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His Drakon Runaway Bride(3)

By:Tara Pammi

“What the hell did you tell Magnus?”

“That he should call it quits while his life is still under his control.”

“Is this what you have sunk to? Chasing away the man in my life? Have you become as low and manipulative as your father then, Andreas?”

His jaw tightened. “I didn’t have to chase him, Ariana. Like any sensible man, Magnus seemed uninclined toward being the other party in bigamy. In fact, he sounded angry at your deception.”

“Bigamy?” She covered the distance between them without caring. Her heart seemed to slow down in her chest, a dreadful cold filling her. “What do you mean, bigamy?”

His mouth relaxed, he stood waiting against the same tree as if he had all the time in the world. As if there was nothing that would give him more pleasure than to watch the ground being pulled away from under her. As if he’d planned and lived this moment a thousand times and he couldn’t let his enjoyment end.

She shook her grip on his coat but he didn’t budge. “What do you mean?”

A smile curved his mouth. Rendering him starkly beautiful. “My father and you missed one small detail in your plan. If I had never discovered you were alive, it wouldn’t have mattered so much.

“But I did.”

“What detail?” she was shouting now, her voice lost in the gray bleakness around her. Everything about those few days was still jumbled in her head. She’d been acting on pure animal instincts—fear the overriding one—and listening to King Theos had been the worst kind of mistake.

All she’d wanted was to escape Drakon before Andreas came back from his summit. Before she was caught in the web of her own love for him.

She’d been so naive that she had played right into Theos’s manipulative hands. But Andreas wouldn’t believe her now.

Her leaving him had been a betrayal to a man who didn’t break rules for anyone, an unforgivable mistake to a man whose word meant everything to him.

She clasped his jaw, forcing him to look at her. “What detail, Andreas?”

He still didn’t hold her. Didn’t touch her in any way. Those eyes trapped her again, until even breathing was a chore. Those eyes betrayed all his emotions—fury, shock and the cold enjoyment of her fate now. “The papers you signed for Theos, dissolving our marriage, he never presented them to me.

“Your supposed death bought him time and then... I don’t know what he and you planned. I never saw those papers until a few months ago. The motion didn’t even get filed in court.

“You are still my wife.”


SHEER TERROR FILLED her eyes as she stared at him. “Your wife?” she repeated, as if she couldn’t think past those two words.

Andreas studied her greedily, his skin prickling with that sensation only Ariana could arouse.

Her lips were dry, trembling. Her copper gold hair, her crowning glory, was tied into that messy knot she’d always put it in, complaining that it was too much. Her cheekbones were sharp and high, forever giving her that malnourished look. Her skin was still that golden shade though it looked alarmingly pale just then.

“You and I are still married, Ariana. Ten years and going strong. Except for the little problem of you wanting to marry another man.”

Her fingers became lax around his coat, her body trembling with tension. “Ariana is dead,” she kept repeating through pale lips.

Words that had haunted him for eight years.

He had imagined her death a hundred different ways, a million different times. He had hated himself for leaving her with his father. He had been through hell and back because he thought he hadn’t protected her.

He fisted his hands by his sides, fighting the urge to wrap his hands around her. Fighting the overwhelming impulse to push her against the tree and crush her mouth with his.

Because to see Ariana was to want Ariana. He didn’t remember a time he hadn’t wanted to possess her with that raw longing.

And yet lust was only a pale shadow behind the need to ensure that she was alive and not a figment of his imagination, a flimsy shadow from his feverish nightmares.

Outwardly, she hadn’t changed at all.

Thin, angular body built with lean muscle. Wide, brown-ringed eyes too big for her gamine face. Sharp, bladelike nose followed by a mouth so lushly pillowy, so poutingly full, that no man could see it and not think dirty, lustful thoughts.

It was as if all the austerity that had been executed in her face had to be made up for in that mouth.

She looked just as common and nondescript as Theos had called her back then.

Only her eyes had changed.

That twinkle that had made them glow, as if she held the glorious flicker of life itself inside her, it was gone. Wariness filled them now. He wanted to shove her away from him, stop her from touching him like she used to do.

But the damage to his system was already done.

His body roared to life at the soft imprint she left with hers. Long, toned legs tangled with his, her body trembling faintly against his. The scent of her—just her skin and the lavender soap she apparently still used—invaded his bloodstream. Like Pavlov’s dog, every cell inside him stood to attention. Memories and sensations of pleasure and something else, a sense of being utterly alive, poured into his skin, making him heated.

“This is your petty revenge on me,” she finally whispered, her mouth only inches apart from his. A loud thrum began under his skin. “Your way of playing with my life while you announce your own marriage to the world. You will let me dangle at your fingertips, holding this ridiculous threat over my head.

“Because I had the temerity to walk away from the controlling, arrogant, ruthless man you are, Andreas.”

He scowled. “You think it was my pride that was dented by your betrayal, by your lies?”

“Yes,” she said defiantly. “For you’re not capable of feeling anything else.”

Andreas flinched, her words landing like barbed fists on his flesh. Thee mou, it seemed even now, when she was utterly in the wrong, she dared to challenge him, dared to call him out for her mistakes.

“You could have done this through your lawyers. You could have sent me the divorce papers through one of your lackeys. But no...you had to do it personally because you couldn’t forego the pleasure of ruining my life before you go back to rule your bloody kingdom.”

“You’re mistaken again, Ariana. I did not come simply to ruin your engagement.”

“Then why are you here?”

“For two years, since Father let it slip that you were alive, I’ve been waiting for this moment.

“I will be crowned King of Drakon soon and I need my wife by my side. I have come to take you home to Drakon.”

Her gaze searched his, desperate. What little fight had been there seemed to deflate out of her. As if she was shrinking right in front of his eyes. “You’ve got to be kidding me.”

He touched her then, tracing the delicate line of her jaw with the tip of his forefinger. Her skin was silky smooth to his touch, a faint tremor running through it. “But you already know I have no sense of humor.”

“You...can’t...” her breath came in little gasps “...do...this.”

Her thin body going slack against him, his wife did what she’d always forced him to do. She fainted and forced him to catch her. Forced him to hold her fragile body in his, before he was ready for any such contact. Feeling fear, and panic and a hundred other emotions that he’d never had encountered otherwise.

Her gown’s bodice was so tight that Andreas drew his pocket knife out of his coat and cut the front off. The blue tinge around her mouth began to recede, his own panic fading with it.

He easily lifted her slender form and made his way to the waiting car, icy anger thawing and giving way to shock.

She might not have changed outwardly but there was something different about her. Something fragile and fractured. Almost as if there was a piece missing.

He’d expected a radiant, carefree bride, ready to ride into another adventure with another man she’d sucked in with her effervescent personality, with her vivacity and wit. He’d expected her to be living it up in some party town with the money she’d taken from his father.

He hadn’t expected this...this waif, with bruises under her eyes, working away all hours at a nonprofit legal agency. She made barely any money. She shared a one-bedroom apartment, the size of his closet, with another woman. He’d have never believed that silly, rebellious girl would have the interest to study law much less the grit to get a degree and practice.

Barely out of breath, he slowly lowered her into the seat and slid into place next to her.

Every savage promise he’d made himself that he’d make her suffer crumbled as he gathered her body into his.

Once again, all his plans turned to dust by the infuriating woman.

Just as she had been able to make him laugh, make him long for something he had never known back then. Make him lose his mind in the desperate need to possess her.

All through that summer, Ariana had wielded some kind of magic over him.

That laughing, reckless girl had shattered through to his core, given him a taste of an unparalleled joy he’d never known.

And so he’d done the unthinkable and married her when it had been time to leave. Possessing Ariana had equaled holding that joy in the palm of his hand. It had meant being something more than the Crown Prince, something he hadn’t even realized he’d needed to be until then.