Shock Heir for the Crown Prince

By: Kelly Hunter
PROLOGUE

CASIMIR, CROWN PRINCE OF BYZENMAACH, woke with a woman on his mind and an ache in his loins. He rolled onto his back, and let out a groan when the heavy cotton sheet rubbed against him in just the right way to make his hips move again, and then again. Not this again. Not her again—it was the third time this week.

He wasn’t impressed.

It took longer than usual to shove those wayward memories of lovemaking aside and roll out of bed. Naked, he padded across age-old silk carpets towards the door that led to the parapet that led to the bathhouse—a domed white marble indulgence that would have found favour with the gladiators of Rome.

Cool air hit his skin the minute he opened the huge double doors, and if he hadn’t been fully awake before, he was now. Summer was in full swing in Byzenmaach but here in the snow-capped northern mountains the mornings still held the edge of winter on them and always would. He suffered it because he liked the cool lick of ice on his skin and because it made that moment when he entered the hot pool that much sweeter.

Nothing could ease the tension in his body and clear his mind faster than spending five minutes beneath the pounding man-made waterfall at the far edge of the hot pool and then another five immersed in the still and silent water at the other end of it. Access to the bathhouse was one of the main reasons he’d made Byzenmaach’s remote winter fortress his permanent home.

Hedonist. He’d never deny the label. Pleasure-seeking was an integral part of his nature.

It wasn’t all he was.

The woman on his mind—Ana—had been a mistake, a youthful indiscretion, a hedonistic folly, and every so often she haunted him. She’d been a student of languages, living in Geneva. He’d been on his way home from delegate talks and bored. The bar where they’d first met had been called the Barrel and Fawn.

Who remembered details like that seven years after the encounter?

The walkway to the bathhouse was open to the air on one side, courtesy of a waist-high stone wall and colonnade arches. The view that greeted him stretched out over the valley below and still managed to impress, no matter how many times he saw it. Once winter hit he’d take the long way round through the palace, but until then he’d enjoy the caress of cool mountain air on his skin. Perhaps it would cool his morning ardour.

It didn’t.

Why was it that seven years after the affair, Anastasia Douglas was still his go-to memory when his body sought release?

Why did he remember the way she took her morning coffee when he had hundreds, if not thousands, of more important memories to recall?

Double shot, black, with one sugar, and hot enough to burn.

Her hair, a tousled black cloud that framed exquisite bone structure as she purred her contentment and blew on the steaming black liquid to cool it before setting it to her lips.

He hadn’t been the only hedonist in their short-lived relationship. The things she could do with her mouth…

He shivered and it wasn’t just because of the cool dawn air.

There’d been something in the air, in the water, on the night he’d met her. Something that had him acting with greater than usual abandon. He’d made the first move, used every bit of charm in his arsenal, and before the night was through they’d ended up naked in her tiny student apartment on the outskirts of the city. He’d stayed the night and instead of leaving the next morning he’d stayed four more nights, turning his back on everything but her. Learning her. Loving her. Ramming into her life and meeting no resistance.

He’d monopolised her nights and infiltrated her days.

They’d lain on the grass in a tiny gated park with his face to the sun and Ana’s head on his hip as she read Russian poetry to him in flawless Russian and then again in English. She’d been equally fluent in both languages, or so she’d said—courtesy of her Russian mother and English father—but the results of her translations had been confusing.

Russian poetry was never meant to be read in English, she’d said, which had begged the question as to why she was attempting the impossible in the first place.

She wanted to be an interpreter, she’d said. Maybe for the European Parliament, maybe for the United Nations Secretariat, and to do that she had to be the best of the best. She was practising.

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