With one band of gold Prince Andres of Petras can erase his pastalbeit pleasurablesins. But his prospective bride is untamable Princess Zara, so the playboy prince must seduce her into compliance and crown her by Christmas!
The wayward princess of Tirimia has spent years hiding her untouched heart, and her convenient husband-to-be seems determined to keep it that way. Yet his caresses promise a sensual awakening that's impossible to resist. But once Zara's given him her hand and her body, it won't be long before he has her heart
A passionate read for Christmas nights!
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Returning to the palace in Petras was never Andres's favorite thing. He preferred his various penthouses scattered throughout the world. London, Paris, New York. And a beautiful woman to go in each one. He was a cliché, but he was comfortable with it. If only because it was so much fun.
Petras was never half as much fun. It was where his brother, Kairos, used an iron fist, not for the people of Petras, but for Andres himself. As though he were still a boy needing to be taken in hand, and not a man in his thirties.
Invariably, his stays in the palace followed a staid and steady routine. Visits to hospitals and other approved public appearances where his every word was carefully scripted. Stilted dinners with his older brother and his wife, which were as boring as they were uncomfortable; and long nights spent in his vast royal bedchamber alone, because Kairos didn't approve of Andres bringing lovers to stay in the hallowed halls of the Demetriou family. Though Andres thought that had less to do with propriety and more to do with the fact that Kairos was out to punish him for his past misdeeds in a million small ways, every day, until he died.
Which made his discovery, upon entering his bedroom, all the more remarkable.
He walked in tearing at his tietoo tight and constricting, like everything hereslamming the door behind him. Then he froze. There, in the center of his bed, knees curled up against her chest, long dark hair cascading loose over her shoulders like spilled ink, was a woman. They both regarded each other for a moment. Then she scrambled to her feet, stumbling backward on the mattress until her back was pressed against the large ornate headboard that had never been any use to him, as he'd never had a woman in this bed. Until now.
Though she had not been invited, neither did she look very excited to be there. Both of those things were a bit of an anomaly.
"Who are you?" he asked. "What are you doing here?"
She tilted her head upward, her expression defiant. "I am Princess Zara Stoica of Tirimia."
Andres knew very well that Tirimia was no longer a monarchy. In fact, the royal family had been driven from the throne during a bloody revolution back when Andres was a teenager. He hadn't been aware there were any survivors, much less a princess who looked slightly more like a bedraggled creature than a woman.
Her bronzed skin was painted with gold, framing her dark eyes and eyebrows. Her lips were a deep shade of red designed to entice, but he had a feeling that allowing himself to be enticed could be a mistake. She looked much more likely to bite him than kiss him. Her hair hung down well past her backside, disheveled as though she'd been in a fight, or thoroughly pleased by a lover.
Because of the bed, it was tempting to imagine the latter. But judging by the expression on her face, it was most certainly the former.
"You seem to have the wrong palace, Princess."
"I do not," she said, her tone stiff. "I am a prisoner in my own country, and I was brought here as a gift to King Kairos."
Andres's eyebrows shot upward. His older brother wouldn't know what to do with a woman as a gift, even if he weren't bound by marriage vows. "In which case you're in the wrong room."
Her expression turned stormy. "He did not wish to keep me. He, in turn, gave me to his brother."
Andres could not process the absurdity of the statement. This woman, was a gift for him? "Are you telling me that you've been regifted?"
She frowned. "I suppose."
Clearly, she didn't see the humor in this. But then, if he were the one being passed around like an unwanted present at a white elephant party, he might be humorless too.
"Would you possibly mind waiting here for a moment?" he asked.
Her expression turned stormier still. "I would not have been here at all if I had any other options. I have nothing to do but wait."
"Excellent." He turned on his heel and walked back out of the room, stalking down the hall, down the curved staircase that led to Kairos's office. He would no doubt find his brother bent over important paperwork, looking grave and serious and not at all like a man who had just given his younger brother a woman as a gift.
Andres pushed open the door to the office without knocking, and as he had guessed, Kairos was indeed sitting there laboring over work.
"Perhaps you would like to explain the woman in my bed?"
Kairos didn't look up. "Andres, if I were tasked with explaining every woman in your bed, I would never get anything else done."
"You know what I mean. There is a creature upstairs in my chamber."
Kairos looked up. "Oh, yes, Zara."
"Yes. A princess of some kind? She claims she's a prisoner."
"It's a bit more complicated than that," Kairos said. "Enlighten me."
His brother actually smiled, the expression nearly knocking Andres to the floor. A smile on Kairos's face was a rare sight. "She was given to me by dignitaries from Tirimia."
"That much I gathered."
"As you know, I'm trying to reestablish trade with them. They are our closest neighbor, and being at odds with them is pointless. More than that, it can be dangerous and costly." Kairos's expression turned serious again. "Our father didn't see the point in mending bridges between the two nations. Here I sit, trying to restore Petras to its former glory, and this is one way I can accomplish that."
"By accepting a woman as a gift like she was an expensive watch?"
"Yes, Merry Christmas a few weeks early."
"Did you want me to keep her in my pocket and ask her the time?" Andres asked through clenched teeth.
"Don't be ridiculous. You're going to marry her."
Anger settled like lead in Andres's stomach. "Oh, I see. This is your belated revenge?"
"Again, don't be ridiculous. I've got a country to run. I hardly have time to seek revenge to the detriment of the people. Now, make no mistake, I may enjoy your discomfort a bit, but it is no less necessary that you make this union a reality."
"You have no reason to hold on to your anger where I'm concerned. You're better off with Tabitha than you were with Francesca anyway."
"That," Kairos said, "is debatable."
Andres had never been under the illusion that his brother and his wife were head over heels in love, particularly not given the circumstances surrounding the marriage. But this was the first time he had ever heard Kairos speak negatively about the state of things.
The fact that Tabitha, once his brother's PA, had turned out to be such a suitable queen was one reason Andres had been able to absolve himself of his indiscretion with Kairos's first fiancée five years ago in a Monte Carlo hotel suite.
He'd been so drunk that he hadn't remembered what had transpired between himself and Francesca. But there were numerous photos, and some very explicit video footage plastered all over the internet the following day that had left things in a very unambiguous light. Kairos had been forced to call off his marriage, disgraced and humiliated by his fiancée, and his own brother. Kairos hadn't loved Francesca, that much was clear, and his ire hadn't been born out of a broken heart, but out of the sting of public humiliation.
Shortly after, Kairos had announced his engagement to Tabitha, and the royal wedding had taken place as planned, on schedule, with a different bride. Everything neatly swept under the rug, as though it had never happened. Which made it easy for Andres himself to forget the part he had played in the way the dice had fallen.
But if things with Tabitha weren't all that they appeared
"And what does that have to do with me?" Andres asked.
"I need you married. I need you to help with the relations between Tirimia and Petras. Princess Zara solves both of those issues. You need to grow up and start behaving yourself. I was lenient with you even after the stunt you pulled with my fiancée. I have been very patient until now. While you have continued to whore your way through Europe and the States, I took over the responsibility of running the country."
"So you're saddling me with a woman who seems to be here against her will?"
"You knew you would have to marry someday. This is no surprise to you."
"I figured I might have some involvement in the selection of my bride."
Kairos pounded his hand down hard on the desk. "Men like us never do. You have lived a life sheltered from the responsibility that faces us. I have not had that luxury. I know the reality of it. You marry appropriately. You do not marry for love. Yes, I suppose I should be thankful you spared me the scandal of having to divorce Francesca. But I selected Tabitha in haste and it is entirely possible we are facing a larger problem than an issue of marital happiness."
"Are you unhappy?"
"I never expected to be happy. Neither do I require happiness." Kairos rubbed his temples. "What I require is an heir. It may have escaped your notice that I don't seem to possess one."
"I assumed you were trying for one."
Kairos curled his fingers into a fist. "We have never used birth control. Five years, and we have never tried to prevent pregnancy. Possibly more information than you would like, but now you know where things stand."
"What is it you are leading up to here, Kairos? I've never been accused of being the smart one. You have to spell things out."
"You may very well be responsible for producing the next in line to the throne. That means you need to marry. You need to marry royalty. Princess Zara is, in fact, royalty."
"You expect me to exit bachelorhood and start producing babies on such short notice?"
Kairos waved a hand. "Don't be so dramatic about it. Just because you marry doesn't mean you have to change your behavior entirely. Certainly you will have to be more discreet."
His brother suggesting something as shocking as carrying on extramarital affairs was surprising, and was almost as shocking as the fact that Kairos was essentially marrying him off. "Are you unfaithful to your wife?"
A muscle in Kairos's jaw jumped. "No. I'm simply telling you that things don't have to change all that much. Obviously your marriage will be one of convenience, and as long as you treat her with respect, I don't see why you should have to pledge your fidelity to her."
"I have no practice with fidelity. I would hardly stake my life on it."
"You knew the day would come when you would have to take some responsibility for the nation. That day is now. It's this. Father may have expected you to amount to nothing, but I certainly expect you to carry your weight."
"I had no idea that as the spare, I was required to carry any weight unless you died."
"Unhappily for you, that is not the case. I need you for political reasons, and practical reasons."
Andres looked down at his brother's dark, furious eyes. "If things are so terrible with Tabitha, why don't you divorce her and find a woman who can give you the children you need?"
Kairos laughed, a hollow, bitter sound. "There are certainly some things you will have to learn if you're to be a husband. I can no more cast off my wife because she can't produce children than give a speech in front of foreign dignitaries without clothes on. I would be crucified by the press. I made vows to her, and I intend to keep them." He didn't sound happy about it, and certainly his devotion to her had nothing to do with love. That much was clear. "It's time to atone for your sins, little brother."
Andres was usually quite content in his sins, with no desire to atone for them at all. Except for Francesca. That he would take back a hundred times over if he could. Particularly now, with the stark reality of Kairos's marriage to Tabitha laid out in front of him, he could hardly defend those actions.
"You're overlooking a very important piece of the equation," Andres said.
"And that is?"
"She does not want to marry me. That much was clear when I encountered her in my bedroom. We're holding a kidnapped woman."
"She has very few alternatives," Kairos said. "I get the sense that if she goes back to Tirimia she'll be in danger. For all that their government is playing nicely with us now, things are far too tentative for me to stake her life on presumed decency. She is safest here."
"She's feral. What do you expect me to do with her?"
"You're a legendary playboy. The last thing you need from me is advice on how to deal with women."
"She is not a woman. She's a creature!''
He thought of that wild dark hair, her glittering, angry eyes. Somehow they were supposed to make a royal couple? He would need a woman twice as tame as Tabitha to convince the public of a change in him.
A woman such as her wouldn't make his reinvention easy.
Kairos laughed, an even rarer occurrence than a smile. "I'm a married man, but even I noticed there was enough to recommend her. She's beautiful, though, I confess not overly sophisticated."
"I was too busy being surprised by her presence in my bedroom to notice her beauty." A lie. He was not blind to her curves, her full, sensual lips. Despite the fact that, for all he knew, she might attack him if he approached her, she was a lush little package.
"My word is law," Kairos said, his tone uncompromising. "And you owe me, brother. You will obey me on this. Tame her, train her, seduce her, I don't really care, but by God you will marry her."
Andres clenched his teeth together. He would find the moment more surreal if he hadn't long suspected that it was coming. That someday he would stand before his brother and be informed of his fate. He was a prince, the second born to an old royal family. He had never imagined he would escape marriage, children. It had always only been a matter of time. And his time, it seemed, was up.
"Anything else, Your Highness?" Andres asked, his tone dry.
"Don't take too long."
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
What a wildly captivating novel. Yates develops the intricate culture in which her characters find themselves. The contrast between it and the final relationship between the characters was distinct and created a creative and heartfelt novel for readers to loose themselves in. Not only that, but as is Yates’ hallmark, the characters are well developed emotionally and intellectually. The complete picture that this creates of both of them as individuals as well as of them as a couple was fantastic. This was a solid and enjoyable novel that I really had fun reading. Yates had me thinking and falling in love with her characters throughout. I’d definitely recommend it to others. Please note that I received a complimentary copy of this work in exchange for an honest review.
I actually was very surprised by how much I liked this book. I was really into Prince Andres and Princess Zara. They are the Yin and Yang to each other. Andres calmed his playboy ways and Zara emerged out of her cocoon into a beautiful butterfly. While their first experience together did make Andres come off as a jerk, I could feel the real emotions between them. As the story moved along, I grew closer to both Andres and Zara. The ending was a good one. A quick read.
Rating 3.5/5 This is a royal romance featuring the Prince Andres of Petras, the spoiled second son and playboy and Princess Zara of Tirimia who has been given to him by her captors via his brother, King Kairos. He’s used to getting what he wants. She had her parents murdered by rebels, then escaped to live in the woods with a nomadic tribe who protected but never loved her. Recaptured by the now ruling regime, she’s been given to the King as a peace offering to unite the two countries. She really doesn’t know what she wants from life, but it isn’t to marry someone she doesn’t know or to have all her choices continually taken away from her. He just wants to make amends for ruining his brother’s marriage plans by sleeping with his fiancee and being filmed doing so - the film went viral, humiliating all concerned. She’s feisty, resilient and stubborn. He’s frightened of love, doesn’t trust it or believe he deserves it, indeed he’s determined to reject it before it rejects him yet again. How can they find the trust to give their attraction to each other a chance to develop into love? I had very mixed feelings about some of this novel. The treatment of Zara, being gifted to the King, rejected, passed on to his brother, all without any say in what was happening really galled me. Her relationship with Andres initially continues this emotional abuse. This is followed by detailed sexual activities, sort of touch by touch instructions - anyone who reads my reviews knows I don’t appreciate these . . . Then it gets much better, exploring motivations and actions brilliantly then having a lovely epilogue where all is sorted out at last. So, as I said, very mixed feelings but the latter section makes it one I'm glad to have read to the end. I have read books by this author in the past and thoroughly enjoyed them throughout, finding the characters easy to relate to and the plot enthralling, so it certainly won’t put me off reading or recommending her books in future. Thanks to the author, publisher and NetGalley, too, for letting me read an ARC of this book in exchange for this, an honest review.