Her sheikh, her prince...her pretend husband?
Prince Adan Mehdi isn't normally one to back off from a beautiful woman, but there's something so pure about American heiress Piper McAdams that it seems like the honorable thing to do. Piper believes in his good intentions until his supermodel ex shows up with their baby! Still, Piper agrees to show Adan the parenting ropes and pretend to be his wife until custody with his ex is settled. But playing royal house tests the prince's resolve, and soon things get steamier than either of them imagined. Could a real white wedding be in their future?
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Since her first venture into novel writing in the mid-nineties, Kristi Gold has greatly enjoyed weaving stories of love and commitment. She's an avid fan of baseball, beaches and bridal reality shows. During her career, Kristi has been a National Readers Choice winner, Romantic Times award winner, and a three-time Romance Writers of America RITA finalist. She resides in Central Texas and can be reached through her website at http://kristigold.com.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
If a woman wanted a trip to paradise, the gorgeous guy seated at the bar could be just the ticket. And Piper McAdams was more than ready to board that pleasure train.
For the past twenty minutes, she'd been sitting at a corner table in the Chicago hotel lounge, nursing a cosmopolitan while shamelessly studying the stranger's assets, at least those she could readily see in the dim light. He wore an expensive silk navy suit, a pricey watch on his wrist and his good looks like a badge of honor. His dark brown hair seemed as if it had been intentionally cut in a reckless—albeit sexy—style, but it definitely complemented the slight shading of whiskers framing his mouth. And those dimples. She'd spotted them the first time he smiled. Nothing better than prominent dimples on a man, except maybe…
The questionable thought vaulted into Piper's brain like a bullet, prompting her to close her eyes and rub her temples as if she had a tremendous headache. She chalked up the reaction to her long-standing membership in the Unintentional Celibacy Club. She wasn't necessarily a prude, only picky. She certainly wasn't opposed to taking sex out for a spin before saying, "I do," in the context of a committed relationship. She simply hadn't found the right man, though not from the lack of trying. But never, ever in twenty-six years had she considered ending her sexual drought with a complete stranger…until tonight.
The sound of laughter drew her gaze back to said stranger, where the pretty blond bartender leaned toward him, exposing enough cleavage to rival the Grand Canyon. Oddly, he continued to focus on Blondie's face, until his attention drifted in Piper's direction.
The moment Piper met his gaze and he grinned, she immediately glanced back to search for a bathroom or another blonde but didn't find either one. When she regarded him again and found his focus still leveled on her, she started fiddling with her cell phone, pretending to read a nonexistent text.
Great. Just great. He'd caught her staring like a schoolgirl, and she'd just provided a big boost to his ego. He wouldn't be interested in her, a nondescript, ridiculously average brunette, when he had a tall, wellendowed bombshell at his disposal. He could probably have any willing woman within a thousand-mile radius, and she wouldn't be even a blip on his masculine radar. She took the mirror out of her purse and did a quick check anyway, making sure her bangs were smooth and her mascara hadn't gone askew beneath her eyes.
And going to any trouble for a man like him was simply ridiculous. History had taught her that she more or less attracted guys who found her good breeding and trust fund extremely appealing. Nope, Mr. Hunky Stranger would never give her a second look….
"Are you waiting for someone?"
Piper's heart lurched at the sound of his voice. A very deep, and very British, voice. After she'd recovered enough to sneak a peek, her pulse started to sprint again as she came up close and personal with his incredible eyes. Eyes that were just this shade of brown and remarkably as clear as polished topaz. "Actually, no, I'm not waiting for anyone," she finally managed to say in a tone that sounded as if she was playing the frog to his prince, not the other way around.
He rested his hand on the back of the opposing chair, a gold signet ring containing a single ruby circling his little finger. "Would you mind if I join you?"
Mind? Did birds molt? "Be my guest."
After setting his drink on the table, he draped his overcoat on the back of the chair, sat and leaned back as if nothing out of the ordinary had occurred. Then again, this was probably the norm for him—picking up someone in a bar. For Piper, not so much.
"I'm surprised you're not keeping company with a man," he said. "You are much too beautiful to spend Saturday night all alone."
She was surprised she hadn't fainted from the impact of his fully formed grin, the sexy half-moon crescent in his chin and the compliment. "Actually, I just left a cocktail party a little while ago."
He studied her curiously. "In the hotel?"
She took a quick sip of her drink and nearly tipped the glass over when she set it down. "Yes. A party in honor of some obscenely rich sheikh from some obscure country. I faked a headache and left before I had to endure meeting him. That's probably a good thing, since for the life of me, I can't remember his name."
"I happened to have left there a few moments ago myself."
Lovely, Piper. Open mouth, insert stiletto. "Do you know the prince?"
"I've known him for a very long time. Since birth, actually." He topped off the comment with another slow smile.
She swallowed around her mortification while wishing for a giant crevice to open up and swallow her whole. "I'm sorry for insulting your friend. I just have an aversion to overly wealthy men. I've never found one who isn't completely consumed with a sense of entitlement."
He rimmed his finger around the edge of the clear glass. "Actually, some would say he's a rather nice fellow."
She highly doubted that. "Is that your opinion?"
"Yes. Of the three Mehdi brothers, he is probably the most grounded. Definitely the best looking of the whole lot."
When Piper suddenly realized she'd abandoned her manners, she held out her hand. "I'm Piper McAdams, and you are?"
"Charmed to meet you," he said as he accepted the handshake, and then slid his thumb over her wrist before letting her go.
She shivered slightly but recovered quickly. "Well, Mr. Charmed, do you have a first name?"
"No last name?"
"I'd like to preserve a little mystery for the time being. Besides, last names should not be important between friends."
Clearly he was hiding something, but her suspicious nature couldn't compete with her attraction to this mysterious stranger. "We're not exactly friends."
"I hope to remedy that before night's end."
Piper hoped she could survive sitting across from him without going into a feminine free fall. She crossed one leg over the other beneath the table and tugged at the hem of her cocktail dress. "What do you do for a living, A.J.?"
He loosened his tie before lacing his fingers together atop the table. "I am the personal pilot for a rich and somewhat notorious family. They prefer to maintain their privacy."
A pretty flyboy. Unbelievable. "That must be a huge responsibility."
"You have no idea," he said before clearing his throat. "What do you do for a living, Ms. McAdams?"
Nothing she cared to be doing. "Please, call me Piper. Let's just say I serve as a goodwill ambassador for clients associated with my grandfather's company. It requires quite a bit of travel and patience."
He inclined his head and studied her face as if searching for secrets. "McAdams is a Scottish name, and the hint of auburn in your hair and beautiful blue eyes could indicate that lineage. Yet your skin isn't fair."
She touched her cheek as if she had no idea she even owned any skin. "My great-grandparents were Colombian on my mother's side. My father's family is Scottish through and through. I suppose you could say I'm a perfect mix of both cultures."
"Colombian and Scottish. A very attractive combination. Do you tan in the summer?"
A sudden image of sitting with him on a beach—sans swimwear—assaulted her. "I do when I find the time to actually go to the beach. I'm not home that often."
"And where is home?" he asked.
"South Carolina. Charleston, actually." She refused to reveal that she currently resided in the guesthouse behind her grandparents' Greek Revival mansion.
He hesitated a moment as if mulling over the information. "Yet you have no Southern accent."
"It disappeared when I attended an all-female boarding school on the East Coast."
He leaned forward with obvious interest. "Really? I attended military academy in England."
That certainly explained his accent. "How long were you there?"
His expression turned suddenly serious. "A bloody lot longer than I should have been."
She suspected a story existed behind his obvious disdain. "An all-male academy, I take it."
"Unfortunately, yes. However, the campus was situated not far from a parochial school populated with curious females. We were more than happy to answer that curiosity."
No real surprise there. "Did you lead the panty raids?"
His smile reappeared as bright as the illuminated beer sign over the bar. "I confess I attempted to raid a few panties in my youth, and received several slaps for my efforts."
She was consumed by pleasant shivers when she should be shocked. "I highly doubt that was always the case."
"Not always." He leaned back again, his grin expanding, his dimples deepening. "Did you fall victim to the questionable antics of boarding-school boys?"
She'd fallen victim to playing the wallflower, though she hadn't exactly been playing. "My school was located in a fairly remote area, and the rules were extremely strict. The headmistress would probably have shot first and asked questions later if a boy ever dared darken our doorstep."
His eyes held a hint of amusement. "I'm certain a woman with your looks had no difficulty making up for lost time once you escaped the confines of convention."
If he only knew how far off the mark he was with that assumption, he'd probably run for the nearest exit. "Let's just say I've had my share of boys darkening my doorstep. Most had last names for first names and more money than sexual prowess, thanks to my grandfather's insistence I marry within his social circles."
"Not a decent lover among them?"
Only one, and he'd been far from decent. She imagined A.J. would be a seriously good lover. She'd seriously like to find out. "Since I'm not into kissing and telling, let's move off that subject. Do you have a significant other?"
"I did have an 'other' almost a year ago, but she is no longer significant."
"Let's just say it took a while to convince her we did break up."
His sour tone told Piper that topic was also off-limits. On to more generic questions. "When I first spotted you at the bar, I was sure you're Italian. Am I right?"
Luckily his pleasant demeanor returned. "No, but I am quite fond of Italy, and I do know Italian, courtesy of a former teacher."
"My second guess would be you're of French descent."
"Je ne suis pas français, mais je peux bien embrasser à la française. "
A sexy devil with devastating dimples and a wry sense of humor—a deadly combination. "I'm sure the parochial girls appreciated your French-kissing expertise. But you didn't exactly answer my question about your heritage."
"I am not of French, but I am impressed you speak the language."
She laid a dramatic palm over her breast and pulled out her best Southern speak. "Why, sugar, we're not all dumb belles. I know French and German and even a little Japanese."
" Should you find yourself in need of an Italian translator, I would be happy to accommodate you."
She would be thrilled if he did more than that. "I've never been to Italy but I've always wanted to see Rome."
"You should make that a priority. I personally prefer Naples and the coast…"
As he continued, Piper became completely mesmerized by his mouth, and began to ridiculously fantasize about kissing him. Then her fantasies took major flight as she entertained thoughts of his mouth moving down her body. Slow and warm and, oh, so…
"…large pink salmon walk down the streets texting on their smartphones."
She rejoined reality following the odd declaration. "I beg your pardon?"
"Clearly I bored you into a near coma while playing the travel guide."
He'd inadvertently drawn her into a waking sex dream. "I'm so sorry," she said. "It must be the booze."
He reached over and without an invitation took a drink from her glass, then set it down with a thud. "That is bloody awful," he said. "What is in this unpalatable concoction?"
Piper turned her attention to the drink and momentarily became preoccupied with the fact his lips had caressed the glass. And that was probably as close to his lips she would get…unless she took the plunge and turned the good girl to bad. "Basically vodka and cranberry juice, but the bartender made it fairly strong. It's gone straight to my head." And so had he.
He pushed his halffull glass toward her. "Try this."
She picked up the tumbler and studied the amber liquid. "What is it?"
"Twenty-year-old Scotch. Once you've sampled it, no other drink will do."
She would really like to sample him, and if she didn't stop those thoughts in their tracks, she might derail her common sense. "I'm not sure I should. I don't want to have to crawl to the hotel room."
"If you need assistance, I'll make certain you arrive safely."
Piper returned his wily smile. "Well, in that case, I suppose I could have a small sip."
The minute the straight liquor hit her throat, she truly wanted to spit it out. Instead, she swallowed hard and handed the tumbler back to him.
"You don't like it?" he asked, sounding somewhat insulted.
"Sorry, but it's just not my cup of tea. Or cup of alcohol, I should say. But then, I can't claim to have good drinking skills."
"How are your kissing skills?" Right when she was about to suggest they find out, he straightened, looked away and cleared his throat again. "My apologies. You are too nice a woman to endure my habit of spewing innuendo."
"Why do you believe I wouldn't appreciate a little harmless innuendo?"
He streaked a hand over his jaw. "You have a certain innocence about you. Perhaps even purity."
Here we go again…. "Looks can be deceiving."
"True, but eyes do not deceive. I've noticed your growing discomfort during the course of our conversation."
"Have you considered my discomfort stems from my attraction to you?" Heavens, she hadn't really just admitted that, had she? Yes, she had. Her gal pals would be so proud. Her grandfather would lock h...
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