Royal Heirs Required(7)

By: Cat Schield

“You didn’t answer my question.”

“I’m not being forced to marry you. I have been given an opportunity many would envy.” She assessed his expression, curious where this line of questioning originated. “Are you worried that down the road I’ll regret my choice?” She cocked her head and regarded him intently. “Or are you looking for an excuse to break our engagement?”

“Nothing like that. I am just wondering if perhaps you’d have preferred a different life.”

“I’m sure many people wish every day that they’d done something different. Mostly, we must play the hand life deals us. For some, it’s struggling with poverty. For others raising a child on their own or dedicating themselves to their career and forgoing a family.” She pitched her voice into sympathetic tones for the next example. “For you it’s ensuring your kingdom’s economic security. I get to marry a prince and someday become a queen.”

For some inexplicable reason, he grew short with her. “But is that what you want?”

“To marry you and become a queen?” She let her surprise show. “Of course.”

Gabriel didn’t appear convinced. “We haven’t had much time to get to know each other,” he said. “I hope that will change over the next month.”

“Perhaps we could begin now. What is it you’d like to know?”

“Let’s begin simply. How do you come to speak French and Italian so fluently?”

“I had a whole army of tutors from the time I was small.”

“Your accent is quite good.”

“I’ve been told I have an aptitude for languages. I speak quite a few.”

“How many?”

“Six, but I understand three more.”

“That will come in handy when dignitaries visit us.”

Once again it hit her that she would never return to her home in England for anything more than a short visit. As princess, she would be expected to spend most, if not all, of her time in Sherdana. At least she would see her father frequently because he would want to keep an eye on his investment.

“You don’t smile much, do you?” His question was more reflective than directly aimed at her.

His observation caught her off guard.

“I smile all the time.”

Gabriel’s gaze slipped intently over her features, arousing a frantic thrumming in her chest. “Polite smiles. Political smiles, but I’m not sure I’ve once seen you smile because you’re happy.”

“I assure you, I’m quite happy.”

“Stop telling me what you think I want to hear. That’s not what Sherdana needs of its princess and definitely not what I expect from my wife.”

The intensity of his tone and the nuances of his observation did not belong to the man she’d known up to this point. His frank speech loosened her tongue.

“Are you giving me permission to argue with Your Highness?”

He made a face. “Gabriel.”

“Of course.”

“Olivia.” Tone commanding, he somehow managed to caress her name in a way that vibrated through her. “It would make me very happy if you would start thinking of me as a man and not a prince.”

His demand sent a ripple of excitement up her spine. She decided to speak her mind.

“I will if you stop thinking of me in terms of economic gain or financial dealings and realize I’m a woman who knows exactly what she wants.”

At her words, Gabriel blinked. Surprise quickly became curiosity as he regarded her. For the first time she believed he was seeing her as a person instead of the clause in the contract he needed to satisfy so her father would build a plant in Sherdana and create technical jobs to bolster the economy.

“I’m beginning to think there’s more to you than I realize,” Gabriel remarked, executing a turn in the dance that left her breathless.

“Thank goodness.” It was an effort to get out more than those two words.

Perhaps marriage might hold more of an adventure than she’d first thought. She hadn’t expected her husband to excite her. Even seeing how handsome Gabriel was, he was always so in control. She never imagined passion. And growing up sheltered from the experiences an ordinary girl would have with boys such as dating or even just hanging out, she’d never experienced desire. Until this moment, she wasn’t sure she could.

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