She needed to escape. I needed to be saved.
Like an angel, Madalyn Durand swoops into my life, rescuing my little girl while I fight for my son. And how is she thanked for her bravery" By having every damn thing she owns taken from her.
Even in her most desperate hour, she"s perfect. Majestic. Me" I"m nothing like her. I"ve failed. At my marriage, at being a dad. I made the Hottest Billionaire Bachelors list, but I can"t protect my kids.
Then I get a second chance.
When my children need me the most, I become a full-time dad, and Madalyn, like some miracle, is by my side. What I didn"t count on was how she would feel in my arms. Under me. Next to me. Maybe forever.
But someone else wants her forever too. Someone she tried to escape, but who won"t set her free.
Can I save her from this evil" Can I save my kids" Myself"Books by Author:Alice Ward Books
"Yes, she will do nicely."
Through willpower alone, I suppressed a shudder as my future husband lifted my chin and scrutinized my features. I wouldn"t have been surprised if he asked me to open my mouth so that he could inspect my teeth. I dreaded what he would be free to inspect in three months" time, after our" I swallowed hard. After our wedding.
I jerked my face away from his increasingly tighter grip, but he just grinned, looking genuinely pleased. "Ah, you show some backbone. Unexpected"" he leaned closer, his breath hot against the side of my face, "but I like that." His nostrils flared, as did the black pupils within his almost equally black eyes. "Fight me, Princess. It"s exciting. But be warned, I fight back."
Refusing to look away from him, refusing to show weakness, I forced my breath to remain steady as his fingers trailed down my arm. Nausea roiled in my belly, but I refused to allow my distress to show. I couldn"t. No, I wouldn"t. Even though one question rang in my ears.
How had it come to this"
As the fifth daughter of Phillipe and Jacqueline Birgitta, King and Queen of Aldcliff, I had been born with one purpose" to marry well. After daring to be born a female, my entire existence had been formed and molded into creating the perfect wife to any man my father deemed a suitable match.
Only hours before, my father had told me in no uncertain terms that this man would be my destiny, and that his ties to the Cesacaia fortune were too great for my "antics" to get in the way.
"You are nearly twenty-one, my dear, and I"ve allowed your diversion of your royal duties to go on for far too long," Papa said after I"d been abruptly woken. "You will fulfill your duties. The contract has been signed. It is done."
I had been hastily bathed and dressed in the body covering lace dress I currently found myself in. The dress itself was a contradiction, covering me from chin to ankle to wrist, although it clung to my every curve, challenging the purist feel of the morning gown.
After I was properly prepared, I"d been presented to the man before me.
The man I knew was my worst fear come true.
My four older sisters had been lucky. They were matched well and appeared to be happy with the lives chosen for them. Well" if not happy, then content. I"d seen them all only a month before, when they and their growing families had traveled back for my father"s birthday celebration. It had been quite the event, the King of Aldcliff turning fifty. Heads of State from all over Europe had descended on our small island to wish him well. Photographs of the event had swept across the globe, or so I"d been told.
From what I"d since learned, the photographs of me were what had captured Prince Vitalievich"s attention. He just so happened to be in the market for another bride. And I just so happened to be on the seller"s block.
I met the dark eyes of Prince Vitalievich and lifted my chin. His grin grew broader, his eyes impossibly darker. His gaze was like a knife slicing my skin.
Goose bumps raised on my arms, a reflex so involuntary I didn"t know they were there until I shivered. He seemed pleased as his hand moved up my arm, then down to take my hand, the soft palm and perfectly manicured nails an indication of the pampered life he led.
"I see I affect you too, Princess. If we were alone, I"d see just how affected you were"" his voice was low, intimate in the space between us, "everywhere."
Tears stung the backs of my eyes, and I widened them, forcing the traitorous tears away. I knew what he was implying. I"d been taught the ways of pleasing a man " anatomically, at least. It was part of my tutoring for the role in which I was born. To become the perfect wife, and to keep my husband satisfied in every way possible.
But my body had never been touched.
Not this intimately. This suggestively.
I had never been left alone with a man. Not that my life had been feared for. Only my virginity. Yet another value I"d bring to the table.
I waited for the guards to come forward, to shove him away. To protect me as I"d been protected these past twenty years. No one dared touched royalty. A hand wasn"t even extended to me until I extended mine first. This freedom he was taking with me was outrageous.
But they didn"t, and when Prince Vitalievich stepped even closer, the tips of his shoes touching mine, his thumb brushed over my breast as his hand moved up my arm again.
To my horror, my nipple contracted. Not from desire but from cold. From fear.