Susan Mallery

The Marcelli Princess

The fifth book in the Marcelli Sisters of Pleasure Road series, 2007


This books exists because readers asked for Mia’s story. They asked a lot and they were extremely vocal about it. So here it is. For each of you who wanted to know what happened to the wild girl who planned to take over the world.

And to my editor, Megan McKeever, who made it so much better.


Mia Marcelli was used to sleeping alone so it came as something of a shock to wake up with a strange man in her bed. She did what any other self-actualized, self-defense-trained woman would do-she screamed and jumped to her feet.

“Big mistake,” she yelled as she backed toward the door. “You shouldn’t have broken in here. I have access to weapons, and grandmothers who don’t like this sort of thing. My brother’s a former Navy SEAL.”

The man sat up and smiled at her. “I see you still talk too much, Mia. When an unknown man appears in your bed, you should run.”

He knew her name. That startled her nearly as much as the fact that he was giving her advice. It didn’t seem like normal behavior for a guy intent on raping and pillaging. Assuming anyone really pillaged these days.

She paused by the door and pushed her bangs out of her face. There was something familiar about the man. The hair and eye color were all wrong, but the shape of his face reminded her of someone. And that mouth-she would remember it until she died.

“Diego?” she breathed, knowing this stranger couldn’t be him. Diego was dead. She’d seen the bullets hit his body, had watched him fall to the ground. There’d been so much blood.

“Am I that different?” the man asked as he stood and smiled at her. “Has so much changed?”

It was him, she thought, too stunned to do much more than gasp. “H-how is this possible? Why aren’t you dead? I saw you die. Dead people don’t have conversations.”

“It is a long story. Perhaps one I could tell you over breakfast.”

That voice. She would know it anywhere. It had haunted her dreams for the past five years.

Dead people also don’t eat. “Get back,” she said, feeling both shocked and angry. When in doubt, get pissed off. It was a philosophy she’d learned worked for her. “I don’t know what this game is, but I’m not playing it.”

“Mia, it is I. You must recognize me.”

“Must I?”

Right now she didn’t have to do anything but keep from having a heart attack from the shock, and wish she kept a weapon in her room. Something big and scary.

The bedroom door flew open and her two grandmothers burst inside. Grandma Tessa had a fire poker in one hand, and Grammy M threatened Diego with a rolling pin.

“Call Joe,” Tessa ordered Mia. “He’ll take care of this scumbag.”

Scumbag? Someone had been watching just a little too many police dramas.

“I’m not sure he’s a scumbag,” Mia said, still finding it difficult to believe her own eyes. “I might know this guy.”

“You do know me,” he said, his voice washing over her like a familiar and welcome memory. “Mia, it is I.”

Diego? Was it possible? Conflicting emotions raced through her. She wanted to run into his arms and have him hold her forever. At the same time she wanted to grab the poker and beat him over the head with it.

“You’re supposed to be dead,” she said, still confused and angry, and maybe just a little scared. Because if this guy really was Diego, she was going to have a lot of explaining to do.

“So you keep saying,” he told her, sounding more amused than anything else. “Would you be more happy if I were?”

“It would make more sense. I don’t believe in ghosts…or vampires.”

He actually smiled. “Good, because I am neither. Mia,”-he took a step toward her-“trust your eyes and your heart. I am the man you knew as Diego.”

“We don’t trust people who pretend to be someone else,” Grandma Tessa said with surprising force despite her small stature and advanced years. “Who do you think you are now?”

“I know I am Rafael, Crown Prince of Calandria.”

Mia rolled her eyes. Great-a crazy man in her bedroom, and she hadn’t even had coffee yet. “Right, and I’m the Sleeping Beauty.”

This had gone on long enough. Mia took the poker from her grandmother and held it out in front of her. “That’s it. I don’t know who you are or what you want, but you’re in big trouble. Grammy M, call Joe.” She shook the poker at the intruder. “As for you, big guy, you stay right there or I’ll take you out. Don’t think I can’t. I’ve had professional training.”

The man who looked amazingly like Diego had the balls to smile at her again. “I’m not going anywhere, Mia. I came to see you. I’ve waited five years to be with you again. I can certainly wait until you’re willing to listen to reason.”

Reason? “Not my strong suit. I’m more into react now, say ‘Oops’ later. If you’re who you say you are, you should know that.”

“I know many things, including the fact that you once wore a silver ring bought in a market. It was a foolish trinket, yet oddly valuable to us both.”

Mia’s gaze involuntarily darted to the bottom drawer of her dresser. She remembered the ring and the man who bought it for her.

He took a step closer. “I know other things,” he said, his voice low and seductive. “I know how you like to be kissed and touched and where you like to-”

“Hey,” she said loudly, doing her best to both shut him up and break the spell he attempted to weave. “Grandmothers present. Let’s avoid too much information.”

Slowly she lowered the poker and looked at him. He was the right height and physical type. His voice was the same, as was his arrogance. His smile made her thighs go up in flames, which hadn’t happened even once in the past five years. She wanted to believe because once she’d loved him so much, she’d thought knowing he was dead was going to kill her, too.

But what about the other changes? The color of his eyes, the hair, the scar? Then she remembered her brief time in a world of deception and secrecy, where people could easily be made to look different. Contact lenses, a quick dye job, and little glue-voila, a new man.

“I assume you have some ID on you,” she said, trying to hold on to her anger, because it was safe. Only she

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