It started with revenge. Can a royal baby be his redemption?
Eloise St George is not feeling festive. Untouched Eloise has loved Prince Vincenzo all her life. When she is swept up in his plans for revenge — she can’t resist! But one night with her fantasy prince leaves her carrying his heir!
Hellbent on punishing his cruel father, Vincenzo has vowed never to marry. Until Eloise falls pregnant and he must claim her as his bride. He may see himself as broken, but can their baby be the Christmas miracle that puts this prince back together?
THEY WERE THE most notorious, shocking, dissolute group of rakes to ever grace the hallowed halls of Oxford. And given the school’s illustrious and rather lengthy history, that was truly saying something.
Of course neither Prince Vincenzo Moretti, heir to the throne of Arista, nor his friends, Sheikh Jahangir Hassan Umar Al Hayat, Prince Zeus and Rafael Navarro, bastard child of a king of Santa Castelia, would ever say it themselves.
There was no need.
Their reputations preceded them.
With great pomp and circumstance. From the mouths of men who envied them, wishing only to find themselves ensconced in the afterglow of their power, as if it might give them even the tiniest bit of access to the women that they enjoyed, or the excess that they acquired with the snap of a finger.
And of course, from the women.
The women who declared themselves ruined for all other men, who sighed wistfully about the pleasure they had experienced at their royal hands and would never experience again.
For surely, no man alive could match the prowess of these ruthless royals.
And they could not. Vincenzo himself had no qualms about basking in the benefits of such a reputation.
Of course, his father believed that he would put on the public face required of him for all the world to see. All the while, seeking his own pleasure and lining his own pockets, as their people lived in spartan circumstances.
Vincenzo had begun to combat that with the establishment of many charities, using covert networks he had created outside of his country to bring money in that his father could not touch. Money that appeared to be foreign aid that he would keep his hands off in the name of keeping relations strong between other nations.
But that was not Vincenzo’s only plan. No. He was playing a long game. He could not move, not now. His mother’s health—mentally and physically—was fragile. Especially after the scandal three years ago that had rocked Arista. After…
He refused to dwell on her.
He would not.
The destruction of the monarchy would end his mother. And he could not bear that. He would protect his mother. No matter what.
His mother had loved the palace once—and Arista. And the one thing she enjoyed still in life was her role as Queen. He could not let her see what he would do to the royal family. The royal line.
For he would not produce an heir. Never. He refused. He would not carry on the royal line of Arista. He would allow his country to change hands. To go into the hands of the people. And he would make sure that his father knew this before his death. This legacy… It was the only thing his father cared for.
And Vincenzo would see it destroyed.
Yes, his reputation as a notorious, shocking, dissolute rake was truly one that would make even the hardest of harlots clutch their pearls. But if they knew what he really was, if they knew what he truly intended to do… They would expire from the shock.
“A toast,” he said, looking around the room that served as their clubhouse, where they conducted their meetings—all of them already earning their own money hand over fist, carving their own place in the world apart from the legacies of their dubious fathers. “To being unexpected.”
“It could be argued,” Rafael said, “that your rebellion might be seen as deeply expected.”
“It will never be expected by our fathers. Who are far too prideful to think that anyone could surprise them in the least. But I have no trouble playing a long game.”
“No indeed,” Zeus said, looking down into his glass of scotch. “But I think, my friend, that you will find I am not a patient man. I prefer the game short. Hard and brutal.”
“I’m all for brutality. But I find brutality is much more effective when meted out strategically.”
“I didn’t say I wasn’t strategic,” Zeus said, grinning broadly. “I said I wasn’t patient.” He lifted a shoulder. “Brutality now. Brutality later. Brutality all around.” He waved a laconic hand and settled more deeply into his resolute lounging position.
“I admire your thinking,” Jag said, one leg thrown out in front of him, his arm slung over the back of the couch. He elevated casual disdain to high art.
“For my part, I intend to let my father’s kingdom…” Vincenzo swirled the glass and watched the amber liquid spin, an aromatic tornado. He lifted the scotch to his lips. “I will not produce an heir. Ever.”
“How nice for me that it is not expected,” Rafael said. “As a bastard, it is my younger legitimate brother who will inherit control of the kingdom, and the concern of carrying on the line is his. Not mine.”
“My father cares so greatly for the reputation of our country,” Jag said. “My greatest delight would be to find a woman he would see as desperately unsuitable.”
“Only one woman?” Zeus asked. “I myself intend to acquire an entire stable of them. But no heir. Never that.”
“A toast to that,” Vincenzo amended. “To unsuitable women, revenge served hot or cold and to never falling in line.”
ELOISE ST. GEORGE did not feel merry or bright. The snow falling outside felt like an assault, as did the roaring fire, beautiful evergreen garland and cheery Christmas tunes. Yet she was responsible for it all—save the snow. A resolute rebellion against the depression that was threatening to swallow her whole.
She was without a Christmas tree. Since it was still back in Arista. With him.
She had hung garlands, wreaths and other hallmarks of cheer. She had baked cookies and decorated them, had made herself a beautiful dinner. But she wasn’t feeling… Any of it.
She had made Christmas a happy time for herself all these years, in defiance of her upbringing. She’d always been happy to celebrate it alone, in her historic stone house in Virginia, which could not be more picturesque.
But alone felt… Alone this year. Truly, deeply.
With all the snow piled outside, she’d managed to get Skerret, her foundling cat, to finally come inside from the cold.
The little gray creature was curled up by the red brick fireplace in a contented ball, purring.
It should be wonderful.
She put her hand down on her rounded stomach.
It would have been wonderful. If not for Vincenzo Moretti.
And the fact she was currently carrying the heir he had vowed to never create.