‘Take a seat, Stella,’ Eduardo instructed.
‘I prefer to stand,’ she answered, glancing to where the Prince had paused at two seats on the opposite side of the table from the suited dude. She wasn’t letting him dictate her every move. ‘Always.’
‘Okay,’ he agreed, but something kindled in his eyes. ‘But it is important that you pay attention to what Matteo tells you.’
‘Why? You think I can’t read all that for myself?’ she asked softly, gesturing at the paperwork.
Despite that emotion still flickering, he chuckled and reached out, slowly brushing the tip of his finger over her lips in a sensual action. Stunned, she sucked in a breath and froze at the same time. His touch was gentle, yet firm, and not enough. He dropped his hand. She closed her mouth, holding back her bereft moan. She wanted the erotic sweep of his tongue. Memory surged, scorching her skin. He made her so hot all over.
His hand pressed on her shoulder and somehow she was sitting, weak-kneed, in the damn chair. Through dazed eyes she stared as he looked down at her with that gorgeous smile. Slowly the calculated alertness in his eyes dawned on her.
She glanced at the suit man and saw his amusement. He knew she couldn’t resist Eduardo. Just like all his other women. That touch had been for show.
‘Matteo and I were at law school together,’ Eduardo explained smoothly, turning the papers around so they were in front of Stella. ‘I am sure you will find everything clear, but if you don’t he will answer any questions you may have.’
Eduardo had gone to law school?
‘Are you paying attention, Stella?’ He smiled at her.
She made herself stop staring at him and stared at the paperwork instead. The document wasn’t long, and it wasn’t written in convoluted legal speak either. It was all very, very clear. For every year they were married she would be awarded over a million dollars.
Her eyes widened when she saw the size of the settlement should their marriage end. And the stringent conditions attached to every payment.
‘I’m never to speak to the media—or indeed anyone—about the details of our marriage?’ she said. Did he seriously think she would?
‘Nor am I,’ he replied calmly.
But there weren’t penalties for him should he do that. The money was already his. Hers only if she played by the rules he’d spelt out so clearly here.
He was trying to buy her. To control her.
The fire in her belly wasn’t fuelled by desire now. It was all anger.
‘I could never accept that much money from you,’ she said quietly, her nose wrinkling in distaste at the divorce payout details.
‘We’re staying married, so you won’t have to,’ he soothed, but his gaze sharpened.
‘It says here that if we have any children and we divorce, then the children must remain at the palace on San Felipe.’ Her throat tightened as she paraphrased the passage.
This child would be his. He’d never allow her to have custody should she want to leave. He would control everything—for the duration of their sham marriage and beyond.
‘It also says that you would be entitled to an apartment within the palace until any children we have reach the age of majority,’ he nodded.
So if they divorced not long after their insane marriage—as was most likely—she would have to remain under his roof and watch him with a succession of lovers. A new wife, even.
That idea hurt more than it should.
‘You cannot leave before then.’ He misread the reason for her frown. ‘I do not believe in depriving a child of its mother. But any child of mine will need to be educated within San Felipe. And my child will grow up at the palace.’
‘What about your brother?’ she asked. ‘What if he marries and has children?’
Eduardo’s expression was shuttered. ‘Regardless of my brother’s possible future family, there will always be a place for my children at the palace.’
‘What if you marry again?’ she whispered, understanding that he didn’t really want to have this conversation in front of Matteo, but that it needed to be had.
‘That is not going to happen. This is only to cover all eventualities.’ He put his hand on her shoulder and his eyes were brilliant blue. He was angry with her for asking these questions. ‘The truth is I will never let you go. And you know it.’
He slid his hand to the nape of her neck, bent and kissed her. It was a lie for his lawyer friend. But it was a beguiling, passionate lie. His mouth worked to subdue, to tempt, to make her open up and take what he offered.