At His Majesty's Convenience

At His Majesty's Convenience

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by Jennifer Lewis

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When her boss accepted the role of king of a far-off land, Andi Blake willingly followed. Yet despite her devotion, Jake Mondragon had never looked at her with desire. Until Andi lost her memory and forgot she shouldn't throw herself into her boss's arms.

Shocked—and enticed—by his secretary's actions, the king used Andi's amnesia to hatch the perfect

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When her boss accepted the role of king of a far-off land, Andi Blake willingly followed. Yet despite her devotion, Jake Mondragon had never looked at her with desire. Until Andi lost her memory and forgot she shouldn't throw herself into her boss's arms.

Shocked—and enticed—by his secretary's actions, the king used Andi's amnesia to hatch the perfect plan. She would be his fake royal fiancée, deflecting pushy suitors and nosy public alike. But when Andi inconveniently regained her memory, she faced a choice: put the brakes on Jake's scheme, or hold out for a fairy-tale ending!

Product Details

Publication date:
Harlequin Desire Series, #2093
Product dimensions:
4.04(w) x 6.66(h) x 0.54(d)

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He won't ever forgive you.

Andi Blake watched her boss from the far end of the grand dining room. Dressed in a black dinner jacket, dark hair slicked back, he looked calm, composed and strikingly handsome as usual, while he scanned the printed guest list she'd placed on the sideboard.

Then again, maybe he wouldn't care at all. Nothing rattled Jake Mondragon, which was why he'd transitioned easily from life as a successful Manhattan investor to his new role as king of the mountainous nation of Ruthenia.

Would her departure cause even a single furrow in his majestic brow? Her heart squeezed. Probably not.

Her sweating palms closed around the increasingly crumpled envelope containing her letter of resignation. The letter made it official, not just an idle threat or even a joke.

Do it now, before you lose your nerve.

Her breath caught in her throat. It didn't seem possible to just walk up to him and say, "Jake, I'm leaving." But if she didn't she'd soon be making arrangements for his wedding.

She'd put up with a lot of things in the three years since she'd moved from their lofty office in Manhattan to this rambling Ruthenian palace, but she could not stand to see him marry another woman.

You deserve to have a life. Claim it.

She squared her shoulders and set out across the room, past the long table elegantly set for fifty of his closest friends.

Jake glanced up. Her blood heated—as always—when his dark eyes fixed on hers. "Andi, could you put me next to Maxi Rivenshnell instead of Alia Kronstadt? I sat next to Alia last night at the Hollernsterns and I don't want Maxi to feel neglected."

Andi froze. How could it have become her job to cultivate his romances with these women? Ruthenia's powerful families were jostling and shoving for the chance to see their daughter crowned queen, and no one cared if little Andi from Pittsburgh got trampled in the stampede.

Least of all Jake.

"Why don't I just put you between them?" She tried to keep her tone even. Right now she wanted to throw her carefully typed letter at him. "That way you can kiss up to both of them at once."

Jake glanced up with a raised brow. She never spoke to him like this, so no wonder he looked surprised.

She straightened her shoulders and thrust the letter out at him. "My resignation. I'll be leaving as soon as the party's over."

Jake's gaze didn't waver. "Is this some kind of joke?" Andi flinched. She'd known he wouldn't believe her.

"I'm totally serious. I'll do my job tonight. I'd never leave you in the lurch in the middle of an event, but I'm leaving first thing tomorrow." She couldn't believe how calm she sounded. "I apologize for not giving two weeks' notice, but I've worked day and night for the last three years in a strange country without even a week's vacation so I hope you can excuse it. The Independence Day celebrations are well under way and everything's been delegated. I'm sure you won't miss me at all." She squeezed the last words out right as she ran out of gumption.

"Not miss you? The Independence Day celebrations are the biggest event in the history of Ruthenia—well, since the 1502 civil war, at least. We can't possibly manage without you, even for a day."

Andi swallowed. He didn't care about her at all, just about the big day coming up. Wasn't it always like this? He was all business, all the time. After six years working together he barely knew anything about her. Which wasn't fair, since she knew almost everything about him. She'd eaten, slept and breathed Jake Mondragon for the past six years and in the process fallen utterly and totally in love with him.

Shame he didn't even notice she was female.

He peered down at her, concern in his brown eyes. "I told you to take some vacation. Didn't I suggest you go back home for a few weeks last summer?"

Home? Where was home anymore? She'd given up her apartment in Manhattan when she moved here. Her parents both worked long hours and had moved to a different suburb since she left high school, so if she went to see them she'd just end up hanging around their house—probably pining for Jake.

Well, no more. She was going to find a new home and start over. She had an interview for a promising job as an event planner scheduled for next week in Manhattan, and that was a perfect next step to going out on her own.

"I don't want to be a personal assistant for the rest of my life and I'm turning twenty-seven soon so it's time to kick-start my career."

"We can change your title. How about…" His dark eyes narrowed. She couldn't help a slight quickening in her pulse. "Chief executive officer."

"Very funny. Except that I'd still be doing all the same things."

"No one else could do them as well as you."

"I'm sure you'll manage." The palace had a staff of nearly thirty including daytime employees. She was hardly leaving him in the lurch. And she couldn't possibly stand to be here for Independence Day next week. The press had made a big deal of how important it was for him to choose a bride; the future of the monarchy depended on it. He'd jokingly given their third Independence Day as his deadline when he'd assumed the crown three years ago.

Now everyone expected him to act on it. Being a man of his word, Andi knew he would. Maxi, Alia, Carina, there were plenty to choose from, and she couldn't bear to see him with any of them.

Jake put down the guest list, but made no move to take her letter of resignation. "I know you've been working hard. Life in a royal palace is a bit of a twenty-four-hour party, but you do get to set your own hours and you've never been shy about asking for good compensation."

"I'm very well paid and I know it." She did pride herself on asking for raises regularly. She knew Jake respected that, which was probably half the reason she'd done it. As a result she had a nice little nest egg put aside to fund her new start. "But it's time for me to move on."

Why was she even so crazy about him? He'd never shown the slightest glimmer of interest in her.

Her dander rose still higher as Jake glanced at his watch. "The guests will be here any minute and I need to return a call from New York. We'll talk later and figure something out." He reached out and clapped her on the arm, as if she was an old baseball buddy. "We'll make you happy."

He turned and left the room, leaving her holding her letter of resignation between trembling fingers.

Once the door had closed behind him, she let out a growl of frustration. Of course he thought he could talk her down and turn everything around. Isn't that exactly what he was known for? And he even imagined he could make her "happy."

That kind of arrogance should be unforgivable.

Except that his endless confidence and can-do attitude were possibly what she admired and adored most in him.

The only way he could make her happy was to sweep her off her feet into a passionate embrace and tell her he loved her and wanted to marry her.

Except that kings didn't marry secretaries from Pittsburgh. Even kings of funny little countries like Ruthenia.

"The vol-au-vents are done, cook's wondering where to send them."

Andi started at the sound of the events assistant coming through another doorway behind her.

"Why don't you have someone bring them up for the first guests? And the celery stalks with the cheese filling." She tucked the letter behind her back.

Livia nodded, her red curls bobbing about the collar of her white shirt, like it was just another evening.

Which of course it was, except that it was Andi's last evening here.

"So did they ask you in for an interview?" Livia leaned in with a conspiratorial whisper.

"I cannot confirm or deny anything of that nature."

"How are you going to manage an interview in New York when you're imprisoned in a Ruthenian palace?"

Andi tapped the side of her nose. She hadn't told anyone she was leaving. That would feel too much like a betrayal of Jake. Let them just wake up to find her gone.

Livia put her hands on her hips. "Hey, you can't just take off back to New York without me. I told you about that job."

"You didn't say you wanted it."

"I said I thought it sounded fantastic."

"Then you should apply." She wanted to get away. This conversation was not productive and she didn't trust Livia to keep her secrets.

Livia narrowed her eyes. "Maybe I will."

Andi forced a smile. "Save a vol-au-vent for me, won't you?"

Livia raised a brow and disappeared back through the door.

Who would be in charge of choosing the menus and how the food should be served? The cook, probably, though she had quite a temper when she felt pressured. Perhaps Livia? She wasn't the most organized person in the palace and she'd been skipped over for promotion a few times. Probably why she wanted to leave.

Either way, it wasn't her problem and Jake would soon find someone to replace her. Her heart clenched at the thought, but she drew in a steadying breath and marched out into the hallway toward the foyer. She could hear the hum of voices as the first guests took off their luxurious coats and handed them to the footmen to reveal slinky evening gowns and glittering jewels.

Andi smoothed the front of her black slacks. It wasn't appropriate for a member of staff to get decked out like a guest.

All eyes turned to the grand staircase as Jake descended to greet the ladies with a kiss on each cheek. Andi tried to ignore the jealousy flaring in her chest. How ridiculous. One of these girls was going to marry him and she had no business being bothered in any way.

"Could you fetch me a tissue?" asked Maxi Rivenshnell. The willowy brunette cast her question in Andi's direction, without actually bothering to meet her gaze.

"Of course." She reached into her pocket and withdrew a folded tissue from the packet she kept on her. Maxi snatched it from her fingers and tucked it into the top of her long satin gloves without a word of thanks.

She didn't exist for these people. She was simply there to serve them, like the large staff serving each of their aristocratic households.

A waiter appeared with a tray of champagne glasses and she helped to distribute them amongst the guests, then ushered people into the green drawing room where a fire blazed in a stone fireplace carved with the family crest.

Jake strolled and chatted with ease as the room filled with well-dressed Ruthenians. Several of them had only recently returned after decades of exile in places like London, Monaco and Rome, ready to enjoy Ruthenia's promised renaissance after decades of failed socialism.

So far the promise was coming true. The rich were getting richer, and—thanks to Jake's innovative business ideas—everyone else was, as well. Even the staunch anti-monarchists who'd opposed his arrival with protests in the streets now had to admit that Jake Mondragon knew what he was doing.

He'd uncovered markets for their esoteric agricultural products, and encouraged multinational firms to take advantage of Ruthenia's strategic location in central Europe and its vastly underemployed workforce. The country's GDP had risen nearly 400% in just three years, making eyeballs pop all across the globe.

Andi stiffened as Jake's bold laugh carried through the air. She'd miss that sound. Was she really leaving? A sudden flash of panic almost made her reconsider.

Then she followed the laugh to its source and her heart seized as she saw Jake with his arm around yet another Ruthenian damsel—Carina Teitelhaus—whose blond hair hung in a silky sheet almost to her waist.

Andi tugged her gaze away and busied herself with picking up a dropped napkin. She would not miss seeing him draped over other women one bit. He joked that he was just trying to butter up their powerful parents and get them to invest in the country, but right now that seemed like one more example of how people were pawns to him rather than living beings with feelings.

He'd marry one of them just because it was part of his job. And she couldn't bear to see that.

She needed to leave tonight, before he could use his well-practiced tongue to… Thoughts of his tongue sent an involuntary shiver through her.

Which was exactly why she needed to get out of here. And she wasn't going to give him a chance to talk her out of it.

Jake pushed his dessert plate forward. He'd had all the sticky sweetness he could stand for one night. With Maxi on one side and Alia on the other, each vying to tug his attention from the other, he felt exhausted. Andi knew he liked to have at least one decent conversationalist seated next to him, yet she'd followed through on her threat to stick him between two of the most troublesome vixens in Ruthenia.

Speaking of which, where was Andi?

He glanced around the dining room. The flickering light from the candles along the table and walls created deep shadows, but he didn't see her. Usually she hovered close by in case he needed something.

He summoned one of the servers. "Ulrike, have you seen Andi?"

The quiet girl shook her head. "Would you like me to find her, sir?"

"No, thanks, I'll find her myself." At least he would as soon as he could extricate himself from yet another eight-course meal. He couldn't risk offending either of his bejeweled dinner companions with an early departure since their darling daddies were the richest and most powerful men in the region. Once things were settled, he wouldn't have to worry so much about currying their favor, but while the economy was growing and changing and finding its feet in the world, he needed their flowing capital to oil its wheels.

He could see how men in former eras had found it practical to marry more than one woman. They were both pretty—Maxi a sultry brunette with impressive cleavage and Alia a graceful blonde with a velvet voice—but to be completely honest he didn't want to marry either of them.

Carina Teitelhaus shot him a loaded glance from across the table. Her father owned a large factory complex with a lot of potential for expansion. And she didn't hesitate to remind him of that.

Ruthenia's noblewomen were becoming increasingly aggressive in pursuing the role of queen. Lately he felt as if he were juggling a bevy of flaming torches and the work of keeping them all in the air was wearing on his nerves.

He'd committed to choosing a bride before Independence Day next week. At the time he'd made that statement the deadline had seemed impossibly far off and none of them were sure Ruthenia itself would even still be in existence.

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