Publisher: Cardinal Press, LLC
Formats: eBook, print
She’s been a proper princess—but she wants to rebel.
The Proper Princess
She’s been a proper princess—but she wants to rebel.
After the death of her fiancé, Princess Madeleine knows a loveless, arranged marriage awaits her. She’s resigned to her fate until she meets her intended husband. Crown Prince Enrique is gorgeous, but he comes on way too strong, says the wrong things, and fumbles with apologies. He’s more court jester than Prince Charming. How can she marry him?
Enrique might be self-centered and lack social skills, but he’s trying to do better—for himself, his country, and his future wife. Despite their royal union being a political necessity, he wants his marriage with the captivating Madeleine to be a love match. He’s willing to do whatever it takes to woo her. How hard can it be to win his princess bride’s heart?
Nearly impossible, he discovers, because Madeleine seems unwilling—or unable—to give him her heart. On their wedding day, instead of exchanging vows, will the royal couple say goodbye?
Read an Excerpt
“The limousine is crossing the moat.”
Madeleine understood Karl’s excited tone. It wasn’t, however, for the reason the staff assumed—meeting the man his sister would marry. No, her brother was relieved someone might save their country’s land from being taken by Aliestle. Otherwise, there might not be much left of their kingdom for him to rule once he became king.
She straightened her skirt. Out of habit, not because she needed to fix anything. No one would allow her to appear less than perfect. Today more so than any other day.
“You look lovely, ma’am.” Lilia gave her the once-over. “The crown prince will surely fall in love with you at first sight.”
Madeleine shuddered. Love was the last thing she wanted. She’d lost the love of her life. There was never to be another. This royal union would be a state marriage. Dare she hope for separate bedrooms? Perhaps that would come after she gave birth to the required heir and spare.
Mrs. Hobbs, who oversaw the castle’s staff, clapped. The sound echoed through the foyer. “Everyone outside and take your places as we practiced yesterday.”
The uniformed staff members rushed outside. Choreographed chaos if there was such a thing.
Mrs. Hobbs motioned to Madeleine and her brother. “That includes you two. I’ll get the staff situated then position you.”
The woman had been doing that since Madeleine and Karl were little children.
Flexing his left hand, Karl, dressed in a suit and tie, walked outside first. He was two years older than her and her best friend. He’d stepped into that role after Louie died. The two had attended boarding school together.
She followed him. The temperature was fifteen degrees hotter outside. Typical for July.
As Mrs. Hobbs spoke with the staff, Karl stopped on the steps. “Ready?”
Dread had been building for days. Madeleine didn’t want to put off the meeting any longer. Time to get this over with. “Yes. I am.”
Concern clouded his blue-eyed gaze. “I hope you sound more enthusiastic when you’re introduced to your future husband or he might take offense.”
Seriously? Her brother, too? She clenched her teeth. “I know what’s expected of me.”
“Then embrace your duty.” He kept his voice low because of the guards behind them. “If you’re fighting the situation or yourself, he will know.”
“I’m trying.” And she was.
“Try harder.” Karl glanced at the approaching black limousine.
The Gaullian flag fluttered. For once, seeing the familiar royal blue, bright red, and white colors brought little comfort to Madeleine. She wasn’t expecting Prince Charming, but she would settle for Prince Not-So-Bad.
“At least the crown prince came to Gaullia.” Which wasn’t the norm for an arranged royal marriage. Everyone she’d known in this situation had traveled to the groom’s kingdom. “I’m thankful for that.”
“Father’s request. A deal-breaker from what I understand.”
“Father said he wanted to make the introduction easier on me.”
“Yes, but…” Karl’s jaw tensed. “As long as Enrique is within our borders, King Alaric won’t do anything…sketchy.”
Her forehead throbbed. The weight on her shoulders quadrupled, but she forced herself to stand straight with the posture proper princesses displayed. At least how her etiquette instructors defined it.
The staff formed two lines with a space in between them for their guest to pass on a royal blue carpet. The color matched that on their flag.
The sun shone brightly in the cornflower blue sky. Not a wisp of clouds or breeze. A perfect July day. A good sign of things to come? She hoped so.
If only her emotions matched the weather. Instead, she was riding out a thunderstorm with gale force winds. She fought the urge to cling to her brother to keep from being blown away.
She realized two people were missing from the welcoming committee. “Where are Mother and Father?”
“They felt it best for us to greet Enrique without them, so he didn’t feel overwhelmed. You’ll take him directly to the tea.”
Madeleine clutched his arm. “You’re not going?”
“I wasn’t invited.” As Karl’s expression softened, he patted her hand. “This is for the best, Mads. I’m here if you need me, but you must get used to doing more on your own. When you leave Gaullia—”
“I don’t want to think about that.”
She’d clung to Karl after Louie’s death. Her brother had been grieving the loss of his schoolmate and close friend, too. He’d chosen Madeleine over his then-fiancée, which led to that princess canceling their engagement. He was still single because women were jealous of his close relationship to his sister.
“Promise you’ll visit me,” she added.
“Of course, I will.” Karl winked. “I expect a room to be reserved at the palace for my use.”
“If I have any say, it shall be done.”
The limousine pulled onto the curved stone drive in front of the castle.
Karl squeezed her hand. “It will be okay.”
Okay. Okay. Okay.
If she kept telling herself that, she might come to believe it.
The limo stopped. A castle valet opened the rear passenger door.
No music played, but in her head, coronets sounded to announce the arrival.
Please let this go well.
“Well” meaning she could tolerate his presence without getting sick to her stomach. Madeleine hoped she wasn’t setting too high an expectation.
A middle-aged man exited first. He wore a suit, but she imagined he’d be more comfortable in fatigues. His athletic physique belied the gray in his black hair and the lines on his face. His watchful eyes surveyed each person before zeroing in on the castle guards standing on either side of the front door.
As if satisfied with the security, he leaned into the limo before straightening.
A dark-haired man with olive skin slid out of the vehicle. His shoes gleamed as if recently polished. His tailored suit hadn’t wrinkled during his flight. The blue in his silk tie matched the sky overhead. And his face…
Her breath caught in her throat.
Photographs hadn’t done justice to Enrique’s chiseled features and warm, brown eyes. Or his brown-almost black—hair, which wasn’t as short as his pictures, but longer with a wave and slight curls at the ends.
Tall, dark, and handsome.
If he wasn’t a prince, he could easily be a model, both on the runway and in print. Having a piece of eye candy for a husband was something she should be happy about, right?