Fair? ‘You’re indirectly hinting at a democracy, Thane.’
‘I might be.’
Shock made her rock back in her seat. The dark, dangerous, autocratic Prince of Galancia wanted a democracy? While Arunthia had been a democratic state for years, it was the last thing she’d expected here.
‘Is this what you’re planning to do when you rule?’
‘I might be.’
Good Lord. ‘And so you take from the rich to give to the poor in the meantime?’
He scratched his jaw lazily. ‘On occasion. Or I may just have paid Pietro’s family for building this house.’
‘How much? Thirty million?’
‘I’ll have you know it’s the going rate.’
‘Is it really?’
This was unbelievable. Staggering. She’d been absolutely right. She had no idea who he was. And nor did anyone else. Including her father. Which wasn’t surprising. Since Thane didn’t have overall control he naturally wanted to keep his true agenda firmly under wraps.
‘Still being a hero, then, Thane?’ she asked softly.
Just as he’d been when he’d saved her from a fate worse than death in Zurich. Just as he’d been when he’d appeared once again out of nowhere in Courchevel. As if she’d conjured him up. Like some freak happenstance or serendipity.
An assassin? A mercenary? This man? She doubted that very much.
But, oh, no, he really didn’t like being called a hero. The angry glitter in his eyes told her that. He was a testament to leashed power, Luciana decided. No need to shout when he could incite a quake with one look or a word. So intense. And he was heart-thumpingly gorgeous with it.
‘Quiet, Luciana. Or I will silence that mouth for you. Again. And don’t think I won’t.’
His dominant power pushed at her, hot and hard, and she blushed like a teenager with a crush.
‘Oh. I believe you. But this time I’m not giving you the chance.’ That was what had got her into this mess to start with.
She might be here against her will, or rather she’d had little choice, but the sliver of pride she had left was a precious commodity she could ill afford to lose. So there was no way she was falling for that again. She knew better. Kiss her once and he’d had her on a plane. Kiss her twice and she’d find herself bound for Outer Mongolia, or flat on her back on her way to a priest. Though why the man wanted to marry her specifically she couldn’t begin to fathom.
Why can’t you just accept he wants you for you, Luce?
Because that would be plain stupid.
He arched one of those devilish brows. ‘You know better than to challenge me, Luciana.’
The dark promise in those words made her shiver. And if his obsidian eyes had seemed compelling before, now they were like magnets, pulling on the iron in her blood, making it race around her body.
Lifting her tall glass, she splashed some orange juice down her parched throat, relishing the tangy sweetness that burst over her tongue, determined to wrestle back her poise. Get back on topic, for heaven’s sake.
‘Anyway,’ she said. ‘Why build a home here? Don’t get me wrong—it’s absolutely stunning—but why not live at Galancia Castle?’
His gaze drifted out to sea, but not before she saw the shadow of pain wash over him. ‘I live there too. But my uncle and I are not the best of housemates. Even with thousands upon thousands of square feet and over two hundred walls.’
Seemed to her they were divided in more ways than one. Even as she struggled to take it all in she dug for more. ‘I’ve heard it’s one of the most opulent, palatial castles in the world.’
‘It is the devil’s lair.’ A deep feminine voice sounded from beside her. ‘Our Prince is better here. That place makes him dark and that man drains the life from him. Welcome…welcome.’
Thane shoved his hands through his raven hair, discomfort and agitation leaching from him.
Luciana yearned to straddle his lap, take away his pain just as she’d once done, but instead she jiggled her chair backwards to welcome Pietro’s wife.
‘Buenos dias,’ she said, standing to accept a warm greeting and a kiss to both cheeks. The astounding affection filled her heart with elation and almost thrust her into a stupor.
Cupping her face, the petite brunette spitfire beamed. ‘Good gracious, you are a real beauty. Little wonder he will not take—’
‘Hanna,’ Thane ground out in warning.