Harlequin Presents #2535
Originally published: 05/01/06
“If I find you naked in my bed, I will fire you on the spot.”
Maggie didn’t need warning. She knew that Principe Tomasso Scorsolini, her gorgeous Italian boss, was way out of her league.
But now Tomasso needs to marry. He’s had enough of gold diggers—innocent Maggie will be the perfect convenient wife!
Maggie doesn’t know exactly what her new royal duties will be. Though being naked in the prince’s bed is no longer a firing offense—it’s a requirement!
“This satisfying story will not disappoint readers that long for old-fashioned romance with more than a touch of sexual fireworks.” 4 Stars – Romantic Times
“The Prince’s Virgin Wife is thoroughly engrossing, with plenty of steam and engaging characters.” – Blue Ribbon Reviews
The Prince’s Virgin Wife is everything that Lucy Monroe readers enjoy in a Harlequin Presents romance. 5 Stars – Donna Zapf, Cataromance Reviews
“If your a Lucy Monroe fan this is a must have for your collection, if you haven’t read her yet, this is the best time to fix that problem. It will have you running to the store for her backlist” – Barb Hicks, The Best Reviews
“Lucy Monroe starts a new series about royal princes who believe the Scorsolini Curse that the men of their family are fated to love once, and so strongly, that if that love is lost there is no chance of another woman could every take her place. … Ms. Monroe will grab a hold of you and will not let you go as you read this story.” – Helen Slifer, Writers Unlimited
“THE PRINCE’S VIRGIN WIFE IS STUNNING IS ALL I CAN SAY! And of course has all of Lucy’s wonderful qualities in a love story, passion, promise, tenderness and a few of life’s lessons to remember.” ~ Marilyn
“I finished reading your recent Harlequin Presents title “The Prince’s Virgin Wife”, and I wanted to drop you a note and tell you how very much I enjoyed it. It’s been so long since I put down a lovely romance novel and it left me smiling and feeling really happy inside. This one did, and I loved every page of it. The setting, the characters, and the entire setup was the stuff of romantic fantasy, and your writing style is lovely and comfortable. You get a sense of real people, even though there’s also that wonderful feel of slightly larger than life. It’s not an easy balance to maintain and still make your reader care about the people as though they are real. You did that nicely, and I was with Maggie every step of the way as she struggled to find peace in what she felt was an unrequited love of a lifetime.” ~ Denysé Bridger, Erotic Romance Author
“I had to let you know I’ve just finished reading ‘The Prince’s Virgin Wife’. Thanks so much for such an enjoyable read. I had a great time and I’m thoroughly intrigued by Therese and Claudio. Am looking forward to the Scorsolini Marriage Bargain in a couple of months.” ~ Ann S
“I absolutely loved The Prince’s Virgin Wife, can’t wait to read the next one after ‘Tempt Me’ of course I’m loving Tempt Me. Keep up the great work, you do such a wonderful job.” ~ Mark
“I finished reading “The Prince’s Virgin Wife” last night and absolutely loved it!!” ~ Donna
“I just finished with THE PRINCE’S VIRGIN WIFE. This is another 5 ***** sizzling, sexy read. The chemistry between Tom and Maggie was perfect. Gianni and Anna were adorable. I can hardly wait to read Marcello and Danette’s story as well as Claudio and Therese’s story.” ~ Amy (from Writerspace Boards)
“Lucy, I just wanted to write and let you know that you are now one of my favorite romance authors. A very good friend of mine passed on an advance copy of “The Prince’s Virgin Wife” to me over lunch the other day. I just finished reading it and I am definitely hooked on your writing! This was the first book I have ever read by you and I was not disappointed. I am anxiously awaiting the release of the other two books in the Royal Brides series — I even went on-line and preordered them! After visiting your website and learning a little bit more about you and some of the other books you’ve recently published, I’ve also ordered “Ready”, “Willing”, “And Able”, as well as “3 Brides for 3 Bad Boys.” Keep up the good work! Thanks.” ~ Tammy S
“Hi – I just got my subscription to Hqn Presents in – (the sub. runs 3 months ahead, that’s how I got the May series now). I was so glad to see there was a book of yours – and of course I picked that first. WOW! <snip spoilers> And you made Maggie attractive but ordinary! Again, what a refreshing change. One does tend to get tired of these fabulous, flawless women, who look even better without make-up than with, whose mascara never smudges, who never have a bad hair day, and so on… Yes, of course I’m saying that I loved the book! And you do royalty very well. Many attempt it, but very few bring it off successfully. Too many don’t know the difference between Royal and Serene, blithely mixing the two. And they don’t sustain the tone. But ah! you did, exceptionally well. And, best of all, this is but the first of a series of three! Can’t wait. Thank you!” ~ Kate H
“So, were you able to hire her?”
Principe Tomasso Scorsolini paced the Hong Kong hotel suite, his cell phone pressed against his ear and waited with barely concealed impatience to discover if his prey had taken the bait.
“She came to the palace for the interview as agreed and she impressed me very much.” Therese’s voice rang with approval across the phone lines. “I don’t know how you heard about her, but she’s a sweet woman and will be good with the children. She really is ideal, but I was not certain at first that she would accept the position.”
“Why?” He’d made sure Maggie Thomson had no conflicting loyalties, arranging for her current employers to dispense with her services while at the same time suggesting she consider the position in his household.
“She was concerned about the impact her leaving in a couple of years would have on Annamaria and Gianfranco, particularly in light of Liana’s death.”
“A couple of years? She assumes she will leave?”
“She has plans to open her own daycare center after she has saved enough money. It is why she has taken positions with older children up to this point.”
Ah, so she still held onto her dreams. He should not be surprised. Maggie Thomson had a stubborn streak almost as wide as his own. “What did you tell her?”
“I took your advice and introduced her to Gianni and Anna. They liked Miss Thomson immediately and she fell completely under their spell. You know how shy little Annamaria is and yet by the end of the interview, she was sitting in Miss Thomson’s lap. I’ve never seen anything like it.” Therese paused as if collecting her thoughts. “I know this is going to sound strange, Tomasso, but it was as if she was their long lost mother…the connection between the three of them was that strong.”
She didn’t need to say what they both knew. The connection had never been that impacting between the children and their real mother. Liana had not been a nurturer.
“That is good to hear.” Very good.
“Yes, well…I told her that if she would commit to a two-year contract, we would provide her with a generous bonus at the end of it to help her with her business.”
“Did that sway her?”
“Not at first. She was still concerned about the children, but I explained that when hiring domestic help, a two-year contract was a long term commitment and really better than we might expect to do with someone else.”
He had no plans to let Maggie Thomson go in two years, or any time thereafter, but Therese did not need to know that. “Brilliant. And she accepted?”
“Good.” Satisfaction filled him. “Thank you, Therese.”
“It was my pleasure, Tomasso.”
“Tell Claudio I will see him when I return to Isole dei Re.”
“You may well see him before I do.” There was something in his sister-in-law’s voice that bothered him.
“Are you all right, Therese?”
“Yes, of course. Miss Thomson agreed to begin her duties immediately as you suggested.”
“Yes, but I shall miss having the children with me.”
He hadn’t considered that. “I am sorry, Therese.”
“Don’t be silly. I enjoy their company, but it is important for them to have a more consistent caretaker in their lives. If you lived here in the palace, it would be different, but since you make your home on another island entirely, I cannot make up for their lack of a mother.”
“It sounds like Maggie Thomson will do that nicely.”
“For the next two years anyway.”
For a lifetime if it all worked out the way he planned. “I thank you again, Therese.”
She dismissed her role as unimportant and rang off.
Tomasso flipped his phone shut and smiled to the empty room. It was all coming together.
Better than even he could have anticipated and projecting a plan’s outcome was something he had perfected during his years running Scorsolini Jewels and the mines that supplied them.
Apparently his children and Maggie had adored one another on sight and equally important, she was the same sweet natured woman she had been in college. He hadn’t really expected anything different since reading the report Hawk’s agency had compiled on her. It also said she retained other characteristics he remembered from his college days.
According to her past employers, she was efficient, content in the domestic environment and peaceful to be around. Traits he hadn’t appreciated nearly enough at the time. He’d been too interested in outward beauty and ignorant of how much her presence meant to him…until it was gone.
He’d taken for granted how smoothly his life had run when Maggie was his housekeeper. Four years in a volatile marriage with Liana had cured him of that complacency.
The first year after her death, Tomasso had refused to even consider taking another wife, having no desire to repeat his first foray into marital non-harmony. But neither did he wish to end up like his father and for the past few months, he’d begun to crave the peaceful ease his older brother had in his marriage to the kind and even tempered Therese.
Every time Tomasso fantasized about that kind of harmony, he could only picture it with one woman. Maggie Thomson. He could hear her gentle voice reminding him to eat breakfast before leaving the house, could remember her busy hands making sure his life ran smoothly.
He wanted that harmony again, but this time he would not make the mistake of giving her an out.
She’d walked away from him once, saying they had nothing more than a working relationship and one that had no place in her life once he was no longer her boss. He’d accepted that blatant untruth for two reasons. The first was because he knew he had hurt her and even though he’d meant to do anything but, he had felt he owed her the honor of respecting her desire to cut him from her life.
The second was that Liana had been jealous of his relationship with Maggie and quite vocal in her desire for him to sever ties completely with the other woman. The unreasonable jealousy had flattered him at the time. He’d taken it as proof of Liana’s passionate love for him. The idiocy of that belief still rankled.
Liana had loved only one person…herself.
He had been the means to her having the lifestyle she wanted. Nothing more. Marry a prince…become a princess. He wondered if knowledge that he was a prince would change Maggie’s attitude toward him.
It did with everyone else. Which was why he had attended college under the assumed identity of Tom Prince.
He’d wanted to make relationships based on who he was, not what he was. He’d wanted to prove that he could succeed on his own, not the strength of his family name. He’d proven that, at least. He’d graduated with honors solely on his own merits, but the relationships had been another story.
Unbeknownst to him, Liana had known his royal status all along, and Maggie had walked away from the simple man Tom Prince too easily.
Would she want him as Liana had, once she knew he was of royal blood?
He conceded that it did not matter. She was exactly what he wanted in a wife and mother for his children. Why she chose to marry him wouldn’t matter because she would still be herself, a woman eminently suitable to make his life more peaceful and to give his children the nurturing they so desperately needed.
He wasn’t a fool though.
He would not base a lifetime commitment on six year old memories. By hiring her to care for his children, he would have a chance to observe Maggie and be certain she was all that he remembered before informing her of his desire to make her his wife. He also wanted to be sure the latent passion that had existed between them had not disappeared and that it was as intense as the one scorching encounter of his memories.
He was not a man who would be comfortable with a wife who did not appeal to that side of his nature.
He refused to be like his father, finding sexual solace outside the marriage bed. He considered that behavior reprehensible and so in fact, did his father, which was why the king had never remarried after one failed attempt following the death of his first wife.
His father had called it the Scorsolini curse. According to King Vincente, Scorsolini men were fated to have one true love. Claudio and Tomasso’s mother had been his. After her death, no other woman could hold his interest completely enough to ensure fidelity. He’d married Marcello’s mother only months after the death of his queen because he got her pregnant.
He had an affair and the usually mild mannered Flavia had gone ballistic. She had refused to be cuckolded and moved back to Italy with the young Marcello, doing the unthinkable and filing for divorce in the process. Since then, his father had had a string of mistresses.
Tomasso didn’t care about his supposed fate. He never wanted to love like his father had and end up a widower always searching to fill an empty void that could never be satisfied.
He knew that unlike his father, even a superficial passion would be enough for Tomasso to remain faithful. It had been with Liana. Though he’d believed when they married she was his one true love, he’d soon discovered differently.
Yet he had remained faithful to her despite the troubles in their marriage and his discovery that what he had thought was love was nothing more than being blitzed by her outward beauty.
How much easier would it be to maintain fidelity in marriage to a woman he respected, even if he did not love her?
“Papa will be home soon, won’t he?”
Maggie smiled and tucked Annamaria into the child sized bed. “Yes, sweetie. Just two more days.”
“I miss him.”
“I know you do.” Maggie brushed the little girl’s dark curls away from her face, leaned down and kissed her forehead. “Goodnight, Anna.”
“Goodnight, Maggie. I’m glad you came.”
“Thank you, I am too.”
She turned off the overhead light and left the small night light glowing before making her way to her own suite of rooms in the opulent home after checking in on Gianfranco one more time. He was asleep…finally, a small lump in the race car bed that was the same diminutive size as Anna’s.
Tall for his five years, he would need a big boy bed soon. Maggie wondered if that would fall under her jurisdiction. There were so many questions she wanted to ask her absent employer, not the least of which was why it seemed the entire domestic staff looked to her for direction as if she was the housekeeper, not the nanny?
There was a housekeeper-slash-cook already, two maids and a groundskeeper besides, but they all seemed to turn to her for major decisions and she found that odd.
It was certainly different than in her last two positions, but then she was working for royalty now. They obviously had their own unique way of dealing with the domestic side of life. It felt odd, but she liked the sense of respect she got from her fellow employees and the obvious importance the prince placed on her role in caring for his children.
She closed the door to Gianfranco’s room, hoping he and his little sister slept well tonight. Their father had not called as was his norm and it had been difficult settling them both into their beds. Her small charges needed her, even more than the family she had left behind.
Which was not surprising considering the fact that Gianni and Anna’s mother had died the year before and they were both so very young, but it was shocking how much she cared already.
She loved them, truly loved them.
It should be too soon to have such deep feelings for children that she had not given birth to, but she felt an elemental connection to them and had from the moment of meeting. She’d been all set to turn down the prince’s offer of employment tendered through his sister-in-law and then she’d met the children and found she simply could not walk away from the need she sensed in them.
She’d agreed to the two-year contract, but her heart was already asking how she thought she could walk away from her small charges when her time was up. She’d been their nanny for only ten days, but in some ways it felt like a lifetime.
She’d lived in more than one foster home growing up, and had different roommates her last couple of years of college, and then been nanny to two different families, but she had never connected to anyone as quickly as she had to these two.
Except Tom Prince.
And that relationship had ended in pain for her, just as this job was going to.
From what she could tell both Anna and her older brother spent a great deal of time missing their workaholic father. They needed her on so many levels, she was powerless to turn her back on them. Workaholic, or not, the prince couldn’t be all bad, not and have such two sweet children and such a caring and obviously approving sister-in-law.
He wasn’t exactly neglectful either. He called the children daily, sometimes twice a day and spoke to them on a level that showed he understood they were children. She didn’t mean to eavesdrop, but Maggie couldn’t help but overhear the children’s side of the conversations.
She thought he must be a really decent father despite his preoccupation with work.
Her former employer had been much the same. It seemed to be a common enough condition among the world’s truly wealthy. She’d been in her last position for two years and could count on one hand the number of major holidays her employers had spent with their children. It wasn’t a lifestyle she envied, even if it meant living in luxury and extensive travel.
She’d never been interested in connecting with any of the men she’d met in the world in which she had moved since graduating from college. If she ever married, it would be to a man who knew how to be part of a family, not just provide for one.
She wanted something real, something lasting and warm…the kind of family she’d spent her childhood dreaming about.
She sighed and plopped down on the small, elegant Victorian style sofa in her sitting room. She was twenty-six and beginning to doubt she’d ever meet a man she wanted to share her life with. That thought didn’t hurt nearly as much as the prospect that because of it, she might never have children.
She grabbed the remote and flipped on the television.
She certainly wouldn’t meet one in this crowd, that was for sure. She liked Princess Therese, but her husband, the Crown Prince, was every bit as focused on his work as his younger brother. Maggie doubted that would change when the couple had children and wondered if that was why they had not yet had any.
She flipped through the stations until she came across one of her all time favorite movies – a romance made in the 1940s. She adored it and knew she’d be up until the wee hours watching it. The hero always reminded her of the one man who had made her heart rate soar into the heavens and her body feel like it was on fire.
Unfortunately, just like the man on the screen…Tom Prince had married another woman. A beautiful, sophisticated, sexy woman. The kind of woman that drew every male eye when she walked into a room. The kind of woman Maggie knew she would never be.
Tom had been her employer and housemate in college and in many ways, no matter what she’d said to the contrary when they parted, the closest friend she ever had. She’d been thinking about him a lot lately. Something about Gianni and Anna brought back memories of him and the feelings he sparked inside her.
She’d been having more of the dreams too…the erotic ones where she relived the sensations she’d known in his arms that fateful night six years ago. She didn’t understand the connection and liked it even less.
It had been hard enough losing him to Liana and learning to live without his daily presence in her life once. But now she felt like she was going through the withdrawal all over again and she didn’t even understand why.
Determined not to think about the past and its pain, she focused on the movie, but for once, her favorite love story could not hold her attention and soon she was lost to memories she couldn’t stifle no matter how hard she tried.
Maggie nervously smoothed her hands down her skirt. The letter had said casual attire for the interview, but she had wanted to make a good impression.
So, she’d pulled her long, kinky blonde curls into ponytail and pinned it into a bun, hoping she looked just a little older than her eighteen years. She was wearing a longish twill skirt, the color of wheat, and a classic white button up blouse she’d bought at the second hand store the year before to wear to her part-time job as a waitress.
And she’d washed all the scuff marks from her single pair of white sandals, the ones her foster mom had bought her in exchange for mowing the lawn two summers previously. Her nails were clean, but unpainted. Her lightly freckled and very ordinary features were without makeup. Which was a good thing because if she’d been wearing lipstick, she would have chewed it off her bottom lip in nervousness by now.
She needed this job. The salary listed wasn’t huge, but the live-in position would make it possible for her to pursue her studies without getting another low paying job to cover living expenses.
She rang the doorbell and took a hasty step backward when it opened almost immediately to reveal a man who was way younger than she’d expected. In fact, he wasn’t much older than her. With curly black hair, a face that could have been chiseled by Michelangelo, blue eyes that would have graced an angel and a body that towered over her with finely honed muscle, he was also drop dead gorgeous.
“There must be… I think I made a mistake.” She looked away from his to-die-for body and surveyed the other homes on the tree lined street.
Had she gotten the number wrong? She pulled the paper from her purse and looked down at the highlighted address. The number was the same as the one beside the open door.
“Are you here about the housekeeping position?” Tall, Dark and Gorgeous asked in a voice that made her stomach flip.
He looked her up and down, his expression weighing. “I expected you to be older.”
“You thought you were older?” he asked with a gleam of amusement in his cobalt blue eyes.
“I thought you would be older,” she corrected, blushing.
He stepped back and indicated she should enter. “Then we were both destined for surprise, were we not?”
“I suppose so.”
“I’m Tom Prince and you must be Maggie Thomson.”
“Yes. It’s a pleasure to meet you Mr. Prince.”
“All right.” She followed him into the living room.
“You have experience keeping house?” he asked as he they took seats on opposite sides of a glass coffee table.
Remembering her years taking care of her foster siblings and ailing foster mom, she nodded with vehemence. “Lots.”
Then realizing that probably wasn’t as specific of an answer as he would like, she proceeded to outline her household duties for the past few years.
His expression was odd. “You took care of the house, the children and your foster mother while working a part-time job?”
“I’m good at multi-tasking.” Hopefully that would be in her favor.
“But now that you are eighteen, you have moved out?”
“Once I turned eighteen I was no longer eligible to be part of the system. Helen couldn’t get help for my living expenses and needed me to leave so she could take another child in.”
Knowing that with all she’d given to her foster mom, Maggie still hadn’t meant any more to the older woman than the money she brought in from the state had hurt. She didn’t share that bit with Tom though.
His too observant and surprisingly compassionate eyes said he’d read between the lines anyway. However all he asked was, “The small salary is not a deterrent for you?”
“No. It would be a godsend to tell the truth. My scholarship doesn’t stretch to living expenses.”
“You are attending university on scholarship?”
“Yes. An academic one.” As if there would be any doubt that her average build would somehow have managed to enable her to attain an athletic scholarship.
She smiled self-deprecatingly.
“You must be very bright.”
That made her shrug. Her intelligence was something she’d always taken for granted. If she hadn’t been smarter than the average student, she would have flunked out of high school for lack of time to study between her part time job and caring for her foster family. “I like school.”
“What is your major?”
“Early childhood development.”
He didn’t laugh like a lot of people did when she told them. For some reason, the idea of going to college to earn a degree so she could care for children seemed amusing to most people.
“What do you want to do?”
“One day, I want to have my own day care center.”
“You should take some business courses as well then,” he said rather bossily.
But she didn’t mind. “I plan to.”
He nodded his approval at this and the interview went on from there. Surprisingly, they had a lot in common. Neither liked to watch television very much, they both liked the same authors and they shared a similar sense of humor. It was nice.
She would have thought she would be tongue tied around him, but she wasn’t because although he was the most beautiful man she’d ever met, he didn’t act at all conceited or cocky about his looks.
She was getting ready to go when he said, “I have on last thing I need to discuss with you before I can make my decision.”
For the first time in forty-five minutes he looked less than totally self-composed. “I think we could be friends.”
She nodded eagerly.
“I like you, Maggie.”
“I like you too,” she said breathlessly.
He got very serious. “The position is a live-in one.”
“Yes, I know. That’s perfect for me.”
He nodded. “If I hire you, you have to promise you’ll never attempt to take our friendship beyond that. From your letter of application, I thought you would be older…I didn’t think this would be an issue I would have to bring up, but I see that I must and there is no benefit in putting it off. I don’t date people who work for me. Ever.”
She stared at him and didn’t know what to say. He seemed awfully young to have such a policy, but she certainly didn’t expect him to break it with her.
When she said nothing, his expression turned even grimmer. “If I woke up to you naked in my bed, I would fire you on the spot.”
She couldn’t help it, she burst out laughing. The very thought of her doing something so bold…so absurd…was more than she could take. She laughed so hard, she fell against the wall, her head shaking in negation to his comment.
Realizing that he was frowning, she forced herself to stop chortling. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have laughed.”
“I am quite serious.”
That was weird the way his speech pattern got so formal sometimes, like the informal speak of a college student wasn’t natural for him.
“You’ve had that happen before?” she asked with disbelief.
“Yes,” he said shortly.
Wow. Bummer. “I promise on both of my parent’s graves that I will never climb into your bed, naked or otherwise.”
“Both of your parents are dead?”
“I am sorry.”
“Me too, but thank you.”
“You’ll never try to seduce me?” he asked, as if there was still some doubt in his mind.
It took every bit of her self-control not to laugh again, but she managed it. “When you know me better, you’ll realize what a ridiculous thought that is, but please believe me when I say that you don’t ever have to worry about that kind of thing from me.”
“Why, are you gay?”
She gasped and then closed her eyes, trying hard to stay collected. She opened them again. “No. I’m not gay. I’m not the type to try to seduce anybody, male or female,” she said for good measure.
He still looked worried and she sighed.
“Look, you said you thought I must be pretty intelligent. Well, I am. Definitely smart enough to realize you are way out of my league. I don’t know where you come from that you have women falling all over themselves to have sex with you, but I was raised to keep out of men’s beds until I got married and that’s exactly what I intend to do. Even if you were a reincarnation of John Wayne, I would not climb into your bed and beg you to have sex with me. Okay?”
“John Wayne? You lust after the Duke?”
She rolled her eyes. “Never mind who I fantasize about…just don’t worry about it being you.”
Suddenly a smile lit his face and she about fell against the wall again, this time from the sheer animal impact, but managed to stay upright. Barely.
The Prince’s Virgin Wife
Harlequin Presents – May 06
© 2006 Lucy Monroe