Harlequin Presents #2739
Originally published: 07/01/08
Sebastian Hawk is a master in business and in the bedroom. There is no place for emotion in his world.
Lina is a headstrong and reckless princess in need of protection and Sebastian is called in to provide round-the-clock security. Her provocative innocence is too enticing, and Sebastian loses his legendary self-control and beds her only to discover she’s still a virgin .
Also available as a Manga.
“The Billionaire’s Virgin Princess by Lucy Monroe is another heartwarming and sensual tale.
<snipped for size> The Billionaire’s Virgin Princess is another jewel in the writing career of Lucy Monroe. Lina and Hawk are exceptional. They play off each other so well, you feel like you are watching two friends fall in love. Lucy Monroe is always my first choice in romance.” ~Judy, amazon.com reader reviewer
“I’ve read every book in Lucy Monroe’s Royal Bride series and they only get better and better and more interesting. <snipped for size> Throughout the entire book I was rooting for them and you will as well because their attraction is so immediate and powerful. Hawk is torn every step of the way; he fights his attraction for Lina and in the end it’s an emotional breakup and farewell. What was incredible to read was Lina’s journey in self discovery, how she grew emotionally and outsmarted them all! This author has a gift for drawing her readers into the story and this book is no exception. In the end, let’s just say, their reunion years later is emotional and tender as only Lucy Monroe can portray and this book is a love story at it’s best! Cheers to Lucy and her Royal Brides ~Marilyn Shoemaker, amazon.com reader reviewer
“First book i ever read by Lucy Monroe and i’ve loved her books since then!” Stefeny, goodreads.com reader reviewer
Lina Marwan stood on the edge of the bridge, her eyes shut as she searched for her center.
A slight breeze caressed her sun warmed skin. It was a beautiful day to be alive. She released the railing and nothing stood between her and open air…a fifty foot drop to the rushing waters of the river below.
Adrenalin coursed through her at the thought of what she was about to do. Her breaths came in short pants and sweat formed on her temples and palms. She curled her fingers into fists and then released them several times as she forced her lungs into a more relaxed rhythm.
Loud voices from behind her disturbed the peace she was trying to attain. Opening her eyes, she looked back over her shoulder and saw him.
The last person she expected to see at this moment in her life. The last man she expected, or wanted, to see ever again. Before, or after, death. God wouldn’t be so cruel as to put her and the deceitful bastard in the same part of Heaven.
Well, there was nothing for it. He was here and it would only be a matter of seconds before he convinced the officials holding him off the bridge into letting him come for her.
She faced forward again, spread her arms like wings, and let her body fall forward as the sound of Sebastian’s roar echoed off the ravine’s rocky walls.
Soaring through the air like a bird diving for its prey, memories from eight years before flooded Lina’s mind in a reel by reel play of her time with Sebastian Hawk.
Headed toward the University Center, Lina rushed across the quad. She was late for the meeting, but it couldn’t be helped. She’d had to ditch her bodyguard. Again. He was reading a book on Ancient Egypt on the ground floor of the library. He believed she was in a study group meeting in one of the rooms on the second floor. If the poor man knew how many hours he spent in the library while she was elsewhere, they would both be in a lot of trouble.
He was easy to fool. Too easy for her ego. In his mind her high grade point average attested unequivocally to many hours spent studying. She did study, just not nearly as much as he believed. However, like her father and far too many other men from her country, her guard did not believe a woman could get the grades she did without putting a huge effort into the task. All of the guards in her current security detail were similarly afflicted in their thinking.
When she had discovered the benefits to this particular formerly annoying trait she had been grateful for her father’s insistence on supplying her bodyguards from her home country for the first time.
Raised in America since she was six, she’d often chafed at the attitudes exhibited by her Marwanian guards. Then she had arrived at university and discovered how easy it was to gain temporary freedom on the pretext of studying. She grinned. Life might not be perfect, but it certainly was fun.
Her grin changed to a grimace as she ran into a rock wall dressed like a man.
She bounced backward, landing right on her bum in the grass. “Ooof.”
“Are you all right?” Oh, wow. The rock wall had a voice that made her insides ping.
She looked up…and up…a couple of inches over six feet of rip, until their eyes met. His were gray. A dark, mysterious gun metal gray. Though, right at that moment, their expression was perfectly readable. They were lit with concern. For her.
Her smile returned and she stuck her hand out. “Fine. Thanks. Give me a lift?”
His lips quirked. “Certainly.” He reached toward her and their hands connected.
Starbursts might have gone off, she wasn’t sure. Because the momentum from his tug landed her body against his and her senses went super nova. Her dazzled brain registered that his mouth was still curved in that half-curve. She wondered what he’d look like with a full blown smile. Devastating, probably. She probably wouldn’t survive it.
“You sure you’re okay?” he asked, looking really concerned now.
And darned if she didn’t really like that. “Wonderful.”
“You don’t need help to remain standing?”
“No.” Did she look like she needed help?
“Then, maybe you’d like to let go? Not that I mind the close contact.” Warm amusement laced his words.
“I should…let go I mean.” But her body made no effort to move backward.
He laughed. “My name is Sebastian Hawk.”
Ulp. His laughter sent shivers through her as she found herself mesmerized by the absolutely gorgeous smile that accompanied it. Okay, so she’d survived a close encounter with his smile, but wasn’t so sure about her mental faculties.
This man was very destructive to rational thought processes.
“And you are?”
Right. Very bad for normal brain activity.
“Oh, I’m Lina Marwan.” She never used her complete name Lina bin Fahd al Marwan in America.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Lina,” he said as he gently set her away from him.
She had to fight the urge to press forward and reconnect. Was this what it felt like to be attracted to a man? If it was, she could now be glad she’d spent her teen years at an all-girls school. Unlike her classmates, she’d never had the opportunity to spend time with boys her own age during school breaks. Her family kept too close of tabs on her for that.
In the year and a half since she came to university, she’d hugged a couple of boys, friends she met in her secret pursuits, but they’d never affected her like Sebastian Hawk. She’d always wanted to know what it was like to kiss a boy, but only in the abstract. Now she wanted to know the very concrete reality of kissing Sebastian Hawk.
The craving was so strong, her lips twitched. Sebastian’s gray gaze was knowing-as if he could read the unfamiliar desire surging through her.
The tower clock chimed the quarter hour across the quad and Lina’s body jolted with memory.
“Shoot. I’m late. I hope I haven’t missed my chance to sign up for the kayaking trip.” She still hadn’t worked out completely how she was going to get away from her bodyguard and family for an entire weekend, but she was determined to go on this trip.
“You kayak?” Sebastian asked in a surprised tone.
“It’s one of my favorite things. Not that I get to go as often as I like.” She started walking briskly toward the University Center.
He kept pace with her. “When did you learn?”
“In high school.” There were benefits to being the female offspring to a Middle Eastern king.
Sure, at first, when she’d been sent away from all that she knew, she’d felt abandoned. But as she’d grown older, she’d realized her parents’ lack of interest in her daily life was to her benefit. They were very conservative and that attitude influenced their Americanized relatives they’d placed her with at the tender age of six.
However, she still had more freedom living with her relatives than she would ever have had at home. And she’d gotten her first taste of real freedom when she’d gone to boarding school in seventh grade. The exclusive, all-girls prep school was far from the typical American middle and high schools, but she’d been allowed to do things there she would never have been able to do when living with family. Things like kayaking.
“I see. I thought the kayaking trip was a three-day get away.”
“It is. Are you going?” she asked, unable to stifle the hope in her gaze as her eyes remained locked with those of the tall, dark-haired hunk.
She felt the same adrenaline rush she got when competing in a race. Man, this being attracted to a guy thing was nothing like she’d expected it to be. It was almost scarily consuming. As exciting as taking a kayak out on white water. Maybe even more so.
Hawk had to bite down on an ugly four-letter word.
The diminutive princess was just full of surprises. The first had been when he’d seen his newest charge hurrying across the quad when she was supposed to be safely ensconced in the library studying with a small group of female friends. The plan had been for him to confer with her bodyguard and then arrange to “bump into” the princess on her way out of the library later.
It was a good thing he’d seen her, or he would have been just as ignorant of her true whereabouts as her hapless guard. The man needed to take a course in security from Hawk Investigations.
“I don’t kayak,” he said to her, “but I’d like to learn.” Which was a total lie. He had no desire to learn, but he had experienced canoeing. Even if it wasn’t his favorite thing, it was close enough to the other that he was confident he would make a good showing of himself on the water.
A man did what he had to for his job. And Hawk’s current assignment was sticking close to Princess Lina bin Fahd al Marwan.
Her smile was dazzling. “If we hurry, maybe we’ll both still get a chance to sign up for the trip.”
Options clicked through Hawk’s mind. One, he could prevent her from making the meeting at all. Two, he could scuttle any chances she had of going on the trip with a single phone call. Or he could follow his instincts and go on the trip with her.
Her obvious attraction to him would make it easy to arrange for her to miss the meeting, but this woman would probably find a way to sign up for the trip regardless. Lina Marwan, as she called herself, was nothing like the shy, quiet, studious, nineteen-year-old he had been led to expect.
Did anyone in the princess’ life know who she really was and how she amused herself?
The answer was no doubt in the negative, which was why he also did not want to scuttle the trip entirely.
He’d been hired as extra security during a time of increased risk for the Royal Family of Marwan. However, if his interaction had the benefit of allowing him to help her security detail enhance her overall safety-so much the better. He had to identify the ways she circumvented it in order to prevent her from doing so in the future.
Letting her make the trip while he accompanied her to ensure her safety, would give him the opportunity to see what measures she took to avoid her security detail.
He made all these determinations in the space of seconds.
“Lead the way,” he said with a smile.
She nodded, but instead of increasing her pace, she stopped, her dark brown gaze fixed on his lips.
“Uh, yeah, right…go.” She made a visible effort to look away. Flipping her long black pony-tail over her shoulder, she started jogging toward the University Center. “The meeting was supposed to be upstairs.”
His long strides matched her speed with little effort, but his body heated in reaction to the enticing bounce of her feminine curves. The attraction was definitely mutual, which should make his job that much easier. He wouldn’t have to pretend an interest to stay close to her. Though his original intention had been to strike up a friendship, being just slightly more than friends would be an even better “in” to the princess’ life.
However, he would only take it so far. He didn’t do long term and for so many reasons, Lina was not a candidate for a short term affair. Not only was she the daughter of a client and herself his assignment, but she was a princess from a part of the world that placed a lot of importance on a woman’s virginity. It wouldn’t be fair to the princess to take their association beyond friendship and mild flirting.
Although he had a sense of honor that would not allow him to use the innocent, he was not above using her attraction to him.
Lina stopped in front of an athletic looking blond man who had been coming down the steps in front of the U.C. “Hey, Bob. Did we miss the meeting?”
“Yeah, but no biggie. All we did was pass out info sheets and take names.”
“Can we still sign up?” she asked enthusiastically.
The jock put his hand on Lina’s shoulder and squeezed, his smile practiced and more than a little flirtatious. “Anything for you, sweetie.”
Another curse fought for release from Hawk’s mouth. Did she have a boyfriend her family didn’t know about too?
“Great.” The diminutive princess bounced on the balls of her feet. “Sebastian’s a new kayaker. I’d like him assigned with me…” She turned to look at Hawk. “I mean if you don’t have an issue with a woman teaching you.”
“No, I’d like that.”
“Hey, Wayne could train the newbie and then you could be my partner,” Bob suggested.
“The newbie would prefer to partner his new friend.” It was the only way the princess was getting out on the water. A bodyguard could hardly do his job from the shore or another boat.
“Oh, I’m sorry. We didn’t mean to talk about you like you weren’t there.” Lina’s doe-like eyes shone with genuine repentance. “I hate it when people do that to me.”
He supposed, considering the strongly conservative and male centered family she came from, she’d had a lot of experience with it too. “No problem.” But the look he gave Bob told the other man not to mess with him.
From the expression on the college boy’s face, he got the message, but didn’t look happy about it. Again Hawk wondered if the relationship between Bob and Lina was closer than merely friends with a mutual interest in kayaking.
“Look, I’ll sign you both up, but I’ll need your contact details, dude,” Bob said to Hawk. “I’ve got Lina’s. In fact, I already signed you up, babe. I was going to bring you the info sheet in World Politics.”
Lina smiled at Bob, her eyes lit with gratitude and excitement. “You’re the best. Thanks.”
Bob slipped his backpack off his shoulder and dug out a notebook. “Here, just put your stuff in here.” He didn’t let go of the notebook when Hawk reached for it, though. “You are a student here, right? This trip is only open to students at the university.”
Lina frowned, but her expression cleared when Sebastian said, “I’m in the MBA program across the street.”
“Oh. Okay then.” Bob let go of the notebook.
Hawk took it and flipped through the pages until he came to a list of names under a handwritten title, “Kayaking Trip.” He pulled his pen out of his pocket and took pictures of the list of names under the guise of clicking the pen open. He added his name and cover contact information to the bottom of the list.
He would have someone at Hawk Investigations run a report on the names on the list to make sure none of them represented a threat to Lina’s safety.
He wondered how she planned to dupe her bodyguard for an entire weekend, but he had no doubt, whatever her plan was, she would succeed. A princess who had managed to become an expert kayaker while going to the exclusive boarding school she had attended without her family’s knowledge was adept at getting around their strictures for her life.
Bob looked at his watch and then at Lina. “We’ve got almost an hour before class. Do you want to get coffee with me at the Starbucks on State Street?”
She bit her bottom lip and looked sideways at Hawk, then nodded. “Can we get our coffee at the cafeteria though? I need to pick something up at the library before class.”
Hawk almost laughed out loud. She had to pick something up all right…her bodyguard. “You don’t mind if I tag along, do you?” he asked. “I could use a cup of coffee myself.”
Lina’s mouth curved into another blinding smile. “No, of course not. You’ll have to let me buy though. It’s the least I can do after running into you in the quad.”
“You’re the one that ended up on your derriere. I think I should buy.”
Bob shook his head. “Whoever wants to buy, let’s go. I need my fix of caffeine.”
“Were you up studying late again last night?” Lina asked him.
“You could call it that.”
She smacked his arm lightly. “You are so bad. Who was it this time? The sexy sorority girl with a boyfriend at a different school or the gymnast?”
“I’m not seeing the gymnast any more. Her coach told her one more late night and lack of focus the next day and she was off the team.”
So, Bob was a player. And Lina knew it. The question was, did he plan on adding Lina to his list of conquests? Not on Hawk’s watch, he wouldn’t. Her family had hired his agency to see her to her safety and he would do so. On every front. What she and the jock-boy did when Hawk finished with the case was not his problem.
He studiously ignored the tightening in his gut that occurred at that particular thought.
The student cafeteria coffee wasn’t bad. They even had an espresso machine. Not that Hawk drank specialty coffees, but both Lina and Bob did and from the hum of pleasure Lina emitted as she took her first sip, Hawk assumed it was good. He’d won the argument about him paying, but then he had expected to.
He wasn’t in the habit of losing-at anything.
“Are you going to the environmental demonstration tonight?” Bob asked Lina as he leaned back in his chair, his gaze following a curvy co-ed cross the dining room.
“I’m not sure, but I’ll try to be there.”
“There’s a rumor the Young Republicans are going to show up to heckle us.”
“Well, if they do, they’ll be heckling half their membership. Environmentalism isn’t the partisan issue big politicians say it is. There are conservationists on both sides.”
“If you say so.”
“You know I do.”
“Are you a political science student?” Hawk asked Lina, already knowing the answer, but wanting to get her to tell him more about herself. How much honesty was she willing to give?
“We both are,” Bob answered for her. “Lina’s a fence sitter though. She won’t identify with either of our major parties.”
Lina simply shrugged, but didn’t mention what Hawk assumed was her real reason for not identifying with either party. She was a citizen of Marwan, not the United States.
“I’m not a Young Republican and it kills my dad.” Bob’s satisfied smirk said a lot about why he leaned to the left politically.
Lina sighed and shook her head. “I swear you go to the rallies simply out of reactionary rebellion.”
“Didn’t you tell me once that you decided to study politics because your dad told you not to?” Bob asked pointedly.
The princess nodded, not looking the least bit phased. “It was a little more complicated than that, but his negative reaction to my interest in the subject did spur me on. However, how I react to what I’ve learned in my studies is the result of personal convictions. I hold beliefs different from my family, but not because I want to get a rise out of my dad. I doubt he’d even deign to notice, but my family’s political beliefs have had a strong and sometimes negative impact on my life.”
“In what way?” Bob asked.
Lina merely shook her head and changed the subject. Apparently Bob was not a close enough friend to be aware of Lina’s position as daughter to a desert king.