Sometimes it seems that Prince Marcus wants to flee from our Mediterranean paradise of Tesoro del Mar--and even pretend he isn't one of the world's most eligible royal bachelors. That's the only reason he's taking time after his Harvard graduation to moonlight as Mac Delgado, ranch hand extraordinaire...right? Well, maybe not the only reason. Rumor has it young Mac's dazzled by his beautiful boss, Jewel Callahan. But Jewel's eight years older than he is, never mixes business with pleasureanddoesn't know the true identity of her newest employee. When she finds out her frog is really a true-life prince, this fairy tale might be doomed before it's even written....
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July 31, 2008
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Excerpt from The Prince's Cowgirl Bride by Brenda Harlen
Two years later...
Jewel Callahan slid onto a stool at the counter at the Halfway Caf? and scowled at the slim back of the blond woman who was grinding beans for a fresh pot of coffee. Crystal Vasicek was the proprietor of the popular little caf? and the creator of the most amazingly decadent desserts in all of West Virginia-- and probably the other forty-nine states, too.
Jewel waited for the grinder to shut off before she spoke. "It's your fault, you know."
Crystal dumped the grounds into the waiting basket and slid it into place, then punched the button to start the coffee brewing before she turned. "That's quite an accusation coming from the woman who's always so quick to assume responsibility for everyone else's troubles." Her pretty blue eyes sparkled with a combination of amusement and curiosity.
"What did I do?"
"It's what you didn't do," Jewel told her.
"Okay--" Crystal picked up a pot of coffee that had finished brewing and poured her sister a cup "--what didn't I do?"
Crystal raised a perfectly arched eyebrow. "He never asked."
"He might have." Jewel dumped a heaping spoonful of sugar into her cup. "If you hadn't run off and married Simon."
"Forgive me for falling in love and not anticipating how that event might somehow interfere with your plans."
"You always were the type to leap without looking."
"And you always exercised enough caution for both of us," Crystal replied evenly.
Because she'd wanted to protect her sister, to shield her from the expectations--and the disappointments--that were inherent in being a daughter of Jack Callahan. After all, she'd had half a dozen years of experience with that before Crystal came along.
"We were talking about Russ," Jewel reminded her.
"What about Russ?"
There was a wealth of understanding in that single syllable.
Jewel's throat was suddenly tight, making it difficult for her to speak. And what more could she say, anyway?
Crystal went to the bakery display and pulled out a mile-high chocolate cake, then cut a thick wedge and put it on a plate with a fork. Jewel managed a smile as her sister nudged it across the counter toward her. Crystal believed that chocolate was a cure-all for every one of life's problems, and judging by the seven layers of moist cake and creamy icing she'd just set in front of Jewel, she understood the magnitude of this one.
Russ Granger had worked at the Callahan Thoroughbred Center for the last ten years, but he'd been Jewel's friend a lot longer than that, and she couldn't help but be shocked by his defection. He wasn't just leaving his job--he was leaving her. He was the only man she'd ever felt she could truly count on, and now he was moving on.
After pouring herself a cup of coffee, Crystal came around to sit next to her sister at the counter. "Why is he leaving?"
Jewel picked up the fork and dipped the tines into the decadent dark icing. "Because Riley got some big recording contract and he wants to go on tour with her."
"She was wasting her talent singing at The Mustang," Crystal said gently.
Jewel popped a bite of cake into her mouth, but even the rich flavor didn't lift her spirits. "I should have guessed something like this would happen," she admitted. "As soon as he told me he was going to propose to Riley, I should have known. But I was so happy for him that I didn't think about what it might mean for CTC. I certainly didn't think he'd take off in the middle of the season."
"He's leaving soon, then?"
"The end of next week. He's been working closely with Darrell over the past several years and assured me that he's more than ready to take over his duties, but--" she sighed and dug into the cake again "--I can't imagine how I'll get through the season without him."
"You will," Crystal said confidently. "Because there isn't anything you can't do if you put your mind to it."
Jewel had always prided herself on being capable and independent, able to handle anything and everything on her own. And it was a good thing, too, because that was how she always ended up--on her own.
"Jack Callahan might have built CTC, but the only reason it's one of the top training facilities in the state today is because of you," Crystal said, then smiled wryly. "And in spite of me. Lord knows, I never had any interest in staying on the farm or working with the horses."
"You carved your own path." Jewel was proud of her sister's success, and she still got a kick out of the fact that Crystal's spectacular desserts were available not just at the little caf? where she'd first started baking but in some of the area's trendiest and most exclusive restaurants. "Sometimes I wonder why I couldn't have wanted something else more than I wanted the farm."
"You were a champion barrel racer for three years running," Crystal reminded her.