Evie Mitchell The Marriage Claim (EBOOK)
Evie Mitchell eBook The Marriage Claim (EBOOK)
Evie Mitchell eBook The Marriage Claim (EBOOK)

The Marriage Claim (EBOOK)

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"As the warrior who saved your life, I ask for the right to invoke the akaternok ah yalonel—the Marriage Claim."

I have no choice but to marry. I need an heir—for the good of the country and the continuation of my bloodline.
If I could, I'd do it alone. But as Queen, I need a consort—and the only option is for me to take a husband.
Jonathan is completely unsuitable. Charming, powerful, attractive—and vying to be our country's next Prime Minister. He's a terrible choice.
But when he saves my life and requests akaternok ah yalonel—the Marriage Claim—I'm left with the hardest decision of my life.
Does he want my heart... or my crown?


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Formal Meeting Room, The Royal Palace


"Your Majesty, please—"

I pressed hands to the table as I glared down the length of it at the men attempting to control my life.

"I said, no." I repeated, my tone ice.

"The crown carries a price, my Queen."

Everything in me revolted. Anger warring with despair.

"You must see," the Prime Minister said, spreading his hands in supplication. "The people have allowed you to grieve. But two years without an heir… it's unheard of."

"Not since your many great grandfather, King—"

"Leopold the Third. I know my family history." I waved a dismissive hand, fighting to restrain my anger.

I sucked in a breath, forcing myself to casually lean back, to settle into my throne. I knit my fingers, bringing them to my chin, adopting the same pensive pose my father had used throughout his reign. I did so deliberately, finding over the past two years that it had reassured the men in the room, eliciting an emotional response, the ghost of my father a memory I had yet to shake.

Manipulation, thy name is Katherine.

I lowered my hands, glancing up at the men. "Prime Minister, explain your reasoning."

If the polls were correct, he wouldn't be sitting in this room come September. The people were displeased with his performance— he promised much but delivered little and most to the benefit of the rich.

His term had started under my father and I'd be pleased to see him gone. He wore far too much cologne, rarely said anything of value, and spoke down to every woman in his vicinity— especially his Queen. I'd been forced more than once to put him in his place. Gently, of course. It wouldn't do to have conflict between the head of state and the people's elected official.

I reigned over a constitutional monarchy, where power between the crown and the executive was a tenuous balance of diplomacy and negotiations. I may have final power, but my ability to govern relied upon the will of parliament bringing forward the proposals I wished to endorse.

And this Prime Minister? He'd brought forth nothing but half-hearted rubbish for me to consider. Twice in my short two-year reign I'd been forced to send motions back to Parliament for renegotiation, the Bills insufficient to provide for my people. The last time such an event had occurred ad been two decades ago, under my father. That I'd reject not one but two had left him red-faced and resentful.

I'd known the Prime Minister disliked me. I hadn't quite realised how he wished to control me until this moment.

An ambush. I'd walked into a goddamned ambush.

"As you are aware, Your Majesty," the Prime Minister began, wringing his hands nervously. "The constitutions requires that you name an heir within four years of ascending the throne. With your sister engaged to a foreigner, and your brother…." He paused and I found myself curious if he would finally discuss my brother's sexual preference.

I'd long ago found that men like the Prime Minister saw any threat to what they thought as 'the right way to live life' as insurmountable— and I knew my brother's sexuality, no matter how ordinary and normal, would be met with disapproval by this worm of a man.

He proved me right when he cleared his throat, avoiding discussing Leo's sexuality by saying, "Serving overseas. Which would put him in great danger. I see no other option. You must marry."

I raised an eyebrow at the rest of the table. "And does the table agree?"

The Archbishop cleared his throat. "It's prudent to at least consider the option, Ma'am."

You knew this day would come, Kit.

I couldn't lie to myself. This moment had been brewing for years. I bordered on thirty, my fertility now rife speculation in the media. My life had already been dissected, my virginity questioned time and again by conservative gossip rags, feminists determined to see a progressive queen on the throne. My sexuality, much like the rest of me, remained open speculation.

I was a progressive, I made no secret of that. But my private life, the scraps of it that remained, were mine. In the privacy of my bedroom, locked away from prying eyes and open ears, I remained free. Free to rage, free to cry, free to love.

Well, I had experienced two of those three. And that was the problem. It wasn't that I didn't wish for love, I did. For all my practicality I remained a closet romantic, stealing romance novels from my sister, wishing for the day I'd experience the spark that let me know I'd found my one.

But when you were Queen few people approached you without an ulterior motive. Even the most genuine of my friends, those I had thought were close companions, near and dear to my heart, had capitalised on my name. I counted those close to me on one hand, and of that number only two were not related to me by blood or marriage.

Fame and fortune were fleeting, royalty was forever. And I'd learned the hard way that no one truly understood this, not even my siblings. Only my father had understood this burden.

And he's gone.

"Thank you," I said, finally rising from my seat. The men rose with me, all deference and meekness now.


"I'll consider your words."

I walked to the door, then paused, turning slightly. "And Prime Minister?"

He straightened. "Ma'am?"

I offered him a small smile. "I expect you'll want to discuss an election date when next we meet."

His face flushed, red creeping up his neck. "Of course."

With that, I parted, not bidding them good day, not acknowledging them further. An unspoken criticism, but not a subtle one. My father would be turning in his grave, I could practically hear his gentle rebuke.

You know better, Kit. Don't let them rattle you.

I strode through the palace, smiling, and nodding at guards and maids, dimly aware of the man and woman at my back. The bodyguards followed me everywhere, silent, and watchful, keeping me safe.

Since my coronation, there'd only been three attempts on my life— each easily handled. Hardly worth the fuss.

I caught sight of my mother's handmaid ahead, calling, "Pauline? Where is my mother?"

The maid dipped her head in greeting, bobbing up. "In her parlour, Ma'am. Should I bring tea?"

I glanced at my watch and shook my head. "No, I only have a few minutes. Thank you."

She bobbed again, then hurried on her way, no doubt to fulfill some needless endeavour my mother had tasked her with.

These days, my mother preferred solitude but with a house full of staff, that quiet was rare.

I opened the doors to the parlour, finding her exactly where I expected, by the window sitting in the sun, sorting letters. We received hundreds of letters a day, and yet my mother always dealt with them personally, sometimes responding herself, other times asking my siblings. Rarely, but sometimes, she asked me to put pen to paper, and each time I did it knowing it meant as much to her as to the receiver of the missive.

"Darling." Mother gestured me over, tilting her head as she read the tension on my face. "Sit, tell me what's happened."

I wanted to drop and slump, wanted to stamp my foot and pout like a three-year-old. Instead, I settled gracefully, adopting the perfect straight-backed posture that had been drilled into me since birth.

"The men wish me to marry."

Mother pursed her lips but didn't comment.

"It's ridiculous," I told her with a frown. "Isn't it?"

She seemed to weigh her words, glancing at the bodyguards positioned by the door, then back at me.

I swallowed knowing she was about to deliver advice I had no wish to hear.

"Marriage isn't easy, Kit." She reached out, taking my hand in hers. "And marriage to a monarch? To the Monarch?" She shook her head. "It is its own kind of torture."

Her lips quirked; her eyes sad. "Your father and I had many wonderful years together before your grandfather passed. But when he took the throne, even then I wasn't prepared for the changes in our life. Oh, your grandmother tried. She advised me well. But as Queen or King, your loyalty isn't to your partner. Your loyalty should and always will be to your people. The crown demands nothing less." She blinked, tears shimmering on her lashes.

"Your father tried. He made time for you, Leo, and Charlotte. He carved out hours to sit with me. But it's not the same as it was. And I found that the partner I married, the man so easy to laugh, retreated behind the weight of his responsibility. And yet it was during this time that he needed me more than he'd ever needed me before."

She squeezed my hand. "Your husband will never know you as anything but Queen. And, my darling, you do need to marry. You're the first Queen in the long history of our great nation. Your ascension has been nothing but good news. You're doing wonderful, dear. But you need a partner."

"I need an heir," I corrected her.

"No, darling. You need a partner. Someone to share your burdens. Someone who you can lean on when times are tough. The only person you can trust. Someone to remind you to have fun, to laugh."

She let go of my hand, rifling through the papers until she pulled a letter from a small stack and handed it over.

The letter was short, general greetings and what-not, but my eyes found and held on the picture, a printed photo of my father and mother. They were at a school, my father watching as my mother attempted to play soccer with the children. They were both young, the photo taken a few years after he'd assumed the mantle of Kingship. His head was thrown back, laughing as he stood in a group of solemn-faced adults while Mother had been caught mid-kick, her skirts hiked up around her knees, surrounded by a tribe of delighted children.

"The advisors hated me that day. Such a lack of decorum." She chuckled, her eyes twinkling. "Your father had been visiting the school and I'd tagged along. He'd been under such pressure to perform, still settling into his role. Everyone expected so much of him— exactly as they do you. They always demanded, never asking what he wanted." She grinned. "I scored the goal and I do believe that was the night we conceived your brother."

"Ew, Mother." I made a face and she laughed, reaching over to tap the letter.

"The son of the photographer sent it. He thought I'd appreciate the memory; I shall be writing to thank him."

Just as I knew she would. I looked down at the paper in my hands, tracing my thumb over my father's face.

"I miss him," I whispered.

"I know. We all do."

I looked up, seeing my mother through new eyes. "You want me to marry."

"I do, my darling. It is my most heartfelt desire."

I blinked, tears burning for some unknown reason. "But why?"

My mother's touch was gentle as she cupped my face. "Because, my beautiful girl. You may be Queen, but you are still a woman. Rarely do you get your heart's desire. You no longer smile or laugh as freely as you did. You no longer tease or joke. When your father died, it's as if the spark inside you died as well."

"I'm busy. I don't have time for—"

"Hush," my mother ordered, her tone soft steel. "I understand, Kit. But love, true love? It requires a spark. And you have long been tinder waiting to ignite. Once you experience it, nothing will stop you. You'll burn so brightly, my darling. And you deserve it. You deserve to experience that wondrous love. You deserve to feel the flames of passion, to know yourself, and know you are so very, very loved for who you are."

"I don't know where to start," I admitted, finally revealing my deepest fear. "And I'm scared. Terrified, actually. I'll be marrying for life. There is no divorce for me." I swallowed. "What if I make the wrong choice?"

"But what if you make the right one?"

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