He's everything a bad boy royal should be...
Prince Marco of Ralvinia is lethally handsome, incredibly rich and irresistibly sexy. His royal title and prestigious position as a high–powered CEO bring a high media profile, and women flocking to his door. But after tragically losing the one woman he's ever loved, Marco indulges only in casual affairs, never risking his heart.
He's everything she doesn't want...
Thrown into the path of a handsome, single prince by her social–climbing mother, Chloe Salvatore wants nothing more than to escape. Prince Marco leads a glamorous life, but it's the antithesis of all Chloe believes she's looking for in a romance.
But he might be just what she needs...
As the chemistry between them sizzles, Chloe agrees to just one night, one night of hot, no–strings–attached sex and then they will go their separate ways. But their explosive interlude has unexpected consequences, and nine months later Chloe and Marco are inextricably linked and their attraction is as strong as ever...
About the Author
Alyssa lives with her husband and three children on a five-acre property nestled into a mountain range south of Sydney, Australia, and enjoys having the space for gardens, a dog, horses, goats and chickens. Visits from the native wildlife (echidnas, wallabies and a variety of native birds) are particularly welcome ... although visits from native wildlife with scales and fangs aren't met with quite as much enthusiasm!
She continues to work in her private practice as a Speech-Language Pathologist. Previously she's done a stint with Qantas Airways as an international flight attendant, completed her Master of Science degree, and has also been a professional pianist.
If you'd like to know more about Alyssa, her books, or to connect with her online, you can visit her webpage: http://www.alyssajmontgomery.com
Follow her on Twitter: @Alyssaromance or like her Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/AlyssaJMontgomery
Read an Excerpt
I should never have agreed to come.
As Chloe looked around the grand ballroom at her new stepfather's country estate, her spine was rigid. She'd come to England to try to forge a bond with the mother she hadn't seen in twenty years, not to spend the evening engaging in meaningless cocktail conversation with a glamorous group of people she had nothing in common with and would most likely never see again. Clearly, her mother — Lidia — had different priorities, and getting to know Chloe was not high on the list. So why the hell had she reached out and invited Chloe here in the first place?
I should have refused the invitation.
It would've been the sensible thing to do, however her father had urged her to make this trip. Even though he'd warned her she was probably destined for disappointment, he'd felt that if Chloe turned down the opportunity to meet her mother again, she might regret it later.
Well, everything Chloe had seen so far confirmed all she'd heard from others, or read on the internet, about her mother's lifestyle. Lidia's ambition had always been to live an idle, wealthy existence, schmoozing with the rich and famous. The pursuit of all this superficial glamour was the very reason she'd walked away from her husband and six-year-old daughter.
Lidia Stewart stood a short distance away, chatting animatedly. Somewhat abruptly, she air-kissed the cheeks of the couple she spoke to and gave a vague wave of her hands as she rejoined her daughter. 'Try to loosen up, darling,' she complained. 'You could at least try to look like you're enjoying yourself.'
'Look over there.' Lidia's fingers firmed around Chloe's upper arm and forced her to turn. 'It's Prince Marco.' Her mother pointed to the other side of the room. 'You must've heard of him?'
Chloe's breath caught as she looked at the incredibly handsome man with the jet-black hair and strong, chiselled profile. 'I've read of him in financial magazines.' But the pictures accompanying the articles hadn't done the prince justice.
'Oh God, Chloe. Financial magazines.' Lidia groaned and rolled her eyes. 'I don't know where to begin with you. Any normal woman would be reading the social pages.' She flicked a hand dismissively. 'Prince Marco is Ralvinian royalty and by far the most eligible bachelor here.'
'I realise —'
'Mm. Just look at his divine body,' Lidia purred. 'I've heard he knows exactly how to use it to bring a woman pleasure, too. What I wouldn't do for a night in the sack with him!' Appalled at the crass admission, Chloe's muscles knotted at the nape of her neck.
She couldn't recall exactly how many men her mother had married, but long ago she'd dubbed Lidia as a serial 'husbandiser'. Lidia changed her surname as frequently as she changed her outrageously expensive stiletto shoes.
Chloe glanced around the ballroom in search of her latest stepfather. Barry Stewart was across the other side of the room, speaking earnestly with a group of men. Chloe couldn't say she'd warmed to Barry when she'd met him a few hours ago. He'd struck her as a man very pumped-up with his own self-importance. Even so, she couldn't help feeling a little sorry for him. Did he have any idea how few morals Lidia possessed?
'How long have you been married to Barry?' Chloe asked pointedly.
'It'll be our two-month anniversary tomorrow.'
Every month was probably a cause for celebration because very few of Lidia's marriages made it to one year.
With a heavy heart, Chloe realised it'd been a complete waste of time coming to the UK to get to know her mother. Although she'd suffered dreadfully from motion sickness on the flight over and wasn't looking forward to throwing up all the way across the Atlantic on the return journey, it was time to cut her mother from her life. What she most wanted was to hightail it back to her father's Californian vineyard and resort. Less than twelve hours in the UK and she'd already spent eleven and a half hours too long in her mother's company.
'Oh blast!' Lidia declared in frustration. 'He's facing the other way now, but Marco's the tall one. Not only is he an incredibly handsome royal, but — as you may be aware from your financial magazines — he's a super-bright financier, CEO of Europe's richest private bank and worth a squillion in his own right. Did you see him properly?'
'Yes.' Chloe took in the back view of the tallest man in the room. With the height of an NBA basketballer and shoulders like a gridiron player, the prince wasn't someone who could be easily missed. Chloe couldn't remember exactly how old the prince was but thought she recalled he was in his early thirties. He was decades younger than her mother. Then again, age was no barrier for Lidia. The Hollywood actor Lidia had divorced last year had only been a few years older than Chloe.
Why did I ever think I was going to be able to make a connection with my mother?
'I told Barry to make sure you're the only single woman here tonight,' the older woman said quietly. 'Make sure you push yourself forward. Don't stand here clutching at your champagne flute, darling. Catch Marco's eye. You're young, beautiful and you're already twenty-four.'
'I was twenty-six last birthday,' Chloe corrected, wondering whether her mother even knew the month of her birth, let alone the year.
'Whatever.' Her mother's tone indicated she was bored with the detail. 'It's past time you found yourself your first husband. Although both his older brothers already have children and it's highly unlikely Marco will ever be king of Ralvinia, he couldn't be a more suitable contender as husband number one. He mixes in the highest social circles and counts the Crown Prince of Turastan and King of Santaliana among his closest friends.'
'Lidia, I'm not like you. I couldn't care less about social circles.'
'Your father's to blame for your lack of social ambition, but I'm here to remedy the situation. We just have to make certain you're financially secure from the prenuptial agreement, but as you're a lawyer you should be able to make it watertight. Make sure Prince Marco notices you tonight and I'll help you over the rest of the weekend to work out your strategy to get him to the altar.'
Stunned into speechlessness, Chloe stared at her mother. If anybody else had made such an outrageous suggestion, it would be impossible to take them seriously. Given her mother's marital history, Chloe knew Lidia wasn't joking. Unable to keep the frost from her voice, she snapped, 'I'm not looking for a husband.'
'Don't be silly. Forget that ... What was it you said? Master of Business degree or something? Why waste your youth studying for another degree as well as working with the down-and-out in a dead-end job when you could be enjoying life?'
'I am enjoying —'
'Ah, Lord Summers has arrived.' Lidia indicated toward the entry doors to the ballroom. 'I must greet him. Go and talk to Marco, darling. Don't stand there and dissolve into the wallpaper. If you play your cards right, you need never have to work for a living.' Lidia gave Chloe a little push in the back, causing a drop of champagne to slosh to the floor. 'Lord Summers is also single and very wealthy, so he's another option if you don't succeed with Marco. I'll go and butter him up and tell him I've got a special young guest here tonight.'
Bloody hell. Lord Summers was old enough to be Chloe's grandfather.
Lidia glided elegantly across the room to meet the old man who looked like he needed to sit before he fell down.
Looking critically at the woman who'd given birth to her, Chloe tried to identify what it was that drew men to her. Observing Lidia play the role of hostess, it was true she could be very charming when she set her mind to it. She still had a sensational figure, and her facial features were quite stunning. A couple of times, however, Chloe had seen the mask slip. Then, Lidia's mouth had tightened and there'd been no warmth at all in her blue eyes. Chloe's father had admitted he'd never have married Lidia had she not been pregnant after their very brief fling.
Chloe released a little breath of discomfort and wished she could dissolve into the wallpaper. Unfortunately, there was little chance of it happening considering her very revealing cocktail dress was a vivid scarlet red.
When she'd stepped off the aeroplane, she'd had no idea she'd be whisked to Barry Stewart's upmarket country mansion for this swanky weekend party. Her initial protests about having nothing suitable to wear had only resulted in her mother announcing she'd already considered Chloe's wardrobe. Despite Chloe's protests, she'd been squeezed into the red cocktail dress. Ever since, she'd pulled down self-consciously at the short hem and tried to breathe against the tightness of the bodice. Her legs ached from wearing the impossibly high heels that matched the dress, and all she wanted to do was get into her comfortable pyjamas, fluffy bedsocks and go to sleep.
Why didn't you refuse to be paraded around like a sex siren?
The answer came in a blinding flash. She'd stifled her protests in order to please her mother. Chloe hadn't wanted to blow any chance she and Lidia had of forging a bond in the first few hours of her arrival. Now she'd return to the States knowing she'd been better off without having had her mother as a presence in her life. She had no desire to see the woman again.
Lifting the fine crystal champagne flute to her lips, she welcomed the fizz of the liquid over her tongue and the coolness of it down her throat as she surveyed the crowded room. Waiters circled with silver trays of French champagne and canapés. Men in tuxedos puffed on cigars. Women dressed in haute couture gowns and weighed down in diamonds and other precious jewels chatted above the music of the string quartet. It wasn't a scene she could ever feel comfortable in.
Her attention wandered to the spot where she'd seen the Ralvinian prince.
He was gone.
She shrugged inwardly as she drained the flute of the sparkling liquid. It was time to pack her things, make her way back to London and take the next available flight back to California.
'May I take your glass, miss?' a waiter asked.
'Thank you.' She placed the empty flute on the silver tray.
'Buonasera, signorina. Allow me to get you a refill.'
Even while it startled her, the smooth-as-dark-chocolate richness of the male voice beside her made her want to melt into a puddle. She watched in bemusement as a tanned masculine hand brushed against hers, took a full glass of champagne from the tray and held it out to her.
The waiter gave a slight nod and continued on his way.
Chloe reached for the glass instinctively, even though she hadn't intended to have another. Tilting her head, she met the eyes of the man who'd come to stand at her side.
Oh. She was face-to-face with the object of her mother's fantasies.
'Marco Esposito.' He gave a slight bow.
Thrown way off balance, she blurted the first thought which entered her head.
'Gosh, your eyes are incredibly green.' Immediately afterward, the hot sweep of mortification travelled at a rapid rate of knots up from her chest to her cheekbones. Oh, Geez! She must be as scarlet as her dress.
What a stupid thing to say.
She suppressed an inward groan as a smile tugged at his full, sensuous lips.
'And your eyes are as blue and inviting as the Mediterranean ocean on a hot day.' He unleashed the sexiest smile she'd ever seen and her legs turned to mush. 'Amazing colouring with your dark hair.'
Whoa. He was the most insanely attractive man she'd ever encountered and she'd just blabbed the most ridiculous thing. If her adversaries in the courtroom could see her now they'd taunt her mercilessly, because she was never lost for words in her professional role and never blurted anything so inane.
Please let the floor open up and suck me through to the cellar where I may spend the entire evening drowning this memory in alcohol.
'That must've sounded incredibly gauche.' The words tumbled out as the skin across her chest prickled in agitation. 'I've just never seen ...'
Oh God, she was rambling. Just shut up already, Chloe. Could she vanish into the throng of guests and escape to her room?
'Eyes so incredibly green?' he supplied as he struggled to conceal his amusement. 'I think we've established our respective eye colour.'
'Excuse me while I go into a dark corner and die quietly of embarrassment.'
When she would've walked away, she was stalled by one of his hands on her upper arm. The primitive response to his touch overrode all higher cognitive processes. A bolt of high-voltage awareness shot across her shoulders, then blazed through her. It earthed deep at the juncture of her thighs and set off the most disturbing series of tremors. Although she'd never experienced such an acute jolt before, Chloe recognised her reaction for what it was. Potent sexual attraction. This man's very touch seemed to imprint itself on her at cellular level and left her craving far more intimate contact.
Way out of her depth, she looked up at him, wondering if he sensed her reaction and hoping like crazy that he didn't. As their eyes met, the humour in his vanished, replaced by an intense intimacy that made every neuron shriek danger.
'There's no need to be embarrassed, tesoro,' he husked. 'I find your honest reaction quite refreshing.'
Hell. First she'd blabbed, now she was tongue-tied. What was it about him that turned her from an articulate lawyer into an absolute scatterbrain? She wished she could think of some witty repartee — anything to prove she wasn't usually as socially inept as she appeared.
Not a thing came to mind as the seconds ticked by.
'Let's start again.' His hand left her upper arm, removed the champagne flute from her hand and set it down on a low table. Excited little shivers of awareness raced from her palm, through her wrist and up her arm as he took her hand in his. 'I'm Marco Esposito, and I'm very pleased to meet you.'
Twice, he'd introduced himself without referencing his royal title. Even as she registered her approval that he didn't use it to impress, she realised the prince didn't need a title to be noticed. Everything about him screamed confidence and presence.
She summoned a smile and tried desperately to steady her pulse and gather her wits so she didn't leave him with the impression that she was a complete idiot. 'Chloe Salvatore.'
'An American accent, Spanish surname and the colouring of a Celtic princess. It's an unusual combination.'
Self-consciously, she disengaged her hand from his, but immediately she regretted the loss of contact. 'My great-grandfather was Spanish, but my grandfather and father were both born in the States.'
'The blue eyes must come from your mother's family.'
'Yes.' But her mother was the last person she wanted to talk about. She hoped fervently nobody ever found out she was related to Lidia. At least Lidia had introduced her to everyone as her American guest, rather than acknowledging she had an adult daughter. Desperate to change the subject, she said, 'You addressed me in Italian. Is it your first language?'
'Si. I'm Ralvinian, not Italian, but Italian is our first language.'
'You speak English exceptionally well.'
'I was educated in England and am based in London.' He shrugged. 'I've probably spoken more English than Italian since I was a boy.'
When he unleashed another devastating smile, her breathing became shallow. Somehow she couldn't picture Marco as ever having been a boy. He was the epitome of masculine, virility — so much so it wouldn't have surprised her to learn he'd been born with the sexy stubble along his jawline and his first present had been a razor blade.
'Do you speak Italian?' he asked.
'No. I'd love to speak another language fluently. I understand a little Spanish, but there's not much call for a second language at home.'
'America is still home?'
She nodded. 'California is home. My dad has a vineyard and resort in Wild Horse Valley, which is part of the beautiful Napa Valley.' On safe ground, Chloe began to relax. 'I've heard of Ralvinia but I'm afraid I only have a vague idea that it's a small kingdom somewhere in the Mediterranean region.'
'Ralvinia shares borders with Santaliana and Italy.' He must've moved a little, because the distance between them lessened. 'How do you come to be in England?'
Excerpted from "The Irresistible Royal"
Copyright © 2018 Alyssa J. Montgomery.
Excerpted by permission of Harlequin Enterprises (Australia) Pty Ltd..
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