He's given up on happily-ever-after...
Cinderella's Prince Charming is divorced and at a dead end. The new owner of a bookstore, Charming has given up on women, royalty, and anything that smacks of a future.
That is, until he meets up with Mellie...
But she may be the key to happily-right-now...
Mellie is sick and tired of stepmothers being misunderstood. Vampires have redeemed their reputation, why shouldn't stepmothers do the same? Then she runs into the handsomest, most charming man she's ever met and discovers she's going about her mission all wrong...
It's only natural that sparks fly and magic ensues when these two fairy tale refugees put their heads--and vulnerable hearts--together...
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April 01, 2011
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Excerpt from Wickedly Charming by Kristine Grayson
The very words of the sign filled Mellie with loathing. Book Fair indeed. More like Book Unfair.
Every time people wrote something down, they got it wrong. She'd learned that in her exceptionally long life.
Not that she was old--not by any stretch. In fact, by the standards of her people, she was in early middle age. She'd been in early middle age, it seemed, for most of her adult life. Of course that wasn't true. She'd only been in early middle age for her life in the public eye--two very different things.
And now she was paying for it.
She stood in a huge but nearly empty parking lot in the bright morning sun. It was going to be hot--California, too-dry-to-tolerate hot, fifty-bottles-of-Gatorade hot--but it wasn't hot yet. Still, she hoped she had on enough sunscreen (even if it did make her smell like a weird, chemical coconut). She had her hands on her hips (which hadn't expanded [much] since she was a beautiful young girl, who caught the eye of every man) as she surveyed the stunningly large building in front of her, with the banner strung across its multitude of doors.
The Largest Book Fair in the World!, the banner proclaimed in bright red letters. The largest book fair with the largest number of publishers, writers, readers and moguls--movie and gaming and every other type of mogul the entertainment industry had come up with.
It probably should be called Mogul Fair (Mogul Unfair?). But people were pitching books, not pitching moguls (although someone probably should pitch moguls; it was her experience that anyone with a shred of power should be pitched across a room [or down a staircase] every now and then).
This season's books, next season's books, books for every race, creed, and constituency, large books, small books, and the all-important evergreen books which were not, as she once believed, books about evergreens, but books that never went out of style, like Little Women or anything by Jane Austen or, dammit, by that villain Hans Christian Andersen.
Not that Andersen started it all. He didn't. It was those Grimm brothers, two better named individuals she had never met.
It didn't matter that Mellie had set them straight. By then, their "tales" were already on the market, poisoning the well, so to speak. (Or the apple. Those boys did love their poisons. It would have been so much better for all concerned if they had turned their attention to crime fiction. They could have invented the entire category. But noooo. They had to focus on what they called "fairies," as misnamed as their little "tales.")
She made herself breathe. Even alone with her own thoughts, she couldn't help going on a bit of a rant about those creepy little men.
She made herself turn away from the gigantic building and walk to the back of her minivan. With the push of a button, the hatchback unlocked (now that was magic) and she pulled the thing open.
Fifty signs and placards leaned haphazardly against each other. Last time, she'd only needed twenty. She hoped she would use all fifty this time.
She glanced at her watch. One hour until the Book Unfair opened.
Half an hour until her group showed up.
Mellie glared at the building again. Sometimes she thought of these things like a maze she needed to thread her way through. But this was a fortress, one she needed to conquer. All those entrances intimidated her. It was impossible to tell where she'd get the most media exposure. Certainly not at the front doors, with the handicapped ramp blocking access along one side.
Once someone else arrived to help her hand out the placards, she could leave for a few minutes and reconnoiter.
She wanted the maximum amount of air time for the minimum amount of exposure. She'd learned long ago that if she gave the media too much time in the beginning, they'd distort everything she said.
Better to parcel out information bit by bit.
The Book Unfair was only her first salvo.
But she knew it would be the most important.
He parked his silver Mercedes at the far end of the massive parking lot. He did it not so that he wouldn't be recognized--he wouldn't be, anyway--but because he'd learned long ago that if he parked his Mercedes anywhere near the front, the car would either end up with door dings and key scratches, or would go missing.
He reached into the glove box and removed his prized purple bookseller's badge. He had worked for two years to acquire that thing. Not that he minded. It still amazed him that no one at the palace had thought of opening a bookstore on the grounds.
He could still hear his father's initial objection: We are not shopkeepers! He'd said it in that tone that meant shopkeepers were lower than scullery maids. In fact, shopkeepers had become his father's favorite epithet in the past few decades, scullery maid being both politically and familially incorrect.
It took some convincing--the resident scholars had to prove to his father's satisfaction that true shopkeepers made a living at what they did, and in no way would a bookstore on the palace grounds provide anyone's living--but the bookstore finally happened.
With it came a myriad of book catalogues and discounts and advance reading copies and a little bit of bookish swag.
He'd been in heaven. Particularly when he realized he could attend every single book fair in the Greater World and get free books.
Not that he couldn't pay for his own books--he could, as well as books for each person in the entire Third Kingdom (which he did last year, to much complaint: it seemed everyone thought they would be tested on the contents of said gift books. Not everyone loved reading as much as he did, more's the pity).
Books had been his retreat since boyhood. He loved hiding in imaginary worlds. Back then, books were harder to come by, often hidden in monasteries (and going to those had caused some consternation for his parents until they realized he was reading, not practicing for his future profession). Once the printing press caught on, he bought his own books--he now devoted the entire winter palace to his collection--but it still wasn't enough.
If he could, he would read every single book ever written--or at least scan them, trying to get a sense
of them. Even with the unusually long life granted to people of the Third Kingdom, especially when compared with people in the Greater World (the world that had provided his Mercedes and this quite exciting book fair), he would never achieve it. There were simply too many existing books in too many languages, with too many more being written all the time.
He felt overwhelmed when he thought of all the books he hadn't read, all the books he wanted to read, and all the books he would want to read. Not to mention all the books that he hadn't heard of.
Those dismayed him the most.
Hence, the book fair.
He was told to come early. There was a breakfast for booksellers--coffee and doughnuts, the website said, free of charge. He loved this idea of free as an enticement. He wondered if he could use it for anything back home.
The morning was clear, with the promise of great heat. A smog bank had started to form over Los Angeles, and he couldn't see the ocean, although the brochures assured him it was somewhere nearby. The parking lot looked like a city all by itself. It went on for blocks, delineated only by signs that labeled the rows with double letters.
The only other car in this part of the lot wasn't a car at all but one of those minivans built so that families could take their possessions and their entertainment systems with them.