Home > The Bossy Prince (Rugged and Royal #3)

The Bossy Prince (Rugged and Royal #3)
Author: Lili Valente

Chapter One

 

 

Alexandra

 

 

Alexandra Gertrude Renee Rochat:

A woman on the verge of (justifiable?) homicide.

 

 

Ugh. Princes.

They really are the worst.

And Nickolas Von Bergen is a special kind of awful. Smug. Entitled. The type of royal who believes the rest of us were put on this earth for his amusement. I’ve known him since we were children and can confirm he’s been insufferable since the age of four, at least.

This isn’t the first time I’ve wanted to kill him, and I’m sure it won’t be the last.

He’s just so…murderable.

Sliding open the glass door of our Swiss hotel suite, I watch him with my lip curled.

Lounging in the hot tub on the balcony as the snow falls on his perfectly curled dark hair, bragging to my sister and his brother about how fast he zipped down the double black diamond slope this afternoon—he’s practically begging for a knife to the gut.

Or, at the very least, an elbow in the eye.

Both eyes, maybe…

He’d be a lot less pretty with his sparkly green eyes swollen shut.

And he wouldn’t be able to see.

And if he couldn’t see, the powers that be might decide it’s time to remove him from the field. Send him back to work on the Gallantian tourist website. Chain him to a computer somewhere in Baden-Bergen where I’ll never see or hear from him again—except at family gatherings, of course.

Because Nickolas Von Bergen isn’t just my work nemesis. Soon, he’ll be my double brother-in-law.

My sister Sabrina is married to his eldest brother, Andrew, the King of Gallantia, and my sister Lizzy is engaged to his next oldest brother, Jeffrey.

Andrew is an amiable goofball, and Jeffrey a brooding behemoth with a bossiness disorder, but both are far less irritating than Nick. Andrew’s clownish side makes Sabrina happy, and Jeffrey would clearly lay down his life for Lizzy in a heartbeat. He’s actually very sweet with my shy, scatterbrained sister, and probably, if I’m being honest, a decent human being.

But I don’t like being wrong.

No…that isn’t accurate. I don’t have much experience with being wrong. From the time I was a tiny girl, I’ve been able to read people. Give me ten minutes and I’ll guess where you’re from, which parent left you with a childhood wound, what you had for breakfast, and who you’re planning to cheat, swindle, or kill today.

The fact I was wrong about Jeffrey is…strange.

Uncomfortable.

And it is downright infuriating that, until our run-in this past summer, I’d been so utterly off base about Nickolas’s capacity for subterfuge.

Against my will, my thoughts go back to that cool night in May…

 

Seven months earlier…

 

 

I’m going to kill Nickolas Von Bergen.

Kill him dead.

Knock him out with a bat, drag him into the Romanian woods, and bury his body in a shallow grave.

It’s the least he deserves for putting my family in danger.

“That’s incredible, mate,” Nick slurs from several meters away, where he’s doing a drunken dance by a firepit next to one of the most dangerous drug dealers/human traffickers/generally evil men in Europe. “I’d love to see your helicopter. We have one for the royal family, but it’s so…blue. You know? I hate blue, don’t you?”

“Blue is all right,” the man with the eerily gorgeous profile responds.

Stefano DeLuca is objectively even more handsome than Nickolas—with his sun-kissed skin, broad shoulders, sculpted muscles, and Greek statue-esque features—but looking at him gives me chills.

And not the good kind.

Even if I didn’t know he was responsible for the deaths of three journalists and dozens of rival mafia members, or that he’d kidnapped and sold hundreds of innocent women into slavery, some of them not much more than girls, he would still make my blood run cold.

It’s his eyes.

Flat. Empty.

I’ve met snakes with more warmth than Stefano.

There’s something missing in the man; some absent quality of humanity that sets off all my “danger, predator in the vicinity” instincts.

Just standing behind him in line for beer at the festival’s refreshment tent earlier was enough to lift the hairs at the back of my neck, making me grateful for my baggy T-shirt, cutoffs, and combat boots. In grungy clothes, with my hair pulled into a ponytail and an oversized sock cap pulled low on my forehead, I couldn’t be less Stefano’s type. He goes for leggy models with wasp-thin waists, pouty lips, huge boobs, and vacant expressions—not teenaged goth girls.

Without makeup, I look closer to fifteen than twenty-five, a hazard of being barely five feet tall and cursed with a babyface. But I don’t mind either as much as I once did. In fact, my appearance is one of the most powerful weapons in my arsenal.

Go ahead, bad guys.

Underestimate me. Overlook me.

Assume that runty blonde with the scrawny wrists couldn’t possibly be here to take you into custody for Union Ten, Europe’s most elite organization of undercover law enforcement agents.

I’ve been training to be a spy since I was accepted into Union Ten’s boarding school for future agents when I was thirteen. I’m more than capable of taking down a man twice my size and outsmarting your typical criminal mastermind, but I won’t complain when the bad guys make my job easier for me.

Tonight, however, was never going to be easy.

Putting a tracking device on Stefano’s cell without him realizing he’s been pick-pocketed (and then reverse pick-pocketed) was always going to be tricky. The man is perpetually on guard, no matter how many beers he’s had or how much cocaine he snorts up that patrician nose of his.

And even if he were to get a little soft around the edges, his bodyguards don’t drink while they’re on duty.

He has eyes—and guns—on him at all times.

My best bet is to wait for him to join the dancing in front of the stage and arrange to bump up against him, liberating his phone from his suit pants in the process. So far, he’s spent most of the night by the firepits at the edge of the woods, far from where a Romanian punk band has been rocking out for nearly two hours, leaving the thinning crowd thrashing in the grass, sweaty and breathless.

Time is running out—the festival’s programming ends at midnight—and Stefano shows no sign of leaving Nick’s side.

And until he does, I can’t risk approaching either of them.

There’s a chance Nick will recognize me and blow my cover. We haven’t spent much time in each other’s company since I nearly drowned him when we were children, but he’s seen pictures of me with my sisters.

And no—I hadn’t been trying to drown him, just to win a game of Lake Monster Wrestling. He was four, and I was five.

He was a rather adorable four-year-old, I confess. Mischievous and brave without being stupid.

Now…he’s stupid. Nick grew up to become an insipid party boy with a gambling problem, who’s in debt to the mob and kissing up to a murderer in order to maintain his high-rolling lifestyle. He’s getting in deeper with Stefano with every passing day, putting his entire family—and by extension, my family—at risk.

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