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She shivered.

The doorbell rang. Rushing to the door, Jennifer peeked out the hole and saw no one. She cautiously opened the door. A blank piece of white cardstock lay on the step. She glanced around, but all was quiet, so she picked up the piece of paper and crept out onto the porch, seeing no one through the thick trees. Walking a little farther along the narrow road that led to the village, she peered around the foliage. A few tourists walked in the street by the shops not far away, and beyond that a couple guards were patrolling the barrier to the road that led to the castle. Would those guards have seen someone come up the path to their home? Did she dare ask?

Her father had instructed her to stay hidden in the house. She’d gone running and had run straight into the very man she needed to avoid if she wanted to keep her sanity. Her father would probably get upset if she asked some royal guards if they’d seen someone heading to or from this direction. They’d know this was her dad’s cottage and they’d probably recognize her.

Jennifer eased back up the path and into the house and shut the door, clinging tightly to the thick paper. She flipped it over.

The breath rushed out of her.

There was a picture of her dad, with the evil and picture-perfect Naomi Rindlesbacher holding a pistol to his temple and smiling broadly. Her dad looked miserable and defiant at the same time. His usually impeccable Brioni suit was rumpled and ripped, smudges of dirt marred his face, and blood dripped from a cut on his cheek.

Anger and desperation filled her. Her mum kidnapped, and now her dad as well. What could she possibly do to save them from the likes of the Rindlesbachers?

She forced herself to read the note.

I have your father in my possession now. Insurance, you see. Your job is very simple. Gain Prince Tristan’s trust, but don’t let anyone else see you or know what you’re about. Play your role correctly, unless you want your beloved prince to be the next casualty.

When the time is right, I’ll instruct you further with another note left at the cottage step. Don’t think you can hide in the safety of the castle. I have eyes and ears everywhere.

If you tell anyone what is happening or Prince Tristan discovers your true purpose, I’ll send pieces of your parents until they bleed to death, then one of my men will kill Prince Tristan, and you’ll be left alone to mourn.

Kind regards,

William Rindlesbacher

Jennifer’s breaths came in heaving gulps, and she sank to the wood floor in a heap. Her legs couldn’t support her. That monster had kidnapped her father too. William would cut her parents, torture them, and eventually kill them. What could she possibly do to stop him? How could she gain Tristan’s trust while not telling him what was happening and not letting anyone else see her?

She struggled to her knees, bowed her head, and prayed desperately for strength and some kind of inspiration. Nothing came to her, but as she opened her eyes, she was eye level with the wedding invitation for Prince Derek and his American bride, Ellery Monson.

It was at least a way into the castle, but she’d have to hide once she got in and then somehow get Tristan’s attention.

Gain his trust but not tell him the truth? Could she do that? To Tristan?

Jennifer looked at the picture of her dad again and hot tears streamed down her face. She remembered her mum, cut from William’s knife and in his possession. It made her want to stay on the floor and sob.

Even as she had that thought, she knew she had to take action to protect herself and hopefully rescue her parents. Rushing around the cottage, she found a small rucksack, a can of bear spray, and a couple pocket knives. There was no gun, not even in the safe. It was probably for the best. She’d never shot a gun before.

Jennifer set the bag to the side. She couldn’t take it into the wedding, but she wanted to be prepared when William sent her next instructions.

If she could sneak into the castle and somehow get Tristan alone, on his brother’s wedding day no less, would she dare confide in him or would William somehow know? The man claimed he had eyes and ears everywhere, and she believed him. He could have people loyal to him in the police force or the royal guard.

But Tristan…

Despite him breaking her heart by moving on and getting engaged, she could trust him to help her. Unless he let something leak to Ray, his dad, Chad, or Jensen. They were all trustworthy men, but once something started leaking, it just kept leaking. She worried her lip and prayed harder.

Even if she walked William’s precarious slackline, she didn’t know that her parents would survive. If he truly killed them and Tristan, she wouldn’t just mourn. She’d never recover.


Tristan sat through the beautiful and well-attended wedding of his second-youngest brother, Derek, the famed ‘Ninja Prince,’ and Ellery Monson, the top female ninja warrior in the world.

This gorgeous and well-attended wedding was a direct opposite of Ray and Macey’s quiet ceremony two weeks ago—a wedding Ellery had unwittingly ruined by listening to Naomi Rindlesbacher’s lies about Hattie being a murderer.

This wedding was on a stretch of grass next to the castle overlooking the gorgeous valley with the multi-colored mountain slopes as the perfect backdrop. Flower pots decorated any spare spot of ground, and wreaths and hanging flower sprays were draped everywhere. Steffan and Hattie were seated a few chairs away from him, beaming and in love, with no need to hide. Scores of friends, family, foreign and Augustine dignitaries, members of the local church and community, and media were in attendance. Almost two hundred was the count he’d heard had been invited, and they’d all appeared to come.

Finally, the royals of Augustine had nothing to hide, and they were free of William and Naomi Rindlesbacher. Ray had relaxed initially when the two had disappeared, focusing his men on finding the pair of criminals and Leslie, but security had been increased for this event. There were numerous guards openly armed and some masquerading as guests. Only those with an official invite had been allowed through the gates. An embedded security code on each invite had been scanned by the guards. Each guest had also been searched with high-tech scanning equipment and only small purses for the ladies or camera bags for media members were allowed through the gates, after passing through a scanner better than any airport security.

They were safe; no bombs would get through today. The bride was radiantly gorgeous in a white satin dress that fit her simplistic beauty. The groom was properly smitten and handsome in his dark gray tux.

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