The heart wants what the heart wants…
Christian Diaz grew up as the best friend and unofficial bodyguard to the Crown Prince of the Kingdom of Corazón. After an incident left him questioning his place in the castle, Christian joined the military and didn’t return for ten long years.
Now he’s been assigned to the castle as Royal Military Liaison to investigate the source of some recent threats against the crown. The annual Midsummer’s Ball is the perfect place for the anti-monarchy group to make their next move, so that’s where Christian will be too. If it gives him a chance to reconnect with his friends in the castle and make a play for the man he has compared all others to, it’s even better.
Max Ramirez is now the head chef for the castle. He started as a sous chef at age twenty when Christian was just an awkward teen. Now that Christian’s back at the castle, all grown up and interested in Max, the chef is determined not to let an opportunity with Christian pass him by.
When someone tries to sabotage the Midsummer’s Ball, Max and Christian need to work together to track down the people determined to make this event their last.
Title: The Way to a Man’s Heart
Author Name: Ann Marie James
Publisher: Totally Bound
Release Date: Tuesday, June 22 2021
Story Type: Novella 20k-50k
Word Count: 33982
Genres: Contemporary Gay Romance
LGBTQ+ Identities: Gay
Keywords/Categories: Contemporary, Erotic, Romance, Friends to Lovers, Gay, LGBT, LGBTQ, Royals, Thrillers and Suspense, gay romance, mm romance, gay, new release, announcement, giveaway
Warnings: This book contains mentions of drug use, obsession, references to parental abuse, drink spiking, violence, attempted rape, and attempted murder.
Ann Marie James sitting down with one of the characters from The Way to a Man’s Heart
Ann Marie: Greetings, Princess Zia. Thank you for agreeing to an interview.
Princess Zia huffs, while crossing her arms over her chest: My parents didn’t give me a choice. They said you’ve interviewed everyone else and I have to do it.
Ann Marie: Well, I appreciate you being here at any rate.
Princess Zia: I’m here what do you want to know?
Ann Marie: Are you excited for the Midsummer’s Ball?
Princess Zia: Not really. I mean my sister invited so many people. She wanted it to be inclusive. Really? It’s supposed to be an event and she invited the gardener and his wife. She said he earned it with all the hard work he has done for her.
Ann Marie: I understand it’s quite different from your event.
Princess Zia: Oh yes. My ball, you had to be someone to make it on the list. It was wonderful. Everybody being so nice to me to try to get an invite. I was sorry the event was over and people went back to their regular lives. Not that the lives aren’t fabulous of course. I can’t live a life that’s not absolutely spectacular.
Ann Marie: I can see that. I don’t think there’s one thing on your person that isn’t designer. Let’s move on to a new topic. Your sister heads to college in the fall. Your brother also has his bachelors and masters. Any plans for you to attend college?
Princess Zia: Who has the time? I have responsibilities here. I can’t leave.
Ann Marie: We would be interested in what those are?
Princess Zia: Making sure this family stays relevant. I mean my parents are rather boring. They would rather stay in and eat as a family. We need to be seen. Make sure everyone knows who we are.
Ann Marie: I’m sure everyone in the country, if not the world knows who you all are, would they really forget if you went to school for four years?
Princess Zia: The people on this island need something to aspire to. They look at me with my perfect hair and my perfect clothing and they want to be me.
Ann Marie: I hear more about Prince Sebastian and Princess Katarina whenever I talk to people on the island. They do a lot of good in the community.
Princess Zia sniffs: Like I care about what the people on the island think. You obviously haven’t spoken to the right people. The people with money and power.
Ann Marie: Ah. So it’s really just the rich people you want to impress.
Princess Zia: Exactly. And I do impress them. As I said, they want to be me.
Ann Marie: Okay then. Well, I think we’ve covered everything. Anything you would like to add?
Princess Zia: Only that if people think that Katarina’s ball is something, then they should have been at mine. Oh wait, they couldn’t. (Princess Zia laughs her way out the door.)
The royal family of the Kingdom of Corazón greeted their guests for the Midsummers Ball as Christian watched. He ran a hand down the front of his dress military uniform to straighten it while he waited for his turn to be announced. This was his first formal duty as the newly appointed Royal Military Liaison, and he needed to make sure he looked his best. He shifted his feet to find some relief for his ankle, which was still sore from him standing for a long time. His last mission had not gone to plan, and a broken ankle had been the result. Although the cast had come off a couple of weeks prior, it still wasn’t one hundred percent.
“Royal Military Liaison Lieutenant Diaz,” the herald announced. Christian caught the eye of Crown Prince Sebastian toward the end of the greeting line and his best friend’s eyes widened in surprise before his face lit up with happiness at seeing him. As the only child of the Castle Commander, Christian had grown up here, but he’d been in the service away from the castle for ten years. At thirty, Christian was the same age as Crown Prince Sebastian. They had been best friends from the time they had been in diapers, and even though Christian and the prince still got together when their schedules allowed, it wasn’t the same as seeing and being with him every day. Christian had missed him fiercely.
The royal children of the kingdom were usually paired with a young playmate from the age of about ten. Christian had started earlier than age ten as Sebastian’s companion, since he was always with him anyway. As Castle Commander, his father was the head of the guard slash castle security. He’d taken the companion idea a step further and trained Christian to be as good as he could be in martial arts and marksmanship. In his father’s eyes, Christian was to act as another line of defense for the Crown Prince. While Christian had not carried a gun—that was the role of the actual bodyguards—he was trained in case he ever had to use one.
With a nod to the herald, Christian stepped forward to greet the Queen of the Kingdom of Corazón. Queen Tania reached out both hands to Christian, and he clasped them and raised them to his lips while bowing over them. “My Queen… It is a pleasure to see you. You haven’t changed a bit.”
“Lieutenant Diaz, it is a pleasure to see you as well. Ten years is way too long. We have missed you.”
“I apologize for the lengthy absence, Your Highness. I needed a change, but I am assigned here for the foreseeable future, so you will have time to get sick of me again.”
“So my husband has told me. I am excited to have you home, although in a different capacity as the Royal Military Liaison. I look forward to catching up.”
“As do I.”
The queen turned a stern eye on her eldest daughter, who was standing to her right. “Princess Zia, isn’t it wonderful that Christian will be back with us for a while?”
Christian tried to mask his sneer as his gaze went to Zia, who was not at all happy this evening. Of course, she wouldn’t be, since she wasn’t the center of attention. She wasn’t a very nice person and never had been. She was also part of the reason he’d left and joined the military. What she did… No, he wasn’t going to think about it. It was in the past. He was stronger and even more deadly now. It was time for him to face his demons. The military had finished the training his father had started, turning him into a true weapon. At twenty-eight, Christian had hoped Zia would have grown up and stopped being so self-absorbed, but the affliction seemed to have gotten worse instead of better in the time Christian had been away.
Christian gave Princess Zia a shallow bow. “Princess Zia.” That was all he could manage. He wasn’t going to lie and say he’d missed her.
Princess Zia tossed back her hair and gave him her haughtiest look. “Mr. Diaz.”
“It’s Lieutenant Diaz, actually, Your Highness.” Christian didn’t wait for her to respond, instead turning to greet the king of the Kingdom of Corazón. A striking man, even in his fifties, King Raul Hart exuded a sense of calm authority that Christian had always admired, making him seem larger than life. “King Raul.” Christian bowed low in front of the man. When he straightened, Christian was shocked to realize that he was now taller than the king. When they had met briefly the day before, the king had been busy on a phone call and had just waved him into his office and into a chair. Christian had experienced another surprise growth spurt after he had joined the military at age twenty and was now six-three, but he hadn’t realized that made him taller than the king.
“Hello again, Royal Military Liaison Lieutenant Diaz.” The king’s eyes twinkled at him as he ignored protocol and pulled Christian into a hug. “I didn’t get a chance to do that when we met yesterday. I wanted to correct that error.”
“Yes, sir.” Christian returned the hug before stepping back and offering him a crisp salute. “Lieutenant Diaz reporting for duty, sir.”
“As you were, Lieutenant. Now I think there’s someone here who can’t wait to greet you. It was hard keeping this a secret from him.”
“I know. I talked to him earlier, and I almost spilled the beans.”
Christian moved down the line and tried to keep a stern expression on his face as he saluted before grinning at one of his best friends. “Crown Prince.”
“Why didn’t you tell me you were being assigned to the castle as Royal Military Liaison?”
“I thought you would like the surprise of it. It just happened a few days ago.” Christian once more ran a hand down the front of his military uniform. “First mission, the Midsummer’s Ball. It’s a very tough assignment.”
Ann Marie James is fluent in two languages, English and sarcasm. She believes that you will never learn anything new if you don’t read as much as you can, and/or talk to every stranger you meet. She always looks for the best in people and to treat people the way she wants to be treated. Above all Ann Marie believes in love, whatever form it takes. Relationships are hard, love is the glue that keeps it together.
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