Authors: Laurie Paige
“What are the reasons?” Princess Megan dared challenge Jean-Paul with her gaze when he cast her a direct stare.
Finally he shrugged. “The child, assuming there is one…”
She folded her hands in her lap to conceal her trembling.
“There’s the passion,” he continued. His lips curved ever so slightly into a smile that mocked them both. “I want to make love to you each time I see you. I think you feel the same.”
“It’s only lust…. I will not marry for your convenience, nor for the sake of protocol.”
“Stop being childish and accept the fate that has been preordained for us,” Jean-Paul ordered.
Before he realized what she was doing, she leapt out of his arms and was gone….
To the new moms: Nancy and Wendy
and the new babies: Josephine and Logan.
Silhouette Special Edition
Man Without a Past
Home for a Wild Heart
A Place for Eagles
The Way of a Man
Wild Is the Wind
A River To Cross
The Ready-Made Family
Husband: Bought and
A Hero’s Homecoming
A Family Homecoming
Make Way for Babies!
Something To Talk About
When I See Your Face
When I Dream of You
The Princess Is Pregnant!
Journey to Desire
Silhouette Yours Truly
Christmas Kisses for a Dollar
Only One Groom Allowed
The Cowboy Next Door
South of the Sun
A Tangle of Rainbows
A Season for Butterflies
The Sea at Dawn
A Season for Homecoming
Home Fires Burning Bright
Man from the North Country
A Rogue’s Heart
An Unexpected Delivery
Wanted: One Son
The Guardian’s Bride
The Once and Future Wife
Fortunes of Texas
The Baby Pursuit
Montana Mavericks: Wed in Whitehorn
says, “In the interest of authenticity, most writers will try anything…once.” Along with her writing adventures, Laurie has been a NASA engineer, a past president of the Romance Writers of America, a mother and a grandmother. She was twice a Romance Writers of America RITA
Award finalist for Best Traditional Romance, and has won awards from
for Best Silhouette Special Edition and Best Silhouette. Recently resettled in Northern California, Laurie is looking forward to whatever experiences her next novel will send her on.
he princess is pregnant! The princess is pregnant!
Princess Megan Penelope Penwyck felt everyone in the palace was thinking those very words as she walked up the polished marble steps and crossed the reception chamber where guards, maids, diplomats and dignitaries watched, dusted or conferred in small clusters, each intent on his or her own task and paying absolutely no heed to anyone else.
Except she knew the latter wasn’t true.
Everything that went on in the island kingdom of Penwyck, located in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Britain, was noted and commented upon by the denizens of the country, by the press and by heads of state of other countries.
She recalled a saying appropriate to the moment:
These are the times that try men’s souls.
Women’s souls were vulnerable, too. In her own mind, she’d been tried, convicted and sentenced to the firing squad.
Don’t be melodramatic, she chided her quivering spirits. When the news did get out, as it invariably must, everyone in the kingdom would be shocked that Megan, the quiet princess, the introspective one, was expecting a child…out of wedlock.
A wry, uncertain smile curved her lips as Megan approached the door to the king’s official chambers.
Her father, King Morgan, had been pleased with her written report on the world trade conference. Her appointment with him was to discuss the results of the talks and decide the tiny island kingdom’s next course of action.
She tried to ignore the tremor that ran through every nerve in her body as she recalled the conference held in Monaco eight weeks ago. The second week of April, to be exact. It was now Monday of the second week in June.
And she was two months pregnant. Two pregnancy tests, bought and used in great secrecy on her part, had confirmed the shocking news.
She’d had no word from Jean-Paul Augustuve—Earl of Silvershire, heir to a dukedom in the neighboring island country of Drogheda and father of her child—in answer to the note she’d dispatched to him two weeks ago.
Another tremor rushed through her as she paused outside the door leading to the king’s busy public quarters. The doorman smiled and bowed her into the Royal Secretary’s office. The room was empty.
“Your Royal Highness,” a familiar voice greeted her.
Sir Selywyn Estabon, the royal secretary, entered from the king’s audience chamber and bowed graciously, his dark eyes mesmerizing, his skin pale from long hours spent inside each day. At thirty-five, six feet tall and muscular looking, Selywyn was a handsome, intriguing man, seemingly devoted to his job.
As teenagers, she and her sisters had spun endless daydreams about him and had speculated on his eligibility as a royal spouse. He’d paid absolutely no heed to their girlish flirting, thus their fantasies had withered and died a natural death as the three girls matured.
Selywyn was intensely loyal to their father and protective of the royal family. Megan knew him to be totally trustworthy with secrets of state or of the heart. All the royal offspring had confided in him over the years.
She swallowed with difficulty. She’d shared her latest secret with no one yet. “Good morning, Sir Selywyn,” she responded. “I have an appointment, I believe?” she added when the secretary made no move to usher her into the king’s presence. Her father wasn’t one to be kept waiting.
“The king sends his regrets, but he will be unable to meet with you this morning.”
Selywyn could have no idea how relieved Megan felt. She nearly flung herself into his arms and showered him with kisses of gratitude. The imaginary firing squad lowered their guns and she was able to breathe deeply once more.
“I’m sorry for the inconvenience,” the man added.
She managed a nod. “Shall I reschedule?”
In the pause that followed, she detected uncertainty in his eyes, then it was gone. Apprehensive again, she studied the king’s secretary, knowing that he was privy to all that went on in the kingdom, and expected bad news, but nothing more was forthcoming.
“I will call you if the king has further questions.” The secretary smiled slightly. “Your report was very comprehensive. King Morgan was pleased.”
At twenty-seven, Megan had long ago learned to contain her emotions, but she felt a tiny glow at the secondhand praise. The royal siblings had always vied for their father’s limited time, and it was a special reward to receive recognition for one’s work on behalf of the kingdom.
“Please convey my thanks,” she said modestly, and left the office as Selywyn held the door. She was clearly but kindly dismissed.
Which was fine by her. The king would not be
pleased at her personal news. Unless it aided the affairs of state, she added, frowning. She would
be used as a treaty between two nations the way royal family members had been used in days of old. Even her parents’ marriage had been arranged.
Thinking of the coming months, she trembled like a leaf caught in a gale while worry laced through her composure.
Instead of using the public entry-exit as one was supposed to when seeking or leaving a royal audience, she quickly escaped the huge reception chamber through a side door. A dash through the formal gardens, open to all, and through a gate with a coded lock brought her to the palace’s private gardens where the royals—the three girls and the twins, Owen and Dylan—had played under the watchful eyes of nannies and guards and their mother, Queen Marissa.
For a moment, Megan sat on a stone bench and inhaled the scent of June roses washed clean by the early morning fog. The worry subsided in the tranquillity of the garden.
Finally, drawn irresistibly by the sea, she rose, slipped through another locked gate and walked along the shore path. The trail dropped from a height of forty feet at the knoll, where the original palace had been built nearly four hundred years ago, to the shore in gently rolling swells as if the ocean had etched its restless nature on the land aeons ago. Here, a secluded cove embraced a beach
of sand and shells and scattered rocks. Farther out, huge boulders formed a curving breakwater shielding a tiny island in the middle of the bay.
Megan stood on the shore and watched the waves rush in ripples from the Atlantic to break on the shores of Penwyck and its neighbors, Drogheda and Majorco. To the east lay England, Ireland and Wales. Fed by currents that arose in the Caribbean, the ocean brought both cooling breezes and the warmth of the equator to temper their climate. In some sheltered coves, palm trees grew.
Pressing her hands against her heart, she tried to still the great restless longing that rose there. She’d held her worries at bay by dint of will, but her defenses crumbled all at once like a cliff face that could bear the pounding of the waves no longer.
She remembered another night, another sea…
The evening reception was dull. Elegantly dressed dignitaries and their wives, or husbands, as the case may be, moved about the ballroom of the hotel in an ever-changing kaleidoscope of faces, the topics of conversation as varied as the countries represented at the International Trade Conference in Monte Carlo. She was there representing Penwyck in lieu of her older sister—Meredith, the Intelligent One, as the eldest Penwyck princess was known affectionately by their countrymen—who’d been called to other, more urgent, duties at the last minute.
Megan was bored, tired after a week of endless speeches and diatribes, not to mention lunches, dinners and cocktail parties every night. She really preferred her own silent company to all this noise.
Grimacing at how terribly vain that sounded, she glanced around as if looking for an escape route.
At the back corner of the room, she spied a tall masculine figure slipping into the shadows of the terrace. Another soul who needed to escape. She knew who he was.
On impulse, she followed.
Bolted was more like it, she admitted with a carefree laugh as she ducked through the door, which was slightly ajar, and into the star-glazed Mediterranean night. The casinos of Monte Carlo were brightly lit and doing a bustling business. The moon was huge. Its light silvered everything in its glow.
She spotted the lithe frame of Jean-Paul Augustuve as he strolled purposefully toward the marina. She knew he kept a sailboat there, an oceangoing ketch that he could sail alone. She’d never been invited on it, although she’d seen photos of other royal offspring or world-famous models smiling from its teak decks in newspapers from time to time.
Beautiful, competent women who knew their place in the world. Or forged one for themselves.
Megan hesitated, for those traits didn’t describe her at all, then hurried to keep up with his long
strides. They arrived at the boat slip, with her not more than ten feet behind him.
“What do you want?” he asked, swinging around to face her after he stepped aboard.
She started in surprise, sure he hadn’t known she was near. “I wondered if you were going for a sail.”
Hearing the uncertainty in her voice, she groaned internally. He would never mistake her for one of those confident women he favored.
His eyes, dark now but a brilliant blue in daylight, studied her for a long, nerve-racking moment, then his teeth flashed in a smile. “Yes.”
She gripped the material at each side of her silk gown. “I want to go with you.”
The refusal didn’t surprise her—she’d never expected him to notice her—but it did hurt a bit. The hot press of tears stung her eyes. She was suddenly angry, with herself for the weakness of weeping and with him for his cruel indifference to her feelings.
“Why?” she demanded, surprising both of them.
“I want to be alone.”
“So do I.”
“Then find your own boat.”
“I won’t get in your way,” she promised. “I know how to sail. You might need my help.”
Again the white flash that appeared almost ghostly in the silvery light. He unfastened one of the mooring lines.
“She’s a true lady,” he said of his ship. “She responds to only one hand—mine.”
The sure arrogance along with a second rebuff dissolved the unusual anger. The odd pain flowed over her again.
Megan thought of cold things, of icy fjords and glaciers, of herself as the Ice Princess, remote, cold, untouchable. It was a device she’d used since she was a child—to simply remove her emotions from the situation and lock them in ice. It worked this time, too.
She took one step back on the dock, away from the sailboat and the handsome, arrogant Earl of Silvershire and his wish to be alone.
He moved about the deck effortlessly, fluidly, seemingly one with the night, a fairy prince spawned of something as insubstantial as sea foam and moondust. Nourished by sea and moonlight, he needed nothing from one as mortal as she. Lifting her chin, she turned away.
“Cast off the other line,” he ordered softly and stepped toward the tiller.
Surprised, she spun and caught a flash of silver from his eyes as he glanced her way. She slipped the line from the mooring, took two running steps as the ship swung away from the dock and leaped to the deck.
The action would have been a small step for Jean-Paul Augustuve; it was a giant leap for Megan
Penelope Penwyck. Would she land in a safe harbor? Or in a foreign port amidst the gravest danger?
An engine throbbed to life and the ship eased from the slip and into the black-and-pewter waters of the sea. Once away from the marina and the crowded shoreline, Jean-Paul cut the engine and hoisted the sail. They sailed silently on the silver path where the moon met the sea.
“Out here like this,” he said in a voice that murmured over her like the sound of the sea and the night wind, “I sometimes imagine that I’ll sail right off the end of the earth.”
“What will you find?” she asked, intensely curious about his fantasy.
“Never-never land, perhaps. I always wanted to be Peter Pan and sail the heavens on great adventures.”
His soft laughter, aimed at himself and a boy’s foolish dreams, broke through the ice dam and touched her heart.
Jean-Paul was known as something of a rebel and one of the world’s most sought after bachelors, but here was another side to him that was usually hidden, one that was whimsical and tender with dreams that could never be realized.
She’d sometimes felt like that.
A bond, she realized, and wondered if he felt it, too, and if that had prompted his confidence. His next words dispelled that notion.
“Sit down before you fall overboard,” he or
dered, his tone sardonic, as if it wouldn’t bother him at all if that should happen.
She ducked as the wind grabbed the sail and the boom shifted. Jean-Paul swung them around so that they ran with the wind. He motioned for her to sit on the bench with him.
The wind snatched her hair from the circle of flowers that secured it to the back of her head, and blew tendrils around her face. Her breath nearly stopped when he reached over to her and began pulling the long pins loose and tossing them over the side.
When she glanced at him, no smile lit his lean face. Instead he appeared thoughtful, almost angry as he frowned at some conflict that showed briefly in his eyes then was hidden from her.
Confused, she watched as he lifted the circlet of flowers, studied it for a long moment, then brought it to his lips the way a lover might who mourned his lost love and tossed it into the night.
Her heart clenched so tightly she thought it would explode from the pressure as she watched the wreath land in the dark water, catch a moonbeam and float out of sight. She pushed the hair from her eyes and held it back with hands that trembled ever so slightly.
With another glance she didn’t understand, Jean-Paul turned the ship once more and sailed on a tack into the wind. Tendrils of hair blew back from her temples.
“Let it go,” he commanded.
She slowly dropped her hands to her lap. He lifted one hand and slid his fingers into the tangles.
“Like silk,” he said in a low tone that stirred turmoil within her.
When his hand dropped to her bare shoulder, she started, then retreated behind the icy facade.