Taken by a trillionaire.., p.9
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       Taken by a Trillionaire 1-3, p.9

         Part #1 of Taken by a Trillionaire series by Ruth Cardello
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  She had witnessed Xander drop his guard in public a second time in a surprising place. He had taken Reanna with him to the fresh air markets one weekend. He had told her since many of the farms were isolated, meeting in town the first Saturday of each month allowed them to catch up on the news and discuss issues concerning their crops. It was an informal gathering that involved boisterous laughing and freshly baked goods prepared by the farmers’ wives. It was obvious that Xander’s presence was common. He bantered with the men comfortably, and they shared their concerns with him calmly, seeming confident he would act on their behalf.

  Xander kept Reanna at his side the whole time. He introduced her by name, but didn’t say more nor did anyone ask. His subjects accepted her because he silently proclaimed it to be so.

  It probably also helped that almost every news channel announced Reanna would likely be their next queen. Reanna tried to ignore it as Xander had told her to, but there was a part of her beginning to hope something that amazing could actually happen. As the weeks passed, she stood beside him with more confidence, greeted strangers more warmly, and worried less and less about what everyone thought of her. With each landmark Xander explored with her, each shop owner he introduced her to, Reanna fell helplessly, hopelessly more in love with not only Xander but also his country.

  Curiosity had driven Reanna once to ask Xander why she hadn’t met his brothers or father at any of the events. Xander had turned to her with a strangely aloof expression on his face and said, “When I do introduce you to my father, it will be more than a simple meeting. It will be a declaration of my feelings for you.”

  When . . .

  He hadn’t said if.

  He also hadn’t said he loved her, but was he preparing to?

  She waited, but Xander didn’t share more about his feelings. Because of that, Reanna still woke each morning wondering if he was verging on asking her to leave or to meet his family.

  Those first few minutes of each day, before Xander woke and gave her a kiss that made everything else melt away, were the most stressful for Reanna. Like a nearly starved person savoring what could be the last morsel of food before another long fast, Reanna tried to remain grateful for every moment she had with Xander. If her time with Xander did end, she would survive, and she would be better for having experienced all this.

  Here in Rubare Collina she felt stronger, braver, and able to face any future — even if it didn’t include a prince.

  Please let it include a prince.

  Kendra didn’t understand how Reanna could calmly discuss both possibilities with her during their weekly chats. Reanna tried and failed to explain how she could love and still keep enough of herself protected. Kendra said she understood, but no one who hadn’t survived repeated loss could.

  Lost in her thoughts, Reanna was standing in the castle garden waiting for Xander to join her. She wasn’t sure what they had planned for the day, but she’d chosen a comfortable, blue linen dress that would suit many occasions.

  “Excuse me, are you Reanna?” a woman asked, approaching her.

  Reanna jumped and spun toward her. “Yes?”

  The older woman smiled warmly at her. She was tall, Reanna guessed in her late fifties, and simply attired in a muted floral dress. She wore her brown hair swept up in a neat bun. “Forgive me for startling you. I’m not supposed to be here, but I couldn’t resist the chance to meet you.” She held out her hand in greeting. “My name is Moira. I’m the royal nanny.”

  Reanna shook her hand and joked, “Aren’t the princes too old for one?”

  Moira’s eyes misted. “Age is irrelevant. I love the boys as much now as I did when they used to sneak into the kitchen and bribe the cook to make them the treats I had denied them. They never were good at following the rules.” Hearing Moira’s emotional response, Reanna was at a loss for what to say. Moira looked around, presumably waiting until she was sure they were still alone before speaking again. “We don’t have much time, Reanna. Tell me, do you love Xander?”

  Reanna stuttered, “I . . . I . . .”

  The woman took one of Reanna’s hands in hers. “Are you close to loving him? Could you imagine yourself spending the rest of your life here?”

  Is this a joke? Am I on camera? Reanna scanned the area around them.

  Moira gave her hand a squeeze, bringing Reanna’s attention back to her. “Xander turns thirty soon. If you have feelings for him, don’t hide them. Not even in public. Don’t let there be a question about how you feel for him.”

  “Okay,” Reanna said slowly. Where did this woman escape from? It’s best to play along with a crazy person’s fantasy. “I’ll do that. Thank you.”

  The woman looked over her shoulder one last time then said in a rush, “Please don’t tell anyone I was here. Not even Xander.”

  Reanna pried her hand free from the woman. “I won’t. I promise.”

  With a nod, the woman walked quickly out of the garden and disappeared.

  Alone again, Reanna said aloud, “Good talk.”

  “Who are you talking to?” Xander asked, sliding his arms around her from behind and nuzzling her neck.

  Reanna tensed then relaxed. Every country, like every family, had unstable people. Moira seemed relatively harmless so Reanna decided not to mention her. “Myself. I do that sometimes.”

  He kissed her neck again. “Sorry my phone call took so long. I’m planning a surprise for you.”

  Reanna laid both of her hands over his and leaned back against him. “What is it?”

  He chuckled. “If I told you it wouldn’t be a surprise, would it?”

  Reanna laced the fingers of one of her hands with his and said softly, “I’ve never liked surprises. They never turn out well for me.”

  He hugged her tightly and said, “That was before you met me, Reanna. Trust me, you’ll love this one.”

  Reanna closed her eyes and tried not to get excited. “Will I receive it today?”

  “No, I planned a day on my yacht for us. I thought you might want to see some of the beaches that are difficult to get to by land. We’ll anchor by the alcove, have lunch, then there is a Spanish shipwreck we could snorkel to if you’re interested.”

  “That sounds wonderful,” Reanna said. She let herself trust Xander because everything about him, from the very first moment they had met, had turned out better than she’d dared hope. With Xander, she let herself believe that good things could happen to her.

  That evening, while Reanna showered and changed for dinner, Xander remembered what Reanna had said about not all surprises being good ones. A member of his staff announced that Xander’s brothers had arrived and were waiting to speak with him in the library of the castle.

  It wasn’t the first time Xander had spoken to them since returning home with Reanna. However, it was the first indication their curiosity was beginning to outweigh their common sense. He’d told them the summer castle was off limits until he said otherwise.

  He didn’t hide his displeasure as he walked into the library. His youngest brother, Christopher, was standing in the middle of the room, talking to his middle brother, Bryan, who was seated with his feet up on the antique coffee table. Bryan put his feet down when Xander gave him a cold look.

  Christopher folded his arms across his chest and said, “Don’t glower at us, Xander. We’re not the ones driving father crazy by traipsing all over the country with a woman who should have been kept a secret until the council’s announcement.”

  Bryan stood. “I still can’t believe you’re going through with it. A year ago you said you’d never let an antiquated law make you do anything. But here you are, falling right in line. What happened?”

  Xander rose to his full height and spoke through gritted teeth. “You will understand when it’s your time. That’s all I can say for now.”

  Bryan shook his head. “Because Simon told you not to? Who is the future king, you or him?”

  “You can try, but you won’t goad me into saying what I ca
nnot divulge. When you turn twenty-nine, I will play a role in explaining all of this to you, but for now, enjoy your innocence.”

  Christopher barked out a laugh. “Innocence? Does he know who he’s talking to? Xander, when it’s my turn, you can skip the birds and bees talk. I’ve been doing fine on my own.”

  Bryan stepped closer to Xander. “It’s not about that at all, is it? What did Simon tell you that you think we can’t handle yet?”

  Xander stared his brothers down. “There are ugly truths from the past and those that poison our present. Knowledge of either would put both of you in danger before I had the resources to defend you.”

  Christopher grimaced. “You sound like Father.”

  “That’s because I understand him better now than I did before. Just as you will when you have your Vita Unica.”

  Bryan cocked his head to one side. “If you understand Father so well, then you know how angry you’re making him by flaunting your choice in public.”

  Christopher added, “He won’t let it continue. His patience with you is waning.”

  Bryan studied Xander’s expression. “You’re deliberately breaking the rules, aren’t you? Why?”

  Christopher made a sound of disgust. “Xander has always considered himself above the rules. Which makes his adherence to this one that much more interesting. You talk about defending us, Xander, but wouldn’t it be better for all of us if we knew what we were facing?”

  Xander clenched his fists at his side. “Not yet, Christopher. Be patient. Trust me when I say not knowing has been and is your best protection.”

  Christopher turned to Bryan in frustration. “Are you willing to accept that answer?”

  Bryan held Xander’s eyes for a long moment. “More than title, more than country, we are brothers. Regardless of law, you are not alone. If you need us, we are here.” He elbowed his younger brother.

  Christopher said, “Seriously, I don’t like secrets, but you’ve never been anything but a good brother to me, Xander. I would give my life to protect you if you needed me to. You don’t have to face whatever this is alone.”

  Xander let out a long sigh. “Keep those who are most loyal to you close and trust no one with why. I may need you and if I do, it could be for an ugly reason. One I cannot explain to you yet.”

  Bryan put a hand on Xander’s shoulder. He said the two words Xander had said to him the day he’d pulled Bryan back from the edge of the cliff — an act that had saved Bryan but not their mother. “Brothers first.”

  Christopher did the same with his opposite hand. “Brothers first.”

  Xander laid his hand over both of theirs on his shoulders and said, “And in the name of Rubare Collina it shall always be.” He lowered his hands and stepped back. “I’ve been avoiding introducing Father to Reanna, but you’ve just changed my mind. Tell Father I’ll bring her by tomorrow night for dinner.”

  Chapter Ten

  Reanna was lying beside Xander, listening to him breathe, and having her usual silent morning pep talk. Her life until now had centered on her academic success. Taking a vacation, not only from her work, but also from the expectations of people who knew her, was freeing.

  In Rubare Collina she felt free.

  And in that unobstructed place, Reanna was able to ask herself some tough questions. She had been asked in the past to take the lead on projects, but she’d always chosen supportive positions. It wasn’t that she was intimidated by the task, but confrontation of any kind had always made her nervous. She would get physically sick just thinking about speaking up for herself.

  She’d learned in foster homes it didn’t take much to lose everything she cared about. She hadn’t realized how much fear had defined her until she’d stepped outside of her life and looked at it from a distance.

  Reanna rubbed a hand absently over Xander’s broad chest. He’d told her to never look down, and being with him had given her the courage not to. When they were alone, he encouraged her to speak her mind. When they were in public he modeled how a strong person stands up for what they believe in. She wished she could go back in time and tell herself to take chances and be bolder. Perhaps then she would have done something important with her life.

  He stilled her hand with his own, holding it against his chest and murmuring, “Why are you awake?”

  “I was thinking,” Reanna said. “I wish I had met you earlier. I wasted so much time being afraid.”

  He kissed the top of her head. “You never need to be afraid again, Reanna. Not as long as I have a breath left in me.”

  Reanna laced her fingers with his. “I’m grateful for that, but that’s not what I meant. I’m not talking about a physical fear. You’ve given me confidence in myself. I feel like I could go back and tell off those idiots at my old job.”

  With his free hand, Xander rubbed her back. “You don’t have to, I already did.”

  Reanna met his eyes. “Are you serious?”

  He kept caressing her back gently. “Absolutely. They needed to know they couldn’t treat women that way. I enjoyed making that point clear to them.”

  Reanna smiled. “I should probably tell you that you shouldn’t have done that, or that I could handle my own battles, but I’ve never had anyone fight for me before.”

  “Let the past go, Reanna. That doesn’t have to be your life anymore.”

  Reanna felt comfortable being herself in front of Xander. “I’m not really good at letting go. Did I ever tell you about my sundress?” He shook his head and Reanna continued, “It’s not a sundress. It’s a little black dress with a sun embroidered on its jacket. It might sound ridiculous, but I consider it my compass. I keep it in the back of my closet and take it with me whenever I move. I kind of wish it were here.” Reanna studied Xander’s face and said, “You probably don’t want to hear about an old dress.”

  “Is it important to you?”

  “Yes.”

  “Then you’re wrong; I do want to hear about it. Tell me about this dress.”

  Reanna pictured the dress in her mind. “Remember I told you I was very young when I started college? Well, I was desperate to fit in. There was a formal dance and I, of course, didn’t have a dress. I was living in a group home at the time. I had enough food and clothing, but nothing special. Nothing I could wear to something like that. One of my classmates took me shopping at Macy’s. She convinced me to try on dresses. That black dress, with the big gold sun was the most beautiful piece of clothing I’d ever touched, not to mention worn. She offered to put it on her credit card if I returned it after the dance. The dress was three hundred dollars. For someone like me, that just as easily could have been a million. I knew I shouldn’t do it, but I let her buy it for me. Then she showed me how to cover the tags with plastic so I could return it, claiming I hadn’t worn it. I wore it to the dance, and it worked. I danced with boys who had never noticed me. I spoke to girls who normally ignored me. It was the perfect night. But when it came time to return the dress, I couldn’t. It felt wrong. I made myself sick worrying about who I would become if I started stealing, even on that level. I was stuck with the dress. The girl who had put it on her charge card was furious. I couldn’t blame her; I had broken our deal. It took me a long time to pay her back. I kept that dress to remind me not to make that kind of mistake again. I always considered my mistake had been not being strong enough to return it, but I’m beginning to think that keeping that dress was one of the few things I’ve done right. I may not always stand up and fight for what I want, but I don’t run from my responsibilities either. Thank you for telling me I’m stronger than I think I am — I’m finally beginning to believe you.”

  In the silence that followed Reanna’s reminiscing monologue, she cursed herself for not being more flirtatious or witty. What do I do when I wake next to the world’s sexiest man? I talk and talk until his morning boner is probably more limp than overdone pasta. Way to go, Reanna.

  “I’ve changed my mind about how we’ll spend today . . .” he sai
d.

  Reanna groaned inwardly. Of course you have. Why can’t I be cool — just once in my life?

  He brushed some hair out of her eyes. “We’ll dine with my father tonight.”

  Naked, Reanna shot straight up to a seated position and turned to look down at Xander in shock. “Did you just say what I think you said?”

  Xander smiled and ran a hand up her arm then across her chest to cup one of her breasts, tracing her nipple leisurely with one thumb. “It’s time you meet my family.”

  Reanna grabbed his hand to still it. She could barely breathe. “You said a meeting wouldn’t be just a meeting. You said it would be a . . . it would be a . . .”

  He gave her arm a tug, and she toppled down onto him, her bare chest on his. He whispered in her ear, “A declaration. And it will be.” With hands on her hips, he lifted her so she was intimately pressed against his hard shaft. He moved her up and down against him, and Reanna’s body responded even as her mind raced. She placed her hands on the pillow beside his head and arched herself back enough so she could see his face.

  “Of what? What are you ready to declare?” She could barely think when he looked at her with eyes burning with desire, but she also couldn’t give herself over to the pleasure of his touch when so many questions were going off like fireworks in her head.

  Her position exposed her breasts to him in a way he didn’t hesitate to take advantage of. He laved the nipples that bounced in front of his face, then nipped them gently. “We’re good together, aren’t we, Reanna?”

  Reanna closed her eyes as desire shot through her. She whispered, “Yes.”

  He ran a hand down her stomach and began to caress her clit while he rocked his hips in a way that slid his cock up and down her even wetter slit. “You’re happy here.” He kissed his way to her other breast. “Aren’t you?” When he took her into his mouth and suckled her gently, Reanna began to drown in the sensations rushing through her.

  When she didn’t answer he rolled over so he was above her and raised both of her hands above her head, securing them with one of his hands. He ran his other hand over her body with slow, strong moves. Everywhere he touched sent flicks of heat down to her already swollen and ready sex. He kissed her deeply, his tongue thrusting into her mouth as if laying claim to it. She kissed him back eagerly and attempted to pull her hands free so she could bury them in his hair or in the luscious mountain of muscles on his shoulders. He easily restrained her hands.