Are you sure about that, Luce?
Yes, she was sure—of course she was sure.
And the worst thing about all of this…? For a split second all she’d seen was Thane and all she’d heard was ‘marry’ and ‘me’, and the little girl inside her who’d gorged on fairytales and dreams of love—the one who hadn’t seen the darker side of marriage and was blissfully unaware of her duties—had felt her heart leap to her throat in utter joy.
Foolish little girl. Foolish heart.
Blame it on temple-pounding awkwardness, but the silence finally pressed a sound from her throat.
‘Thane? Are you crazy?’
Crazy? He was insane. Mad as a hatter. Nutty as a goddamn fruitcake.
There, you see—he’s even admitted it.
‘We’re enemies, or have you conveniently forgotten that?’
Oh, she could just imagine Thane having a chinwag with her father. Hey, do you remember me? The one who tried to assassinate you? Well, I want to marry your daughter. Yeah, that would go down well. Not.
If he had attempted the assassination. But why would her father spout such a heinous lie? Truth was, she was drowning in reasons why she couldn’t marry him. And that was without broaching the topic of Natanael.
‘You and I are not enemies, Luciana.’
His eyes took on the lustrous glitter of the black sapphires they reminded her of and she shivered in response.
‘Any chance of that ended when I took your innocence five years ago and made you mine. If your father and my uncle wish to prolong the feud that’s up to them, but it has no bearing on our future.’
She shook her head in disbelief. Bad idea. Dizziness took the car, and her, for a little spin. ‘How can you say that?’
‘Easily. I am my own man, and I will not be dictated to by anyone or anything.’
A scoff burst past her lips. ‘Bully for you. I, however, don’t have a choice.’
‘Which is precisely why I am giving you an alternative.’
So it would seem. The question was: why? He wanted her away from Augustus—that much was evident. Every time the other man’s name was brought up he visibly fumed, until she half expected him to snort fire like some great mystical dragon. As if the thought of the other man touching her was abhorrent to him. But not because he loved her. No, no. His biting words from earlier were enough of a clue… ‘We take what is rightfully ours. I made you mine…’
So in effect she could be a Picasso he’d spotted at Christie’s and fancied would look wonderful mounted above his machete rack. A beautiful possession.
Fire-tipped arrows pierced her chest and flamed up her throat.
‘Well, thank you for the offer,’ she said satirically. ‘But I’m not keen on your alternative, Thane. For starters, it’s simply another demand. And, let me tell you, they are certainly racking up this month.’ Her insides were shaking so hard it made her voice quiver. ‘And another thing: unfortunately for you, as far as courting rituals and practices go, abduction does not score points.’
He frowned deeply and looked at the magazine pouch. As if he was spectacularly disorientated and the answer to her meltdown lay between the covers of the latest gossip rag.
Idly scratching his sexy, stubbled jaw, he glanced back up. ‘Courting?’
Luciana blinked. Out of that entire speech, ‘courting’ was what he’d picked up on? ‘Yes, Thane. Dating, courting.’
Surely he couldn’t still be as mystified about women as he’d been five years ago? He must have had a truckload since then; he was sex incarnate. Not that she cared what he did. Absolutely not.
‘You would prefer this?’ he asked, stunned but apparently game.
Luciana squeezed her eyes shut. Lord, this was utterly surreal.
‘My father would never give his blessing in a billion years.’ Hypothetically speaking, of course. Frankly, she had no idea why she was engaging in this conversation. It was all impossible.
‘I care not,’ he drawled, his arrogance and power so potent she could taste it. ‘If the man wants a fight on his hands for you he can have it. Gladly. He obviously cares little for you to subject you to such a marriage.’
Luciana eased back, pulling her spine upright. She rewound that little speech of his and replayed it in her head. Then felt butterflies take flight in her chest—winged creatures flapping furiously against her ribcage. Had he just said he would fight for her? She was pretty sure he had. As well as intimating that he cared for her happiness. Sort of.