by Riley Hart & Christina Lee
February 28, 2018
February 26, 2018 (early release)
About Ever After
As next in line for the Evergreen crown, Prince Merrick Davendall’s future involves ruling, marriage, and producing an heir of his own. But he’s long been tormented by desires that are far from princely. Especially when the beautiful Cassius is promoted to be his new valet, and Merrick is struck by a longing like never before—a longing to know him far beyond royal and servant.
After his father’s passing, Cassius Havendale’s sole duty is to provide for his family. A promotion to serve a pampered prince is something he endures only for their sake. Surely Prince Merrick has no understanding of true suffering of the common people, nor could he possibly understand what it’s like to desperately desire something he cannot have.
Except the prince is not at all what Cassius imagined. Kind, humorous, and caring to those in need, he also shares Cassius’ affinity for the arts. In fact, Merrick understands his deepest vulnerabilities in a most remarkable way.
As their affection deepens, the underlying tension between them becomes unbearable and they’re unable to ignore it any longer. But when the queen prepares a lavish ball with all the eligible ladies in the land in attendance, Merrick must fulfill his obligations to his country, and Cassius has the needs of his family to consider. They’ve long known their stolen moments would have to come to an end, but are they ready to give up one another and the idea of a happily-ever-after?
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An Excerpt from Ever After
They were quiet as their feet settled into the freshly fallen snow on the way to the barn. When they reached the building, which had already been vacated for the night, Prince Merrick pulled open the heavy barn door, making a sudden shot of worry dart through Cassius. “I’m sorry, Your Highness. I should have gotten the door for you. I’m…” He did not know how to continue, did not know what he felt, and even if he understood the thoughts plaguing him, he could not share those with the prince.
“Please, don’t apologize. It is quite nice to do things for myself from time to time.” The corners of his eyes pinched, and his lips creased in a frown as though he shouldn’t have spoken as he had. The thought made Cassius’s stomach tumble in an unfamiliar way. He couldn’t imagine having servants do such simple tasks for him, but he wasn’t a prince. He couldn’t fathom how the other man would feel the same.
“Shall we go?” the prince added, and Cassius felt his ears heat at the way he’d stood there like an idiot. Luckily, his hat covered them, so it wouldn’t be noticeable. It was strange the way he so often flushed in front of the prince. Cassius had never been one to blush, even in front of a man he found attractive, but he did so frequently with Prince Merrick.
“Yes, sir.” Cassius stepped inside and waited. He noticed the prince move to close the barn door just before their gazes clashed together. As though he sensed Cas’s need to fill the role he was supposed to, the prince stepped aside, and Cas closed the door.
“Do you enjoy horses?” he asked Cas as they walked toward Ursula, the mare Cas knew belonged to the prince.
He felt his forehead wrinkle beneath his knitted hat as he continued his attempt to figure out what was happening. “Yes, Your Highness. I do. They’re…” Cas let his words trail off. The prince couldn’t want that much information from him, and he shouldn’t want to share. Cas found he did, though. Whether it was just to talk to someone or the prince specifically, he could not decide.
“They’re what?” Prince Merrick prompted.
“Nothing, sir. Just that I enjoy them tremendously.”
“Please,” he replied. “Please tell me what you were going to say. You don’t have to. It is not a demand, but…but I’d like it if you did.”
They stopped moving. Ursula neighed in front of them, but Cassius couldn’t make his feet move. The prince was looking at him…curiously. He had no doubt his eyes held the prince’s similarly, but obviously for different reasons.
This time, it was Prince Merrick who flushed, a soft pink tinting his delicate cheekbones. It is because he’s cold. It has to be because he’s chilled. Still, Cas’s heart raced like Ursula’s hooves when she galloped.
He needed to end this fascination, this seeing things that were not there, before he got himself into trouble. Before he lost his position and shamed his family.
The prince added, “I’m sorry. It wasn’t fair of me to make such a request,” and it was those words that fueled Cas further because the truth was, it didn’t matter if it was fair or not. The prince had the right to request anything he desired; the whole family did, without apology. Yet the prince had apologized, a soft, earnest quality to his voice that spoke of his sincerity. He had meant his apology, and that…that meant something to Cassius.
He cleared his throat and looked at the horse, petting her neck. “I was going to say they’re comforting. There is something about horses that soothes whatever ails you…makes you feel free when you’re anything but. Like you can ride anywhere and there are no walls to stop you, no places you cannot go. They do not ask for much, but they give much in return.” His fingers stilled on Ursula’s neck as his words replayed in his head. Christ, had he truly verbally assaulted the prince of Evergreen with such foolishness, such frivolous thoughts? “I apologize. I didn’t… That was…”
“That was beautiful. You have a way with words, Cassius. It was as if…as if you experienced what you said.”
Cas’s eyes snapped to the prince’s, which were firmly pointed to his face with an unfamiliar intensity Cassius didn’t understand. He turned away before the prince saw something in his gaze that he did not want him to see. “I worked on a farm once,” he replied.
Prince Merrick nodded in response. “Can I tell you a secret?” he asked as he pulled a carrot from the bag and handed it to Cassius.
“Yes, Your Highness. You can tell me anything you’d like.” Only Cassius did not understand why he would want to.
“Sometimes I wish for exactly what you spoke of…to be able to go wherever I want, whenever I want.” The prince fed one of the carrots to his horse, who gobbled it up. “Even if only to explore town undetected. I know how that must sound, to long for such simple things, but…”
“They are not simple,” Cassius found himself saying. “They are normal things to desire, something I must admit I’ve taken for granted.” He’d never considered what being a prince truly meant. Yes, Merrick would never hunger, would never require necessities Cassius struggled for, but he was bound by different hardships Cassius couldn’t understand and had never taken the time to attempt. “We are both bound, shackled by aspects of our lives that are out of our control.”
Riley Hart is the girl who wears her heart on her sleeve. She’s a hopeless romantic, a lover of sexy stories, passionate men, and writing about all the trouble they can get into together.
She loves reading, flawed characters, and hanging out with her husband and children, who she adores. She and her family live in Southern California, soaking up the sunshine while also missing seasons. Not a day goes by that she isn’t thankful she gets to wake up and do what she loves.
Life is good. Riley also writes young adult and new adult under the name Nyrae Dawn.
Once upon a time, Christina Lee lived in New York City and was a wardrobe stylist. She spent her days shopping for photo shoots, getting into cabs, eating amazing food, and drinking coffee at her favorite hangouts.
Now she lives in the Midwest with her husband and son—her two favorite guys. She's been a clinical social worker and a special education teacher. But it wasn't until she wrote a weekly column for the local newspaper that she realized she could turn the fairytales inside her head into the reality of writing fiction.
Christina writes Adult, New Adult, and M/M Contemporary Romance. She's addicted to lip gloss and salted caramel everything. She believes in true love and kissing, so writing romance novels has become a dream job.
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