Bound by the Millionaire's Ring

By: Dani Collins

Their father had held their weeping mother in the other room while Henri stood beside the camera, so Angelique could look at him as she pleaded for Trella’s return. Henri had worn the same ravaged expression that Ramon had felt upon his own face.

They had all developed a deep, deep hatred of the public attention that had never been invited and had turned their family into a target in the first place.

After Trella was rescued, and they were trying to move on with their lives, they had all found different ways of coping with the continued attention. Henri stonewalled at every opportunity. Angelique accepted and ignored. Trella had retreated to seclusion, becoming an elusive unicorn who had gone several years without being photographed.

Ramon preferred to play them at their own game. He didn’t care what was printed about him. It amused him when the facts were wrong, especially when those “facts” came from him. One of his fellow racers had gleefully exchanged a volley of insults with him for several weeks earlier this summer, to take the pressure off Cinnia as she floundered under the weight of two babies and more attention than anyone should have to suffer—especially if they hadn’t become inured to it the way the rest of his family had.

Now another baby was on the way. Ramon would quietly strangle his sister at some point for getting herself into that situation, but that was a job for another day.

Today’s task was to protect that unborn Sauveterre. And Trella. Despite the progress she had made in the last year, she was still very fragile. She had barely survived her kidnapping. The critical press that had dogged her for years after had made every effort to finish her off. Ramon was very cognizant that a renewal of that harsh focus could give her a setback.

“Is it true that Trella watched some of your races last year, by pretending she was Angelique?”

Yes, and that was a can of worms that needed to stay closed. Ramon had to bring the focus back to him. Leaving racing wasn’t doing the job. The dry topic of restructuring a corporation was certainly not holding anyone’s attention.

Emotions move people. Reveal your heart to the camera...

His mind raced to find and evaluate options, quickly discovering the line he would have to follow if he wanted to stay in front of the pack.

“The truth is, I’ve discovered something for which I feel more passion than racing,” he announced in a firm voice. “Hard to believe, is it not? Racing has been my life for over a decade, but with my brother so happily married and starting his family, I find I can’t wait to enjoy the same. I’m deeply in love and...well—”

He moved around Isidora so he was no longer behind the podium and sank to one knee beside her.

A massive gasp went through the crowd.

The bombardment of flashes and clicks increased, but the shouting of questions ceased. An eerie expectancy characterized that wordless explosion of repeated shutter clicks and flashes. The lights strobed against her skin as he looked up to Isidora’s incredulous expression.

She paled as comprehension dawned. Her eyes showed white around her gray irises. One hand came to her mouth and she might have said, “Don’t you dare.”

“Lo siento, mi amor,” Ramon said with loud pride over the mechanical clicks and pops. “I cannot sneak around any longer, trying to keep this quiet. I love you too much.”

He couldn’t recall ever saying those words to anyone except his mother and siblings. It felt strange, pulling disturbingly at that inner door he kept so firmly closed. The push-pull gave his voice the appropriate amount of unsteadiness as he continued.

“You said if I quit racing, you would marry me. So, mi corazón. Now will you make me the happiest man on earth? Our fathers would approve, you know they would.” He added the last as a reminder of where her loyalty should lie.

He had to give it to her. She had studied well under Bernardo. Her eyes filled with glossy tears and she didn’t try to hide them. Her fingers against her lips trembled. Her other hand was cold when he took it in his, her fingers lax with shock.

The white fingers against her mouth curled into a fist.

“Was that yes?” He pretended he had heard a response no one else could and leaped to his feet. As he crushed her to his front, he played up the joyful act as he exclaimed, “She said yes!”

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