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Romancing the Prince: Poor Little Billionaires, #2

Romancing the Prince: Poor Little Billionaires, #2

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Romancing the Prince: Poor Little Billionaires, #2

Length:
347 pages
5 hours
Released:
Sep 9, 2018
ISBN:
9781386057550
Format:
Book

Description

When a European prince falls for the son of a U.S. senator, will their secret romance cause an international scandal? 

College sophomore Lucas grew up as the privileged son of a powerful senator. That all changed when Lucas's indiscretion freshman year destroyed his father's chance at reelection. Now his father is being sent into political exile as ambassador to a small Mediterranean island. Worse, his parents pull Lucas out of school, saying that living abroad will be a good experience. But he's sure their real goal is to somehow "ungay" him. With embassy guards watching his every move, he's practically in prison. 

As the younger son of the King of Kalyphos, Prince Nicolo has been called The Spare since birth—and feels every bit as useless as the name suggests. With his responsible older brother being groomed for leadership, twenty-five-year-old Nico struggles to find meaningful work to counter his reputation as Europe's most wicked playboy prince. His rumored penchant for curvy fashion models hides a truth he doesn't dare reveal. 

When Nico meets Lucas, the attraction between them is immediate and palpable. Nico offers to show Lucas the island's sights, and they can't resist the passion that soon burns between them. They both know discovery could lead to scandal and threaten the very existence of the monarchy of Kalyphos. Can they keep their affair secret? Or will their growing love destroy both their families? 

This sweet and steamy M/M romance is for a mature audience. It has a happy ending and no cliffhanger.

Released:
Sep 9, 2018
ISBN:
9781386057550
Format:
Book

About the author

Andrea Dalling lives in the sexy Southeast U.S., where the summers are hot and the romance hotter. She loves to torture her characters but eventually rewards them with a happily-ever-after.  Married to her college sweetheart, she's an ally and an advocate for LGBT rights. When she's not writing, she enjoys gardening at her Raleigh home and scuba diving in the clear blue waters of the Caribbean.  You can follow her on Facebook (andrea.dalling.romance) or on Twitter (@Andrea_Dalling). For news about upcoming releases, sign up at http://eepurl.com/00WxP or visit her website at http://andreadalling.com. Want free books? Sign up for her ARC Club to receive advance reader copies. http://eepurl.com/2c4DH


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Romancing the Prince - Andrea Dalling

families?

Chapter 1

Lucas Burson dribbled the basketball, looking for an opening. It was Christmas in Austin, Texas, and the temperature in his parents’ driveway was a comfortable sixty degrees that afternoon. The sky was clear, the sun bright, and it should have been a perfect day.

And it would have been except for the orangutan blocking the basket.

His name was Fred, and he was dating Lucas’s sister. His wide shoulders, squat body, and red hair combined with the lumbering rhythm of his swaying body to create the impression of a great ape. The words coming out of his mouth reinforced the sense that he was inhuman.

C’mon fag, Fred said for probably the seventeenth time in the fifteen minutes they’d been playing. He got in Lucas’s face as close as he could without touching him, to avoid garnering a foul.

That was the extent of Fred’s strategy—spewing slurs and putting that big, square body in between Lucas and the hoop—because he couldn’t beat Lucas with skill. In his freshman year, Lucas was second-string on his college basketball team. He was over six feet and had a good five inches on Fred.

Lucas dribbled around him, but there was Fred again, mirroring him move for move. Come on, you can do better than that, Fred said. You afraid of me, faggot?

The word reached in and grabbed Lucas by the gut. Fred didn’t know Lucas was gay—he talked that way to everyone. But the word stung, the weight of Fred’s disdain heavy on Lucas’s shoulders, even if Fred was an asshole whose opinion wasn’t worth shit.

Aaron wouldn’t let himself be rattled. The handsome face of Lucas’s boyfriend appeared in his mind, wearing that typical soft, cocky smile. He was too laidback, too chill, to let a guy like Fred get to him.

Aaron was the best-looking guy on campus as far as Lucas was concerned. It had only been a week into Lucas’s freshman year when Aaron started pursuing him. Lucas didn’t know what had attracted the smooth junior to a history geek like Lucas, when he could have had any gay man in Austin.

Lucas had never had a real boyfriend before. He’d been pretty inexperienced when it came to sex. But Aaron had been so gentle, so careful with him. The memory of it still brought chills to Lucas’s body.

And Aaron had even understood when Lucas said he couldn’t come out because of his family. Aaron just took it in stride. He never complained about hiding their relationship.

If Aaron could be cool about that, then Lucas shouldn’t let himself get flustered by an idiot like Fred.

Eyes on the net, Lucas faked right, moved left, and got the basket. He bounced the ball to Fred, who took a shot, but Lucas immediately deflected it. The ball took a quick bounce on the concrete driveway before Lucas got it back. And once again, the orangutan was in his face, hooting insults.

A slow burn built in Lucas’s chest. He couldn’t muster Aaron’s chill. Holding onto the ball, he gave Fred a weary look.

This wasn’t fun. This wasn’t how he wanted to spend Christmas Day. He passed the ball to Fred, then turned and headed back inside through the garage. Fred yelled something but Lucas ignored it.

What did his sister see in that guy? Rachel had been dating Fred for two years, since her sophomore year in college. She’d been hinting to him about engagement rings. The thought made Lucas sick.

It was no secret that Lucas’s family was conservative. It was Texas, his dad was a U.S. senator, and those things just went together. But Austin was one of the more liberal parts of the state, and whatever anyone’s politics were, his dad didn’t tolerate slurs of any kind in his house.

But Lucas and Fred were technically outside the house, and his dad was out of earshot, so apparently Fred felt like he could be as much of an asshole as he wanted.

Lucas hoped he wouldn’t have to spend every Christmas for the rest of his life with the guy. Lucas loved his sister, but Fred was toxic. Especially to someone like Lucas, who was young, gay, and deep inside the closet.

Not like he had a choice. If Lucas’s orientation became public, it could destroy his father’s career. Lucas didn’t agree with his father’s stand on all the issues, but Bernard Burson was a moderate with a talent for forging compromises on those rare occasions when the two parties bothered to listen to each other.

Lucas headed into the kitchen, cut himself a slice of pumpkin pie, and went into the living room. His brother Dan and sister-in-law Madison were sitting on the couch holding their two-month-old twins. Usually, the Christmas Day ritual was for him and Dan to play a game of one-on-one after dinner. But that was over—or at least on hold—now that Dan was the father of two infants.

There were so many things Lucas wanted to tell Dan. His brother was the one person he could confide in. But with so many people around, he couldn’t risk it. So he sat down to eat his pie with glass of milk.

How was the game? Dan asked, looking up from feeding Abigail. He looked a lot like Lucas, tall and athletic, but with their father’s dark hair. Lucas was blond like their mom.

Fred is an asshole, was Lucas’s answer.

Language! Madison complained, scowling beneath her bangs. Her hair was long and straight, and the girls looked like they had inherited her fair coloring.

Lucas stared at her. You’re kidding, right?

It’s never too soon to start being careful. Better to get out of the habit of swearing, before the babies are old enough to understand you.

Lucas didn’t argue. He liked Maddie, and supposed she was right. But how ironic was it? He was finally an adult, and no longer had to worry about his mom yelling if he swore. Now, instead, Maddie was yelling at him.

Good pie, he said, after washing down a bite with a swig of milk.

Thank you, Maddie replied.

You deserve some kind of medal, Lucas said, making pumpkin pie from scratch when you’ve got twins who aren’t sleeping through the night.

The crust is store-bought, she said with a hint of embarrassment.

Lucas smiled. It’s still amazing.

He rose, taking his plate and glass into the kitchen and setting it in the sink. Spending time with his nieces was incredible, but in some ways, he’d never felt so isolated before. Dan had always been there for him, for as long as Lucas could remember, but now Dan had different priorities.

Lucas knew his brother would make time for him if he asked. But coming out...well, it was a lot, and Dan had other things on his mind. He was stressed from his new job and sleep-deprived because of the babies. Now wasn’t the time.

It had been easy for Lucas to pretend he wasn’t really gay as long as he wasn’t having actual sex. Jacking off to his poster of LeBron James didn’t count, right? But now, Lucas had been seeing Aaron for a couple of months, and whatever doubts he’d had were gone.

He’d known for a long time he was attracted to men. That wasn’t the issue. Embracing his identity as a gay man had been a struggle. It would be a difficult path because of his dad, and he didn’t want to deal with it.

But Aaron had changed that. Lucas wasn’t ready to say he was in love with the guy, but he’d never liked anyone so much. Being with him, touching him, made him feel a completeness he hadn’t known before.

He headed upstairs. Talking to Dan about that would be weird, wouldn’t it? Lucas would sound like a lovesick kid. Maybe it was best to keep it to himself, for now. There was no reason to come out to his family until he was in a serious relationship. Keeping secrets made him feel kind of shitty, but this was a secret that could hurt the people he loved. It was better if they didn’t know.

On the way to his room, he passed his father’s study. The door was closed, but his mother’s voice was clear as she said, "Oh, Ben, no. That can’t be."

Her distressed tone stopped Lucas cold. When his father answered, his voice was weird—stretched and hollow like Lucas had never heard it before. I played enough of the video to be sure, honey. It was Lucas.

Fucking hell. What did that mean? Someone had made a video of him?

He racked his brain. Lucas made a habit of living a clean life to avoid hurting his father’s career. What could he have done that had upset his parents so much?

Did you have any idea? his father asked in a strangled voice. That he was gay?

Shit! That wasn’t possible. Someone had made a video of him with Aaron? But they’d been so careful—no PDAs, not ever. Nothing to suggest that Senator Burson’s son was gay.

His mom said, Nothing definite. I guess part of me suspected...

This is my fault, his father said. I promised myself that the time in Washington wouldn’t keep me from knowing my kids. And somehow I missed something this important. If I’d known he was gay, I could have prepared him.

What are you going to do?

"What can I do? A pause, and then his father said, We have to tell Lucas."

No! his mother cried. Don’t you remember what happened to that boy in New Jersey, after his roommate recorded him with another man and put it on the Internet?

Lucas’s stomach fell. This couldn’t be happening. A webcam set up in Aaron’s room...it would show everything. And now his parents had a video of it?

Lucas’s head swam. He thought he would be sick.

Nothing like that will happen to Lucas, his father said. We’ll be there to support him. And I’ll make sure this doesn’t go public.

Lucas couldn’t hold back any longer. He pushed open the door. What’s going on?

His mother let out a muffled cry. Her neatly coifed hairdo had fallen to pieces, limp strands dangling loose. Trails of mascara stained her face.

His father looked sad and gray, wearier than Lucas had ever seen him. There had been countless long nights campaigning during the course of his dad’s career, but the defeated expression in his eyes made him look old, like he’d lost his fire.

Like he was broken.

Horror washed through Lucas. He’d done this. He’d destroyed his father’s chance at reelection, even though he’d been so careful not to.

If he’d avoided getting involved with anyone for ten more months, then rumors about his orientation wouldn’t have mattered. His father would have been reelected to another six-year term. By the time the next election rolled around, Lucas’s orientation would have been a footnote.

But no. Lucas had been selfish. He should have known that getting involved with a guy was too risky. Stupid! How could he have been so stupid?

Did I fuck things up? Lucas asked in a shaky voice.

His dad squeezed Lucas’s shoulder. It’s not your fault, son. Someone decided to blackmail me, and they used you to do it. I’m sorry. I never dreamed that my being a public figure could affect your life this way.

Because I’m gay? Lucas could barely speak the words, his throat was so tight.

His mother embraced him. It’s all right, sweetheart. We don’t care about that. We love you exactly the way you are.

This Aaron boy, his father asked. What do you know about him?

Lucas stared, unsure why that had anything to do with it. He answered mechanically. Aaron’s a junior, a political science major.

His father paced the spacious room. Does he have any media connections?

That was a strange question. Why would Aaron have media connections? I don’t think so. His dad is a scientist. His mom...she works for a think tank or something. Climate change, maybe?

Lucas’s mother groaned. In a tone devoid of emotion, she said, Oil money.

Every Texas politician takes oil money! his dad cried. We’re not all climate change deniers.

Lucas couldn’t make sense of what they were saying. His eyes darted between them. Wait, he said. "You think Aaron did this? He wouldn’t. It must have been his roommate."

That’s possible. His father didn’t sound convinced. It’s not like the perpetrator signed his name. The email is some nonsense address. The FBI could track it, though.

You can’t involve the FBI, Lucas’s mother insisted. You can’t risk this recording getting out.

His father looked at her, then turned to Lucas. I’ll do everything I can to protect you. I’ve had a good run—almost twenty-four years in the senate. If I retire now, I can spend more time with my granddaughters. That’s not such a bad tradeoff. He shook his head. I wasn’t here for my kids while they were growing up—

You were! Lucas insisted. You always made time for us.

I had no idea you were gay. What kind of father doesn’t know that about his son?

Lots of fathers. I hid it from you intentionally. If someone asked about it, I didn’t want you to have to lie.

His father shook his head. I could have helped you. I could have prepared you for the possibility of someone using you to hurt me. I failed. I should have done better.

Don’t say that, Lucas said softly. You’re a good dad. This is all my fault.

No. His mother hugged him. It’s the fault of the person who sent that video. Don’t blame yourself. She pulled back and set her hands on his shoulders. A public life comes with risk. Your dad took that risk because he wanted to make a difference. We never imagined that anyone...

She started to cry.

That anyone would target our children like this, his father finished, tapping his fist against the desk. It’s despicable.

I don’t want you to retire because of me, Lucas said in a shaky voice. Let them release the video.

No, his mother said in a firm voice.

I’m your dad. His father’s tone was resolute. It’s my job to protect you. I’ll do whatever it takes. He paced again, looking surprisingly cool. After thirty years in the public eye, he’d taken plenty of hits, and knew how to roll with them. There are other opportunities for me, outside the senate.

Despair washed over Lucas. I should have been more careful. I tried—we never did anything in public. His voice cracked. I didn’t mean to ruin your career.

Don’t let yourself get worked up about it, his father said. There are no guarantees in politics. We’ll figure this out.

Lucas looked at his father helplessly, sick with guilt. But there was nothing more to say. The damage was done. He had destroyed everything.

He’d been so careful to protect his father, and this had happened anyway. Rage welled inside him. He would kill Aaron’s roommate. Rip his arms right out of their sockets.

His mother hugged him, but he was so dazed he hardly noticed. He shuffled off to his room and texted Aaron, aching for contact. When Aaron didn’t reply right away, Lucas didn’t worry about it. It was Christmas.

But hours passed. And then days.

New Year’s Eve rolled around, and Lucas still hadn’t heard anything despite numerous calls and texts. He couldn’t escape the truth any longer.

Aaron had made the video.

Aaron had used Lucas to blackmail his father.

Every word he’d said had been a lie.

Lucas had given his heart and body to the guy, and all the time, he’d been planning this. Lucas had made a complete fool of himself and destroyed his father’s senate career while he was at it. How could he have been so stupid?

And how could he ever trust himself enough to give his heart again?

Chapter 2

One Year Later

Prince Nicolo of Kalyphos put his arm around the waist of this month’s supermodel, Kendra Mc-something-or-other, to keep her from falling on her ass. How had she gotten so drunk? He hadn’t exactly been keeping count, but he couldn’t remember her downing more than two or three of those fruity drinks she liked. He’d stepped out to make a phone call, though. Maybe she’d ordered another one then. And the bartender did make them strong.

Maybe the guy thought he was doing Nico a favor, helping to lower his date’s inhibitions. If only he knew.

Nico took Kendra’s hand to help guide her keycard through the slot. Time to replace these outmoded card readers with new ones, where you only had to wave the card.

His father, King Felipe, let him have free reign when it came to his own wing in the palace. The king might not approve of his son’s lifestyle, but he knew better than to think that lecturing him would make a difference.

Of course, his father didn’t actually know anything about Nico’s lifestyle.

Like the fact that Nico had never slept with any of the supermodels he brought to the island every month to pose for the cover of Nico’s magazine, Kalyphos Uncovered. If Nico wanted sex, he had to travel incognito to Monte Carlo or Santorini because everyone in Kalyphos knew who he was.

Nico couldn’t risk anyone finding out he was gay.

His family had ruled the island nation of Kalyphos for eight hundred years, had survived two world wars when other European monarchies had fallen, but who knew whether they could stay in power if people found out that the spare to the throne had no interest in women?

His primary concern at that moment, though, was the barely upright woman at his side. He managed to get the door to her room open and led her to the couch. He set her down and got her a glass of filtered water. Drink this, he said, sitting next to her. You’ll thank me in the morning.

She took a large gulp, then gazed at him with unfocused eyes. Anyone ever tell you you’re cute?

Cute? Seriously? He thought of himself more as ruggedly handsome. He’d lost his baby face somewhere around age five.

People flatter me all the time. One of the hazards of being a prince.

Oh, poor baby, life must be so difficult for you, she said in a teasing tone, then giggled.

She twirled her hair, which signaled that it was time to extract himself from the situation. Too late—before he could move, she leaned in and kissed him.

He grabbed her shoulders—gently—and moved her away. Sorry, sweetheart, that’s not the arrangement. Remember the contract you signed? It said our relationship would remain purely professional.

Contract?

The modeling contract? You pose for the magazine, you get a month’s vacation here as my guest, you make public appearances with me...

"I do remember that. But, I mean, if we both wanted this to be more than professional—"

Kendra, you’re a beautiful woman. I realize how fortunate I am to be alone with you like this. If the circumstances were different, I’d be a fool not to consider your offer. But I can’t.

You’re seriously turning me down? A shocked annoyance rippled through her tone.

You’re drunk. I don’t sleep with anyone who’s impaired. That much, at least, was true.

I’m not impaired.

You can barely stand. I’m going to send in a maid to help you dress for bed. Good night, Kendra.

He made his exit, ignoring her protests. He walked to his own suite of rooms, where his butler, Stavros, was waiting, reading a book.

Stavros stood. Good evening, Your Royal Highness. Anything I can do for you?

Kendra is drunk and needs someone to help her into bed. Also, I’d like Dimitri to sit her down first thing in the morning and remind her of the terms of her contract. Especially the non-disclosure clause. She seems confused about why she’s here.

Yes, sir.

Nico went into the spacious bedroom and tossed his clothes onto the floor as he headed into the washroom. In his boxer briefs, he brushed his teeth, thinking about what a fucking mess his life was. He missed the Coast Guard. He’d felt like he was doing some good then.

But after a dangerous rescue during a storm, his father had made him resign. Nico was too valuable to the country. Nico couldn’t argue with that, but he’d felt useless ever since.

He’d started the magazine to increase tourism and boost the country’s economy. So far, it seemed to be helping. He’d thought it was a stroke of genius, bringing models to the island and getting photographed with them, to create the impression he was a typical twenty-five-year-old prince sowing his wild oats. But after a year, the lie was starting to get to him.

His brother and sister were both married now, and Nico envied that. Maybe he wasn’t ready to settle down yet, but he wanted someone in his life. He’d never had a boyfriend—never even dated anyone. He couldn’t.

Anonymous fucks in a five-star hotel were all he’d ever had, and all he could imagine in the foreseeable future. The thought weighed heavily on his chest.

He stepped back into the bedroom, where the floor was clear of his discarded clothes, thanks to Stavros. One of the many perks of being a prince. At that moment, though, he’d have happily traded his life at the palace for a modest cottage by the sea, living with a man he loved.

AT ELEVEN-THIRTY THE following morning, Nico went to Kendra’s suite. A luncheon was being held to welcome an environmental group to Kalyphos. They would be studying some of the unique wildlife native to the island. King Felipe considered it his duty to protect the island’s natural diversity, both as a moral obligation and also to promote ecotourism.

Nico stepped inside, and Kendra greeted him with a bright smile. She looked beautiful, as expected, her long blonde hair hanging loose. Her pale-blue silk dress matched the color of her eyes. The dress was light and shimmery, fluttering when she spun to model it for him.

I hope you’re well this morning, Nico asked her.

I took a couple of aspirin, and I’ve been staying hydrated. I was pretty dumb last night, huh?

He gave her a soft smile. I assume you’ll be more careful during the rest of your stay?

She rolled her eyes. Yes, your lawyer reminded me about the ‘no public drunkenness’ clause in the contract.

Good. Nico adjusted his cufflinks. I’m glad we have that unpleasantness out of the way, so we can enjoy lunch.

Kendra looked at him pensively. Nico couldn’t tell whether she was annoyed or just confused.

I don’t get it, though, she said. Why did you pull away last night? I thought we were having fun together.

We are having fun. It’s important you don’t confuse our professional relationship for a personal one.

She rested her hands on her hips, looking like a petulant child. Our professional relationship? You mean horseback riding together, and going for long walks on the beach?

Those are photo opportunities. You’re a model. Being photographed is what you do.

She scowled at him, her playfulness gone. So when we laugh and talk together, and I tell you my hopes and dreams, that’s just a photo opportunity?

He laid a comforting hand on her shoulder. There’s no law that says people with a professional relationship can’t also be friendly—that they can’t enjoy each other’s company. I like you, Kendra, but in the final analysis, I’m your employer.

She gaped, her eyes clouding. Her jaw clamped shut, and he could see her fighting back her anger.

I’m sorry, he said feebly, feeling like an asshole. I thought this was all made clear to you when you signed your contract.

She tilted her head and looked at him with moist eyes. It was. I thought maybe something was developing between us that had nothing to do with the contract.

He took her hands. If I’ve misled you, then I’m deeply sorry. I like you, and I like to have fun. But there’s no chance of a romantic relationship between us. That point should’ve been emphasized to you when you first came to Kalyphos. Was it not?

Yes, but...

As kindly as he could, he said, "The contract clearly states that the time we

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