Home > The Billionaire Prince's Stubborn Assistant

The Billionaire Prince's Stubborn Assistant
Author: Leslie North

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The sun dipped low on the horizon. Before evening swallowed the prosperous Kingdom of Sovalon, Prince Edward Ashton had one more item to cross off of his list. He walked up the sidewalk to the decrepit nineteenth-century schoolhouse. He noticed the handle of the barn wood door, wrought iron and speckled with rust. The schoolhouse was not so much quaint as it was falling apart at the seams. The historical society of Sovalon had done a great job of conserving sites around the kingdom, but not this one. It was time to do away with antiquity and move into the future, to bid farewell to the old, crumbling establishments that clung to the past. Sovalon needed new, modern architecture and environmentally-friendly engineering that would rocket it into the twenty-first century. Edward imagined sleek, minimalist housing and green businesses lining the streets, making Sovalon an ideal place to live and a center for new, progressive enterprises.

“Good evening, Your Highness,” the foreman said as he emerged from the darkness of the tiny structure. The air following after him smelled of mildew and rot.

“Please, John, call me Edward.” He was in no way ashamed of his title, but Edward preferred to be addressed by name.

The foreman nodded and gestured for Edward to follow him. “This shouldn’t take long since there’s no need to view the interior—we can see everything you need to see from the outside. Not much left in there anyway, other than a few fixtures and a lot of dust. The house only has a few rooms that were used as classrooms, a small kitchen area and one very rustic bath.”

“Understood,” Edward said. “Let’s get started.”

“The crew did a check for animal life and found none,” the foreman explained. “They’ll do another quick check tomorrow before demo, but we’re not expecting to find any. The building is so ragged, it doesn’t offer much shelter—and the floors are too unstable to safely bear much weight.”

Edward nodded. “Good.”

“We’ve placed explosives that will knock out the schoolhouse’s primary vertical supports so that the building collapses into itself.” The foreman walked Edward around the site, pointing out the placement of devices and explaining what the sequence of explosions would mean for safety.

“It’s ready and secure for tomorrow morning at nine thirty.”

Edward offered his hand for the foreman to shake, satisfied with their meeting. “Thank you. You know how important this job is to me, John. My father is very focused on progress and breathing new life into the kingdom, and he’s put me in charge of making sure everything goes smoothly.”

His father had essentially mandated him with helping to bring the kingdom’s housing projects and urban planning into the future, and Edward had a lot to do to prove himself. He hoped to create new housing that would attract more people to the region.

Edward looked hard at the foreman, hoping the man understood the weight of this project. “See you in the morning then,” he said.

“We’ll be here,” the foreman said and walked away.

When the foreman was gone, Edward smiled to himself.

The demolition of this building and turning the property into usable real estate would be the first of many achievements and a way to prove that he was up to the task his father had set forward. Edward’s appointment as head of Urban Planning and Housing Development was a show of his father’s faith in him. As the oldest of the three Ashton brothers, the future of the Sovalon was truly in his hands. He wanted to breathe new life into this great kingdom. He knew his father would be looking over his shoulder every step of the way, keeping him in step and grooming him to take over as king at the rightful time. He would do right by his father and his country.

Edward was about to head back to his car when he heard a loud clatter from the back of the building. He was inclined to dismiss it as an animal—something the crew would take care of in the morning—until he heard a distinctly human voice grumble out a curse. Someone was here. It could be one of the protestors who were against the demolition of historical sites. These days, they were always showing up out of nowhere, complicating his efforts to move Sovalon into the future. He slid down on the screen of his phone to find the flashlight.

“Damn, damn, damn.” The last thing he needed was another activist breathing down his neck or worse, getting injured on a work site. He remembered what the foreman had said about the fragility of the flooring. He entered the building—carefully watching his steps—and pushed into the darkness toward the rustling he heard coming from the back room, shining his light into corners and searching for the source of the racket.

He turned into the classroom at the rear of the house, his phone illuminating the way. In between shadows, he noticed details of the old room. A long-unused chalkboard took up most of one wall in the room where he stood. A rickety desk with a dusty book on top sat in front of the chalkboard, still inhabited with minutiae from another time. He picked up a book, its pages as fragile as dead autumn leaves and filled with the dust of the last century-plus. He turned the book over in his hands and shone the light on its barely-legible title. Something about Aristotle’s ethics.

When he placed the book down, tiny dust motes rose and glimmered magically in the light of the phone. He jumped back in surprise when a restrained sneeze escaped from beneath the desk, scaring the living hell out of him.

“Who’s there?” Edward angled his phone on the distressed hardwood floors and saw a sneaker peeking out from under the desk. He crouched down to inspect and was face to face with a pair of steel blue eyes that, for a moment, made him forget why he was there.

The woman with the eyes let out a sigh of what sounded like frustration and edged out of her hiding place.

“Well, you found me,” she said. Edward heard an edge of defiance in her voice but was so taken aback by her appearance, he wasn’t sure how to respond. Her hair shone golden in the phone light, its waves framing her face like a halo. She pushed her shoulders back, revealing a swan-like neck and high cheekbones. He had the urge to run a finger down her cheek. “So now what?” she asked. “Are you going to report me to your boss for trespassing?”

His boss? He’d dressed with practicality in mind rather than fashion for this visit, assuming he’d be led through a dusty, dirty building, so he supposed he could understand why she’d take him for a construction worker at first glance. It still stung his pride a little that she didn’t recognize his face, which had graced more than its share of magazine covers. Maybe he was too hidden by shadows. The flashlight was pointed at her, not him, after all.

Edward noticed that the woman had a backpack slung over her back. She was dressed in jeans that hung low on her waist, exposing a shaft of skin at her hips. He got stuck there for a moment then gathered himself.

“Are you squatting here?” he asked. “This is a construction site. It’s not safe for—”

Before he could finish, she turned on her heel. He knew she was going to bolt and reached out to grab hold of the backpack, thinking that would stop her. Instead, the bag slid from her shoulder, and she turned back toward him with angry eyes.

“Give that back,” she commanded, and he couldn’t help but grin. No one spoke to him this way, except for perhaps his father.

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