In this enchanting royal romance by USA TODAY bestselling author Lucy Monroe, what starts as a no-strings arrangement becomes extremely complicated…
The only man to tempt her?
Jenna Beals put love to one side and worked hard to achieve her dream career as a fashion journalist. So when she’s catapulted into an incendiary fling with gorgeous Prince Dimitri, she knows it has an expiration date—she’s not looking for a crown!
Dimitri’s mission to discover who’s leaking palace secrets led him to Jenna, but their passion-filled tryst reveals someone who sees him for more than his royal title. As their connection deepens, could the truth cost him the only woman who could truly be his?
Frank Sinatra singing My Way startled Prince Dimitri from his perusal of the United Mining contract.
The most important deal of his career to date, Dimitri wasn’t going to allow a single poorly worded sentence to remain in the entire thirty two page document.
He tapped the screen on his phone, accepting the video call before the crooner started singing again. “Isn’t this a little early for you?” he asked by way of greeting to his second oldest brother.
Konstantin and his wife made their home in Seattle, a time zone three hours ahead of his in New York.
His brother made a scoffing sound, his expression disbelieving. “It’s only 7:30 am over there, but there you are, in your office, chained to your desk already.”
Dimitri shrugged. “So? I would have thought you would still be in bed with your lovely wife.”
He had no wife and children to keep him in his sleek penthouse apartment through breakfast, much less in bed once he’d woken. Dimitri had been in his office since 6:00 am and would no doubt still be here at 6:00 pm. His Executive Assistant and their team would show up at eight. These hours on his own, without interruptions, were usually some of his most productive.
“You need a life outside work,” his brother chided.
Dimitri leaned back in his chair, working the kinks out of his neck. “Being older doesn’t give you license to play agony aunt.”
Even on the small phone screen, his brother’s offence showed clearly in his expression. “I am no one’s agony aunt, but I am your big brother and you should listen to me. Wisdom comes with age, you know.”
“You’re a whole eight years older. Hardly a generation,” Dimitri scoffed.
“Dima, I’m serious.” Kon was no longer smiling, but looking concerned. “You need a life outside your job.”
“I go to the gym six days a week.” He broke his day up with exercise and strength training midmorning. “I have my triathlons.”
Highly competitive, all that training had to have a purpose and Dimitri competed in triathlons throughout the year.
“If you were on a team, that might mean something, but you’re an independent competitor.”
“It is still something besides work.”
“You were such a friendly child, but you’ve grown up to be such an isolationist.”
“We all grow up eventually.” Dimitri had reveled in his role as youngest son and prince, making friends easily and being a hell of a lot more social than he was now, until he’d entered the military.
As the youngest son, he had been allowed to see combat. That time had changed him. Losing his best friend and other comrades to the violence of war had changed him. Losing the woman he thought he would marry had changed him.
The lesson he’d started learning at the age of six when he lost his mother to cancer had solidified in his twenties. Life was about loss.
The more people you let into your life, the more people you lost.
It was that simple. The profit and loss statement was heavily balanced in one direction.
He let no one else in, his potential for emotional pain was minimized.
“How are the boys?” Dimitri asked, when his brother didn’t immediately get to the point of his early morning phone call.
His nephew, Valentin, was six and half years younger than brother Mikhail, who was now nine. Just like the age spread between Dimitri and Nikolai. Mikhail was just as good an older brother as Dimitri’s had always been too.
“Mishka is frighteningly mature for his age and Valentin is never happier than when he is exploring.” Pride rang loud and clear in Konstantin’s voice. “They both miss their uncle.”
“I will schedule a trip to Seattle soon.”
“That is the hope.”
“I hardly think making sure I come to visit my nephews soon was worth you leaving Emma and a warm bed for this phone call.”
The expression on Kon’s face said he agreed. So, what was going on?
Dimitri waited in silence to find out.
Kon frowned and rubbed his face. “Growing up does not mean cutting yourself off from the joy of relationships, friendship, or otherwise.”
Dimitri’s inner radar blipped. “You’ve been talking to dad.”
“He just wants to see you happy.”
“I am happy as I am.”
“Are you?” Only family could put so much meaning into two simple words.
However, Dimitri refused to be drawn. Moments of loneliness were to be expected and not something he would ever discuss with his father or brothers. Though royalty, they were a close family. That did not mean he wanted to have some emotion laden conversation with his older brother.
Sarcasm and business were their language currency and he was pleased to keep it that way. “I am.”
“You could be happier.”
Seriously? Dimitri gave his brother a disbelieving stare. “Says you.”
“But this is not actually why I drug myself from my wife’s bed so freaking early and snuck off to make a phone call.”
Could have fooled him.
“Snuck off? That sounds serious.” Even more serious was the fact his brother had been putting off the real reason for his call.
Whatever it was, it wasn’t something Kon wanted to talk about and that put Dimitri’s instincts on alert.
Nevertheless, he joked, “I don’t see Emma monitoring your calls.”
“No, but I don’t want her to hear this.” Kon grimaced. “She’s practically as close to Jenna as Nataliya is at this point. They’re like three sisters by different mothers.”
“And?” What did the sexy best friend to his sister-in-law, the Queen of Mirrus, have to do with anything?
“Nataliya is all right?” His brain automatically went there.
His sister-in-law had had a life-risking miscarriage a month after Dimitri’s return from deployment.
He hadn’t even known she was pregnant. Still in their first trimester, Nataliya and Nikolai had shared the news with no one.
Except perhaps Jenna, the fashion journalist that was like a sister to Nataliya, and now apparently Kon’s wife Emma. Dimitri hadn’t noticed the three women growing that close, but then with his office on the other side of the continent from his brothers as well as their home country of Mirrus, he did not spend as much time with his family as his father would have liked.
Work kept Dimitri busy though. He was determined to ensure the future stability of both the company Mirrus Global, and by extension the country to which he had been born prince. It was his honor and his duty.
“She’s pregnant again,” Konstantin answered, his expression anything but pleased.
“Surely, that is good news.”
Konstantin nodded. “Of course it is, but after the last time, it is imperative she be exposed to nothing stressful.”
While Dimitri agreed, he did not know how realistic a goal that was for the Queen of Mirrus. “And there is something you think I can do to minimize her stress?”
“I cannot imagine what,” Dimitri answered honestly. “Though naturally, I will do whatever I can.”
“I expected no less.”
Nor should Kon have done. All three brothers had been raised with a strong sense of duty. Dimitri’s time in combat had only intensified his own sense of responsibility. Being the officer in charge when lives were lost had taught him how high the cost could be of making even the smallest error in judgment.
“Someone close to the family is leaking sensitive information to the press.” Kon said it baldly, with no buildup.
Dimitri sat up straighter, barely holding himself back from leaping to his feet. He was careful not to reveal too much of his inner thoughts or feelings. The practice was so ingrained, it came as second nature to him, even with his family.
“Personal or business?” he asked Konstantin in an even tone.
He didn’t ask if his brother was sure, or how he’d come to that conclusion. It was enough that he had.
Dimitri very deliberately bit out an expletive.
“You do not know who it is?”
He framed it as a question, but Dimitri had no doubt he was right. If Konstantin knew the name of the culprit, he would have named him.
“Not as such, no.”
“What does that mean?”
“The leaks happen after Jenna has been to visit Nataliya.”
Something inside Dimitri seized painfully. Jenna had been accepted into the inner circle of their family by all of them. If she had betrayed them, it would devastate more than Nataliya.
His father looked on the beautiful fashion journalist as another daughter.
“Impossible,” Dimitri said, after a second’s thought. “Jenna would never betray the sister of her heart.”
Jenna had shown her loyalty to Nataliya time and again. She’d been vocal about how much she valued her place among the royal family, if equally outspoken about how much she had no desire to actually be one of them.
The woman with strongly feminist ideals had no desire to be a princess.
Konstantin sighed, suddenly looking like a man who had gotten up two hours early to make a secret phone call. “I would have thought not, but the timing cannot be denied. It has happened too many times to be coincidence.”
“Either she’s leaking information,” Dimitri mused, still not convinced. “Or someone she trusts enough to talk about us, is doing it.”
The latter seemed far more likely.
“That was my thought.”
“Have you asked her?”
“Are you kidding me? What do you think the first thing she would do after such a conversation?”
“Call Nataliya.” And that would cause stress for the Queen. “You really think Jenna would upset Nataliya right now?”
“Perhaps not on purpose, but even if she just lets it slip we suspected her, you don’t think that will upset our sister-in-law?”
“Sure, but I’m not convinced someone as intelligent and caring as Jenna would let something like that slip to Nataliya when the Queen’s health could be at risk from stress.”
“If not Nataliya, then my wife.”
And that would lead to major stress for Konstantin. Dimitri got it.
“I still do not think there is any way Jenna would leak privileged information to the media,” Dimitri informed his brother. “Or even talk about us to someone she trusts. She’s too savvy for that. She’s a journalist after all.”
“The timing, Dima.”
Enough occurrences that it could not be a coincidence. That was concerning. As was the timing of the leak.
“I’m in the middle of an important but potentially fragile negotiation bringing several small countries together in a joint business venture,” Dimitri informed his brother.
“Why have I heard nothing about it?”
“Because I’m still going over the information packet before sending it on to you and Nikolai.”
Konstantin nodded. “There are a lot of reasons why another leak could be damaging, but I’ll number that among them.”
“Agreed. What exactly is it you want from me?” Dimitri asked.
“Find out if Jenna is the leak, and if she’s not, who is.”
“That sounds like a job for a security consultant.”
“Nikolai wants everything kept between us. If Jenna is the cause of the leak, he doesn’t want there to be even a chance that information could be made public.”
His brother, the king, wanted to protect his wife’s feelings, whatever the circumstance. Dimitri admired Nikolai’s concern for his wife, but was glad he had no such relationship to navigate.
He preferred the freedom to pursue his interests with unfettered ruthlessness.
“You live in Seattle. Why am I being tasked with this?”
“I’ve done my best to discern the truth and cannot do so without making myself suspicious to my wife.”
“You don’t think Jenna would be suspicious if I just showed up on her doorstep asking questions.”
“I trust you are capable of a great deal more subtlty than that.”
“You want me to date her?” He wasn’t some undercover spy.
“Would that really be a hardship?”
Dimitri hid his knee jerk reaction. Going to bed with the beautiful woman would be no hardship at all. Dating her? That implied the kind of relationship he did not do.
And it smacked of dishonesty.
So maybe his honor had some fetters on his ruthlessness, but that wasn’t something he needed to share with his older brother.
Konstantin sighed. “Look, Dima, I don’t care if you date her or invite her to participate in one of your triathlons, just figure out a way to get close enough to determine where the leak is coming from.”
“She’s not a triathlete.”
“She runs. She swims. Teach her how to ride a bike competitively.”
Dimitri just shook his head at his brother’s ignorance.
“I’ll be in Seattle at the end of the week.” But he was handling this thing as he saw fit.
Jenna Beals put down her phone, equal parts excited and worried for her best friend.
Nataliya, Queen of Mirrus, was pregnant again. After her last pregnancy had ended in a miscarriage and her nearly hemorrhaging to death, Jenna had assumed the other woman wouldn’t try to get pregnant again.
Although Nataliya had given birth to both the heir, six-year-old daughter Anna Yelena and the spare, three-year-old Daniil, it turned out the queen adored being a mother and wanted more children.
Children. As in plural.
Since Nataliya’s miscarriage and subsequent bleeding had been diagnosed as idiopathic, which meant they didn’t know what caused it, there was as much chance it could happen again as not.
So Jenna worried, but she couldn’t help being happy for her friend too. Because Nataliya? Was over the moon.
Jenna would have to plan to a trip to Mirrus soon, just to confirm to herself that her friend was doing as well as she claimed.
Her heart sped just at little with the usual fillip of excitement at the thought of seeing another certain member of the royal family. Prince Dimitri, Dima.
The youngest and, in her opinion, sexiest of the three Merikov brothers, the six and a half foot tall triathlete had a gorgeous body. With brown hair and gorgeous grey eyes, he was her own personal brand of catnip, but the prince was five years younger than Jenna. He was also the brother-in-law of her best friend. Then there was that pesky prince thing.
He was off limits to Jenna’s libido on so many levels, it would take a skyscraper elevator to reach him.
A trip she was in no way willing to take.
Forcing her thoughts away from the delectable man, Jenna went back to work on the spread for the sustainable fashion article her magazine was featuring that month. The plus size model, who had opened her own wardrobe for the photo shoot had a ginormous following that had only grown after she’d caught the notice of a pop icon.
The interview and photo spread had the potential to be one of their most popular to date, and that included the dating and wedding spreads she’d done on Nataliya.
“Hey, Jenna, there’s someone here to see you.”
Jenna looked up about to ask who it was only to look into the grey eyes she saw way too often in her dreams.
Dreams that left her feeling hot and breathless.
“Dima!” she exclaimed in shock. “What are you doing here?”
It was as if her thoughts of him had conjured up the one guy she could not let herself go for.
Casually, for him, dressed in a spring weight designer suit sans tie, he stood in a relaxed posed opposite her desk. “Kon asked me to come visit the boys.”
“I meant here in my office, not Seattle.” Though Dima didn’t visit the West Coast as often as his family would have liked, the fact he was in the city wasn’t that surprising.
That he was standing in front of her desk startled her usual cool right out of Jenna.
“I had some time on my hands.”
“So, you came here?” Why?
He gave her the charming smile that featured so often in the papers when his picture was taken. Only she’d noticed how it no longer reached his eyes since his deployment. No one else in his royal family seemed to find Dima much changed.
Nataliya did though.
She wanted to ask him about it, but knew doing so would draw them closer together, something she could not afford with her ridiculous sexual fixation on the man.
“So, you came here? When you are in town to see the children?” His sister-in-law, Emma, would be delighted.
Dima was a favorite with his nephews and Emma like anything that made her sons happy.
“They are in school, Emma and Kon are both working, so here I am.”
He made it sound like the most natural thing in the world, but it couldn’t be much further from that.
“Why aren’t you?” she asked. “Working, I mean.”
His smile this time reached his gaze, but those grey eyes were filled with humor. At her expense. “Perhaps you have not noticed, but it is lunch time.”
She flicked a gaze to her computer monitor. Sure enough, it was 12:30. “Maybe I don’t take lunch until one.”
“More like you don’t take lunch at all and sit at your desk with one of those disgusting protein bars.” The words reminded Jenna that they still had an audience.
Skylar, the editorial assistant who had led Dima back without giving Jenna a heads up that a prince was here to see her. The woman would have made a lousy receptionist. It was a good thing she was more interested in the journalism side of working for the magazine.
Speaking of. “Where’s Rose?”
The receptionist guarded her desk and the inner sanctum behind it with the tenacity of a trained secret service agent.
“She’s at lunch,” Jenna’s assistant offered helpfully.
“As you should be.” Oh, Dima might be the youngest, but he had the princely arrogance down pat.
“And you are here to make sure I eat?” she asked mockingly, not believing it for a minute.
“It sounds like someone needs to.” He gave Skylar a conspiratorial look. “Protein bars? Really?”
“Some of us actually live our lives without a personal chef.” Did that sound snide?
Maybe a little, but sarcasm came as naturally to Jenna as breathing. Dima had never been offended before by it.
If the wry tilt of his lips was any indication, he wasn’t offended now either. “How long do you need to button things up?”
“You’re assuming I’m coming to lunch with you.”
“Not immediately.” He sounded like he expected accolades for the accommodation.
“You are a piece of work, Your Highness.”
“I prefer Dima.”
“Since when?” She used the diminutive as a barrier between them.
A reminder of their age gap and his familial relationship to Nataliya.
And because she’d always assumed it annoyed him. He’d corrected his brothers and Nataliya often enough over the years.
Not that his family took any notice. To them, Prince Dimitri was, and always would be, Dima.
“Since hearing it in that snarky tone you use. It sounds more like a pet name coming from you than a reminder of my role as youngest in my family.” His honesty took her breath away.
It also let her know that she had achieved the opposite of her intent.
“Are you two like a thing?” Skylar asked, her interest practically vibrating off her.
The look Dima gave the woman could have frozen concrete. “Do you work for a fashion magazine, or for a gossip rag?”
The younger woman gave Dima a flirtatious smile. “Sometimes, they’re the same thing.”
“Not this magazine,” Jenna informed her. “We don’t peddle gossip and you should know better than speculate about something like that, especially out loud.”
Giving up any hope of getting more work done until after she’d had lunch with Dima, Jenna shut down her system and stood up. “For your information, His Highness and I are not dating. We are not sleeping together and if I hear anything to the contrary, I’ll know exactly who to yell at.”
Not that Jenna was known for yelling, but hopefully Skylar would take note that in this case she would be more than willing to.
The younger woman gave Jenna a disbelieving look. So, not intimidated. “I don’t think I’m the only one who hasn’t left for lunch who’s wondering the same thing.”
“You’ve got no sense of self preservation, do you?” Dima asked, his own tone disbelieving.
“What? Jenna isn’t the type of boss to bury me under bad assignments because I irritated her. She’s not like that.”
Jenna didn’t mind the confirmation that she had a reputation for being fair minded and practical. However, she didn’t like knowing her editorial assistant thought that sense of fair play meant Jenna wouldn’t come down on her like a ton of bricks. Because she so would.
“Good to know,” Dima said calmly. “However, I am a man who takes my privacy very seriously and I am not nearly so forgiving.”
Jenna knew she could trust Dima with her life and still she wouldn’t have liked being on the receiving end of that look.
This was the ruthless prince that few had met, but those who knew him even remotely well would assume lived under his urbane exterior.
No way could Dima have done some of the deals he had since taking over the New York office for Mirrus Global if he didn’t have a deep and well utilized ruthless streak.
“It’s not like I was going to spread any rumors,” Skylar assured them hastily, her expression not nearly so sanguine. “I was curious, that’s all.”
Dima didn’t look like he bought it. Jenna wasn’t sure she did either. That particular young editor was known for how much she liked to gossip.
Showing a recently wakened sense of self preservation though, Skylar gulped, gave a weak smile and took herself off.
Jenna grabbed her purse and cardigan. “I think you intimidated her.”
“I am a prince. She should have been intimidated from the moment of meeting me.”
“I can’t tell if you are serious, or not.”
“Why wouldn’t I be serious?” He sounded genuinely curious. “Most people are awed to some degree by royalty.”
“I guess that’s reason one hundred and fifty-nine that I’m glad my bff is the queen and not me.”
What looked like satisfaction flashed in his grey gaze. “You are unique, Jenna. You have never been awed by my family. I remember when you called my brother King Yummy.”
Jenna laughed. She still called him that sometimes, to tease Nataliya. To tease a king who seemed to take life more seriously, the older he got.