Royal Heirs Required

By: Cat Schield
One

“She’s the perfect choice for you,” Gabriel Alessandro’s brother joked, nudging his shoulder.

The two princes were standing at the edge of the dance floor watching their father, the king, sweep Gabriel’s future bride through a series of elegant turns while their mother concentrated on keeping her toes from beneath the prime minister’s clumsy feet.

Gabriel released an audible sigh. With his future bride’s father building a high-tech manufacturing plant just outside the capital, Sherdana’s economy would receive the boost it badly needed. “Of course she is.”

Lady Olivia Darcy, daughter of a wealthy British earl, was just a little too perfect. While she exuded poise and warmth in public, in private she never relaxed, never let down her guard. This hadn’t bothered him at all in the days leading up to their engagement. From the moment he’d begun looking for a wife he’d decided to listen to his head and not his heart. Past experience had demonstrated losing himself in passion led to nothing but heartache and disappointment.

“Then why are you looking so grim?”

Why indeed? Even though Gabriel didn’t have to pretend to be besotted with his fiancée in front of his brother, he wasn’t about to admit his regret that his personal life would have less passion and drama once he was married.

Until the wedding planning had begun in earnest, he’d considered himself well and thoroughly lucky to have found a woman who wouldn’t drive him mad with her theatrics and demands. It was in sharp contrast to his affair with Marissa, which had been a tempestuous four-year romance with no future.

Gabriel was not a world-famous musician or a dashing Hollywood actor or even a wealthy playboy. He was the heir apparent of a small European country with strict laws that dictated his wife must be either an aristocrat or a citizen of Sherdana. Marissa had been neither.

“How happy would you be if you were marrying a virtual stranger?” Gabriel kept his voice soft, but there was no hiding his bitterness.

Christian’s grin was positively wicked. “The best part about being the youngest is that I don’t have to worry about getting married at all.”

Gabriel muttered an expletive. He was well aware that neither of his brothers envied him. In many ways that was a relief. In centuries past Sherdana had seen its fair share of plots against the crown both from without and within. It would have been awful if either of his brothers had schemed to keep him off the throne. But that was highly unlikely. Nic lived in the US, building rocket ships that might someday carry regular—wealthy—citizens into space while Christian was very happy buying and selling companies.

“...hot.”

“Hot?” Gabriel caught the final word his brother had spoken. “What’s hot?”

“Not what.” Christian shot him a wry glance. “Who. Your future bride. I was just remarking that you should spend some time getting to know her. It might be more enjoyable than you think. She’s hot.”

Lady Olivia Darcy was many things, but Gabriel wouldn’t label her as hot. A gorgeous package of stylish sophistication, she had the fashion designers competing to dress her. Her features were delicate and feminine, her skin pale and unblemished. She was slender, but not boyish, with long legs, graceful arms and an elegant neck. There was a serene expression in her keen blue gaze.

And it wasn’t as if she was a frivolous socialite, spending her days shopping and her nights in clubs. She worked tirelessly for almost a dozen charities all focused on children’s causes. The perfect future queen of Sherdana.

Gabriel shot his brother a narrow look. “You just referred to your future sister-in-law and queen as hot. Do you think Mother would approve?”

“I’m her baby boy.” The youngest of the triplets, Christian had played the birth-order card all his life. “She approves of everything I do.”

“She doesn’t approve of your antics, she simply feels bad for all those times she had to leave you to the nanny because she could only carry Nic and me.”

Ignoring his brother’s gibe, Christian nodded toward the queen. “She’s hot, too, you know. She’d have to be to keep Father interested all these years.”