Shock Heir for the Crown Prince(2)

By: Kelly Hunter


For four days and five nights he hadn’t been Casimir, with his dead mother and sister, an ailing father and responsibilities he hadn’t been ready for. She’d called him Cas, just Cas, and the freedom to be Just Cas had been liberating.

Maybe that was why he kept remembering Anastasia Douglas every so often. Her breathy cries and the softness of her skin, the way she’d wrapped around him…maybe he equated her with freedom, or the illusion of freedom. Maybe his longing to choose his own path sat in his subconscious like a burr, never mind that he’d come to terms with his royal responsibilities long ago.

The waters of the bath glinted deep blue and silver in the weak light of morning. Steam spiralled towards the high domed ceiling, and the caress of water on his feet as he took that first step down into the pool made him groan his pleasure.

He liked that the water temperature was almost too hot to bear.

Same way Ana had liked her coffee.

He took another step into the pool and then another, the water now lapping at his thighs, his erection in no way deflated by the sensory experience of cold air followed by the lick of hot water.

Soon he would propose to Princess Moriana from the neighbouring monarchy of Arun. Moriana was smart, educated, well versed in affairs of state and extremely well connected. It wasn’t a love match but he wouldn’t regret the union        . Moriana would be good for him and for Byzenmaach. He knew this.

Moriana, not Anastasia.

He tried to turn his thoughts towards his intended, but it was no use. Ana won.

Ana always won.

Turning on his heel, he stepped back out of the pool and headed for the shower, half hidden in the marble recesses beside the far door. He turned the taps, adjusted the heat and let fat water droplets fall to the floor before stepping beneath them. He reached for the body oil rather than the soap and took himself in hand.

Maybe he should find out what Anastasia Douglas was doing these days as a way of getting her out of his head. Maybe she’d be married now and wildly content with her husband and two point three children. Unavailable, unobtainable. No longer the woman who’d loved Cas, just Cas, and wished him happiness.

New memories, lesser ones, to replace the memories that haunted him still. Ana, sated and smiling, all long limbs, alabaster skin and silky black hair that a man could lose his fist in. Ana on her knees for him while he muttered words like please and more on more than one occasion. Ana, with her open sensuality that had ignited his.

No pressure, no reputation to uphold, no expectations and no demands. Pleasure for pleasure’s sake. Quick, clever hands and lips that dragged in all the right places. Tumbling words of fire and passion that his soul understood, even if the actual words had been a mystery to him.

Surely, in his mind, if nowhere else, he could have this.

Closing his eyes and turning his face upwards into the water, he let the memories come.





CHAPTER ONE

‘YOUR HIGHNESS, A moment of your time.’

Casimir looked up from the papers on his desk and nodded for Rudolpho to enter. The king’s chief advisor looked more careworn than usual but that was only to be expected given that his king, Casimir’s father, was dying. Loyal to a fault, Rudolpho had found the transfer of power from Leonidas to Casimir an unpalatable process. Crown Prince or not, Rudolpho was first and foremost the king’s man.

And he didn’t always like the changes Casimir was insisting on.

Soon Casimir would have to leave his winter fortress and take up permanent residence in the palace in the capital. Soon he would no longer have to bear witness to his father’s relentless march towards death. He and his father weren’t close. A big part of him loathed the man, and always would. Another part pitied him. And then there was a tiny sliver of Casimir’s soul that craved the man’s approval.

It wasn’t like Rudolpho to hang back in doorways, but the older man still hadn’t entered the room and his stance was stiffer than usual. Something was amiss. ‘What news of my father?’ he asked.

‘Your father had a comfortable evening. Morphine helps. He’s sleeping now.’ Rudolpho approached the desk, his gaze roving over the neat stacks of paperwork to either side of Casimir’s laptop. ‘You need to delegate some of this workload.’

‘I intend to. Just as soon as I understand exactly what it is I’m delegating.’ Some of these duties were new to him. Not many, but some, and Casimir was nothing if not thorough. ‘I thought you left the palace hours ago.’ Casimir let his raised eyebrow ask the obvious question.

If the king was resting comfortably and Rudolpho had a rare evening off, what was he doing here?