Taken by a trillionaire.., p.18
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       Taken by a Trillionaire 1-3, p.18

         Part #1 of Taken by a Trillionaire series by Ruth Cardello
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  “I saw a picture once of Moira as a child. She looked just like Hayden,” Reanna replied earnestly. “But Bryan is undeniably his father’s son.”

  “Do you know what happened to their mother?”

  “She died when Xander was young. He doesn’t like to talk much about what happened, and I haven’t pushed him for all the details. I think it might have been traumatic for all of the boys. None of them speak of it or her. I don’t think she treated them well,” Reanna answered thoughtfully.

  Shea’s heart ached for all of the Demande brothers. If the experience of their mother’s death had been bad enough that none of them discussed it or ever mentioned her, it had to have been bad. Eventually, she asked a question she had really wanted to ask Reanna. “How do you deal with it, living in a country where everything is different, being married to a king, becoming a queen to people who are so different from Americans?”

  “They aren’t so very different. People are people wherever you go, and the Rubarians are good, kind people for the most part. Xander’s a great leader, as was his father before him. It’s a beautiful country. I was alone in America except for one friend. Now I have family, people who love me, and I live in a country that’s prosperous and happy. What’s not to love? It was easy for me to give Xander’s country and people my loyalty. I was never happy back home.” She paused before adding mischievously, “Besides, the man bought me my own company, Biostern, so I could keep doing what I love.”

  “He bought you one of the biggest research companies in the world? It had to cost billions,” Shea answered, shocked.

  “It did. He did it to make me happy. That’s just how Xander is.” Reanna bounced to her feet. “Speaking of my handsome husband, he’s home.”

  Shea’s gaze went to the doorway, and she got her first glimpse of the King of Rubare Collina, a breathtakingly handsome man who was searching for only one thing at the moment…his wife. When Xander’s gaze landed on Reanna, he smiled, the harsh look on his face softening.

  He loves her. And she loves him.

  They looked at each other for several long seconds before Reanna murmured, “Excuse me, Shea. I need to speak with my husband.” Shea watched as the other woman walked briskly to her husband and threw herself into his arms.

  After the two of them had properly greeted each other with hugs and a few lingering kisses, they made their way back to Shea hand in hand.

  Shea stood as they approached her. She tried to curtsy to Xander, but she was very afraid it looked more like a squat. She might have been a little more graceful if she wasn’t dressed casually in a pair of jeans and a sweater. “Your Majesty,” she greeted him formally.

  “Xander, please. I think we’re going to be family soon.” He held out his hand to take hers.

  She shook his hand awkwardly, wondering how to respond to his comment. “Nothing has been decided. In spite of the fact that Bryan and I made a child together, we hardly know each other.”

  “Easily remedied,” he told her with a genuine smile. “We’ve arranged for you, Bryan, and Hayden to spend some time together at our summer palace.”

  Shea gave him a skeptical look. “Will I be drugged, kidnapped and imprisoned again?”

  “None of those,” Xander assured her in a soothing baritone. “The media reports are already out that you’re here with Bryan’s daughter. My brother needs a chance to get to know the two of you. This residence will be swamped by reporters soon. You will have more privacy at our summer home.”

  “It’s beautiful there,” Reanna added.

  For some reason, Shea noticed that Reanna was blushing, making Shea wonder if the king and queen might have some very fond memories of that palace. “I’m sure it’s lovely, but I have jobs back home. I can’t just take an unpaid vacation.”

  “We’ll take care of that,” Xander interjected.

  Bryan wandered over with Hayden in his arms.

  “Mommy, we’re going to see the beach and a big sea at one of my new daddy’s castles. My daddy told me.” The child was nearly bouncing in Bryan’s arms with excitement.

  Her eyes caught Bryan’s intense, questioning gaze, and she knew she was defeated. He could give their daughter things that Shea couldn’t even dream of, and she didn’t have the heart to deny Hayden the time with her father. Already in her heart she knew that to separate them now, so soon after they’d found each other, would devastate them both.

  She bit her lip as she resigned herself to spending the next week with Bryan. They were going to see the big sea…whether she wanted to or not.

  Chapter Six

  Shea spent the next few days chasing her daughter around the enormous summer palace. Hayden wasn’t used to having room to roam, and she seemed to want to see everything in the palatial estate as quickly as possible, as though it would go away if she didn’t. One of the senior maids, Lily, had been assigned to act as Hayden’s nanny at the home since Nanny Moira was helping Reanna out with little Alex. Luckily Lily was young and energetic. After two days of Hayden’s non-stop investigation of the castle, Shea let Lily take over for part of the day. The young woman happily followed her daughter, chattering enthusiastically right along with Hayden.

  “She’ll be fine, Shea,” Bryan told her with a grin as she watched their daughter and Lily disappear from the dinner table after they’d all eaten, Hayden eager to explore more of the upstairs rooms before her bedtime.

  “She’ll have to run out of things to see eventually,” Shea answered with a sigh, taking a sip of the delicious wine she was still savoring.

  “It will take a while. My brothers and I kept busy for weeks here when we were younger,” he answered, amused.

  Surprisingly, Bryan had been the one who was usually leading the romps through the home, taking Hayden anywhere she wanted to go, happily answering every single one of her questions. He was spoiling her shamelessly, and Shea had let him do it…until now. Small gifts and affection from her new father were one thing, but elaborate presents were quite another.

  “Bryan…Hayden cannot have a pony. I wish you hadn’t told her she could.” He didn’t seem capable of saying “no” to anything his daughter wanted, which could be dangerous. A pony was out of the question. Hayden had asked for one just before she left the table, and Bryan had immediately agreed that he’d give her one the very next day.

  “Of course she can,” Bryan answered after he swallowed some of the Scotch he was drinking.

  It had become a habit in the last few days for the two of them to linger at the table with after dinner drinks and talk about Hayden. Bryan never ran out of questions about her pregnancy and his daughter’s first several years without him. Shea’s heart ached when she saw the remorse in his gorgeous hazel eyes that he’d missed a particular event or her first years of growing up. Unfortunately, Shea knew exactly how he felt. She’d been physically near her daughter, but she’d missed so many significant events in Hayden’s life herself because she’d always been working. She could relate to the regret.

  “Every little girl wants a pony, but it’s not possible. And I don’t want Hayden to get her hopes up and then not be able to have one. We live in an apartment, Bryan…a very small apartment. Even if we had the space, I couldn’t afford to feed an animal.” Shea could barely afford to feed herself and Hayden. She’d always regretted that she couldn’t at least get a cat or a dog for her daughter. The best she’d been able to do was a goldfish, and her daughter had taken care of the pet very responsibly. “The best I could do was Nemo,” she told him reluctantly.

  “Nemo?” Bryan raised an arrogant brow, but his eyes were laughing.

  Shea shrugged and bit back a smile. “Nemo the goldfish. She loves Disney movies. I thought it was kind of cute. Unfortunately, Nemo the goldfish died a few weeks ago. Hayden took good care of him, did everything she was supposed to do, but he jumped out of his tank while I was at work. She was pretty heartbroken. That’s why I don’t want her to be disappointed. She loves animals, and wants more of them
pretty badly.”

  “She can have as many as she wants. Besides, it wouldn’t do for a princess not to be able to mount a horse for ceremonial occasions. All Demandes are superb riders.”

  “You know we can’t stay here, Bryan. Hayden and I don’t belong here,” she told him adamantly. She wanted Hayden to know her father, even have him in her life, but she and Bryan were from two different worlds…literally.

  “Would it be so terrible to be married to me?” Bryan asked in husky voice. “Would it be a hardship to live with me in my own castle, make my people your people, too?”

  “You’re a prince, Bryan — ”

  “And you’ll be a princess if you marry me. By all rights, Hayden is a princess just because she’s my daughter. She should be able to take her place here,” he answered in an angry, frustrated tone.

  Shea wavered, the fact that her daughter wasn’t getting what was rightfully hers bothering her. Instead, Hayden lived in a tiny apartment with only Shea’s love and very little else. Bryan could give her daughter so much more, and she had no doubt that he’d be a good father to her…if he could just learn to say no occasionally.

  “Maybe we could share custody.” Just getting the words out of her mouth nearly killed Shea. To be separated from Hayden for any length of time would kill her, but denying her daughter her father was selfish. She loved her child too much to take her rightful inheritance away from her, just because having Hayden far away for months would be excruciatingly painful.

  Bryan rose from his chair and pulled her to her feet. His laser-sharp eyes scanned her face. “No. She deserves both of her parents. I won’t tolerate either of your lives being in danger from the Arcano. We will marry.”

  “You don’t really want to marry me,” she whispered shakily, the feel of his muscular, hard body against hers scrambling her brain. “For God’s sake, you’re a trillionaire, wealthy beyond imagination. I’m a secretary who works at a club at night to support my child, I — ”

  “Everything I have will be yours if you marry me,” Bryan growled. “I have money, yes. More than most people in the world, but I work in the mines at Dyholm. I’m a prince by birth. I did nothing to earn the title, and I’m not a ruler like Xander. Working is how I spend most of my time. Now I’ll happily make more time to spend with you and our daughter.”

  “I don’t want your money. Money doesn’t make people happy. My parents had money, but they were miserable together. They still are.”

  “So were mine,” Bryan answered in a raspy voice. “We don’t have to be that way.”

  She looked at his fierce expression. “How can we be any other way when we’re being forced to get married?”

  “It would be no sacrifice for me, Shea. I do want to marry you.”

  She cocked her head and asked, “Why?”

  “Because we have this.” He speared his hands into her hair and covered her mouth with his.

  His assault on her senses was swift and dominating, and Shea gave way to him, opening her mouth to let him claim her and wrapping her arms around his neck. She’d wanted this since the moment she’d left him sleeping in the bed at the tower. They had connecting rooms here, but he’d never been anything other than polite and attentive since they’d arrived. They’d slept in their own rooms, and Shea had wondered if he missed her as much as she’d been missing him. She’d been yearning for the feel of his body against hers, the way he devoured her like she was irresistible to him. Bryan was the only man who had ever made her feel this way, and she knew he was the only one who ever would.

  She put five years of longing and need into returning his passionate kiss, tangling her fingers into his hair and giving back as good as she got. Their tongues dueling for dominance, neither one of them won, but the erotic war left them both panting as Bryan finally lifted his mouth from hers.

  “Shea. Shea.” He trailed hungry kisses down her neck as he grasped the cheeks of her ass and ground her core against his hard erection. “I want you to marry me. Not because you have to, but because you want me as much as I want you.”

  I do. I never stopped.

  “I do want you,” she panted, tilting her head back as Bryan nipped at the sensitive flesh at her neck, driving her crazy.

  “Wrap your legs around my waist,” he demanded, his coarse voice muffled against her skin.

  Shea was wearing a loose, calf-length floral skirt and a casual blouse that had been provided for her as part of her wardrobe. She didn’t hesitate to leap and close her legs around Bryan’s waist, the flowing skirt bunching around her thighs.

  The denim of his jeans chaffed against the inside of her bare legs as he strode out of the room with her in his arms, going across the hall and closing the door on a small parlor. He turned, pinning her against the door. “You’re driving me completely insane, woman,” he rasped, his hands gripping her ass so tightly that she’d probably have bruises in the morning.

  Shea had just decided that it would be completely worth it when she heard a very familiar voice.

  “Mommy. Daddy. Where did you go?”

  Bryan groaned and dropped his forehead against her shoulder.

  Shea loosened her grip on his hair and took a long, cleansing breath. Then she breathed deeply a few more times, trying to calm her racing heart and aroused body.

  She lowered her legs to the floor slowly, and reluctantly drew her hands away from Bryan to smooth her skirt down.

  “Daddy? Mommy?” The sweet, childish voice moved closer.

  “She’s looking for us,” Bryan said, as though he was trying to clear his brain.

  “Yep. I have no doubt Lily got her ready for bed and she wants to be tucked in with a story.” She couldn’t help but let a small smile form on her lips at the frustrated look on Bryan’s face. “Welcome to the world of parenthood,” she told him teasingly. “Children don’t always have the best timing.”

  He stepped back and raked a hand through his disheveled hair. “I’m noticing that. Shall we go tuck our daughter into bed?” He held a hand out to her with a smile.

  Shea looked down at his groin, glad that he was wearing a button-down shirt that was long enough to cover what was probably a reluctantly softening erection.

  “I’m still hard. I will be until I have you naked beneath me, above me, or any other way you want it. I can’t be in the same room with you without my cock getting hard. I’ve been this way since I woke up with you in the tower several days ago.” His eyes were still burning with desire.

  Shea’s heart skittered as she met his gaze, her nipples growing hard again because of his blunt declaration. “I want you, too,” she admitted with equal candor.

  She slipped her hand into his and turned to open the door. As she grasped the handle, Bryan leaned down against her ear. “You will tell me how much you want me later,” he insisted in a graveled voice.

  His warm breath against her ear and neck made her shiver. “I don’t think so. I was thinking about taking a hot bath after I put Hayden to bed. It’s a luxury I rarely have, and I wanted to take advantage of that massive tub.” Shea reveled in teasingly rebutting Bryan’s arrogant assumptions.

  “Then you will tell me while I personally help you in the bath,” he demanded in an arrogant voice. “I can’t cook, but drawing you a bath paid off for me very well last time. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the pleasure of stripping you naked and washing every inch of your body for you. Tonight, I will.”

  His voice was sharper, needier, and Shea nearly moaned as his heated comment made erotic images flash through her head. “Let’s find Hayden,” she squeaked, unable to play this game of verbal arousal anymore. She wasn’t exactly a seductress, and Bryan was way too good at being a bossy, sexy, utterly demanding prince. He could have her hot and bothered without even touching her just by being himself.

  As they walked out the door hand-in-hand, Shea missed the cocky, satisfied smile on his face as he walked slightly behind her.

  *****

  Putting his daughter
to bed had become Bryan’s favorite time of the day, a moment he shared only with Shea. Each of them sat on one side of Hayden on the bed. Bryan was currently entertaining his daughter with a Rubarian fairy tale of magic horses who saved the kingdom. He experienced a sharp pain in his chest as he heard his daughter’s innocent, sweet laughter ring through the room as he embellished the end of the story. He finished dramatically, the King of Rubare Collina giving the horses a royal crown to wear on their heads and an official aristocratic title at the end of the story for saving their country.

  “You’re silly, Daddy,” his daughter told him with a giggle. “Horses don’t wear crowns. But it was a very good story.”

  “They actually do, little one,” he argued. “At the festival parade every year, all of the horses we ride have a crown.” He was telling the truth. The royal family always rode in the annual parade, and their horses did indeed have crowns.

  Hayden’s eye grew wide. “They do? Will I see them?”

  “When you’re old enough, you will ride one,” Bryan informed her, tickling her small tummy to make her laugh again. “You’re my daughter, a princess of Rubare Collina. You will have your own crowned horse, and your own tiara.” The jewelry craftsman would fashion Hayden her own unique design for an official tiara. Shea would also have her own design and tiara. The custom had been in place for centuries for the women in their family. Tiaras were only worn on very formal occasions — which meant almost never — but his daughter didn’t have to know that now.

  “Am I really a princess?” Hayden asked nervously, her tiny hands toying with the blankets. “Lily says I am, but the king has to say so first.”

  “You have to be officially acknowledged, little one. But you will be as soon as we get back to the big castle.” Bryan tried to keep his language simple, something his daughter could understand.

  “By Uncle Xander and Aunt Reanna?”