‘Thane, is this stuff strong?’
‘A little.’ He narrowed those black sapphire eyes on her. ‘Do you drink often?’
‘Okay, no more for you.’
His hand a claw on the rim of her cup, he tried to wrangle it from her death grip. Then he pursed his lips to stem the laughter that glittered in his gaze.
‘Let go, Luce.’
Luciana peeked up at him through the veil of her lashes, feeling naughty and reckless and so happy that he was smiling again. ‘Make me.’
He growled—the sound dangerously feral. ‘Are you drunk?’
‘Don’t be daft. Of course not.’
The tent made her a liar by taking her for a spin.
‘Good, because we are going ice skating.’
‘Fancy a coffee?’
* * *
For four minutes Nate was like Bambi on ice—all legs and flailing arms. Not that he was discouraged by smacking off the hard surface every five seconds. Guerreros were made of stronger stuff than that. He just picked himself up, wobbled a little, and off he went again.
As for Luciana, she was all style and grace—but the Galancian mulled wine had put her in a fun-loving, giggly mood that was so infectious it obliterated the darkness that had been festering inside him.
‘Daddy, watch me.’
Nate perfected a double twirl and Luciana clapped, sending a battalion of bystanders cheering along with her.
Daddy. Why he’d chosen that over Papá was a mystery, but Thane liked it. Every time he heard it his heart did a funny little clench.
Nate suddenly faltered and Thane skated over, scooped him up by the waist and lifted him high into the air like an aeroplane. His huge grin as he squealed in delight etched itself into Thane’s memory, his heart.
Snow drifted lazily from the canopy ceiling as they spun round and round.
Nate screeched his name and whooped with joy. And realisation hit him with the ferocity of a thunderbolt.
He wouldn’t even be a daddy at all if it weren’t for Luciana, would he? She’d gambled with her reputation, risked bringing disgrace upon her house, her country, overturned the colossal expectations of a royal firstborn heir and fought to have his son out of wedlock. Without her courage Thane wouldn’t have this moment. This perfectly wonderful moment in time.
No matter where he’d been for the last four years, no matter what he’d missed, without Luciana he wouldn’t be gazing into eyes so like his own. Wouldn’t have this precious fragile body to hold, to cuddle or to spin in the air. Wouldn’t be able to incite the adorable innocent smile that never failed to lift his soul. Without Luciana he wouldn’t have this moment or one hundred more just like it. The opportunity to have a million more after it.
And then came a crack of lightning, incinerating the remnants of his anger, leaving him awash with need. The need to wrap Luciana in his arms and thank her from the bottom of his black heart. Come to think of it, the fact she’d wanted Thane’s son so badly at all astounded him.
When Nate was safely perched on his blades and had tootled off, Thane instinctively swivelled to find her—and somehow, like a whirl of fate, she crashed into his arms, her gorgeous curvy body plastered flush against his.
‘Oops,’ she said breathlessly. ‘I nearly went over. Are you okay?’
Why? he wanted to ask. Why did you want my son so badly? The son of her enemy. That had to mean something. Right?
‘Thane?’ Affectionate concern etched her brow as she stroked his jaw, rubbed her thumb over his cheek. ‘What’s wrong? Why are you looking at me like that?’
He speared his fingers into the fall of her hair and dived into her eyes. ‘Thank you.’
‘For what?’ she whispered.
‘For fighting for him. Making sure he took his first breath. For telling me now, for trusting me now, so I can have him in my life.’
Tears brimmed in her eyes. ‘Oh, Thane, I’m so sorry you’ve missed so much. If I could turn back the clock I would do it in a heartbeat.’
He believed her. He did.
‘I can tell you everything,’ she promised in a frantic whisper.
‘I’d like that.’
‘Every last detail. Show you a million photographs so you can see it all…’
‘Shh.’ He pressed his index finger to her mouth, then dragged it downwards, curling her plump lower lip, coaxing her to open for him as that ever-present magnetic pull—the one he’d been battling for days, the one he was powerless against—drew them together. And when their lips touched that blistering crackle of electricity jolted through his body, sizzled over his skin, fired heat through his veins. Stronger than ever before.