I want to apologize to all my readers who have been waiting for book #3 in my Her Royal Romance series. Writing has been slow going for me for the past year, and my father's medical emergency and the five months being on call for him and my mom has made it even harder to get back into the writing routine. I don't like making excuses, no one does, but I just wanted to explain to those of you who might be wondering. I am deep in the middle of the romance between Princess Birgitte, the cousin Mia was impersonating in Her Royal Masquerade, and Leonardo Gullotti, cousin to Prince Vittorio and Princess Angelina of books #1 and #2, and I will release it as soon as possible.
Princess Birgitte is feeling sorry for herself when she attends the wedding of her cousin to her former fiancé. After years of not letting anyone get too close, the ice princess realizes she’s all alone with no one she can love or trust. That night, she hooks up with one of the groom’s cousins, a handsome hot-blooded olive farmer, so unlike any man she’s been with before. They share a night of incredible sex, but she can’t handle the unexpected emotions that come along with it. So Birgitte does was she does best, runs and hides from her mistakes. But six weeks later, she can’t run or hide from the fact that she’s pregnant.
Leonardo Gullotti’s mother may be sister to the king, but his life revolves around the family’s olive business. He’s haunted by the lovely Birgitte, but he’s not impressed with anyone who would run away from their problems. He’s always been a stand and deal with it kind of guy. So when Birgitte comes to him with her news, he proposes on the spot, even though he knows that marrying a future queen will threaten his participation in the family business he loves.
Birgitte knows her baby needs to be legitimate, but will only agree to a marriage of convenience. She doesn’t want any messy emotions involved. But living with Nardo, and not loving him, might be the biggest mistake of all.
I've totally fallen in love with Nardo and he's done much to warm the Ice Princess. But it's going to be difficult for her to get past her fears and insecurities. Good thing Nardo isn't the type to be scared away easily.
So for those of you who are waiting, here is a sneak peek at the opening of Her Royal Mistake.
“Is this seat taken?”
Birgitte slowly raised her eyes from the drink she’d been nursing for the past hour. She desperately wanted to be drunk, so much so that she had refused to accept another glass, terrified of what words or actions more alcohol might unleash. There was too much freaking happiness in the air and she was afraid she’d go mad with it before the night was over.
The man now standing beside her out-of-the-way table was another big, dark Mezzano male. They were everywhere tonight. He looked enough like the groom that he must be related to Prince Vittorio somehow. She let out a low bark of a laugh. Weren’t they all related?
She took another sip of the watered-down liquor and didn’t answer. Kept her blank mask firmly in place.
He flashed her a smile, obviously not taking the hint. An annoying tickle hit her mid-section, making her frown and snap, “Go away.”
“It is a crime for a beautiful woman like you to be sitting here all alone.” His voice was soft and smooth, and made Birgitte want to scream. “See? I have brought you a new drink.” He held out two champagne flutes.
“I don’t want another drink.” She cut her gaze to the ornately decorated ballroom and the lavishly dressed guests talking, dancing, laughing. But when she caught a glimpse of the oh-so-happy bridal couple, Birgitte jerked her attention back to the stubborn man still standing beside her table.
Broad shoulders filled out his suit jacket well. His dark hair was thick and had a wave that wasn’t quite tamed. He wasn’t smoothly handsome, but he had a magnetism about him that surprised her. He winked. “You can’t celebrate with melted ice cubes.”
She’d never felt so alone. So tired. So less inclined to celebrate a marriage. “Believe me, you don’t want to be around me right now.”
She desperately wanted to leave, but it was too soon. She had her orders to keep up appearances, and she supposed she was already failing at that. The room was overrun with representatives of the Mezzano side of this union and Birgitte knew she was expected to be here as a member of the Stagatland contingency. The fact that she was family took second place.
“Aren’t you the bride’s cousin?” He sat beside her without an invitation. He seemed bigger, hulking even, when he was only inches away from her. She should have been used to the size of the Mezzano males after spending time with Vittorio, but this man was different. Not polished like the prince. An evening stubble darkened his strong jaw and his tanned skin spoke of much time out in the sun.
For an insane moment, she pictured him shirtless, beneath a maze of branches. His feet in deep grass. His face turned up to the sun. Earthy. That was one word for this stranger.
Male was another.
His deep voice rumbled, but it was somehow softened with the smooth and lyrical accent of his homeland. “Birgitte, right? It’s a lovely name. For a lovely woman.”
She glared at him but he smiled and offered her a glass. She told herself the heat flaring in her chest was anger at his presumptuousness. Still, she found herself taking the glass instead of ordering him again to go away.
“I am Leonardo Gullotti. One of the groom’s many cousins.” His eyes were warm like melted chocolate and Birgitte had learned long ago to avoid that kind of temptation. “Our cousins have married. Smile. That means we are family now.”
“Family?” Birgitte lifted her brow and let her gaze sweep over the crowd. “I think you have too much family already.”
“Oh no. You can never have too much family, principessa.”
Just the thought of that many people surrounding her, scrutinizing her, pressing in on her, made Birgitte’s palms sweat. But wasn’t that how she lived her life every day? It wasn’t only family who criticized her every move and questioned every decision she made. The citizens of Stagatland kept track of everything she did as well, thanks to the paparazzi who seemed to follow her everywhere.
Was it any wonder she yearned to escape?
Leonardo tapped his glass to hers and caught her gaze. “Salute.”
“Skol.” For a moment, she was lost in his dark eyes. Long enough that she actually drank a toast to the happy couple.
Birgitte slammed the glass down onto the table. “Mr. Gullotti—”
“Nardo,” he said with a wink. “My friends…and family…call me Nardo.”
The music seemed to fade into the distance. The conversations and laughter around them were suddenly muted as well. Birgitte swallowed to moisten her suddenly-dry mouth. She did her best to give him her haughty-princess gaze. “You and I. We are not family.”
“No?” His sensuous lips lifted into a small smile and his gaze seemed to heat as he looked at her. In that moment, she could understand why the people of Mezzano were described as hot-blooded.
“Perhaps I am glad that is so,” he went on. “I admit I desire to take you out onto the dance floor and hold you closer to me than would be proper for family.”
She sucked in her breath and looked down her nose at him even as her heart raced. “Don’t be ridiculous.”
“What is ridiculous is a lovely woman sitting alone and unhappy while everyone else is having a wonderful time.” He took her hand then and sandwiched it between his two large ones. His calloused palms were rough against her skin. What would they feel like running over her body?
“I’m not unhappy.” She snatched her hand away and curled it into a fist in her lap. “I’m bored.”
“All the more reason to allow me to escort you to the dance floor.” He studied her for a moment, his expression darkening when she did not agree. “I have heard the stories of the party girl princess. How she can dance for hours in crowded clubs with the lights flashing and the music pulsing and the floor crowded with gyrating bodies.” He shrugged with a dismissive lift of a strong, broad shoulder. “Yes, I can see how even a royal wedding would be boring for a woman like you.”
A woman like you. The disdainful comment shouldn’t have cut so deeply. Not from this man. A stranger. An unpolished, unsophisticated male.
She was schooled at keeping her emotions hidden, but Birgitte feared the unexpected hurt might show on her face so she quickly turned away. Looked out past the guests on the dance floor. And caught sight again of the newly wedded couple speaking with Mia’s parents, Birgitte’s aunt and uncle.
Mia made a lovely bride. She looked every bit the princess, a title she could now claim for real. Birgitte knew she should be pleased for her cousin. And she was. Mia was a loyal cousin. She deserved a happy ending.
But what about Birgitte’s happy ending?
She yanked her gaze away from the Mia and Vittorio. A fancy wedding to a foreign prince was not Birgitte’s idea of a happy ending. Far from it. Her life was just beginning. And it certainly didn’t include marriage or children or being stuck in a drafty castle ruling an entire Scandinavian country.
“Forgive me if I was too outspoken, Your Highness,” Nardo said. He stood and offered her his hand. “Dance with me. Let me prove that you would not be bored with me.”
“I don’t want to dance with you.” She knew she sounded cold. Cruel. But she couldn’t help it. She wanted to get out of here. Find some air she could breathe without the cloying scents of flowers and alcohol, myriad perfumes and earthy musk.
Birgitte rose to her feet slowly, regally. Turned away from the handsome man who didn’t deserve her ire. Who’d only brought her a drink and asked her to dance.
He should have taken the hint when he first approached her.
Birgitte did what she always did when thing got uncomfortable. Walked away without a backward glance.
And if you haven't sampled the precious stories in the Her Royal Romance series, you can catch up before Her Royal Mistake is released.
Her Royal Masquerade - book #1
Her Royal Bodyguard - book #2
Her Royal Rendezvous - short story #2.5