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Protecting the Princess

Protecting the Princess

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  • 202 Pages
  • 4-5 Hours
  • 62K Words
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She's a princess doubting the rules of royalty. He's the bodyguard tasked with keeping her in line. Will a relationship destroy both of their goals?

Princess Emma Somerset struggles to find purpose and fulfillment in her life. With her brother and cousins all married and in their new roles, she’s the only one left at the palace. When Queen Nicolette, her aunt, asks Emma to undertake a trip to the north as a good-will ambassador, she agrees, despite her lack of experience.

Ryan Sterling is a new protection officer for the royal house of Durham. He has aspirations for a high-profile assignment, but when Princess Emma’s long-time female bodyguard is injured a week before departure, he’s called to replace her. Now he’s stuck babysitting a spoiled princess instead of proving his worth to advance his career.

After floods strand Emma and Ryan in the remote countryside during the trip, their fledgling friendship slowly turns into something more. But is a new relationship between them doomed to fail when they return to the palace?

If you love sweet romance stories with a hunky bodyguard protecting his princess, you'll love the you'll love this fresh take on a sweet royal romance! Meet the Somersets, heirs to the royal throne of Durham, as they find forever-after love in this contemporary royal romance series. Perfect for fans of Once Upon a Prince,A Christmas Prince, and The Prince & Me

Main Tropes

  • bodyguard
  • royalty
  • forced proximity

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Synopsis

She's a princess doubting the rules of royalty. He's the bodyguard tasked with keeping her in line. Will a relationship destroy both of their goals?

Princess Emma Somerset struggles to find purpose and fulfillment in her life. With her brother and cousins all married and in their new roles, she’s the only one left at the palace. When Queen Nicolette, her aunt, asks Emma to undertake a trip to the north as a good-will ambassador, she agrees, despite her lack of experience.

Ryan Sterling is a new protection officer for the royal house of Durham. He has aspirations for a high-profile assignment, but when Princess Emma’s long-time female bodyguard is injured a week before departure, he’s called to replace her. Now he’s stuck babysitting a spoiled princess instead of proving his worth to advance his career.

After floods strand Emma and Ryan in the remote countryside during the trip, their fledgling friendship slowly turns into something more. But is a new relationship between them doomed to fail when they return to the palace?

If you love sweet romance stories with a hunky bodyguard protecting his princess, you'll love the you'll love this fresh take on a sweet royal romance! Meet the Somersets, heirs to the royal throne of Durham, as they find forever-after love in this contemporary royal romance series. Perfect for fans of Once Upon a Prince,A Christmas Prince, and The Prince & Me!

Intro into Chapter One

Emma Somerset stopped in front of the queen’s office and took a deep breath. She slid her palms down the side of her black trousers and waited a few beats to calm her breathing. Then she rapped on the door.
Mr. Poe, the queen’s secretary, opened it for her with a quiet “Your Highness.”
As usual, he didn’t comment on her lack of punctuality as he left the room, but Emma winced in silent apology as she passed him. She was ten minutes late, and the queen’s distaste for tardiness was legendary.
“Emma, dear. There you are,” said Queen Nicolette.
She greeted Emma with two kisses on each cheek in the true fashion of her home country of Galia, a habit she’d never lost with her family and closest friends.
“I’m sorry I’m late, Aunt Nicolette.”
A man in a dark-gray suit stood to the side of her aunt’s desk and Emma glanced at him. Who was he? She couldn’t remember meeting him recently or seeing his picture before. Something about his straight posture and neutral presence gave her the impression this was a man who didn’t like to stand out, which was oddly in opposition to his physical appearance and height. With his understated elegance and dark-haired good looks, he wouldn’t be easily ignored.
He returned Emma’s gaze with a carefully cultivated blank expression, and her interest stirred—he intrigued her, and she couldn’t remember the last time a man had.
“Am I interrupting something?” Emma asked her aunt. “I can return later if that’s more convenient.”
“No, no,” Aunt Nicolette replied quickly. She took Emma by the elbow and guided her forward. “I called you here to meet Mr. Ryan Sterling.” She turned to the man. “Mr. Sterling, this is my niece, Princess Emma Somerset.”
He tipped his head toward Emma in a brief bow. “Your Highness.”
“Mr. Sterling.” Emma nodded back at him.
Aunt Nicolette took her favorite upholstered chair, and Emma sat on the nearby sofa. Mr. Sterling remained standing until Aunt sent a quick nod his way, after which he took a straight-backed chair. He was acting more like an employee than a guest. What was he here for?
“I heard back about Ms. Allen’s condition,” Aunt Nicolette said. “She needs surgery and physical therapy, which means she’ll be on medical leave for quite some time. After talking to Mr. Peters, we decided some changes were necessary for maintaining your protection.”
Emma’s stomach dropped. Mr. Peters was the head of security, in charge of all other security and personal protection officers who served the royal family. Lisa Allen, her personal bodyguard, had suffered an ankle fracture last night when she’d been jogging as she did everyday. Emma had been told someone would replace her soon.
She hadn’t expected a guy in his early thirties with broad shoulders and a brooding gaze.
Emma gestured with her palm toward Mr. Sterling. “Him? He’s my new PPO?”
“Emma,” Aunt Nicolette chided.
“I apologize,” Emma replied in an appropriately subdued tone. “I didn’t mean to be disrespectful.” She looked at Mr. Sterling, who remained impassive and unperturbed in his seat. He gave new meaning to the strong, silent type, what with the way he schooled his features to keep his thoughts hidden. Her new personal protection officer.
Aunt Nicolette continued. “Mr. Sterling came highly recommended by Mr. Peters, who assured your uncle and I that Mr. Sterling is the best for your current needs. Besides, on such short notice, we couldn’t find a female protection officer. I know you and Charlotte always had female officers when you were growing up, but you’re older now.”
Emma nodded. It was true. Her twenty-sixth birthday was in a few months, but that didn’t mean she needed a man tailing her every move.
How had Uncle Geoffrey and Aunt Nicolette gone along with this plan? This was not going to work. Lisa had been Emma’s bodyguard for years and years; they knew each other’s dynamic and their working relationship meshed well with each other’s personalities. It was bad enough that Lisa was out of commission for some weeks, or even months, but a male bodyguard working as her replacement, however temporarily, was not a good idea. How was she going to carry out her little plan with a new guy following her around?
Emma took a breath and held silent for a moment, keeping a placid expression while her mind tried to work out a solution. Arguing with Aunt Nicolette would lead nowhere; Emma and Charlotte and the boys had learned that the hard way in their younger years. Aunt Nicolette seldom changed her mind unless there was a valid reason to persuade her.
“Mr. Sterling will take his position immediately,” Aunt added. “You’ll need to hand him your schedule and list of duties so he becomes familiar with your activities and responsibilities in time for your upcoming trip.”
Aunt Nicolette stood and reached for her tablet on her desk, and Mr. Sterling immediately rose from his chair, standing beside it. Emma kept her gaze away from him, trying to disguise her conflicted interest and how his forced presence was going to disrupt her life. It was almost too much at once, after months and months of nothing out of the ordinary.
“Mr. Poe has finalized your itinerary to Edenshire, Meeds, and Inverly and sent a copy to your inbox.” She tapped on the screen. “The date was changed, by the way.”
Hope surged for a second. “For later?”
“I’m afraid not. For early next week.” Aunt Nicolette rattled off the dates for each location.
Emma pulled out her phone to look over her schedule and sighed audibly. There was a property in Hillside Meadows she wanted to visit on one of those days. Would she be able to postpone the appointment with the land agent? And how would she get there, now that Lisa wasn’t her PPO? Emma couldn’t very well request a car and driver for an errand two hours away from the palace; someone would want a reason and an explanation. Someone always did.
“Must I be the one to go, Aunt?”
“We’ve been over this, Emma. I need your help, and I think you’re the perfect person for this trip.”
She was the only person who could go—Charlotte was in South Africa, and all the boys were married and had various duties that took precedence. As the last single child in the Somerset family, without the responsibilities that came from being attached to a significant other, Emma was the obvious choice to go on a good-will trip to visit children’s hospitals in the northwestern region of the country.
“Yes, of course, Aunt.”
She’d keep her opinions to herself, even if it hurt her to do so. As much as she preferred to not go on this trip, Emma was incapable of saying no to Aunt Nicolette, both for personal reasons and out of a sense of duty. After all, Aunt Nicolette and Uncle Geoffrey had certainly done their obligation and more, stepping in to care for Oliver and Emma eighteen years ago after their parents died in an accident.
“Thank you, dear,” Aunt said as she rounded her desk and sat back down. “When you return, ask Mr. Poe to put a lunch with you on my schedule so we can discuss ideas for your charity project.”
Emma left her chair, and her smile came unbidden. “I’d love that, Aunt Nicolette. Thank you.”
Her plans for a charitable foundation to benefit children were not coming as easily as the ideas she’d first had. Input from Aunt Nicolette would be more than welcome, and a lunch date sounded perfect. As busy as Aunt was with her many royal duties, Emma appreciated the offer. If only Aunt were as open to discussing Emma’s trust fund situation, maybe Emma could make some progress with her plans to move out of the palace. She wouldn’t put it past her aunt to send her on this trip as a way to get a break from Emma’s constant requests for more independence.
“It’s settled, then. Now, why don’t you and Mr. Sterling meet in the small library to discuss the itinerary and your schedule? I’m sure you both have logistics to talk about.”
Mr. Poe reentered the office and approached the desk, standing next to it. How did he do that? Always arriving at the perfect moment. That was Emma’s cue to leave.
“Thank you for coming, Mr. Sterling,” Aunt Nicolette said, already giving her attention to a folder Mr. Poe had brought.
“Yes, ma’am,” Mr. Sterling said.
He held the door open, and Emma led the way across the hall. “Right this way.”
Somehow, he managed to arrive before her in time to open the next door for her. Although she was used to that kind of deference, especially when in the palace, his attention felt personal. But it wasn’t, and she’d do well to remember that.
The small library wasn’t small by normal standards—only when compared to the official library on the main floor of the palace. This one was located closer to the family’s personal wing and was also used by secretaries and assistants as the need arose.
The room was long and narrow, anchored by floor-to-ceiling bookshelves filled with volumes that covered many topics and categories. Opposite the door, a wide desk from the eighteenth century stood in front of two large windows, and an ornate marble fireplace acted as the focal piece, flanked by a classic leather sofa and matching chairs. Tucked in the left corner by the door, a wooden hutch and desk housed the modern conveniences of phone, printer, and charging stations for wireless devices.
Emma lowered herself onto one of the leather chairs. “Let’s have a seat, Ryan.” She indicated a chair opposite hers. “May I call you Ryan?”
“Yes, of course, ma’am.”
He managed to sit down and still keep his posture at attention, as if waiting for an imminent threat. Did he ever relax?
For a moment, they watched each other. Emma didn’t know what to make of this man, who was now responsible for her protection and who’d be following her closely in public.
“I have to be honest,” she started. “I wasn’t expecting a male protection officer.”
“Is it going to be a problem, ma’am?”
She resisted the temptation to roll her eyes at him. “Are you always like this?”
His eyes took on an earnest expression. “Like what, Your Highness?”
“So fervent about following protocol and using titles every time you address me. I’m not the queen of Durham, you know.”
“Yes, I am quite aware, ma’am.”
Was that a trace of humor behind his professional demeanor? She didn’t know him enough to tell. Hopefully he had a lighter side to his personality or their daily interactions would be staid and boring. Emma abhorred boredom.
“Coming back to your question, you being a male is less of a problem and more of a surprise.” Unless he made it a problem. “Lisa Allen has been my protection officer since my brother and I moved in with Uncle Geoffrey and Aunt Nicolette.”
“That’s a long time.”
“It is.” In truth, Emma had gotten used to having Lisa in her day-to-day life. “After Lisa got hurt last night, Mr. Peters called and assured me I’d have a new protection officer today. And here you are.” Maybe she should have asked Mr. Peters more questions before assuming he’d send a female officer.
“I expect there will be a period of adjustment for both of us,” Ryan Sterling said.
“Right. That’s a good point. Adjustments are necessary. Which leads into what I wish to bring up with you. Before anything else, we need to establish some simple rules to make the transition smoother.”
He frowned for a second but quickly resumed his expression of neutrality. If she hadn’t been watching him, she would have missed it.
“I understand the need to observe protocol when we’re in public, but at other times, you don’t need to use Your Highness or ma’am to address me.”
He paused for a beat, then replied, “Very well, Princess Emma.”
Was he being facetious? “When we’re in private, like we are right now, you may call me just Emma.”
His left eyebrow pulled up, but he didn’t comment.
Emma continued. “When I’m in the palace, I won’t require your presence, obviously. I will need you mostly for public outings and official visits. Private outings are excluded as well.”
“Private outings?” he questioned. “To clarify, what is a private outing, ma’am?”
Now she’d said too much.

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