Contrary to popular belief Lykos Livas was not in the habit of kidnapping women on the morning of their wedding days. Not that he hadn’t, on occasion, enjoyed the company of a runaway bride or two. But tracking down and retrieving a runaway princess in the heart of Paris on the morning of what she intended to be her wedding day at the behest of the King of Svardai was hardly a normal start to the day for Lykos. He checked the address in the message on his phone, and returned the mobile to his ear, leaning back against his silver Aston Martin Vantage.
‘Are you sure she’s here?’ he demanded.
‘I’m sure that her phone is there, Lykos. Are you going to tell me why you needed me to track the phone of the youngest Svardian Princess?’
‘It’s a palace phone and the King of Svardia gave his permission,’ Lykos replied without betraying the direction of his thoughts.
‘I know that, but what kind of brother hires you to track down a twenty-two-year-old princess?’
‘What is that supposed to mean?’ Lykos demanded.
‘It means, adelfe mou, I know you.’
‘She is a pampered princess in the midst of a temper tantrum, she’s about as far from my type as possible,’ Lykos growled, indignant at the thought.
‘What are you getting out of it then?’ Theron needled, clearly aware that Lykos wouldn’t be doing this out of the kindness of his heart. Even the thought of it was laughable. ‘If this has anything to do with Kozlov—’
He hung up the phone before Theron could finish his sentence, knowing his fellow Greek wouldn’t understand the need driving him. Lykos pulled at his cufflinks as he looked up at the four-star Parisian hotel where Princess Marit of Svardia intended to get married in little less than half an hour.
“No amount of dressing up will erase the fact that you are, and always will be, nothing more than a street thief unwanted even by your parents, left to scrabble around for scraps.”
The unwelcome memory of Ilian Kozlov’s words sliced Lykos’s focus in two. He’d come across the Russian when competing for controlling shares in a tech company three years ago. But besting the ‘businessman’ only seemed to inflame the elitist snob. Kozlov had started to come after Lykos’s portfolio and when that hadn’t worked, he had crossed the line by impugning Lykos’s reputation. And why? Because Lykos was a threat. He was one of the few men in the world with enough financial acumen and backing to take Kozlov down.
So now Kozlov would have to pay. Personally.
The King of Svardia had finally agreed to sell him the shares Lykos needed to oust Kozlov from his own company. That was, Lykos had decided, the price to be exacted for the Russian’s insult. And all Lykos had to do? Be the thief that Kozlov had accused him of being and steal a princess.
As he entered the hotel, Lykos thought of what he’d read in Theron’s file on André Du Sault – the supposed fiancé. He had enough money in the bank account so generously provided by his rich parents that he could have taken Princess Marit anywhere. The hotel, Lykos supposed as he marched straight passed reception as if he were a guest with every right to be there, was quaint. Charming, he’d imagine it being described… but definitely below André’s means.
Lykos’s added a little more steel to his determination. That was not how to treat a woman. Even if that woman was a spoilt princess who had run-away with some university crush. He took the steps of the elegantly curved stair case to where Lykos guessed her suite would be, continuing until he reached the top floor.
Lykos refused to acknowledge the hotel porter he passed in the corridor.
His eyes narrowed on the suite at the very end of the hall.
‘Monsieur, arrêtez! Wait, Monsieur! You cannot go in there. Monsieur!’
Lykos’s fingers wrapped around the handle of the door and pushed. Standing in front of a mirror in a dress that did absolutely nothing for her figure or colouring, was Princess Marit of Svardia. And still she was the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen.
It was a moment of pure shock, the realisation casting him to stone. In the space of a single heartbeat, he’d taken in everything about her. Blond hair in angular waves made him think of the way the surf hit the beach at Piraeus. Slashes of crimson across her cheeks, harsh and bright against the pallor of her skin. Eyes, large orbs of hazel with flecks of gold and jade so bright he could see them from across the room. Her mouth, part opened in shock, was somehow the most erotic thing he’d experienced in a life time of debauchery. He had caught her mid-turn, swamped by tulle, her waist seeming so small he’d be able to cradle it in his hands. But it was the scattering of freckles across her nose that drew him up short, their presence speaking of an innocence he should steer well clear of.
Lykos bit back a curse. Marit was barely twenty-two years old and he ruthlessly marshalled his body’s shocking reaction to her, with a severity that was near painful. By the time he’d controlled his body’s startling reaction to her, he looked up to find that golden flecks had transformed into hissing sparks.
Oh, she was mad.
Marit turned fully, kicking the skirts out of her way as she did, fury and fear mixing potently in her blood.
‘I take it my brother sent you?’ she asked. But trying to contain the seething anger she felt only made her sound imperious and she internally cringed and she thought she saw a curl of distaste pull at the man’s lip.
‘He would like you to return to Svardia.’ His accent made her think of salt and money strangely.
Instinctively she took a step back. ‘I have every intention of doing so, but first—’
‘Unwed,’ the man all but growled, taking a single step towards her, returning the distance to what it had been.
Fire scorched her. No. She couldn’t return to Svardia until she was married. If not, then Aleksander would have to choose a husband for her. A stranger for her. And she couldn’t let that happen.
‘I can imagine it easily escaped the notice of one of my brother’s minions—’
‘Minion,’ the man repeated as if it were some great insult.
‘But this is the twenty first century and—’
Her words cut short the moment he swept into the room, stalking towards her in such a way that had her stepping back again, or at least, trying to. Her heel tangled in the hundredth layer of tulle and swaying dangerously on the other, she was about to go down, when the man appeared before her, bent down and to Princess Marit of Svardia’s utter shock, hoisted her over his shoulder.
‘What on earth do you think you are doing?’ she cried as her hands scrabbled down his back, desperate for something to hold on to as he bent again to pick up her bag and hook it over his other shoulder. She lifted her head, shaking strands of hair from her vision, trying to ignored the itch across her cheeks from the rush of blood to her head, and cried out for André. As they entered the corridor his door swung open and her fiancé rushed out to a stop.
‘André! Please—’ Her words were cut off by a wave of nausea as the man carrying her swung around, presumably to face her fiancé. Holding her breath, Marit strained her ears for the words André would surely say in order to rescue her from her captor.
One second, two.
Her heart sunk as the man carrying her swung back around to continue towards the staircase. Blinking back the moisture in her eyes, she glared at André who refused to meet her gaze, a miserably-mouthed apology on his lips. She clenched her jaw and tried not to think unkindly of the friend who had at least in someway tried to help her. It wasn’t André’s fault. It was her brother’s. And the man carrying her over his shoulder like a… like a…
She growled. Actually growled. Anger caused her to lash out and pummel his back with her fists. Without even a pause in his stride, he flexed his back one way then another, throwing her a little closer into the crook of his neck, the muscles across his shoulders and back rippling through the tulle and cotton of their clothes whispering of a power that did shocking things to her core.
‘Thank you, glykiá mou, I’ve been meaning to get a massage for some time now.’
Growling again she tried to lever herself upright to respond when she felt his palm come down firmly against her backside, holding her in place.
‘Stop it, Princess, or you’ll fall off. And you’re not a package that has insurance if it breaks.’
His words should have made her blush with anger. But that wasn’t what had brought heat to Marit’s cheeks or an ache between her legs. Embarrassed at the things she was feeling just from the hand holding her in place Marit barely saw the bell boy who had brought the wedding dress to her suite only an hour ago.
‘Your highness?’ He stared at her, shock clear on his face. ‘Wait!’
Marit was surprised when the man beneath her stopped and turned.
‘Who are you and what are you doing with Princess Marit?’ the young bell boy asked, his voice trembling but determined. He couldn’t be more than nineteen at the most. Only a few years younger than her, but certainly many more years younger than the man carrying her over his shoulder.
She felt the subtle lean in the man’s head as if he were assessing the bell boy and he grunted as if respecting the teen for challenging him.
‘Lykos Livas. Call this number,’ he said passing the bell boy a card from his pocket. ‘If you are not satisfied, call the police.’
Lykos. A strange name, Marit thought. Greek perhaps? Wolf. She thought of silver eyes and the power that arced through his torso as he moved, the lithe, easy grace of him. Yes. It was a name that suited him well.
‘How do I know you are who you say you are?’ she heard the bell boy ask, unable to see their interaction. But she most definitely felt the smirk of arrogance shiver through Lykos seconds before his answer.
Coming in August 2022
CLAIMED TO SAVE HIS CROWN
Don't miss the conclusion of The Royals of Svardia!
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