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Authors: Ember Casey,Renna Peak

Leopold: Part Five

BOOK: Leopold: Part Five
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Leopold
Part Five
Ember Casey
Renna Peak

T
his book is
a work of fiction. Any names, characters, locations or incidents are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, events, or locations is entirely coincidental.

Copyright © 2016 by Ember Casey and Renna Peak

All rights reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the author, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.

First Edition: September, 2016

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The Royal Heartbreakers Series

L
eopold
unfolds
over the course of six novels, released every three weeks. Each follows the continuing story of Prince Leopold of Montovia and Dr. Eleanor Parker.
Leopold
is the first of the Royal Heartbreakers Series.

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o ensure
you don’t miss the next installment,
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Leo

P
art
of me can hardly believe the words that just came out of my father’s mouth:
Consider yourself no longer a member of this family or a citizen of this country, Leopold. You’ll relinquish your title and your claim to the throne. And both of you will leave Montovia immediately.

In spite of everything, something deep inside me still hopes he’s joking. But I know better than that. My father never jokes. He hardly even smiles. Apparently, such things are below the king of Montovia.

It doesn’t matter. He gave me a choice: Elle or my title. And I chose Elle.

I will always choose Elle.

I look over at her. She’s been silent for so long that I’m starting to get worried, and her eyes are wide with pure shock. My father is quiet, too—but though his silence makes me nervous, I’m also grateful to have the chance to speak with Elle. I need her to understand. This situation isn’t ideal, but unfortunately, it might be the only way we can be together.

“I knew it might come to this, Elle,” I murmur, taking her hand in mine. “I hoped it wouldn’t, but it has.” I’d thought we’d at least have a couple of days before it came to this, that I’d get to show Elle a little more of Montovia—and I’d get to say a few last farewells—before we were forced to leave. I’d hoped, too—perhaps naively—that bringing her here would show my father I’m serious about this woman, that this isn’t merely a phase. Deep down, I thought that when he met her, he would see everything I find so wonderful about her.

“I’m not changing my mind,” I say, tearing my eyes away from Elle and turning back to my father. “This isn’t what I wanted, Father. I wanted to believe you were progressive enough to look past the political status of any woman I should choose to be with.”

“This is about far more than her political status,” my father says. “Though certainly that is a consideration. This is about you recognizing that you have a responsibility to something beyond yourself. You have a responsibility to this family and to this country. That responsibility is the price of our privilege, Leopold—something you have yet to learn.”

“And how am I fulfilling any sort of responsibility by turning my back on the woman I love? By choosing a plane or my credit cards over a human being? You once told me I needed to learn integrity. If this isn’t integrity, Father, then I’m not sure what is. And I’m not sure I’m interested in striving for your version of
integrity
anymore.”

My father’s sharp gaze shifts from me to Elle.

“This isn’t an act of integrity,” he says as he glares venom at her. “This is simply another act of rebellion. In a year’s time, you won’t even remember this girl’s name, Leopold. I suggest you give the matter some serious thought before making any rash decisions.”

“I’ve given it plenty of thought,” I say. “But if you aren’t prepared to accept my decision, then there’s little I can do. I believe this conversation is over.” I gently take Elle’s arm. “Tell my mother I would like to see her before we go.”


Leopold
,” my father growls as I nudge Elle toward the door. “You have
not
been dismissed. Don’t you dare turn your back on me.”

I already have, and I have no interest in listening to him now. I shouldn’t have let Elle come here and listen to this. She already believes she isn’t worthy of love—hearing my father say the things he’s said certainly can’t help.

Sure enough, I can feel her eyes on me.

“Leo,” she says in a hushed voice as I march us toward the door, “you don’t have to do this. You
shouldn’t
do this.”

“Yes, I should,” I say. “And I must.”

“You don’t deserve this,” she says.

I look down at her. “There’s only one thing that matters to me—and that’s whether or not I deserve
you.
I might be impulsive and irresponsible, Elle, but I’m not a liar. I’ve meant everything I’ve said to you. And everything I’ve said here. I’m afraid even you can’t change my mind now, and I have no intention of letting you try.”

Something flickers in her eyes, but before I realize what it is I’ve seen, she pulls out of my grip and spins around, striding back toward my father.

“I’m sorry, Your Majesty, but you’re making a huge mistake,” she says.

My father gets over his shock at her impertinence fairly quickly. “I’m afraid my son is the one making the mistake. But I shouldn’t be surprised he took such a liking to you. You clearly have very similar manners.”

I reach Elle and take her arm again.

“Come,” I say softly to her. “There’s no arguing with him.”

“I’m not letting you do this,” she says to me. To my father she says, “Don’t punish Leo for trying to do the right thing. If you don’t want me here, then fine. I’ll go. But don’t exile him. This is his home.”

Oh, God.
I should have guessed that Elle—generous, selfless Elle—would try something like this, but I wasn’t prepared.

“No,” I say. “Elle, I’m not letting you go anywhere without me. If you go, I go.”

“And I’m not letting you give up your whole life for me,” she says. “If that means being deported, then I’m okay with that.”

Christ.
“I’ve already made the decision, Elle. As I’ve told you, this is my choice.”

Her blue eyes are sharp and clear. “And this is mine. I’m not letting you do this. I’m not letting you lose your home and your title and everything else in your life over this. I’m breaking up with you.”

“Breaking up… Elle, we aren’t even officially dating, so you certainly can’t—”

“I’m ending this. Whatever
this
is. It’s over.”

This is not how I intended for things to go at all—and having this conversation in front of my father is even worse. But I’m not about to let Elle sacrifice herself for my sake. She’s spent her entire life making sacrifices for other people—just once, she needs to let someone protect
her
, not the other way around.

“No,” I tell her plainly. “No, it’s not over. It will never be over. You might walk out of this room—walk out of this country—but you and I both know this isn’t the end for us.”

She stares up at me with those wide eyes, and I dare her with my gaze to defy the things I know we both feel.

But before she can say a word, the door behind us flies open and Andrew strides in.

“Forgive my tardiness,” he says. “Father. Leopold. Doctor Parker. I believe my presence was requested.”

“Yes,” my father drawls. “I thought you might be able to talk some sense into your brother, but now I believe we are too late for that.”

I stare Andrew dead in the eyes. I don’t care how many people my father drags in here to convince me otherwise—I’m not changing my mind.

“I’m not giving up Elle,” I tell my brother. “I don’t care what he threatens. I don’t care if he takes away my title and my plane and all my money.”

Andrew lets out a long sigh. “You always were the stubborn one.”

He’s one to talk.
I slide my arm through Elle’s again. “As our father has said, you’re too late to change my mind.”

Andrew looks back over at my father. “And what exactly have you threatened him with?”

“What we discussed,” my father says. “I have no intention of continuing to fund his irresponsible lifestyle, not when he openly defies me and disgraces our family.”

“He also threatened to bar me from this country,” I say with a flip of my hand. “Elle, too, of course.”

If Andrew and my father have already discussed this, this shouldn’t be a surprise to him. But his eyebrows rise slightly as he looks back at our father.

“And what would happen then?” he asks, striding forward. “Father, you know Leopold. He’ll still be all over the tabloids. And if his father exiles him from his own country, he’ll most certainly be in all the headlines. That won’t look very good for our family, either.”

My father’s frown deepens as he sits back in his chair. “Do you have an alternate solution you’d like to propose?”

Listening to the two of them discuss my future—and Elle’s—as if we weren’t standing here is too much to bear. If this didn’t affect Elle, I’d probably turn and stride from the room—but I’ll admit a part of me is curious to hear exactly what my older brother has in mind.

Andrew glances over at me, but his face is unreadable.

“It sounds like he’s made it clear he won’t be separated from Doctor Parker,” he says finally.

“I won’t,” I say, squeezing Elle’s arm.

“And it would be a pity to disown him from the family,” he continues. “If nothing else, you know our mother would never forgive you.”

The corner of my father’s mouth twitches when Andrew mentions our mother. For all my father’s faults, he loves her deeply. I’ve often wondered how she could love him back—but that’s a philosophical quandary for another day.

“I would suggest you give him the chance to prove himself,” Andrew says. “Doctor Parker, too. I have to admit I’ve been surprised by some of Leopold’s behavior since his trip to Rio de Campo, and I find myself thinking perhaps there’s some hope for him after all.”

I resist the urge to throw out a snarky response and instead pull Elle a little closer. I wish he would get to the point.

“Here’s what I would suggest,” Andrew says, turning back to fully face my father. “You give Leopold the opportunity to show he can be a responsible, upstanding member of this family. And you give Doctor Parker the opportunity to show she’s worthy of having a relationship with a responsible, upstanding member of this family.”

I almost speak out against Andrew’s suggestion about Elle’s
worth
, but this time, it’s Elle who squeezes
my
arm, giving me pause.

“Give them a time frame,” Andrew goes on. “Say…three months from now. See if they can go that long without causing a scandal or ending up in the tabloids. That’s plenty of time to see if Leopold can be
responsible
enough to begin to turn his image around, perhaps even enough time for him to find himself a few worthwhile charitable projects to pursue. As for Doctor Parker…” He glances back at us. “That’s plenty of time to see if she has the manners and grace to serve as the public companion of a member of this royal family. Our annual state dinner is approximately three months from now—perhaps we can make that night a final test of sorts. We can see how they fare as a couple in the political sphere.”

I’m not sure whether to be outraged or impressed by Andrew’s suggestion. On the one hand, I don’t believe Elle and I should have to prove anything to anyone—I couldn’t care less what the rest of the world thinks—but on the other, I can tell by the way my father purses his lips he’s actually considering this suggestion. Andrew definitely knows how to get into his head.

My father rubs his chin. “Who would have the final say on whether or not they’ve succeeded?”

“You would, of course,” my brother says. “Though I hope you’d at least consider the opinions of the other members of this family.”

“And if they meet with my disapproval…” His gaze slides to me. “…Or if they should end up in the tabloids…”

“Then you may proceed with whatever it is you have planned for them,” Andrew finishes. “Honestly, Father, I see little harm in giving Leopold the chance to prove himself. Perhaps this is exactly the nudge he needs to set him on the proper path.”

My father seems to ponder this. “I suppose he can’t cause
that
much more trouble in the next three months.”

“No more than he could if you exiled him,” Andrew says, turning toward me again. “In fact, I’m sure this will put him on his best behavior.”

I realize he wants me to back him up.

“I’d be amenable to these terms,” I say. “As long as our father agrees that should we meet with his approval, he won’t say another word against Elle. She is free to be in this country—and with me—for as long as she wishes.”

My father levels his gaze at me. It’s a long moment before he speaks.

“I agree,” he says finally.

“There,” Andrew says. “Perhaps Leopold is a changed man after all, Father.”

My father doesn’t look so certain, but he waves his hand at us.

“If the matter is settled, I have work to do,” he says. “You are all dismissed.”

I lead Elle out of the room, unwilling to give my father the chance to change his mind. This isn’t exactly what I wanted, but it’s
something.
It means there’s a chance we might persuade my father.

The moment we’re out of the room, Elle turns to me. “What exactly did you agree to? What’s this state dinner?”

“It’s our opportunity to show my father the truth,” I say. “Honestly, I can hardly believe he even agreed to it.” I look back at Andrew, who followed us out of the room. “I suppose I should be offering you my gratitude, Brother.”
As much as it pains me to do it.

Andrew doesn’t even crack a smile. “I believe I owed you a favor, Leopold. I trust that debt is now repaid.”

I can tell by the look in his eyes that he’s referring to
that night
in Prague, to the fact that I still haven’t told our father the truth about Andrew’s actions.

“Well,” I say, “I suppose we are even, then.” But I’ll have to see if Andrew continues to be an ally to Elle and me over the next three months.

Andrew starts to head down the corridor, then pauses and looks back.

“I just bought you time,” he says. “The rest is your responsibility, Leopold.”

I grin. I have no intention of letting this opportunity slip through my fingers. “Don’t worry. This should be a piece of cake.”

But Andrew shakes his head. “Don’t be cocky, Brother. You might be determined, but people don’t change overnight. I don’t think you’ve managed to stay out of the tabloids for more than three weeks at a time since you turned sixteen. And I’ve never seen you act as wild or as reckless as you have since you met Doctor Parker. No, Leopold, I think you’re going to have your work cut out for you.”

BOOK: Leopold: Part Five
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