“Father,” Clara says impatiently. “Freja loves her. She’s the first pretty, kind, and smart lady you’ve brought here and we don’t want her to go.”
Oh, fucking hell. That’s what this is about?
“I’m sorry,” I say carefully. “She just didn’t seem like she was right for us. You understand?”
“No,” Freja eventually mumbles, snot blowing out of her nose, her face all red. “She told us she wanted to be our nanny and we want her to be our nanny and then Auntie Maja said she had to go.”
“Freja,” I try and explain.
“She was like Mama.”
Another hit to my heart, this time deeper, with a jagged instrument.
I can feel my face pale in front of them.
I look at Clara. “She reminded you of your mother?”
Clara shrugs. “Not me. Mama was prettier. But we really, really like her and we want her to be our nanny. Can you go send for her?”
This is not working out the way I wanted.
I hate disobeying my daughters.
“Clara, Freja, listen to me. The nanny, the prospective nanny—”
“Aurora,” Freja whispers.
“The Goddess,” Clara chimes in.
I try not to roll my eyes. “Yes. Her. I really do think she’s better for someone else. Another family. Not ours. We’re so … special, you understand? We need someone just as special to take care of my princesses. Don’t worry though, we’ll find someone.”
Freja bursts into tears again. “That’s what you always say and I hate them all.”
“Father,” Clara says, “don’t make Freja cry. Don’t you think we’ve been through enough?”
I watch her little face in amazement. She has her mother’s features, that’s for sure, green eyes, golden hair, olive skin. Inherited her mother’s cleverness as well. She knows exactly how to get her way.
I’m not sure I have a choice in this matter.
Imagine a king being ruled by his princesses.
I let out a long sigh, closing my eyes.
I can’t believe I’m going to have to do this.
Maja will have to bring her back.
She may not even want the job after the way I treated her.
I may have to grovel.
I do not grovel.
When I open my eyes again, both girls are looking at me expectantly.
“Oh, fine,” I mumble.
“Yay!” they both cry out, jumping up and down and clapping their hands together excitedly.
Hmmmm. Were they really that upset to begin with? Or was this just another example of getting their way? That “mama” card seemed to come out of left field.
It doesn’t matter though. I’m their father. I’m the reason they need a nanny to begin with, the reason they don’t have a mother anymore. Giving them everything they want is the very least I can do.
And I know it will never, ever be enough.
Exhaling heavily, I pick up my phone and call Maja.
“Sir?” she answers.
“Are you still in the house?”
“I’m with Miss Aurora, on the way to the airport,” she answers rather tersely.
“Tell the driver to turn the car around and bring her back.”
“You heard me.”
“But, sir, why? You said…” I can tell that Maja is probably eyeing the Aussie right now, trying to keep her from listening.
“I know what I said,” I snap. I let out a sigh. “Just bring her back. That’s an order.”
“Yes, Your Majesty.”
That last part sounded sarcastic.
“Is she coming?” Freja asks with big eyes. “Is she going to be our new nanny?”
I run my hand down my face.
Anything to keep them happy like this, I remind myself.
I just hope they don’t start making all my hiring decisions from here on out.
It’s a slippery slope.
Maja hangs up the phone and presses her lips together, staring at the blank screen in her hands.
“Everything alright?” I ask. I’m currently nursing the biggest wound of rejection and disappointment imaginable after being dismissed by King Asshole but that doesn’t mean I can’t be concerned about her. I rather like Maja and I have no idea how she can deal with a man like that. Though I guess being part of the royal family helps.
Maja looks at me with a tight, wincing smile. “Miss Aurora, there’s been a change of plans.”
“Change of plans?” Am I going to a different airport now or a later flight or …?
“Yes. You see, the King has made a mistake. He’d like you to come back.”
I stare at her blankly. Speechless.
She goes on, “He apologizes for it but I suppose he dismissed you too hastily. Or something to that effect. I confess, I’m not really sure what’s going on but he ordered me to do so.”
“And you do everything he says, is that it?” I question.
She gives me an odd look. “He is my King, as well as my nephew.”
“Well, he’s not my King. We don’t have a king in Australia, we have a prime minister, and frankly I wouldn’t listen to him either.”
One of her brows slowly raises. “You don’t have to take the job. But I think what this means is that it’s yours if you want it.”
Her words aren’t making the embarrassment I felt back there fade away. “I mean this with no disrespect, but I’m not exactly as, well, eager, for the position as I was before. King or not, I don’t like feeling small and that’s what he made me feel.”
“I did tell you he was disagreeable. You’ll get used to it.”
“Henrik,” she says to the driver. “Tilbage til slotted.”
The driver nods, and suddenly we’re making a left and turning around.
So I guess we’re heading back to the palace.
I’m not sure how it’s possible but I’m even more nervous now than I was before.
I swear it has everything to do with the way he treated me and nothing to do with how deadly handsome he was. I say deadly because there was something about his manner and his face that almost dared you to compliment him, as if calling him handsome would get you beheaded. It was a tense, cold kind of attractiveness, like his face and body and spirit were forged in steel and you might turn to stone if you looked at him too long.
Just like before, we go back to the castle, driving past the crowds who have gathered in the square, but now I’m staring up at the imposing windows knowing they keep a cruel king behind the panes. I know the proper thing would be to just gratefully accept the job but it’s rare that I’ve been able to do the proper thing. I have to remind myself to keep my anger in check. If anything, maybe I’ll try the cold and indifferent approach, much like the same approach he used on me.
Cold and indifferent, cold and indifferent, I repeat to myself as the driver parks behind the gates again and I walk with Maja back into the building.
But instead of taking me back to the room I was in before, she leads me down the gilded halls lined with statues and velvety oil paintings of important people, everything looking more French than Scandinavian, and then up a massive staircase to the second floor.
“Where are we going?” I ask quietly, feeling the need to whisper in the cavernous hallways.
“To his office,” she says, which lights my nerves on fire. “The first floor is primarily for guests and visitors, waiting rooms and dining rooms and the like. This floor is for the staff and any offices. The third is the residential floor.”
But all of that floats over my head because, damn, she’s taking me to his bloody office? Why do I feel like I’m back in high school and being dragged yet again to the principal?
I don’t have too much time to dwell on it because we’ve stopped in front of a pair of large double doors.
Maja gives me a small smile that offers no hope and then quickly raps with her knuckles on it. “Sir?” she calls out loudly.
There is a pause and then his deep voice booms, “Show her inside.”
Maja opens the door and leads me in.
My eyes quickly flit over to King Asshole sitting at his desk and then take in the rest of the room. Like I’m sure most rooms are in this palace, it’s large and impersonal. In fact, other than the desk with a phone and stacks of folders, plus some books on the shelves, there isn’t anything about this room that screams “Office of the King.”
Also, I think I was expecting him to be wearing a crown while he sits at his desk.
The only thing he’s wearing is a grimace.
I thought he would be the groveling type, but I guess not.
King Aksel barely looks at me, instead focusing on the papers in his hand. “Thank you, Maja. I’ll need a few moments alone with her.”
Her. Not even my name yet. Does he even know my name?
“Very well, Your Majesty,” Maja says and leaves, shutting me in the office with the King.
It feels like I’m being locked in a jail cell.
I clear my throat out of habit and stare down at him, waiting for him to address me personally, all while trying to appear cold and indifferent.
I’m just about to open my mouth and ruin my resolve when he taps his long index finger along the top of the paper he’s looking at, the paper which I’m now recognizing as my resume.
“It says here that you’ve worked in France for quite a few families,” he says, his voice gruff.
“Yes, sir,” I say. Since he’s still staring at my resume as if it’s some sort of treasure map, I’m staring at the top of his head. His hair is light brown, thick and shiny. Slightly longer on the top than the sides, but short overall. A somewhat hip haircut for a king.
“I take it you must speak some French?” he asks.
“Un peu,” I say carefully.