First of all, before we get to the contest details where you have TWO chances to win $100 gift cards, let me introduce you to Sariah Wilson and her awesome book The Ugly Stepsister Strikes Back.
Everyone knows how all those fairy tales go. The princess gets beautiful, nabs her prince, falls instantly in love, lives happily ever after and leaves her evil stepsisters in the dust.
But what happens when you’re the ugly stepsister and your obnoxiously perfect—read pretty, smart, and, worst of all, sickeningly nice—stepsister is dating the charming, tall, devastatingly handsome guy you’ve had a thing for since you were nine years old?
Quirky, artistic and snarky Mattie Lowe does not lead a charmed life. Her mother is constantly belittling her on Skype. Mercedes, the school mean girl, has made it her personal mission to torment Mattie. But worst of all? Her stepsister Ella is the most beautiful, popular girl in school and is dating Mattie’s secret longtime crush, Jake Kingston.
Tired of being left out and done with waiting for her own stupid fairy godmother to show up, Mattie decides to change her life. She’ll start by running for senior class president against wildly popular Jake.
Ella can keep her Prince Annoying. Mattie’s going to rule the school.
And no one, not even a cute and suddenly flirty Jake, is going to stop her.
Fun right? The Ugly Stepsister Strikes Back is a sweet, clean, contemporary young adult romance that made me laugh and smile all the way through it. (And yes, it's a Cinderella retelling, which we all know I'm a total sucker for.)
Buy the book here: AMAZON
only $2.99 (ebook) and & $8.09 (paperback).
Now for the contest...
Amazon has started a new program, Kindle Scout. It’s giving readers a chance to discover new authors, and for those authors to get picked up by Amazon’s publishing imprints. Amazon is the only publisher in the world that I would consider working with, given how fair their contracts are and the fact that they are the world’s largest bookseller. You really can’t ask for more than for Amazon to highlight and publicize your book. Kindle Scout is sort of like an “American Idol" for books. You will vote for/nominate a book, and the books that receive the most nominations will be considered for publication with Amazon.
Sariah has a book up for consideration in this program called “Royal Date.” Check out the cuteness!!!
Kat MacTaggart has a plan for everything until the moment she's careening downhill on a ski trip to Monterra and is rescued by a guy who looks like Superman's hotter Italian cousin. HRH Prince Nico is intrigued by the woman who refuses to date him. He offers Kat a deal-let him show her his country and he'll pay her to write an article to help Monterra's tourism. Kat agrees, but with one condition. No kissing. Should she stick to her plans, or risk everything for a chance at happily ever after?
Did you read that summary??? Are you not dying to read this book? I can't wait for it!
So let's help Sariah and Royal date win the "Amazon Idol" so we can all read it!!!
How To Enter: In order to help Sariah gain nominations, she's running a contest where anyone who votes for the book is entered to win a $100 Amazon gift card.
Here's what you do: Go to this link https://kindlescout.amazon.com/p/NGVY7CT4C885 and nominate Sariah's book. Then, go to this link: https://www.sariahwilson.com/Sweeps.aspx and let Sariah know that you nominated her book. and you'll be entered for a chance to win a $100 AMAZON GIFT CARD.
Awesome right? Who doesn't want to win $100? And if that's not all, she's offering a second $100 giveaway for those of you who help pass the word along and get others to nominate the book as well.
How it works: There will be a box in that form on Sariah's website that asks who told you about the contest. (In your case, it's ME.) You tell all your Facebook friends and Twitter tweeps about it, tell them to put down your email. (It has to be your email so she can find you later. If they say “Joe told me about it,” you’re screwed if you win because Sariah will have no way to track you down). For every person that nominates the book and lists you as their referrer, you’ll earn an entry into a SECOND sweepstakes for ANOTHER $100 Amazon gift card! The more people you tell, the more they list you as their reference, the more chances you will have to win!
Also, if Amazon selects her book to publish, everyone who has nominated her will get a FREE copy of the book from Amazon! Very cool.
The book she has entered in the competition sounds just as fun as her first novel, so I will be voting for it, and I urge you all to consider helping her out! I also urge you to check out The Ugly Stepsister Strikes Back. It's fun, I promise. :)
Also, if you enter, add my email as your referrer: [email protected] (I'm totally not opposed to winning $100! (I have a book addiction I have to support somehow.)
In case you still need more convincing, here's the excerpt!!!
In case you still need more convincing, here's the excerpt!!!
“A little light reading?” His accent was faint and I couldn’t quite place it. Italian-ish. But I didn’t care enough to ask. I felt him standing next to my stuffed armchair, hovering, and sighed. What was it with European men? American guys didn’t give me the time of day. But over here I was like some kind of dude catnip.
I didn’t take my eyes off of my book. “Sorry, not interested.”
He moved away from me, sitting in an armchair next to mine. Well, I suppose this was what I got for hanging out in the lodge’s lobby. I should have stayed in my room until my best friend, Lemon, was ready to leave.
“You’re not interested in Shakespeare?” He asked. I could hear the amusement in his voice.
“I’m not interested in you.”
“Why not?” This guy just could not take a hint. I turned to look at him, ready to tell him off, and nearly choked.
Gorgeous was an understatement. Tall, athletic, high cheekbones, black hair and blue eyes. Like Superman’s hotter Italian cousin. He was dressed for a day of skiing – a black turtleneck with an unzipped royal blue winter coat. And he topped it off with a smile, a blinding, unbelievable smile that nearly did me in.
He leaned in conspiratorially, and I got a whiff of his cologne. He smelled as good as he looked. His glacier blue eyes were full of intensity and fun and I wanted to sit and stare into them all day. “I’ve been told I’m very charming.”
I didn’t doubt it. I would never have admitted it out loud, but I was very charmed. Like I was the snake and he was playing a hypnotizing tune that only I could hear.
And I didn’t like the way that made me feel.
Plus, I had to consider reality in this situation. No way could this guy really be hitting on me. He probably dated supermodels and I…didn’t date at all. Like, ever. He was so out of my league.
I’d never been so tongue-tied before. I was always handy with the quips and comebacks. But I couldn’t respond. I had to look away from him and back at my book. The words on the page swam around in front of me, and I was unable to focus on a single one. I needed him to leave so I could regain my equilibrium. “Nothing personal. Italian men don’t do it for me.”
I was the lyingest liar that ever lied.
“How fortunate for me then that I am Monterran.” He had a deep, rumbly smooth voice that felt like honey and laughter mixed together. I wasn’t immune and he hadn’t been kidding. He really was disgustingly charming.
My mouth twitched, wanting to smile. I turned a page, pretending to be entranced. I was on Christmas break, I reminded myself. I was here in Monterra to ski with Lemon. It was the last time we would be together before getting our master’s degrees in a few months. I had priorities and plans, and SuperHottie was not on the list.
And if I were being truly honest - he kind of scared me. A guy like that would have expectations and I wasn’t like other girls.
“I’m Nico, by the way.”
“That’s nice for you.”
But he again failed to parse out the subtext here (and I wasn’t being very subtextual). Short of blatantly telling him to get lost, what else could I do? Would I have to be rude? Because instead of realizing that I was a lost cause, he laughed. He laughed and it did funny things to my insides. I wanted to laugh with him. And crawl into his lap and beg him to be mine.
“And you are?” he prompted.
“Still not interested.” It was becoming a bigger lie as time passed. If some other guy had pursued me this way, I would have thought it was creepy and called for security to have him escorted off the mountain. Instead, I secretly hoped he would keep talking to me.
I thought he’d finally gotten the message as an entire minute of silence passed between us before he reached over to look at my book’s spine to see the title. I gulped in response – his hands were large and masculine and I wondered how his long fingers would feel interlaced with mine.
I shook my head and let out a shaky breath. I had gone seriously crazy. Like jumping on Oprah’s couch crazy.
“Macbeth? I would have guessed Romeo and Juliet.”
I couldn’t help myself. I had to look at him. “Two fifteen year olds who kill themselves in the name of love after only knowing each other for three days? No thanks.”
That smile. He was killing me. “You don’t find it romantic?”
“I don’t find anything romantic about suicide.”
“You don’t think love at first sight is romantic?” He persisted.
I’d never believed such a thing possible before this moment, but now I was sort of getting where Romeo had been coming from. Nico was literally the most handsome man I’d ever met in real life. If anyone could convince me to believe in love at first sight, he was the guy.
“Nope,” I finally managed. He smiled like he didn’t believe me.
Nico looked over this shoulder at a group of guys who were waving and calling out to him. He shouted something back to them and they headed out of the door, hooting and hollering as they went.
He stood up. He was taller than I’d first thought. Yummy tall. Way taller than me tall, and that wasn’t easy to find. “How long will you be in Monterra?”
It was such a personal question my gut reaction was to tell him to mind his own business, but to my surprise, I found myself saying, “For the next couple of weeks.”
“May I see your phone?”
I didn’t actually own a cell phone. I could barely afford food.
“No phone, and I’m not phone adjacent.”
Nico smiled again and I wanted to melt into my chair. He reached inside his coat, pulled out a small white business card and handed it to me. “If you do ever find yourself adjacent to a phone while you’re here, please call. I would love to take you to dinner before you leave.”
When I reached out he took my hand and turned it over, leaning down to kiss my knuckles. A lightning arc exploded inside my hand and zoomed around my entire body, all the way down to my toenails. I might have gasped, but I decided to pretend that I would never do something so lame.
He straightened back up to put the card in my shaking hand, closing my fingers around it. “I look forward to your call,” he said as he walked backwards toward the exit. “Ciao, bella.”
He left and it took my eyes a second to adjust. Like I’d been staring at the sun and now had third degree burns on my retinas. Who did that? Who just kissed people’s hands like that? This wasn’t the fifteenth century. So weird. And exciting. But weird.
The business card was white and thick. Obviously expensive. There was only a series of numbers, presumably his telephone number. I flipped the card over. Blank. Who had a card without a name on it? Just their phone number?
I’d tell you who. A guy who kissed your hand.
I closed my book and put it on the coffee table in front of me. I looked at the card again, turning it over a couple of times as I considered my decision.
I didn’t need this while I was here. And I couldn’t let Lemon see it or she’d hogtie me and force me to call him. I was here to relax, forget about my school troubles, and enjoy time with my best friend. Boys were not part of the equation.
A massive fire burned in the fireplace across the room. Decision made, I walked over and before I could change my mind, threw the card into the fire.
And informed myself that I absolutely, totally and completely did not regret it.
* * *
Lemon’s “five more minutes” turned out to be “over an hour.” She came down, all smiles and sorries, in her bright pink snowsuit. “Come on, Kat darlin’! Let’s go!” she said in her sweet Southern twang.
I smiled back. She’d been my best friend since our freshman year when we were assigned to be roommates in our dorm. The computer couldn’t have matched up a more polar opposite pair than us. Lemon Beauchamp was from a premiere (read: way wealthy) family in Atlanta, Georgia. She was like a tiny, modern day Marilyn Monroe – platinum blonde, bright red lips, curves for miles.
I was from a not-so-great family in a trailer park in Colorado (read: way poor) and was tall, usually wore no makeup, and had brown hair. Lemon kept encouraging me to call it auburn, but it was definitely brown (with maybe a little hint of red when I went out into the sun).
She kept up a giddy, totally one-sided conversation as we gathered up our skis (hers: top of the line; mine: rented) helmets and poles. We stepped outside and the light nearly blinded me. I put my sunglasses on and shaded my eyes with my hand to look straight up at the Alps. I thought the Rocky Mountains back home were huge, but these were massive. Impressive. Majestic.
“I am so excited!” Lemon kept saying throughout her monologue. I didn’t know if anyone else on the planet loved to ski as much as she did. Lemon had come to Brighton University, our small liberal arts college, solely because of the skiing. She spent every winter weekend on the mountain. In fact, after freshman year Lemon continued living with me in a small apartment off campus instead of the condo her parents thought she rented. She used the extra money to fund her skiing habit.
I, on the other hand, had only gone skiing once about twelve years ago for a class trip in sixth grade. I remembered our group lesson and it turned out I had exceptional balancing skills, as I was the only one to not fall forty times in the first ten minutes.
So when Lemon begged me to spend Christmas with her, offering to foot the entire bill for us to ski in some foreign country I’d never even heard of, I had to say yes. I hated that she had to pay for it, and when I offered to reimburse her, she got offended and said it was her Christmas gift to me. Her parents were off celebrating their thirtieth wedding anniversary on a cruise in the Caribbean, and Lemon did not want to be alone. How could I say no?
I really had tried to refuse at first, but then Lemon went and got her mother involved. Sue Ellen Beauchamp wasn’t the discussion type. She was the sending down tablets of stone type. Which quickly settled everything. Lemon and I were going to Monterra and neither Beauchamp woman would hear another word about it.
Since it had been a while since I’d last skied, Lemon suggested another class. I wasn’t interested. It was just like riding a bike, right? I would remember. Besides, I had planned on spending most of my time reading and hanging out at the spa. But I’d promised Lemon I would spend at least one day skiing with her, and today was the day.
I saw Nico and his friends standing in line at a ski lift for an intermediate run. He didn’t notice me, and a small part of me was glad for the chance to watch him one last time as he joked around with his five friends. My heart did a funny little flip as he moved into position to take the lift. I felt a tinge of sadness that I would never see him again.
We got to our ski lift and the operators stopped me. Turned out I had forgotten to attach my lift ticket to my zipper.
Lemon looked thoroughly disappointed, watching the lift climb up the mountain. “You go on ahead, I’ll catch up.”
“Are you sure?”
“I’m sure. I’ll just find you up at the top.” Most ski resorts had their bunny slopes next to the lodge at the bottom of the mountain. Lemon had explained that some, like this one, had the easier slopes up higher.
I trudged back to our room in my puffy red rented ski outfit, located my ticket, and got back to the lift as quickly as I could. Which wasn’t very fast, as my coat and pants made me waddle like a stuffed, drunk duck. When I got back outside I snapped my helmet on and struggled with getting my shoes into the ski bindings, but I finally managed it.
Standing in front of the lift, I said a quick prayer that it wouldn’t knock me over. It stole my breath away as it came up behind me, scooping me up and forcing me to sit down. But I enjoyed the slow trip up the mountain. The sun was high and bright, the air clean and crisp. So much beautiful white snow, sparkling all over like a field of scattered diamonds. I inhaled the cold air deeply and grinned. I had always loved winter, the way ugly things became beautiful when they were covered in white.
Thankfully, I didn’t fall when I jumped off the lift. I used my poles to propel myself forward, walking at the top of the run to see if I could spot Lemon. The slope was covered with people enjoying the day – mostly families.
Further down I saw Lemon’s bright pink outfit. I tried calling out to her and waving, but she was too far away to hear me. I pushed out onto the slope after her.
It was a gentle downgrade and I watched the delighted children who giggled and yelled as they played, skiing circles around me. It made me smile. I was right. Super easy. I didn’t need a class. Up ahead, Lemon headed to her left and I tried to follow.
She disappeared from sight behind a line of trees, so I continued going left. I came down to a wide passageway between a group of trees. I figured she had gone this way. I skied on the path until I merged into the new area. After a few moments I noticed that there no kids here and the ground felt funny. I also felt like I was going faster. I looked down and realized I was no longer on the smooth, machine-flattened snow on the bunny slope. This looked like ice. It was steeper. I must have accidentally skied onto a more difficult slope.
I went flying forward, scarily fast. I started breathing hard and my heartbeat raced as I realized the danger I was in. I went numb. I had to stop. How did I stop? My brain wouldn’t function. Think, think!
I turned my skis to the side, to cut into the snow. But that made me go faster. Not good. I straightened back out. What was I supposed to do again?
In a panic, I let go of my poles. I immediately realized my mistake. But it was too late as I kept going faster and faster.
If knew that if I hit a tree, I would be dead. I came around a bend to see a huge forest of trees on my left. I tried to lean away from them, praying that I could stay upright.
Maybe I could drag my hand like an anchor and slow myself down. I crouched down, which made my momentum pick up. I put my gloved hand behind me into the snow, but hit something hard. I let out a loud yell of pain, and pulled my left hand up to my chest, cradling it. The tears sprang to my eyes. I had broken it.
What now? The white-hot pain was interfering with my ability to think. My eyes watered more, making it hard to see. I had a moment where I thought, this is it. This is how I die.
“Fall down!” I heard a voice on the wind and turned my head slightly to look. It was Nico and his buddies, skiing fast until they were alongside me. It filled me with relief. They would help me. Save me. Until I processed what he had said.
“What?” I yelled back.
“You have to fall down!”
I shook my head. No way. Panic and fear threatened to overwhelm me. I had never been this scared.
“Fall backwards, on your side!” he instructed me. “You have to. Now!”
What choice did I have? If I tried to stop on my own, I would fall. If I ran into something, I’d be dead. I needed this to be over. I needed to get to a hospital. I had to do what he said. Before I could talk myself out of it, I closed my eyes and took a deep breath, falling back toward the mountain on my right side. I hit the ground hard. I had my breath knocked out of me as I began tumbling over and over through the snow. I felt something twist in my left ankle but I couldn’t cry out as I rolled and rolled until I finally stopped and everything went black.
Shouts and voices crept into my consciousness and I became aware of the fact that I was dizzy and flat on my back, in the snow, looking up at the sun. Nico leaned over me, blocking the sun in a way that made him look like he had a halo. Maybe he was an angel and I was dead.
“Stay still, don’t move,” he told me. I noticed that his forehead was bleeding. I wanted to ask if I was alive, but I couldn’t catch my breath. And every single part of me throbbed in pain.
I didn’t know how much time had passed, but Nico kept talking to me, telling me I had to stay awake. I didn’t want to stay awake because the pain was excruciating. I tried pushing him away but could barely lift my arm. I saw my sunglasses in the snow, broken into tiny black shards.
Someone put a neck brace on me and the men moved me to what felt like a long board. They buckled me in, and I was aware of being pulled down the mountain, surrounded by people in bright orange outfits.
The whole time Nico skied next to me, talking to me. I didn’t know what he was saying. I hoped he was speaking Monterran or something and that I hadn’t lost my ability to understand English. I closed my eyes just for a minute. I so wanted to rest. But mostly I wanted the pain to stop.
The farther we went down the mountain, the more I heard voices and yelling. One pierced my haze.
“Kat? Kat? Are you okay? What happened? Let me through, I’m her friend. Kat!” Lemon looked totally freaked out as she reached for me. I tried to answer her, but my voice was so weak. They stopped her, and one of Nico’s friends was hugging her as she sobbed into his shoulder.
I heard the helicopter before I saw it, and I felt the strong rush of wind from the blades as they loaded me into the waiting chopper. The paramedics started checking me and I yelped when they touched my wrist. Lemon was on my right, holding my hand and crying. “You’re going to be okay!” she yelled at me. I squeezed her hand back. Strong breezes swirled around us as the helicopter lifted up. I felt a poke in my arm as someone inserted an IV. I realized that Nico was sitting on my left side. He gave me a sad smile while a paramedic cleaned Nico’s forehead.
“I’m sorry,” I said. He shook his head, to indicate that he couldn’t hear me. He handed the gauze back to the paramedic and shooed the man away. He leaned in, putting his ear close to my mouth. “Sorry,” I repeated.
“For what?” he asked as he pulled back to look at me.
I turned my head and puked all over him.
I awoke to the sound of a little girl singing “Let It Go.” I opened my eyes slowly, taking in my surroundings. I was in a massive bed, covered by a thick, white comforter. There was a sheer white canopy hanging across the top of the bed and down the sides. I sat up and pushed it aside to look at the room. The ceilings were easily twenty feet high, and the room was full of antique looking furniture and expensive rugs. A small fire snapped and crackled in a fireplace nearby.
I didn’t recognize any of this. Definitely not our room at the resort. My heart started to race. Where was I?
The singing stopped. “Buonasera. Come stai?”
A girl lay on her stomach at the foot of my bed where she had been coloring in a book but was now staring at me. She had black hair and light brown eyes and seemed familiar, somehow.
“What?” My head felt thick, like I couldn’t focus or process what was happening.
She gave me a jack-o’-lantern grin. “I forgot you were an American. Hello.”
“Hi. You, uh, speak English really well.”
She shrugged. “I work on it every day with my tutor. And I watch a lot of Disney movies.”
“Yeah, I heard you singing.” I held my head in both of my hands. What had happened to me?
“Frozen is my favorite movie.”
I let go of my aching head and pulled the comforter up to my chest, holding on to it tightly. “Mine, too.”
Her eyes got big and she crawled across the bed to me. “What is your favorite color?” She asked this like my answer to it was the most important thing in the whole world.
I wanted to ask her what was going on, but instead said, “Purple?”
“Mine, too!” she said reverently, clasping her hands together on her chest. “I’m Serafina. I’m seven and a half, and you are my new best friend.”
“You’re welcome,” she nodded seriously. “Have you lost all your baby teeth?”
I was starting to feel like I was in some kind of strange Wonderland conversation where I wasn’t quite sure what was happening or who anyone was. “I have.”
“I’ve only lost four. See?” She came in super close, holding her mouth open so that I could see her front four teeth were gone. “My two big teeth are coming in on the bottom, but not on the top yet.”
“The Topolino brought me some gold coins that have my grandpa’s picture on them.”
I must have looked confused because she continued on, “Topolino? Il Topolino dei denti da latte?” I shook my head. “The tooth mouse?” she translated slowly.
Tooth mouse? What the frak was a tooth mouse? It sounded creepy. She sighed impatiently at my obvious slowness. “The mouse that brings you money when you put your tooth under your pillow?”
This just kept getting weirder. I nodded, and that finally seemed to satisfy her. “I’m not supposed to bother you. Am I bothering you?”
Other than the slight panic and total bewilderment at this conversation? “Not too much.”
She went back over to her coloring and pulled a cell phone out from under the book. “Serafina, where am I?”
“At my house.”
“My brother brought you here.” She started dialing numbers.
“Who is your brother?”
She again looked at me like I was very stupid. “Nico.”
“Who?” I tried to place the name and the memories came flooding back to me. Oh crap, Nico. Tall, dark and charming. The guy who rescued me after my skiing accident. I had brief flashes of the helicopter and the hospital, but I didn’t remember coming here. However, I did remember throwing up on him, and my face flushed a bright red.
“You look like a tomato,” Serafina informed me. “Chiara, she’s awake.” She paused. “No, I didn’t steal this phone. Violetta left it in her room for me. I’m only borrowing it!” Then she started to yell in a foreign language at this Chiara, and abruptly turned the phone off.
“Who is Chiara?”
“How many brothers and sisters do you have?”
“Three brothers, two sisters. I had another brother but he died before I was born.” Serafina said this as she sat right next to me, putting her head against mine. She held up the phone and took three pictures of us together.
“Why were you fighting with your sister?” I asked when she finished.
Serafina flicked through the pictures, altering them with some app. “She accused me of stealing my other sister Violetta’s phone.”
“Yes, but she’s not allowed to tell me what to do. Mamma says I’m not responsible enough yet to have my own phone and I needed to take a picture of us together.”
“Yes, but she’s not allowed to tell me what to do. Mamma says I’m not responsible enough yet to have my own phone and I needed to take a picture of us together.”
“Know what might help you get your own phone? Not stealing other people’s.”
I heard running footsteps out in the hallway, and a teenage girl threw the bedroom door open. She looked like an older version of Serafina.
“I’m Chiara. Nice to meet you. Nico’s never brought a girl home before. Especially not one that was injured.” She said everything quickly, run together, without a pause to breathe.
Injured? I became aware of an ACE bandage on my left wrist which I hadn’t noticed before. A dull ache started in that wrist, my chest tightened every time I needed to breathe, and it hurt to move my left leg. I remembered how much pain I was in right after the accident, and was grateful for how much better it was now.
“Do you need some medication?” Chiara asked me with a worried look on her delicate features. “You have some on the table next to your bed.” I turned to see unopened bottles of water and prescription pill bottles. I picked up one and it had my name right there on the bottle. Kat MacTaggart. Vicodin.
“I’m okay,” I said as I put the bottle back down. I didn’t need to explain to children why I had no intention of taking even a single pill.
Instead I pulled my covers off to investigate my leg. I had another bandage there, with bright purple, yellow and brown bruises all over both legs. Serafina took more pictures.
“At least your toes look pretty!” Chiara said brightly. “I painted them for you.” My toenails were hot pink with sparkles.
“When did you do that?” I asked, alarmed.
Chiara crawled up onto the bed next to her picture-taking sister. “While you were sleeping. Nico said I wasn’t supposed to bother you. I’m not bothering you, am I?”
This whole surreal situation was bothering me.
“Let’s watch Frozen!” Serafina said after she put the phone down. She ran over to a dresser and picked up a remote. She pushed a button, and a massive flat-screen TV rose up out of the dresser while she climbed back onto the bed, making her way over to me. With a few more clicks, she had queued up the movie. She cuddled up on my side, laying her head against my shoulder. I adored children, but this kid had no personal boundaries at all.
The opening credits started and I asked Chiara, “Is my friend here?”
“She’s talking about the fruit one,” Serafina said, without taking her eyes off the screen. “She’s next door.”
“Let me go get her for you,” Chiara said, jumping off the bed and running out into the hallway. I heard a rapid knocking, a door open and then to my great relief, Lemon’s voice.
Anna had just started singing about building a snowman with Elsa when Lemon came in, a look of worry on her face. I noticed she was wearing what she called her “work clothes.” They were the white button-up long-sleeved shirts and crisp dark slacks she wore when she wanted to be taken seriously. I had teased her about packing them, but it looked like she’d found some use for them. She rushed over to me and enveloped me in a giant hug. “Kat darlin’, I am so, so glad that you are okay.”
She held me for longer than we might normally hug, finally letting go and standing back at arm’s length to look at me. “How are you feeling?”
“Sore, and a bit weirded out,” I said, nodding my head toward an oblivious Serafina.
Lemon looked over at the fireplace to where there were two comfortable looking chairs. “Can you walk?”
I didn’t know, but I wanted to try. I felt stiff, like I hadn’t moved in a week. Serafina moved away as I swung my legs over to the side of the bed. I flexed at the ankle, which hurt, and at my knees, which didn’t. Lemon offered me her hand and helped me to stand. My ankle was painful, but I could manage it. I let out a shaky breath, and I saw Lemon’s eyes dart to my nightstand. Fortunately, she knew better than to offer me any of the pills.
We walked slowly over to the chairs and sat down in front of the fire. “What happened? Where are we?”
Lemon looked like the cat who ate an entire flock of canaries. “We are at the Monterran royal palace. Home of King Dominic, Queen Aria, and the crown prince, Dominic II.” She seemed to enjoy my look of confusion. “You know him as Nico.”
“Say what now?” A prince? A crown prince? And how was the different from a regular prince? I looked over my bed. That made little Serafina and Chiara princesses.
“You remember the man who saved you on the slopes, right?”
The one who looked like a fallen god turned human? Vague recollection. “Yeah.”
“He brought you here to his palace,” she emphasized, her eyes gleaming. “Can you believe he’s an actual prince?”
I didn’t think I had sustained any brain damage. She didn’t need to keep repeating herself. “Yeah, you mentioned that. But how did we get here?”
Lemon explained that the helicopter had taken me to a hospital where I apparently had sustained bruised ribs, a minor sprain in my ankle, a major sprain in my wrist, a mild concussion and bruising everywhere else. I was very lucky. I knew it could have been much worse. But when she started talking about the tests they ran and how worried she had been, I put my hand on her arm to keep her from continuing.
“CT scans and X-rays? How much was that?” Visions of bankruptcy danced in my head. I willed myself to not have a full-blown panic attack. No way could I afford all that. My student health insurance only worked on campus.
“Stop worrying about money,” she replied. Such an easy thing for someone with a lot of money to say. “The only thing that matters it that you’re all right. Prince Nico paid for all of your expenses, and brought you here to recover. Apparently his father is ill and they have a small army of doctors and nurses to look after him, and they’ve been watching over you, too. He wanted you to be close by so he could make sure you were all right.”
Lemon looked way too happy about that. It had been her life’s mission since freshman year to get me to hook up with someone. She couldn’t understand my aversion to men. She used to ask me if I wasn’t, um, interested in men, that she would understand, but that wasn’t the situation. I was definitely attracted to guys, but I just couldn’t with any of them.
“And he feels responsible.”
“His family owns the resort. One of many.” She practically bounced in her chair. “So not only is he gorgeous and royal, but rich to boot. Well done, darlin’.”
Lemon had more energy than someone without a crystal meth addiction should have. I gave her a look of disdain. She should know me better than that. “When are we leaving?”
“Here’s the thing about that. I think we should stay here for a little while.”
“Why? I’m awake. I feel better. We can go back to the resort or back home…wait. How many days has it been since the accident?”
“Three days?” I tried to keep the hysterics out of my voice. “I’ve been sleeping for three days?”
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