Originally published: 06/01/13
USA Today bestselling author Lucy Monroe brings you a wonderful tale of passion, desire and true love with this digital novella and begs the question, marry in haste, repent at…pleasure?
Prinicipe Vittoro Micheli Scorsoliniis shaking off the pressures of ruling a country and going on holiday… undercover. But that’s okay – so is Constanza Mendez. The daughter of a Spanish billionaire is tired of men after only one thing. Her money. Beneath the gorgeous skies of the Caribbean a whirlwind romance begins….. and ends with a wedding!
But when each is forced to confess their secrets, the fragile bonds of trust start to break. Fuelled by the pressures of duty, and the acidic whispers of those who would seek to destroy their marriage, Prince Micheli’s hot-blooded jealousy threatens it all.
But royal weddings are not that easy to dissolve, especially when Constanza is carrying the Scorsolini heir!
“In the new Lucy Monroe read this is the case for Kiki and Mich, they both come from powerful, strong families. They meet and instantly fall in love, but neither one reveals their titles. They are wrapped in a bubble of love and even when Kiki drops the pregnancy bombshell it does not blow the whirlwind love out of the works. No they marry and are instantly happier than ever. That is until reality comes knocking on the door. And the truth is revealed, will it shatter their love or make it stronger than before” ~Desere, Goodreads.com reader review
“What a wonderful heartwarming story. Love at first sight….. trust and happiness, made this short read exceptional! None of the angst, distrust and heartbreak I usually love! Really enjoyed this as a change of pace, Ms. Monroe is able to make the characters and situations believable in fewer pages than normal and that just wow’s me!!”~Sheila, amazon.com reader review
“I recommend this read for all fans of whirlwind romances that leads to unexpected paths.”
—4 star Contemporary Romance Reviews
“I loved how they fell in love and the author showed it the best she could in the allotted amount of pages.”
—Lover of Books
“AH, love at first sight….who can beat it.”
“This was a lovely story to read.”
Principe Vittoro Micheli Scorsolini, heir to the throne of Isole dei Re, trained from the cradle to be self-possessed even in the face of country-wide catastrophe, tripped over his own feet as the most beautiful woman he had ever seen walked by.
Twenty-five years of training kicked in almost immediately and he righted himself, pivoting to follow the vision of loveliness crossing Palermo’s Piazza Pretoria. The view was as beguiling from the back as the front, although her hat’s wide brim obscured most of her hair.
He’d already seen that it was brown with golden highlights, falling in silky waves to her shoulders and framing a face worthy of a Botticelli. If Botticelli’s models had worn Chanel sunglasses and Oscar de la Renta. Wearing strappy sandals that added three inches to her already statuesque height, his beauty’s hips swayed enticingly in the pristine white skirt of her sundress with each step.
She stopped in front of the Fontana Pretoria and lifted a camera.
Never slow to take advantage of an opportunity when presented, Micheli asked, “Would you like me to take a picture of you in front of the fountain?”
She spun to face him. “Oh, you speak English!”
It had been a calculated risk. Most tourists spoke at least some English, though had he gotten a better look at her perfectly oval face, defined cheekbones and narrow nose, he might well have used Castilian Spanish to address her.
He managed a passably coherent, “Sì.” With Sicilian inflection, not Spanish.
Those who spoke both languages fluently, as he did, knew there was a difference.
“I would be happy to…” he offered again, waving between her, the camera and the fountain.
Lightly glossed, bow shaped lips parted slightly, a soft gasp escaping. “Oh, would you? That would be great!”
The response wasn’t anything out of the norm, but the breathy quality in her voice and the way she leaned toward him without seeming to realize she was doing it told him that maybe this instant, overwhelming attraction was not one-way.
He put his hand out for the camera.
She handed it to him, careful so their fingers did not brush. “It’s just point and click.”
“I’m sure I can figure it out.”
Slipping off her sunglasses, she posed in front of the fountain.
The connection he felt with her at that single look from eyes the color of storm clouds was so compelling, if he’d been walking he would have tripped again.
Tia Maggie always claimed she’d fallen in love with Tio Tomasso at first sight, but it had taken him a lot longer to catch up.
Micheli had thought his aunt was being fanciful until this moment. This overwhelming reaction could not be love, but it was something. Something he could not ignore or deny.
The object of his newfound obsession was such a natural, he took several shots in quick succession. “You’re not a model, are you?”
“Nope, just a student.” But there had been an odd flicker of reaction to the word model in her grey gaze.
Micheli took his time getting the perfect shot, using the opportunity to chat her up.
He discovered her name was Kiki Menendez. So his guess on the Spanish heritage had not been off.
He told her he was Micheli Scorsolini, leaving off his royal title and first name that was only used in official state ceremonies. Scorsolini was a common enough name that unless she was familiar with his tiny country, she would not realize who he was. He was not the brother whose face made it into the tabloids. That was Adamo.
For some reason, Kiki knowing Micheli the man, not Principe Vittoro was important.
She was in her last year of university in New York (making her twenty-one or twenty-two), on a tour of Italy and Sicily with friends for Spring Break and most importantly – only in Palermo for the day.
She put her hand up to keep her bright white sunhat on when a small gust of wind threatened to send it flying. “I’ll be finished in June if my dad doesn’t talk me into going for my MBA.”
“Not interested in climbing the corporate ladder?” he asked.
Her lips twisted in a moue of distaste. “No offense, Mich, as clearly that’s your thing, but no. My bachelors will be in psychology.”
“What gave me away?” He forced himself to banter, having a strange reaction to her shortening his name. No one did that. “The suit?”
“Well it is custom tailored Armani.”
“You’re very sure of your designers.”
“It’s in my genes. I don’t think my mom knows there are clothes made without a fashion house label attached.”
Micheli laughed in commiseration. “She sounds like my sister.”
He knew way more about women’s designer fashion than any man without a wife should have to, but that’s what came from being the oldest in a set of triplets. Elena shared every aspect of her life with her brothers, even when Micheli would have been content to be left in peace.
There was a reason he’d lobbied for the position with his family’s business that allowed him to travel extensively. Add to that his increasing diplomatic duties on behalf of the Crown as heir apparent and he spent only scattered weeks throughout the year in Isole dei Re.
“Why businessman and not rich playboy?” He’d never been entirely sure how people could always tell his brother Adamo was the “fun” one.
“The tie. I bought one very similar for my dad. They’re both from the Oleg Cassini line designed for the power broker businessman. Too expensive for your average office drone and too serious for a rich playboy.”
Micheli wasn’t feeling serious, or intently focused on his day’s “power business” agenda right now. In fact, he was tempted to do the unthinkable. Take a day off. He could text his assistant and reschedule the rest of the afternoon.
The thought was entirely out of character, the reality that he was seriously considering it absurd. And yet, he was.
“I think that’s enough pictures.” She smiled, even white teeth flashing, clearly unaware of revolution of thought going on inside his head. “Thank you for taking them.”
“Are you visiting the palazzo?” he asked, referring to one of the more commonly visited sights in the city.
“Actually our tour group is supposed to head the cathedral next.”
He thought furiously of how to continue in her company.
Perhaps misreading his expression, she said, “I brought a shawl so I could go inside.”
He appreciated her deference to Sicilian convention and told her so.
“I grew up splitting time between California and Spain with my parents. They taught me young that respect for the culture in which you find yourself is good manners.”
“I also.” It was an imperative for the son of a monarch. “Listen, have a café with me and I will give you a personally guided tour of the cathedral after.”
“You’re an expert, are you?”
“My family were originally from Sicily.” Generations ago, before the country of Isole dei Re was founded by his ancestors. “We still have business interests here.”
She bit her bottom lip, clearly considering whether she wanted to break away from her tour group to spend time with a stranger.
“You said you are here with friends, sì?”
“Invite them to join us.”
The concerned furrow on her brow smoothed. “You don’t mind?”
“Not at all.”
She grabbed her phone from her bag. “Let me text them.” She pointed her phone at him and it clicked. “I’m just sending your picture too. What’s your mobile number?”
He rattled it off, surprised at his own willingness to do so.
She dialed. When the phone in his suit’s jacket inner pocket buzzed, she nodded with satisfaction and sent her text.
“I approve your caution.”
Perfectly shaped brows rose, her expression turning wry. “How nice for you.”
He found himself laughing. “Yes, well, I have a tendency to think my opinion matters too much. At least, according to my sister and brother.”
“Younger, I bet.”
“By ten and fifteen minutes respectively.”
“You’re a triplet?” she asked with obvious curiosity.
“Wow. That would be so amazing.”
“You would think so, wouldn’t you?” As much as he loved his siblings, it was not an aspect of his life that was an unending source of joy. “None of us are identical, but we look enough alike there is never a question we are siblings.”
His role as heir to the throne set him apart and yet there had been very little in his life his sister and brother had not done right along with him. While their royal parents might not understand how the bond could both be a benefit and stifling, Adamo and Elena shared Micheli’s feelings.
And each had their own ways of establishing their individuality.
She carried on texting while talking with him. “It beats being the only child of parent with huge expectations any day.” She read her latest text and smiled. “They’re coming.”
“Good. And trust me, expectations can be just as entrenched when you have siblings to share some of the burden.” And some burdens? Could not be shared.
Kiki had to admit that seeing the cathedral with a private tour guide and two of her friends was a lot nicer than being part of a big group, but she still couldn’t believe she’d let the gorgeous Sicilian pick her up in the piazza. Even if her friends were coming along.
The daughter of a Spanish billionaire and former super model, she’d been raised to be about ten times more cautious than the average person.
Only there was something really special about Mich. Her mom always said Kiki would know when she met that guy – the one she could not resist. She’d dated, a lot more than her dad would have liked and less than her mom encouraged.
But Mich? He was Kiki catnip. He got to her with a smile in ways other men hadn’t managed to after months of going out.
Okay, he was gorgeous. Like over the top, alpha of the pack impressive. She didn’t think he wore a power tie to impress, but because that’s who Mich was. He couldn’t be more a few years older than her, but she got the feeling he was already one of the “important players” as her dad called them.
Mich had presence in spades. Even in her heels, he was a good three inches taller than her and his body was to die for and his business suit couldn’t disguise a to die for body. He had these aristocratic looks that went with the arrogance she’d come to realize pretty quickly was innate too. And she had a near irresistible urge to reach up and muss his perfectly styled black hair.
It was his eyes that really got her though. Espresso brown, they glowed with appreciation for her and a humor he invited her to share.
After the cathedral, they spent an hour at a trattoria, talking about everything and nothing at all while Joni and Davin played tourists with their cameras nearby. Palermo was a beautiful city with bits of history and art everywhere.
And rather than wallowing in it, Kiki was lost in another kind of attraction all together. She felt like she’d known Mich forever.
As scary as that was, she was a lot more terrified of telling him good-bye.
“We need to get a taxi to catch up to the group if we don’t want to miss this afternoon’s tour,” Davin said, walking up to the café table.
Kiki’s stomach tightened with panic that made absolutely no sense.
Mich smiled at them all. “I am happy to continue in the role of tour guide and I believe my Mercedes will be a more comfortable ride than a tour bus.”
“Only if one of us drives.” Joni crossed her arms, her expression set in stubborn lines.
She’d taken classes at Kiki’s dad’s school of caution.
No way would Mich agree. Kiki prepared to tell him good-bye, but he smiled, handing the keys to Joni. “Have at.”
Joni slipped into the driver’s seat, giving Davin a superior look. “Not all men are such Neanderthals they think women are lesser drivers.”
Kiki wasn’t touching that old argument between them. She personally hated driving, especially back in New York and was happy if anyone else wanted to play chauffeur.
Mich joined her in the backseat, taking her hand in his as soon as their seatbelts were buckled. It felt like her heart stopped and then started double-time at that small touch.
He smiled at her, as if he knew exactly what the chaste physical connection was doing to her. Then he started caressing her hand with his thumb, the brushes back and forth never stopping.
She’d had no idea that holding hands could be so sexual.
Mich gave directions and a really fascinating tour commentary of the city and surrounding area over the next three hours with a stop for lunch outside the city.
“Come to dinner with me,” he said as they drew up outside the tour hotel.
It was crazy. Impulsive. But every instinct Kiki possessed told her she could trust this man and that she would regret walking away right now. “Yes.”
Joni about had a conniption, but Kiki wasn’t giving in and eventually her friends left her alone with Mich.