A royal kiss under the mistletoe
Prince Alexandro Castanovo arrives in snowy New York intent on protecting his royal family from scandal. And when Reese Harding—down-to-earth and heart-stoppingly beautiful—finds room for him at her inn, it seems like the perfect twist of fate.
Not long ago Reese’s world came crumbling down, shaking her foundations. But this enigmatic stranger intrigues her! She’s learned to be wary of secrets…but when she discovers Alex’s true identity, might there be enough magic in the air to make this regular American girl a princess by Christmas…?
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The young lady smiled and he found himself smiling back. This was not good. He knew better than to encourage the attention of women. It only complicated things when they wanted more than he could offer.
He forced his lips into a flat line as he moved onto the porch. The box landed with a thunk. He turned around to find the young woman standing just behind him.
As he dusted off his hands, he took in her white winter jacket with the logo for The Willows stitched in blue thread on the chest. His gaze skimmed downward, catching her snug jeans and the wheat-colored work boots that completed her ensemble. He drew his gaze up from her peekaboo curves. At last his gaze made it to her eyes—her big brown eyes. He wondered if she knew how beautiful she was. The guys must go crazy over her.
“Thank you for the help.” Her gaze strayed to his luggage and back to him. “Can I help you? Are you part of the wedding party?”
“No, I’m not.” His voice came out deeper than normal. “I want to check in.”
“Rooms are by reservation only.”
This young woman must be mistaken. “I have a reservation. Now, if you could point me in the direction of the person in charge.” The young lady pulled off a glove and held out her hand. “You’re speaking to her. I’m Reese Harding. And you would be?”
He stepped closer and wrapped his cold fingers around her warm ones. Her skin was smooth and supple. He resisted the urge to stroke the back of her hand with his thumb. When his gaze caught hers, he noticed the gold flakes in her eyes. “Allow me to introduce myself. I am P—”
He caught himself just in time before blurting out his formal title. It took him a moment to recall the alias he’d used on the registration. He’d borrowed his mother’s family name. “Alex DeLuca.”
Then, realizing he’d held on to her hand longer than necessary, he released his hold on her. He never let a woman affect him to this extent. Being awake more than twenty-four hours was definitely impacting him. If only he could sleep on planes, it’d help.
“You own this place?” he asked, just to make sure he understood her correctly.
“Yes, I do.”
His brows gathered as he studied her. She certainly seemed awfully young to be running her own business. “If you don’t mind me asking, how old are you?”
“I can assure you I’m older than I look.”
Well, now she had him curious. “And that would be—”
“Twenty-five.” Her dimpled chin lifted. “Don’t tell me you’re going to card me too?”
“Um…no.” He glanced away. He was letting himself get off track. It must be jet lag, because he wasn’t here to pick up women—even one as captivating as the woman standing before him. “About the room—”
“The place is full up until Monday.”
“Monday?” That was impossible. The muscles in his neck and shoulders tightened. “I made the reservation for today.”
“If you’d like to make another reservation, I can check our calendar.” She turned and stepped inside.
He strode after her, closing the door behind him. “I assure you I have a reservation, if you’d just check.”
With an audible huff, she stopped in the foyer and turned. “Listen. I don’t have your reservation. In fact, I’ve never spoken to you in my life. I would have remembered the accent.”
He would have remembered her honeyed voice, too. She was as attractive as she was frustrating. “Someone else must have taken my reservation. Surely you’re not the only person who works here.” Then again, this place was smaller than he’d been expecting. “Are you?”
Her forehead crinkled. “No, I’m not. But anyone you’d have spoken to would have checked the online system and known we were booked.”
Not about to give up, he thought back to the phone call when he’d made the reservation. “It was a woman I spoke to about getting a room. She sounded a bit older than you. She took my information.”
She frowned. “Maybe you do have a reservation. It’s possible it didn’t get entered in our system.” She lowered her head and shook it. “But it doesn’t change the fact that I don’t have anywhere for you to stay. We are hosting a wedding this weekend.”
He’d boarded three different flights today just to be sure he’d lost the paparazzi. And he’d suffered through a long layover in the Atlanta airport, cramped in a chair. All he wanted to do now was enjoy a warm meal and a soft bed. He held back a yawn. Rather make that a soft bed and then the warm meal. Anything else was unacceptable.
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