This week’s Romance Cafe features an inside look into USA Today’s Best selling author’s book ‘To Kiss a King’

/Romance Cafe is an exciting weekly series on Kmart Books where we introduce readers to the world of series romance with sizzling content including free chapters, excerpts, video trailers and more. Simply, Romance Cafe gives readers a little taste of romance…

This week’s Romance Cafe features an inside look  into USA Today’s Bestselling Author Maureen Child’s ‘To Kiss a King’.

Synopsis

For security expert Garrett King, rescuing a damsel in distress is routine—even if she is a runaway princess. And especially if she’s a sexy, desirable woman he intends to keep very, very close.

Garrett knows Princess Alexis escaped her castle to look for independence and true love—and she thinks she’s found it in him. But he’s no white knight. As a bodyguard, he’s been covertly hired to protect her during her adventure. As a confirmed bachelor, he doesn’t do happily ever after…but one kiss from a princess could change everything.

About the Author

Maureen Child is the USA TODAY bestselling author of more than one-hundred romance novels and novellas. She’s published in several different genres, including historical romance, paranormal and contemporary.

A five-time RITA® Award nominee, Maureen Child’s books make regular appearances on bestseller lists such as USA TODAY and Walden’s list. Her books have won numerous awards, including the Award of Excellence, the Prism, the Golden Quill and a Career Achievement award from RT magazine.

One of Maureen’s historical paranormal books, A Pocketful of Paradise, was made into a CBS TV movie called The Soul Collector, starring Melissa Gilbert, Bruce Greenwood and Ossie Davis. If you look closely, you can even see Maureen in the last five minutes of the movie!

She lives with her family in Southern California and is already at work on her next book.

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Chapter One

Garrett King was in Hell.

Dozens of screaming, laughing children raced past him and he winced as their voices hit decibels only dogs should have been able to hear. Happiest Place on Earth? He didn’t think so.

How he had let himself be talked into this, he had no idea.

“Getting soft,” he muttered darkly and leaned one hand on the hot metal balustrade in front of him only to wrench his hand back instantly. He glanced at his palm, sighed and reached for a napkin out of his cousin’s bag to wipe the sticky cotton candy off his skin.

“You could be at the office,” he told himself sternly, wadding up the napkin and tossing it into a trash can. “You could be checking invoices, keeping tabs on the new client. But no, you had to say yes to your cousin instead.”

Jackson King had pulled out all the stops getting Garrett to go along with this little family adventure. Jackson’s wife, Casey, was apparently “worried” because Garrett was alone too much. Nice woman Casey, he told himself. But did no one ever consider that maybe a man was alone because he wanted to be?

But he still could have begged off if it had been just Casey and Jackson doing the asking. But Garrett’s cousin had cheated.

He had had his daughters ask “Uncle” Garrett to go with them and frankly, when faced with three of the cutest kids in the world, it would have been impossible to say no. And Jackson knew it, the clever bastard.

“Hey, cuz!” Jackson’s shout sounded out and Garrett turned to give him a hard look.

Jackson only laughed. “Casey, honey,” he said, turning to his stunning wife, “did you see that? I don’t think Garrett’s having any fun.”

“About that,” Garrett cut in, lifting his voice to be heard over the raucous noise rising from the crowd, “I was thinking I’d just head out now. Leave you guys to some family fun.”

“You are family, Garrett,” Casey pointed out.

Before he could speak, Garrett felt a tug at his pants leg. He looked down into Mia’s upturned face. “Uncle Garrett, we’re going on the fast mountain ride. You wanna come?”

At five, Mia King was already a heartbreaker. From her King blue eyes to the missing front tooth to the dimple in her cheek, she was absolutely adorable. And not being a dummy, she knew how to work it already, too.

“Uh…” Garrett glanced behind Mia to her younger sisters Molly and Mara. Molly was three and Mara was just beginning to toddle. The three of them were unstoppable, Garrett told himself wryly.

There was just no way he was getting out of this day early. One girl pouting was hard to resist. Three were too much for any man to stand against.

“How about I stand here and watch your stuff while you guys go on the ride?”

Jackson snorted a laugh that Garrett ignored. For God’s sake, he owned the most respected security company in the country and here he was haggling with a five-year-old.

Garrett and Jackson had been good friends for years. Most of the King cousins were close, but he and Jackson had worked closely together over the years. Garrett’s security company and Jackson’s company, King Jets, fed off each other. With Garrett’s high-priced clients renting Jackson’s luxury jets, both companies were thriving for the loosely defined partnership.

Jackson’s wife, Casey, on the other hand, was one of those happily married women who saw every determined bachelor as a personal challenge.

“You going on the Matterhorn with us?” Jackson asked, plucking Mara from his wife’s arms. The chubby toddler slapped at his cheeks gleefully and Garrett watched with some amusement as Jackson practically melted. The man was a sap when it came to his family. Funny, because in business, Jackson King was a cutthroat kind of guy that nobody wanted to cross.

“Nope,” Garrett told him and lifted the baby out of his cousin’s arms. With the crazed population explosion in the King family, Garrett was getting used to dealing with kids. Comfortably settling the tiny girl on his hip, he said, “I’ll wait here with Mara and the rest of your—” he paused to glance down at the stroller and the bags already piled high on it “—stuff.”

“You could ride with me,” Mia insisted, turning those big blue eyes on him.

“Oh, she’s good,” Jackson whispered on a laugh.

Garrett went down on one knee and looked her in the eye. “How about I stay here with your sister and you tell me all about the ride when you get off?”

She scowled a little, clearly unused to losing, then grinned. “Okay.”

Casey took both of the girls’ hands, smiled at Garrett and headed for the line.

“I didn’t ask you to come along so you could just stand around, you know,” Jackson said.

“Yeah. Why did you ask me along? Better yet, why’d I say yes?”

Jackson laughed, looked over his shoulder at his wife and then said, “One word. Casey. She thinks you’re lonely. And if you think I’m going to listen to her worry about you all by myself, you’re nuts.”

Mara slapped Garrett’s face. He swiveled his head to smile at the baby. “Your daddy’s scared of your mommy.”

“Damn straight,” Jackson admitted with a laugh. He headed off after the rest of his family and called back, “If she gets cranky, there’s a bottle in the diaper bag.”

“I think I can handle a baby,” he shouted back, but Jackson was already swallowed by the crowd.

“It’s just you and me, kid,” Garrett told the girl who laughed delightedly and squirmed as if she wanted to be turned loose to run. “Oh, no, you don’t. I put you down, you disappear and your mommy kills me.”

“Down.” Mara looked mutinous.

“No.”

She scowled again then tried a coy smile.

“Man,” Garrett said with a smile. “Are women born knowing how to do that?”

Bright, cheerful calliope music erupted from somewhere nearby and the smell of popcorn floated on the breeze. A dog wearing a top hat was waltzing with Cinderella to the cheers of the crowd. And Garrett was holding a baby and feeling as out of place as—hell, he couldn’t even think of anything as out of place as he felt at the moment.

This was not his world, he thought, jiggling Mara when she started fussing. Give Garrett King a dangerous situation, a shooter going after a high-profile target, a kidnapping, even a jewelry heist, and he was in his element.

This happy, shiny stuff? Not so much.

Owning and operating the biggest, most successful security company in the country was bound to color your outlook on the world. Their clients ranged from royalty to wealthy industrialists, computer billionaires and politicians. Because of their own immense wealth, the King brothers knew how to blend in when arranging security. Because of their expertise, their reputation kept growing. Their firm was the most sought-after of its kind on the planet. The King twins flew all over the world to meet the demands of their clients. And he and his twin, Griffin, were good with that. Not everyone could be relaxed and optimistic. There had to be people like he and Griff around to take care of the dirty jobs.

That was his comfort zone, he told himself as he watched Jackson and his family near the front of the line. Casey was holding Molly and Jackson had Mia up on his shoulders. They looked…perfect. And Garrett was glad for his cousin, really. In fact, he was happy for all of the Kings who had recently jumped off a cliff into the uncharted waters of marriage and family. But he wouldn’t be joining them.

Guys like him didn’t do happy endings.

“That’s okay, though,” he whispered, planting a kiss on Mara’s forehead. “I’ll settle for spending time with you guys. How’s that?”

She burbled something he took as agreement then fixed her gaze on a bright pink balloon. “Boon!”

Garrett was just going to buy it for her when he noticed the woman.

Alexis Morgan Wells was having a wonderful day. Disneyland was everything she had hoped it would be. She loved everything about it. The music, the laughter. The cartoon characters wandering around interacting with the crowd. She loved the gardens, the topiary statues; she even loved the smell of the place. It was like childhood and dreams and magic all at once.

The music from the last ride she’d been on was still dancing through her mind—she had a feeling it would be for hours—when she noticed the man coming up to her. Her good mood quickly drained away as the same man who had followed her on to It’s a Small World hurried to catch up. He’d had the seat behind her in the boat and had come close to ruining the whole experience for her as he insisted on trying to talk to her.

Just as he was now.

“Come on, babe. I’m not a crazy person or anything. I just want to buy you lunch. Is that so bad?”

She half turned and gave him a patient, if tight, smile. “I’ve already told you I’m not interested, so please go away.”

Instead of being rebuffed, his eyes lit up. “You’re British, aren’t you? The accent’s cool.”

“Oh, for heaven’s sake.”

She was really going to have to work on that, she told herself sternly. If she wasn’t paying close attention, her clipped accent immediately branded her as “different.” Though it would take a much better ear than that of the man currently bothering her, to recognize that her accent wasn’t British, but Cadrian.

But if she worked at it, she could manage an American accent—since her mother had been born in California. Thinking about her mom brought a quick zip of guilt shooting through her, but Alex tamped it down. She’d deal with it later. She was absolutely sure her mother would understand why Alex had had to leave—she was just in no hurry to hear how much worry she’d caused by taking off.

After all, Alex was a bright, capable adult and if she wanted a vacation, why should she have to jump through hoops to take one? There, she was feeling better already. Until she picked up on the fact that her would-be admirer was still talking. Honestly, she was trying to stay under the radar and this man was drawing way too much attention to her.

Trying to ignore him, Alex quickened her steps, moving in and out of the ever-shifting crowd with the grace earned from years of dance lessons. She wore a long, tunic-style white blouse, blue jeans and blue platform heels, and, at the moment, she was wishing she’d worn sneakers. Then she could have sprinted for some distance.

The minute that thought entered her mind, she dismissed it, though. Running through a crowd like a lunatic would only draw the notice she was trying to avoid.

“C’mon, babe, it’s lunch. What could it hurt?”

“I don’t eat,” she told him, “I’m an oxygenarian.”

He blinked at her. “What?”

“Nothing,” she muttered, hurrying again. Stop talking to him, she told herself. Ignore him and he’ll go away.

She headed for the landmark right ahead of her. The snow-topped mountain in the middle of Anaheim, California. This particular mountain was probably one of the best known peaks in the world. Alex smiled just looking at it. She lifted her gaze and watched as toboggans filled with screaming, laughing people jolted around curves and splashed through lagoons, sending waves of water into the air. The line for the mountain was a long one and as her gaze moved over the people there, she saw him. He was watching her. A big man with black hair, a stern jaw and a plump baby on his hip.

In one quick instant, she felt a jolt of something like “recognition.” As if something inside her, knew him. Had been searching for him. Unfortunately, judging by the black-haired little girl he was holding, some other woman had found him first.

“Quit walking so fast, will ya?” the annoying guy behind her whined.

Alex fixed her gaze on the sharp-eyed man and felt his stare hit her as powerfully as a touch. Then his eyes shifted from her to the man behind her and back again. He seemed to understand the situation instantly.

“There you are, honey!” he called out, smiling directly at Alex. “What took you so long?”

Smiling broadly, she accepted the help he was offering and ran to him. He greeted her with a grin then dropped one arm around her shoulders, pulling her in close to his side. Only then did he shift his gaze to the disappointed man.

“There a problem here?” Her Knight in Shining Denim demanded.

“No,” the guy muttered, shaking his head. “No problem. Later.”

And he was gone.

Alex watched him go with a sigh of relief. Not that he had ever scared her or anything, but she hadn’t wanted to waste her first day in Disneyland being irritated. The big man beside her still had his arm around her and Alex liked it. He was big and strong and it was hard not to appreciate a guy who had seen you needed help and offered it without a qualm.

“Boon!”

The little girl’s voice shattered the moment and with that reminder that her hero was probably someone else’s husband, Alex slipped out from under his arm. Glancing up at the little girl, she smiled. “You’re a beauty, aren’t you? Your daddy must be very proud.”

“Oh, he is,” the man beside her said, his voice so deep it seemed to sink right inside her. “And he’s got two more just like her.”

“Really.” She wasn’t sure why the news that he was the father of three was so disappointing, but there it was.

“Yeah. My cousin and his wife have the other two on the ride right now. I’m just watching this one for them.”

“Oh.” She smiled, pleasure rushing through her. “Then you’re not her father?”

He smiled, too, as if he knew exactly what she was thinking. “Not a chance. I wouldn’t do that to some poor, unsuspecting kid.”

Alex looked into his eyes and enjoyed the sparkle she found there. He was relishing this little flirtation as much as she was. “Oh, I don’t know. A hero might make a very good father.”

“Hero? I’m hardly that.”

“You were for me a minute ago,” she said. “I couldn’t seem to convince that man to leave me alone, so I really appreciate your help.”

“You’re welcome. But you could have gone to a security guard and had the guy thrown out. Probably should have.”

No, going to a security guard would have involved making statements, filling out paperwork and then her identity would be revealed and the lovely day she’d planned would have been ruined.

She shook her head, pushed her long blond hair back from her face and turned to sweep her gaze across the manicured flower gardens, the happy kids and the brilliant blue sky overhead. “No, he wasn’t dangerous. Just irritating.”

He laughed and she liked the sound of it.

“Boon, Gar,” the little girl said in a voice filled with the kind of determination only a single-minded toddler could manage.

“Right. Balloon.” He lifted one hand to the balloon seller, and the guy stepped right up, gently tying the string of a bright pink balloon to the baby’s wrist. While Garrett paid the man, the baby waved her arm, squealing with delight as the balloon danced and jumped to her whim.

“So, I think introductions are in order,” he said. “This demanding female is Mara and I’m Garrett.”

“Alexis, but call me Alex,” she said, holding her right hand out to him.

He took her hand in his and the instant her skin brushed along his, Alex felt ripples of something really intriguing washing throughout her body. Then he let her go and the delightful heat dissipated.

“So, Alex, how’s your day going?”

She laughed a little. “Until that one little moment, it was going great. I love it here. It’s my first time, and I’ve heard so much about this place…”

“Ah,” he said nodding, “that explains it.”

She tensed. “Explains what?”

“If it’s your first time here, you’re having so much fun that all of these crowds don’t bother you.”

“Oh, no. I think it’s wonderful. Everyone seems so nice, well, except for—”

“That one little moment?” he asked, repeating her words to her.

“Yes, exactly.” Alex smiled again and reluctantly took a step back. As lovely as this was, talking to a handsome man who had no idea who she was, it would be better for her if she ended it now and went on her way. “Thank you again for the rescue, but I should really be going…”

He tipped his head to one side and looked at her. “Meeting someone?”

“No, but—”

“Then what’s your hurry?”

Her heartbeat sped up at the invitation in his eyes. He didn’t want her to leave. And how nice that was. He actually liked her.

The darling little girl was still playing with her balloon, paying no attention at all to the two adults with her.

Alex looked up into Garrett’s pale blue eyes and did some fast thinking. She had to keep a low profile, true. But that didn’t mean she had to be a hermit during her…vacation, did it? And what kind of holiday would it be if there were no “romance” included?

“What do you say,” he added, “hang with us today. Rescue me from a day filled with too many kids?”

You need rescuing?”

She saw the teasing glint in his eyes and responded to it with a smile.

“Trust me. My cousin’s girls all have my number. If you’re not there to protect me, who knows what might happen?”

Tempting, she thought. So very tempting. She’d only been in America for three days and already she was feeling a little isolated. Being on her own was liberating, but, as it turned out, lonely. And it wasn’t as if she could call the few friends she had in the States—the moment she did, word would get back to her family and, just like that, her bid for freedom would end.

What could it hurt to spend the day with a man who made her toes curl and the family he clearly loved? She took a breath and made the leap. “All right, thank you. I would love to rescue you.”

“Excellent. My cousin and his family should be back any minute now. So while we wait, why don’t you tell me where you’re from. I can’t quite place your accent. It’s British, but…not.”

She jolted a little and fought to keep him from seeing it. “You’ve a good ear.”

“So I’ve been told. But that’s not really an answer, is it?”

No, it wasn’t, and how astute of him to notice. She’d been trained in how to answer questions without really answering them from the time she was a child. Her father would have been proud. Never answer a question directly, Alexis. Always be vague. Watch what you say, Alexis. You’ve a responsibility to your family. Your heritage. Your people…

“Hey. Alex.”

At the sound of his concerned voice, she shook her head, coming out of her thoughts with relief. That was the second time Garrett had rescued her today. She didn’t want to think about her duties. Her role in history. She didn’t want to be anything but Alex.

So instead of being evasive again, she said, “Why don’t you try to figure out where I’m from and I’ll let you know when you’ve got it right?”

One dark eyebrow lifted. “Oh, you’re challenging the wrong guy. But you’re on. Five bucks says I’ve got it by the end of the day.”

Oh, she hoped not. If he did, that would ruin everything. But she braved it out and asked, “Five dollars? Not much of a wager.”

He gave her a slow grin that sent new flashes of heat dancing through her system. “I’m open to negotiation.”

She actually felt her blood sizzle and hum.

“No, no. That’s all right.” She backed up quickly. Maybe she wasn’t as prepared for that zing of romance as she had thought. Or maybe Garrett the Gorgeous was just too much for her to handle. Either way, she was nervous enough to try to cool things down between them just a little. “Five dollars will do. It’s a bargain.”

“Agreed,” he said, one corner of his mouth lifting tantalizingly. “But just so you know, you should never bet with me, Alex. I always win.”

“Confident, aren’t you?”

“You have no idea.”

A thrill of something hot and delicious swept through her veins. Nerves or not, she really enjoyed what he was doing to her. What was it about him that affected her so?

“That was fun, Uncle Garrett!”

A tiny whirlwind rushed up to them and threw both arms around Garrett’s knees. The girl gave him a wide smile then shifted suspicious eyes to Alex. “Who are you?”

“This is Alex,” Garrett told her. “Alex, meet Mia.”

She smiled at the child and couldn’t help noticing that the little girl held on to Garrett’s legs just a little more tightly.

“Mia, don’t run from me in these crowds,” a deep male voice shouted.

Alex turned to watch an impossibly attractive couple approach, the man holding on to a smaller version of the still-wary Mia.

“Alex,” Garrett said briskly, “this is my cousin Jackson and his wife, Casey, and that pretty girl with them is Molly.”

“It’s lovely to meet you all.”

Jackson gave her a quick up and down, then winked at his wife. “Wow, leave Garrett alone for a few minutes and he finds the most beautiful woman in the whole place—”

His wife nudged him with an elbow.

“—not counting you of course, sweetie. You’re the most beautiful woman in the world.”

“Nice recovery,” Casey told him with a laugh and a smile for Alex.

“Always were a smooth one, Jackson,” Garrett mused.

“It’s why she loves me,” his cousin answered, dropping a kiss on his wife’s head.

Alex smiled at all of them. It was lovely to see the open affection in this family, though she felt a sharp pang of envy slice at her, as well. To get some time for herself she’d had to run from her own family. She missed them, even her dictatorial father, and being around these people only brought up their loss more sharply.

“It’s nice to meet you, Alex,” Casey said, extending her right hand in welcome.

“Thank you. I must admit I’m a little overwhelmed by everything. This is my first trip to Disneyland and—”

“Your first time?” Mia interrupted. “But you’re old.”

“Mia!” Casey was horrified.

Garrett and Jackson laughed and Alex joined them. Bending down slightly, she met Mia’s gaze and said, “It’s horrible I know. But I live very far away from here, so this is the first chance I’ve ever had to visit.”

“Oh.” Nodding her head, Mia thought about it for a minute then looked at her mother. “I think we should take Alex to the ghost ride.”

“Mia, that’s your favorite ride,” her father said.

“But she would like it, wouldn’t you, Alex?” She turned her eyes up and gave her a pleading look.

“You know,” Alex said, “I was just wishing I knew how to find the ghost ride.”

“I’ll show you!” Mia took her hand and started walking, fully expecting her family to follow.

“Guess you’ll be spending the day with us for sure, now,” Garrett teased.

“Looks that way.” She grinned, delighted with this turn of events. She was in a place she’d heard about her whole life and she wasn’t alone. There were children to enjoy and people to talk to and it was very near to perfect.

Then she looked up at Garrett’s blue eyes and told herself maybe it was closer to perfect than she knew.

“And after the ghost ride, we can ride the jungle boats and then the pirate one.” Mia was talking a mile a minute.

“Molly, honey, don’t pick up the bug,” Jackson said patiently.

“Bug?” Casey repeated, horrified.

Still holding Mara, Garrett came up beside Alex and said softly, “I promise, after the ghost ride, I’ll ride herd on my family and you can do what you want to do.”

The funny thing was, he didn’t know it, but she was already doing what she had always wanted to do.

She wanted to be accepted. To spend a day with nothing more to worry about than enjoying herself. And mostly, she wanted to meet people and have them like her because she was Alex Wells.

Not because she was Her Royal Highness Princess Alexis Morgan Wells of Cadria.

Did this little taste of romance leave you hungry for more?  Buy ‘To Kiss a King’ online or in-store at Kmart!

Are you excited to read Maureen’s book?  Share your thoughts with us.  If you’ve already read it, leave your book review in the comments below!

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