Too Ordinary for the Duke?. Melissa James

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Too Ordinary for the Duke? - Melissa James

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      About Melissa James

      MELISSA JAMES is a mother of three, living in a beach suburb in New South Wales, Australia. A former nurse, waitress, shop assistant, perfume and chocolate demonstrator – among other things – she believes in taking on new jobs for the fun experience. She’ll try anything at least once, to see what it feels like – a fact that scares her family on regular occasions. She fell into writing by accident, when her husband brought home an article stating how much a famous romance author earned, and she thought, I can do that! She can be found most mornings walking and swimming at her local beach with her husband or every afternoon running around to her kids’ sporting hobbies, while dreaming of flying, scuba diving, belaying down a cave or over a cliff – anywhere her characters are at the time!

      Look for an exciting new novel from Melissa James, One Small Miracle, available in Mills & Boon® Romance in April 2010.

      Too Ordinary for

      the Duke?

      Melissa James

      MILLS & BOON

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       Summer Palace, Orakidis City, Hellenia

       The Wedding of Her Royal Highness Princess Giulia to His Grace Tobias, Grand Duke of Malascos

      THIS day—this past year, in fact—was enough to make a girl believe in fairy tales. Was she, Mari Mitsialos, a bridesmaid at a royal wedding? Was she really cousin to a king and a princess royal?

      Life took weird turns sometimes … but what a good weird this was! Both her cousins, living in the backblocks of Sydney a year ago, were ecstatically married to the people of their dreams—but Charlie was a king, and Lia was a princess royal!

      What did that make her? Kind of a halfway to royalty, halfway past nowhere person—and she couldn’t decide which was better.

      Mari smiled when Toby, or the new Grand Duke as he was known in the family, dipped Lia in the Viennese Waltz they’d chosen for their wedding dance. The devoted love she’d always suspected Toby felt for Lia fairly blazed from those summer-blue eyes. And as for Lia, she could barely leave her husband’s side long enough to “do the pretty-polite”, as Charlie called it, with all the nobles and royalty of Europe who attended her wedding.

      It was still so strange to even be here, let alone be the cousin and bridesmaid of a princess royal—but even her dreamer’s heart couldn’t fool her. Mari had been born on the ordinary side of the family—the Greek side. Aunty Katina had been a girl from the mountains outside Athens who had boarded a boat for Australia forty years ago, and met Uncle Arthur at a Greek party in Marrickville, Sydney.

      She and Uncle Arthur had died in a car crash, never knowing their titles, never knowing Uncle Arthur had, through the destruction of the royal Marandis line of Hellenia, become the heir to a kingdom. Charlie and Lia hadn’t known their true identities until a year ago. Great-Uncle Kyri and Great-Aunt Giulia had never told a soul about their big secret: Uncle Kyri had been a Grand Duke, who’d disappeared from royal life to marry the royal nanny.

      But oh, how Great-Uncle Kyri had organised his grandchildren’s lives—even from beyond the grave! He’d taught them the language, customs and culture of Hellenia—even the royal dances—and instilled in them a deep sense of duty, so that when they’d found out their true identities and Hellenia’s need, they’d barely hesitated before making the hard decision to stay for ever and rebuild the shattered nation.

      In his will, Great-Uncle Kyri had left Toby, Charlie’s best friend and Great-Uncle Kyri’s adopted son, a duchy and two hundred and fifty million euros—and, more importantly, he had given Lia the man she loved, and Toby the bride of his heart.

      Mari sighed in her brother Stavros’s arms as they danced beside the bride and groom. If she’d been born on the other side of the family, on Uncle Arthur’s side, what would she be? To be so close to a life most people could only dream of entering, yet locked behind the permanent barrier of her birth, felt—weird.

      Weird described it to a T … but even she, the family dreamer, had no idea if she’d want to be royal. She’d seen both sides of life here, through the eyes of the media and adoring fans who couldn’t buy enough magazines about the new royals, and she honestly didn’t know if she could take a life filled with intrusions—

      “I’d like to dance with your sister, if I may.”

      A beautifully cultured yet imperious voice broke into Mari’s reverie, and she realised the bridal waltz was done; people were changing partners.

      She didn’t need to look around to know who was speaking. She knew the voice of His Royal Highness Prince Mikhail of the small Euro-Asian border kingdom of Chalnikan too well. She’d met him five months before, when he had been Charlie’s groomsman, and she’d been hearing his voice regularly since she’d returned to Hellenia to become Lia’s bridesmaid. She’d had his gifts, his notes, heard his calls—and all the messages were variations on the same theme. Come and live with me and be my lover.

      How romantic it all sounded … a prince focussing his attentions on her, an ordinary girl … and maybe she’d find it romantic if only he’d meant come and be my bride—not come to my bed for as long as I find you convenient.

      Question: how could most young girls’ fantasy—having the undivided romantic attentions of a handsome young prince—turn into a nightmare?

      Answer: if the said prince was an unlikeable, arrogant snob who’d tried to charm Jazmine and Lia, both princesses royal at the time, into marriage. But with Mari he’d only wanted a little fun during his seven days off the parental leash—in her bed.

      And how could Stavros, the most protective of brothers, who’d chased away more men than she could count since she’d turned fourteen, now step back with that look of silent awe?

      “What am I supposed to say? He’s a prince, Mari,” Stavros had protested when she’d asked him to protect her.

      As she allowed His Spoiled Highness to take her in his arms, her parents beamed. In their eyes, if Charlie could marry a princess and Lia could become one, there was no reason a prince of the blood couldn’t fall in love with Mari.

      “Weren’t you crowned Princess of the Festival four times running?” her dad had demanded the first time she’d tried to tell her parents that Mikhail’s intentions could never be honourable to her, a commoner.

      “Princess of a Greek festival in Marrickville isn’t quite the title a real prince looks for in a wife, Dad,” Mari had sighed. “And the voting was rigged. Uncle Harry was the president, and Petros’s dad was on the board, too.”


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