Chapter Two Heart of Mine

My debut novel is HEART OF MINE, a royal romance with a touch of mystery and suspense. It is set in the small fictional kingdom of Coradova, a breathtaking Mediterranean paradise near France.

They were never supposed to fall in love.

He was the Crown Prince of Coradova, and she was the one girl he shouldn't want. Can they overcome a centuries-old prejudice, or will they both have to make the ultimate sacrifice for their one true love?

If you missed it, you can read Chapter One of HEART OF MINE right here!

Read on for Chapter Two!


CHAPTER TWO:

The following night, I nervously fumbled with my hair, wanting it to look just right for my date with Ethan. In the reflection of the bathroom mirror, I saw my mom smile compassionately as her hands took over with my hair.

She was beautiful, with curly light brown hair and creamy white skin. Her smile was the only physical feature that I’d inherited. Personality-wise, we were as similar as two peas in a pod. Both creative and bold, stubborn, with fiery tempers.

“I can’t believe how quickly the time’s gone by,” Mom murmured, her voice melancholy and hands gentle on my hair. “It seems like just yesterday that you were running around barefoot, climbing up trees and getting into mischief with Alexander. And now here you are, getting all dolled up for your very first date.” Her hand squeezed my shoulder, our eyes meeting in the reflection of the mirror as she smiled proudly. “You’ve blossomed into such a beautiful young lady, Maddy.”

Pleased by her compliment, I smiled softly and studied my reflection. Deep chocolate brown eyes were set over high cheekbones, and unruly waves of dark hair reached past my shoulder blades. At nearly 5’11” I seemed to tower over most of the girls at my school, and even some of the boys.

Smiling fondly, my artistic mother generously helped apply my makeup as I rapidly tried to calm my nerves. I had just put on my high-heeled shoes when the phone rang. A few minutes later, my mom reappeared in the doorway, her expression grim.

“It’s Arianna,” Mom said gravely. “She’s in the hospital.”

The drive to the hospital passed by in a blur. Before I knew it, I was standing in a hospital room surrounded by sterile white walls and beeping machines. Clutching her hand in mine, I stared anxiously at my best friend. Princess Arianna Isabelle Camilla de Coradova. She was petite and graceful, with long raven black hair that hung in waves down her back.

Hooked up to an IV with medicine to numb her pain, she was unusually pale, and her thick hair seemed to lack its usual luster. She grimaced slightly and my grip on her hand tightened. Arianna squeezed back in reassurance.

“I’m sorry that I ruined your date,” she apologized, as Alexander walked into the room. His worried gaze traveled over his sister before settling on me.

He paused mid-stride as his eyes took in the sight of my lavender dress and curled hair. A tendril of warmth curled through my stomach at the brief flicker of interest that sparked in his eyes. For a moment, he had looked at me with the same interest that he’d shown in those girls on the beach yesterday.

Alexander blinked and then smiled, showing no emotion other than his usual brotherly affection. He moved to stand at Arianna’s other side but his words were directed at me.

“Don’t you look all dressed up. What’s the occasion?”

“She has a hot date,” Arianna purred, winking at me. Alexander frowned, and the look he turned my way was simmering with dark emotion. Was he just being over-protective as usual, or was he actually jealous?

A moment later, the Royal Family’s private physician walked into the room with the king and queen. He explained the situation in complicated medical terms that I barely understood. I caught various words on occasion. A tumor on the liver. Benign. Surgery. The rest was hazy.

I watched nervously as they prepped her for surgery, biting my lip so hard that I tasted blood. Someone grabbed my hand and I glanced up to see Alexander standing next to me.

“Don’t worry. Everything will be all right,” he said confidently.

He slipped his arm around my shoulders, pulling me close as we watched them wheel Arianna out of the room, followed by their parents. I was trying to be brave, but the second she was out of sight, my nerves got the better of me. Tears spilling down my cheeks, I turned toward Alexander and clutched desperately at his shirt.

“Do you promise, Alex? I can’t lose her. She’s my best friend.”
His hands framed my face, and he looked down at me with intense blue eyes.

“She’s going to be fine,” Alexander answered calmly. “The surgery will only take a few hours, and after six weeks she’ll be as good as new.”

He kissed my forehead and pulled me into his fierce embrace. Slipping my arms around his waist, I pressed my tear-streaked face against his neck and held on tightly. I thought I felt a tremble go through him, but it could have been caused by my shaking. Alexander held me close in his arms, murmuring soft and soothing words in Italian, trying to help calm me. I felt my worries begin to fade away after a while.

My fear was replaced by a sudden awareness of Alexander and how his body was pressed closely against mine. His chest was wide and firm under my cheek. One arm was wrapped tightly around my waist while he gently stroked the brown curls running down my back.

My heart began to race and I could feel nervous butterflies in my stomach. I knew that I should pull away, but I felt a strong desire to stay wrapped up in his arms. What was happening to me? There were new, unexpected feelings swirling through me—very unbrotherly feelings. Slowly, I forced myself to step back out of his embrace and shyly peeked up at his face.

He was watching me, his expression so serious and intense that it made my heart skip a beat. There was something in his eyes, the way he was looking at me, that was different. For the first time, I wondered if Alexander saw me as more than a friend.

I ran a nervous hand down my dress, unintentionally drawing his gaze away from my face. He slowly took in the sight of my lavender dress again, and my cheeks were burning by the time his eyes drifted back up to mine.

“This date you’re supposed to go on,” Alexander said, his voice sounding ragged, “is it with Ethan?”

“Yes,” I murmured, watching in fascination as his eyes darkened infinitesimally.

“I thought Ethan was just a friend?”

I bit my lip, and smiled sheepishly. “Well, he is. But …”

My words trailed off, unsure of what to say. I had hoped that Ethan might become more than just a friend after our date tonight. But now, my feelings for Alexander had suddenly changed. I could see him as more than just a friend or protective big brother. He was this handsome and charming boy that made my heart flutter and the desire to be held in his arms was unexpectedly strong. I didn’t know what I wanted anymore.

Ethan … or Alexander?

“But?” Alexander prompted, drawing my thoughts away from my confused heart.

I was saved from having to respond by the ringing of my phone. I fumbled through my tiny purse and yanked it out, glancing briefly at the screen before answering.

“Hey, Ethan.”

“Hey, Maddy. I got your message. Is the princess going to be all right?”

“She’s in surgery right now. They found a tumor on her liver, but it’s not cancerous. The doctor said she’s going to be fine.” A shiver of fear ran through me but I brushed it aside.

“So … do you want to reschedule our date?” Ethan asked.

His question gave me pause, and my gaze unintentionally flitted to Alexander. Leaning one shoulder against the wall, he was watching me with a serious expression. My heart thumped unsteadily. I had waited all year for Ethan to ask me out but now I was hesitant. This spark with Alexander had unexpectedly blazed to life and I felt an eager longing to explore where it might take me.

Alexander held my gaze as I tried to decide what to do, his blue eyes warm and inviting. Images of being wrapped in his arms flashed through my head, and for a brief moment, I wondered what it would be like to kiss him. My expression must have given something away because Alexander’s eyes began to smolder with what looked like desire. I felt a wave of yearning sweep through me. Without thinking, I took a step toward him. Alexander moved away from the wall at the same time, meeting me halfway.

“Maddy?” Ethan asked suddenly, making me jump. The phone was still held up to my ear, but for a second I had forgotten all about it.

“Sorry, Ethan,” I replied, forcing myself to look away from Alexander’s intense gaze. “Yes, I think we should reschedule. I want to be here when Arianna gets out of surgery.”

“That’s what I figured,” Ethan said, with a hint of disappointment. “I’m glad she’s going to be okay. I’ll see you at school.”

“See you on Monday.”

When I hung up, Alexander grasped my hand and tugged me closer until we were standing only inches apart, our bodies almost touching. His thumb softly traced over my knuckles, making my pulse quicken.

“I should say that I’m sorry about your date,” Alexander began, raising one hand to softly touch my cheek. My breath caught as he looked directly into my eyes. “But I’m not.”

His words sent a spiral of warmth through me. I was drawn to him like never before and couldn’t stop my gaze from drifting to his lips, wondering how they would feel against mine. His grip on my hand tightened. My eyes darted back up to find him watching me, the air between us charged with sizzling heat. My heart began hammering inside my chest as Alexander took the final step between us.

“Maddy,” he murmured, his expression tender.

The door suddenly opened with a loud creak that effectively ruined the moment. The King and Queen of Coradova entered, trailed by my parents. We moved apart instantly, but not before the king’s cobalt blue gaze had caught sight us. His lips compressed into a disapproving frown.

“Alexander,” King Mathis ordered quietly. “A word, please.”

“Yes, sir.” Alexander glanced at me, a chagrined smile on his face, and winked covertly before leaving the room with his father.

As I sat down to wait through the long hours of Arianna’s surgery, my thoughts wandered away, shifting between images of Ethan and Alexander. I was confused by my longing for both handsome, charming boys. Tender emotions stirred within my heart for each of them, but it was hard to deny that the pull toward Alexander was stronger.

The king and Alexander returned after half an hour. The prince didn’t look at me as he took the vacant seat across from me, and for the following two hours we barely even made eye contact. Uncertainty swirled through me, wondering if I had imagined the connection that had sparked between us.

Lost in my thoughts, I was staring at his profile when he suddenly glanced over to catch my gaze on him. Our eyes locked. His warm blue eyes flashed briefly with regret, then his face settled into the familiar mask of brotherly affection.

Disappointment stabbed through me, and the sharp pain of embarrassment was acute. I couldn’t believe that I had so badly misunderstood what was happening between us. Before our parents had walked in, I was certain that Alexander was going to kiss me. Now it appeared that I was nothing more than a sister to him.



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