Dating the Prince

By: Addison Quinn
CHAPTER ONE



Prince Alexander of Durham had grown up with the best of the best, and that included his education. But all of his highly skilled and extremely well-paid teachers, tutors, and professors had failed to tell him what a train wreck falling in love created. Right now, he was definitely cursing the day he met that harpy Isla Martin.

“So there’s been no improvement in public opinion?” The king’s voice boomed around the council room, bouncing off the fifteen foot tall ceilings. The crystals on the chandelier hanging directly above the two-hundred-year-old mahogany table shook. His icy blue eyes pierced each adviser in turn, and Alex watched as they visibly shrank in their crushed velvet chairs.

Six months ago, Alex had thought that one day he’d command a room in a similar way. Now he’d be lucky to command an ant, let alone a country.

“Approval ratings continue to drop, Your Majesty.” Maggie adjusted her red glasses, pushing the frames up the bridge of her nose. She was perhaps ten years older than Alex, with frizzy red hair and a typically happy demeanor. But her smiles had been noticeably absent since Isla began telling every media outlet who would listen what a cheating scumbag the crown prince of Durham was.

The dull ache behind Alex’s eyes grew more piercing. Isla flashed into his mind, with her tousled bottle-blonde hair and ruby-red lips pursed together in a pout. She was half American, so he’d tried to ignore her advances. But eventually he’d fallen prey to her charms.

He’d been toying with the idea of proposing when he found Isla with another man. She’d wasted no time spreading lies about the breakup, proving just how talented an actress she was.

“How much lower can the approval ratings get?” His mother’s mouth pulled down in a deep frown and her eyes narrowed. Queen Nicolette was used to things going her way.

Maggie adjusted her glasses again. “Isla appeared on another talk show this morning. A small one, but the clip is circulating on social media.”

“Surly she’s spoken with every reporter in Durham, the United States, and most of Europe by now.” A hint of a Galian accent slipped through the queen’s words—a sure sign that she was upset.

“Apparently there are still a few left,” Maggie said.

Frustration made Alex’s chest tighten, but he refused to let his emotions show. “I’m avoiding the press as much as possible. I could go on talk shows and tell the truth, but we’ve agreed that trying to change the narrative is too risky. What else is there to do?”

Nicolette sniffed. “We keep our heads held high and hope this storm passes. Royalty do not engage the media. I refuse to let Isla drag you into the mud with her.”

Alex gave a mirthless laugh. “From where I stand, it’s looking pretty muddy. The only thing that will make Isla back off is ruining me for good, or wearing the crown herself.” Initially, Alex had wondered if Isla went to the press in hopes of hush money. But their only discussion after the breakup had made it clear she was after something money couldn’t buy—fame. And being dumped by the crown prince of Durham had put her on the radar of every producer and director in Durham and the United States.

Nicolette laughed, scorn making each note a sharp barb. “I will die before I allow a gold digging American to become a member of this family.”

At least they were in agreement on that. “Then I don’t know what you want from me.”

“What about a new girlfriend?” one of the advisers suggested. “Someone to take the attention off Isla.”

Alex leveled him with a glare. “You can’t be serious.”

The man’s face paled and he looked down at the tabletop. “Only a suggestion, Your Highness. I apologize.”

“A ridiculous suggestion.”

“I’d be lying if I said it hadn’t crossed my mind,” Maggie said. “What we need is a bigger news story to steal the spotlight. A blossoming relationship might accomplish that.”

“You can’t be serious.” Alex’s shoulders ached from the tension lodged there. “I’d never subject some poor girl to Isla’s wrath.”

Maggie held up a placating hand. “It was just an idea that crossed my mind.”

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