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Twin Heirs to His Throne

By:Olivia Gates

“Only family is allowed to visit Mr. Voronov, Ms. Stavros.”

“At least...”

The nurse cut Kassandra’s protest off, stonewalling her again. “Only family is allowed to learn information about his condition.”


Refusing to give concessions they both knew she wasn’t allowed to grant, the nurse rushed away, dismissing her like everyone else had. For the past damned week. Since his accident.

The dread and desperation she’d been struggling to keep at bay rose until she felt her blood charring.

Leonid. Lying somewhere in this hospital, injured, out of reach, with her deprived of even knowing his condition. She wasn’t family. She was nothing to him, not to the rest of the world. Nobody knew of their yearlong affair.

With no one left to approach for information or reassurance, she staggered to the hectic waiting area of the highest-ranking New York City university hospital. The moment she slumped down on the first vacant seat, the tears she’d been forbidding herself to shed since she’d heard of his accident spilled right out of her soul.

Nothing could happen to him. Her vital, powerful Leonid. She couldn’t live without him, could barely remember her life before she’d first laid eyes on him three years ago.

That night, she’d been the star model and one of the top designers in a charity fashion show. As she’d walked out onto the catwalk, her gaze, which normally never focused on anyone in the audience, had been dragged toward a point at the end of the massive space. Then another unprecedented thing had happened. She’d almost stumbled, had stopped for endless, breathless moments, staring at him across the distance, overwhelmed by his sheer gorgeousness and presence.

Though tycoon gods populated her Greek-American family, and she moved in the circles of the megarich and powerful, Leonid was in a league of one. Not only was he a billionaire with a sports-brand empire, but a decathlon world champion...and royalty to boot. He was a prince of Zorya, a kingdom once part of the former Soviet union  , and annexed to Belarus since its disintegration. Though the kingdom hadn’t existed in over ninety years, he was still considered royalty in Asia and Europe—and sports and financial royalty in the rest of the world.

Not that any of these attributes had contributed to his being the only man to ever get her hot and flustered with a mere look. He’d continued to scorch her with such looks for two endless years as they’d moved in the same circles. But nothing had come of it. He’d never come closer than the minimum it had taken him to keep her inflamed and in suspense, until she’d believed that the lust she’d felt blasting from him had been wishful thinking on her part.

Then had come the wedding of one of her best friends, Caliope Sarantos, to Maksim Volkov in Russia. Leonid had been one of the groom’s guests. After every man but him had asked her to dance, frustrated out of her mind, she’d escaped outside to get some air. She’d found none when he’d followed her, at last, and taken away her breath completely.

She’d since relived those heart-pounding moments endless times, as he’d closed in on her, informing her that she could no longer run from him. Closing her eyes now, she could again feel his arms around her and his lips over hers as he’d dragged her into that kiss that had made her realize why she hadn’t ever let another near. Because she’d been waiting for him her whole life.

But before he’d taken her on what had turned out to be a magical roller-coaster ride, he’d made his intentions clear: nothing but passion and pleasure would be on offer. And Kassandra had been perfectly okay with that. At thirty, she’d never wanted to marry, and she’d long given up on meeting a man she could want, let alone that completely. Finding Leonid had added a totally unexpected and glorious dimension to her life. Having him free from expectations had been a sure path to ecstasy and a surefire guard against disappointment.

Being with him had exhilarated and satisfied her in ways she hadn’t known existed. They’d meshed in every way, met when their hectic schedules allowed, away from the world’s eyes, always starving for one another. Keeping their relationship secret from everyone, above all her conservative Greek family who’d long disapproved of her unconventional lifestyle, had made everything even more incendiary.

Then Leonid’s training for his upcoming championship had intensified, and between that and running his business empire, she’d seen less and less of him. Media scrutiny had made it impossible to even visit him while he’d trained.

That was when she’d realized she was no longer content with their status quo. But before she’d had time to ponder how to demand a change in the terms of their relationship, he’d had his accident.

From the media reports that had hailed him as a hero, she’d learned that a trailer had flown over the center divider of the I-95 heading into NYC, and into the incoming traffic. Before it had managed to pulverize a car carrying a father and his daughter, Leonid had smashed into their car’s side, ramming them out of the path of destruction. But the trailer had slammed into his car full force, catapulting his vehicle into a tumbling crash.

She’d almost fainted with horror at the sight of the crumpled wreck his car had become. It was a miracle he had come out alive.

Desperate to be by his side the moment she’d heard the news, the nightmare had only escalated when she hadn’t been able to determine where he’d been taken. Now that she’d finally found him, she’d again been denied any information. She was being treated like the stranger everyone thought she was. He was her lover. And the father of the baby she’d just yesterday found out she was carrying.

Suddenly, her heart boomed. Was that...?

Yes, yes it was. Ryan McFadden. Her old college friend who’d gone on to become a doctor. She’d seen him a couple of years ago, but he’d been working at another hospital at the time. Finding him here was a lifeline.

Before Ryan could express surprise at seeing her, she flung herself at him, begged him to let her see Leonid, or at least to let her know how he was.

Clearly used to dealing with frantic people, Ryan covered the hands clawing his arm. “I know that apart from his time in surgery, he’s been conscious since they brought him in.”

He was? And he hadn’t called her?

But what if... “C-can he talk?”

“Oh, yes. None of his injuries involved vital organs, thankfully.”

And he hadn’t left instructions to let her in, or to even let her know how he was?

At her deepening dismay, Ryan rushed on. “He was transferred to an exclusive wing with only his medical team allowed in, to guard against media infringement. But I’ll gain access to him. If he grants you permission to visit him...”

“He will.” She hugged him fervently. “Thank you.”

Giving her a bolstering grin, Ryan strode away.

After what felt like forever, he returned, giving her two thumbs up. She found herself flying to him, so he could take her to Leonid.

At the wing’s door, Ryan stopped her. “Listen, Kass, I know it’s hard for you to do in your current condition, but keep it light and short, for his sake.”

Nodding, she wiped away the tears that had gathered in her eyes again. “How...how bad are his injuries?”

“I don’t know details, but when he was brought in I heard he’d suffered compound fractures to both his legs.”

Her heart imploded all over again. His legs.

To anyone else, it would mean months of limited mobility. To Leonid, it meant his plans for a new world record were over, who knew for how long. Maybe he’d never heal enough to compete on that elite level again. When that was a major part of his being...

Stop it. She couldn’t consider worst-case scenarios. Ryan was right. She had to suppress her own anxiety. Leonid needed her support for the first time ever, and she was damned if she would fail him. Putting on a brave face, she opened the door.

He was the first thing she saw as she stepped into the exquisite suite. Only the bed with monitors surrounding it at its far end betrayed its presence in a medical facility.

Leonid, her beloved lion. He lay sprawled on his back, his perfect body swathed in a hospital gown, already diminished, both legs in full casts, arms limp at his sides, eyes closed. His almost shoulder-length hair lay tousled around a face that was unscathed, but his skin was drained of its normal vital bronze color.

Her heart lurched violently, as if to fling her across the room to him, catapulting her feet forward.

As she eagerly bent to kiss his clamped lips, he opened his eyes. Instead of the most vivid blue, they were almost black. And they slammed into her with the force of a shove. But it was what filled them that had her jackknifing up. Her nerves jangled; her balance wavered. She couldn’t be reading the aversion in his expression correctly.

But what gripped his face didn’t look like pain, or the effect of a drug. There was no distress or fogginess in his eyes, just clarity and...emptiness.

Telling herself it was an expected by-product of everything he’d gone through, she reached for his hand, suppressed a shudder at how cold it was. “Leonid, darling...”

He tugged his hand away, harder than necessary, from her trembling hold. “I’m fine.”

Reminding herself that what she felt didn’t matter, that only he did, she forced a smile. “You do look...”