Christmas on the Royal Yacht
The only man ever to rock her world is the one man able to destroy it.
Five years ago, brokenhearted April Dietrich left more than a successful career when she fled Manhattan to work for the Barrali royal family on renovations to Sarcaccia's centuries-old palace. She also left her lover.
Now Ryan "Rock" Fournier has come to Sarcaccia, hired by Queen Fabrizia as head chef on the royal yacht. When Rock decides to pursue April using every weapon in his arsenal, will it cook up trouble for both their careers? Or will a Christmas miracle bring them together at last?
Don't miss a single volume of the Royal Scandals Series!
- Christmas With a Prince (novella)
- Scandal With a Prince
- Honeymoon With a Prince
- Christmas on the Royal Yacht (novella)
- Slow Tango With a Prince
- The Royal Bastard
- Christmas With a Palace Thief (novella)
- The Wicked Prince
- One Man's Princess
- A Royal Scandals Wedding, for newsletter subscribers
Release date: October 21, 2014
Print pages: 108
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Christmas on the Royal Yacht
April Dietrich ducked her head against a fresh torrent of icy rain as she hurried along the southernmost dock of Cateri’s famous marina. The Libertà, the largest of the three yachts owned by the Barrali royal family, was moored at the end, beyond a gauntlet of security. She didn’t envy the guards their job today. Christmas might be day after tomorrow, but this morning’s weather felt more typical of a bitter December in New York City than one on the Mediterranean island of Sarcaccia.
She used one hand to hold her hood in place as a wind gust forced her to take a staggering step sideways, which drew a laugh from her chilled lips. Despite today’s rain, living and working in Sarcaccia beat her old life in New York. She never would’ve believed it five years ago when Queen Fabrizia approached with a generous employment proposal…then called back two more times to raise her offer. April had loved the business she and her brother Mark took over from their father, which specialized in rehabbing prewar buildings in Manhattan. Still, she’d needed a new start in her personal life and finally took the leap and sold her half of the business to her brother. She never once regretted the decision. Most of her days were occupied with repairs and renovations to Sarcaccia’s centuries-old palace, but her weekends and evenings were spent basking in Mediterranean sunshine, enjoying wine, cheese, fresh veggies, and, on occasion, the casual company of some very sexy Sarcaccian men.
The laid-back, relish-each-day attitude she’d developed was the complete opposite of her driven life back in New York.
“You find this amusing?” Marco, the captain of the Libertà, eyed her from beneath his own hood. He wore a heavy raincoat over his dress whites and clutched a lidded plastic container to his chest in a futile attempt to keep it dry. April suspected it contained a batch of treats Marco’s wife, Sabrina, baked to share with the crew.
“You know, I kind of do.” One of the few times she was sent to work outside the palace and the island’s perpetual sunshine disappeared on her. “I thought you sailor types were immune to the weather.”
Marco made a show of rolling his eyes and muttering in Italian. April knew enough of the language to gather he was cursing the oddities of the feminine mind.
“Did you get breakfast?" he asked once they showed their identification to the drenched guards and proceeded to the end of the dock. “The galley has plenty of food, but you’ll have to ask the chef on duty where to find it. Everything’s been moved to make space for the New Year’s Eve banquet supplies.”
“As long as there’s coffee, I’m happy,” she assured him. “No one needs to go out of their way for me.”
Every year, the Barralis invited VIPs from across Europe for a night of dinner and dancing on their yacht. Afterward, the guests had a prime spot from which to watch the fireworks over the capital city of Cateri. While many guests then adjourned to the palace to spend the night, a few stayed on board the Libertà or one of the family’s two smaller yachts, which was what brought April to the dock today. Marco sent a punch list of minor repairs needed to the Libertà before the big event.
“Good, because they’re too busy anyway.” Marco winked at her before gesturing for April to lead the way up the ramp to the yacht’s lower deck. Even in the pouring rain, the vessel took her breath away. Its white hull and silver trim gleamed despite the day’s cloud cover. After making her way up the crew stairs to the rear deck, she bypassed the row of lounge chairs and opened one of the sliding glass doors to the salon, the yacht’s main gathering area. The clean lines and luxurious silver-blue sofas of the expansive windowed room made her want to collapse with a warm blanket and steaming hot chocolate to watch the raindrops. It was a space meant for self-indulgent lounging.
“The worst are the doors below the television,” Marco told her, pointing to the long row of sleek cabinets on the far wall. “The one on the far left won’t stay shut. With the others, I suspect it’s a matter of tightening and realigning the hinges to keep everything from creaking. The rest of the issues are in the master stateroom, the second guest room on the starboard side, and the galley.”
So much for lounging, not that she would anyway. “How ‘bout I take a look at what needs fixing in the galley while I grab a cup of coffee? I can see when it’s most convenient for me to work in there, given the staff’s schedule. I can tackle the rest of the repairs whenever the galley is busy.”
“Thanks. I know renovations are more your job description than repairs, so it’s appreciated.”
“Bet you say that to all the girls.”
Marco laughed, indicated he’d be in the pilot house on the top deck, then left her to find the galley. Before making his way up the stairs, he turned and warned April to be kind to the yacht’s new head chef.
“You don’t think I’m nice?” She put a hand to her chest in a mock affront.
“Of course you are. I’m warning you because he may end up being your chef. He’s been on board for six months, but he’s still warming up to the crew’s sense of humor.”
She frowned at him as she set down her toolbox and removed her raincoat, taking care not to shake too much water onto the floor. “My chef?”
“The queen hired him with the idea he’d replace Dominic when the old guy retires in the spring.”
April had heard the rumor circulating through the housekeeping staff that the palace’s longtime head chef planned to move to London to be closer to his children, but she’d hoped it wasn’t true. This was the first confirmation she’d heard from someone likely to know the facts. “Dominic’s really going?”
“Once the king and queen are certain about their choice of replacement. The New Year’s Eve party is his big test, but given how he’s performed so far, I’m pretty sure he’ll get the job. So be nice to the man or one night, when you’re working late at the palace and order food from the kitchen, Rock may poison your panini.”
An involuntary jolt shook her as the name left Marco’s lips. “His name is Rock?”
“It’s not his real name, but apparently he’s gone by Rock since childhood. You don’t mess with a man named Rock.”
No, you don’t. She angled a look at the container in his hand. “It’d be easier to be nice if I were sweetened up with, say, a few of Sabrina’s cookies.”
They’re cannoli, and not on your life,” Marco called out over his shoulder as he disappeared. “At least not until after lunch.”
So she was right, April thought as she slid her damp raincoat into an empty closet, leaving the door ajar so air could circulate. Sabrina had prepared goodies for the crew. April didn’t take much satisfaction in learning her guess was accurate. Hearing the name of the new chef sent her mind careening back to some of the most difficult days in her life.
How many men in the world went by Rock? How many chefs went by Rock? She shook off the thought—the man was an ocean and a lifetime away—grabbed her toolbox, then made her way down the corridor to the galley, which occupied the forward section of the main deck. She’d only glimpsed the galley once before, when the Barrali family hosted a staff appreciation party on board, and relished the opportunity for a better look now that the boat was quiet.
“Wow,” she mumbled once she’d made her way through the yacht’s formal dining room and pushed through the swinging door. She’d gotten used to seeing how the other half lived, having grown up following her father around his upscale Manhattan job sites, then working for the Barrali family inside one of Europe’s most elegant palaces. While flash no longer impressed her, the Libertà’s galley was April’s kind of space: efficiently designed, easy on the eye, and immaculately maintained. The galley was divided into two sections. The section where she now stood was outfitted for family and guest use. To April’s left, four large windows offered a view of the sea from the port side of the yacht. In front of her, three white leather barstools on chrome pedestals were anchored to an island of highly polished, beautifully veined Carrara marble. The cook’s work area on the far side of the island boasted sleek white cabinets topped with more Carrara marble alongside a six-burner cooktop with a high-powered vent. A tiled backsplash of light green and blue sea glass added to the room’s airy feeling and broke up the expanse of white and chrome that dominated the decor. A bowl constructed of twisted chrome held fresh bananas and apples. Alongside it, bottled water was arranged on an elegant wooden tray, ready for whoever needed refreshment.
Yep. She could live in a kitchen like this one. Especially if it came with its own private chef…though in this case, the guy was nowhere to be seen. Odd, given the arrangements necessary for the upcoming New Year’s Eve party. And she wouldn’t be surprised to learn that one or more of the royal couple’s adult children planned to use the yacht in the days between Christmas and New Year’s, which meant even more planning and preparation on the part of the crew.
April set her toolbox on the floor and withdrew the punch list Marco provided. After reviewing it, she set the page on the island, then began testing the cabinets, checking to see which were loose or needed new hinges or pulls. It was easy work, fixing cabinets, and reminded her of her teenage years, when she followed her father to his job sites and he’d allowed her to tackle the simple tasks. Once she’d made note of what needed repairs, April bent to pick up her toolbox and make her way to the other section of the galley, at the very forward part of the main deck. It contained the walk-in refrigerator, commercial ranges, and counter space necessary to service larger events. It was also where she was most likely to find a fresh cup of coffee. If the chef hadn’t already made a pot for the crew, well, she’d make one herself and apologize later if she was out of line.
She straightened at the sound of footsteps approaching from the direction of the dining room. A lean, sandy-haired man in a white chef’s jacket entered with a stainless steel tray full of phyllo dough balanced expertly on his shoulder. He shifted his load and smiled. “You must be April,” he said in a distinctly German accent. "Marco mentioned that you were coming on board to do maintenance.”
“Yes.” Relief washed through her at the sight of the friendly—and unfamiliar—face. She covered the space between them, then extended her hand toward his free one. “I take it you’re Rock?”
He gave her hand a brief shake, then said, “No, I’m Andreas, his assistant. Rock’s right behind me.”
April turned slightly, then started at the sight of the man in rolled-up shirtsleeves who’d entered soundlessly behind Andreas. He carried a case of champagne and wore what anyone else would consider a full-on scowl, but that April knew was mild consternation. A full-on scowl from this man would give a lion second thoughts about attacking. It’d certainly made her back down more than once.
“Ryan Fournier.” Miraculously, April’s voice sounded unrattled, as if she were greeting an old friend rather than an ex-lover, one she’d left without a backward glance. It had been the safest thing for her psyche to give him a casual farewell, then cease all contact, though over the last five years, she’d given him many, many thoughts, most of them X-rated. Rock fit his name. From the formidable chest and biceps he’d honed through hard work to the capable hands his profession required, he was solid through and through. And oh, how those hands had undone her. Once, even, in the back room of his first restaurant. A room not unlike the workspace only a few feet away.
“Well, what do you know. April Dietrich. The only person who’s ever called me Ryan to my face and gotten away with it.”
She started to respond, then snapped her mouth shut. The only time she’d called him Ryan was when they were alone, either in bed or en route, and usually in a heated rush. The first time she’d done it, she’d been half-naked and he’d been walking her backward toward his bedroom. He’d run a thumb over her lower lip and warned her, “You’re only getting away with that because we’re about to have mind-blowing sex.”
Heat rose within her at the memory and a self-satisfied grin lifted one side of Rock’s mouth, making it apparent he knew exactly what memory had gone through her mind.
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