Royal Heirs Required(2)

By: Cat Schield

Gabriel had no interest in discussing his parents’ love life. “What has you so determined to stir up trouble tonight?”

Christian’s expression settled into severe lines. “Now that Mother has you all settled, she going to turn her sights to Nic and me.”

“Nic is more interested in fuel systems than women,” Gabriel said. “And you’ve made it clear you have no intention of giving up your bachelor ways.”

In the five years since his car accident, Christian had become guarded and pessimistic when it came to his personal life. Although the burn scars that spread down his neck and over his shoulder, chest and upper arm on the right side were hidden beneath the high collar of his formal blue tunic, the worst of Christian’s hurts were below the skin, deep in his soul where no healing reached. The damage was visible in those rare moments when he drank too much or thought no one was watching.

Gabriel continued, “I don’t think either of our parents hold out any hope that the two of you will settle down anytime soon.”

“You know Mother is a romantic,” Christian said.

“She’s also pragmatic.”

But Christian didn’t look convinced. “If that was true, she’d accept that you will father all the heirs Sherdana could ever want or need and leave Nic and me alone. That’s not the impression she gave me earlier this evening.”

A knot of discomfort formed in Gabriel’s chest as he thought of his future bride. Once again his gaze slid to Olivia, who was now dancing with the prime minister. Although her smile was lovely, the reserve in her blue eyes made her seem untouchable.

His days with Marissa had been sensual, wild and all-consuming. They’d awaken before dawn in her Paris apartment and make love in the quiet hush of the early morning. After which they’d sit by the window, gorge themselves with pastries washed down with strong coffee and watch the sun paint the rooftops with golden light.

“Your Royal Highness.”

Gabriel turned to his private secretary, who’d appeared out of nowhere. Usually Stewart Barnes was the calm eye in the middle of the hurricane. At the moment, sweat shone on his forehead.

The hairs on the back of Gabriel’s neck rose. “Problem?”

Stewart’s approach had caught Christian’s attention, as well. “I’ll deal with it,” he said, stepping away from his brother’s side.

“No, sir.” The private secretary moved to block Christian. He gave a small shake of his head and met Gabriel’s hard gaze with a look that conveyed the seriousness of the issue. “I know the timing is bad, but a lawyer has arrived with an urgent message for you.”

“A lawyer?”

“How did he get into the palace?” Christian snapped, eyes blazing.

Gabriel barely registered Christian’s words. “What could possibly be so important?”

“Did Captain Poulin give you a reason for granting this man entrance at such an inappropriate hour?”

“Can’t it wait until after the party?”

Stewart’s attention bounced between the two men as they fired questions at him. “He wouldn’t tell me what it’s about, Highness, only the name of his client.” Stewart’s tone was low and urgent. “I think you’d better speak to him.”

Unable to imagine what could have rattled his unflappable private secretary, Gabriel shared a glance with Christian. “Who is his client?”

“Marissa Somme.”

Hearing his former lover’s name aroused a hundred emotions Gabriel would have preferred not to feel. He was a little surprised that Marissa had waited so long to contact him. He’d expected her to pull a stunt five months ago when he’d announced his engagement. To say she had a flare for the dramatic was like describing the Himalayas as tall hills.

“What mischief is she up to?” Gabriel demanded.

Christian cursed beneath his breath. “Something newsworthy, no doubt.”

“I can’t afford anything to interfere with the wedding.” Sherdana’s future was riding on the deal he’d struck with Lord Darcy. A deal that wouldn’t be sealed until Olivia became a princess.

Gabriel glanced around to see if anyone had noticed their exchange and met Olivia’s level gaze. She was beautiful, his future wife. But he’d chosen her for more than her appearance. She had a purity of spirit he knew would charm the Sherdanian people and her efficient, calm way of handling problems would see her through the hectic days ahead.