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His Drakon Runaway Bride(30)

By:Tara Pammi

God, he felt so tired in his heart. So alone and utterly miserable.

He’d tried his hardest to keep away from Ariana, used every tenet he’d used in life to stay strong enough for his father, but nothing worked.

He loved her so much. He missed her so much. Even when she’d hated him, his life had felt more alive than like this. Being near her, sleeping wrapped up around her, smelling the scent of her on his sheets—it had been hellish.

Walking away every time was like losing a limb.

A torture treatment designed just for him.

He wanted to protect her. He wanted to give her a chance to walk away. To find life away from him. To find her happiness without him.

But Thee mou, the stubborn woman didn’t go. She was in his skin, in his blood, in his soul. With her, he felt complete. He felt joy unlike anything he’d ever known.

He had snubbed her, avoided her, stonewalled her for two months, ripping away his own heart in the process. But she was nowhere near gone from his mind or body or soul.

He had tried to live without her. And it was slowly, but surely, unraveling him. Heart pounding in his chest, Andreas walked toward their private suite. His long strides were just not long enough today.

He went through her suite and then returned to his own. The silence screamed over his nerves. There were no staff members, nor her, nor any of her friends.

Determined to find her, he turned. Giannis, her aide, stood at the door, his chin lifted high. “Looking for something, Your Highness?”

Andreas felt his knees buckling under him. Had she left him again? Had he finally driven her away?

Giannis knew. Of course, her little friend knew. And whose fault was that when he wouldn’t even give her the time of the day? When he had used her for pleasure but wouldn’t even meet her eyes?

Ariana needed so much, deserved so much in life and once again, all he’d done was starve her.

“Where is she?” Panic made getting the words out so hard.

“She left,” Giannis said with something like sympathy in his eyes.

Andreas nodded and gritted his teeth. “She left me then.”

“No, she...she said she needed a break. That she needed time to think. She...said she would go back to the only place in the world where she’d been happy.

“Delirious with joy,” he said, imitating Ariana’s fondness for superlatives.

Ariana and he had both been happy, delirious with joy, in only one place.

Only one place where the world had been at bay. Where it had been just them. Made for each other.

Andreas stilled against the door, his heartbeat slowly returning to normal. At least she hadn’t run away. She hadn’t left him. He extended his hand to the other man, who looked on it with complete disbelief in his eyes. Finally, when he shook his hand, Andreas smiled. “Thank you for always being her friend, Giannis.”

Giannis gave him a completely unnecessary bow of his head. “I would give my life for my Queen, Your Highness. She is worth it, even when she had been just a friend who asked about my ya-ya.”

“She is,” Andreas whispered.

New life breathed in his veins. He knew where she was. He would find her and he would tell her how much he loved her. He was a weaver of words, a teller of past tales, a world-class orator.

How could words be hard to come by in the most important thing of his life?

Within minutes, he asked for a chopper. Since no pilot was available in the last minute, Nikandros volunteered to give him a quick “lift.” Andreas had a feeling Nik was only coming along to see Andreas suffer.

“Thank God, Andreas. Eleni and Mia were planning another intervention for you, and only Eleni’s labor put a stop to that. Gabriel thought we should simply knock you over the head with a club. Repeatedly, until you came to your senses.”

A long time ago, Andreas would have been extremely uncomfortable with the conversation. He wouldn’t have seen the point in it, even. What point was there in discussing and pouring out one’s feelings to a brother or a friend when those feelings had to be suppressed anyway?

He laid his head back against the seat rest and smiled. “I would not have minded that, Nikandros. I would even go so far as to say I probably needed that. But you tell Marquez that and I will deny it.”

Laughter boomed in his ears. “Only loyalty to my King forbids me to tell him that, Andreas. Gabriel would love nothing better, believe me.

“You deserve happiness. Did I ever tell you that?”

His eyes flew open, he stared at Nik. “No. But Camille has. A lot of times. Whether I paid attention to her or not, she repeated it again and again. That it was okay for me to feel anger, want, affection, jealousy, even inadequacy. I don’t think I ever told you this, Nik, but I thank you for sharing your mother with me. I would not have known any kindness if not for Camille.”

His blue eyes glittering, Nikandros looked away. “Among all three of us, you deserve it the most.”

“I’m sure Mia would not agree with that.”

“I think she would. You walked the hardest path with Theos. You could have become like him. I worried it was already too late for you. I was terrified you would never know the happiness I know with Mia.

“All because of him.”

“I almost didn’t. But Camille and you and Eleni...and Ariana...” He swallowed the emotion that sat in his throat like a boulder. Gabriel, the smug bastard, had been right. “Ariana saved me.” She had done it even then.

He just hadn’t been able to see it. Or understand it.

With one smile, and an outrageous question, she had melted the ice around his heart.

She was right. He was ready. He was a different man. A man who could love the extraordinary woman his wife had become.

Soon, they were up in the sky. Andreas clutched the book in his hands, his book. It was the only thing he had to give her, other than his heart, the only thing that would be valuable to her. The only thing she would truly appreciate.

* * *

Ariana had spent most of her first day trying to locate the owner of the old log cabin. The sleepy fishing village had no registration office to speak of. So she had just haunted the old café where she had worked.

But before she could ask a single question, she had been recognized. As the King’s wife, Ariana Drakos. The Queen. Thankfully also as the girl who had worked there for one summer a long time ago. She had instantly been mobbed by the friendly crowd, for whom her appearance was a once-in-a-lifetime thing.

In the end, she had eaten dinner there, made a reservation at a nearby hotel, but had no more knowledge about the owner.

The second day had gone with more useless searching and then sleeping away the rest of the day because she had been exhausted.

Tears filled her eyes. Damn it, all she wanted was to have a quick look inside. To bolster her faltering faith in Andreas and her.

She dashed away the tears as she dressed on the third morning. She cried over every small thing these days.

Dressed in jeans and a thick sweater, oversized and falling to her knees, she had stolen from Andreas’s closet, she pulled on knee-high boots. She thought she was hungry until she stopped at a coffee shop. Instead the smell of it sent her hurrying away from the cute café. She wasn’t able to get much dinner into herself, either.

She grabbed a map instead. She knew the trail through the forested woods pretty well, but it had been ten years.

Pulling a knit cap tight on her head so that a bit of her hair was covered too, as she had totally forgotten about being recognized, she made her way past the first sign.

The air was redolent with scents of pine. She slid her hands under her armpits. She had also forgotten how cold it got here during winter, so close to the mountains. Her spirits lifted as she realized she could make out the path without referring to the map at all.

Fifteen minutes later, she was breathing hard—something else she had forgotten about was the steep climb at the end—but standing in front of the log cabin.

The red exterior was gleaming as well as it had been back then. The area in front of it was as always neatly cleared. A huge pile of freshly chopped wood sat on one side. Smoke came out of the chimney.

Her eyes filled up again. But she was extremely glad that someone had lived here all these years. Had taken such good care of it.

Now that she was here, she couldn’t return without a look inside. Heart beating with a renewed energy, she walked up the small steps to the porch and knocked on the door.

“Kalimera...” She began her practiced speech before the door swung open completely. “I’m so sorry to bother...”

Andreas was standing inside the cabin, his arm on the top side of the door, his eyes devouring her with a tangible hunger.

“Kalimera, Ariana. Will you not come in?”

Stunned, lost for words, Ariana nodded and stepped inside. Suddenly, she didn’t at all feel brave. She felt vulnerable and lonely. And juvenile, if the look in Andreas’s eyes was anything to go by.

She caught the groan that rose. Why hadn’t she realized he would just see it as another ploy for his attention?

Did she really care if he did?

Taking in his long legs and taut behind, clad in tight jeans and the sheer breadth of his masculinity, she also felt deprived. As if the most delicious dessert was placed in front of her but she was not allowed to touch it.

His hair was curling over the collar of his shirt, over which he had worn a thick sweater like her. The scent of sandalwood soap that he used left a thread in the air and she hungrily followed it into the lounge.