The Man Behind the Scars (Mills & Boon - The Santina Crown)

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9780263897685: The Man Behind the Scars (Mills & Boon - The Santina Crown)
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Exclusive! Aristocrat Recluse Weds! Rafe McFarland, 8th Earl of Pembroke - and 21st century pin-up - has secretly wed ex-model and tabloid darling Angel Tilson! Angel's long been believed to be in financial difficulty, prompting feverish speculation that her marriage to the tortured billionaire is one of the strictest convenience...Bearing terrible scars from his time in the military, Rafe rarely leaves his remote Scottish estate. And with the terms of this deal negotiated, possibly behind tightly closed bedroom doors, is Rafe demanding repayment - in kind - from his new wife...?

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About the Author:

Caitlin Crews discovered her first romance novel at the age of twelve and has since began her life-long love affair with romance novels, many of which she insists on keeping near her at all times. She currently lives in California, with her animator/comic book artist husband and their menagerie of ridiculous animals.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

It was one thing to boldly decide that you were going to capture a rich husband to save you from your life, and more to the point from the desperate financial situation you'd discovered you were in through no fault of your own, Angel Tilson thought a bit wildly as she stared around the glittering ballroom, but quite another thing to do it.

She didn't know what her problem was. She was standing knee-deep in a sea of wealthy, titled people. Everywhere she looked she saw money, nobility and actual royalty, filling the sparkling ballroom of the Palazzo Santina and threatening to outshine the massive chandeliers that hung dramatically overhead. She could feel the wealth saturating the very air, like an exclusive scent.

The whole island seemed to be bursting at the seams with this prince, that sheikh and any number of flash European nobles, their ancient titles and inherited ranks hanging from their elegant limbs like the kind of fine accessories Angel herself could never afford. It was the first time in Angel's twenty-eight years that she'd ever found herself in a room—a palace ballroom, to be sure, but it was still, technically, a room—with a selection of princes. As in, princes plural.

She should have been overjoyed. She told herself she was. She'd come all the way from her questionable neighborhood in London to beautiful Santina, this little jewel of an island kingdom in the Mediterranean, in order to personally celebrate her favorite stepsister's surprising engagement to a real, live prince. And she was happy for Allegra and her lovely Prince Alessandro—of course she was. Thrilled, in fact. But if sweet, sensible Allegra could bag herself the Crown Prince of Santina, Angel didn't see why she couldn't find herself a wealthy husband of her own here in this prosperous, red-roofed little island paradise, where rich men seemed to be as thick on the ground as Mediterranean weeds.

He didn't even have to be royal, she thought generously, eyeing the assorted male plumage before her from her position near one of the grand pillars that lined the great room—all Angel needed was a nice, big, healthy bank account.

She wanted to pretend it was all a game—but it wasn't. Not to put too fine a point on it, but she was desperate.

She felt herself frown then, and made a conscious effort to smooth her expression away into something more enticing. Or at least something vaguely pleasant. Scowling was hardly likely to appeal to anyone, much less inspire sudden marriage proposals from the sort of men who could buy all the smiles they liked, the way common folk like Angel bought milk and eggs.

"You can just as easily smile as frown, love," her mother had always said in that low, purring way of hers, usually punctuated with one of Chantelle's trademark sexy smirks or bawdy laughs. That and "why not marry a rich one if you must marry one at all" constituted the bulk of the maternal advice Chantelle—never Mum, always Chantelle, no age ever mentioned in public, thank you—had offered. But thinking about her conniving, thoughtless mother did not help. Not now, while she was standing knee-deep in another one of Chantelle's messes.

Hurt and fury and incomprehension boiled inside of her all over again as she thought of the fifty thousand quid her mother had run up on a credit card she'd "accidentally" taken out in Angel's name. Angel had discovered the horrifying bill on her doormat one day, so seemingly innocuous at a casual glance that she'd almost thrown it in the bin. She'd had to sit down, she'd been so dizzy, staring at the statement in her hand until it made, if not sense in the usual meaning of the term, a certain sickening kind of Chantelle sense.

Once she'd got past the initial shock, she'd known at once that her mother was the culprit—that it wasn't some kind of mistake. She'd hated that she'd known, and she'd hated the nausea that went with that knowing, but she'd known even so. It was not the first time Chantelle had "borrowed" money from Angel, nor even the first "accident", but it was the first time she'd let herself get this carried away.

"I've just received a shocking bill from a credit card account I never opened," she'd snapped down the phone when her mother had answered in her usual breezy, careless manner, as if all was right with her world. Which, at fifty thousand pounds the richer, perhaps it was.

"Right," Chantelle had drawled out, in that slightly shocked way of hers that told Angel that, as usual, her mother had not thought through to the consequences of her actions. Had she ever? Would she ever? "I've been meaning to talk to you about that, love," Chantelle had murmured. "You won't want to ruin Allegra's do this weekend with this sort of unpleasantness, of course, but we'll have loads of time afterward to—"

Angel had simply ended the call with a violent jerk of her hand, unable to speak for fear that she would scream herself hoarse. And then cry like the child she'd never really been, not when she'd had to play the adult to Chantelle's excesses from such a young age—and she never cried. Never. Not over Chantelle's innumerable deficiencies as a mother and a human being. Not for a single reason that she could recall. What problem did tears ever solve?

Fifty thousand, she thought now, standing in the middle of the dazzling ballroom, but it didn't feel real. Not the fairy-tale beauty and elegance of the palace around her, and not that stunning number either. The sickening enormity of that sum of money rolled through Angel like thunder, low and long, and she wasn't sure, for a moment, if she could breathe through the sheer panic that followed in its wake, making her skin feel clammy and her breath shallow. Fifty thousand pounds.

Neither she nor Chantelle had a hope in hell of paying off a sum that large. In what universe? Chantelle's single claim to fame was her marriage to beloved ex-footballer and regular subject of tabloid speculation and gossip Bobby Jackson. It had resulted in Angel's wild-child half sister, the sometime pop idol, Izzy, who Angel did not pretend to understand, and very little else. Aside from notoriety, of course. Chantelle had been a market stall owner before she'd set out to net herself one of England's favorite sons. No one had ever let her forget it. Not that Chantelle seemed to care—she got to bask in Bobby's reflected glory, didn't she?

Angel had learned better than to inquire after the state of Bobby and Chantelle's deeply cynical union a long, long time ago, lest she be subject to another lecture from her relentless social climber of a mother on how marriage, if done correctly and to a minor celebrity like big-spending and large-living Bobby, was simple common sense and good business. Angel shuddered now, trying to imagine what it was like to remain married to a man that everyone in the whole of England knew was still sleeping with his ex-wife, Julie. If not many others besides. How could Chantelle be so proud of her marriage when every tabloid in the UK knew the shameful state of it? Angel didn't know.

What she did know was that there were certainly no heretofore undiscovered stashes of pounds sterling lying about Bobby's house in Hertfordshire or the flat in Knightsbridge Chantelle preferred, or Chantelle wouldn't have had to "borrow" from her own daughter in the first place, would she? The truth was, Angel suspected that Bobby had cut Chantelle off from his purse strings long ago. Or had emptied out that purse all by himself, with all of his good-natured if shortsighted ways.

Angel couldn't seem to fight off the sadness that moved through her then as she thought—not for the first time—what her life might have been like if Chantelle had been a normal sort of mother. If Chantelle had cared about someone other than herself. Not that Angel could complain. Not really. She'd always been treated well enough by Bobby's rowdy brood of children from his various wives and lovers—even by Julie, if she was honest—and the truth was that carelessly genial Bobby was the only father she'd ever known. Angel's real, biological father had done a runner the moment seventeen-year-old Chantelle had told him she was pregnant. Angel had always been grateful for the way the Jackson clan—especially Bobby—had included her. They'd tried, and that was more than others might have done. But at the end of the day she wasn't a Jackson like the rest of them, was she?

Angel had always been far too aware of that crucial distinction. She'd always felt that boundary line, invisible but impossible to ignore, marking the difference between all of them, and her. She'd always been on the outside looking in, no matter how many Christmases she spent with them, pretending. The Jacksons were the only family she had, but that didn't make them hers. All she had, for her sins, was Chantelle.

Angel wished, not for the first time, that she'd gone on to university. That she'd dedicated herself to an education, a career—something. But she'd been so very pretty at sixteen, blessed with her mother's infamous blagging skills and the body to back them up. She'd been confident that she could make her own way in the world, and she had, one way or another. She'd talked her way into more jobs than she could count since then, none of them long-lasting, but she'd always told herself that that was how she liked it. No ties. Nothing that could hold her back should she need to move on. She'd been muse and model to a fashion designer, had run her own retail shop for a year or two, and could usually pick up some kind of modeling job or another in a pinch. It was always a struggle, but she paid her rent and her bills, and often had a little bit left ov...

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Published by Mills & Boon
ISBN 10: 0263897680 ISBN 13: 9780263897685
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