Royal Sucker

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If your Prince Charming seems too good to be true…

Fairy tale author Callista Larson is addicted to bad boys. It doesn’t matter that every good-looking, sweet-talking one of them has screwed her over. The second she sees that dangerous smile and troubled gaze, she’s hooked. Until now. Her engagement to a genuinely kind, mature man (who also happens to be a handsome, wealthy prince) is the perfect opportunity to kick her unhealthy habit and find her happily ever after.

…you might have to write your own happily ever after.

But when Calli finds out her perfect prince is gay and his country is on the verge of civil war, her happily ever after goes up in smoke. Now she’s on the run with her bodyguard—former Marine Owen McCadden—a bad boy if there ever was one. Years of heartbreak tell her not to fall for his smoldering, you’re-the-only-one-who-can-heal-my-pain gaze. But it’s hard to ignore the way he puts his life on the line to keep her safe—and the intent, focused way he listens when she speaks. Calli doesn’t want to make another big mistake. But if she can stop the civil war and show Owen she wants to be his partner, not his responsibility, this bad boy might be the key to her own happy ending.

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You’d think being born with sea blue eyes, sunflower blonde hair, and a delicate, Disney princess complexion would be a blessing. Beautiful people are supposed to sail through life, their attractiveness smoothing the path in front of them, so they can’t help but find their way to happily ever after.

But, so far, the only fairy tale my life resembles is Sleeping Beauty. As in, I’ve spent the last ten years of my life asleep.

Not literally asleep. But waiting for my life to start. There was the college scholarship I gave up when my mom died and my dad fell apart. The just-until-my-writing-career-takes off day job where I got my five-years-of-service certificate last month. And let’s not forget the long list of ex-boyfriends who mooched off me for food and lodging, then dumped me as soon as they were back on their feet.

But, as my fiancé’s private jet touches down at Andera International Airport, I know this is it. My real life is finally starting.

“Right this way, ma’am.” A flight attendant, dressed in the azure and gold livery of official palace employees, escorts me toward the cabin door.

“Thank you.” I’m itching for my first glimpse of my new country, but I make sure to smile at him.

“Prince Edward sends his apologies. His head of staff just contacted the pilot to let you know he’s been held up in an urgent meeting. But your head of security is here to escort you to the palace.”

The sting of that news is mitigated by bright sunlight. I breathe deeply as I descend the portable stairs onto the tarmac. Andera smells different than Southern California. Fresher. My mom used to tell me stories about the sweet scent of the Anderan princeza lily, and this is exactly what I imagined the flower would smell like.

The tension winding through my shoulders loosens. A smile takes over my lips. I’m six-thousand miles away from everything I’ve ever known, but for the first time in years, I feel like I’m home.

I survey what I can see of my new country. Even the small airport terminal is built in the gothic style that’s trademark Andera. In fact, I recognize the square clocktower from a postcard Edward sent me.

Of course, the postcard picture was artfully cropped to exclude the ultra-modern jetways that connect the planes to the building. Every plane except Edward’s, that is. We’re parked at the far end of the runway, next to a field of flowers.

“We thought you might be more comfortable disembarking here,” the flight attendant says. “Prince Edward didn’t want you mobbed by reporters the second you stepped onto Anderan soil. Especially since he couldn’t be here to ease you into it.”

Reporters. Reporters are going to want to talk to me.

My heart forgets how to beat for a second, then restarts itself at twice its normal speed. I knew my life would change when I accepted Edward’s proposal. But knowing it and experiencing it are two different things.

“Thank you,” I manage, sounding only slightly hysterical. I need a minute to adjust, but the flight attendant is guiding me forward.

“This is Owen McCadden,” he says. “The head of your personal security team.”

I stop short.

Yep. I’m definitely going to need that minute. Because—holy crap—I have a security team. As in, multiple people. Whose only job is to keep me safe. Is this really my life?

I squint against the sun, trying to make out this security team, because I’m not going to fully believe they exist until I see them for myself. A man steps out from the shadows behind the left wing of the jet. With his aviator sunglasses, dark t-shirt, cargo pants, and bulging biceps, he looks more like a Navy SEAL than a palace employee. He isn’t carrying any weapons—at least, not any place I can see—but I wouldn’t want to go up against him in a fight.

He takes off his sunglasses.

I suck in a breath, fighting the urge to run. I know those eyes. The swirling energy. The barely leashed aggression. He’s every emotionally crippled guy I’ve ever nursed back to health, only to be dumped for someone else. Every guy who’s ever told me he loved me when what he meant was I was a fun, temporary distraction. Just looking at his smoldering, I-have-deep-inner-pain scowl makes me want to drop to my knees and thank every God who may or may not exist that I’ve finally managed to kick my bad-boy habit and find a genuinely kind, mature man.

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