Rico Santori had just resigned from his position as head of royal security when all hell broke loose.
He’d been dreading the conversation with Prince Vittorio for weeks, but putting it off didn’t make it any easier to leave the only home he’d ever known. He would miss the friends he’d made over the years and the job at which he excelled. Still, it would be worth leaving everything he knew for a shot at a life of his own outside the palace walls.
And a way to get away from the temptation that had burned at his soul for months.
“Are you certain I can’t talk you out of it?” Vittorio had asked. Rico knew he’d surprised the prince with his announcement. Rico had never hinted he was planning to leave. He’d known Vittorio would try to talk him out of it.
It was long after midnight. Rico and his childhood friend, who also happened to be his employer and the Crown Prince of the small Mediterranean country of Mezzano, had been lounging in the prince’s private office, sipping on brandy and discussing the future. Vittorio’s concerned an upcoming royal wedding and eventually stepping up to the throne. Rico’s was much less ambitious, but just as important.
At least to him.
“No, Your Highness.” The plans had been put into place months ago. This conversation had been the final step. “I can recommend several men on the security team who could take my place.”
“Rico.” Vittorio’s tone was solemn. “There is no one who could take your place, my friend.”
“Thank you.” But Rico knew no one was indispensable. Unless perhaps one were first in line to the throne of Mezzano.
“I would like to hear of your
plans,” Vittorio had said, just before the call had burst through the ear bud synced to the radio on Rico’s hip. What had followed was a blur of shouts and blood and too many questions.
Princess Angelina’s car had been attacked on the way back from a party she’d been attending. After Rico had seen that the injured men were getting medical help and that the rest of the team was sweeping the grounds for intruders, he sought out the princess. He had to find out what the hell happened.
He flung the door open to the private parlor where the princess was waiting for him. Her Royal Highness was perched on the edge of the upholstered sofa, flanked by Prince Vittorio and Mia, his fiancée. When Rico strode into the room, the princess shot to her feet. Rico’s suit jacket was still draped over her shoulders but it didn’t hide the splotches of scarlet staining her yellow dress.
“Enzo? Donato?” Her dark chocolate eyes were wide. Worried. And so very beautiful.
Enzo had been Angelina’s personal bodyguard for the past four years. He and Donato, the driver, had both been shot while thwarting an attempt to kidnap the princess. At least, that was what Rico assumed had happened. Neither one of his men had regained consciousness yet. He wanted to demand immediate answers from Angelina, but there were certain protocols to follow and he couldn’t command her to tell him what happened. Just as he couldn’t run his hands over her body to make sure she really was all right.
He acknowledged the royal family with a nod. “Still alive, Your Highness. I’ll keep you posted, of course.”
Her slender hand shook as she lifted it to brush her long hair from her face. Her gaze bounced around the room. “I tried to stop the
When Rico had thrown open the back door of the car, afraid of what he would see, Angelina had been pressing her colorful scarf onto the wound in Enzo’s side. Tears had been streaming down her face, but she’d been shouting at her bodyguard to hang on, and the fierceness in her expression made Rico think that the princess wasn’t quite as gentle a woman as he’d always thought.
“Your Highness.” He stepped in front of her and waited until her gaze locked on his. “I need to hear what happened.”
“Of course.” She sank back onto the sofa and gestured to Rico to sit in the chair opposite. “I’m afraid I didn’t see much. It was dark, of course, and I was tired, so I’d closed my eyes.” Her voice broke. “I should never have gone to the stupid party.”
Mia pulled her close. “It’s not your fault.”
Rico almost reached out and placed his hand over Angelina’s, but pulled it back and curled his fingers into a fist. He needed to know who’d done this and then he’d crack a few skulls. “Did the car stop? Or did someone start firing at the car first?”
The princess straightened, looked down at her hands clasped in her lap. “The car stopped suddenly. Something was in the road. Blocking the road, maybe? I don’t know what. Donato didn’t say. Enzo pushed me down to the floor. He said to stay down, just in case. Then he said he’d check it out.” She looked up into Rico’s eyes. “He got out of the car. Then I heard shouting. Then there was shooting.”