Behind Palace Doors

By: Jules Bennett
Prologue

“Ever tried skinny-dipping?”

Victoria Dane gasped as Stefan Alexander, Prince of Galini Isle, stripped off his shirt.

“Umm...” She swallowed, watching as an impressive set of abs stared back at her. “No. No, I haven’t.”

He toed off his shoes.

“You’re not going to...”

His soft chuckle caused goose bumps to spread over her body. Even at fifteen, she was totally aware of this handsome prince, who was technically a man, as he was three years older.

They’d quickly become friends since her mother was filming on his estate, and she assumed her girlish crush was normal. But was he really going to strip naked?

“I’m not doing it alone,” he told her, hands on his hips.

Her eyes darted to his chest. “You got a tattoo?”

With a wicked grin, he nodded. “My first of many, I hope.”

“What is it?” she asked, stepping closer to inspect.

Would it be rude to touch? Probably, so she slid her hands inside the pockets of her swim cover-up instead. Still, she imagined her fingertips sliding along the new ink.

“It’s my family’s crest,” he told her. “I thought it appropriate to have that as my first. Besides, my father might not mind as much since it’s symbolic.”

The afternoon sun beat down on her, but Victoria knew the heat consuming her had nothing to do with the weather. She’d been on location with her mother for almost two months now, and she and Stefan had clicked from the moment they met. Of course, he probably saw her as a little sister and had no idea she was halfway in love with him.

The boys back home were nothing like this.

“Has your father seen it yet?” she asked, using the tattoo excuse to continue to stare at his chest.

“Nah. I’ve been careful to keep my shirt on around my dad since I got it two weeks ago. He’ll throw a fit, but it’s done, so what can he say now?”

Victoria moved toward the pool, dropped to the side and let her feet dangle in the cool water. “You’re so relaxed about breaking rules and defying people. Aren’t you worried you’ll get in serious trouble one day?”

“Trouble?” He laughed as he sat down and joined her. “I’m not afraid of trouble. I’d rather be myself and live my life the way I want. I don’t want to be ruled by what is considered to be the right thing. Who’s to say what’s right or wrong for me?”

She admired his take-charge attitude about life. He reminded her of her brother, Bronson.

“Don’t you consider that lying?” she asked, still studying him. “I mean, you knew you were going to do it, so why not just tell your dad?”

Stefan glanced over to her, those bright blue eyes holding hers. “Lying by omission doesn’t count in my book.”

“Well, it does in mine. Maybe that’s a cultural difference.”

He scooped a hand in the water and playfully tossed it up onto her bare thighs. Shivers coursed through her.

“I think it’s the difference between towing the line and living in the moment,” he joked. “So how about that skinny-dipping?”

“I tow the line, remember? No skinny-dipping for me.” Smiling at him, she placed a hand on his back and shoved him into the pool.





                  One

Every little girl envisioned a fairy-tale wedding. The long white train, the horse-drawn carriage, like the magical coach from Cinderella of course, and the proverbial tall, dark and handsome prince, chest adorned with medals and a bright blue sash that matched his eye color perfectly.

And while Victoria Dane wasn’t living the fairy tale herself, she did have the glorious job of designing the royal wedding dress that would be seen by millions and worn by the next queen of Galini Isle.

Okay, so being the designer wasn’t even a close second to becoming a queen.

“Victoria.”

The familiar, soothing tone of her old friend’s voice had Victoria turning from the breathtaking emerald ocean view. With a slight bow as was custom in this country, Victoria greeted the prince.

With his tight-fitting black T-shirt tucked into designer jeans, most people would have a hard time believing Prince Stefan Alexander—owner of the most impressive set of blue eyes and some new ink peeking beneath the sleeve of his shirt on one impressive bicep—was the next in line to reign over this beautiful land.

Those muscles seemed to grow between each of their visits. Muscles he acquired from his passion of rock climbing. Yeah, that would make for a beautiful picture. A golden Greek god, shirtless and dangling high above the ground by his sheer strength....

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