Matchmaker extraordinaire Jessica Carter arranges marriages that work. And that is exactly what Prince Drakos is looking for. The last thing he needs is someone as unsuitable as her…but none of the beautiful socialites paraded before him excite Stavros as Jessica does.
Usually unchallenged Stavros welcomes Jessica’s defiance – his fingers itch to lower her prickly facade and discover what lies beneath. Will Jessica agree to his final request? One month to exorcise their scorching passion, before he marries someone fit to be his queen…
The Call of Duty – when legacy commands, they must obey!
At His Majesty’s Request releases in the UK in December 2012 and North America in January 2013.
“There is a science to matching people.” Jessica Carter tucked a lock of blonde hair behind her ear and lifted her computer, a flat, all-in-one device shaped like a clipboard, so that it obscured her figure. Pity, Stavros was enjoying the look of her. Even if she was starch and pearls, rather than spandex and diamonds.
She continued, her eyes never leaving the screen. “A matching of social status, values, education and life experience are very important to creating a successful, enduring marriage. I think most match services realize that.” She paused and took a breath, pink lips parting slightly, her green eyes locking with his just for a moment before dropping back down. “However, I have taken things a step further. Matching is not just a science. It’s an art. The art is in the attraction, and it’s not to be underestimated.”
Prince Stavros Drakos, second son of the Kyonosian royal family, and named heir to the throne, leaned back in his chair, his hands behind his head. “I am not so much concerned about the art, Ms. Carter. The essentials are general compatibility and suitability for my country. Childbearing hips would help.”
Her pale cheeks flushed crimson, her lush mouth tightening. “Isn’t that what all men want?”
“I’m not sure. And frankly, I don’t care. Most men don’t have to consider the entire populace of their country when they go about selecting a wife.”
But it didn’t matter what most men did. He wasn’t most men. Ever since he’d been forced to step into the place of his older brother, he had been different. It didn’t matter what normal was, it didn’t matter what he wanted. All that mattered was that he be the best king possible for Kyonos.
His methods might be unorthodox, and they might grieve his father, but what he did, he did for the good of his people. It just wasn’t in his nature to be too traditional.
She blew out a breath. “Of course.” She smiled, bright and pristine, like a tooth paste commercial. She was so clean and polished she hardly seemed like a real woman, more like a throwback from a nineteen fifties television show. In technicolor. “I…not that I’m complaining of course, but why exactly have you hired me to find you a wife? I’ve read the newspaper articles written about you and you seem perfectly able to attract women on all your own.”
“When I want to find a suit for an event, I hire I stylist. When I need to organize a party, I hire an events coordinator. Why should this be any different?”
She tilted her head to the side. Her hair was in a low, neat bun, her dress high-collared, buttoned-up and belted at the waist. A place for everything and everything in its place. She all-but begged to be disheveled.
Any other time, he might have done so.
“I see you have a…practical outlook on things,” she said.
“I have a country to run, I don’t have time to deal with peripherals.”
“I’ve compiled a list of candidates, to be refined of course…”
He took the monitor from her hand and hit the home button, tapping a few icons and not managing to find a list. “What is this?”
She took the device back from him. “An iPad. It’s a tablet computer. They’re pretty commonly used these days. Shall I put that technologically savvy women need not apply?”
“Not necessary, but you can put down that women with smart mouths need not apply.”
Her full lips curved slightly. “Someone has to keep you in line.”
“No one has to keep me in line. I’m going to be king.” That hadn’t kept Xander in line. In fact, he’d pulled himself straight out of line and put Stavros in front. But Stavros wouldn’t falter. He wouldn’t quit.
One well-shaped eyebrow lifted upward. “Oh? Is that so.” She typed something on her onscreen keyboard.
“What? What did you write?”
“Strong tyrannical tendencies. A possible negative in social interactions, possible positive in BA.”
“Bedroom activities. It’s shorthand. Don’t dwell on it,” she said, her tone snappy. “I told you attraction is considered. That said, do you require a virgin bride, Prince Drakos?”
“Stavros will do, and no, I don’t.” He shouldn’t be surprised by her frankness. She had a reputation for being bold, brash even. She also had a reputation for making marriages that lasted. For setting up unions that had led to successful mergers and increased fortunes. She was a relationships strategist, more than a matchmaker, and he’d been assured that there was no one better. She knew the rules of society, knew the function a practical marriage served.
His marriage, and securing it, meant nothing to him personally, and being able to pawn the leg work off on Jessica Carter had been too good of an idea to pass up. And if the press happened to pick it up, all the better. He had a reputation for doing things differently. Doing things his way. Turning away from how his father had run the country.
And this was as far from something his father would do as he could think of.
“That’s good,” she said. “It’s always awkward to ask women to submit proof of sexual history.”
“Do you do that?”
“I have. Though not just women.”
“Who?” he asked.
“Ah, now, if I told you I would have to kill you. I operate on the basis of strict anonymity. Unless those involved are seeking publicity, I don’t talk about my clients.”
“But word does spread,” he said. He’d seen an old school friend three weeks earlier, and the smug had practically been dripping from him as he stood there with his new fiancee. Oxford educated. And a model. She was everything he’d asked for. Beauty and brains. And who had accomplished the feat?
The woman the media called the World’s Most Elite Matchmaker. She catered to billionaires. CEOs, tycoons. Royalty. And she was renowned for making matches that lasted.
That was what he needed. He’d given up and allowing himself any sort of personal interest in the selection of his bride since he’d discovered that it was likely he would be assuming the throne for his absentee brother. His wants didn’t matter. He needed a woman who could be a princess, an icon for his country, and aide to his rule. Aside from that, he had some of his own ideas. Someone beautiful, of course. Someone smart. Philanthropic. Fertile.
It shouldn’t be too hard to find.
“This isn’t just about me, Ms. Carter, this is about Kyonos. My family has seen too much tragedy, too much…upheaval. I have to be the rock. I have to provide a solid foundation for my people to rest on, and establishing a solid marriage is essential to that plan.”
The death of his mother, nineteen years ago, had shaken his people to the core. The abandonment of his older brother, the rightful heir. had caused months of instability. Stocks had tanked, trade stalled, the housing market going into a deep freeze.
Why had the future ruler really left? Would he truly abdicate? What secrets were the Drakos family guarding beneath that veneer of polish and old world sophistication?
He had been determined to undo all of the unrest brought about by his brother. And he had done it. He’d revitalized Thysius, the largest city on the island, with posh hotels and trendy boutiques. He’d brought in new revenue by having the seat of his corporation on the island, a country much too small to house companies the size of his, when the owner wasn’t the crown prince.
He’d done much to drag his country back from the brink. From the age of fourteen his entire life had altered so that it revolved around his homeland. He hadn’t had the luxury of being a boy. Hadn’t had the luxury of feeling fear or sadness. He’d learned early on that feeling had no place in his world. A ruler, an effective ruler, had to be above such things.
“I understand that this is a big deal,” she said. “Not just in terms of your country, but for you. She is going to be your wife.”
He shrugged. “An acquisition I’ve long known I would make.”
Jessica let out a long, slow breath. “Mr…Prince Drakos, will you please stop being so candid? It’s remarkably hard to sell a man who clearly has no interest in romantic love.”
“Try this for a tagline: Marry the jaded prince and receive a title, a small island, a castle and a tiara. That might make up for it.”