A Cinderella-inspired story with a twist where the hero is a commoner (and a single dad), and the heroine is the princess, is out now from author Leddy Harper, and I have an excerpt for you.
“Just so we’re all clear,” Libby lectured as soon as Ryan walked into the room. “I’m staying here with the two of you, which means no funny business.”
The royal library contained historical manuscripts rather than actual books, so I was okay with that. She’d get bored within the next thirty minutes and leave. Funny business still wouldn’t take place, but at least we’d have some privacy.
Libby moved to the far corner of the room and took a seat at the desk. It seemed she had something on her phone to keep her busy. Hopefully that would prevent her from butting into our conversation.
“What all have you done today?” I asked while leading him to a sofa on the opposite side of the room, as far from our chaperone as I could get.
“Well, we had breakfast, and then Amara wanted to go swimming, so I took her to the pool while Mandy did some shopping.”
“How old is she? Amara, I mean—not Mandy.”
His smile made him squint and the creases next to his eyes fan outward. “She’s seven.”
“If you want, I can schedule a private tour for her tomorrow. She can come here and see the palace, then head over to the royal stables. I can arrange for her to take the ponies around the estate. She’ll be able to see things all over the island.”
“You’d really do that?” Surprise lilted his voice.
“Of course. I’ll call it PR so no one will question it.”
“That’s so kind of you, Moira. She’s going to freak out when I tell her.”
Listening to him talk about Amara, no one would ever guess that she wasn’t biologically his. He lit up at the thought of making her happy, and that alone melted my heart. I hated the situation he was in, but in the short amount of time I’d spent with him, I could tell that it wouldn’t take long for him to climb his way out of the hole his wife had left him in.
“So…” He turned to face me more and put his hand on my thigh. The heat of his palm traveled through me until my entire body felt overheated. Nothing compared to his touch. “What have you been up to so far today?”
This was all so domestic.
Which only amplified my desire to be anyone other than a princess.
“I attended a few meetings this morning with my father. One was with the Department of Transportation regarding the construction on the roads along the northside of the island. Apparently, they are behind schedule and requesting more funds. That just about put me to sleep. The next was with the school board to discuss next year’s budget. I’m fairly certain I nodded off at least once during that one.”
“Shouldn’t you be paying attention in these meetings?” he asked with quiet laughter filling his tone.
“Technically, yes, but it’s incredibly difficult when I’d rather be anywhere else.”
“Is this what you have to look forward to when you wear the crown?”
I sighed, feeling like this conversation had come with a giant raincloud. “Yes, which is yet another reason I don’t want it. Honestly, Ryan…I would rather be a paleontologist.”
His brows knitted together in concentration. “Really? I wouldn’t have taken you for the type of person who’d enjoy staring at bones all day.”
“I’m not.” It was hard to bite back my smile, especially when Ryan appeared even more confused than before. “I just meant that I’d rather be literally anything other than the leader of a country. It would be one thing if I’d asked for it, but I didn’t. The thought never crossed my mind, because it was always my brother who would fulfill the royal duties.”
“Then why can’t you tell your parents that? Surely they wouldn’t want you to take that kind of responsibility on if it’s not what you want.” His innocence was rather cute.
“It doesn’t work that way. It’s not a privilege; it’s an obligation. One I can’t turn down without turning my back on my entire family. They’d never forgive me, so the only choice I have is to suck it up and accept it, because my destiny won’t change.”
“This just all seems so wrong.”
“Tell me about it.” Although, I wasn’t sure if we were still talking about my taking the throne, or if we’d veered into the topic of our destinies not matching. “Unfortunately, I can’t fight fate. This was all written in the cards long ago; trying to deny it would only waste time, not change the outcome.”
“Do you believe in fate?”
I took a moment to consider his question. “I believe that we all have a destiny, and that we can’t change it no matter what we do. As far as fate is concerned, I believe it’s the force that gets us to our destiny. If that makes sense.”
He nodded. “Yeah, I understand what you’re saying.”
“Do you have a different belief?”
Like me, he seemed to contemplate his response for a moment. “Kind of. Like, I don’t think the end of our stories is already written. I think we each have a destination, but we don’t always end up there due to the choices we make. And I see fate as more of the navigation system. It’s that annoying voice that tells you that you’ve made the wrong turn and then helps you get back on the right path. And if you don’t listen to it, it continues to reroute you. Whether or not we follow its directions is up to each of us—we were given free will, after all.”
What he was saying made sense, except I wasn’t ready to allow myself to succumb to that theory. Doing so would only give me false hope that I could change my outcome. And as much as I wanted to believe I could, the crushing blow of that not happening could potentially be fatal.
For now, I had to believe that my end had already been written.