Penelope and Prince Charming (Nvengaria #1)

Penelope and Prince Charming (Nvengaria #1)

Jennifer Ashley

Chapter 1

December 1818

His full name was Prince Damien Augustus Frederic Michel of Nvengaria, which often caused mild panic. “Call me Damien,” he’d say with a warm smile. “It will save time.”

Women called him love and cherie and oh-please-don’t-stop-doing-that in whatever language they happened to speak.

Damien had black hair and the dark blue eyes of the people of Nvengaria, a body honed by riding, walking, and sword fighting, and skin more tanned than that of many Europeans. Nvengarian men were reputed to be devoted to the intense pleasure of the women in their beds, and ladies from Belgrade to Heidelberg to London were willing to find out whether this proved true. The woman in Damien’s bed tonight was a Russian countess with blue eyes and a lush body that Damien’s own body was vastly enjoying.

His thoughts, on the other hand, were elsewhere. Damien had nearly been killed today … again. Luckily he’d seen the assassin’s knife a split second before it had struck. His bodyguard had taken the man down, and Damien had walked on, pretending to the crowd on the cold Paris street that his heart hadn’t been banging in his throat.

He’d relieved his tension by ordering a large bottle of champagne in the hotel’s dining room and smiling at the blond countess who’d smiled readily in return. Later, Damien had led her upstairs to relieve the rest of his tension.

“My prince,” she said from the pillows. “My so handsome prince.”

Damien put his mouth to hers. “Hush.”

She gave him a sly look and licked his lips. “Make me.”

Damien growled as he silenced her with a deep kiss. His body dripped sweat in the overheated room, his muscles tightening as he slid himself inside her.

The wide mirror on the wall reflected the woman’s pale body amid red coverlets, her arms stretched over her head, and Damien’s bronzed nakedness on top of her, the round of his hips rising and falling. Candles blazed around the bed and throughout the sumptuous room—dozens of them, so that if a few burned out, Damien would not be in the dark.

One candle guttered and smoked, making Damien want to sneeze. The countess’s noises grew frantic, and she tore her mouth from his.


She lifted her hips, her thrusts meeting his. This was what Damien had been waiting for—to lose his worries in the mindlessness of coupling, to bury himself inside the countess and erase all other thought.

He gave a heartfelt groan, which was half release, half disappointment. The intense, wild feeling of the moment meant he’d come down to earth in a second or two, and then it would be over.

Damien held on as long as he could. Too soon, too soon. Damn. He finished with one last thrust, while the countess moaned and squirmed beneath him.

It was done. Damien withdrew and crashed onto the bed beside her, his breath coming fast. He was already hardening again, nowhere near sated, but blessed, numbing sleep rushed at him.

The countess gave him a languid smile. “Oh, my prince. It’s never been like that before.”

Damien returned the smile but didn’t answer. She likely told this to every man whose bed she went to. Damien’s body grew heavy, everything in him seeking sleep—sweet, oblivious, sleep …

Before he succumbed, Damien politely loosened the silk tethers that bound the countess’s wrists to the headboard. When she expressed her disappointment, Damien briefly kissed her lips.

“Go to sleep,” he whispered, and then went there himself.

* * *

A sharp knock on his chamber door made Damien drag open his eyes. By the bright candlelight, he saw that the clock had moved only an hour, and he was still exhausted.

Damien didn’t worry that a jealous lover or husband had come for the countess, because the only person allowed past the antechamber without Damien’s invitation was Petri, his valet. No one but Petri was even allowed to knock. And Petri never, ever disturbed Damien unless the need was dire.

Maybe France had gone to war again, Damien thought as he pried himself out of bed and reached for his dressing gown. A war would give Damien a good excuse to leave Paris, and he was looking for one.

Spain was beautiful this time of year. The Spanish court always welcomed him, and he could commission another painting from that retired painter—Goya; that was his name. Damien liked Goya’s art. The man had a gift for seeing what was really there.

Or London …

No. Damien stopped the thought. In London, he would have to visit the Prince Regent, and their last parting had been cool. During his previous visit, the Regent had overheard someone say of Damien, “Now he’s what a prince should be,” and had been highly insulted. Damien had nearly fought a duel with one of the prince’s sycophants over it and had avoided the appointment only by smooth flattery and practiced charm. No, he’d not go to London and become sucked into that tedium again.

Damien brushed dried patches of whipped cream from his skin as he shrugged on his dressing gown. The countess slept on, her head pillowed on her arm, lost in the blissful sleep of a woman with no conscience.

Petri waited for him in the antechamber with six other men who’d crammed themselves into the little jewel box of a room. All except Petri were dressed in the full livery of the Imperial Prince of Nvengaria—dark blue coats with gold epaulettes, dark blue breeches and black boots, polished brass buttons, and rows of medals. Many medals, because the Imperial Princes of Nvengaria enjoyed bestowing them.

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