Publisher: Cardinal Press, LLC
Formats: eBook, print
She's a mechanic. He's a crown prince. Can two opposites find a happily ever after?
The Reluctant Princess
She wants to work on a pit crew—not be a princess.
Mechanic Isabel “Izzy” Poussard’s life revolves around cars. Determined to be a member of a racing team’s pit crew, she’ll do whatever it takes to make her dream come true. The last thing she expects is for a gorgeous guy to step out of a limousine and tell her she’s a long-lost princess…and his wife.
Crown Prince Nikola “Niko” Kresimir of Vernonia wants one thing from Isabel—an annulment. The pretty American wearing grease-stained coveralls is too rough around the edges to be the future queen. Their marriage, the result of an archaic custom neither knew about, needs to end so he can modernize his country.
As sparks fly, Niko and Izzy fight their growing attraction for each other. Neither wants to remain in an arranged marriage, but that might be the only way to keep peace in the kingdom. Is a love match possible where all their dreams can come true? Or will aspirations and pride keep them from living happily ever after?
Read an Excerpt
“Hey, Izzy,” the garage owner’s son and her closest friend, Boyd, shouted to her over the Lady Antebellum song now playing. “Some folks here to see you.”
Word of mouth about her skills kept spreading. She not only fixed old engines, but hybrids, too. Her understanding of the computer and electronics side of things coupled with a gift for diagnostics drew in new clients daily. Her boss, Rowdy, was so happy he’d given Izzy a raise. If this kept up, she could enroll in school come fall.
With a smile, she placed her wrench and the bolt on her toolbox.
As soon as Izzy stepped outside, fresh air filled her lungs. Sunshine warmed her face. She loved spring days better than the humid ones summer brought.
In front of her, a black limousine gleamed beneath the midday sun. The engine idled perfectly. Darkened windows hid the identity of the car’s passengers, but uniformed police officers stood nearby.
Not “some folks” wanting to see her. Must be a VIP inside the limo if they needed police escorts.
Izzy couldn’t imagine what they wanted with her since the car sounded like it was running fine.
She wiped her dirty hands on the thighs of her cotton coveralls. Not exactly clean, especially with grease caked under her fingernails, but cleaner.
An officer gave her the once-over as if sizing up her danger potential. A good thing she’d left the wrench in the garage.
A chauffeur came around the car and opened the rear door. A blond man exited. He wore a designer suit and polished black dress shoes. With a classically handsome face and short clipped hair, he was easy on the eyes. But his good looks seemed a little bland, like a bowl of vanilla ice cream with no hot fudge, whipped cream, and candy sprinkles. She preferred men who weren’t so pretty, men with a little more...character.
“Isabel Poussard?” the man asked.
She stiffened. The last time anyone used her real name had been during her high school graduation ceremony when she’d received her diploma. She’d always been Izzy, ever since she was a little girl. Uncle Frank had taught her to be careful and cautious around strangers. He’d worried about her and been protective. She knew he’d be that way now if he were here.
Izzy raised her chin and stared down her nose. The gesture had sent more than one guy running in the opposite direction. “Who wants to know?”
Warm brown eyes met hers. The guy wasn’t intimidated. If anything, he appeared amused. “I am Jovan Novak, aide to His Royal Highness Crown Prince Nikola Tomislav Kresimir.”
Jovan’s accent sounded European. Interesting since this was NASCAR country, not Formula 1 territory. “Never heard of him.”
“He’s from Vernonia.”
“Vernonia.” The name sounded vaguely familiar. Suddenly, Izzy remembered. “That’s one of those Balkan countries. Fairy-tale castles and snowcapped mountains. There was a civil war there.”
“Hey, Izzy,” Boyd shouted from behind her. “You need any help?”
The bear of a man stood with a mallet in one hand and curiosity on his face. She appreciated how Boyd treated her like a little sister, especially since she had no family. That had made things interesting the few times a date picked her up after work. “Not yet, Boyd, but I’ll let you know if I do.”
Jovan appeared to be in shape, but she could take him without Boyd’s help, thanks to Uncle Frank. When she was younger, he’d bartered his mechanic skills for her martial arts class tuition. Now she worked out every day to get in shape for the work required by a pit crew member during a race.
“Isabel. Izzy.” Smiling, Jovan bowed. “It is such a pleasure to make your acquaintance, Your—”
“Is this about a car repair?” He acted so happy to meet her. That bothered Izzy. Most customers limited their interactions to questions about their cars. Some ignored her. A few men propositioned her. “Or do you want something else? I’m in the middle of a job.”
Not exactly the most friendly customer service, but something felt off. No customer would know her real name. And the guy smiled too much to be having car trouble.
“One moment, please.” With a smile still on his face, Jovan ducked into the limousine.
Time ticked by. Seconds or minutes, Izzy couldn’t tell since she wasn’t wearing a watch. She used her cell phone to keep track of time while she worked. But that was on her toolbox.
Izzy tapped her foot. She had to finish the Chevy so she could work on the Dodge Grand Caravan. Somewhere a frazzled mom with four kids was waiting for her minivan to be repaired. It was up to Izzy to get the job done.
Jovan stepped out of the limo finally.
Another man in a dark suit followed.
The thought shot from Izzy’s brain to the tips of her steel-toed boots and ricocheted to the top of her head.
The guy was at least six feet tall with thick, shoulder-length brown hair and piercing blue-green eyes framed by dark lashes.
She straightened as if an extra inch could bring her closer to his height. Her head barely came to his chin.
But what a chin.
Izzy swallowed a sigh.
A strong nose, chiseled cheekbones, dark brows. The rugged features made for an interesting—handsome—combination despite a jagged scar on his right cheek.
Talk about character. He had it in spades.
Not that she was interested.
Spending her entire life surrounded by men—car mechanics—gave her an understanding of how the opposite sex thought and operated. The one standing in front of her wearing a tailored suit and shiny shoes was trouble.
The limo, expensive clothing, personal aide, and police escort meant he lived in a different world than her, a world where she was viewed as nothing more than a servant or wallpaper or worse, a one-night stand. Having to deal with mysterious rich people intimidated her. She wanted nothing to do with him.
Though she didn’t mind taking another look. The man belonged on the cover of a glossy men’s magazine. He moved with the grace and agility of an athlete. The fit of his suit made her wonder what muscles he had underneath the fancy fabric.
She couldn’t remember the last time she’d reacted this way to a man. No doubt the result of working too much overtime. Time to take a night off and have fun. That would keep her from mooning over the next gorgeous guy who crossed her path.
“You are Isabel Poussard.” His accent, a mix of British and something else, could melt a frozen stick of butter.
She nodded, not trusting her voice.
His assessing gaze traveled the length of her. Nothing in his expression hinted at what he might think about her.
Not that she cared. Not much anyway.
A hottie would never be interested in a grease monkey. Still, he was a yummy piece of eye candy. One she could appreciate.
Izzy raised her chin again, but she didn’t stare down her nose the way she’d done with Jovan. She wasn’t ready to send this one on his way yet. “You know my name, but I don’t know yours.”
“I am Prince Nikola of Vernonia.”
She supposed a prince would have a police escort and an aide, but this was the kind of joke Boyd would pull and kid Izzy about for the rest of her life. She searched for a camera. “Am I being pranked?”