Prince's Son of Scandal

By: Dani Collins

In a few weeks, she would come out as Trella and have nothing left to hide behind. No more walls, literal or technical. No broad-shouldered brothers. No playing her sister to avoid being herself. She had determined, had sworn on the blood she had shed when she nicked her ear cutting her own hair before Christmas, that this was the year she would free herself from the prison she had created.

For now, she was still hiding behind Angelique. She had impersonated her sister a few times recently, with her sister’s permission, escorted by their brother Henri to watch his twin, Ramon, race. They’d also taken in a fellow designer’s latest collection during fashion week. It had been spectator stuff where they didn’t interact with anyone and kept to places her sister had been seen with their brothers before.

Trella had never walked out in public alone. In her entire life, she had rarely done anything alone. As a child, Angelique—Gili to her family—had been the needy one and Trella, the protector. She had held Gili’s hand so her sister wouldn’t tremble and cry at the attention they had received. Their brothers had barely given them breathing space even before Trella’s kidnapping at age nine, always ready to catch a tumble from a swing or to keep them from wandering too far from the group.

Then she’d been stolen and had wished that her captors had left her alone.

She swallowed and veered her mind away from those memories. They were guaranteed to bring on an attack and she was doing far too well. It was coming up to two years without one.

The attacks had manifested years after her rescue, when she should have been finding her feet and moving on with her life. Instead, she had become a horrible burden. Her siblings would never say so, but they had to be sick of being on call for her. She was certainly tired of being the weakest link. She had to change.

Tonight was another step toward that. The press would go mad when she finally came out of seclusion at a friend’s wedding in a few weeks. She had to be ready, but she had to know she was ready.

So she was testing herself, if somewhat impulsively, because this charity dinner hadn’t been on her agenda at all when she had arrived in Paris.

She had been beside herself with pride when she’d landed, high on travelling from the family home in Spain—by private jet with trusted guards, always—but without her mother or siblings. It had taken her newfound independence to the next level.

So, when Gili tentatively had asked if she could run to London for a hot secret weekend with her new paramour, of course Trella had told her to go. Her sister had looked incandescent when she’d spoken about Prince Kasim. He was clearly something special.

Trella wanted her sister to be happy, wanted to quit holding her back. Spending a night alone at their tightly secured living space above their design house, Maison des Jumeaux, had seemed a perfect cherry on top of Trella’s already sweet split from old fears.

As the evening stretched on, however, she had restlessly poked around the flat, picking up after her sister and teetering on feeling sorry for herself. Wistfulness had closed around her.

Would she ever have a romantic liaison? Her feelings about men were so ambivalent. At fourteen, she’d had the usual rush of hormonal interest, even shared an embrace with the gardener’s son behind a rosebush. Then their father had died and the most terrifying predators had emerged online, threatening her in vile ways. Her fear of men, of everything, had compounded a hundredfold. As her panic attacks escalated, the deepest fear of all had crept into her very soul—that she was so damaged and broken, no one would ever want her.

For years, she had barely allowed men near her, interesting or otherwise. She slipped from one secured location to another through shielded walkways, accompanied by a mostly female guard detail. Occasionally, her brothers introduced her to a friend, but even if she had wanted any of those bankers or race-car drivers to make a pass, Ramon and Henri wouldn’t have allowed it.

Their dearest family friend, Sadiq, was the only man she’d spent real time with and theirs had never been a romantic relationship. He was the shy, heart-of-gold computer nerd who had helped the police locate her, returning her to her family. She loved him, but as her savior, not as a man.

Which was why his engagement had shaken her out of her ivory tower. She would do anything for Sadiq. If he wanted her at his wedding, of course she would attend, even though it meant overcoming her demons and returning to the public eye.

It had been a struggle to come this far, but now, as she stood on the cusp of achieving something like a normal life, she found herself resetting the goalposts.

She wanted her sister’s anticipation for a weekend with a man. She wanted to be the person she would have been if she hadn’t been stolen and assaulted, stalked and bullied, but it would never happen if she kept living behind these damned walls!

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