Seduced, p.7

Seduced, page 7

 part  #3 of  Surrender Series

 

Seduced



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  “Lia, let me check the area first,” Shane said as he gripped her arm.

  “I’m itchy, Shane. I need to bathe,” she said as she looked at the crystal-clear water.

  After a few moments of looking around, he deemed it safe, which made her roll her eyes. Yes, she’d led an easy existence, cosseted and cared for, but she was capable of ensuring her own safety. However, it would take longer to argue with him than to just let him do a small security scan. As soon as she got the green light, Lia ran to the edge, where she discarded her clothes without a thought of modesty and smoothly dived into the water.

  Shane stood back watching the enticing curve of her backside, feeling his body’s natural reaction. She wasn’t trying to injure him, he didn’t think, but she was surely causing permanent damage anyway.

  Well, if he couldn’t beat her, he sure as hell was going to join her. Without any further pause, he moved down to where she’d thrown off her clothes, and stripped off his own, then dived into the water and came up right in front of her.

  Without giving her time to react, he pulled her close to his na**d body and kissed her. He was done with letting her thrust him away.

  Chapter Ten

  Adriane

  Prince Adriano of Corythia, or Adriane, as he called himself in the States, or even Ian Graziani when he wanted fewer people to figure out who he was, turned the corner before pausing. Taking a deep breath, he heard his trusted adviser approaching and quickly masked his face, knowing what was coming.

  Adriane was never truly alone. There were bodyguards following him, his assistant right there, and when he was in public, cameras. So many cameras. Since this visit wasn’t announced, at least the paparazzi weren’t present, but he could never ditch his bodyguards. They’d have a heart attack.

  At least they gave him the semblance of privacy, though, standing out of the way, not making their presence known, but they were always close.

  “Your Majesty, should you really be entertaining this American?”

  With a deep sigh, Adriane turned toward Amedeo, giving him a look that made the man back down immediately. “I am only having dinner with the woman, Amedeo. It’s nothing for you to concern yourself about. ”

  “Of course, Sire. It’s just that we need to get back home. You know your brother is causing many problems. ”

  “Yes, and the problems will still be there next week. I promised my mother I would return home, and I will. I just need this time. The American girl is nothing more than a distraction. Do not assume it is more than that. ”

  Adriane had no difficulty whatsoever reminding the man who he was. Since age seventeen, he had been the crown prince of Corythia, knowing he would one day ascend the throne. That day had just come sooner than he’d planned. He wanted to be free a while longer, build something in this world before he settled down, married and ruled his country.

  His father had passed away too soon, only a month ago, leaving a world of burdens on Adriane’s shoulders. His mother, an American actress his father had fallen in love with, shocking the country when he’d brought home his foreign bride, had adapted amazingly well to his father’s country. The people revered her, would even die for her. She knew his need for freedom, but even she was pressuring him to return home.

  He’d been thrown so much at once, and had needed escape. Yes, it was selfish on his part, but soon the people would own him, and he needed this time to himself — needed it to accept the reality of what his life would be like now.

  As the crown prince, he’d had a lot of responsibility thrust upon him, but he’d still managed to come and go as he pleased, to a large extent. He’d made many successful deals with business leaders in other countries, bringing a steady stream of income to Corythia. His father had been a proud man.

  Adriane loved his father, but respected him more. The loss had been great, and Adriane needed time to heal, needed to get his mind off of the pain of losing him. The American girl would be a good distraction from his worries.

  “Make sure Ms. Rachel arrives to her home safely. I don’t think anyone has spotted me here, but if they did, I don’t want her to become a target. Keep two of the men posted on her at all times. ”

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  “I will get on that right away, as well as have a background check done on her,” Amedeo stated as he spoke into his microphone.

  “No. There’s no need. She doesn’t know who I am. I like the mystery of the situation,” Adriane said with a smile.

  “Sire, I don’t think that is wise,” Amedeo gasped, obviously shocked by Adriane’s unusual behavior.

  “I don’t want to be smart right now, Amedeo. I just want to live a little before I am ruled by the people of Corythia,” Adriane said with a sigh.

  He did love his country, but he had so much more living to do. At only thirty years of age, he wasn’t ready to be king. But ready or not, he would be crowned next week.

  “Yes, Sire. ” Amedeo wasn’t happy, but he would obey orders. It would be unacceptable to do anything less.

  With that, Adriane turned and walked up the small dune to the parking lot and toward the awaiting car. Climbing into the back seat of the Jaguar limo, he grabbed a bottle of scotch and poured himself a generous drink. He’d tried to deny it, but he knew he was excited about dinner with his mysterious woman.

  Her reaction to him was expected. Women tended to fall at his feet, willing to do anything he asked of them. But his reaction to her was what startled him. He had felt an instant attraction to women before, but as he’d pulled Rachel against his chest, it had taken massive restraint on his part to let her go again.

  She’d caused a stir in him that he definitely wanted to explore further. With her compelling green eyes and luscious pink lips, not to mention her perfect curves, he’d felt weak in the knees. It was unusual, though not impossible.

  With all the stress he was under, this Rachel would be a welcome distraction in his turbulent life. A few nights with her and he’d be ready to leave America behind and go back to Corythia to do his duty to God and his country.

  At thirty years of age, he would be the youngest king in his country in the past two hundred years. The thought made him miss his father again. What a great king and man he’d been. Adriane was confident in himself, but filling the shoes of his father wouldn’t be easy. He was sure the people had their own reservations about him, as well.

  As they pulled up to the hotel, Adriane’s phone rang, and one look at the caller ID had his eyes narrowing dangerously as he received the call.

  “What do you want, Gianni?”

  “Is that any way to greet your brother, Ian?”

  “You should not speak so disrespectfully to your king!” A mixture of bitterness and sadness filled him at how far apart he and his brother had grown.

  “You’re not king yet, Ian. Don’t get too comfortable. After all, a lot can happen in a week’s time,” Gianni remarked as he laughed bitterly over the phone.

  “We’ve been through this, Gianni. I would have gladly given you the kingdom if you’d been worthy to take it. I never wanted to be tied down to one place. You threw it all away with your greed. ”

  “You are so quick to judge me, little brother, but the throne should have been mine and we both know it. The oldest son inherits the title,” Gianni spat.

  “Father wanted you to rule — it was expected from the moment of your birth. You were the one who chose to disinherit us!”

  “I wanted change. Was that really such a crime?”

  Adriane took a deep breath as he forced himself to calm down. He’d been through this many times with his brother. The two of them had been inseparable as children, only eleven months apart. Then Gianni had run away from home at eighteen, seeking adventure. The people he’d chosen to carry on with had been political enemies, convincing him that their father was Satan resurrected. He’d denounced the throne and they hadn’t heard a
word from him for five years. When he’d come back, it was too late.

  “I refuse to continue trying to appease you, Gianni. I hope one day we can call each other brother again, but it won’t be today. I tire of your fits, and I will not indulge your games. Please, take care. ”

  With that Adriane hung up the phone.

  He inhaled deeply several times and released the breath slowly, and the anger had dissipated from his aching stomach by the time he arrived at the hotel and entered through the back door. The media hadn’t been alerted to his presence and he was hoping to keep it that way. If Gianni knew where he was, his brother would sell him out in a heartbeat.

  Someday, they might mend fences, but Adriane wasn’t holding out much hope. His brother was too bitter, too changed to accept the way the cards had fallen — the way Gianni had made them fall.

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  Entering his suite, he called his assistant and had dinner ordered. As he went to shower and dress, a smile flitted across his lips. Tonight would get his mind off his responsibilities and his troubles. Tonight was about sating desires, and nothing else.

  Whistling as the hot water streamed down his muscular body, Adriane smiled genuinely for the first time since his father’s burial. Rachel was just what he needed before he became fully owned by his people. For the next few days, it was OK to be selfish.

  Well, he thought, I won’t be completely selfish. My lover will be well satisfied.

  Chapter Eleven

  Ari

  “Have you read this, Rafe?” Ari exclaimed.

  Rafe jumped at the sound of Ari’s excited voice. Then he looked up from his computer to see what had her so animated. She’d been poring over the pages of his ancestor’s journal for two hours. The bottle of wine was almost finished, mostly by her, and he’d decided his seduction skills were decidedly lacking.

  Such a fine vintage wine, and it had been wasted, in his opinion. Once she’d opened the pages of the journal, he’d ceased to exist for her, leaving him to grab his laptop and get work done.

  He’d whispered in her ear, brought her a plate of fruit and cheese, accidentally brushed his leg up against hers, and he might as well have been a cardboard box. She hadn’t so much as glanced at him. After a few attempts at speaking with her, he’d discovered that she was simply mumbling, not hearing a word he was saying. So he’d given up.

  She was fully mesmerized by a man he shouldn’t be jealous of, but actually was. The man had been dead for over a hundred years, yet still had her full attention.

  “No. I haven’t read it, just learned of the stories through my grandmother. Why don’t you read to me?”

  “Oh, it’s beautiful, just beautiful. He loved Saphronia so much. I can feel every emotion he was feeling, the pain, fear, devastation; it’s all here!”

  “It was a frightening time for many in those days,” he said, trying to keep her talking. Setting his laptop aside, he moved closer on the pretext of leaning over so he could see the book. He knew he was a bit pathetic when he had to use the excuse of reading just to get close to her. If only he hadn’t promised not to touch her.

  “It’s not just his words, Rafe, but hers as well. She wrote to him, and he kept the letters from her in the journal, tucked away right next to his personal thoughts and feelings about what he was dealing with. I’m so grateful that your ancestor was smart enough to have the pages protected or all of this could have faded away by now. ”

  “Yes, some of the old letters have weathered the test of time, and others haven’t. My grandmother loved the journal so much that my grandfather didn’t want to take any chances, so he protected it. That way she could flip through the pages as much as she wanted without fear of ruining it. ”

  “Oh, I would love to hear the story of your grandparents’ romance, too. It sounds like you come from a long line of romantics,” she said, gracing him with a beautiful smile.

  In her excitement, she reached out and grabbed his arm, her fingers searing his skin. Since she was the first to touch, would it be breaking the rules if he hauled her onto his lap and finally took her lips? Yes, dammit. He knew it would.

  He gritted his teeth; he didn’t dare move, for fear that she would pull away.

  “Listen to this:

  My dearest Saphronia, the nights grow ever darker and colder without you near me. I miss the feel of your fingers in my hand, the soft tilt of your lips when you smile, the sparkle in your eyes when you laugh. There are times I think our God might never call an end to this terrible war, and I’ll never find comfort in your presence again. My life as a soldier is grim, but I am saved from despair by thinking of those few days of felicity with you. The thought of kissing your sweet lips one more time keeps me going. The only thing that gets me through these long nights is the knowledge that you are waiting for me. Just know that if anything ever happens to me, you were loved to my last, dying breath. You are my light, my world. They can say you are the enemy, because you live in the Rebel South, but I will never believe it. And though I cannot regret a war waged against slavery, I am cut to the quick that you and I must be so cruelly kept asunder.

  Self-slaughter has been treated as a horror and a shame by the church and by many who follow our Lord’s tenets. And yet I witness it more and more, and with more understanding. Today, a young man in our company, a child of seventeen, took his own life after looking upon a man he’d just killed, a Confederate soldier of similar age and aspect to his. My God! The body before him, the life taken by his hand, was his cousin, with whom he had engaged in the delights of boyish play only two years before. I am consumed by horror at the thought that such could happen to me. What if my weapon were to send one of your loved ones to the grave? How could I endure?

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  My love for you has no end. Please, know this and never doubt.

  Yours always,

  William

  “That is the most heartbreaking thing I’ve ever read,” Ari said as a tear fell down her cheek. She quickly wiped it away before it managed to reach the pages of the journal — before realizing that the pages were protected against her tears. Then her fingers stroked the page where an obvious teardrop from long ago had fallen and smudged the word love. It was so fitting.

  “That is sad,” Rafe said softly, not knowing what else to say. He wasn’t a cold man, but it was hard to feel heartbreak over a couple of people who were long gone.

  “I have to know what happened. Did they make it back into each other’s arms? Do you know?” she demanded.

  “I can’t tell you that. It would ruin the story for you,” he said, not wanting her to lose interest in reading the journal. It was the only thing he had right now that would keep her coming back to his home.

  “Yes, you are right, of course. I’m just so afraid of what is going to happen. I’ve never been patient when watching a movie or reading a book, especially if I can’t guarantee there’s a happy ending. This was your father’s family, right?”

  “Yes. My mother is from Italy,” he reminded her.

  “Yes, of course. I forgot that, probably because your father, though an American, also has an Italian name. I just — what if she was pregnant and he never made it back to her? What if he never saw his child?”

  “All romances have their share of ups and downs, Ari. If the battle was too easy, then how could we appreciate what we have?” he asked. He wanted so badly to hold her, to rekindle their romance.

  For several heart-stopping moments, Ari looked at him, then she glanced back down at the journal, and soon she was lost again in the story of William and Saphronia. Her hand was still gripping his arm as if it were so insignificant, she didn’t even notice. He sure as hell noticed.

  Rafe didn’t move until her hand drifted away as she turned another page; yes, her attention was once again diverted and he was bested again by the journal. He’d wanted to get her to his home, but he had h
oped to have seduced her by now.

  That most likely wasn’t going to happen this time around. Looking at the clock, he noted that it was nearing midnight. There was no way she could drive home, not with the amount of wine she’d drunk. He could have Mario drive her, deliver her car for her, but he didn’t want her to leave. Having her in his home again, though torturous in some ways, also grounded him.

  To his complete and utter astonishment, he discovered that even though his body was on fire, he didn’t care. He was satisfied with sitting in the same room with her. Yes, he wanted her like nothing he’d ever wanted before, but just being with her eased the ache that had been with him for the past two years.

  She completed him in a way that was beyond his capability of imagining. Leaning back, he lost all interest in work as he watched her move through the pages. The expressions on her face were a sight to behold, and he could almost read the story through her eyes alone.

  It was obvious when a more lighthearted letter appeared, or when something tragic happened. Her chest would rise and her breath hitched as she carefully turned the pages of the journal to see what was happening next.

  Ari was a romantic. Why hadn’t he realized this before? If he wanted to win her, he had to treat her the way a woman should be treated, spoil her with priceless gifts or, better, with gifts that cost little but meant much, bring her flowers, take her to historical places. He needed to know her beyond the bedroom.

  He’d thought he had known Ari, thought he’d known what she wanted, but he hadn’t known her at all. He hadn’t taken the time to learn what would truly make her happy, hadn’t tried hard enough to win her. He would now.

  He watched as her eyes closed, her fingers still holding on to the journal. Within a few moments, her breathing deepened and she was asleep, her body leaning toward the protection of his.

  Rafe sighed in happiness as she floated into his arms; with his hand holding her shoulder, she murmured in her sleep, and then her head drifted to his chest. He spent the next several moments running his fingers through the silken strands of her hair as he leaned down and inhaled her floral scent.

  “I can’t set you free, Ari. I just can’t,” he said in apology; he reached beneath her and gently lifted her into his arms.

 
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