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His Drakon Runaway Bride(4)

By:Tara Pammi

He had forgotten who and what he was, he had clung desperately to that feeling, had thought it enough to have her in his life.

Except it hadn’t been enough for her.

With that same recklessness that had lured him to her, she had destroyed their lives. It was that same girl he had expected to find today.

But she was right.

This was not the Ariana he had met that summer, the Ariana he had married.

And yet, letting her go was not an option.

* * *

Ariana came awake slowly, her throat parched, her mind blank. Air filled her in quick, choppy bursts.

“Drink this.”

Ignoring the questions buzzing through her head, she took the bottle and drank the water. It was cold and crisp, what she desperately needed.

“Iedas Mountain Springs,” the label on the water bottle said, with a small sketch of the majestic mountain range in Drakon... Drakon!

She jerked upright. Cream leather walls greeted her, understated luxury permeating the ambience. Soft lights from the ceiling cast a golden glow around the cabin.

Cabin... She was in the rear cabin of a private jet—a jet that belonged to the blasted House of Drakos.

The events of the afternoon came back in a fast reel.

Andreas had said they were still married.

Andreas had said he was going to take her back to Drakon.

Andreas had caught her when she’d fainted.

The panic felt like ants crawling all over her skin. She pushed her legs out and stood up. The cabin tilted but she had to get out of here.

The slither of her dress, her wedding dress, alerted her. She looked down, found the corset cut neatly down in the middle. The beaded bodice hung open through the center, gaping open to reveal her slip and the shadow of her breasts.

Ariana held it up with both hands and forced her Jell-O legs to move.

Before she took another step, he was before her.

A man as hard as the rock on which his palace sat. Yet, as she looked at him now, there were white lines around his mouth, and he was not so solid.

“Why am I here? What is that sound?”

“They’re readying for takeoff.”


“Sit down, Ariana.”

“Get out of my way.”

“You’re in no shape to go anywhere.”

“I swear, Andreas, if you don’t move out of my way—”

His fingers gripped her arms, exerting pressure backward. “Calm down before you faint again!”

“How dare you? You bastard!” Ariana let her hand fly.

The crack of her palm against his cheek was like a pop of thunder, leaving an utter silence behind. She clutched her wrist with her left hand, shock jarring it. Breathing hard, she looked up.

He hadn’t even touched his jaw. Except for the tight clench of it, the little jerk of his head, he showed no reaction to what she’d done. He still supported her.

“Does that conclude this episode to your satisfaction, Ari?”

Her shortened name made her breath catch. “I will not apologize.”

He shrugged.

That casual gesture was like fuel to her rage.

“You’re kidnapping me. Really?” She fisted her hands and went at him, lost to all reason. “After all the propriety and decorum and a hundred other rules you demand of everyone, you’re actually kidnapping me?”

Of course it was exactly what he had planned. And Ariana had so nicely played into his hands, by literally fainting at his feet.

Damn it, Ari.

“You will not like it if I subdue you on the bed, Ari. Or maybe you will, since we both know what will happen the moment I lie on top of you.” The cold matter-of-factness of his threat made everything still in her.

Ariana turned and met his inscrutable gaze, wrapping her mind around this.

“Should we put my theory to the test or shall you calm down?”

“Let me go.”

He did instantly. With an urgency that made her flush.

Her legs simply gave out and Ariana slid into a graceless heap on the bed.

This had been coming, Ari, a nauseating voice whispered. You just buried your head in the sand. You knew he was going to catch up with you one day.

She didn’t know how long they sat like that. She on the bed, trying to catch her breath, trying to quell the panic, and he sitting in the one armchair in the corner, watching her.

A lion crouching in silence, waiting for his prey to show weakness.

The long coat and jacket were gone. Replaced by a white designer dress shirt with a white undershirt—nothing so scandalous as going without one for the uptight Crown Prince of Drakon—and black custom-made trousers for his six-four height. Dark olive skin at his throat beckoned to her. She followed the trail of the chain around his neck with her eyes.

His dog tags from his time in the Drakonite Army, where he’d trained from fifteen to eighteen, would be under that undershirt. Platinum cufflinks. A platinum-plated watch glinted on his left wrist. Black Italian handmade shoes gleamed where he’d folded one foot on top of his thigh.

The soft lightning of the cabin wreathed his face in shadows, showing the sharp planes and hollows of his face to perfection.

He was leaner than she remembered and it made him look even more distant and withdrawn. There were lines on his face now, especially around that thinly sculpted mouth. At twenty-six he’d been gorgeous in an uptight, starchy kind of way.

Ten years later now, he seemed even more comfortable in his skin. Even more arrogant and ruthless about his place in the world.

Every small thing she noticed brought back a memory thudding into her conscious, as physical as a blow to her solar plexus. Her throat dried promptly again, her heart forever in that lurching rhythm when he was near.

Slowly the impact of this, of him, hit her in its completion. She wasn’t running away from this, not yet at least.

No, there was no running away at all from this, she corrected herself. Not unless she wanted him to give her chase for the rest of their lives.

Realizing she’d been gaping at him, she pulled her gaze up. Chin propped against his fist, he raised a brow. He didn’t tease her for gawking at him like a teenager.

He didn’t need the validation to his masculinity, to his ego.

Power was second skin to him, women flocked to him like buzzing bees. Actresses and models, CEOs and princesses, women had been falling at his feet since puberty. If he’d been merely one more vacant, lazy royal out to have a good time, maybe he wouldn’t have so much pull.

But no, Andreas Drakos was smart as a whip. A historian, an army veteran, a weaver of words. Christos, there wasn’t anything he didn’t excel at.

And yet he’d chosen her.

She frowned, the question had tormented her for years, struggled into a comfortable position and took stock of her body. A leaf fluttering in a harsh gale would have more strength than her at the moment.

Of all the stupid, moronic things to do in front of this man... She pressed a hand to her temple.

She felt the heat of his body instantly in the air around the bed. Whatever reprieve she’d gotten was over.

In silent scrutiny, he fluffed the pillows and propped them against the wall, and then pulled her into a sitting position. With economic movements, his fingers barely touching her, he arranged the duvet around her. Gave her another bottle of water that she emptied within seconds.

Hysteria began to bubble up through her throat and she laughed. Water spurted out of her nose and mouth inelegantly, and he promptly wiped her nose and mouth with a napkin. On and on went her near manic laughter until tears streamed out from her eyes. Until the ball of tension that had lodged in her chest since she’d seen him standing in front of the church slowly deflated.

He raised a brow again.

“How many women can claim Crown Prince Andreas Drakos waited on them like a lowly member of staff?” she quipped, perfectly understanding his question.

A sudden tightness gripped her chest. Wordless communication had been so their thing.

“So you still possess that ridiculous sense of humor.”

She tensed as he sat down at the edge of the bed. Not near enough to touch, yet tantalizingly close. Her body couldn’t take this much heightened awareness after what had been a drought of ten years. Not for long, not without combusting with need.

“What the hell was that?”

“Be glad I didn’t scratch that perfect face. Or maybe I should have. A little imperfection would have at least made you look human.”

A jagged sigh. An echo of all the times Ari had pushed his buttons. “I speak of your fainting.”

“You showed up after ten years and I fainted.” She sighed. Regression much, Ari?

“Continue like that and it will only confirm my belief that you’re still that reckless, juvenile, rebellious brat I knew back then.”

“What can I say? You bring out the worst in me, Your Highness.”

Their eyes sought each other instantly.

Are you my watchdog, Your Highness?

Crack a smile, Your Highness.

It’s called a vodka shot, Your Highness.

Had she been that naive, that foolish to have teased this man like that? Had he actually let her?

“Ariana, focus.” It wasn’t even a warning. Just a smidgen of his impatience leaking. “If I hadn’t been there, you would have been on the grass, in the cold, for God knows how long. Is this your new thing now, fainting?”

“New thing?”

“Yes. Pot brownies, vodka shots, fasting for days to lose weight... Christos, do I need to go on? You were always ridiculously reckless about your well-being.”

Ari massaged her temples with her fingers. He was right.