Being the best friend to a prince isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. As attorney and spokesperson for the royal Andraste family, Richard Prentiss lives under a microscope. Fair or not, he’s not able to date like a regular person. So when his personal assistant retires, Richard knows her pretty replacement, Kate, is strictly off-limits.
Kate Braddock’s resume includes special forces training and enough profiling work to pick a threat out of a crowd. None of that prepares her to resist the charming, down-to-earth attorney she’s assigned to protect. Determined to treat him like any other body to guard, she struggles to maintain her distance. It’s her job to step in front of the bullet with Richard’s name on it, nothing more.
When threats against the royal family take a deadly turn and his new assistant foils two attempts on his life, Richard’s grateful—and more than a little intrigued. There’s more to Kate than meets the eye, but what is she hiding? He’ll have to trust her with his life when the danger proves to be closer than either realized…
Book three of Going Royal
“I’m not going to lie to you, Ms. Braddock—the job won’t be easy. This position demands travel at least forty percent of the time. Where I go, you go. When I need a file, I need you to pull it up. You have to anticipate last minute changes and I may be calling or texting you at three in the morning to come in because we need to have a brief in front of a judge at eight.” Richard Prentiss leaned back in his chair and studied the dark-haired woman seated across from him. Her calm, cool eyes—he couldn’t tell if they were hazel or just a very pale brown—betrayed no hint of concern. Considering he was offering her well-compensated indentured servitude, he’d hoped for a little more bite in her responses. “This is a steep learning curve and I wish that Miranda had given me more notice before she left, but we have to work with what we have.” He wasn’t sure what frustrated him more—Miranda leaving on such short notice or that she left at all. Miranda Keen had worked for him since he’d hung his shingle and despite Armand’s copious attempts to fund his law firm, Richard had built his client list from the ground up. No one knew him better than Miranda—and no one deserved to come into a windfall as much as she, either. He’d paid her well, but that didn’t mean she wanted to spend the rest of her life working sixteen-hour days.
“That won’t be a problem, Mr. Prentiss. I’m used to a tough schedule and travel.” Of course she was. Kate Braddock had been recommended to him by Armand during their racquetball game—the first he’d been able to play since a car accident laid him up some months before. Losing a kidney and his spleen meant a lot of changes in his routine, but he was finally well enough to kick his armed babysitters to the curb. He’d understood the need for increased security, particularly during his recovery, but he didn’t like having a posse of heavily armed babysitters entrenching themselves in his life, tearing it apart, and dictating his movements. Armand hadn’t liked the idea, but as Richard’d informed his best friend, he could stuff it.
“True, you’ve been with Anna the last few months.” Richard grimaced and drummed his fingers against the resume sitting atop her personnel file. The speed of Miranda’s departure meant he had to cut corners to find her replacement. Kate’s previous stint with Anna meant he didn’t have to worry about a background check. She’d have been vetted by at least two different security agencies. “How will she handle your departure?”
“I believe the recommendation came from Miss Novak, Mr. Prentiss. She has a full staff to help with her foundation responsibilities and an additional two secretaries beyond myself. Her precise words were that she would miss me personally, but professionally she was covered.” The wry response suggested a sense of humor and Richard nodded, but continued to drum his fingers. It was all a little too neat for his level of comfort. The world did not provide easy solutions—and in his experience, if one didn’t examine every angle of a potential Trojan horse, one deserved to be burned.
And she comes recommended by Armand who wants me safe, so chances are she’s exactly what she appears to be.
“The better question, I believe, is will we work well together? Do you have any particularly annoying habits that I might object to? Are you a vegetarian perhaps? Or someone who speaks with their mouth full of food? Do you eat while you dictate your notes? Do you prefer MP3s or in person dictation? What types of confidentiality contracts am I expected to sign? Will I receive any type of additional compensation for the level of disruption in my life? When you have romantic liaisons will you expect me to wait in the other room on the off chance of a three a.m. emergency?”
The rapid-fire questions eliminated his initial assessment. He grinned, she definitely had bite. “I have no idea if we’ll work well together, but my initial impression is yes. I have no annoying habits that I’m aware of, though I’ve been told I’m an ass on more than one occasion.” He let that hang out there to see what she would do with it.
“You’re an attorney, Mr. Prentiss. I would expect you received your certification in being an ass about the same time you passed the bar.” Sharp, dry and to the point.
She answered every question, and had retaliated with a few of her own.
He liked her.
“I never talk when my mouth is full.” He layered innuendo along the words on purpose. Anna and Armand’s recommendation aside, he needed a personal assistant who could do her job in the office and not on her back. Instead of rising to the bait, she merely lifted her eyebrows and waited. Impressed, he continued. “Let’s see, there is a very good chance that I will dictate notes while consuming a meal, but I expect you’ll be eating at the same time, so we’ll adjust accordingly. I tend to record notes on my cell phone when I drive and I’ll text you the voice memos as needed.”
Shifting her personnel folder to the side, he held out a fifteen-page contract and sobered. All personal quirks aside, he needed some assurances. “This is the confidentiality agreement. It’s ironclad and it stipulates on all terms that it remains enforced whether you work for me for five seconds, five months or five decades. What we discuss, what information passes in my office, is between you and I and absolutely no one else. I don’t care if the police are questioning you or the President of the United States—privileged defines every communication. If you can’t handle that, we stop right here.”
“Unless you’re planning to assassinate the president or in some way create mass havoc such as harboring a terrorist, I have no problems with signing that contract.” Utterly unruffled, she didn’t pause to consider her response. “I will, of course, insist that you add to those caveats. Privileged information does not allow you to compromise my integrity or make me complicit in a crime.” The blunt force of personality added another tick into the pro column.
He extended the sheaf of papers. “Section four, paragraph three, subsection A—it’s a personal morality clause. It stipulates if you believe a crime is being planned or has been committed that has caused, will cause, or may cause duress or undue distress to you or another living being, you may waive the privilege—in only that issue—to report it.”
“I’m not sure whether to be disturbed or impressed that you have that in a confidentiality agreement.” She took the papers and flipped to the section he’d indicated, a tiny line forming between her brows. “The fact that you’ve already considered it enough to put it in the contract suggests you’ve been burned.”
Smiling at the implied question, he spread his hands. “I’m afraid that’s confidential. However, read through and make sure you understand it. Perhaps consult an attorney and if you can do that in the next—” he checked his watch, “—fifteen minutes, that would be great. I have a backlog of cases and briefs that need my attention.”
Most people would have snapped to their feet at the urgency, but she didn’t. Instead she rested the contract in her lap and stared at him. At his raised eyebrows, a smile turned up the corners of her mouth. “You failed to answer the final two questions.”
Smart. Detail-oriented. Capable of challenging him. Security clearance vetted by the royal family. If she was half as good at doing her job as she was the interview, he might survive Miranda abandoning him. Picking up an envelope, he passed it over. It contained a check he’d had drawn on his way to the meeting. “That contains your stipend for this month. The stipend is a living fund and completely separate from your paycheck which, as previously discussed, is considerable. You will have access to a corporate credit card. I’ll order it today, but I expect it within the week. You may use the card to charge anything you need while working or on the job—hotel rooms, meals, clothing—provided you document the expenses.”
She didn’t open the envelope. Professional—but she would have had to be. He knew her work with Anna, particularly in recent months, meant access to discretionary funding, which added another facet to her worth in the position. Richard made a mental note to call Anna later and make sure she could part with Kate Braddock—that seemed fair.
“And as for my ‘liaisons.’” No, he hadn’t forgotten that question. “I keep a strictly personal-professional line in all areas.”
“Excellent. Do you have any other questions for me?”
He hadn’t, but then changed his mind. “Do you have any annoying habits that will interfere with our ability to work together? Do you eat with your mouth open? Prefer meals laden with onions or garlic? Can’t function without coffee? A boyfriend or significant other that might object to my three a.m. calls? The last thing I need is a riled lover accusing me of trying to seduce you.” It was really none of his damn business, but she’d started it.
“No, sir. I’m practically perfect in every way.” She rose, expression absolutely serene. “And I have no interest in Wyoming for a ranch, but Montana, I hear, is very nice. You have twelve minutes before your call. If you’ll excuse me, I’ll review this contract.”
He opened his mouth to ask her what she meant and then snapped it shut again.
A few months before, when he’d been in the hospital, Armand had tossed an accusation his way in a fit of pique.
Armand had laughed. “You make fun now, but sooner or later you’re going to meet a woman who ties you up in knots. And we’ll see who is cracking jokes then.”
“Not gonna happen. I’ll find me some nice secretary who thinks the boss is her meal ticket, she’ll be all yes sir and no sir and thank you very much sir and we’ll have four kids and a dog and a summer ranch in Wyoming.” Richard had snorted. “Now, get the hell out of here and find your girl, or sources close to the prince are going to report you knocked her up.”
Armand was a dead man. “Of course.” He mentally applauded his steady voice, but respect shifted through him as he watched her leave his office. The room’s orderly appearance was a testament to Miranda’s handling of everything during his recovery—thank God she hadn’t left him then. Checking his watch after the door closed behind Kate, he picked up the phone and dialed the prince’s private line. Armand answered on the second ring.
“I take it Miss Braddock made it to her appointment on time?” Laughter danced behind the European accent.
“You’re a dick,” Richard said by way of answer. “And she’s perfect. So go ahead and chortle.”
Armand laughed. “Good. I have another call and Gretchen is giving me the eye. Time for another game tomorrow?”
“Sorry, your highness, some of us have to work for a living. How’s,” he paused and flipped open his tablet to look at his calendar. “Friday?”
“I’ll have to rearrange some items.”
“You’re the one who wants to play.” Richard appreciated the sentiment. “I have another call to make too. Give Anna my regards.”
“Right. Rick?” Worry coated his tone.
“Yeah?” Richard waited, Armand hadn’t been thrilled with his decision to go back to work and while he might be Richard’s most loyal client and oldest friend—he wasn’t the only one.
“Never mind.” The prince sighed, apparently ceding the argument without making it. “Don’t overdo it.” The last came out a direct order, but one made out of concern rather than arrogance. The call ended as abruptly as they’d begun it, but after more than a decade of friendship it didn’t bother him. Picking up Kate’s personnel file, he slid it into the bottom right drawer and locked it. He would read through the rest of it later.
What’s up next… Some Like It Secret