The glass shattered on the cold, marble tiles, but nobody looked at it, or the girl who’s nerveless fingers had let it slip. All eyes were on the man in the doorway, surveying the room with cool contempt.

It was his cousin who broke the silence. “Stephen, you survived. Thank the spirits!”

Stephen raised a cynical brow. Tara wondered when he’d grown so cold.

He walked forward, prowling through the room, a big cat, intent on its hunt, seeking the perfect prey.

She knew the moment he saw her. The prowl became a focused stalk and she swallowed, wishing the broken glass was back in her hand, and whole, the wine inside would help wet her throat and maybe supply a little false courage.

Although it seemed it wasn’t words he wanted from her. He crunched across the glass shards and slid a hand into her hair, holding her steady for his kiss. A ravaging, punishing kiss. The most glorious, wonderful, dreamed-for kiss. She swayed into him, hands clutching at the lapels of his jacket, pulling him closer, telling him she wanted more.

He raised his head and glared at her. “You’re not marrying him.”

She blinked. “I’m not marrying anyone.”

His brows notched together just enough for her to see. He kept his voice low. “The treaty required you to marry…”

“You.” She leaned in and spoke her words low into his ear. “I made sure it was your name on the documents, not your title, not some general reference. If it isn’t you, the agreement doesn’t stand.”

“So you are marrying someone then.”

She smiled. A tiny quirk of her lips, just enough for him to see. “I need a little assurance you aren’t going to run off on me again.”

Her eyes flicked to the side and back again. “Brace yourself, it’s a barrage of parents.”

It was hours before she got him to herself again, was able to demand a proper explanation of his disappearance and rumoured death.

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