Ethereal tradition required princes from all twelve noble houses of the kingdom to train their emotions out of them. They were beaten and tortured in every way to make them unbreakable if they were ever taken hostage. Every day of their lives, one lesson had been drummed into them repeatedly: The kingdom of Ethereal must be placed first, above all things.
When she remembered Julian’s training, it scared her, too, and it made Cass doubt herself. Did she really have a chance to make Julian realize they were meant to be together?
“Sweetheart?” Frowning, Julian made Cass look at him. She was troubled, even though right now she was doing her best to hide it. “What’s wrong?”
She shook her head. “Nothing,” she said in a determinedly bright voice.
“I think I should make myself more specific. You must learn how to lie to everyone but me.”
“Tell me what’s wrong,” he insisted.
Her smile faltered. “I can’t…I can’t talk about it yet, so let it go for now, please?”
When Cass looked at him like that, he was powerless to resist her. “For now,” he conceded reluctantly. “But if I catch that look on your face again, then you must tell me what is troubling you so I can fix it.”
She said lightly, “You don’t even know what’s wrong and you think you can fix it?”
He said truthfully, “I am a prince of Ethereal. There is little that I cannot do.”
His arrogance made her shake her head, but it did lighten the mood and the rest of the day proceeded smoothly. After crocodile watching, the two of them went snorkeling in the beach, Cass nearly choking with laughter underwater when Julian showed extreme distaste at the sensation of having schools of fish nibble on the crumbs of bread he had in his palm.
In the end, Cass found herself quickly swimming up and surfacing from the water to avoid drowning herself with her mirth.
Julian surfaced a moment later, and he scowled when he saw Cass laughing her ass off. “There is nothing funny,” he said stiffly.
The words only made her giggle even more. “Oh God,” she gasped. “The look on your face, Julian! A prince with an ‘eww’ expression on his face.” Tears ran down her face as her body rocked with laughter. “Kim Kardashian meets The Royal Iceberg. That’s what you looked like—-”
“Shut up.” And to make sure she did, Julian hauled her close and crushed her mouth under his.
She didn’t resist at all. Being his beautiful, warm, and honest Cass, of course she did not resist, and his desire for her intensified even more because of it.
Cass wrapped her arms around his neck and surrendered herself to his kiss with genuine abandon. As they kissed and floated, Cass couldn’t help but moan against Julian’s lips when she felt his hands tracing the curves of her body before palming her breasts. She gasped as her nipples hardened between his fingers.
“Let me have you, Cass,” Julian muttered against her lips. He didn’t think he’d be able to bear waiting for her much longer. He wanted her desperately, the hunger he felt for her sexy little body unlike anything he had experienced in the past.
His desire-roughened words made her shiver despite the warmth of his kiss and the heat of his touch. A part of her still feared that once Julian had her, he would throw her away, but Cass told herself that she had to be the first to take a leap of faith.
Julian was her destiny, and she was his. If she had to be the first one to take a risk on their love, then so be it.
“Do you trust me?” she asked shakily.
The question took him by surprise, but Julian didn’t hesitate when he said, “Yes.”
“Then make love to me here, on the beach.”
Julian’s jaw clenched. “But there’s a risk…”
“I’ll be able to sense their thoughts, and I can use my mind to deflect their attention.”
The silence between them grew tense, and Cass found herself holding her breath. She knew she was asking a lot from Julian. He probably saw this as her asking him to cede his control, but it was more than that. This was about him trusting her, and she needed that. She was willing to wait for him to love her and ask her to marry him. But this was one thing she could never compromise on.
She needed to know he trusted her.
But did he?
Julian could feel his heart thundering against his chest. What she was asking him to do went against everything he had been taught as a prince. But on the other hand, she was Cass, the girl from his dreams. The girl who couldn’t lie. The girl who knew that he would not marry her, even if destiny meant otherwise.
Julian slowly bent his head and took her lips in a kiss.