Chasing the man who broke her heart halfway around the world to tell him she's pregnant is the hardest thing Brooke Davis has ever had to do. But when she catches up with him, he's got a surprise for her, too: he's been hiding his royal roots. Nic Alessandro is a prince, and Brooke's an unsuitable matchbut their attraction is hotter than ever!
What will happen when royal duty and desire collide? Maybe Nic will have to take Brooke home to Sherdana and find out
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Ab ove 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 bou-gainvillea, 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.
She believed herself in love with a man who didn't exist. A man of duty, honor and integrity. They were principles that he'd been raised to embrace, but they'd been sadly lacking the moment he'd pulled Brooke into his arms and kissed her that first time.
"My brothers and I own it," he said, wishing so many things could be different.
Brooke's very stillness suggested the calm before the storm. "I see."
That was it? No explosion? No ranting? "What do you see?"
"That we have a lot to talk about."
He didn't want to talk. He wanted to pull her into his arms and make love to her until they were both too exhausted to speak. "I've already said everything I intend to." He shouldn't have phrased that like a challenge. She was as tenacious as a terrier when she got her teeth into something.
"Don't give me that. You owe me some answers."
"Fine." He owed her more than that. "What do you want to know?"
"You have brothers?"
"Two. We're triplets."
"You never talked about your family. Why is that?"
"There's not much to say."
"Here's where we disagree."
She stepped closer. Vanilla and honey enveloped him, overpowering the scent of cypress and the odor of brine carried on the light morning breeze. With her finger she eased his dark sunglasses down his nose and captured his gaze. Her delicate brows pulled together in a frown.
He braced himself against the pitch and roll of emotions as her green-gray eyes scoured his face. He should tell her to go away, but he was so damned glad to see her that the words wouldn't come. Instead, he growled like a cranky dog that wasn't sure whether to bite or beg to be petted.
"You look like hell."
"I'm fine." Disgusted by his suddenly hoarse voice, he knocked her hand aside and slid his sunglasses back into place.
She, on the other hand, looked gorgeous. Rambunctious red hair, streaked with dark honey, framed her oval face and cascaded over her shoulders. Her pale, unblemished skin, arresting dimples and gently curving cheekbones made for the sort of loveliness any man could lose his head over. A wayward curl tickled his skin as she leaned over him. Shifting his gaze, he took the strand between two fingers and toyed with it.
"What have you been doing all alone in your fancy villa?" she asked.
"If you must know, I'm working."
"On your tan maybe." She sniffed him and wrinkled her slender nose. "Or a hangover. Your eyes are bloodshot."
"I've been working late."
"Riiight." She drew the word out doubtfully. "I'll make some coffee. It looks like you could use some."
Safe behind his dark glasses, he watched her go, captivated by the gentle sway of her denim-clad rear and her long legs. Satin smooth skin stretched over lean muscles, honed by yoga and running. His pulse purred as he recalled those strong, shapely legs wrapped around his hips.
Despite the cool morning air, his body heated. An hour ago, he'd opened his eyes, feeling as he had most of the past few mornings: queasy, depressed and distraught over the accident that had occurred during a test firing of their prototype rocket ship.
Brooke's arrival on this sleepy, Greek island was like being awakened from a drugged sleep by an air horn.
"Someone must be taking care of you," she said a short time later, bringing the smell of bitter black coffee with her when she returned. "The coffeepot was filled with grounds and water. All I had to do was turn it on."
Nic's nostrils flared eagerly as he inhaled the robust aroma. The scent alone was enough to bring him back to life.
She sat down on the lounge beside his and cradled her mug between both hands. She took a tentative sip and made a face. "Ugh. I forgot how strong you like it."
He grunted and willed the liquid to cool a little more so he could drain his cup and start on a second. It crossed his mind that coping with Brooke while a strong jolt of stimulant rushed through his veins was foolhardy at best. She riled him up admirably all by herself, making the mix of caffeine and being alone with her a lethal combination.
"So, am I interrupting a romantic weekend?"
Luckily he hadn't taken another sip, or the stuff might have come straight out his nose. His fingers clenched around the mug. When they began to cramp, he ground his teeth and relaxed his grip.
"Probably not," she continued when he didn't answer. "Or you'd be working harder to get rid of me."
Damn her for showing up while his guard was down. Temptation rode him like a demon every time she was near.
But he couldn't have her. She mustn't know how much he wanted her. He'd barely summoned the strength to break things off a month ago. But now that he was alone with her on this island, her big misty-green eyes watching his every mood, would his willpower hold out?
Silence stretched between them. He heard the creak of wood as she settled back on the lounge. He set the empty cup on his chest and closed his eyes once more. Having her here brought him a sense of peace he had no right to feel. He wanted to reach out and lace his fingers with hers but didn't dare to.
"I can see why you and your brothers bought this place. I could sit here for days and stare at the view."
Nic snorted softly. Brooke had never been one to sit anywhere and stare at anything. She was a whirling dervish of energy and enthusiasm.
"I can't believe how blue the water is. And the town is so quaint. I can't wait to go exploring."
Exploring? Nic needed to figure out how to get her on a plane back to America as soon as possible before he gave in to temptation. Given her knack for leading with her emotions, reasoning with her wouldn't work. Threats wouldn't work, either. The best technique for dealing with Brooke was to let her have her way and that absolutely couldn't happen this time. Or ever again, for that matter.
When she broke the silence, the waver in her voice betrayed worry. "When are you coming back?"
"You can't mean that." She paused, offering him the opportunity to take back what he'd said. When he didn't, her face took on a troubled expression. "You do mean that. What about Griffin? What about the team? You can't just give it all up."
"Someone died because of a flaw in a system I designed"
She gripped his forearm. "Glen was the one pushing for the test. He didn't listen when you told him it wasn't ready. He's the one to blame."
"Walter died." He enunciated the words, letting her hear his grief. "It was my fault."
"So that's it? You are giving up because something went wrong? You expect me to accept that you're throwing away your life's work? To do what?"
He had no answer. What the hell was he going to do in Sherdana besides get married and produce an heir? He had no interest in helping run the country. That was Gabriel's job. And his other brother Christian had his businesses and investments to occupy him. All Nic wanted to do, all he'd ever wanted to do, was build rockets that would someday carry people into space. With that possibility extinguished, his life stretched before him, empty and filled with regret.
"There's something else going on." She tightened her grip on his arm. "Don't insult my intelligence by denying it."
Nic patted her hand. "I would never do that, Dr. Davis." A less intelligent woman wouldn't have captivated him so completely, no matter how beautiful. Brooke's combination of sex appeal and brains had delivered a fatal one-two punch. "How many doctorates do you have now, anyway?"
"Only two." She jerked her hand from beneath his, reacting to his placating tone. "And don't change the subject." Despite her annoyance, a huge yawn practically dislocated her jaw as she glared at him.
"You're tired." Showing concern for her welfare might encourage her, but he couldn't help it.
"I've been on planes since yesterday sometime. Do you know how long it takes to get here?" She closed her eyes. "About twenty hours. And I couldn't sleep on the flight over."
A deep breath pushed her small, pert breasts tight against her sleeveless white cotton blouse.
"Because I was worried about you, that's why."
The admission was a cop-out. It was fourth on her list of reasons why she'd flown six thousand miles to talk to him in person rather than breaking her news over the phone.
But she wasn't prepared to blurt out that she was eight weeks pregnant within the first ten minutes of arriving.
She had a lot of questions about why he'd broken off their relationship four weeks earlier. Questions she hadn't asked at first because she'd been too hurt to wonder why he'd dropped her when things between them had been so perfect. Then the fatal accident had happened with Griffin. Nic had left California and she'd never received closure.
"I don't need your concern," he said.
"Of course you don't." She crammed all the skepticism she could muster into her tone to keep from revealing how much his rebuff stung. "That's why you look like weekold roadkill."
Although his expression didn't change, his voice reflected amusement. "Nice image."
She surveyed his disheveled state, thought about the circles she'd seen beneath his eyes, their utter lack of vitality. The thick black stubble on his cheeks made her wonder how long it had been since he'd shaved. No matter how hard he worked, she'd never seen his golden-brown eyes so flat and lifeless. He really did look like death warmed over.
"Brooke, why did you really come here?"
Her ready excuse died on her lips. He'd believe that she'd come here to convince him to return to the project. It would be safe to argue on behalf of her brother. But where Nic was concerned, she hadn't played it safe for five years. He deserved the truth. So, she selected item number three on her list of why she'd chased after him.
"You disappeared without saying goodbye." Once she better understood what had spooked him, Brooke would confess the number one reason she'd followed him to Ithaca. "When you didn't answer any of my phone calls or respond to my emails, I decided to come find you." She gathered a fortifying breath before plunging into deep water. "I want to know the real reason why things ended between us."
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
A Royal Baby Surprise is Cat Schield’s second book in her series The Sherdana Royals. I have to say upfront that Cat Schield is one of my favorite Desire authors and she definitely did not disappoint me with A Royal Baby Surprise. Nic Alessandro is a prince in disguise. He’s spent the last ten years in the United States: five years attending school and another five years working on the Griffin project. After a failed launch of the rocket ship, Nic decides to return to Sherdana and assume his royal duties. Brooke Davis is a professor. Her brother works with Nic on the Griffin project. After nearly five years of her pining over Nic, they enter into a relationship that resulted in an unplanned pregnancy. As soon as Brooke discovers her pregnancy, she locates Nic on a Greek island where he has taken up residence prior to his official return to Sherdana. Brooke surprises Nic. He wants nothing to do with her, but then he decides he can’t live without her. He takes her with him when he returns to Sherdana, but declares that he can’t have a longstanding relationship with her because she doesn’t fill the guise for being a member of the royal family. As they grow closer, will Brooke tell Nic of her pregnancy? Will he follow his heritage and stay in Sherdana or will his brother intervene and allow him to follow his dream? A Royal Baby Surprise is a perfect beach reach. I highly recommend it as I read it in one sitting. This is a standalone book, but reading Royal Heirs Required will introduce you to more of the backstory of his brother Prince Gabriel. You will definitely fall in love with Sherdana and its royal family. I’d like to disclose that I received an advanced copy of A Royal Baby Surprise in exchange for a fair and honest review.
Talk about a fairy tale romance with a twist! Schield had me wrapped up in romance, hoping for the best yet fearing the worst. I enjoyed every aspect of this novel. The plot is unique without being completely farfetched. The setting is developed in such a manner that you can easily picture it, but yet your imagination still has leeway. Schield creates characters that are easy to relate to and even easier to fall in love with. Even though their lives were miles different than the one I lead everyday, I found myself able to sympathise with and understand their decisions and rationales. That said, even if I understood them, I may not have agreed with them. I found myself arguing with the characters throughout the novel, coaching them on what I wanted them to do and groaning when they did the opposite. It was absolutely fantastic. Nic was the perfect mix of suave prince, eccentric engineer, and dutiful son. Brooke, the lovelorn heroine, was a sight to behold throughout. I loved getting to know her. Once again Schield has created a novel that held my attention from beginning to end. From characters to setting to plot she has it all nailed with this one. It’s an unforgettable fairy tale romance that I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend to one and all. Please note that I received a complimentary copy of this work in exchange for an honest review.