Taken by a trillionaire.., p.15
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       Taken by a Trillionaire 1-3, p.15

         Part #1 of Taken by a Trillionaire series by Ruth Cardello
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“I’m a waitress at a private club.”

  “I thought you were going to be an attorney,” he rasped, his voice still angry.

  Shea cringed, trying not to remember what her dreams had been five years ago. Everything had changed, but she didn’t regret it. “Plans change,” she mumbled.

  “Let me go.” Bryan’s voice was rough, his tone demanding. “We’ve been intimate, Shea. You know I’m not going to hurt you.”

  “Tell me why I’m here?” she insisted.

  “Release me first.”

  “Explain first.” He was dangerous enough sprawled on the floor. She wasn’t sure she wanted to free him.

  “I don’t think I will tell you anything,” Bryan replied cagily. “I’ll lose my bargaining power.” He raised an arrogant brow in challenge.

  Screw it. I need to know what happened to Hayden. Now!

  Shea stomped to the kitchen and rummaged around for something to cut the bindings on his hands. She found a very large knife, and didn’t even bother looking further for scissors. Let him sweat while he wondered if she could wield the knife well enough not to lose him a few fingers.

  “I cut. You talk,” she said furiously, waving the knife as she kneeled beside him.

  “You have my word as a Demande,” he assured her earnestly, holding his bound hands out trustingly, without a hint of fear.

  Shea wasn’t sure how good his word was since she barely knew him, yet they had an unbreakable connection between them. She had to trust him. He was the only person here, and she needed his help.

  “I want to know where Hayden is being kept,” she snarled as she fitted the blade between his wrists and tugged upward. The knife was razor-sharp and the bindings severed instantly.

  Bryan tore the tape from his arms and let it drop to the floor before taking the knife from her and releasing his legs. “This is your first concern? This…Hayden? Who is he?” His eyes were dark and angry as he turned them back on Shea again.

  She bit her lip in indecision, not wanting Bryan to know exactly who Hayden was, but she needed his cooperation and assistance. She was helpless, a prisoner in a foreign country that she knew nothing about. If he was an honorable man, the truth would serve her best right now. If he wasn’t, it probably wouldn’t matter.

  Her concern for Hayden won her internal argument.

  “She,” Shea corrected him heatedly. “Hayden is a female, and she’s my daughter.”

  Chapter Three

  She might as well have slapped him. Hard. Shea had a daughter? A husband? He saw the fear in her eyes, concern for a child she loved. “She won’t be harmed. Where was she when they took you? With your husband?” he asked tersely, a bitter taste in his mouth just from thinking about Shea married and with a family now.

  She’s every bit as beautiful as she was five years ago.

  Bryan’s eyes roamed hungrily over her scantily-clad body before moving to her face, wanting to reach out and feel the silken tresses of that golden brown hair, a sensual experience that had driven him nearly insane with desire. He knew exactly how those glowing locks would feel sifting through his fingers as he tasted her plump, delectable lips.

  “I’m not married. Hayden was with her babysitter,” Shea replied flatly. “We need to find her. She’s not just my daughter, Bryan.” She hesitated before adding, “She’s your daughter, too.”

  Forget Shea slapping him…her last words had just gutted him completely. His daughter? It wasn’t possible. They’d only been together for one night. Granted, it was a night he’d never forgotten, and Shea had been an innocent, but the chances that she’d conceived on that night were slim. “How?” He was still so stunned he could barely get the word out of his mouth.

  “The usual way. We had sex. I got pregnant,” Shea answered drily. “Condoms do have a certain percentage of failures. I was one of them.”

  Rising to his feet, Bryan set the sharp knife carefully on the small table beside the door, turning to look at Shea. His heart was thundering against his chest wall, and he still couldn’t quite believe… “Are you sure it couldn’t have been someone else. Maybe right after we — ”

  “I’ve never been with anybody except you. Look…I don’t have time for this discussion right now. I don’t want or need anything from you except your help right now. Our daughter is missing. And she is your daughter. I’m hoping that will mean something to you, that you’ll be more anxious to find her if you know she’s your blood.” Shea fumbled with the pocket of her short skirt and drew out a small item and handed it to Bryan impatiently. “She looks just like you. She went a few days beyond term, but she was born almost exactly four years and three months ago.”

  He stared down at the picture Shea had handed him, touched that she was the type of mother who carried a photo of her child everywhere. Bryan traced the lines of the angelic child’s face. Her dark hair, hazel eyes, even her facial bone structure was similar to his. There was no denying she was his child. “She has your smile,” Bryan muttered, still dazed, not quite able to take in that he and Shea had made this small individual in the picture, a lovely, tiny little girl created during their short time together. “She’s beautiful like you.”

  “Thank you,” Shea said hesitantly, reluctantly. “We need to find out what happened to her. The letter said she was safe — ”

  “What letter?” Bryan asked, suddenly coming out of his fog. He had no doubt that this was his daughter. He knew Shea had been a virgin when he’d taken her for the first time, and the child looked undeniably like him. His protective instincts kicked in, his shock immediately put aside to worry about the security of his daughter.

  He watched as Shea walked over to the bar and picked up a piece of paper. He forced himself to focus and pushed aside his irritation that men in some private club were ogling her scantily clad body in the skimpy outfit she was wearing.

  I’ve never been with anybody but you.

  Could that honestly be true? Shea was a beautiful, smart woman, and if so, it definitely wasn’t because she had lacked the opportunity to be with other men. His hungry gaze devoured her, still unable to believe she was really here in Rubare Collina. Taking the note from her hand, he tore his eyes away from her reluctantly to read the contents of the letter.

  It wasn’t signed, but he had no doubt who had written it…or who had arranged both his and Shea’s kidnappings.

  “Damn it!” he exploded, wrinkling up the letter in a fit of rage after reading it.

  “What? Please tell me Hayden is okay. Please,” Shea begged, her eyes wide with fear.

  Bryan forced himself to calm down. Shea had been through enough, and he needed to calm her fears about their daughter. “She’s fine. You were actually kidnapped by my father and Simon, our royal advisor. So was I. I’m sure Hayden was brought over separately, but she’s with Moira, the royal nanny, and probably having a much better time than we are right now. As a princess of Rubare Collina, she’ll be heavily guarded, Shea. She is safe.”

  “A princess?” Shea asked, confused. “Are you trying to tell me that you’re really a prince, that I’m really in Rubare Collina, and I was kidnapped by the government here?”

  “More like a paranoid father,” Bryan grumbled. “And yes…I am Prince Bryan Demande, second son of our former king. My brother Xander’s now king and my father is His Royal Highness, Prince Francis now that Xander has taken the throne. As the letter mentioned, you’re my father’s…guest.”

  “I don’t understand,” Shea groaned, holding her hand to her head. “Do you drug, kidnap and lock up all your guests?”

  “Are you unwell?” Bryan asked with a frown.

  “I’m as well as a woman who has been drugged, kidnapped, taken half way across the world, and locked up can be,” she replied sarcastically.

  Bryan scowled, noticing for the first time the dark smudges under Shea’s eyes and the weary look on her face. He was fairly certain she probably had been drugged and was feeling the after effects of whatever they’d used to put her o
ut. His fury directed toward Simon and his father heightened. How could they take an innocent woman and child from their home country? Hayden could be terrified. Shea didn’t look well, and just the thought of anyone doing anything as dangerous as drugging her made him irate.

  “I’m sorry.” He lifted her into his arms and strolled over to a comfortable, plush couch, the feel of her warm body pressing against him so familiar that he nearly groaned out loud. Instead, he deposited her gently on the soft, red material of the sofa and straightened reluctantly. Shea was average height for a woman, but she felt so slight, so much thinner than she had years ago, and he didn’t like it. Did she eat well? How had she managed to provide for both herself and their daughter when she’d still been a student when she’d gotten pregnant? “I’ll tell you everything shortly. Did you take anything for your headache?”

  “How did you know I have a headache?” She looked up at him curiously, and Bryan nearly drowned in her enormous gray eyes.

  “You were holding your head. How is your stomach?”

  “Upset,” she admitted. “I’m not sure if it’s stress or from the drugs.”

  “Dammit,” Bryan growled as he strode into the kitchen to get her something for her nausea. No doubt the place was stocked with everything imaginable except for anything that would help them escape. “They knew if they brought you here that I’d have to marry you.”

  By kidnapping Shea and bringing her here, his father and Simon could announce her as his chosen…an obvious choice since they’d already had a daughter together. How the hell had Simon known when he hadn’t even found out about Hayden? Bryan was burning with anger. Just the fact that his father had put Shea’s life in danger — not to mention his daughter’s — made him want to strike out at his own sire.

  “Excuse me? I’m not marrying you. I hardly know you,” Shea shot back at him.

  Bryan came back a few minutes later with a fresh glass of juice and some pills for her stomach. “You don’t have a choice now.” He lifted a brow at her arrogantly. “And we’re connected on a very intimate level, Shea.” She’d had his child for God’s sake. Bryan still couldn’t quite seem to process that fact.

  Shea glared at him as she downed the pills and juice he handed her. “I always have choices. I learned that the hard way.”

  “Not if you want to keep our daughter safe.” He heaved a sigh as he seated himself in the recliner across from her, completely unconcerned about sitting down on the expensive furniture, even though he was still dressed in his filthy work clothes. “We’re both trapped.”

  “What do you mean? Where are we?” Shea asked him anxiously.

  “We’re locked in a special tower palace guest room.”

  “We’re in the palace?” She sounded horrified. “And this is how you usually treat your guests?”

  Only the special ones who we don’t want put in bad accommodations, but who we need confined for a time for political reasons.

  “It’s a room we use for visitors who need to be…temporarily detained. We haven’t had much opportunity to use it for the last few centuries. I think my brothers and I spent more time here than any guests. If we were fighting, or had done something that merited punishment, we were confined here when we were young.” They’d made up quickly so they could have their freedom again. Usually a visit to the tower room had bonded them together again to work on getting freed as soon as possible.

  “Your father locked you and your brothers up?” Shea asked in a troubled voice.

  Bryan shrugged. “As you can see, it isn’t exactly a prison, and it wasn’t much of a hardship to be here. Our confinements didn’t generally last very long. Nanny Moira hated it when any of us were locked in the tower room, and she generally had us out within a few hours.”

  “Tell me why we’re here now,” she insisted urgently.

  “My guess is because my father wants us to agree to marry. He and Simon both know I can’t let you go now. The Arcano would kill any woman who spurned me.” He didn’t bother to add that he wouldn’t let her go anyway. Not when he knew she’d had his child, an offspring he hadn’t even known about. He admitted to himself silently that his unwillingness to let her go wasn’t solely about his daughter.

  I have a daughter, a beautiful child who I don’t even know.

  He wasn’t letting Shea take his daughter anywhere, and Shea wasn’t leaving. He’d just found her again. Hayden would take her rightful place as a princess of Rubare Collina, and Shea would become his princess bride. Strangely, those thoughts pleased him enormously.

  “That doesn’t make sense to me.”

  Bryan proceeded to explain the antiquated customs of his country’s secret feudal society, the history, and the predicament they were in now. He watched Shea’s incredulous expression as he explained why they had to marry.

  “This…Arcano society would hurt me and my daughter if I refuse to marry you?” she asked, shaking her head as though she didn’t believe what he was saying.

  “Yes.” Bryan hadn’t sugarcoated the details of the danger she and Hayden were in right now. The only thing he’d held back was that she needed to declare her love for him and her loyalty to Rubare Collina in front of Xander, their father, Simon and a few other high-ranking officials to satisfy the Arcano now that there was no council. He’d find a way around that. Xander would swear that she had done the deed. Bryan was certain that his eldest brother knew nothing about what his father and Simon were doing right now.

  “That’s crazy. We spent one evening and one night together, a one night stand. You left me before I even woke up the next morning. I never saw you again.” Her voice was angry, but contained a hint of pain.

  Bryan frowned at her, wondering if she was still hurt because she assumed he’d never sought her out again. He knew he’d certainly been devastated when he’d found her gone. “I looked for you, Shea. I got an urgent message from my brother telling me to come home because my father was ill. He had pneumonia and was bedridden, but he eventually recovered. I came back to New York a little more than two months later, and you were gone.” He didn’t share how heartbroken he’d been when he’d found she was no longer attending classes in New York, nor had he been able to get any information on where she’d gone. “I didn’t even know your last name. I couldn’t trace where you’d gone.” He’d cursed himself many times in the last five years for not getting at least the smallest amount of information about her, but he’d left in a hurry because he was distracted, worried about his father.

  “You came back looking for me?” Her gray eyes grew wide.

  He nodded sharply.

  “I couldn’t stay in New York. I was on scholarships, but I still couldn’t afford to go to school and support a child. When I found out I was pregnant, I moved back home to Michigan.”

  Bryan heard sorrow in her voice. “What happened there?”

  “My parents wanted nothing to do with me once they found out I was pregnant. They wanted me to terminate the pregnancy and go back to school. When I told them I couldn’t do it, they washed their hands of me. I had to move out and find a job.” Shea paused and took a shaky breath before continuing. “Do you know how difficult it is to find a job at all without many skills, much less find a job when you’re pregnant?”

  “So you had to flaunt your body in this…club? It was the only job you could get?” Bryan was angry, but not at Shea. She had been young, only a junior in college. He’d unknowingly left her all alone to deal with the repercussions of her unexpected pregnancy. He couldn’t help but be proud of her strength, for doing whatever she had to in order to take care of their daughter.

  “I finally got a job in a law office as a receptionist. Liz, one of the female attorneys, was brave enough to give a pregnant woman a chance. I’m her secretary now. The club waitressing is a night job to help me pay expenses. My day job doesn’t pay much, but I like it,” Shea said defensively, tugging on the tiny skirt as though it might suddenly lengthen to cover her exposed legs.

bsp; Bryan surveyed the stubborn tilt of her chin and her gray eyes just daring him to say something negative about her extra job. Really…he couldn’t, even though he hated it. Shea was doing what she had to do to survive. He hadn’t been there for her and their daughter, and he hated himself for that. “Men wanted you, propositioned you?” It was inevitable if she dressed like that to work. She was beautiful.

  “Yes,” she answered stoically. “But I’ve never taken any of them up on it.”

  “Why?” he asked curiously, certain she could have wound many men around her finger, gotten all the money she needed. He’d give much of his fortune to her just for one more night with her himself.

  “I’ve only ever given myself to one man, and I did it because I wanted to. I’m not ashamed of what happened the night Hayden was conceived. But I would be ashamed if I shared something like that with a man for money. I couldn’t do it.”

  Bryan swallowed hard, trying to dislodge the lump in his throat. She still didn’t regret that night with him? Even after the hard times and work it had caused her? She hadn’t known he was rich, or that he was a prince. She’d just wanted him, which had been one of the many things that made being with Shea the most extraordinary night of his life. “But you lost your dream of being a lawyer. You couldn’t finish school.”

  She shot him a defiant look. “I got Hayden, and I wouldn’t trade having her for anything in the world. I’ll finish school someday.”

  “You can finish here. We have superior universities and an excellent law school,” Bryan told her huskily. “I’m so sorry, Shea — sorry that you were alone, sorry that I couldn’t find you, and I’m sorry you had our daughter alone without anyone to help you.” He hesitated before he added, “But you’re not alone anymore. We’ll marry as soon as we’re released from this damn tower.”

  “And if I refuse? What then? You kill me?” she asked sarcastically. “I want to take my daughter home. I don’t need to marry you. We’ve done fine on our own for years.”

  Bryan shook his head, realizing Shea still didn’t understand the gravity of the situation, even though he’d done his best to explain something he didn’t completely comprehend himself. “The Arcano will try to kill us both, and Hayden will be caught in the crossfire. It doesn’t matter where you go, they’ll find you now that you and Hayden have been discovered. We will marry, Shea.”