Marcello & Grace (Royals of Valleria #2)

By: Marianne Knightly

Chapter 1

The Vallerian royal plane soared through darkening skies with nary a hint of turbulence. Though they had come from sunny, warm Valleria, they were now heading towards a rainy, cooler London.

Prince Marcello, Valleria’s Minister of Security and Defense, sat in a plush seat by a window. His dark blond hair was combed back, effortlessly stylish. His svelte but fit form rested comfortably in the seat, even while his body remained prime for defensive action; years in the military had engrained the trait in him and, at this point in his life, he was unlikely to change.

His dark eyes poured over the table in front of him, which was scattered with several papers, photos, bios, and schedules related to the International Security Conference which he would be attending in London. However, while his eyes raked over the information in front of him, none of it penetrated his sharp mind, which was distracted by two things.

The first was the political maneuvering he would need to complete at the conference itself. It would be a grueling few days while he attempted to restore Valleria’s reputation but more, restore his own. It had been barely a month ago when Rebecca, his future sister-in-law and Valleria’s future queen, had been kidnapped in a scheme to usurp the royal throne. The security breaches that had led to her kidnapping had been embarrassing and unacceptable.

Marcello had accepted full responsibility for the breaches. They weighed heavily on his mind even now, long after corrections had been made. The fact that he was the reigning monarch’s fourth child often led people to discount his background and military service, and never had that been truer than in the last month.

The second distraction he faced was one he had never met: a woman by the name of Lady Grace. He had thought of her often in the last few weeks, though he could not fathom why. He had never heard of her until his older sister, Catharine, mentioned she wanted to pay her friend Grace a visit while in England.

Over the ensuing weeks, Marcello had gently probed for information. He could have easily investigated her, but the idea of doing so had felt wrong. For a man in charge of gathering intelligence on a national and international scale, the idea that he did not want to investigate her was a revelation to him.

The truth was that he had spent all too much time imagining the fair Lady Grace since Cat had first mentioned her a month ago. Seeing an old photo of Cat and Grace at university, smiling and laughing at an inside joke, had only piqued his interest more and haunted his dreams. He found it all too easy to imagine his hands gliding over her demure curves and soft lines.

At the sound of laughter, Marcello turned his head and smiled at the image in front of him. Alexander, heir to the Vallerian throne, sat with his arm around his fiancée, Rebecca. They both carried ridiculous grins on their faces while they gazed at each other, a look that was not lost upon the citizens of Valleria.

When Rebecca’s bruises had finally healed, she was formally introduced to the public as the future princess and queen. The public had adored her ever since, and it wasn’t hard to see why. Particularly since the royal family, including his parents, approved wholeheartedly of the match.

The pair would not wed for at least a year. An old law required they notify the Royal Council of their intent to marry, after which they would wait during the ‘Royal Marriage Notification Year’. It was only for form; the Royal Council could not disallow the match, even if they wanted to.

Catharine sat beside the pair on a long, lush couch that ran the length of the plane, regaling them with a story about her last visit in London. Catharine, who was also Alex’s twin, was heading to England to see the newest royal baby, a girl, and Alex and Rebecca had come along on their first royal visit together.

“And then,” Catharine said, gesturing with her hands. “The servant nearly spilled the drink all over me, he was leering down the neckline of my dress so much.”

“Was he fired?” Alex asked as his arm absently caressed Rebecca’s shoulder. “Marcello can find out, can’t you?” Alex asked as he turned to face Marcello.

“Easy enough to do,” Marcello said as the group turned to face him across the aisle. “Though I don’t doubt he’s long gone.”

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