Authors: Suzette de Borja
Will what happened in Vegas stay in Vegas?
rincess Alexandria of Seirenada
is as proper as they come, but a wild night in Las Vegas is on her bucket list. In disguise, she downs a few drinks and hops up onstage for karaoke night. One things leads to another but in the cold light of day, she's wondering how to shake the hot boy toy she managed to pick up.
Polo Player Nic Fernandez isn’t looking for a hookup, but there is something about that red wig and sexy voice that awakens feelings he thought were long dead. But despite their connection, come morning, she walks away without a backward glance.
When a chance meeting reunites them, will lies and deception tear them apart or will love level the playing field once and for all?
@ 2014 Suzette de Borja
ll rights reserved
. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means or stored in a database retrieval system without the prior written approval of the author.
The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intentional.
a village to write this book. Thank you so much for your time, generosity, and patience.
Mina V. Esguerra
for paving the way and igniting the spark.
for this wonderful opportunity.
group, you guys rock!
, my sounding board, unofficial developmental editor, and cheerleader.
for your valuable input.
, may all your chukkers be golden.
., for that well-researched and detailed five-page printout
, muchas gracias.
, for going over the Queen’s English.
, for making time to be my two “fresh pair of eyes”.
who always believed it could be done.
, my North Star.
, yes, you’re funny.
, my little princess forever.
The Passionate Proofreader
for whipping this manuscript into shape.
And to you,
for taking a chance.
bucket list was burning a proverbial hole in her bejeweled handbag. She sipped sparkling water daintily from the champagne glass and hoped no one would notice her subterfuge. No alcohol. At least, not until way past midnight.
Tilting her head in feigned interest, she nodded during suitable intervals at the Chairman of the Board of Trustees’
monologue. She deliberately ignored the way his rheumy eyes kept flicking to her rather modest neckline. Bestowing the occasional regal smile, she nodded, pursed her lips thoughtfully, and nodded. Oh, she was definitely going to make Stefan pay for straddling her with Mr. Life of the Party.
Damn, fuck, shit,
she recounted mentally.
She was out of practice, but
these American swear words were crisp and sweet. Smile, nod, smile. Having little appetite and drinking too much water to moisten her dry mouth, she had forgotten to keep her liquid intake to a minimum. Now she felt the urge to use the bathroom.
Her eyes scanned the ballroom. She deftly switched her handbag from her left hand to a place between the crook of her right arm and waist, her right hand now awkwardly keeping its grip on the stem of the champagne glass. It was a signal Theia, her Press Secretary and Personal Assistant, had taught her whenever she wanted to be rescued from any undesirable social situation. Rumor had it that Queen Elizabeth herself had a “handbag code” and twenty-three different signals to communicate with her staff. Lexie just needed one to convey her message: Quick. Get me out of here.
Mr. Chairman launched onto Act Two of his riveting monologue. Where was Theia? It usually took no longer than five minutes for her Press Secretary to extract her with an excuse about sticking to her tight schedule. And then it hit her just as some of the spittle, which punctuated the Chairman’s enthusiasm, landed on her arm: Theia was indisposed with a migraine!
Trying to quell her dismay, she looked around, hoping to catch anyone’s eye. She caught one on her first sweep of the crowd. Blair’s amusement at her predicament was evident from across the room. And God bless her, without any other signal save the panic she must have read in her eyes, she came to her rescue. She flashed her all-American, orthodontically-enhanced smile and pushed her way charmingly between Lexie and the old man.
“Your Royal Highness is needed at the press room,” her Versace-clad savior lied smoothly, winking at her.
“Whew! Glad to escape those fuddy duddies at last,” her cousin Blair Gallagher sighed, full drama mode on. She dragged Lexie to a relatively secluded corner of the ballroom. All around them were men and women in evening clothes and enough jewelry to pay the debt of a Third World country. Plucking the fluted glass from Lexie’s hand, she took a sip and then sputtered, “Gah! What is this?” After recovering, she exclaimed, “Are they watering the champagne? This is outrageous! I’ll go and tell my dad−“
“Blair, it’s water.” Lexie clamped a restraining hand on her forearm.
“Water?” Blair echoed blankly. Then comprehension kicked in. “Okay. I get it. One of those royal rules again where you can’t drink in public because you might get drunk and embarrass the whole House of Ligueria by admitting you secretly had a crush on Prince Charles all along.”
Lexie rolled her eyes discreetly but didn’t correct her cousin. “Something like that.”
Blair hailed a circulating waiter and gave him the offensive champagne glass. “I’ve got your back. Where we are going, no one will recognize you.”
Lexie swallowed to ease the sudden lump in her throat. “Somehow that’s not very reassuring.”
“Live a little, Princess. Let your hair down.” Blair was practically bouncing with excitement. She was rarely still and had the attention span of a three year old. “Let your inner slut out!” she cried with all the fervor of a sports ad slogan.
A giggle escaped from Lexie despite her nervousness. If anything, she was glad to have gone on this trip to reconnect with her mother’s side of the family. The Gallaghers were bold, brassy, and unrepentant. Her grandmother used to despair whenever she spent the summers in Los Angeles with her mother, afraid she was going to get “infected” by the Gallaghers’ heathen ways.
“Time’s a-wastin’, Your Highness,” Blair said, all cheek, but she craned her neck to survey the guests cagily. “We better get to it before the clock strikes twelve.”
She started pulling Lexie across the grand hotel ballroom where a charity gala for one of her billionaire father’s causes was currently in full swing.“Don’t look now,” Blair warned in a low voice, “but the Proud Prince is at your ten o’clock.”
At the mention of her older brother’s nickname from the gutter press, Lexie’s elegantly coiffed head automatically swung to where His Royal Highness Prince Stefan of Seirenada was busy holding court in the middle of the vast, opulent ballroom. He was surrounded by a coterie of dignitaries and distinguished-looking men. Her guilt at what she was about to embark on must have been emitting from her like tsunami waves because Stefan paused in midsentence and honed in on her exact location by the side door exit. She froze like a deer trapped in the headlights until Blair’s vicious tug on her hand snapped her out of her catatonia.
“Sheesh!” Blair cried in frustration, witnessing the interaction between the two royals. “I told you not to look!”
“Sorry,” Lexie muttered apologetically. It was tantamount to asking her not to think about pink elephants, knowing she would be imagining them the second she had been told not to.
“He thinks I’m a bad enough influence as it is,” Blair griped. “I swear he would have asked me to change out of this dress if dad didn’t happen to be my date for tonight. Seriously, Stefan has got to remove that big scepter up his ass. He would be totally hot if he just loosened up a bit.” Blair ignored a society matron who was determinedly making her way towards them and aimed for the double doors, eager to escape from the ballroom. “His Highness seriously needs to get laid.”
. He’s not the only one
. “He’s just got a lot of things on his mind right now.”
For a second, Lexie felt guilty. Stefan’s state visit to the U.S. was already plagued by ongoing demonstrations at the Seirenadan embassy. A handful of immigrants who wanted the monarchy abolished had been picketing since Day 1 of their arrival, bolstered by rumblings from some disgruntled citizens of the principality.
“Lexie, are you having second thoughts?” Blair’s smirk told her she knew Lexie would be backing out all along.
She was a last minute addition to Stefan’s entourage. Guessing his reason behind it, Lexie ruthlessly squashed the self-reproach. It was just one night. Just a few precious snatched hours before she faced the inevitable and went on with her duty.
“God, no,” Lexie said with such feeling her abdominal muscles contracted with force, possibly killing all the butterflies creating havoc in her stomach. “Lead the way.”
She ignored Stefan’s dark frown as she followed Blair out of the ballroom, her two hulking bodyguards falling into place behind her. With Stefan caught in the middle of a conversation, it would be terribly impolite for him to break off and accost her, much as he wanted to. And Lexie knew that was her very small avenue of escape.
Blair’s high heels clacked a staccato rhythm on the marble floors as she headed to the elevator, for once being quiet as they stepped inside. They were flanked by the bodyguards. Their reflection in the mirrored interior stared back at them. Were it not for Lexie’s updo, the similarity in their height, build, and coloring would have made people look twice and think of them as twins.
Not waiting for an answer, Blair went on. "Isn’t it fantastic timing Theia’s down with a migraine? One less dragon to dodge.” Her nut brown eyes, a darker shade than Lexie’s hazel ones, gleamed at her back with mischief.
“Poor Theia,” Lexie uttered with equal guilt and sympathy. “She should have told me she was feeling poorly when we arrived this morning.” But as usual, her Press Secretary/Personal Assistant was all brisk efficiency. Surprisingly, it was Stefan who had noted Theia’s pallor and had ordered her to take the rest of the day off to recuperate.
Reaching the penthouse, they stepped into a mammoth suite her uncle had booked and paid for Blair to stay in for the duration of the Las Vegas polo season. Her uncle, having no son, had hoped the Gallagher genes’ love for the game would rub off on Blair. Alas, no such luck. Blair’s only interest in that direction lay in getting laid and having affairs with gorgeous Argentine players.
The tight white jeans didn’t hurt either,
she had said saucily on more than one occasion.
Slamming the doors on the bodyguards, Blair kicked off her high-heeled shoes and lit a cigarette. Lexie sedately perched on one of the sumptuous dark couches, eyeing Blair disapprovingly.
“Don’t say it,” Blair warned, curling her legs under her thighs as she made herself at home.
“I wasn’t going to.” Lexie rose from the couch gracefully. Remembering her bladder, she said, “Excuse me. I have to go to the bathroom.”
Blair puffed on her cigarette. “Just say you need to pee. No need to stand on ceremony, Your Highness. It’s just the two of us.”
“There is no need to be vulgar,” Lexie said, feigning horror as she quoted her long-dead grandmother’s favorite admonition to her American daughter-in-law, her “common” Broadway actress mother.
would turn in her grave if she knew what her little Lexie was planning to do.
She stepped into the spacious en suite bathroom with its gleaming marble floors, his and hers sink, and sunken bathtub. Emerging from the toilet, she glanced at herself critically in the mirror. Blair’s favorite makeup artist and hairdresser had agreed to be Lexie’s personal stylist and assistant on her five-day visit to the United States for the occasional function she was required to attend. Stefan, a bachelor, had delegated some of the more “social” engagements to her so he could concentrate on the trade issues Seirenada wanted to discuss with the U.S. government.
Lexie thought her makeup had been rather “heavy”. She rarely bothered with it back home. In Seirenada, the people were so used to seeing the present generation of royals walking about, grabbing a cup of coffee or riding a bicycle, that they had almost lost their mystique. Only the ever-present paparazzi gave their location away. And even their numbers had significantly dwindled since there was never really much going on since that last “scandal”. Only tourists, who were enamored of spotting a prince or princess, made a big deal out of it. And when they did manage to spot one, they barely held their disappointment in check at their “ordinariness”.
Guy, the makeup artist, had convinced Lexie in a faux French accent that “zee purple heather eye shadow was zee
color for your eyes.” Staring back at her reflection, her eyelids just looked bruised.
She sighed, already regretting her impulse of following through Blair’s prescribed bucket list. How pathetic can one get when one had to solicit another person to draw up her list for her? Blair had reacted like an enthusiastic puppy out for a walk for the first time, straining at the leash, raring to frolic in the park. Lexie had been counting on her cousin’s reaction. She just didn’t trust herself to go through with the plan on her own.
A blockbuster movie that her uncle, Blair’s dad, had produced was being shown on the enormous flat screen on the living room when she stepped out of the bathroom. It was muted. Lexie glanced at the coffee table, and her blood went cold just as Blair materialized from the doorway of one of the bedrooms, carrying a shopping bag, grinning widely. She saw Lexie staring fixedly at the tabloid magazine on the table.
“Can you believe it? Peter Wainwright in a freak sailing accident. What a waste. And he was so hot. Wasn’t he at Stefan’s coronation?”
“Yes. He was,” Lexie replied woodenly. Blair had been too young back then to remember, but it was just a matter of time before the press did. Stefan, in typical overprotective brother mode, or at least that was what she thought he was in since he never cared to explain anything to her and expected her to follow him automatically, wanted to be a few steps ahead. He was hoping that the media had short-term memory, but just in case they didn’t, he had decided to bring her along on the trip to be able to keep an eye on her.
News of the accident had been everywhere. She knew Theia had been carefully screening the newspapers delivered to her suite every morning before she had had a chance to read them. No guessing from whose orders it came from. Stefan and probably even Theia, who had a streak of insubordination unbeknownst to the Prince, felt it would be too upsetting. It was, but not for the reasons they all thought. She jerked in surprise at the thud of the paper bag as Blair let go of her mysterious package.
Lexie gave an unladylike shriek when Blair, after saying “ta da” like an amateur magician in a kiddie party, pulled out two wigs. For a second, Lexie couldn’t process what they were and acted viscerally to the amount of hair in Blair’s hands. Lexie’s little scream caused Blair to drop the wigs.
“God, I’m sorry,” Lexie apologized, clutching her chest as her heart raced, feeling like a ninny. She was on edge.
“Shit! You almost gave me a heart attack.” Blair picked up the hairpieces on the floor. “What was that all about?”
“Nerves,” Lexie replied a few seconds later when her heart rate had slowed down.
Blair flopped on the couch beside her. “Honey,” she said quietly, “you’re wound up tighter than a socialite experiencing withdrawal symptoms from going off carbs. Are you sure you want to go through with this?”
Did she really? She was twenty-five, five years older than Blair, but she felt stunted in the real world department. Brought up by a rigid grandmother and an overprotective older brother, Lexie’s only “exposure” to the outside world consisted of trips to the U.S. for summer vacations when her mother even remembered her presence. Colleen Gallagher was a world-renowned Broadway singer/actress with an Irish background. Her being baptized as a Catholic was the only thing her
approved about her mother, and that was quickly withheld when the old termagant found out Colleen Gallagher hadn’t gone to Mass in more than twenty years.