Authors: Carole Mortimer
“Bastard.” Alexandre scowled.
“Oh yes.” Stazzi took a sip of her whisky, allowing the alcohol to warm her before speaking again. “So what happens now, Alexandre? No doubt you’ll want to return to Androcco soon?” She hoped she’d managed to make her voice sound upbeat, even though it wasn’t in the least how she felt about never seeing Alexandre again.
He turned on the seat to look at her. “What do
want, Anastazia?” His voice was gruff.
“Me?” She gave him a startled glance. “I… Well—I already have my job back.”
“And is that all you want?” Alexandre reached out to capture a thick strand of her hair, allowing it to drape silkily over his fingers before looking up to hold her gaze with his. “The reason I didn’t return to Androcco this evening with the others is because
don’t want to leave you.”
She swallowed. “I don’t want you to leave me either.”
He drew in a sharp breath. “Is it too soon—” He broke off, shaking his head. “Of course it’s too soon for that,” he answered himself impatiently. “You must have some holiday time due to you. Will you come back to Androcco with me?”
Stazzi’s heart jerked in her chest, her eyes wide. “You want me to accompany you to Androcco for a holiday…?”
“I want you to
on Androcco,” he assured fiercely. “But I will settle for your agreeing to a holiday there to begin with. I can show you my island. Introduce you to my friends. My people. My governing council. I want them all to get to know you, to love you as—” He broke off again, lips firming. “I want you to love my island as much as I do.”
Stazzi’s heart was now threatening to beat itself out of her chest. “Why…?”
His frown was pained. “Do you believe in love at first sight, Anastazia?”
Her heart spluttered and faltered before beating faster than ever. “I believe it does happen, yes.”
“It does,” Alexandre confirmed with certainty, his fingertips light against the heat of her cheek. “I wanted you sexually the moment I saw your photograph.”
“That’s…good.” Her cheeks warmed.
He nodded. “I was amused by the email you sent to me by mistake.”
Stazzi winced. “That’s not so good.”
“But it is.” He chuckled softly. “Too much of my life has become…controlled. Repetitious and mundane. From the first, you’ve refused to be intimidated by my title or wealth, always saying and doing exactly what you feel. You’re like a breath of fresh air in a world that’s become stifling.”
“Ah. Well. There is a reason I’m not intimidated by the title or wealth.” Who her father was, the fact that she attended several state occasions every year, and was friends with several of the British royal family, didn’t allow for intimidation. “Although you are a little overwhelming.” A little? Alexandre had stepped out of the lift that first day and knocked her off her emotional feet. Her response to him had been visceral, so deep-rooted it was impossible to deny. So much so she hadn’t been able to resist him. Time after time.
Alexandre tilted his head as he studied her. “I don’t ever want any part of me, who and what I am, to be overwhelming to you. I never want that.”
“Never…?” Stazzi repeated breathlessly.
“Never,” he confirmed gruffly. “Anastazia, I… This is going to sound crazy,” he muttered.
She drew in a deep breath before coming to a decision. That decision made, she reached out and took Alexandre’s glass from his unresisting fingers and placed it on the coffee table with her own, before moving closer to him on the sofa. “Let’s both be crazy and jump off the cliff together, shall we?” She kissed him softly on the lips. “I think you should know I—I’ve fallen in love with you.”
Alexandre’s breath caught in his throat before he gathered Anastazia tightly in his arms. “I love you too. Dear God, how I love you!” he repeated shakily, face buried in the perfume of her hair.
Once Alexandre began kissing her, he didn’t want to stop. Except there was still so much for them to say to each other.
He continued to hold her tightly in his arms, never intending to let her go. “We’ve known each other such a short time, but you’ve become everything to me. Not just because you’re so beautiful. So outrageously outspoken I can’t help but laugh at some of your comments to me. You’re also totally loyal, even when that loyalty is misplaced, as it was with your ex-boyfriend.”
“Never mention him to me again.” Anastazia gave a shudder.
Alexandre had no problem with that request. “You’re also a generous and exciting lover, and the only woman I’ve ever loved. Will ever love. All I could ever, or will ever, want,” he assured her as his eyes looked unwaveringly into hers. “Will you marry me, Anastazia, if not immediately, then very soon? Rule Androcco at my side? Become my princess? Mother of our children?”
Stazzi was sure that her heart had stopped beating altogether now. The heart she knew belonged completely and utterly to Alexandre, the ruling prince of Androcco. This man who returned her love and wished to make her his princess. “How do you think your governing council and the people of Androcco would feel about your marrying me?”
“They will either accept it or not. It’s ultimately of no relevance to my love for you or my wish to marry you.” He was every inch the arrogant prince in that moment. “Your coming back to Androcco with me now will give them a chance to know you, to love you as I love you, before we’re married,” he finished the sentence he hadn’t earlier. “But ultimately, it will make no difference to the outcome. You are my choice. The only wife I want. If you’ll have me?” He looked less certain now.
Stazzi didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, though either of them would be with joy at being loved by a man as wonderful as Alexandre. “You’ll have to speak to my father first. Ask his permission.”
“I would expect no less.”
“My family has absolutely no money. You realize that?”
“I have more than enough for all of us,” he dismissed.
She nodded, having expected that to be his answer. Anyone less like the mercenary and opportunistic Will than Alexandre, she couldn’t imagine. “I have a huge family, and they would all want to attend our wedding,” she warned.
“Including all of the British royal family.”
“I don’t understand…”
Stazzi did laugh and cry with joy now. “Alexandre, my father is the Duke of Warminster. I’m
Anastazia Carmichael. I believe—although it could have changed if any more babies have been born in the past few weeks, which in our family is a distinct possibility—I’m one hundred sixty-seventh in line to the British throne.”
Alexandre stared at her unblinkingly.
Stazzi slowly sobered the longer he continued to just stare at her. “Say something,” she finally pleaded.
“I don’t— This is—
“Mmm.” She confirmed with a wince. “Although that isn’t something I’ve bothered to share too much since coming to work in London. It tends to put employers off. But my father really doesn’t have any money, just the illustrious title and our connection to the royal family. I don’t want to be the cause of any disharmony on Androcco. Do you think my father being a duke will be enough for your government and people to accept me?”
Alexandre still felt a little dazed by who Anastazia was, even more so by her comment “
” her connection to the British royal family. He intended marrying her anyway, had been determined to do so if she would have him. He wanted to spend the rest of his life loving Anastazia and being loved by her in return, laughing with her, having children together who would be surrounded by and included in that love and laughter.
But he couldn’t deny her father being a duke would make that transition a little easier with the people of Androcco, including his government ministers. He wouldn’t be in the least surprised if Anastazia’s name was on that list he’d been given of possible future brides, after all…
He heard Anastazia gasp as he moved down onto one knee in front of her, taking her hand into his as he looked up at her. “Lady Anastazia Carmichael, will you do me the honor of marrying me?”
“Yes,” she answered without hesitation, her eyes glowing a deep, clear blue as she launched herself at him.
Alexandre laughed as he caught her in his arms, and they both tumbled full-length onto the carpet, after which there was only the sound of their words of love and their soft gasps of pleasure.
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About The Author
Carole Mortimer is a USA Today Bestselling Author and recipient of the RWA Nora Roberts Lifetime Achievement Award 2015, a Pioneer for Romance Romantic Times Award in 2014. She was recognized by Queen Elizabeth II in 2012 for her ‘outstanding service to literature’. Carole has written over 200 contemporary and Regency novels.
She is happily married to Peter. They have 6 sons, and live on the beautiful Isle of Man. She also loves to hear from Readers!
Other books by Carole Mortimer
Carole has written 173 romance novels in the Presents/Modern series from Harlequin Mills and Boon.
She has also written 24 Regency romance novels in the Harlequin Mills and Boon’s Historical series.
Knight Security Series:
Resisting Alexandre (Knight Security 0.5)
Defying Asher (Knight Security 1)
Challenging Gabriel (Knight Security 2)
More books to come in this series
Shadow Alpha (Author’s 200th book)
Series now complete.
Regency Unlaced Series:
The Duke’s Mistress (Book 1)
Claimed by the Marquis (Book 2)
Taken by the Earl (Book 3)
Pursued by the Viscount (Book 4)
Desired by a Lord (Book 5)
Captured by a Gentleman (Book 6)
More books to come in this series.