Tis the season…for Christmas stories. I love reading holiday romance stories so I’m super excited that for the rest of the year all of our Sunday Snippets are holiday romance’s. Kicking it off is Jennifer Faye and her The Prince’s Christmas Vow book 2 in the Twin Princes of Mirraccino.
Zoe Sarris hasn’t seen Crown Prince Demetrius Castanavo since their secret elopement. So she’s shocked when he requests her interior design services. She’s only just pieced her broken heart back together, and seeing Demetrius—as gorgeous and guarded as ever—threatens to shatter it all over again…
However, the shocking news that they are actually still married changes everything. Especially when Demetrius reveals he wants his princess back…preferably in time for Christmas!
So much for thinking Christmas had come early.
There appeared to be a lump of coal in her stocking.
Zoe arched a brow at Demetrius. Question after question crowded her mind. Like what exactly was her ex-husband really up to? Then again, their marriage had been annulled so technically he wasn’t her ex. So what did that make him? Her fairy-tale past? Her delicious mistake?
Not that any of it mattered.
They were history. That part was undeniable.
“The prince is correct. I just stopped by to check on something.” Zoe made sure to wear her friendliest smile. “If you’ll excuse me.”
She stepped past Demetrius and kept walking. The murmur of their voices resumed. It wasn’t until she’d reached the other end of the landing that she paused and glanced over her shoulder.
Her gaze scanned over Demetrius’s tailored charcoal-gray suit and polished dress shoes. He looked quite smart in his designer clothes. His hair was a little shorter and styled. So much for the laid-back, not-worried-about-his-looks prince. The tide had most definitely turned. The man standing in front of the camera definitely had a serious persona about him.
What had happened to turn Demetrius into the focused prince standing before her? The question teetered on the tip of her tongue, but she knew that it was no longer any of her business. The thought settled as a lump in her stomach. She’d done what she thought was best at the time by walking away—even if she had loved him.
When his dark gaze met hers, the breath hitched in her throat. It was abundantly clear that she was the very last person he’d expected to see today. And he was none too happy about it. Her fingers fidgeted with the material of her skirt. Would he have her replaced?
Zoe’s stomach dipped. This job was not only impressive but it also paid well—quite well. It’d certainly improve her declining bank account and give her the funds necessary to continue helping her ailing mother. Without it, she didn’t know how she’d make do.
She’d lingered too long. It was time to slip inside the mansion away from the paparazzi, away from the questions—away from Demetrius’s accusing stare. She was just about at the front door of the mansion when a man stepped out from behind one of the columns.
“Smile for the camera, sweetie.” He snapped a picture of her.
The flash momentarily blinded her. She stood rooted in the same spot. What in the world?
The man was short and had a paunch. He hadn’t seen a razor recently and his hair was greasy with a long, stringy comb-over. His eyes narrowed in on her. “They’re going to love you.”
“Who are you? What do you want?”
“I’m the man who’s going to learn your secrets.” There was no way he was with Ms. Russo. Zoe started to back up. Not realizing there was a step behind her, she tripped and a scream tore from her lungs.
“Zoe?” Demetrius called out.
Her hands flailed about as she struggled to regain her balance. And then suddenly there was a steadying hand clutching her arm, pulling her to safety. Once she was on level footing, her gaze met Demetrius’s concerned look.
“Are you all right?” His voice was gruff with concern.
“I’m fine.” She glanced around but the man who’d startled her was gone. “Did you see that man?”
Demetrius shook his head. “Was it one of the construction workers?”
“I don’t think so. He had a camera.”
Demetrius called over one of his security detail, and in hushed tones they spoke. Then he turned back to her. “Don’t worry. If he’s still here, they’ll find him. Do you know what he wanted?”
Zoe shook her head.
Ms. Russo rushed over. “Is everything okay?”
“There was a man here,” Demetrius explained. “He startled Miss Sarris.”
The reporter lowered her microphone. “I caught a glimpse of him just as he turned to leave.”
Zoe was so relieved to know that someone had seen him. “Do you know who he is?”
“I don’t know his name.” Ms. Russo’s dark brows drew together. “I’ve seen him before. I think he may be a stringer, selling whatever dirt he digs up on celebrities to the highest paying publication. He doesn’t look it, but he’s very good at sniffing out the scandalous stories.” Ms. Russo’s gaze moved from Zoe to Demetrius. “So Prince Demetrius, do you know why he’s investigating you?”
Demetrius frowned. “I have no idea.”
Wanting to diffuse this line of questioning, Zoe spoke up. “What will happen if they catch him?”
Demetrius’s gaze met hers. “Did he hurt you?”
When she shook her head, he continued. “He’ll most likely be questioned and released.”
It wasn’t exactly a comforting thought to know that man would soon be loose. But Demetrius was right. They couldn’t lock him up just because he’d scared her.
“Don’t look so worried.” Demetrius’s voice was low and comforting. “He was interested in me, not you.”
Zoe wasn’t so sure about that. The man’s beady eyes had been staring right at her when he’d spoken. Goose bumps raced down her arms. She’d prefer to never see him again.
“Are you all right?” The reporter sent her a worried look.
Zoe nodded. “I should be going.”
“Please don’t rush off.” Ms. Russo gestured to her cameraman to start filming. “Since you’re here, can you give us some idea of what to look forward to with the mansion?”
Zoe wanted to leave—to get as far away as fast as possible. But how would that look? Talk about giving credence to that creep’s allegations that she had secrets. She refused to let him or anyone else run her off.
With every bit of willpower she could muster, Zoe flashed the camera a smile. “Sure. As long as Prince Demetrius doesn’t mind.”
He made a pretense of checking his Rolex watch. “I suppose we have time. But it will have to be quick. I have another meeting shortly.”
“Certainly.” The reporter’s eyes gleamed with victory.
The woman started rambling off questions about the project as the cameraman filmed the whole session. It was bad enough running into her ex, but now to be filmed with him for primetime television made her want to groan. Could this day get any worse?
“Now, how did you two meet?”
“What?” When all three people turned inquisitive eyes Zoe’s way, the heat of embarrassment inched up her neck. “Sorry.” She searched for the easiest way out of this mess. “I got distracted. What did you ask?”
“I was wondering how you and the prince met.”
Zoe waited, hoping Demetrius would speak up and put an end to this interview. But instead he remained silent, letting the awkward silence grow. Zoe improvised. “We don’t really know each other.”
The reporter’s brow arched. “That’s interesting. I’d have sworn you two seemed to know each other. Are you sure there wasn’t another project? Or a social engagement?”
“We don’t move in the same social circles,” Zoe said with utter honesty.
At last, Demetrius found his voice. “This is actually our first project together and Miss Sarris might not remember, but we met ever so briefly at the opening of the DiCapria corporate offices. She’d done such an excellent job with its design that when the Residenza del Rosa project came up, her name immediately came to mind.”
Of course Zoe remembered that moment. It had been the night her whole world changed. So then how could he just stand there and talk about their very first meeting at the DiCapria party as though nothing had come of it? It had been the precipice of her heart tumbling and careening into his.