face fell as Emmett spoke was confusing and Emmett found himself faltering for further speech. "You wish to decline?" Andrewe's voice held true surprise. "I ..." Andrewe tilted his head and frowned. "I don't know what to say." Andrewe paused, looked over at his mother, looked back at Emmett and stepped forward, closing the gap between them. "Why?"
Emmett resisted the urge to shake his head. Why? He suddenly felt more foolish that righteous. Why, indeed. What sane man would turn away a position within the castle? "Well, because," Emmett flushed. "Because you ... your father ... the king ... he," Emmett sighed in frustration. "Because you didn't ask me. You tried to trade me like I was a commodity."
It was the king that spoke next, though Emmett had not heard him enter the room. "Not true, sir. Not true in the least. I broached the subject with your father merely because I understood your position on your father's ship to be both valuable and necessary. I would be uncomfortable leaving your family and your employer in a position of need."
"King Richard," the guard that had caught Emmett's entry announced behind him and Emmett heard the descent of several knees. It took Emmett a further minute of silence to realize he was still standing. His blush grew and he began to sink.
"No," King Richard corrected. "Stay on your feet, Emmett. You came to discuss this as a man, so let's discuss it as such." Richard lifted a hand towards Andrewe, who watched the exchange with a petulant look. "Unless by chance you would prefer to speak with Andrewe directly? Perhaps in private?"
Emmett swallowed hard and fought to keep his composure. King Richard's presence was striking. He was every bit as handsome as his son but with an edge that promised both swift and brutal retribution should the cause be warranted. Where Emmett bit his tongue out of duty for Andrewe, he held it out of fear for Richard. "As you wish, your Majesty."