Taken by a trillionaire.., p.11
Larger Font   Reset Font Size   Smaller Font       Night Mode Off   Night Mode

       Taken by a Trillionaire 1-3, p.11

         Part #1 of Taken by a Trillionaire series by Ruth Cardello
Download  in MP3 audio

  Reanna shook her head. He was looking down at her with such genuine concern that she felt ridiculous considering for a moment that what she’d heard could possibly be true. “I want to see whatever you want to show me, Xander. I’m fine.”

  A slow smile spread across his face. “If you’re sure, I have a helicopter waiting for us.”

  Reanna went up on her tiptoes and kissed him, her fears falling away as their kiss deepened. This was real. Not the castle gossip.

  He groaned and wrapped his arms around her. When he broke off the kiss, he said, “If I had not put so much work into making today perfect, I would carry you back to bed now.”

  “We have tonight,” Reanna said with a smile.

  He kissed her again and led her down the hall. “Yes, we do. And I have a feeling it will be one that does not involve much sleep.”

  A short time later, Xander helped Reanna out of the helicopter and across a helipad he’d had installed on the Royal University campus. He led her to the front of a building under reconstruction. To keep the purpose of the work a surprise, he’d ordered the name of the building to be covered. He’d arranged for workers to rig the covering to drop at his command.

  “Reanna, you took a leap of faith and followed me here without knowing much about me or my country. You came with me, asking for nothing, and because of that I want to give you everything. Each time we spoke about your work at Biostern you sounded as if you missed it. I don’t want you to have to choose between me and a career you love.” He raised one hand and the material covering the building’s name fell away.

  Reanna read the words on the building out loud: “Fielding Division of Biostern Genetics.” She read it again then looked at Xander in awe. “That’s my name up there.”

  “Yes it is. You’re in charge of this facility. You’ll need to hire staff, finish the interior plans, and choose a project to focus on. I located it at the university in the hope you will encourage a partnership with them. They could benefit from working with someone as brilliant as you.”

  “I don’t deserve this. I haven’t made any great discoveries.”

  “Yet. You will, Reanna. I believe in you.”

  Reanna closed her eyes and wiped away a tear that slid down her cheek. She opened her eyes and searched his face again. “How did you get Biostern to agree to this?”

  “I bought them out,” he said simply.

  “You bought them out?” She looked back at the building then at him. “You bought out a multi-billion dollar company just like that?”

  “My family does not rely on the taxes of our people to support us. We’ve always made our own wealth and done well at it. Find a cure for something here, Reanna. My gift to you can be our family’s gift to the world.”

  Reanna was visibly shaking. Xander put an arm around her waist and took out a small box. “I had planned to ask you this tonight on my yacht, but you look pale. I don’t want you to get too excited again.” He opened the box, revealing a three-carat diamond ring. “Will you marry me, Reanna Fielding? Will you spend the rest of your life here in Rubare Collina with me?”

  He expected her to throw her arms around his neck and say yes and was surprised when she looked at the ring as if she were debating something. She turned in his arms and asked, “What would happen if I said no?”

  He rolled back on his heels, shaking his head and assuring himself he had misunderstood her. “What?”

  She waved a hand at the building. “This is amazing. It feels too good to be true. And when something feels that way it almost always isn’t true. At least, in my experience. There has to be a catch. Something that makes you and this place not as perfect as you seem. I know this is going to sound crazy, but if I said no to you, what would happen?”

  He pocketed the ring and grabbed both of her upper arms. “You won’t say no. You love me. You said so last night.”

  She flinched. “You’re hurting me, Xander.”

  He swore and released her. He told himself to calm down. He loved her, and she loved him. There was no way she could know about the law that had brought him to her. He was overreacting. “I’m sorry. Reanna, if you look too closely at anything, you will find something wrong with it. I’m not a perfect man, but I do love you. Marry me, and I’ll spend the rest of my life showing you how much.”

  She hugged her arms around her waist. “I want to say yes. I want to believe in this. Humor me for a moment, Xander. Look me in the eye and tell me that nothing bad would happen to me if I said no to you. I need to hear you say it.”

  Xander told himself to do it, but when he opened his mouth, he found he could not lie to the woman he loved. In that one awful moment, he saw her trust in him dissolve, and she physically withdrew from him. “You want to be with me as much as I want to be with you, Reanna. Why are you doing this?”

  “I overheard people talking, Xander. They said I would be put to death if I refused you. That’s not true, is it? A law like that can’t exist in the modern world, can it?” When he said nothing, she covered her mouth with her hand. “Oh, my God.”

  He grabbed one of her arms again, preventing her from turning away from him. “Who did you hear? Who said this?

  “It doesn’t matter.”

  “It does to me.”

  “You’re missing the point. How could you claim to love me and risk my life like this?”

  “Your life was never in danger because I had no intention of failing. I knew we would be good together. And we are. You need to forget what you heard and remember that I love you. That’s what matters. Not some archaic law. Us. The family we’ll make together.” He referenced the building behind him. “The future you’ll have here.”

  When she tugged at her arm and he held it tight, she said, “This is not right, Xander. It’s not okay. What kind of country puts a woman to death for refusing a proposal from its prince? Do your people know about this?”

  “No, and they never will. Every society has its secrets. I only learned about this one when I was within a year of my thirtieth birthday. I could not believe it myself when I first heard it. But it’s true. And it is enforced by the council’s Arcano, not the Royal Guard. You could get us both killed if you try to speak out about this.”

  “Why would anyone make such a law?”

  “As monarchies around Europe fell due to the foibles of individual rulers, my ancestors gave our council power to ensure we would survive the missteps of any one ruler. It was supposed to be a system of checks and balances. We rule them, and they rule us. It has kept the throne secure for hundreds of years.”

  “Do your brothers know about this law? Will they lure women here under the same rules?”

  “They know they must marry, but they don’t know the darker side of it. Bryan will be taken aside on his twenty-ninth birthday as I was.”

  “So, if we marry, we’re sentencing another woman to possible death. Xander, you have to see how wrong that is.”

  Xander’s frustration grew along with his fear he would not be able to convince her. He cursed himself for not lying to her. “Do you think I haven’t spoken to my father regarding my revulsion with this law? He will not budge. The only way I can change the law is to abolish it when I am king. And the only way I can become king is if I marry in the next few months. And on that day, you must proclaim your loyalty to me and to my country before my father and the council. It’s the only way. If you want to stop this law, marry me, and we’ll stop it together when we rule side by side.”

  “Meeting me wasn’t an accident, was it?”

  “No, you were chosen because of your beauty and your intelligence.”

  “Can you hear yourself? Do you know how awful that sounds?”

  “I didn’t expect to have feelings for you, Reanna. I did what I had to do for my family and for my country. I don’t expect you to condone my choices, but I do love you, and you need to understand how serious this is. Deadly serious.”

  Reanna rubbed her knuckles across her mouth. Her eyes were w
ide as she processed what he’d said. “Even if you love me, Xander, this is wrong. Will you be king before your brother picks his wife?”

  “Probably not.”

  “So, your brother will choose a woman, like you did? He’ll bring her here? Then what? If she says no, she’ll be put to death?”

  Xander said nothing. There was nothing he could say.

  “I can’t do this, Xander. I can’t put someone else in danger so I can have my happy ending. There has to be another way.”

  “Do you love me, Reanna?”

  Reanna’s eyes filled with tears. “Yes, but don’t ask me to do this. I won’t do this.”

  “Then you will die.” He hated the words as he said them, but he needed her to understand the seriousness of the situation. If he could convince her to marry him, he would spend the rest of his life making amends for how he pushed her now.

  Her chin rose, and she surprised him by looking more angry than afraid. “No, I won’t. You love me, Xander. You won’t let anyone hurt me. You’ll find a way to abolish this law. I know you will. I believe in you, too.”

  Xander punched his thigh in frustration. He turned to his guards and instructed them to take her back to the summer castle and keep her detained in his chambers. She struggled against them, but he had worse things to worry about than her temper.

  If the council learned she had refused him, he wouldn’t be able to protect her from the Arcano. He cursed himself for not lying to her when he had the chance. His love for her had made him weak.

  He had to keep her away from everyone until he found a way to fix this. If the stubborn expression on her face was anything to go by, she wasn’t going to change her mind and profess her love before the council.

  He needed a new plan, and he needed one fast.

  He took out his cell phone and called the one man he trusted more than he trusted his own family.

  Simon.

  Chapter Twelve

  Xander stormed into his family’s advisor’s bedchambers. Simon was seated in a chair near a lit fireplace. Before him was a pot of coffee and two cups.

  “I’ve been expecting you,” Simon stood and said in his usual calm manner. “Coffee, Your Highness?”

  “Do you know why I’m here?” Xander growled.

  “Yes.”

  “Does my father know?”

  Simon gestured toward the empty seat across from him. “I am an advisor, not a snitch. You have a limited time, though, to set this right before people who would not be as understanding hear of your situation.”

  Xander paced beside the chairs rather than taking one. “The council? You know everything, Simon. Who will come for me if I send Reanna back to the states? Who will I need to protect her from?”

  “I’ll need to sit for this. These old legs get tired.” Xander nodded his permission and Simon sank into one of the chairs. “We are a small country. To survive we have had to sometimes be a brutal one. Everything you have today is at least in part due to the sacrifices and decisions of those who came before you. The Arcano have a place of honor in our history. A place born in tradition and forged in blood and loyalty. They are not the enemy, even though they may be your executioners.”

  Xander slammed a hand down onto the back of the chair beside him. “Stop talking in riddles, Simon. Do you know their names? Can you help me fight them?”

  Simon rubbed one of his hands against his thigh as if it ached. “I had this conversation once with your father. Long ago. I thought I knew the answer to that question, but I sent your father chasing shadows. When he returned, his choice was dead.”

  “Mother wasn’t my father’s first choice?”

  “No. Like you, your father thought he was above our laws. When he discovered he wasn’t, it changed him. I gave him what I thought was good information, but the Arcano are like a multi-headed snake. While you cut one off, another delivers a deadly bite.”

  “If my father lost a woman he loved to this law, why wouldn’t he abolish it himself? Ridding our country of it will be my first act as king.”

  “Your Highness, I say this with the deepest respect for your father. He was scared. Your family wields great power. Losing his choice was the first time your father felt vulnerable. Powerless. It’s not an easy thing for any man to face. Your father had a choice. He could fight his father, his brothers, and a nearly invisible enemy until he tore down the monarchy or he could accept his role within it and his punishment for failing. There are battles that should not be fought, young prince, and your father understood that.”

  “I am not my father, Simon. I will not accept this.”

  “Does Reanna know of the law?”

  “Yes.”

  “They will not let her live.”

  “I will not let her die. There are many who are loyal to me, above even my father. I am not alone.”

  “How far would you go for this American woman? Would you kill for her? Would you wage a war against your own family?”

  “It won’t come to that. My brothers will stand beside me when they know the truth, and father will have a choice of standing with us or against us.”

  “I put forth a humble suggestion, Your Highness. If you choose this path, do so only after you have sent what you’re fighting for somewhere safe. Memories of your father the night he discovered the lifeless body of his choice still haunt me. I don’t know if you can win this fight, young prince, but if anyone can, it’s you.”

  Xander turned to walk out of the room, then he paused, “Simon, do you know why my mother killed herself?”

  “What I know would not help you here, Xander. I would tell you if I thought it would.”

  Xander assessed the older man as he asked, “Will you speak to my father tonight?”

  “No one reaches my age by engaging in the battles of others. I wish you luck, young prince. You will need it.”

  Xander assembled his most loyal guards and gave them the task of taking Reanna to the airport. He instructed them to always be in pairs and to keep Reanna within complete view of them at all times. Transparency was how he would keep her alive. One of his guards might be an Arcano plant, but not all.

  He wished he could tell Reanna of his plans, but there was no time. He considered involving his brothers, but they would be safer if they didn’t know, at least until after he had spoken to his father. If a punishment for defiance was to be extracted, it would be his price to pay, not theirs.

  Not Reanna’s.

  No matter what happened to him, she would be safe.

  Reanna paced the length of the sitting room in Xander’s suite. It had been hours since the guards had unceremoniously dumped her there. She was frustrated and more than a little angry.

  Xander said he loved her. What kind of love allowed a man to treat a woman the way she was being treated? He’d known that taking her to his country might be her death sentence. That didn’t fit any definition of love she knew.

  He said she’d never been in danger because he’d known he wouldn’t fail. What kind of man went through life with that level of arrogance?

  Someone used to making life and death decisions for others.

  A prince.

  No matter who he was, or how his country was run, he was going to get an earful of her opinion on both the next time she saw him. He can’t keep me in here forever. Can he?

  Relief was short-lived when Reanna heard the door to the suite open. She rushed toward it only to halt mid-step when she saw it was two of the Royal Guard and not Xander at the door.

  Reanna turned to bolt, to where she wasn’t sure, but one grabbed her arm. She swung around, punching and kicking, but it had little effect on her assailants. One lifted her off her feet as if she were a child while the other secured her hands behind her back. Reanna opened her mouth to scream, but was gagged before she’d made a sound. She was thrown over the shoulder of the taller of the two men and carried out of the suite and down the back staircase of the castle.

  Had Xander sent the guards? Were
they saving her or taking her to her death?

  She was deposited in the back of an SUV with dark tinted windows and sandwiched between the two guards. When she whimpered at how her arms were caught behind her, the guards exchanged a look and untied her hands. She removed her own gag.

  Although still terrified, she was confident of one thing — these men didn’t want to hurt her. As she looked back and forth at their cold-as-stone expressions, she amended that thought. She was reasonably certain they meant her no harm.

  A third guard drove the SUV down a service driveway and out a gate. The lit windows of the castle disappeared in the night.

  Xander, if you love me, now would be a good time to prove it.

  It was almost midnight by the time Xander charged into his father’s chambers. He’d assembled those loyal to him and felt ready for whatever fight was to come. His father was not pleased when he announced he wanted to speak to him, but Xander didn’t care. He couldn’t give his father time to betray him.

  His father was still putting on a housecoat and blinking away sleep, when Xander said, “I have come to give you a chance to abolish the death clause to our marriage law.”

  The king sputtered, “A chance? Remember who you’re talking to.”

  Xander advanced on his father. “Oh, I know you, better than I bet you wish I did. A lot of things make sense to me now. We were never good enough for you — I was never good enough — because we were not the sons you wanted to have, were we? You settled for our mother, and therefore, were forced to settle for us. No wonder Mother killed herself. She knew, didn’t she? She knew what kind of man she’d married.”

  “That’s enough, Xander. Have you been drinking?”

  “I’m not drunk. I’m furious. I have spent a lifetime looking up to you and trying to be half the man I thought you were. Now I see the truth of who you are, and I am disgusted to be your son. When I told you I couldn’t go through with the marriage law, you spoke to me of God and country. It was bullshit. What you should have told me was my father is a coward who couldn’t save the woman he loved and is still too afraid to protect his own sons from the same fate.”