Tired of the paparazzi and wary of women only interested in his title, Alex du Charbonneaux, crown prince of Laurivenia, gets a little creative when describing the “teaching job” he’s advertising. But Alex is surprised when the beautiful and bohemian Brynn arrives on his doorstep instead of the dowdy, respectful nanny he thought he’d hired.
Brynn Dexter wants an adventure. What better way to get out of her judgey hometown and see the world than taking on a teaching job in a foreign country? But when she arrives in Laurivenia, she discovers the academy she thought she would be teaching at doesn’t exist. Instead, she’s faced with a sexy but suspicious prince and the cutest five-year-old girl she’s ever met.
Can the free-spirited teacher give a buttoned-up royal a lesson in letting go? And will they get a chance to find some common ground once the paparazzi suspect there might be a fairytale story to uncover?
Each book in the Royals and Rebels Series is STANDALONE.
Lessons in Love
Lessons in Trust
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"Completely unacceptable." Alex tossed the file onto his desk and stalked to the large picture window on the other side of his office. "Try again."
Exasperated, he crossed his arms over his chest. "What do you mean, no?"
Lucia shrugged, a glimmer of amusement lurking in her sky-blue eyes. "If you want a different person, hire her yourself."
"That's your job, not mine," he reminded her.
Too late, he realized his mistake.
"Yes, it is my job. One I am well qualified to do. But if you refuse to step aside and let me do that job, I see no reason to keep knocking my head against a wall. Do it yourself."
Alex gritted his teeth and counted to ten. In seven languages. Unfortunately, Lucia was right. He was interfering in a job she did perfectly well. And it wasn't as though he could fire her for insubordination. It would be political suicide to fire a princess. Especially his twin sister.
Since intimidation wasn't working — and why would it; it hadn't worked for the last thirty-one years — he decided to change tactics. "You're right, you do a wonderful job. But this position is very — sensitive. You know that. And I don't see this selection working out. Won't you just try one more time to find someone more suitable?"
She raised an eyebrow, and he realized with a groan that flattery wasn't going to work this time, either. "Brynn Dexter is the most suitable person I could find. She has the experience, the training, and the personality necessary for the position. If you think you could do better, be my guest. But keep in mind that the job needs to be filled yesterday. And your ridiculous specifications have made a relatively simple procedure more complicated than memorizing the lines of succession of every ruling family in Laurivenian history."
"They aren't ridiculous," he protested, even though she was probably right about that as well. But he wasn't about to take any chances. Not this time.
Lucia shook her head. "Not only did you give me a two page list of requirements, you insisted that I lie about the actual job we're hiring for! It was unprofessional, Alexi, and it was wrong. I won't go through it again."
Alex dropped into his chair and straightened the pencils in the organizer in front of him. The mindless task kept his anger and frustration under control. For the moment.
Didn't she understand how important this was? And not just for him, for ...
As usual, his younger-by-seven-minutes sister read his mind. "You know I love Carissa as much as you do, Alexi. I would never hire someone I didn't think was the absolute best person for this job."
He hated it when she did that. "Carissa's only five, Lucia. She needs someone with experience, someone settled, someone who can provide her with the structure and education she needs."
Her voice soft, Lucia said, "And you think you need someone old and unattractive to give that to her. But that's more for you than for your daughter. Don't bother denying it. We both know it's true."
She tapped one manicured fingernail against the file on Alex's spotless desk. "Brynn Dexter is qualified, enthusiastic, and absolutely the best choice for Carissa. She's also scheduled to arrive in Laurivenia tomorrow. So you need to decide — now — if you are going to make this choice based on what is best for Carissa, or for you." She headed for the door.
He hated it even more when she was right.
Never one to miss an opportunity to get in the last word, Lucia tossed over her shoulder, "Of course, this may all be a moot point when Brynn discovers we've been lying to her about the job."
Somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean, Brynn Dexter prayed this wasn't going to be the time her mother was finally proven right.
But taking a teaching position overseas, on two weeks' notice, could very well be the most reckless thing she'd ever done.
Her mother's parting shot still echoed through her head, hours after she'd dropped Brynn off at the airport. You need to grow up and stop being so impulsive before you get in serious trouble.
Brynn had thought — hoped, really — that when her mom had offered to take her to the airport, it had been her way of supporting her decision.
Instead, it had turned into a forty-five minute lecture on behaving rationally and making reasoned choices, interspersed with dire warnings about plane crashes and terrorists and being sold into slavery. Nothing like light conversation to keep things positive, right?
About the only thing her mother actually found to like about the job was the fact that she was going to be teaching at the Laurivenia Academy. Bless her little upwardly-mobile heart. At least now Brynn would be a teacher in an exclusive private school.
But the going-halfway-around-the-world part cancelled out any brownie points Brynn had managed to accumulate.
She shoved a hand through her hair, dislodging the scrunchy that had been vainly trying to hold back her curls. Her mother was never going to change. And no matter how much Brynn tried, she couldn't change either.
So, taking this kindergarten job in Laurivenia was a bit impulsive. It was certainly about as far as she could get from where she'd been two weeks ago — living in her hometown, in an apartment three blocks from her childhood home, and teaching in the same school she'd attended as a kid. Maybe here she'd be treated like a grown-up instead of a taller version of the former student all her colleagues saw her as. She could try out those new teaching techniques she kept bringing up at staff meetings, instead of being patted on the head and told the old way was working just fine, thanks, dear.
And as a bonus, she was going to be living smack dab in the middle of Europe. Weekends and holidays were going to be filled with travel and exploration.
She couldn't wait.
With a start, she realized the plane had begun its descent. Looking out the window she saw the unending blue of the ocean had been replaced by patchworks of green and brown, interspersed with snowcapped mountains bisecting the land. The plane swept lower as the countryside below pulled into focus.
In the distance, lights twinkled in a cluster Brynn identified as Charbonne, the capital city of Laurivenia and her home for the next twelve months.
A thrill tiptoed up her back at the thought. She, Brynn Dexter, small-town kindergarten teacher, was becoming a resident of the principality of Laurivenia. Still a kindergarten teacher, but in the perfect location to travel, explore, and discover new things.
Her feet tapped an impatient rhythm on the floor of the plane as she waited for the unfasten seatbelts sign to light up. As soon as she got the all clear, she bounced out of her seat like a curly-headed jack-in-the-box, hauling down her carry-on bag and joining the queue to exit the plane.
Once she reached the waiting area, however, she slowed her pace. What should she do first? Find a hotel room? Call for a cab? She unzipped her bag and fumbled around for her guidebook. It probably would have been a good idea to have some of the details worked out, but she'd been more focused on the traveling part of her trip than the actual arrival. At least she had almost a week before she needed to start work, which would give her time to find an apartment, get acclimated, and even squeeze in a little sightseeing.
Over the top of her guidebook she noticed a pair of highly polished men's dress shoes in front of her. She glanced up, slightly irritated at the invasion of her personal space, and was startled to see a man in a chauffeur's uniform standing directly in front of her, holding a sign with her name on it.
"Ms. Dexter?" The driver obviously didn't need an answer; he picked up her carry-on bag and turned to go. "If you will just follow me."
Brynn stood there for a moment, mouth gaping open. She snapped it closed and stumbled after him, dodging other passengers in her haste to catch up. "Who are you and how do you know my name?"
"I have been sent by your employer to provide your transportation. And the photo provided with your file is a very good likeness."
Oh, right. The picture. Although in the States a public school could never get away with requiring a photo, a private international academy could. She'd agonized over the choice, since she photographed young. Finally she picked one where she didn't look more like a student than a teacher and attached it to the application, hoping it was an appropriate choice. Obviously it hadn't been a stumbling block, as Lucia had offered her the job even before the end of the interview.
The anonymous driver retrieved her luggage ("No, thank you miss, I can handle this myself") and led her to the curb, where a black stretch limousine waited in what appeared to be a no parking zone.
Brynn surreptitiously pinched herself as the chauffeur opened the back door and helped her inside. The interior was spacious and dim and smelled of expensive leather. She settled into the glove-soft seat and, unable to help it, giggled.
"I trust it is to your liking?"
Brynn yelped at the unexpected voice from the other side of the limo. She slapped a hand to her chest in an attempt to rein in her galloping heart. "You startled me!"
The man was seated in the shadows, his dark gray suit blending in with the dim light. "I am sorry. That was not my intention."
His voice was deep and rich, with the well-modulated tones of a non-native but fluent speaker of English. It reminded her of dark, sweet chocolate, and for a wildly inappropriate moment Brynn wondered if he tasted as good as he sounded.
Then she wondered if she had completely lost her mind. She was in a strange country, riding in a strange car, with a strange man, and she was letting her hormones totally override her common sense. What on earth was wrong with her?
Grateful for the low lighting, she fought back her blush and reached out a hand, determined to get this encounter back on solid footing. "I'm Brynn Dexter. Nice to meet you."
His grip was firm, cool, and brief. Still, a shiver of awareness traveled up Brynn's arm at the contact. He said nothing, apparently content to let quiet take over the interior of the limousine.
The longer the silence continued, however, the more uncomfortable Brynn grew. Tucking an unruly lock of hair behind her ear, she started to talk. "So, I assume you work at the academy, too." At his nod of assent, she continued babbling. "I can't believe the academy sent a limo to pick us up. I mean, school doesn't even start for another week, and I still have to find an apartment and get settled and ..."
He interrupted the flow of words with a quiet cough. "The apartment will not be necessary."
Brynn blinked, confused. "Well, I'd prefer not to live on the street."
"The position is a live-in one."
What? "I wonder why Ms. Charbonneaux didn't mention that," she muttered. She wasn't sure if she should be grateful or suspicious of the live-in requirement. It would save money and time, but she'd definitely have less freedom living on campus.
"Yes, well." Her companion seemed a bit discomfited at the oversight. "I am sure everything will be clear once we reach our destination."
Brynn glanced at him across the wide seat. "So what exactly do you do at the academy?"
He coughed again. Maybe he was coming down with something; she'd have to be careful not to get too close. "I suppose you could call me your supervisor."
Brynn could feel her eyes widening. He was the principal? Oh, perfect. That's exactly who she wanted to share a limo with after a thirteen-hour trip. Her clothes were wrinkled and had that lovely slept-in look, and she didn't even want to think about her hair.
"But — but I thought Ms. Charbonneaux ..." Oh, no, she was getting flustered again.
Fortunately, he came to her rescue. "She is in charge of personnel and hiring decisions. I am responsible for the day to day operations."
"I see." She didn't, not really, but she wasn't going to admit that to him. "It's a pleasure to meet you, Mister ..."
He paused. "You may call me Alex."
"Yes. Well." For once, she was at a loss for words. "In any case, I'll be fine in an apartment. There's no need to provide housing."
Her eyes must have adjusted to the lighting, because even in the dim interior she could see his eyebrow lift. "It is part of your contract, and a requirement of the job. Trust me, you will find the accommodations suitable."
Brynn didn't doubt that. If this limousine was any indication, the Laurivenia Academy was rolling in dough. But she'd so looked forward to the freedom of living on her own. How had she not known living on campus was a requirement?
"Are you sure there's no way I —"
"I'm sorry, no." His voice was flat, emotionless, and unequivocally final. Brynn felt a shiver travel down her back at the power behind the simple statement. It was no wonder he was the principal — he wore authority as easily as he wore his expensive suit.
Brynn fingered the zipper on her carry-on bag. Inside, her well-thumbed Laurivenia Travel Guide sat, unused and, if events so far were any indication, unlikely to be used anytime soon.
This wasn't turning out quite as she'd expected. Instead of finding her own way on this grand adventure, she was collected and delivered to her employer like a neatly wrapped package. All her assumptions about her living arrangements, her freedom, even who her supervisor was had been turned upside down.
She felt like a kid in an unfamiliar swimming pool, when the bottom drops away suddenly at the deep end. As usual, she'd leapt before looking, and this time she was definitely in over her head.
She didn't look happy.
Alex reached into the mini-bar and selected a bottle of water. He lifted it, raising one eyebrow in silent question to Ms. Dexter. She shook her head, unruly curls flying around her face, and he closed the refrigerator door. Twisting off the cap, he took a long swallow.
So Lucia hadn't mentioned the live-in requirement. Perhaps she had been concerned that it sounded suspicious, although it wasn't that unusual for private academies in Europe to be residential for both students and staff.
Unfortunately for all of them, Brynn Dexter hadn't been hired to teach in a private academy.
Alex looked out the window at the passing scenery. He didn't travel this direction often, preferring to fly in and out of Laurivenia via private airstrip. As it was, the limousine had been stripped of all ornamental trimmings in an effort to maintain some level of anonymity.
He settled back in his seat. The ride so far had been smooth and unhurried, indicating that the paparazzi were leaving them alone, at least for now. Niles had not needed to call on his evasive driving skills yet, and hopefully that would continue to be the case.
When Brynn had bounced her way into the limousine, his worst fears had been confirmed. She was an even more inappropriate candidate than he'd thought. Bright, bubbly, enthusiastic, cheerful — and that wasn't even taking into consideration her looks.
Although her application materials pegged her age as twenty-five, she looked younger, with a soft oval face framed by tousled brunette curls. Her eyes, the color of fine European chocolate, took in everything around her. And her figure, even buried under a seriously unattractive travel outfit, was trim and feminine.
She was no femme fatale, at least at first glance. She was attractive in a girl- next-door sort of way.
Or so he assumed. He'd never had a girl like this living next door to him. The women of his acquaintance would never be caught in public without makeup, and even in the dim interior of the limousine he could tell her face was bare. Her skin was smooth and dewy, holding a rosy tint even without the help of cosmetics. Alycia had spent hundreds of dollars a month on exclusive toiletries trying to mimic that fresh-faced look. She hadn't succeeded.
He drained half the bottle of water. He didn't want to think about Alycia, especially not in comparison with the attractive Ms. Dexter. He knew Alycia would come up in the negative column in that contest, as would his judgment regarding relationships. Better to place Ms. Dexter in the "do-not-touch" file and leave her there, no matter how much he was attracted to her. If only he had met her outside the employment context. Perhaps then ...
No. Thoughts like that made her working for him all the more dangerous. And he couldn't be too careful.
Too much was depending on this decision.
Excerpted from "Lessons in Love"
Copyright © 2008 Kate Davies.
Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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