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His Drakon Runaway Bride(22)

By:Tara Pammi

“Why not?”

“Because...between us I don’t trust us to get this right.”

“You mean, you don’t trust me.” Frustration coiled up inside him. After everything he had granted her, she still wouldn’t give him everything.

Would she ever?

She came to stand in front of him. Lacing her fingers through his, willing him to listen. “It’s not that I don’t trust you, as much as I...am afraid.

“Please do not force this issue, Andreas.”


The unsaid word hung in the air, morphing and growing like an impenetrable, invisible wall. A thread of disquiet ran through him. A feeling that if he didn’t do something, anything, it would always stand between them.

“I want a family. I have always wanted children, you know that.”

“You wanted heirs. There’s a distinction.” Her reply was instant, her eyes saying so much she didn’t give voice to.

Feeling as if he was walking through a dark maze blindfolded, an experience his father had forced him through when he’d been eight and confided that he was scared of the dark, he formed and discarded several answers. “The requirement for an heir to the crown is always going to be there, Ariana. Our first child, a boy or a girl, will inherit everything.

“When the Crown Council and Theos put pressure on me to marry these last few years, I considered never doing so. I kept postponing coming to an agreement with Maria’s father.”

* * *

Listening to the other woman’s name on his lips sent a shiver through Ariana. “Because of me?”

He shrugged. “I just was not eager to repeat the experience when I thought you were dead. After I found out you were alive...” Ariana had never wished more that she could understand what was going on in his mind. “Nikandros and his children were more than good enough for continuing the House of Drakos.

“So, yes, the heir to the House of Drakos is always going to be a question that will be raised.

“But what I want is...to be a father to my children. To give them the...” She saw him swallow. “The kind of life that I never had.”

“What is that?”

“A normal, happy, carefree childhood.”

Ariana stood transfixed as emotions buffeted her from all directions.

Guilt and grief choked her breath. Here was the proof that he had truly changed. Just as she had.

Could they make it work this time?

Could she trust that gut instinct of hers that said he cared at least?

She took his hands when he would have moved away. When the small distance she was insisting on could become a chasm neither of them could cross. “I need time. I need it to be just us first. That is, just you and me and Drakon at least.”

His gaze probed hers, as if he wanted to know all of her secrets. He lifted their joined hands and kissed her knuckles. The tenderness of the gesture melted her from within.

Lifting his gaze, he held hers. “You’ve changed,” he said finally, his thoughts running parallel to hers.

“I have stopped throwing myself headlong into everything, yes.”

He nodded, a set to his jaw. “But I want that old Ariana back. The Ariana that was quick to laugh. The Ariana that loved so generously. The Ariana that lived life to the fullest.

“I assure you, pethi mou, I will have that old Ariana back.”


OVER THE NEXT couple of weeks, Ariana found herself more and more captivated by her husband. It was as if he had mounted a campaign to conquer her—mind, body and soul.

And he was winning.

One evening had been a leisurely two hours where they had discussed the red tape she was having to muddle through for her legal agency; one dinner had lasted only an hour and had to be shared with two of his political aides who’d discussed his agenda on his upcoming trip to Asia; once with his PR team and hers, coordinating their schedules and events over the next few months, which had, of course, resulted in a fierce argument between her and Andreas, concerning her duties as the Queen and her increasing devotion to establishing her own career.

Neither of them packed their punches. Neither of them had won.

Ariana had loved every minute of it.

She loved pitting herself against his considerable will. While she never came out the victor, neither did she let him run roughshod over her.

If dinner could not be possible and there had been days when all she caught was a passing glance of him at a party they were both attending, she found him drifting into the small sitting lounge at precisely ten thirty every night, where she watched an American political satire show, a longstanding favorite of hers.

He would settle down next to her, his hard thigh pressed up against her. Sometimes they laughed at the comedy, sometimes they hotly debated the politics. Sometimes, when they were both far too exhausted, they just fell into a comfortable silence.

But whatever the scenario, a persistent thread of awareness flared between them over the most innocent of contact. Contact, she realized with heat flushing her as she waited for him, she seemed to initiate.

It was she who couldn’t keep her hands to herself, who had undone his tie knot one evening when he’d looked utterly flattened after another meeting with the Crown Council, she who had quickly buttoned his shirt, covering that defined chest, when he hadn’t quite finished dressing when she and Petra had arrived at the same time one evening, she who had pressed her mouth to his when he had given her his mother’s ring.

All he did was watch her from those eyes, the epitome of patience and inscrutability. But Ari knew him as well as she knew herself. Knew that he was waiting for her to make the first move. Knew that it was his kind of foreplay.

He thrived on waiting her out, thrived on pushing them to the edge until every single touch was a fire that could sear.

She didn’t know what she was waiting for. She didn’t know why she couldn’t take that last step in their new relationship. The last time she had jumped into a physical relationship with him, not knowing what was at stake. This time...this time, she knew the value of it.

She knew that when she took Andreas inside her, she would irrevocably lose a part of herself again.

Was it losing her will to his that terrified her?

Or was it the last bit of truth she still held on to?

She wanted nothing between them when he made love to her this time, nothing but want and need.

Except telling Andreas about their son that she had lost terrified her to her core.

They were finally getting to know each other. Finally coming to understand what had gone so terribly wrong the last time. Finally realizing that something akin to magic existed between them. Even out of bed.

“You look utterly serious.”

Andreas stood at the entrance to her bedroom. His suit jacket was gone and his white shirt was unbuttoned. The dark shadow of his chest held her attention, her lower body instantly tightening.

She blinked and tried to rearrange her face. “I’m just tired tonight,” she replied, realizing it was true. All week, she’d been on conference calls with Magnus and Rhonda and her new lawyer.

He reached the sofa she was sitting on and took a seat without touching her. The tension in his frame radiated out in waves, dismissing her concerns. “Then you need to dial back on the amount of work you’re taking on. Petra couldn’t find a spare moment from you all of last week.”

“Petra needs to stop spying for you,” she countered with a smile. Even as his overbearing attitude toward her well-being grated, it also warmed a part of her. For years, she had looked after herself, with no complaints.

But now, she liked that Andreas worried about her. Now she could see his concern for her beneath his arrogant commands.

“Also, will you do the same with your work?” she asked and he grunted. “Very macho, Andreas. Your attitude is beginning to match your communication style.”

A long exhale left his lips and he looked at her, a glimmer of a smile around his lips. “You keep up your duties as the Crown Prince’s wife, you work all hours setting up your office and dealing with your friends’ problems. And yet...”

That he was trying to put this into words rather than railroad her made joy bloom in her chest. “But I’m not being a real wife, am I?” she answered, covering the distance between them.

Dark desire made his eyes glitter. He fingered a wayward curl of her hair and tugged, his mouth a languid curve. “No. One of these days, agapita, my patience is going to run out and I’ll be inside you and you cannot claim I seduced you.

“I have given you time, Ari.” Gravelly and low, his voice pinged over her skin.

Suddenly, she was ready. Just like that.

Before he could blink, she straddled his legs and kissed him.

A long growl erupted from his mouth as he took over the kiss in an instant. Hands on her hips kept her pelvis ground against his, spiking her temperature.

His tongue caressed her with a silky slide, his fingers curling tightly around the nape of her neck.

Ariana moaned loudly when he took her lower lip between his teeth. Threw her head back in a wanton invitation when his hand covered her breast. Drifting her hands down his chest, she covered his groin.

Felt the jolt of his arousal against her palm.

She would have let him take her on the couch right there, if not for the loud peal of her cell phone.

“Ignore it,” he growled against her breast.

And it was the command in his voice that made her realize the significance of that ringtone. She slid off him and picked up her phone. And her heart sank.