Prince's Son of Scandal

By: Dani Collins

“The count is a busy man,” the man scoffed. “He doesn’t have time for strange women who appear out of nowhere like they’re begging to get shot.”

That would be a direct threat where she came from, Susannah reflected, while her heart beat out a desperate tattoo in her chest. She reminded herself that here, in the middle of this vast and dangerous wilderness, the people who held these places had a different relationship to their weapons. And to threats, for that matter.

The man before her was perhaps being nothing but matter-of-fact.

“I’m not looking to get shot,” she told him as calmly as possible. “But the Count will want to see me, I’m sure of it.” She wasn’t sure of any such thing. The fact that Leonidas had locked himself away in this place and started calling himself something so ridiculous suggested that he had no desire to be located. Ever. But she wasn’t going to get into that with one of his wild-eyed true believers. She aimed a cool smile the guard’s way instead. “Why don’t you take me to him and he can tell you so himself?”

“Lady, I’m not going to tell you again. You should turn around. You need to get off this hill and never come back here again.”

“I’m not going to do that,” Susannah said, with that iron matter-of-factness she’d developed over the past few years. As if she expected her orders to be obeyed simply because she’d issued them. As if she was Leonidas himself instead of the young widow everyone knew he’d never meant to leave in charge of anything, much less the whole of his fortune. But Susannah had done exactly what her mother had told her to do. She’d taken Leonidas’s name and gained his authority at the same time. She’d been confounding people in the corporate world he’d left behind with this exact same attitude for years now. “I have to see the Count. That’s nonnegotiable. Whatever needs to happen so that I can do that is up to you. I don’t care.”

“Listen, lady—”

“Or you can shoot me,” Susannah suggested coolly. “But those are the only two possible outcomes here.”

The man blinked at her as if he didn’t know what to do. Susannah didn’t entirely blame him. She didn’t cower. She didn’t shift her weight from side to side or give any indication that she was anything but perfectly calm. She simply stood there as if it was completely natural that she should be thousands of feet high on the side of a mountain in the Idaho wilderness. She gazed back at the strange man before her as if she marched up to the doors of cults and demanded entry every day of the week.

She stared at him until it became clear that he was the one who was ill at ease, not her.

“Who the hell are you?” he finally demanded.

“I’m so glad you asked,” Susannah said then, and this time, her smile was something less than cool. Something more like a weapon and she’d had four years to learn how to shoot it. “I’m the Count’s wife.”

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