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There were a handful of people in his life who gave it to Marco straight and none of them were female—his mother thought the best of everyone—but even his critics had never displayed the open angry contempt that was sparkling in this woman’s tawny eyes.

Kate was on her feet but had not gained any advantage, because the Prince still towered over her. She refused to acknowledge the physical or, for that matter, every other advantage in life this man had over her.

She wasn’t impressed by an accident of birth or by the fact that fate had given him perfect everything and then an added extra wow factor ingredient...that was just luck. It would have been different if he were something she could admire—like a good, caring father.

Even if he hadn’t been the breed of male who took it for granted that he ruined a woman’s sleep—admittedly there were probably more than a few women who would have paid good money to have him disturb their sleep—his attitude to his daughter would have made her despise him.

She had already decided her strategy on the next official meeting was to be cool and totally professional. That was the best way to deal with men like this in her experience—not that men like this were in her experience.

Unfortunately the professional, cool message hadn’t reached her eyes, which slid of their own volition to the moulded contours of the Prince’s sinfully sexy mouth. The sculpted cruelty of the thinner upper lip contracting with the sensual fullness of the lower.

She moistened her own lips and congratulated herself on the fact he wouldn’t be wasting his empty charm on her. She didn’t feel lucky though, as his mobile mouth lifted in one corner and her stomach gave an elevator lurch. She felt fascinated.

Watching him could, if a person was not careful, become compulsive viewing. The way he moved made her think of some feral creature you recognised the beauty of but that beauty hid danger. Not to her though—that much had been made clear during a conversation at breakfast.

The conversation had turned to men after a handsome, bold-eyed young man, whose strut had made it clear he would have agreed with the description, had walked past and paused to smile at Kate.

‘I dated him,’ one of the other women at the table had told her. ‘Good for fun,’ she admitted to a chorus of giggles. ‘But if you were looking for anything serious...?’

Kate said thanks for the tip, but she wasn’t looking for anything serious or, for that matter,fun—not that sort anyway. Nobody believed her and supplied a list of men who might make her change her mind.

‘Of course, Luisa has already got the best-looking guy in the place.’ The woman in question looked smug and extended a finger with a sparkling ring on it for Kate to admire. ‘Obviously he doesn’t hold a candle to the Prince.’

‘Oh, has anyone dated him?’

The comment turned all eyes on Kate.

‘We should be so lucky. But the Prince is a gentleman. He doesn’t mess with employees.’

‘Understandable,’someone said behind their hand and others on the table exchanged significant looks.

Kate missed the significant looks. She had been too busy choking on her cereal after hearing Marco Zanetti, with his devilish grin, described as a gentleman.

‘The...the storm last night didn’t disturb you?’

Determined not to give him the satisfaction of reacting to the gleam of mockery Kate decided was shining in the Prince’s eyes, she was still choosing her words carefully when her charge diverted his attention.

‘She has ear things, Papa.’ The child put her fingers in her ears.

‘How do you know?’

‘I had to shake her, just a little bit, to wake her up.’

Marco watched as Kate blew a strand of her hair from her face. She wrinkled her nose, frowning in concentration as she pinned the hair behind her ear. It was mundane but, watching her, he experienced a rush of excited anticipation in his veins unlike anything he had felt in a long time.

‘Was I snoring?’ Kate teased, shaking her head and creating a ripple in the waving heavy ropes of gleaming coils that lay down her narrow back.

She hadn’t been asleep but the touch had made her leap a foot or so off the bed. She must have looked almost as shocked as the kid who had stood at the bedside looking at her with big terrified eyes as she introduced herself, in case, presumably, Kate had forgotten who she was, with a formal little curtsey in her cotton teddy-bear-printed pyjamas, insisting with shaky bravado when the room was illuminated by a flash of lightning that she was not scared of storms because storms were just science, and anyhow they had very good security.

Kate had replied that she was right, only Kate herself was a little bit scared so would Freya mind awfully keeping her company for a while?

Looking relieved, the little girl had crawled under the duvet at the bottom of the bed and into Kate’s heart at the same time. She had fallen asleep about an hour later and had stayed sound asleep when Kate had scooped her up and tucked her back into her own bed when the sun appeared.

‘Girls don’t snore, it’s science,’ the little girl announced, her confidence slipping slightly as she looked to her father for reassurance. ‘Do they, Papa?’

Kate turned her head and got a little shock as she encountered his enigmatic metallic stare. The insidious desire she was uneasily conscious of flared up hot. She wanted to look away, but she couldn’t.


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