Pretender to the Throne - Page 23

She was having some of what she wanted. She felt...in some ways she felt more in control than she had in years. This wasn’t about Xander, or his hold on her. It was about claiming the life she desired.

But if she had known this was what she really wanted, she never would have imposed on the Sisters.

“I didn’t mean to use anyone,” she said, her voice choked.

“You gave back more than you ever took, Magdalena.”

Layna smiled at the use of the name. “Thank you. I’m not sure that’s true, but thank you. I hope...to continue on giving in my new position I...I suppose I’m going to be a princess. And queen one day.”

“I’m glad to hear it.”

“I won’t forget what you taught me. I’m going to use this. I’m going to do good with my position.” Something she wouldn’t have cared about if she’d married Xander as a girl of eighteen. She would have just used it to increase her shopping budget.

“That’s nice to hear. But you’re allowed to want things. You’re allowed to have dreams.”

“I’ve tried hard not to have them,” she said, wiping away a tear she hadn’t realized had escaped.

“I know you have, Layna. You’ve tried very hard to keep yourself safe. But if I could give you one last piece of advice, it would be not to let fear decide things for you.”

“I won’t.”

And she wouldn’t. Her decision was made, and even though the enormity of it made her tremble, there was no going back now.

CHAPTER SEVEN

“I TRUST YOU slept well.”

“Your trust is misplaced.”

Xander laughed as Layna made her way into the dining room and sat down at the table. He hadn’t seen her since she’d run dramatically from him in the hall last night, but he’d had a feeling hunger would ferret her out of her room eventually. And here she was, in time for brunch.

“That is too bad. You haven’t changed your mind, have you?”

Hard eyes met his. “No. Sorry, if you were looking for a reprieve you aren’t going to get one from me.”

“I don’t want one.”

“Even though you won’t be permitted to slake your lusts elsewhere?”

“I’ve slaked them pretty well over the past fifteen years. More variety than most, so I can’t truly complain.” Though the idea of monogamy was foreign. Even so, if he promised her fidelity, he would give it. He would hardly sneak around behind her back all for the sake of sex, when he could have it with her if he wanted.

Not for the first time, he was feeling curious about the body beneath those simple shifts. Quite simply, in terms of her looks, he’d been shocked at first. And every time he looked at her, he was shocked. How she’d changed. The extent of the damage. But it was getting easier to let go of. Easier to just accept that it was part of her now.

And honestly, it made him extra curious about her body and if that made him reprehensible, so be it. She was to be his wife, and he hadn’t reconciled the scars yet. They didn’t turn him off but he wasn’t exactly overcome by attraction.

As if to goad his thoughts his gut kicked as she moved into the room, the sunlight spilling over the smooth side of her face, catching fire behind her hair and revealing a golden halo. He got a glimpse of that blonde he’d been missing, subdued without the aid of dye, but there was some there. There was something about her that pulled him to her, there was no mistaking that.

“You will have to be tested,” she said, her tone dry as she took a seat at the table. “I’m not risking catching an STD from you, so I’m sorry if you find that a problem, but you’ve been around.”

“I get tested every six months. I’m promiscuous, but I’m responsibly promiscuous.”

“Oxymoron.”

“Judge not,” he said, looking back down at his food.

“You can judge me all you want in that area of my life. I find myself quite blameless.”

He raised a brow and looked back up at her. And found himself unbearably curious. How long had it been since she’d been with a man? Since before the convent? Before the accident?

Had she ever?

A ridiculous thought. She was thirty-three. A woman would have had to have been living in a convent to be a virgin at her age. But then, she had been, so all bets were off.

He found himself unreasonably intrigued by the idea.As if there was any doubt of his debauchery. Being fascinated by her innocence confirmed it.

“I find myself lacking in regret,” he said. “Which I suppose isn’t the same as blameless.”


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