Authors: Maisey Yates
Tags: #Contemporary romance, #Fiction
His Pregnant Princess
bestselling author Maisey Yates brings you a sensation scandal behind the palace doors in this unforgettable, digital exclusive, showing just how much trouble Royal Babies can be!
Princess Alys Bowen has always known she was destined to marry for duty, love was not an option. But with the announcement of her perfectly arranged engagement looming, for just one night she
take matters into her own hands!
Her brooding bodyguard, Liam Ryder, has always been there for her—literally putting his life—
—on the line. And in his eyes, Alys can see that he’s resisting temptation just as much as she is.
But now Alys and Liam have nine months before facing the consequences of their delicious and forbidden desires...
Don’t miss the other titles in this fantastic collection that celebrates Royal Babies all over the world!
To my own unexpected baby. You’ve brought me the greatest joy. I love you.
a lot more paparazzi to wrangle.” Liam Ryder leaned back against the wall, the motion seemingly casual. But if Alys knew one thing about Liam, it was that nothing he did or said was casual. Even his appearance was too afraid to do anything unexpected in his presence. His dark suit perfectly pressed. Not one gleaming black hair out of place.
Alys studied him, her bodyguard, confidant, best friend, and, for all intents and purposes, her date to this extremely lavish wedding. She caught herself studying him far too often, in truth. The sharp angles of his face. The hard lines of his body. And she found herself, lately, keeping track of how many smiles she was able to coax from that serious mouth of his. “True, but then, normally, I’m not overshadowed by tech royalty. Or more specifically, technology’s biggest rivals turned lovers. Julia Anderson and Ferro Calvaresi are the story of the moment, and for once, I am not. Not even the newly married couple can rival them for newsworthiness.”
“Disappointed?” he asked, a small smile curving his lips, his pale blue eyes glittering with humor. A point for her Liam Smile Book.
“Not in the least. Perhaps I can eat without fear of being caught in an awkward chewing photograph. ‘Princess Alys gnaws on shrimp cocktail.’ Such a memorable caption. Newsworthy. Whatever else would they write about if I didn’t chew indelicately?”
Nothing half so newsworthy as the announcement of her engagement to a man she barely knew, which was coming soon. Much sooner than she would like. All things considered, she would rather see the shrimp headline.
“The public love things like that. They like to know you eat shellfish, just like they do.”
“The people’s princess. Lover of common foods,” she said drily.
“Quick, eat before the media’s new fascination break up,” he said.
“Are you kidding? If they decide to break up, cameras will most definitely be on them. The fireworks will be unbelievable. Me chewing on shrimp will have nothing on the spectacle they’ll make.”
“A reprieve, then.”
“Indeed.” And it almost made her want to ask him to dance. But she couldn’t. They both knew that. It was one thing for him to go with her to events like this. He appeared as a date, dressed for the occasion, but he was essentially a shadow. Never stepping into the spotlight. Never calling attention to himself.
Since he was well over six feet tall with arresting good looks, it was a skill she marveled at. And yet he did it with ease. He’d been her bodyguard for seven years, and she’d never been able to understand how he managed it.
Considering that, he probably wouldn’t appreciate her dragging him onto the dance floor. And she imagined her father wouldn’t appreciate it either. A man like Liam was wholly unsuitable to make personal contact with her royal personage, at least in her father’s estimation.
Unless, of course, he was moving her out of the way and jumping in front of a bullet for her—no one seemed to have a problem with
Seemed hypocritical to her, but she didn’t make the rules.
And then there was the small matter of Damien. The man to whom she would be engaged. The man she would eventually marry. This understanding had been in place for years and had to be preserved, which seemed to mean she wasn’t allowed to touch men of any sort. Not while the understanding was still being...more clearly understood. And certainly not now that the time was ticking on it all becoming more official.
It’s time, Alys. Damien is ready to put things in motion for marriage. Your public relationship will start soon, followed by a more official announcement. Then the wedding.
Alys closed off the memory of her father’s voice, of the conversation they’d had just before she’d left for this wedding.
The clock was ticking on her freedom, louder now than ever.
She looked at Liam again and her heart jolted a little. It did that sometimes when she saw him. Inconvenient since he was always around.
How she wished she could put marriage off. At least marriage to Damien. It was difficult to feel any excitement or even openness to that relationship. She couldn’t even imagine wanting him. Not when only one man had held the starring role in her fantasies. The man she wasn’t ever allowed to make a move on. The man she could never ask to dance.
Oh, Liam Ryder was far too many things. Bodyguard, confidant, best friend—and the man she wanted desperately as her lover.
The bride and groom made their way out to the dance floor and Alys’s heart tightened. That was what she wanted. She wanted love. The kind that made vowing to give your entire life to someone seem like a joy rather than a terrifying chore.
She ignored the ache in her heart that said she already had that. It didn’t count if the man you felt it for didn’t feel it back.
And it especially didn’t count if he was a man you would be absolutely forbidden from making vows to, even if the love was mutual.
“The shrimp isn’t all that good, Liam. I’m ready to go back to the room.”
And because she was the princess, what she wanted was all that mattered. At least in this case. She looked at Liam and her heart sped up.
at least in this case.
The sad fact was, when it came to other things, the most important things, what she wanted would always be out of reach.
hot water run over his shoulders and release the tension. Slowly. It would never go away entirely. It was an impossibility. Guarding the life of another person twenty-four hours a day meant rest wasn’t optional.
And there was no one else to whom he trusted Alys’s safety.
Her old guards had missed a threat that had nearly cost the young princess her life, and Liam had taken a bullet—thankfully only to the flak jacket—in order to save her.
And he would do it again. Because the royal family of Brynland had his allegiance. Because their country had been his home when he’d had none. Because he’d found purpose in their household.
And because he cared so deeply for their princess.
Another reason he could never fully relax.
Alys had a strange hold on him. Her safety and well-being seemed inextricably linked to his own. If anything happened to her, he was certain he would forfeit his life. Then there were the other ways Alys had hold of him.
His body tightened at the thought and he pushed it away. She was too young, among other things. He was ten years older and a hell of a lot more jaded. One marriage behind him already.
Then there was the small matter of him not being royalty. The Bowens had an impeccable lineage containing royal blood from many European lines, and they did not marry commoners.
It was Alys who’d had a prospect pegged from a very early age. Royal, suitable in every way. All the things Liam was most definitely not.
A good thing he had something to keep him in line. Another man standing in the wings.
He laughed and turned the water off, stepping out of the shower and wrapping a towel around his waist.
A strange thing to want to protect a woman from everything. From danger, from censure...and all the while wishing more than anything that you could ravish her.
But it was his life, and had been for far longer than it should have been. His devotion to Alys and to the Royal Family had been one of the main factors in the dissolution of his marriage. He’d never touched Alys, never violated the vows he’d made to his wife or to Alys’s father, but his life was centered around the princess. And that meant it couldn’t be centered around the woman he’d married. A fact Neve had come to resent, and he couldn’t blame her.
Neve had been aware of what he’d done for a living before they’d married, and what it meant to him, but she hadn’t truly understood until after they’d taken their vows. Until she’d had to spend half her nights alone.
No wife wanted to share her husband with another woman. And that’s what she’d been doing.
It was what any woman in his life would be doing. Even if he never touched Alys, she would always be a part of him.
Because Alys had his loyalty first. And always. Which was why he was staying single. And why it was becoming harder to ignore his attraction to the beautiful princess.
Three years of celibacy was taxing on a man’s self-control.
He pushed open the bathroom door and walked out into his room, his hand on the towel. And he froze. Before he saw her, he knew she was there. Because he could feel her. It was one reason he was able to protect her so easily. He always knew where Alys was. What she was doing. If she was breathing.
She was here now. And she was breathing very hard.
He looked into the corner of the room and saw her sitting in one of the wide armchairs. In an instant, he took in every detail, as he was trained to do. He evaluated the danger. Her curves were barely covered by a cream silk bathrobe, nipples visible through the thin fabric, her strawberry-gold hair loose, damp and curling. Her makeup was gone, her skin pink as though it was freshly scrubbed.
Yes, he evaluated the danger and found it to be very, very real.
“What are you doing in here? Is everything all right?”
She shook her head, her eyes wide.
“What’s wrong?” he asked, crossing the room and moving to the door that connected his suite to hers. “Is someone...”
“Nothing like that, Liam. The gates haven’t been breached.”
“Then what is it?” He turned to face her, his posture automatically going rigid, as though he were on duty. And not bare-ass naked under the towel he was clinging to for all he was worth.
“I need to talk to you.”
That in and of itself wasn’t so strange. They talked a lot. Especially when they were away on trips like this and sharing a room. Often they would sit in the common area and talk for hours. But not like this. Not in a bedroom. Not while he was wearing a towel and she was wearing a robe that allowed him to accurately judge her cup size from ten paces.
“It couldn’t have waited?”
“No,” she said, shaking her head. “It’s been waiting, Liam.” Her words echoed in the room. “How much longer do we leave it? Until I’m engaged? Until I’m married and we can never speak of it?”
“No. I was watching them, the bride and groom. They love each other and it’s a beautiful thing. But more than that...they chose to be together. I envy that, more than you can ever know. That endless, wonderful array of choices that were set out before them. A world open. Even Ferro and Julia, the business rivals, they have all these odds stacked against them and yet, they chose each other. Even though it makes no sense. I don’t have that luxury. I can never choose a man who doesn’t make any sense. I can never choose the man that I really want. And I have spent a long time pretending it didn’t matter. Prepared to do my duty. When I get back from the wedding, my father and I are meeting to discuss when exactly the engagement should become finalized. I’m twenty-four and that’s leaving things a bit too long in his opinion.” She took a deep breath. “That means that this can’t wait. You know that.”
“What is it you’re talking about?” he asked, his entire body tight, ready to snap in two.
He knew. It had been there between them for longer than it should have been. He’d thought he’d hidden it well. He’d thought she hadn’t realized how much he wanted her. He’d even convinced himself it was one-sided, because that was far less dangerous than acknowledging that she might want him, too.
“I’m not going to say it. And it isn’t because I’m a coward,” he said, his throat constricted, his voice rough. “It’s because I have been trusted with the task of protecting you, which means every thought I’ve ever entertained of doing something to the contrary has been in violation of my orders. Any time I have allowed myself to be distracted because you were on my mind—your face, your body and not your safety—I compromised you. And if I were to speak the words now, or act on the impulse that I felt, I would be leaving my role as protector behind completely in favor of becoming a predator, and I will not do that.” He took a step closer to her, his hands trembling. “But if you say the words. If you cross the line...”
“I’ve been good all of my life. Never causing scandal, never doing anything beyond what was expected of me. But that’s because I think I never wanted anything enough to make rebellion worth it. But I do now. I want you,” she said, without hesitation, without pause. “That’s why I’m here. Because I will not have everything decided for me, and when I go into that meeting with my father I will go in feeling like I’ve at least lived some of the life I wanted. I can’t have everything I want. My position makes that impossible. But...but dammit, Liam, I will have a piece of what I want.” She stood up, her voice trembling, her hands trembling. She was a force of anger and sadness, beautiful and desolate. She made him ache.
She always made him ache.
“In your one last grab for the things you want...you would choose me?” he asked, not trusting his voice. Not trusting anything at the moment.
“Every time,” she said. “I would choose you every time.”