Alexander & Rebecca (Royals of Valleria #1)

By: Marianne Knightly

Chapter 1




The white, hot sun baked the sandy beaches of Masillia and the Mediterranean Sea beyond. Small sailboats and yachts dotted the sparkling blue and shifted as the waves rolled gently towards the shore. Few remained on the beaches this late in August, at the end of the three-week national holiday, but some tourists lingered in loungers of blue and white striped canvas. Staff from nearby hotels, clad in simple white trousers and shirts, brought trays of bright, cheery drinks to the stragglers.



One man currently watching the lazy afternoon did so with great purpose from the balcony of the Royal Suite of his preferred Masillian hotel. He could have stayed at one of the lesser royal castles, located further down the shore from his current perch, but that would have invited questions he was not currently prepared to answer. People would ask why he had left the palace, located in the capital a few hours north, to travel to Masillia so unexpectedly.



The man watching the shore, Prince Alexander, heir to the throne of Valleria, never answered questions until he was ready.



Alexander’s thick, black, wavy hair had grown slightly longer in the past few weeks, and curled intriguingly over his forehead and brushed the nape of his neck. Had he allowed himself more than a day to enjoy the sun, and moreso if he had been able to enjoy it from the beach below rather than his balcony, his hair would have lightened to include shades of dark brown. As it was, it remained as inky black as always.



His eyes, as startling a black as his hair, were covered by a pair of inexpensive sunglasses, given to him by a local vendor when he had walked by them earlier that day. He was just the sort of man to wear a gift like that, no matter what the cost, because of the joy it gave the shop’s owner when he had done so.



His body remained fit, with chiseled muscles and richly-toned olive skin hiding under the loose shirt and linen pants he currently wore, an outfit distinctly unroyal. He’d had to forego a pleasurable pastime of jogging along the beach for the hotel’s fitness center to maintain the hardened body, but he was no stranger to hard work.



His eyes narrowed as they scanned the horizon, and his firm lips were pursed in concentration as he watched for the first sign of a particular ship coming towards shore. He shifted his sunglasses to the top of his head and picked up a pair of binoculars, set nearby for this exact purpose, and began to scan with greater vengeance. The ship was late, and Prince Alexander was growing impatient.



Several minutes passed before he saw the ship appear, and he let out a sigh of relief. He felt as though his heart were returning to him and, in a way, it was. The ship carried his twin sister, Catharine, back from the Vallerian island of Ilva, where his Nonna, his grandmother, had resided since the death of Alex’s grandfather and former king. Happy though Alexander was to see his sister again, and remind her of the fact that he had been born thirty minutes before her, it was another woman on the ship that held his heart.



Rebecca.



Alexander had grown desperate over the last few weeks while Rebecca had accompanied his sister on her journey at the last minute. Desperate for just a look at her, desperate to see her smile and see her long brown hair shifting in the wind.



Prince Alexander was not a man prone to desperation.



Alex had not planned to spend any time in Masillia during the national holiday. He had not planned to take any time off, at all; future heirs to the throne were rarely afforded such a luxury as a vacation. However, he had known Catharine and Rebecca would return to port here, so he had arrived in Masillia early that morning under the ruse of work.



Work, in fact, had become a clever ruse he used often where Rebecca was concerned. He orchestrated the need for events where he and Cat would appear together, forcing Rebecca into his path with the planning of them. He’d planned several over the last few months, and had been able to see her almost every day. It made a three-week break from her all the more potent and frustrating.



He saw the royal ship edge closer and closer, and the knot around his heart loosened as it did. He had just enough time to change and meet them when they came ashore. He could think of nothing better he would rather do.



When he finally caught a serendipitous glance of Rebecca as she walked the deck of the ship, his lips curved into a small smile. Eventually, he put the binoculars down and gave the ship a last look before turning, noting the gathering of a small crowd on shore to watch, as it always did, the arrival of a member of the royal family. With nine sons and daughters of the reigning king and queen, all unmarried and many involved in various royal duties, there was always a royal here or there to amuse them. Well, today, they would have the luxury of two.

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