Alicia Forkes has a few things to do in order to forget her troubles. One: visit a foreign country. Two: meet a hot stranger. Three: Have the hottest night of her life with a sexy stranger and bolt. Check, check, and check. Now she can get back to enjoying the rest of her trip. But why is her passport photo on every news channel, and why is she expected to appear before the Prince?
Turns out that the hot stranger she met? Yeah, he’s not just any stranger – he’s Prince Leo of Randovia. And, actually, he’s not a stranger at all – turns out Prince Leo is the same Leo who broke her teenage heart ten years ago.
Leo can’t believe that after all these years, he’s finally found Alicia again…and she doesn’t want anything to do with him. She may not be Cinderella – she shows up to his office cursing him to hell and back, accusing him of decade-old wrongdoings – but he’s determined to prove that he’s the prince for her.
Even if it means letting her go.
Each book in the Modern Fairytales series is STANDALONE:
* Beauty and the Boss
* The Prince’s Bride
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The Prince's Bride
A Modern Fairytales Novel
By Diane Alberts, Candace Havens
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2016 Diane Alberts
All rights reserved.
"I hope you're happy, Brian," Alicia Forkes whispered under her breath, eyeing the crowded nightclub. This was so not her scene. She preferred a glass of wine, her cat kneading her lap, and Netflix that played for so long it asked her whether she was still watching, while silently judging her when she clicked yes. "I'm trolling for dudes because of you and your stupid bucket list."
She fidgeted with her sequined clutch and stood at the side of the bar, feeling increasingly out of place with each passing moment. If not for the naughty bucket list her best friend had given her burning a whole through her pocket, she'd be out of here so fast there would be a faint blur as she busted through the crowd at Flash-like speeds. She was at a hot nightclub in the tiny foreign country of Randovia, surrounded by people she didn't know, who all were wearing masquerade masks and downing shots like there was no tomorrow.
And she was completely, utterly lost.
When her company sent her to this foreign country to observe cultures and then report back to them, she'd been less than thrilled about it. Baker, Inc. wanted to create weapons and train officers for the Randovian Navy, and to do that, they needed information.
And while she was here?
She was going to nail this bucket list. Brian had challenged her, and she wasn't a woman who backed down from something like that.
At least, that was what she kept telling herself.
"You can do this," she whispered to the crowded barroom, giving herself one last pep talk. "One item down, four to go."
Nodding to herself, she scanned the room. The club she'd chosen was called the Ballroom, and their gimmick was masquerades every night. People could bring their own masks, or they could be purchased at the front door. It was all covered in anonymity. Even the staff wore masks. The couple next to her moaned, the man's hand disappearing under the woman's short skirt. Alicia turned her head so quickly she was worried she had given herself whiplash.
Yeah. Nope. She couldn't do this.
Time to go.
Glancing toward the side door, she mentally mapped out her route, because this was so obviously a mistake, but the tall, brown-haired man standing by the bar wearing a Phantom of the Opera mask caught her attention before she could take a step forward.
How could he not?
What girl hadn't fallen for the sinister anti-hero at some point in her life? What had Christine been thinking when she picked Raoul, anyway? He didn't have the same deep, dark depths to him that the Phantom had. He didn't love as passionately. Feel as deeply. Of course Raoul didn't kill people, either ...
This version of the non-violent Phantom was over six-foot tall, judging from the way he towered over the other men in the club. He was eyeing her. The mask only covered half of his face, giving him a hard, dangerous look.
What would it be like to have his hand up my skirt?
Her heart picked up speed when he tilted his head toward the bar, motioning to the empty seat beside him. She twisted around to find the incredibly tall, gorgeous, supermodel woman he must have been after. But there was no one behind her.
He motioned at the stool again. Never one to assume the hottest guy in the room was inviting her to sit with him, she pointed to her chest and mouthed, "Me?"
His lips quirked up into a half grin, he gave a small nod. The man even managed to make such a simple, mundane gesture freaking hot as hell. "You," he mouthed back.
"Uh ..." She gulped down a deep breath and made her way across the crowded bar. When she reached his side, she forced herself to meet his eyes. To act as if she wasn't always the girl who didn't belong. "Hi?"
"Is that a question?" he asked, his question tinged with amusement. His voice was deep and rumbly, with a sexy accent that was almost half British, half French, and it reminded her of that Benedict Cumberbatch guy that made all the girls — herself included — make unintelligible sounds whenever they heard him speak.
"N-No," she managed to squeak, lowering herself onto the padded stool. She adjusted her black mask and folded her hands awkwardly in her lap. Too bad Brian's bucket list hadn't come with the game required to pull off something like this. "Of course not. It was a greeting."
He gave her a once-over, starting at her red stilettos and working his way up at his leisure. "That's one hell of a greeting, if you ask me."
Not one to back down from a challenge, spoken or silent, she checked him out from head to toe, much like he'd done to her. His lean frame consisted of nothing but hard muscles. His biceps strained against his button-up shirt, making her wonder if he had a hard time finding jackets that fit him properly. His dark pants hugged his hips and —
Well, the rest of him with picture perfect clarity.
Who knew trousers could be so revealing?
He cocked his head to the side when she remained silent, his dark brown eyes sucking her into their depths, and there was something about the way he gazed at her that pulled her under his spell, as if he owned her, and everyone else in this club. "Let me guess. You're from New York?"
She watched his mouth as it formed words, transfixed and not bothering to hide it. "Is my accent that obvious?"
"Yes. New Yorkers have a very distinctive way of speaking." He signaled the bartender. "May I buy you a drink, my lady?"
My lady. The fact that they still said such things in an otherwise modern country baffled her. While women carried important jobs here, just like in America, the men still treated them like items to be coddled. Worshipped. Cherished. It was weird.
"Sure. Thanks." She held her hand out to him, ignoring the free drink vouchers in her purse. "I'm Alicia, by the way."
He stiffened, but when he turned back to her, his face was impassive. "Nice to meet you ..." Grasping her hand lightly, he brought it to his mouth and pressed a soft kiss on her knuckles. That kiss went right to her belly, making it twist with desire, and again, that undeniable attraction pulled her closer. There was just something about him. "Alicia."
The way he said her name ...
It brought back memories.
He leaned in to shout over the music, "I'll have another lager, and she'll have a ..."
She slipped her hair over her shoulder and gave him what she hoped was a seductive smile, despite the memories flitting through her mind, and leaned closer, too. "Manhattan, please."
"How fitting," he said drily, watching her from beneath hooded eyes.
She smiled. "I'm a fan of well-timed irony."
"Me, too." After a few moments of silence, he whistled through his teeth, his eyes fixated on something behind her. "That couple behind you is quite ... well, you simply have to see for yourself."
Unable to resist, she glanced over her shoulder, a gasp escaping, and just as quickly turned back to her Phantom. While it was out of character for her, she so wished she and the Phantom were that couple.
What is wrong with you?
Him. It was definitely him.
Never in her life — well, except for that one time — had she been so attracted to another human being. "They're really out of —" She broke off, not wanting to sound like a prude. "I mean, they're really ... uninhibited, aren't they?"
"Masks have a funny way of bringing out the adventurous side in everyone," he said, that sexy grin sliding into place. "And only the adventurous come to a place like this."
He watched her with a dark light in his brown eyes, and that unspoken pull between them made her shift closer to him until her knee touched his thigh. He glanced down at the small contact, and when they locked eyes again ...
Without a doubt, she knew that she'd found her one-night stand.
He made her crave so much more than a mundane, awkward night in a stranger's arms — and she had no doubt he could deliver. Through all these years, she'd thought maybe she just wasn't that type to thrive at the idea of a crazy night in a stranger's arms.
Turned out, she was wrong.
This guy was totally her type.
Tall, dark, with a dash of Randovian.
"Yeah," she said, pressing her knee more firmly against his thigh. "I suppose you have a point there."
"Do you lose all inhibitions when you put on a mask?" He tugged on hers, leaning in until his mouth was a breath away from her ear. "Are you the type to have sex in a crowded club and not give a damn who sees you?"
But with him ...
"Are you?" she asked breathlessly.
"Absolutely, if the situation warrants it." He rested a hand on her knee. "If the attraction is there ... who am I to deny that?" She sucked in a deep breath and held it, suspecting he'd found plenty of those "situations," and that maybe, just maybe, she was way out of her league with him.
She was saved from having to admit as much by the bartender, who came over carrying the drinks. "Here you go," he said as he set the glasses in front of them. When the worker glanced at the man beside her, his eyes widened, and he backed up a step. "Excuse me —"
Phantom leaned over the bar to whisper something to the other man. The other man nodded, still gaping at the man next to me. "Here." He handed the man a tip that would pay for a great meal at a nice restaurant.
Yep, definitely out of my league.
The bartender bowed. "Thank you."
Hell, she'd bow for a tip like that, too. "Thanks."
"Anytime." He picked up his beer. "So, what are you doing here tonight, Alicia? What brought you to a club like this?
A dirty bucket list, and the free drink vouchers slipped under my hotel door. "Alcohol, dancing, flirting, and having fun. The usual. What about you?"
"I came to catch the attention of a blonde," he answered, letting go of her knee. She immediately missed his touch, which said a hell of a lot.
Pulse racing, she ignored every shy bone in her body, every instinct that told her with this guy, she might have bitten off more than she could chew, and said, "Well, you have your blonde. What comes next?"
After chugging his drink, he turned more firmly toward her, his knees brushing against her bare thighs as he stood and held his hand out. "Come with me if you want to find out."
Oh, you can bet your ass I want to find out.CHAPTER 2
He led her across the nightclub, glancing over his shoulder at her. His brown hair was even darker on the dim nightclub dance floor, lending him a mysterious air, especially since the mask hid most of his features. It reminded her of the scene in the Phantom of the Opera where the Phantom is leading Christine down to his lair, and Christine is vibrating with nerves and excitement.
It had always been her favorite part of the musical.
Now she was living it.
His hand was so large, like the rest of him. It wasn't a far stretch of the imagination to imagine what his hands would feel like if he ran them all over her —
Was she actually going to do this?
He stopped at a small, clear spot on the dance floor and pulled Alicia into his arms. His hard abs brushed against her, and when he held her close, she sucked in a deep breath. He was so hard, so huge, and so freaking hot. And he was staring at her like he couldn't get enough.
Is this guy for real?
He slid his leg between hers, his knee brushing her bare thigh as he urged her closer, pressing against her intimately. She quivered. Actually quivered. "I'm dying to see you move, my lady."
Snapping out of her daze, she curled her fingers behind his neck and moved her body to the music, losing herself in the rhythm, sensing his tightening muscles as he watched her. Back before her world had fallen apart, she'd been in ballet. It wasn't the same thing as gyrating on a dance floor, but her body still knew what to do.
This wasn't the time for overthinking. This was a time of letting go like she'd never done before. "Get crazy," her best friend Brian had said. "Live." And then he'd died, leaving her alone in the world, once again.
This is for you, Brian.
She turned around, giving him her back and swinging her hips Shakira-style. Her butt brushed against the zipper of his pants.
He sucked in a breath.
Good — she had the same affect on him that he had on her. His hardness brushing against her made her heart quicken and her belly heat with need. He closed the distance between them, gripping her hips as he pressed up against her fully, brushing against her just enough to make her want him even more.
And she wanted.
God, she wanted.
She spun and straddled his thigh, rubbing against it for a slight second, and he watched her with so much possessive heat in his eyes it was a miracle she didn't combust. Ignoring all the warning bells going off inside her head, she rose on tiptoe, stopping when her mouth was just shy of his, her heart racing.
He let out a short breath, and fisted his hands in the fabric of her dress. "Alicia ...?"
"This might sound crazy, and fast, but let's be that couple. Kiss me?"
He stepped back ever so slightly. "How much did you have to drink tonight?"
"Three sips of a Manhattan. I came here for you, and I know what I want."
"For me?" His dark brown gaze latched on her mouth. "You don't even know who I am."
That might be true, but he reminded her of somebody she used to know. And even if it was wrong ... even if it was pathetic ... in her mind, he was Leo. In her mind, he'd finally come back, after years away, to get her, like he'd promised.
And there was no changing that.
"I don't need to, not for this." She slid her fingers up his chest, over his broad shoulders, and then buried her hands in the dark curls at the nape of his neck, secretly wishing they were dark blond instead. "Do you want to kiss me?"
His eyes blazed with leashed, raw sexual power. It was like he was a caged beast who never got to run free, something she recognized all too well, and she ached to let him loose — to open the latch and let them both out to play for a night.
"You know I do," he said. "And I have no doubt I can make you come so hard you'll never forget me." His grip on her tightened, and he lowered his head, stopping just short of kissing her. Her breath hitched in her throat, and he froze. "But you have no idea what you're setting into motion by asking me to do this, and it's only fair I —"
"Oh, but I do," she murmured, latching on to her newfound confidence. "Let me show you."
Holding her breath, her heart racing in excitement, she took a deep breath and closed the distance between them. Her tongue touched his before she fully realized how bold she'd decided to be. He moaned and cradled her head with his hand, holding her almost tenderly while at the same time ravishing her mouth as if he'd been waiting a lifetime to taste her and had no intention of stopping anytime soon.
God, the man knew how to kiss.
Within seconds, his mouth demanded dominance. He seemed to like to be in control, and that was just fine with her.
Breaking off the kiss, he growled. "Not here."
He took her hand, almost dragging her toward a door that said Staff Only. Two men in suits stood by, guarding it, but when they saw them coming, they nodded once and stepped aside, bowing.
What is with all the bowing?
Maybe it was a cultural thing.
Her companion pushed through the doors without even hesitating and led them both down a dark hallway, his fingers never releasing Alicia's.
"Where are we going?"
"Somewhere we can be alone."
She tightened her grip on him. "Who were those men?"
"Oh." She licked her lips. "But they let you in ...?"
"Yes." He stopped and pulled her into his arms. "You're so fucking beautiful ... I need to make you mine."
His mouth moved over hers without mercy. She clung to him, her heart racing so fast it was a miracle it didn't stop altogether. Growling deep in his throat, he backed her against a steel door. He kissed her again, his mouth even more demanding than before. He let go of his hold on her hair and slid his thumbs under her jaw, holding her in place.
It was as if he couldn't get enough.
And she loved every single second of it.
She curled her fist in his shirt and yanked him closer. He smashed his lips to hers, his tongue dueling with hers desperately. He tasted like beer and pure man, a combination she'd forgotten existed. His hands slid under her dress, creeping toward her inner thighs, and she whimpered into his mouth.
The cool door was a complete contrast with his hot, muscular length pressed up against her, and when his hand slid between her thighs, something inside of her snapped. She rolled her hips against him, every inch of her body begged for his touch.
It was enough to make a girl scream.
She undid the button of his pants with unsteady fingers before trailing her fingers over his erection. He hissed through his teeth, his rock hard thighs pushing against her. "Alicia."
The way he dragged out the L sound with a soft, rolling lilt, sounded so much like Leo that it almost made her stop. Almost made her question her eyes, and her sense, and everything about this. Stop thinking. It's not him.
Excerpted from The Prince's Bride by Diane Alberts, Candace Havens. Copyright © 2016 Diane Alberts. 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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