Honeymoon with a prince (royal scandals) (page 49)

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“Where’s the rule that says Cinderella needs a gown? She can be in…wait, are those your pajamas?” For the first time, he seemed to realize she’d come to his room without expecting anyone to see her.

“They are.” She’d packed plain gray pajama pants and a matching top when she’d decided to take her honeymoon solo. She certainly hadn’t planned on a honeymoon with a prince.

“So I see.” He also finally took note of what she held in her left hand with the design book. “But you seem to have a necklace suitable for a palace ball.”

She held out the box. “Conti & Fancetti dropped this by earlier. I was planning to leave it here after I took pictures.”

“With the necklace inside?”

“What, you don’t trust me?” she teased. “I left the gown and shoes in your bedroom. I swear.”

She set the design notebook and the jeweler’s box on a nearby shelf, but left the necklace inside the box. Later, she’d suggest he return it to his parents. Or perhaps give it to Sophia for safekeeping. Kelly had an idea the dark-haired beauty would find plenty of occasions to wear such a necklace.

He stood, encircling her waist with one arm, and reached for the top of the bureau. “We’ll dance here, then. Given how thorough you were with the rest of the details in your design, I assume you’ve preloaded this player with music?”

“Oh, about that—”

A wide grin brought out his elusive dimple as he pulled up the lone playlist. “Boat Songs?”

“I’ve learned a lot about you the last couple of weeks, but other than hearing you humI Saw Three Ships, I know nothing about your taste in music.”

He punched the button, then laughed aloud as the first strains ofBanana Boatfloated through the room. He spun her away from the bureau, his feet light on the floor as he eased her into a slow, sultry dance. “This isn’t quite what I envisioned,” he said, “but it’ll do.”

“I told you, I’d rather be with a laid-back, fishing boat kind of guy than the yachting type.”

“It doesn’t get more laid-back thanBanana Boat. But I can’t change the fact I own a yacht, even if I’m not on it very often.”

“Three yachts,” she corrected. 

“All right. Three.” His fingers spread across her back as Harry Belafonte’s lively voice filled the room. Being in his arms, under the chandelier…even in her pajamas, it was a fantasy come to life. 

She sighed. “Regarding that fairy tale princess fantasy you asked me about at the villa—”

“You don’t have to explain.”

“I do. The thing is, it doesn’t have to do with money or position. Or yachts. It has to do with the man.” And Ted wassonot the right man. “On paper, Ted’s a great catch for any woman. But once we got engaged, he urged me to sell my business and spend my time pursuing philanthropical activities. He was after me all the time—politely, but persistently—and insinuated that if I didn’t sell, perhaps I wasn’t truly committed to our relationship.”

“I can’t fault the man for wanting to spend more time with you.” Massimo’s arms tightened around her. His lips glided over her hair, tempting her to kiss him. But she couldn’t, not yet.

“If that was all it was…but it wasn’t. By coincidence, I received a buyout offer from my biggest competitor. He’d approached me once before, but I didn’t want to sell. I accepted then because I thought I was making the right decision for us as a couple. Ted was thrilled.” 

Massimo continued to sway to the music, turning her in slow circles, giving her the time to speak. 

“There was a lot of paperwork involved and a lot of legal back and forth. But when it was done, it was done. I knew I would miss it, but I thought it was the right sacrifice to make. After the sale was finalized, I discovered that my competitor—the man who bought the business—was a close childhood friend of Ted’s. Ted introduced himself to me at a Dallas restaurant after overhearing a business conversation and figuring out my identity. He knew his friend had tried to buy me out.”

“Robards was working both sides of the deal.” The words were said gently.

She nodded. “When I confronted him, he claimed that he’d fallen in love with me, and that in pressuring me to sell he was doing the best for everyone involved. But it didn’t matter. He’d lied. Or kept the truth from me…however you want to define it. Not only that, I realized then I’d never be sure if he loved me forme. So much of what went into that business is who I am. Can you imagine what that’s like?”

“I might have a clue.” He dropped a soft kiss on her temple. “Try living a life where everyone you meet knows your life history before you’ve even been introduced. They know your parents, your grandparents. They’ve heard all the good and bad. What they don’t know, they can find online in minutes. They know if they marry you, that they gain a title, access, and wealth.”

She leaned back and studied his face. It hadn’t occurred to her that being a royal might be a detriment to one’s love life, especially for a man as wonderful, as protective, and as dynamic as Massimo, who had so much to offer without regard to his family tree or financial resources.

“You know,” he continued, “when I met you on the beach that afternoon, I was stunned that you had no idea who I was. You flirted, you were charming, and you didn’t care about my title in the least because you didn’t know I have one. That meeting was the first time anyone has acted that way with me without an ulterior motive.”

“Oh, I don’t know about that.” 

His brows knit. 

“I wanted you for this.” She placed a hand on his chest, then slid it lower, until it rested flat just above his slacks. The feel of the hard planes of his stomach under her palm nearly did her in, but she kept still, wanting to draw out the moment.

“My beer gut?”

“Ha. Your abs. They are truly glorious. If you recall, you were wearing a rather thin T-shirt when you approached me. It was hard to see the details of your face in the sunlight, but boy, did I notice how your shirt clung to your abs. And I was smitten.”

“You wanted me—”

“For your body. I’ll admit it.” Massimo stilled as Harry Belafonte drew out his last line. “When we met, it took me only a few seconds to develop an ulterior motive where you were concerned. I decided right then and there that I wanted an adventure with a gorgeous man. Then we had that wonderful night at Giulia’s. I realized how much I enjoyed being with you and I decided that if I got laid on my honeymoon, hey, good for me. Given all I’d been through to get myself to that beach, I decided I’d earned a night of phenomenal one-night-stand sex. Which is exactly what you accused me of when you hired me to revamp your closet and explained that our relationship wouldn’t get in the way…because there was no relationship.”

“Did you really believe that?”

“Until you, I’d never had first-date sex and would’ve put money on the fact I never would. Like I told you then, I’m not the one-night stand type.”

“I never want you to have a one-night stand again. With anyone.” 

The first notes of The Honeydrippers’Sea of Lovebrought a seductive smile to Massimo’s face she wanted to remember for the rest of her life. She couldn’t help but beam in return. “Even though I only wanted you for your abs?”

“Even though. More so because once you got past my front and saw the back, you didn’t flinch.”

Slowly, deliberately, with her gaze locked on his, she slid hands under his tuxedo jacket, then shucked it onto the closet floor. Her fingers explored the ragged edge of his largest scar through his shirt as they continued to dance. “They do give you texture.”

Amusement and desire lit his eyes. “You didnotjust say that.”

“I did.” Warmth rushed to her face. “They also give you texture as a human being. They’ve made you into who you are, for better or worse. And when you told me how you got them…well, I wanted you more that night than I did on the beach.”

“I tried to kill you that night.”

“You tried to kill an imaginary warlord, not me, and you stopped yourself. But seeing you that way made me want you all the more.” At his look of doubt, she explained, “I knew from the look of horror on your face when you attacked me and the way you helped me clean up the wet laundry afterward that you have a beautiful heart. Despite your wealth and status, you don’t consider yourself above others. You want to make yourself better. And you’re honest.”

Though he continued to sway in time to the romantic music, he spoke with a hitch in his voice. “Now I understand why you were angry that I didn’t tell you about my title right off the bat. You felt you were revisiting the mistake you made with Ted.”

“While I was sitting in jail, you bet. But I was dishonest with you, too.”

“It’s not the same, though. Neither of us was out to deceive the other. We’d both been burned…well, in my case, I really shouldn’t use the wordburned—”

“Oooh, that’s as bad as texture.”

“—and neither of us wanted a repeat. We were trying protect ourselves, not to hurt the other person.” He reached for her face, cradling her head in both his hands. “But you’ve missed the biggest difference between me and Ted. I love you. I know with every fiber of my being that I always will.” 

As tears started to spill down her cheeks, he said, “I always thought my life would go according to a certain, preordained plan. But accidents happen. Plans change. Being injured in Africa was an accident. But I think it’s led me to my passion.” He spun her back toward the bureau. “I’ve decided I want to help veterans who’ve suffered accidental injuries. I think it’s what I was meant to do, even if it wasn’t what I planned.”

Given the emotion she’d seen on his face during the Independence Day parade as the veterans marched past the review stand, it seemed the perfect fit. “I think so, too.”

“Finding you was an accident, too. I think I was meant to marry you. No…IknowI was meant to marry you.” To her shock, he dropped to one knee in front of her. “Kelly, will you marry me? Trust me with your heart for the rest of your life?”

Through choked laughter, she said, “You just proposed to me in my pajamas. In acloset. After we’ve known each other for two weeks.”

“Are those disqualifiers?”

She shook her head. “My friends and family thought I was rash, choosing to take my honeymoon alone. Turns out, I was meant to come here alone.” Leaning forward, she touched her forehead to Massimo’s and closed her eyes, much as they’d done in the moonlight the night they met. He was everything she ever could want and more. “Massimo, I was meant to find you.”

“Then be rash again. Marry me.”

“It’s not rash if it’s right. I’d love to marry you.”

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