Honeymoon With a Prince
"An addictive series, full of heart and romance and endings that give a happy sigh."Emily March
New York Times Bestselling Author
Passionate fantasy...or intimate betrayal?
After dumping her rich, lying louse of a fiancé, designer Kelly Chase opts to take her honeymoon solo. What better chance to nurse her wounds in solitude than two weeks of pre-paid beachfront bliss on the breathtaking Mediterranean island of Sarcaccia? Yet when she meets gorgeous local beach bum Massimo, solitude is suddenly less important than enjoying the company of an honest man...a man whose eyes reveal a private anguish.
Fresh from brutal combat, seeking privacy and a chance to heal, Prince Massimo Barrali is intrigued by the gorgeous American who fails to recognize him and treats him as an equal. He offers her dinner, but dinner quickly turns into a night of intense passion...until the police come knocking on the door of Kelly's rented villa. Kelly's horror at the discovery her fiancé stole her honeymoon fund turns to humiliation when Massimo arrives to post her bail. Once again, she's been deceived by a man who isn't what he appears. But when Prince Massimo offers her a job at the royal palace and a chance to pay her debts, she can't refuse. She hates that she's forced to work with him, hates the desire that still burns between them, but how can she forget the secret torment she saw in him or their sensuous night under the stars?
Release date: December 15, 2013
Print pages: 318
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Honeymoon With a Prince
Kelly Chase woke with a start, nearly knocking over her daiquiri as she flung her hand to the right, in the direction from which she could’ve sworn she’d heard the low whunk of design books slamming into the floor.
She blinked when the sounds of rolling surf and distant laughter reminded her she was nowhere near the office. While her heartbeat slowed to its normal rhythm, she cursed herself for trying to ruin a perfectly good honeymoon by dreaming about work.
Then again, her friends accused her of ruining a perfectly good honeymoon by opting to take it without the groom.
Having barely rescued the daiquiri, Kelly pushed herself to a seated position, righted her sunglasses, and took a long, fortifying sip of the sweet pink drink. Before her, a cerulean sea spread out as far as the eye could see, its surface glittering in the late afternoon sunshine. Small boats bobbed along on the waves, some carrying fishermen back to shore after a day of work, while others served as floating escapes for those who wished to relax away the summer undisturbed.
Satisfied that all was as it should be, Kelly stretched back on her lounger and closed her eyes. Rays from the sun seemed to warm her from the inside out, lifting her mood, making her feel unencumbered and free.
No matter what friends and family said, this trip was absolutely the right decision.
Since her presumed groom was a first-class jerk, boarding the plane alone yesterday for the overnight flight to Europe seemed the perfectly logical thing to do and not ruinous at all. She’d wanted to visit the idyllic Mediterranean island of Sarcaccia since she’d first heard of the place. Even if none of her friends could accompany her on short notice—either that or they didn’t want to, given that she’d dumped her fiancé ten days before the wedding—she wasn’t about to let the airline ticket and rented villa go to waste.
Besides, not only had she paid all the deposits for the trip out of her own hard-earned cash, she’d put in countless pushups, crunches, and treadmill miles while living on salad, egg whites, and veggies over the last three months, all so she’d look good in her wedding photos and the pricey bikini she now sported. She wasn’t about to let that go to waste.
The breeze picked up, ruffling Kelly’s hair and cooling her skin just enough to make her drowsy again. She’d earned this nap, in this chair, on this beach, even if she did end up dreaming about work. And frankly, dreaming about work wouldn’t be so bad—she’d never been afraid of hard work, since it gave her life a purpose—if she hadn’t sold her business for the presumed groom.
The thought of oh-so-perfect Ted Robards and all his promises made her mutter aloud, “Arrogant jackass.”
The unexpected sound was so deep and close to her ear that Kelly launched from her chair, carried by the warm blast of dog breath that signaled a sizable beast. This time, she did knock over the daiquiri.
Her heart threatened to pound out of her chest as her feet hit the sand and she whirled to look behind her. A dog the color of rich, dark chocolate and with roughly the size and build of a German Shepherd sat at the head of her chair. A dark tongue hung from between pointed teeth, bouncing up and down as he panted.
“Hello,” she addressed the creature, who seemed perfectly harmless aside from his massive build. His strong shoulders and lean frame didn’t budge as she stared at him. It was as if he’d been trained to sit in that particular spot until commanded to do otherwise. “You surprised me. Would your bark happen to sound like a thick stack of books hitting the floor?”
The dog cocked his head as if he understood. He was gorgeous, all restrained muscle and shiny fur. Though she’d grown up with dogs and loved them to pieces, she’d never seen one quite like this. His eyes were a surprising blue and his nose long and lean, ending in a wet black snout. When she put a hand on the arm of her lounger, allowing the big boy to come close and sniff, then nuzzle, she discovered his short coat was soft as the fuzz on a newborn kitten.
“My goodness, but you’re beautiful.” Once he seemed comfortable enough with her, she scratched his triangular ears, which stood at attention, then moved her hand down his neck to feel for a collar. Nothing. Despite the lack of identification, the dog seemed well-loved. His weight was healthy, his eyes clear, and his coat neat, especially given that he was at the beach. She scanned the chairs nearby. Most were unoccupied, since the majority of beachgoers who’d arrived early in the morning to claim their spots had now left for the day. Of the few that remained, none appeared be searching for a dog.
“You’re welcome to stay here if you like,” she said as she cautiously resumed her seat in the lounger. Hoping he knew a few basic commands, she urged him to lie down beside her. He stepped forward, so he was at her hip, then sat once more and cocked his head, as if waiting for instruction.
Testing one of the hand gestures she’d used for her own pets when she was a kid, she urged, “Down.”
No dice. She tried a few different gestures. Different commands. Still no luck.
“Oh, come on. The least you can do is lie down like a good boy after causing me to lose a very expensive drink. Bar service on this beach is infrequent and not at all reasonably priced.”
He scooted closer, then rested his head on her thigh. His gaze shifted to meet Kelly’s in a not-so-subtle hint.
“You” —she rubbed circles behind the dog’s ears— “sure know how to kiss up. Do you do this with your owner, too? I bet you do.”
The dog let out a low, happy whine of satisfaction, then promptly turned around and stuck his butt in her lap.
“You’ve gotta be kidding me,” she murmured, but since the dog seemed hungry for attention—or a good scratch—she obliged. “You’d better not have picked up any fleas in this sand.”
As the dog shifted to get closer to Kelly, she discovered he was wet under the uppermost layer of his coat, close to the skin. She glanced toward the water, wondering if that’s where his owner might be. A white boat, about the right size to carry four to six people for a day of fishing, approached the local marina about a hundred yards down the beach from her. From this vantage point, Kelly couldn’t tell how many people might be on board or if they were looking for a dog, but she didn’t pick up any unusual vibes. Another two men stood at the walk-up bar where the dock met the beach, but given that they’d passed her a few times earlier that afternoon carrying beer bottles and large bowls of appetizers with no sign of a dog at their heels, she doubted the big boy was theirs. Behind the bar, a walkway leading to a set of six boat slips stood empty. Five boats were docked and covered for the day. She assumed the vacant slot belonged to the white boat.
She glanced in the other direction, toward the parking lot and the cliffs that framed the beach, but nothing indicated the dog had come from there, either.
The dog let out another low moan and shoved its rump harder against Kelly’s hand.
“You’re incorrigible,” she complained, though she continued to give the dog attention. After a few minutes, he let out a deep, throaty groan, then flopped in the sand beside her, turning so his head rested on the lounge chair near her hip. hough his body went lax, his eyes remained open, scanning the area as if watching over her.
Soon someone would miss this dog. Wouldn’t they?
Keeping one hand tucked into his short fur, she leaned back in the lounger and waited. Soon the sun would dip low enough to cool the air and chase the last of the beachgoers home. If she couldn’t find the owner by then, she supposed she’d need to call the local police. There had to be some type of animal control organization on the island. Hopefully they’d find the owner and not send the boy to the pound.
She couldn’t bear that thought.
“You’re fine with me,” she whispered. It felt reassuring having a dog to keep her company after all the upheaval of the last few weeks. He likely needed love, just as she had. She most certainly wasn’t going to let down this sweet dog the way Ted—the liar—had done to her.
As if he understood, the dog pushed himself out of the sand and climbed into the lounger beside her, shoving Kelly to the very edge as he squeezed against her with an oomph. Kelly laughed, but allowed him to take over the space. “I bet your owner doesn’t let you do this on the sofa at home, huh, boy?”
He let out a whiny grumble in response, then plunked his head on her shoulder.
It wasn’t her idea of a honeymoon cuddle, but she had to admit it was infinitely better than sharing her chair with Ted.
With any luck, she’d never see him again.
* * *
Massimo Barrali held a hand over his eyes, shielding them against the glare of the setting sun as he walked the beach. Somewhere, likely jumping in and out of the surf, he’d eventually find his dog.
He only hoped he wouldn’t find the crazy thing in trouble. Gaspare wasn’t exactly a people dog. He’d been trained to protect Massimo and—though he was never aggressive—preferred not to associate with most other humans. Water, on the other hand, did strange things to Gaspare. While Sarcaccian Shepherds were bred to work with livestock and thrived on running through the rough terrain of the island’s high country, Gaspare seemed more at home frolicking in any body of water to which he could gain access. The ocean, lakes, even—on one memorable occasion—the fountain behind the royal palace. It was the one situation in which Gaspare’s rigorous training failed.
Massimo’s gaze traveled from the surf toward the seaside bar, where two men nursed beers and chatted with the bartender, to the large storage locker beyond it. A lifeguard busied himself dragging lounge chairs from the incoming tide and stashing them in the wooden structure so they’d be protected overnight. Beyond the lifeguard, a family trudged toward the steps leading to one of the private villas that lined this section of beach. Towels were draped over their shoulders, the father carried a small cooler, and the teenaged son and daughter elbowed each other as they walked. Despite signs that the beach was emptying for the night, the dog didn’t materialize.
Since Massimo couldn’t call for Gaspare without drawing attention to himself, he turned from the dock and made his way along the shore in the direction opposite the bar, toward the parking lot. Gaspare was an intelligent dog. Perhaps he’d simply gone to the car, knowing it was time to head home.
Massimo swore to himself as he strode along the beach, his mood becoming blacker by the moment. It was his own fault, of course. He should’ve known Gaspare would leap overboard and doggie-paddle the last two hundred meters to shore. The beast itched to swim from the moment he’d realized Massimo was driving him to the boat dock for a spur-of-the-moment fishing excursion this morning. Unfortunately, Gaspare’s wild jump angered a group of nearby fishermen, who’d been compelled to yank their lines as the dog approached. Massimo had to spend several minutes soothing their tempers. He couldn’t have them telling their friends—or the media—that Prince Massimo and his dog ruined their afternoon catch. Unfortunately, during the time Massimo spent making nice with the fishermen, he’d lost track of Gaspare.
Next time, he’d come alone. Despite humoring his parents’ suggestion that he always have Gaspare along as security when he spent time outdoors by himself, no good came of bringing the dog fishing. Then again, he’d rather have Gaspare for company than anyone else.
A wave rushed up the beach and over Massimo’s feet as he made his way along the firm sand at the water’s edge. A few lounge chairs remained on this section of the beach, but only one appeared occupied. A pair of long, lean legs stretched up from the lounger’s footrest toward an extremely firm, round backside clad in a tiny pink bikini. The woman lay on her side, showing off a hip perfectly curved for a man’s hand, seemingly oblivious to the fact she was the last remaining person on the beach. Normally pink wasn’t his favorite color—he’d always had a strong preference for bright red or a sexy, not-so-innocent white when it came to bikinis—but given what this woman looked like from the waist down and the fact he had to pass her to reach the parking lot, he suspected he was about to discover the wonders of pink.
As he moved closer, what he saw from the waist up wasn’t bad, either. A shoulder rounded with just enough muscle to be firm without being hard. A long, elegant neck. A tangle of shiny, reddish-brown hair exactly the color of the palace’s infernal afternoon tea twisted on top of the woman’s head.
Then he heard the moan.
He paused, stunned. Only one creature on Earth made that sound, and then only in one instance. Gaspare. Getting his butt scratched. Something the dog never allowed any human to do other than Massimo and—on rare occasions—Massimo’s sister, Sophia.
Who in the world was this woman, and what had she done to his dog?
He covered the stretch of sand that separated them in quick steps. When he came to the base of the chair, he drank in the sight of Gaspare’s large body wedged alongside the woman’s. Sure enough, she had one arm stretched to rub his dog’s backside. Gaspare’s head was tipped back in ecstasy. And no wonder…even with her eyes covered by a pair of large sunglasses, the woman in the chair looked better from the front than from the back. She gave no indication she’d seen him approach; he got the impression her eyes were closed.
Gaspare, on the other hand, let out another moan and wiggled closer to the woman, deliberately ignoring Massimo.
“You are unbelievable, you nutty dog. Did your owner send you away for excessive cuddling?” she said just loud enough for Massimo to hear. So, an American. And the soft voice was every bit as sexy as the woman.
A slow smile spread across his face. Good dog.
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