Royal's Wedding Secret

By: Sophia Lynn

CHAPTER ONE

New York City, Now

Marnie froze, which was very awkward given the fact that she was currently hovering over the cheese tray in the rear corner of the bookshop. She had wanted to make sure that she got some cheese and some grapes before the rest of the crowd realized that there was free food, and she thought she had done quite well for herself before she turned around and caught sight of the dark-haired man closer to the front of the room.

It really can't be him, can it?

She told herself that it was foolishness. There was no way it could be Philip, none whatsoever, but the longer she watched, the more she recognized the man's way of standing, the tilt of his head, even the way he raked his fingers through his thick, dark hair as he spoke.

Cassie elbowed her in the ribs. "Marnie, you really need to step aside and let someone else—oh hello, that's nice, isn't it?"

Her best friend offered the object of Marnie's regard an appreciative look, but when she glanced back at Marnie, it was clear that Marnie wasn't just appreciating a handsome man.

"Look, I know you've not managed to get out for a while, but seriously, we're in New York. There are lots more handsome men around, though I have to admit, the one that you're eying up is pretty impressive. What gives?"

Marnie recovered enough to step back from the table. Without thinking of what she was doing, she stuck herself behind a shelf of travel books. She was short, and it hid her quite well, but still she had to resist the urge to crouch down.

"I know there are more handsome men out there, but this is one that I know." When Cassie still looked a little confused, Marnie winced. "He's one that I know intimately."

"Oh my, one of those situations, eh? Well, what do you want to do? Want me to start talking loudly about politics so you can make your getaway?"

Marnie bit her lip. If she were being practical and sensible, there would be nothing smarter than to take Cassie up on her offer. Cassie was a good friend, and the only thing she liked more than having a good time with her friends was causing a scene.

However …

It was Philip.

Some people enter your life and write their initials on it. Over time, their initials might become eroded or worn away entirely. When it came to Philip, he hadn't just initialized her rock. He had blasted his full name into it, and some days, the letters looked as if they had been cut yesterday.

"I don't know," she said, but then he turned towards her. If she had had any doubts that it wasn't Philip, the man's nearly black eyes would have blown those doubts away. She had never known anyone with eyes that dark, and as always, it was a struggle to avoid drowning in them.

The moment he saw her, he started cutting through the crowd to get to her, and Cassie tensed.

"So what's the plan? Do I trip him so you can make it through the fire exit?"

"There's no plan," Marnie said faintly, but then what else was new? When it came to Philip, there never was.

***

New York City, Six Years Ago

Marnie had been minding her own business, but if she were being honest with herself, that had never saved anyone. She was as wary and mistrustful as any native New Yorker, but the truth was that you simply couldn't be on guard all the time. That spring day, she had had nothing on her mind more pressing than getting down the street to the café to do some writing. Her small laptop was zipped securely in its bag, safe from theft, but apparently, she had left her wallet in the open front pocket.

The thief saw it, and apparently, it was too good to pass up. In another world, the thief got an easy wallet, she cursed her absentmindedness, and Philip Demarier kept right on walking. She didn't live in that world, however.

The thief plucked her wallet out of her bag, but somehow, at the last minute, his arm got tangled in the strap. Marnie was pulled back with a hefty yank, and thanks to years of martial arts training, she spun around and got her fists up to defend herself and to also make anyone who threatened her very, very sorry.

At that point, the thief wanted nothing more than to get away, but somehow he had gotten even more tangled in her strap. Marnie, who was not entirely sure what was going on, yanked backwards, making things worse, and at that point, she still had no idea he wanted her wallet.

They were both shouting at each other, unwilling to give a single inch, and that was when Philip intervened.

To Marnie's view, a tall, striking man stepped up and grabbed her strap with one hand, while grabbing the thief's arm with the other. With a surprisingly deft move, he pulled them apart, and when the thief tried to melt into the crowd, Philip shook him just enough to make him quit.

"What the hell is going on?" Marnie sputtered, which in retrospect was not the most charming thing she had ever said to a handsome man.

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