Nine Playful Princes - Christie Kelley
Christie Kelley was born and raised in upstate New York. As a child, she always had a vivid imagination and the bad dreams that go along with it, or perhaps the dreams were caused by the five brothers and three sisters she lived with. After seventeen years working for financial institutions in software development, she took a leap of faith and started her first book. Seven years later, her first book EVERY NIGHT I’M YOURS was bought by Zebra books.
She now lives in Maryland with her two sons.
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Lady Louisa Elwood watched as the duke’s butler announced the arrival of Prince Leopold. She almost laughed as he bowed to the room with a grand flourish. His blond hair shone in the candlelight. He wore his military uniform and looked devilishly handsome in a boyish way that seemed incongruous with this station. For a man who had fought at Waterloo, he still seemed like an adolescent instead of a twenty-five year old man.
After meeting the prince at the start of the Duke of Haverfield’s Christmas house party last week, the prince had sought her out for dances and even at times to be his chess partner. The man made her laugh for the first time in months. The rumors were circulating that he might ask for her hand. If it would get her out of England, she might just consider it. She just wasn’t certain Russia was a better alternative.
Of course, just being seen with the prince was erasing some of the memories of her tainted reputation. The duke had only invited her family to this party as an apology for his son’s behavior last spring. Having the duke stand behind her and not his son was far more influential than even having a prince doting on her.
Leopold spied her position by the window and smiled. The duke caught Leopold’s attention and trapped him into a conversation. Louisa smiled back at the prince.
A hard hand clasped her elbow. “Dance with me.”
Louisa’s smile disappeared as her hands started to shake. She looked up into Nicholas’s dark face. His icy blue eyes stared down at her. It had been seven months since she’d seen him and now he looked harder, darker. With his jaw clenched and his lips in a severe line, fear spread throughout her body.
“What are you doing here?” she finally asked. She couldn’t help but glance around to see if anyone had noticed him.
“Surprised to find me in my father’s home?”
She nodded slightly. “Your father promised me you would not be here. If I had known my parents would never have agreed to attend.”
He led her to the dance floor as the whispers of the ton surrounded her. She’d spent the last seven months attempting to live down that kiss seen by so many people at the Appleton’s ball. Thankfully, they all believed it had only been a kiss. If they only knew how she’d touched his bare chest, skimmed her hands down his belly until she reached something far more interesting. Her reputation would never have survived if they knew that the biggest rake in London had taught her what it meant to make love.
Nicholas brought her close as they waited for the waltz to start. “You will not marry that man,” he whispered sharply.
“The prince?” she asked in an innocent tone.
“Of course, the prince.”
“He hasn’t asked me…yet.” As he stared down at her, it suddenly occurred to her that the man with the worst reputation in London was jealous. Her heart leaped. Could he really have feelings for her? Months ago she’d thought so only to be disappointed when he vanished from London.
“Excuse me, but Lady Louisa promised me the first waltz.”
Louisa looked up into the prince’s brown eyes and smiled. “Of course, Your Highness. It must have slipped my mind.” She could have sworn she heard Nicholas growl. She took Leopold’s hand and walked onto the dance floor. Just that one movement away from Nicholas seemed to take all the tension from the room. She glanced around and noticed her parents smiling at her and nodding their approval.
“So, that is the duke’s son?” Leopold asked as the music started.
He looked over at Nicholas with disdain. “He is not as handsome as you told me. So did my whisking you out of his clutches help you or not?”
Louisa giggled. “I do believe it may have assisted me greatly.”
Leopold laughed. “The man is absolutely fuming. I am rather surprised he hasn’t called me out.”
“Thank you for coming to my rescue, Leopold.”
“Anything for you, my lady. Do you think I should attempt to take you out on the terrace?”
Before she could answer, he moved them closer to the terrace doors. “Leopold, it’s December. We shall freeze if we go outside.”
“Bah, you English. This is hardly cold weather. But perhaps you are right.” He changed directions and headed for the duke’s library. Once inside, he closed the door behind him.
“Leopold, what are you up to?”
He laughed. “In about two seconds, that man will burst in on us. We had better make this look good.” He fell to one knee and took her hand in his. “Lady Louisa, will you—”
“No, she will not, you foolish fop,” Nicholas said in a low tone from the threshold.
Leopold slowly stood and faced Nicholas. “You do know to whom you speak?”
“One of a hundred or so ‘princes’ from Russia. I am the son of a duke,” Nicholas retorted. His broad shoulders filled the doorway. He moved slightly. “I believe you should leave my betrothed alone.”
Leopold’s blond brow rose as he turned toward Louisa. “This bastard has proposed marriage?”
“I don’t believe he has. Nor has he ever explained why he left London the minute everyone saw us kissing.”
“Louisa, I will explain everything once this man leaves us in peace,” Nicholas said as he walked closer to them.
“No, I shall stay to see if I believe your excuse is valid or not,” Leopold said with a smirk.
“He stays,” Louisa concurred. “Either tell me in front of the prince or leave…again.”
“All right,” Nicholas said in a low, dangerous tone. “I was terrified. Not that people were talking about me because that had happened all my life. But that I might actually feel something for you. I told myself I would never fall in love after seeing my father grieve for my mother. I never wanted to feel pain like he had. So I decided when I was eighteen that I never would let a woman get too close to me. I’d use them for our mutual pleasure and when the time was right I would marry a woman from a proper family and keep a mistress on the side for my enjoyment.”
Louisa stared at Nicholas. Her heart went out to him. He’d never spoke of his mother’s death before now.
“So I ran from you, Louisa,” Nicholas whispered. “And the past seven months have been nothing but hell. I cannot go on like this. I love you. I want you to be my wife and spend every Christmas with me until I die.”
She blinked back tears and then looked over at Leopold. “Well?”
“Oh, I’d say you had better tell him how you feel.”
“I love you, Nicholas,” she said and then rushed to his arms
Leopold laughed as he rose and left the two lovers in privacy. Maybe he’d find a woman who could love him like that some day.
A Daring Charade...
For ten years, Anthony Westfield, Viscount Somerton, hasn't been able to forget the woman with whom he spent one scandalous night. When their paths cross again, he's shocked to discover Victoria Seaton is an accomplished pickpocket. But Somerton leads a double life of his own. Working on an undercover assignment, he makes Victoria a proposition: pretend to be his mistress or risk ruin. Yet soon he's tempted to turn their charade into reality—and surrender to an explosive passion...
A Holiday To Remember...
Victoria can't believe the man who almost destroyed her life a decade ago is now threatening to unravel her secrets. But posing as his mistress at a holiday country party is a game she can play well. For just one look into Somerton's eyes still weakens her with lust. And with Christmas fast approaching, every kiss they share under the mistletoe only makes Victoria fall more deeply in love...
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