For Ages
14 to 99

American Royals IV: Reign is a part of the American Royals collection.

A queen's life hangs in the balance, and her siblings’ decisions—about what to do, and most of all, who to love—could change the course of history. Romance. Duty. Power...only one can triumph in this stunning conclusion to the New York Times bestselling American Royals series.

America's royal family is in shambles. Queen Beatrice is in a coma and Princess Samantha has gone missing—from the look of things, she ran away with her boyfriend, Lord Marshall Davis. Which means that Prince Jefferson is currently on the throne. For some in America, it's exactly what they wanted: a King ruling the country. And for Daphne Deighton, who has tricked Jefferson into dating her again, it's the ultimate dream come true. 

Surely this is all just temporary. Won’t Beatrice wake up and reclaim her rightful place? Samantha can't really be gone…can she? And Prince Jefferson will never truly be over his childhood crush, Nina Gonzalez. Right?

For the Washington family, the stakes are higher than ever. Love might save the throne….if secrets don’t destroy everything first.

An Excerpt fromAmerican Royals IV: Reign



Hundreds of people craned their necks as the doors to the throne room swung open. The trumpets blared, and then he stepped forward—­the most important man in the country, possibly in the world. Acting King Jefferson.

Daphne Deighton allowed herself a brief moment of satisfaction. To think that after everything that had happened, after all the ups and downs of their relationship, she was finally here: higher than she’d ever imagined she might soar. Standing next to Jefferson while the senior peers of the realm swore him homage.

According to protocol, the dais should have been reserved for members of the royal family. But when the Lady Chamberlain had pointed this out, Jefferson had simply stated that Daphne would be up there with him, and that was that.

After all, the only person who outranked him was currently in a coma.

An equerry began to unfurl the ermine-­trimmed robe of state, but Jefferson made an impatient gesture, letting the robe whip out behind him. When Beatrice appeared in public, she always walked slowly, like a bride processing down the aisle. Not so her younger brother. As Jefferson strode forward, light gleamed on the crimson of his ceremonial blazer, the white sash of the Edwardian Order, the burnished gold of the Imperial State Crown. He looked like some conquering hero from a long-­ago era, a figure from a painting sprung to life. He looked every inch a king.

Daphne could practically hear the sighs of the millions of Americans who were watching the live coverage of this event, and imagining themselves in love with her boyfriend.

The room echoed with the sounds of rustling fabrics as everyone bowed or curtsied. Daphne tucked one leg behind the other and sank exquisitely low, letting her skirts ripple around her. She held the gesture for several beats longer than necessary, eyes downcast, so that the photographers could capture the flattering image. She was well aware that she looked resplendent today, her deep green gown emphasizing the vivid green of her eyes.

Jefferson proceeded up the steps, and then—­his jaw set with regret, or perhaps with disbelief—­he sat on the throne, his hands curling over its armrests.

Lord Ambrose Madison rose heavily from his chair and  made his way to the microphone. As hereditary Queen’s Champion, he would serve as today’s master of ceremonies.

Daphne watched him, her face pleasantly neutral, though her body seethed with resentment. She hated the Duke of Virginia, but she hated his daughter, Gabriella, even more.

“Sirs and ladies,” Lord Ambrose intoned, his chest puffed up with arrogance, “I present to you Jefferson, your Acting King, who serves in the place of Her Majesty Queen Beatrice. Long may she reign.”

“Long may she reign” rumbled through the throne room.

The duke nodded approvingly. “May we all now swear him our service and fidelity in the name of Our Sovereign Queen, for as long as he shall hold this office on her behalf. We shall begin with His Highness the Duke of Manchester.”

It was strange to have Jefferson’s uncle Richard taking such an active role; normally these ceremonies didn’t need to stretch so far down the royal family tree. But Washington family members were in short supply right now, with Beatrice on life support and Samantha missing in action. Samantha and her boyfriend, Lord Marshall Davis, had run away together a month ago—­and no one knew if they ever planned on coming back.

Richard ascended the steps of the throne and knelt before his nephew, then recited the Oath of Vassal Homage.

“I, Richard, Duke of Manchester, solemnly swear that I am your liege man. I will honor and serve you in faith and in loyalty, from this day forward, and for all the days of my life, so help me God.”

“I humbly and gratefully accept your service,” Jefferson replied evenly.

One by one, the lords and ladies of the realm all made their way to the throne, knelt before Jefferson, and swore the same vow. First came the Old Guard, the members of the thirteen original dukedoms that had been created in the wake of the Revolutionary War. Lord Ambrose Madison went first, looking as pompous and insufferable as ever. Then came the Duke of Boston; his son Teddy had renounced his rights to the dukedom, so he wasn’t in attendance. And then the rest of the Old Guard: the Dukes of Dover and Plymouth, of New Haven and Roanoke. They all looked stiff with formality in their court dress, some of the older generation even wearing breeches or white gloves.

Next came the rest of the dukes, then the marquesses and earls, until over an hour had passed and they had finally reached the lowly baronets.

Daphne’s father should have been up there, swearing his fealty to Jefferson like the rest of them, except that he’d been stripped of his title a month ago, as punishment for his so-­called “ungentlemanly behavior.” He’d been caught gambling in Vegas—­on the odds of Daphne and Jefferson getting married.

Now everyone in America knew the sordid truth. Wherever she went, people stared at her with judgmental—­or worse, pitying—­looks. Even the media, who had always adored Daphne with an obsession that bordered on worship, had turned on her. Worst of all was their new nickname for her: the Poker Princess.

Everyone assumed that Jefferson would break up with Daphne soon enough. Surely someone from such a tacky, déclassé family could never date a prince. But Jefferson loyally pretended not to hear the gossip.

He would do anything for the woman he thought was the mother of his child.

The strain was wearing on Daphne, but she knew it was worth it. People were wrong when they whispered that she wanted to marry a rich, well-­connected man.

Please. She hadn’t braved years of social warfare and left scorched earth in her wake just to marry a rich, well-­connected man. She had done it for the rich and well-­connected man, the only one in America who really counted.

Now all she had to do was marry into the royal family, even though no commoner had done it before.

Daphne looked down into the throne room, and her eyes locked with those of Gabriella Madison. Gabriella’s mouth curled into a sneer, color flushing her cheeks. Daphne relished the fact that she was standing up on the dais while Gabriella was lost in the crowd. It was always nice looking down on one of your archrivals.

Daphne’s other sworn nemesis, Nina Gonzalez, wasn’t here today.

Earlier this year, Nina had pulled an elaborate and deeply cruel con on Daphne, pretending to be friends so that she could get close and try to break up Daphne and Jefferson. And like a stupid, naïve fool, Daphne had let her.

She wouldn’t make that mistake a second time. She knew better than to believe in friendship anymore.

Friends became eyewitnesses to your weaknesses, your secrets. Friends could weaponize your vulnerabilities against you.

Gabriella looked away from Daphne with evident frustration. For now, the two of them were locked in a stalemate. Gabriella knew that Daphne had sold photos of herself to the tabloids, and Daphne had a video of Gabriella doing cocaine. Neither of them dared to act, for fear of the other sharing what she knew, but Daphne had a feeling that their cease-­fire wouldn’t last forever.

She glanced back to where Jefferson was still accepting homage, reciting those same words over and over. As each person knelt before the throne, he studied them with calm focus, showing no signs of impatience or weariness.

Daphne knew better than to voice this thought aloud, but lately she’d caught herself wondering: What if Beatrice never recovered? What if Jefferson was America’s future?

What if she wasn’t just a future princess, but a future queen?


“Jefferson!” Daphne stepped into the Green Room: the vast chamber where the royal family gathered after public appearances, which also happened to be decorated in various shades of green. She noted with distracted pleasure that she matched the room perfectly, her dress set against the background as if she were a figure in an eighteenth-­century painting.

Jefferson turned from where he’d been staring out the window and smiled. “Hey, Daphne. Thanks for standing up there all afternoon. I’m sure it wasn’t easy on you, given . . .” He trailed off before saying the baby.

She closed the distance between them, her heels sinking pleasantly into the lush carpet. Jefferson reached for her hands and tugged her closer, lowering his mouth to hers.

Usually their kisses were all sparks and fire and roving hands, but today it felt different: lingering, and soft, and tender. Not a frantic teenage kiss fueled by hormones, but the type of kiss that a man gave the woman he loved.

When they pulled apart, his eyes darted to her stomach, which was as flat as ever. “Ready to share our news?”

“As ready as I’ll ever be,” she murmured.

A month ago, at the closing banquet of the League of Kings conference, Daphne had told Jefferson that she might be pregnant. She had been desperate, trying frantically to keep him from breaking up with her after he’d kissed Nina earlier that night.

Ever since, she’d been pleading with Jefferson to tell their parents—­the crucial first step in her plan. The sooner she could nudge them into a public engagement, the better. She could only keep up her fake pregnancy for so long.

“Jeff! You were wonderful out there!” Queen Adelaide exclaimed as she swept into the room. Belatedly, she remembered to curtsy to her son—­which she didn’t normally have to do, but circumstances were far from normal these days.

Jefferson cleared his throat. “Thanks, Mom. Actually . . . there’s something I need to talk to you about.”

With impeccable timing, a footman materialized in the doorway. “Your Royal Highness. Mr. and Mrs. Deighton are here, as you requested.”

Mr. and Mrs. Deighton. It was still jarring hearing her parents referred to by the common form of their names.

Daphne’s parents entered amid curtsies and bows and murmured pleasantries. They were dressed nicely, though not in gowns and ceremonial wear like Daphne and the Washingtons, because, of course, they hadn’t been at the ceremony. It was only for people with titles.

Daphne’s eyes cut to Queen Adelaide, who treated the Deightons with her usual courtesy; she was too well mannered to act like anything had changed. Still, Daphne swore she caught a fleeting hint of distaste on the queen’s features.

“Thank you all for coming,” Jefferson began. “Daphne and I have something to announce.”

Peter Deighton took a seat on the damask couch, clearly afraid to speak. He should be afraid, Daphne thought spitefully. He’d already lost their family’s title through his stupidity and carelessness; they couldn’t afford any more of his mistakes.

Daphne’s mother sat next to him, tucking her legs elegantly to one side. Even with a grown daughter, she was still frighteningly beautiful, her lips as red and her hair as blond as they had been in her days as a runway model. She flashed Daphne a knowing glance, and then her eyelashes swiftly swept down.

“Jeff? Is everything all right?” Queen Adelaide asked, a note of concern in her voice.

Jefferson hesitated. “Daphne and I . . . She’s . . . I mean . . .”

Daphne held her breath and said nothing. She sensed instinctively that the news needed to come from him, not from her.

“We’re having a baby,” he finished.

Here goes nothing, Daphne thought, terrified yet at the same time oddly thrilled. This was what she did best. Lie. Improvise. Act.

“Oh, Jeff.” His mother’s voice broke on the words.

To Daphne’s shock, the queen rushed to her feet, tugged Daphne upright, and threw her arms around her.

Daphne tentatively returned the hug, and felt Adelaide’s thin frame shaking with sobs.

“I’m sorry, Your Majesty,” Daphne hurried to say, but Jefferson’s mother pulled back. The queen was crying and laughing at once, her face a confused mess of pain and joy, as if all her emotions had mingled together, leaving her exhausted and . . . happy?

“Sorry?” Adelaide repeated. “Why on earth would you be sorry?” She sighed. “Oh, young love. No matter what else is happening, it always finds a way, doesn’t it?”

“Mom?” Jefferson seemed alarmed.

“This is entirely out of order and improper, especially given your recent . . . troubles,” Queen Adelaide announced, with a vague wave at the newly common Deightons. “But it’s been so long since we had a baby at the palace. To think that soon enough we’ll hear little feet pattering up and down the hallways! That’s how Jeff learned to walk, you know,” she said, clutching Daphne’s hand. “He used to toddle up and down the hall, waving at the guards, watching them salute each time he passed. He was the most adorable baby.” Her voice shook a little as she added, “I only wish George were here.”

“I know,” Daphne said soothingly, willing herself not to smile. This was going even better than she’d expected.

“Daphne!” Her mother stepped forward to join the collective embrace. Her arms circled her daughter a bit awkwardly, as if she wasn’t quite sure how this hugging thing worked. “I can’t believe it! Why didn’t you tell us?”

“I was afraid you might be upset,” Daphne murmured.

Rebecca was doing a remarkable job of feigning surprise and motherly concern. She’d already known, of course. There was no one else Daphne could have shared her plan with, no one else she trusted to help; and she didn’t trust her mother, not really. Rebecca could be relied upon for now, as long as her fate was tied to her daughter’s interests. But Daphne knew her mother’s loyalty was only ever to herself.

“People are going to talk.” Queen Adelaide stepped back, wiping at her eyes. “We’ll have to rush your wedding as much as possible.”

The ensuing silence was deafening. Those two words seemed to reverberate through the room—­words that had the power to make or break Daphne’s entire future. Your wedding.

Jefferson had gone pale. “Wedding?”

Daphne noticed that her parents were careful to say nothing; they were very still, like two people holding their breath at the blackjack table, waiting to see if their monumental gamble had paid off.

Well, she wasn’t the Poker Princess for nothing, was she?

“Of course you’re getting married,” Adelaide said briskly. “What else do you plan on doing? Living in sin?”

Jefferson reached for Daphne’s hand. “Mom, we’re a bit young to be discussing marriage.”

“If you’re old enough to have a child, you’re certainly old enough to take on the responsibility of marriage,” the queen countered.

Jefferson’s grip on Daphne’s hand tightened. “It’s not living in sin anymore. This is the twenty-­first century; people don’t expect us to rush into anything.”

“What are you ‘rushing into,’ precisely? You’ve been dating for four years.”

Some of the conviction had drained from Jefferson’s voice. “Mom, that’s not the—­”

“You are a Washington.” The queen stood taller now, her voice ringing through the space with authority. “You are not some rock star who knocked up his girlfriend—­forgive my crude phrasing,” she said absently, with a brief glance at Daphne. “You are a prince and the steward of this family’s legacy, and this situation is problematic enough already. My first grandchild will not be illegitimate. Especially when that child might—­”

She broke off, but Daphne could fill in the end of the sentence. Especially when that child might rule someday.

With Beatrice on life support and the whole complicated situation with Samantha, Jefferson might actually become king.

The prospect was so dizzying that, for a moment, Daphne didn’t even register the queen’s other words, about how the situation was problematic enough already. This was, presumably, her tactful way of saying that her future daughter-­in-­law was currently the butt of national jokes, her family a gross embarrassment.

Slowly, Jefferson turned to her. “Are you okay with this, Daph?”

She and the prince had been dating for four years, and Daphne had spent all four of those years imagining Jefferson’s proposal. Sometimes she’d pictured it at a black-­tie function, Jefferson sinking to one knee as crowds watched with bated breath, and she would accept to tumultuous applause. Other times she’d imagined that it would be just the two of them on a romantic mountaintop somewhere, her hair artfully mussed by the wind as he slid a ring onto her finger.

Never in all her imaginings had Daphne dreamed that Jefferson would ask her to marry him because his mother had forced him to.

He hadn’t even sunk to one knee or said the proper words. All he’d asked was Are you okay with this?

Oh well.

“Of course I’ll marry you,” Daphne assured him. “I love you.”

Queen Adelaide broke into a relieved smile. “It’s settled, then. We’ll need to set a date—­I think we can plan something in eight weeks’ time, perhaps even six if we hurry. Time is of the essence, of course.”

Right, because if Daphne were actually pregnant, she would begin to show soon.

“What about New Year’s?” she heard herself suggest.

To ordinary people, New Year’s Eve was about champagne flutes and sequined dresses and kissing someone at the countdown. But Daphne had always thought of it as a liminal state, a transition point where the old, stale, mistake-­ridden past gave way to an unknown future. It was a moment of change, of excitement.

“A new year, new beginnings,” Daphne added, and the queen’s expression softened.

“That’s a lovely sentiment.”

Moments later a footman was sailing into the room, holding a tray of crystal flutes brimming with champagne. Daphne almost reached for one before remembering that she was supposed to be pregnant.

“To Daphne and Jeff,” the queen exclaimed, and everyone lifted their glasses in a toast, repeating her words.

Daphne didn’t have a glass to lift, but it didn’t matter. A heady sense of satisfaction coursed through her.

After all her years of hard work, she would be a princess at last.

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