The Runaway Princess (Princess Series #1)by Christina Dodd
English orphan Miss Evangeline Scoffield has spent her life contenting herself with dreams. But with an unforseen inheritance, she can afford one perfect summer—a summer she will spend the rest of her life remembering. She buys herself expensive clothes, travels abroad, and presents herself as a lady of/p>… See more details below
English orphan Miss Evangeline Scoffield has spent her life contenting herself with dreams. But with an unforseen inheritance, she can afford one perfect summer—a summer she will spend the rest of her life remembering. She buys herself expensive clothes, travels abroad, and presents herself as a lady of mystery.
But she quickly discovers her mistake, for a darkly handsome man appears at her bedroom door, claiming to be a Crown Prince—and her fiance.
Or the Ever After of Her Dreams?
One look into her eyes, and the prince recognizes her. She is his betrothed, the runaway Princess of Serephinia. All her denials cannot change that, or alter the passion that burgeons between them. To fullfil their destinies, the prince will do anything—abduct her, coerce her, or, best of all seduce his reluctant bride into his royal world of peril, promise and passion.
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The Pyrenees, 1816
"Who could she possibly be?"'
Ignoring such vulgar speculation as beneath her, Miss Evangeline Scoffield posed at the door of the dining room and, with icy dignity, waited for the maitre d'hotel.
Bowing, he twitched his mustache as he asked in French, "Your usual table, Mademoiselle?"
The flurry of whispers started in a dozen languages.
"Probably a wealthy widow..."
"Perhaps from one of the noble families of Europe. Napoleon displaced so many, you know..."
Evangeline knew that none I of the travelers who had flocked to this spa-not the Spanish lord, not the Prussian general, and certainly not the over-loud Englishwoman could imagine the truth.
"'Thank you, Henri," Evangeline answered in his own language, blessing him with a wistful smile. "You are too good."
Henri's eyes glistened with pleasure. "I live only to serve you."
With a recently acquired, and to her, quite surprising, sense of drama, she replied, "To serve me could prove dangerous."'
"For you, I laugh at danger."
"Believe me, I am not someone to whom you should make such an avowal."
The whispers continued.
"The servants hint she is a princess..."
"All alone, poor thing, without even a maid..."
Closing his eyes, he pressed his hand on his chest over his heart. "Such beauty as yours is a reward in itself."
Beauty? No one had ever called her a beauty before, but in this magical place, anything was possible. "Take this." She slipped some coins into his hands. "I have suffered such travails in my life, I cannot allow genuine kindnesssuch as yours to go unmarked."'
His eyes snapped open, and he pocketed the gold immediately. "'For a smile from you, I would walk barefoot over the rocky ground, fight a dozen men, wrestle a ferocious bear, face the devil himself-"
"Enough." More than enough. He tried to speak, but she handed him another coin and his mouth snapped shut. She nodded, not like a misplaced princess but like a sensible Englishwoman. "I will be seated now."
This resort had once been a private Chateau near the Spanish border, the summer home of a wealthy duke. When Napoleon's defeat had impoverished its owner, he had been forced to find a way to maintain his home. Taking advantage of the thermal springs nearby, he now catered to the nobles' desire to combine travel and healing. Two fireplaces blazed in the room where Evangeline now stood, cherubs smiled from marble arches, and broad windows overlooked the verdant valley below.
Chateau Fortune was now one of the crown jewels of the grand tour, and Evangeline reveled in being one of its shining facets. Albeit temporarily. Her emerald silk skirt created a satisfying rustle as she threaded her way past the white linen-draped tables, and without appearing to, she observed the heads that swiveled her way.
"She's very nicely...formed. Do you suppose she had something to do with that scandal in Saxe-Coburn?"
"Stodgy Saxe-Coburn? Don't be ridiculous. She has the looks of an exotic."
Curiosity about this mystery woman ran rampant in the dining room, and Evangeline lifted her exotic chin and fixed an inscrutable smile on her lips. A smile she had practiced in the mirror.
None of the people here could possibly guess the truth.
With a flourish, Henri pulled out her chair. She seated herself with murmured thanks and placed her drawstring clutch on the table near the Limoges salt cellar. She pulled up her Brussels lace stole and draped it around her shoulders.
"Mademoiselle is chilly?" Henri asked. "In the mountains, it is cold at night, even in the summer. It would be warmer by the fire."
"Mademoiselle prefers to have a view of your imposing mountains," she said.
Henri shrugged in Gallic resignation. Then, in rapid succession, the waiters poured her a glass of fragrant, ruby wine and laid the snowy napkin in her lap, while Henri announced her choice of soups and entrees. The mere recitation made her close her eyes in anticipated ecstasy. She loved good food. She loved eating in such an exquisite setting. She loved Henri's fawning approbation as she placed her order.
When she finished, the four men bowed and backed away from the table. They were kind, even beyond the kindness she bought with her generous gratuities.
Was it perhaps because they felt sorry for her?
That truth stabbed at her. Abruptly, she turned her head away from the other diners and tried to stare at the moonlit peaks. Instead, she saw only reflections in the window. Even now, as the fervor her appearance had created faded, the wayfarers lost interest in her. They returned to conversations with -their spouses, their children, their lovers. Everyone here had someone else. Only she remained alone.
She had imagined that would change in the six days she had been here, but her very person discouraged familiarity. Her lingering good sense kept her apartand alone in the Pyrenees, she'd found, was much the same as alone in England.
The reflections in the window wavered with the sudden glaze of tears in her eyes.
Alone, without a home, without a family ...
Henri's voice spoke beside her. "We have the bread, still warm from the oven." A yeasty scent accompanied the basket of golden, crusty rolls. "We have the soupe de poisson." The scent of oregano and trout in a tomato based broth appeared under her nose. "And we top off your glass with wine. You need to drink more wine, Mademoiselle, to warm your blood and bring roses to your cheeks."
Blinking the tears away, she looked up at Henri's shrewd face.
His comprehensive gaze took in her sadness. Jerking his head toward the far end of the chamber, he whispered, "You have an admirer."
She tried to crane her neck to see, but Henri said, "No, do not look!"
Settling back into her seat, she unbuttoned her elbow-length gloves and laid them in her lap. "You jest."
With the sigh of a wronged puppy, he said, "Not I! Wait until I leave, then glance around the room, and you will see him. Near the fire, facing you." Leaning closer, Henri murmured, "The virile one asked to be placed where he could watch you...
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