Authors: Caridad Pineiro
Tags: #Entangled Suspense, #romance series, #Romance, #Suspense, #Princess, #Caridad Pineiro
To Catch a Princess
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.
2013 by Caridad Piñeiro Scordato.
All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce, distribute, or transmit in any form or by any means. For information regarding subsidiary rights, please contact the Publisher.
Entangled Publishing, LLC
2614 South Timberline Road
Fort Collins, CO 80525
Visit our website at www.entangledpublishing.com.
Cover design by Fiona Jayde
Ebook ISBN 978-1-62266-132-9
Manufactured in the United States of America
The author acknowledges the copyrighted or trademarked status and trademark owners of the following wordmarks mentioned in this work of fiction:
Rolls Royce, Oyster, Tropicana, Louboutin, Dom Perignon, Monaco Heliport, Colombo, Remington Steele, Sig-Sauer, Top 10, Bali, Monte Carlo Casino, Sleeping Beauty, Beauty And The Beast, Cinderella, Glock, Bentley.
To my daughter Samantha, my bffl!
Always reach for your dreams.
The heist had been so easy, it was almost insulting.
Shea Brady handed over a padded envelope to the man across the table. He and his contact were tucked into a leather booth at the back of a dimly lit pub in London’s Kensington district.
The older man opened the envelope and shot a cursory glance at the contents. With a satisfied smile, he said, “Well done, Mr.…?”
“Smith,” Shea filled in, although they were both well aware that wasn’t his real name. All his contact had to know was the number for the Swiss bank account where he would deposit the monies for the work he had done, and the e-mail address where he could be reached.
“Mr. Smith. My client was quite impressed with how quickly and quietly you completed your task,” the other man said in tones that bespoke of upper class British schooling. But there was another accent, more foreign, beneath those tones. His clothing screamed elegance and money, although it was staid. Better suited to a banker than someone dealing with a man like Shea.
Although some might consider bankers not all that much different from a thief.
“I’m glad he’s pleased,” Shea said and signaled the waitress for the check. Considering how much he was being paid for the rather simple job, the least he could do was to pick up the tab for the pints they’d had. He could well afford it after his many years pulling high-end heists of some of the world’s most expensive and sought after jewels.
“Not so fast, Mr. Smith,” the banker-type said and waved off the waitress when she approached. Shea examined the other man, wondering what it was that he wanted. Growing uncomfortable, he considered that he might have somehow fallen for an Interpol sting. After all, Shea had been on their list of Most Wanted for nearly three years now—not that anyone had ever gotten close enough to even snap a photo of his real face for their mug shots. Even today he was well-disguised by the latex prosthetics that hid his features.
“Is something wrong, Mr.…?”
“Jones,” the banker said with a wry smile before continuing. “My client is interested in building his collection and believes you can assist him. If you’re interested, of course.”
Shea considered how much he had been paid and how easy it had been. Actually too easy. The Hollywood couple who had been in possession of the multi-million dollar necklace hadn’t been particularly careful about safeguarding it. Maybe because the money to purchase the jewelry had come too easily to them.
Unlike how hard he’d had to work just to survive in his lean childhood years. One too many nights spent hungry despite hours of back-breaking labor had made him find a much more profitable way of earning his keep. If the rest of the jobs Mr. Jones’s client proposed went as smoothly as this one, it would literally be like stealing candy from a baby. While he wouldn’t mind such a simple gig, it was almost too
hard to believe
. Almost as if someone wanted him to fail.
“I appreciate the confidence in my abilities, but you really don’t need someone of my caliber for jobs of this nature.”
Mr. Jones’s smile turned harder and formed a thin slash across his face. “This was just a test, although I do wish it had been slightly more arduous.”
Shea lifted a brow, but it barely shifted the fake nose and forehead he wore despite how form-fitting they were. Still, Jones noted his displeasure and said, “I suppose you don’t consider scaling a twenty foot cliff to reach their home arduous?”
With a smooth bob of his silvery-grey head, Jones apologized. “Of course, Mr. Smith. It’s just that the security systems at the location were rather barbaric.”
“And I suppose the next job—”
“Jobs,” Jones quickly corrected.
Shea nodded. “Jobs. I suppose they’re more of a challenge?”
Jones smiled, but it failed to reach his eyes, which remained a clear, steady blue beneath bushy gray eyebrows. “Quite. Especially the last one. We’re talking high end security, armed guards, the rich and famous, including some royalty. Pull it off and the papers will have a field day with your achievement.”
Shea tapped his finger against his mouth. The big heist he described was definitely a challenge worthy of his talents, and if the payoff was anything like what he was receiving for the job he had just completed, he might even be able to retire.
“Let’s just say you’ve piqued my interest, Mr. Jones. You know how to reach me with details of the other jobs.”
Jones nodded and smiled, but there was a look about his smile that Shea didn’t really like. Deadly and decidedly dangerous. Mr. Jones was obviously keeping a great deal to himself about his future plans. “We’ll send you information on each job when appropriate. When we’re satisfied you’re the man for our last assignment, we’ll let you know the details.”
Before Shea could utter another word, Jones rushed from the pub bench, amazingly speedy for a man his age.
Although maybe Jones was likewise in disguise, Shea considered. The warning bells that had served him so well in the past were ringing, but were silenced by the imaginary sound of coins dropping into his bank account. Lots and lots of coins.
With that much money, he could find himself a quaint home along the Italian coast. Settle down and start a family. He was still young, after all, barely in his thirties.
Plenty of time to have the kind of life his profession hadn’t allowed him.
He settled the bill the waitress had left after Jones departed by tossing the money and a nice tip on the tabletop and hurried out of the pub. He caught sight of Jones half a block ahead.
There was something besides his natural condescension that rubbed Shea the wrong way. Because of that, he followed cautiously as Jones turned the corner and walked down several blocks to where a limo waited.
As Jones approached, the driver side door opened and a uniformed chauffeur walked around and opened the door for him.
Shea wasn’t close enough to hear, but he could read the driver’s lips as he gave a practiced bow and said, “Good evening, Prince Sergei.”
A prince, huh? Shea watched intently as “Jones” slipped into the backseat of the Rolls Royce.
He waited until the Rolls pulled away, then headed to the underground to reach his home.
He never did business too close to it. You didn’t shit where you lived. He passed through the turnstiles of the underground with his doctored Oyster payment card, his mind already looking forward to the big job Jones had mentioned.
No, not Jones. Prince Sergei. Another royal. He hated the fucking royals with all their money and airs.
Stealing from them would definitely be a job he would enjoy, especially if he could find a way to deal with the uppity Prince Sergei also.
Not a double-cross—even thieves had standards. But he would like to see the man taken down a peg or two.
All in good time.
He hurried to his empty home, dreaming of the possibility that he could finally leave his thieving ways and settle down.
Hopefully sooner than later.
Atlantic City, Six Months Later
Princess Maria Theresa Tatiana Christiania Ivanov reluctantly sat down at the large dining room table to participate in a video call from her parents. They had planned to visit in time for the birth of their first grandchild, her brother, Prince Alexander, and his wife Kathleen’s baby, but a major dose of the flu had kept them home.
As the monitor snapped to life and the familiar warning beep of a call filled the room, Alexander answered.
“Mother. Father,” he said regally, ever the prince. Close to a decade older than Tatiana, Alexander had grown up under stricter and more demanding protocols for behavior. He had also cleared the way for her to have the freedom she had so desperately wanted. But after finishing college and an MBA at a nearby school in Philadelphia, Tatiana had “come home” in a way, choosing to stay and work with him in the family’s Atlantic City casino—Russian Nights.
“Hi Mom and Dad,” she said enthusiastically and waved, dragging a smile from her father’s illness-haggard face before he quickly hid the emotion. “Are you feeling better?” she asked.
“A little,” her father, Prince Ivan, answered, but immediately after, a bout of coughing proclaimed otherwise. Beside him, her mother, Anastasia, tried to soothe him, rubbing his back and offering a glass of water so he could clear his throat.
“Maybe we should call back when you’re feeling better,” Alexander said, wincing at how awful their father sounded.
Prince Ivan waved his hand and took a long drink from the glass. Seemingly restored, he said, “I’m afraid this can’t wait.” Tatiana shared an anxious look with her brother, hoping it had nothing to do with their father’s health. “Is everything okay?”
“There’s nothing to worry about on our end, Tatochka,” her mother replied, using her family nickname, but Tatiana sensed there was clearly something pressing for them to be making this call when their father was so ill.
“What’s up then? Dad should be in bed resting.”
“We had a call from Grand Duke Alexandrovich. Unfortunately, things are not so well with him and—” Her father hesitated and shot an anxious look at her mother, but then plowed on. “Many years ago, when we had despaired of Alexander ever settling down and having a family, we made an arrangement with the Grand Duke.”
A niggle of fear blossomed in Tatiana’s gut, especially as Alexander dropped his gaze, obviously uncomfortable with the discussion. Even worse, obviously aware of what was coming.
“What kind of arrangement, Father?” she asked, her earlier exuberance gone.
“A marriage arrangement.”
A long uneasy silence followed his words, and in her brain the words kept repeating over and over as she tried to understand just what that meant. Finally she found the strength to ask. “You want me to marry the Grand Duke? He’s so old he’s like a…fossil.”
“His son,” her father replied, and to attempt to comfort her, quickly added, “He’s only a few years older than you.” At least her parents had displayed
consideration of her sensibilities. For a moment she’d had visions of herself walking down the aisle with an old, smelly, half-dead octogenarian. Not that she planned on walking down the aisle with
man anytime in the near future—especially one she did not love.
“You’ll have to tell the Grand Duke I won’t be marrying his son.”
“Tatiana, you have no choice. As a princess—”
“I’m in America now.
will choose who I marry,” she said forcefully. “Not you.”
Before her eyes, the normally kind, gentle father she loved with all her heart disappeared in the blink of an eye. A bright flush marked his features and his blue eyes, a shade darker than hers, sparked with anger. A tight slash of a smile marred his face before he said in a tone that brooked no disagreement, “You will marry him, Tatiana. The Ivanovs honor their bargains.”
“I will not,” she repeated and waited for the explosion of her father’s temper.
It came as expected, in a rush of Russian that rattled by so quickly she had trouble understanding. As her mother had countless times, Anastasia jumped into the battle between father and daughter.
“Tatiana. I know you do not mean to disrespect us and our ways, but there is no choice in this. We have a little time before the Grand Duke sets a date for you to meet his son, so maybe it’s best if we end this now and give you some time to think about what we’ve asked,” she said, her soothing voice and demeanor settling the upset, but only a little.
“That would be best, Mother,” Alexander jumped in. “I’m sure this was a shock to Tatiana and she needs time to process all of it.” His tone matched that of their mother, his manner likewise calm, although Tatiana sensed the tension beneath his controlled exterior.
“We love you both,” her mother said, and a second later the video call disconnected.
Tatiana bolted from the chair and combed her fingers through the long strands of her hair as she paced for a moment before whirling to face her brother.
“You knew about this.”
Alexander reluctantly nodded. “I did. I tried to dissuade them years ago—”
“When?” she challenged.
“Nearly six years ago. Well before I married Kathleen. They were as desperate as the Grand Duke to see grandchildren to carry on the royal bloodlines.”
“So why not you? Why not make the arrangement for
to marry?” she asked, despite knowing that regardless of which of them had been chosen, it would still be unfair to demand they accept a marriage without love. Not in this day and age.
Alexander smiled then, a boyish grin that lit up his handsome face. “I don’t suppose the Grand Duke’s son was my type. He would much prefer someone like you.”
She gnashed her teeth together, balled her fists, and walked over to the floor-to-ceiling windows to look out at the lights of the city and majesty of the Atlantic. The ocean was calm today, and as they always did, the sights of the Jersey Shore helped to soothe her and she turned to her brother once again.
“This sucks, Sasha. I can’t marry this man, whoever he is.” It suddenly occurred to her that her father hadn’t said the man’s name, but clearly, Alexander knew the Grand Duke’s son.
“Who is he?” she demanded, and walked to where her brother sat.
“I promised him I wouldn’t let anyone know who he is. He’s been living here under an alias for most of his life. I’m sorry, Tatochka.”
She stood before her brother, trying to control the anger that was growing once again. “I
you and you screwed me over, Sasha.” Her words obviously hit him harder than any blow she might have landed, but he deserved it. He knew she had trust issues, especially about lying. They both did. There were too many people out there who lied just to get close to a royal.
“Never, Tatochka. If I thought this man was wrong for you, I would never let this happen.”
Because he meant well, she corralled her temper, which could at times be as bad as her father’s, and injected calm into her voice. “Sasha, please listen up. You don’t decide what I do. Mom and Dad don’t decide.
Alexander’s lips curved up in an understanding smile. “Yes, Tatochka. I will not mention this man or the arrangement again.”
With a determined nod, she said, “Awesome. So let’s get back to business.”
She marched to the far end of the conference table where she had left her various notes and papers for a very special fashion show that was planned for their Monaco casino, the Jewel of Russia. She had enlisted the assistance of several European haute couture designers to create the ensembles for an event that would raise money for an internationally recognized charity to help end children’s hunger. Because of the Russian flavor of all of their casinos, she had also cajoled a number of Russian royals to allow their family heirlooms, and even some ancient relics, to be used as part of the event.
That required all kinds of heavy-duty security. She had spent the morning discussing their safeguards with Jim Reynolds, the chief of security in Atlantic City, and Tony Martino, his counterpart in Monaco.
Returning with the papers to where Alexander sat, she laid out the various schematics and drawings, and ran down the suggestions that had been provided.
“Do Jim and Tony think this can all be done in time for the show?” He flipped through the designs for the ballroom set-up and the display cases that would hold the jewels both before and after the event. The idea was to allow guests to
over the baubles even if they hadn’t plunked down big bucks for the event. Afterward, the designer dresses would also be on display in the ballroom for a few months.
Once that was over, the final leg of the event would be held back over here in the States, in their Atlantic City casino, and the dresses would be auctioned off to raise even more money for the charity.
“So far everything is coming together. The display cases should be ready in a month. Tony has hired extra security guards for the lobby as well as for the day of the fashion show. We’ve run security checks on everyone who will be involved with the event, from the staff who will be serving guests, to the designers, models, and assorted assistants.”
Alexander gathered all the papers into a neat stack and glanced at her. “What about the attendees?”
Tatiana shook her head. “I’m worried about that. We can’t control who shelled out the thousand dollars for a ticket, but we will have a hidden metal detector at the entrance and guards in the theater area.”
Alexander nodded and smiled. “Looks like you’ve thought of everything. I wish Kathleen and I could be there for the big night.”
She sighed wistfully. She wished for that also, but when the plans had been put into place, Kathleen hadn’t been pregnant. Now she was due any day, which made travel impossible. “Me, too, Sasha. But we’ll be moving the show here in a few months, so you’ll get to see it then.”
“I’m looking forward to that, Tatochka. We could use a big splash here, not only to bolster morale, but draw more people into town and into the casino.”
Although Atlantic City had recovered from Hurricane Sandy, which had ravaged so much of the Jersey Shore a few years earlier, competition from casinos in nearby states had taken a toll. Less than a year earlier, one of the newer luxury casinos had declared bankruptcy and the other casinos were also struggling. Russian Nights was barely weathering the downturn. The profits were down substantially and they were barely keeping it together.
“We’ll get through this, Sasha,” she said, and ruffled her brother’s hair in an affectionate gesture.
He forced a grin and was about to exact brotherly revenge when his cell phone rang. Glancing at the caller ID, a happy smile swept across his face. Clearly Kathleen was calling.
,” he answered with affection, calling her his “little cat.” Tatiana was thrilled that her brother was so happy with his wife of almost three years.
She couldn’t make out the response, but Alexander straightened in his chair, a shocked look on his face.
“It’s time?” he choked out.
Another murmur came across the line and he hung up, meeting Tatiana’s questioning gaze. “Oh my God. It’s time. I’m about to become a father.”