Alyssa Cole returns with a fun, sexy romance novella in the Reluctant Royals series!
While her boss the prince was busy wooing his betrothed, Likotsi had her own love affair after swiping right on a dating app. But her romance had ended in heartbreak, and now, back in NYC again, she’s determined to rediscover her joy—so of course she runs into the woman who broke her heart.
When Likotsi and Fabiola meet again on a stalled subway train months later, Fab asks for just one cup of tea. Likotsi, hoping to know why she was unceremoniously dumped, agrees. Tea and food soon leads to them exploring the city together, and their past, with Fab slowly revealing why she let Likotsi go, and both of them wondering if they can turn this second chance into a happily ever after.
“Attention, passengers, we apologize for the delay.” The MTA conductor’s voice was tinny, but the exasperation rang clear as the voice fuzzed through the speakers in the stalled subway car. “We are being held momentarily by the train’s dispatcher due to a malfunctioning signal. Or something. Thank you for your patience. We will be moving shortly. Maybe.”READ MORE
Likotsi Adelele, mother of schedules and slayer of inefficiencies, would usually have been quite annoyed with her train being stuck on a bridge for half an hour with no explanation, but it was a special day: she had off from work. The full weekend! Two days to herself, a reprieve from managing meetings with dignitaries, heads of states, and business interests; planning royal dinners, royal date nights, and royal relaxation; and overseeing most aspects of the life of His Royal Highness, Bringer of Light and Love, Prince Thabiso Moshoeshoe of Thesolo, currently situated in Manhattan.
Or more time to think about her.
Likotsi tugged at the thigh of her trousers—teal gabardine with a matching blazer—before crossing her leg so that an ankle rested over her opposite knee, exposing bright yellow socks. She brushed away a speck of dirt that had lodged in one of the diamond-shaped perforations that decorated the aged tan leather of her new brogues. Her father had mailed her the shoes a few weeks back, a Christmas present to go under the giant fir tree lodged into a corner of the royal townhouse, since Naledi enjoyed partaking in Christian holidays. When Likotsi had finally been allowed to open the package, held hostage until four am on December 25 by an ever vigilant Naledi, she’d discovered a note inside: New shoes point toward the future, sweet daughter. You cannot keep wearing that which you have outgrown.
Likotsi had slipped the note and the shoes into her closet for the two weeks following the holiday. Today she would break them in, walking away from memories that should’ve evaporated long ago but had left residual damage, like stains on suede after a sudden downpour.
She winced as the conductor made another announcement, this one completely unintelligible static.
A train delay was fine. A train delay was delightful. Anything she encountered this weekend would be delightful because she was tired of the dejection that had nagged at her for months. Dejection was inefficient, and worse, it was pedestrian. Moping and wallowing had left a green tinge on the memories of her few perfect days in New York the previous spring, like the band of a fake gold ring. It was time to leave the shoes she had outgrown behind.
It was time to create new memories.
As far as interminable train delays went, being stuck on the Manhattan Bridge on a Saturday morning was about as good as one could get. Outside the window of the train, the January sunlight was dappling over the choppy, ice-strewn waves of the East River, tinting the muddy waters a silvery green-gold. The cold blue of the morning sky seemed endless as it stretched out over Brooklyn on one side and Manhattan on the other, holding all the promise of the recently arrived New Year.
A week before, Likotsi had watched the ball drop from the apartment of a translator she’d met at the UN. As she’d walked home, surrounded by drunken revelers, she’d wondered what it would’ve been like to kiss Fab at midnight instead.
No thoughts of her today. Enough.
On the Manhattan side of the river, the sharp angles of the skyscrapers were burnished with light, making it seem as if the impossibly tall buildings were sunbathing. New York City didn’t have majestic mountains or roaring waterfalls or rolling plains, like her homeland, but it was a beautiful city in its own way. It deserved better than to be the receptacle of memories that impeded her forward motion like a badly tailored suit that was too tight at the knees and elbows.
Likotsi had been working double duty as assistant to both Prince Thabiso and Naledi, his betrothed, for months. She’d been particularly dedicated to her job for the last seven months and three weeks, happy to work long hours and not just for the supplemental pay. Thabiso had gone from gently asking that she work less to outright commanding it.
She supposed she had been very. . . focused on keeping their schedules and making sure everything ran like clockwork.
The goat that wanders is the goat that gets lost. She hadn’t allowed herself to be lost to the pain of stinging rejection, especially over such a fleeting affair. She had focused, stayed on the path of international relocation and American apartment hunting and making sure that everything in her boss’s life was handled before he could think of it. There was a certain comfort in putting someone else’s life to order when her own felt uncharacteristically messy.
But now she was on vacation. The last time she’d taken time for herself in this manner had been, coincidentally, eight months before, when Thabiso had been busy hiding his royal identity while wooing Naledi. Likotsi had downloaded a dating app and made the error of swiping right on Fabiola C, located 0.3 miles away.
Fab’s bio had been seven words: Math. Jewelry. Dressing down is giving in. Dark brown skin, Bettie Page bangs, and an hourglass figure were what had initially caught Likotsi’s attention. Personality, talent, and drive were what had held it fast. An immediate, theretofore unknown connection was what had made Likotsi sure Fab was the one. Fab’s blunt, cold breakup had shattered that illusion, but the shards remained.
Fabiola C: I can’t do this. You’re leaving, right? It was fun—let’s stop before it’s not.
Likotsi had thought the hurt would fade, eventually. It had been a temporary fling after all, and she was no slouch at those. While Thabiso had formerly held the title of the Playboy Pan Afrique, Likotsi had fared just as well in her own dating sphere, minus the fuckboy tendencies. In Thesolo, there were families anxious to settle their daughters with the prince’s right hand, and when she traveled? Well, women found it hard to resist a sharp suit and a soft smile. Surely a woman she’d only spent a few nights with shouldn’t have done her heart more than a glancing blow.
If Likotsi’s obsession with efficiency had taught her anything, it was that sometimes it was the briefest setback that toppled everything afterward like dominoes.