Prince's Son of Scandal

By: Dani Collins

A disgusted toss of the latest fashion magazines onto the coffee table had sent a pile of paperwork sliding to the floor, revealing an invitation to this ball.

The fundraiser benefited orphaned children, something that would go straight to Gili’s tender heart. Even if Gili had sent regrets, the Sauveterre checkbook was always welcome.

Not letting herself overthink it, Trella had briefed a security team and slipped on one of her sister’s creations.

Where Trella loved powerful touches like strong shoulders and A-lines, along with eye-catching beadwork and bold colors, her sister’s style was gentler. The champagne gown had a waifish quality in the way the sleeves fell off her shoulders. The bodice and torso were fitted to her figure, but the ruched skirt across her hips created a sensual impression of gathered satin sheets around a nude form.

She added her sister’s earrings and a locket with a panic button, but kept the look simple, arranging her hair into a fall of dark locks and painting her lips a soft pink.

Now she was here, breathless and petrified, yet filled with more optimism than she’d experienced in years. She moved to speak to the aloof Russian host and his much warmer British wife, Aleksy and Clair Dmitriev.

“I’m so glad you came,” Clair said, drawing her aside in a confiding way that revealed Clair had no idea she was talking to Gili’s twin. “You’re not my only supporter who comes without a date, but you’re the only one who won’t be silly about my guest of honor. Don’t even ask how I got him here. I was hideously shameless, interrupting their trade talks and putting him on the spot in front of everyone. I talked him into auctioning himself for the first dance.”

Trella scanned for a glimpse of this exalted personality. Clair continued her confession as she wound them through the crowd.

“Aleksy said at least I use my power for good instead of evil, but I feel a little evil because the ravens surrounded him the minute he arrived. They’ll back off if you’re there, though. I know you’ll put him at ease. Everyone loves you. Do you mind?”

Trella could see how Clair got what she wanted, sounding sincere in her flattery as she took agreement for granted. Still, she was curious enough to murmur, “Bien sûr,” in her sister’s preferred French.

Clair beamed and gently pushed into the thicket of gowns.

The mystery man turned, revealing a red sash beneath his black tuxedo jacket. He was tall. Intimidatingly tall, with broad shoulders and an economy of movement, suggesting a huntsman’s physique lurked beneath his sophisticated attire. The blond glints in his light brown hair looked natural, given the hint of gold in his eyebrows.

Those eyes. They were such a piercing blue they struck like slabs off a glacier, peeling away to fall and rock the world. The rest of his features were precisely carved in sweeps of long cheeks under sharp cheekbones, a jaw hammered square and a mouth of two perfectly symmetrical peaks over a full but uncompromising bottom lip.

He was so compelling a force, so beyond her experience, the room faded from her consciousness. They became trapped in a noiseless, airless bubble as they took each other in.

Had she really longed to be seen as a woman? Because it was happening. He skimmed his gaze down in unabashed assessment. She saw the flash of interest in his gaze as it came back and locked with hers. He liked what he saw.

He saw Gili, though. Sweet Gili who was used to being in public, where men routinely sized her up as a potential conquest.

The strangest reaction slithered through Trella. She ought to have prickled with threat, or acted like Gili and let his male interest drift past her as if she didn’t notice or care.

Instead, she took issue with her sister being seen as a trophy. Protective instincts honed since birth pushed her confrontational personality to the forefront of the image she presented.

You’ll have to go through me, she projected, tucking Gili safely behind her.

His stare intensified. Burned. He saw her. Whatever shields she had walked in here holding—including her sister’s persona—were gone. She felt completely unprotected against his thorough exploration of her face, his gaze touching each curve and dip of her features.

It felt like a spill of magic, making her cheeks tingle. She had to disguise a rush of unprecedented sensual awareness. Men didn’t affect her, but the spell he cast sent invisible sensations from her throat to her nipples and her pelvis, into her thighs and terminated in a paralysis that nailed her feet to the floor. All the while, delicious stirrings swirled upward through her, making her feel drawn toward him.

“Your Highness,” she heard Clair say from what seemed like another universe. “Have you met Angelique Sauveterre?”

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