I may be an avowed bachelor, but I’ll never let down my best friend. Not even when he asks me to play the boyfriend of his little sister to thwart some crazy family superstitions. I mean, she’s a royal wedding planner who needs a date. How hard can it be?
Worse, the bright, beautiful and all-grown-up Grace Floros suddenly has spine to spare, determined to defy my most logical suggestions. Good thing our engagement is only make-believe…
Until suddenly, it isn’t.
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Grace Floros raced across Garronia’s famed palace square, shoving a thick sheaf of papers more firmly into her messenger bag. She scanned the street frantically. Where was her brother?
For the past five hundred years, both a male and female representative of the Floros Weddings empire had been present during the final wedding planning meeting with the bride and groom. It was tradition—a tradition Grace did not want to break, particularly for the biggest royal wedding in a generation. She was already up to her elbows in archaic rituals she’d bent almost to the shattering point. Now, everywhere she turned, new challenges lurked…like huge, glitter-filled explosives beneath a petal-strewn minefield.
And this latest bridal bomb would detonate in exactly five minutes if her brother Mikhos didn’t magically appear.
Grace grabbed for the buzzing cellphone at the bottom of her tote but missed it entirely, then forced herself to focus on darting through traffic for another precious few seconds.
Why had she trusted Mikhos to actually show up on time for the most important meeting of her fledgling career? She should’ve known better.
No matter what game her brother was playing though, Grace wouldn’t let him derail her from planning the truly perfect royal wedding—her first solo wedding for her family’s business. Not when she’d come so far. There’d been countless meetings, fittings, plans and trial runs, and now the blessed event was a mere three weeks away. Everything was coming along exactly according to plan, a plan Grace had documented carefully in the enormous wedding book she carried with her wherever she went.
Garronia’s royal nuptials between Prince Kristos Andris and his American fiancée Emmaline Andrews was going to be magnificent, even if it killed Grace…which it might, if she had to come up with a backup plan for her brother’s unexpected absence from this stupid meeting.
She made it to the other side of the square, then plunged her hand back into her bag, finally scoring the phone. Swiping it on, she turned abruptly to dash down the alley that led to a small, private access street to the royal palace. Grace knew every hidden passage and secret gateway there was to avoid the tourist-thronged sidewalks, and she’d need every second she could get.
“Think, think, think,” she muttered, punching the text icon and realizing that none of the messages she’d received were from her brother. Great. “You can do this.”
Her phone suddenly jangled in her hand, signaling an incoming call. Mikhos. Thank God.
Grace shoved the phone to her ear.
“Finally!” she blurted, not even trying to curb her impatience. “I told you I’d wait for you for twenty minutes. Twenty, Mikhos. That was a half hour ago. Now I’ll arrive at the palace alone, out of breath, and barely on time—if I’m lucky. Please tell me you’re already there.”
A long, fraught silence greeted her tirade, then a voice sounded over the phone in cool, calm, and maddeningly amused tones—tones that were not even close to her brother’s.
“I’m afraid Mikhos isn’t quite available, Grace.”
“Lucian?” It was only the extremity of Grace’s situation that kept her striding fast, though her entire body jolted with sudden heat. Count Lucian Carallis had been her brother’s best friend for more than a decade, had starred in easily a million of Grace’s teenaged daydreams. He’d never shown a shred of interest in her as more than a target for her brother’s silly pranks, but that hadn’t mattered. In fact, though Lucian had evolved from a whip-smart, fun-loving boy into a shrewd and calculating tech tycoon—with absolutely zero evidence of knowing how to even spell the word romance, much less understand what it meant—Grace’s interest in him had only intensified over the years. Just seeing him by chance on the street or on the rare occasion he attended a royal function made everything inside her dissolve into a delirious melting pot of longing…
And she’d just squalled at him like an outraged goose. Wonderful.