Hand-Me-Down Princess

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Authors: Carol Moncado
to change clothes, go ahead. Grab a blanket and scoot one of the chairs closer. Breakfast should be about ready, as well.” He squeezed her hand. “If you want, use the phone in the living area. Press 0 and tell them you would like some coffee or hot chocolate. I’m just going to take the horses to the stables, but I’ll let the grooms take care of them this time.”
    Prince Malachi took the reins of one horse in each hand and winked at her before he walked away. She gave him a small smile and turned to walk into the house. As she neared the suite where she and Prince Malachi were staying, she heard voices from inside. Odd. He’d told her they were the only ones here besides the staff.
    Did she go in? Wait for her husband? Before she could decide, the door opened, and a maid scurried out. Jessabelle smiled at her, but the woman’s eyes remained down. Through the open door, she saw a man and woman standing in front of the fireplace. Her breath caught in her throat as she recognized the man when he turned.
    Something flitted across his face before a smile settled in. Even Jessabelle, with her social awkwardness, knew it wasn’t sincere.
    The king spoke first. “Good morning, Jessabelle. Do come in.”
    Quite kind of him since it was her apartment for the next few days. She made up her mind that when they were in the palace, the privacy code would be used as often as possible. “Good morning,” she managed.
    “Where’s Malachi?” he asked.
    “We, um, went for a ride this morning. He’s taking the horses back to the stables.”
    “And you did not go with him?” There was something condescending in his voice.
    “I knew she was cold.” Prince Malachi’s voice surprised her, but she managed not to jump. His arm slid around her waist. The king’s eyes narrowed as it did. “I told her I’d take care of the horses, but one of the grooms met me on my way to the stables. Now, what can we do for you two the morning after our wedding?” He winked at her again. “I do hope you knocked before coming in. We may have been...occupied.”
    The king cleared his throat. “Mal, I need to speak with you.” He glanced her way. “Privately.”
    Prince Malachi kissed the side of her head. “I’ll be right back, love.”
    Jessabelle couldn’t help but duck her head as her face warmed. And then she was alone with her mother-in-law. The queen didn’t smile, didn’t offer any warmth whatsoever. Instead, she sat in one of the wing back chairs and waited.
    A single word crossed Jessabelle’s mind. Awkward.
    * * *
    Malachi followed his father into the conference room off one side of the living area. As soon as the door closed, he snapped, “Why are you here?”
    The king crossed his arms over his chest. “We had breakfast plans.”
    He mimicked his father’s stance. “No. You had breakfast plans. My wife was overwhelmed by it all, and we decided to come here early so she could relax.”
    With two large steps, they were face to face. “Are you getting attached to her already?”
    Malachi’s eyes narrowed. “She’s my wife. I’m supposed to get attached, aren’t I?”
    “Have you slept with her already? You met less than twenty-four hours ago.”
    “I don’t see how it’s any of your business.”
    His father leaned in a bit more closely. “Keep your distance, Mal. She may be your wife, but you don’t have to be close to her. Have your fun elsewhere, just be discreet and careful.”
    Malachi snorted. “Like you? Everyone knows you were in love with someone who wasn’t your wife. I have no intention of following in those footsteps.”
    “It’s been many years since I’ve been with anyone but your mother. Almost two decades. Since before I was crowned king. You will never be king. And you never vowed your fidelity.”
    Malachi just stared at his father. “Seriously? Because I’ll never be king, I can cheat on my wife? Will you tell William the same thing? Will you tell his bride that before you sign the

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