Authors: Nell Stark
Rhodes Scholar Kerry Donovan has never had anything handed to her on a silver platter. As she arrives at Oxford to begin her course of study, she is determined to make the most out of this latest opportunity. But when she meets Her Royal Highness Princess Sasha, second in line to the British throne, Kerry’s priorities are eclipsed by an attraction neither of them can ignore. “Sassy Sasha” is a tabloid favorite who appears to delight in scandalizing her people, but beneath her vexed public image, Sasha longs to be truly seen.
Will the tenuous connection she forms with Kerry be broken by the weight of the crown? Or will they find true love despite the forces endeavoring to keep them apart?
The Princess Affair
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The Princess Affair
© 2013 By Nell Stark. All Rights Reserved.
ISBN 13: 978-1-60282-897-1
This Electronic Book is published by
Bold Strokes Books, Inc.
P.O. Box 249
Valley Falls, New York 12185
First Edition: March 2013
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
This book, or parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.
Editor: Cindy Cresap
Production Design: Susan Ramundo
Cover Design By Sheri ([email protected])
By Nell Stark
Running With the Wind
The Princess Affair
The everafter series by Nell Stark and Trinity Tam
The seed of this book was planted in the autumn of 2000, when I had the opportunity to study at St. Catherine’s College at Oxford University, and I am grateful to everyone who made that term of study one of my most rewarding educational experiences. As I “returned” to the United Kingdom in my imagination while working on this project, two books proved especially useful for research purposes:
William and Kate, the Love Story
(Robert Jobson) and
William and Harry
Writing is a solitary task, but it was made less lonely by several important people. My partner (and sometime co-author) Trinity Tam is my sounding board as well as my Muse, and I thank her deeply for her support, encouragement, and patience throughout my writing process. Brighton Bennett was an invaluable beta reader who also served as my fashion consultant, rescuing me from a panic when I realized I had no idea how to clothe a contemporary princess. Eileen Fitzgerald provided me with important information about the Irish American community in Pearl River, NY. Many thanks also to Cynthia for her feedback and encouragement.
As always, Cindy Cresap’s editorial wisdom and advice—coupled with her wit and humor—have honed both the style and substance of this book, and I am very grateful for her input. I also remain indebted to Radclyffe for giving me the opportunity to publish with Bold Strokes Books, and I would like to thank all of the wonderful, hardworking, and selfless people at BSB—Sandy, Connie, Lori, Lee, Jennifer, Paula, Sheri, and others—for helping to market and release quality product year after year. The members of Team BSB, including our many fellow authors, continue to inspire us, and we count you all in our extended family.
Finally, thank you to the many readers who have been so generous with their support and feedback over many years. This book is for you!
For Jane, who dared to disturb the universe.
Her Royal Highness Princess Alexandra Victoria Jane—better known to her subjects as “Sasha”—pretended indecision. As she scrutinized the blond model who had provocatively posed herself to flaunt her barely-there bikini, the crowd held its breath. Even the two other judges sat in tense anticipation. The entire club was hanging on Sasha’s pronouncement. She had been teasing the animals adeptly all night, and now she held them in the palm of her hand. The power tasted even sweeter than her chocolate martini.
“Ten.” She spoke the word coolly as she raised the proper sign with a flourish.
The room erupted into screams and cheers. Sasha sat back in her chair and sipped at her glass, watching the host try to settle the masses. As their roaring subsided, he thanked the judges and congratulated the new “Miss Royal Flush.” Haloed in the center stage spotlight, the winning model met Sasha’s eyes and moistened her lips with the very tip of her tongue.
The man seated to Sasha’s left leaned over to brush his shoulder against hers. “What do you say, Sash? You, me, her, and a suite at the Four Seasons?”
Marcus “Finch” Finchley, star professional footballer for Manchester City, had been making crude sexual overtures to her for years—ever since his skill on the pitch had granted him occasional access to her social circles. His come-ons had only grown worse over time, and Sasha didn’t dignify him with a response. She drained her glass and rose from the chair, then allowed her protection officer to help her down from the stage.
“I’m going back to the VIP area, Ian.”
At times like these, she wished she’d been born a Tudor or a Stuart, who would have been well within their rights to order Finch decapitated. Then again, had she been born a Tudor or a Stuart, she likely would have already died some gruesome death herself.
Shouts of “Sasha!” greeted her passage through the throng, and she forced herself to suppress her irritation at Finch’s impropriety. It wouldn’t do to be caught grimacing on camera—especially when it only took seconds to upload an unflattering shot onto the Web. With a smile and a wave, she acknowledged her people while the paparazzi’s cameras zoomed and whirred around her.
As she approached the staircase, a bouncer held aside the chain. She ascended quickly, eager to escape the grasping hands of the crowd. The air grew cooler the higher she climbed, until she finally emerged onto the spacious balcony overlooking the dance floor.
“Are you all right, Your Highness?” Ian offered her a bottle of water, and she took it gratefully.
“Fine. Thank you.”
But she wasn’t. By all rights, this event should have been entertaining. Royal Flush, one of the leading online poker companies, had spared no expense on their annual bash. When they had asked her to judge the swimsuit competition, Sasha had readily agreed. And then, her older brother, Arthur, had received his deployment orders. This was his last day in London until Christmas, and she wished she could have spent at least some of it in his company. The only reason she hadn’t decided to blow off this engagement was because Arthur was likely focused on soaking up every remaining second with Ashleigh, his fiancée.
“Sasha! There you are!”
She turned to the sight of her best friend and business partner, Miranda, who was tottering toward her in a zebra-stripe dress and matching four-inch stilettos. Miri clutched a brimming martini glass in each hand and proffered one as she approached.
“Did you really prefer that blonde? Her face was too angular and that hair was just too severe. I liked the leggy brunette better. You know the one I mean, right? The third one?”
Miranda’s shrill chatter summoned delicate tendrils of pain that, if unacknowledged, would quickly put down roots in Sasha’s temples and flower into a full-blown headache.
“Are we talking about women or horses?”
Miranda’s plump lips rounded into a small “o” of dismay, and Sasha immediately regretted lashing out. She touched Miri’s thin arm with two fingers. “I didn’t mean that. I’m sorry.”
Miranda peered at her suspiciously from under artificially-enhanced lashes. “You’re so cruel sometimes. Even to me. Your best friend. Why?”
A consummate socialite, Miranda was adept at navigating the complex political undercurrents of high society. Her priorities might be superficial, but she had a keen sense of loyalty and powerful influence within their social circle. Surrounded by people who either wanted something from her or wanted to bring her down, Sasha needed a person like Miranda who could help to sculpt her public image and draw prospective clients to her fledgling party-planning business.
She tucked a tendril of hair behind Miranda’s left ear. “Finch was being an ass earlier, and he’s put me in a pissy mood. I shouldn’t have lashed out.”
Miranda sniffed, but her rigid body language began to thaw. “What did he say?”
“Just some misogynistic prattle. We should plot our revenge.”
The use of “our” had been a calculated move, and it worked exactly as planned. Miri immediately launched into a laundry list of possible tactics, and Sasha was able to nod and smile while focusing most of her attention elsewhere. It would not do to be melancholy, and so she searched the crowd for a distraction. Preferably a tall, androgynous one. Sadly, most of the VIP section was filled with slick-haired men in expensive suits and emaciated women who clung to their arms.