Their virgin princess, p.35
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       Their Virgin Princess, p.35

         Part #4 of Masters of Ménage series by Shayla Black
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Page 35


  Coop stopped, his eyes widening. “What the hell happened to put that look on your face?”

  He’d lost his temper, and now he had to tell his brothers how screwed they were. “We had an argument. ”

  Lan’s jaw became a harsh line, his arms going over his chest. “She changed her mind about us. We’re back here now, and she doesn’t want to be with a bunch of broken down old soldiers, right?”

  His brain had gone there at first, too. He couldn’t blame Lan. “I don’t think that’s the problem, but she did ask to have us removed as her guard and basically told Talib that it would be best if she didn’t see us again. ”

  Cooper shook his head. “That’s going to be hard since she’s pregnant. ”

  When had Cooper figured that out?

  Lan’s jaw dropped. His eyes bugged out. “Lea’s pregnant? How the fuck did that happen?”

  Cooper shook his head. “Okay, let’s talk about eggs and sperm. When three boys love a girl very much…”

  Dane stopped Cooper in his tracks. “This is serious, Coop. She really was trying to send us away. ”

  Cooper shook his head. “She hasn’t changed her mind. The press is just freaking her out. ”

  Lan’s calm broke, and a hopeless look filled his eyes. “I caused this, didn’t I? I don’t know anything about this royal shit. I’ll just screw everything up. I almost did in Koror. I love her, man. I never loved anyone before, but I love her so damn much. I don’t want to wreck her life. And I don’t see what we can do. If she won’t marry us, we can’t force her. ”

  Cooper’s eyes narrowed. “No, but the sheikh can. I read up a little on their laws, and I bet Dane did, too. The sheikh can force members of his family to marry if he deems it critical to either state or familial relations. Alea being pregnant and unwed in this part of the world would be a huge scandal that could rock this palace. Shit, Dane. Did you pull him into this?”

  Yeah, that was where he’d probably screwed up. “She didn’t leave me a choice since she went to Tal without talking to us first. I’m not going to be eliminated from our child’s life. And she needs us, too. ”

  Lan stood a little taller. “Damn straight she does. I can learn the press stuff. I’ll take a class or something. ‘Learning How to Not Pound a Fuckwad 101. ’ Sign me up. ”

  “I can’t wait to see your notes from that class, Lan. ” Cooper turned back to Dane. “You were right to bring Tal into this. She’s stubborn as hell. This way she can’t refuse and tell herself she’s doing it all for us. I think she would have fought to protect us, even if it hurt her. ”

  Knowing Cooper and Lan were standing beside him gave him great strength. “I couldn’t let her go into this alone, but I’m worried that she won’t accept us now. We can force her to marry us, but we can’t make her like it. Damn it, Coop, she’s had all her choices taken away before. I hate to be the man who does that to her again. How the hell did she find out about how bad the press has gotten? I tried to protect her from it. I didn’t want her to know what was going on with our families. How are your folks faring in all this?”

  Cooper was the one with something to lose. Dane couldn’t care less if the press inconvenienced his father, but Cooper was still close to his family, and he’d heard the press had been harassing them.

  A low laugh escaped Cooper’s throat. “Are you kidding? Have you met Colorado ranchers before? My momma met those reporters at the gate with a shotgun in her hands, and my brothers decided it would be fun to drive the herd their way. Said they’d never seen a bunch of city folks run so fast. And they want to be invited to the wedding so the guest list could get big, but I can’t let Momma down. Not just because she’s already bought a dress, but also because she still scares me a little. ”

  There was a long laugh, and Dane looked back at Tal, who was walking toward them. He’d been so grim before, but now there was a light in his eyes. “Rest assured, Cooper, that your family is more than welcome here. I can’t wait to meet them. ”

  Cooper reached out and shook Tal’s hand. “I thank you for that. And when the time comes, I’ll consult with the kitchen staff because my parents don’t eat anything that hasn’t been fried and smothered in gravy. Now, do you happen to know if you have a battering ram handy because I suspect our fiancée is currently barricading herself in her suite as we speak. ”

  “I have some climbing equipment. I can scale the balcony. The doors into her room are about half glass. I can cut through it and be in the room in about a minute and a half,” Lan said with utter confidence. He shrugged a little when he noticed everyone was staring at him. “I think about things at night. Do you really think she’s going to lock us out?”

  “I do not believe so,” Tal said. “I think the possibility of her pregnancy has made Alea rethink her position. ”

  So she knew she needed a father for her baby. It wasn’t all he wanted from her, but a step in the right direction. He still had to wonder if she would always resent him for forcing the marriage. Would he always be just another man who bent her to his will?

  “She asked to start seeing the counselor again. ” Tal was practically beaming.

  “She wants to talk about her captivity?” Dane had tried every sneaky trick in the book to get her to open up. He wanted it to be him she talked to. He was a selfish bastard, but he was also deeply in love. He would take what he could get.

  Fuck. He would take her any way he could and pray that he could make her love him. He’d started their relationship with the firm belief that she’d have to take him as he was because he couldn’t change. But now he realized that he would. He refused to be another man who controlled her. All his life he’d needed that control, craved it, but he needed her more. He needed to be a husband and father more than he needed to be a Dom.

  “If you gentlemen would care to join us? We’ve got everything set up and we’ve found some interesting information,” Riley said.

  Dane joined his partners and walked into the conference room, the knot still in his gut.

  * * * *

  Alea sat on the sofa in her living room, looking out the window as night began to fall. Pinks and oranges lit up the sky, and she took it in, feeling more settled than she had in years. All the time she’d been held in that horrible brothel, she’d wanted to come back to this place, to this room. When she’d made it home, she locked herself in for days at a time, refusing all company. She’d sat in this room time and time again, looking for safety and peace and finding none because rooms themselves didn’t bring such gifts.

  People did. Love did. She’d been looking for something around her that could fix her when, all along, the power to heal had been deep inside her. Asking Tal to call the counselor had been a decision that only she could make. A decision to really live. A decision to be brave. She could be hurt again. Or her men could be hurt. The people she loved could die. Life had no guarantees.

  But she could control allowing herself to love, to build a future and to fight for it. She could choose to face whatever future came with Dane, Cooper, and Landon, as well as the babies they had. She could choose to love them and be the best wife and mother possible.

  And it was certain now. The doctor had just left. She was pregnant.

  She took a long breath and waited. How long would their meeting take? She knew she could probably walk in and take part, but she didn’t want to sit across the table from Dane with all that nastiness between them unresolved, and the last thing she wanted to do was have the discussion in front of her cousins and the investigators. She had already put Dane in that position once. She wouldn’t do it again.

  She would be patient and wait until she could close them off from the world and tell them—all three of them—how she felt. She would share how scared she was. She would tell them how wrong she’d been to try to cut them out because now she knew that a family faced things together even when it hurt. Her job wasn’t to shield them. It was to stand beside them, to hold hands and
weather all the storms.

  She would tell them she loved them so much.

  “Princess?” Her temporary guard had opened the door to her living area. He stepped through, looking young and so very serious.


  The guard bowed slightly in deference to her. He seemed deeply solicitous toward females. As they had moved through the palace, he had been courteous to every female they had encountered. It had endeared the young man to her.

  “There’s a man here to see you. He’s your cousin’s husband, Oliver Thurston-Hughes. I’ve made sure he doesn’t have any weapons. Should I tell him to go?”

  Oliver was here? She winced a little. She was going to have to apologize for destroying his plane. She doubted it would have crashed if she hadn’t been in it. Oliver’s family was ridiculously wealthy, but they would miss a plane. “No, not at all. Please show him in. ”

  “Should I stay with you?” the guard asked.

  Alea shook her head. Her rooms were the only place she was going to be allowed any privacy for a while. She wasn’t going to give it up. “No, I’m fine. He’s family. ”

  Oliver walked through, his face a dull red. He was a little disheveled, his normally perfect suit lacking a tie and his dress shirt slightly wrinkled. “Lea, thank goodness you’re all right. ”

  She tried to give him her best smile, but he wasn’t the man she really wanted to see. “It’s good to see you, Oliver. ”

  “Is everything all right? The guard was rather thorough in his pat down. ” Oliver smoothed down his shirt.

  She didn’t want to explain that there was very likely still some crazy person out there who seemed to want her dead. “Everything’s fine. I think Tal is just a little touchy right now. Now why are you here? Have you been here the whole time?”

  “We went back home for a bit, but Talib asked Yasmin to come back to the palace once the horrible news reports began. I don’t know what that terrible girl thinks she’s going to get out of this. ”

  She led him back to the sitting area. “Brittany? I’m sure she thinks she’ll either get some closure or some money for her side of the story. ”

  “I think we should sue her. Yasmin has been representing the family on some news channels. I’ll be honest, I’m rather worried she enjoys the fame a bit much. ”

  Yas had always enjoyed attention. She’d done some crazy things to get it. Alea had hoped she was over that.

  Oliver was suddenly invading her space, hugging her close. “God, I can’t tell you how happy I am. I was heartbroken. Lea, you were on my plane when it crashed. That was supposed to be me and Yasmin. I can’t tell you how hard it’s been knowing I caused this. ”

  Alea tried to politely put some distance between them while reassuring him. “Oliver, this was about me. I’m the one they’re trying to kill. ”

  He shook his head, stepping back. “No. I don’t think so. We’ve been working with your investigators. It’s why we came back here a few days ago. My brother got an e-mail after the plane went down. It said they wanted to take down all of the aristocracy, that our time was done. Yasmin was so upset by it that my brother gave her half a million pounds to upgrade security in all the homes and at the building where the charity is housed. How can we ever make it up to you? I shouldn’t have allowed you to traipse off like that. ”

  Allowed it? Something was tickling at the back of her mind. “I’m fine, Oliver. And I think it worked out for the best. If you and Yas had been on that plane, I doubt you would have survived. ”

  “I doubt it, too. How exactly did you manage to escape? When I heard the plane went down over a remote part of the Pacific, I was sure you would drown. Or if you managed to survive the crash, you would likely die of exposure. ”

  She shivered a little knowing how close she’d come. It was funny, even afterward she hadn’t had bad dreams about the crash. She’d trusted her men implicitly. She’d never really thought she would die. “We got on quite well, actually. ”

  “You don’t know how many nights I sat up thinking about all the ways you could have died. I dreamed about sharks a lot. It’s a bloody miracle you’re alive. ” His voice shook a bit.

  “Well, I had three former special ops guys in my corner. They’re kind of amazing. ” They had been calm and cool, thinking only of saving her. “They weren’t about to let me die. ”

  “One of them had to have known how to fly a plane, thank goodness. According to the news, the pilot killed himself and poisoned you. ”

  “I think we were lucky. The pilot wasn’t counting on four of us splitting the wine. The sedative wasn’t as effective as it could have been if it had just been me. ”

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