Taken by a trillionaire.., p.7
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       Taken by a Trillionaire 1-3, p.7

         Part #1 of Taken by a Trillionaire series by Ruth Cardello
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  Trudy, you believed in happily-ever-afters. Am I crazy to think this is my chance to finally have one of my own? Would you have gotten on the plane, Trudy, if Jonathan had asked you to?

  “Are you okay, Reanna?”

  The real concern in his eyes gave Reanna the answer she was looking for. “Yes, sorry, I’m fine now. I’ve just never flown before.”

  One of Xander’s eyebrows rose in question. “But you have a passport. Albert told me he retrieved it from where you said it would be.”

  Reanna gave him a wry smile. “There is a difference between going somewhere and hoping to. Insects have been flying for about 300 million years, so why not me, right?”

  Xander chuckled. “Come, anticipating taking off will make you more nervous than actually leaving the ground.”

  She took his hand in hers and gave it a squeeze. “I’m not nervous.”

  His walked with her up the steps and asked, “Why not?”

  She looked into his amazing blue eyes and simply said, “Because I’m with you.”

  He tripped then righted himself, and for a moment she thought her comment had upset him. Whatever he might have said was cut off by the flight staff greeting them. The next few minutes were a whirlwind of service. Champagne. Finger sandwiches. Chocolates. Every time she or Xander moved, someone flew to their side in anticipation of fulfilling a need they might express. Then, just as quickly, they would disappear again, leaving Reanna with the impression she was alone with Xander in the plane’s cabin.

  Seated beside him, Reanna double-checked her seatbelt then smiled shyly at Xander. “No going back now.”

  He didn’t smile in return. He still looked like he wanted to say something to her, but instead he laid his hand over hers on her armrest and nodded.

  Reanna’s stomach did a funny flip. She looked out the window as they took off and gripped the arms of the seat tightly.

  Xander’s cell phone rang, and he began to speak quickly in Italian. Reanna wished she hadn’t opted out of foreign language courses whenever she’d been given the chance to. She’d never considered communicating with people from other countries very important since she avoided talking to most people in her own.

  Once the plane was at a steady height, one of the attendants came by and asked Reanna if she would like to see the rest of the plane. Since Xander was still occupied with his call, Reanna readily agreed. She followed the woman to a door near the back of the plane. The room was filled with daisies and racks of dresses and outfits — more clothing than Reanna could imagine wearing in a lifetime. She looked at the woman and pointed at herself. Is this for me? The woman smiled and nodded.

  Gingerly, Reanna studied the contents of the racks. They all looked about her size. Formal gowns. Casual dresses. Slacks. Blouses of every color. Nearby, there were piles of shoeboxes from a variety of designers. All her size.

  A delicately detailed gold box was open to display an assortment of toiletries. Beside it was an equally lovely silk bag arranged so the makeup inside was visible. When Xander had said there was nothing they couldn’t pick up on the way, he’d been serious. But there was so much, and it was all so perfect it felt as if he’d been planning it for longer than a day.

  That’s silly.

  And borderline paranoid.

  Of course he can gather resources quickly. He’s a prince.

  There was a small, rectangular jewelry box from Tiffany’s. Reanna opened it. The glasses she had forgotten at her home were tucked inside with a beautiful chain. There was nothing Xander hadn’t thought of. His attention to detail was a little overwhelming. As were the number of outfits he’d purchased for her. Both implied a longer stay than she’d imagined.

  Her trepidation was countered with a level of giddy disbelief that anything like this could happen to her. This was a tangible display of his feelings for her — whatever they were. This type of pampering was likely how he treated anyone he dated. A prince wouldn’t take a woman out for pizza and then a stroll through the mall. For him, this was probably nothing. Relax.

  The woman beside her said, “There is time to try on every outfit if you’d like before you choose one for arrival.”

  Reanna looked down at her jeans and loose-fitting T-shirt and asked the woman why she thought a clothing change would be necessary. Reanna had asked if she should change into a dress for the trip, but Xander had said it wouldn’t matter. Now she could see why.

  “This is a little overwhelming,” Reanna said, more to herself than to the other woman. “My name is Reanna. What’s yours?”

  Looking surprised by the informality of the request, the attendant said, “Charlene.”

  “Where would you start, Charlene?”

  Charlene looked uncomfortable with the question and didn’t answer at first.

  Reanna implored, “I know nothing about Rubare Collina. I really could use your advice. Look at me, I don’t normally wear anything like this.”

  Charlene clasped her hands in front of her and said, “Most of these outfits are formal attire. Most on the left side of the rack would be suitable for your arrival day. If it would please you, I could style your hair in an updo.”

  Reanna caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror. She’d been so excited about the trip, she hadn’t even thrown her hair into her normal ponytail. Although she had run a taming brush through it that morning, the wind and humidity at the airport had given her long curls a wild frizz. “It would please me.” Even as she said the words, Reanna chuckled at her attempt to sound formal. “Yes. Thank you. I appreciate any help you can give me.”

  “I am very good at subtly shaping eyebrows,” the woman said, demurely keeping her eyes down.

  Reanna stepped closer the mirror. She studied her eyebrows then the neat, expertly shaped lines of Charlene’s. “I usually do my own.”

  Charlene didn’t say anything.

  Reanna ran a finger over one of her eyebrows. She didn’t trust others when it came to something as potentially painful as hair removal. “I don’t do wax.”

  “I could thread them.”

  Reanna blurted out, “And we stop at the eyebrows.”

  “As you wish,” Charlene said.

  Reanna turned back toward Charlene and said, “Thank you. You have no idea how grateful I am for your help. I’m a nervous wreck. I’ve never done anything like this before.”

  “It’s my honor,” Charlene said simply and met her eyes.

  Reanna smiled at her and felt a hundred times better when the woman smiled back.

  Careful to speak in Italian, Xander continued his conversation with Simon. “I know what my father wants, but I will do this my way.”

  “Chosen queens have always been kept in the women’s wing of the Royal Castle.”

  “Tell my father this is the only way I will honor this archaic tradition.”

  “Your Highness, do not push your father or the council too far on this. When it comes to title and crown, not even the love of a king can save a prince from the wrath of our laws.”

  “She stays, undisturbed, with me at our summer home, or I turn my plane around now and find another place to get to know her. I will not have her choose me out of fear. Is that understood?”

  “You’re playing a dangerous game, Your Highness.”

  “Not one part of this is a game to me, Simon.”

  “Are you prepared for the consequences if she does not choose you?”

  “That will not happen. Not if you give me time alone with her.”

  “As you wish, Your Highness. Your father will not be happy, but I will do my best to convince him to grant you this request.”

  “I am perfectly capable of telling him myself, Simon.”

  In his most reasonable tone, Simon said, “Your Highness, normally I would agree, but allow me to mediate this one. What one says in times of temper is often harsher than what one would consider when more rationally discussing it with one’s advisor.”

  “My father needs to respect my wishes.”

  “He will, Your Highness. At least, on the matter of where she will be kept. The rest, young prince, is where you need to tread carefully. Your father is a great king, but a king is also a man — and a perfect one has yet to be born. There are things he will not tell you. Things even I cannot. But you must trust me. Your title depends on marrying before you are thirty. This woman or another. It doesn’t matter. Use what little time you have left wisely.”

  Xander turned his head to the sound of a door opening in the back of the plane. He nearly dropped his phone when he saw Reanna emerge. She smiled at him demurely, and his heart began to beat double time in his chest. The long red dress clung to her, outlining her slim figure in a sophisticated, yet sexy style. Her hair was pulled back, revealing her long, delicate neck. She was easily the most beautiful woman he had ever seen, but as she walked toward him, teetering on her high heels, she was also the most endearing. He stood, hanging up on Simon absently as he did, and walked toward Reanna. “You look amazing,” he said, taking both her hands while he appreciated the view.

  Reanna’s smile widened, and she nodded to the woman behind her. “Charlene helped me choose an outfit. I’m glad you like it.”

  He pulled her against him and whispered into her ear, “So much so that if we were alone you would not be wearing it long.”

  Reanna blushed deeply, but she looked pleased by his comment. When she met his eyes again, she said, “There were so many stunning outfits, it was difficult to choose. I want to say thank you, but that doesn’t seem enough.”

  He kissed her gently and murmured, “You can thank me tonight, when we’re alone.”

  She tensed and her eyes flashed with emotion. “I’m not with you for what you can give me.”

  He studied her expression for a moment, then said, “You wouldn’t be here if you were.” He ran a light finger across her forehead. “Tell me, what is really bothering you?”

  She chewed her bottom lip. “I don’t know what to expect. I guess I thought we were going to be in your country for a few days. But that’s a lot of clothing for a short trip. Is there something you aren’t telling me?”

  “Come,” he said. “Let’s discuss this when we are once again seated comfortably.” He led her back to their seats, choosing his words as they went. “There are some things you should know about Rubare Collina and your visit there.”

  She swallowed visibly and her eyes rounded. “There are?”

  “Yes, and hopefully what I am about to tell you will not upset you.”

  She let out a shaky breath. “Are you already married?”

  He shook his head and chuckled. “No, but there are aspects of my single status that we need to discuss.”

  She gripped the arm of her chair again. “I’m listening.”

  “Rubare Collina is a monarchy. The royal family is still the active government, not merely figureheads. Because of that, my title comes with responsibilities and expectations. The moment you step off the plane and onto my country’s soil, you will be held to certain expectations.”

  “Are you worried I’ll say something embarrassing? Because I’ve already planned to say as little as possible. I’m not good in public situations.”

  He took her hand in his and raised it to his lips, kissing her cold fingers. Her earnest honesty made him wish he could be as transparent with her. That, however, was not a luxury he had. “You can say whatever you wish, but even I choose my words carefully when in public. It’s the price one pays for a title. No, what I need you to understand is that in my country princes normally wed by the age of thirty.”

  She met his eyes cautiously, waiting for him to explain himself more.

  “I am twenty-nine and eight months.”

  She shrugged one shoulder in an awkward expression of her confusion and continued to watch him without comment.

  “As the first woman I have brought back to my country, your presence may immediately be interpreted as a significant announcement.”

  “You mean people will think we’re getting married?” Her mouth rounded in the most adorable circle of surprise.

  He kissed her hand again. “They may.”

  “But we just met.”

  “They won’t know that.”

  She looked away, then back. “So, what do you want me to do?”

  He placed her hand on his thigh and said, “Enjoy your time with me. Let me worry about what others say about us. They don’t matter. What happens between us is our business, and only our business. You’re a single woman who will be staying publicly with a prince. There will be talk even I will not be able to silence.”

  The worry left her expression, and she reached up and touched his face gently. “You’re worried about my reputation?”

  His jaw clenched as he spoke as much truth as he could. “I need you to understand there may be consequences of being with me that will be beyond my control.”

  Tucking a loose curl behind one of her ears, Reanna nodded. “I think I understand. I see how royals are treated in the news. I don’t care what they say about me, Xander. Don’t laugh, but being with you is giving me a confidence I never had. I’ve spent a lot of time worrying what others thought about me, but now I see I gave them a power over me I never should have. Thank you for taking me on this trip. No matter what happens, I’m already grateful you want to show me your country.”

  When Reanna looked at him with such open trust, Xander gripped her hand tightly. He felt his heart opening to her, and it concerned him. Love could come later. He must not allow emotions to confuse him. Her life now depended on him, and he had precious little time before she would be asked to declare her loyalty to him and his country. “Nothing bad will happen to you, Reanna. I swear that on my life. But there may come a time when you will have to trust my judgment over your own.”

  Reanna let out a shaky laugh. “That’s intense, but don’t worry. This is your country; I’m okay with following your traditions.”

  “Good,” he said, although he knew Reanna would likely not be as accommodating if she knew what she was actually agreeing to.

  Chapter Eight

  Reanna stood beside Xander on a pristine beach in front of a summer home that could only be described as a castle. Arriving in Rubare Collina, leaving the airport in a motorcade lined with paparazzi, and then seeing the enormous and elegant room she would share with Xander felt like a dream — a crazy, wonderful, wild dream she didn’t want to awaken from.

  One of his house staff was finishing lighting candles on a table that had been set up on the already darkening beach. “Are you hungry?” Xander asked.

  Reanna waved at the table before them. “It would be a waste if I weren’t, wouldn’t it? Someone went to a lot of trouble already.”

  He shrugged. “Eat if you’re hungry. Don’t if you’re not. My staff is merely trying to anticipate our needs.”

  Reanna looked again at the table and the surrounding area, which had been prepared with such care. “You didn’t ask them to do this?”

  He took a moment to study what was before them. “If I have to ask, they aren’t performing their duties.”

  Reanna chuckled then realized he was serious. “You’re a spoiled brat,” she said.

  He pulled her unapologetically to his side. “I am a prince.”

  “Well, prince or not, you live a pretty amazing life. Don’t forget to stop and be grateful for it now and then.”

  He frowned down at her, but not with displeasure. “You are refreshing with your honesty, Reanna. That’s one of the many things I enjoy about you.”

  She rested her head on his shoulder and sighed. “I’m not like this with everyone. Usually I keep my thoughts to myself. It’s safer that way.”

  He turned her to him and wrapped his arms around her waist. “What you endured, Reanna, has made you into an incredible woman. I knew that from the first time I laid eyes on you. You are brilliant, humble, and much more beautiful than you realize. It took me less than a moment to decide I had to
have you. Be proud of who you are.”

  Reanna smiled up at him. “I would tell you you’re pretty amazing yourself, but I’m not sure your ego could handle more feeding.”

  He kissed the tip of her nose. “Careful, impertinence to royalty is a punishable offense.”

  She laughed. “Would you toss me in a dungeon?”

  He kissed her lips softly. “No, my bedroom would be a more appropriate setting for what I have in mind.”

  Their eyes met, and Reanna forgot everything except how she felt when he looked at her that way. She felt young and sexy. It was a giddy feeling that had nothing to do with where they were or who he was. His eyes burned with a primal need to claim her, and it called out to a part of her she’d never known existed. She wanted to be his, however and wherever he wanted. He bent to kiss her neck, and she said, “I know I said it would be a shame to waste the table that was set up for us, but I’m not hungry.”

  He pushed the strap of her gown aside, kissing the shoulder he’d exposed. “I am, but only for you.” He picked her up and carried her along the path and up the steps to the castle. If his staff was still in attendance, they made themselves invisible as Xander carried her into the main foyer and down a long hallway.

  Reanna couldn’t resist. She pulled his head down slightly so she could reach his mouth with hers. He stopped walking and kissed her deeply. That’s all it took to send a wildfire through Reanna. She arched against him, feverishly running her fingers through his hair while his hands worshipped her roughly. She was his, here if he wanted. All sense of time and location disappeared as heat rushed through her, bringing every inch of her exquisitely alive beneath his touch.

  He was lost in her. She was lost in him. Reanna vaguely registered that he’d moved so her back was now against the wall as they feverishly began to unfasten each other’s clothing. When his mouth closed over one of her breasts, loving her through the thin material of her bra, Reanna threw out an arm beside her and accidentally knocked a painting off the wall. It crashed to the floor with a loud sound that surprised them both enough that they paused and looked down at it.