The Prince's Texas Bride by Victoria Chancellor released on Jan 24, 2003 is available now for purchase.
|Product dimensions:||4.18(w) x 6.80(h) x 0.72(d)|
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The Prince's Texas Bride
By Victoria Chancellor
Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.Copyright © 2003 Victoria Chancellor
All right reserved.
Chapter OneKerry Lynn Jacks pulled her blue chenille robe tight around her, fought back another urge to run into the bathroom and headed instead for the insistent pounding on her door. This had better be important. Mornings were not her best time of day. Hadn't been ever since that little test strip had turned blue - and she'd started turning green.
She wove her way around her coffee table and chair. The tile in the entryway to her apartment was cool on her bare feet even though August in Texas was anything but temperate. "This had better not be someone selling magazine subscriptions," she murmured to herself as she stood on tiptoe and peered through the peephole.
Her heart began to pound and she sucked in a much-needed breath. Either her friend Hank McCauley had started wearing designer clothing or there was a prince on her doorstep. Either way, she had to let him in.
She turned the deadbolt and doorknob, then took a shaky step back as the door swung open.
The man standing before her looked intense and extremely sexy as he glared at her from beneath furrowed brows.
Definitely the prince.
"Hello, Alexi," she said hoarsely past the lump in her throat that she couldn't attribute to morning sickness.
"Why didn't you tell me?"
She couldn't pretend not to know what he was talking about. "I was going to." She shrugged, then crossed her arms over her chest. "I just hadn't decided how or when. You're not exactly the easiest person in the world to get in touch with."
"It's been three months!"
"Well, yes, but it's only been about a month and a half since I was sure."
He ran a hand through his hair, looking suddenly weary. "Can we go inside and talk about this?"
"Of course." She stepped back and gestured toward her living room. "Make yourself comfortable."
She followed him, adjusting her robe, smoothing her blond hair into some semblance of order. The very feminine part of her wished she looked better - more pulled together, with a bit of makeup to hide behind. But Alexi would probably see through whatever cosmetics she might apply, so why bother? And since she'd already decided to tell him the truth, what did she have to hide ... except her pride?
"If you want some coffee, you'll have to make it. My stomach ... Well, let's just say I've given up on my morning jolt of caffeine for a while." She sank into the chair across from the couch and curled her feet beneath her.
"I didn't travel thousands of miles for coffee, even though I'm sure yours is excellent."
"I've had a lot of experience making coffee," she commented casually, reminding Prince Alexi Ladislas of Belegovia that she had been a lowly truck stop waitress when they'd met. Reminding him that they lived in separate worlds and always would.
"Dammit, Kerry, you should have phoned me immediately."
"And what could you have done if you'd known a month or two ago? I'm having this baby whether you know about it or not."
"Then you admit it? This is my child?"
"This is my child," she stated, placing her hand over her slightly rounded stomach. "Maybe conception was an accident, but I want this baby. I don't need permission from you or anyone else to deliver my son or daughter."
"You think I don't want you to have the baby? Don't be absurd. I would never -"
"I thought I did at one time, but now I realize I don't know you well enough to know how you would react. We didn't have much time to discuss the subject in the short time we spent together."
He leaned forward and placed his forearms on his knees. "We managed to talk about almost everything else."
Kerry bowed her head and took a deep breath. She would not cry in front of him, even though her nerves were as jumbled as her thoughts. Even though her stomach clenched with tension and she had the urge to run out of the room.
"I suppose you found out from Gwendolyn." The idea that her friend had called him and revealed a confidence sickened her. Kerry thought she was a good judge of people, and Gwendolyn had seemed like such a loyal friend. But she'd been Alexi's childhood buddy and then a trusted employee for years. Maybe that went beyond a three-month friendship based mostly on a set of bizarre circumstances that few people would believe ... and even fewer knew to be true.
"She didn't call me to reveal your secret, if that's what you're thinking," Alexi said. "I was actually on the phone to her when you came to the ranch."
Kerry frowned, remembering yesterday's conversation clearly. "She told me she had to put a call on hold."
"Gwendolyn has many good qualities and abilities, but anything above the technology of a manual pencil sharpener is beyond her. She obviously thought she'd put me on hold, but she didn't because I heard every word. I immediately flew to Texas and went to your mother's house so we could resolve the problem, and she informed me where your apartment was located."
"My baby is not a problem!"
"I didn't mean it that way," he said quickly. "I meant that I wanted to talk to you about the situation. At least your mother was glad to see me."
"I'll bet. She had your autograph framed, you know." Charlene Jacks had probably loved playing matchmaker. It's a wonder she hadn't phoned to tell Kerry that a prince was on his way to her apartment. Of course, her mother didn't yet know why Prince Alexi might be in such a snit. And if he'd asked her to remain silent so he could surprise Kerry with his mere presence, she would have complied in a heartbeat.
"Why did you tell Gwendolyn instead of calling me?"
"I was so upset. I didn't know who else to talk to. I didn't even tell my mother, for Pete's sake!"
Kerry took another deep breath, wishing she had some soda crackers and ginger ale to calm her queasiness. She wouldn't go into the kitchen to get them when she and Alexi were in the middle of this conversation. Even though she didn't want to discuss her baby at this moment, she knew she'd have to face him sooner or later.
"I just needed advice," she admitted in a small voice. She looked into his eyes and saw a fading of anger. A smidgen of sympathy. "I needed to determine what I should do that would be the most fair to everyone. You, me and the baby."
"And she told you about Belegovia's laws of succession."
"Yes." She'd been surprised when Gwendolyn had volunteered the information, but then Kerry had realized that she had to consider all these factors to decide what was best for her baby.
"So you know that whether you have a boy or a girl, this child could succeed me as king or queen."
"Yes," Kerry said, lifting her chin, "but only if you declare it as your heir. Otherwise, any children you and -" she choked out the words " - the contessa have after your marriage will be your legitimate heirs. This baby would still be the half sibling of the royal heirs, but wouldn't be in line for the throne."
Excerpted from The Prince's Texas Bride by Victoria Chancellor Copyright © 2003 by Victoria Chancellor
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.