The Prince's Christmas Vow

By: Jennifer Faye

CHAPTER ONE

 THE PLAN WAS in motion.

 Though suddenly, it didn’t sound like such a good idea.

 Demetrius Castanavo, the Crown Prince of the Mirraccino Islands, shrugged off the worrisome feeling as he stepped out of the air-conditioned black limousine. Nothing was going to go wrong. He glanced at the clear blue sky, appreciating this last bit of good weather before it cooled down in the weeks leading up to Christmas.

 Demetrius buttoned his charcoal-gray suit jacket, gave each sleeve a tug and then straightened his shoulders. Today he must look his best. It was imperative.

 A bright camera flash momentarily blinded him.

 He blinked, regaining his focus. The media coverage had begun. He restrained a sigh. Instead he lifted his chin and forced his lips into a well-practiced smile.

 Demetrius, the royal playboy, was no more. His days of nonchalance and bucking the system were over. Now he was intent on becoming a proper and worthy heir to the Mirraccino throne. It was, after all, his birthright—whether he desired it or not.

 And now he was about to participate in a very important interview that would help shape his new, improved public image—one he hoped would sway the residents of the Mirraccino nation to support his inevitable rise to the throne.

 His gaze settled on an impressive set of steps that led to a historic mansion. At the top was an expansive landing with large, white columns amid the backdrop of blue shuttered windows. The place was a timeless beauty. He was glad they were going to save this building by revitalizing it.

 There was just one snag in his well-thought-out plan—Zoe.

 His estranged wife.

 But that situation would be resolved soon—very soon.

 The head of his security detail leaned in close and whispered, “The reporter is waiting for you on the landing, Your Royal Highness.”

 Demetrius shoved the disturbing thoughts of his estranged wife to the back of his mind. He’d deal with her tomorrow. “Good. As soon as I meet with him, we have to get moving if we’re going to stay on schedule today.”

 “Sir, the reporter, it’s a woman.”

 “Sì. I remember now.” Demetrius needed to keep his head in this game instead of wondering how Zoe would react when she saw him again.

 Demetrius swiftly climbed the steps that fanned out, covering a large area while adding to the building’s charm. He’d definitely made the right decision by insisting the all-access ramp be constructed on the side of the building, readily accessible yet not losing the building’s aesthetic appeal.

 His vision was to marry the building’s beauty with functionality. They were doing well with the functionality. The beauty would be Zoe’s area of expertise. And tomorrow would be her first day on the job.

 Off to the far side of the landing stood a short, slender brunette. Her makeup was a bit heavy for his tastes, but he reasoned that it must have something to do with spending so much time in front of the television cameras. Interviews were one of his least favorite tasks, but at times they were a necessity—like now.

 When his advisors had unanimously agreed this was the best way for him to overhaul his scandalous youthful past, they had also assured him that agreeing to the one-on-one interview would be the best way to give the citizens access to him—to let them know that he was serious about being a caring, involved ruler. Though he’d rather keep his distance from the paparazzi, Demetrius had to admit that in this one particular instance, they may in fact come in handy—quite handy indeed.

 He reached the landing and turned to the reporter. Greetings were quick and formal. Demetrius had every intention of keeping things moving along at a brisk pace. He knew the more time he spent with the media, the more they’d learn. And in his experience, that was never a good thing. He wanted to control the flow of information, not the other way around.

 Ms. Carla Russo, the face of Mirraccino’s entertainment news, held a microphone. “Before we begin, I wondered if you might have an announcement for our viewers.”

 “I do have news—”

 “Oh, good. We’ve been hearing all sorts of rumors, and the viewers would really like confirmation that you’ve decided upon a princess.”

 What?

 The cameraman moved closer. Demetrius’s throat constricted. They knew about Zoe? No. Impossible. The reporter was on a hunting expedition. Pure and simple. Anything for a sensational headline. Well, he wasn’t about to give her anything to chase. Nothing at all.

 With practiced skill, Demetrius forced his lips into a smile. “I can assure you there is no princess in my near future.”

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