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A Royal Expectation: The Young Royals, #4

A Royal Expectation: The Young Royals, #4

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A Royal Expectation: The Young Royals, #4

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4.5/5 (4 Bewertungen)
Länge:
348 Seiten
5 Stunden
Herausgeber:
Freigegeben:
Jul 17, 2017
ISBN:
9781386675068
Format:
Buch

Beschreibung

Lady Jeanette Bower had always known what her life was going to look like.  It had been drummed into her since she was a little girl.  She would marry a titled gentleman and make him a splendid wife who was above reproach.  It was what her mother had always wanted for her and Lady Jeanette always did what her mother wanted her to do.  She was a good girl.  The only problem was, Lady Jeanette didn't expect a six foot four Australian with sparkling tawny coloured eyes and a mischievous grin to walk into her life and show her that there was perhaps another path for her to take.



Drew Taylor had just landed his dream job and the fact that it was half way around the world from his meddling mother was just icing on the cake.  He never expected to be swept off his feet by a woman on a hot pink Ducati.  A woman who also happened to be one of the queen's ladies in waiting.  And then there was the complication of the viscount she was supposed to marry.  How could a cane farmer's son from tropical Queensland compete with a man who could give Lady Jeanette the title she had always wanted?  He couldn't, but that wouldn't stop him from trying.

This is a Sweet Romance - These are romantic tales without the bedroom scenes and the swearing, but that doesn't mean they're boring!

Herausgeber:
Freigegeben:
Jul 17, 2017
ISBN:
9781386675068
Format:
Buch

Über den Autor

I am a business owner, artist, cook, mother and wife.  I live on the beautiful Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia with my wonderful husband, two beautiful sons, a dog and a cat (both of which are female because, hey, we needed to balance all that testosterone!) I am a ferocious reader with eclectic tastes and have always wanted to write, but  never had the opportunity due to one reason or another (excuses, really) until finally taking the bullet between my teeth in 2014 and just making myself do it. I love to write stories with heart and a message and believe in strong female characters who do not necessarily have to be aggressive to show their strength.


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A Royal Expectation - Emma Lea

one.

Chapter 1

Jeanette

All by myse-e-elf, I sang off key and at the top of my lungs.

It was Friday night and everybody had plans except me. Alyssa and Will were safely ensconced in their newly renovated apartments on the other side of the castle. Alex was with Freddie. Now that their wedding was so close they seemed to spend nearly every spare second together. Soon she would be moving out, but none of the rest of us spoke about it. She would be the first to go and then Priscilla would go too when she and Dom married. At least they would stay in the palace, well, for as long as Dom was still Lord Chancellor. I knew he had plans to go into politics and as soon as his brother’s apprenticeship was up Louis would replace Dom and then Dom would become an MP (minister of Parliament), not to be confused with PM (prime minister).

Oh. I must have had more wine than I thought. I lifted my glass and then the bottle and realised I had, indeed, drunk the whole thing. On my own. By myself.

Bollocks.

I put the wine bottle and the glass down and slumped in my seat, allowing the soft pillowy cushions of my couch to hug me. No one had hugged me for a while, but at least my couch still loved me.

I sighed. I really was maudlin tonight, but I couldn't help it. In the three months since Alyssa and Will got married, I'd felt a deep-boned loneliness creep up on me. All my friends were getting married. Next it would be Alex and then Priscilla and that just left Savannah, Margaret and me. There was Meredith of course, but I didn't think she would ever get married, at least not without some kind of force. Like a lightning bolt from the sky or an edict from God himself. Whoever she married would need to be her equal in both strength and stamina. And seeing as how she was an elite royal guard, then he would need to be one too, but I wasn't sure that was allowed, and here I was rambling again.

Meredith aside, three of my friends were married, well as close to married as you could get without actually being married, except for Alyssa who was married. I wasn't too proud to admit to myself I was jealous. It had been just over twelve months since I was nearly married, but that had all gone to pasture when my brothers got involved. Now I was heading towards being a spinster with no romantic prospects on the horizon while all the beautiful women around me were finding their forever-afters leaving me, the ‘Plain Jane’ of the group, with no one.

Intellectually I knew I didn't need a man in my life, but I had been brought up with the expectation that I would marry and marry well and then produce offspring and be the doting, well-bred wife that any titled gentleman would be proud of. Oh, did I skip that bit? Oh, yes, I was expected to marry a title since I had none of my own. My father, as a lowly marquess, only had a title for his eldest son, leaving his other offspring with honorary styling but no real title. Now that my father had passed, Martin held the title and had moved back to Merveille to take up the lands that went with the title. Lands that my father and his father before him had abandoned for the greener pastures of England. Joshua, my other brother, had come with him, both of them set on finding a wife - one each of course - from the Merveille pool of royals or near royals… royal adjacent. Which is perhaps where I stood. Royal adjacent. A lady without a title.

Gawd. I had to get my mind off this track or I might go and find another bottle of wine to finish me off. Perhaps I should have been drinking white wine instead. Red wine seemed so sophisticated and grown up but it had the propensity to make me so melancholy, probably all the tannins. White wine seemed more frivolous, more fun. Maybe if I'd gotten drunk on white wine I'd be happily dancing half-naked around my apartment with some party theme song playing through my stereo instead of Celine Dion. Maybe it was the music and not the wine making me feel so low.

I reached for the remote and turned off the music, the apartment now deafening in its silence. I really had no reason to be so blue. I had a job I loved, and I truly did love my job as media liaison for the queen. I lived in a lovely apartment - rent free - in a picturesque country. I was paid a good wage and hardly had to spend any of it since my rent, food, and utilities were all taken care of by the palace, and I had good friends. Oh, and my health, of course. What did I have to complain about? So I was lonely. Big deal. It wasn't a life altering problem, merely a season I was going through. Once Alex and Freddie were married, life would settle down again. When Priscilla and Dom married, it would be more low-key and they would still be close and I could still see Priscilla every day. She wasn't going anywhere, just across the hall and down the corridor and over into the other wing where all the married staff lived.

Right. That's it. Time for me to go to bed before I spiraled any further down into the depths of depression. I was going to be fine. Loneliness wasn't a terminal disease and tomorrow would be a new day.

I smiled for the first time tonight. Tomorrow was going to be a very good day. I practically skipped down the hall, switching off lights as I went. I crawled into bed and closed my eyes thinking about the little present that I had bought myself. Tomorrow was the day I got to pick it up and I was beyond excited. Tomorrow was going to be a very good day.


Tomorrow turned out to be a not so good day. I was hot and sweaty and rethinking my decision to buy a motorbike. I had expected it to be quite a lot easier to learn to ride than it actually was. The bike was heavy and I felt clumsy and uncoordinated. It was nothing like riding a horse, which I was very proficient at. A horse was bigger and weighed more, but it also had intelligence, something that my new bike lacked.

I had bought the bike on a whim. It was something I had always wanted, but I was a good girl and good girls do not dress in leathers and ride motorcycles. For some reason, part of me had decided to rebel against the good girl that I had always been. I thought maybe I was going through a midlife crisis except I was only twenty-four, so perhaps it was teenage rebellion come a few years too late? Whatever the reason, here I was, dressed in brand new leathers, legs astride a metal steed and trying very hard to keep up with the instructor giving me my free lesson. The lesson came with the bike. They'd promised to have me proficient enough to pass my driver’s license test in a couple of hours. It was a truncated process because I already had my car license, only I didn't feel like I was anywhere near being proficient enough to actually ride on the road with other motorists.

Let’s take a break, the instructor said and I could tell he was just as frustrated as I was.

Fine, okay, sure, I said, swinging my leg over the bike to dismount.

Ah Wait!

But it was too late. I had forgotten to put down the kickstand. I tried to hold the weight of the bike, but it was just too heavy for me and we both went down before the instructor could get to me and rescue both me and the bike. It didn't land on me, small mercies, but I did end up on my butt in the dirt, my new leathers now dirty on the outside while I was sweating profusely on the inside. At least I had my helmet on to protect me when I hit my head on the ground.

The instructor helped me up and then together we lifted the bike and set the kick stand. There was no damage to either myself or the bike, which was a relief. The instructor shook his head as he walked into the showroom, presumably to have a drink and some time away from the worst student he'd ever had.

I reached into the pannier on the back of the bike and pulled out my water bottle and my phone. I sipped the water as I flicked through the various social media sites that I controlled for the palace. There hadn't been a scandal in ages. Well, not since the one I had inadvertently started at the royal wedding. Although it wasn't my fault, it was Joshua’s. He was the one to slug my dance partner in the mouth after the very delicious Aussie dared brush a simple, innocent kiss across my lips. Martin had backed him up, despite my protests. The media had gotten a lot of traction out of that, the lot of them finding it hilarious that the most homely of the ladies in waiting had caused a riot at the wedding. Alyssa had laughed herself silly, of course, thinking it hilarious. Me, not so much. I had been furious at my brothers and I hadn't had a chance to speak to the Aussie again. Freddie had told me I would get my chance to apologise when he returned to Merveille, but that wasn't why I was so upset. It was the kiss. I wanted to know if the rest of the kiss would have been as good as the start of it.

My phone rang in my hand and I answered it distractedly, not taking note of the caller ID. That was a mistake.

Jeanie?

Oh, God. My mother.

Hello Mum, I said with a grimace.

Jeanie, dear, I've been trying to get a hold of you for days.

I've been busy, I lied. I had, in fact, been avoiding her.

Yes, well, I have you now. Why did that sound like a threat? You will of course come to dinner tonight.

You're still in Merveille? I asked, shocked. It had been three months since the wedding and I was sure my mother would have scampered back to her home country of England before this. I had been avoiding her calls and those of my brothers since that night, so I wouldn't have known if she stayed, which apparently she did.

Yes, well Martin, Joshua, and I thought it best that I stay and get you sorted.

Excuse me?

Well after that atrocious display at the wedding, we all agreed that it was time for you to find a husband.

You all agreed? Without discussing it with me?

You have been avoiding me for months. I'm not a stupid woman, Jeanie. I thought coming to Merveille and taking up a position with the queen’s ladies in waiting would have increased your prospects for a suitable husband, but it seems to have done the opposite. You aren't getting any younger and well… your looks, as much as they are, won't last forever.

I'm sorry, did we somehow stumble into the eighteenth century?

Oh, don't be so dramatic, Jeanie dear.

It's Jeanette, I said through gritted teeth. No one calls me Jeanie.

Fine, whatever, but you must come to dinner tonight. We have a guest.

I rolled my eyes. No doubt the guest would be someone my mother deemed an appropriate match for me. She read far too many historical romances for my liking.

Fine, I said. There was no use refusing, I knew I would go because that's what I did. I talked a big game but when push came to shove, I always caved. I was a good girl, despite my current attire.

Dress nicely, my mother added, A dress. And put some makeup on.

Yes Mother, I said and then hung up. I wish I had enough backbone to stand up to her, but I just wasn't prepared for the fallout if I did.


I wore a dress, as was expected. My lady’s maids, Ursula and Francesca, helped me pick one out and then they did my hair and makeup, tittering all the time about who my mother would try and set me up with. I let them natter while I sat there dreading every moment. It wasn't that I didn't like dressing up, I did. I was a very girly-girl and I liked makeup and dresses and shoes and having my hair done. I just hated to have to perform like some circus monkey. Since I had turned twenty-one, my mother had made it her mission to find me a husband. The last pick had been Charles and it had very nearly gone the way my mother had intended, but then my brothers had intervened and poor Charles had been scared off by their over-protectiveness. That's when I had run away from home, coming to Merveille in the hopes of getting away from my family. Unfortunately, they had followed me and seemed to have decided to stay until they could marry me off.

Oh joy.

I loved my family, I did. I just wished they were a little less involved in my love life.

The door opened as I stepped onto the porch and I was greeted by the butler. I hadn't met him before. He wasn't Prinslo from our London house. My brother had hired all new staff when he reopened the house here in Calanais, as well as the estate in the country. The London staff had stayed at the London house for when Mother returned. If she ever returned.

Lady Jeanette, the butler intoned, Let me show you to the parlour.

I knew where the parlour was, of course, but who was I to deprive the man of his duty? I followed him down the hall and waited while he introduced me. I prepared a dutiful smile on my face; a smile that was not so big that my eyes squinted, and with no teeth showing because my mother insisted I looked like a horse when I smiled with my teeth. Fake smile in place, I stepped into the room. My brothers stood, as did tonight’s guest, while my mother remained seated and waited for the obligatory kiss. I crossed to her quickly, brushing my lips on her cheek and then accepted the greetings of my brothers before being introduced to the stranger.

Jeanette, Martin said, turning me towards the other man, Allow me to introduce Lord Cameron Broadcloth, Viscount of Westhaven. Lord Cameron, Lady Jeanette Bower.

I offered my hand to him and he dutifully bent over it, his lips not quite touching the skin on the back of it. And then he stood and looked at me, a small smile on his face.

He was quite attractive with his dark hair and dark eyes. He was taller than me, but still under six feet, and he held himself regally, no doubt the result of hours of training as a child.

A pleasure, he said. His voice was deep and rich and cultured with a distinctly upper crust English accent.

Westhaven? I asked. In England?

He nodded, Yes, that’s correct.

Now this was interesting. I had been expecting to meet someone from the Merveillian peers, but my mother had brought in the big guns. An English peer. It made me wonder what was wrong with him. English gentry were sought after commodities. Ever since Prince William had married Catherine, everyone wanted to marry a prince and if not a prince, then someone closely related… royal adjacent. Which begged the question, why was Lord Cameron here meeting me when he could probably find a wife back home in England without too much trouble?

Can I get you a drink, Jeanie? Martin asked and I scowled at him.

Red wine, I replied, And it's Jeanette.

He grinned at me and I rolled my eyes. Why my family insisted on calling me by my childhood nickname was beyond me. It was as if they hadn't realised that I was now a grown woman and not a toddler in leading strings.

Your mother tells me you work at the palace, Lord Cameron said as I sat and took the glass of wine offered me by Martin.

That's right, I replied, I'm the media liaison.

And one of the ladies in waiting, my mother added.

Lord Cameron smiled politely. A paid position?

I don't know why that comment raised my hackles, but I had to work hard to keep my face serene and my emotions in check. A lady never let her emotions rule her speech.

Yes, that's correct. Queen Alyssa believes in paying her staff well.

I assumed that being a lady in waiting was more of an honorary position.

I kept the polite smile on my face and breathed through the surge of anger.

Perhaps in times past, I replied, But all five of us are employed by the crown, each with a specific job title. Queen Alyssa is not just a figurehead, but the head of state, much like Queen Elizabeth. All of us work to ensure that she can do her job efficiently and excellently.

And when you marry? What happens then?

That depends on the circumstances of the marriage, I replied, finding it harder and harder to keep my cool. Lady Alexandra is engaged to Lord Bingham. As she will become a countess, she will no longer be employed by the queen, but rather take up a position in the earl’s business. When Lady Priscilla marries the Lord Chancellor, she will remain with the queen as her status will not change.

I see, he said and sipped from his glass.

I do love my job, I said into the silence following his response. I find it very fulfilling.

Joshua scoffed, That's because you get to loll around on Facebook all day. It's not much of a job really is it?

I do more than ‘loll around on Facebook,’ I said, indignantly. Have you forgotten how I had to smooth over your little faux pas at the wedding?

Joshua had the good grace to redden and shut up. He knew very well how hard I had worked after that little scandal. Lolling around on Facebook, indeed. Dealing with the press was a treacherous job and quite stressful at times.

Enough of talking about work, Mother said, Lord Cameron why don't you tell us what brings you to Merveille.

I’m here to ask for Lady Jeanette’s hand in marriage.

I choked on the sip of wine I had just taken. I coughed, my throat burning. I’m sorry, what?

I’d like the opportunity to court you, he said unperturbed.

You want to marry me? I asked, nonplussed. What on earth for? You hardly know me.

Jeanette, Mother scolded and I looked at her helplessly. I had no clue what was going on here. Had I somehow stepped into the twilight zone?

It’s quite all right, Lady Beatrice, Lord Cameron said. He turned back to me. I know we’ve only just met, but I’ve known of you for a while now. You have quite a stellar reputation in London. I would like the opportunity to court you and get to know you. I’m sure we would make a fine match.

My mother was nodding, urging me to say yes. She looked so happy that the only thing I could do was nod my head. Of course, I said quietly, I would be honoured.

Chapter 2

Drew

I stepped out of the private plane and onto the stairs, looking around me. The plane was a wedding gift from my old boss, Brooks Barry, to my new boss, Lord Frédéric Bingham, Earl of Avonlea, and I had been tasked with delivering it, not that it was a hardship. I would much rather spend the twenty-six hours of flight time in the comfort of a luxury private aircraft rather than a commercial flight. Been there, done that, never wanted to do it again.

I took a moment to enjoy the view. It had been three months since I had been in Merveille; three months of tying up loose ends and packing up my stuff. Immigrating to a new country was more complicated than I had thought, not to mention the issues I had with my mother. The woman simply refused to believe that this was what I wanted and had thrown roadblocks in my way at every step.

I took a deep breath of the crisp air and reminded myself not to think about her or the things she had yelled at me before I left. She had been mad and my mother was not one to hold her tongue or her emotions in check.

I buttoned my suit coat and was glad I had decided to wear it. It was currently winter in my home town of Bundaburg, Australia, but even winter there was warmer than today’s summer day in Calanais, Merveille, which I didn't mind so much. Growing up in the tropical climate of Queensland meant that there were really only two seasons - summer and not summer - and all the rest just blended into one. Don't get me wrong, I loved the warm days and balmy nights, I loved the white, sandy beaches and the perfect surfing waves of some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. I loved my sunburnt country… yada, yada, yada. But I was looking forward to living in a place that actually had four distinct seasons. When I had been here in April for the royal wedding, it had been spring and it had been an experience to watch nature come alive after a long, cold winter. Now it was the middle of summer and I wasn't melting with the heat or sweating profusely from the humidity. I could wear a suit comfortably and not feel like I was dying of heat exhaustion. I could get used to this.

A black BMW drove onto the tarmac and stopped at the bottom of the stairs, where I still stood, gawking like a tourist. The driver got out and opened the rear door and Lord Frédéric Bingham stepped out, lifting a hand to wave at me. I waved in return and began my descent, meeting him at the bottom.

Nice ride, he said to me, looking up at the jet. Brooks was friends with a man who owned a fleet of private planes and he knew that Freddie was in the market for one.

It’s yours, I replied, handing over the ownership papers and contract with a note from Brooks. A wedding present from Brooks.

His eyes widened and he laughed. Oh Alex is going to love this, he said, So far we've been gifted so many useless antiques that she is pulling her hair out. A private plane? That is going to make my beloved smile. He slapped me on the back, Come on, let's get you settled.

I got into the car beside him and the driver closed the door. It was odd to be chauffeured around; I was used to driving myself, or riding my bike more accurately. My bike that I'd had to leave behind. A beautifully restored 1972 Moto Guzzi 850GT El Dorado that rode like a dream. The plan was to bring it over eventually, but for now it was locked away in a climate controlled storage facility.

How's the jet lag? Freddie asked.

It kind of feels like it's late afternoon, but it's really only nine o'clock in the morning.

It will take a few days for you to acclimatise. The best advice I can give is to try and get into a normal routine as soon as possible.

In other words, try to stay awake?

He laughed, Something like that.

I didn't expect you to come and pick me up, I said. You could have just sent a driver.

Not my style, he said. Alex wanted to come too, but she has a dress fitting and a schedule full of other wedding preparations. Besides, it gives me a chance to show you around. If you're up to it, I'd like to introduce you to the staff.

That sounds good, I said, stifling a yawn.

A quick tour of the office and then I'll show you your new digs.

The car ride was smooth and thankfully short. Too much longer and I might have fallen asleep, not a great first impression to make on my new boss.

He took me through the lobby of the Monticorp head office and up to the top floor. My office had a large window that overlooked the shimmering lake that dominated the landscape of the town, and the mountains that stood as a silent, snowcapped backdrop.

I was introduced to my assistant, Mandy, and the rest of the staff on that floor. I wouldn't be starting for a week, enough time to shake loose the jet lag, but I could at least familiarise myself with my new position.

Freddie took pity on me as I stifled yet another yawn and ushered me out of the office and back into the waiting car. He had the driver drop us off in front of a brownstone terrace house, not far from the office.

At my questioning glance, Freddie shrugged.

I originally planned to put you up in one of the rooms at Château de Monterey, but with the wedding so close and the craziness that has already begun, I thought it more prudent to give you your own space.

I couldn't tell him how relieved I was. I had stayed at his family’s castle when I was here last time and although it was beautiful and amazing, I was always worried I'd break some priceless antique or use the wrong fork at dinner and embarrass myself in front of the prime minister and his wife.

Freddie showed me into the house, introducing me to the butler and the cook. He gave me a quick tour and then handed me a set of keys, a swipe card and a typed list of passwords and entry codes that I would need to access the office. There was also a mobile phone and a laptop computer.

"There is a car

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