The Glass Stiletto
What if Cinderella didn't want to marry the Prince? And what if she discovered that a man who was in control of his public life enjoyed surrendering that control in the bedroom?
Mariella needs a husband to gain freedom from her stepfamily.
Teodor needs a wife to keep his crown.
When they meet at the balls, Teodor is captivated by Mariella’s, intelligence, humor and sexual openness. Thrilled to have found a woman he could see spending his life with, he proposes, only to have Mariella turn him down.
Mariella has been trapped in one bad situation and refuses to exchange it for another. Still, Teodor intrigues her, so she offers a proposal of her own that will allow her dominate him and to enjoy him in her bed while keeping him out of her heart.
Unbeknownst to them, there is another who wants Teodor's crown and will stop at nothing - not even murder - to get it. Happy ever after is never really as easy as wishing for it.
Had the search for a wife ever killed a man – or was he going to be the first? Teodor never imagined this process could be so painful. There were only a few steps involved. Meet a respectable woman, hopefully kind and somewhat pleasant looking. Propose. Get an heir in her, make sure she’s comfortable, and then enjoy sex with a mistress. It was simple, right?
The palace ballroom wasn’t filled to capacity yet the space was too warm, too crowded, and too noisy for him. One more waltz and he might order the orchestra jailed. Air. He needed fresh air, solitude, and ten minutes where he didn’t have to smile or make small talk with women who wanted to marry him. Or their overbearing mothers.
Since Teodor knew it was inappropriate to be seen running out of a ball held in his honor, he moved as quickly as possible without attracting undue attention or knocking into someone, a nearly impossible feat. If I can rule a kingdom, I can get out of this room, he told himself as he acknowledged another courtier and found the French doors that were his goal.
When he finally stepped onto the terrace, he gripped the railing and let out what felt like his first deep breath of the night. He felt like he had just escaped from a dungeon. The cool air was even better than he had hoped, brisk and crisp, but he knew ten minutes was not going to be long enough. The thought of going back in there made his shoulders tighten. He had hoped that having many women to meet and chose from would make the process easy, but he had been wrong. He should have listened to his mother, Queen Esther, who suggested smaller, more intimate events. At the time, however, he imagined those would be more difficult. Now the deadline for finding a wife was running out and so was his patience.
As he loosened the neck of his shirt, he took another deep breath, looked out at the lush gardens, and wondered if he could just get lost in them. Then he looked up at the full moon and asked, “What next?”
As if in answer to his question, a woman appeared on the terrace. He heard the rapid clicking of her heels before he saw her, and he turned to see her racing out of the ballroom even faster than he had. He wondered what, or who, she was escaping from. Whoever it was, he sympathized.
Her head was turned as she looked over her shoulder toward the room she left, so she didn’t notice Teodor until she banged into him. He caught her arms as she stumbled, and although she glanced at him briefly, her gaze kept darting behind her. Her gown was dark purple, and looked almost black in the darkness of the night. He liked that it wasn’t frilly and overdone as so many of the other dresses were and he especially enjoyed the way it was cut low in the front to expose her ample cleavage. She was breathing fast, although from running or dancing, he didn’t know.
“Are you all right?” he asked.
Finally she turned to face him and he noticed her expressive eyes and full lips. He stared at her mouth, and thought he’d imagined it when she said, “Kiss me.”
“I beg your pardon?”
“There is no time for begging. I need you to kiss me now.” Without another word, she grabbed his face in her hands, and brought his mouth to hers. He felt her take advantage of their position and turn them around so that his back faced the ballroom effectively shielding her from anyone who might follow her. After a night fending off predatory single women, Teodor instinctively stiffened, wary of her actions and her motive, but quickly found himself yielding to the pleasant sensations of her kiss.
Her touch was warm and giving and her hands slipped over his shoulders, bringing them closer still. This was no chaste kiss, no shy flower, and he decided to fully enjoy the moment. Intrigued both by her actions and his reaction, he dared more. As soon as his mouth opened, her tongue was against his. He could taste the champagne she must have sipped earlier and found its taste more intoxicating in this form. The more he put into the kiss, the more she responded, first with a sigh, then by pressing her body against his.
She was shorter than him by several inches, so he bent to deepen the kiss and wrap his arms around her to bring her closer, although because of layers of clothing, this had its limits. Damn frustrating. He could feel her breasts pressed against his chest and found himself wanting to bend down and lick the creamy skin, learn how she would taste, how she would respond. He checked himself at the last moment, and instead allowed his hands to roam down her back. By the time he felt her hands thread through his hair, he was hard and ready for her. Tingles she created with her touch sent waves of sensation to his cock.
The primary goal of the evening was forgotten. Looking for a wife could wait. He ached to act on his attraction to this bold and exciting woman. Not even his mistress back in Galenet got him this excited this quickly. He wanted her alone so he could release her breasts from their tenuous captivity and fondle them until she cried out for more.
He was still thinking about how he could get her someplace private when she broke the kiss and stepped back from him.
“Thank you,” she said. “I needed that.”
He tried to kiss her again but she put a hand on his chest to stop him. As he stared into her eyes, the color of which he couldn’t determine, he noticed her breathing had returned to normal, and she was no longer flustered. His heartbeat raced while hers seemed to have calmed. He didn’t try to keep the annoyance from his voice when he asked, “You needed to be kissed?”
“No. I needed a diversion to keep a lecherous old man away from me. Since you were available, your kiss was the distraction I chose. Many thanks for your kind, if unplanned, assistance, sir. It is greatly appreciated and it was a very pleasant kiss.”
Pleasant? He couldn’t believe her choice of words. It was better than that, much better. In addition, the future king was not someone who should ever be called a diversion, and he didn’t much like it, especially as he was now hungry for more from this woman than a simple kiss. She took a step back and he grabbed her arm. How could she rock him to his core and not be affected in any way? It was maddening.
As his thoughts cleared further he realized she had called him “sir.” Did that mean she didn’t know who he was? If so, she must be the only woman in the kingdom who didn’t, which made her even more infuriating. And intriguing.
And desirable. Before he could question her, they were interrupted by the sound of someone clearing his throat.
“Your Majesty,” a deep voice said. Teodor turned to see Vencor, his father’s prime minister, standing at the doors with a familiar expression of annoyed concern on his face. He always looked pinched. On more than one occasion Teodor wondered if Vencor possessed the ability to smile. In addition, the man consistently had lousy timing, always showing up when Teodor expected or wanted it least, and tonight was no exception. “I am sorry if I am interrupting you, but you are needed by His Highness as soon as possible.”
The man wasn’t sorry in the least, and they both knew it. There wasn’t any out-and-out animosity between the two, but they had never gotten along. Teodor couldn’t say why but there was something about the prime minister he didn’t trust and he was certain Vencor didn’t like him either. Their conversations were stiff and usually felt as if a minor tug-of-war was going on. Occasionally they got into shouting matches and his father would step in and end them. King Nicholas approved of the man and had worked with him, trusted him for decades and that was, ultimately, all that mattered. Fortunately, Teodor didn’t need to see him often.
“I will be there momentarily,” Teodor answered. So much for the chance to be with someone who didn’t know his title and covet a position as his wife. “As soon as I say goodnight to...”
He turned to address the woman, but she was gone.
“To whom, sir?”
“The lady I was just ki...” He stopped. He wasn’t certain what Vencor saw, but he wasn’t about to admit to what was going on. “Did you see her?”
“No, sire, but your back was to me when I stepped out. You must have blocked her from my view.”
“Did you notice her leave?” His thoughts were still muddled from the kiss. He swore he could still feel her warmth in the place where she had stood only a few moments before. Teodor didn’t even remember letting go of her arm.
“I’m afraid not, sire, but I’m certain you will be able to find her later.”
Damn right I will, he thought, as he checked the empty terrace once more before following Vencor into the packed ballroom.
A Jersey Girl currently trapped without good diners or boardwalks in New England, Rachel Kenley (www.rachelkenley.com) is a novelist, workshop leader, radio host, and co-founder of the Writers Business School (www.writersbusinessschool.com). She is the best-selling author of five erotic romance novels and seven anthologies. When she is not writing she is homeschooling her sons, trying unsuccessfully to keep up with laundry, and laughing as much as possible. She loves reading, chocolate, her morning cupof coffee, and retail therapy. Her radio show, The O Spot, is new every Wednesday at 10 pm EST on www.dkrn.fm and encores several times during the week. She can also be found (perhaps a little too much) on Facebook (www.facebook.com/authorrachelkenley) and posting on her blog, The Muse Salon, at http://musesalon.blogspot.com
What People Say about Rachel's Work:
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A Different Heroine
Rachel does the BEST job with her heroines - they are independent and fierce. They know what they want and how to get it. Not shrinking violets waiting for a man to come along and help them out. This is a fun twist on an old tale. And very sexy!!! ~ seashell
I've enjoyed reading Rachel Kenley's books and this one is just as great as the next one. I can't wait to see what she has in store for me next. ~ Charmed
It's been a while since I've read this book, but what remains with me is that this book had just the right balance of mystery, interesting characters, story and passion. I'm pretty sure I wound up reading it all at once, staying up way too late at night to finish it. ~ Lisa
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