This Cinderella didn’t plan on a prince . . .
Kat MacTaggart is a girl who has a plan for everything—including her holiday ski trip to Monterra with her best friend. Everything is going according to plan until she finds herself careening out of control down a mountainside and being rescued by a guy who looks like Superman’s hotter Italian cousin.
HRH Prince Nico is intrigued by the woman he saved on the slopes and her refusal to date him. He offers Kat a deal—let him show her his country and he’ll pay her to write articles that will help Monterra’s tourism industry. Kat agrees, but given her past and lingering distrust of men, she has one condition—absolutely no kissing.
Thanks to the claims of a jealous British noblewoman and the schemes of a meddling paparazzo, Kat’s rule doesn’t seem to be a problem at first. But the more Kat gets to know Nico and the people around him, the harder it is to remember her keep-your-distance plan. Should she stick to it or risk everything for a chance at happily ever after?
EXCERPT 1 (1,367 words - this is the very beginning of the book)
“A little light reading?” His accent was faint, and I couldn’t quite place it. Italian-ish. But I didn’t care enough to ask. I felt him standing next to my stuffed armchair, hovering, and sighed. What was it with European men? American guys didn’t give me the time of day. But over here I was like some kind of dude catnip.
I didn’t take my eyes off of my book. “Sorry, not interested.”
He moved away from me, sitting in an armchair next to mine. Well, I suppose this was what I got for hanging out in the lodge’s lobby. I should have stayed in my room until my best friend, Lemon, was ready to leave.
“You’re not interested in Shakespeare?” he asked. I could hear the amusement in his voice.
“I’m not interested in you.”
“Why not?” This guy just could not take a hint. I turned to look at him, ready to tell him off, and nearly choked.
Gorgeous was an understatement. Tall, athletic, high cheekbones, black hair, and blue eyes. Like Superman’s hotter Italian cousin. He was dressed for a day of skiing—a black turtleneck with an unzipped royal-blue winter coat. And he topped it off with a smile, a blinding, unbelievable smile that nearly did me in.
He leaned in conspiratorially, and I got a whiff of his cologne. He smelled as good as he looked. His glacier-blue eyes were full of intensity and fun, and I wanted to sit and stare into them all day. “I’ve been told I’m very charming.”
I didn’t doubt it. I would never have admitted it out loud, but I was very charmed. Like I was the snake and he was playing a hypnotizing tune that only I could hear.
And I didn’t like the way that made me feel.
Plus, I had to consider reality in this situation. No way could this guy really be hitting on me. He probably dated supermodels and I . . . didn’t date at all. Like, ever. He was so out of my league.
I’d never been so tongue-tied before. I was typically handy with the quips and comebacks. But I couldn’t respond. I had to look away from him and back at my book. The words on the page swam around in front of me, and I was unable to focus on a single one. I needed him to leave so I could regain my equilibrium. “Nothing personal. Italian men don’t do it for me.”
I was the lyingest liar who ever lied.
“How fortunate for me then that I am Monterran.” He had a deep, rumbly, smooth voice that felt like honey and laughter mixed together. I wasn’t immune, and he hadn’t been kidding. He really was disgustingly charming.
My mouth twitched, wanting to smile. I turned a page, pretending to be entranced. I was on Christmas break, I reminded myself. I was here in Monterra to ski with Lemon. It was the last time we would be together before getting our master’s degrees in a few months. I had priorities and plans, and SuperHottie was not on the list.
And if I were being truly honest—he kind of scared me. A guy like that would have expectations, and I wasn’t like other girls.
“I’m Nico, by the way.”
“That’s nice for you.”
But he again failed to parse out the subtext here (and I wasn’t being very subtextual). Short of blatantly telling him to get lost, what else could I do? Would I have to be rude? Because instead of realizing that I was a lost cause, he laughed. He laughed and it did funny things to my insides. I wanted to laugh with him. And crawl into his lap and beg him to be mine.
“And you are?” he prompted.
“Still not interested.” It was becoming a bigger lie as time passed. If some other guy had pursued me this way, I would have thought it was creepy and called for security to have him escorted off the mountain. Instead, I secretly hoped he would keep talking to me.
I thought he’d finally gotten the message as an entire minute of silence passed between us before he reached over to look at my book’s spine to see the title. I gulped in response—his hands were large and masculine, and I wondered how his long fingers would feel interlaced with mine.
I shook my head and let out a shaky breath. I had gone seriously crazy. Like jumping-on-Oprah’s-couch crazy.
“Macbeth? I would have guessed Romeo and Juliet.”
I couldn’t help myself. I had to look at him. “Two fifteen-year-olds who kill themselves in the name of love after only knowing each other for three days? No thanks.”
That smile. He was killing me. “You don’t find it romantic?”
“I don’t find anything romantic about suicide.”
“You don’t think love at first sight is romantic?” he persisted.
I’d never believed such a thing possible before this moment, but now I was sort of getting where Romeo had been coming from. Nico was literally the most handsome man I’d ever met in real life. If anyone could convince me to believe in love at first sight, he was the guy.
“Nope,” I finally managed. He smiled like he didn’t believe me.
Nico looked over his shoulder at a group of guys who were waving and calling out to him. He shouted something back to them, and they headed out the door, hooting and hollering as they went.
He stood up. He was taller than I’d first thought. Yummy tall. Way taller than me tall, and that wasn’t easy to find. “How long will you be in Monterra?”
It was such a personal question my gut reaction was to tell him to mind his own business, but to my surprise, I found myself saying, “For the next couple of weeks.”
“May I see your phone?”
I didn’t actually own a cell phone. I could barely afford food.
“No phone, and I’m not phone adjacent.”
Nico smiled again, and I wanted to melt into my chair. He reached inside his coat, pulled out a small white business card, and handed it to me. “If you do ever find yourself adjacent to a phone while you’re here, please call. I would love to take you to dinner before you leave.”
When I reached out he took my hand and turned it over, leaning down to kiss my knuckles. A lightning arc exploded inside my hand and zoomed around my entire body, all the way down to my toenails. I might have gasped, but I decided to pretend that I would never do something so lame.
He straightened back up to put the card in my shaking hand, closing my fingers around it. “I look forward to your call,” he said as he walked backward toward the exit. “Ciao, bella.”
He left and it took my eyes a second to adjust. Like I’d been staring at the sun and now had third-degree burns on my retinas. Who did that? Who just kissed people’s hands like that? This wasn’t the fifteenth century. So weird. And exciting. But weird.
The business card was white and thick. Obviously expensive. There was only a series of numbers, presumably his telephone number. I flipped the card over. Blank. Who had a card without a name on it? Just their phone number?
I’d tell you who. A guy who kissed your hand.
I closed my book and put it on the coffee table in front of me. I looked at the card again, turning it over a couple of times as I considered my decision.
I didn’t need this while I was here. And I couldn’t let Lemon see it or she’d hogtie me and force me to call him. I was here to relax, forget about my school troubles, and enjoy time with my best friend. Boys were not part of the equation.
A massive fire burned in the fireplace across the room. Decision made, I walked over and before I could change my mind, threw the card into the fire.
And informed myself that I absolutely, totally and completely did not regret it.
EXCERPT 2 (528 words
Now his fingers were playing with the few tendrils that had escaped my bun. I went still and forgot to breathe. “There is something I’ve wondered since the moment I met you.”
“What?” My voice sounded breathy and weird.
“What this would be like.”
He was going to kiss me, and I was going to let him. My heart started trying to pound its way out of my chest.
I should have stopped him. I should have been afraid. But I wasn’t.
His kiss was feathery light, barely touching me. His lips were warm, soft, and strong. If I’d realized earlier they’d feel like this against my own, I probably would have spent a lot more time studying them. My eyes drifted shut as my stomach went completely hollow, and a warm thickness started spreading through all of my limbs. He kissed me again, gentle and persuasive.
“Relax, bella,” he murmured against my lips, running his fingers along my jawbone. I realized that I was clenching his shirtfront with my fists. I loosened my grip. He continued to plant sweet and soft kisses on my lips. “This works better if you kiss me back,” he said with a smile as he leaned back slightly to look at me, his eyes glittery and intense. He ran his thumb along my lower lip, which made all sorts of unmentionable things happen to my insides.
Leave it to me to mess something up as basic as kissing. Fortunately, I wasn’t a total idiot. I could do what he was doing. Scared as I was, I managed to give myself a pep talk. I was twenty-four years old. I was the oldest person on the planet who had never been kissed. I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect setting, or a more perfect man. So gathering up every bit of courage I possessed, I leaned in to kiss him. Just a small peck. A little smooch. It was all I could manage.
I pulled back to see a delighted and appreciative look in his eyes.
“That wasn’t as bad as I expected.”
“Not as bad as you expected? Katerina, I can do much better than ‘not as bad as you expected.’”
I hadn’t meant to issue a challenge, but he accepted it anyway. I thought I heard him growl before he pressed our lips together more firmly, his hands framing and holding my head in place as he kissed me over and over. It was all I could do to keep up. Electricity exploded everywhere he touched and kissed me.
Was it possible to die from a kiss?
My hands moved from his shirt to his wrists, and I felt like I was clinging on for dear life. His kisses started to escalate in intensity until he suddenly stopped. He leaned his forehead against mine, and we were both breathing fast.
“I think . . . I think it’s time for me to return you to your room.”
I nodded, unable to think.
He could have said, “I think it’s time for us to get on a spaceship and fly to the moon,” and I would have agreed to that, too.
EXCERPT 3 (609 words)
What was he doing with his fingers? Everywhere he touched me he left little pools of flame behind.
He was unfairly using his masculine wiles against me, and I was stupidly giving in. I opened my eyes to see him studying me as he slowly ran his knuckles against my cheek. “So is that a yes?”
“It will be a yes. I will pretend to date you, go where you want me to, write what you want me to write. On one condition.”
He waited for me to continue.
“No more kissing.”
His hands stilled. “Ma che?” I guessed that was Italian for “What the frak did you just say?”
“If you think about it, you want me to stay objective when I write the story, don’t you? So we should take kissing off the table, right?” I didn’t know if I was trying to convince him or me.
“So you’re worried that my kisses will sway you and harm your objectivity?” He paused, as if considering. “That’s probably true.” He went back to lightly caressing me, and I worried that I might have to start planning my own funeral because I was dying.
But I couldn’t let on just how much he affected me. “Full of yourself much?”
He had his face close to mine, and I could feel his smile, hear it in his voice. He moved to put his lips right above mine. “You and I both know that I could prove as much right now.”
Of all the things I expected him to do and say, the next thing to come out of his mouth was not one of them. “I can do that. If you don’t want me to kiss you, I won’t. I will wait until you ask me to.”
Usually I would have been like, so not going to happen, but in this case . . . well, I hoped I was strong enough to stick to my guns.
Nico ran his fingers through my hair, and I unconsciously tilted my head to lean into his open hand. “Am I allowed to still touch you? I’m not sure I can promise not to touch you.”
“Uh . . .” I meant to say something. I did. He completely disrupted all of my brain waves.
“Because it would seem you like touching me as well.” I opened my eyes and looked down. I had both of my hands on his bare chest. When had that happened? I didn’t even remember doing it. My hands obviously had minds of their own. I clenched them shut and put them back in my lap.
“Touching is okay, I guess,” I said in that same breathy voice that I only had around him, and now felt like my new permanent one. To be fair, and putting aside the fact that I enjoyed it, Monterrans had repeatedly proven themselves to be an affectionate and kind of handsy people. I couldn’t exactly say no to him for something that was cultural, could I?
Yes, even in my foggy haze I was aware of my pathetic attempts to justify and rationalize.
“Good. Although I don’t know if it’s very fair to give a man a taste of heaven and tell him he can’t have it again.”
My heart barreled against my chest as he did that thing where he ran his thumb gently over my lips, across my jawline, back to my lips. I sort of loved that. I would probably give up my firstborn child if we could just stay in this spot all night doing that.
I was going to lose every last bit of resolve I had.
EXCERPT 4 (509 words)
The sun had just barely started to rise when I woke up. I had a small moment of disorientation, not sure where I was or what was going on. I quickly remembered because Nico had shifted at some point in the night and was lying on his side, facing me. He still had his arms wrapped around me, and our legs were intertwined. I had never been this physically close to someone. My nerves were hyperaware and sensitive at every point where our bodies made contact. And there were a lot of contact points.
Our faces were practically touching. A low, steady thud started in the base of my stomach, and my blood sizzled and snapped.
“I could get used to this,” he murmured, his eyes still closed.
“What?” My voice sounded stupid.
He opened his eyes, and his piercing blue gaze turned the thudding into drumming. “Waking up every morning with you in my arms.”
“I thought you said you had insomnia.”
“I do. Last night was the best night’s sleep I’ve had in I don’t know how long.” He started tracing patterns on my back with his fingers, running them up and down, making me cold and hot at the same time. “It seems I’ll just have to fall asleep with you every night if I ever want to sleep that well again.”
“If I was with you every night, we both know there would be no sleeping going on.” It was probably one of the boldest things I’d ever said.
He gave me a lazy grin. “That’s true.”
Then his fingers were in my hair, and I stretched into it like a purring cat, wanting more. I closed my eyes for a second, reveling in the sensations. I tightened my hold on him, without even realizing it. I only knew I wanted to be closer to him.
His fingers stilled, and I opened my eyes to look at him. He was staring at my face. It was more than a little disconcerting. “What are you looking at?”
“I’m counting your freckles.”
I put my hands over my nose. “Don’t do that.”
“I hate my freckles.”
“They’re adorable.” He moved my hands and kissed the bridge of my nose. He was lucky I didn’t actually spontaneously combust and set us both on fire. “You’re adorable. Beautiful.”
I glanced off to the side, not able to endure the intensity of his gaze.. My pulse skittered wildly.
I looked back at him, studying him in return. He hadn’t pressured me or made me feel dumb or dumped me or anything that I expected a man to do if I told him I wouldn’t kiss him. He had respected me. Spoiled me beyond belief. Wooed me with his words and his actions. Had proved himself reliable and worthy of my trust in every way.
And my affection.
I closed the small distance between us and said, “Thank you...”
Then I kissed him.
He pulled back, looking serious. “Does this mean . . . ?” His question trailed off.
Sariah Wilson has never jumped out of an airplane, never climbed Mt. Everest, and is not a former CIA operative. She has, however, been madly, passionately in love with her soulmate and is a fervent believer in happily ever afters--which is why she writes romance. She has published five happily ever after stories. She grew up in southern California, graduated from Brigham Young University (go Cougars!) with a semi-useless degree in history, and is the oldest of nine (yes, nine) children. She currently lives with the aforementioned soulmate and their four children in Utah, along with three tiger barb fish, a cat named Tiger, and a recently departed hamster that is buried in the backyard (and has nothing at all to do with tigers).
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