It can be fun to flirt. And when you know it can’t go anywhere, it can be a little more fun. You can just let loose because there’s no chance you can blow it. That’s how TEMPTING THE PRINCE starts. Two people who absolutely know they can’t ever be together, sharing a fun night. #spoiler – they do get together! #spoiler – happy ending guaranteed! So here’s a peek at an average American pushing the envelope with her *actual* Prince Charming…
Mallory couldn’t tell if the bar was nice because everything in Moncriano’s capital was both ancient and charming–or because her bodyguard had chosen very, very carefully where to bring the princess’s sister to get wasted.
Because that was, indeed, her entire plan for the night.
Eat a pretzel the size of her head.
Maybe flirt with the semi-hot guy who’d been eying her from the corner. Except that flirting would require conversation.
Because every conversation she’d had with a stranger since returning to the country followed the same lines:
How are you? You’re so brave. What’s the princess really like?
If she wasn’t fine, she wouldn’t be out at a bar, would she? As for the brave thing, it just wasn’t true. She’d gotten shot, cried from the pain and from the fear of dying, and then woke up in a hospital. Nothing brave about that.
Especially not when you considered how not brave Mallory felt every time she remembered that getting shot probably had long-term consequences. No-children-for-her consequences.
Which she tried not to think about.
The drinking part had barely begun. Mallory had a lovely sampler of five mini-glasses of local brews. Her way of integrating into this new place. And she’d ordered a pretzel.
But the crowd on a Tuesday night was light–not much good opportunity for people watching. In other words, hanging solo at a bar was boring. Not to mention a little bit depressing.
Clearly it was time to shake things up. Throw a few darts, pre-pretzel. She chugged one mini-beer in preparation, as one does before throwing sharp objects.
“If you’re trying to drink away a rough day, that’s not going to get the job done,” said a mellow baritone voice in her ear.
The voice that always skittered a tingle down her spine. As if every word poured a line of maple syrup onto her skin, and if she held her breath, maybe he’d lick it up. . .
Mallory swallowed hard and then swiveled to see Prince Christian tucked in between the stools, setting a motorcycle helmet on the bar. She kept swiveling to get past him to jump up and curtsey.
Sadly, jumping off a stool wasn’t in her repertoire of smooth moves. She slid off, banged her knee on the leg, and would’ve landed on the floor if not for his strong hand catching her biceps.
Very aware of protocol, she still bent into a fairly recognizable curtsey. “Your Highness.”
He settled his hands at her waist and picked her up as though she weighed less than a napkin, putting her back on the wooden stool. “Women fall at my feet all the time, but I didn’t expect it from you. I haven’t even given you my knee-weakening wink yet.”
“Simply observing the proper respect for the heir to the throne.”
His brows knitted together into obvious annoyance. “Well, quit it. We’re in a bar. This prince is off the clock. How about we just be two people who both really need a drink tonight?”
That was…unexpected. Mallory took a good, long look. His blond hair was rumpled from the helmet–so sexy–and he did, indeed, wear super casual black shorts and a red tee. His long, muscular legs seemed to go on forever beneath the shorts down to his sneakers. It was the first time she’d seen that much skin on him.
Forget the wink. His knees were knee-weakening. Tan thighs, tan forearms, all dusted with that sexy golden hair. His broad shoulders and very big biceps strained the shirt to tautness that also emphasized his pecs. If you didn’t know he was a prince, you’d assume he was a sailor, since they were just blocks from the harbor.
A sexy sailor. Maybe a pirate.
But Mallory noticed other things, as well. The darkened shadows just beneath his eyes. The downward pull to his mouth. The dark shadows in his violet eyes, the unusual, identical shade to the woman she’d always called her sister–and always would, even if DNA didn’t hold up that claim anymore.
The prince looked exhausted. Beat up. And yes, as much in need of distraction and drinks as she herself was.
“I’m in if you are. Fair warning–I’m in a crappy mood. My entire plan for the night was to drink it away.” Mallory pushed the wooden plank holding three full samplers toward him. “If you’re on board with that, you can start with these.”
“Great minds think alike. It just so happens I came here for exactly the same reason.”
“On a motorcycle? That seems. . . dumb. I mean, unwise.”
Probably a bad move to call the crown prince dumb. Not because of protocol–just basic politeness. She and Christian had barely talked during her first trip to the country. Kelsey assured her he was nice, but to Mallory he was still more or less a polite stranger.
Albeit a very hot stranger who she ogled whenever the chance arose.
“I took the bike to escape. Someone will drive me home. Which reminds me, I should text Elias, let him know I’m playing hooky.” He handed the helmet to the bartender, who tucked it underneath the bar.
“Wait, you ditched your bodyguard?” The assassination attempt where she’d been shot–and Christian had been standing just in front of her–had happened only three months ago. Security was supposed to be an imperative for the House of Villani. So Mallory dumped protocol out the window and called him out on it. “That was dumb.”
“I needed to do something by myself. For myself.” He sounded unrepentant. His thumbs raced over his phone. “Nobody knows who I am on the bike. And in here, I’m as safe as the palace. This is a Royal Protection Service hangout. Half these tables are filled with off-the-clock bodyguards.”
Mallory whipped her head left and right, taking in the relaxed crowd and noting that nobody looked out of control. Or desperate. Or even rough around the edges. It was the Disneyland version of a bar; spotless, charming, and far from exciting.
“I knew when I asked Klaus to take me someplace to let my hair down that he’d choose the safe, boring route.”
“It’s his job to keep you safe. But as for boring? Well, that all depends on the company.” He sat down, stroking a hand back and forth on the polished wood of the bar. Then his eyes locked onto hers like a tractor beam. “And I don’t plan on being bored at all.”
Christian was known as the playboy prince of Europe. One who took his responsibilities seriously, but also played hard and with an almost conscientious work ethic to going through women. Mallory had assumed it was his title that had women bending over backward to be with him for a night.
She’d been wrong. It was his. . . charisma, even while worn out. His focused attention. Not to mention the sensuality of his wide lower lip and those hypnotic eyes.
Suddenly getting drunk with him seemed like a very bad, very dangerous idea.
But Mallory also couldn’t think of anything she’d rather do.
Lifting a glass, she waited for him to raise one and then clinked. “To having fun.”
They both drained the contents in two long gulps, eyes still locked. She wasn’t entirely sure how to stop looking into the violet depths. Or even the dark blond scruff covering his jawline.
How would that scruff feel on the inside of her thighs?
Why was she bothering to wonder, as it could never, ever happen?
“Before we have all the fun, do you want to say what made your day utter shit?” he asked, ever the polite, well-trained conversationalist.
Ohhhhhh, no. How ungrateful would that sound? Thanks for letting me live, rent-free, in your beautiful palace, in your country, but I’m lonely and bored and miss my old life.
Mallory ran a finger around the rim of her glass. “Do you want to tell me what drove you to literally escape the palace?”
“Excellent counter. And no, I do not.”
“Then might I suggest a game of darts?” With a wicked gleam in his eye, Christian leaned in to whisper into her ear. Actually, he pushed back the hair around her ear first, which raced chills down her spine. “How about we make it even more interesting with a bet?”
There should literally be a claxon going off overhead, signaling the danger.
But there wasn’t.
So Mallory pushed aside the numerous logical ways she should laugh off his suggestion, or just flat-out turn him down. Instead, she asked, “Secrets or drinks?”
“Both, of course.”
(C) Christi Barth, Entangled Publishing, 2020. Reprinted with permission from the publisher.
Sexy Misadventures of Royals #3
What happens when you mix an average American woman with a decidedly not average future King?
I can tell you from experience–a whole lot of complications.
You see, four months ago, my all-American sister, Kelsey, found out that she’s not actually my sister–she’s a princess of a country we’d never heard of. She begged me to come along when she was whisked off to her new palace, so here I am. An outsider who doesn’t fit in anywhere.
Now that she’s settled, I should go back to my exciting new career in New York. I absolutely should not stay in a country where I got shot (long story), where I suck so badly at the national sport that I accidentally murdered the symbol of the monarchy in front of half the country, and–oh yeah–where I can’t stop ogling Kelsey’s actual brother.
The Crown Prince.
The man who has to marry a very important princess. (not me)
The man who must create the next heir to the throne. (without me)
The man I absolutely can never be with. (remember that long story?)
The man who just gave me the best sex of my life. . .
Did I mention that it’s complicated?
Romance Contemporary [Entangled: Amara, On Sale: August 24, 2020, e-Book, ISBN: 9781682815533 / eISBN: 9781682815533]
About Christi Barth
Christi Barth earned a Masters degree in vocal performance and embarked upon a career on the stage. A love of romance then drew her to wedding planning. Ultimately she succumbed to her lifelong love of books and now writes contemporary romance. Christi lives in Maryland with her husband.