Seve, meanwhile, was still staring her way. Smitten. Practically drooling. ‘I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more beautiful woman in my life.’
‘That’s saying something, considering how many you’ve bedded,’ Thane incised sardonically.
His cousin, his second in command, his best friend—the only person he would ever trust—shrugged his wide shoulders. ‘Wouldn’t do you any harm to get laid either, cousin. Come on—I didn’t drag you here just to hurtle down the black slopes all day.’
He knew fine well what Seve had dragged him here for. All work and no play made Thane a dull, arrogant ass, apparently—and for a minute or three he had considered it. But when the redhead sitting to his right had appeared from nowhere he’d turned to stone. Unable even to contemplate getting close to another woman. In fact, if she touched his arm one more time…
Dios, didn’t she know he was dangerous? That his blood ran black and his heart was dead? That he was more powerful and more feared than any other man in Europe? Surely his scars were enough to give her a clue?
Maybe he should give the mindless female a lesson in Princes of Galancia. Top of the list: do not touch.
He hated being touched. Didn’t want anyone close to him. Ever again. While getting beaten to a pulp couldn’t possibly hurt him any longer, it was the softer stuff that was more dangerous. One taste and he might very well crave it. Long for more of it. Glut himself on it. Live for it. Every touch. Every caress. Every kiss. Until it was taken away, as it inevitably would be. Leaving him empty. Aching. Feeling. Weak. And the dark Prince of Galancia could not afford to be weak. Not again. When he was weak he took his eye off the ball and everything went to hell.
Thane reached for his tumbler of rare single malt, his hand stalling in mid-air as an army of ants marched across his nape. Instinct born from a childhood in the barracks made him turn to peer over his right shoulder. Past the garish pine trees smothered in red ribbons and gold baubles, declaring the onslaught of the festive season. How quaint. How pointless.
Ah, yes, there was Augustus. Averting his gaze like an errant schoolboy. No woman with him—not that Thane could see.
But what he did see was a striking, statuesque blonde walking in the direction of the hallway that led to the restrooms. No. Not blonde at all. Her rich, decadent shower of loose tousled waves reminded him of a dark bronze. Like new-fallen acorns.
Now, she was beautiful. And that thought was so incredulous, so foreign, that he felt a tingle of something suspiciously close to shock.
His avid gaze locked on its target, his usual two-second scan turning into a drawn-out visual seduction, and he trailed his eyes over the low scooped neck of the black sheath that hugged her feminine curves. Lingered on the lapels of her long white dress coat, frisking and teasing all that flawless golden flesh.
A faint frown creased her brow and Thane narrowed his eyes as she raised one hand and rubbed over the seam of her lips with the pad of her thumb.
A pleasurable shiver of recognition rippled over his skin and his entire body prickled with an unfathomable heat.
Ana used to do that. Stroke her mouth that way. When he’d asked her why, she’d said it likely came from sucking her thumb when she was a little girl. Thane had smiled and cracked some joke about her still liking things in her mouth, and she’d proceeded to prove him right. Many times over…
The brazen fires of lust swirled through his groin, and when the woman inhaled deeply—the action pushing those full, high breasts of surreal temptation to swell against the thin silk of her dress—ferocious heat speared through his veins until he flushed from top to toe.
It couldn’t be. Could it? His Ana? Here in the Alps? No, surely not. Ana’s hair was sable-black. Her body far more slender.
Look at me, he ordered. Turn around, he demanded. Now.
And she did. Or rather she spared a glance across the room in his direction, then wrestled with her poise, giving her head a little shake.
Thane’s hands balled in frustration. But he kept watching as she reached the slightly secluded archway leading to the restrooms. Alone, doubtless believing she was unseen, she tipped her head back, glancing skyward as if praying to God, and graced him with the elegant curve of her smooth throat.
Another flashback hit with crystalline precision—his woman, arching off the bed, back bowed as she seized in rapture beneath him, inarticulate cries pouring from her swollen ruby-red mouth. And for the first time in his life—or maybe the second—his insides started to shake. Shake.