Today the spotlight is on The Crown Prince’s Bride by Donna Alward.
The Crown Prince's Bride by Donna Alward
A Crown Prince gets a second chance at love with the woman who’s always been there – in the next book in the prince duology from Donna Alward!
The Crown Prince of Marazur is suffering from a broken heart. After losing his wife and future queen, he knows he’ll never find love again with a partner as wonderful as her. He’s thrown himself into his duties and is trying to be a better father to his two children, but he’s lonely. Even though falling in love seems impossible, so does spending the rest of his life alone.
Stephani has been Raoul’s assistant for years. Smart, loyal, and discreet, Stephani is fantastic at her job. Except for the fact that she’s been in love with her boss since her first week of employment, not that she would ever act on it. Besides, Raoul is first in line to the throne and she’s his assistant. If Raoul ever marries again, it’ll be with someone who can be a future queen. Not someone like Stephani.
When Raoul’s date for a state dinner is unable to attend, he invites Stephani. She’s well-versed on the issues and castle protocol, and Raoul’s always been comfortable with her. But when Stephani arrives, Raoul hardly recognizes her. Is this stunning woman the same one who’s run his office for years?
The Crown Prince’s Bride is the ultimate fairytale for readers looking for Cinderella to get her prince—and be able to keep him past midnight.
Stephani surveyed the ballroom, ensuring everything was running smoothly and to her satisfaction. As the executive assistant to the Crown Prince of Marazur, it was her job to make sure that Raoul Navarro’s birthday party went off without a hitch.
So far the dinner had been delicious, the traditional almond cake devoured, and the music and dancing had begun. She started to breathe a bit easier now.
“Señorita Savalas? Champagne?”
She turned to the footman who carried several full glasses on his silver tray. “Sí, gracias.” She smiled and took a flute from the tray,then sipped gratefully. The dry, fizzy liquid delighted her tongue. By royal standards, the party was small, but no expense had been spared. Including this particularly fine vintage.
Raoul deserved a wonderful party after the year he’d had.Considering this was the first real event at the palace since his wife,Princess Cecilia, had tragically died, Stephani had pulled out all the stops.
It was her job. And it was more than just a job, too.Because for the last seven years, she’d been in love with her boss.
Her boss, who had been married to her cousin.
Her boss, who was now a widower with two small children.
Right now Raoul was mingling with a group that included the finance minister and the gentleman’s twenty-something daughter. The girl looked up at Raoul with something like hero worship, and Stephani smiled to herself.He was at least ten years too old for her, but he was extraordinarily handsome with his black hair and dark, soulful eyes. New lines had appeared at either side of his lips, but Stephani thought they only added to his allure.
She joined the group and smiled at everyone, then spoke briefly before turning her attention to the Italian attaché. There was also a representative from the French tourism ministry and she switched languages effortlessly.
“You’re exceptionally good at that.”
Raoul’s deep voice vibrated at her ear and she suppressed adelighted shiver. She pasted a platonic smile on her face and turned around.“Oh, hello. Having a good time?”
“More than I expected. And what about you? Are you enjoying yourself? Or just working the room?” He lifted an eyebrow.
“Just making everyone feel welcome.”
“And showing off the fact you can speak . . .” He counted silently on his fingers. “Five languages? Six?”
“Five,” she confirmed. “My Russian and German are more of a danger than an asset. I could ruin diplomatic relations in two sentences.”
He chuckled, and she let herself enjoy the sound. Raoul didn’t laugh much at all recently, but the wine pairings at dinner and the open bar had loosened him up considerably.
She hadn’t seen him this relaxed since . . .
A confusing wave of grief swept over her. Maybe she’d had a secret thing for Raoul for ages, but she’d also loved her cousin deeply.Everyone had loved Ceci. And Stephani missed her. Ceci would have loved a party like this. She would have sparkled like the diamond she was. Stephani was far better behind the scenes. It had always been that way, even when they were kids.
“It’s good to hear you laugh, Raoul.”
His eyes met hers. “It’s good to laugh again. It’s been awhile.”
“Of course.” She didn’t want to dampen the mood of the evening, so she smiled instead and nodded toward a woman skirting the dancefloor. “Look. Rose has come back. The children were lovely at dinner, don’t you think?”
His gaze followed the new nanny. “You helped with her dress for the evening?”
“My brother can’t take his eyes off of her.”
“I think Diego has finally met his match. Do you approve?”
“Yes and no?” He shrugged. “My first priority is the children, and they seem to adore her.”
“But she is also a lovely person.” He sent her a sideways smile. “Better than Diego deserves.”
She laughed a little. “You don’t really believe that.”
“No, I don’t. He’s been . . . different. Especially the last few months. Since . . .”
His voice trailed off, but she knew what he’d meant. Since Ceci died.
Everything was different since Ceci had died.
He nudged her elbow. “I don’t want to drag down the party.Do you want to dance, Steph?”
Did she? She’d only imagined it a million times.Particularly at every palace function when she’d stood on the sidelines with her clipboard while Ceci held Raoul in her arms. The perfect couple, a prince and princess, utterly in love.
She hesitated long enough that he stepped back. “Lo siento.I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable.”
“You didn’t,” she hurried to assure him. “I’d love to dance.” It might be her one and only chance. She put her champagne down on a nearby table and smiled up at him. “Shall we?”
The band had switched to a slower song, and he led her to the polished parquet and took her in his arms. She swallowed tightly . . . ohmy. He was smooth, effortless, and his hand was warm against the hollow of her back. His fingers tightened over hers and she bit down on her lip. Raoul, she thought, wondering why on earth she insisted on torturing herself day in and day out. Why couldn’t she manage to shake this silly attraction? Besides, he only ever saw her as his assistant. If he had any idea of her feelings . . .Ugh. Work would be unbearably awkward.
“You look lovely tonight,” he said, his lips only inches from her ear. “The little black dress was a good choice.”
“It’s Versace.” She strangled out the words.
Their feet kept moving, and their bodies seemed to drift closer, until the lapels of his jacket brushed against her breasts. She could feel his heat, smell his cologne.
She should resign. Find another position somewhere, away from the longing for what she could never have. Except this was the perfect job. Wonderful pay, wonderful perks, and . . . well, the family relied on her.She knew that. It was more than a job, and more than just Raoul. She cared about them all. King Alexander, Diego, the children . . . they were her family now that Ceci was gone. She had no immediate family of her own. What remained of the Savalas family was spread out over Greece and Spain. She didn’t even know half of them. Ceci had been her anchor, and in her absence, the Navarros had become her surrogate family.
The song ended and Raoul stood back, but his face had lost the relaxed easiness of before, and a small furrow had appeared between his brows. “Is everything okay?” she asked, suddenly panicked that maybe she’d been the one to drift closer and inadvertently created an awkward moment between them.
“Diego danced with Rose, and she’s just left him standing in the middle of the floor,” he said quietly.
“Maybe there’s trouble in paradise.”
“You should talk to him.”
“I know. It’s never been easy, though. We’re so different.We always seem to cross swords.”
“That’s because you’re more alike than you think. You have to start giving him a chance. He’s more reliable than you give him credit for.”
Back to business. She felt on solid ground when she could focus on business.
She patted his arm. “I’m going to check on the kitchen staff. Señora Ortiz is planning a smaller buffet close to midnight.”
She went to leave and he reached for her hand. “Stephani?”
She focused on his face, because the fact that he was holding her hand was doing funny things to her insides. “Yes?”
“Thank you, for all this. I know I’ve been difficult the last few months. Tonight, having people and music in the house again . . .”
The butterflies in her belly grew heavy. “It must be difficult.”
“Yes. No. I mean, it’s been good. I can’t live my life being gloomy and unhappy all the time. This wouldn’t have happened without you.”
She smiled. “The people need to see that you’re still okay.”
He squeezed her fingers. “I need to know I’m okay. Thishelped. Thank you.”
And he leaned forward and kissed her cheek.
His breath was warm against her skin, and she might be mistaken but she would swear his mouth lingered there just a moment longer than necessary. Heat rushed to her face and she muttered a hasty “you’re welcome”before darting away. She didn’t want him to see her blush. Or the fact that his casual touch had the power to make her normal unflappable reserve desert her completely.
About the Author
A busy wife and mother of three (two daughters plus the family dog), Donna Alward believes hers is the best job in the world: a combination of stay-at-home mom and romance novelist. Donna loves being back on the East Coast of Canada after nearly twelve years in Alberta where her romance career began, writing about cowboys and the west. She is the author of Somebody Like You, Somebody’s Baby, and Someone to Love. Website: www.donnaalward.com