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Authors: Elizabeth Bevarly

Taming the Prince

BOOK: Taming the Prince
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Sixteen Hours On A Non-stop Course Across A Continent And An Ocean, When Each Of Them Found The Other…Interesting.

Sixteen hours, Sara marveled, unable to look away from Mr. Cordello’s gaze. Sara was going to be trapped in extremely close confines with this
extremely interesting
man for sixteen hours.

 

Of course, they wouldn’t be alone during that time, she reminded herself. There would be two pilots and two flight attendants aboard, as well. And the crew’s presence would go a long way toward keeping her in line and preventing her from doing anything rash. Something like, oh, say…leaping across the aisle and straddling Mr. Cordello’s waist and covering his mouth with her own and kissing him and kissing him and…

 

Where was she? Oh, yes. Sixteen hours. Right. It was a rather long time to be saddling—or rather, saddled
with,
she hastily corrected herself—the man.

 

Sixteen hours. They were in for an
interesting
trip!

Taming the Prince
ELIZABETH BEVARLY

Books by Elizabeth Bevarly

Silhouette Desire

An Unsuitable Man for the Job
#724

Jake’s Christmas
#753

A Lawless Man
#856

*
A Dad Like Daniel
#908

*
The Perfect Father
#920

*
Dr. Daddy
#933


Father of the Brat
#993


Father of the Brood
#1005


Father on the Brink
#1016


Roxy and the Rich Man
#1053


Lucy and the Loner
#1063


Georgia Meets Her Groom
#1083

**
Bride of the Bad Boy
#1124

**
Beauty and the Brain
#1130

**
The Virgin and the Vagabond
#1136

The Sheriff and the Impostor Bride
#1184

Society Bride
#1196

That Boss of Mine
#1231

*
A Doctor in Her Stocking
#1252

*
Dr. Mommy
#1269

*
Dr. Irresistible
#1291

First Comes Love
#1323

Monahan’s Gamble
#1337

The Temptation of Rory Monahan
#1363

When Jayne Met Erik
#1389

The Secret Life of Connor Monahan
#1406

Taming the Prince
#1474

Silhouette Special Edition

Destinations South
#557

Close Range
#590

Donovan’s Chance
#639

Moriah’s Mutiny
#676

Up Close
#737

Hired Hand
#803

Return Engagement
#844

ELIZABETH BEVARLY

was born and raised in Louisville, Kentucky, and earned her B.A. with honors in English from the University of Louisville in 1983. Although she never wanted to be anything but a novelist, her career side trips before making the leap to writing included stints working in movie theaters, restaurants, boutiques and a major department store. She also spent time as an editorial assistant for a medical journal, where she learned the correct spelling and meanings of a variety of words (such as
microscopy
and
histological
) that she will never, ever use again. When she’s not writing, Elizabeth enjoys old movies, old houses, good books, whimsical antiques, hot jazz and even hotter salsa (the music, not the sauce). She has claimed as residences Washington, D.C., northern Virginia, southern New Jersey and Puerto Rico, but she now resides with her husband and young son back home in Kentucky, where she fully intends to remain.

For David. You
are
my prince.

One

I
t didn’t take a lot to make Shane Cordello happy. Just a flawless blue sky overhead, a balmy Southern California breeze ruffling his hair, the spicy aroma of kielbasa and onions on the grill, and the rhythmic, incessant
bam-bam-bam-bam
of a diligent jackhammer as it pulverized the pavement nearby.

Yeah, life didn’t get any better than that.

Which meant that today was an ideal day for Shane. After punching the time clock at the construction site where he worked as foreman, he headed to the lunch wagon parked just beyond the gate for one of those savory kielbasas. He skimmed off his battered hard hat as he went, running his fingers briskly through his sweat-dampened, shaggy brown hair.

The front of his denim work shirt was damp, too, he noted as he loosened the obligatory necktie that his position as foreman dictated he wear—though not on his off-hours, and lunch hour was one of those, by God—as were the
knees of his faded blue jeans, though that last was due not to perspiration, but to the fact that he’d had to kneel down in the mud to look for the gold Waterman pen his mother had given him for his twenty-third birthday earlier in the year. When he’d finally found it, he’d taken it back to the foreman’s trailer and tucked it into his desk where he intended to leave it. He wasn’t the kind of man who should be responsible for things like solid gold pens. He was much better suited to clicking a plastic—disposable—Bic.

Yeah, disposable was the way to keep it, Shane thought. It didn’t pay to get too attached to material things in life, because they’d only get taken away from you, sooner or later, one way or another. He’d learned that, if not much else, during his sojourn on the planet.

He squinted his blue eyes against the sun beating down on him as he made his way toward the lunch wagon. November didn’t bring a cold autumn to L.A. the way it did to other parts of the country, but the air was definitely a bit cooler today and felt a bit less sunbaked than it had during the summer months. It was the ocean more than the air that signified the change of seasons in Southern California. These days, Shane was wearing his wet suit all the time when he surfed, because the temperature of the water had plummeted since summer—and even then, it had been none too warm. Other than having to don his wet suit on the weekends now, though, he hadn’t seen any big changes come into his life recently. Nor was he anticipating any to come anytime soon.

And that, of course, was just the way he liked it.

Amy Collins, who ran the lunch wagon that had visited the construction site daily since work had begun a week earlier, smiled when she saw Shane coming, anticipating his desire—his lunch desire, anyway—by forking up a kielbasa loaded with onions before he even asked for one. As for his other desires…

Well, it was no secret to anyone on the Wellman Towers site that Amy had been trying since day one to capture
Shane’s interest. And, truth be told, he wasn’t completely immune to her charms. She was darkly pretty, round in all the right places, boisterously outspoken, even downright sassy at times, which was just the way he normally liked his women. But there was something about Amy, too, that told Shane she played for keeps when it came to men. And
keeps
was a place he never wanted to find himself, especially with a woman. Mainly because he knew too well that
keeps
didn’t exist—not in his little corner of the world, anyway. So he steered clear of Amy, knowing she’d meet a forever-after kind of guy someday.

Just, you know, not today.

“Hey, Amy,” he greeted her as he stopped in front of the window and dug into a denim pocket for a few wadded-up dollar bills.

“Hel-lo, Shane,” she replied in a soft, singsongy kind of purr.

He smiled in response, not necessarily because he liked her purr all that much—in fact, he found it kind of off-putting, truth be told—but because he always responded to women with a smile. Shane liked women. All women. A lot. And women seemed to like him, too. All women. A lot. So it was only natural that he greeted one with a smile whenever he met one. Even if she did purr.

“How’s it going?” he asked. The question was, at best, mechanical, at worst, hypothetical. Shane didn’t really expect or require an answer.

But Amy replied anyway. “I could be better, actually,” she said, smiling back. Her cheek dimpled with the action, a gesture he was somehow certain she’d spent years perfecting. “It’s been kind of lonely this week. But there’s a new Schwarzenegger movie opening up this weekend,” she added, having heard Shane remark that he was a big fan of both the actor and action films. “Want to go with me on Friday?”

“I can’t this Friday, Amy. Thanks, anyway.”

“Saturday, then?” she asked audaciously without missing a beat.

He shook his head. “I can’t this weekend at all. Stuff going on.”

She expelled a breath that bordered on impatient, and her smile fell some. “Stuff going on,” she echoed dubiously. “Right. You know, Shane, you could give a girl a complex, if you’re not careful.”

“Oh, I don’t want to do that,” he said honestly. “I really am going to be busy this weekend, Amy. That’s all.” There was no reason to tell her, he decided, that he was going to be busy doing nothing. That probably came under the heading of Too Much Knowledge.

“Yeah, right,” she said, punctuating the comment with a
hmpf
for good measure. “I bet the queen of England herself has called you up to invite you to tea.”

Shane grinned again and was about to offer some flip response when he was halted by the sound of his name sailing through the crisp afternoon air.

“Yo, Cordello!”

The voice bellowing the summons came loud and strong from the foreman’s trailer, and when Shane turned in that direction, he saw Daniel Mendoza, the contractor for Wellman Towers—oh, yeah, and his boss, too—standing at the open door of the trailer. He was holding his hand beside his head, forefinger and pinky extended, in the internationally recognized hand gesture for “You’ve got a phone call, dude.” Seeing it, though, immediately roused Shane’s apprehension.

Who would be calling him at work? he wondered anxiously. Most of his friends were co-workers on this very site, and those who weren’t knew better than to disturb him during the workday. His mother was currently honeymooning with husband number five in Tahiti—not that Shane thought the marriage would last much beyond the honeymoon, because they rarely did for her—so she was sure to have other things on her mind at the moment.

And his brother, Marcus, lived in Chicago and had way too much going on in his workaholic life to call Shane more than once or twice a month, and Shane had just spoken to him about a week ago. Not that Shane held it against his fraternal twin to be relatively incommunicado. Hell, his own life was plenty full these days, with work, if nothing else. He and Marcus had a solid, close relationship, one that transcended a need for constant communication. And that was no easy feat considering the fact that the two of them had been separated by divorce at nine years of age, when Shane went to live with their mother and Marcus went to live with their father. But the two boys had spent a month together every summer while they were growing up, and even in that limited amount of time, they’d managed to forge the kind of bond that few brothers—hell, few twins, for that matter—forged when they were raised in the same household.

Shane’s father was someone he rarely saw or heard from these days, so long ago had the two of them lost touch, and he doubted the elder Cordello would be calling him for any reason, at work
or
at home. So since Shane’s friends were all here on the site, and his relations were all hundreds of miles away with other things on their minds, then there was no reason for anyone to be calling him at work. Not unless…

Not unless it was an emergency.

Leaving the kielbasa sitting on the lunch wagon window where Amy had placed it, Shane sprinted toward the foreman’s trailer with a sick feeling in the pit of his stomach. That sickness grew more resolute with each stride he completed, until it had coalesced into a cold, greasy lump when he saw the grim expression on his employer’s face. Oh, no…

“What is it, Mr. Mendoza?” he asked breathlessly as he took the trailer’s metal stairs two at a time.

His boss’s expression turned malevolent. “I’ve told all
of you that personal phone calls to or from this site are prohibited.”

Shane relaxed at the censure. If Mr. Mendoza was this ticked off, the call couldn’t be much of an emergency. “I’m sorry,” Shane apologized, even though he’d had little control over who might have picked up a telephone and dialed this particular number. “Who is it?”

“A
woman,
” his boss said with distaste, making clear his opinion of that half of the world’s population.

Shane’s earlier concern changed immediately to confusion. “A woman?” he repeated. “I’ve never given this number to any women.” In fact, he hadn’t given it to anyone but Marcus. With strict instructions that his brother only dial it in case of emergency, Shane couldn’t help recalling, his anxiety rising to the fore once again. “What woman? What does she want?” he asked.

“How the hell should I know what woman?” Mr. Mendoza snapped. “She says it’s
personal,
” he added, his voice dripping with even more repugnance than before on that final word. Obviously the man disliked personal matters even more than he disliked women. “And she sounds like a woman who’s old enough to be your mother. Frankly, Cordello, I do
not
want to go there. It’s just too—” He punctuated the statement by giving his entire body a shudder of disgust.

Ignoring the other man, Shane’s confusion turning again to concern, he snatched up the phone. “Mother?” he said without preamble. “What is it? What’s wrong?”

There was a slight pause from the other end of the line, then a woman’s voice—indeed old enough to belong to his mother, but not his mother’s voice—replied, “Mr. Cordello?”

Even with only two words to go by, Shane detected an accent, vaguely British, in the woman’s voice, a clue that helped him not at all in discerning her identity. He didn’t know anyone from Great Britain. He only recognized the
accent because he was a faithful viewer of
Benny Hill
reruns on cable.

“Yes, this is Shane Cordello,” he said, his fear rising to the fore again as his confusion compounded. “Who is this? What’s happened?”

There was another pause, then the woman said, “Please hold, Mr. Cordello, for Her Majesty Queen Marissa of Penwyck.”

“For who?” he said, certain he must have misunderstood.

“For Her Majesty Queen Marissa of Penwyck,” the woman repeated. “Please hold.”

Shane balked at the cool command in both the woman’s instructions and her voice, and he almost hung up the phone on principle alone. Who did this woman think she was, calling
him
—at work, no less—then telling him to hold? And for the queen of Penwyck? What the hell was that all about? Why hadn’t they asked him if he had Prince Albert in a can, too? he wondered, so certain was he that this must be a practical joke.

The only thing that kept him from slamming the receiver back into its cradle was that his curiosity was a more potent force than his pride. Not that he believed for a moment that the queen of Penwyck was about to pick up the phone at the other end of the line, mind you, but clearly this wasn’t any run-of-the-mill crank call. No, this was a pretty sophisticated crank call, and Shane wanted to get to the bottom of it. Mainly so he could put an end to it. No sense having the woman call back and rile Mr. Mendoza any further than his employer was already riled. Because the words
employer
and
riled
were two words Shane never wanted to see appearing close together in the same sentence.

After a moment of staccato static and erratic popping—giving him the impression of a genuine long-distance phone call, by golly—a quick click signified that someone had picked up another line. Then a different woman’s voice,
still old enough to belong to his mother, still not his mother’s voice, came over the line.

“Mr. Cordello?” the second woman said. She, too, had an accent, also vaguely British, and a bit more cultivated than the first woman’s, if such a thing were possible.

“Yeah, I’m Shane Cordello,” he replied with less courtesy than before. “Who the hell are you? And don’t bother telling me you’re the friggin’ queen of Penwyck, lady, ’cause I ain’t buyin’ it.”

There was a stretch of silence from the other end of the line, followed by a single, hasty chuckle. “I have no intention of telling you such a thing, Mr. Cordello.”

“Good.”

“Because I am not the, ah, friggin’…queen of Penwyck.”

“I knew it.”

“I am, in fact, the
royal
queen of Penwyck.”

Shane rolled his eyes. “Oh, come on, lady, what do you take me for? I wasn’t born yesterday, you know.”

There was another brief silence, then, “No, I realize that. You were born twenty-three years ago. On April fourteenth. Am I correct?”

Slowly Shane pulled the receiver from his ear and gazed at it with narrowed eyes, as if in doing so, he might force the phone to offer up more information than it was giving him about the woman at the other end of the line. Then, when he realized how ridiculous he must look to his employer, he put the receiver back where it was. “Yeah,” he told the woman. “That’s my birthday. A matter of public record, too,” he added meaningfully. “It still doesn’t tell me who you are or what you want.”

Instead of a lengthy silence this time, the response from the other end of the line was a weary sigh. “Oh, dear,” the woman said, not quite under her breath. “This is going to be a bit more difficult than I thought.” Then, “I understand why you might be skeptical, Mr. Cordello,” she added. “But I assure you that I am indeed Her Majesty
Queen Marissa of Penwyck. And it is very important that I speak with you about a very urgent mat—”

“Right,” he interrupted again. “If you’re the queen of Penwyck, then I’m the prince of darkness. Tell me another one.”

BOOK: Taming the Prince
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