Dark, devilish Paolo Caretti can buy anything he wants. He isn't ashamed of where he comes from. But Isabelle's family wanted breeding, not billions. Rejected, he now wants vengeance.... Princess Isabelle loved Paolo, and it broke her heart to let him go. Now she needs his help. It will come at a price, but she has no choice.... They'll make vows. They'll make love. They'll find that love springs from hate!
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July 31, 2008
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Excerpt from Caretti's Forced Bride by Jennie Lucas
Climbing out of his Rolls-Royce, Paolo Caretti pulled his black coat close to his body and stepped out onto the sidewalk. Sunrise was just a slash of scarlet above New York's gray skyline as his chauffeur held an umbrella to block the freezing rain.
For a moment he thought he'd imagined the soft sound, that his insomnia had finally caused him to dream in daytime. Then a small figure stepped out from behind the tall metal sculpture that decorated the front of his twenty-story office building. Rain plastered the woman's hair and clothes to her body. Her face was pale with cold. She must have been standing outside of his building for hours, waiting for him.
"Don't turn me away," she said. "Please."
Her voice was soft, throaty, low. Just like he remembered. After all these years he still remembered everything about her, no matter how much money he made or how many mistresses he'd taken to wipe her from his memory.
His jaw tightened. "You shouldn't have come."
"I...I need your help." Princess Isabelle de Luceran took a deep breath, her light brown eyes shimmering beneath the streetlights. "Please. I have nowhere else to go."
Their gazes locked. For a moment he was taken back to spring days picnicking in Central Park, to summer nights making love in his Little Italy apartment. When, for four sweet months, she'd made his world bright and new and he'd asked her to be his wife...
Now, he looked at her coldly. "Make an appointment."
He started to step around her, but she blocked him. "I've tried. I've left ten messages with your secretary. Didn't she give them to you?"
Valentina had, but he'd ignored them. Isabelle de Luceran meant nothing to him. He'd stopped wanting her long ago.
Or so he'd told himself. But now her beauty was seeping through him like a poison. Her expressive hazel eyes, her full mouth, those lush curves hidden beneath the ladylike coat--he remembered everything. The taste of her skin. The feel of her lips kissing down his belly. Her soft hands stroking between his legs...
"You're alone?" He clenched hisjaw, struggling to get himself under control. "Where are your bodyguards?"
"I left them at the hotel," she whispered. "Help me. Please. For the sake of...who we once were."
To his horror, he saw tears blending with rain to fall in rivulets down her cheek. Isabelle? Crying? Her hands trembled. Whatever she wanted, she must want it badly, he thought.
Good. Having her on her knees begging for a favor was a very pleasant image. It wouldn't make up for what she'd done, but it might be a start.
Abruptly, he moved closer, tracing a finger down her wet cheek. "You want a favor?" Her skin felt cold, as if she were indeed the ice princess the world believed her to be. "You know I'll make you pay for it."
"Yes." Her voice was so quiet he could barely hear her over the sound of rain. "I know."
"Follow me." Taking the umbrella from his chauffeur, he turned on his heel and strode up the wide concrete steps. As he entered through his building's revolving door, he nodded a greeting to the security guards in the foyer. He could hear the click-click-click of Isabelle's high-heeled boots across the marble floor behind him.
"Good morning, Salvatore," Paolo said to the first security guard.
"Good morning." The elderly man cleared his throat. "It's a cold one today, isn't it, Signor Caretti? Makes me wish I was in the old country, where it's warmer." His eyes trailed to Isabelle. "Or San Piedro, maybe."
So even Salvatore had recognized her. Paolo uneasily wondered what his executive secretary would do. Valentina Novak, though highly competent, had one weakness: celebrity tabloids. And Isabelle, the princess of a tiny Mediterranean kingdom, was one of the most famous women in the world.
As Paolo left the guard station, he heard Salvatore whistle through his teeth. He couldn't blame the man. Isabelle had been a lovely, fresh-faced girl at eighteen; she was more beautiful now. As if even time itself were in love with her.
Angrily shaking the thought away, Paolo strode to his private elevator and pressed the button for the penthouse level. As soon as the elevator's doors closed, he turned to her.
"All right. Let's have it."
Isabelle's voice was low. Desperate. "Alexander's been kidnapped."
"Your nephew?" He gave her an incredulous stare. "Kidnapped?"
"You're the only one who can save him!"
His eyebrows rose, still disbelieving. "The heir to the throne of San Piedro? Needs my help?"
"He's not just the heir now. He's the King." She shook her head, wiping her eyes. "My brother and sister-in-law died two weeks ago. You must have heard."
"Yes." He'd unwillingly heard the details from Valentina, who'd told him the couple had died in a boating accident in Majorca, leaving their nine-year-old son behind. And that wasn't the only gossip she'd shared...
Grinding his teeth, he pushed the troubling thought away. "I'm sorry."