I was sixteen when I vowed I would never marry him.
We shook on it. Pinky swore. Even put it in writing and all but signed our names in blood.
It was the one and only thing we ever agreed on.
To the world, he’s Prince Ian, Duke of Montcroix, second in line to the Chamont throne. Panty-melting accent. Royal charm. Hypnotic presence. Blindingly gorgeous. Laundry list of women all over the world who would give their first born for the chance to marry him. Most eligible bachelor in the free world …
But to me, he’s nothing more than the son of my father’s best friend—the pesky blue-eyed boy who made it his mission to annoy the ever-loving hell out of me summer after summer as our families vacationed together, our parents oblivious to our mutual disdain as they joked about our “betrothal.”
He was also my first kiss.
And my first taste of heartbreak so cataclysmic it almost broke me.
I meant it with every fiber of my soul when I swore I’d never marry him.
But on the eve of my 24th birthday, His Royal Highness has the audacity to show up at my door after years of silence and make a demand will forever change the trajectory of our lives: “We have to break our pact.”
“Ms. Belleseau,” he says before moving aside. “Welcome. Won’t you come in?”
Her eyes lift across the small space until they find mine, and her hands clasp in front of her waist. She’s in jean shorts, a white tank top, sandals, and a wildly colorful cardigan. Her long hair is piled on top of her head—hardly the look of a queen, but I like it nonetheless.
My all-American sweetheart …
“I’ll do it,” she says as Harrison locks the door behind her. Emelie takes a few more steps closer, until we’re only a few feet apart. “But I have terms and conditions.”
“No sex,” she says.
I hide my disappointment with a smirk. “Glad we’re getting that one out of the way. What else?”
“Limited public engagements,” she adds.
“I’m afraid that one isn’t up for negotiation,” I say. “But you’ll be pleased to know that we aren’t allowed to demonstrate any public displays of affection, so any and all public engagements will require nothing more than a smile, a curtsy, and a few kind words.”
“Fine.” Her arms fold across her chest, like she still isn’t comfortable with the idea of this arrangement. “You get me until my twenty-ninth birthday and not a day longer.”
“Oh. And I’m allowed to see my family at any chosen time, regardless of schedule or engagements,” she says.
I hesitate—logistics and all of that.
“That’s my non-negotiable,” she says. “My mother and my sisters are my everything. If I want to see them, you’re going to make it happen or the deal is off. And my friends too. I want my friends to be able to visit.”
That’s her non-negotiable? I figured it would’ve been the sex …
“All right,” I say. “Shall we pinky swear on this as we did with our last agreement?”
She fights a smile—a good sign—but her poker face returns in an instant, rendering her back to unreadable.
“You have my word if I have yours,” she says, not moving so much as an inch closer. Her chin lifts and her shoulders straighten as she looks me dead in the eye. I can’t tell if she’s feeling good about her decision or giving me her best poker face.
“Apparently pinky promises aren’t as binding as we thought now, are they?”
My joke falls on deaf ears. She isn’t amused.
Her arms lower to her sides, as though she’s feeling slightly less defensive than when she first walked in the door.
“You’re going to make an amazing queen, Emelie,” I say, envisioning her in my great-grandmother’s glimmering Belcast tiara. “Welcome to the royal family.”
Wall Street Journal and #1 Amazon bestselling author Winter Renshaw is a bona fide daydream believer. She lives somewhere in the middle of the USA and can rarely be seen without her trusty Mead notebook and ultra portable laptop. When she’s not writing, she’s living the American dream with her husband, three kids, and the laziest puggle this side of the Mississippi.
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