Taken by a Trillionaire 1-3, Page 23Ruth Cardello
Shea bit her lip to keep from smiling as Bryan rose and pulled her to her feet with him, shooting Xander a disgruntled look because of his backhanded compliment. “You were the only mother we ever knew, Moira. Blood or not, you were there for every one of us just like a real mother. We could never hate you.” He moved forward to pull the distraught woman into his arms.
Tears streamed down Shea’s face as she let go of Bryan so he could embrace Moira, happy that her new husband finally knew the truth and that it really didn’t matter to him that Queen Stephanie hadn’t been his natural mother. The radiant look of happiness on the older woman’s face as her son held her in a ferocious hug made Shea’s heart squeeze inside her chest. Bryan was so forgiving, so compassionate. Granted, she didn’t know her new husband’s complete history with this woman who was his natural mother, but she knew enough. Moira had obviously taken the place of “mother” for all of the Demande siblings. She’d always loved every one of them like her sons.
Xander stepped up to hug Moira when Bryan finally let her go, Chris waiting right behind him for his turn. Turning toward their father for a moment, Chris asked curiously, “Why did you never marry? Once a respectable time had passed after Mother’s death, why didn’t you wed Moira if you loved her?”
Prince Francis frowned. “I asked. She refused,” he grumbled. “In fact, I’ve asked many times. I love her. That’s why I always refused to remarry. I made one woman and myself miserable in a loveless marriage. I didn’t want another.”
Moira let go of Xander and hugged Chris before replying, “It’s simply not done. Your father was a king and I was a servant in his household, a commoner.” She shook her head slowly. “It would have been a scandal.”
Bryan smirked. “It wouldn’t have been the first Demande scandal. We have a colorful history. Besides, it’s never been necessary for Demande brides to be from any particular status. All royal brides are commoners.”
Reanna shot Bryan an annoyed look, and Shea moved forward and elbowed him, but gently because of his injuries. She and Reanna were from America where nobody was considered a commoner, and it rankled to be referred to that way.
“What?” Bryan looked down at Shea.
“We are not commoners,” she told him haughtily. “Americans believe in equality for everyone.”
Reanna nodded fiercely in agreement as she addressed the older couple, “You should have married. The people of Rubare Collina love people in love. I don’t think there would have been much of a scandal.”
Moira answered nervously, “I didn’t want to risk it. We’d kept our secret for so many years, and it had been hard enough to arrange for Stephanie to claim Bryan as her own child. Both of us had to go away for months. When we returned with Bryan and he was accepted as a full Demande, I was content.”
“I’ve never given a damn about my title,” Bryan said stubbornly. “I’m not heir to the throne, and the status means nothing to me.”
“It meant something to me,” Moira said sternly. “You are a prince of Rubare Collina and you deserve to take your place with your brothers. I didn’t want you to feel…different,” she confessed.
“I don’t,” Bryan said nonchalantly. “Even if Xander, Chris and I shared no common blood, we’d still be brothers.”
“Brothers first,” Chris said firmly.
Xander nodded. “Brothers first.”
“Brothers first,” Bryan finished. He paused before adding thoughtfully. “Father isn’t a king anymore.” He looked at his mother and then his father. “Maybe you should ask her again. Perhaps she’d accept a lowly prince,” he joked, but his eyes were intense.
Shea’s heart fluttered as she looked at Prince Francis and the look of longing in his eyes. Obviously, the former king wanted Moira as his wife, and Shea was pretty certain that Moira wanted to be with him. She held her breath, hoping their story would have a happy ending.
“I can’t,” Moira groaned.
Every voice in the room spoke in unison. “You can.”
Bryan’s father moved forward and took Moira’s hand gently, his eyes sparkling with hope. It was the first time that Shea had seen him look anything other than tired and worn out.
“Give me time to convince her. I don’t plan to let her refuse,” he boomed, leading a Moira who was still shaking her head out of the room.
“Do you think he’ll talk her into marriage?” Shea asked Bryan quietly.
He looked down at her with a mischievous grin. “I have no doubt. Demande men can be very stubborn when they want something bad enough. Her arguments are no longer valid. The people of Rubare Collina would embrace her as my father’s wife. We do love a good love story.” He clasped her hand and brought it to his mouth, kissing her palm gently.
Shea looked up at Bryan, her eyes sparkling with tears and love for her new husband. “You look exhausted,” she told him with a frown, noticing the fatigue on his face. He had to be in pain, but he wasn’t complaining.
“Then take me to bed, wife,” he whispered in a sinful, husky voice.
Shea did just that, she and Bryan bidding everyone goodnight before she took him by the hand and determinedly pulled him out of the great hall before she stopped short. “I don’t know where we’re sleeping,” she muttered irritably, realizing she’d married a man who hadn’t even revealed his address to her. Come to think of it, she didn’t even have his phone number. When she admitted as much to Bryan, he laughed.
“We’re going home,” Bryan declared as he pulled her out the door and summoned a car. “I want you in my own bed from this day forward.”
Shea winced as he grasped his injured ribs when he got into the car behind her. “You’re hurting,” she whispered huskily as he snuggled her close to him.
“It’s nothing,” Bryan remarked calmly. “A temporary nuisance.”
It was more than that, and Shea knew it. “I need to get you into bed and you aren’t getting out until you’re healed.”
The car pulled away from the curb and the back seat of the car became very dimly lit and very intimate. Bryan speared a hand through her hair, knocking all of the pins from her hair and causing it to cascade to her shoulders in disarray. He leaned down and put his mouth gently against her ear. “As long as you’re with me, love,” he purred hoarsely against her skin.
Shea almost moaned as his hot breath wafted across her ear. “No funny stuff, Your Highness,” she teased. “You’re in no condition to get physical right now.”
“There are ways for me to give you pleasure without injuring myself, princess,” Bryan answered seductively.
Shea startled at the endearment that really wasn’t just a term of affection. She really was a princess now. Princess Shea of Rubare Collina. It was going to take her a while to get used to that. “Bryan, we can’t — ”
“We will,” he answered arrogantly. “I have to be close to you, Shea. I need to please you. I have to hear you moan my name as you find your pleasure.” His voice was becoming persuasive and demanding at the same time. His grip tightened on her hair. “Don’t you know I’ve waited years for you, for this?”
“You didn’t know we’d even see each other again,” she whispered against the hot skin of his neck, rational thought beginning to leave her brain.
“Ah, but I hoped. Maybe I never admitted it even to myself, but after you I knew there would never be anyone else for me. I existed. I breathed. But part of me died when I couldn’t find you when I returned to America. Never leave me again, Shea. I don’t think I’d survive it a second time,” he rasped in the darkness, his voice vibrating with vulnerability.
Shea’s entire body began to tremble, her heart knowing exactly how he felt. She’d had Hayden to keep her occupied, but in some hidden area of her heart, she’d never stopped longing for Bryan. “Never. I’m your wife. You’re stuck with me,” she told him gently, wrapping her arms around his neck. “I’ve never wanted anyone else but you,” she added softly.
“Tell me again that you love me,” Bry
an demanded, his lips nuzzling softly at the hair at her temple.
“Bossy,” she teased, stroking his nape.
“Tell me,” he cajoled, trailing hot kisses down her neck.
“I love you,” she gasped, her core starting to pulsate with the need to get closer to him.
“I’ve loved you for years, and I will love you with my dying breath,” Bryan told her huskily, right before his lips claimed her mouth.
He kissed her deeply, sensually, his mouth consuming hers as though they might never kiss again. Shea felt his want, his need, his all-consuming love for her, and it set every cell in her body on fire. She kissed him back, trying to put her emotions into the embrace, so he’d understand what she couldn’t put into words.
Bryan finally broke off the kiss and rested his forehead gently against her shoulder. “My sweet Shea. How did I manage to live without you for so long?” His voice was hoarse with emotion. “I regret — ”
Shea covered his lips gently with her fingers. “No regrets,” she told him firmly, knowing he was sorry that he hadn’t been there for her before and after Hayden was born. They couldn’t change the past, but they could make their future together. “I have my Prince Charming now. That’s all that matters.” She smiled into the darkness.
“I’m sorry to inform you that I’m no Prince Charming, Your Highness.” Bryan’s voice was heavy with mischief. “I’m thinking more about debauchery than chivalry.”
Shea laughed softly as she gently rested her head against his shoulder. Truth was, she loved him exactly the way he was.
The car slid slowly to a stop. “We’re home.”
Everything suddenly seemed surreal to Shea as she slid out of the Rolls Royce behind Bryan and he clasped her hand. She looked behind her at the enormous gates barring the driveway. There wasn’t another house nearby, and the outline of Bryan’s home was enormous. Lush green lawns sparkled, lit up by numerous outdoor lights.
This is my new home; Bryan is my husband. I’m married to one of the wealthiest men in the world, a prince, and Hayden and I are both princesses.
Shaking her head slowly to clear it, she wondered, How in the hell did this happen to me? I’m just a small town woman from Michigan, a cocktail waitress and secretary.
“It’s just a house, and I’m just a man,” Bryan said, leaning down to whisper quietly in her ear.
It was as though he could almost hear her thoughts, sense that she was overwhelmed at the moment.
Looking up, she could see the earnest expression and the adoration in his gorgeous hazel eyes.
I’m just a man.
As Shea let herself get lost in his gaze, she realized that all Bryan really wanted was to be accepted and loved by her as a man. Not a prince. Not as royalty. Not as a trillionaire. He wanted her to love him. Maybe that was why they had both spoken so little about the details of their lives when they’d first met. The emotions and fire burning between them had been the most important things during that night years ago. And they, as well as their daughter, still were.
“It would be so much easier if you weren’t so damn wealthy and a prince,” she grumbled.
Bryan’s booming laughter echoed through the night air. “Sweetheart, you’re the first woman who has actually complained about my money and my title,” he said, sounding thoroughly delighted.
“I’m not complaining, exactly. Those things are part of who you are, but it will take some getting used to. I will get used to it because I love you. I don’t love the prince, and I don’t love the trillionaire. I love…you.” My husband, my love. My everything. Her eyes begged him to understand what she was trying to say.
“I’m not heir to the throne, and I go out to work like any other man in a pair of jeans and hard hat every day. I come home dirty and sweaty from climbing around in the mines.” Bryan sounded like he was warning her.
“Thank God I don’t have to worry about being a queen someday. I’d much rather go back to school,” she said breathlessly. “The whole jeans and hard hat thing are pretty damn hot, and sometimes I like you sweaty.” She lifted a brow at him in challenge. “I love you exactly as you are.”
He smiled, a grin that lit up his entire ravaged face. “I know. I just really wanted to hear you say it.”
Shea gave him an annoyed look, but her heart hurt from knowing that women had pursued him all his life for nothing but his money and title. Those females had missed so much. Bryan was still an extraordinary man without all of the superficial possessions and royal lineage.
Stepping up to his side and clinging tightly to his hand, she requested, “Show me our new home. When you feel better, I’d like to go out to the mines with you and see what you do.” She knew he was passionate about what he did for Dyholm, and she wanted to be able to talk to him about it.
“Right now the only thing I want to show you is our bed,” Bryan answered with amusement in his voice.
Shea’s heart accelerated as she walked slowly beside him to their new residence. “Is it really possible to do things…” her voice trailed off as she realized that Bryan didn’t need any exertion right now.
“All things are possible if you want it bad enough, sweetheart. I’ll make it possible because there’s nothing I want more than I want you right now,” he answered in a graveled voice.
Shea sighed, knowing she didn’t stand a chance against Bryan’s sweet, demanding seduction. “You’ll show me?”
“Count on it,” he told her fiercely as he opened the door and held it for her to enter a whole new world.
Shea didn’t even bat an eyelash when she realized that Bryan lived in a castle. Although it was scaled down from the main royal residence, it was nothing less than spectacular.
She had the castle.
She had her prince.
She had her little princess, Hayden.
She was now a princess and part of the royal family.
Most importantly, she finally had the man she loved and had longed for since she’d met him and he’d left her all those years ago.
Shea smiled as she thought about all of the fictional stories about princes, princesses, and magical happy endings that she recited to her daughter every night.
Who knew that sometimes fairy tales really did come true?
Taken By a Trillionaire ~ Christopher
I thought that the absurd law had been abolished!”
Prince Christopher was fuming. After pacing for some time in his father’s office, he wheeled around to face the man who had for so long ruled both his country and his children. Though Francis had handed the throne to Chris’s oldest brother, Xander, their father would always be a beloved king in his people’s eyes and in the eyes of his children. All three of the former king’s sons were present.
And, of course, no meeting was complete without Simon, the family’s trusted adviser, who really enjoyed putting a damper on Chris’s fun every single chance the man got.
“Christopher — Your Highness — you must listen to us,” Simon said. “We’re telling you this for your own good.”
“I can make my own decisions,” Chris told them all.
“The law that a potential bride is to be killed if she chooses not to marry you has been abolished,” his father replied. “But the law that strips you of your royal title and your place in the line of succession if you aren’t wed by your thirtieth birthday is still very much in place.”
“It’s true, Christopher,” King Alexander said. “I’m not happy with it, but if we throw out every tradition of our kingdom, that makes us no better than the Arcano.”
Chris did his best not to shout. “How in the hell can you even say that, brother? Under their archaic laws, people were murdered if they didn’t follow their rules to the letter, and that letter was blurred in the extreme. If they made the law insisting on marriage by age thirty, then simply overturn it. You have that power.”
��You have no need to marry… . if you don’t care about retaining your title,” Xander replied.
“Why would I want to give up my title? It’s gotten me laid more than once,” Chris said with a smirk.
A frown creased Simon’s brow. “You sound like no prince I would choose to pay honor to,” the adviser said with open disdain.
“Who cares how I sound? I am a prince. I was born as one, and I will die as one.”
“Not if you aren’t married in one year’s time,” Xander told him.
“You know who and what I am. I do what I want when I want.” Chris continued pacing the richly carpeted floors while downing the rest of his cognac.
“Those days are officially over, brother. You will now do what your country requires you to do. It’s time that you grew up.”
“Damn, Xander. Now that you’re king, you really know how to throw down a royal decree, don’t you?” Chris said with a chuckle, some of his anger draining away.
“You dare to mock your king?” Xander huffed.
“I would never dare to do such a thing,” Chris said, setting his glass down and bowing to his brother before laughing outright. “I would, however, mock the hell out of my big brother, who has grown a bit too stuffy in his old age.”
“I’m two years and three months older than you, Christopher. That hardly makes me an old man,” Xander told him with another scowl.
“If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck… .”
“This conversation is going nowhere,” their father, Prince Francis, thundered. “Go right ahead and do as you please, my son. Marry or don’t marry. It’s no longer a concern of Rubare Collina. We have our new king, who already has one heir, and he’s planning on spares. And your other brother is ahead of you in the line of succession. You have a simple choice before you: to remain a prince, beloved by the people, or to pursue your pathetic playboy lifestyle.”