Up for Heir - Stella Starling

Chapter One


Leopold Octavius Ambrose van Rosavia, the crown prince of the mountain kingdom of Rosavia, was not a fan of ties or any of the occasions which required wearing one. Luckily for him, he was the crown prince, a fact that had uniquely prepared him with all the skills required to weasel out of a fair number of those occasions.

But not, unfortunately, all of them… and this morning’s had been excruciating.

“Magenta, Hugo?” he asked, tugging his tie off and tossing it at his valet. “Really?”

“The color suits you, Your Highness,” the most stubborn and annoying valet in the palace said mildly, as unruffled as he’d been with every other one of Leo’s outbursts over the last fifteen years. Hugo smoothed the tie out and hung it carefully, then turned and caught Leo’s wrist, making quick work of removing the rose-shaped cufflink. “And at least,” he added as he reached for Leo’s other wrist, “you were not required to dress more formally.”

Leo smirked, then caught himself. He would not be amused by his valet. Hugo was a menace, and that dry delivery of his had caught Leo unawares too many times to count. Hugo was also right, though. A tie was far preferable to having to parade around in those damn rose-patterned silk trousers that some diabolical ancestor had decreed as the national dress. Leo was convinced it had been an ancient prank gone wrong, and all four of his brothers agreed. Unfortunately, they were still stuck with it.

“That brunch was hellish,” Leo said, slipping his dress shirt off and rolling his shoulders back with a sigh as soon as Hugo turned away with the cufflinks.

“Perhaps if you’d been a bit more… alert.”

Leo ignored the jibe. His hangover had been both well-earned and totally worth it… if the flashes of memory from the night before could be relied on, at least. Which, honestly, he wasn’t entirely sure was the case. He really had tied one on. Was a country as small as Rosavia really the home of triplets as gorgeous and… athletic as the ones he may or may not have ended up in bed with? And more importantly, why hadn’t he discovered that fact years before?

“A shower may revive you, Your Highness,” Hugo said smoothly, scooping Leo’s shirt up before it hit the floor and shaking it out, then whisking it out of sight before the ever-rambunctious Treble, the bane of Leo’s existence, could sink her feisty little feline claws into it. “And I’ll have appropriate attire selected for this afternoon’s engagement once you—”

“What?” Leo interrupted, pausing in the act of stripping off his slacks to pin his valet with a well-practiced and extremely regal look. “I don’t have an afternoon engagement.”

One of Hugo’s eyebrows went up, a traitorous sparkle in his eyes despite his perfectly calm outward demeanor. “On the contrary—”

“Don’t test me, Hugo,” Leo growled, already over this day despite the fact that it was just past noon. “Cancel it.”

He needed a nap. Possibly some bacon. Maybe an hour in the weight room. Definitely a few aspirin.

“I’m afraid that won’t be possible, Your Highness,” Hugo said with a bland smile, traitorous sparkle still fully present and accounted for. “Their Royal Majesties—” Leo’s parents, “—have informed me that your presence will be required at a civic ceremony this afternoon in Alpina.”

Leo narrowed his eyes, neatly sidestepping when Treble tried to bat at his knee. “No.”

But… piss pot. It was going to end up being yes, wasn’t it? Of course it was. And sure enough, Hugo held Leo’s gaze steadily, his lined face giving away nothing and yet still somehow managing to come across as gleeful. “I believe, Your Highness, that the event is an important opportunity for the royal family to show its support of the recent education and literacy initiative that your brother championed at the last—”

“For God’s sake, Hugo,” Leo snapped without letting him finish. He stepped out of his pants and dumped them on Treble’s head, muffling her annoyed meow, before stomping away from his valet in the direction of the en suite bathroom. “If this event has to do with Sander’s pet project, then make Sander go,” he tossed over his shoulder. “I’m not leaving the palace again today unless it’s to get laid.”

Only said to get a rise out of the unflappable Hugo—yet another fail—but, come to think of it, possibly a more effective hangover remedy than the aspirin. Getting laid, of course, not the impossible task of breaking the impeccably proper Hugo Falk’s reserve.