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I raced back to the lodge, feeling giddy from my time with Darius. He’d asked me out! And he’d invited me back into his kitchen to help him with his cakes. Starting the day with his easy company had helped settle my nerves, but as soon as he’d asked me to dinner, I’d low-key panicked.

Going to dinner wouldn’t be like sharing a baking task with him. I’d have to be charming and engaging. What if I talked about orthodontia all night? Or the challenges of negotiating airtime in the Monterey-Salinas media market? No. He’d inevitably find me boring as hell. One of the downsides to being around my Wilde and Marian cousins was realizing how dull my life was by comparison.

Case in point: my cousin Felix Wilde had arrived late last night with his husband, who just so happened to be the king of Liorland—yes, the actual king of a country in Europe—and their family. Felix himself was everything that was kind and welcoming, and honestly, so was Lior. But it was hard to be myself around someone who had the equivalent of secret service agents around him at all times.

It was one thing to treat Jude Marian—a Grammy-winning country music star—as a regular person, but quite another to try and be chill around a man whose royal ancestry went back hundreds of years.

“He’s just a dude,” I muttered to myself as I walked into the lodge with two big brown paper bags from the bakery. “So am I. Normal dudes. Being the marketing director of Happy Teeth is almost the same thing as being the ruler of a small country.”

“I assure you, it is not,” Lior mumbled, shuffling across the front hall in nothing but flannel pajama pants.

I stared at him while suddenly dying of mortification.

“Mostly because my job is probably considerably more boring than yours,” he added. He scratched his stomach idly, and I almost salivated. The man had been voted the world’s hottest royal for a reason.

“Sir,” his valet, Arthur, said, following him with a burgundy robe draped over one arm. “If you wouldn’t mind covering up your… self. You’re not in the privacy of your own suite anymore.”

“Need coffee,” Lior said, turning back and forth as if trying to determine where the kitchen was. “You said I had to get it myself.”

“Presumably after dressing, sir,” Arthur said with a sigh. “It’s unseemly.”

“Miller, help me,” Lior begged. His hair stood up every which way. “Where is the coffee? And why do you smell like cookies?” His sleepy eyes brightened slightly. “Do you have cookies?”

Arthur looked at me. His impeccable grooming and fastidiously pressed clothing was typical for the proud valet. “Forgive him. I forced a sleeping pill on him during the flight last night, and it seems to have created other problems.”

“Babe?” The shouted endearment came from down the hall, quickly followed by one of the Wilde cousins, who stopped short when he reached the valet. I tended to mix up Max and his brother Jason, but if he was smiling at Arthur and calling him “babe,” this was most likely Max. “Mom wants to know if we packed navy blue sweaters. Don’t ask me why. I told her you didn’t let me near the packing, so I’d have to ask.”

“Yes,” he said, reaching out a hand to smooth a wayward lock of hair off Max’s forehead. “She wants Teddy to take some engagement photos of us in the snow while we’re here.”

Max’s face turned pink. “Oh. Yeah… good. That’s nice. I’d… I’d like that.”

Arthur’s face softened as he looked at his fiancé. “I thought you might. They’ll be better than the ones we had taken at the palace. You looked terrified in those.”

Max walked into Arthur’s embrace and tucked his face into Arthur’s neck. “Sometimes I feel like a peasant in that place.”

“Same,” Lior muttered before walking off in search of his coffee. “So much same,” he called over his shoulder. I followed him to deposit the bags from Honey’s.

Mikey looked up with a big smile on his face. “There you are. I thought maybe you’d been kidnapped by a gorgeous Greek man.”

My face ignited, but I hoped it could be excused away by my frosty trek outside. “Nope. Just lost track of time, that’s all. What’s the plan for the day?”

“I believe some people are going shopping in town and some are staying here to wrap presents,” Mikey replied. “Which activity you choose is primarily based on how far in advance you planned for the gift exchange.” He winked at me and tilted his head toward Granny.

“Zip it, tiny child,” Granny snapped. “Some of us are known for our spur-of-the-moment creativity. You can’t squash a lady’s Joyce de Veeverer.”

She butchered the pronunciation of the phrase, which made Cal Wilde spit out his coffee and his partner, Worth, murmur, “I think I went to school with someone by that name,” at his plate of eggs.