Wedded for His Royal Duty

BOOK: Wedded for His Royal Duty
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Marrying the shy princess...

When Prince Alexandros Sancho discovers he’s inherited his older brother’s betrothed, he’s horrified! Princess Eva might be beautiful, but his belief in marriage died with his first love. However, he must marry her—unless Eva can be persuaded to break the engagement herself?

Except Alex’s plan backfires! Far from putting her off, he finds himself falling for the warm but shy princess. Can he convince Eva to be his royal bride—
for real
?

The Princes of Xaviera

Two princes, conveniently wed!

You are cordially invited to celebrate the weddings of Xaviera’s most eligible princes...

When Prince Dominic spends one night with Ginny Jones, it comes at a price...a marriage of convenience in order to claim his heir!

Pregnant with a Royal Baby!

Prince Alex has always believed royal rules were made to be broken, but when his royal duty comes calling, it’s time for Alex to meet his princess—and wife-to-be!

Wedded for His Royal Duty

For better or for worse, these gorgeous princes are about to claim their brides!

Dear Reader,

A treaty promised Princess Eva that she would marry handsome, dutiful Prince Dominic of Xaviera. But when he married an American woman he got pregnant, his country demanded Eva marry his sexy, rebellious younger brother.

It was a disaster...or was it?

I loved writing about serious, inexperienced Princess Eva falling in love with the last person she’d expect...a playboy. But even more fun was watching Prince Alex fall in love when he had spent his life avoiding commitment. Especially emotional ties.

But what woman could resist a prince so sexy, her voice trembles when they are alone...and what prince could walk away from a woman who needs him?

The road to true love isn’t easy for Eva, but Alex struggles even more. His secrets torment him. And that’s what makes him such a swoon-worthy hero. He surprised me at every turn.

I hope you fall in love with him as much as I did.

Happy reading,

Susan Meier

WEDDED FOR HIS ROYAL DUTY

Susan Meier

Susan Meier
is the author of over fifty books for Harlequin.
The Tycoon’s Secret Daughter
was a Romance Writers of America RITA® Award finalist, and
Nanny for the Millionaire’s Twins
won the Book Buyers Best Award and was a finalist in the National Readers’ Choice Awards. She is married and has three children. One of eleven children, she loves to write about the complexity of families and totally believes in the power of love.

Books by Susan Meier

Harlequin Romance

The Princes of Xaviera

Pregnant with A Royal Baby!

The Vineyards of Calanetti

A Bride for the Italian Boss

Mothers in a Million

A Father for Her Triplets

The Larkville Legacy

The Billionaire’s Baby SOS

Kisses on Her Christmas List
The Tycoon’s Secret Daughter
Nanny for the Millionaire’s Twins
Single Dad’s Christmas Miracle
Daring to Trust the Boss
The Twelve Dates of Christmas
Her Brooding Italian Boss

Visit the Author Profile page at
Harlequin.com
for more titles.

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To my readers... You inspire me to always write the best stories for you!

CHAPTER ONE

P
RINCE
A
LEXANDROS
S
ANCHO
drove his horse up a thin path that wound through the woods behind the palace grounds of his family’s estate. Thor moved with the speed and agility of a true champion, creating a tunnel of wind that swirled around them.

Normally, Alex would be on the beach right now. Enjoying the bikini-clad beauties showing off their toned and tan bodies, pretending they were oblivious to the attention they drew.

With his ever-present bodyguards dressed as tourists, standing strategically around him, and a steady stream of friends at the ready, he’d swim a bit, have lunch, gamble, take a nap and then shower to start all over again.

First, he’d hit the casinos to see if he could find a woman who suited his mood as a companion for the evening, then they’d have dinner, maybe gamble some more and let the night take them where it would.

He nudged Thor to go faster. Today, he couldn’t do any of the things he loved to do. Least of all find a willing female. No. Today was the day he would officially meet the woman he would marry.

The
princess.

He all but spat the word in his mind as the wind caressed him, trying to soothe him and failing. He’d seen pictures of her, of course. Through the years, they’d also unofficially run into each other at boarding school. But she was several years younger, and he’d met her believing she’d be marrying his older brother Dominic as part of a treaty. So their greetings had been stilted, though polite. After boarding school, their paths never crossed again. She’d attended university in the United States where she’d taken up causes—everything from starving children to stray cats.

He struggled not to squeeze his eyes shut in frustration. Dominic had gotten a one-night stand pregnant, and he’d married Ginny because their son was the next heir to Xaviera’s throne, which made Alex the only prince available to fulfill the terms of the treaty with Grennady. Princess Eva had turned twenty-five a few months before. She was officially marriage age, and his time of doing what he wanted, when he wanted, was up.

Even worse, she would be Grennady’s queen one day. Marrying a crusader who would be queen seemed apt punishment for a prince who’d spent his life avoiding responsibility.

With another nudge to Thor, he sent the horse galloping toward the stable, only slowing the pace when they got close to the wide wooden barn door. He jumped off and tossed his riding crop to a servant girl milling about the building. Her faded blue jeans and T-shirt showed off a fantastic figure, but it was her dark hair and pale blue-gray eyes that made his hormones sit up and take notice.

Any other day, he’d flirt, itching to run his hands through the shiny black locks that probably reached her bottom when they weren’t hiked up in a ponytail. But, today, he was about to meet his future bride.

“Thor gets the star treatment,” he said, taking off the black helmet that matched his black leather boots and gloves. “Don’t think you can scrimp with brushing. I’ll be back this evening after tonight’s dinner party to make sure he’s been properly cared for.”

The woman looked at him in bewilderment.

He sighed. “I know. He’s an Arabian with four white boots. Bad luck if you want to breed him.”

“But I’m—”

“New. I get it.” And he didn’t want to stand around chatting. Especially not with a beautiful woman, who only reminded him of everything he was tossing away because of his family’s misplaced sense of duty. “Off with you, now. I have business.”

* * *

Princess Eva Latvaia looked at the riding crop in her hands, then Prince Alex Sancho’s back as he walked away from her. Sweat caused his white-and-tan polo shirt to stick to his skin, displaying unexpectedly toned muscles. He ran his fingers through his gorgeous, thick curly black hair.

At least their children would be getting good genes.

She shook her head and took Thor’s reins. “A fine name for you, sir. A child of the gods.”

The great horse whinnied.

Eva laughed. She said, “You’re a misfit,” but she stroked his nose to take the sting out of it. “So am I.”

Thor shook his head.

“How’d you end up in a palace?”

One of the stable employees raced out of the open double doors. He grabbed the reins in Eva’s hands. “I’m so sorry, Princess.” He bowed.

She straightened regally, aware of her position, but she also smiled. “This is what I get for taking a stroll when I should be getting ready for a party.”

The older gentleman chuckled and turned to walk Thor into the stable.

Eva had heard the Sancho household was different. She supposed having a new baby around was part of it. But she’d also heard that the woman who’d married Dominic, the prince Eva had been dreaming of since she was four, had brought a more relaxed attitude to the royal family.

And now Eva had to face Dom tonight—and his princess—the woman who’d basically stolen him from Eva. In a way, his marrying someone else was good. She was next in line for her throne. So was he. Theirs would have been a difficult life and a difficult marriage. Still, she’d been dreaming of Dom since she was old enough to watch
Cinderella
, in love with the idea of marrying a handsome prince and ruling their countries together. Her whole world had worked itself out in her head. And now—

Now, add losing Dom to what her father had done, and everything was off. Wrong. Almost unbearable.

Head high, she walked back to the palace. She rode the elevator to the fourth floor and the guest apartment she’d been given for her stay. She opened just one door of the elegant double-door entrance, and strode through the high-ceilinged foyer to the sitting room, where her mother picked a chocolate from the tray provided as a welcome gift from the king. It seemed she’d replaced crying with eating.

“You’re not going to fit into your mother-of-the-bride dress for the wedding if you keep eating those.”

Her mom, a short thin woman with hair as black as Eva’s, offered the candy to her. “They’re divine. You should try them.”

“Then both of us will need a bigger size dress.”

Eva’s mother dropped the chocolate back to the tray. “You’re right. I want to look nice. I want your derelict of a father to feel bad for leaving me. And I want to prove at least some of us take our royal duties to heart.”

Eva sat on the sofa. “I’m glad to see you’re feeling better, Mom.”

“Running away with an aide.” She shook her head. “Seriously. Could he be any more cliché?”

“It’s not exactly cliché to give up your throne.” He hadn’t officially put down his crown, but a royal divorce came with consequences. Running away with another woman meant a divorce would soon follow, and her dad would no longer be king. Then she would be queen. At twenty-five years old, she’d have the weight of a country on her shoulders. She couldn’t believe her father had done this to her—and for a mistress.

She thanked God that the Sancho family had insisted they fulfill the terms of the treaty that promised her in marriage to one of King Ronaldo’s sons. At least she had this way of bringing herself into the good graces of their subjects before she took the crown. Even if she wasn’t getting the prized prince, the son who would be king, she would prove she would do her duty to her country even when things were crumbling around her, by upholding the terms of a treaty that ensured oil and safe passage for Grennady’s tankers.

“I wonder if he’s coming to the wedding.”

“Your dad?” Her mom winced. “Great. Thanks for reminding me that he might. Now I really do have to give up chocolates.” She tossed the candy tray to the coffee table. “While you were out, did you hear any palace gossip about when the wedding will occur?”

“Xaviera’s servants are a happy, obviously well-cared-for staff, and they are incredibly closemouthed.”

Her mom rose from the sofa. “I guess we’ll find out tonight.”

“I guess we will.”

As her mother turned and walked to her bedroom, Eva headed in the opposite direction to the second bedroom.

Having lived in America for seven years, she no longer had a maid draw her bath. She relished the simple pleasure of running water, adding scented oils and luxuriating—alone—for twenty minutes.

But remembering the way Alexandros had thought her a servant girl, she called for the palace hairdresser. She had housekeeping steam her gown to make sure there wasn’t a hint of a wrinkle.

That evening, when she stepped out of her room and into the apartment’s sitting area, her mom gasped. “Oh, Eva! Are you sure red is a good idea? And strapless? Showing your shoulders when you meet a king and your future husband? They could think you a tart.”

With a quick nod of approval for her mom’s sedate blue gown that showed off her thin figure and suited her black hair, she said, “Alexandros already mistook me for a servant girl.”

“What?”

“I ran into Alex when I took a walk to the stables. He handed me his riding crop, told me to take care of his horse.”

Her mom gaped in horror.

“I want to see the look on his face when he realizes who I am.”

“Is it that or are you trying to make Prince Dominic jealous?”

Eva stopped halfway to the sofa, her heart rattling around in her chest. She’d loved Prince Dominic from the day she’d found his picture in the newspaper and her mom had told her he was the boy she would be marrying. While other girls crushed on rock stars and soccer players, she’d happily shown everyone the picture of her handsome prince. She never had to feel bad if she didn’t get invited to a dance or if boys ignored her at a party. She had her prince.

And he’d married someone else.

She swallowed hard, as humiliation bubbled through her, but when she faced her mother she wore a happy smile. Her mom had enough misery of her own. She didn’t need to be further upset over how uncomfortable this situation was for Eva.

“Now, wouldn’t I be silly to be pining over a man I didn’t even know?”

Her mother eyed her shrewdly. “You’re sure?”

“I’m positive.”

She seemed to buy that, but Eva’s breath gave a funny catch. What was it going to feel like not just meeting Dominic, but meeting the woman who had stolen him right out from under her?

A member of the palace guard arrived and escorted them to the king’s private quarters. The king himself and his new wife, Queen Rose, greeted them.

King Ronaldo took Eva’s hand and kissed it. “It is such a pleasure to meet you as an adult, Princess.”

Eva smiled graciously and curtsied. “The honor is mine, Your Majesty.”

“This is my new wife, Rose. She’s Princess Ginny’s mom. She and Dominic aren’t here yet, but you know how new babies are. They don’t always adhere to schedules.” He laughed. “Anyway, Queen Rose, may I present Princess Eva Latavia of Grennady.”

Eva curtsied again. “A pleasure to meet you.”

Queen Rose, a tall blonde with just a hint of pink in her hair and a very obvious Texas twang, waved her hand in dismissal. “Oh, none of that for me.” She suddenly enveloped Eva in a hug. “This is the way we welcome people into the family in Texas.” She pulled back and looked Eva in the eye. “You’re familiar, right? You were educated in the US?”

“Yes, ma’am,” Eva said, mimicking the Southern drawl she’d heard the entire time she was at Florida State.

Rose laughed. “That’s my girl!”

King Ronaldo turned to Eva’s mother. “And this is your mom? Queen Karen, correct?”

Eva’s heart swelled with gratitude when the king mentioned nothing of her father’s potential abdication of the throne and still gave her mom the respect of the title Queen.

Her mother curtsied. “Your Majesty.”

He bowed. “It’s my honor to meet you.” He motioned to Rose. “And this is Queen Rose.”

Karen curtsied again. “A pleasure to meet you.”

Rose chuckled. “I know you people like your official greetings, but I’m just a hugger.” She gave Karen a big squeeze.

The king directed everyone into a drawing room with a bar.

Eva looked around in unabashed curiosity. She knew some royals were wealthier than others. Xaviera’s location alone gave them access to oil money. But this palace was amazing. The art so casually displayed on the walls was probably worth the gross national product of Grennady.

Her mom leaned in and whispered to her daughter, “So, the mom of the last princess ended up married to the king. Maybe this won’t be such a bad deal after all?”

Eva couldn’t stop a giggle that escaped. “Behave.”

“Rose doesn’t.”

“She’s the queen. That gives her license to be eccentric.”

“Right.”

The king motioned to the bar. “Can I get anyone anything?”

Karen said, “I’d love a wine spritzer.”

“Princess Eva?”

“I’d like—”

But before she could name her wine choice, Alexandros rose from behind the bar. Dressed in the royal uniform of their country, black trousers with a red jacket filled with medals, he looked totally different than the guy in the riding breeches, white-and-tan shirt and scuffed helmet.

His dark eyes met hers, and the bottle of wine he held fell to the bar top.

She smiled.

King Ronaldo said, “I understand you’ve met Alex in school.”

Holding the gaze of his dark eyes, she said, “And we met this afternoon. Accidentally. At the stables.”

Rose said, “Oh! You ride.” She winced. “Of course you do. It was probably part of your training. I’d love to go out with you one of these mornings.”

Polite and proper, Eva faced Rose. “I’d like that too.”

King Ronaldo said, “Funny. Alex didn’t mention seeing you this afternoon.”

Feeling her pride return, Eva spared Alex a glance before returning her gaze to the king. “I don’t think he knew who I was.”

* * *

Alex felt his face redden like a teenager’s.

“He handed me his riding crop and told me to make sure his horse got the star treatment.”

The king gasped. “Alexi!”

“Well, she didn’t look like this,” Alex said, pointing at her red gown and dark hair pinned up just enough to get it off her face while the rest spilled over her shoulders and fell in thick curls down her bare back. He thought of all that black hair fanned out on a white pillow and almost dropped the wine again.

BOOK: Wedded for His Royal Duty
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