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Expecting A Royal Scandal
Part of the Exiled Santa Dominis Series
A marriage to steal the headlines!
Royal scoundrel Felipe Cairo is the least likely king in Europe and avoids the crown with a passion! To uphold his reckless image and avoid the shackles of duty, Cairo must choose a most inappropriate wife…
Media sensation Brittany Hollis has a reputation outrageous enough to rival Cairo’s. Yet with each scorching kiss, she reveals more of her secrets than she’s ever shown the world.
But there’s a twist in their tabloid fairy tale that shocks them both: Brittany might not be queen material, but she’s carrying a royal heir!
Conveniently wedded, passionately bedded!
Expecting A Royal Scandal
Brittany sauntered toward her doom, and no amount of shouting at herself to stop being so fanciful convinced her that the dissolute aristocrat who watched her approach was anything but that: her sure destruction packed into a recklessly masculine form.
“Are you Cairo Santo Domini?” she asked brightly as she drew near, letting a little more Mississippi flavor her words than usual. For dramatic effect - because people drew all sorts of conclusions about folks with drawls like the one she’d grown up using. Mostly that they were dumb as a pile of rocks, which she’d always enjoyed using to her advantage.
As expected, her feigned inability to identify one of the most recognizable men alive was met with gasps, outraged sniffs and muttered condemnations from his entourage. Cairo’s mouth, a study in carved sensuality that seemed to be wired directly into an echoing heat deep her belly, curved in appreciation.
“I regret that I am.” His voice was like melted dark chocolate. Rich. Deep. Faintly, intriguingly accented, as if his use of English was an afterthought or perhaps a gift. He didn’t move from his languid position, though she had the strangest notion that his decadent caramel gaze had sharpened as she approached. “But only because no one else has stepped up to take the position, no matter how I try to give it away.”
“A pity.” She stopped when she was inside the span of his carelessly outthrust legs. She felt certain he’d appreciate the symbolism. Sure enough, that arrested, gleam in his gaze intensified. It told her she was right. And that he wasn’t as bored as he was pretending to be. “Then again, no one else in all the world can boast of your indefatigable penis and its many salacious conquests, can they? What’s a lost kingdom next to that?”
Brittany was aware of the ripple that deliberate slap caused all around them, ruffling the feathers of his courtiers and his more distant admirers alike. She’d meant it to do just that. And yet she couldn’t seem to jerk her gaze away from the man who stood there before her - smiling, though she noticed it went nowhere near his deceptively warm eyes or the cool, calculating gleam there.
“Ms. Hollis, I presume?” he asked.
Brittany was certain he’d known her at a glance. But this was the game. So she merely nodded, all gracious condescension, as if it had been a true inquiry.
“I’ve been in exile most of my life,” he said after a moment, his mild tone at odds with the way he was studying her. “Only the revolutionaries call me any kind of king these days. Best not to invoke their brand of fealty. It comes with toppled governments and ruined cities, generally speaking.” He inclined his head, reminding her with that single, simple gesture that whatever he was now, however far he’d fallen, he’d been raised to rule. “I do hope you found your way here tonight without incident. Monte Carlo is not quite the burlesque halls of the Paris sewers - that is what we call such places in polite company, is it not? I trust you do not find yourself too far out of your accustomed, ah, ”
Brittany had misjudged him. She hadn’t expected a playboy royal, draped in well-dressed tarts and trailing scandal behind him wherever he roamed like some kind of acrid scent, to be anything like . It hadn’t crossed her mind that he could possibly insult her with any dexterity.
Or at all, honestly.
Some part of her shifted, deep inside, in what she told herself was grudging admiration. Nothing more.
“Water seeks its own level, I’m told,” she said, and smiled all the brighter as she switched up her tactics on the fly. “And so here I am.”
His impossibly carnal mouth curved again, deeper this time, and she felt it tug at her, low in her belly, where she was nothing but fire and an edgy need she didn’t really understand. It seemed to intensify by the second. With every breath.
“You should, of course, feel elevated by my notice in the first place. To say nothing of my invitation.” He shifted against the table at his back, propping himself up on an elbow. It only drew attention to the fact that he had to look down at her, though she stood in three-inch heels that made her nearly six feet tall. “You do not appear to be glorying in your good fortune tonight, .”
“I feel very fortunate, of course,” she said in an insultingly overpolite tone, as if attempting to pacify a dimwitted child. “Truly. lucky.”
Brittany was used to reading rooms, the better to contribute to her own tarnished legend by playing it up whenever possible. A wink here, a smile there and another rumor spread like wildfire and ended up a tabloid headline. But this was different. It wasn’t only that there were no cameras allowed in this place, which made playing to them difficult. She should have been cataloguing bystander reactions to this meeting and gathering information the way she usually did - but instead, the whole of the casino seemed cast in shadow with Cairo the unlikely sun at its center, a streak of glaring brightness she found unaccountably mesmerizing.
As if he was powerful beyond measure when she knew - when everybody knew - he was at best a modern-day wastrel. He shouldn’t exude anything but the latest party-boy cologne. She told herself he was a snake charmer, nothing more. Why she couldn’t seem to hold on to that thought was a question she’d have to investigate in depth when she was somewhere far, far away from all this insane magnetism of his, which was far too riveting for comfort.
Cairo watched her in his oddly intent way, though every other inch of him shouted out his pure indolence. It gave her the distinct sensation of whiplash.
“I saw your act,” he said after a long, tensely glimmering moment dragged by, and Brittany found she was holding her breath. Again.
He’d been there? In the audience in that grimy little club that Europe’s most pampered imagined was a walk on the wild side of their indulged little lives? Brittany couldn’t believe she hadn’t this intensity of his, somehow.
She hated that she felt it now. She caught herself in the act of scowling at him and softened her expression - but she was sure he’d seen it anyway.
She was certain, somehow, that Cairo Santa Domini saw a great deal more than he should.
“You have a very interesting approach to the art of the burlesque, Ms. Hollis All that stalking about the stage, baring your teeth in such a terrifying manner at the punters. Effectively daring them to deny you their pallid offerings of a few measly bills for a glance at your frilly underthings. You’d be better off cracking a whip and dispensing with the fiction that you are at all interested in appealing to the usual fantasies, I think.”
Brittany tucked her bright gold clutch beneath her arm, as languid as he was, though something in her shook at his horrifyingly accurate picture of the side gig she’d taken to make a few more scandalized headlines, and let her smile flirt with a bit of an edge.
“Are you reviewing my performance?”
“Consider it the studied reaction of a rather ardent fan of the art form.”
“I don’t know what’s more astounding. That you sullied your aristocratic self in a burlesque club in ‘the sewers of Paris,’ as you call them, or that you would admit to such shocking behavior in the glare of all this fussy Monte Carlo elegance. Your desperate acolytes can hear you, you know.” She leaned closer and dropped her voice to a stage whisper she was fairly certain carried all the way across the Italian border less than ten miles to the east. “You’d better be careful, Your Exiled Highness. The chandeliers themselves might shatter at the notion that a man of your known proclivities attended something so prosaic and tedious as a .”
“I was under the impression my behavior no longer shocked a soul, or so the wearisome British papers would have me believe. In any case, do you really feel as if a return to the dance halls of your storied past are a good investment in your future? I’d thought your latest marriage was a step in a different direction. A pity about the will.” That half smile of his was - she understood as it sliced through her and reminded her of the very public way her most recent husband’s heirs had announced that Brittany had been excluded from the bulk his estate - an understated weapon. “I ask as a friend.”
End of excerpt
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Expecting A Royal Scandal
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