The next time Cass stirred to consciousness, she was on his bed and Julian was seated next to her, freshly showered and fully dressed.
“Cass…” Julian stroked her cheek, wanting them connected so she could see her.
The drawn look on his face made Cass fully awake. “What is it?” she asked anxiously.
“I’ve been called home. The king’s sick, and he would like to name his successor as soon as possible.” Julian inhaled sharply, knowing that what he was about to ask her would be the most selfish thing he ever did. But even knowing that, he couldn’t stop himself. He needed her too badly.
He said harshly, “Come with me.”
Cass’ lips parted in shock at the words. She looked into his eyes, and Julian met her gaze unflinchingly even as a muscle started to tick in his jaw.
He wanted her to come with him, but he was not promising marriage.
That one word from Julian broke her.
Cass nodded, whispering, “Yes.” There was nothing else she could say or do. She loved him, and one day, she knew in her heart that he would love her back.
CASS HAD ASKED FOR two hours to do her packing and Julian had agreed readily, privately relieved that Cass was unlike other women who spent an eternity packing their stuff. When Julian reached the floor of Cass’ apartment exactly sixty minutes later, it was just in time to see an unfamiliar woman leave her room. Frowning, Julian knocked on the door and when Cass came out to open it, he asked abruptly, “Who was the woman who just came out of your place?”
“She’s another guest of the island. I gave her a Tarot reading,” Cass answered after motioning Julian to come inside and locking the door.
“It’s why I asked for two hours instead of one. I didn’t want to cancel her appointment. I had a feeling she needed me.” Briefly, Cass shared her reading for Tessa, a single mom who faced not only impending danger but was also torn between her feelings for a billionaire and her ex – both of them legendary MMA fighters…as well as once being best friends.
Cass’ story was definitely interesting, but Julian was more concerned about something else. He asked slowly, “Do you also do Tarot readings for men here?”
Knowing immediately why he asked, Cass said gently, “Do you really think I’d do something to betray my feelings for you?” It was at the tip of her tongue to remind Julian that she was not the one intending to marry someone else, but she managed not to.
The look on Cass’ face was easy to interpret, and color stained Julian’s high cheekbones. “I know I have no right to ask that…but I can’t fucking help it.” He hauled her into his arms and crushed her lips in a hard, passionate kiss. “I’d end up killing anyone who dares take you away from me.”
Cass traced his lips slowly, using it to ease Julian’s tension. “You have nothing to worry about, Julian. I’m always yours.” That was the only thing she could say that was true. She would always be his, no matter what happened. But she couldn’t promise him that no one would try to take her away, not when Mr. Darkness still lived and in her heart, she knew that he was closer to her than ever, and it was only a matter of time before he found her.
The feeling of danger became stronger and more insistent as Julian and Cass boarded their chartered plane and got further and further from the island. She believed with all her heart that the prince could protect her, but…
Did she even want him to, knowing what kind of evil Julian would need to face if he came up against Mr. Darkness?
Just the thought of the two ever meeting made her feel faint with terror.
“Sweetheart?” Julian had just noticed the cold sweat bathing Cass’ body. “What’s wrong?”
She slowly shook her head. “Just nervous.”
There was a pause before Julian said, “You’re getting better at lying.”
“Tell me what’s wrong.”
“Not just yet,” she whispered.
He cupped her face. “Don’t you trust me?”
She said painfully, “I trust you. But more than that, I love you—-” She felt Julian stiffen. It had been her first time to say the words out loud, but both of them knew that there was never really any doubt about how she felt for him.
The guilt on Julian’s face made her shook her head hastily. “I’m not asking you to say I love you. I just…it’s my love for you that makes me keep things to myself…for now.” She looked up at him entreatingly. “Just be with me, please, Julian. That’s all I need. Just be with me.”
His chest constricted at her selfless plea, her love for him humbling him. Julian said harshly, “Always.” And because his duty – his goddamn duty – forbade him to say anything else, he could only haul her into his arms and kiss her, hoping that it could be enough even though both of them knew it wasn’t.