Playing the Royal Game

By: Carol Marinelli

“Do you want to be my fiancée?”

“Alex,” Allegra said, “why when I didn’t even want to have adrink with you do you think I’d even entertain….?”

“A million pounds.”

She laughed, because these things didn’t happen and he had tobe joking, and when he pulled out a checkbook, she laughed even more, because itwas crazy. Except when he handed it to her, his hand was completely steady andhe wasn’t laughing.

“You might not have to do anything. I will fly to Santinatomorrow and tell my family. The people will be outraged—soon enough I’ll betold to reverse my foolish decision, to come back to London till the scandaldies down….”

“So what are you paying me for?”

“I can’t just invent someone—you might have to join me inSantina at some point. All you would have to do is smile and hang on my everyword.”

“Until?”

“Until the people dictate otherwise.” He gave a shrug. “Itmight be days, it might be weeks.” He looked to the check and so, too, didAllegra, and she thought about it—hell, she really thought about it. He wasn’tasking for her to sleep with him—just to smile and hold his hand. And what shecould do with the money... She could get a flat, a job. Actually she could dowhat she really wanted…

“You could finally write that book.” It was as if he hadstepped into her mind. She heard his voice as if he was inside it, but it wasmadness, it couldn’t work….

“Is that a yes?” Alex asked and she looked back at him,thought not just of the book she could write but of a link to this man, thisbeautiful man who had entered her life—and somehow she simply wasn’t quite readyto let go of him.





Playing the Royal Game

Carol Marinelli





All about the author…Carol Marinelli

CAROL MARINELLI finds writing a biorather like writing her New Year’s resolutions. Oh, she’d love to say that sinceshe wrote the last one, she now goes to the gym regularly and doesn’t stop forcoffee and cake and a gossip afterward; that she’s incredibly organized andwrites for a few productive hours a day after tidying her immaculate house andtaking a brisk walk with the dog.

The reality is that Carol spends an inordinate amount of timedaydreaming about dark, brooding men and exotic places (research), which doesn’tleave too much time for the gym, housework or anything that comes in between,and her most productive writing hours happen to be in the middle of the night,which leaves her in a constant state of bewildered exhaustion.

Originally from England, Carol now lives in Melbourne,Australia. She adores going back to the U.K. for a visit—actually, she adoresgoing anywhere for a visit—and constantly (expensively) strives to overcome herfear of flying. She has three gorgeous children who are growing up so fast (toofast—they’ve just worked out that she lies about her age!) and keep her busywith a never-ending round of homework, sport and friends coming over.

A nurse and a writer, Carol writes for the HarlequinPresents® and Medical Romance lines and is passionate about both. She loves thefast-paced, busy setting of a modern hospital, but every now and then admitsit’s bliss to escape to the glamorous, alluring world of her Presents heroes andheroines. A bit like her real life, actually!






CHAPTER ONE

SHE was better off without the job, Allegra told herself.

No one should have to put up with that.

Except that walking in the rain along grey London streets, taking the underground to various employment agencies, the anger that her boss could make such a blatant a pass at her and then fire her for not succumbing started to be replaced with something that felt close to fear.

She needed that job.

Needed it.

Her savings had been obliterated by the bottomless pit that was her family’s excess spending. At times it felt as if her lowly publishing wage supported half the Jackson family. Yes, she was the boring reliable one, but they didn’t mind her dependability when their erratic ways found them in trouble. Just last week she had lent her stepmother, Chantelle, close to five thousand pounds in cash for credit card debts that her father didn’t know about. It was laughable to think that she might now have to have her family support her.

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