Forced Wife, Royal Love-Child

By: Trish Morey



Yannis was right. It had always been her dream to return. It had never happened in her lifetime, but maybe this was his chance to make it happen for her in spirit.

Merda!

Sienna emerged from the bathroom ready for work and wearing a frown. They’d made love so quickly—too quickly for either of them to have given a thought about protection. The risks of pregnancy were low, it was late in her cycle, but there were still risks and she couldn’t help but regret her decision not to renew her prescription for the pill when her course had expired last month. At the time there hadn’t seemed much point and finding a new doctor with everything else going on had been the last thing on her mind. She now wished she’d thought about it.

And at the risk of making her even later for work, she couldn’t leave without at least broaching the subject.

‘We need to talk,’ she said, registering that he’d finished the call as she gathered up the last of her things and stashed them in her bag. She turned when he didn’t respond. He was still sitting on the bed with his back to her, his head in his hands, a picture of such utter desolation that she would never have recognised him if she hadn’t known it was him. His air of authority was gone. His power gone. Instead he wore a cloak of vulnerability so heavy that she felt the weight of it herself. ‘What is it?’ she asked, drawing closer but afraid to touch him, afraid she might feel the pain that was torturing him. ‘What’s wrong? Is this about that news report, about Montvelatte?’

For heavy seconds he didn’t move, didn’t speak—then finally let out his breath in a rush as he lifted his head, his fingers working hard at his temples.

‘What do you know of the island?’ Rafe asked, without looking around.

Sienna shrugged, thrown by the question. But at least he was talking to her and she knew that the pain would be lesser if he did. She rounded the bed and knelt alongside him on the dishevelled linen, finally game to put a hand to him, sliding her hands over his shoulders, feeling the tension tight and knotted under her fingers, trying to massage it away with the stroke of her thumbs. ‘What does anyone know? Other than it’s a small island in the Mediterranean, famous for both its stunning scenery and the string of casinos that have made it rich. A Mecca for tourists and gamblers alike.’

He snorted dismissively and twisted then, capturing one hand in his and pulling it to his mouth and pressing it to his lips. Hardly a kiss—his fingers were so tight around hers they hurt, his dark eyes almost black. ‘And for gangsters, it turns out. Apparently they’ve been laundering drug money through the casinos ever since Prince Carlo took the crown five years ago.’

Behind him the clock continued to advance and she cursed inwardly. She had to get to work. It had taken some doing to land the job with Sapphire Blue Charter, only her ability to speak French and three superb references winning her the contract and making up for her being a woman, and an Australian to boot, but she was still under probation. The way she was going this morning she’d be lucky if she still had a job by the time she got to the airport. But she couldn’t leave him, not like this. ‘It still doesn’t make sense. They’ve arrested the Prince and his brother in front of the entire world’s media over unproven money-laundering charges? Whatever happened to being innocent until proven guilty?’

Rafe swept from the bed then, grabbing his jeans, quickly dropping those in favour of a snow-white robe that he wrapped and lashed around himself and that showed his olive skin and dark features to perfection. Through the vast expanse of window behind him it seemed the entire city of Paris was laid out like a glorious offering, the Eiffel Tower the centre-point in a brand new morning, but it was the fiery glare from his eyes that demanded her full attention.

‘I didn’t say they’d been arrested over the money-laundering charges.’

‘Then why?’

‘Because now they’ve been linked to the death of the former Prince.’

For a moment she was shocked into silence, her mind busy recalling the history she knew of the tiny principality. ‘But Prince Eduardo drowned. He fell from his yacht.’

His hand dropped away, and his face looked even harsher then, if it were possible, his skin drawn so tight it made her jaw ache in sympathy. ‘The authorities have just uncovered fresh evidence. He didn’t fall.’

Shock punched into her more effectively than any fist. ‘They killed their own father?’ No wonder the news reports were full of it. It was more than a scandal. It was a monarchy in crisis, a diplomatic nightmare. A nightmare that somehow held Rafe in its thrall.

‘I still don’t understand, though. It’s horrible, but why does it matter so much to you?’

Sienna searched his eyes, dark eyes filled with grief and torment and pain that scarred their depths, and saw the shutters come down again even as he moved away from her. But the intention was clear. He’d said all that he was going to say.

A final look at the clock told her she couldn’t wait any longer. ‘I’m sorry, Rafe, but I really have to go.’

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