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Jonathon, After All

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Princes Take New York book 1
Chapter 1

What do you say to the man who took your virginity, broke your heart, and ruined your entire life? Jonathon Hawthorne had practiced numerous speeches and thought he’d be ready but, when the time had finally come, his brain had locked and his lips were frozen shut. So he did the next best thing and threw a drink in Leo von Hessen’s face.

Then, Jonathon ran.

 

He mumbled apologies as he pushed and shoved his way out of the Plaza’s overcrowded ballroom and sprinted down a marble hallway with an Austrian prince and a security detail chasing after him.

 

“Sorry! 911! Out of my way!” Jonathon shouted once he’d made it outside, dodging pedestrians on the sidewalk and leaping into the back of a cab. “Sorry!” he said to the woman he’d stolen it from. “Please, drive!” he told the man behind the wheel, ducking so Leo wouldn’t see him through the back window.

 

“Where to?”

 

“The Olympia.”

 

“They kick you out, or you running because you slept with someone’s husband?” the driver asked, watching Jonathon through the rear view mirror.

 

Jonathon remained slouched low in the seat and held up his hands. “I was saving them the trouble and who knows how many husbands I’ve slept with. Although, I don’t believe he ever married,” he murmured to himself.

“Who?”

 

“Never mind,” Jonathon said with a wave, dismissing the driver.

 

He would hear about it online soon enough, if he was that interested in society gossip. Jonathon had much more important things to worry about: Aunt Muriel was probably livid and there was a strong chance she was already canceling his credit cards and freezing his bank account. Jonathon would be broke by sunrise and he had no idea where he was going to go, but he wasn’t ready to face his aunt.

 

She was going to have so many questions. And the drama! Jonathon shuddered and his soul puckered in anticipation of the histrionics. Best to lay low until she had run out of steam and had forgiven him.

 

If Muriel ever forgave him.

 

Muriel usually did, and she did her best to understand and support Jonathon, no matter how ridiculous his stunts were. But he had truly done it this time. She was probably mortified and telling anyone who would listen that he was disinherited.

 

“Here we are,” the driver declared while pulling up to the curb in front of the Olympia.

 

Jonathon quickly paid and ran through the porte cochère, nodding at the doorman as he hurried to the elevator. A young man with bright eyes and a warm smile was already waiting to go up and he offered Jonathon a polite wave as they waited.

 

“It’s a lovely night!” he said cheerfully when the doors opened and they stepped inside. The unmistakable smell of falafel wafted from the bag of to-go containers in his other hand, making Jonathon’s stomach gurgle loudly.

 

“I hadn’t noticed,” Jonathon admitted, grimacing at his watch. “I might have a fifteen-minute head start on her,” he muttered to himself, earning a concerned cough from his companion.

 

“Is everything alright? I’m Riley Ashby and I live in 8B,” he said and gave Jonathon’s arm a gentle, reassuring pat.

 

“I know. I’m Jonathon Hawthorne.” He nodded but his nose burned and his eyes stung and blurred. “I should be fine if I can somehow manage to…evaporate before my aunt gets back from the gala,” he said with a nervous laugh. He checked his watch again. “She’ll need a few minutes to recover from the shock and she’ll demand they bring her car around immediately but it’s still a madhouse around the Plaza,” he rambled. His knees began to knock and dark blotches bloomed around him as the elevator grew darker.

 

“Whoa! You don’t look alright!” Riley said, hooking his arm around Jonathon’s when he drooped against the back of the elevator.

 

“I told her I didn’t want to go to the von Hessens’ stupid gala. I tried everything I could and I wore the most horrid ensemble possible, but Muriel wouldn’t listen. Too many wealthy, eligible men for me to miss out on, she said. She thought I might even catch a margrave!” he added with a hard eye roll and immediately regretted it as he slid down the wall.

 

“Easy!” Riley leaned and tugged on Jonathon’s arm, attempting to keep them balanced.

 

The ding! from the elevator and a gentle slap on the cheek from Riley helped and Jonathon was able to pull in a deep breath, clearing his head.

 

“Why don’t you hang out at our place while you figure out your next move?” Riley suggested. “I’m sure whatever happened wasn’t as bad as you’re imagining it was.”

 

A loud giggle burst from Jonathon. He covered his mouth, crying as he replayed the moment in his head.

 

“I threw a drink in a prince’s face. At his own birthday gala!” he explained in a loud whisper, causing Riley’s eyes to grow wide as he towed Jonathon out of the elevator and down the hallway.

 

“Okay… That’s not good, but it’s not the end of the world,” Riley said before his nose wrinkled and he halted them in front of the door to 8B. “Wait here for just a moment. I need to let Giles know that we have company.”

 

“Oh.” Jonathon shook his head when he recalled that Riley’s husband, Giles Ashby, was famously reclusive due to his severe anxiety. “I don’t want to be any trouble.”

 

Riley held on tighter to Jonathon’s arm, giving him a sober, pointed look. “There is a very big difference between being trouble and allowing a friend to help when you’re in trouble. Giles understands that and he knows your aunt. This is a safe place. I just have to give Giles a heads up is all,” he stated with a bouncing shrug.

 

“But we’re not friends,” Jonathon replied sadly, because Riley seemed like a wonderful person to be friends with. Jonathon didn’t have many friends and there weren’t any people in his life that he’d consider wonderful. Few were even what he’d call decent or kind.

 

“We could be,” Riley said with a hopeful smile. “If you accept my help and come inside. Our son, Milo, is at his cousin Jack’s for the weekend so we have an extra bunk bed if you need it.”

 

Jonathon nodded weakly. “If you’re sure,” he managed, shaken once again. He had no ready response for Riley’s kindness and sincerity other than “Thank you.” He ducked his head, blushing.

 

“Great! Stay right here,” Riley ordered and pointed at the tiles under Jonathon’s feet, then slipped around the door with the bag. The door swung open a moment later and Jonathon was yanked inside. “Welcome to 8B,” Riley announced with a grand sweep of his hand at the quiet, airy hallway and the living room behind him.

 

A tall, gorgeous man peeked around the wall, offering Jonathon a bashful nod and a wave. “Welcome to 8B,” he repeated. “Make yourself at home but please don’t tell your aunt you’re here,” he added and disappeared around the wall again.

 

“See?” Riley said, his eyes sparkling as he smiled at Jonathon. “Giles is cool. I ordered enough for six people because I have hollow legs, so we have plenty of food if you’d like to join us for dinner.”

 

Jonathon opened his mouth to decline but his stomach let out another angry rumble. “I don’t want to intrude on your dinner too!” he said, clutching his stomach.

 

“Stop being silly.”

 

Riley had no idea how silly Jonathon felt as he joined them in the kitchen for kabobs, hummus, tabouli, falafel… The evening had been the culmination of a decade-long performance for Jonathon, the city’s most extravagant and vapid clown. And it was all the more surreal when Giles Ashby shyly passed Jonathon a wine glass and they gathered around the marble island for dinner. The conversation was easy and soothing with Giles and Riley allowing Jonathon to quietly observe as they teased each other and made plans for the rest of the weekend.

 

After the excitement at the Plaza, it was like dining in paradise.

 

“Do you want to talk about it?” Riley eventually asked Jonathon.

 

They had cleaned away their dinner dishes and made ice cream sundaes.

 

Jonathon sighed as he stabbed at the mound of whipped cream, melting vanilla ice cream, and chocolate syrup. “Not really but everyone will have heard about it by breakfast.”

 

“I take it you and the new Margrave have a history?” Riley guessed and Jonathon nodded.

 

“We spent a month together in Austria ten years ago. Aunt Muriel was friends with the old Margrave, Leo’s uncle, and she’d often stay at one of his homes or castles. We used to spend a lot of the year overseas—in Europe and in England—but most of Muriel’s friends are dead so we don’t travel as much anymore.”

 

“I see…” Giles said, trading wide-eyed glances with Riley.

 

“Did your month with Leo end badly?” Riley asked and a bitter snort burst from Jonathon.

 

“He filled my head with promises and lies and then he dumped me right before he became Margrave so he could run around with models and race car drivers.”

 

“I’m so sorry.” Riley’s lips pulled into a hard line. “I was cursed before Giles and had my heart stomped on by legions of men so I get it,” he said, but Jonathon shook his head.

 

“There was no one before Leo and legions of men couldn’t make me forget about him. No matter how hard I tried.”

 

“And now he’s here and everyone’s going to know, including your aunt,” Riley summarized, making Jonathon both extremely nervous and angry.

 

“It took him long enough. I’ve wanted this—wanted out—for years so I should have been prepared. Bags packed, you know?”

 

Riley gasped. “You really were her hostage!”

 

“No!” Jonathon shook his head. “Aunt Muriel can be…hell, but she loves me in her own oblivious, overbearing way. She can’t help herself, really, and she means well. She just has her own ideas and doesn’t listen to anyone because she doesn’t have to.”

 

Giles cleared his throat, grimacing as he gestured at Jonathon’s flesh-colored, skin-tight tux. “Was this her idea?” he asked and mouthed an apology.

 

“No. I always aim to look as ridiculous as possible when I leave the house,” Jonathon said, causing both Giles and Riley to frown at him.

 

“Why?” Riley sounded mystified.

 

Jonathon smirked as he licked the back of his spoon. “I didn’t want any of the men she threw me at and I made sure no one would ever want me, if I couldn’t have Leo von Hessen.”

 

“I was wondering why you were dressed as the Swiss Miss when we were introduced,” Giles said distantly.

 

Jonathon nodded at his sundae. “I do love a little couture cosplay from time to time… I’m rather pale and plain,” he said with a wave at himself. “So I dress like a clown and pull ridiculous and occasionally vulgar stunts to get attention.”

 

“Why?” Giles asked, seeming bewildered.

 

“I hate it,” Jonathon confessed. “But I thought that Leo might come back for me if he saw how much of a mess I was—how lost I was—without him.”

 

There was a soft groan from Riley as he reached for Jonathon’s hand. “But he never did,” he said and Jonathon shook his head. 

 

“He moved on and became the new Margrave and forgot about me. I know Muriel worries and thinks she’s doing what’s best by finding me a rich husband with good connections, but I’ve never cared about any of that. All I wanted was…” It seemed so foolish now, as he tried to put it into words. “I just wanted to go back to who I was before and I just wanted Leo. But I couldn't and he was gone, so I did my best to ruin myself so no other man would want me.”

 

Riley and Giles traded concerned looks. “That had to hurt a lot,” Riley guessed and Jonathon nodded.

 

“I couldn’t get out of going to the gala so the plan was to escort Muriel inside, head to the bar, then disappear before he saw me. He was the guest of honor so I figured he’d have a crowd around him the entire time, wishing him a happy birthday and kissing his ass.”

 

“What did he say when he saw you?” Riley asked.

 

A new wave of indignation and pain washed over Jonathon. He set down his spoon, his hands shaking as he braced them on the counter. “He was surprised to see me and he asked how I’ve been. He sounded…thrilled, like he had forgotten or forgiven himself for everything that had happened between us.”

 

“Double ouch!” Riley gave Jonathon’s sundae another squirt of whipped cream. “I don’t blame you for throwing a drink in his face,” he said and they looked at Giles when he made a hesitant hissing sound.

 

“He sounds like a prick and he probably deserved it, but you might have kicked a hornets’ nest tonight. Between your aunt and all the gossip…” he said, crossing himself. “You can hide here for as long as you want, as long as she doesn’t find out. Because I might have a heart attack if she came in here.”

 

“I won’t let that happen,” Jonathon vowed, grateful and relieved to his core to have someplace safe and quiet to ride out the storm. “I appreciate your help and I won’t make you regret it.”

Jonathon, After All will be released on August 20, 2024

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