Once Upon a Royal Christmas
by Robin Bielman
Publication Date: October 20, 2016
Genres: Adult, Contemporary Romance, Holiday
Synopsis: Colliding with a prince while walking four dogs isn’t how Rowan Palotay pictured meeting royalty, but then lately her life hasn’t gone according to plan. With one teensy tiny mistake, her job as a news reporter took a turn for the worse and now she’s lucky to have a small pet column in the local newspaper. Christmas is supposed to be a time of joy and magic, but she feels like she’s forever stuck on the naughty list.Prince Theodore Chenery is in Marietta shortly after the death of his mother to meet his grandparents for the first time. When an accidental run-in—literally—with Rowan leads to an unexpected friendship, he finds himself enchanted with the outspoken, feisty country girl. She’s unlike anyone he’s ever met and her special brand of kindness and honesty make it harder and harder to keep temptation away.
Giving into the passion and deep-rooted emotions between them, Theo and Rowan discover what matters most. But when their relationship makes worldwide news, Theo must decide whether or not to follow his heart or his royal duty.
“You okay?” the prince asked.
“I’m fine,” Rowan said, pressing her shoulders back and raising her chin. “I’ve been hit with hundreds of snowballs.”
“I’m not surprised.”
“You strike me as good target practice.”
She had no idea what to make of that comment. What a rude thing to say to someone who’d— “I just saved you from getting nailed by two snowballs and that’s what you say to me? Kind of insulting, don’t you think?”
“You don’t even know me.”
“And for your information”—she almost said “bucko” but caught herself—“it’s an honor to have been hit by so many snowballs growing up here. You don’t get snow where you’re from, so you wouldn’t know.” He came from a small state along the Mediterranean coastline known for its beaches and yacht-lined harbor, and where the sun reigned supreme year round.
“May I speak now?”
“If you must.”
That earned her another arch of his brows. She’d probably be arrested for speaking so disrespectfully to him if they were in Montanique. But this was her home turf and he didn’t get to say whatever he pleased. Manners went both ways no matter who you were.
“I meant it would be fun aiming for you.”
She crossed her arms over her chest. That still sounded kind of harsh. Even though she was fun. “As opposed to aiming for…?”
“I’m still not sure what—”
“It was a compliment, Miss Palotay.”
She shifted her feet. Okay, so maybe this meant he wasn’t holding this morning’s incident against her. “Call me Rowan.”
“Call me Theo.”
“Really?” She’d called him that in her head, but out loud was something entirely different.
“It’s what my friends call me.”
“Are we friends?”
“You are wanting in my pants.”
She threw her arms up in the air. He wasn’t serious. “What? I do not.”
“You don’t want to take my pants to be cleaned?” His calm, casual tone irked her. Rowan bet nothing ruffled this man, or gave him pause. Confidence and poise rolled off him like a summer breeze in the middle of winter.
“That’s not what you said. You said I wanted in your pants.”
“You must have misheard me.” The small, entirely too charming, curve of his lips told her she had not misheard him at all, and he enjoyed teasing her.
Two could play that game. “That’s too bad. I’m very good inside men’s pants.”
Quickly, and without thinking, Theo sat down behind her, cradling her between his thighs and wrapping his arms around her waist. They both needed to get down the hill and this seemed like the best solution.
Her breath hitched, her body tensed.
“I thought we could do this last sled run as a team,” he said quietly. “But if you’d rather—”
“It’s okay.” She relaxed against him. “This is good.”
Having her in his lap felt better than good. Even with a bulky jacket on, she was soft. Her hair smelled like citrus shampoo. And she fit.
“Here we go.” He shoved them off. They gathered speed quickly and Rowan’s sounds of glee made him smile inside and out as the wind rushed their faces.
They started to slow, the slope evening out. Theo shifted slightly and the heel of his boot got stuck in the snow for a second. They spun out of control, pitched to the side, and crash landed. Their bodies tangled, rolled as one, and came to a stop with him on top of her.
Worried he was crushing her, he quickly pushed up onto his elbows. Her eyes were closed and her long, black lashes almost reached the tops of her pink cheeks. Snow clung to her hair. He gulped. She was beautiful. “Sorry about that. Are you okay?”
He was acutely aware of her chest rising and falling as she tortured him with silence for several seconds before finally opening her baby blues and saying, “That. Was. Epic.” Then she broke into a fit of laughter.
And God, it made her even more beautiful. She wasn’t irritated or flustered by their crash, but tickled by it. He stared down at her, enjoying her sound and the crinkles in the corners of her eyes. His body covered hers, making contact in so many good places, making him hungry for more. He hadn’t meant to like Rowan as much as he did, but she was great, and every interaction elevated his attraction to her.
Any affection had to be buried, though. He had a life waiting for him back home.
The thought bothered him more than he cared to admit.
How could it not when she stopped laughing and any pretense of this being a simple friendship vanished? The way she looked up at him, with desire and playfulness, was one hell of an aphrodisiac. He imagined she saw the same expression mirrored back at her.
He slid one hand in her hair to cradle the back of her head. With his other hand, he cupped her cheek. He’d never wanted to kiss someone so badly. At the moment, he didn’t care about the consequences. If he didn’t get to make her lips sore, suck her tongue into his mouth, and find out what she tasted like, he’d regret it.
“Rowan,” he whispered.
She reached up and brushed the hair off his forehead. “Yes, Theo.”
Rowan slipped off her coat and hung it on the iron wall rack in her small entryway. She took Theo’s coat and hung it up beside hers. Then she slipped her hand inside his much larger one and led him down the hallway to her bedroom. They didn’t talk and the silence acted like a form of foreplay, heightening the air around them, letting her mind wander to all sorts of sexy scenarios.
All night. She had all night with him.
At her silent maneuvering, Theo sat on the upholstered bench at the foot of her bed. “Stay,” she whispered into his ear.
Her sleepover. Her rules.
She’d left on the small bedside lamp, but the soft lighting wasn’t enough. She wanted to feast her eyes on him, not guess, so she walked over to the standing lamp in the corner and turned it on. Better.
His heated gaze ate her up as she stepped back into his personal space. “The way your body moves in that dress makes me crazy,” he said.
“Good crazy?” She slid her hands inside his tuxedo jacket, around his shoulders, and slowly slipped the coat down his arms, stopping halfway and trapping his arms behind him.
Excitement and I’m-game-for-whatever-you-want flashed in his eyes. “Unbelievably good.”
“I like that.” She undid the buttons of his white dress shirt, pressed her lips to his neck. He smelled so good she hoped his scent lingered on her skin and her sheets for days. “Know what else I like?”
“What?” he asked, his voice husky.
“I like you, too. Let me show you how much.”
“After I show you.” She unbuttoned the rest of his shirt. With each open clasp, she placed an openmouthed kiss to his hot, smooth skin. A light dusting of blond hair covered his muscular chest. She moved lower to hard, sculpted abs. He must do at least a thousand crunches a day. The muscles there jumped when she kissed below his belly button.
“If you’re planning to continue progressing this slow, it’s going to be a problem.”
She’d noticed his “problem.” It was hard not to.
“Are you laughing at me?” he goaded, his voice full of fun.
“No, no. I’m laughing at my own silly joke in my head.” She put her hands on his thighs. “Sorry,” she added, suddenly realizing she was nervous and that was why she’d decided on a slow seduction.
This night with Theo meant more than a quick trip between the sheets.
“You never have to be sorry when you’re with me.” His hands cupped her jawline, and he leaned forward to brush a kiss to her lips.
“You freed your arms.”
“I’m taking over.”
She stepped back. “Really?” It wasn’t so much a protest as a challenge. One she had every intention of letting him win. Her rules were overrated.
ABOUT ROBIN BIELMAN
When not attached to her laptop, USA Today Bestselling Author Robin Bielman can almost always be found with her nose in a book. A California girl, the beach is her favorite place for fun and inspiration. Her fondness for swoon-worthy heroes who flirt and stumble upon the girl they can’t live without jumpstarts all of her story ideas.
She is a 2014 RITA Finalist, loves to frequent coffee shops, and plays a mean game of sock tug of war with her cute, but often naughty dog, Harry. She cherishes her family and friends and loves to connect with readers. Get the scoop on Robin, her books, and sign up for her newsletter on her website at http://robinbielman.com.