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Kidnapped by her king!
As the clock strikes twelve on New Year's Eve, the fairy tale is over for all of Petras when Queen Tabitha—refusing to live in a loveless marriage—asks her husband for a divorce. But anger erupts into passion, and when Tabitha flees the palace she's carrying King Kairos's heir!
Discovering her secret, Kairos kidnaps his wife. Against the backdrop of his secluded island paradise, he proves there's no escaping his royal reach. He will use the desire that's gone unsated between them for too long to ensure his wife returns to his side.
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New York Times Bestselling author Maisey Yates lives in rural Oregon with her three children and her husband, whose chiseled jaw and arresting features continue to make her swoon. She feels the epic trek she takes several times a day from her office to her coffee maker is a true example of her pioneer spirit.
Kairos looked across the bar at the redheaded woman sitting there, her delicate fingertips stroking the stem of her glass, her eyes fixed on him. Her crimson lips were turned up into a smile, the invitation, silent but clear, ringing in the space between them.
She was beautiful. All lush curves and heat. She exuded desire, sexuality. It shimmered over her skin. There was nothing subtle or refined about her. Nothing coy or demure.
He could have her if he wanted. This was the most exclusive and private New Year's Eve party in Petras, and all of the guests would have been vetted carefully. There was no press in attendance. No secret gold diggers looking for a payout. He could have her, with no consequences.
She wouldn't care about the wedding ring on his finger.
He wasn't entirely certain why he cared about it anymore. He had no real relationship with his wife. She hadn't even touched him in weeks. Had barely spoken to him in months. Since Christmas she had been particularly cold. It was partly his fault, as she had overheard him saying unflattering things about the state of their union to his younger brother. But it hadn't been anything that wasn't true. Hadn't been anything she didn't already know.
Life would be simpler if he could have the redhead for a night, and just forget about reality. But he didn't want her. The simple, stark truth was as clear as it was inconvenient.
His body wanted nothing to do with voluptuous redheads sitting in bars. It wanted nothing but the cool, blond beauty of his wife, Tabitha. She was the only thing that stoked his fantasies, the one who ignited his imagination.
Too bad the feeling wasn't mutual.
The redhead stood, abandoning her drink, crossing the room and sauntering over to where he sat. The corner of her mouth quirked upward. "You're alone tonight, King Kairos?"
Every night. "The queen wasn't in the mood to go out."
Those lips pursed into a pout. "Is that right?"
"Yes." A lie. He hadn't told Tabitha where he was going tonight. In part, he supposed, to needle her. There was a time when they would have been sure to put in a public appearance during every holiday. When they would have put on a show for the press, and possibly for each other.
Tonight, he hadn't bothered to pretend.
The redhead leaned in, the cloud of perfume breaking through his thoughts and drawing him back to the moment, her lips brushing against his ear, his shirt collar. "I happen to know that our host has a room reserved for guests who would like a bit more...privacy."
There was no ambiguity in that statement.
"You are very bold," he said. "You know I'm married."
"True. But there are rumors about that. As I'm sure you know."
Her words stuck deep into his gut. If the cracks were evident to the public now.
"I have better things to do than read tabloid reports about my life." He lived his tragic marriage. He didn't want to read about it.
She laughed, a husky sound. "I don't. If you want a break from reality, I'm available for a few hours. We can bring in the New Year right."
A break from reality. He was tempted. Not physically. But in a strange, dark way that made his stomach twist, made him feel sick. It was down deep in the part of him that wanted to shake Tabitha's foundation. To make her see him differently. Not as a fixture in her life she could ignore if she wished. But as a man. A man who did not always behave. Who did not always keep his promises. Who would, perhaps, not always be there.
To see if she would react at all. If she cared.
Or if their relationship had well and truly died.
But he did nothing. Nothing but stand, moving away from the woman, and the temptation she represented.
"Not tonight, I'm afraid."
She lifted her shoulder. "It could've been fun."
Fun. He wasn't sure he had any idea what that was. There was certainly nothing fun about his line of thinking. "I don't have fun. I have duty."
It wasn't even midnight, and he was ready to leave. Normally, his brother, Andres, would be here, more than willing to swoop in and collect the dejected woman, or any other women who might be hanging around eagerly searching for a royally good time.
But now, Andres was married. More than that, Andres was in love. Something Kairos had never thought he'd see. His younger brother completely and totally bound to one woman.
Kairos's stomach burned as though there was acid resting in it. He walked out of the club, down the stairs and onto the street where his car was waiting. He got inside and ordered the driver to take him back to the palace. The car wound through the narrow streets, heading out of the city and back toward his home.
Another year come and gone. Another year with no heir. That was why he had commanded Andres to get married in the first place. He was facing the very real possibility that he and Tabitha would not be the ones producing the successor to the throne of Petras.
The duty might well fall to Andres and his wife, Zara.
Five years and he still had no child. Five years and all he had was a wife who might as well be standing on the other side of a chasm, even when they were in the same room.
The car pulled through the massive gates that stood before the palace, then slowly toward the main entrance. Kairos got out without waiting for the driver to assist him, storming inside and up the stairs. He could go to Tabitha's room. Could tell her it was time they tried again for a child. But he wasn't certain he could take her icy reception one more time.
When he was inside her body, pressed against her, skin to skin, it still felt as if she was a thousand miles away from him.
No, he had no desire to engage in that farce, even if it would end in an orgasm. For him.
He didn't want to go to bed yet either.
He made his way up the curved staircase and headed down the hall toward his office. He would have a drink. Alone.
He pushed open the door and paused. The lights were off, and there was a fire going, casting an orange glow on the surroundings. Sitting in the wingback chair opposite his desk was his wife, her long, slender legs bared by her rather demure dress, her hands folded neatly in her lap. Her expression was neutral, unchanging even as he walked deeper into the room. She didn't smile. She gave almost no indication that she noticed his presence at all. Nothing beyond a slight flicker in her blue eyes, the vague arch of her brow.
The feeling that had been missing when the other woman had approached him tonight licked along his veins like a flame in the hearth. As though it had escaped, wrapping fiery tendrils around him.
He gritted his teeth against the sensation. Against the desire that burned out of his control.
"Were you out?" she asked, her tone as brittle as glass. Cold. Chilling the ardor that had momentarily overtaken him.
He moved toward the bar that was on the far wall.
"Was I here, Tabitha?"
"I hardly scoured the castle for you. You may well have been holed up in one of the many stony nooks."
"If I was not here, or in my room, then it is safe to say that I was out." He picked up the bottle of scotch—already used this evening by his lovely intruder, clearly—and tipped it to the side, measuring a generous amount of liquid into his glass.
"Is that dry tone really necessary? If you were out, just say that you were out, Kairos." She paused then, her keen eyes landing at his neck. "What exactly were you doing?" Her tone had morphed from glass to iron in a matter of syllables.
"I was at a party. It is New Year's Eve. That is what people customarily do on the holiday."
"Since when do you go to parties?"
"All too frequently, and you typically accompany me."
"I meant, when do you go to parties for recreational reasons?" She looked down, her jaw clenched tight. "You didn't invite me."
"This wasn't official palace business."
"That is apparent," she said, standing suddenly, reaching out toward his desk and taking hold of the stack of papers that had been resting there, unnoticed by him until that moment.
"Are you angry because you wanted to come?" He had well and truly given up trying to figure his wife out.
"No," she said, "but I am slightly perturbed by the red smudge on your collar."
Were it not for years of practice controlling his responses to things, he might have cursed. He had not thought about the crimson lipstick being left behind after that brief contact. Instead, he stood, keeping his expression blank. "It's nothing."
"I'm sure it is," she said, her words steady, even. "Even if it isn't nothing it makes no difference to me."
He was surprised by the impact of that statement. By how hard it hit. He had known she felt that way, he had. It was evident in her every interaction with him. In the way she turned away when he tried to kiss her. In the way she shrank back when he approached her. She was indifferent to him at best, disgusted by him at worst. Of course she wouldn't care if he found solace in the arms of another woman. So long as he wasn't finding it with her. He imagined the only reason she had put up with his touch for so long was out of the hope for children. A hope that faded with each and every day.
She must have given up completely now. A fact he should have realized when she hadn't come to his bed at all in months.
He decided against defending himself. If she didn't care, there was no point discussing it.
"What exactly are you doing here?" he asked. "Drinking my scotch?"
"I have had a bit," she said, wobbling slightly. A break in her composure. Witnessing such a thing was a rarity. Tabitha was a study in control. She always had been. Even back all those years ago when she'd been nothing more than his PA.
"All you have to do is ask the servants and you can have alcohol sent to your own room."
"My own room." She laughed, an unsteady sound. "Sure. Next time I'll do that. But I was actually waiting for you."
"You could have called me."
"Would you have answered the phone?"
The only honest answer to that question wasn't a good one. The truth was, he often ignored phone calls from her when he was busy. They didn't have personal conversations. She never called just to hear his voice, or anything like that. As a result, ignoring her didn't seem all that personal. "I don't know."
She forced a small smile. "You probably wouldn't have."
"Well, I'm here now. What was so important that we had to deal with it near midnight?"
She thrust the papers out, in his direction. For the first time in months, he saw emotion burning from his wife's eyes. "Legal documents."
He looked down at the stack of papers she was holding out, then back at her, unable to process why the hell she would be handing him paper at midnight on New Year's Eve. "Why?"
"Because. I want a divorce."
* * *
Tabitha felt as if she was speaking to Kairos from somewhere deep underwater. She imagined the alcohol had helped dull the sensation of the entire evening. From the moment she'd first walked into his empty office with papers in hand, everything had felt slightly surreal. After an hour of waiting for her husband to appear, she had opened a bottle of his favorite scotch and decided to help herself. That had continued as the hours passed.
Then, he had finally shown up, near midnight, an obvious lipstick stain on his collar.
In that moment, the alcohol had been necessary. Without it the impact of that particular blow might have been fatal. She wasn't a fool. She was, after all, in her husband's office, demanding a divorce. She knew their marriage was broken. Irrevocably. He had wanted one thing from her, one thing only, and she had failed to accomplish that task.
The farce was over. There was no point in continuing on.
But she had not expected this. Evidence that her ice block of a husband—dutiful, solicitous and never passionate—had been with someone else. Recreationally. For pleasure.
Do you honestly think he waits around when you refuse to admit him into your bed?
Her running inner monologue had teeth tonight. It was also right. She had thought that. She had imagined that he was as cold to everyone as he was to her. She had thought that he was—at the very least—a man of honor. She had been prepared to liberate him from her, to liberate them both. She hadn't truly believed that he was off playing the part of a single man while still bonded to her by matrimony.
As if your marriage is anything like a real one. As if those vows apply.
"You want a divorce?" The sharpness in his tone penetrated the softness surrounding her and brought her sharply into the moment.
"You heard me the first time."
"I do not understand," he said, his jaw clenched tight, his dark eyes blazing with the kind of emotion she had never seen before.
"You're not a stupid man, Kairos," she said, alcohol making her bold. "I think you know exactly what the words I want a divorce mean."
"I do not understand what they mean coming from your lips, Tabitha," he said, his tone uncompromising. "You are my wife. You made promises to me. We have an agreement."
"Yes," she said, "we do. It is not to love, honor and cherish, but rather to present a united front for the country and to produce children. I have been unable to conceive a child, as you are well aware. Why continue on? We aren't happy."
"Since when does happiness come into it?"
Her heart squeezed tight, as though he had grabbed it in his large palm and wrapped his fingers around it. "Some people would say happiness has quite a bit to do with life."
"Those people are not the king and queen of a country. You have no right to leave me," he said, his teeth locked together, his dark eyes burning.
In that moment, it was as though the flame in his eyes met the alcohol in her system. And she exploded.
She reached down, grabbed the tumbler of scotch she'd been drinking from, picked it up and threw it as hard as she could. It missed Kairos neatly, smashing against the wall behind him and leaving a splatter of alcohol and glass behind.
He moved to the side, his expression fierce. "What the hell are you doing?"
She didn't know. She had never done anything like this in her life. She despised this kind of behavior. This emotional, passionate, ridiculous behavior. She prized control. That was one of the many reasons she had agreed to marry Kairos. To avoid things like this. She respected him, and—once upon a time—had even enjoyed his company. Their connection had been based on mutual respect, and yes, on his need to find a wife quickly. This kind of thing, shouting and throwing things, had never come into play.
But it was out of her control now. She was out of control.
"Oh," she said, feigning surprise, "you noticed me."
Before she could react, he closed the distance between them, wrapping his hand around her wrists and propelling them both backward until her butt connecte...
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