Their Royal Wedding Bargain

Release Date: 17th December 2019

It was a temporary agreement…
But their wedding date has already been set!
Princess Alexa’s strategy was simple: avoid an unwanted union by finding a short-term fiancé. Notoriously untamable Prince Rafaele seems her safest bet…until the king demands they marry for real!
Suddenly Alexa is in over her royal head! Because their electrifying connection complicates everything. Rafa’s charisma thrills her, his boldness challenges her and the pleasures of their marriage bed give duty-bound Alexa the confidence to ask for more. Can Alexa persuade Rafa to rewrite the terms of their convenient bargain?



Tonight was going to be a total disaster. Alexa could feelit.

The Annual Santarian Children’s Charity ball, one of the most prestigious events on the international calendar, would commence in under an hour, and she felt sick with apprehension.

‘He’s here, Your Highness,’ Nasrin, her assistant-cum-lady’s-maid-cum-devoted-companion, murmured as she closed the bedroom door, a ripple of excitement evident in her quick steps as she returned to Alexa. ‘One of the chambermaids confirmed that the Prince of Santara has just entered the Summer Palace.’

Retrieving the hairbrush from the old-fashioned vanity unit, Nasrin picked up a skein of Alexa’s long dark hair and met her wide-eyed gaze in the mirror. ‘This is so exciting. I can’t believe you’re actually going to do it.’

Alexa couldn’t either; releasing a measured breath at the thought of what she intended to do, followed swiftly by the seizing of her stomach.

Known for her cool, unflappable poise under pressure, she felt as if she was about to throw up the grilled cheese sandwich she’d had for lunch all over her custom-made designer gown.

He was here. He was really here.

Prince Rafaele of Santara, the King’s younger brother, had actually arrived. There had been whispers that he might not attend tonight, given that he’d created a scandal at this very event last year, embarrassing the King. But apparently nothing stopped the rebel Prince of Santara from following his own path, and that was a trait that could work in her favour tonight so she should see it as a positive. Being a determined rule follower, she found that somewhat difficult, adding to her massive sense of self-doubt.

How was she going to do it? How was she going to ask a man with the reputation as a consummate playboy to marry her even if she was a princess herself? Because that was what she intended to do. What she hadto do if she wanted to appease her father.

She and Nasrin had hatched the crazy eleventh-hour plan to propose a fake marriage—or engagement because, as she would explain to the Prince, she had no intention of actually going through with the wedding—two weeks ago when she had realised that her father was deadly serious about seeing her married as soon as possible.

Of course she’d tried to argue with him. Tell him that she wasn’t ready, that she needed more time, but he had shaken his head and informed her that nothing she said would change his mind. As the Crown Princess of Berenia, and only remaining heir, he would not rest until she was settled.

To be fair he had given her six months to create a list of possible marriageable contenders, but Alexa had dragged her feet, hoping he would forget all about it. On the night he’d told her he hadn’t forgotten at all, she and Nasrin had sat down to commiserate over a glass of Sauterne and a completely unrealistic rom-com at the end of a long working day.

According to Nasrin the main actor looked like the dreamy Santarian Prince, his character replete with arrogant, bad boy tendencies and a super-hot body, and the idea had been born. In the film the hero had not wanted to marry the heroine, but love had won out in the end.

Alexa knew from past experience that love rarely won out in the end, but fortunately that wasn’t what she required from the Prince.

‘It’s going to be fine, Princess Alexa; he’ll do it,’ Nasrin murmured, accurately reading the panic in her eyes for what it was. ‘Then you’ll have everything your heart desires.’

Everything her heart desired?

What she desired the most was time to make her own marriage match, and for her older brother to still be alive.

Sol had been the true heir to the Berenian throne but since his tragic death three years ago that duty had fallen to her. And she wasn’t up to it, not yet anyway, and deep down she wondered if her father believed that she wasn’t up to it either, especially after the serious lapse in judgement she’d made when she was seventeen. Perhaps that was one of the reasons he was pushing so hard for her to marry right now. Why he was so determined to have it done.

That, and to remove the stink of shame that still hovered over her after the King of Santara had abruptly ended their betrothal twelve months earlier. The ink hadn’t even dried on their marriage contract before he had pulled out and immediately married another woman—an outsider, no less—his actions stirring up centuries-old animosity between their nations and giving the BLF—the Berenian Liberation Front—just the excuse they needed to re-engage in hostilities with Santara.

Her and King Jaeger’s brief, ill-fated betrothal hadn’t been a love-match by any stretch, but his rejection had still felt like yet another kick in the teeth for Alexa because she had likedhim. She’d developed a massive crush on King Jaeger when he had saved her from an embarrassing experience on her first official engagement as her father’s consort. At thirteen, she’d been so nervous, decked out in a white tulle gown that had made her feel like a beautiful fairy, that she’d accidentally upended a full jug of cranberry juice all over herself. She’d frozen to the spot as the cold, sticky red liquid had drenched the front of her beautiful gown and chilled her skin. Before she’d been able to respond the newly crowned King of Santara had stepped in behind her and enveloped her in his jacket and whispered that everything would be okay.

Mortified, Alexa had buried her scalding cheeks against his chest, allowing him to draw her from the room without anyone really noticing them. He’d instructed a servant to find her lady’s maid and then melted back into the party. Alexa hadn’t drunk cranberry juice since, and nor had she forgotten the King’s kindness. As she’d matured he’d become the epitome of her dream man: kind, loyal, compassionate and strong.

His brother, by contrast, couldn’t be more different. The consummate good-time guy, Prince Rafaele moved from one lissom blonde to the next as if he was doing nothing more important than choosing a new tie to wear with his suit.

‘Having your hair up was a good choice,’ Nasrin said as she twisted the last of Alexa’s waist-length tresses into place. ‘It shows off the sheer panelling at the back of your dress to perfection.’

‘It’s not too revealing, is it?’ Alexa murmured, twisting on her padded stool to get a better view. She’d chosen her nude-coloured off-the-shoulder gown to attract as much attention as she dared, but she wasn’t used to wearing clothing that revealed so much skin.

‘Not at all. It’s perfect.’

Alexa stared at her carefully made-up face with critical indifference. Perfect would be to have the task ahead of her put behind her and sorted to her satisfaction.

‘And you’re sure he doesn’t want to get married?’ she asked, her outward calm slipping ever so slightly. One of the things that made the Prince so perfect was his reported disinclination to marry. If he didn’t want to marry he would never want to make their union permanent and interfere with her chance to do things her way.

‘Absolutely.’ Nasrin nodded. ‘He’s been on record as saying he never intends to marry. Not that the women seem to be listening. They throw themselves at him like lemmings off a cliff, hoping to be the one to change his mind.’

So why did she feel so sick?

Probably because actually attracting the attention of a man like the Prince was completely foreign to her, thanks to her father’s strict rules and regulations, and her own sense of inadequacy with men. Not that she’d always felt that way. Once, when she was seventeen, she’d believed a man—Stefano—had found her beautiful. But what he’d really found was that she was gullible. Gullible enough to be seduced by a man who was more interested in her title than her as a woman. The mistake had hit her budding confidence hard, pushing her to focus on her degree in business management, and her royal duties, to the exclusion of all else.

Not that she wanted to attractPrince Rafaele. No, she only wanted his cooperation in a scheme that, in the end, would serve him as equally as it would her by restoring cordial relations between their two nations. A scheme that had seemed a lot easier to follow through on when she went over it late at night in her bed than in the cold light of day..

Trying to remain positive, Alexa slipped on her heels and smoothed her hands down her bespoke gown, ignoring how the clever creation made her feel both elegant andnaked—which, according to her exuberant assistant, was the whole point of the design.

‘You will feel sexy and alluring,’ Nasrin had assured her when she’d first set eyes on the dress. ‘And every man in the room will look at you and want you.’

Right now she felt as sexy and alluring as a tree. And she didn’t want everyman in the room looking at her. She was nervous enough thinking about oneman looking at her.

She picked up the dossier Nasrin had put together on Prince Rafaele last week, rifling through photo after photo of him attending parties and movie premieres every other week. Vastly wealthy in his own right, he owned an empire of nightclubs and bars across Europe that, once opened, became the only place to be seen. Dens of iniquity, her father had once disparaged.

An unwanted shiver shot through her as she gazed at a shirtless photo of the Prince holding onto a sail line on the deck of a yacht. His white trousers were flattened against his muscular thighs by the breeze, his dark shoulder-length hair streaming out behind him, his broad chest deeply tanned to the colour of the teak deck. His face was turned towards the camera and the lens had lovingly captured his perfect wide smile, hawkish features and startling blue eyes as he laughed at something in the distance.

The caption underneath read: The Rebel Prince in search of sun, fun and adventure.

Alexa studied his image. Despite his relaxed pose there was something about the way he held himself that said Dangerbeware. A jaded slant to his lips that indicated that he had seen everything there was to see in life, and was surprised by none of it. Which would be a good thing if he went along with her plan because their break-up would seem inevitable: the Playboy Prince and the shrinking violet could never have lasted. Not that she wasa shrinking violet. She just chose not to make waves if she didn’t have to.

‘Hot, isn’t he?’ Nasrin said as she glanced at the photo before running a practised eye over Alexa. ‘You look stunning, Your Highness. The Prince won’t be able to resist you.’

While Alexa appreciated Nasrin’s optimism, she knew from personal experience that men found her all too easy to resist. ‘More likely he’ll laugh in my face.’ She closed the file. ‘And if he’s that opposed to marriage he might not even go for a temporary engagement.’

‘But you have an ace up your sleeve. If he agrees, it could help settle all the bad blood between our nations. Of course he’ll go for that. And the engagement would only be temporary. Unless…’ Nasrin’s pretty eyes sparkled mischievously ‘…you fall in love with each other.’

Alexa shook her head. Nasrin had a romantic nature that no amount of rational conversation could extinguish. And while Alexa might have once craved love and a happy-ever-after too, she’d been disappointed enough in the past not to wait around for it.

Love wasn’t as important as dignity. Self-respect. Objectivity. And imagining the Prince of Santara falling in love with her, or her with him, was frankly hilarious.

‘That’s as likely to happen as the moon is to turn blue,’ she said dryly.

‘If you wish hard enough, Your Highness, you’ll get whatever you ask for.’

Alexa knew that rarely happened either.

‘Fortunately, I don’t want the Prince’s love. Just his co-operation.’

‘Then go get it,’ Nasrin urged with a flourish.

Alexa smiled. Nasrin had been like a gift when she’d come to work for her after Sol had died, organising her life and making her smile again with her chatty, easy nature. Everything else had felt so oppressive at the time, oppressive and overwhelming, during those dark days.

Not that she begrudged her role as the future Queen of Berenia. She didn’t because she loved her country, and her countrymen, and she wanted to do the best job for them in Sol’s stead. She wanted to make her father proud. And if the Prince went along with her plan she could do that. She could help rebuild relations between Berenia and Santara, and buy herself the necessary time to make a marriage that not only pleased her father but herself as well.

The decider would be whether or not she could implement a plan that had seemed perfectly logical at inception, but now felt desperately naive.

But if the Prince turned her down she’d just have to find someone else. Because the alternative – marrying the man who was on top of her father’s list of eligible suitors – didn’t bear thinking about.

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