Elsa may be the Hereditary Princess of Vattenguldia, but she finds the entire situation archaic and unsavory. While she wants what’s best for her country, she isn’t about to jump into an unwanted relationship—let alone a marriage—with a virtual stranger. Of course, her feelings matter little to her parents, whose wheeling and dealings over trade pacts and alliances achieved at her expense begin the moment they set foot in California for the Summit. So when a blindingly handsome royal runs into her, she doesn’t hesitate to tell him there’s no way she’s marrying him.
Christian is all too happy to agree: no marriage. As the Hereditary Grand Duke of Aiboland, his main goal is to get through the summit without a bride being foisted on him. Which is why he suggests they help each other field potential intendeds. As Christian slowly gets to know Elsa, though, he realizes they have a lot more in common than just their feelings about the Royal Marriage Market. Only he can’t fall for her, because royal or not, they’re not meant for each other.
Elsa and Christian will have to evaluate matters of the heart verses those of state and crown, and decide whether or not tradition trumps love.
“You go by Chris?”
“It’s an acceptable nickname for Christian.” The owner of the name snatches his glass of champagne back, chugging the rest of the drink. Naturally, this promptly sets off another round of coughing.
Parker is now the one to smack Christian’s back, and I am grateful because I most certainly do not need to be touching him again, even if in a life-saving gesture.
“Maybe so,” I murmur as Christian, rapidly turning redder from what surely must be embarrassment more than alcohol down the wrong pipe, shoves his friend’s hand away. “But it doesn’t fit.”
“If I might be so bold to ask, Your Highness, how so?” Parker inquires at the same time Christian wheezes, “What does that mean?”
I side skirt the men to claim a chocolate covered strawberry from the dessert table. “Chris is a boring name.”
“I believe you’ve just issued an unforgiveable insult to all the Chrises in the world,” Christian says flatly while Parker struggles to hold in his mirth.
“Of course I haven’t. I simply said Chris is a boring name. Look at Elsa; it is a hopelessly old-fashioned name you find in old women who bake streusel. My parents aged me the moment I came out of the womb.” I point the zebra-striped berry at my sparring partner. “Now that is unforgiveable. You were given a nice name and have elected to make it boring when it doesn’t suit you one bit.”
Too much silence expands between us; I am tricked into looking up at him once more. One of his dark eyebrows arches upward. “Are you saying you don’t find me boring?”
Did I? Oh, bollocks. I did, didn’t I? I clear my throat and smile winsomely. “Just because I don’t wish to marry you doesn’t mean I find you boring as a bag of rocks.”
Both of his eyebrows shoot up, as if I informed him grass is blue and sky is green. As if he doesn’t already know he’s interesting. Please. Must I remind him of all the glossies dedicated to his comings and goings?
“When we were children, His Highness was teased quite a bit about his name,” Parker tells me.
I toss the strawberry stem back onto the table; it’s whisked up by a passing waiter in less than a second. “What! Why?”
“I’m named after a religion,” Christian grinds out. “There was Prince Jew. Prince Muslim. Prince Buddhist. Prince Hindu. Prince Zoroastrian. There were lots of choices, you see.”
Another moment I want nothing more than to just laugh and laugh. “How delightful. Now, those nicknames aren’t boring. Sacrilegious, yes, but definitely not boring.”
“You have a seed in your front teeth,” is Christian’s response.
“You are a veritable Prince Charming, publicly pointing out women’s flaws. How chivalrous of you.”
It is annoying how much I like that he refuses to appear properly chastised.
Heather Lyons writes epic, heartfelt love stories and has always had a thing for words. In addition to writing, she’s also been an archaeologist and a teacher. She and her husband and children live in sunny Southern California and are currently working their way through every cupcakery she can find.