Her Prince Charming: An Inspirational Romance

BOOK: Her Prince Charming: An Inspirational Romance
12.75Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
Her Prince Charming
An Inspirational Romance
Faith Austen
About Her Prince Charming

veryone knows
Sara Cunningham is a good girl. She goes to church every Sunday, volunteers in her community, and works hard. So why is her life suddenly such a mess? When Sara's boyfriend cleans out her savings account and disappears, things are bad enough. But when she realizes he's also left her without a date to her sister's wedding, she's desperate for help.

James Drake has a problem. He's no where near as bad as people think. He loves his family, is loyal to his friends. He's even started going to church with his parents most Sundays. But the media loves to tarnish a hero and as one of the heads of Drake Enterprises, he's a constant target. When scandal threatens his position with his company, he needs to find the right woman to save his reputation. One look at Sara and he thinks he's found his answer.

When Sara and James agree to work together, Sara isn't sure she can do it. What would a good looking billionaire see in a shy, somewhat overweight girl like herself? And while they might be helping each other out, giving the impression they're in love feels an awful lot like a lie. But what if his love isn't a lie? What if it's the truth? Does Sara have the courage to find out? Or will she risk her faith and lose her heart in the process?

Chapter One

her across a crowded room. It’s such a cliché, especially for me. I see beautiful women across crowded rooms all the time. Drake Gardens was my resort, and she was sitting in my restaurant.

It’s hard to say what made me stop. She wasn’t glamorous, nothing like the tall, skinny, overly made up women I was accustomed to. No, she was something else. She was

When was the last time I’d had real? An honest woman with true, inner beauty? A woman who was caring and not shallow, kind instead of careless. Who could be herself, instead of dieting to fit in and spending hours on cosmetics. It had been far too long.

I eased into the restaurant, busy enough for six o’clock on a Thursday, but not as crowded as it would be in a few hours. I needed a better angle to see her face. From the door, all I got was long, shining, dark hair, streaming down her back in loose waves, a hint of her lips, the curve of an eyebrow, and nothing else.

Enough to know she was intriguing, but would she live up to the promise of the first, quick look? I had to find out. If she was everything she seemed to be, she might be the answer to all my problems.

I crossed the room to the bar, nodding at a few people as I went. Sliding into the seat beside her, I raised a finger for the bartender.

“Sir,” he said with a deferential nod. I waved it away. This wasn’t the time to impress her with my status. Not until I knew if she’d be impressed.

She might be one of those anti-corporate types, in which case being the owner of the resort wasn’t going to help me get her attention. And the closer I got, the more certain I was. However her night had begun, it would end with me.

I ordered a sweet tea. Despite what the press thought, I wan’t a big drinker. With all the trouble swirling around me, I didn’t want to be caught in public with anything stronger than tea.

At the sound of my voice, she turned to look at me. Perfect. She was beautiful. No dramatic cheekbones or startling blue eyes caked with mascara. She barely wore any make-up. Not even lipstick.

Her grey eyes were clear and intelligent, and her sweet, rosy lips had a natural pout. Her dark brows matched her hair. When her eyes met mine, they widened. For a second, she looked like a deer caught in headlights. Or one who’d spotted a predator far too close and knew he’d locked on.

Her instincts told her all she needed to know. She was in danger and there was no escape.

Then I saw it. The red rims of her eyes, the streak of moisture on her cheek. A primal part of me felt a bolt of satisfaction. She’d been crying.

The tears were a weakness, and my way in. With all the resources at my disposal, whatever problem she had, I would fix it. Then I’d see if I could talk her into helping me fix my own disaster.

Chapter Two

was well
into my ice water when I heard the chair next to me slide back. I kept my eyes on the bar, not interested in company or polite chitchat. My calm, orderly, sedate life was in a shambles, and I had no interest in talking to anyone until I absolutely had to.

That is, until I heard his voice. It was low and dark, like hot chocolate with caramel drizzled on top, and it sent shivers down my spine. I snuck a peek and froze. Wow. I couldn’t remember the last time I saw a man that attractive in person. Our eyes met and I couldn’t move, couldn’t turn away.

His eyes were the crisp, fresh green of a Granny Smith apple. I’d never seen eyes like that before. On anyone else I might have wondered if they were contacts, but not on this man. His eyes were extraordinary, but serious.

His face could have come out of a magazine, with his thick, dark hair, those bladed cheekbones, and that full lower lip. But he lacked the empty blandness of a model in an advertisement. No, his face had character.

He had fine lines around his mouth that suggested he laughed a lot. A tan that said he liked to be outdoors. His gaze was assessing, evaluating me. I wanted to tear my eyes away and look anywhere else, but I couldn’t.

He wasn’t just a regular guy. I knew that already. Spinal shivers from his voice aside, the bartender had called him ‘Sir’ when he’d come in. And that suit. I didn’t know a ton about fashion, but it was too well tailored not to be custom made. He was way out of my league—way, way out.

“Bad day?” he asked in that chocolate and caramel voice.

“Bad month,” I said, my mouth moving before I could stop it.

“Do you want to talk about it?”

The bartender delivered his drink, an iced tea, and he took a sip, eyes still on mine. He waited with all the patience in the world to hear my pathetic story. Suddenly, I was less depressed and more ashamed. How had I let my life come to this?

“I’m sure you have better things to do than listen to a stranger’s problems,” I said, not wanting this beautiful man to know what a mess I was.

“I’m never too busy to listen to a beautiful woman,” he answered. I snorted a laugh, choking a little on my water. He must be working an angle. Men like this didn’t approach me.

Maybe he thought I was easy, or maybe he was another scammer. I’d had enough of that lately. I couldn’t afford to be taken in again.

“Smooth,” I said, still giggling a little. “But whatever you’re selling, I don’t need any. I’ve got enough trouble as it is.”

“I’m not selling anything.” He actually looked affronted, as if I’d insulted him. “Really. I just got off work, wandered in here, saw you, and wanted to get to know you better.”

“Why?” I challenged.

Sure, this was the most attractive man I’d ever seen in real life. However, his sitting beside me and starting a conversation just because he liked the way I looked was a little hard to swallow.

Girls like me did not attract men like him. I was too plump, too boring, and too plain.

I’d only ever been interested in long term relationships. I didn’t judge others, but my faith meant that I was looking for love and commitment, not a one night stand.

And with the way my last relationship had gone, I wasn’t even looking for that. Besides, I wasn’t having a lucky week. Or month, if we’re being honest.

“Because,” he said, leaning closer so the bartender couldn’t overhear, “you’re the only real thing I’ve seen in this place in months. You’re beautiful, and you don’t even know it. And I want to know you better.”

I snorted again. Not the most elegant sound. But, I just couldn’t buy it. I had decent self-esteem, but come on. This man could get any woman he wanted.

I was a somewhat overweight accountant who lived in a tiny bungalow, drove a beige sedan, contributed regularly to her retirement account, and never missed church. All I was needed was a cat, or five, and I’d be all ready to become a little old lady at twenty-five.

“Sorry. Not interested,” I said. “The last good looking guy who told me I was gorgeous ended up cleaning out my savings account. That was after telling me how hard it was to date a fat girl long enough to get my bankcard and pin. I’m not looking for a man like you.”

I waved my hand in the air in a gesture meant to encompass all that was him. “I need a nice, boring guy. Maybe another accountant. Or an actuary. Someone like that.”

“How much did he get?”

I sat back, startled. All the smooth had drained from his face. It was like looking at a different man. His arresting green eyes were narrowed, his lips tight. He looked angry and even though I knew it wasn’t directed at me, he was a little scary.

Why had I told him that? My most humiliating secret and I blurted it out to a complete stranger?

“Ten thousand,” I mumbled, flushing with embarrassment. I’d been stupid, and I’d paid for it.

“How did he get it?” His voice was hard. Uncompromising. I thought about not answering, but I didn’t have it in me to stay silent, especially not with that commanding tone in his voice.

“It was a back-up savings account. Not the one attached to my checking. But it had a bank card. I never used the card, and all the info was in a file in my office. He found it and stole the card. Then he made the maximum withdrawal every day until it was empty. I only check the account once a month, so I missed it. I feel so stupid.”

To my horror, I felt another tear escape from the corner of my eye. He reached up and brushed it away with one warm, gentle fingertip.

“Don’t cry,” he said. “Did you go to the police?”

“They weren’t that interested. He said it was a gift, he had the card and the PIN, and we’d just broken up when I reported it. So they filed it as a domestic issue and suggested I sue him.”

“Did you?”

My shoulders slumped. “I started to. Then my lawyer found out that ‘Greg’ wasn’t actually Greg. And he’d disappeared. So there was no one to sue. And I was out the lawyer’s fees, which I couldn’t exactly afford with no savings to fall back on. I have a good job, but not good enough to replace ten thousand dollars overnight.”

My stomach growled and I thought about eating. Dinner was in forty-five minutes, but I’d missed lunch and I was starving. Maybe hunger was to blame for the light headed feeling I had from talking to the stranger beside me.

I raised my hand to get the attention of the bartender. To my surprise, the man sitting beside me took my hand in his and pulled it down before the bartender could notice.

“You don’t need a drink,” he said. “You need something to eat. I’m taking you to dinner.” He slid off his chair, apparently assuming I’d follow right behind.

“I wasn’t going to order a drink.” I tried to raise my hand again, but he hadn’t let it go. “And I can’t eat dinner with you. I already have plans.”

“Date?” he asked, eyes narrowed. This time, I really couldn’t help my snort of disgusted laughter.

“Are you kidding? It’s going to be a long time before I’m dating again. No. My sister is getting married here this weekend and I have to meet her, my other sister, and my mother for dinner.”

I scowled at the thought of the other reason I was having a miserable week.

“Fine. Then I’ll take you for appetizers.”

Before I knew it, he’d tucked my arm in his and was leading me to the lobby of the resort. What was going on? Was I just going to let him drag me out of the restaurant?

“I can’t go to eat with you,” I said. I didn’t want to cause a scene by yanking my arm away, but I wasn’t going to leave with a man I’d just met.

“Why not?” he asked, easily.

“I don’t even know your name,” I protested. He stopped walking and turned to face me.

“James.” He held out his hand to shake, watching me carefully, as if waiting for something. When I didn’t respond, except to take his hand, he smiled.

I almost missed the smile, jolting a little at the touch of his skin to mine. His hand was warm and strong, undeniably masculine. I squeezed his hand back and said,


“Sara,” He repeated. “A beautiful name.” I had the feeling he might not have released my hand, but I gave it a gentle tug. To my relief, he let me go as he led us out of the restaurant and toward the main lobby.

I suddenly felt uneasy. I’d said I’d go eat with him, but it didn’t seem like a smart idea to go off with a man I’d just met. If he wanted to eat, why were we leaving the lobby where the restaurants were?

Maybe I was being too cautious. Except I’d been cautious with Greg, and here I was, broke and alone. Before I could protest, he asked,

“Is there anything you don’t eat?”

I shook my head and said, “No.” He lifted his mobile to his ear and hit a button before he spoke.

“Cheryl, order in a selection of appetizers. I’ll be there in a minute with company.”

I stopped following him and crossed my arms over my chest. “I’m not going to your room with you.” He grinned at me, relaxed and amused.

“No, you’re not. We’re going to my office. It’s private, comfortable, but you won’t be completely alone with me.”

“Your office? You work here?” I asked, glancing around the floor of the resort.

Drake Gardens was one of the oldest resorts in the Atlanta area. Graceful and elegant, it was the epitome of southern charm. The main building held the restaurants, lobby and four floors of luxurious rooms and suites.

The historic gardens for which the resort had been named weren’t the only attraction. The resort had one of the best spas in Georgia, a stocked fishing pond, walking trails and cottages tucked away in private locations for those guests who didn’t mind spending a thousand dollars a night for refined luxury.

My own modest room was a steal at four hundred and twenty a night. Way out of my budget. Way, way out. I’d told my sister I’d rather stay at home and drive to the resort for the wedding events.

But, as usual, she pitched a fit, the rest of the family took her side, and I found myself convinced to spend money I didn’t have on a pricey room in my own city.

I looked up to see that he was smiling at me, an almost fond expression on his face.

“You really don’t know who I am, do you?” he asked. Should I? I could tell now that I should. I didn’t get out a ton. Was I making a fool of myself? Probably.

“No, I don’t,” I admitted. “Sorry.” I shrugged apologetically.

“I’m James Drake. I own the Drake Gardens,” he said. “Well, I’m part owner of the conglomerate that owns the Drake Gardens. But, for the last few years, the Gardens has been my focus. I do most of my work from here.”

“You own the Drake Gardens?” I felt my jaw hanging open. I knew Drake Enterprises. Started almost a hundred years ago by Mathias Drake, probably James’ grandfather, the company had been a powerhouse even the Depression couldn’t stop.

The story was Mathias Drake had built the Gardens as a gift for his beloved wife, who had loved to be a hostess. Again I was reminded I was far out of my league. I was a junior accountant in a modestly-sized firm. This man could have his arms draped in supermodels in the blink of an eye.

He steered me into an empty elevator while I stared and tried to absorb this information. What was he doing with me?

BOOK: Her Prince Charming: An Inspirational Romance
12.75Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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