A gift for the man who has everything…A brief, electrifying fling was all Sienna McDonald and Sebastian Falco, Crown Prince of Montanari agreed. But returning to Teddy’s, neonatal surgeon Sienna learns she’s brought back more than just memories…Sienna wants to keep her unborn baby out of the limelight, so Sebastian’s sudden appearance throws her perfectly ordered world into chaos. She does her best to stay away from the devastatingly charming royal, but Sebastian is determined to claim his family with a forever diamond this Christmas!
Christmas Miracles in Maternity Hope, magic and precious new beginnings at Teddy’s!
His eyes scanned the bar as he ran his fingers through his hair. Six weeks, three countries, ten flights and thousands of miles. He’d been wined and dined by Heads of State and consulate staff, negotiated trade agreements, arranged to be part of a water aid initiative, held babies, shook hands for hours and had a number of tense diplomatic conversations.
All of this while avoiding dozens of calls from his mother about the upcoming royal announcement. His apparent betrothal to his lifelong friend.
All he wanted to do was find a seat, have a drink and clear a little head space. Il Palazzo di Cristallo was one of the few places he could do that. Set in the stunning mountains of Montanari the exclusive boutique hotel only ever had a select few guests – most of whom were seeking sanctuary from the outside world. The press were banned. The staff screened and well looked after to ensure all guests privacy was well respected – including the Crown Prince of Montanari. For the first time in six weeks Sebastian might actually be able to relax.
Except someone was sitting in his favourite seat at the bar.
There. A figure with shoulders slumped at the bar and her head leaning on her hand. Her ash blonde hair was escaping from its clasp and her blue dress was creased. Two empty glasses of wine sat on the bar in front of her.
The bartender sat down a third and gave Sebastian an almost indiscernible nod. The staff here knew he liked to keep his identity quiet.
Odd. He didn’t recognise the figure. Sebastian knew all the movie stars and celebrities who usually stayed here. She wasn’t a fellow royal or a visiting dignitary. His curiosity was piqued.
He strode across the room and slid onto the stool next to hers at the bar. She didn’t even look up in acknowledgement.
Her fingers were running up and down the stem of the glass and her light brown eyes were unfocused. But it wasn’t the drink. It was deep contemplation.
Sebastian sucked in a breath. Whoever she was, she was beautiful. Her skin was flawless. Her features finer than some of the movie starlets he’d been exposed to. Being Prince of Montanari meant that a whole host of women had managed to cross his path over the last few years. Not that he’d taken any of them seriously. He had a duty to his future kingdom. A duty to marry an acceptable neighbouring princess. There was no question about it – it had been instilled in him from a young age it was part of his preparations for finally becoming king. Marriage was a business transaction. It wasn’t the huge love and undying happiness portrayed in fairy tales. There were no rainbows and flying unicorns. It came down the most advantageous match for the country and his parents had found her. Theresa Mon Carte, his childhood friend and princess from a neighbouring principality. They were to be married within the year.
Part of the reason of was here was to get some time to resign himself to his fate. Because that’s what it felt like.
But right now, he couldn’t think about that at all.
He was entirely distracted by the woman sitting next to him. She looked as if she had the weight of the world on her shoulders. There was no botox here. Her brow was definitely furrowed and somehow he knew this woman would never be interested in cosmetic procedures.
“Want to tell me about them?”
“What?” She looked up, startled at the sound of his voice.
Light brown eyes that looked as if they’d once had a little dark eyeliner around them. It was smudged now. But that didn’t stop the effect.
It was like being speared straight through the heart.
For a second neither of them spoke. It was the weirdest sensation – as if the air around them had just stilled.
He was drinking in everything about her. Her forgotten about hair. Her crumpled clothes. Her dejected air.
But there was something else. Something that wouldn’t let him break their gaze. A buzz. An air. He’d never felt something like this before. And she felt it too.
He could tell. Her pupils dilated just a little before his eyes. He didn’t have any doubt that his were so big right now the Grand Canyon could fit in them.
There was something about her demeanour. This woman was a professional. She was educated. And she was oh, so sexy.
He found his tongue. “Your worries.” He couldn’t help but the let the corners of his mouth turn upwards.
She gave the briefest rise of her eyebrows and turned back towards the waiting wine glass. Her shoulders straightened a little. He’d definitely caught her attention.
Just like she’d caught his.
He leaned a little closer and nudged her shoulder. “You’re sitting on my favourite bar stool.”
“Didn’t have your name on it,” she quipped back.
Her accent. It was unmistakeable. The Scottish twang made the hairs on his arms stand on end. He could listen to that all day. Or all night.
She swung her legs around towards him and leaned one arm on the bar. “Come to think of it, you must be kind of brave,” she took a sip of her wine. Her eyebrows lifted again, “Or kind of stupid.”
He liked it. She was flirting back. He leaned his arm on the bar too, so they were closer than ever. “What makes you think that?”
She licked her lips. “Because you’re trying to get between a Scots girl and the bar.” She smiled as she ran her eyes up and down the length of his body. It was almost as if she’d reached her fingers out and touched him. “Haven’t you heard about Scots girls?”
He smiled and leaned closer. “I think I might need a little education.” He couldn’t think of anything he wanted more.
Instant attraction. He’d never really experienced it before. Not like this. He’d wanted to come in here to hide and get away from things. Now, his sanctuary, had become a whole lot more exciting.
A whole lot more distracting.
His stomach flipped over. What if he never felt like this again? Or even worse, what if he felt like this when he was King of Montanari and married?
Right now he was none of those things. The engagement hadn’t been announced. He was about to step into a life of duty and constant scrutiny.
Theresa was a friend. Nothing more. Nothing less. They’d never even shared a kiss.
He hadn’t come here to meet anyone. He hadn’t come here to be attracted to someone.
But right now he was caught in a gaze he didn’t want to escape from. The pull was just too strong.
Something flitted across her eyes. It was as if her confidence wavered for a second.
“What’s wrong?” He couldn’t help himself.
She sucked in a breath. “Bad day at the office.”
“Anything to do with a man?” It was out before he thought.
She blinked and gave a little smile again, pausing for a second. “No. Definitely nothing to do with a man.”
It was like he’d just laid himself bare. Finding out the lay of the land. He couldn’t ignore the warm feeling that spread straight through him.
He had no royal duties this weekend. There were no hands he needed to shake. No business he needed to attend to. He’d told security he was coming here and to keep their distance.
If he lived to be 100 he’d remember this. He’d remember this meeting and the way it made him feel. The buzz was so strong the air practically sparkled around her.
He was still single. He could do this. Right now he would cross burning coals to see what would happen next.
He leaned a little closer. “I came here to get some peace and quiet. I came here to get some head space.” He gave her a little smile and lowered his voice. “But, all of a sudden, there’s no space in my head at all.”
He took a chance. “How about I stop searching for some peace and quiet, and you forget all about your bad day.”
She ran her fingers up the stem of her wine glass. He could tell she was thinking. She looked up from heavy eyelids. “You mean, like a distraction. An interlude?”
The warm glow in his body started to rapidly rise. He nodded. “A distraction.”
She licked her lips again and he almost groaned out loud. “I think a distraction might be just what I need,” she said carefully.
He tried to quieten the cheerleader squad currently yelling in his head.
“I’ve always wanted to meet a Scots girl. Will you teach me how to wear a kilt?” He waved to the bar man. “There are some killer cocktails in here. You look like a Lavender Fizz kind of girl.”
“I’ll do better than that.” There was a hint of mischief in her voice. “I’ll teach you how to take it off.”
This wasn’t her life. It couldn’t be. Things like this didn’t happen to Sienna McDonald. But it seemed that in the blink of an eye her miserable, crappy day had just got a whole lot better.
It was the worst kind of day. The kind of day she should have gotten used to in this line of work.
But a doctor who got used to a baby dying was in the wrong profession.
It had been little Marco’s third op. He’d been failing all the time. Born into the world too early with undeveloped lungs and a malformed heart she’d known the odds were stacked against him.
Some people thought it was wrong to operate on premature babies unless there was a guarantee of a good outcome. But Sienna had seen babies who had next to no chance, come through an operation, fight like a seasoned soldier and go on to thrive. One of her greatest successes was coming up on his fourth birthday and she couldn’t be prouder.
Today had been draining. Telling the parents had been soul destroying. She didn’t usually drown her sorrows in alcohol, but tonight, in a strange country with only herself for company, it was the only thing that would do. She’d already made short work of the accompanying chocolate she’d bought to go with the wine. The empty wrappers were littered around her.
She sensed him as soon as he sat down next to her. There was a gentle waft of masculine cologne. Her eyes were lowered. It was easy to see the muscled thigh through the probably designer trousers. If he was staying in this hotel – he was probably a millionaire. She was just lucky the royal family were footing her bill.
When he spoke, his lilting Mediterranean accent washed over her. Thank goodness she was sitting down. There was something about the accent of the men of Montanari. It crossed between the Italian, French and Spanish of its surrounding neighbours. It was unmistakeable. Unique. And something she’d never forget.
She glanced sideways and once more sucked in her cheeks.
Nope. The guy who looked as if he’d just walked off some film set was still there. Any second now she’d have to pinch herself. This might actually be real.
Dark hair, killer green eyes with a little sparkle and perfect white teeth. She might not have x-ray vision but his lean and athletic build was clear beneath the perfectly tailored suit. If she were back in Scotland she’d tell him he might as well have sex on legs tattooed on his forehead. Too bad she was in a posh principality where she had to be a whole lot more polite than that.
He hadn’t responded to her cheeky comment. For a millisecond he looked a little stunned, and then his shoulders relaxed a little and he nodded slowly. He was getting comfortable. Did he think the game was over?
She was just settling in for the ride. She didn’t do this. She didn’t ever do this. Pick up a man in a bar? Her friends would think she’d gone crazy. But the palms of her hands were tingling. She wanted to touch him. She wanted to feel his skin against hers. She wanted to know exactly what those lips tasted like.
He was like every erotic dream she’d ever had just handed to her on a plate.
She leaned her head on one hand and turned to face him. “Who says I’m a cocktail kind of girl?”
He blinked. Her accent did that to people. It took their ears a few seconds to adjust to the Scottish twang. He was no different to every other man she’d ever met. The edges of his mouth turned upwards at the sound of her voice. People just seemed to love the Scottish accent – even if they couldn’t understand a word she said.
“It’s written all over you,” he shot back. He mirrored her stance, leaning his head on one hand and staring at her.
There was no mistaking the tingling of her skin. Part of her stomach turned over. There was a tiny wash of guilt.
Today wasn’t meant to be a happy day. Today was a day to drown her sorrows and contemplate if she could have done anything different to save that little baby. But the truth was she’d already done that. Even if she went back in time she wouldn’t do anything different. Clinically, her actions had been everything they should be. Little Marco’s body had just been too weak, too underdeveloped to fight anymore.
The late evening sun was streaming in the windows behind him, bathing them both in a luminescence of peaches and purples. Distraction. That’s what this was. And right now she could do with a distraction.
Something to help her forget. Something to help her think about something other than work. She was due to go home in a few days. She’d taught the surgeons at Montanari Royal everything she could.
She let her shoulders relax a little. The first two glasses of wine were starting to kick in.
“I don’t know that I’m a Lavender Fizz kind of girl.”
“Well, let’s see what kind of girl you are.” The words hung in the air between them, with a hundred alternative meanings circulating in her mind. This guy was good. He was very good.
She half wished she’d changed after work. Or at least pulled a brush through her hair and applied some fresh make up. This guy was impeccable which made her wish she was too. His brow furrowed and he picked up the cocktail menu, pretending to peruse it, while giving her sideways glances. “No,” he said decidedly. “Not gin.” He paused a second, “Hmm, raspberries, maybe. Wait, no here it is. A peach melba cocktail.”
She couldn’t help but smile as she raised her eyebrows. “And what’s in that one?”
He signalled the barman. “Let’s find out.”
Her smile remained fixed on her face. His confidence was tantalising. She sipped at her wine as she waited for the barman to mix the drinks.
“What’s your name?” he asked as they waited. He held out his hand towards her. “I’m Seb.”
Seb. A suitable billionaire type name. Most of the men in this hotel had a whole host of aristocratic names. Louis. Alexander. Hugo. Augustus.
She reached out to take his hand. “Sienna.”
His hand enveloped hers. What should have been a firm handshake was something else entirely. It was gentle. Almost like a caress. But there was a purpose to it. He didn’t let go. He kept holding, letting the warmth of his hand permeate through her chilled skin. His voice was husky. “You’ve been holding on to that wine glass too long.” Before she could reply he continued. “Sienna. It doesn’t seem a particularly Scottish name.”
A furrow appeared on his brow. As if he were trying to connect something. After a second, he shook his head and concentrated on her again.
She tried not to fixate on the fact her hand was still in his. She liked it. She liked the way this man was one of the most direct flirts she’d ever met. He could have scrawled his intentions towards her with her lipstick on the mirrored gantry behind the bar and she wouldn’t have batted an eyelid because this was definitely a two-way street.
“It’s not.” She let her thumb brush over the back of his hand. “It’s Italian.” She lifted her eyebrows. “I was conceived there. By accident – of course,” she added.
A look of confusion swept his face as the barman set down the drinks, but he didn’t call her on her comment.
Sienna had a wave of disappointment as she had to pull her hand free of his and she turned to the peach concoction on the bar with a glimpse of red near the bottom. She lifted the tiny straws and gave it a little stir. “What is this, exactly?”
Those green eyes fixed on hers again. “Peach nectar, raspberry puree, fresh raspberries and champagne.”
She took a sip. Nectar was right. It hit the spot perfectly. Just like something else.
“Are you here on business or pleasure, Sienna?”
She thought for a second. She was proud to be a surgeon. Most men she’d ever met had seemed impressed by her career. But tonight she didn’t want to talk about being a surgeon. Tonight she wanted to concentrate on something else entirely.
“Business. But it’s almost concluded. I go home in a few days.”
He nodded carefully. “Have you enjoyed visiting Montanari?”
She couldn’t lie. Even today’s events hadn’t taken the shine off the beautiful country that she’d spent the last few weeks in. The rolling green hills, spectacular volcanic mountain peak that overlooked the capital city and coastline next to the Mediterranean Sea made the principality one of prettiest places she’d ever visited. She took another sip of her cocktail. “I have. It’s a beautiful country. I’m only sorry I haven’t seen enough of it.”
She shook her head. “Business is business. I’ve been busy.” She stirred her drink. “What about you?”
He had an air about him. Something she hadn’t encountered before. An aura. As a businessman she assumed he must be quite enigmatic. He could probably charm the birds from the trees. At least she was assuming he was a businessman. He looked the part and every other man she’d met in this exclusive hotel had been here to do one business deal or another.
But for a charmer, there was something else. An underlying sincerity in the back of his eyes. Somehow she felt if the volcanic peak overlooking the capital erupted right now she would be safe with this guy. Her instincts had always been good and it had been a long time since she’d felt like that.
“I’ve been abroad on business. I’m just back.”
“You stay here? In this hotel?”
He laughed and shook his head. “Oh no. I live…close by. But I conduct much of my business in this hotel.” He gave another gracious nod towards the barman. “They have the best facilities. The most professional staff. I’m comfortable here.”
It was a slightly odd thing to say. But she forgot about it in seconds as the barman came back to top up their glasses.
She took a deep breath and stared at her glass. “Maybe I should slow down a little.”
His gaze was steady. “The drink? Or something else?”
There it was. The hidden question between them. She ran her finger around the rim of the glass. “I came here to forget,” she said quietly, exposing more of herself than she meant.
Her other hand was on the bar. His slid over the top, intertwining his fingers with hers. “And so did I. Maybe there are other ways to forget.”
She licked her lips, almost scared to look up and meet his gaze again. It would be like answering the unspoken question. The one she was sure that she wanted to answer.
His thumb slid under her palm, tracing little circles. It most circumstances it would be calming. But here, and now, it was anything but calming, it was almost erotic.
“Sienna, you have a few days left. Have you seen the mountains yet? How about I show you some of the hidden pleasures that we keep secret from the tourists.”
It was the way he said it. His voice was low and husky, sending a host of tiny shivers of expectation up her spine.
She could almost hear the voices of her friends in her head. She was always the sensible one. Always cautious. If she told this tale a few months later and told them she’d made her excuses and walked away…
The cocktail glass was glistening in the warm sunset. The chandelier hanging above the bar sending a myriad of coloured prisms of light around the room.
The perfect setting. The perfect place. The perfect man.
A whole host of distraction.
Exactly what she’d been looking for.
She threw back her head and tried to remember if she was wearing matching underwear. Not that it mattered. But somehow she wanted all her memories about this to be perfect.
She met his green gaze. There should be rules about eyes like that. Eyes that pulled you in and held you there, while all the time giving a mischievous hint of exactly what he was thinking.
She stood up from her bar stool and moved closer. His hand dropped from the bar to her hip. She brushed her lips against his ear, “How many of Montanari’s pleasures are hidden?”
There it was. The intent.
It didn’t matter that her perfect red dress was hanging in the cupboard upstairs. It didn’t matter that her matching lipstick was at the bottom of her bag. It didn’t matter that her most expensive perfume was in the bathroom in her room.
Mr Sex-on-legs liked her just the way she was.
He closed his eyes for a second. This time his voice was almost a growl, as if he were bathing in what she’d just said. “I could listen to your accent all day.”
She put her hand on his shoulder. “How about you listen to it all night instead?”
And the deed was done.
She stared at the stick again.
Yip. The second line was still there.
It wasn’t a figment of her imagination. Just like the missing period wasn’t a dream and the tender breasts were a sign of an ill-fitting bra.
A baby. She was going to have a baby.
She stared out of her house window.
Her mortgage. She’d just moved in here. Her mortgage was huge. As soon as she’d seen the house she’d loved it. It was totally too big for one person – how ironic was that? – but she’d figured she’d have the rest of her life to pay for it. It was five minutes from Teddy’s and had the most amazing garden with a pink cherry blossom tree at the bottom of it, and a little paved area at the back for sitting.
It was just like the house she’d dreamed of as a child. The house where she and her husband and children would stay and live happily ever after.
She sighed and put her head in her hands.
She was pregnant. Pregnant to Seb, the liar.
It made her insides twist and curl. She’d never quite worked how when he’d realised who she was, while she’d spent the weekend in blissful ignorance.
A weekend all the while holed up in the most beautiful mountain chalet-style house.
The days had been joyful. She’d never felt an attraction like it – immediate, powerful and totally irresistible. Seb had made her feel like the only woman in the world and for two days she’d relished it.
It was too good. Too perfect. She should have known. Because nobody could ever be that perfect. Not really.
She’d been surprised by his security outside the hotel. But then, lots of businessmen had bodyguards nowadays. It wasn’t quite so unusual as it could have been.
And she hadn’t seen any of the sites of Montanari. Once they’d reached his gorgeous house hidden in the mountains, the only thing she’d seen was his naked body.
For two whole days.
She squeezed her eyes closed for a second. It hurt to remember how much she’d loved it.
How many other woman had been given the same treatment?
She shook her head and shuddered. Finding out who he really was had ruined her memories of those two wonderful days.
Of those two wonderful nights…
She pressed her hand on her non-existent stomach. Oh wow. She was pregnant to a prince.
Prince Sebastian Falco of Montanari.
Some women might like that. Some women might think that was amazing. Right now she was wondering exactly why her contraceptive pill had failed. She’d taken it faithfully every day. She hadn’t been sick. She hadn’t forgotten. This wasn’t deliberate. This absolutely wasn’t a ploy to get pregnant to a prince. But what if he thought it was?
Her mind jumped back to her house. How much maternity leave would she get? How much maternity pay would she get – would it cover her mortgage? She’d used her savings as the deposit for the house – that, and the little extra she’d had left to update the bathroom and kitchen meant her rainy day fund was virtually empty.
She stood up and started pacing. Who would look after her baby when she returned to work? Would she be able to return to work? She had to. She was an independent woman. She loved her career. Having a baby didn’t mean giving up the job she loved.
She rested her hand against the wall of her sitting room. Maybe someone at the hospital could give her a recommendation for a childminder or nursery? Or maybe she would need both?
There was so much to think about. So much to organise.
She couldn’t concentrate. Her mind kept jumping from one thing to the other. Oh no – was this the pregnancy brain that women complained about?
She couldn’t have that. She didn’t have time for that. She was a neonatal cardiothoracic surgeon. She was responsible for tiny lives. She needed to be focused. She needed to have her mind on the job.
She walked through to the kitchen. The calendar was lying on the kitchen table. It was turned to April – showing when she’d had her last period. It had been left there when the realisation had hit her and she’d rushed to the pharmacy for a pregnancy test. She’d bought four.
She wouldn’t need them. She flicked forward. Last date of period, 23 April. Forty weeks from then? She turned the calendar over, counting the weeks on the back. January. Her baby was due 28 January.
She pushed open her back door and walked outside. The previous owners had left a bench seat, carved from an original ancient tree that had been damaged in a lightning strike years ago. She sat down and took some deep breaths.
It was a beautiful day. The flowers in her garden had all started to emerge. Red, pink and orange fragrant freesias, blue cornflowers, purple delphinium and multi-coloured peonies blossomed in pretty colours all around her, their scents permeating the air.
She smiled. The deep breathing was beginning to calm her. A baby. She was going to have a baby.
She closed her eyes and pressed her lips together as a wave of determination washed over her. Baby McDonald might not have been planned. But Baby McDonald would certainly be wanted.
He or she would be loved. Be adored.
A familiar remembrance of disappointment and anger made her catch her breath. For as long as she could remember her parents had made it clear to her that she’d been ‘mistake’. They hadn’t put it quite in as few words but the implication was always there. Two people who had never really wanted to be together but had done ‘what was right.’
Except it wasn’t right. It wasn’t right at all. Anger and resentment had simmered from them both. The expression on her father’s face when he had left on her eighteenth birthday had told her everything she’d ever needed to know – as did the relief on her mother’s.
She’d been a burden. An unplanned for presence.
Whether this baby was planned for or not, it would always feel loved, always feel wanted. She might not know about childcare, she might not know about maternity leave, she might not know about her mortgage – but of that one thing, she was absolutely sure.
Her brain sky dived somewhere else. Folic acid. She hadn’t been taking it. She’d have to get some. Her feet moved automatically. She could grab her bag, the nearest pharmacy was only five minutes drive. She could pick some up and start taking it immediately. As she crossed the garden her eyes squeezed shut for a second. Darn it. Folic acid was essential for normal development in a baby. She racked her brains. What had she been eating these last few weeks? Had there been any spinach? Any broccoli? She’d had some, but she just wasn’t sure how much. She’d had oranges and grapefruit. Lentils, avocados and peas.
She winced. She’d just remembered her intake of raspberries and strawberries. They’d been doused in champagne in Montanari. Alcohol. Another no-no in pregnancy.
At least she hadn’t touched a drop since her return.
Her footsteps slowed as she entered the house again. Seb. She’d need to tell him. She’d need to tell him she was expecting his baby.
A gust of cool air blew in behind her, sending every hair on her arms standing on end. How on earth would she tell him? They hadn’t exactly left things on good terms.
She sagged down on to her purple sofa for a few minutes. How did you contact a prince?
Oliver. Oliver Darrington would know. He was Seb’s friend. It was the Head of Teddy’s Obstetric department that had arranged for her to go to Montanari and train the other paediatric surgeons. But how on earth could she ask him without giving the game away? Would she sound like some desperate stalker?
“Oh, Olly, by the way, can I just phone your friend, the Prince please? Can you give me his number?”
She sighed and rested her head backwards on the sofa watching the yellow ticker tape of the news channel stream past.
Her eyes glazed over. Last time she’d seen Seb she’d screamed at him. Hardly the most ladylike response.
It didn’t matter that his lie had been by omission. That might even seem a tiny bit excusable now. But then, six weeks ago, rationality had left the luxurious chalet she’d found herself in.
It had been a simple mistake. The car driver – or let’s face it, he was probably a lot more than that – had given a nod and said Your Highness to something Seb had asked him.
The poor guy had realised his mistake right away and made a prompt exit. But it was too late. She’d heard it.
At first she’d almost laughed out loud. She’d been so relaxed, so happy, that the truth hadn’t even occurred to her. “Your Highness?” she’d smiled as she picked up her bags to go back in the house.
But the look of horror on Seb’s face had caused her foot to stop in mid-air.
And just like today, the hairs on her arms had stood on end. Seb. Sebastian. The name of the Prince of Montanari. The person who’d requested she train the surgeons in his hospital. The mystery man that she’d never met – because he was doing business overseas.
Just like Seb.
She might as well have been plunged into a cold pool of glacier ice.
“Tell me you’re joking?”
For the first time since she’d met him, his coolness vanished. He started to babble. Babble. His eyes darting from side to side but never quite meeting her gaze.
She dropped her bags at her feet on the stony path. “You’re not, are you?” He kept talking but she stopped listening. Her brain trying to make sense of what was going on.
“You’re Sebastian Falco? You’re the Prince?” She walked right up under his nose.
It must have been the way she’d said it. As if it were almost impossible. As if he were the unlikeliest candidate in the world.
He let out a sigh and those forest green eyes finally met hers. His head gave the barest shake. “Is that so ridiculous?”
The prickling hairs on her arms spread. Like an infectious disease. Reaching parts of her body that definitely shouldn’t feel like that.
Although the rage was building inside her, all that came out was a whisper. “It’s ridiculous to me.”
He blinked. She could see herself reflected in his eyes. Hurt was written all over her face. She hated feeling like that. She hated being emotionally vulnerable.
Her mother and father had lived a lie for eighteen years. She’d always promised herself that would never be her life. That would never be her relationship.
She’d thrown caution to the wind and lost. Big style.
He’d made a fool of her. And she’d let him.
“How could you?” she hissed. “How could you lie to me? What kind of woman do you think I am?”
As she heard the words out loud she almost wanted to hide. She knew exactly what kind of woman she’d been these last two days. One that acted as though this was nothing. She’d experienced a true weekend of passion and abandon. She’d pushed aside all thoughts of consequences and lost herself totally in him.
Now she was looking into the eyes of a man who’d misled her. Let her think that this was something it was not.
He pulled his gaze away from hers, having the good shame to look embarrassed and ran his hand through his thick dark hair.
But even that annoyed her. She’d spent all weekend running her own fingers through the same hair and right now she knew she’d never do that again.
He reached up and touched her shoulder. “Sienna, I’m sorry,”
She pulled back as if he’d stung her and his eyes widened.
“Don’t touch me. Don’t touch me again. Ever!” She spun around and walked back inside.
She ignored everything around her. Ignored the soft sofas they’d spent many an hour on. Ignored the thick wooden table that they’d eaten more than their dinner from. Ignored the tangled sheets in the white and gold bedroom that told their own story.
She grabbed the few things she’d brought with her – and the few other things she’d bought and started throwing them into her bag.
Seb rushed in behind her. “Sienna, slow down. Things weren’t meant to happen like this. I’m sorry. I am. I came to the hotel to get away. I came to think about some things.” He ran his fingers through his hair. “And then, when I got there, there was just,” he held his hands up towards her, “-you,” he said simply.
She spun back around.
“I didn’t realise right away who you were. I’d asked Oliver if he could send a surgeon to help with training. I’m the patron of the hospital and they only come to me when there are big issues. The hospital board were unhappy about all our neonates having to be transferred to France for cardiac surgeries. It was time to train our own surgeons – buy our own equipment. But once I’d made the arrangement with Oliver I hadn’t really paid attention to all the details. Our hospital director took care of all the details because I knew I wouldn’t be here. I didn’t even recognise your name straight away.”
She felt numb. “You knew? You knew exactly who I was?”
He sighed heavily and his tanned face paled. “Not until yesterday when you mentioned you were a surgeon.”
She gulped. She knew exactly what he wasn’t saying. Not until after they’d slept together.
“Why didn’t you tell me? Why didn’t you tell me you knew Oliver yesterday?”
He shook his head. “Because we’d already taken things further than either of us probably intended. We were in our own little bubble here. And I won’t lie. I liked it, Sienna. I liked the fact it was just you and me and the outside world seemed as far away as possible.” He took a deep breath. “I didn’t want to spoil it.” He started pacing around. “Do you know what’s it like to have the eyes of the world constantly on you? Do you know what it’s like when every time you even say hello to a woman it’s splashed across the press the next day that she could be the next queen?” The frustration was clearly spilling over.
“You expect me to feel sorry for you?”
He threw up his hands. “The only time I’ve had a bit of a normal life was when I was at university. The press were banned from coming near me then. But every moment before that, and every second after it I’ve constantly been on display. Life is never normal around me, Sienna. But here?” He held out his hands, “And in Il Palazzo di Cristallo, I get a tiny bit of privacy. Do you know how good it felt to walk in somewhere, see a beautiful woman and be able to act on it? Be able to actually let myself feel something?”
Her throat was dry. Emotion and frustration was written all over his face. He couldn’t stop pacing.
It was like the weight of the world was currently sitting on his shoulders. She had no idea what his life was like. She’d no idea what was expected of him. Her insides squirmed. The thought of constantly being watched by the press? No thanks.
But the anger still burned inside. The hurt at being deceived. How many other women had he brought here? Was she just another on his list?
She stepped up close to him again, ignoring his delicious aftershave that had wound its way around her over the last few days. “So, everything was actually a lie?”
He winced. “It wasn’t a lie, Sienna.”
“It was to me.”
He shook his head and straightened his shoulders. “You’re over-reacting. Even if I had introduced myself, what difference would it have made?” He stepped closer, his chest just in front of her nose. “Are you telling me that this wouldn’t have happened? That we wouldn’t have been attracted to each other? We wouldn’t have ended up together?”
She clouded out his words – focusing only on the first part. It had been enough to make the red mist descend. “I’m over-reacting?” She dropped the clothes she had clutched in her hands. “I’m over-reacting?” She let out an angry breath as her eyes swept the room.
She shook her head. “Oh no, Seb. I’m not over-reacting.” She picked up the nearest lamp and flung it off the wall, shattering it into a million pieces. “This. This is over-reacting. This is letting you know how I really feel about your deception.”
His chin practically hung open.
She stalked back to the bed and stuffed the remaining few items into her bag, zipping it with an over-zealous tug.
She marched right up under his nose. “If I never see you again it will be too soon. Next time find someone else to train your surgeons. Preferably someone who doesn’t mind being deceived and lied to.”
He drew himself up to his full height. On any other occasion she might have been impressed. But that day? Not a chance.
His mouth tightened. “Have it your own way.”
“I will,” she’d shouted as she swept out of the chalet and back into the waiting car. “Take me back to my hotel,” she’d growled at the driver.
Heavens. She hoped she hadn’t got that poor man fired. He hadn’t even blinked when she’d spoken. Just put the car into gear and set off down the mountain road. Her last view of Seb had been as he’d walked to the door and watched the car take off.
Now, it seemed all a bit melodramatic.
She’d never admit she’d cried on the plane on the way home. Not to a single person. And especially not to a person she’d now to have to tell she was carrying his baby.
Her eyes came into focus sharply and she leaned forward.
The ticker tape stream of news changed constantly. Something had made her focus again.
She waited a few seconds.
Prince Sebastian Falco of Montanari has announced his engagement to his childhood friend Princess Theresa Mon Carte of Peruglea. Although the date of their wedding has not yet been announced it is expected to be in the next calendar year. The Royal Wedding will unite the two neighbouring principalities of Montanari and Peruglea.
Every single tiny bit of breath left her body. Her stomach plummeted as a tidal wave of emotions consumed her.
It was as if the glacier ice pool she’d imagined on the mountain of Montanari had followed her home. Nausea made her bolt to the bathroom.
This wasn’t morning sickness.
This was pure and utter shock.
He was engaged. Sebastian was engaged.
As she knelt on the bathroom floor she felt momentarily light-headed. Could this be any worse?
She squeezed her eyes closed. Trying to banish all the memories of that weekend from her mind. Her body responded automatically, curling into a ball on the ground. If she didn’t think about him, she couldn’t hurt. She couldn’t let herself hurt like this. She had a baby. A baby to think about.
She pressed her head against the cool tiles on the wall.
Pregnant to a Prince. An engaged Prince.
Funnily enough, no fairy tale she’d ever heard of ended like this.
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