It would be an engagement of convenience, nothing more.
Princess Rebecca Marconi needs to stop her father from pressuring her into an arranged marriage.
Logan Buchanan needs her royal influence to secure key business contracts in her European island nation. These total opposites agree to limit themselves to carefully timed public displays of affection--yet Logan's thoughts keep straying to hot, sexy and private scenarios with his fake fianc?e. Soon, the earthy Chicago millionaire has this proper princess giving him the keys to her castle...so he can unlock the pent-up passion no protocol will deny.
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July 01, 2011
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Excerpt from Falling for the Princess by Sandra Hyatt
"You're going about this all wrong." The deep, low voice shattered the serenity of the bright fall morning.
It sounded like...
But it couldn't be. Not here.
Regardless of the impossibility, Rebecca Marconi's fingers tightened around the handle of her mug and she looked warily over her shoulder. The dark-haired man at the beachfront cafe's only other occupied table lowered his newspaper and raised his sunglasses.
Amusement glinted in Logan Buchanan's chocolate-colored eyes.
The last person she expected to see. The last person she wanted to see. Rebecca shook her head, disbelieving. "Where do I have to go to get away from you?"
"To the ends of the earth, Princess."
"I thought I had." She'd spent the past two weeks traveling across Europe and North America until, after a twelve-hour flight and a drive a third of that time, she'd ended up on a remote part of a remote peninsula in New Zealand. Here, along the whole sweep of beach before her, she could see fewer than half a dozen people.
Of all the cafes in all the towns in all the world... "How did you find me?"
Straight dark eyebrows lifted. "Please. Give me some credit. You haven't exactly been discreet."
Actually, she'd tried. She'd attended just two unavoidable gatherings of friends, one in New York, and one in San Francisco. She hadn't expected either of those gatherings to end up on celebrity gossip websites. Her friends weren't the type to court publicity. She couldn't, however, say the same for the friends of her friends. That was the trouble, you never really knew who else was at these things or what they truly wanted no matter how innocent and open they seemed. It was a lesson she ought to have learned before now. "Sophie's engagement party?"
"To name but one."
Here, finally, she'd been planning on laying low for a time while she figured out a way forward. A way that would work for both her and her father, the reigning monarch of the small European principality of San Philippe.
She wasn't well-known outside of Europe--outside of San Philippe even. Here, she'd counted on some privacy and anonymity. "I was going to go home." She left the eventually off of her sentence.
She'd turned down the two unexpected requests from Logan to meet with him in the week before she left home. She'd been busy, but she'd also seen no reason to meet with a man who'd made his views on royalty and the archaic ways of her country abundantly clear.
A man who also always managed to unsettle her, making her feel as though she didn't quite fit her own skin.
"I don't have that much time," he said.
"I have a news flash for you, Logan. This isn't about you. It's about me."
"It always is."
She met his steady gaze, kept her own unflinching. There were times when her training--to show no reaction--came in handy. "That was unkind. Even for you." She wouldn't let herself care what he thought.
He'd arrived in San Philippe a few months ago, introduced into society by her brother Rafe. And he'd been an immediate hit with both the men and the women. The women, for his looks and for the down-to-earth honesty and Chicago charm that was, admittedly, a refreshing change from the restrained niceties of royal circles; and the men, for his phenomenal business success and skill on the polo field that had helped their team to its last three wins.
For a time she, too, had been secretly captivated. There was something so different about him.
Rebecca turned back to her hot chocolate. That time had passed. She'd made it pass.
She felt a movement beside her and watched from the corner of her eye as he stood. If he left, even for a short while, she could head back to her bed-and-breakfast, collect her bags and leave. And this time she would be even more discreet. He wasn't the only thing she'd been trying to escape in San Philippe so it hadn't occurred to her that he'd follow her. But now that she knew...
Dashing her hopes, Logan set his espresso on her table, pulled out the chair beside her and lowered himself into it, seeming almost too big--too broad-shouldered and long-limbed for the ornate wrought-iron chair. As he stretched out his denim-clad legs his foot brushed against hers.
Rebecca tucked her feet beneath her chair and picked up her mug, cradling it with both hands as though it could provide some kind of shield. What would it be like to say what was on her mind, to meet his unspoken challenges head-on? To leave her feet where they were, touching his? To return that direct gaze, not backing down? She wouldn't--couldn't--know. Even here she was still who she was. A member of a royal family. And that position dictated her actions and words every waking minute.
Her thoughts and her dreams were another matter. Fortunately, nobody could see inside her head. Unfortunately, not even she could always control the direction of those thoughts and dreams.
For now, all she wanted was for Logan to leave her be. "I don't suppose asking you to go away is going to work?"
"No. But you could try ordering me to go away. Make it a royal command. I dare you." Challenge glinted in his eyes.
And wouldn't he just love that, the opportunity to laugh at someone trying to order him to do anything. "I know what you think of royalty and of me." His honesty hadn't been quite so refreshing when it was directed at her. She must have met other people who shared his thoughts on royalty--she just didn't know who they were because they hid their sentiments from her. She'd tried to be glad of Logan's honesty. But his openly voiced opinions had had her questioning herself, her role in her country, her future. "So, why have you followed me here?"
"I had business here. Meeting you is a happy coincidence, given your inability to see me in San Philippe."
"I'm sure you don't believe in coincidence any more than I do. And I don't believe for a moment that you have business here."
"No? But coincidences happen all the time and I have interests all over the world."
"America and Europe, yes. But not here."
The light in his eyes changed. "I didn't realize you paid such attention to my activities."
"I don't." She felt as if she'd stepped into a verbal trap. "I listen when people talk, that's all. It would be rude not to."
"Of course." Amusement glimmered.
It was that easy for him to undermine her. A fact he seemed to be infuriatingly aware of. "Don't pretend to agree with me when you don't. The very least I've come to expect from you is honesty. Usually brutal."
"Now who's being unkind?"
"I'm sorry. Did I injure your delicate feelings?"
He threw back his head and laughed and she couldn't remember whether she'd ever heard that sound from him. She decided on not. Because surely she wouldn't have forgotten the rich warm depths that seemed so at odds with the self-serving businessman. The sound--and the mirth behind it--coaxed an involuntary smile in return. And for a moment their shared amusement created a tenuous bond that warmed her. Made her feel not quite so alone.
She quelled the smile. She had to. He'd see it as a weakness. And she'd once heard him attribute his success in business and in sport to discerning his opponents' weaknesses and exploiting them. "Just tell me what you want, Logan. I'll try to help."
He met and held her gaze. "I want you."
The three baldly spoken words hung in the air and any desire to smile evaporated. Rebecca swallowed. For just a moment she imagined the possible interpretations. No man had ever said those words to her and she would have much preferred not to have heard them from this man and in this particular circumstance. Would a man like him, raw and honest, ever want someone like her, whose existence was founded on birthright and image? She ought not to care.
"What do you really want?" She tried for a look of royal disdain, but the only result was a broadening of his smile, effectively conveying just how little her so-called disdain meant to him.
"I've told you."
"That you want me? No. You might want what I can do for you. But you don't want me." She knew how things worked. She held political sway in San Philippe.
"And if I did want you?" He imbued the words with a hint of curiosity. Again, possible interpretations flickered in her imagination.
She had to end this now. The words, the low tone, the possibilities his question raised--and her resulting foolishness--almost hurt. "Stop wasting my time, Logan."
"Time you're clearly using so productively." He glanced at her hot chocolate and the cuisine magazine on the table beside it.
Contrary to what he thought, she didn't get to spend a lot of time doing nothing in particular. She treasured it when she did. Rebecca stood. "If you're not going to go away, then I will." Leaving the magazine and the drink she'd had only a few sips of, she walked back along the beach. She headed for the rocky promontory at the end of the bay, the Pacific Ocean on one side of her, a quiet strip of luxury housing on the other. And behind the houses a steep, forested hillside.
He took so long to catch up with her she'd almost allowed herself to believe it would be that easy. But his shadow, long from the setting sun, came into view, drawing level with hers. As he fell into step beside her, he handed her a take-out cup. "You hardly touched your drink."
"Thank you." What else could she say? "Hot chocolate? I'd have thought you were more a cappuccino kind of girl."
"Coffee keeps me awake if I drink it at this time of day."
"You have trouble sleeping?"
She hadn't meant to give him anything so personal. "Logan, I'm hardly going to discuss my sleeping habits with you. In fact, I'm not going to discuss anything with you. So you may as well go."
"Order me to."
She had nothing to lose by trying. She took a deep breath. "I command you, in the name of my father, to go away."
Rebecca managed to get several paces ahead of him while he was doubled over with laughter, and she couldn't quite help her own smile at the futility of her attempt. She'd never actually tried issuing a royal command before. Now she knew why.
He jogged to catch up. "But your father, and what he wants you to do, is the reason I'm here."
Any desire to smile faded. She'd feared as much, ever since Logan's first request to meet with her. The timing, so soon after her father's announcement, had been too coincidental to be anything else. "I'm dealing with it. In my own way."
"Which is where we come back to what I said at the outset. You're going about this all wrong. But I have an idea that might help."
"I'm not going to ask. I have no desire to hear your thoughts on my private life." Though her private life--thanks to her father--was rapidly becoming even more public than usual. They walked past the gated entrance to her bed-and-breakfast, which was tucked up in the forested hillside. She didn't so much as look at the steep-roofed building and its inviting balcony. It was quiet and quaint and not at all the style of place she usually vacationed. But it had been cleared by security for her to stay at. One of her brothers had even stayed here a year ago. Logan wouldn't know that and it certainly wouldn't be where the high-flying businessman would expect to find her.
"You don't want my advice?" he asked, friendly and helpful.
"I'll bet the wolf sounded just like you when he told Little Red Riding Hood about the shortcut through the woods." She glanced at him. "And the smile was probably similar, too." That smile broadened. Red Riding Hood, naive and innocent, wouldn't have stood a chance against the tempting warmth so silkily offered.
They walked on, sun shining on their backs, the surf rolling in beside them--it could almost have been pleasant. The sort of quiet stroll along the beach she'd dreamed of. Except in her dreams there was a man at her side who wanted her, not something from her. Fifteen minutes later they reached the end of the bay. A track led into the forest, a weathered sign announced a steep twenty-minute walk to the lookout point. Rebecca started up the track and Logan followed. Despite the shade, sweat was trickling down her back and between her breasts by the time she reached the top. Below and beyond, the white-edged bay swept toward distant hills. She sat gratefully in the middle of the bench set a little back from the edge.
Logan, broad-shouldered and lean-hipped, stood at the railing, every bit as captivating as the official view. He looked as cool as though he'd been for a five-minute stroll, not slogged up the same hill she had. He stepped away from the railing then sat beside her, his long legs stretched out. Too close. She moved to the edge of the bench, sat straight, her legs tucked beneath her. "Nice view," he remarked.
"You didn't come for the scenery."
"No, but I can appreciate it while I'm here." At that he lifted his sunglasses and turned and looked at her. She knew he found her physically attractive, he'd told her as much almost the first time he met her, in the same breath that he'd told her he thought her role in her country was perfectly useless. That she was perfectly useless but that he supposed the perfection went some way to making up for the uselessness.
Until that moment she hadn't thought him unattractive, either. He was tall with a lean strength and a ready smile and eyes that saw everything. It was that all-seeing gaze with its hidden depths that had first intrigued her. But her opinion had changed in that instant and nothing he'd done or said at their subsequent, unavoidable but blessedly brief, meetings--at the consulate or through her brother--had done anything to make her revise it.
He knew what she thought of him.
But now he, and the mocking amusement in his eyes, and his blunt way with words, and his disapproval of everything that she was, was here. Teasing her senses. Teasing her.
Rebecca knew enough of him, and men of his ilk, to realize that her best, almost her only, course of action was to hear him out, to at least pretend to consider what he wanted to say. "All right. I give in. You have something to say, so say it. Clearly it's the only way I'm going to get rid of you."