One look into the stranger's dark, mysterious eyes and Indigo Moran knows she's made a mistake in taking his picture. But who does he think he is? A prince? That night Indigo discovers that's exactly who he is: Crown Prince Lorenzo Torelli of Melvante.
To Lorenzo, duty lies with his countryhe can't offer Indigo forever. The trouble is once he's kissed her, one unforgettable night will never be enough. And now Indigo's little secret is about to turn his carefully ordered world upside down!
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She wasn't supposed to be there.
OK, Lorenzo knew that tourists were important. Without the income they brought when they visited the house and gardens of Edensfield Hall, his old school friend Gus would never have been able to keep his family's ancient estate going. Even keeping the roof of the house in good repair ate up huge chunks of the annual budget, let alone anything else.
But there were set times when the estate was open to the public. Right now wasn't one of them; the house and gardens were supposed to be completely private. Yet the woman in the shapeless black trousers and tunic top was brazenly walking through the grounds with a camera slung round her neck, stopping every so often to take a picture of something that had caught her eye. At that precise moment she was photographing the lake.
Strictly speaking, this was none of his business and he should just let it go.
But then the woman turned round, saw him staring at her, and snapped his photograph.
Enough was enough. He'd insist that she delete the fileor, if the camera was an old-fashioned one, hand over the film. He was damned if he was going to let a complete stranger make money out of photographing him in the grounds of Edens-field, on what was supposed to be private time. A couple of weeks to get his head together and prepare himself for the coronation.
Lorenzo walked straight over to her. 'Excuse me. You just took my photograph,' he said, not smiling.
At least she wasn't denying it. That would make things easier. 'Would you mind deleting the file from your camera?'
She looked surprised. 'What's the problem?'
As if she didn't know. Lorenzo Torellistrictly speaking, His Royal Highness Prince Lorenzo Torelli of the principality of Melvante, on the border between Italy and Francewas about to inherit the throne and start governing the kingdom next month, when his grandfather planned to abdicate. There had been plenty of stories about it in all the big European papers, all illustrated with his photograph, so no way could she claim she didn't know who he was. 'Your camera, please,' he said, holding his hand out.
'Afraid not,' she said coolly. 'I don't let people touch the tools of my trade.'
That surprised him. 'You're actually admitting you're a paparazzo?'
She scoffed. 'Of course I'm not. Why would the paparazzi want to take pictures of you?'
She had to be kidding. Did she really not know who he was? Did she live in some kind of bubble and avoid the news?
'I don't like my photograph being taken,' he said carefully. 'Besides, the estate isn't open to the public until this afternoon. If you'll kindly delete the fileand show me that you've deleted itthen I'll be happy to help you find your way safely out of the grounds until the staff are ready to welcome visitors.'
She looked at him and rolled her eyes. 'I'm not doing any harm.'
Lorenzo was used to people doing what he asked. The fact that she was being so stubborn about this when she was so clearly in the wrong annoyed him, and it was an effort for him to remain polite. Though he let his tone cool by twenty degrees. 'Madam, I'm afraid the house and grounds simply aren't open to visitors until this afternoon. Which means that right now you're trespassing.'
'Am I, now?' Those sharp blue eyes were filled with insolence.
'The file, please?' he prompted.
She rolled her eyes, took the camera strap from round her neck, changed the camera settings and showed the screen to him so that he could first of all see the photograph she'd taken, and then see her press the button to delete the file from her camera's storage card. 'OK. One deleted picture. Happy, now?'
'Yes. Thank you.'
'Right.' She inclined her head. 'Little tip from me: try smiling in future, sweetie. Because you catch an awful lot more flies with honey than you do with vinegar.'
And then she simply walked away.
Leaving Lorenzo feeling as if he was the one in the wrong.
The man was probably one of Gus's friends; he looked as if he was about the same age as Lottie's elder brother. And maybe he'd meant to be helpful; he'd clearly been trying to protect the family's privacy. Indigo knew she should probably have explained to him that she was a family friend who happened to be working on the house's restoration, not a trespassing tourist. Then again, it was none of his business what she was doing there, and his stick-in-the-mud attitude had annoyed herespecially when he'd accused her of being a paparazzo.
She'd only taken his photograph because she'd seen him striding around the grounds, scowling, and he'd looked like a dark angel. Something she could've used for work. It had been a moment's impulse. An expression on his face that had interested her. Attracted her. Made her wonder what he'd look like if he smiled.
But the way he'd reacted to her taking that photograph, snarling about people taking his photo without permission Anyone would think he was an A-list celeb on vacation instead of some dull City banker.
What an idiot.
Indigo rolled her eyes again and headed for the house. Right now, work was more important. They were taking the window out of the library today and setting it in the workroom Gus had put aside for her in Edensfield Hall. Indigo had already made a short video for the hall's website to explain what was happening with the window, and she'd promised to write a daily blog with shots of the work in progress so the tourists could feel that they were part of the restoration process. And she didn't mind people coming over and asking her questions while she was working. She loved sharing her passion for stained glass.
And the stranger with the face of a fallen angelwell, he could do whatever he liked.
* * *
Lorenzo was still slightly out of sorts from his encounter with the paparazzo-who-claimed-she-wasn't by the time he went downstairs for dinner. When he walked into the drawing room, he was shocked to see her there among the guests. Except this time she wasn't wearing a shapeless black top and trousers: she was wearing a bright scarlet shift dress, shorter than anyone else's in the room. And they were teamed with red shoes that were glossier, strappier and had a higher heel than anyone else's in the room.
Look at me, her outfit screamed.
As if anyone would be able to draw their eyes away from her.
Especially as her hair was no longer pulled back in the severe hairdo of this afternoon; now, it was loose and cascaded over her shoulders in a mass of ebony ringlets. All she needed was a floor-length green velvet and silk dress, and she would've been the perfect model for a Rossetti painting.
Lorenzo was cross with himself for being so shallow; but at the same time the photographer was also one of the most beautiful women he'd ever met. He couldn't help acting on the need to know who she was and what she was doing here.
He just about managed a few polite words with Gus before drawling, 'So who's the girl in the red dress?' and inclining his head over towards the trespasser, as if he wasn't really that interested in the answer.
'Who?' Gus followed his glance and smiled.
'Oh, that's Indigo.'
How could Gus be so cool and calm around her? Lorenzo wondered. The woman made him feel hot under the collar, and he hadn't even spoken to her yet this evening.
'A friend of the family?' Lorenzo guessed.
'She's one of Lottie's best friends from school.'
Which was surprising; Indigo didn't look as if she came from the same kind of titled background that Gus and his sister did.
'Actually, she's here on business, too; she's restoring the stained glass in the library for us,' Gus explained. 'My mother's asked her to work up some ideas for a new stained-glass window, so she's been taking photographs of bits of the estate.'
Which explained why she saw her camera as one of the tools of her trade. Lorenzo felt the colour wash into his face. 'I see.'
'What did you do, Lorenzo?' Gus asked, looking amused.
'I saw her taking photos this afternoon and I thought she was a trespasser. I, um, offered to help her find her way out of the grounds,' Lorenzo admitted.
Gus laughed. 'I bet she gave you a flea in your ear. Our Indi's pretty much a free spirit. And she really doesn't like being ordered about.'
He grimaced. 'I think I'd better go and apologise.'
'Good idea. Otherwise you might be in danger of getting an Indi Special.'
'An Indi Special?' Lorenzo asked, mystified.
'Indi. Short for Indigo, not for independent. Though she's that, too.' Gus raised an eyebrow. 'Let's just say she's an original. I'll let Lottie introduce you.' He caught his sister's eye and beckoned her over. 'Lottie, be a darling and introduce Lorenzo to Indi, will you?'
'Sure. Have you two not met, yet?' Lottie tucked her arm into Lorenzo's and led him over to Indigo to introduce them. 'Indi, this is Lorenzo Torelli, a very old friend of the family.' She smiled. 'Lorenzo, this is Indigo Moran, who's just about the coolest person I know.'
Indigo laughed. 'That's only because you live in a world full of stuffed shirts, Lottie. I'm perfectly normal.'
Lorenzo looked at her and thought, no, you're not in the slightest bit normalthere's something different about you. Something special. 'Gus said you were at school with Lottie,' he said.
'Until she escaped at fourteen, lucky thing.' Lottie patted Indigo's arm. 'Indi was brilliant.
She drew caricatures of the girls who bullied me and plastered them over the school. It's a bit hard to be mean when everyone's pointing at you and laughing at your picture.'
Indigo shrugged. 'Well, they say the pen is mightier than the sword.'
'Your pen was sharper as well as mightier,' Lottie said feelingly.
Now Lorenzo understood what an 'Indi Special' was. A personal, public and very pointed cartoon. And he had a nasty feeling what she'd make of him, given what she'd said to Lottie about coming from a world full of stuffed shirts.
'Can I be terribly rude and leave you two to introduce yourselves to each other properly?' Lottie asked.
'Of course,' Indigo said.
Her smile took his breath away. And Lorenzo was surprised to find himself feeling like a nervous schoolboy. 'I, um, need to apologise,' he said.
She raised an eyebrow. 'For what?'
'The way I behaved towards you earlier today.'
She shrugged. 'Don't worry about it.'
But he did worry about it. Good manners had been instilled into him virtually from when he was in the pram. He was always polite. And he'd been rude to her. 'I didn't realise you were a friend of the family, too.' He looked at her. 'Though you could have explained.'
'Why? For all I knew, you could've been a trespasser, too.'
'Touché.' He enjoyed the fact that she was back-chatting him. After all the people who agreed with everything he said and metaphorically tugged their forelocks at him, he found her free-spirited attitude refreshing. 'Gus says you're restoring the glass in the library.'
'Forgive me for saying so, but you don't look like ' He stopped. 'Actually, no. Just ignore me. I'm digging myself a huge hole here.'
She grinned, and the sparkle in her eyes made his pulse speed up a notch. 'I don't look like a glass restorer, you mean? Or I don't look the type to have been at school with Lottie?'
Both. Ouch. He grimaced. 'Um. Do I have to answer that?'
She looked delighted. 'So, let me see. Which shall we do first? School, I think.' Her voice dropped into the same kind of posh drawl as Lottie's. 'I met her when we were eleven. We were in the same dorm. And unfortunately we shared it with Lolly and Livvy. I suppose we could've been the four musketeersexcept obviously I don't have an L in my name.'
'And it sounds as if you wouldn't have wanted to fight on the same side as Lolly and Livvy.'
'Absolutely not.' Her eyes glittered and her accent reverted back to what he guessed was normal for her. 'I don't have any time for spitefulness and bullying.'
'Good.' He paused. 'And I hope you didn't think I was bullying you, this morning.'
'If you'll kindly delete the file,' she mimicked.
He grimaced. How prissy she'd made him sound. 'I did apologise for that.'
'So are you a film star, or something?'
'Well, you were acting pretty much like a D-list celeb, trying to be important,' she pointed out.
Should he tell her?
No. Because he didn't want her to lose that irreverence when she talked to him. He didn't think that Indigo Moran would bow and scrape to him; but he didn't want to take that risk. 'Guilty, m'lady,' he said lightly. 'Are you quite sure you're a glass restorer and not a barrister?'
She laughed. And, oh, her mouth was beautiful. He had the maddest urge to pull her into his arms and find out for himself whether her mouth tasted as good as it looked. Which was so not how he usually reacted to women. Lorenzo Torelli was always cool, calm and measured. He acted with his head rather than his heart, as he'd always been brought up to do. If you stuck to rigid formality, you always knew exactly where you were.
What was it about Indigo Moran that made him itch to break all his rules? And it was even crazier, because now absolutely wasn't the time to rebel against his upbringing. Not when he was about to become King of Melvante.
'I'm quite sure I'm a glass restorer. So were you expecting me to be about forty years older than I am, with a beard, John Lennon glasses, a bad haircut and sandals?'
Lorenzo couldn't help laughing. And then he realised that everyone in the room was staring at them.
'Sorry. I'm in the middle of making a fool of myself,' he said. 'Not to mention insulting Ms Moran here at least twice.'
'Call me Indigo,' she corrected quietly, and patted his shoulder. 'And he's making a great job of it,' she cooed.
'I, for one,' Gus's mother said with a chuckle, 'will look forward to seeing the drawing pinned up in the breakfast room.'
Indigo grinned. 'He hasn't earned one. Yet.'
'I'm working on it,' he said, enjoying the banter. How long had it been since he'd been treated with such irreverence?
Though a nasty thought whispered in his head: once he'd been crowned, would anyone ever treat him like this again, as if he was just an ordinary man? Would this be the last time?
'Indigo, may I sit with you at dinner?' he asked.
She spread her hands. 'Do what you like.'
Ironic. That was precisely what he couldn't do, from next month. He had expectations to fulfil. Schedules to meet. A country to run. Doing what he liked simply wasn't on the agenda. He would do what was expected of him. His duty.