NOTE FROM SUZ: This scene is courtesy of my mother, Lee Brockmann, who has kept every manuscript I’ve ever sent to her — including all the early drafts!
When I first wrote PRINCE JOE, the book came in about 50 pages too long. I cut this one scene because, frankly, although it was cute, it didn’t really move the story along. I made the rest of the cuts simply by tightening up the writing!
This scene started on page 198 of my original manuscript. For your reference, my mom figured out that if this scene had made it into the published book, it would go into Chapter Twelve, right in the middle of page 137 of the original paperback! In the 2-in-1 HQN reissue titled Tall, Dark & Dangerous, that’s page 169. And if you’re reading the e-book, search for the scene that starts “Joe sat on the conch in the royal suite, drinking beer from the bottle…” This goes right before that scene! (Thanks, Mom! )
PRINCE JOE’S Missing Scene:
By oh-dark-hundred — midnight — the embassy party was in full swing. A big band was playing in the ballroom, and a string quartet was in the lobby. The guests didn’t seem to mind the metal detector at the door, or the handbag search. Of course, there were ways to get guns through metal detectors. Joe knew how. Diosdado and his band of terrorists surely knew how, too.
Joe was on edge, alert, but not worried. Blue was within six feet of him at all times, and there was no one he trusted more with his life in the entire world.
Joe stood near the bar, pretending to listen to Ulstan Freder debate the pros and cons of the free trade agreement with several long-winded ambassadors from England and France.
Over his earphone, he heard both Cowboy and Harvard, and the FInCOM agents, as they ran countless perimeter checks both inside and outside the embassy. He could also hear Veronica, in the surveillance van, as someone handed her a something, probably another cup of tea.
“Thanks so much,” she said in her crisp accent, and then she laughed as someone made a comment he couldn’t hear.
She seemed as if she was honestly enjoying herself. She’d actually teased Joe often throughout the day. And she’d laughed at Cowboy’s jokes — low class, bawdy jokes Joe would’ve expected her to disapprove of.
Joe had tried to keep his distance all morning long. He’d tried to act cool and disinterested. Tried. Jesus, Mary and Joseph, after last night, after he realized Veronica saw him as one of the servants, he should have no problem staying away from her. He should’ve known better, even after she’d apologized for her angry outburst, for calling him stupid and ignorant. He should have known that just because she’d apologized for saying those things, it didn’t mean that she didn’t think they were true.
Veronica had told him that she wanted to be friends — yeah, probably the way she’d befriend a stray dog.
Jeez, maybe he was stupid. At the very least, something was seriously wrong with him. This woman had rejected him twice — twice — and here he was, coming back for more.
All day long, he’d found himself playing to the hidden video cameras, knowing she was watching him, enjoying the sound of her voice speaking so intimately into his ear.
It didn’t matter that they were dozens, sometimes even hundreds of yards apart. Veronica was his main link to the surveillance van. Hers was the voice Joe heard most often over his miniaturized earphone. He had to depend on her and trust her implicitly when she gave him information and instructions. Whether she knew it or not, their relationship had become an intimate one.
And Joe suspected that she knew it.
“Heads up,” Harvard’s voice murmured over Joe’s earphone. “We’ve got some kind of commotion at the front door.”
“Holy sh– sugar,” Cowboy said. “Is that Bridget Antonellis?”
“It most certainly is,” Harvard said quietly. “Hoo-yah.”
“Great balls of fire,” Cowboy said, awe in his voice. “She’s taller in real life. And blonder and…oh man! Could that dress be any tighter?”
“Uh, boss,” Harvard said. “She’s heading directly toward you.”
Joe looked up and sure enough. There, walking toward him, was Bridget Antonellis, American Supermodel and actress — well, yeah, she’d been in movies but maybe calling her an actress was being a smidge too generous. Her talents were limited to still shots or TV commercials without dialogue, where could smile seductively into the camera and toss her long hair. She was a face and a body. But, baby, what a body…
She was moving toward him, swaying as she walked, a perfect smile on her perfect face. Her little black strapless dress clung to her voluptuous curves in a way that defied gravity, exposing her sun-bronzed shoulders and the tops of her world-famous breasts. She flipped her waist-length hair over her shoulder in her trademark gesture.
“Ronnie?” Joe murmured into the microphone hidden on his lapel. “She looks like she knows me.”
“Bridget Antonellis,” Veronica’s calm voice repeated in his ear. He could hear the sound of the keyboard clacking as she accessed the computer. “No, you’ve never met her. Prince Tedric didn’t include her on his list of friends…or even his list of acquaintances.”
“Dear God,” Joe heard Cowboy say, “why couldn’t I be the one born with Prince Tedric’s face? Bridget Antonellis…”
The crowd parted to let her through. The look in the model’s eyes and the smile on her face was not that of a total stranger. “Ronnie, I think you’re wrong this time,” Joe murmured.
“If Tedric knew Bridge Antonellis,” Veronica replied evenly, “even if he knew her only slightly, he would have put her on his list of friends.”
Ronnie was right. She had to be right. But still…
Bridget Antonellis stopped a scant ten inches away from Joe. In her wickedly high heels, she was nearly his own height. She curtsied very slightly — just enough to give him a clear view down the front of her dress. It was a move he knew was not unintentional.
“Your highness,” she said. She leaned closer, kissing first one of Joe’s cheeks and then the other. With her mouth mere inches from his microphone, she whispered into his ear, “You look delicious, Ric. Want to get naked later?”
Silence. There was dead silence over Joe’s earphone. No one spoke, no one even breathed. But they were all listening. All of them. The entire security team. Even Veronica.
For the first time all evening, Veronica was quiet. For the first time all evening, she wasn’t offering him suggestions on what to say, how to respond.
“Umm,” Joe said. Surprisingly, Bridget’s question wasn’t that easy to answer. Sure, it was true that all red-blooded straight men in America and Europe had fantasized at least once about Bridget Antonellis. But Tedric was blue-blooded. So, how would he respond? Hell, Joe didn’t even know how he himself would respond. He was standing there, gazing into Bridget’s beautiful hazel eyes, and all he could think about was another pair of eyes — blue eyes that sparkled and danced.
He was nose to nose with Bridget’s perfectly tanned face, and all he could think about was another, more delicate, almost porcelain complexion, and a certain up-turned nose. He was inches away from a full body slam with Bridget’s hour-glass figure, and all he could think about was another even more perfect body, more slender and willowy, as if made precisely to fit against his. A perfect body that came with a musical laugh and a razor-sharp sense of humor and a mouth that could kiss him like he’d never been kissed before.
Jesus, Mary and Joseph, he was standing here being propositioned by America’s number one wet dream, yet he was getting a hard-on from thinking about Veronica. There had to be something seriously wrong with him.
In the surveillance van, Veronica stared at the video screen as Bridget Antonellis looped her arm through Joe’s and ran her fingers through his hair.
“Surprised to see me?” Bridget purred.
He answered that one honestly. “Yes.”
“I’m playing hooky from the movie set.” She leaned closer, her full breasts brushing against his arm as she lowered her voice. “I haven’t been able to stop thinking about Rome.”
“Hoo-yah,” Cowboy whispered over the headset.
Joe looked directly in into the lens of the hidden video camera. His eyes held a hint of amusement — and panic.
But Veronica was mesmerized by the sight of Bridget, now glued to Joe’s side. As she watched, the supermodel kissed him on the side of the jaw.
Joe pretended to cough, leaning towards his hidden microphone. “Come on, Ronnie,” he said, his words hidden from Bridget by his cough. “Help me out, here.”
Veronica sat up. “Rome,” she said, trying to sound efficient as she accessed the computer. “I’m cross referencing…just a second…Bridget Antonellis was in Rome in February for a photo shoot with Cosmopolitan magazine. And…you were in Rome… A-ha. Also February. Same dates. What a surprise. You attended a conference in religion at the Vatican. You must have met then.”
“Is there someplace we can go to be alone?” Bridget whispered to Joe. She was standing so close that her thighs were nearly wrapped around his.
Joe was waiting, Veronica realized. He was waiting for her to tell him what to do.
“Tell her no,” she instructed him, suddenly giddy with power. “Tell her it’s inappropriate for her to hang all over you like that in public.” She covered her microphone and muttered, “Tell her to take her big boobs and go back to Hollywood.”
On screen, Joe touched his ear. He’d heard her, and he was trying his best not to laugh. He gently set Bridge aside, putting some distance between them. “Not here,” he murmured.
“But Ric,” Bridget pouted. “How often do I get to see you? I want to feel your arms around me.” She gave a little-girl giggle as she leaned forward and whispered into Joe’s ear — and his microphone. “I want to feel your royal you-know-what in my you-know-where.”
Veronica couldn’t help herself. “Did she just say what I thought she said?” She started to laugh. Cowboy and Harvard joined in, the three of them howling with laughter.
On the video screen, Joe was trying desperately to keep a straight face.
“Get him out of there,” Veronica gasped to Kevin Laughton, between hoots of laughter. “Hustle him out to the limo — fast — or he’s going to blow his cover!”
FInCOM agents descended upon Joe, pulling him away from Bridget and out of the room.
“Sorry, darling,” he called over his shoulder, his voice shaking slightly as he tried to maintain his Prince Tedric accent. “I’ll call you.”
* * * *
Joe sat on the couch in the royal suite, drinking beer from the bottle and trying to depressurize
He smiled, thinking about the fiasco with Bridget Antonellis at the embassy. But then his smile faded as he tried to figure out what the hell was wrong with him.
He’d had Bridget Antonellis in his arms, and he’d felt nothing. Absolutely nothing.
Maybe it had been knowing that this woman thought he was someone else. Maybe it had been knowing that a dozen FInCOM agents, three SEALs and Veronica were all listening in.
Maybe he was tired, or stressed, or… Maybe he just liked redheads better than blondes.
Or maybe the sad truth was that he only wanted Veronica.
Well, wouldn’t that be peachy keen?
There was a soft knock on the hotel room door, and West moved to answer it, opening it only slightly. The FInCOM agent opened it wider and Veronica slipped inside.
She smiled when she saw Joe. “You were great today.”