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Seducing the Princess
A Shillings Agency Novel
By Diane Alberts, Candace Havens
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2014 Diane Alberts
All rights reserved.
Gordon Waybrook sighed and shifted his weight in the overly padded seat of the coffee shop booth he'd been sitting in for the last twenty minutes. The seat next to him was empty. Not for lack of trying, though. He'd already sent three women away, but he wasn't hanging out in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, trying to pick up women.
He was there to scope out his charge, Princess Isabelle VanGuard of Maldeva.
All he knew about the woman was she was a spoiled princess, magnificent in a way that screamed for him to see if she was as stunning under her clothes as she was in them—and she was late. He glanced down at the copy of her official schedule to double-check the time, and sure enough, coffee was penciled in at four o'clock in the afternoon.
Of course, the Princess didn't have to worry about being on time. People just waited for her and didn't dare to complain because, well, she was a fucking princess. She probably never said please or thank you. Just expected life to be handed to her with a shiny silver bow. Wait, no. Platinum.
With priceless diamonds.
If she thought he'd bow at her feet and kiss her toes, she had another think coming. She might be royalty and way above his reach, but he was an American.
And he didn't bow at anyone's feet unless he fucking wanted to.
Fifteen minutes and thirty-six seconds later ... the royal princess herself walked in. As soon as he saw her, he stiffened. She wore big brown sunglasses, and held herself so stiffly he couldn't believe she didn't faint from the sheer energy it must take to stand so damn perfectly. Her long legs were covered in black pantyhose, and she wore heels that looked to be at least three inches high. Her blonde hair reached halfway down her back and was flawlessly smooth.
She was drop-dead gorgeous.
Way too much so for royalty.
Two women, who looked to be assistants of some sort, flanked her, their eyes narrow, and their mouths pinched tight. Isabelle scanned the room, her gaze slipping over him and then popping back immediately. When she didn't look away, he raised a brow and stared right back at her. He expected her to blush from being caught staring at a tatted up dude in a shop ...
But she stared right back at him.
Not only that, but she sashayed over, too. That was the only word for it, because her hips swung like he couldn't believe. Holy mother of fucking shit, she was going to kill him before this mission was over. He cleared his throat and tugged on his collar. Great. Now he'd actually have to talk to her and introduce himself as her guard.
"Staring at me," she said, her soft accent washing over him. "Do we know each other, or do you make it a habit to stare at strange women in coffee shops?"
"Well ..." Looking her up and down, he smirked. "You don't look all that strange to me, so ...?"
She laughed, then cut it off and glanced over her shoulder quickly. It was almost as if she was surprised she'd laughed at all. "You must not know me at all, then, because I'm one of the strangest women you'll ever meet."
He grinned. "I doubt that."
"So you just like watching women in shops, then?" she asked, a small smile playing on her lips. They were soft and pink.
"Pretty women?" He shrugged. "Hell yeah. But no, we haven't met."
"Ah." She tilted her head. "I'd hoped we had met, so my coming over here wouldn't seem quite so ... forward."
He chuckled. "Lady? This is America. You don't need a proper introduction to walk up to someone. You just do it."
"In that case ..." She nodded at the two women frowning at her from across the room, slid out the empty chair next to him, and smiled. They moved to the opposite side of the room, watching him closely the whole time. Especially the pinch-lipped one. "Nice to meet you."
Grinning, he nodded. "Likewise. Please. Have a seat," he said sardonically.
She laughed that musical laugh again. "Thank you. Don't mind if I do. That's an adorable accent you have."
The grin slipped off his face. Adorable? Adorable was for tiny puppies and little orange kittens that chased their own tails. He'd never once been described as adorable.
"I don't have an accent at all."
She smiled. "Not to you, but for me? It's quite unique."
"As is yours," he said. After taking a sip of coffee, he motioned the barista over. "Not quite British, but almost French."
Pursing her lips, she said, "Close enough."
So, she wouldn't tell him where she was from. She got an A+ for secrecy.
The woman who'd been watching him from behind the counter came over, all smiles. "Yes?"
"Can you get my friend here a ...?"
"Fat free caramel mocha, please. No cream," she said, smiling and friendly the whole time. "Thank you."
So much for her never saying please and thank you.
She was proving him wrong on so many aspects without even trying. Usually, that pissed him off, but in this case? It was refreshingly good news. "Living dangerously, I see," he murmured. "Who doesn't get whipped cream?"
Tossing her hair behind her back, she met his stare head on. "I don't live dangerously at all, for the most part. Taking risks is foolish and irresponsible."
Spoken like a true princess.
"I agree." He leaned back in his chair and laced his fingers in front of his stomach. "If everyone got whipped cream on their mochas, just think of the madness that could ensue. Rioting. Murder. Downright insanity."
She laughed. It was perfect. Almost as if she practiced it everyday until she got it just right. "All right, Mr. Ass Pants."
He choked on a laugh. "Mr. What?"
"Umm ..." She froze, looking mortified. "Isn't that a phrase here?"
"No." Laughing fully now, he reached out and squeezed her hand. "I think you were going for Mr. Smarty Pants. Or maybe smart ass. But the two don't really get combined."
"Oops. See what happens when I try to be silly? Utter madness."
"I think it's refreshingly cute," he countered. "Not mad at all."
She blushed. Actually blushed. "Thank you."
That was twice in one minute. He'd been so wrong.
And he had no idea what to do with that knowledge.
He shook his head, unable to look away from her. She was so ... beautiful. Even more so now that he knew she didn't have a stick lodged permanently up her ass as he'd originally suspected. He didn't know if that was a good thing or a bad thing just yet, though, because it made her even more tempting than before.
The barista came over, a to-go cup in her hand. "Here you go. That'll be four twenty- six."
Isabelle reached into her purse, but Gordon beat her there. After handing the cash to the worker, he smiled at Isabelle. "I've got it."
"This isn't a date," she said, her lips twitching. "I should pay."
"In America, we pay when we want to." He locked gazes with her. "And I want to."
"You keep throwing that statement at me. 'In America, we ...' fill in the blank."
He snorted. "I'll be honest. We love 'filling in' stuff here in America. I can't argue with that."
She covered her face. "Oh my."
"It's okay. You kinda walked into—"
"Excuse me?" the stern faced, pinch-lipped, gray haired woman interrupted. Gordon recognized her as one of Isabelle's assistants ... or whatever they were called. "We need to go now."
"Hello," he said. Time to come clean and tell Isabelle who he really was. He didn't mind doing so anymore, because he liked her now. A lot. Too much, maybe. "Don't worry. I'm her—"
"I wasn't speaking to you." She frowned at him, as if he was dirtying Isabelle by simply being near her. Truth be told ... he might be doing precisely that. He wasn't exactly a prince or anything. "We need to go. You have a schedule to stick to."
Isabelle's hands dropped, and she looked up at the woman. "Yes. Yes, of course. I'll be right over, Mary." She sat up straighter, her face falling back into that regal expression. "Thank you."
And right now, he saw the princess he'd expected to see. Regal. Proper. Uptight. Spoiled. "Duty calls, huh?"
She glanced at him. "I'm afraid so. It was lovely meeting you, though."
"You as well." He held his hand out, waiting for her to take it. She studied it, then slid her fingers into his palm. Staring at her, he raised her knuckles to his mouth and kissed it. "I have a feeling we'll be seeing each other again."
She flushed, her fingers wiggling in his. "I doubt that. I have a very busy visit planned."
"We'll see," he said, grinning.
After glancing over her shoulder nervously, she turned back and whispered, "But maybe if you'd like to—?"
"Miss." The gray haired woman crossed her arms and stepped closer. "I really must insist we continue on. There is a lot to do before six tonight."
The cranky assistant referred to Isabelle's dinner plans later on.
"Right." She offered Gordon one last smile. "It really was nice meeting you."
"You, too." He let go of her hand reluctantly. "See ya later."
"Goodbye," she said, slipping out of the chair.
He watched her walk away, her hips swinging gracefully with each move. As she walked out of the door, she glanced back at him, the light in her eyes subdued. With a small smile, she slipped her sunglasses on and left.
He couldn't wait to see the surprise on her face when he introduced himself later as her guard, couldn't wait to hear his name on her lips. Would it be as soft and lilting as everything else she said? What if she screamed it out in pleasure as he went down—shit.
He was screwed, because he wasn't supposed to touch her ...
And that's all he could think about, but he wouldn't even think about trying to pursue that avenue. She was a princess, and he'd never be good enough for a woman like her. She'd expect castles, horses, world tours, and jewels.
Not cape cods, dogs, Maine, and nightmares.CHAPTER 2
Isabelle Van Guard, third in line for the crown of Maldeva, stepped into the dark hallway of La Boheme, pulling her big sunglasses off. She smoothed her white Coco Chanel dress that hit directly an inch above the knee with a steady hand. She knew exactly where the dress hit because the palace stylist had measured it three times before her mother gave her stamp of approval.
As her mother always said, a princess never shows her thighs.
She sighed and tucked her hair behind her ear. She'd been forced to sit on a wooden chair for an hour after landing in America, so her stylist could poke and prod her into perfection. Too bad she felt anything but perfect. She felt like a mess, because she was late.
And she really, really hated being late.
To top it all off? She couldn't stop thinking about the man she'd met in the coffee shop. When she'd seen him watching her, she'd ignored the manners that had been drilled into her all her life and walked right up to him. When he'd started flirting with her, and watched her with those deep brown eyes of his ... she'd fallen into his web without a fight.
And she hadn't wanted to get out. Alas, duty had called. She was here for a reason, and that reason wasn't to flirt with cute men in shops.
Even now, her dinner partner, the Governor of Maine, would be sitting at the table waiting for her, and he would more than likely be cross with her for the delay. But he'd have to wait a little while longer, because princess or not? A girl had to pee. Princesses don't pee. They powder their noses, her mother's voice reminded her.
That annoying voice of reason was always there. It had been going crazy when she'd sat next to the guy in the coffee shop, shouting at the top of its lungs. She'd ignored it. Princesses don't flirt with strange men, and they definitely don't do it without proper introductions.
Princesses did not do anything fun at all, according to her mother.
"Can you go make sure that the table is secure?" she asked her assistant, who was attached to her like her shadow. "I don't need company to visit the ladies room."
The girl hesitated. "But—"
"Please. I'll be fine. I won't wander off or get lost." Leaning in, she whispered, "Besides, we're supposed to be blending in, remember? Small security team, normal girl. That's my cover. We can't risk showing our true feathers."
She still hesitated, but then nodded. "All right. But I'll be right back."
"Can't wait," Isabelle said drily.
But she smiled, lest the sarcasm be sensed.
After she was blissfully alone, she closed her eyes and let out a long sigh. Moments of silence were few and far between, so she'd enjoy it while it lasted.
Thunder crashed behind her, making her jump. She'd only been in Maine for a few hours, but the whole time she'd been here, it had been pouring. Legit pouring. The lights flickered briefly but came back to life. Thank God.
Sighing, she checked her watch for the tenth time and waited for the person currently occupying the women's restroom to open the stinking door. She tapped a red Louboutin clad foot on the floor. If this woman didn't pee quicker, her bladder would explode. Another boom of thunder shook the building. Within seconds, the lights went out. No flickering. No warning. Just pure blackness.
She froze. Well, bonkers. Now what? Something, or someone, moved behind her. Her heart hammered in her ears. A low, masculine chuckle sounded. She whirled on a heel, her hand brushing against a warm body as she did so.
When arms closed around her, her heart sped up even more. She tried to yank free, but the man didn't release her. Oh no, what if this was all a ploy to kidnap her and ransom her off to her parents, piece by piece? What if—?
"Whoa, there," the man slurred, sounding completely drunk or high ... or both. "What do I have here?"
This is what her parents had warned her about. She'd instructed her guard to stand by the front entrance, since it was the only one, and they'd already scoped out the place and approved the inhabitants as "worthy" enough to be in the same room with her.
And, darn it, she'd wanted to pee in peace.
Princesses don't go in dark alleys or hallways alone. Princesses don't leave their guard. Princesses don't assume they're safe. That's what they'd told her all her life. She'd rolled her eyes and done exactly the opposite, because why not?
Well, she should have listened.
"Hey, there." She used the cultured American accent she'd been practicing for a year now, for situations such as this. The lessons had seemed stupid at the time, but now they made perfect sense. "Sorry about that."
"Oh yeah?" His hands roamed lower, over her hips. "Well, I'm not."
She stiffened. "Unhand me now."
"Unhand you?" The man holding her said, the words slurring together into one long one. He snorted and didn't let go. "You crashed into me, lady."
"It was an accident I assure you," she said quickly. "Please release me."
As she waited for him to obey, she calculated his weakest attack point. Maybe an elbow to the windpipe would be her best move. She'd need to catch him off guard and take him down, so she could run as fast as she could back to the crowds.
"Or you wanted a guy to catch you before you fell." The man lowered his face way too close to hers. "Girls like that chivalrous shit."
"Not this one." Isabelle scrambled for something to say. Something to get this guy to let go of her, without giving away the fact that she was a princess. "My ... my boyfriend is here. My big, muscular boyfriend." She shoved his chest, but he didn't budge. Okay. She might need more than a well-placed elbow to throw this guy off his game. "He'll knock you out if you don't let go of me. He'll ... he'll take you down. So you better—"
The man snorted again, and his breath washed over her. He smelled like a bottle of cheap tequila. No, scratch that. Two bottles of cheap tequila. "I'd like to see him try."
Isabelle sucked in a deep breath, acutely aware of how much bigger the man was than her. Why wasn't he releasing her? She tried to wiggle free, but he didn't budge. "Just let me go."
"Say please, and maybe I will."
She narrowed her eyes. "I won't beg. I don't beg."
Excerpted from Seducing the Princess by Diane Alberts, Candace Havens. Copyright © 2014 Diane Alberts. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
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