Taken by a trillionaire.., p.19
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       Taken by a Trillionaire 1-3, p.19

         Part #1 of Taken by a Trillionaire series by Ruth Cardello
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Bryan smiled, wondering if Xander would feel the same sense of pride in being an uncle as he did. “Yes. Uncle Xander is king, and you have an Uncle Christopher, too, but he’s away right now.”

  “It’s nice to have family. I didn’t have any family except Mommy, but now I have a grandfather, uncles, an aunt, and even a cousin.” Her big eyes latched onto Bryan adoringly as she murmured, “But I think I like having a daddy the best. I love Mommy the most because she’s always been my mommy, but I love everybody else, too.”

  His heart squeezed inside his chest, and he opened his arms to his daughter. She flung herself against him and hugged him enthusiastically, pressing her warm, tiny body against him so trustingly that it brought out every protective instinct Bryan had inside him.

  My daughter. My child. My blood. How easily she can love, and accept love.

  Bryan’s gaze shifted to Shea, and he saw tears flowing steadily down her beautiful face. She swiped them away quickly, but Bryan frowned as he hugged his daughter back, wondering what was making her sad.

  Shea’s never really had any family except her parents. Maybe she’s upset because my family is so big. And she hasn’t even met the extended family.

  Bryan kissed the top of Hayden’s dark head. “I’ll always love you, Hayden. You’re my daughter. I regret that I didn’t know about you earlier. I would have been proud to be your father even before you were born.”

  Hayden leaned back with a yawn. “You’re here now. It doesn’t matter,” she told him earnestly as she bussed him on the cheek. “I’m happy now.”

  Bryan tried not to flinch as Hayden kneed him in the groin as she threw herself into her mother’s arms.

  I have to learn how to protect myself from that!

  “Night, Mommy. I love you the most-est.” Hayden told her mother in a sleepy voice.

  Shea ran her hand gently over her daughter’s head and hugged her close. “I love you too, baby,” she said softly.

  Hayden flopped back onto her pillow. “Will I get to see my pony tomorrow?”

  “Yes.”

  “No!”

  Bryan and Shea spoke simultaneously.

  “Sweetheart, you can’t have a pony — ”

  “Your pony has already been selected.” Bryan cut Shea off. “We’ll visit the stables tomorrow if you’re good.” Hell, he’d probably let her see her pony even if she was bad, but Shea was currently sending him a glare so sharp that he could feel the edge of the daggers she was shooting at him.

  “I’m sleeping now. I’ll be good.” Hayden squeezed her eyes tightly shut.

  Bryan chuckled as he ruffled her dark head and rose to his feet. “Sweet dreams, little one.”

  “Good night, baby. We’ll talk in the morning.” Shea leaned over and kissed her daughter on the forehead.

  Bryan switched on the nightlight and turned off the overhead, leaving the door partially open after Shea exited the room.

  He flinched as he strode down the hall and Shea’s bedroom door slammed shut with a finality that told him he was in trouble. He realized that he’d made a mistake in not being united with Shea when they talked to their daughter. He’d contradicted her in front of Hayden. It had been the wrong thing to do; disrespectful even, now that he thought about it. But Hayden could and did already have a pony. He didn’t want her to be disappointed. She’d had so little as a child, and he had some making up to do to his daughter for missing those years of her life.

  She always had her mother’s love.

  Too late, Bryan realized that Hayden had always had what she needed and wanted. He should have talked to Shea before he overrode her orders. She’d had sole responsibility for their daughter for years, and he knew she didn’t appreciate him coming in and contradicting her. Honestly, he could see her point…now.

  Somehow, he could have convinced her, made her realize that it was custom here for children to ride — for royal children it was mandatory. He didn’t want to hear her say once again that she couldn’t and wouldn’t marry him. She would and she could. It wasn’t just to his daughter that he wanted to make up for being absent. Bryan wanted to make everything up to Shea because she’d deserved so much more than the life she’d been handed. Perhaps he had reasons for not being there; he hadn’t been able to find her. But he had her now, and he wasn’t letting go.

  They would be a family, and not just because of the Arcano. Shea was his choice, the only woman for him. Hell, he’d probably known that since the first moment he met her. Shea had always been special, and his reluctance to marry had everything to do with the woman he’d never forgotten, a woman who had haunted him for years. Now he just needed her to believe that.

  He tried the handle on her bedroom, not surprised to find it locked.

  Somehow I have to reach her, make her understand. I have to make her love me.

  So far, he’d fucked up — royally.

  He hesitated for a moment, uncertain whether he should allow time for her anger to lessen before approaching her, or if he should insist on speaking with her right now.

  Then, he heard the muffled, heart-wrenching sobs coming from the other side of the door.

  Immediately after he heard her crying, Bryan decided there was no more debating. Shea’s unhappiness clawed at his chest. There was only one option.

  Chapter Seven

  Once Shea started to cry, she couldn’t stop. Her face in the pillow, lying prostrate on the bed, she released all of the emotions she’d been battling for days since her whole world had been turned upside down.

  Fear.

  Indecision.

  Disbelief.

  She cried for her daughter and all she’d been denied.

  And she sobbed because of her disappointment at her inability to provide everything that Hayden had needed. She’d tried. She’d tried so damn hard to be everything to her daughter, but all she had really been was an absent parent.

  Just like my own parents.

  The only difference was that she loved Hayden, and her daughter’s declaration about how happy she was having family had nearly struck Shea to the depths of her soul.

  “You will not cry,” Bryan’s voice boomed above Shea’s head.

  She just cried harder.

  “I wish you would not cry,” he tried again in a low, husky voice as he sat down beside her and gathered her unresisting body into his arms.

  She wept against his shoulder, marveling at how he’d gone from sounding like he’d issued a royal decree to a heartfelt plea in an instant. Bryan rocked her like he would Hayden, his hand stroking gently over her hair to soothe her as she continued to bawl like a baby against the fine cotton of his shirt.

  “I never knew marriage to me would bring all of this on,” he crooned. “I might be an ass, but I didn’t know I was that depressing,” he continued lightly.

  “You know I can’t marry you.” She hiccupped as she spoke, her sobs subsiding, and her ribs hurting from crying so hard. Never in her life had she let loose like this…not even when she’d found herself pregnant and alone in the world. “We can’t marry just because of a death threat, although I have to admit that I don’t know what else to do.” She couldn’t and wouldn’t have Hayden denied her family, and Shea would do anything to keep her daughter safe.

  “You can. Very easily. I’m not the heir apparent, and our wedding can be quiet. And I’ve already told you that I’m not marrying you just because of the Arcano. I want us to be together as a family. I want you, Shea. I have since the first time I saw you. Marry me. We can visit America often.”

  “I don’t really have anything or anybody there to visit,” she admitted softly. “When I heard Hayden talking about family, it broke my heart. I’ve tried so hard to be everything she needed — ”

  “You are everything she needed,” Bryan said in a low, angry voice. “Don’t ever think otherwise. You gave her your love, Shea. And she loves you. Both of us know what it’s like to have at least one parent who despised us.”

  “I worked so much, Brya
n. I missed so much of her life, even though I was actually there,” she told him sadly.

  “My brave, Shea,” he said in a husky, emotional voice. “You gave everything you had. Who took care of your needs? Who was there for you when you needed help? No parent is perfect. It’s time to let me help you, sweetheart. Marry me. You did a fine job with our daughter. She’s loving and kind, thoughtful and generous. She knows the value of working hard, and she’s incredibly responsible for one so young. Now, let me help you raise her, take some of the load off you. I want to take care of you now, Shea. You’ve done enough by taking care of our daughter so well for so many years.”

  It was tempting, so very tempting. “It would be a marriage of convenience.”

  Bryan’s deep low laughter was muffled against her hair. “You’re far from being convenient, and the deal comes with a ready-made daughter. I’m perfectly able to handle that. I want to.”

  Really, what choice did she have? She wasn’t willing to leave Hayden here alone, and there was the still the threat to their lives. Deep inside, she wanted Bryan, desperately longed to have them be a family. But part of her wanted to balk, the secret area of her heart that feared that she’d end up head over heels in love with this man. “I don’t think we really have a choice,” she told him glumly.

  “What happened to the woman who said she always had a choice? Choose me; choose us because you want to, Shea. I can give you and our daughter anything you want.” He hesitated before adding, “The Arcano will eventually be defeated. I’ll be joining Xander in his fight to destroy them. If I haven’t made you happy by the time they’ve been eliminated, you can leave Rubare Collina and me.” His voice was grave.

  “Is that allowed?” she asked curiously. “Royalty can divorce?”

  “No. I will always be married to you according to the laws of my country. Divorce isn’t common here, but it’s perfectly acceptable, except for royalty. But I can set you free in the United States, make sure our marriage is invalid,” he rasped, as though it hurt him to say those words.

  Bryan shifted and leaned back against the headboard, taking her with him so she lay sprawled against his chest.

  “Yes. I’ll marry you.” Shea decided just that quickly. Bryan was so willing to do anything for his daughter that she couldn’t say no. She didn’t want to say no anymore. “But I’d like to try to make this a real marriage. I’d like to make your family my own. I want us to raise Hayden together.”

  Bryan tilted her chin and Shea’s heart skipped a beat as she saw his happy grin. “You will love me,” he stated arrogantly.

  I want you to love me, too.

  In fact, she ached for him to care about her.

  “We can start with respect. The pony?” She gave him an annoyed look.

  “Honesty is valued here, and Hayden will be expected to ride. Everything I said is true, but we should have been in agreement. I’m sorry, sweetheart. We’ll discuss everything concerning our daughter from now on,” he said contritely.

  She had no real problem with her daughter learning to ride, and his apology had sounded sincere. “Will you teach me, too?” she asked hopefully. “Will you teach me the things I don’t know about Rubare Collina?”

  “Of course,” he answered as though his assistance was a given. “I’ll be more than happy to teach you anything you want to know about my country.”

  “I might not always agree with you,” she warned him. Bryan might be agreeable enough at the moment, but he had an inbred confidence and bossiness that she assumed came from being royalty. Okay. Yeah. It was actually pretty hot, but she wasn’t the type of woman to bow down to a man…even if he was a prince.

  “I realize that,” he answered, sounding amused. “You need to remember I’m royalty and very used to getting my way.”

  “Get un-used to it,” she told him firmly.

  “We will fight. But then we can have amazing make up sex,” Bryan decided.

  Shea laughed at the hopefulness in his voice. “Only if we actually do make up,” she told him, delighted by his playful mood.

  He flipped her over so quickly that she squealed, pinning her body beneath his and capturing her wrists to hold them over her head. “I think I’ll have to insist that we do make up.”

  A sudden, dire thought fluttered through her mind as she looked up at him. “I’m not on birth control, Bryan. We didn’t use anything in the tower — ”

  “I’d love to have another baby with you, get to watch you grow ripe with my child this time,” he said in a guttural voice. “Would you mind so much if you did get pregnant? I swear to you that I’ll always take care of you and any children we have. Do you trust me enough to not worry about that?”

  His vow was sincere, a declaration of his intentions. Obviously Bryan planned to try and make this marriage real, and it touched Shea’s lonely heart. “No. I’d love to have another child. And yes, I trust you. I think you can probably afford another one,” she joked, but she knew it would be wonderful to have someone beside her during another pregnancy. She’d been so terrified and alone during her pregnancy and labor.

  His beautiful hazel eyes danced with humor. “I think we could scrape by.”

  “I wouldn’t know what to do if I didn’t have to watch every penny,” she mused.

  “What’s your greatest wish? What have you always wanted that you’ve never had?” He searched her face anxiously.

  Love. Acceptance. Kindness.

  She sighed because she wasn’t ready to spill her guts. They were trying to build a relationship. Having another child was definitely putting the cart before the horse, and they had a lot to work out.

  “I’ve always wanted to travel. See the world. It’s always been a dream of mine. I guess I’ve already accomplished traveling out of the country, even though I haven’t seen much of Rubare Collina yet.”

  “We’ll take my jet and travel. I’ll take you and Hayden anywhere you want to go,” he said agreeably.

  “We’re close to Europe now. I can see so many places,” she said excitedly.

  “We can go anywhere on Earth, except for anywhere dangerous.”

  She jerked at her wrists until he let go and she wrapped her arms around his neck. “What’s it like to be one of the richest men in the world?”

  He was silent for a moment before he answered. “I guess I’ve never thought about it. I was born a prince and incredibly wealthy. I’m glad I’m a second son. It leaves me free to do my work in the Dyholm mines. I’ve never wanted to rule a country. I just want to do my job. I abide by most of the customs because of tradition. Every country has its own. Ours are unique to Rubare Collina, and I love my country.”

  “Do you really have a law school where I can finish my degree and become a lawyer?”

  “Yes. The Royal University is one of the finest in any country.”

  Shea’s brow wrinkled in concentration. “Then why didn’t you attend college here?”

  “America had a better program for learning mine technology and engineering. I wanted a specialized degree. I guess I also wanted to see what it was like to live somewhere else, somewhere that I could just be a man and not a prince for a while.”

  “How did it feel?” Shea asked curiously.

  “Strange, but not altogether bad. After a while I missed my family and my homeland. The best part of America was meeting you,” he answered, his possessive gaze raking over her face.

  Shea’s heart beat erratically, wanting so much for what he said to be true. “So we’ll be married when our week here is over?”

  “Yes. Simon will have everything ready.”

  “Then there’s no need to stay here any longer?” It was beautiful at the summer palace, so the thought of leaving sooner than they’d planned made her a little disheartened.

  “There’s every need to stay. I want my privacy with my wife-to-be and my child. Once we get back to the city, the paparazzi will be all over my residence and the main palace,” he grumbled.

  “Is it big
?” she asked curiously.

  He grinned wickedly. “Right now, it’s huge. Do you want to see?”

  Shea’s mouth went dry with longing. She coughed to clear the sudden lump in her throat nervously. “I meant your house.”

  “Bigger than this summer house, but smaller than the main palace.”

  “Big,” she confirmed. “What are your plans for the rest of our time here? I’d love to get out, meet people and see your country.” Now that she’d made the choice to stay, she wanted to be able to see her new country of residence, get the feel of the people who lived here.

  “We can’t stray far right now. We’re under guard. But there are some things we can do. Tomorrow, I’ll show you the stables and start getting you both used to your new mounts. And I promised Hayden to show her the sea. We’ll be safe on the beach as long as I let the guards know what we’re doing. We can walk the grounds and spend some time outside. We need to stay within the protected perimeters, but I can show you some of our wildlife, flowers and plants.

  It all sounded wonderful to Shea. “What’s first?”

  “Finishing what we started earlier. You mentioned a bath, I believe.” He rose from the bed, taking her with him.

  She squeaked as he tossed her into the air and caught her, cuddling her against his body. She’d been coveting that tub since the moment she’d seen it. Usually, taking a long bath wasn’t on her agenda…or even close. “You’re coming with me?” She shivered.

  “Definitely,” he answered provocatively. “It seems like the quickest way to get you naked.”

  Shea burst into laughter, her heart light and hopeful, as Bryan strode eagerly toward the bathroom.

  Chapter Eight

  Having anyone take care of any of her needs wasn’t something Shea was accustomed to getting. She’d been a latchkey kid in grade school and beyond, coming home every day to an empty house and lonely existence as an only child. She’d been making her own meals as long as she could remember, which, when she was younger, was often a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Although she’d been lonesome while she was home alone, there were many times when she’d found it preferable to being completely ignored on the rare occasions when her parents were actually in the house.