Prince Joe [Tall, Dark, and Dangerous Series Book 1] [Secure]
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by Suzanne Brockmann
Description: Veronica St. John is facing the challenge of a lifetime. The media consultant has two days to teach a rugged Navy SEAL to impersonate a European prince who has been targeted by terrorists. It's a tough assignment, but Veronica is sure she's up to the task--until she actually meets Joe. Despite his physical resemblance to the handsome prince, Lieutenant Joe Catalanotto is nothing like the stuffy aristocrat. Everything about the combat-hardened Navy SEAL--from the arrogant gleam in his eyes and streetwise attitude to the New York accent--says regular guy, not royalty. One conversation and Veronica knows nothing could turn this military man into nobility. Joe, on the other hand, is confident he's got what it takes to complete his duty. But neither of them expects their assignment to include falling in love....
eBook Publisher: Harlequin/Silhouette Intimate Moments, 2007
eBookwise Release Date: August 2007
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Available eBook Formats [Secure - What's this?]: OEBFF Format (IMP) [477 KB]
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A few years later Washington, D.C.
All of the major network news cameras were rolling as Tedric Cortere, crown prince of Ustanzia, entered the airport.
A wall of ambassadors, embassy aides and politicians moved forward to greet him, but the prince paused for just a moment, taking the time to smile and wave a greeting to the cameras.
He was following her instructions to the letter. Veronica St. John, professional image and media consultant, allowed herself a sigh of relief. But only a small one, because she knew Tedric Cortere very well, and he was a perfectionist. There was no guarantee that Prince Tedric, the brother of Veronica's prep-school roommate and very best friend in the world, was going to be satisfied with what he saw tonight on the evening news.
Still, he would have every right to be pleased. It was day one of his United States goodwill tour, and he was looking his best, oozing charm and royal manners, with just enough blue-blooded arrogance thrown in to captivate the royalty-crazed American public. He was remembering to gaze directly into the news cameras. He was keeping his eye movements steady and his chin down. And, heaven be praised, for a man prone to anxiety attacks, he was looking calm and collected for once.
He was giving the news teams exactly what they wanted—a close-up picture of a gracious, charismatic, fairy-tale handsome European prince.
Bachelor. She'd forgotten to add "bachelor" to the list. And if Veronica knew Americans—and she did; it was her business to know Americans—millions of American women would watch the evening news tonight and dream of becoming a princess.
There was nothing like fairy-tale fever among the public to boost relations between two governments. Fairy-tale fever—and the recently discovered oil that lay beneath the parched, gray Ustanzian soil.
But Tedric wasn't the only one playing to the news cameras this morning.
As Veronica watched, United States Senator Sam McKinley flashed his gleaming white teeth in a smile so falsely genuine and so obviously aimed at the reporters, it made her want to laugh.
But she didn't laugh. If she'd learned one thing during her childhood and adolescence as the daughter of an international businessman who moved to a different and often exotic country every year or so, she'd learned that diplomats and high government officials—particularly royalty—take themselves very, very seriously.
So, instead of laughing, she bit the insides of her cheeks as she stopped several respectful paces behind the prince, at the head of the crowd of assistants and aides and advisers who were part of his royal entourage.
"Your Highness, on behalf of the United States Government," McKinley drawled in his thick Texas accent, shaking the prince's hand, and dripping with goodwill, "I'd like to welcome you to our country's capital."
"I greet you with the timeless honor and tradition of the Ustanzian flag," Prince Tedric said formally in his faintly British, faintly French accent, "which is woven, as well, into my heart."
It was his standard greeting; nothing special, but it went over quite well with the crowd.
McKinley started in on a longer greeting, and Veronica let her attention wander.
She could see herself in the airport's reflective glass windows, looking cool in her cream-colored suit, her flame-red hair pulled neatly back into a French braid. Tall and slender and serene, her image wavered slightly as a jet plane took off, thundering down the runway.
It was an illusion. Actually, she was giddy with nervous excitement, a condition brought about by the stress of knowing that if Tedric didn't follow her instructions and ended up looking bad on camera, she'd be the one to blame. Sweat trickled down between her shoulder blades, another side effect of the stress she was under. No, she felt neither cool nor serene, regardless of how she looked.
She had been hired because her friend, Princess Wila, knew that Veronica was struggling to get her fledgling consulting business off the ground. Sure, she'd done smaller, less detailed jobs before, but this was the first one in which the stakes were so very high. If Veronica succeeded with Tedric Cortere, word would get out, and she'd have more business than she could handle. If she succeeded with Cortere…
But Veronica had also been hired for another reason. She'd been hired because Wila, concerned about Ustanzia's economy, recognized the importance of this tour. Despite the fact that teaching Wila's brother, the high-strung Prince of Ustanzia, how to appear calm and relaxed while under the watchful eyes of the TV news cameras was Veronica's first major assignment as an image and media consultant, Wila trusted her longtime friend implicitly to get the job done.
"I'm counting on you, Véronique," Wila had said to Veronica over the telephone just last night. She had added with her customary frankness, "This American connection is too important. Don't let Tedric screw this up."
So far Tedric was doing a good job. He looked good. He sounded good. But it was too early for Veronica to let herself feel truly satisfied. It was her job to make sure that the prince continued to look and sound good.
Tedric didn't particularly like his younger sister's best friend, and the feeling was mutual. He was an impatient, short-tempered man, and rather used to getting his own way. Very used to getting his own way.
Veronica could only hope he would see today's news reports and recognize the day's success. If he didn't, she'd hear about it, that was for sure.
Veronica knew quite well that over the course of the prince's tour of the United States she was going to earn every single penny of her consultant's fee. Because although Tedric Cortere was princely in looks and appearance, he was also arrogant and spoiled. And demanding. And often irrational. And occasionally, not very nice.
Copyright © 1996 by Suzanne Brockmann.