To Save a King (True Blue Royal #2) by Rachel Hauck

“I do believe so, yes.”

“He’s a wealth of good news, isn’t he?” John said, sipping his tea, listening as Hamish pontificated about Reingard Industries.

“This new manufacturer has killed the garment industry everywhere they’ve planted a new facility. They promise high wages but soon learn the locals do not know their equipment and thus cannot produce fast enough, so they lay everyone off and bring in their own people. Meanwhile, the manufacturers have suffered with costly production and reduced demand. The question I’m asking is how did this happen? On top of the fact, our own Eloise Ltd. was set to buy the land that Reingard Industries now sits on. And for half the price, I might add. It’s rather a mystery, Tupp.”

“He does raise valid questions,” John said with no shortage of reluctance.

“I hope you get to the bottom of this soon, Hamish.” Tuppence Corbyn seemed even more disturbed than before. “My own grandmother used to have a shop on Ribbon Avenue in the Midlands. It’s gone now and so are the lovely clothes she used to make.” Then, as if flipping a switched, she gathered herself and smiled for the camera. “More with MP Hamish Fickle after this word from Port Fressa Insurance.”

John snatched up the remote and powered off the television. He felt some odd satisfaction as it, along with Hamish Fickle, disappeared into the ceiling.

“He’s elected from one of County Northton’s smallest regions. Midland Garden,” he said. “Why is he on a national talk show? Shouldn’t he be tending the needs of those who elected him?”

“He’s charming,” Mum said, moving to the cart to refresh her tea. “The shows love him. Though I find him a rather small man with a big mouth.” She sat in her chair with a glance up at John. “How are you?”

“I know you didn’t ask me here to inquire of my health.” He sat in the chair opposite his mother. The one where she met with the prime minister, opposition opponents, and international leaders.

“Why not? I’m a mother. The welfare of her son is part of the job.” She bit into a cinnamon-coated puff. “I saw LTV-1 has produced a documentary about our dear Holland and—”

“I know.” He rather hoped she’d not bring this up. He’d been avoiding requests for interviews since January.

“Really? You never said. Did you take part? I’m surprised I wasn’t asked.”

“They made many requests but I declined.” The life he’d shared with Holland, however short, was private, his personal treasure, and he’d not allow anyone to peer inside, disturb his memories.

“How’s Briley?” Mum moved on.

“Fair.” Briley, Holland’s beloved horse, had broken his leg in the accident but the bone didn’t heal well. He’d had a second surgery three months ago but still seemed hesitant to bear weight on the leg. “He’s a fighter.”

“Are you sure you’re not keeping that poor creature alive to—”

“Mum, I would never.” The question caused John to flinch. In the dark of night, he’d wondered the same thing. Was he keeping Briley alive because he was the last living thing Holland touched before she died?

“See to it you’re not.” Mum leveled a gaze at him from across the way. John never realized until now the large gap between the queen’s chair and the guest chair.

“The veterinarian and groom are doing a brilliant job of his care. If either hinted at putting him down, I’d not hesitate.” He’d not allow the ole boy to suffer. “So, what is this meeting about? Briggs left no notes. I feel unprepared.”

“Briggs didn’t tell you because I didn’t tell him. This is a personal visit not Family business.”

“Is everything all right?” John angled forward with a bit of trepidation. Mum had seemed rather out of sorts lately. Pale. Retiring early. Her voice and countenance lacked her usual steel.

“Yes, of course. I have several things to share. Private news.” Mum retrieved a bound manuscript from her desk. “Your dear cousin Rachel’s gone off and done a crazy thing.”

Rachel was the daughter of Mum’s sister, Princess Arabella.

“What’s she done now?” And how did it involve him?

“She’s published a book.”

“Oh the horrors.” John flipped through what appeared to be a picture story. “Shall we tie her to the stake? Send her to the tower?”