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Authors: Janet Chapman

From Kiss to Queen

BOOK: From Kiss to Queen
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“WHEN COMBINING MAGIC, PASSION, AND WARMTH, NO ONE DOES IT BETTER THAN CHAPMAN.”*

PRAISE FOR THE NOVELS OF JANET CHAPMAN

“Chapman continues to maintain a great blend of magic, romance, and realism in a small-town setting; tales in the style of Barbara Bretton's popular books.”

—
Booklist

“Heartwarming . . . Readers will enjoy the enchanting town and characters.”

—
Publishers Weekly

“[Chapman] is unmatched and unforgettable.”

—*
RT Book Reviews

“A captivating, heartwarming paranormal romance that will capture your attention from the very beginning . . . The combination of wit, clever dialogue, charismatic characters, magic, and love makes this story absolutely enchanting.”

—Romance Junkies

“A spectacular and brilliant novel for those who love the juxtaposition of the paranormal and the real world . . . A Perfect 10 is a fitting rating for . . . a novel which is both tender and joyful.”

—Romance Reviews
Today

Jove titles by Janet Chapman

HIGHLANDER FOR THE HOLIDAYS

SPELLBOUND FALLS

CHARMED BY HIS LOVE

COURTING CAROLINA

THE HEART OF A HERO

FOR THE LOVE OF MAGIC

THE HIGHLANDER NEXT DOOR

IT'S A WONDERFUL WIFE

FROM KISS TO
QUEEN

An imprint of Penguin Random House LLC

375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014

FROM KISS TO QUEEN

A Jove Book / published by arrangement with the author

Copyright © 2016 by Janet Chapman.

Excerpt from
Call It Magic
copyright © 2016 by Janet Chapman.

Penguin supports copyright. Copyright fuels creativity, encourages diverse voices, promotes free speech, and creates a vibrant culture. Thank you for buying an authorized edition of this book and for complying with copyright laws by not reproducing, scanning, or distributing any part of it in any form without permission. You are supporting writers and allowing Penguin to continue to publish books for every reader.

JOVE® is a registered trademark of Penguin Random House LLC.

The “J” design is a trademark of Penguin Random House LLC.

For more information, visit
penguin.com
.

eBook ISBN: 9780698156616

PUBLISHING HISTORY

Jove mass-market edition / July 2016

Cover art by Jim Griffin.

Cover handlettering by Ron Zinn. Cover design by Emily Osborne.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Version_1

T
O
R
OXANNE
T
HERESE
P
APKEN
(
1989
–
2014
)

As a fellow lover of language, you're welcome to perch on my shoulder anytime. Heck, feel free to chime in with some divine suggestions and even take over my keyboard if I don't happen to be listening. Oh, and while you're at it, could you maybe have a little talk with my characters
before
they step out of the ether and into my head? Thanks, sweetie. Enjoy this leg of your
journey!

Chapter One

T
he sharp, roaring shrill of a powerful engine shattered the slumberous quiet of the deep Maine woods. Birds scattered, chipmunks scurried for cover, and Jane Abbot instinctively ducked when a fast-moving aircraft shot overhead just above the treetops. Deciding someone was doing a bit of
illegal
scouting for next week's moose hunt, Jane frowned when she noticed the wing flaps on the floatplane were set for landing. Except that didn't make sense, since the closest lake big enough to land a plane that size on was at least twenty miles away.

Surely the pilot wasn't eyeing the pond she'd just passed.

Jane actually screamed when another plane roared overhead, this one smooth-bellied instead of rigged with floats. Her shotgun hanging forgotten at her side, she
stood in the center of the old tote road and watched the sleek, twin-engine Cessna sharply bank after the first plane like a metallic hawk trying to drive its prey to ground.

What in holy heaven was going on?

The floatplane roared past again, this time low enough for Jane to see the male pilot was attempting to line up with the pond. A sudden burst of gunfire drew her attention to the second plane, where she saw a man kneeling in the open rear door holding a machine gun, his entire body jerking as spent shell casings rained down on the forest below. A small explosion pulled her attention back to the floatplane in time to see smoke coming from the nose of the aircraft as its floats brushed the tops of several towering pines. The plane was landing whether it was possible or not. No more chances for the desperate pilot to circle around and get it right. He was going down—now.

Jane finally came out of her stupor and started running at the sound of breaking branches and the sputter of a dying engine. A tree snapped with enough force to vibrate the air just seconds before the unmistakable thud of the plane hitting water echoed through the forest over the retreating drone of the deadly, victorious plane.

And then complete silence; no sounds from the pond, no birds chirping . . . nothing. Jane realized she'd stopped running and was holding her breath—listening. Waiting. Hoping.

Aw, heck. Give her a sound. Something! A whirl of water. A splash. Something to tell her the pilot of the downed plane was making his way free of the wreckage.

But still no sound, except for the sudden intake of her
own breath as she awkwardly started running again. He couldn't be dead. She didn't want to witness a man's valiant attempt to save himself and lose. Jane dropped her shotgun and backpack when she reached the pond and quickly shed her jacket. Not bothering to take off her boots, she frantically splashed into the water while keeping her eyes trained on the mangled remains of the upside-down floats a hundred yards from shore. She dove into the cold Maine water fueled by a combination of adrenaline, determination, and a lifetime of braving more than one cold swim in similar waters.

She arrived at the plane, gathered her breath, and used the float strut to pull herself down under the water—the rising bubbles making the journey difficult and her vision foggy. Finding the door handle of the upside-down plane and giving several unsuccessful tugs, Jane sank lower and looked in the window to see the pilot struggling with his seat belt, his movements jerky and clumsy. She grabbed the door handle again, braced her feet on the fuselage, and pulled with all her might—only to shoot away when it suddenly opened. She quickly righted herself and reached inside and touched the pilot.

He jerked, his head snapping toward her as he grabbed her wrist and hauled her through the opening. Jane thought about panicking, but realized almost at once that his grip was loosening. She moved closer, bringing her other hand up and touching his lips. He flinched, then stilled. She freed her wrist from his grip and brought a second hand to his face, clasping his head as she touched her lips to his and sealed them. Quickly realizing her intention, the man pulled some of the air she'd been holding into his mouth.

Jane broke free and reached for his seat belt buckle at the same time he did, only to find her own strength waning. She backed out and kicked to the surface, took several deep breaths as she groped for the knife on her belt, then gathered one last supply of air and dove back down to the open door to see the man fumbling with his seat belt again. Jane touched him, he jerked, and in a repeat of before, grabbed her. Not fighting him this time, she reentered the plane and sealed her lips to his again. He relaxed slightly and pulled in more of her life-sustaining air, then went back to fumbling with his belt.

Jane simply cut through the restraint and backed out of the plane while guiding him with her. They broke the surface together beside one of the floats, and Jane found herself having to hold his head above the water as he coughed and spit and gasped, his eyes closed and his face racked with spasms of pain.

He said a word. A curse, it sounded like, in a language she didn't recognize.

“Come on,” she croaked on a shiver as she started dragging him toward shore. Hearing the other plane approaching, Jane stopped swimming when it roared overhead and sharply started banking again.

“Dammit! They're back,” the man ground out. “Where are we?”

Jane looked at him. He'd spoken English. “We're in the middle of the pond. Where do you think we are?”

“I can't see. Are we exposed? How far to shore?”

Jane gaped at him, realizing the skin on his face was red, as if sunburned. His eyes were running with tears and repeatedly blinking as he stared at the sky. There was
a gash on his forehead, and he was keeping one hand tucked close to his side under the water.

He was blind?

“How far to shore?” he repeated, giving her arm a shake.

“Fifty yards,” Jane said as she watched the plane begin another low approach.

“If they start shooting, dive under the water.”

Neither had time to say anything else as the man in the plane diving toward the pond did, indeed, start shooting. She was suddenly pulled below the surface just as the water around them became a frothing web of streaking bullets. Feeling a searing sting on her upper arm, Jane silently screamed and frantically tried to surface. Surprisingly strong hands held her down until the frothing stopped and she was suddenly pushed upward.

“Where are you hit?”

“In the arm,” she said, remembering he couldn't see. “I'm okay. It just grazed me.”

He cocked his head, listening. “We need to get to shore,” he said, shoving her in the wrong direction.

Jane shoved him in the right direction, which seemed to startle the man. She gave a small, hysterical laugh, which seemed to startle him even more.

“Don't panic on me now,” he ordered harshly.

Afraid he might blindly try to slap her, Jane decided to bring him to account for his high-handedness once they were safely on shore. The plane of death flew over the lake once more, and the gunman unleashed his weapon again just as Jane and her half-drowned pilot touched shore, forcing them to run and stumble as she dragged him to a large stand of pines.

Never, ever, had she felt anything like the terror of being shot at so relentlessly. The machine gun sprayed the trees, the bullets kicking up the surrounding dirt as broken branches rained down on them. All Jane could do was crouch against the trunk of a thick pine, her knees locked to her chest and her eyes shut tight, not even able to manage a respectable scream. The pilot of the sunken plane was pressed against her, actually protecting her from flying debris and oncoming death. Jane instantly forgave him for sounding like a bossy jerk in the water. He was blind, in pain, and trying to protect her.

Well, he should! He was the one they were obviously trying to kill. She was just an innocent bystander. Heck, she was even a hero. She'd saved him, hadn't she? He deserved to take a bullet for her.

No, then she'd have to deal with a blind,
bleeding
jerk.

Jane wiggled out from between the man and the tree the moment the deafening gunfire stopped, barely escaping his blindly grasping hands. “Oh, put a sock in it!” she snapped. “I'm starting to get a little angry here. I'm cold and wet, you're bossy, and someone is actually
shooting
at me. Well, Ace, I intend to shoot back!”

With that off her chest, Jane limped over to where she'd thrown her backpack and gun. She rummaged around in the pack until she came up with a box of shotgun shells, then unloaded the bird shot from her gun and replaced it with the new ammunition.

“Come back here!” the man ordered in a guttural hiss. “Now, before they return.”

She looked over and felt a moment of chagrin. If it wasn't bad enough the guy was blind, he was also in the
middle of nowhere with a stranger who was semi-hysterical and very angry. His plane was wrecked and somebody was trying to kill him. And somebody he couldn't see was ignoring him.

Jane took pity. “It's okay,” she assured him. “I have a gun. I can shoot back.”

“What kind of gun?” he asked cautiously, apparently not knowing if he should be alarmed or thankful.

“It's a shotgun.”

He snorted.

“I have slugs for it. Sabots can go through anything short of armored steel. And their range is impressive.”

“What were you hunting? Elephants?” he asked dryly.

Jane took back her pity. “I was hunting partridge.”

He snorted again.

“I was planning to find a gravel pit later and do some target practicing,” she said defensively.

“Are you out here alone?” he asked, apparently dismissing the issue of the gun.

“Yes.”

He dropped his head and muttered that single foreign word again as he rubbed his face in his hands, then sighed and looked in her direction. “How far are we from civilization?”

Jane didn't get a chance to answer. The plane was back. She ignored his second command to come to him—also ignoring the fact that he sounded rather angry himself—and stepped onto the small beach and shouldered her shotgun. She knew she'd only get off one or two surprise shots before they flew out of range, but she intended to give them something to think about before they left.

The plane swooped low over the lake again, the man with the machine gun straining out the door trying to spot his prey. Jane fired off a shot at the approaching plane, then slid the action on her gun and fired again, causing the Cessna to sharply bank away when her slug connected with metal. She quickly jacked another shell into the chamber and fired one last time at the turning plane, satisfied to see the man in the door throw himself back when the slug tore through the fuselage over his head.

She shouted in triumph at the retreating plane, then danced her way over to the wounded pilot, setting down her gun and going to her knees in front of him as she boldly stated she'd just scared those monsters silly. She never noticed he wasn't exactly celebrating with her until he reached out with unbelievable swiftness and blindly grabbed her. He hauled her toward him with surprising force, repositioned his grip on her shoulders, and shook her.

Jane squeaked in alarm and tried to break free. “You're hurting me!”

“I'm going to throttle you, you little idiot! You could have been killed!”

“Well, I wasn't. And neither were you, thanks to me,” she shot back, forgetting her precarious position. “And you're welcome, you Neanderthal!”

He shook her again.

“If you don't quit manhandling me, you're going to find yourself back in the lake,” Jane said, her voice a whisper of warning as she tugged on his wrists.

Although she did register the fact that she was gripping what felt like solid steel, she didn't back down from her threat, not caring if he could see her glare or not. She
broke free and immediately stood up, then backed a safe distance away and simply stared at the scowling pilot.

He was a huge, wet, battered mess if she ever saw one, his face scorched and his eyes watering and blinking frantically. But even sitting on the ground in an undignified heap, the guy still looked lethal—his wet leather jacket clinging to a trim torso and his large hands clenched in either anger or pain or both.

Jane quietly stepped to the side and watched his blinking gaze follow her movement. “Just how blind are you?” she asked suspiciously.

“I can see you,” he confirmed. “But you're blurry,” he added, rubbing his eyes.

“Don't do that.” Jane rushed back to him and gripped his head between her hands, then leaned down and studied his injuries. “You'll make it worse. Your face is red, but I can't see any real damage to your eyes. It's possible they're only badly irritated.”

He leaned away from her grasp. “A fire broke out just before I hit the water.”

“Well, it was a lovely landing, Ace.”

He snorted again. “If you don't count the fact that my plane is upside-down in a lake.”

“You walked away.”

“Just barely. Ah . . . thank you,” he said, trying to focus on her.

BOOK: From Kiss to Queen
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