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Authors: Nancy Bush

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The Princess and the Pauper

BOOK: The Princess and the Pauper
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By

Nancy Bush

 

 

Published by Nancy Bush
Visit Nancy Bush’s official website at
www.nancybush.net
for the latest news, book details, and other information
Copyright © Nancy Bush, 1989
Cover by
Extended Imagery
e-book formatting by
Guido Henkel
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
All rights reserved. Except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior written permission of the publisher.

Author’s Note

 

I’ve written in a lot of different genres over the years — young adult, historical romance, mystery, suspense, and romance – and my favorite books, the ones that still resonate with me long after they were published, come from everywhere. Whenever I think of my romance novels, however, THE PRINCESS AND THE PAUPER is the book that springs to mind first. I loved the characters, and the ‘two worlds colliding’ plot.

I hope you enjoy it, too.

 

  Nancy Bush

Prologue

March 17th…

S
he was certain her eyes were playing tricks on her – until he turned her way: dark blond hair, golden eyes, sober expression…

April stopped dead in her tracks. The man staring at her with undisguised surprise was Jesse Cawthorne himself.

“Hello, Princess,” he drawled.

She felt that same roaring in her ears, that same heart-stopping fear. She couldn’t find her voice. She could only stare at him, shocked, utterly stupefied. What struck her the most was how little he’d changed. Time had literally stood still for him. He wore disreputable jeans, black boots and a black motorcycle jacket; a black t-shirt was stretched taut across his lean stomach. His hair was long, and a three-day growth of beard covered his hard jaw. He looked tough and smart and mean. Had she not known him, she might have been frightened. As it was, she was simply dumbstruck.

He regarded her stonily. Neither he nor she moved one iota closer.

April did a quick mental calculation and decided he must be around thirty-five. What in the world had he been doing with his life?

“You—you—haven’t changed,” she managed to choke out the words.

Jesse glanced at the security guard employed by Hollis’s department store. “I suppose that’s debatable,” he said. “Are you working here now?”

April nodded jerkily. “I’m the store manager.”

“And my brother works for you?” He obviously found that impossible to believe.

“Yes.”

“Will wonders never cease?”

His mouth curved into the sardonic smile of April’s dreams. Memories crowded into her head. She could feel his smooth skin, his hard, blood-stirring kisses — and the terrible yearning that had enslaved her that long-ago summer. Tears built behind her eyes, blurring her vision. Her lungs filled to bursting.

She turned on her heel, intending to run, but his hand caught her gently by the upper arm. “Don’t,” he commanded quietly.

April wanted to pry his fingers from her arm, hating the spreading heat that enveloped her.

“I need to talk to you.” His voice was as smooth as brandy. She’d forgotten its persuasive quality.

“Leave me alone.”

“Give me five minutes. Please.”

Slowly she turned her head to meet his gaze. Something shimmered in those golden eyes, something needy and dangerous. She didn’t want to talk to him. They shared a history that had nearly destroyed her life.

As if from a great distance she heard herself say, “Five minutes.”

Chapter One

PART I: ONCE UPON A TIME…

A
mirrored globe spun lazily overhead, scattering flickering squares of light over Rock Springs High’s gymnasium. The band, a ragtag group arranged against the back wall, limped through several popular ballads. April Hollis sighed and moved softly to and fro, careful not to step on Lance’s polished shoes.

“Sorry,” he apologized as he accomplished what she’d been trying to avoid, and crushed her peep-toe shoes.

“I think I’ll survive.” April smiled up at him. She really cared about Lance. He made her laugh. There were even times, like tonight, when she felt something more for him. She thought about being alone with him later, and wondered if she should relent a little, not be the “iciest prude in the entire senior class.”

Over Lance’s shoulder April spied the dais strewn with white and gold crêpe paper, where soon another Pink Carnation Ball Queen would be crowned. A thrill of excitement traveled up her spine – excitement tinged with fear. She was one of the finalists; the announcement had come through last Friday amid squeals of disbelief from April and her best friend, Carrie Forrester. Unlike the optimistic Carrie, however, April knew she didn’t stand a chance of becoming queen. That honor would be bestowed upon Tasha Bennington, who, with the confidence and momentum of a supreme conqueror, had swept up every high school debutante title so far – Homecoming Queen two years in a row, Senior Girl of the Year, Prom Queen, Girl Most Likely to Succeed, Miss Congeniality.

April thought she might be physically sick if Tasha won again, yet knew in her heart it was bound to happen.

“Pssst,” a voice said from behind her while a finger poked her shoulder.

It was Carrie, and April’s brows rose as she twisted around to face her friend. “No dance partner?” she asked.

“Phillip’s busy.” Carrie waved vaguely in the direction of the exit door, where Phillip was talking to a group of his friends. “Did you about Jordan? He spiked the punch. There’s about a gallon of vodka in with the 7-Up and cranberry juice.”

April glanced at the refreshment table. Jordan Taylor was standing by the huge plastic bowl of punch, magnanimously ladling cups for all the students and a few members of the faculty. April drew in a breath and shook her head. “If that guy makes it through graduation, it’ll be a miracle.”

“He’s already made it,” Lance interjected. “All major tests are over. We’ve got another couple of weeks, and then we’re outta here.”

“Want some punch?” Carrie asked innocently, a smile sneaking around the corners of her mouth.

“Thanks, but I’m trying to quit,” April said.

Carrie laughed, but Lance said, “I’ll have some,” surprising both girls. Lance, Mr. High School All-American, had never done anything to jeopardize his chance for a sports scholarship. Throughout his four years at Rock Springs High he’d studiously avoided even the merest hint of impropriety. Now April and Carrie’s eyes met in silent wonder.

“I’ll be right back,” Carrie said, and dashed off in a swirl of yellow fabric to the brimming red bowl.

Lance suddenly bent April over his arm in a move that had her fingers scrambling on the sleeve of his jacket for a hold. “It’s time to live it up a little, don’t you think?” he murmured suggestively.

“Lance, don’t you dare drop me!” April’s mane of black hair was already sweeping the floor.

“I won’t drop you. I’m trying to be more…” He searched for the right word.

“Amorous?” April clung to him for her very life. A few more inches and her ivory silk dress would be smeared with dirt and dust.

“Yeah, amorous.” He grinned, his handsome face looking even more appealing. With an elegance she hadn’t thought him capable of, he suddenly brought her upright, then lightly touched the crown of white orchids she’d pinned into her hair. “Everything’s still in place,” he said softly.

April could feel the perspiration forming around her neck and between her breasts, and with a wry, “It had better be,” she headed for the girls’ powder room. The gymnasium was far too hot, and Lance’s unconventional action had turned her already nervous stomach into a quivering mass of jelly.

If I don’t win, it won’t matter,
she told her reflection as she dabbed a damp paper towel on the smooth skin above her daring, deep v-neckline. More of her breasts were revealed that she would have liked, but she
loved
the dress. Just loved it!

Drawing a deep breath, April eyed the swelling mounds critically. Sexy but demure, she decided, tamping down a fresh attack of butterflies. She looked as good as was humanly possible. Too bad the nose was so pugged, the mouth a shade too wide, the eyes so large and serious. Why couldn’t she have that perpetual glint of mischief she’d witnessed so often in Tasha’s dark gaze? Where was the smile that teased and promised around the edges of her lips?

April leaned closer to the mirror. Okay, her lashes were long and sooty, thanks to MAC, and her eyes were an unusually luminous shade of aquamarine. But somehow the whole picture was missing something. Something indefinable that could make Tasha Bennington the Pink Carnation Ball Queen, while April Hollis never got past vice president of the student council.

“Hi, April,” Tasha’s cheery voice rang out.

April started as the bathroom door swung closed and Tasha rustled up to the counter beside her, her pink satin gown lavished with bows and ruffles. Pulling out a tube of gloss, Tasha delicately added a pale rose gloss to her mouth. She pursed her lips and turned her head from side to side as she checked her flaws.

“They’re about to crown the queen,” Tasha said. She flashed April a smile, but in her eyes was the reserve April had come to expect whenever Tasha dealt with her. Or did Tasha instinctively mistrust all women?

“Are they?” asked April. She pulled out her own lipstick, a soft peach color.

“In about five minutes. Good luck…” She sailed out in a cloud of Chanel.

April’s grip on the lipstick tube revealed more about her feelings than she wanted to admit, even to herself. Her hand shook as she applied another layer of color, and she inwardly cursed herself. It wasn’t that important to be queen. She shouldn’t want it this badly.

Two minutes later she was stepping onto the dais, her hand in the grip of the senior class president. Catcalls and whistles surrounded her, as they had Tasha and Kristy Kramer as each, in turn, had ascended the platform stairs.

“As you all know,” the class president intoned with mock gravity, “the votes for Pink Carnation Ball Queen were cast last Friday. All we need to do now is crown the winner.”

“Tasha, Tasha!” Jordan Taylor started to chant and most of the crowd joined in. The class president held up his hands as the microphone let out an earsplitting screech.

April flinched and swallowed. Her throat was dry.

“I’ve got the envelope,” the class president said, waving it in the air. A moment later he tore open the seal. “This year’s Pink Carnation Ball Queen is… Tasha Bennington!”

Tasha squealed and burst into tears. Pandemonium ensued. Everyone shouted at once. The class president placed a dozen pink carnations in her hands. Through a haze of disappointment April saw Kristy hug Tasha and offer congratulations. On wooden legs April walked over to do the same. But she couldn’t embrace her. She just clasped the other girl’s limp hand and murmured, “Congratulations.”

BOOK: The Princess and the Pauper
9.39Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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