Lilah Pace is a pseudonym for a New York Times bestselling author, so she can’t give away too much about herself here, but she has lived everywhere from Italy to the United Kingdom before putting down roots in the American South.
She’s addicted to Diet Coke, loves her dog, and daydreams about several British movie stars (though usually no more than two at a time).And while it took her a long while to get up the courage to write books, now she hopes she’ll never stop.
James, Prince of Wales, grew up in a palace nursery. He'd held royal titles before he even had a name. From birth he had owned houses, horses and various islands around the world. Waiting for him at the Tower of London were the priceless crown jewels, which would adorn him no more than a handful of times in his entire life but were, nonetheless, to be his.
Yet he felt sure he'd never known what wealth really was, not until Ben had come into his life.
On this cold December evening they sat in front of the fireplace in the intimate sitting room of Clarence House, the one no one but family and closest friends ever saw. (And servants, of course. James sometimes had to remind himself about the servants—a bad habit he kept trying to break.) While he was piled up on the sofa beneath an ivory-colored woolen blanket, pen and notebook in hand, Ben lounged on the thick Aubusson rug. He lay so close to the fire that his strong profile was almost no more than a silhouette against the blaze. The corgis dozed in the corner.
Two years ago, James thought, I was all alone and thought I always would be. One year ago, Ben and I had found each other, but I could feel him slipping away. We came so close to losing each other then. But this year—
This year, Ben stretched on his floor, shirtless, his broad shoulders tapering to that indecently slim waist. His black sweatpants had been hitched low, revealing the first high arch of pelvic bone and the arrow of pure muscle pointing down from his hips to his cock…
"You're staring." Ben's smile made it clear that he liked James's stare. Maybe those sweatpants had been pushed low on purpose. "Whatever could you be thinking about, Your Royal Highness?"
"About how very rich I am."
The answer was a laugh. "Well, you're honest, I'll give you that."
"Not rich as in money. I meant—rich like George Bailey in 'It's a Wonderful Life.' Because I have you. That matters more than all the pounds and palaces in the world."
It took Ben a few moments to say, "You know, I've actually been poor. Gone without food, been without any home that wasn't a badly patched tent I could carry on my back."
James's gut sank. He'd put his foot in it, hadn't he? Yammering on about non-material riches when Ben had gone through real privation…
But Ben continued, "What I had then was the only thing I'd ever wanted in this world: freedom. Perfect, absolute freedom. And you only have that when nobody gives a damn about you, and you don't give a damn about anyone." His smile was crooked. "I'd rather be back in that tent with you than in this palace without you."
"Come here." Tossing back the wool blanket, James gestured to Ben, who promptly crawled toward him—a slow, sinuous movement—and then eased onto the couch to lie along James's side. As Ben's fingers wove through his hair, he whispered, "Now, what would we be doing, in this tent of yours?"
"Nothing we can't do much more comfortably in your bed."
"No," James murmured, kissing Ben's forehead, then his cheekbone. "Tell me."
"Mmm. All right. It would be nighttime. We'd be in Thailand, on one of the northern islands—out of season, so we wouldn't have to deal with any backpackers or surfers. It would just be you and me."
Ben's scenario sounded good. The way his hand was stroking along James's jean-clad thigh felt even better. "A tropical island all to ourselves?"
"There's a price to pay for that, of course. The off-season is also known as the rainy season."
"We met in rainy season." That had been in Kenya, not Thailand, but James suspected it was the same basic idea.
"Oh, I remember." Ben's mouth found his, and they kissed long and deeply. James had all but forgotten about the story when Ben pulled back. While James was already breathing hard, Ben remained maddeningly smooth as he continued, "Don't worry. I know where and how to pitch a tent to make sure we'll stay dry at night."
"How big is this tent? How much space do I have to maneuver?" James hooked one of his legs around both of Ben's has he spoke, to suggest some of the maneuvers he had in mind. His reward was the soft crinkling at the corners of Ben's eyes that hinted at his smile.
"Not much space. We'll have to be very close." Ben tugged at the hem of James's jumper; together they quickly wrestled it off and tossed it aside. "Extremely close."
"Probably we shouldn't even let clothes get in the way," James said as Ben's fingers found the buttons of his jeans.
The next few minutes were a blur of open mouths and warm hands and the sensation of jeans sliding down his legs. James peeled off Ben's sweatpants as well and closed his hand over the bulge in his lover's boxers.
"It's raining," Ben murmured against James's throat. "We can hear the raindrops on the tent. That's the only sound in the world besides your voice and mine."
That detail made the fantasy suddenly so real for James that he closed his eyes, the better to picture it. This way he couldn't look at Ben—but he could feel Ben's thigh pushing between his, Ben's lips brushing his collarbone. No need to see when what he felt was so deliciously perfect…
Tourists and native Londoners alike both walked by the palace that night. The tourists in their Union Jack T-shirts took goofy pictures; the Londoners either didn't even notice Clarence House or had become rather good at pretending they didn't. But a handful of people from both groups glanced over and wondered what it would be like to live in a sumptuous royal residence, what the Prince of Wales might be doing inside, warm and safe, on a cold December night.
None of them guessed that the prince was pretending to be an impoverished backpacker half a world away, with nothing but his tent and his beloved, and felt richer there than anywhere else in his life.
Loving a prince can mean defying a nation…James, Prince of Wales, is making history. He’s decided to come out to his subjects—and the world. However, telling the truth means exposing his relationship with lone-wolf reporter Benjamin Dahan. Although Ben never wanted commitment, the unexpected depth of his feelings leads him to join James in the media’s harsh spotlight.When the news story explodes across the globe, Ben can endure the mockery and dirty jokes. But after his tragic past is cruelly revealed, his life begins to implode. Can even his love for James be worth this?James has it no easier. His revelation divides the country and sparks turmoil within the royal family. He must struggle to defend not only himself and Ben, but also his younger sister, who hovers on the brink of a breakdown that could endanger her life.Is Ben strong enough to survive the onslaught and stand by James’ side? And will James have to make a choice between Ben and the crown?
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