HER ROYAL CHRISTMAS SECRET
Princess Sasha of Sergenia was born to rule, not change dirty diapers. But after threats force her family into exile, Sasha becomes "Sara," a nurturing nanny in Chantaine. Now, rather than having servants wait on her during holiday festivities, Sasha is caring for construction specialist Gavin Sinclair's children for Christmas. Baby Adelaide and five-year-old Sam win her heart, but their father makes her pulse pound...
For Gavin, "Sara" is a holiday miracle. Since his late wife died in childbirth, Gavin has struggled to keep his life afloat and his family together. This unexpected addition has brightened his world—and made him wonder if love might be on the horizon. He knows the mysterious nanny has secrets aplenty. But is true love enough to create a fairy-tale ending under the mistletoe for the sexy single dad and the lovely royal?
"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.
Leanne Banks is a New York Times bestselling author with over sixty books to her credit. A book lover and romance fan from even before she learned to read, Leanne has always treasured the way that books allow us to go to new places and experience the lives of wonderful characters. Always ready for a trip to the beach, Leanne lives in Virginia with her family and her Pomeranian muse.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
From the porch, Sara heard the sound of screaming. If she hadn't known better, she might have assumed the sound wasn't human. The sound of scrambling footsteps followed and the door opened.
A tall, rumpled-looking man stared at her as he held a screaming red-faced baby, and a young boy seemed to be attached to his leg.
"Are you Sara?" he asked, out of breath. "Sara Smith. The palace sent you?"
"Yes," she said.
He looked her up and down. "Thank you for coming," he said over the cries of the baby in his arms. "No offense, but you look terribly young. Are you old enough to be a nanny?"
Sara had scrubbed her face clean of cosmetics with the exception of lip gloss. All part of her temporary new role. She certainly didn't need to wear the heavy stage makeup required of a concert pianist. "I'll take that as a compliment," she said. "I'm twenty-seven."
"Oh," he said, surprise crossing his features. "I never would have guessed." The baby let out another howl. "We're having a rough day, so if you want to give them juice and cookies to calm them down, that's fine."
He dragged his foot, with the attached child down the hallway. "This is Sam," he said, nodding toward the boy.
"Hello, Sam," Sara said tentatively. Although she'd known the family she was going to be working with was still reeling from a loss, this wasn't exactly what she'd envisioned.
"And I'm holding Adelaide," the man said. "As you can see, she's a handful."
"Yes," Sara said. "Mr. Sinclair?"
"Oh," he said, shaking his head. "Call me Gavin. You may be calling me some other names as the day wears on," he said with a crooked smile on his face.
She met his gaze for a long moment and saw a combination of weariness and determined humor in his chocolate-brown eyes. He wasn't conventionally handsome. Sara had met much more smoothly handsome men in her life. His rough strong features might have put her off, but his dark eyebrows and hard jaw were offset by that crooked smile and eyes that crinkled with humor even as his daughter shrieked directly into his ear.
He looked at Adelaide and stroked her cheek. "Sweetheart, you're going to be fine." He glanced at Sara. "She's been cranky lately. I don't know what's bothering her. Drooling up a storm, nose running, but no fever. Maybe a midmorning nap will help. Let me show you where everything is," he said. He held out his hand to Sam. "Help me out, bud. Let's show the pretty lady around."
Sam reluctantly detached himself from Gavin's leg and held Gavin's hand with both of his while Gavin explained the layout of the house, which, in addition to the master bedroom, contained a small nursery in the back, a laundry room and two additional small bedrooms, one filled with the little boy's books and toys. The other was positioned between the nursery and what she assumed was Sam's room."This is your bedroom. I hope you don't mind sharing a bathroom with Sam," Gavin said.
"Not at all," she said, appreciating the way the morning sun shone through the window. The room was small and decorated with neutral quality linens, and it felt cozy. The whole house felt safe. A trickle of relief slid through her. This could work, she thought.
Gavin continued down the hall and waved his hand toward another bedroom containing a desk and computer along with exercise equipment. "Here's the master. As you can tell, I've been trying to work some at home, but I haven't been all that successful." Adelaide had quieted and was letting out little moans.
Gavin turned again toward her. "You've seen the small formal parlor. We're using the den as a playroom. Lots of toys and books, movies and favorite television shows. Feel free to use whatever you need."
An old upright piano against the far wall immediately grabbed Sara's attention. She gasped in delight. It was all she could do not to race over and feel the keys beneath her fingers. "You have a piano."
Gavin nodded. "You play?"
In concert halls all over the world, she thought, rubbing her hands together. But not very much lately. She shrugged. "A little."
"I can't promise it's been tuned recently," he warned. "The piano hasn't been a priority."
"Of course," she said, putting her hands behind her to hide her eagerness. Bless Princess Ericka. She had promised to try to provide a piano for her.
"Feel free to play whenever you want," he said. "I hate to dump all this on you and leave so quickly, but I've got to get the palace construction schedule back on target. There's a cell phone for your use on the kitchen counter and a pad of paper with all the contact numbers, including emergency numbers, you may need. Hopefully you won't need the emergency numbers, but with young children, you never know." He paused and glanced first at Adelaide as she rubbed her eyes, and then he glanced down at Sam.
Gavin sighed, and the sweet sadness in all three faces clutched at Sara's heart.
"Are you sure you're ready for this? I don't know what you've been told, but we've been having a rough time lately."
"I've been briefed," she assured him. Determination coursed through her. She'd been put here for a reason. She would help this family find happiness and security again. It was her destiny. "I'm quite ready to care for your children. Now, move along to the palace. I'm sure they're waiting for you." She opened her arms to take Adelaide.
The baby stared at her suspiciously, but allowed Sara to hold her. "Come along, Sam. We're going to have juice and cookies. Give your father a big hug so he can have a good day at work. We all have our jobs to do. I'll need your help with Adelaide."
Gavin hugged Sam then grabbed a computer bag and headed for the door. "Call if you need anything."
"We'll be fine. Have a good day," she called, feeling a bit like the magical nannies she'd watched in old movies while she was growing up. She could do this, she told herself. Children were so sweet.
Suddenly Sara felt Adelaide clamp her teeth onto her collarbone with the force of a mini shark. Pain tore through her, and she couldn't swallow a surprised shriek. Adelaide pulled back at the sound and began to howl.
Sam kicked her in the shin.
Pain vibrated through her. Sara lost her breath. "Why did you do that?"
"You hurt my sister," he told her, crossing his arms over his chest.
"I didn't hurt her," Sara said over Adelaide's cries. "She bit me!"
Sam met her gaze for a long moment. "Oh. I think her mouth hurts. Can I have my juice and cookie?"
"First you must apologize for kicking me," she said as Adelaide's wails softened to moans.
"I'm sorry," he said reluctantly. "Can I—"
"Then you must make your request properly. May I please have juice and a cookie?"
He nodded. "Yes. You can."
Sara sighed. "Repeat after me. May I please have juice and a cookie?"
Sam relented and repeated her word for word.
"Well done," she said. "I'll get it for you right now."
Juggling Adelaide from one arm to the other, Sara served Sam's snack at the table. Remembering she'd once had a toothache and that ice had seemed to help, she then returned to the refrigerator, pulled out an ice cube, wrapped it in a clean washcloth and offered it to Adelaide.
Silence followed. Five blessed seconds of silence. Sara took a deep breath as she watched Sam cram the cookie into his mouth and Adelaide gnaw on the cold washcloth. Maybe there was hope. But heaven help her, she couldn't serve juice and cookies all day.
It took far longer than it should have, but Sara crammed Adelaide in a stroller and retied Sam's shoes so they could go for a walk. She remembered as a child how much she'd craved being outside. Unlike the nannies she'd watched in movies, her nannies had kept her and her siblings inside the gloomy palace, which had always seemed to need repairs.
"Isn't it a beautiful day?" she said to Sam. "It's December, but it feels like May."
Sam just shrugged.
"Don't you enjoy being outside?" she asked.
He shrugged again. "I guess."
"I hear you lived in North Dakota. Isn't it very cold there?"
Sam nodded. "It snowed a lot. There's no snow here."
"Do you miss the snow?" He shrugged. "I guess."
"What else do you miss?" she asked as she pushed the stroller.
A long silence followed. "Mommy," he finally whispered in a voice so low the wind almost carried it away.
Her heart contracted in sympathy and she squeezed Sam's shoulder. He immediately stiffened and drew back. Too early for hugs, she thought, making a mental note of it.
Several moments passed. "My dad keeps saying we can go to the beach, but we've only been once." Sam finally said.
Sara couldn't imagine taking both children to the beach, but perhaps she could enlist the help of someone. "Maybe we can do that soon. Just for a walk. The water may be too cool for a real swim."
Sam squinted his eyes up at her. "Yeah," he said skeptically.
Sara felt a ripple of challenge from that skeptical gaze. She frowned. "We'll go to the beach soon. You'll see."
Sam glanced down at the stroller. "Adelaide's asleep."
"Oh, heavens. We need to get her back to her crib," she said as she turned around.
"She'll wake up as soon as we get home."
"No. She won't," Sara insisted. "I just need to ease her into her crib."
"She's gonna wake up," Sam said, knowingly.
Turned out, Sam was right.
The rest of the day was a blur. Adelaide napped, but not for very long. Sam dozed. Sara served the children an early dinner and they were all half watching television as Gavin walked in the door. Sam immediately snapped to attention.
"How did your first day go with Sara?" Gavin asked.
Adelaide kicked her feet and howled. Sara gave her a washcloth to chew on.
"She took us for a walk," Sam said. "A long walk."
"Good," Gavin said and looked at Sara. "Everything okay?"
She moved her head in a circle because "okay" was relative. "Yes," she managed. "I figured out that Adelaide is teething."
Realization crossed his face. "Yeah. You're so right. I should have figured that out sooner."
"No problem," Sara said. "She'll just be chewing a cold washcloth for the first year of her life. Right, baby?" she said to Adelaide.
The baby frowned and chowed down on the washcloth.
"Good job," he said, then looked at Sam. "Time for us to go see Mr. Brahn."
Sam crossed his arms over his chest. "I don't wanna see Mr. Brahn."
Gavin glanced at Sara. "Mr. Brahn is a therapist. To help with the grief," he added in a low voice and walked toward Sam. "Hey, bud, we both need to go."
Sam stuck out his lower lip. "Mr. Brahn is boring. Don't wanna—"
"Ice cream or video game?" Sara whispered to Gavin.
Gavin glanced at her. "What?" he asked.
"Just a thought," she said. "Maybe after your appointment, you could do something fun."
He stood for a moment then nodded. "Good idea," he said then turned to Sam. "Ice cream or video game afterward?"
Sam's eyes lit up. "Can I have both?"
Gavin chuckled. "Only one," he said and scooped his son into his arms.
"Ice cream," Sam said.
Gavin sent a sideways glance at Sara. "This could make bedtime more difficult."
Sara smiled. "I'm sure Adelaide will be asleep by the time you return, so it will be easier dealing with just one," she said, hoping that would be true. "If you need to know where to go, there's a wonderful gelato place downtown on Geneva Street."
"Geneva Gelato?" he asked.
"Yes," she said. "Have you been there?"
"No. Just sounded right," he said. "What flavor is the best?"
"The hazelnut chocolate is to die for. Best in the world, with the exception of Italy, of course," she said.
"You've traveled the whole world?" he asked, studying her.
His scrutiny made her nervous. She resisted biting her lip and shrugged her shoulders. "It's an expression. Try it and let me know what you think."
Sara watched the duo head out the door and turned to Adelaide. "How about a bath and a bottle?" she asked the baby, carrying her toward the kitchen sink. Princess Bridget of the royal Devereaux family had taken Sara under her wing so that Sara could learn some of the finer points of how to care for babies and active boys. Since Bridget had given birth to a baby girl less than a year ago and was the mother of two adopted boys, she was quite informed.
After cleaning the sink, Sara placed a towel in the bottom of it and filled it partway with warm water. She undressed Adelaide and put her into the bath. She tried to take the washcloth away from the baby, but Adelaide screamed in protest. "All right, all right. You can keep it. Let's just try not to get soap on it."
Sara talked the entire time about nothing in particular. Princess Bridget had told her that talking soothed and reassured infants while bathing. After the bath, she dried off Adelaide and dressed her in clean clothing and negotiated an exchange for a fresh washcloth.
Rechecking the schedule Gavin had given her, she saw that it was still too early for Adelaide's bottle and bedtime, so she attempted to read a book. Adelaide fussed and kicked in protest. "Not in the mood for reading," she muttered and walked around the house.
The sight of the piano jumped out at her. "Well, why not?" she asked. "The most you can do is howl at my playing."
Placing Adelaide in her infant rocker next to the piano, Sara sat down on the bench and looked down at the keyboard. A combination of excitement and relief snapped through her. Playing had been a solace for her for as long as she could remember.
She played a couple of scales to familiarize herself with the springiness of the keys and the tuning. Gavin had been correct. A few keys were off, but she was so happy to play she didn't care. "I know Mozart is supposed to be good for kids, but I'm going to play it safe with Bach. I'm sure you'll let me know your thoughts on Bach's Goldberg Variations!''
Sara played and since no screaming commenced, she continued for fifteen minutes. When she stopped and turned to glance at Adelaide, the baby was sitting calmly and seemed to have forgotten the need for her washcloth. Sara smiled and picked up the baby from the carrier. "Good girl. Bach has been soothing the savage beast in all of us for many years. Time for your bottle."
Adelaide drank her formula, Sara rocked her for a few minutes, then placed the baby in her crib. She made sure the baby monitor was turned on and walked quietly from the room. Exhaustion hit her and she let out a heavy sigh. She realized this was only the first day of being a nanny, but she hadn't expected the job to completely sap her energy. What a wimp. It was just eight o'clock and more than anything, she wanted to go to bed.
Instead, she poured herself a cup of tea and sat on the couch, blinking her eyes so she would stay awake.
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Book Description Harlequin Books, 2015. Paperback. Book Condition: Brand New. 224 pages. 6.62x4.21x0.59 inches. In Stock. Bookseller Inventory # zk0373659288
Book Description Harlequin. MASS MARKET PAPERBACK. Book Condition: New. 0373659288 . Bookseller Inventory # Z0373659288ZN
Book Description Harlequin, 2015. Mass Market Paperback. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # M0373659288
Book Description Harlequin, 2015. Mass Market Paperback. Book Condition: New. Never used!. Bookseller Inventory # P110373659288