I’m so sorry, y’all. I have had a rough week for reasons I can’t go into, and I completely forgot today is Wednesday. Here’s today’s post.
When she’s not writing about her imaginary friends, USA Today Bestselling Author Carol Moncado prefers binge watching pretty much anything to working out. She believes peanut butter M&Ms are the perfect food and Dr. Pepper should come in an IV. When not hanging out with her hubby, four kids, and two dogs who weigh less than most hard cover books, she’s probably reading in her Southwest Missouri home.
These days she does the band mom thing year round – and loves (almost) every minute of it.
She’s a founding member and former President of MozArks ACFW and is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of the Steve Laube Agency.
Facebook reader group: www.carolmoncado.com/slbc
Royals of Eyjania
A princess who avoids the public eye.
A photoshoot in crisis.
What will her choice to help cost her?
Princess Gabriella Quatremaine would prefer to live a quiet life in the country.
She’s pretty sure it doesn’t even need to be her own country.
As long as it’s somewhere she can indulge her introverted, homebody tendencies to her heart’s content. For that, her new home outside Trumanville, Missouri will work just fine.
Getting sucked into a photoshoot was not on her agenda, but a friend asked for a favor, and she caved.
In the process, she might have met her happily ever after – a guy with a dazzling smile and palpable chemistry between them.
Too bad he wants a life in the public eye.
When the pictures go viral, she finds herself in the middle of a propaganda firestorm.
Her brother, King Benjamin, calls her back to Eyjania for damage control, and Gabriella does the unthinkable – refuses the summons.
She wants nothing more than to hide out in her home, but accusations emerge that it was all a publicity stunt. She has to make a choice – the quiet life she’s always wanted or succumb to the pressure to be the Picture Perfect Princess?
Putting her feet up, Princess Gabriella Quatremaine looked out the picture window facing west – the direction thunderstorms generally rolled in from.
It was one of the things that first drew her to the house outside of Trumanville, Missouri. Large windows overlooked rolling, partially-wooded hills with the likelihood of deer or turkeys or any other manner of local wildlife visiting on a regular basis.
The creek near the edge of the property didn’t hurt either.
This time, no lightning illuminated the dark, and no thunder shook the building.
Instead, snow drifted down, blanketing the world outside in silence.
She took a sip of her hot chocolate, then shifted until her legs were tucked to the side in the big chair, and pulled a blanket over them.
This was what she’d wanted.
A place of her own. A place of peace.
Where she could shut out the noise of the world, only talk to people when she wanted to, read to her heart’s content, and even have groceries delivered if she didn’t feel like leaving the house.
The late afternoon sun on the other side of the clouds illuminated the softly falling flakes, her ear buds helping build her cocoon. The soundtrack from Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves soothed her an unexpected way.
Her phone buzzed, interrupting her musings. She tapped her earbud. “It’s a little late, isn’t it, Ben?”
A chuckle came through her ear buds. “It’s not that late. Katrín and I had an event this evening and just made it home. It’s not even that close to midnight yet.”
She glanced at her watch and did the mental math. “I guess not.”
“How’s the new house?” He stayed in brother mode when he asked the question and didn’t revert to the monarch. She knew it was necessary sometimes, but she generally liked interacting with her brother much better than his official persona.
“I love it, Ben. It’s amazing.” She took another sip. “It’s quiet. It’s peaceful. I’m sitting near the windows, lights off inside, watching it snow, and it’s just so peaceful.”
“I am very happy to hear that, Gabi. I know it’s what you’ve always wanted.”
Gabi could hear someone say something to him.
“I’m sorry, Gabs. Duty calls.” He sighed. “I’ll talk to you soon, I’m sure. Enjoy your new home. Katrín and I will bring the kids and come visit when we can.”
“If nothing else, Esther is having a baby in before long. You can come then.” May would be plenty of time.
He laughed. “That is one plan. I love you, Gabs.” He had called her that as a child, but stopped when their father died – until a few years ago.
“I love you, too, Benji.”
Her brother, the king, snorted. Not many people used the nickname for him, but Gabi had when she was little.
“Talk to you soon.”
The call disconnected. Gabi set the phone back down on the arm of the chair as the instrumental music started again.
She didn’t start getting ready for bed until after ten. Most of the evening had been spent in the same spot, reading a book on her Kindle, except for a couple of short breaks to move around.
Sleep came easily, something that wasn’t always true, but this night it was.
It was after two when her phone’s buzzing woke her up. She didn’t want to answer, but you never knew what calls would come in that late. After swiping across the screen, she immediately turned on the speaker phone. “Yeah?”
The female voice sounded familiar, but Gabi couldn’t immediately place it like she knew she should. Pushing herself into a seated position, she picked it up and checked the ID. “Val?”
“I need your help.” The panic in Val’s voice sounded real, but not overly scared at the same time.
“What’s going on? Are you stuck somewhere?” Gabi rubbed her eyes with the heels of her hands.
“I had a model cancel on me tomorrow. It’s an important shoot for me, though. I need someone to fill in. Can you, please?”
Her mind couldn’t quite process what Val was saying, but Gabi’s friend had been learning a bunch of different techniques in a class and probably just needed someone to stand there.
“When and where?” Gabi needed to know that first.
“Um… we’d planned to do Trumanville Town Hall, but maybe your place? The snow will be perfect. Or we can start in Trumanville then move out there.”
Gabi yawned. “Sure. Whatever.”
“Oh, thank you, Gabri! You won’t regret this!”
It might be too late for that already.
“I just sent you the release form so I can use the pictures. Can you sign it and send it back ASAP?”
Another yawn escaped, this one bigger than the last. “Sure.”
Her tablet lay on the side table. Finding the email, she glanced through the file. Val could use the photos on her social media and website. Fair enough. Val didn’t have many followers at all. Scribbling her name, Gabi sent it back. “Done.”
“You are the absolute best, Gabs. I’ll text you the information on where to meet and what to wear. See you in the morning.”
Before Gabi could say anything else, the line went dead. Great. Not how she’d planned to spend her day, but could be fun. She and Val got along well enough and had since Gabi lived in the area for several months a few years earlier – while her mum and Thor were denying they had a future together.
Snuggling back under the covers, it didn’t take long for Gabi to fall back asleep.
By ten, she’d arrived at the town square and looked around for Val, finding her as she walked out of the diner.
“There you are!” Val hurried over. “Okay. We’re going to go over by the gazebo. I’ll blindfold you, so you’ll be surprised when you take it off, and we can get a genuine reaction.”
Gabi hesitated. “Okay.” Not at all what she’d expected.
Once she was positioned and blindfolded, Val told her not to move. Gabi could hear others moving and low voices, but couldn’t make out the words.
“Okay. You’re both here…”
“…so give me a minute to get set up, and when I tell you to, take off the blindfolds.”
What could Val be up to?
Before Gabi could ask any other questions, Val’s voice rang out.
“On the count of three…”
“Wait!” The person standing next to Gabi sounded like a male. “Is it one, two, three, go or one, two, go on three?”
“Uh, up to you, two?” Val didn’t seem to be much help.
“Hold your hand out,” the man said. “I promise I don’t bite.”
Hesitantly, Gabi held her hand out until it was caught in someone else’s.
Awareness coursed through her, her cold fingers tucked into his warmer ones.
“How about one, two, three, go?” he asked quietly.
Gabi had no preference. “Works for me.”
“Okay. And then we’ll get this blind date photo session started.”
Gabi froze. They would do what now?
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