To Claim His Heir by Christmas(7)

By: Victoria Parker

Thane swallowed around the emotional grenade lodged in his throat. ‘Ana, where have you been? I looked for you. What happened? I…’

Unable to wait a second longer, he reached out—but she staggered back another step; her brow pinched with pain.

‘No. No! Don’t touch me. I’m sorry. You must be mistaking me for someone else. I…’

That pain morphed into something like fear and punched him in the gut.

‘Please excuse me,’ she said, and she made to duck past him.

His confusion made his cat-like reflexes take a second too long to kick in.

‘Ana? What are you talking about?’

Why was she scared of him? He didn’t like it. Not one bit. Everyone else? Yes. Her? No.

A man emerged from around the corner and when Thane recognised Augustus he almost swung his fist in the other man’s face. Though at the last second he thought better of it. His word, he’d been told, was vehement enough. Consequently he opened his mouth to deliver a curt command but the Viscount beat him to the punch.

‘Luciana? Are you all right, querida?’

Luciana? Hold on a minute… Querida?

What the hell was going on?

‘Luciana? Is this man bothering you?’

Thane whipped around to face him. ‘Back off, Augustus,’ he ground out, jabbing his finger at the other man while he tried to think around the incessant clatter in his brain. ‘And while you are doing that, if you know what is good for you, turn around and walk away.’

Augustus paled beneath his tanned skin, nodded and went to do just that. But not before he motioned to Ana with a jerk of his chin. Or was it Luciana? Dios, Thane felt as if his head was splitting in two.

‘Why are you beckoning her? How do you know each other?’ Thane asked, darkly incredulous.

Augustus straightened to his full height. Thane would give the man points for the gutsy move if he still weren’t several inches shorter than him and trying on a smug smirk for size. But what really set Thane’s teeth on edge was the way the disturbingly dashing Viscount—who was as suave and golden as Thane was dark and untamed—practically stripped the sheath from Ana’s body with his lustful covetous gaze. It made a growl threaten to tear up his throat. He felt as if he could grow fangs.

‘Luciana is to be my fiancée, Prince Thane. So I would appreciate it if you…’

The rest of his words were swept away on a tide of realisation and a watery rush sped through his ears, drowning out sound.

‘Fiancée?’ he repeated, black venom oozing from his tone. Because that meant… That meant…

With predator-like grace he pivoted to look back at the woman who had bewitched him so long ago. Invaded his every salacious dream for five years.

Eyes closed, she tucked her lips into her mouth and bit down hard enough to bruise.

‘Do I take it I am in the company of Princess Luciana of Arunthia?’ His voice seethed with distaste, so cold and hard he imagined it could shatter every windowpane within a ten miles radius. ‘Am I?’

His increase in volume snapped her awake and she elevated her chin, stood tall and regal, while she ruthlessly shuttered her expression.

‘You certainly are, Prince Thane of Galancia,’ she said, in a sexy, sassy voice that sent a dark erotic wave of heat rushing down his spine.

Ah, this was his Ana, all right. She looked more fearsome than Augustus could any day of the week, and Thane had the absurd desire to kiss that mulish line right off her lush, sulky mouth. Even knowing who she was. A Verbault. Henri’s daughter. And didn’t that fill him with no small amount of self-disgust? This had to be the universe’s idea of a sick joke.

Thane crossed his arms over his wide chest and arched one livid brow as they faced off in the hallway.

‘Did you know who I was back then?’

Had she known and set out to destroy him by luring him in? Because the Arunthian hussy had almost managed it. Almost driven him to the brink of insanity in the aftermath of her disappearance.

If he’d blinked he would have missed it. The way her smooth throat convulsed. The way she shot a quick glance in Augustus’s direction as if to check he was still there. He was. Unfortunately. Soaking up every word.

‘I’m afraid I have no idea what you’re talking about. I’ve never met you before in my life. Now, if you gentlemen will excuse me, I suddenly find I’m very tired.’

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