To Marry A Prince
by AC Arthur
Book 1 in the Royal Weddings Series
A royal seduction
Crown prince Kristian DeSaunters has been groomed since birth to take his place as leader of his tropical kingdom—with the proper princess by his side. Never one to lose his control, he’s stunned by his attraction to the free-spirited American stylist who arrives at the palace in his father’s fiancée’s entourage. Soon Kris and Landry Norris are sharing an instant sultry attraction that shows no signs of slowing down.
Landry couldn’t turn down the opportunity of a lifetime to dress the princess-to-be on a private Caribbean island. Falling for Kris is definitely not part of her plan, but the independent LA beauty soon finds herself yearning for a fairy-tale ending of her own. Until someone sets out to sabotage the upcoming nuptials—and Landry becomes the prime suspect. Will Kris and Landry be able to stop a hidden enemy bent on destroying the DeSaunters reign—and save the possibility of a future together?
To Marry A Prince
Book 1 in the Royal Weddings Series
To Marry A Prince
He took her breath away, and for Landry Norris, stylist to some of Hollywood’s most glamorous women and debonair men, that was no small feat.
That thought caused the very smooth and elegant curtsy that she’d practiced before boarding the plane to come off with just a bit of hesitation and nervousness. Still, she smiled brightly as she lifted her head and came to a standing position. He—the Crown Prince Kristian Rafferty DeSaunters—stood before her in all his regal and hot as hell glory.
There had been a flurry of activity in the last couple of days, all of which had culminated in this moment. Landry clasped her hands in front of her, hoping that the cream colored peplum top and grey pencil skirt she wore had been the correct outfit selection. That was her thing after all—finding the right outfit for the right occasion and pairing it perfectly with the person who would wear it. Very rarely was she that person. Malayka Sampson, one of Landry’s newer clients, had changed that.
In her briefcase, which was left downstairs in the massive marble and gold decorated foyer, was a signed contract between Landry Norris LLC and Malayka Sampson, the woman that would soon be Princess of Grand Serenity Island. That title and all that went with it had surprised and impressed Landry when Malayka breezed into her Los Angeles office to share the news. On Malayka’s finger was a huge emerald, while the woman’s face sported a triumphant smile. Hell, Landry thought, she’d be smiling too if she were wearing that rock.
Before that, Landry had only dressed Malayka for three functions—The Oscars which Malayka attended with renowned producer Siegmond Elrey, The Met Gala and the New York Fashion Week. Malayka was a cold call client that Landry hardly ever accepted because one, she wanted to keep her personal stylist company small and intimate so that she could specially cater to her clients, and two, because most of the cold calls meant she had no idea who the potential client was or what type of funds they were working with.
She’d taken a gamble on Malayka Sampson and damn if it hadn’t paid off, in spades.
“Have a seat, Ms. Norris,” the prince said in a low, deep voice that made Landry think of hot baths and back rubs.
She moved carefully to one of the cherry wood upholstered arms chairs and gingerly took a seat. For as much as Landry was used to being around wealthy people, handling gowns worth more than her childhood home, visiting mansions and attending movie premiers, being a guest in the royal palace on a Caribbean island, was new to her. It was new and exciting and just a little bit nerve-racking.
From what she’d seen so far of the palace—and yes, she had to get used to that word and the reality of where she was—it was lavishly decorated and spoke of the wealth and prestige of the people who lived here. Take this office for example, she thought with a quick glance at the floor to ceiling windows and grand stately furniture, it was one hell of a space. Roughly the size of the top level of her condo back in L.A., the space was meticulously decorated with gold leaf framed portraits, Aubusson rugs and the large glossed wood desk where the gorgeous Crown Prince sat.
“It is Miss? You’re not married, are you?”
She could see his lips moving but had been too wrapped in the wonder of her surroundings to pay attention to what was being said.
“Excuse me?” she replied with a shake of her head and a silent admonishment to herself to get it together.
He sat back in that dark leather chair, his honey brown complexion combined with the pale gray color of his Italian cut suit jacket, providing a stark contrast. Behind him the white plantation shutters that covered each window were opened so that slices of sunlight slipped into the room.
“I asked if you were married.”
He sounded annoyed but his facial expression remained the same. Fine. Plain and simple.
Dark eyebrows draped dramatically over velvet brown eyes. His jaw, not exactly strong but precise, just like his nose and ears. It was almost as if he’d had his pick of physical attributes and he’d done a damn good job.
“No. I’m not married,” she replied.
A curt nod was the only telling sign that he’d even heard her answer as he immediately reached for a folder on his desk and opened it. He stared down at the papers which she presumed said something about her. The amount of paperwork she’d completed before coming here reminded her of when she’d purchased her condo. Grand Serenity Island had a tough security system. She presumed it was that way only for persons who would be staying in the palace, and not for every tourist that wanted to visit this Caribbean haven.
“You’ve been in business for two years. Landry Norris LLC is the name of your company. You’re a personal stylist. So you select clothes for adults to wear.”
He was speaking as if he were reading from cue cards and didn’t quite understand what the words meant. It irritated her. She’d grabbed the arms of the chair and squeezed as she restrained the urgency to speak her mind.
When he looked up, those thick—and so perfect a woman would die to have them naturally—brows raised in question.
Landry cleared her throat as she realized he was expecting an answer.
“I assist my clients with choices that will enhance the way they look and feel. I help them to select clothing that will suit their natural features and lifestyle. When a person is looking their best it can be a confidence booster. My job is to not only dress the clients, but to assist them in their personal growth.”
She spoke succinctly and from the heart. Her job was her passion and while she knew others might not see it as an “important” career, it was hers and she was damn proud of it. By the time she’d finished speaking her hands were calmly in her lap, her head tilted just slightly as she waited for the prince’s next comment.
“Malayka Sampson,” he continued as if her statement had been as interesting as reciting the alphabet. “How long have you known her?”
“Our first contact was via email in late November. She needed a dress for The Oscars—that’s an American award show,” she informed him.
“I know what The Oscars are,” he countered quickly.
He would know, she thought. The Royal Family of Grand Serenity had been the guests of the President of the United States on numerous occasions in the last eight years. When Landry was inclined to pay attention to the political arena, for reasons other than keeping up with the fashions worn by the First Family and the many dignitaries they entertained, she’d seen Prince Rafferty DeSaunters and Princess Samantha DeSaunters a few times. She also remembered another royal sibling, a brother, one who was pictured in magazines and newspapers more often than she’d seen any of the others. As for this one, the Crown Prince, the one who would rule the island after Prince Rafferty, she had not seen as much, or ever, if she were accurately recalling.
The prince continued, “How did she learn about you and what did she ask of you?”
“Another one of my clients had a party and Malayka was there. As I’ve heard from both of them, they talked, my name was mentioned, Malayka sent me an email a few days later.”
“Why didn’t she call you? Did your previous client not give her your number?”
“By that time of year I am extremely busy going over re-sketched gown proposals and back-up wardrobe pieces. There are fittings and accessory meetings, as well as lunches with reps of designers I may consider for next year’s award season. My cell phone is always on and always with me, but there are times when I may not be able to answer. My clients know this and have been known to send a text or an email which I receive immediately on my phone. Sometimes it’s easier to give a quick response that way, when I’m unable to speak to them personally at the time.”
If this were an interview, Landry might be failing. She was very aware of that fact.
Smile more. Be friendlier. Stop being so defensive all the time.
Those were her mother’s words as she warned Landry for the millionth time about finding the right guy.
First impressions are everything.
“How many clients do you have?” was his next question.
Landry resisted the urge to sigh. “Ten.”
“So few. Do you plan on expanding?”
“I plan to run a small and personal business, one where I can really get to know my clients and thus provide them with the best service possible.”
He looked somber. The expression had not changed since the moment she’d sat down. “And you like catering to people? Why?”
“There are only some people I like catering to, Your Highness. Malayka Sampson is my client and she’s hired me to dress her for the events leading up to the wedding. That’s the only reason I’m here on your island. And if we’re finished here, I really must meet with Malayka, we have a great deal to get done before the engagement party.”
She’d stood then because sitting was no longer an option. Her hands were now shaking, her heart beating a tense rhythm as she fought to remain calm, when really she was annoyed as hell. She did not like being questioned as if she were considered disingenuous or, that her business was not up to his standards. Yes, he was the prince of from what she’d seen so far, a gorgeous island, but he was still a man and Landry wasn’t used to cow tailing to men, or women for that matter.
He’d totally surprised her by standing as well. It was a quick motion, one he either hadn’t expected to make, or didn’t appreciate having to make. As he came around that large desk Landry remembered the book she’d read on the plane about royal protocol. Most men in America did not stand when a woman did. An attestation to the whole ‘chivalry was dead’ mantra. Here, the men—correction, the royal men—were different. At least that’s what the book said.
“Welcome to Grand Serenity Island,” he stated and extended his hand to her.
Landry hesitated momentarily, but then accepted his hand and looked him in the eye.
Did the earth shake? Was that thunder she heard? Who the hell turned up the heat in here?
He looked down at their hands about a second or so before she did. He was a few shades lighter than her deep mocha hue, so there was that contrast. There was also a wave of heat flowing steadily upward from her fingers to her wrist, up her arm and resting embarrassingly in her cheeks.
When she looked back, it was to see him staring at her. She could swear her thoughts were mirrored in his expression. Prince Kristian DeSaunters was not blushing as she feared she probably was, but he did look shaken. It was a faint change from the stern and serious look that had been in his eyes just moments before. His lips pressed together tightly until he almost seemed to grimace.
“Thank you,” Landry said just as there was a knock at the door.
He was still holding her hand when someone entered, already talking.
“Hey Kris, we need to talk about tomorrow’s meeting with the Board of Directors and then—” her voice trailed off as the stunningly beautiful Princess Samantha Raine DeSaunters came to a stop right beside them.
The prince dropped Landry’s hand as if she’d had a palm full of hot coals and Landry, thoroughly finished with the roller coaster of emotions brought on by the introduction to Grand Serenity’s royalty, bid a quick farewell before getting the hell out of there.
“Who was that and what did you do to run her away?”
Kristian stared at the door she’d just passed through. He was asking himself an array of questions at the moment, none of which he wanted to share with his younger sister.
“That was Landry Norris. She’s Malayka’s stylist,” he replied and walked until he now stood behind his desk once more.
He closed the file his assistant had compiled on Ms. Norris and her business venture. The picture that was included—the one that had captured him the moment he’d first seen it earlier this week—was tucked securely in the back. That’s where he’d finally put it yesterday, when he couldn’t explain to himself why he kept staring at it.
“You’re kidding right?” Sam was already shaking her head as she continued into the office, taking a seat in the chair that Landry had vacated. “Why does she need a personal stylist? She already has the hairdresser and the make-up artist here.”
Kris took his seat. “I was going to ask you that same question. Do you have someone who selects your clothes for you?”
It seemed like a silly question, especially when posed to his sister who lived in the same house with him. In his defense their house was unlike usual homes. It was a palace, after all. Wonderland, that’s what Vivienne DeSaunters, Kris’s mother used to call their family home. Located high on the cliffs of Grand Serenity, a Caribbean island just north of Columbia and Venezuela, the royal palace was a sprawling white structure with jutting towers capped in gold domes. It was roughly the size of twenty-five of the homes in the town below it, housing the monarch that had ruled the island for the last sixty-five years.
The family resided in a large wing towards the center of the house with the majority of the rooms overlooking the cliffs that fell off to the glorious turquoise sea. Before Vivienne had come to live in the palace those windows had been barred and locked, as the former ruler, Marco Vansig, had not been a particularly kind man, thus soliciting more enemies than he could eventually ward off. Under Vivienne’s progressive and feminine hand the barred windows were removed and replaced with practical weather resistant glass ones that sparkled and brought in every ounce of sunlight and the island’s magnificent view.
Kris’s father, Rafe, had the largest group of rooms in that wing of the house as he was the reigning prince of the island. Kris and each of his younger siblings, Sam and Roland, had their own rooms situated among the massive dwelling in such a way that provided them all with the privacy they seemed to desire. It wasn’t easy living under the titles they held, finding solace within the walls of their private rooms was sometimes all they could manage. At least it was that way for Kris.
As the Crown Prince, the one who would ultimately succeed his father in ruling their country, Kris carried an awesome weight on his shoulders. One which was now causing a great deal of stress for him.
“I am not your average woman, I suspect,” Sam replied to his question with a quirk of her lips. “I love beautiful clothes and accessories, but I like to have the final say in what I wear or purchase for that matter.”
She always looked good, Kris thought, as he stared across his desk to see his sister—younger than him by six years—looking vaguely amused by this conversation. Samantha Raine DeSaunters was a beautiful woman with her smooth milk chocolate complexion, and thick coal black hair. Her skin tone and those clever and assessing eyes came from their father, while her outgoing personality and the innate need to take care of everyone around her were undoubtedly traits obtained from their mother.
“I think it’s safe to say that you are nothing like Malayka Sampson,” was Kris’s dry response.
Sam agreed with the nod of her head. “I don’t know that there is anyone like her. Do you know that she has already begun planning the wedding?”
Kris sat back in his chair, folding his hands in his lap, a position he could easily recall his father using.
“The date is set for December first. That date has some significance to her and she wants a grand celebration. Those were dad’s exact words.”
“And he plans to give it to her?” Sam asked.
It was soft and way too dainty to carry much weight, still Kris realized the severity of the situation at hand if it were making his normally pleasant sister vent in such a way.
Malayka Sampson was engaged to their father. She was a thirty-seven year old American who would, in just eight months, become the Princess of Grand Serenity Island. As such she would manage Wonderland…no, that was his mother’s. It belonged only to her. Malayka would manage the palace and she would take over much of the community and public relations duties that Sam now held. She would effectively become the new face and voice of the island, while his father continued to rule via business and policy the way his father had before him.
“I don’t like her and neither does Roland,” Sam told him.
Her words came as no surprise to Kris. Sam and Roland—who was three years younger than Kris—tended to agree on a number of things. Kris was the one who was usually treading on the outside of the sibling bond. That was part of his birthright as his father had taught him from the time he’d been old enough to speak. He was the future ruler, thus he always had to lead, always.
“She makes dad happy,” Kris replied. “That is all that matters.” For now, he thought, wisely keeping that to himself.
“She makes me want to do bodily harm and you know that is not in my character,” Sam added with a slight chuckle.
“I know. But there are more pressing matters at hand. The Children’s Hospital brunch is coming up later this week and the Ambassador’s Ball is later this month. Is everything in order?”
Sam nodded, looking down at the notepad she’d brought with her into his office. “Just a few final details for each event and they’re all set. As I mentioned when I came in, I have meetings with the Board of Directors at the hospital tomorrow and after that I’ll be spending the rest of the afternoon at the Bella Club.”
Kris nodded as he reached for a pen to make note of his sister’s whereabouts. He had access to her business calendar on the private network the monarch shared. Roland and Rafe’s business calendars were also available to him. However, Sam had a number of personal ventures that meant a lot to her. Kris respected that and envied his sister’s passion in helping wherever she could. The Bella Club was an organization Sam had started to offer refuge, counseling and rehabilitation to young ladies between the ages of thirteen and eighteen.
“That sounds good,” he said as a thought entered his mind. “Would you mind taking Landry Norris with you tomorrow?”
“Who? Oh, the personal stylist?” she asked with a lift of her expertly arched brows. “Why would I do that? She’s Malayka’s employee not mine.”
“She is a guest in the palace and a tourist. You are on the Board of Tourism.”
“So are you,” she noted.
Kris didn’t bother to frown, even though he completely recognized the never-ending sibling game that had each of the royal children pointing out the other’s duties to see who had the most on their plate. Kris always won, hands down. Which was why, this time, however, with this particular task, he was delegating the responsibility.
“I’m meeting with the Finance Board at nine. That will take at least three hours out of my day. Dad and I then have a late lunch scheduled with Quirio Denton, the real estate mogul who wants to build his next resort here on the island. I won’t be available again until dinner,” he stated matter-of-factly. “And as you know because you’ve been doing this since you were sixteen, it is our practice to provide a detailed tour of the island to visitors to the palace within twenty-four hours of their arrival.”
She gave a slight nod. “That’s when we know they are arriving and when we’ve invited them. Malayka hired this woman without consulting any of us. I say let her conduct the tour,” Sam rebutted. “It would give her practice since this will soon be one of her duties as princess.”
That title, above Sam’s other words, echoed throughout the room.
“She’s not the princess yet,” Kris remarked, in a tone that was much stronger than he’d anticipated.
Sam tapped her fingers on her notepad. “Fine. I will take the stylist with me. It’ll give me the chance to find out more about Malayka and why she really wants to marry my father.”
“I don’t know if you’ll get much by way of gossip from this Landry Norris. She strikes me as a professional.”
“Oh really?” Sam asked, this time leaning forward tossing him a knowing grin. “What else about her strikes you, big brother?”
Kris looked away. He concentrated on the notes he was jotting down, instead of the fact that her question made him uncomfortable.
“I performed a cursory interview of her. I have a copy of her contract with Malayka and I checked the references she provided. This is how I came to the conclusion that she is a professional.”
“Right, because you’re very thorough when it comes to investigating who enters these walls. I get that. But what I’m really asking is, what was going on between you and the stylist when I came in? You know, when you two were standing close enough to have kissed.”
Kris looked up quickly then, staring at his sister in shock. Composure came immediately afterward because even with his siblings, Kris had to remain in control. The leader that always set the example.
“As Malayka’s stylist she’s now palace staff. Personal dalliances with the staff is inappropriate.”
“Hmmm.” Sam made a sound and stood with her notepad tucked under one arm. “Tell that to your brother. He’s had more dalliances with staff and visitors and whoever else he could find, than the both of us.”
Kris made a similar sound as he stood, undoubtedly agreeing with his sister. Roland was another matter entirely.
Sam was almost out the door when she looked back at him and said, “Still, I have to admit the two of you looked awfully cozy and mighty cute together.”
She was gone before Kris could reply, before he could think of another statement of denial where he and Landry Norris were concerned. When he sat back in his chair once more it was with the thought that he needed to also dismiss in his mind that he’d felt anything different when Landry was standing so close to him. When he’d definitely wanted to—against all his training and upbringing—kiss her.