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American Prince (American Queen Trilogy #2)
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I’ve been many things.
I’ve been a son and a stepbrother. An Army captain and a Vice President.
But only with Him am I a prince. His little prince.
Only with Maxen and Greer does my world make sense, only between them can I find peace from the demons that haunt me. But men like me aren’t made to be happy. We don’t deserve it. And I should have known a love as sharp as ours could cut both ways.
My name is Embry Moore and I serve at the pleasure of the President of the United States…for now.
This is the story of an American Prince.
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I met a king when I was twenty-one years old.
But that’s getting ahead of the story.
First, about me, Embry Moore, son of the terrifying Lieutenant Governor Vivienne Moore. To the outside world, I must have looked like a prince. I grew up with horses and boats and my own fucking lake, went to the most exclusive schools, graduated college early, and went off to play war because it sounded like fun.
It was before the war had actually started, back when people thought the Carpathian separatists would settle down like they always had, and it seemed like the best kind of adventure to have: spend some time in the mountains, play soldier for a while, build a resume toward my inevitable future in politics.
Princes do it all the time.
And it was easy…until my second month on base.
I wanted cigarettes, I think. That’s why I missed the beginning of the fight. Evening had fallen, a rosy gloaming that masked the squat ugliness of the base, and as I grabbed the silver cigarette case off my bed and trotted back down to the yard, I remember thinking that the world couldn’t get more beautiful than it was in that moment. The smears of orange and red and purple off to the west, the dark spurs of the mountains to the east, the brisk, clean air, and the promise of stars twinkling overhead. What could be lovelier than this? What else could stop my thoughts, stop my breathing, stop everything that wasn’t simply awe and unbelieving gratitude?
It shows how differently I used to think then, asking what instead of who.
I turned the corner into the yard, already pulling out a cigarette to light, when a blur of gray-brown-green crashed past me, making contact with another blur of gray-brown-green. I jumped back, the cigarette knocked from my hand and trampled underfoot, and I narrowly missed getting sucked into the tornado of fists and boots that was now drawing a crowd from everywhere nearby.
“That was my last cigarette, asshole,” I said to no one in particular.
A big guy called Dag—everyone had forgotten his real name by that point—was staring at the fight with his arms crossed and a keen expression of disgust. “Idiots.”
I grunted in agreement. The commissary had recently stopped carrying cigarettes as part of some new health initiative, and I really, really didn’t want to have to walk the mile down to the little Ukrainian village to get a new pack of smokes tonight. But now it looked like I had to.
“You going to step in?” Dag asked me, tilting his head toward the fracas in front of us.
“After they made me drop my cigarette? They deserve a few black eyes.” I said it jokingly, but Dag didn’t crack a smile. I added, “They’re not my guys anyway.” It was a big fucking base, after all, and I wasn’t about to exert all my energy for two idiots fighting over God knew what.
“You are the only officer around though,” Dag pointed out.
“Like you care one way or the other.” But I glanced around the yard, and sure enough, I was the highest-ranking soldier there.
With a long-suffering sigh for Dag’s benefit and after muttering something about not being a fucking babysitter, I walked forward to break up the boys and make it clear that one of them owed me a new cigarette.
But someone beat me to it.
A wide-shouldered man strode into the center of the fight, as calmly as you might walk along a beach, grabbed one soldier by the back of his shirt and yanked him back. He moved fast to restrain the other fighter, so fast that my mind only registered slivers of him. Flashing eyes, a full mouth. Dark hair. The kind of olive skin you were born with, the kind that stayed warm and bronze through the winter. Italian maybe, or Greek.
“Holy shit,” Dag said. He sounded impressed. Or maybe not. Sometimes it was hard to tell with Dag.
Percival Wu, one of our translators for the locals, came up behind us from the barracks. “That’s Colchester,” he told Dag and me in a low voice. “He just got here yesterday.”
In that moment, I didn’t care who he was. I was just relieved I didn’t have to step in. To be honest, I’d only left OCS a few months ago, and it still felt strange to be in charge of other people.
I grew up around power, around the kind of people who exercised authority with effortless ease, but I myself had spent most of my life dodging any and all responsibility. Consequences were something to be charmed and flirted out of, other people were worth only how much fun they could give me. I had next to no practice taking care of other people…I could barely keep myself out of trouble.
In fact, I rarely bothered to—why would I, when trouble was usually so much fun for everyone involved?