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As their glances connected her luminous amber eyes widened and her mouth fell, not unattractively, open. As he stared at the pink, slightly quivering outline any number of inappropriate thoughts slithered through his mind. Inappropriate when thought in connection with his daughter’s nanny and they made it hard to retain his mental image of the anticipated sensible female in his head. In essence she would be a slightly younger version of Nanny Maeve, all no-nonsense common sense and even more sensible shoes. His glance ran to her bare narrow feet and glittery painted toenails.

Clearing his throat, he dragged his gaze upwards.

‘If you’re not going to use that...?’ He nodded at the porcelain vase she held in a white-knuckled grip.

He watched her eyes travel to the ugly thing in her hand, a look of surprise widening the eyes she took off him for one split second. Her elbow dropped but not all the way, similarly her defences as she retained a grip of both.

‘Your only chance of braining me was utilising the element of surprise and you’ve lost that now, so you might as well put it down.’

Tomorrow, he decided grimly, he was going to find out which proxy had decided at interview that this woman represented a suitablymaturecandidate. And it wouldn’t have been one person; the vetting procedure would have been as detailed as the background check.

Deep velvet with an edge of gravel to the dark chocolate flavour, his sardonic drawl shook Kate free of the thrall that had held her staring transfixed, mouth open, drooling... She closed her mouth with a snap.

Drooling...?God, I really hope not.

‘You could drop it if you like. It’ll be insured and it is extremely ugly.’

With elaborate care she placed the vase she didn’t actually recall picking up in a space beside a row of colour-coded books that she already had marked out as one of her first changes.

As first impressions went it was hard to imagine one worse than this. ‘S-Sorry...’ she stuttered and stopped.

What was she meant to call him?

‘I didn’t realise it was Your...’Highness?Majesty?

Obviously, she knewwhohe was. Crown Prince Marco—then a lot of other names followed—Zanetti, her new boss. His every utterance was picked up across the media spectrum, analysed to the nth degree and imbued with hidden, deep meaning.

His height and his superb athletic body meant that a photo of him shirtless, all golden skin and sculpted muscle, was worth mega bucks. Even an image of him conservatively dressed in a suit could send social media wild, especially as they were relatively rare. His face with its razor-sharp cheekbones, silver-grey stare and sinfully sexy mouth had been called perfect, though now she was seeing it in the flesh she decided she agreed with one jaundiced critic who had called ittooperfect!

For the first twelve months after his beautiful wife’s tragic death in childbirth, he’d vanished, fallen off the edge of the earth. One or two snaps of him looking brooding and beautiful in a hollow-eyed, gaunt-faced way had been the only visuals to feed the appetite for news about the iconic tragic figure he had become in the eyes of the world.

Does a man ever recover from the loss of his first love?

Learning to love again...will Marco?

Advice from someone who has been there and come out the other side.

Is Marco putting his child ahead of his happiness?

Hypnosis and a carb-free diet helped me recover from PTSD after my boyfriend left me, it could help the lonely Prince too.

The headlines, from the inane to the academic, all had a similar theme, and who knew? Maybe the man under discussion read them, because the tragic prince did move on.

A year after his wife’s death Marco Zanetti re-emerged, affording an interested public discreet glimpses of his private life. His name started to be linked with a succession of beautiful women. The longevity of his associations with the women he escorted varied, one night or a week—this was presumably his version of long-term.

No matter how discreet or short-lived the liaisons were, inevitably every beautiful woman his name was linked with was viewed as a prospective future queen and mother, her privacy invaded, her past love life scrutinised. Despite this price, which to Kate, whose blood ran cold at the thought, seemed a high one, there was no shortage of candidates, which had seemed inexplicable, though less so now when she was standing in the same room as him.

Luckily he was a million miles from the sort of man she found attractive—her type was good-looking, but not too good-looking, kind and sensitive. Shaking her head slightly to clear it, she tried to kick-start her brain for the correct form of address.

It was so damned frustrating. She’d made a point of knowing, and the knowledge had simply fled. Maybe because worrying about titles offended her egalitarian nature?

She had already decided that she would not be curtseying to anyone.

She finally settled for a slightly breathless, ‘Freya’s dad, that is you, or... I heard a noise and—’

Marco cut across her before she ran out of steam. ‘And you are...?’

The Prince sounded haughty and looked...well, he looked like something out of a fantasy—or a nightmare, depending on your preferences, and her fantasies werenotof men with hauteur stamped into their too handsome features, even if he really was several billion times more dramatically gorgeous in the flesh than in print or video.

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