The Royal Wedding Night [NOOK Book]

Overview

With a secret agenda and an identity-obscuring veil, Miri Montgomery tricked His Royal Highness into marriage. Sources say Prince Brandt did not uncover her deception until after the royal wedding night…a night one palace insider claims was quite steamy! Could Miri be plotting against her husband to steal his throne? Would Brandt dare to demand an annulment? Or do the raven-haired beauty and the stoically sexy prince have a hidden history the nation knows nothing about?

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The Royal Wedding Night

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Overview

With a secret agenda and an identity-obscuring veil, Miri Montgomery tricked His Royal Highness into marriage. Sources say Prince Brandt did not uncover her deception until after the royal wedding night…a night one palace insider claims was quite steamy! Could Miri be plotting against her husband to steal his throne? Would Brandt dare to demand an annulment? Or do the raven-haired beauty and the stoically sexy prince have a hidden history the nation knows nothing about?

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781426800177
  • Publisher: Harlequin Enterprises
  • Publication date: 9/1/2009
  • Series: Royals Series , #1792
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Sales rank: 257,451
  • File size: 144 KB

Meet the Author

Day Leclaire writes for the Harlequin Romance line and lives in the midst of a maritime forest on Hatteras Island on North Carolina's Outer Banks. Despite the yearly storms that batter them and the frequent power outages, she finds the beautiful climate, superb fishing, and unbeatable seascape more than adequate compensation.

Being flexible and having a sense of humor also helps, she's discovered, along with a love for both the island and her craft.

Day's interest in writing started at an early age. "There were four kids in our family, the three girls all close together in age. We were home from school one winter day because we'd had a blizzard and Mom.... Well, she was practically pulling her hair out in an attempt to keep us entertained.

"We'd fought our way through any number of board games, had read all the books in the house and were basically making a total nuisance of ourselves. Out of sheer desperation, Mom told me that if I didn't have any books to read, I should go write one.

"So, I did. It was a historical. A Cinderella story set in the Wild West with a wicked stepmother and two wicked stepsisters. As I recall, those two stepsisters bore an uncanny resemblance to my own two sisters. I guess I was out of charity with them at the time!"

Those initial attempts, rooted in elementary school, continued all the way through college. "Although I'd thought about being a writer in high school, I majored in Anthropology at University of California, Berkeley. I was going to be another Jane Goodall...right up until I went camping for the first time. It forced me to reconsider a lifetime spent without the basic necessitiesoflife—like running water and flush toilets."

So she dropped out to reconsider her career choices. That's when she met her future husband, Frank. "It was a whirlwind courtship. We married five months after meeting."

The two went into business together, first running a film library in Berkeley, then remodeling houses in Seattle, Washington, before opening up a produce market. "Frank is great at retail. He's a natural salesman. But I'm not.

"With a retail operation," Day says with a laugh, "you have to be nice to the customers. That's tough since I'm an introvert who'd rather hide in the employee lounge with my nose in a book. When I became pregnant with our son, Matt, I told Frank that I'd like to find another line of work. He was incredibly supportive. He asked me what I wanted to do and without even thinking I said, 'Write. I want to write Harlequin Romances.' The next day we drove into Seattle and bought our first computer." And the rest is history!

Well, not quite. "Harlequin returned my first attempt—three mercifully short chapters. They said that although my writing was competent, the plot of my story was melodramatic and my characters stereotypical.

"But I took competent to mean good. That one word gave me all the encouragement I needed. The next book received an even more positive response—and a request for a revision. Although they ultimately turned that second story down, I never grew discouraged. It certainly never occurred to me to give up."

Then tragedy struck. Day's younger sister, Nancy, was diagnosed with a brain tumor and died the following year. "It was a very dark time," Day confesses.

"We'd recently moved into this tiny condominium outside of San Diego, California, and I didn't know a lot of people. My son, Matt, had just turned three and I spent the summer hiding in our home with the drapes drawn, playing with him. Finally my husband—out of sheer desperation—told me to start writing again or go get a job at McDonald's flipping burgers.

"It worked! I sat down and wrote a slapstick romance called Jinxed. After three months of depression, I needed some comedic relief and that book provided it. It was my first Harlequin Romance and I dedicated it to Nancy."

As for the future? "I have a ton of ideas. Last time I checked my schedule I was booked several years ahead. And considering I come up with book ideas all the time...well, let's just say that I have a lot of writing ahead of me!"

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Read an Excerpt

Principality of Avernos, Verdonia— How it all began—

"No. No way, no how. you're not doing this, Miri. I don't care what you say or do. I won't have you involved in any of this."

She threw off her cover-up to reveal the wedding gown she wore beneath. She didn't care how much he loomed over her, she wasn't about to back down. Her other royal stepbrother, Lander, had long been dubbed the "Lion of Mt. Roche." But Merrick reminded her more of a golden leopard than the king of beasts. Maybe that had something to do with his being whipcord lean and sleek, and deadly silent until he moved in for an attack. Not to mention possessing a speed and agility she'd never seen bested. "It's too late, Merrick. I'm already involved." His mouth compressed at the sight of her gown, and he pinned her with a merciless gaze. "Only because you listened in on a private conversation." He nodded knowingly. "Yes, you damn well should blush. Hell, Miri. I'm the head of Verdonia's Royal Security Force. If I'd caught anyone else doing what you did, I'd have thrown them in the deepest, darkest pit I could find. Worse, if anyone in a position of authority had found out you'd spied, I'd have been forced to act. My own sister!"

"You need my help," she insisted stubbornly.

He gripped her shoulders and gave her a gentle shake.

"Listen to me, honey, this is serious. Abducting a woman—it could mean jail for everyone involved."

"Then it means jail." She shot Merrick a stony glare, utilizing every ounce of logic she could summon—a difficult proposition when raw emotion held her in its grip.

"Think about it. you're planning to abduct Princess Alyssa minutes before herwedding. Don't you think the groom's going to notice when his bride goes missing? You need someone to take her place at the altar. To fool people just long enough so you have time to get away."

He thrust a hand through hair streaked every color from blond to umber. "The operative words here are "get away." I get away. My men get away. Even Alyssa gets away, if not by choice. you're the one left at von Folke's mercy. What do you think will happen when he unveils you—literally—and discovers you're not Princess Alyssa Sutherland, political ally. Instead, he's married Princess Miri Montgomery, sister of his political foe. Or have you forgotten that von Folke and Lander are rivals for the throne of Verdonia?"

She dismissed the question with a sweep of her hand. "Of course I haven't forgotten. But do you really think Prince Brandt will have me arrested? Throw me into prison? How will that look five short months before the election to choose our next king?"

"Von Folke isn't going to be happy," Merrick replied, before adding beneath his breath, " and that has to be the understatement of the year. There's no question in my mind that he'll take out his unhappiness on someone. I don't want that someone to be you."

"Brandt wouldn't hurt me. At least—not the way you mean."

"You can't be certain of that." Merrick started hammering away again. "He might find another way to get even for the theft of his bride. I won't allow him to use you for that purpose. Not when I'm the one responsible."

"Nor will I." She stood in a copy of another woman's wedding gown, trembling from a combination of fury and heartbreak. "I have it all planned out. When it's time for the unveiling at the end of the ceremony, I'm going to refuse to allow it. I'll fake an illness, if I have to. I'll ask them to take me to my room—Alyssa's room—until I can recover. And the instant I'm alone, I'll change into whatever of hers fits and leave."

"Just like that? You don't think anyone will stop you?, Merrick folded his arms across his chest. "You can't be that naive."

Miri lifted an eyebrow. "Why would anyone stop me? After all, I'm just a guest at the wedding, not the bride. It'll be Miri Montgomery who strolls out the front door, not Princess Alyssa Sutherland von Folke. Now, stop arguing, Merrick. If you don't like my idea, then work on perfecting the plan. What can we change so it will work?"

"There's no point in perfecting or changing anything. I won't allow you to go through with this."

"you'll do it." She played her final card. "you'll do it, or I'll tell big brother what you're planning."

She may have pushed him too far. Anger sent twin flags of color flaring across his cheekbones. "you'd involve Lander?"

"In a heartbeat."

"If you tell him, if you involve him in this, he'll lose any chance at the throne. He'll be an accessory."

She grasped Merrick's hands in hers. "Then let me help you. If your plan succeeds, Lander will sit on the throne. isn't that what you want?"

"That's not why I'm doing this," he instantly denied.

"All I want is a fair election. That won't happen if von Folke marries Princess Alyssa. If he gains her as a political ally, the throne is as good as his."

"Fine. We're both doing it for the good of Verdonia. I just want your plan to succeed and I'm the best person to make sure that happens. Now, are we through here?, She gestured toward the door. "Do we go switch brides now, or do you want to waste more time arguing?"

Sheer stubbornness turned his eyes a molten gold and for a full thirty seconds she was certain she'd lost. Then he gave an abrupt nod and Miri allowed her breath to escape in a silent sigh of relief. She turned toward the door, but he stopped her before she could open it.

"Not so fast." Drawing her deeper into the room of the cottage he'd rented, he examined her appearance with a critical eye. "What the hell did you do to your hair?"

She touched the loose curls self-consciously. "Your man said Alyssa was a blonde. I figured my disguise would hold up a little better if I bleached it."

"Can you turn it back—after?"

She actually managed to smile at the hint of alarm in his voice. "Yes, I can turn it back. You like it dark better than blond?"

"On you, yes."

How ironic. From the day her mother had married Merrick's father, King Stefan, she'd wanted to look like the rest of the Montgomerys, all of whom were tall and athletic and striking, their streaked hair and hazel eyes kissed with golden sunshine. Her coal-black hair and pale green eyes had always made her feel like an outsider, as did the fact that she was a princess by adoption and proclamation, rather than birth. Only with Brandt had she ever felt—

To her relief, Merrick broke in before she could complete the thought. "It just might work," he conceded reluctantly. "From the photos I've seen, you're close in height and body shape."

"That was my biggest concern."

"It's not mine," he retorted, a sharp edge to his words. "When it's time for you to leave as Miri Montgomery, people might wonder why you've bleached your hair blond, especially when they see you exiting Alyssa's room."

"You think it'll rouse suspicion?, She shook her head. "They'll think I've made a poor fashion choice, that's all. It won't occur to them it's because I took the bride's place at the altar. As for being in Alyssa's room—I was helping the bride, poor dear. Something she ate didn't agree with her, I suspect. She's asked that no one disturb her for a bit. Just give her an hour or two to rest and she'll be fine. Oh, and perhaps you'd deliver a message to Prince Brandt? Tell him that his bride is looking forward to joining him a little later this evening, after she's had some private time to recover."

Merrick looked far from happy. "It might work."

"It will work."

"Don't get cocky, Miri. you're not a perfect match. And it's far from a perfect plan."

"So, I'll improvise. With luck no one will notice the discrepancies, especially not beneath a veil. you'll need to give me Alyssa's. If I wear a different veil—that is something women will notice."

"I'll make sure you have it." His voice turned gruff.

"You look— You look incredible, sweetheart. I just wish this were real, that you were standing here dressed for your own wedding, instead of for this farce."

His words struck like a blow, though he couldn't possibly have known. She forced out a careless smile and prayed her voice would hold steady. "Thank you. But I'd need a fiancé for that, wouldn't I?, Too bad the man she'd had in mind was no longer interested, despite what he'd once claimed.

DAY LECLAIRE 13

An odd expression drifted across Merrick's face, one she could have only described as "brotherly." Tucking a strand of hair behind her ear, he shrugged. "you're only twenty-five. There's plenty of time to fall in love." He made a production of checking his watch, then gestured toward the door. "Time to go. We're cutting this close as it is."

Miri preceded her brother from the cottage he'd rented as a command center and allowed him to help her into the passenger seat of a silver-gray SUV. Behind them his men piled into a matching black one, which tailed them at a circumspect speed through the hilly roads of Verdonia's northernmost principality of Avernos. Nerves prevented her from attempting idle chatter, not that she'd have had any opportunity. Merrick spent the entire trip filling her in on every detail he'd uncovered about Princess Alyssa, no matter how minor. Half an hour passed before the two cars turned down a narrow country road. Less than a mile farther along they veered onto a dirt shoulder.

Leaving the car to idle, Merrick swiveled in his seat to look at her. "Listen to me, Miri. This shouldn't take long. No more than twenty minutes." He tapped the car clock. "If we're not back in that time precisely, you are to get behind the wheel and drive away. Head straight south from Avernos all the way through Celestia until you reach Verdon, and don't stop until you get there. Don't come looking for me. Don't call anyone. Just get the hell out. Are we clear?"

"Clear."

He shook his head. "I'm serious, Miri. I want your word of honor. If I don't return in twenty minutes, swear to me you'll leave without intervening in any way."

They were the two most difficult words she'd ever spoken. "I swear."

He nodded in satisfaction. Climbing out of the SUV, he signaled to his men. The four of them, all dressed in melt-into-the-shadows black, slid ominous hoods over their heads as they trotted across the expanse of grass beside the road and headed toward a small ridge half hidden by a dense expanse of deciduous forest. Miri inched forward in her seat and kept her gaze glued on the car clock. The seconds crept by, one by one, until after an hour—or what seemed like an hour—a mere fifteen minutes had piled up onto the clock.

At nineteen minutes, thirty seconds, Merrick emerged from the woods. He held a woman in his arms, a woman wearing a silver gown that proved a close match to Miri's. A flowing lace and tulle veil sat askew on her long blond curls. Princess Alyssa Sutherland. She was absolutely stunning, Miri noted with a sinking heart. And a bit shorter than she, herself, was. But that shouldn't present a problem. She'd brought an extra pair of shoes to cover just that eventuality. Switching the ones she wore for the pair with the lowest heels, she opened the car door and headed toward Merrick.

"It's time," he said, as she approached. "You don't have to go through with this. You can still change your mind."

"I can't and I won't. There are—reasons."

She didn't dare explain further. If Merrick knew the truth, he'd never have agreed to involve her. At the sound of her voice, Princess Alyssa stiffened. She started to turn her head to look, but his grip tightened, preventing her.

"Quickly, Merrick," Miri warned. "We have only moments until her disappearance is discovered."

Ripping the voluminous veil from Alyssa's head, he tossed it to Miri. "Will this work?"

"It's perfect. From what I can tell our dresses are nearly identical. The veil will definitely conceal any discrepancies." She shot a wary glance toward Princess Alyssa and switched from English to Verdonian. From what Merrick had said, the woman had been raised in the United States and, until she'd flown out to marry Brandt, hadn't been in Verdonia since she was a toddler. Chances were excellent she didn't speak the language.

"Be careful with this one," she warned, nodding toward the woman Merrick held. "I know how you are around beautiful women. She's liable to turn you from a grizzly to a teddy bear."

Merrick gave a short, gruff laugh. "Don't worry about me. Worry about yourself," he said in a surprisingly tender voice. "Compared to von Folke, I really am a teddy bear. Go now. Head straight through the woods. There's a chapel about a hundred yards in. you'll find a guard unconscious in the garden just beyond the chapel walls. Put on your veil and sit next to him. When he comes to, tell him he passed out. Tell him whatever you think will work, but don't let him report the incident."

She nodded in understanding. Without another word, she hurried into the woods, picking her way as swiftly as possible through the underbrush, careful to make certain that the layers of skirting didn't snag on any of the shrubs. If she didn't get to the unconscious guard before he woke, her subterfuge would be pointless and Merrick would be caught before he'd gotten more than a mile down the road.

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