Read an Excerpt
Only she would do.
Prince Stephan Nicolas Braedon of Glendovia watched the ebony-haired beauty from afar. Tall and lithe, with an hourglass figure, she had silky black hair that fell in a straight curtain to her hips. He was too far away to know the color of her eyes or see the full pout of her lips, but he trusted the feeling in his gut that told him both would be just as alluring as the rest of her.
Cocking his head toward the tall, suited man at his side, he said in a low voice, "Find out her name."
His bodyguard followed the direction of his gaze, then gave a stiff nod before moving away. Nicolas didn't need to ask how Osric intended to get the information, nor did he care.
A few minutes later, his bodyguard returned, standing at attention at Nicolas's side.
"Her name is Alandra Sanchez, Your Highness. She is in charge of the organization of this evening's event."
Alandra. A beautiful name for a beautiful woman. She floated around the large, crowded ballroom, smiling, chatting with guests, making sure everything was running smoothly. The full-length lavender gown she wore shimmered in the muted lighting every time she moved, and fit her perfect feminine curves like a glove.
Nicolas hadn't attended this fund-raising dinner in hopes of finding a lover, but now that he'd seen her, he knew he wouldn't be leaving the United States without making arrangements for her to become his next mistress.
It was true that he was the member of the royal family in charge of overseeing Glendovia's charitable organizations, but his duties did not extend to attending charitable events outside of his own country. That, he usually left to his sister or one of his two brothers.
But though his sister, Mia, had been scheduled to make the trip to the States and attend this dinner to raise funds for a new children's wing at a central Texas hospital, she'd had to cancel at the last minute. Since Nicolas was to meet with very wealthy oilmen to discuss fuel for his country, he decided to attend.
Until a few minutes ago, he had been resenting the interruption of his own life and plans, and all but cursing his sister for being the cause. Now, however, he was considering sending Mia a bouquet of flowers or a box of her favorite truffles. He wanted to thank her for putting him on a path to what could turn out to be an extremely pleasurable experience.
Smiling so brightly the muscles in her cheeks ached, Alandra Sanchez moved around the room, making sure everything was running smoothly. She'd been working to set up this gala for months now, in hopes of raising both awareness and money for the new children's hospital wing.
Unfortunately, things weren't going quite as well as she'd hoped, and Alandra knew she had only herself to blame.
Everyone in the room seemed to be watching her. She could see their curiosity. Sense their condemnation.
All because she'd had the dreadful misfortune to get mixed up with the wrong man.
Of all the things that could have happened to put a damper on this evening's event, this was the worst. A hurricane, a flash flood, even the hotel catching on fire
Those were all disasters she could have handled. They barely would have caused a blip on her radar. But instead, she was being personally attacked, her reputation besmirched.
It served her right for ever getting involved with Blake Winters in the first place. She should have known the minute she met him that he would end up causing her nothing but trouble.
And now everyone in this roomeveryone in Gabriel's Crossing, the great state of Texas and possibly the entire United States of America thought she was a home-wrecking adulteress.
That's what the newspaper gossip columns were saying about her. Her picture, along with Blake's and that of his wife and two children, had been plastered everywhere, with glaring, slanderous headlines.
Ignoring the stares and whispers she knew were aimed in her direction, Alandra held her head high and continued wending her way through the ballroom, acting as though nothing was wrong. As though her heart wasn't racing, her face wasn't flushed with humiliation and her palms weren't damp with anxiety.
Nothing that had happened in the week since the story of her affair with Blake Winters broke had led her to believe the fund-raising dinner wouldn't still be a complete success. None of the invited guests had cancelled, making excuses for why they couldn't attend. No one from the hospital benevolence society had called to complain about the scandal she found herself suddenly embroiled in, or to voice concerns about her name being linked to the organization.
All of which led her to believe everything would be fine. That even though reporters were camped out on her front lawn, the rest of her life continued to run smoothly.
Now, though, she wasn't so sure. Now, she thought perhaps every seat in the room was filled because the cream of central Texas high society wanted an up-close-and-personal glimpse of one of their own who had so recently fallen from grace.
She might as well have a scarlet letter pinned to her chest or a piece of spinach stuck in her teeth, for all the attention being focused on her every move.
The attentioneven negative attentionshe could handle. What concerned her more than the stares and whispers was the impact her newly sul-lied reputation might have on the amount of money collected this evening.
She'd worked so hard to put this event together, was so passionate about her philanthropy, giving of both her time and money to support the causes she felt most strongly about. And she had always been quite successful in convincing others to give to those causes, too.
Usually, by this point in the evening, she would already have collected a dozen extremely generous checks slipped to her by those in attendance, with more to follow at the end of the night. Tonight, however, her handsand the hospital's cofferswere still empty.
Because she'd had the misfortune of meeting Blake Winters at another fund-raiser last year, and hadn't been wise enough to turn him away when he'd started asking her out, those who were most in need could very well end up going without.
The prospect broke her heart, and she pressed a hand to the snug satin stays sewn into the lining of her gown in an attempt to settle the nervous caterpillars squirming and wiggling in her belly.
She would act as though nothing was wrong, nothing was out of the ordinaryand pray like the dickens that the crowd got over their curiosity and remembered their true purpose for being here before the evening was over. Otherwise, she had a sneaking suspicion her personal bank account would be taking a hard hit when she attempted to single-handedly make up for what the children's wing fund should have earned tonight. And probably would have, if not for her bad luck and some of the poor decisions she'd made recently.
Once she'd made her loop through the crowd to be sure every seat was filled, every guest served and everything was running as smoothly as possible, she returned to her own place at the front of the room, where a raised dais had been set up for the event's organizers. She made small talk with the women on either side of her and choked down her meal, barely tasting a bite.
Next came a speech from the organization's president, and a short ceremony where plaques were given to several members who had gone above and beyond in the past year. Even Alandra received one, for her continued dedication to raising money for the hospital.
Finally, the evening drew to an end, and she breathed a sigh of relief. She was now holding a few generous checks, and had received promises for more. Not as many as she'd collected in the past, and she had definitely noticed a distinct difference in the way people had treated her throughout the evening. But at least things were looking a bit brighter than they had when the night began.
She made a final round of the room, nodding farewells to guests as they exited the ballroom, and making sure no one left anything behind before the hotel staff started cleaning up.
Gathering her own small, beaded clutch and shawl from her seat, she found her mind racing ahead to what she needed to do the next day thoughts that were interrupted when she heard a low, masculine voice call her name.
Turning, she found herself dwarfed by a wide-shouldered, dark-haired mountain of a man.
She swallowed once before pasting a smile on her face and tipping her head up, up, up to meet his gaze.
"If you have a minute, my employer would like to speak with you."
He inclined his head, drawing her attention to the back of the room, where a lone gentleman sat at one of the now-cleared round tables.
From what she could see at this distance, he was quite handsome.
He was also staring at her.