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Once upon a time there was a young debutante of means who dreamed of marrying a prince. So she traveled to London to become...
The Prince's Bride
As a poor but proud young lady, Jocelyn Shelton had but one dream: to marry a prince and bring comfort to herself and her family. Now circumstances bring her to London, where her charms could make her wish come true. But her rendezvous with royalty is dangerously interrupted, and she finds herself rescued -- and thoroughly kissed -- by Rand, Viscount Beaumont ... a daring man in the service of the king.
To protect her life, Rand whisks her away to the countryside, and to defend her reputation, he agrees to marry the willful beauty. Lady Jocelyn is hardly his first choice as a bride, but beneath her fiery nature he uncovers a tender vulnerability and a sizzling passion. But Rand is keeping a shocking secret-one that, when revealed, could either shake her belief in him or make herrealize that it takes more than blue blood to be a true prince.
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It was generally acknowledged, in the circles of polite society, that staring was not permissible-never permissible, regardless of the circumstances. Yet each and every guest in the too crowded ballroom -- from jaded rakes to overdressed matrons, from sweet young things in the first flower of youth to elderly lords on their last legs, from the envious to the curious to the vastly amused -- did indeed stare...or at least observed carefully, which was much the very same thing.
Oh, discretion was in order, of course. There were no open mouths or overly wide eyes. No pointed fingers or upraised brows. Besides, regardless of the rules of proper behavior, no one who was anyone would ever admit he was not already privy to the liaison unveiling itself before the very eyes of the ton. And everyone in attendance at the gala reception given by the Marquess of Throubridge for the crown prince of Avalonia was indeed someone, or at least believed himself to be someone, which was nearly as important.
Still, even the illusion of good breeding and fine manners could not prevent a fair amount of discreet tittering behind fans, an inordinate number of speculative smiles, and more than a little nudging of elbows.
And why not? It wasn't every day London had a foreign prince in its midst. That he was handsome and wealthy and unmarried made his every move of utmost interest to the mothers of eligible daughters as well as to the daughters themselves. That he was showing particular attention to one young lady made him the subject of intense curiosity for everyone else. And that the young woman in question was the incomparable Lady Jocelyn Shelton made him the envy of the majority of men, married or otherwise.
Whatever their circumstances, each and every guest in the room watched Prince Alexei Frederick Berthold Ruprecht Pruzinsky escort the lady from the dance floor. Jocelyn herself was well aware of the scrutiny. Indeed, she could feel it almost as if the gazes directed toward her had a physical presence: long, probing fingers of curiosity. She lifted her chin the tiniest notch and tried to maintain as natural a smile as possible.
Not that she was uncomfortable at the attention. On the contrary. She reveled in it. She simply didn't want to appear too smug, too satisfied, and too, too triumphant.
At this particular moment, Lady Jocelyn Shelton, sister of the Earl of Shelbrooke and relation by marriage to the Duke of Roxborough and the wealthy Effington family, believed, regardless of the differences in their stations, that she would soon be the bride of the heir of the House of Pruzinsky, the crown prince of the Kingdom of Greater Avalonia.
The prince bent closer to speak low into her ear. "I had quite forgotten the English tendency to stare."
"Had you, Your Highness?" Jocelyn said lightly. "I was under the impression that you rarely forgot anything. Or that you were especially bothered by being the subject of observation."
"Quite right." He smiled that particular smile worn only by men who have no question as to their standing in the world. "When one knows one's own worth, one expects such attention. But then I need not tell you that." He studied her in a satisfied manner. "You are as aware of your worth as I am of mine."
She ignored his comment as she could not deny it and raised a brow. "Are all royal princes as arrogant as you, Your Highness?"
His eyes widened with surprise and she feared she'd gone too far. Then he laughed, the kind of unfettered, rather personal laugh that ensured the continued attention of onlookers and upped the stakes of any number of wagers made in recent days in the betting books...
The Prince's BrideBy: Victoria Alexander