Petey is Nik’s first taste of ordinary.
And everything he ever wanted.
If he doesn’t blow it.
Red-haired Petey Cavanaugh is a sculptor who welds steel and glass creations. A young widow, she lives on her in-laws’ sheep ranch in Montana, where she helps out during the day, working on her art at night.
Looking to raise money to expand the ranch’s business, she gratefully accepts her art school roommate’s offer of a gallery show in Manhattan. It’s been years since she was in the city, and she’s happy to visit her old friend.
Nik is in New York on business. He’s been traveling for nearly a month, enduring endless meetings, attending obligatory dinners, and battling jet lag. On his way to yet another business dinner, his world collides with Petey’s one rainy Manhattan night.
Their mutual attraction is immediate, but Nik’s skeptical. Could it possibly be that this gorgeous, enchanting artist has no idea that he’s Europe’s most eligible prince?
Spending time with Petey is Nik’s first-ever taste of ordinary. What will happen when she finds out the truth?
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In this scene, Beruvian prince Nik is about to celebrate his first Thanksgiving.
After they’d showered and dressed for the day, Petey and Nik collected the casserole dishes from the refrigerator and placed them in the bed of a yellow wire-mesh wagon Petey retrieved from the garage. Together, they carried the wagon down the front steps and then headed off in the direction of Jane and Eli’s house.
The late November air was crisp and cold, their breath creating fog as they trudged along. As they approached the house, Cherry opened the front door and the aroma of roasting turkey wafted toward them. “Happy Thanksgiving!” she called.
“Happy Thanksgiving to you,” Nik returned as Petey waved. “We come bearing foodstuffs.”
Cherry’s brow furrowed. “Hunh?”
Petey laughed. “We have potatoes and dressing.”
“Oh. Come on in. It’s cold outside.”
Leaving the wagon on the front porch, Petey and Nik carried the dishes through the large living room to the kitchen, which was abuzz with activity. Mary Pat, decked out in a fall-themed apron, was leaning down to peer into the oven. At the kitchen counter, Jane was briskly working a fork through a large pot filled with something white. She looked up as they approached.
“Welcome! Happy Thanksgiving!” she smiled. “I’m just working the lumps out of the mashed turnips.”
Petey, sliding the potatoes into the fridge behind Jane, turned and made a face at Nik, who stifled a chuckle.
“Thank you for making me feel so welcome. I’m thrilled to be celebrating my first Thanksgiving,” Nik replied with an infectious grin.
“You never had Thanksgiving before?” Cherry asked, aghast.
“No, dummy, they don’t have Thanksgiving in Beruvia. It’s about the Pilgrims, remember?” Thomas chided.
“And the first time-out of the day goes to Thomas, who has been reminded repeatedly not to call his sister names. Ten minutes, pal. Starting when you get to your room. Now scoot,” called Eli, entering the kitchen from the back door. He nodded in greeting to Nik and Petey.
“We could make it twenty.”
“Geez, I’m going.”
Eli watched his son stomp upstairs. “Cherry, it’s time for the woolly to eat again.”
“Alright, Daddy.” The child turned to Nik. “Wanna come help me feed my lamb?”
Nik beamed at her. “I’d be honored to help. But you have to teach me how.”
Cherry was shrugging into her puffy hot-pink down coat. “Okay, but it’s pretty easy.” She pulled a knitted pink beanie with bunny ears down over her head. “Let’s go. We’re keeping him in the g’rage.”
With a wink to Petey, Nik followed the little girl into the garage.
“He doesn’t have to do that,” Jane whispered to Petey with a smile.
“I think he’s happy to tag along,” Petey replied.
“Happy Thanksgiving, Ms. Petey,” Jorgen greeted her as he entered through the same door Eli had come through moments earlier.
“Happy Thanksgiving, Jorgen. How are you today?”
The older man smiled. “I’m most well, thank you.” He turned to Mary Pat. “Is this what you meant?” He handed her three tins of spices.
Mary Pat smiled. “Yes, those are exactly the ones.” She shook her head. “I can’t believe I forgot them. Thank you so much for getting them for me.”
“It was sincerely my pleasure,” Jorgen said, bowing politely.
Jane rolled her eyes at Petey, who responded with a silent, “What the fuck?”
Eli had settled on the large sectional in front of the television. The Cowboys were just about to take the field. With his mission for Mary Pat accomplished, Jorgen joined Eli.
Petey was setting the long table in the dining room when Nik and Cherry came back into the house. The little girl was talking a mile a minute, with Nik nodding and replying when it was appropriate.
While Cherry continued into the kitchen, Nik stopped to give Petey a quick kiss. “Is there anything I can do?”
Petey shook her head. “I think it’s pretty much under control. Did you get the lamb all sorted out?”
“We did. I even got a chance to hold the bottle before Cherry decided I was doing it wrong.” Nik’s eyes sparkled with amusement. “I believe it’s the bluntest criticism I’ve ever received.”
“Yeah, she’d kind of straightforward,” Petey laughed. “The guys are watching football if you want to go relax.”
Nik nodded. “I think I will. I’m a bit knackered from too much sex,” he whispered.
Petey gave him a playful push and sent him on his way. Thomas, having paid his ten-minute penalty, made his way downstairs and joined his father and the others in front of the television.
Finally, everything was ready, with platters and bowls arranged down the center of the table. Everyone took their places, with Eli at one end and Nik at the other. Sitting to Nik’s right, Petey gave his thigh a quick squeeze beneath the table. Eli gave a thoughtful grace, and the food was passed.
Petey cleared her throat meaningfully as she handed Nik the bowl of mashed turnips. When he glanced her way, she arched an eyebrow. Stifling a chuckle, he passed the bowl to Jorgen, who heaped the concoction on his plate. Petey grinned at Nik, happy to share an inside joke.
The conversation was cheery, at times raucous and funny, punctuated by plenty of laughter. From time to time, Petey glanced to Nik, who seemed to be enjoying himself thoroughly. The thought of him being happy and at ease squeezed her heart with emotion.
At that moment, she realized that what she wanted more than anything was for Nik to be happy. That’s what love is, isn’t it?
When dinner was over, Jane stood up. “Okay, gentlemen, since the ladies cooked, you’re on clean-up detail.” She leaned over and kissed Eli on the cheek. “I’ll check on the barn,” she told him softly.
As Petey stood, Nik and Jorgen began gathering up the dishes and utensils. She sidled up to Nik. “You don’t really have to do this, you know,” she said softly. “It’s kind of Jane’s rule, but…”
“I don’t mind at all.” His tone was earnest. “I’m happy to help. It makes me feel delightfully ordinary.”
Petey pursed her lips thoughtfully. “Well, just so you know.”
“Go, relax,” he winked at her. “I believe that odd game you Yanks call football is still on television.”
“I heard that,” Eli said. “And it’s just plain football.” His tone was serious, but there was a twinkle in his eye.
“And why don’t they use their feet to play it, hmm?” Nik jibed, as both men laughed.