Luciana made a sound that came perilously close to a whimper and Thane let loose a soft growl as they shared one pent-up breath. Then he slanted his head to find the perfect slick fit, desperate to taste, luxuriating in heady relief, because she still wanted him after he’d put her through hell.
Her hands clutched at his broad shoulders, followed the column of his neck, and slid under his ears into his hair as her tongue skated against his. Thane’s danced right back, and the slip and slide of their lips took them higher and higher. The seductive pull of her mouth was a pure exhilaration he never wanted to end.
Dios, he’d missed her. Missed this.
The rapid flash of cameras lit the air around the vast indoor rink, but it was the joyful chorus of spectators chanting their names that brought him back to earth with a thud.
Ending their kiss, he pulled back a touch and pressed his lips to the corner of her lush mouth, the high curve of her cheekbone, inhaling the rich jasmine and vanilla scent from the decadent tumble of her hair.
‘Oh, Lord. We’re making out in public,’ she said, a smile in her husky voice as she buried her hot face in his neck.
‘Want to make out at home instead?’ he rasped, curving his hands around her sculpted waist to steady her and pull her tightly against him. Bad idea, when the crush of her heavy breasts took his arousal up another notch.
Her wanton sigh of ‘Yes…’ was a stream of warm air over the skin beneath his ear, coercing a shudder to rip up his spine, and when she lifted her face he grinned at her bright pink cheeks.
If the crowds hadn’t adored her before they were soon smitten when she spun to face them and dipped into a beautiful little curtsey, stealing the heart of every Galancian in the room. She was going to be a fabulous queen—he knew it.
As if the crowd had picked up his thoughts they began repeating a mantra: ‘Queen Luciana of Galancia!’
Her dark blonde brows nigh on hit her hairline. ‘They’re a bit premature, aren’t they? How bizarre. I’m years away from that. And you know what’s stranger still? I know you’d gladly take your throne now, but I don’t feel anywhere near ready.’
The ice shifted beneath his feet, tilting his world on its axis. ‘Of course you are ready—you were born ready.’
‘You sound like my father,’ she grumbled. ‘I may have been raised to be Queen, but I would never have chosen it for myself.’
Dios, he hadn’t thought for one minute she would be averse. ‘But you were about to take power…’
‘Not through choice. I was being pushed early because my father is— Thane?’ Her palms splayed down his chest, settled over his pecs. ‘Why have you tensed up?’
Rolling his neck to slacken his body, he cursed inwardly at the idea that he was about to give her yet another reason to leave. Not to desire their marriage.
She narrowed her eyes in suspicion. ‘Why do I get the feeling I’ve just stumbled on a landmine that’s about to blow up in my face? What’s going on, Thane?’
‘We’ll talk later.’
‘Ah, no. You’re not fobbing me off this time. I’m missing something here, and you’re going to tell me right now.’
‘Luce, I…’ He cleared his throat. ‘I will take my crown after we marry next weekend.’
She jerked backwards, her footing skewed, and a sense of déjà vu rocked him—the jet back in Courchevel––as he instinctively reached out and snatched at thin air as she dodged him. The loss of her warmth froze the blood in his veins.
Skidding a little, she found her balance. ‘Wh…What did you say?’
Something told him he was about to have another battle on his hands. He had to remind himself that he hadn’t lost one yet.
‘By marrying you, a blue blood heir. I can take my crown four years early.’
THE SMILE SHE’D BEEN taught in the cradle carried her through fond farewells and the car-ride back to Thane’s beachside mansion to tuck a happy, sleepy Nate into bed, even while her heart was tearing itself apart and her mind was working her into a pained frenzy, connecting the dots.
By the time she walked into the suite that had been her palatial prison for days the riotous flow of turbulent emotions was a swirling, churning, flaming volcano at critical mass. And she fanned the flames of that anger—because the alternative was crumbling, breaking, shattering and she steadfastly refused to be that woman. The very woman she’d found curled up against the wall last night in the hallway. Loneliness burrowing into her stomach. Fighting defeat. Almost broken. Allowing him to control her. All for what? Because she was desperate for the love of the dark Prince?