Hi, everyone! Carol here! I’ve got a new book coming out later this month and while I was contemplating what to blog about today, Prince Malachi tapped me on the shoulder and reminded me that while I mentioned a press conference in Hand-Me-Down Princess, even he wasn’t sure what had happened. So here it is – although he insisted on telling me what happened just prior to the press conference as well! This is a sort of a short prequel to Prince Malachi and Jessabelle’s story, releasing August 31! It’s on special preorder price on Amazon for $2.99 until it releases and then it will go to regular price of 3.99.
Prince Malachi Jedidiah Richard Louis Van Rennsalaer of Mevendia stood in his father’s office wondering what was so important that the king cancel his son’s plans for the day. His father hadn’t been there to meet Malachi, though. Instead, he was left sitting in the leather wingback chair across the desk from his father’s. Malachi thought about texting his assistant to see if he knew why the wait. He wouldn’t text his father. One did not ask King Antonio why he was late, even if one was his son.
The king was never late.
Everyone else was unexpectedly early.
Malachi glanced at his watch again and admitted his father rarely ran more than a few minutes late without a very good reason. Now, at twenty minutes, maybe it was time to start worrying that something, somewhere, was very wrong.
Before he could wander too far down an imaginary path strewn with horrible possibilities, the door behind the desk opened, and his father walked in. He set his hand-tooled leather padfolio on the desk and took a seat.
“We have a matter discuss,” the king started.
Only years of practice kept Malachi from rolling his eyes. “When you canceled all of my appointments today, I figured you had something on your mind.”
His father opened the top drawer on his left. “I signed a contract this morning.”
Malachi shrugged. “So? You sign contracts all the time.”
“Not like this one.” His slid it over.
The words at the top of the first page jumped out at Malachi.
Malachi Jedidiah Richard Louis, Prince of Mevendia
Jessabelle Grace Keller
Malachi’s jaw dropped as he tried to assimilate the information. “What?” he finally croaked.
“You’re getting married.”
He glanced up to see his father’s impassive face. “I’m getting what?”
“Married. The monarch signs marriage contracts for the members of the immediate royal family. You know that.”
Malachi shot to his feet, leaning over the desk with both hands propped against us. “You also promised all of us you’d let us find our own spouses and then sign a contract as a formality.”
“Your sister has had a marriage contract for years.”
“And her fiancé is dead!” Malachi stood straight and turned to pace around the office, his hands running down his face. “You signed that contract before her first birthday. Even if Nicklaus had survived that car accident, who’s to say if the marriage would have happened.”
“It would have.” King Antonio seemed certain.
“You wouldn’t give your own daughter a choice?”
The king’s face didn’t change. “Sometimes we have to do things because of who we are and circumstances outside our control. Her marriage contract was one of those things. It still is.”
“But he’s dead! She’ll be free to marry whoever she wants a week after the wedding was supposed to happen!” Something Malachi couldn’t define crossed his father’s face. “So why me? Why not William? Shouldn’t he be first in line for this wedding since he’s the crown prince and all?”
“No.” His father stood and walked toward him. “I know this is not how you anticipated our meeting about a marriage contract would go, but this is how it had to happen.”
“Why? Who is this girl?”
“The daughter of one of my best friends growing up.”
“So because of that, I have to marry his daughter?”
His father gave him a hard glare. “This is the end of the discussion. The press conference starts in ten minutes. You will be asked to stand next to her, smile like this was always your plan, and make sure the people feel this is a good thing.” He handed Malachi a velvet box. “Give her this.” His father picked the engagement ring?!
The door behind the desk opened again. This time, Malachi felt only relief. “Nana Yvette, my father has lost his mind. Tell him.”
His great-grandmother gave him a look only a former queen could master, and Malachi immediately felt the unspoken reprimand. “Antonio, give us a moment.”
She was also the only one who could order the king around. Even the king’s mother, Malachi’s grandmother, didn’t command the respect Nana Yvette had from everyone, including her headstrong grandson.
His father glared at him. “Ten minutes.”
Malachi glared back until the door closed leaving him alone with his great-grandmother. He turned pleading eyes to her. “Nana, you’ve got to convince him he can’t make me go through with this.”
She smiled at him, her still-clear blue eyes filled with compassion. “Dear Malachi, you and I both know when he makes up his mind, it’s nearly impossible to change it.”
“But you can convince him,” Malachi pleaded.
She waved a hand at him. “Don’t sound so desperate, sweetheart.”
“I am desperate, Nana.”
Nana walked toward him and placed gentle hands on either side of his face. “Sweet Malachi, sometimes things happen for reasons we don’t understand. Sometimes, it’s years before we see that, all along, God has been weaving a beautiful tapestry. Sometimes, we only look at the back, where the colors crisscross and tangle and make no sense. When we turn it over? Beauty beyond anything we could imagine.” Tears filled her eyes, and Malachi knew he would do anything in his power to fulfill her wishes. “I have prayed for this day for far longer than you can begin to imagine, my boy. Can you trust me when I say this is part of your tapestry? The time has come to add a new thread to the Mevendian tapestry that began all those centuries ago. It is time for you to bring in that new thread by marrying Ms. Keller.”
“How can you be so sure, Nana?” he whispered.
She gave him the gentle smile he loved, the one that told him everything would be all right. “Trust me.”
Malachi nodded. “I trust you.”
“Then do not fight your father on this. You will not win, and you and your bride will end up being the losers in the long run. Now, straighten up, shoulders back, and remember who you are. You are Malachi, Prince of Mevendia, but more importantly, you are Malachi, co-heir with the Prince of Peace. Let Him guide your steps.”
A sharp rap on the door gave them a second’s warning before it opened. Malachi’s assistant stuck his head in. “It’s time, sir.”
Malachi nodded. “I’m coming. Am I at least to meet this girl before we walk out there?”
“Ms. Keller has taken ill, sir.”
Malachi wished he could say the same. Instead, he straightened his tie and tugged on his shirt sleeves under his suit jacket as he walked the few feet to the outer door of the press room. His father looked him up and down. Would he be found wanting this time? He got a nod of approval as the press secretary made his announcement.
“And to end today’s briefing, King Antonio has a special announcement to make.”
That was their cue. Malachi followed his father into the room as the gathered press corp applauded politely.
His father stepped to the dais. “Thank you for remaining a few more minutes. I have an announcement to make. Prince Malachi will take your questions afterward.”
Nothing like being thrown into the deep end.
“Yesterday, I signed a contract for Prince Malachi to wed Ms. Jessabelle Keller.” The murmurs in the room picked up, though everyone’s eyes stayed pinned to Malachi. “Unfortunately, Ms. Keller has taken ill this morning and will be unable to attend this gathering.” He turned and motioned to Malachi. “Prince Malachi will answer your questions.”
How? He didn’t know anything. As his father stepped to the side, he tapped a piece of paper on the dais. The answers to some of the questions were there.
“When is the wedding?” one reporter called.
“We have decided on a short engagement,” Malachi answered, seeing the date on the page. “January 16, 2016.”
“Two weeks?” several asked at once. “Is she pregnant?” someone yelled.
Malachi simply glared that direction. “Mr. Keller is in poor health. Ms. Keller and I are planning our wedding to make certain he will be able to take part in the ceremony.”
“How did you meet Ms. Keller?” a female reporter called.
“Our fathers were friends in their youth.” Simple answers, he reminded himself. No outright lies.
“Why haven’t you been seen together? You escorted Lizbeth Bence to Prince Richard’s wedding in Montevaro Christmas Eve and to the New Year’s Eve Ball.”
He glanced down to see that answer prepared for him as well. “Ms. Keller has been occupied with the care of her father and has been unable to attend any official functions for some time. Ms. Bence is a friend and has been for many years, nothing more.” Would they buy that? The tabloids announced Lizbeth was pregnant with his child at least twice a year.
“How did you propose?” another female reporter called.
I have no idea he wanted to say, but instead went with, “I have never discussed parts of my private life with the media. This is one of those things I would prefer to keep between the two of us.”
The press secretary came to his side. “Thank you for your time, Prince Malachi.”
Malachi smiled and stepped to the side. “My pleasure.”
The press secretary went on. “Details about the wedding will be released as they are available. Prince Malachi has other business to get to so I will answer any questions I can.”
Malachi nodded to the room, turned, and walked out.
* * *
Now what is right! To see what happens next, preorder your copy of Hand-Me-Down Princess now!
SUPER thanks to Eva at Ablaze Studios and
my (second) cousin (in-law), Shelby D., for the bridal pic!
Because you’ve read this far… ;) One Kindle copy of Hand-Me-Down Princess to the best answer for the question below (yep! totally subjective! and I’m the judge :D).
Hand-Me-Down Princess has a big ol’ twist near the end. What do you think it could be? The more creative the better ;). The winner doesn’t have to be anywhere near right! But…
If you guess close enough to the reality, I’ll send you an autographed paper copy (US only) when they’re available!
Prince Malachi Van Renssalaer of Mevendia is getting married. The problem? He’s never even met his bride. His father arranged everything, right down to the marriage contract. Malachi swears to himself that he will be nothing like his father in the ways that count – including his fidelity to his wife.
Jessabelle Keller would happily spend her entire life in obscurity, but her father once saved the life of a future king. Before he dies, her father is committed to seeing that king make good on his promise to have one of his sons marry her so she would be taken care of for life.
No sooner than Prince Malachi and Jessabelle return from their honeymoon, they find themselves dealing with both private trauma and the very public drama of groundless accusations from the press. Just as they begin to weave their fragile trust back together, a ghost from the king’s past arrives and threatens everything they’ve ever held dear.
Secrets have a funny way of coming out and this one could rip the faith of the country in their leaders to shreds. Malachi is determined to protect Jessabelle no matter what it takes, but will it ever be enough for her to not feel like a Hand-Me-Down Princess?