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Her Unforgettable Royal Lover

By:Merline Lovelace

Her Unforgettable Royal Lover - Merline Lovelace

One

August was slamming New York City when Dominic St. Sebastian climbed out of a cab outside the castle-like Dakota. Heat waves danced like demented demons above the sidewalks. Across the street, moisture-starved leaves drifted like yellowed confetti from the trees in Central Park. Even the usual snarl of cabs and limos and sightseeing buses cruising the Upper West Side seemed lethargic and sluggish.

The same couldn’t be said for the Dakota’s doorman. As dignified as ever in his lightweight summer uniform, Jerome abandoned his desk to hold the door for the new arrival.

“Thanks,” Dom said with the faint accent that marked him as European despite the fact that English came as naturally to him as his native Hungarian. Shifting his carryall to his right hand, he clapped the older man’s shoulder with his left. “How’s the duchess?”

“As strong-willed as ever. She wouldn’t listen to the rest of us, but Zia finally convinced her to forego her daily constitutional during this blistering heat.”

Dom wasn’t surprised his sister had succeeded where others failed. Anastazia Amalia Julianna St. Sebastian combined the slashing cheekbones, exotic eyes and stunning beauty of a supermodel with the tenacity of a bulldog.

And now his beautiful, tenacious sister was living with Grand Duchess Charlotte. Zia and Dom had met their long-lost relative for the first time only last year and formed an instant bond. So close a bond that Charlotte had invited Zia to live at the Dakota during her pediatric residency at Mt. Sinai.

“Has my sister started her new rotation?” Dom asked while he and Jerome waited for the elevator.

He didn’t doubt the doorman would know. He had the inside track on most of the Dakota’s residents but kept a close eye on his list of favorites. Topping that list were Charlotte St. Sebastian and her two granddaughters, Sarah and Gina. Zia had recently been added to the select roster.

“She started last week,” Jerome advised. “She doesn’t say so, but I can see oncology is hard on her. Would be on anyone, diagnosing and treating all those sick children. And the hospital works the residents to the bone, which doesn’t help.” He shook his head, but brightened a moment later. “Zia wrangled this afternoon off, though, when she heard you were flying in. Oh, and Lady Eugenia is here, too. She arrived last night with the twins.”

“I haven’t seen Gina and the twins since the duchess’s birthday celebration. The girls must be, what? Six or seven months old now?”

“Eight.” Jerome’s seamed face folded into a grin. Like everyone else, he’d fallen hard for an identical pair of rosebud mouths, lake-blue eyes and heads topped with their mother’s spun-sugar, silvery-blond curls.

“Lady Eugenia says they’re crawling now,” he warned. “Better watch where you step and what you step in.”

“I will,” Dom promised with a grin.

As the elevator whisked him to the fifth floor, he remembered the twins as he’d last seen them. Cooing and blowing bubbles and waving dimpled fists, they’d already developed into world-class heartbreakers.

They’d since developed two powerful sets of lungs, Dom discovered when a flushed and flustered stranger yanked open the door.

“It’s about time! We’ve been…”

She stopped, blinking owlishly behind her glasses, while a chorus of wails rolled down the marble-tiled foyer.

“You’re not from Osterman’s,” she said accusingly.

“The deli? No, I’m not.”

“Then who…? Oh! You’re Zia’s brother.” Her nostrils quivered, as if she’d suddenly caught a whiff of something unpleasant. “The one who goes through women like a hot knife through butter.”

Dom hooked a brow but couldn’t dispute the charge. He enjoyed the company of women. Particularly the generously curved, pouty-lipped, out-for-a-good-time variety.

The one facing him now certainly didn’t fall into the first two of those categories. Not that he could see more than a suggestion of a figure inside her shapeless linen dress and boxy jacket. Her lips were anything but pouty, however. Pretty much straight-lined, as a matter of fact, with barely disguised disapproval.

“Igen,” Dom agreed lazily in his native Hungarian. “I’m Dominic. And you are?”

“Natalie,” she bit out, wincing as the howls behind her rose to high-pitched shrieks. “Natalie Clark. Come in, come in.”

Dom had spent almost seven years now as an Interpol agent. During that time, he’d helped take down his share of drug traffickers, black marketeers and the scum who sold young girls and boys to the highest bidders. Just last year he’d helped foil a kidnapping and murder plot against Gina’s husband right here in New York City. But the scene that greeted him as he paused at the entrance to the duchess’s elegant sitting room almost made him turn tail and run.

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