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Authors: Laurie Paige

Royal Affair

BOOK: Royal Affair
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“It would be best if you shared a bed with me. I will rest assured of your safety that way.”

“We agreed we'd be platonic,” she said firmly. “Sex complicates things.”

“So you indicated last night,” he said, looking grumpy.

She laughed and then adopted a prim manner. “Putting off gratification is good for one's character, Your Highness.”

“Or it may drive me to desperate acts,” he retorted, and looked her over as if thinking of seizing her and making off for parts unknown.

Even if the danger he'd mentioned was real, she thought, it was worth it for these moments and the closeness she felt to this man. She suddenly wanted to say yes to his marriage proposal and to making love…and to anything else he had in mind.

LAURIE PAIGE

“One of the nicest things about writing romances is researching locales, careers and ideas. In the interest of authenticity, most writers will try anything…once.” Along with her writing adventures, Laurie has been a NASA engineer, a past president of the Romance Writers of America, a mother and a grandmother. She was twice a Romance Writers of America RITA
®
Award finalist for Best Traditional Romance and has won awards from
RT Book Reviews
for Best Silhouette Special Edition and Best Silhouette Book in addition to appearing on the
USA TODAY
bestseller list.

Settled in Northern California, Laurie is looking forward to whatever experiences her next novel will bring.

USA TODAY
Bestselling Author

L
AURIE
P
AIGE
ROYAL AFFAIR

Be a part of

Because birthright has its privileges and family ties run deep.

Their passionate encounter had more than one consequence…!

Prince Maxwell von Husden:
He needed to find a bride—and quickly. He'd seduced beautiful Ivy Crosby and now she carried his baby—the future king of Lantanya. His country needed leadership, and he needed Ivy. Could he convince her to walk down the aisle?

Ivy Crosby:
A night of passion with a mysterious man landed Ivy Crosby in the tabloids. When she'd met Max, she'd had no idea he was royalty. And now this prince was offering her the chance to be his princess! But she'd have to teach him a thing or two about love—and romance—first!

Everett Baker:
He had a wicked crush on Nurse Nancy, but was there another reason he was courting the warm and trusting R.N.?

Because birthright has its privileges and family ties run deep.

AVAILABLE JUNE 2010

1.)
To Love and Protect
by Susan Mallery

2.)
Secrets & Seductions
by Pamela Toth

3.)
Royal Affair
by Laurie Paige

4.)
For Love and Family
by Victoria Pade

AVAILABLE JULY 2010

5.)
The Bachelor
by Marie Ferrarella

6.)
A Precious Gift
by Karen Rose Smith

7.)
Child of Her Heart
by Cheryl St. John

8.)
Intimate Surrender
by RaeAnne Thayne

AVAILABLE AUGUST 2010

9.)
The Secret Heir
by Gina Wilkins

10.)
The Newlyweds
by Elizabeth Bevarly

11.)
Right by Her Side
by Christie Ridgway

12.)
The Homecoming
by Anne Marie Winston

AVAILABLE SEPTEMBER 2010

13.)
The Greatest Risk
by Cara Colter

14.)
What a Man Needs
by Patricia Thayer

15.)
Undercover Passion
by Raye Morgan

16.)
Royal Seduction
by Donna Clayton

For Di and friends—
we are the stuff that dreams are made of.

One

I
vy Crosby stood in the checkout line at the drugstore and wished someone would remove the display of gilt-framed mirrors, marked down fifty percent for quick sale, from the wall to her right. The mirrors reflected multiple images and she really didn't want to see herself just now.

With a grimace she reached up to tuck a strand of hair behind her ear. It didn't stay, of course.

Her hair was naturally blond, not always an asset, and naturally curly, which meant it did as it pleased. On an impulse she couldn't explain, she'd had the long tresses cut off last week.

A mistake, that. Now it lay in ringlets around her
face, making her look about seven instead of twenty-seven. She was also cursed with big blue eyes and a natural fringe of dark lashes that curled at the tips just like her hair.

The combination lent her a fragile innocence that was sometimes useful in business, but was mostly irritating as people took her at face value.

Because of her looks, she'd been treated like a pet or a doll all her life. By family. By teachers. By boyfriends who'd been protective and possessive, as if they wanted to put her in a pocket and only let her out when it was convenient. For them.

Except for one man. Once upon a fairy tale time out of time, she'd met her prince—a man who'd treated her as a woman, a very desirable woman, an equal in wit, intelligence…and passion.

Oh, yes, passion. A faint tremor ran through her blood, the first warning of the volcanic explosion that was to come. Just the thought of him, six weeks later, could do that to her.

Max. I need you.

No, she mentally chided. She was an adult and she could figure this out. But first things first, as one of her business professors used to say. That was why she was at this pharmacy in a strip mall where she wasn't likely to be recognized.

Her many images glowered at her from the mirrors. She smoothed out the frown and laid her purchases on the counter. She'd gotten lotion and
shampoo and a couple of other things she didn't need in hopes that no one would notice she'd also gotten a pregnancy test kit.

“Sorry, I have to change the tape,” the clerk said, opening the top of the cash register and removing the spent roll of paper. When she attempted to thread the new roll through the machine, it jammed. The woman muttered a curse.

Ivy tamped down the impatience that made her want to turn and walk out as fast as she could. She'd stood in line this long, what was a few more minutes? Besides, she would have to do it all over again someplace else.

Schooling herself to calmness, she absently glanced over the tabloids while she waited. The headlines were amusing as usual—Woman Gives Birth to Martian and other interesting tidbits.

She skimmed the large print. A movie star was getting a divorce. Ho-hum. The Lion Roars, proclaimed another above a picture of a handsome man holding the arm of a fragile beauty—

Ivy gasped. She grabbed the edge of the counter as the room went into a dangerous spin.

“Are you all right?” the clerk asked, leaning close and peering into her eyes.

Ivy blinked several times and the world righted itself. Except for the abyss giving way under her feet. “Yes, just a…a sort of…of a dizzy spell. I'm fine now.” She smiled to prove that she was.

The clerk nodded sympathetically. “When I was pregnant with my first, I fainted at the drop of a hat. Blood was especially bad. My sister cut her finger one night when we were having dinner at her place. I fell right out on the kitchen floor. Scared my husband to death. He didn't know I was expecting. Neither did I, come to think of it.”

Ivy dredged up a smile while the clerk and the woman behind her in line laughed nostalgically. “I'll take this, too,” she said, and put the tabloid on the counter.

By the time she'd paid cash for her purchases and rushed to her car, every nerve in her body was quivering like an aspen leaf in a playful breeze. As she got in, she tossed her purchases into the passenger seat, grabbed the tabloid and read the article that went with the headline.

Her eyes widened and narrowed by turns as she skimmed through the hyperbole to get to the meat of the story. It seemed Prince Maxwell von Husden, Crown Prince of Lantanya, who was soon to be king, had been seen at a popular tourist resort in the tiny country with a mysterious beauty in July. After a romantic night of dining and dancing and passion, the woman had disappeared.

Ivy gasped and felt faint again. How could they have known about the passion?

Reporters always made up the stuff to fill in the blanks, she decided grimly, trying to calm the emo
tions that roared through her like a tsunami. She read on.

The prince was furious that the woman had slipped out on him before he grew bored and dropped her, according to one “close palace source.” Another source contended that the prince was heartbroken but covering it with anger.

Ivy pressed a hand to her thundering heart. “Liar,” she said. She'd been right to leave without waking him the next morning, although it had been difficult to do.

He'd looked so handsome lying in the king-size bed, his hair mussed and a morning beard shadowing his face, his expression one of contentment. She'd contemplated kissing him goodbye, but she'd had a plane to catch and she wasn't sure they could stop at one kiss.

Again passion flared at the memory. She clenched the steering wheel and closed her eyes, slowly winning control of the hunger running through her.

“Are you sure you're all right?” a voice asked through the window.

She opened her eyes with a jerk and stared at the woman who'd been in line behind her. “Oh. Oh, yes. Thank you.” She smiled brightly, her heart pounding so hard she could hear each beat in her ears.

The woman, who looked fortyish and had a certain world-weariness in her eyes, smiled, too. “Take care of yourself,” she advised in a kindly tone and walked to a car in the next row.

Ivy composed herself and drove out of the park
ing lot to an apartment complex recently built on the outskirts of the city. Portland General Hospital was the next exit off the highway. At least she was close to medical care in case her heart gave out completely.

The cynical thought evaporated after she got inside her place, the door closed and locked as if a whole platoon of reporters might come charging after her.

She read the article again, then looked through the whole tabloid in case there was more information. There wasn't. All the reporter really knew was that she and Max had had a late supper at the resort. And that the prince seemed to have been in a bad mood of late.

For a while she sat there in a stupor, shocked that the handsome, humorous, beguiling man she'd met wasn't Max Hughes, a foreigner attending to business matters in Lantanya the same as she was. She stared at the grainy print as if that could change the images in the photo that was snapped without her knowledge six weeks and four days ago.

However, the woman, whose face was partially turned from the camera, was her, and the man, who was smiling right into the lens, was apparently the man who was due to be crowned Maxwell V, King of Lantanya, in a few weeks.

The tiny island country was nestled in the Adriatic Sea, a perfect Brigadoon hidden from the rest of the world and far from reality.

Way far from reality, she silently admitted, feel
ing beyond foolish. Her family was right to treat her like a baby. She needed a keeper.

Laying the paper on the coffee table and leaning her head on the sofa back, she closed her eyes and groaned. A playboy prince. She'd fallen right into the lying, deceitful arms of a playboy prince. A last fling before he assumed the duties of king?

Get real. Did leopards change their spots? He would simply move on to being a playboy king. And she'd fallen for his charm, his wit, his warmth…the timbre of his deep voice, the passion in his eyes, the odd glimpses of sadness in his expression…. She'd thought they were soul mates.

A lie. It had all been a lie. And she'd believed it. Every word. He must have thought it amusing—the naive American…the shy virgin….

“Ohhh,” she moaned and buried her face in her hands.

How could she have allowed herself to be taken in like that? She was smart. She'd graduated with honors in systems management and computer science. With her team of workers, she'd devised a brilliant network for the kingdom's education program—

Oh, no! She would have to go back. She might even have to face him.

The plastic bag containing her purchases rattled against her leg as she shifted in despair. Slowly she removed a small square box and stared at it as if viewing a poison potion she was supposed to drink.

“The moment of truth,” she said to it.

This was indeed such a moment. It was time to confirm her direst suspicions and find out if her magical night of passion had left her with a little souvenir of the evening.

She dropped the satiric mood at the thought of a child, a sweet innocent who'd had no say in its conception, and laid a hand protectively over her abdomen.

Her home life hadn't been great during her growing years. She'd wanted better for her children. A loving family. A faithful mate. Honor and integrity and caring. She had screwed up royally.

“Ha-ha,” she muttered at the unintended pun.

Rising, she walked down the short hallway to the master bedroom. Its furnishings didn't comfort her as they usually did. She'd picked them out upon leaving the family mansion and moving to the apartment in a bid for independence shortly after agreeing to work at the family business.

Well, she'd needed a job. The dot-com where she'd started right out of college had made it four years before crashing. She'd learned a lot about computer systems during that time, so she was a valuable employee.

Not that anyone else thought so. Her fellow analysts thought she was a pretty face who'd gotten her position due to family connections. That much was true, in that her sister had pressured her to come into the company.

Ivy had gladly taken on the job of bringing Lan
tanya's educational facilities into the twenty-first century when no one else had wanted the time-consuming task, which had included long flights across the Atlantic to Rome. She'd then had to take a puddle jumper, as some called the small jet, to Lantanya, which lay off the eastern coast of Italy in the Adriatic Sea, which was really an arm of the Mediterranean.

On the latest trip, she'd stayed in the tiny country for two months, then on her last night she'd met Max. Her own Prince Charming.

The royal liar, she dubbed him, seizing anger as a means to control the hurt she didn't want to recognize.

Going into the bathroom, she closed the door and locked it behind her. Which was ridiculous since there was no one in the apartment but her.

Really, it was a tad late to be locking herself into bathrooms to ensure that she was alone. She should have done that six weeks and four days ago, in the middle of July when she was in Lantanya instead of the first Tuesday in September, back at her apartment in Portland, Oregon.

In reality, she should have returned home before she gave in to the madness that had danced through her like bubbles from the finest champagne. She frowned and opened the pregnancy kit.

A few minutes later she emerged, shaken and chastened. She studied the results again. There was no mistake. She was expecting a child, a royal baby…and heir to the House of von Husden.

Well, probably not. Illegitimate children didn't inherit anything. She sighed shakily. As long as she kept the father a secret people might wonder about the sire, but her child wouldn't be made to feel he or she had been rejected. She would see to that. She would love her child so much, he or she would never notice the lack of a father's care.

Going out on the balcony, intending to think the situation through and come to a decision, she stared at the hills and thought of another place and another time….

“What do you think?” an amused male voice had asked.

Ivy had turned from the painting she'd been studying to the source of the question. A tall man, probably six feet or so, a good seven or eight inches taller than she was at any rate, stood a couple of feet behind her.

He had black hair and deep-brown eyes. His skin was tanned, making his smile brilliant. His face was lean, all hard planes and angles, but put together so the whole was very handsome. There was a hint of silver at his temples, lending a distinguished air to his appearance. In spite of that, she judged his age to be in the midthirties at most.

“I'm not sure what to think,” she admitted, turning back to the painting so she wouldn't stare at the alluring stranger. “I'm sure the artist has a point, but I don't think I get it.”

“Same here,” her fellow museum visitor agreed.
“I like faces in the ordinary arrangement. Which can sometimes be quite lovely.”

He gazed at her appreciatively.

A slight disappointment rose in her. Just another Lothario, she deduced. “Yes,” she said coolly, as if speaking of the picture, and walked on to the next gilt-framed oil.

“I've offended you. I'm sorry. You are quite lovely, you know, but I'll try to refrain from mentioning it again.”

His candor surprised her, causing her to meet his eyes. His smile was so engaging, she had to return it.

“There's a wing on this side that I think you might enjoy more,” he said, gesturing to a wide, elaborately framed wooden archway and bowing in a brief but stately manner. He didn't try to guide her or touch her in any way.

“Ah,” she murmured at the doorway.

A huge painting of flowers, done in the loveliest hues imaginable, was the focal point at the end of the gallery.

“It's like stepping into a garden, isn't it?” he said softly. “You can almost feel the warmth of the sunshine striking the treetops, then the coolness of the shade as you walk into the shadow of the leaf canopy.”

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