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A Prince of a Guy

Jill Shalvis

  “Did you mean it?” Carly asked

  Sean bent to the task of changing his flat tire, only then realizing she’d followed him into the pouring rain when he’d left the car. “Mean what?”

  “About this being just the beginning…” Her eyes were huge, her body taut with…nerves?

  “I meant it,” he said with an ease that no longer startled him. “Now go stay warm in the car.”

  Instead, she went down on her knees in the dirt beside him, reaching out to stroke away a strand of wet hair from his eyes. “You look very sexy all wet, Sean O’Mara.”


  “Oh, yeah.” She bit her full lower lip and Sean promptly dropped the jack.

  “If I help with the tire,” she whispered in his ear, “we’ll get done faster, which would leave us at least a couple of hours’ darkness left to do…well, whatever we please.”

  Sean broke the world record changing the tire, with Carly’s soft laughter egging him on.

  “My, my,” she crooned, handing him the wrench. “A man who can use his tools. I like that.”

  Dear Reader,

  So how many times did you dream of being a princess? Come on, tell me true. I did. Often. Especially when I was little, but mostly that was because I wanted the tiara. As I grew up, the tiara took a back seat to getting Prince Charming. In A Prince of a Guy, my heroine, a princess in her own right, wants Prince Charming, too, but she wants him to be a “normal” guy and look at her as if she’s a “normal” woman. She gets a whole lot more than that when love enters the fray!

  I’m honored to be kicking off RED-HOT ROYALS for Harlequin, and hope you enjoy the entire series, including my 2-in-1 ROYAL DUETS in October!

  Happy reading,

  Jill Shalvis

  P.S. You can write me at or P.O. Box 3945, Truckee, CA 96160-3945.

  Books by Jill Shalvis














  Jill Shalvis


  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15


  IT TOOK Sean O’Mara a full five minutes to realize he was being taken advantage of, maybe six. His only defense was that he’d worked until past midnight and it was barely five in the morning, leaving him bleary-eyed and bewildered.

  “You’re…what?” he asked again slowly, trying to make sense of the whirlwind that had barged into his house.

  “I’m going to England for two weeks.” His sister deposited her four-year-old daughter, Melissa, on the floor of the foyer where Sean stood. The little girl immediately vanished into his kitchen. His sister vanished, too, only to return twice, each time with a huge load from her car.

  Not a good sign. “England?” he asked, getting less groggy by the passing minute.

  “Yep.” She said this as if it was only across the street from his Santa Barbara, California home, instead of across the globe.

  “I can’t tell you how much your help means to me, Sean.” She staggered beneath an armful. “Melissa’ll be no trouble, I promise, and I’ll finish the design job ASAP.”

  Melissa, no trouble? Ha! That had to be some sort of oxymoron. Exhaustion was quickly replaced by a gnawing sense of urgency to talk his sister out of this. He couldn’t be responsible for a child for two long weeks, he just couldn’t. He had work, he had a life…okay, maybe not a life outside of work, but he did have work, plenty of it.

  Besides, and most importantly here, he had no idea how to care for a kid.

  “Oh, and don’t forget,” Stacy warned. “She still needs a little help in the bathroom with the, um, paperwork.”

  “What? Wait a sec.” He rubbed his temples. He yawned. He stretched, but he didn’t wake up in his own bed, which meant he wasn’t dreaming. “You can’t just leave her here.”

  “Why not? You’re responsible. You know how to cook. You’re kind. Well, mostly. What could go wrong?”

  “Anything! Everything!” He struggled for proof and hit the jackpot right in front of him. “I can’t even keep goldfish,” he said earnestly. “They die. Look.” He pointed to the ten-gallon glass aquarium sitting on a table in the entranceway. Empty. “I forget to feed them. So really, that knocks out both the responsible and the kind thing all in one shot.”

  Stacy’s smile was indulgent. “You’re going to be fine. Oh, and don’t forget to put the toilet seat down or she’ll…go fishing.”

  “But…” Sean craned his neck to peek into his kitchen. On the floor sat a sweet-looking, innocent-seeming child of four years.

  He knew better.

  Melissa, no matter how golden-curled, was no innocent. She could create a mess faster than he could blink. In her short lifetime, she’d bitten him three times, cut his hair twice—without permission—and peed on his bed only fifteen minutes before a hot date.

  The little monster in question, the one who would be no trouble, looked right at him and smiled guilelessly…as she tipped her sipper cup upside down, shaking grape juice all over both her and the clean floor.

  The ensuing purple sticky splatters caused her to giggle uproariously.

  Fear curled in Sean’s belly. “I’ve got work,” he said to Stacy, sounding desperate even to his own ears. But children weren’t his thing. He was an architect. He ran his own business, which meant on a good day he put in fourteen hours minimum.

  Not surprisingly, he came from a long line of workaholics. Both his grandfather and father had been attorneys, great ones, but they’d never spent any time with their children, which was one of the reasons Sean didn’t have any.

  He had no intention of neglecting his children—if he ever had any. Work was everything to him, and so was being the best at what he did.

  He could hardly be the best child minder when he had no experience.

  “News flash,” Stacy said. “You work too darn hard.”

  “I like my work.”

  “Uh-huh. And we all know it.” Her eyes softened with affection. “When was the last time you had a day off?”

  “Well…” He couldn’t remember exactly, but thought it had probably been about two years ago when his ex-fiancée had nearly destroyed him.

  “I’m doing you a favor, Seany, you’ll see. Melissa will show you how wonderful life is, or how it could be if you’d only slow down for a moment and take a deep breath. As it is now, you wouldn’t know how to enjoy life if it bit you on the tush.”

  It didn’t take a rocket scientist to know he was losing this battle. “But—”

  “Just try it, Sean. Do a puzzle. Color in a coloring book. It’s a terrific stress reliever.”

  Color in a coloring book? Sean shuddered at the thought, but there was something to his sister’s voice beyond the coaxing. Something…desperate? “Stace? What’s really the matter here?”

  She ignored the question, put her hands on her hips, blew a tuft of hair from her eyes and surveyed the mountain of gear she’d deposited. “Portable bed. Sipper cups. Clothes for an assortment of weather and
activities. Car seat. Booster chair. Life vest for the beach. Humidifier, just in case.”

  In case of what? “Stacy—”

  “Yep, I think that’s everything. Oh, and here’s a list of numbers you might need.” She handed him a stack of business cards. “Doctor, hospital, dentist, insurance company, insurance agent—”

  Good God. But beyond his panic, hers had taken root, and it stopped him cold. “Hey.” He took her shoulders and forced her to look at him. “What’s going on?”

  She tried to smile. “I’ve already told you.”

  “Just work?”

  “Really.” Lifting two fingers, she smiled. “Scout’s honor.”

  “Then there’s got to be someone else Melissa could stay with, a friend maybe, or—” Even as his words trailed off, he knew the truth. It was all over his sister’s face.

  She had no one else to ask, no one else to go to.

  Their parents had been gone for three years now. His dad of a heart attack, probably from a combination of working eighteen-hour shifts, smoking two packs a day and eating fast food at every turn. His mother had died the same year from pneumonia.

  As for friends, Stacy had plenty, just not the responsible kind, as Sean knew all too well, since he’d spent the past few years getting her on the straight and narrow path again.

  Dammit, he knew she had no one else. Her old friends couldn’t be trusted, her new friends were too new. Melissa’s father was long gone.

  She had no one but him.

  Stacy’s eyes were solemn, her smile gone. She was trying so hard to be brave, to get past her tromped on, damaged heart and make it on her own without too much help from her big brother, and what was he doing?

  Trying to turn her away.

  He couldn’t, not after all she’d been through. And since he loved her with all his own damaged heart, he sighed. “It’s okay.” He managed a smile. “I’ll do it.”

  “Really?” Her entire face beamed with happiness and a good amount of relief as she flung herself into his arms. “I owe you,” she whispered, then blew a kiss to her daughter as she took off toward the door. “Love you, Melissa! Love you, too, Sean!”

  And just like that, he was on his own.

  He watched her drive off, listening to Melissa’s gales of giggles as she did God-only-knew-what to his kitchen. “Love you, too,” he said to the quickly disappearing car.

  Slowly, dreadfully, he headed into his kitchen.

  Melissa smiled and held up her empty juice cup. “More.”

  Sean rubbed his eyes, then got a sponge and his first life lesson for the day—grape juice stains. Everything. Permanently.

  TWO DAYS LATER, Sean’s eyes were gritty from lack of sleep. He hadn’t touched a razor or done laundry, and his house looked like a cyclone had hit it. Unable to go into his downtown office and baby-sit at the same time, he’d had another phone line installed and was doing what he could from home.

  Which amounted to nothing other than chasing a certain four-year-old nightmare.

  At the moment, his fax line was ringing, as well as both the regular phones, along with his head. Melissa had insisted on crawling into his bed every hour or so. All night long. Every night.

  He suddenly realized that, in sharp contrast to the ringing, the kid was far too quiet.

  “Melissa?” he called as he headed toward the phone.


  The last time she’d been this quiet, she’d been busy pouring liquid bubbles on his hardwood hallway floors, because it made them pretty. He’d hit the hall at a run and went skating on his butt, which had put Melissa into hysterics.

  He hoped against hope that his ad in the paper—desperately seeking two-week nanny—worked. He hoped today’s nanny interviewee showed. He doubted it.

  No one else had.

  “Melissa” he called again, grabbing the first phone line. It was his harassed secretary, Nikki.

  “Well, look at that. He lives,” she said into his ear. “Look, I have three contracts for you to go over, five new sets of plans to review and—”

  “Hold on.” Ignoring her exasperated sigh, he clicked to the second ringing line, which was his latest client, Sam Snider.

  As he did this, the fax came alive. Nikki, ever so creative, was faxing the first page of one of the contracts that needed his attention. Sean greeted Sam, skimmed the contract and cocked his free ear for any sign of Melissa, of which there was none.

  He’d become the master of multitasking.

  “Your design?” he said to Sam. “I should have it ready by—”

  “Uncle Sean!” This from the bathroom. Melissa had surfaced.

  Hastily covering the phone with his palm, he called, “I’ll be right there!”

  “Come now, Uncle Sean!”

  “I’ll be right there,” he repeated and uncovered the receiver to continue talking to his client. “As I was saying—”

  “But Uncle Sean! I’m done!”

  Great. She was done. He tried to put Sam on hold, but the man was long-winded, so he ended up with the man talking in one year and Melissa shouting in the other.

  The fax machine continued to spout his contract.

  “Uncle Sean!”

  Because apparently he wasn’t overwhelmed enough, the doorbell rang.

  He needed a clone.

  Or a wife.

  Just two years ago, he’d come close to that with Tina. He’d never regretted not walking down the aisle, not once.

  Until now.

  Sam kept talking.

  “Wipe me!” yelled Melissa, loud enough for the entire county to hear.

  “I’ll wipe you in a sec!”

  Sam sputtered, then said, “Excuse me?”

  Sean dropped his head and thunked it on the counter, but even a near concussion didn’t change facts. He was failing, pathetically. And failing was the one thing he couldn’t handle. Slowly, he counted to ten, but yep, his life was still in the throes of hell.

  He politely hung up on his very wealthy client. Then, mourning the loss of that income, he headed into the bathroom and handled Melissa’s paperwork.

  Together they headed toward the front door. “I hope it’s my mommy,” Melissa said, bounding in front of him like an eager puppy, her blond curls wild and neglected. She hadn’t let Sean near her with a brush since she’d arrived.

  He had, however, made her brush her teeth. That must count for something.

  “I really want my mommy.”

  “I know.” Sean missed her mommy too. Big time. “But she’s not coming home for two weeks. The person at the door wants to be your nanny during the day.” Please, God.

  Melissa stopped short. “How long is two weeks?”

  “Fourteen days.”

  She tilted her head at him, piercing him with huge, baleful eyes. “That’s too long.”

  No kidding. “It’ll be over before you know it, kiddo. Do you want to open the door?”

  She brightened at that. “I hope it’s Mary Poppins. She sings pretty.”

  Sean didn’t care about singing, pretty or otherwise. He needed help on this daddy gig, and he needed it now.

  He hoped for an older nanny, a grandmotherly type who had lots of hugs and kisses and stories, all the stuff he didn’t have time for. Then he could get back to work without guilt.

  Together they opened the door.

  “Hello,” said the woman who stood there, who was neither old nor Mary Poppins-like.

  Sean’s first thought was she had the most unusually bright blue eyes he’d ever seen, magnified as they were behind glasses as thick as the bottom of a soda bottle. They sparkled when she smiled, which she was doing right now. And it wasn’t a forced, I-need-a-job smile, either, it was the sweetest, most open smile he’d ever seen. Helplessly, he responded to it with one of his own, though his was definitely more from profound relief than anything else.

  “I’m Carly Fortune, prospective nanny,” she said, tossing her long dark hair over her shoulder as she held out her

  “I’m Sean O’Mara, nanny seeker.” She wasn’t what he’d imagined, not at all, he thought, shaking her warm, soft hand. For one thing, she was young. Her dark hair had fallen in her face again, but mid-twenties was his guess. She wore a long sweater over a wide skirt that fell to her ankles, exposing a pair of chunky boots.

  Not an inch of her below her neck showed, so he couldn’t tell if she was small, large or somewhere in between. And because he was a man, and mostly a very weak man, at that, he usually noticed a woman for her appearance. Not that he felt particularly proud of that fact, but it was the truth. A beautiful woman turned his head.

  Not that this woman wasn’t beautiful. More like Sandra Bullock in Miss Congeniality before the makeover.

  But compassion and joy shimmered from her every pore, and he figured both those personality traits were important when it came to taking care of a child, which was the point to her standing there smiling at him.

  And yet the feeling that she was hiding behind her slightly oversize clothing made him uncomfortable. Tina, he thought with a flash of bitterness. Two years since the woman who couldn’t tell the truth to save her life, and he was still second-guessing every woman he came into contact with.

  Even so, when she continued to look at him, smiling that infectious, open smile, something very odd happened. From the region of his deadened heart came a pitter-patter, one he nearly failed to recognize.

  Then she bent for a large canvas bag at her side, pushing at her glasses when they nearly slipped off her nose, and through the slit in her too full skirt he saw a flash of long, toned, smooth pale thigh.

  Beneath that awful bulk of clothing, one would expect to find more clothing, not…bare lovely skin.

  And without warning, the pitter-patter in his heart moved southward.