|juliaross.net My Dark Prince|
My Dark Prince
(Originally published as a Jove lead title ISBN 0-515-12883-X)
Winner: Colorado Book Award
Romantic Times "Top Pick"
"Heart Beat" Award
A powerful historical romance, set in 1814
A ruling prince with absolute power
A powerless young lady caught trespassing on his English estates
A missing bride and a vital state wedding in Regency London
"Brilliant! Passionate, complex and
compelling. The best book of any genre I have read in a long, long
while. Don't miss this beautifully written, intensely satisfying love
story. I am in awe!"
- Mary Balogh
"I thoroughly enjoyed My Dark Prince. If you enjoy exciting, enthralling, wonderfully-written romance, read this book." - Jo Beverley
"A powerful story of the redemptive power of love ... that leaves me in awe. An extremely well-crafted story ... loads of danger and adventure. But what makes this such a compelling story is the romance.I am going to want to revisit (this) story, which is, after all, the definition of a "keeper." - Five Hearts - The Romance Reader
"A fantastic cast of characters ... the way Julia Ross traps the reader from page one is outstanding ... awesome (sexual) tension ... a magical storyteller who knows what it takes to have you burning the midnight oil ... breathtaking and mesmerizing historical romance." - "The Keeper Shelf" - The Romance Journal
"The book took wings and soared. Filled with complications and dangers—real dangers. Fans of tortured heroes will adore Nicholas. A tale that will grab you and compel you to finish it in one sitting." - All About Romance
"Prince Nicholas is one of the most mesmerizing men to grace my reading in a long, long time. I actually cried at the ending ... kept me reading and enthralled even long after the last page." - Mrs. Giggles"A fascinating hero meets a fitting heroine in this beautifully written tale of duty and villainy, passion and intrigue. You wont want to set MY DARK PRINCE down for a moment. A marvelous read with emotional depth, characters to care about, and intelligent plotting." - A Perfect "10" - Romance Reviews Today"A breathtaking story with simply outstanding characters. You will laugh, you will cry, you will feel the pain and the thrill of adventure. Bold, real and complex ... and the passion. Oh, the passion! I was totally entranced." - Heart Beat Award - Heart Rate Reviews "With this thrilling adventure of the heart, Julia Ross establishes herself as a powerful, distinctive force in the evolution of the romance genre. A new legend in heroes, (her) mercurially complex prince embodies every woman's secret desire. Darkly erotic and sensually stunning." 4½ Stars - "Top Pick" - K.I.S.S. hero - Romantic Times
Plot SummaryA Prince and a Commoner . . .
Imagine a hero with absolute power, dedicated to duty and his own autocratic, decisive worldview. Imagine a hero with the daring to try to fool all the crowned heads of Europe. Imagine a man who's learned to trust nothing and love no one, whose only refuge is horsemanship. It's a potent mix of intensity and loneliness.
Thus, Nicholas, sovereign prince of Glarien, never to be denied, impossible to resist. English by birth, he's also Earl of Evenlode, but his duty is clear—until he returns to Regency England and swoops down on horseback on Penny Lindsey, the illegitimate daughter of a governess, caught trespassing on his neglected English estates.
Nicholas's upcoming state wedding in London is vital for European peace, but his royal fiancée has been kidnapped by his enemies. Now Fate has provided the solution: to force Penny Lindsey to impersonate his missing bride, with one month to teach this defiant, not-so-simple country girl how to be a princess. Penny has other ideas, but she's never faced royal determination before, nor royal charm.
Alas, a prince is a dangerous teacher, prey to secret passions and hidden vulnerabilities. To mimic a courtship is a perilous game when the bridegroom is committed to his destiny, and his enemies' plots will force an English lady to adventure across Europe with her dark prince. Is love just another part of a royal masquerade? Is passion only another part of the game, even on their wedding night? Suddenly the stakes are much higher than either of them ever intended!
|My Dark Prince
Penny has been captured by Prince Nicholas, Earl of Evenlode and Grand Duke of Glarien, and locked into a bedroom at his country home in
England. She wakes in the morning when the prince storms in . . .
The door crashed open. Something flickered at the edge of her awareness like a necromancer as her dream dissolved. Shed been dreaming about a place shed never seen: Glarien, country of black forests and ancient castles, rank with wicked secrets. Wild horsemen thundering through green valleys beneath towering white peaks. Was it really like that?
Penny sat up. She was in bed, in her own nightgown, in a huge canopied bed with blue velvet hangings. But not at home in Clumper Cottage. She was in one of the grand guest bedrooms at Rascall Hall. Locked in. The major had escorted her up here last night and handed her a small bag. Her mother had packed an overnight case and sent it back with him. Nothing else could have demonstrated so absolutely the power Grand Duke Nicholas had suddenly acquired over her life. Even her mother had acquiesced in whatever story theyd told her. Why? She couldnt be forced into agreeing to the princes mad scheme.
A folding screen sat close to the foot of the bed. Protection against drafts, but completely hiding the door from her view. Shed left her dress and robe hanging there last night and her small case on a chair beside it. Her mothers case, in truth. A bag that had once gone to Glarien and back.
A mans boots thudded across the floor. Penny clutched the covers to her chin and wriggled back against the pillows.
Nicholas strode around the screen and up to the bed. "A man named Jeb Hardacre was in my stable yard with a cart. He said hed come for the hedgehogs. Would you be kind enough to tell me what the devil is going on?"
"Your Highness, Im not dressed. You are in my bedroom!"
"You are as charming, Miss Lindsey, as a rumpled chick in the nest. I trust you slept well? It is morning."
His smile was for something delectable and rich, like cream. As if she had stared too long, too close at a fire, a hot wave ran through her blood. Her heart seemed to dive and swoop. She wanted to press both hands over it to keep it in place.
He walked to the window and wrenched aside the drapes. It was barely dawn. Powerful shoulders flexed as he flung up the sash. Cool air flowed inside, carrying a froth of birdsong: blackbirds and thrushes calling up the day.
Penny shivered. "It isnt decent for you to come in here like this. I am most uncomfortable. Please leave!"
He turned to look at her. The dark gaze seemed fathomless, filled with secrets, but promising mischief and delight. "Good Lord! You are better covered than any lady at a ball. Nothing is visible but a plait of hair and a great deal of white linen. Why were you carrying a basket of hedgehogs at the manor last night?"
She felt flushed and awkward, at a complete disadvantage. "They are wild creatures, belonging to no one."
"Ha! And a fig for the laws against poaching! You were trespassing in a ruin that belongs to me and stealing my hedgehogs. Even in England, where you apparently wink at striking monarchs, theft is a hanging offense." His voice carried honey and silk, warmed by that charming, playful smile. A deception. For steel rang quite clearly beneath. "What the devil do you do with the creatures?"
So it was all going to come out. He was bound to be awkward about it.
"I tame them," she said. "They go to Covent Garden in London and are sold as pets. Hedgehogs eat insects. They help get rid of vermin in town."
He moved across the room, studying paintings and ornaments. "A remarkably odd hobby for a lady!"
"It is not a hobby," she said icily. "I do it for the money. Count them the payment of a debt, if you like. Dont you think Glarien owes me that?"
"Owes you?" He seemed genuinely surprised. "Why? Your existence wasnt entirely unknown to me, though I never expected to meet you. I knew Frederick had fathered a child with an English governess when he was a visitor in Moritzburg. I just didnt know the details. This morning I found out."
The casual words threatened. The steel had a lethal edge. "How?"
"I have visited your mother."
A prickle of hair rose on the back of her neck. "My mother! This early? You got her out of bed, too?"
"She was up, waiting for me. Fritz told her last night I would come. How do you suppose she has survived all these years? Who do you think paid for the cottage and allowance? She lives on my charity. It seems I even own her home. Clumper Cottage, where you were born and raised, is mine. Did you know that?"
A chasm yawned, dark with frightful possibilities. The twitter and rustle outside soared. She felt ill, almost faint. "You are threatening to turn us out on the streets?"
"I dont know. When your father died, your keep fell to the royal house of Glarien, because my mother found out about it and took up the duty. On her death, the responsibility for you both fell to me."
"Not a personal responsibility."
He walked back to the window and stood there, gazing out. Gold stained his profile, like a painting of a saint.
"I have never given you a moments thought before today. Secretaries took care of it, as a petty expense on the royal purse. I have a country to run."
She bunched the covers in both hands, the luxurious satin and embroidered linen. "Do you run it as well as you run Rascall Hall? Or as generously as you have provided for my mother? She has barely enough to live in any dignity at all. If I didnt do what I can, shed go without basic necessities."
"Nonsense. The allowance is ample." He strode back to the screen and grasped her dressing gown.
"What can you know about that?"
"Your mother has never complained."
"Shed die on the rack before shed ask. Dont you understand that ordinary people have dignity?"
He tossed her robe on the bed, the poor thin cotton evidence enoughif this man had any shred of sensitivityof how hard she and her mother struggled. "Its not my business to know minutiae. I have a staff to take care of details."
"Then tell your staff to let Jeb Hardacre have the hedgehogs."
"Too late. I sent the man about his business." He turned to walk out of the room. "Get up and get dressed. I have ordered you a bath."
Her left arm jammed as Penny struggled into her robe. She had to pull it half off to try again. The frequently darned cotton ripped. Not caring, she thrust her arm inside the torn garment and tugged the remains about her shoulders. Clambering from the bed, she stormed up behind him and grasped his sleeve.
He spun about, the dark hair tumbled over his forehead, his gaze hot and unreadable as it focused on her fingers clenched on his jacket.
"You will take your hand from my arm!"
Penny jerked back as if he had burned her with a hot iron. "Oh, of course! The sacred person."
"No oneevertouches me without my express permission."
"More royal prerogative? You didnt hesitate to seize me. Now you sent Jeb away empty-handed? What about the hedgehogs?"
He closed the door and leaned back on the panels. A small pulse throbbed at the corner of his mouth.
"I set them free last night."
She tried to tie the sash. It had worked itself into a maddening knot. "Thats a whole week of work ruined. Why?"
His eyes were midnight in a dark wood, thick with mysteries. "I didnt like to see them caged."
"The hedgehogs dont come to any harm at Covent Garden. They live far longer in London than they would in the wild. Theyre pampered and treated well. Theyre pets."
"No longer. No more wild things will be captured here."
Wrapping both arms about her body, she turned and began to pace, that hot gaze burning into her back.
"You have no idea, have you? You dont care in the least how ordinary people live, or that the payments sent my mother are so petty and mean. So you own our cottage! Along with palaces and castles and acres of estates. You live in luxury and waste. You have handkerchiefs that cost a months salary. You have a picture of your bride in a case worth a kings ransom. Youve never gone without anything. You snap your fingers and get whatever you want"
"Not always," he interrupted.
She stopped and turned to face him. The floor was icy on her bare feet. Penny lifted one foot to rub the sole against the ankle of the other.
"When did you ever want something and not get it?" she demanded. "Ever?"
The dawn light smoothed over his cheeks, softening the haughty line of nose and chin, smudging the black hair to soot. He was impossibly, dangerously handsome.
"Right now," he said dryly. "I want you."
Cold air poured from the open window. Penny hopped to the other foot and rubbed her freezing toes on her shin.
"Then youre right, Your High-and-Mightiness," she said. "Im the one thing you cant have!"
His own words moved and sank, only to surface with another meaning. I want you. She was disheveled and angry. Her hair hung in a long plait down her back, not neat, not glossya lions mane of disordered golden straggles, fuzzy where shed slept on it. Her blunt nose was pink at the tip and shed narrowed her eyes, hiding the changeable green behind two rows of stubby blond lashes.
Now she was bouncing from one foot to the other like a demented parrot, clad in a torn dressing gown and a capacious white cotton nightdress, and berating him. There was nothing seductive in her looks or manner, yet his attention concentrated on that one thought:
I want you.
The rush of arousal was so sudden and unexpected, it caught him entirely off guard. Blood sang and muscles tightened. His senses were absolutely, gloriously alert. The tousled scents of sleep and wildness and woman teased his nostrils. Her naked toes were even and straight with nails like pearls, her delectable ankles curved like a cherubs. The nightgown billowed about her knees, swishing against her legs as she hopped back and forth. Tiny golden hairs sparkled on her wrists. The bones of her fingers clutching the robe were clear and hostile. Her throat was a column of animosity.
Yet the imagined taste of her, dog rose and woodland, flooded his mouth.
The one thing you cant have!