Home > The Wild Heir (Royal Romance #2)

The Wild Heir (Royal Romance #2)
Author: Karina Halle

One

Magnus

“You fucked up!” Ottar says yet again.

Not exactly the thing you want to hear mere seconds before you’re about to fling yourself off a 3,200-foot cliff and free fall to the fjord below.

But in this case, as Ottar has spent the last five minutes drilling into my head what an idiot I am and how badly I’ve fucked up my life, hurling yourself off a cliff seems like the right thing to do. Maybe the only thing to do in this situation.

As I run toward the edge of Kjerag Mountain, I keep my eyes focused straight ahead at the fjord cutting through the valley like a blue knife, and let all thoughts, all worries, all self-awareness, melt away.

I jump.

Those first few seconds of free fall are what I imagine being born is like. A terrifying rush as you’re propelled from the solid and steady world you know into the cold abyss. There’s nothing like it, leaving safety and life for what should be certain death.

Then you’re flying, arms out, weightless, a bird in the sky, an angel’s descent, a step beyond being human.

Then you’re falling.

Wind rushing against your face, pulling your skin back into a smile, rattling your helmet. There’s nothing to anything anymore, nothing but you and the wind and the greatest adrenaline rush you’ll ever know. Better than sex, even.

Maybe.

The timer goes off, interrupting the rush before my brain has started to blur together. I quickly reach into the chute to deploy it and I’m jerked back, the blast of the free fall reversing for a second as the parachute spreads and the easy descent begins.

Usually this part of the jump is where your heart starts to slow, where you realize where you are, what you’re doing—that you made it. You’re safe. As you float down to earth, you carry nothing inside you but awe, knowing that you’re just a tiny bright-colored parachute soaring toward a cerulean-blue fjord, eagles at eye level.

But there is no peace and tranquility today.

There is none of that sharp focus and clarity that always comes during a jump, where my scattered world seems to pause, just for one wonderful minute as I fall from the sky.

All I can focus on are Ottar’s words slicing through my head. I fucked up. And it’s not just his words either. It’s my sisters, it’s my parents, it’s the press. It’s the damn prime minister.

When you’re royalty and you do something stupid, everyone in the whole world, let alone the whole country, gets to weigh in on it.

And I’m the Crown Prince of Norway, heir to the throne, and my latest scandal just set the public image of our country back another hundred years.

No wonder it was easier to jump today than most days.

A scream pierces my thoughts and I look up, even though I can see nothing above me but the electric yellow of the chute. That was Ottar’s scream. This is only the second time the guy has BASE jumped, and for him, it’s one too many. Hell, no sane person would attempt this sport, but I have the nickname “Magnus the Mad” for a few good reasons.

The screaming seems to stop after a bit, which means Ottar probably pulled his chute, and now I have the ground to worry about.

Focus, fuckface, I tell myself, willing my brain to stop racing around and work before it’s too late. Everything is throwing me off. I grab the pulleys in front of me and steer myself toward the people standing on the small peninsula below me, hoping Ottar follows suit. His last landing was about as graceful as a cow being flung from a catapult.

There’s only a small patch of grass to land on—overshoot that and you’re going to smash into rock or the ice-cold waters of the fjord. Maybe it’s because my mind has been so liquid, but the grass is rushing up fast and I know that this is going to hurt like a mother.

My feet strike the ground and my legs immediately crumple, sending pain up my shins. I duck into a roll across the grass and then spring up just before my shoulder hits a slab of rock.

Helvete.

All the bystanders standing around are gawking at me and my not so graceful arrival.

I push my helmet on straighter, adjust my goggles, and give them all a quick bow. “Not a bad landing when the alternative is death,” I say with a big smile.

A few of them clap. These people just seem to be tourists, their speedboats pulled up along the shore, cameras around their necks to capture the crazy fuckers like me who do this famous jump.

And Ottar.

He’s screaming again, his legs kicking out as he rapidly descends toward us, his arms jerking on the handles, completely out of control. If he doesn’t slow down and steer he’s going to smash right into a few people, and then the rocks behind them.

This is going to get ugly.

Everyone is scattering, unsure of what to do, and I know this is all out of Ottar’s hands now. Even with his goggles covering up his eyes, I can tell they’re open wide, his mouth agape as he seems to freeze from terror.

I don’t even think. I start running toward him and leap up, crashing into him in the air while trying to wrap my arms around his thighs.

Somehow I manage to pull him down, like I’m plucking a big, fat, hairy bird out of the air, and then he’s crashing on top of me, squeezing the air out of my lungs as I smash into the ground.

“Oh my god, Your Highness!” he yells at me, and even though my mouth is full of grass, I’m already mumbling for him to shut up.

He rolls off me, and then I lie back, trying to catch my breath and hoping no one else heard his address.

“I am so sorry!” he goes on, patting my arms and thighs. “Are you alive?”

Poor Ottar. He never wanted to do any of this shit with me. In the past, he was the guy waiting in the car, hovering on the sidelines. Then, with my father having some health issues this year, Ottar started actually going with me on my activities. If I wasn’t going to quit doing them, then at least Ottar would be there closer than ever, keeping an eye on me, making sure I was, well, alive.

But now it’s not just him making sure I’ll survive to be king, it’s to make sure I don’t run off into the woods and do something stupid. Or more stupid than jumping off a cliff. I have a bad reputation with my family as being slightly impulsive. Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve been blowing off the bodyguards and royal guards and escaping every chance I could get.

“I’m fine,” I tell him, sitting up and looking around. The people are crowded together, watching us from a distance as if Ottar was a bomb dropped from the sky.

“You saved my life, sir,” Ottar says, placing his meaty palm on my shoulder. “I don’t know how to repay you.”

I eye his hand and then shrug it off me. “Well, you can start by dialing back your Samwise Gamgee.”

“Of course, sir,” he says, looking a little embarrassed. I think it’s more from nearly dying and me having to save him, rather than the Lord of the Rings nickname, because I swear he’s always two seconds away from calling me Mr. Frodo. “But again, I’m so sorry.”

“Not your fault,” I tell him. Not my fault either. “You could help me up though.”

“Yes, sir,” he says, grabbing my hands and hauling me to my feet. I can feel the crowd inspecting us even more now—probably because of the way Ottar is addressing me, like I’m someone—and I’m tempted to do yet another bow to play off two bad landings in a row.

But someone has their camera out, aiming it in our direction, and I can't tell if it's because they want to take a picture of the two fools who just landed or if they think I'm someone of importance.

I give the camera a tight smile and look down at Ottar, who is a good half a foot shorter than me. "We should probably get this stuff off and head to the boat."

Down along the shore is a sleek, white speedboat with teak trim, the name Elskling written with flourish on the side. The man waiting patiently behind the wheel is Einar, one of my bodyguards and my getaway driver. Like Ottar, he's always nearby, usually trailing me, because I'm trying to lose him. He used to be in the military though, so he's a hard man to lose.

I hear the faint click of a few more cameras coming from the crowd but this time I don’t indulge them with a second glance. I quickly get my gear off and then as Ottar is still fumbling with the straps across his chest, help him too.

There’s a collective “oooh” from the bystanders and I crane my head back to the sky where the next jumpers are descending, three of them in a row. From this distance they look like brightly colored stars that have burned through the atmosphere.

Another click steals my attention.

Everyone is watching the jumpers except for two men.

Men with cameras aimed right at Ottar and I.

Men I should have recognized before but with all the commotion, my mind wasn’t able to focus.

You’re an idiot, Magnus.

“Hey, isn’t that—?” Ottar asks, but he trails off as the two men turn around and start running toward one of the waiting boats.

“Shit,” I swear, wondering how many photos they got.

It’s not that I was doing anything inappropriate, per se, but I had promised my family I would stay out of the paparazzi’s eye for the day, and well, those two fuckers are the bane of my princely existence. The whole reason I came out here was to avoid having my photo taken since usually the paparazzi don’t follow me all the way out to Kjerag.

But these guys aren’t the normal paparazzi. First of all, they’re Russian twins who look an awful lot like the T-1000 from The Terminator. Second of all, they act like the T-1000 too. They’re fucking unstoppable. No matter where I go, those douchebags are there, taking photos and selling them to the highest paying gossip mag or trashy tabloid. I’m not saying that I cry myself to sleep at night over being known as the “hot and sexy single prince,” but it sure makes you a media darling.

“We need to go,” I tell Ottar. “Now.”

Normally I would just let this go, but since these assholes will without a doubt be selling the first photos of me of what will be known as “The Aftermath” followed with the headlines “Suicidal Prince Jumps Off Cliff (His Personal Secretary Tries to Save Him)” and “Not Fit to Rule,” I feel like it’s my duty to care as much as it’s their duty to treat me like I’m an animal in a zoo.

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