LESSONS IN TRUST
(for Print version see Lessons Learned)
by Kate Davies
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Release date: Feb., 2008
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He’s the protector she never wanted—and the love she can’t let go.
Princess Lucia du Charbonneaux loves her life. Afforded a level of autonomy rarely enjoyed by royalty, she lives on her own and chooses staff members who give her the space she needs. But her new bodyguard refuses to play by the rules. His insistence on shadowing her 24/7 is cramping her style—and the sparks flying between them are on the verge of melting her carefully constructed Ice Princess façade. He needs to go before those sparks get too hot.
Eric Delmonico would be happy to leave. The infuriating, challenging, whip-smart princess is a royal pain. Not to mention her sinfully sexy body keeps him up at night in more ways than one. But her brother gave Eric the job, and he is determined to stay until the threat against her is neutralized.
An attempt is made on her life, and Eric spirits her away to a safe house in the country where passion ignites, leaving them both shaken. Together they must work to find the assassin before Lucia’s safety—and the connection between them—are lost forever.
© 2008 Kate Davies
Lucia’s first thought included a word that would have curled her mother’s hair.
How dare this—this man force his way into her life, taking over her orderly existence with his demands and his arrogance and his supercilious attitude?
As if he had every right to order her around.
She was a princess, dammit!
Lucia was never inclined to pull rank based on an accident of birth. Yes, there were benefits to being a member of one of Europe’s last ruling families. She’d never been one of those oh-poor-me-doomed-to-living-a-life-of-luxury types. But it was a rare occasion for her to demand her own way simply because of her title.
This was one of those times.
“I’m afraid you’re mistaken.” She crossed her arms. “There is no possible way for you to stay here.”
Her new babysitter, of course, ignored her. Striding past her down the hallway, he opened the door to the guest room that connected to her bedroom via the shared bathroom.
How in the world did he know the layout of her apartment so well already?
Unsettled, she followed him down the hall. She hated being at a disadvantage. “You can’t stay here,” she said again, just in case he hadn’t been paying attention the first time.
He glanced at her briefly before turning around and heading back to the front door. “You don’t have a choice,” he said over his shoulder.
Lucia gritted her teeth. How dare he speak to her like that!
“I’m going to get my duffel out of the trunk,” he added. “Lock the door behind me.”
And with that, he was gone.
Lock the door. Sure, she’d lock the door for him. Twisting the deadbolt with far more force than necessary, she resisted the urge to stick out her tongue at the closed door. She was an adult. She’d act like one.
Turning on her heel, Lucia stalked back to the kitchen. She opened the fridge and surveyed the contents.
It was a good thing she’d eaten at the reception, because the contents of her refrigerator were sadly lacking. A carton of eggs, a container of milk, some cheese so old she was afraid to unwrap it. She reached for the bottle of wine, then thought better of it and grabbed a bottle of water instead. She’d had a glass of champagne earlier tonight, and she had a feeling she would need her wits about her.
Mr. Delmonico certainly wasn’t going to hold anything back.
And she was not even going to think about the sensual implications of that statement.
A knock at the door pulled her from her thoughts. “I’m back, Your Highness,” a deep voice sounded from the hallway.
As if it could have been anyone else.
“I’m afraid your trip has been wasted.” Lucia raised her voice slightly as she walked over to the door. “I have no intention of letting you back in here tonight.”
A long silence followed her statement. She could almost feel him glowering at the door.
Then: “Excuse me, Your Highness?”
“Just what I said,” she replied, though her heartbeat had accelerated at the hostile tone in his voice. “You will not be staying in my home.”
“I don’t think you understand,” he growled. “It’s not your decision.”
“And I don’t think you understand,” she shot back. “I will not have a strange man in my home overnight. I will be perfectly safe here tonight. You have my word.”
He laughed, a short humorless bark that did little to reassure her. “Fine. Have it your way.”
She stood at the door, listening to his retreating footsteps. A little surprised that he’d given up so easily, Lucia walked back to the kitchen and grabbed the bottle of water she’d abandoned when he’d knocked. She drank half of it in one swallow, suddenly parched.
Maybe it was the champagne. Maybe it was spending so much time at the reception.
Maybe it was the man.
She shook her head, dispelling the notion. Mr. Delmonico was nothing. Nobody. An aberration in her orderly, self-determined life. Her brother meant well, but she was more than capable of choosing her own bodyguards.
She could even give a little. If she had to tolerate Mr. Delmonico’s presence during the day until Alex returned from his honeymoon, so be it. But she’d be damned if she would allow him to invade her private life after hours.
She stalked out of the kitchen, switching off the light as she went. A wave of exhaustion swept over her, and she covered a yawn as she walked down the hall to her room.
She took off a shoe and tossed it in the general direction of the closet, then balanced against the wall to tug off the other. That one she left on the floor as she headed for the en suite bathroom.
She reached behind herself to pull down the zip on her dress, more than ready for a long soak in a hot tub. Damn, it was just out of reach…
“Need some help?”
Lucia bit back a scream as she whirled around. Mr. Delmonico was leaning against the wall next to the window, arms crossed over his wide chest.
“What the hell are you doing here?”
“Nice language, Princess.” He quirked a brief smile. “I was waiting for you.”
“How…” She shook her head. “How did you get in here?” It made no sense. She distinctly remembered locking the door. And her apartment was on the top floor.
“That, Your Highness, is the million dollar question.” He pushed away from the wall and stalked toward her, reminding her of nothing more than a panther approaching his prey. “Let’s just say, I got in. And it was pathetically easy too.”
“Is that supposed to impress me?”
“No.” He leaned in, his breath hot against her cheek. “It’s supposed to scare the hell out of you. Because if I can get in, so can the bad guys.” He paused, letting it sink in. “Under the circumstances, I suggest you change your position on where I’ll be staying tonight.”
“I—” She swallowed. “I don’t want you here.”
“I don’t really care.” He stepped back and grabbed a black duffel bag off the floor next to the window. “Just do me a favor and try to be reasonable for once.”
“How dare you—”
He cut off her feeble protest with a glance. “I dare, Your Highness, because it’s my job. I dare because I’m the best at what I do and I won’t be second-guessed by some pampered princess who wouldn’t know how to take care of herself if her life depended on it. Which, by the way, it does. Most of all, though, I dare because I promised your brother I would keep you safe. And I’ll be damned if I let you or anybody else get in the way of me keeping my word.” He hefted the bag over his shoulder. “I’ll see you in the morning. Knock on the guest room door if you need anything.”
And with that, he was gone, leaving her staring at the empty doorway, wondering just when her life had spiraled so out of control.