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“Other than he has it in for me? Other than he knows he can get away with it? He told me once he was in your room.”

“What!?” she exclaims so loudly that the girls look this way.

“It’s nothing, go back to your games,” I tell them.

Aurora grabs me by the collar, tight. “What do you mean he was in my room?”

Right. Well I suppose I did shit the bed on that one. “He says he was looking for you. I don’t know if I believe him or not, but he saw your vase and decided to comment on how expensive it was.”

“Oh god. Oh god. What if he stole my underwear?”

“Please don’t say that.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

“This was just after Christmas,” I explain. “I roughed him up a bit.”

“I can’t believe you have to rough up your own staff.”

“You know how he is and there was no point telling you. You would get upset and then you’d want him fired and I couldn’t tell you why I couldn’t fire him.”

“You and I are a fucking mess,” she says, releasing me and folding her arms across her chest.

“Well where is your diary now?”

“It’s in the belly of the plane. I took it with me. And the first thing I’m going to write in it is what a big fat jerk you are.”

I burst out laughing. I can’t help it.

“What? You are. Dear diary, King Asshole was an asshole again.”

“I hope you’re including all the times I made you come in there.”

Her mouth drops, and she looks over at the girls to see if they heard but they now have their earphones on. Smart girls.

“How can you be so, so trivial about all this?” she cries out. “We’re going to land into a shitstorm and it was most likely your blackmailing employee who did this, threw me under a fucking bus. How are you going to deal with him?”

I shrug and it’s like I’m shrugging off the world. It’s hard to explain.

I think it’s because there’s a press conference tomorrow and I’ll finally be able to tell our truths.

Also, “If it was him, then he’s fired.”

“But you can’t fire him.”

“I most certainly can.”

“He’ll get back at you.”

“He already has gotten back at me. Why do you think this happened? He knows how I feel about you, how you feel about me. He knew it for certain during the ball. He’s not stupid. He found your diary on one of the many days you weren’t in your room and he’s been holding this stuff to his chest for a long time, digging up all the dirt on you that he could to ruin what we have together. But it’s not going to work.”

“But you can’t fire him. He’s going to tell the truth about…that night.”

“Then let him.”

Let him. Let him say what he needs to, and we’ll see what happens after.

“This is a gamble, Aksel.”

“Life’s a gamble.” I glance at the girls, lost in concentration on their games. But I won’t gamble them.

I undo my seatbelt and get out of the seat, taking a moment to stretch before I crouch down in the aisle beside them, staring at them until they pause their games and take off their headphones.

“What is it Papa?” Clara asks, glancing at me and then Aurora sitting behind me, in annoyance for having interrupted her.

“Girls,” I say in my stern father voice. “I have something very important I need to tell you, so I want your full attention. This is a conversation for big girls, grown-ups, and I need you to listen.”

They nod eagerly. Probably think I’m going to get them a pony or something. They’d have a whole farm if they could.

“You know that I love you both very, very much,” I tell them. “And you know that Aurora also loves you very, very much. But we also love each other very, very much.”

The girls are still nodding. I’m not sure they get it.

I reach back for Aurora’s hand and hold it against my shoulder. “I know no one will ever replace your mother. I know that. But…” I don’t even know how to word this right when there’s still a lot of uncertainty, “I want to be with her in the way I was with your mother.”

Clara cocks her head. “Is she going to become a queen?”

“Jaaaaaa,” Freja hisses. “Goddess queen.”

I laugh. “That’s what I hope.” And that’s all I can say because it’s all that I hope.

“Is she going to live in the palace forever?” Clara asks.

“That’s also what I hope.”

“Will she still be our nanny?” Freja asks.

I glance over my shoulder at Aurora, brows raised. A little help?

Aurora leans forward, smiling. “I’ll be your nanny always. But I’ll also be more than that. Remember when you asked if I had a boyfriend? Right now, that’s what your father is. And I love him a whole bloody lot.”

“But you’ll still live with us,” Clara says.

“I’m not going anywhere. In fact, this might mean I live with you forever.”

“Wait,” Freja says, scrunching up her nose. “Does this mean you’ll kiss each other?”

I grin at her and reach out, tussling her blond hair. “We’ll try not to do it in front of you.”

She sticks out her tongue in disgust.

“But listen,” I go on. “There’s one more thing. You might hear about it from other people and so we wanted to tell you first.”

“When I was young,” Aurora explains, “older than you are, but still young, I got in a lot of trouble.”

“Was it because your dad died?” Clara asks.

“Yes and no. It’s because I didn’t have a lot of love in my life, not like you two. I did some bad things. I stole things.”

“Toys?” Freja already looks like she’s plotting her next move at the toy store.

“Uh, kinda. Anyway, I was bad, and it was wrong, but I was also sick at the time. So I went to jail for a night or two, to teach me a lesson.”

Both girls gasp.

“And,” she goes on, “I learned my lesson. I never did it again. I just wanted to tell you so that you knew the truth.”

“She wasn’t always perfect,” I add, to which Aurora laughs.

“No, I wasn’t perfect, and I’m still not, and that’s fine. I made mistakes and I learned from them, as everyone does. But we wanted to tell you because people might talk about it.”

“Okay,” Clara says simply. “Can we go back to our games now?”

Damn, I wish adults were as easy as children when it came to judgment and forgiveness.

Something tells me we’re in for a rough one when we land.

I can only hope that with us telling the girls the truth, that we have less to hide. I know people will be ruthless and I know that our love is both fragile and new and strong all at once, but after the events of last night, I still have doubts that Aurora is one hundred per cent on board.

But it’s a gamble, like she said. I have to gamble with Nicklas, gamble with the press and gamble that her heart is still mine, that she’s not going to up and run when it gets tough.

Though, I know, even if she did run, I wouldn’t stop running after her.

This woman is my queen.

And she already has my love for a crown.

Chapter 23

Aurora

I was right.

We landed right into a shitshow.

No matter how prepared I was for it, I wasn’t prepared enough because the moment we got off the plane at the private airstrip, we were bombarded by the press. Flashbulbs in my face, shielding myself with my purse and Aksel’s arm, that total celebrity thing.

Meanwhile they were yelling at me.

“Why did you lie?”

“Were you an accessory to murder?”

“Will you be let go from the royal family?”

The only way we got them to back off was for the royal attendants to start pushing them back, while I scooped Freja and Clara up in my arms (Lord, they are heavier than Snarf Snarf).

Thankfully, once we were in the car, Clara and Freja didn’t seem traumatized. I guess they liked the attention.

I, on the other hand…

But the press and the ambush weren’t what I was the most worried about.

No, that would be stepping foot in the palace.

Seeing everyone.

Seeing on their faces how their opinions of me have changed.

“I am so sorry you had to go through that,” Aksel says beside me, taking my hand and turning it over to kiss my palm.

“It’s okay,” I tell him, trying to smile, trying to remain upbeat. He seemed a lot more hopeful than me up in the air, and I couldn’t tell if it was a mask or not. To be honest, I don’t know how he’s going to deal with Nicklas, but I guess it’s one thing at a time.

One horrible thing at a time.

We pull into the palace gates but instead of feeling relief at being home, I’m on edge. Normally at this time everyone moves to the Danish summer palace but because we went away, we postponed it to next week.

I wouldn’t have minded going elsewhere. Moving into another palace. Getting another fresh start.

But that’s the thing with second chances. Unless you put that first one to bed, it’s going to keep following you around.

Aksel holds my hand as we step out of the car and head into the house and this is already raising some eyebrows, especially as we run into Henrik in the foyer.

“How was your trip?” Henrik asks, smiling but cautious. He won’t even look me in the eyes.

“It was fine until the end,” Aksel says, pulling me along the hall. “By the way, Henrik, I want the entire staff gathered in the living room, now.”

“As you wish, sir,” he says warily before he scampers off, heading into one room before changing his mind and running into another. I bet he thinks they’re all getting fired.

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