THE KING'S CONVENIENT BRIDE by MICHELLE CELMERThough she had been preparing for this day for eight years, as the limo pulled up to the palace steps and Hannah Renault caught her first glimpse of the prince-make that the king-waiting to welcome her, she trembled in her ecru Gucci pumps.Wearing his royal dress uniform, King Phillip Lindall Augustus Mead stood at thetop of the stairs flanked by what had to be the entire palace staff. A collection of medals and commendations on his jacket glittered in the sun and a gilded sword hung at his hip.Outside the gates, residents of Morgan Isle crowded to get their first glimpse of their soon-to-be queen.Aka: Her.The limo stopped at the base of a gold-rimmed red carpet. The door swung open and a gloved hand appeared to help her out.She smoothed the skirt of her dark blue linen suit. This is it, she told herself. This is the day you've been dreaming of. The time to make a good impression onyour husband-to-be and, from the looks of it, half the country. So, whatever you do, as you're climbing those stairs, don't trip.With all the grace and dignity a woman could manage while climbing out of a vehicle, her heart fluttering madly in her chest, Hannah stepped into the balmy sunshine. Beyond the gates a cheer broke out among the onlookers.Warring with the sudden, intense urge to turn around and dive back into the limo, she took a deep breath, straightened her spine and lifted her chin high. As per the instructions she received from the royal social secretary, she stood her ground and waited for the king's formal greeting. She held her breath as he descended the steps and a deafening hush fell over the crowd, as though they were holding their breath with her. Don't be nervous, she told herself, but nervous didn't even come close to what she was actually feeling. She bordered more along thelines of terrified.Just breathe, Hannah. In and out. You can do this.It had been two long years since she had seen her fiancé face-to-face, and he wasmore handsome, more heart-stoppingly beautiful than she remembered.As instructed, the instant the king's foot hit the bottom step, Hannah stepped forward and dipped into a routinely practiced curtsy. With a bow of her head, andin a wobbly voice, she said, "Your Highness.""My lady," he returned in a deep, rich voice, with proper British inflection, then offered his hand. A small burst of energy arced between their fingers an instant before they actually touched. When she met his eyes, something warm and inviting swam in their smoky-gray depths. Taking her hand gently in his own, he bentat the waist and brushed his lips across her skin. "Welcome home."Her stomach bottomed out and her legs went weak while thunderous applause rattled her eardrums.You must appear regal and confident, but never cold, she had been told a milliontimes from her royal-appointed etiquette coach.But under the circumstances, it was all she could do to stay upright and conscious.