December 1, 2016

The Prince’s Pregnant Mistress


"I. Am. Pregnant." 

Three little words are all it takes to threaten Prince Raphael DeSantis's secret life of pleasurable hedonism, ruin the state of a nation and find him bound to a waitress.

To prevent yet another international incident following on the heels of his convenient—and very broken—engagement to a suitable princess, Raphael must now make his mistress his bride!

But heartsore Bailey Harper won't come willingly. This arrogant prince will have to use every provocative trick at his disposal to seduce her into submission—and return to his country with Bailey as his wife!

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It had been a perfect night. So beautiful, the white Christmas lights strung across the facades of the buildings in Vail glittering on the snow all around them. Like the stars had dropped down from the sky to light their way.

Yes, the night had been perfect and Raphael even more so. But then, he always was.

Bailey couldn’t quite believe it was real. Even after eight months with him, she couldn’t believe it. He was like something out of a fairy tale, and she was a girl who never thought she’d have a happy ending.

But then she’d met him.

Of course, she only saw him every few months, when he flew into Colorado on business, and never for long enough.

She’d been guarded all of her adult life. So cautious when it came to men and dating. But with Raphael…that caution had never been there. She’d just given herself to him with no thought of self-protection, no thought of anything but how much she wanted him.

She was like a different woman with him. A woman in love.

It was always so frantic when he was there. Tonight was no exception. They’d finished dinner, a walk through the town, then back to the hotel, where he’d consumed her.

There had been an edge to him tonight, an intensity. Not that she was complaining.

She stretched out on the sheets, curling her toes. She was still recovering. She giggled and rolled onto her side, looking toward the bathroom.

The door was closed, a sliver of light visible beneath it. She sighed heavily, waiting for him to come back to bed.

Waiting impatiently.

Tonight felt different. Significant and special.

She loved him so much. She ached with it. She’d never thought she could feel this way about someone. Never thought someone could feel this way about her.

She was ready for more. She was ready for everything.

The bathroom door opened, and her heart skipped a little. That made her smile. It was ridiculous how giddy she was over him. But then, she’d never let a man close enough to her to have this kind of intimacy.

In her waitressing job she got hit on by men all the time. She just wasn’t…swayed by it. At all. She had been thoroughly disenchanted with men by the time she’d moved out of her mother’s home at sixteen. She’d seen too much. Too much heartbreak. Too much screaming.

Bailey had decided to make her own life, her own future. She’d made it to twenty-one a virgin because she’d been so determined to wait until it was right, until she was ready.

And then she’d met Raphael. Her friends barely believed he existed. She’d stopped talking much about him when all she’d gotten were skeptical eye rolls and Raphael? Bailey, are you dating a Ninja Turtle?

He’d never met them because he was so busy whenever he flew in. And then she wanted him all to herself. So yeah, she was giddy. She had a feeling she always would be.

“Bailey, shouldn’t you be getting dressed?”

She frowned. She hadn’t expected him to say that. She spent the night with him all the time when he came through town. “I thought…well.” She swept a hand over her bare curves. “I’m ready for more if you are.”

“I have an early flight out—I thought I told you.”

He looked grim suddenly. She hated that grimness. It grabbed her by the throat and held her tight, filled her lungs with dread, and she couldn’t quite pinpoint why. “No. You didn’t.” She forced a smile because there was no point fighting with him if these were their last few minutes together before he had to leave again. “You have to go back to Italy?”

“Yes,” he said, reaching for his pants and tugging them on, covering up his gorgeous body.

She watched him dress the rest of the way, the reverse strip show still arousing even if it had a more depressing ending than the alternative.

His muscles rippled with each movement, his fingers blunt and efficient as he buttoned his shirt. Reminding her of just how efficient they were with her.

“Bailey,” he said again, his tone vaguely…irritated. She couldn’t recall Raphael ever being irritated with her before.

“I’m comfortable,” she said, sighing heavily and rolling out of bed. “There. Now I’m not. I hope you’re happy.” She purposefully wiggled her hips a little bit as she made her way to where he’d torn her dress off earlier. “I hope this survived,” she said, picking it up gingerly.

“I’ll replace it if it didn’t.”

“I’m more worried about what I’ll wear home.” Another sigh escaped her lips. “When are you coming back?”

“I’m not.”

She felt like all the air had been pulled from her body. She just stood there, blinking in the dim light, totally frozen while her fingers went numb and her insides went cold. “What do you mean, you aren’t coming back?”

“I don’t have any more work here in Vail. We’re finished up with our meetings.”

“Right. So. But…I’m here.”

He laughed, a hard, low sound that wasn’t like Raphael at all. “Sorry, cara, that is not enticement enough.”

She was dumbstruck. Completely. And she hated herself for it. “I don’t understand. We just had the nicest date and the best…I don’t…I don’t understand.”

“It was goodbye. You have been an especially lovely diversion, but that’s all it could ever be. I have a life back in Italy, and it’s time I got back to it in earnest.”

Dumbstruck turned into sucker punched. “A life? Are you…Raphael, are you married?”

“About to be,” he said, his tone hard. “I can’t afford distractions any longer.”

“You’re engaged. Of course you are,” she said, words tumbling out of her mouth without her permission. “I bet you…live with her. Of course you only come and visit me every couple of months. I’m such an idiot.” She covered her mouth and stifled a scream. She was too angry to be humiliated. Too wounded to care if she bled all over him. “I was…I was a virgin, and you knew that,” she threw at him. “I told you it was a big step for me!” Angry tears welled in her eyes, rolling down her cheeks.

“And I appreciated the gift, tesorina,” he said, his tone now like iron. “We were together for eight months. It was hardly a fling.”

“It’s a fling if one of you isn’t taking it seriously at all!” A sob rose in her throat, shaking her whole body. “If one of you knew it would end and was sleeping with someone else.” She bent down then, picked up her shoe and threw it at his head.

He dodged it neatly, an Italian swear word on his lips.

She bent again, picking up her other shoe and flinging that at him too. This one hit him square in the chest. He closed the distance between them, grabbing hold of her wrist. “Enough.” He released her as quickly as he’d taken hold of her. “Don’t embarrass yourself, Bailey. Not more than you already have.”

“You should be embarrassed,” she said, her voice shaking. She pulled the dress on, then moved to pick her shoes up. She hadn’t put her nylons back on, but who had the time for that ridiculousness when your heart had just been ripped out through your chest? “You are the one who lied to me.” She sniffed much louder than she meant to, pulling her coat on over the dress, trying to ignore the fact that she was shaking so hard now her teeth were chattering.

“I never lied to you,” he said, his dark eyes burning. “You created the story you wanted to believe.”

She let out a feral growl and rushed past him, heading out the door as quickly as she could, feeling like a disgraced hooker walking out of his hotel room in the middle of the night, wearing high heels and a beautiful dress that she was going to have to burn now.

It wasn’t until she was outside, until the cold wrapped itself around her, overtaking her, that she fell apart. Completely, utterly. She sank to her knees in the snow, sobbing until her throat hurt.

It felt like her life was over. And right now, she did not have it in her to put herself back together.

Three months later

I’m sorry, Bailey. But I can’t have a waitress falling asleep in the kitchen in the middle of her shift. Especially not a fat waitress.

Her boss’s voice played over and over in her head as she trudged back to her apartment. She had been right, that night three months ago when Raphael had broken things off with her. Her life pretty much felt like it was over.

She was so far behind in her classes it didn’t look like she had the credits she needed to graduate, she didn’t have a job anymore and she was so sick and tired she barely cared about either.

Now she was going to have to tell Samantha that she couldn’t make rent. Well, this was the crowning achievement on the past months’ humiliations, really. She had become everything she had felt so far above for most of her life.

When she had left home, left town, she had blistered her mother’s ears with her rant about how she was off to make a better life for herself. One that wouldn’t be all about men and an intense dedication to being a victim.

She’d gotten the hell out of metaphorical Dodge. Leaving behind that life of destitution. Where she’d been nothing but unwanted. Nothing but resented, and she’d vowed to do better.

She’d been wise to men, and what they might say to get into your pants, from the time she was way too young to know any such thing. Because she’d heard her mother rant at length on the subject after whatever boyfriend had broken up with her. As a result she had imagined herself as inoculated against such things. Had imagined that she was immune to that kind of behavior.

The truth of it was, she simply hadn’t met a man who made her crazy enough. Then she met Raphael. And now, here she was, single, out of a job and pregnant. And all at the age of twenty-one.

She was the cycle. The cycle that she had so proudly and grandly told herself she wouldn’t perpetuate. Now here she was. Perpetuating. She was a statistic. A sad statistic wandering around in the chilly, early spring air with nowhere in particular to go.

She stopped, turning to face the small general store across the street. Candy. She needed candy. Since she couldn’t have wine. Damn pregnancy.

She ducked into the store and made her way to the nearest candy aisle, stopping abruptly when her eye caught the tabloid just above the chocolate bar her hand hovered over.

The man on the cover looked…far too familiar.

Prince Raphael DeSantis jilted by Italian heiress Allegra Valenti just weeks before royal wedding!

“What the actual hell?” The shoppers around her startled when she all but shouted the words, but she didn’t care. She reached out and grabbed the magazine, flipping through it with shaking fingers.

Raphael. Prince Raphael.

She flipped the pages until she saw it. The article about the scandal that was apparently rocking the principality of Santa Firenze, a tiny dot on the map of Europe. One she’d never even heard of.

It was him. There was no mistaking it. With his arresting good looks, more like a god than a man, and his incredible body…a body they had on show in the article, thanks to a few creeper beach pics. Those broad shoulders, washboard abs and lean hips…

She knew that body better than she knew her own.

“Oh, my…” She reached into her purse and pulled out a stack of tip money, throwing a ten down onto the counter. “Keep the change.” She ran out with the candy bar and the magazine, her entire body starting to shake.

What Twilight Zone episode had she stumbled into? What kind of a joke was this?

By the time she got back to her apartment she felt like she was going to be sick all over the floor. And, given the theme of the last couple of months, she wouldn’t be surprised if she did. Attempting to keep food down was sometimes a superhuman feat. Not that you could tell by her expanding waistline. Which her ex-boss had made clear to point out along with the firing.

She was tragic. So tragic that all she wanted to do was throw herself down on the bed and sleep for the rest of the day.

She made her way into the living room, where Samantha was sitting, looking wide-eyed.

“Are you okay?” Bailey asked, mostly to stave off the question of whether or not she was.

“You have a visitor,” her roommate responded.

“Who?” she asked, feeling like the only possible option was that it was someone from the IRS telling her she owed back taxes, or maybe a police officer letting her know she had a warrant for a parking ticket she didn’t know she had…something awful. Because that was the theme of the day. The theme of the past few months, really.

“He’s here,” Samantha said, sounding dazed.

There could only be one he. There was only one he that would make a woman’s voice sound like that. Only one man Bailey had ever met who could render a woman completely stunned by his very presence.

And, as Bailey was processing that bit of information, she heard shoes on the hardwood floor and looked up, up into the dark eyes of Prince Raphael DeSantis just as he exited her bedroom.

He was here. In her crappy little apartment. Looking as out of place as a lion among house cats.

She wrapped her coat more tightly around herself, doing her best to conceal her figure. To hide the bump that she knew was pretty plainly visible without her woolen shield.

“What are you doing here?” she asked. She realized she was also still holding the tabloid with his face on it. She looked down at the magazine. Then back up at him. “What are you doing here?” she repeated.

“I came to tell you that I wanted to start seeing you again,” he said.

“Oh, please.” This exclamation came from her roommate, who had watched Bailey weep into her pillow for weeks now.

“What she said,” Bailey affirmed, crossing her arms even more tightly beneath her chest.

“Could we have a moment?” He directed the question at Samantha, then, without waiting for a response, grabbed hold of Bailey’s arm and guided her back into her bedroom. He closed the door, enclosing them both in the space.

And for a moment, she was completely lost in him. In his strength, in his very presence, which reached to every corner of the room, and around her. She wanted to lean into him. To rest her head against the solid wall of his chest and release hold of all of the heartbreak, fear and stress she had been enduring for the past few months.

She just wanted to fall into his arms and lose it all. Lose herself.

But that was impossible. He was…he was a liar. On so many more levels than she had realized.

“My engagement is off,” he said, as though she were not holding a magazine in her hand proclaiming exactly that. “And, given that, I see no reason why the two of us can’t resume our liaison.”

“Our…liaison. The one where you come and visit me every couple of months for sex?”

“Bailey,” he said, his tone exceedingly hard done by. It made her want to punch him. “I have a certain life, certain expectations, and…”

“These expectations?” She turned the tabloid around, thrusting it toward him. “You’re a prince? What strange fairy tale did I fall into, Raphael? You said you were a pharmaceutical rep.”

“You said I was a pharmaceutical rep, Bailey,” he said. “Don’t you remember?”

“I…” She remembered everything about the night she met him. The way that her world had stopped completely when their eyes had met. How out of place he looked in the sleazy diner that she worked at, Sweater Bunnies, where the waitresses all wore sweaters with plunging necklines and short shorts, with glittering tights and high heels.

His plane was delayed because of the weather; he had come into town on business. They had ended up talking. And then she had done something she had never done before in her life. She went home with him.

They didn’t have sex. Not that first night. But he had kissed her, and she had…well, she’d learned an entirely new definition for the word want. Her entire body had caught fire with the touch of his lips, the touch of his hands. They had been talking one moment, and then the next, he had her down on the bed.

“I’m a virgin,” she said.

“I don’t need you to be,” he responded, his voice rough, his hands tangled in her hair. “We don’t have to play that game. Unless you want to.”

“No,” she said, “I really am. Like, a really, real virgin. Who has never done anything like this before, ever.”

He sat up. “Never?”

“Never. But, I like you. And…maybe if the weather is bad tomorrow…”

“You want to wait, but you might be ready tomorrow?”

“I don’t know.”

“We’ll wait,” he said, kissing her cheek.

And he hadn’t thrown her out. Instead, he had poured her a glass of soda and then continued to talk to her.

She hadn’t made him wait long after that. The next night she’d made him her first, and she’d already been spinning fantasies about him being the only.

Then…well, then he’d turned out to be a frog. Except he was actually a prince. Which was just insane.

“Of course I remember,” she snapped.

“Then you remember that you were the one who laughed at me, and said, ‘You aren’t a pharmaceutical rep or something, are you?’ And I did not correct you. In fact, you will find, Bailey, that a great many of the things you think about me you created.”

“So now you’re gaslighting me? You’re making this whole thing about what I chose to believe? And somehow, you think that will make me want you back. Not as a girlfriend, or anything like that, just as your little Colorado-based…Tell me, Raphael, where do your other women live?”

“I never thought of you that way,” he said, his tone fierce. “Never.”

“Actions speak louder than words and all of that. You treated me like one. You’re still treating me like one. Get out of my apartment, Your Majesty,” she spat.

“I am not in the habit of taking orders, you will find. I was all right playing your game before, but now you know. I am a prince, cara mia. And what I want, I have.”

“Well,” she said, flinging her arms out wide, “you don’t get this.”

He reached out, cupping the back of her head and drawing her forward. “You don’t mean that.”

“Oh, but I do.” She pressed her hands flat against his chest—the better to shove him backward—only then he felt…so much like home. Like everything brilliant and perfect that she’d been missing while her life had been upended.

It was easy to forget he was the one who’d upended it.

He curved one arm around her waist, drawing her body flush against his. And then he frowned.

And she came back to reality, hard.

“Don’t touch me,” she hissed, pulling away and straightening her coat a little bit frantically.

She didn’t want him to see that she was pregnant because…

Because she didn’t know why. She’d resigned herself to her fate as a single mother because he was supposed to be married to someone else. Because the text she’d sent out to him after the fact saying she needed to talk to him had gone unreturned.

But he was here now. And he was a prince, damn it all.

Her own father had never been around, and she and her mother had suffered financially for it. Raphael could support their child. Could make sure they didn’t struggle.

She flicked the top button of her coat open, her heart pounding. “I’m not going to be your lover, Raphael,” she said, her voice trembling as she continued undoing buttons. She let her coat fall free and revealed the bump that was only just now visible beneath her tight-fitting sweater. “But whether you want to be or not, you are the father of my baby

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