The Prince’s Nine-Month Scandal
A Scandalous Royal Brides Story
Book One of the Scandalous Royal Brides duet.
A shocking royal pregnancy!
Personal assistant Natalie Monette’s life transforms when she meets her secret identical twin. Except Valentina is a sophisticated princess, unhappily engaged to the supremely arrogant Crown Prince Rodolfo. Impulsively, Natalie agrees to swap identities for six weeks. Her plan is to put Rodolfo in his place…until she’s enticed by the heat between them!
Prince Rodolfo can’t understand why, having never felt any desire for his betrothed, he now can’t keep his hands off this captivating woman. But scandal abounds when he discovers who he’s taken to his bed…and that she’s carrying his heir!
The Prince’s Nine-Month Scandal
But this time, when Valentina walked into the reception room the way she’d done many times before, so they could engage in a perfectly tedious hour of perfectly polite conversation on perfectly pointless topics as if it was the stifling sixteenth century, all to allow the waiting press corps to gush about their visits later as they caught Rodolfo leaving, everything...changed.
Rodolfo couldn’t have said how. Much less why.
But he felt her entrance. He felt it when she paused in the doorway and looked around as if she’d never laid eyes on him or the paneled ceiling or any part of the run-of-the-mill room before. His body tightened. He felt a rush of heat pool in his—
What the hell was happening to him?
Rodolfo felt his gaze narrow as he studied his fiancée. She looked the way she always did, and yet she didn’t. She wore one of her efficiently sophisticated and chicly demure ensembles, a deceptively simple sheath dress that showed nothing and yet obliquely drew attention to the sheer feminine perfection of her form. A form he’d seen many times before, always clothed beautifully, and yet had never found himself waxing rhapsodic about before. Yet today he couldn’t look away. There was something about the way she stood, as if she was unsteady on those cheeky heels she wore, though that seemed unlikely. Her hair flowed around her shoulders and looked somehow wilder than it usually did, as if the copper of it was redder. Or perhaps brighter.
Or maybe he needed to get his head examined. Maybe he really had gotten a concussion when he’d gone on an impromptu skydiving trip last week, tumbling a little too much on his way down into the remotest peaks of the Swiss Alps.
The princess moistened her lips and then met his gaze, and Rodolfo felt it like her sultry little mouth all over the hardest part of him.
What the hell?
“Hello,” she said, and even her voice was...different, somehow. He couldn’t put his finger on it. “It’s lovely to see you.”
“Lovely to see me?” he echoed, astonished. And something far more earthy, if he was entirely honest with himself. “Are you certain? I was under the impression you would prefer a rousing spot of dental surgery to another one of these meetings. I feel certain you almost admitted as much at our last one.”
He didn’t know what had come over him. He’d managed to maintain his civility throughout all these months despite his creeping boredom—what had changed today? He braced himself, expecting the perfect princess to collapse into an offended heap on the polished floor, which he’d have a hell of a time explaining to her father, the humorless King Geoffrey of Murin.
But Valentina only smiled and a gleam he’d never seen before kindled in her eyes, which he supposed must always have been that remarkable shade of green. How had he never noticed them before?
“Well, it really depends on the kind of dental surgery, don’t you think?” she asked.
Rodolfo couldn’t have been more surprised if the quietly officious creature had tossed off her clothes and started dancing on the table—well, there was no need to exaggerate. He’d have summoned the palace doctors if the princess had done anything of the kind. After appreciating the show for a moment or two, of course, because he was a man, not a statue. But the fact she appeared to be teasing him was astounding, nonetheless.
“A root canal, at the very least,” he offered.
“With or without anesthesia?”
“If it was with anesthesia you’d sleep right through it,” Rodolfo pointed out. “Hardly any suffering at all.”
“Everyone knows there’s no point doing one’s duty unless one can brag forever about the amount of suffering required to survive the task,” the princess said, moving farther into the room. She stopped and rested her hand on the high, brocaded back of a chair that had likely cradled the posteriors of kings dating back to the ninth century, and all Rodolfo could think was that he wanted her to keep going. To keep walking toward him. To put herself within reach so he could—
Calm down, he ordered himself. Now. So sternly he sounded like his father in his own head.
“You are describing martyrdom,” he pointed out.
Valentina shot him a smile. “Is there a difference?”
Rodolfo stood still because he didn’t quite know what he might do if he moved. He watched this woman he’d written off months ago as if he’d never seen her before. There was something in the way she walked this afternoon that tugged at him. There was a new roll to her hips, perhaps. Something he’d almost call a swagger, assuming a princess of her spotless background and perfect genes was capable of anything so basic and enticing. Still, he couldn’t look away as she rounded the settee he’d abandoned and settled herself in its center with a certain delicacy that was at odds with the way she’d moved through the old, spectacularly royal room. Almost as if she was more uncertain than she looked...but that made as little sense as the rest.
“I was reading about you on the plane back from London today,” she told him, surprising him all over again.
“And here I thought we were maintaining the polite fiction that you did not sully your royal eyes with the squalid tabloids.”
“Ordinarily I would not, of course,” she replied, and then her mouth curved. Rodolfo was captivated. And somewhat horrified at that fact. But still captivated, all the same. “It is beneath me, obviously.”
He sketched a bow that would have made his grandfather proud. “Obviously.”
“I am a princess, not a desperate shopgirl who wants nothing more than to escape her dreary life, and must imagine herself into fantastical stories and half-truths presented as gospel.”
“But I must ask you a question.” And on that she smiled again, that same serene curve of her lips that had about put him to sleep before. That was not the effect it had on him today. By a long shot.
“You can ask me anything, princess,” Rodolfo heard himself say.
“In a lazy, smoky sort of tone he’d never used in her presence before. Because this was the princess he was going to marry, not one of the enterprising women who flung themselves at him everywhere he went, looking for a taste of Europe’s favorite daredevil prince.
There was no denying it. Suddenly, out of nowhere, he wanted his future wife.
As if she could tell—as if she’d somehow become the sort of woman who could read a man’s desire and use it against him, when he’d have sworn she was anything but—Valentina’s smile deepened.
She tilted her head to one side. “It’s about your shocking double standard,” she said sweetly. “If you can cat your way through all of Europe, why can’t I?”
Something black and wild and wholly unfamiliar surged in him then, making Rodolfo’s hands curl into fists and his entire body go tense, taut.
Then he really shocked the hell out of himself.
“Because you can’t,” he all but snarled, and there was no pretending that wasn’t exactly what he was doing. Snarling. No matter how unlikely. “Like it or not, princess, you are mine.”