Oh boy, DDScottville Peeps, have I got some Friday fun for you!!!
Here it is...the gorgeous cover for A Royal Christmas Rescue (The Royal Heirs Book Two):
Everyone needs a little Christmas. But try convincing a stodgy royal family — and their even stodgier staff — of that!
Stella Anastas, Kristianico's new Queen, thought her inner circle was small before becoming Queen. Now, instead of a circle, it looks like a dot. She has four people in her daily life that she can count on, no matter what. To be accurate, two people and two dogs. Her wonderful husband, King Adonis and their two dogs — Wyatt, a very ornery Portuguese Water Dog, and his new playmate Gypsy, the Chiweenie, who's convinced she's a human and not a dog and should be treated accordingly — and her best friend, Sophia Fordham, who owns Wet Noses, Kristianico's premier holistic doggie grooming salon and boutique.
To make matters worse, it's Stella's first Christmas in Kristianico and her first Christmas as Queen. If she's going to haul out the holly and put up the palace trees before her spirit falls again, she's got to find a way to convince her staff that they need a little Christmas before the biggest scrooge of all — Meredith, the Queen Mother — has everyone crying in their eggnog.
Luckily, Stella has an idea. A brilliant idea. She's about to become one of those people who not only rescues dogs but has the "Who Rescued Who" bumper sticker to prove it. On second thought, can she put a bumper sticker on her royal Range Rover? The palace would probably frown on that. Even more reason to go for the gusto!
I know I say this every time (LOL!), but I really think this cover is my all-time fave!!!
Thanks bunches to my amazing and very talented DH (Darling Husband) who hit it outta the park with this design!!!
A Royal Christmas Rescue (The Royal Heirs Book Two) will release Thanksgiving Day!
And for the first time, for one of my books, it will be available as a Pre-Order on Barnes & Noble Nook, Kobo and Apple! I'm hoping that Amazon will also make this happen! That way, you can reserve your copy early (in August - I'll let you know as soon as it's available) and be the first peeps to get a copy automatically sent to your ereader Thanksgiving Day.
In the meantime, here's a Sneak Peek at Chapter One:
Stella Anastas slid the last hairpin into place, trying to ignore the dozen or so dents in her fingers from working with the pointy pins. One would think that almost an entire card of hairpins would hold a tiara tightly on top of one's head. But over the last several months, she'd learned that, often, that wasn't the case.
It simply wasn't easy to secure 101.27 carats of amethysts and diamonds to the top of her head or to the top of any other queen or princess's head. There were entire blogs focused on the issue. And yes, she'd read every one of them and taken notes. She had to make sure this tiara in particular was secure. It was the most expensive one in Kristianico's Crown Jewels Collection, worn only for the kinds of formal state affairs that she and her husband Dario, formally known as King Adonis, were attending this evening to welcome a group of foreign heads of state. Sotheby's European Jewelry Department Chairman had recently estimated this early twentieth century tiara to be worth close to thirteen million dollars. Thus, the entire card of hairpins and the additional stress.
Luckily, her royal hairstylists had taught her a few tricks to tiara management. Stella had taken her stylist's advice and began growing out her thick hair, leaving her sassy bob behind with the rest of her former life. She now had just enough hair to braid, without having to add extensions. Braids were a total lifesaver when it came to keeping a tiara on her head. Not only did hairpins hold better in braids, if all else failed, she could also have her stylist sew the darn thing into the braid. Hopefully, she wouldn’t have to end up going that route tonight. She'd given Ray, her stylist, the day off, and she didn't want to have to call him in for another tiara emergency.
Securing her tiara, however, was only one of the difficulties Stella faced as Kristianico's new queen. It was less than eight weeks till Christmas, her absolute favorite time of year. Unfortunately, it appeared that the palace and its staff didn't share her enthusiasm and love of the season. They were behaving like a bunch of bah humbug scrooges. Kristianico was anything but a bustling Whoville. The Grinch would love it here.
Well, Stella thought, having a final look in her dressing mirror, she'd just have to change the ridiculously solemn mood. She was the queen of this gorgeous, French Riviera country, and although she'd been hesitant to exercise her power, instead deferring, for the most part, to her team of advisors over the months since her coronation, it was becoming more than apparent that if she wanted to celebrate the season, she'd have to take charge.
"Why the frown, darling? Is that beast of a tiara giving you a headache again?" King Adonis asked, coming up behind her with open arms, quickly settling her into the luscious warmth of his rock hard chest.
"As you know, baby, most all of the pomp and circumstance around here gives me a headache. But it's nothing I can't get through. I know what I signed up for. And I wouldn't trade any of it. I've got you. I love you. I love Kristianico and the life we're building here, and that's all that matters."
As soon as she'd finished reminding her sweet husband how much she loved him despite the headaches they both endured in the palace, Wyatt, their sixty pound lapdog was at her feet, settling his large rump against her ankles and giving her a not-so-subtle thump on the elbow with his huge head.
"I still can't get over how well you're doing with him in obedience classes," Dario said, giving Wyatt a hearty scratch between his ears. "Not long ago, he'd have been standing up on his hind legs with his two front legs attached to your shoulders, probably ruining your gown."
"Not bad, right?" Stella asked, giving into Wyatt's insistence that the head scratches continue. "He certainly is the epitome of his breed. Saying that Portuguese Water Dogs are energetic is an understatement, isn't it? I think our big boy takes energetic to a new level. Thank goodness Sophia taught me to make sure he gets at least thirty minutes of vigorous exercise per day."
"No kidding. I can't believe how much less destructive he is now that you've got him swimming and walking every day. Hell, you've saved most of the palace furniture. He no longer needs the legs as chew toys."
"Sophia is a genius when it comes to all-things dogs, isn't she?" Stella asked so glad for her expertise and even more thankful for her friendship.
"That she is. But if I'm not careful, she's also going to end up adding to our family," Dario said and laughed. "I know why you keep showing me the pictures she texts you with all of the new dogs she's holding adoption events for."
Stella couldn't argue with Dario. He was totally onto her. She'd wanted a dog her entire life, but not until Wyatt had she'd gotten her wish. And then, Dario had treated her to Gypsy. Speaking of which, she hadn't heard from or seen her in at least a half hour, which wasn't a good sign.
"Hey, have you seen Gypsy?"
"I have. So don't worry your pretty head. Come here a minute. You won't believe this unless you see it," Dario said, leading Stella to their walk-in closet, which was an entire room in and of itself.
Stella followed Dario to the far end of the closet and then to the right and down the hall where their dressing area was located. There, snuggled up inside one of Dario's Italian leather loafers that, as usual, didn't seem to make it back on the rack without outside intervention, was Gypsy, the newest member of their family. All four pounds of her tiny Chiweenie body almost hidden inside the shoe. When it came to size, Gypsy definitely took after more of the Chihuahua side of her mix than the Dachsund. Standing a proud six inches at her shoulders, she was the complete antithesis of her new BFF, Wyatt.
"That is adorable. Do you have your phone? We've got to get a picture of this," Stella said, whispering so that Gypsy didn't hear them and ruin the photo op.
Dario took his phone out of the pocket inside his tuxedo jacket. "Do you realize that I have more pictures of our dogs on my phone than I have of you?"
"Exactly the way it should be. Way to be a proud papa, baby," Stella said, giggling all to herself that her hunk of a man was nothing but a softy when it came to his dogs.
Dario shook his head, rolled his eyes and then took several pictures of Gypsy, their sleeping angel.
To be fair, Gypsy may look like an angel, but she was anything but. Lately, she seemed to be feeding off of some of Wyatt's piss and vinegar. An angel? No way. A diva-in-training? Much more like it. No one messes with Gypsy. Wyatt included.
Evidently, Gypsy felt their presence. Shortly after Dario snapped the last shot of her, she opened her eyes, stretched out and made the cutest sound, a half squeal half yawn.
"Did Daddy's princess decide to wake up?" Dario asked, bending down and scooping her into his arms.
Stella loved nothing more than seeing Dario like this. Wyatt, and now Gypsy, too, brought out the softest, most gentle side of him. A side that only she and the dogs were lucky enough to see. Dario Adonis wasn't just a magnificent King, he was a magnificent man. There wasn't anything he wouldn’t do to make sure his family knew how much he loved them.
This is the man Stella had loved since the moment she'd met him when they were young teenagers. The man she loved more with every passing day, even though she swore loving him more tomorrow than she did today wasn't possible.
With Gypsy cradled in the crook of his elbow, her tiny head nestled into his neck, Dario looked at his watch. "I suppose we should get going, huh?"
"I suppose so. But what I wouldn't give to stay home with our babies tonight."
"I know, my Queen. Me, too. But duty calls."
"Yes. Yes it does." Stella said, looping her arm through her husband's as they made their way out of their closet and back into their master suite. "Which reminds me. Now that I'm queen, I am in charge of how the palace celebrates the holidays, correct?"
After carefully placing Gypsy in her bed, with Wyatt's unsolicited help, Dario turned around and looked at Stella with a strange look on his face. The way he looked when he was hesitant to say that she was correct in her assumption.
"Yes. You're correct. But why do I have the distinct feeling that I'm going to regret admitting that?" Dario asked, his eyes twinkling with mischief. "What do you have spinning in that ornery head of yours?"
"Wyatt! Get out of there! I swear, you're going to break Gypsy's bed, yet. Hold on, honey. Save that thought," Stella said, planting a kiss on Dario's cheek then crossing the room in record time, doing her best to pull Wyatt, by his massive collar, without losing her tiara or her gown, out of the teetering frame of Gypsy's bed.
He had wedged his massive body inside the metal frame so tight that pulling him out of it caused the frame to take a ride on his back. Stella had to laugh, and Dario joined her. There was Wyatt, with the large frame — taken from the top of an antique gazebo that Stella had stumbled across on one of her and Sophia's many trips to their favorite architectural salvage shop — on his back. And there was Gypsy on her royal purple, velvet pillow growling and snapping at Wyatt for hijacking her private sanctuary.
"Okay, back to the Christmas thing," Stella said, having finally removed the frame from Wyatt's back, and with Dario's help, placing it back where it belonged.
"I can't wait to hear this," Dario said, his lips curling into his orneriest grin.
"Don't you find your staff a wee bit on the bah humbug side? I mean, c'mon, it's less than eight weeks till Christmas and no one has said a word about decorating for the holidays. Worse yet, every meeting I've been in where the holidays are accounted for on our schedules, the staff seems to be put off that they have to schedule around them. Where's the Christmas spirit in this palace?"
Dario's fun-loving expression immediately changed to one of a humbled remorse, bringing Stella's nerves and her heart down with it. Years ago, when they were in their teens and had first gotten together, he never seemed that into the holidays. But surely, after twenty-five years, he'd found a way to get into the spirit of the season.
"I know that the holidays mean a lot to you, baby. And I'll do anything I can to make it perfect for you. But, as you probably remember, in the palace, they've never been celebrated. You know how much of a scrooge my father was and Meredith still is. I guess their attitudes rubbed off on our staff, and I suppose, I'm sad to say, a bit on me, too."
Dario looked at his perfectly-polished shoes and with each second of silence that passed between them seemed to take more interest in the carpet.
"I guess I'd just hoped that after all of these years, things had changed around here and most especially that they'd changed for you," Stella said, unable to hold in a deep sigh that echoed the heaviness in her heart.
She simply couldn't let the holidays pass by without celebrating them and spreading the love of the season. Most of all, she now saw how much Dario needed her to bring back the love, light and miracles of this special time of year. It wasn't just that he'd never found a way to celebrate the holidays. It was that he'd never had a reason to celebrate them, a realization that stung Stella's heart.
Maybe that's what was wrong with the entire palace, and she hadn't realized it until this moment. Without the Christmas spirit during the season, it was impossible to carry that kind of joy in your heart all year long.
"I'll tell you what. With your blessing, I'd like to convene our entire staff later this week and see if I can't bring a little Christmas back into this stodgy home."
"Do you have a better word for it?"
"No. Not really," Dario said, raking his fingers through the unruly waves of his sexy, dark hair. "So, you've got yourself a deal. This year, by King's decree, Kristianico will have the first of what promises to be many wonderful Christmases. Does that work for you?"
"It sure does, Your Royal Highness. And thank you for this. Thank you for always supporting me even when you think I'm nuts."
"Your nuttiness happens to be one of the things I love most about you," Dario said, pulling her in for a sweet and very warm kiss, a kiss with enough passion to make her want to skip the state dinner. "But do me a favor, and go easy on our staff. They have no idea what they're in for, and I can only begin to imagine what I've agreed to put them through."
"So, for example, do you think renting a snow-making machine would be a little over the top?" Stella asked, with every intention of securing one, if not several. What's Christmas without snow?
Dario didn't say a word, although the look on his face made Stella think that perhaps it would be just a smidgeon over the top. Exactly what she was going for.
I can't wait to share this story with you! It's the perfect way to kick-off the holiday season!!!
Cheers Hugs & Love --- D. D. Scott