Rebel's Bargain

By: Annie West


‘I’LL BE THERE as soon as I can organise flights.’

Orsino heard an unfamiliar grim note in his brother’s voice. News your twin had almost died would sober anyone. He grimaced.

After years of risk-taking his luck had run out. Being faced with his own mortality and possible permanent incapacity was forcing him to reassess his life.

‘There’s no need to race here, Lucca.’ He shifted the phone and winced as he knocked the bandages on his head. ‘There’s nothing you can do. Besides—’ he forced a smile into his voice ‘—you’d spend your time flirting with the nurses and ignoring me.’

‘How can you say that?’ No mistaking Lucca’s relief at Orsino’s joke. ‘I’m a changed man. There’s only one woman for me and she’s a real princess.’

Orsino groaned at his brother’s awful pun. Lucca’s romance with a royal hadn’t improved his sense of humour.

‘Besides, the nurses probably have their hands full with you,’ Lucca continued. ‘Have you got a date with the prettiest one yet?’

Orsino swallowed the retort that he had no idea what the staff looked like. That was a detail not even Lucca needed to know. Unless it became absolutely necessary.

‘You’re the lady-killer, Lucca, remember?’

‘This is me you’re talking to, Orsino. I’ve seen how women react to you. Not that I could work out why, when I’m the handsome twin. You’re seriously saying you’re not fending women off?’

‘Not right at the moment.’

Orsino gritted his teeth against swamping self-pity and anger. Not anger at Lucca, but at the disaster his world had become. The staff fussed over him only because it had been touch and go at first whether he’d survive.

‘Of course.’ Lucca sounded serious again. ‘That’s why one of us should be there. You need family.’

‘Family!’ Orsino didn’t hide his bitterness.

The closest family had come recently was when his father’s CEO, Christos Giatrakos, had made contact, wanting to cash in on Orsino’s reputation, requesting—no, demanding—that he be the ‘face’ of the company. Orsino and his father had never been close but at least the old man could have rung himself.

‘Yeah, well, I know I’ve been busy but—’

‘I didn’t mean you, Lucca.’ Orsino palmed his bristled jaw with his unbandaged hand, feeling like an ungrateful heel. ‘Sorry. I’m in a foul mood, not used to being stuck in a hospital bed. I shouldn’t take it out on you.’ He drew a slow breath, knowing his injuries were only part of the problem. ‘I appreciate the offer but there’s nothing you can do here.’

‘Maybe not now, but when you’re released from hospital you’ll need someone.’

‘You’re offering to play nurse?’ Orsino smiled. ‘It might be worth agreeing just to see it.’

His twin’s chuckle was the best thing he’d heard in days, warming him in ways thermal blankets hadn’t. Orsino hadn’t realised till this week what was important in his life. Now he knew, and he’d make it his business to catch up with his twin more regularly. But only after he’d recovered enough not to be a figure of sympathy.

‘Why do you always underestimate me, Orsino? Just because you’re a couple of minutes older?’

‘I’m picturing you in a starched cap and apron, Lucca. The idea has a certain appalling fascination.’ Orsino spoke again over his brother’s laugh. ‘Don’t worry about the nursemaid gig. I’ve lined up someone.’


‘No, though she called. Our big sister still worries about us after all these years, and despite the fact Giatrakos clearly runs her ragged.’

‘You need someone experienced, someone you can trust.’

Orsino bit back a bark of laughter. Trust?

No, trust didn’t describe his feelings for Poppy. Once he’d vowed never to see her again. But days stuck on a mountain expecting to die gave him a new perspective.

He’d never trust her again. But there was a freedom, and power, in knowing that.