Friday, October 21, 2016

Christmas at the Castle by Melissa McClone Excerpt


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A royal wedding. A meddlesome mother. An unexpected union.

A European getaway during the Christmas holiday is exactly what veterinarian Katrina “Kat” Parsons needs. She can’t wait to be a bridesmaid in her childhood friend’s royal wedding, but she hopes to steer clear of the bride’s arrogant older brother.

Crown Prince Guillaume wants his younger sister’s wedding day to be perfect, but he’s suspicious of Kat. He and his mother on are on high alert, afraid Kat is not just there for the wedding, but also to find a prince of her own.

But when Kat’s kindness and generosity prove them wrong, the prince realizes there’s more to her than he ever imagined. Can he trust his heart or will he lose the one woman he can’t live without?


Up ahead, tall Christmas trees decorated with red ribbon and white lights flanked the entrance. As if on cue, the imposing arched wooden door swung open.

A man in his late twenties or early thirties walked out. His tailored gray suit showed off wide shoulders and an athletic build. His yellow-and-red tie bounced slightly against his white button-down shirt. Light brown hair curled at the ends and framed a handsome face with high cheekbones, a straight nose, and full lips.

Looking at him made her feel warm and tingly inside.

Who was she kidding?

She was downright toasty now.

His lips looked like they would be perfect for under-the-mistletoe kisses.

And more.

She had no idea who he was, but this hottie had just taken over the top spot on her Christmas list. She would have to write Santa.

The man’s long strides cut the distance between them quickly. He looked at Claude. “Have you seen Maximilian?”

“No, sir. As soon as I take Dr. Parsons inside, I’ll phone the groundskeeper. One of his men will track him down again.”

A stunning, green-eyed gaze collided with hers. Sharpened.

Kat sucked in a breath. She knew that color. Knew the man.

Or did.

Prince Guillaume von Strausser.

She’d been fifteen the last time she saw him at camp. Sophie’s brother hadn’t been drop-dead-gorgeous back then.

Okay, forget about writing Santa. Kat would need to find another hottie to go on her Christmas list. Sophie’s brother was off-limits. Kat never wanted anything to come between her and her camp BFF. Not that Gill had given her anything but grief at camp.

Still, unexpected nerves made Kat’s muscles twitch. She forced a smile. “Hi, Gill.”

Surprise flashed across his face. “Kat?”

“It’s good to see you.” She sounded breathless. The way she felt.

Whatever shock he might have felt, however, disappeared. His lips pressed together, and his gaze narrowed. “I didn’t think you were coming.”

That wasn’t the reply she’d expected. “Why wouldn’t I?”

“You’ve never been here before.”

He spoke with the same authoritative tone she remembered, but Kat thought she heard a touch of accusation, too. Weird since they hadn’t spoken in so long, but he’d always been protective about Sophie and thought Kat interfered too much in his sister’s life.

“Lack of time and money,” she admitted.

He raised a brow. “And now?”

“I need more of both, but I wouldn’t miss Sophie’s wedding for anything.”

He studied Kat. Not as a friend looked at someone they hadn’t seen in a long time—thirteen years to be exact—but as a stranger, trying to determine if the person was safe or dangerous.

Her heart sank. Even after all these years, he still didn’t like her.

He started to speak but then stopped himself.

She raised her chin instead. “What?”

His gaze darkened to a forest green. “Are you here for my sister’s wedding…or have you set your sights on finding a royal for yourself?”

She wanted to believe he was joking, but his tone matched the serious look in his eyes.

Same old Gill. Imperial and pompous.

No doubt, Claude heard the implication in Gill’s voice that she was nothing more than a royal groupie.

Great way to start off her trip.

Squaring her shoulders, she took a step back. “I’m here because I’m Sophie’s friend and one of her bridesmaids. No other reason.”

“Sophie mentioned finding you a husband.”

When they were teenagers, she’d wanted Kat to marry one of her brothers so they could be sisters. “Sophie’s always kidding around about setting me up on a date.”

Emphasis on kidding around.

Kat’s ordinary life growing up on a wheat farm was so removed from Sophie’s world that her being royal had never been much of a curiosity. Perhaps something to daydream about when Kat was caring for her aging grandparents while attending college at the same time, but not enough to warrant an Internet search. Kat had had too much to do back then. She still did.

Watching Sophie on the reality TV show The Search for Cinderella had been the closest peek into her friend’s life, but to be honest, that had seemed more fantasy-for-the-cameras than reality.

Suspicion filled Gill’s gaze, but he didn’t say anything.

Words weren’t necessary. Kat could tell what he was thinking.

“You don’t have to believe me,” she said. “But it’s true.”

He wouldn’t change his mind no matter what she said. Gill’s behavior had always been consistent—the definition of arrogance. No problem. The castle looked big enough for her to keep her distance.

Just like their old camp days.

“Claude called you doctor,” Gill said.

Kat wasn’t surprised he knew nothing about her. He’d never been her friend. Gill had tolerated her—for his sister’s sake—but that tolerance seemed to have disappeared.

Kat wouldn’t let him get to her. “I’m a veterinarian.”

“You always had a soft spot for those who were injured or not feeling well.”

“You were one of my first patients.”

Lines creased his forehead. “From humans to animals.”

“What can I say?” she joked. “Animals don’t talk back.”

She thought Gill might crack a smile. He didn’t.

Maybe not having a sense of humor was a prince thing. He was the only one she’d met.

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