An ordinary summer goes royally awry when a prince and princess move next door, bringing their handsome bodyguard with them, from New York Times bestselling author Karina Halle.
Piper Evans: elementary school teacher by dayavid romance reader and anonymous podcaster by night. She has a quiet, reclusive life, taking care of her mother, who lives with mental illness, avoiding her regrettable ex, who bartends in town, and trying to make inroads in the tight-knit island community that still sees her, five years in, as an outsider.
And she's happy with how things arereallyuntil British royals rent the property next to hers and their brooding bodyguard decides she's a security threat. Piper quickly realizes that one person's fairy tale is an ordinary woman's nightmare as a media frenzy takes over the island and each run-in with Harrison Cole is hotter and more confusing than the last. But beneath Harrison's no-nonsense exterior lies a soft heart, one that could tempt a woman who's sworn off attachments into believing in white knights.
But when Piper finds herself smack in the middle of a royal scandal that rocks the island she'll need more than Harrison's strong arms to shield hershe'll have to do a little rescuing herself. With careers, hearts, and friendships on the line, Piper and Harrison will have to decide what they're willing to give up for a chance at their own happily ever after.
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|Publisher:||Penguin Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.40(w) x 8.10(h) x 1.10(d)|
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Read an Excerpt
Nicky GrAVes just threw up in my handbag.
It's my fault, really. I knew he was sick, even though he tried to muster up some eight-year-old bravado and pretend he wasn't. I know that when I was his age, if my forehead felt remotely hot, I'd be in the nurse's office all day, waiting for my mom to come and get me. Any excuse to miss school.
But Nicky loves school (and since I'm his second-grade teacher, I should be honored by this), so he pretended he was fine until he wasn't.
I saw it happen in slow motion too. I was reading to the class from one of their favorite series, Mercy Watson, talking about the pig's love for butter, when Nicky's face went a wicked shade of green. His hand shot up to his mouth, and before I could do anything, he was running to the trash can beside my desk. Which would have been great had I not left my purse beside the trash and had Nicky possessed a LeBron James style of pinpoint accuracy.
"I'm sorry, Miss Evans!" Nicky wails, standing beside what used to be a nice leather bag I picked up in Mexico years ago when I was on vacation with my ex, Joey. I suppose it's fitting that in the end it's just a pile of vomit, which is exactly what our relationship turned out to be. Metaphors 101.
"It's okay, Nicky," I tell him, trying to sound calm even though I can feel the class descending into panic as cries of "Ewwww!" and "Nicky puked! Sicky Nicky!" and "I'm gonna barf!" fill the room.
I practically throw the book down and run over to him, trying to hold it together myself. This is not my favorite part of the job, and I'm probably the only elementary school teacher who still gets easily grossed out. I grab an entire box of tissues and somehow manage to get Nicky cleaned up, call the nurse's office and his mother to come get him, and calm down the class.
It isn't until the bell rings that I have time to deal with the purse of puke.
I'm staring at it, wondering if I should call it a wash and just throw it all away, when there's a knock at the door. It's the first-grade teacher, Cynthia Bautista, poking her head in, sympathy all over her face. Maybe a tinge of disgust.
"You okay? I heard you had a sickie today."
I gesture to the bag, which I still haven't touched. "Well, I'm in the market for a new purse."
She walks in and eyes it, flinching. "Oh. Fuck me." Then she covers her mouth and bursts out laughing. "I'm sorry. It's not funny."
"Don't worry, if it had happened to you, I'd be laughing too." Cynthia is one of the few teachers here that I'd consider a friend. Not that I'm a hard person to get along with-people pleasing is something that's been ingrained in me since I was a child-but there aren't that many people who "get" me, especially where I live, especially in the school system. There's a very rigid set of rules and hierarchy at SSI Elementary, and I'm still treated like a newcomer, even though I've worked here and lived here long enough. They say that most people who move to Salt Spring Island only last a few years, and if you make it to five, then you're considered a "real islander." I've made it to five, and I haven't managed to get close to anyone. People seem to think I'll eventually go back out with the tide.
"I think you're going to have to throw it away," Cynthia says, her nose scrunched up. "Anything valuable in there?"
I sigh, nodding. "My wallet. Some makeup. A book. Tic Tacs."
My antianxiety medication, I finish in my head. But she doesn't need to know that.
Then I remember. "Oh wait. Maybe . . ." I crouch down and gingerly poke at the outside pocket where I remember sliding my bank cards this morning after getting my morning coffee at Salty Seas Coffee & Goods. My bank card and credit card seem untouched by the contents of Nicky's stomach. Unfortunately, those are the only things saved.
"Shit." I slap the cards on my desk and give Cynthia a tired look. "Feel like doing me a favor?"
"Hell no," she says, shaking her head adamantly. Cynthia is a pretty tough cookie, emigrated here from the Philippines by herself when she was twenty, went through an awful divorce, and is now raising her ten-year-old daughter by herself. "That bag and everything in it is a lost cause. You can always get another driver's license. And makeup. And books. And Tic Tacs."
She's right. I glance at the clock. It's just past three, which means there's plenty of time to get to the insurance place and get a new driver's license. Luckily our school is right in the middle of our tiny town and close to everything. "I guess I'll go do that now before I forget. Do we have a toxic waste receptacle here?" I eye the purse.
Cynthia gives me a look like I'm crazy. "You want to try to get your license now? Have you even stepped outside today?"
I shake my head. During recess and lunch hour I stayed at my desk and read my book, preparing for the podcast I'm doing tonight. I'd already read it, but I wanted to skim through it to beef up my talking points in the review.
"Why, what's happening?"
This island is small, and nothing much ever happens here. Perhaps there's some hippie protest about a cell phone tower or something.
Cynthia's eyes go wide, and she gets this excited, knowing look upon her face. "You haven't heard?"
I stare at her blankly and cross my arms. Obviously not. "What?"
"You know Prince Edward and MRed?"
Do I know Prince Edward and MRed, aka Monica Red, aka Monica, Duchess of Fairfax? "Cynthia, I live on a rock, not under a rock."
"Well apparently you live under one too. They're here! Like, today. Now. And looking for real estate. The whole island has been losing their mind over it. Paparazzi have been arriving in float planes all morning, the ferries are full of looky-loos or however you call it. The town is at a standstill."
My tired brain can hardly comprehend any of this.
You see, Prince Edward, the younger, stoic son of Queen Beatrix and her husband, Prince Albert, recently married a Grammy-winning singer named MRed, and the press has been up in arms about it. Not only is Monica Black, but she's American and she had a successful career, which may have included a lot of risquŽ songs, scantily clad videos, performances gone viral, etc. In other words, the UK media has been absolutely brutal to the both of them, showing their racism and slut-shaming sides at every turn. I mean, I'm by no means a royal fanatic, but I've been keeping up with it (they dominate the news everywhere), and I don't see the media ever attacking Eddie's older brother, Prince Daniel, who remains a womanizing bachelor.
At any rate, it was reported everywhere that Monica and Eddie were leaving the UK for a yearlong break for undisclosed reasons. A sabbatical of sorts. Some people thought they'd go to Seattle, to be near her parents. Others thought the ski resort town of Whistler, where the royal family spent winter vacations when Eddie and Daniel were young. Others yet thought India, where the couple often did charity work.
Never in a million years did I think they would pick this island in British Columbia, Canada, a small yet eccentric haven between Vancouver Island and the mainland.
Honestly, I still can't believe it. None of this seems right.
"Are you sure?" I ask Cynthia. "Maybe it's just an actor or something." Our island is known for being the perfect hermit's hideaway (and I can attest to that-if I didn't have to work, I think I'd rarely leave the house). There are lots of known authors who toil away in their writing studios, and ex-musicians who sometimes play the local pub, and everyone from Barbra Streisand to Raffi has had a summer home here at some point.
"No, it's Eddie and Monica," Cynthia says adamantly. "Don't believe me? Just walk to town and you'll be swallowed up by the frenzy."
She sounds breathless when she says "frenzy," and there's a feverish sheen to her eyes. Something tells me that Cynthia is absolutely loving this. Our quiet little town turned into a paparazzi-driven chaos? That sounds awful to me. I can't even handle the crowds when summer holidays hit, and that's two weeks from now.
"Okay. I guess I'll just go home and hope I don't run into any cops."
"Nah, they're all out trying to contain the madness." She says this gleefully, tapping her fingertips together like Mr. Burns from The Simpsons.
We say goodbye, and I pick up the puke purse and take it down to the nurse's office, where Judy is still tidying up (school nurse by day, restaurant server who never gets my order right at the Sitka Spruce Restaurant by night). She doesn't even bat an eyeball at it and says she'll dispose of it for me, like she's getting rid of a dead body. At this point, that's what it kind of feels like, and I get out of there before she changes her mind.
The school after three p.m. is probably my favorite place to be. There are usually a few students straggling about, killing time and waiting to be picked up, but today is warm, sunny, and dry (opposed to the usual cold, gloomy, and wet), so any kids who are left are outside. It's just me in the halls, enjoying being out of the house and away from any stress and responsibilities, and getting to be alone at the same time.
I take a moment to slowly walk down the hall, smiling at all the art the kids have showcased on the walls, and then I'm out the door and heading to my car in the parking lot. It's a 2000 Honda Civic hatchback that I've always called the Garbage Pail (since it's silver and dented), and I added fuzzy green seat covers for that Oscar the Grouch feel. Almost everyone on the island has an electric car, and it's definitely on my list of things to get (along with the goal of saving money), but since I essentially take care of both myself and my mother under one income, a new car seems like just another one of my dreams, along with traveling the world and falling in love with someone who deserves it.
Still, I have great affection for the Garbage Pail. I could get the dents fixed, but on this island, no one bats an eye, and it does really well on gas. Hanging from the mirror is a pair of fuzzy dice that my father won for me at an arcade when I was a teen, before he ditched out on us, and my glove compartment is stuffed with Tic Tacs, which I have a borderline addiction to, ferry receipts, and who knows what else.
I get in, and even though I'm not driving through town to get home, I already know what Cynthia means. On the sides of the main road leading into the center, cars are lined up and parked in haphazard lines. This isn't normal for a Thursday afternoon in June. It looks more like the crowds we get during our Saturday market during the peak of summer, but on steroids, and I guess instead of people perusing the organic vegetables or hemp-based clothing or homemade vegan vagina purses (yes, those are a thing and they're exactly what they sound like), these visitors have their cameras and phones all ready, hoping to catch a glimpse of the renegade royals.
I shake my head and turn off the road, glad that I don't have to deal with any of that today. I still think that maybe Cynthia's mistaken about all of this. I mean, I like living here because it's gorgeous and affordable and I can be a recluse and no one thinks anything of it, but I'm not sure why Prince Eddie and MRed would be attracted to this place. I mean, yeah, it's beautiful and secluded. But you're also kind of stuck here too.
My house is located at the end of a peninsula called Scott Point, one of the most affluent and tightly knit communities on the island.
Naturally, I'm like a sliver you can't get rid of along the narrow finger of the peninsula. Yes, we own the house, an adorable cedar-shingle three-bedroom that used to be the servants' quarters to the mansion next to it, but I still drive the Garbage Pail among all the shiny Range Rovers and Teslas (full disclosure: the GP used to be my mother's car until she wrecked my Kia Soul, but anyway . . . long story), and my mother and I aren't exactly overly friendly with our neighbors. We don't belong here, but we make it work.
It sure is stunning, though. The only way through is via a narrow road that cuts through the middle of the peninsula like an artery lined with evergreen arbutus trees, their peeling red bark as thin and delicate as Japanese rice paper. On either side are houses hidden by tall cedar fences, each with a witty name like Henry's Haven and Oceanside Retreat carved up on custom-made signs. Between the houses you can catch glimpses of the ocean, the sun glinting off it in such a way that shivers run down your spine. That glint at this time of day tells me that summer is in full swing, and summer is my dreaming period.
I'm already dreaming about getting a mug of tea and heading down to the dock to enjoy the sun when I suddenly have to slam on my brakes.
Instead of the usual deer or quail family crossing the road, there's a very tall, broad-shouldered tree of a man standing in the middle of the road at the top of the small hill, holding his hand out to me like he's trying out for the Supremes.
Shit. Pins and needles start to form in my lungs, my heart pounding. My anxiety has no problems jumping to the worst-case scenario, and it's always that something has happened to my mother while I was at work. There's not a moment when that exact fear isn't lurking at the back of my mind, so the fact that there's a very grim-faced stranger in a dark suit striding downhill toward me makes me think my worst nightmare is going to come true.