The very last installment of my Fairy Tale Academy books is almost here!
The Phony Prince
This story is a retelling of The Prince and the Pauper.
We’ve all felt like an outsider at some point in our lives. Thomas (aka Prince Edward) doesn’t really like royals, but since the real prince is MIA, he’s stuck at the Academy having play the part of Edward.
This is the last book in my Fairy Tale Academy series. I’ve had so much fun writing these stories. I hope you’ve had as much fun reading them!
Official release day is Wednesday, May 1st!
Because I want to repay all of your continued support, the eBook will by 99 cents on release day!
Read the first chapter now!
“I am Edward, crowned prince of Glyand. Samuel is my brother. My parents are the king and queen. I live at the castle, but now I am at the Academy.”
The words flowed out in the rhythm he had adopted long ago. He took a breath, forced a smile, and said it again.
“I am Edward, crowned prince of Glyand. Samuel is my brother. My parents are the king and queen. I live at the castle, but now I am at the Academy. Here I represent the kingdom, not myself.” He paused. “And I like people.”
Each time he went through it, the words became reality. At least in his mind. He straightened his shoulders and continued staring into his own dark eyes.
“Some people hate me because of who I am, and some love me for no reason other than that I am a prince.” He winced. “The crowned prince.” He sighed and shook his head. “I hate this.”
A tingle made the hair on the back of his neck rise. He opened a drawer in the dresser and pulled out a brown leather notebook about the size of his hand. He flipped to the first page and found a single sentence in perfect penmanship.
Are you talking to yourself in the mirror again?
Thomas glared. No matter how many times he said it, Thomas was not Prince Edward. Thomas wrote beneath Edward’s note.
Are you still sitting in an expensive hotel waiting for your ship to get cleansed?
Edward answered right away.
I’m sitting on the porch enjoying hot cocoa and a pastry, if you must know.
Thomas closed his eyes and rubbed his forehead. It was bad enough that Prince Edward had been away when his brother Samuel had been accused and found guilty of treason. Since then, Thomas had had to pretend to be the prince through the official coronation and all the state events following. All because Edward wanted to be the one to go to Nardin to negotiate a trade agreement.
Edward had been mocking him the entire time.
Thomas jotted another note.
When do you leave?
Another quick answer.
That meant he was about two weeks away from being back. Just in time for Edward to go to the winter ball instead of Thomas.
Edward kept going.
Anything exciting since the curse?
I imagine all of that royalty in one place is making you want to pull your hair out.
Thomas narrowed his eyes again.
Something like that.
Try not to be your normal, dour self. Remember, you represent the crown. Meet pretty girls. Have some fun.
Thomas could practically hear Edward laughing. His hand shook as he wrote.
I’d rather be back in the office, letting you take care of all of this.
I know, and it’s not my fault that a plague ran through the ships here. I promise, I’ll be back soon. In the meantime, try not to burn any bridges.
I think your brother already did that.
A polite knock came at the door. “Your Highness, it’s time to go.”
Thomas put the notebook back and inspected himself in the mirror. Combed dark hair lay flat on his head. High cheeks framed a thin nose. The resemblance between himself and Edward was eerily perfect. Thomas shrugged and noticed once again that he didn’t fill out the red jacket. No matter how much he ate, he could never keep up with Edward’s wide shoulders, probably because he’d spent the first ten years of his life starving. Lucky for Thomas, he didn’t have to stuff the jacket here at the Academy. No one here had seen Edward in over six months, so no one knew how much he’d bulked up.
“Once a pauper, always a pauper,” Thomas muttered to himself.
Thomas adjusted his red-and-plaid tie, then pulled on a gold bracelet with the crown’s seal on it. He stared hard at himself and smiled. “I am Edward, crowned prince of Glyand.” He took one last breath before grabbing his bag and opening the door.
Two guards in pressed uniforms, William and Drake, stood at ramrod-perfect attention outside the door.
“Morning, you two,” Thomas said. “How did you sleep?”
“Fine, Your Highness,” said William, the taller of the two. Blond hair hugged his scalp, and his bright blue eyes missed nothing.
“Like a baby,” Drake said. His darker skin contrasted with William’s. Thomas knew Drake could best almost every guard at the palace, and that he’d been itching to spar with the giant, Beklor.
“What about you?” William asked.
“Very well, thank you,” Thomas said.
“No coat?” Drake asked.
“Did my mother tell you to ask that?”
Drake chuckled. “No, Your Highness.”
“It’s not that cold yet,” Thomas said. He led the way down the hallway, and the other two fell into step behind him. They walked with long, easy strides that suggested no one should mess with Thomas. Or rather, with Prince Edward.
The halls were mostly deserted as Thomas made his way through them and down the stairs. Couches and chairs in rich colors filled the lobby. A fire blazed in the hearth, blasting the room with warmth.
Drake rushed ahead to open the door. Thomas thanked him with a nod and suppressed a wince as the bitter wind tried to steal his breath.
Thomas had only seen snow once in his life. The capital was too close to the coast for it to happen often. The Academy, while inland, had about the same track record for snow. However, the moisture from the nearby ocean, coupled with the wind, made walking from building to building a gamble in freezing hair, noses, and fingers. The salty tang in the air reminded Thomas of home, but the temperature reminded him of too many winters almost starving to death.
Most students wore overcoats, and Thomas immediately regretted his choice to leave his behind. However, he would not show weakness. The walk wasn’t far to the science building, but each step he took on the frozen cobblestones made him regret his choice even more.
The hairs on Thomas’s neck rose as the sound of running footsteps approached from behind. His heartbeat sped up, and his fingers tightened around the strap of his bag. Each time someone ran toward him, he thought his cover had been blown. Someone had figured it out, and they were here to take him away.
When the guards didn’t make a fuss, Thomas started to breathe again.
“Hey, Edward! Wait up.”
The voice allowed the tight spot in Thomas’s chest to loosen, and he stopped and turned. A gust of wind greeted him, and he once again smiled when he saw Caspian approaching.
Of all the students at the Academy, Caspian was the one Thomas disliked the least. Being from a poorer dukedom, Caspian wasn’t nearly as stuck-up or self-absorbed as the others. Prince Edward and Caspian had been childhood friends, which meant Thomas had to put some effort into their relationship. Thomas channeled his inner Edward and put on a mock scowl. “You here to hand me over to more of Zoe’s crazy friends?”
Caspian jogged the rest of the way laughing. He stood taller than Thomas, with green eyes and curly brown hair. “Oh come on, they were dying to say hello.”
Two days before, Caspian had asked his girlfriend’s friends to show Thomas around the cafeteria. He’d been paraded between them like a prized pig for over an hour. It had taken a high sign to his guards to get him away. Both William and Drake were still laughing about it. “They were dying to make me their pet.”
“It made their day.”
It would probably be the closest they would ever come to the crown, but Thomas kept that to himself.
The whole group headed toward the science building at a brisk pace. To their left lay the fourth-year dorm. To their right, the huge, circular library. Once they got around a quarter of the way, the academic buildings appeared on their left. The grass within the square beyond the fountain was still green. Enchanted, or so Thomas had heard.
“Hey,” Caspian said. “I did want to talk to you about Zoe.”
“Zoe?” Short, blonde, and the girl whom he had taken to the Lantern Ball. Mostly because he’d thought she was too dumb to figure out his secret.
“Yeah.” Caspian scratched his neck. “I still feel bad about snatching her away from you like that.”
“Snatching her?” Thomas laughed. “She’d been making eyes at you since she started tutoring with us. I decided to facilitate the two of you getting together.” Prince Edward was something of a romantic and was “super happy” that Thomas had taken the opportunity to do some match-making.
Caspian’s jaw hung open for a moment. “You left on purpose?”
“After I watched you watch us dance, I knew you liked her.”
“Are you serious?”
“What kind of state business could have pulled me away from my first ball here?” Running away like that had saved Thomas’s sanity. Five more minutes with Princess Zoe might have driven him to confessing his real identity.
“Does that mean the horrible dancing was on purpose?”
Thomas kept a smile plastered on his face. “Well, I was trying to not impress her.” He waved a hand. “For you.”
They joined a throng of huddled students heading for the math building.
Caspian eyed him.
“It worked, didn’t it?” Thomas’s heartbeat sped back up. If anyone was going to catch him in the act of impersonating Prince Edward, it was Caspian. “You are dating her, right? I didn’t dance badly for nothing, did I?”
Caspian’s neck turned red.
An exuberant blast of cold air hit them, and the sound of fluttering papers filled the air, along with a single curse word.
The papers fell around Thomas like leaves. His hands moved of their own accord, his fingers reaching out and plucking the music—Thomas could see the staff lines—from the air as if they were standing still.
“Grab them!” a girl said.
The rest of the crowd followed Thomas’s example, and soon they looked like a group of children trying to catch soap bubbles. One particularly energetic paper tried to blow toward the fountain, but Thomas darted around his guards and grabbed it before it got too far.
“Nice,” Drake said.
“Impressive,” William said.
“Thanks.” Thomas turned back and found a tall girl standing beyond his guards.
Kyla, the second youngest mermaid princess, wore the school uniform—a white shirt, blue-and-red scarf, and a short black skirt with long socks and boots. Over that she wore a poufy teal coat that fell to her knees. Her hair was a color that teetered between rose red and blossom pink. A green shell, which matched her eyes, hung around her neck. She had her mouth open and her hand out as if to thank him and then take the pages, but when he met her gaze, her expression hardened.
Everyone within ten feet stared at them, as if expecting one of them to grow an extra arm.
Thomas stepped forward, and his guards parted. He held the papers out. “I think you dropped these.”
Kyla’s eyes narrowed, and her lips pressed together before pulling into a sneer, which stopped Thomas in his tracks.
They stared at one another with what felt like half of the student body watching. Thomas knew what Prince Samuel had done to Kyla’s sister, and despite having a couple classes together, they had never spoken. Which was probably for the best; from what Thomas had seen, she was brash and haughty. More self-absorbed than some of the other royalty.
Now he understood that she would rather touch a cold pole with her tongue than exchange pleasantries. Which didn’t bother Thomas in the least.
However, he had to pretend to be Edward, so he straightened and finished his walk to her. He smiled, bowed, and offered her the pages.
Kyla’s hand shook as she reached out, and her lips pressed into a thin line. She gave him a little nod laced with a promise of retribution if he said a single word, snatched the music from his fingers, and turned away.