Hello! I’m so excited to be here at Fresh Fiction, sharing an exclusive excerpt from my upcoming release, A ROYAL DISASTER. The first book in my new Royally Engaged rom-com series, A ROYAL DISASTER is a stand-alone novel featuring a heroine with impossibly bad luck, a charming crown prince, and a cockblocking cat named Jinx. Elena Murphy is a walking disaster, so when she accidentally paints the Crown Prince of Valeria purple, of course the paparazzi capture it on camera. Now she’s being dragged online and the only way to save her reputation—and her studio—is to pretend she’s dating the World’s Most Eligible Bachelor. Keep reading for an exclusive peek at the world’s most unexpected proposal!
“Miss Murphy.” Fin darted forward, possibly to prevent Liam from saying something else untoward. “His Royal Highness, Prince William, Prince of Valeria, offers an apology for the trouble that’s befallen you recently.”
Elena snorted and crossed her arms. “The trouble that’s befallen me? You mean the trouble he brought to my door by illegally trespassing on my property with his fan club in tow?” Fin stood frozen, as if unsure how to respond to such blatant disregard for royal protocol. Elena lifted a brow and fixed her steely gaze on Liam. “I suppose it would be too much to expect His Royal Highness to make his own apologies.”
Liam chuckled. Whatever the woman lacked in stature, she more than made up for in spirit. It was a quality he rather admired. “I am sorry. For all of it,” he said, spreading his hands in a gesture of supplication. “I wouldn’t be here if I weren’t.”
“And you’re here because?”
How to put this delicately? The delivery would be everything.
Fin stepped forward again, ever the diligent assistant, determined to protect Liam from his own impulses. “Miss Murphy, before we continue. I need to verify we are alone in the shop so His Royal Highness might speak freely. Is there anyone else here we should know about?”
“The cat,” Liam supplied, sidestepping his friend. “Really, Fin. If Elena’s going to be my girlfriend, I think we can dispense with the formalities.”
So much for a tactful delivery.
“Excuse me?” Elena’s attention shifted from Liam to Fin and back again, dark eyes wide in disbelief. “I must’ve misheard, because I thought you said girlfriend.” She paused, her cheeks flushing. “Which is ridiculous. Obviously.”
“What’s ridiculous is the fact that one of your neighbors sold their security camera footage to the tabloids.”
“I wondered about that.” Elena dropped onto a stool, resignation coating her words. “Welcome to New York.”
Liam shrugged. This sort of thing happened all the time; there was no point belaboring it. “What’s done is done.”
“Easy for you to say. My business is hemorrhaging as a result of the bad press, and my reputation is trashed.” Elena tucked a loose strand of hair behind her ear and sucked in a deep breath, her chest heaving. It was the first crack he’d seen in her armor and, though she bore it bravely, the knowledge that he was the cause rested in his gut like a stone. He had to make this right. “Have you seen what they’re calling me online?”
“Mad Eyes Murphy.” Liam grinned, though in truth he wanted to throttle the bloody bastards. “What do you expect from the Harry Potter generation? It does have a certain ring to it.”
Elena narrowed her eyes. “Remind me again why I shouldn’t just throw you out now?”
“I have a proposition for you,” he said, pulling out a seat at one of the wooden tables and gesturing for her to join him. Fin shot him a warning look and took one of the empty chairs for himself. Elena hesitated, chewing her full bottom lip, but eventually slipped off her stool and rounded the counter to join them at the worktable. Once she was seated, Liam continued. “As I said, I feel terrible about the bad press you and your shop are getting as a result of my…poor judgment.”
Elena grumbled something that sounded like trespassing, but he pressed on.
No point arguing semantics.
“I’m in town for another month. During that time, I propose we go on a few dates to show the world there are no hard feelings and provide a more palatable narrative than the one that’s currently circulating online.”
“That’s ridiculous. People aren’t going to forget how much they hate me because they think we’re dating.”
“You’d be surprised what people are willing to overlook when they’ve got good news to distract them.” Liam leaned back and folded his hands on the table. He hadn’t expected her to refuse the offer outright. Hell, he thought she’d jump at it. “My people are experts at public relations. I assure you they can make it happen.”
Elena rolled her eyes. “We could go on a hundred dates and no one would believe I’m your girlfriend.”
“And why is that?”
“Because I’m me and you’re you!” she said, gesturing between them as if to highlight their differences.
But that was exactly why this would work. The Valerian people expected him to date a woman of nobility—someone cool, cultured, and politically motivated—and she was completely unexpected.
“Besides,” she went on, “I’ve sworn off dating. Men are more trouble than they’re worth.”
Liam paused, curiosity piqued. Why had Elena sworn off dating? She was young, attractive, and independent. A woman like her should have plenty of sound prospects. So, what? A bad breakup or maybe— He shook himself. The why didn’t matter. This was a business transaction, nothing more.
“Yes, well, that’s the beauty of this charade. It requires only that you pretend to fall in love with me. It doesn’t require actual feelings.”
She seemed to consider this for a moment before abruptly turning to Fin. “Can’t you just have your people issue a statement saying we’ve kissed and made up?”
Liam’s lips quirked and he felt his restraint slipping. “Would you like to kiss and make up, Elena?”
A deep flush spread across her chest, drawing his eye to the hint of cleavage that peeked out of her dungarees. What else was she hiding under that shapeless denim? The possibilities made his cock stir with interest.
“I’m sure if your PR people make a statement, they can smooth this whole thing over,” she said, ignoring his question. “You were trespassing on my property, in case you’ve forgotten.”
As if he could possibly forget, when she insisted on reminding him every five seconds. But he knew better than to argue that point. “It wouldn’t be enough.”
“He’s right,” Fin said. “The paps are vultures. They like to see people suffer and damn the consequences.”
Liam turned to his friend, surprised at the show of support. Fin had spent the entire car ride over reminding Liam that if he fucked this up, Their Majesties would blame him.
“Trust me,” Liam said, reaching across the table to place his hand over Elena’s. A spark of electricity passed between them, and he wondered if she’d felt it, too. “We go on a few dates, smile for the camera, and make doe eyes at each other. The media will gobble it up.” He paused, searching for the right motivation to close the deal. “With the right press, your studio could be booked through next year.” Elena’s dark eyes lit up, but she remained silent, as if mulling over his words. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime offer,” he continued, pressing the advantage. “Let me help fix this before I return to Valeria.”
After a long pause, Elena asked, “Why are you doing this? I appreciate the offer, but I’m sure you have more important things to worry about than my reputation.”
“Is it so hard to believe I’m a nice guy and that I feel terrible about your reputation being dragged through the mud? It’s the least I can do after all the trouble I’ve caused you.” He flashed her a dimpled smile, ignoring the guilt that gnawed at his gut. There was more to it, but he couldn’t tell her. He couldn’t tell anyone. There was too much at stake, and if word got back to the king and queen of his machinations, there’d be hell to pay. This way, if she let something slip, even by accident, the worst case scenario was he looked like a white knight coming to her aid, not a bastard trying to shirk his royal duties. “Besides, it would be nice to have a true New Yorker show me around while I’m in town.”
Liam studied his prospective fake girlfriend. This was the last thing he’d expected when he climbed through the gate in the alley, but he couldn’t deny the situation appealed to him. Elena wasn’t like most of the women he met. She was an unpredictable combination of sweet and snarky, and she didn’t seem inclined to tolerate his bullshit. There was no doubt she’d keep him on his toes in the coming weeks, but he could handle it.
The question was, could she?
(C) Jennifer Bonds, Entangled Publishing, 2020. Reprinted with permission from the publisher.
Royally Engaged #1
Elena Murphy is doing just fine–if you don’t count her struggling art studio, her ex-boyfriend suing her, and accidentally tossing purple paint onto a man who just happened to be in the wrong place at the very worst time. And not just any man, but freaking royalty. The World’s Most Eligible Bachelor, to be exact, with the paparazzi catching the whole embarrassing incident on camera.
Could her life be any more of a dumpster fire?
Yes it could. Now she’s getting dragged online and her clients are disappearing faster than free drinks at happy hour. And just when she thinks things can’t possibly get worse. . . His Royal Hotness decides the best way to fix this mess is to make her the envy of New York–by pretending to date.
Because what’s worse than a prince treating her like his very own Cinderella, including dreamy nights at the theater and a nearly X-rated pottery date?
Reminding herself it’s all fake.
About Jennifer Bonds
Jennifer Bonds writes sizzling contemporary romance with sassy heroines, sexy alphas, and a whole lot of mischief. When she’s not writing or wrangling toddlers, Jennifer can be found curled up with a good book and a bottle of wine. Jennifer lives in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, where her overactive imagination and a weakness for reality TV keep life interesting. She’s lucky enough to live with her very own real life hero, two adorable children, and a pair of rambunctious dogs. Loves Buffy, Mexican food, the Winchester brothers, and all things zombie. Sings off-key.