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Only a matter of urgent Bravo family business could bring Prince Rule to America. And he wasn't leaving until he met Sydney O'Shea...
...who happened to be the mother of Rule's toddler son. Rule didn't expect the firestorm of desire the regal Texas attorney stirred in him. With Montedori law decreeing that he wed or lose everything, the captivated prince came up with the perfect solution. Propose marriage, now. There would be time enough later to tell all...wouldn't there?
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A New York Times bestselling author, Christine Rimmer has written over ninety contemporary romances for Harlequin Books. Christine has won the Romantic Times BOOKreviews Reviewers Choice Award and has been nominated six times for the RITA Award. She lives in Oregon with her family. Visit Christine at http://www.christinerimmer.com.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
"Stop here," Rule Bravo-Calabretti said to the driver.
The limousine rolled to a silent stop at the head of the row of parking spaces in the shadowed parking garage. The Mercedes-Benz sedan Rule had been following turned into the single empty space at the other end of the row, not far from the elevators and the stairs that led into the mall. From where he sat behind tinted windows, Rule could also see the breezeway outside the parking structure. It led directly into Macy's department store.
The brake lights of the Mercedes went dark. A woman emerged from the sedan, her head and shoulders appearing above the tops of the row of cars. She had thick brown hair that fell in well-behaved waves. Settling the strap of her bag on her shoulder, she shut the car door and emerged into the open aisle, where she turned back and aimed her key at the car. The Benz gave an obedient beep.
She put the key away in her bag. She looked, Rule decided, just as she'd looked in the pictures his investigators had taken of her—only more attractive, somehow. She wasn't a pretty woman. But there was something about her that he found much more interesting than mere prettiness. She was tall and slim and wore a blue silk jacket, which was perfectly and conservatively tailored. Her matching blue skirt kissed the tops of her slender knees. Her shoes were darker than her suit, with medium heels and closed toes.
He watched as she settled her bag in place again, straightened her jacket and turned for the door to the breezeway. He thought she looked very determined and somehow he found that determination utterly charming.
She hadn't glanced in the limousine's direction. He was almost certain she had no idea that he'd been following her.
And his mind was made up, just like that, in the sixty seconds it took to watch her emerge from her car, put her key in her purse and turn to go. He had to meet her.
Yes, he'd always told himself he never would. That as long as she was running her life successfully, taking good care of the child, it would be wrong of him to interfere. He'd relinquished all rights by law. And he had to live with the choices he had made.
But this wasn't about rights. This wasn't about challenging her for what was hers.
He had no intention of interfering. He simply had to...speak with her, had to know if his first reaction to seeing her in the flesh was just a fluke, a moment of starry-eyed idiocy brought on by the fact that she had what mattered most to him.
All right, it was playing with fire. And he shouldn't even be here. He should be finishing his business in Dallas and rushing back to Montedoro. He should be spending time with Lili, learning to accept that they could be a good match, have a good life.
And he would return to Montedoro. Soon.
But right now, today, he was going to do the thing he'd wanted to do for far too long now. He was going meet Sydney O'Shea face-to-face.
Sydney could not believe it.
The totally hunky—and oddly familiar—guy down the aisle from her in Macy's housewares department was actually making eyes at her. Men like that did not make eyes at Sydney. Men like that made eyes at women as gorgeous as they were.
And no, it wasn't that Sydney was ugly. She wasn't. But she wasn't beautiful, either. And there was something much too...practical and self-sufficient about her. Something a little too focused, as well. She also happened to be very smart. Men tended to find her intimidating, even at first glance.
So. Really. It was probably only her imagination that the drop-dead gorgeous guy by the waffle irons and electric griddles was looking at her. She pretended to read the tag on a stainless-steel saute pan—and slid another glance in Mr. Eye Candy's direction.
He was pretending to read a price tag, too. She knew he was pretending because, at the exact moment she glanced his way, he sent a sideways look in her direction and one corner of that sinfully sexy mouth of his quirked up in a teasing smile.
Maybe he was flirting with someone behind her.
She turned her head enough that she could see over her shoulder.
Nope. Nobody there. Just more cookware racks brimming with All-Clad stainless-steel pots and pans, Le Creuset enameled cast-iron casseroles and complete sets of Calphalon nonstick cookware—which, she firmly reminded herself, were what she should be looking at. She put all her attention on the business at hand and banished the implausibly flirty, impossibly smooth-looking man from her mind.
Yet another coworker was getting married, a paralegal, Calista Dwyer. Calista hadn't bothered to set up a bridal registry anywhere. The wedding was something of an impromptu affair. Tomorrow, Calista was running off with her boyfriend to some tropical island for a quickie wedding and a two-week honeymoon in paradise.
Sydney had left the office before lunch to choose a wedding gift. It was a task she had come to dislike. It happened so often and always reminded her that other people were getting married all the time. She really should do what a man in her situation would do, just have her assistant buy the wedding gifts—especially in a case like this, where she had no clue what Calista might be wanting or needing.
But no. She was still her grandmother's granddaughter at heart. Ellen O'Shea had always taken pride in personally selecting any gift she gave. Sydney continued the family tradition, even if she sometimes found the job annoying and a little bit depressing.
"Cookware. Necessary. But not especially interesting," a voice as warm and tempting as melted caramel teased in her ear. "Unless you love to cook?"
Good gravy. Mr. Hot and Hunky was right behind her. And there could be no doubt about it now. He was talking to her—and he had been giving her the eye.
Slowly, as if in a dream, Sydney turned to him.
Breathtaking. Seriously. There was no other word for this guy. Jet-black eyes, sculpted cheekbones, a perfect, square jaw, a nose like a blade. Broad, broad shoulders. And the way he was dressed...casual, but expensive. In light-colored trousers and a beautifully made navy jacket over a checked shirt.
He arched an ebony brow. "Do you?"
She forced herself to suck in a breath and then asked warily, "Excuse me?"
"Do you love to cook?" He gazed at her as though he couldn't tear his eyes away.
This could not be happening.
But wait. A gigolo? Maybe she looked like gigolo bait. Well-dressed and driven. Maybe it was the new black, to go trolling for a sugar mama in housewares.
And then again, well, he did look somehow familiar. She probably knew him from somewhere. "Have we met before?"
He gave her a slow once-over, followed by another speaking glance from those black-velvet eyes. That glance seemed to say that he wouldn't mind gobbling her up on the spot. And then he laughed, a low, sexy laugh as smooth and exciting as that wonderful voice of his. "I prefer to think that if we'd met in the past, you wouldn't have forgotten me so easily."
Excellent point. "I, um..." Good Lord. Speechless. She was totally speechless. And that wasn't like her at all. Enough with the stumbling all over herself. She stuck out her hand. "Sydney O'Shea."
"Rule Bravo-Calabretti." He wrapped his elegant, warm fingers around hers. She stifled a gasp as heat flowed up her arm.
The heat didn't stop at her shoulder. Arrows of what she could only categorize as burning excitement zipped downward into her midsection. She eased her hand from his grip and fell back a step, coming up short against the steel display shelves behind her. "Rule, you said?"
"Let me guess, Rule. You're not from Dallas."
He put those long, graceful fingers to his heart. "How did you know?"
"Well, the designer clothes, the two last names. You speak English fluently, but with a certain formality and no regional accent that I can detect. I'm thinking that not only are you not from Dallas, you're not from Texas. You're not even from the good old U.S. of A."
He laughed again. "You're an expert on accents?"
"No. I'm smart, that's all. And observant."
"Smart and observant. I like that."
She wished she could stand there by the cast-iron casserole display, just looking at him, listening to him talk and hearing his melted-caramel laugh for the next, oh, say, half century or so.
But there was still Calista's wedding gift to buy. And a quick lunch to grab before rushing back to the office for that strategy meeting on the Binnelab case at one.
Before she could start making gotta-go noises, he spoke again. "You didn't answer my question."
"Ahem. Your question?"
"Sydney, do you love to cook?"
The way he said her name, with such impossible passionate intent, well, she liked it. She liked it way, way too much. She fell back a step. "Cook? Me? Only when I have no other choice."
"Then why have I found you here in the cookware department?"
"Found me?" Her suspicions rose again. Really, what was this guy up to? "Were you looking for me?"
He gave an elegant shrug of those fine wide shoulders.
"I confess. I saw you enter the store from the parking garage at the south breezeway entrance. You were so...determined."
"You followed me because I looked determined?"
"I followed you because you intrigued me."
"You're intrigued by determination?"
He chuckled again. "Yes. I suppose I am. My mother is a very determined woman."
"And you love your mother." She put a definite edge in her tone. Was she calling him a mama's boy? Maybe. A little. She tended toward sarcasm when she was nervous or unsure—and he did make her nervous. There was just something about him. Something much too good to be true.
Mr. Bravo-Calabretti either didn't get he...
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Book Description Harlequin Special Edition. MASS MARKET PAPERBACK. Condition: New. 0373656629 New Condition. Slight shelf wear on cover. Seller Inventory # Z87-Z495-T014
Book Description Harlequin, 2012. Mass Market Paperback. Condition: New. Seller Inventory # DADAX0373656629
Book Description Harlequin Special Edition, 2012. Condition: New. book. Seller Inventory # M0373656629