A Royal Baby Surprise

By: Cat Schield

 One

Above the sound of the breeze blowing through the cedar trees that dotted the island hillside, Nic Alessandro heard the scuff of a footstep on flagstone and knew he wasn’t alone on the terrace.

“So this is where you’ve been hiding.” Brooke Davis’s voice was like his favorite vodka: smoky and smooth, with a sexy, implied bite. And she went to his head just as swiftly.

Already suffering from a well-deserved hangover, Nic was further jolted by her unexpected arrival on this out-of-the-way Greek island. But he couldn’t let himself be glad to see her. The future he’d once planned to have with her was impossible. His older brother, Gabriel, had married a woman incapable of having children, meaning he would have no son to inherit the throne of Sherdana, the European nation their family had ruled for hundreds of years. Now, as next in line to the throne, it was up to Nic to find a wife that the laws of his country would accept as the future mother of the royal line. As an American, Brooke didn’t fit the bill.

“Is this the rustic cabin on the side of a mountain you told me about?” she asked. “The one you said I’d hate because it had no running water and no indoor toilets?”

Nic detected the strain she tried to hide beneath her teasing tone. What was she doing here? Had her brother Glen sent her to talk Nic into returning to California? He couldn’t believe she’d come on her own after the way he’d broken things off.

“Here I was picturing you suffering in some hovel in the middle of nowhere. Instead, I find you living in a luxurious villa above the most gorgeous harbor I’ve ever seen.”

Her voice came from the side of the terrace that led down to the beach, so she must have arrived by boat. Walking up the hundred and fifty steps hadn’t winded her a bit. She loved to work out. It was what kept her lithe body in perfect shape.

What had he been thinking when he’d finally surrendered to the powerful attraction he’d hidden from her for the past five years? He shouldn’t have been so quick to assume that his royal duty to Sherdana ended the minute Gabriel had gotten engaged to Lady Olivia Darcy.

“You’re probably wondering how I found you.”

Nic opened his eyes and watched Brooke saunter across the terrace. She wore a white, high-waisted cotton blouse and faded denim shorts with a ragged hem. The gray scarf wound around her neck was one of her favorites.

Everything she passed she touched: the back of the lounge chair, the concrete wall that bordered the terrace, the terra-cotta pots and the herbs and flowers they held. As her fingertips drifted along the fuchsia petals of a bougainvillea, Nic envied the flower she caressed.

At this hour of the morning, the sun was behind the villa, warming the front garden. On winter days he would have taken coffee to the side patio and made the most of the sunshine. In late July, he preferred the back terrace where he could enjoy the view of the town of Kioni across the harbor. The wind off the Ionian Sea kept the humidity at bay, making this a pleasant spot to linger most of the morning.

“I’m guessing Glen sent you.”

She looked pained by his assumption. “No, it was my idea to come.”

A double blow. She hadn’t accepted the end of their relationship, and Glen didn’t want him back working on the rocket after the explosion that had killed a member of their team. An explosion caused when the fuel system Nic had been working on malfunctioned. When the Griffin had blown up, his dream of privatizing space travel had gone up in smoke with it. He’d retreated from California in defeat, only to discover that he was now facing royal obligations back in Sherdana.

“You brought him here two years ago for a boys’ weekend after a successful test firing. He came back with horror stories of long hikes in the mountains and an abundance of wildlife. I realize now those hikes involved stairs leading down to a private beach and the wildlife was in the bars in town. Shame on you two. I actually felt sorry for him.”

Nic rubbed his hand across the stubble around his mouth, hiding a brief smile. They’d certainly had her going.

“Now I see you two were living like kings.”

Kings. Her word choice smothered Nic’s amusement. Had she used the word deliberately? Had Glen given up all Nic’s secrets?

“How can you afford a place like this? You guys were always looking for investors. It seems to me that anyone who had enough money to own this villa could have financed the entire project.”

A little of his tension fell away, but only a little. She didn’t know the truth yet. And when she did find out...

Tell her. Tell her who you are.

Wise words. Pity he couldn’t bring himself to follow his own advice. He’d been hiding his true identity from her for too long. She’d be devastated when she learned how much he’d lied about. Yet, it was only a matter of a week before the media found out he was wife-hunting and he went from obscure scientist to international news item. She would know soon enough. And hopefully when that happened she would appreciate that they’d kept their brief relationship quiet.

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