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His life is an open book.

The second Andraste son, Sebastian, has always been the “spare.” His secret affair began as a lucky accident yet lasted over five years. After his older brother’s marriage, the press speculates wildly about which Dagmar will be next. The paparazzi dogs his every step, making it harder and harder to spend time with Meredith. When she abruptly ends the relationship, his world seems to turn upside down.

She’s his dirty little secret.

The last place Meredith Blake expected to find herself was in the bed of a prince, but her tempestuous affair with Sebastian Dagmar feeds her need for passion. He’s put off revealing their relationship and, understanding his need for privacy, she’s contented herself with being the object of his very real affection whenever they were together. Those times draw farther and farther apart and his royal life stampedes their romance. She wonders if she’s just not good enough for him. Deciding enough is enough, Meredith ends their affair, tired of being his dirty little secret.

Enough is enough…

Sebastian wanted to protect Meredith from the media and security circus that came with the royal package, but he refuses to lose the love of his life. He’d do anything to keep her—even kidnap her to a private isle. Can he overcome her reluctance, evade the press, and protect her from assassins determined to end the Dagmar family once and for all?

Read the first chapter now!

The click of the phone
disconnecting echoed in his ear. Such a quiet, decisive sound should not be the
punctuation mark ending five years together. Prince Sebastian Dagmar, Grand
Duke, and second in line to a non-existent throne lowered the cell phone in his
hand and checked the screen.
The call was indeed as finished as
their relationship—or so she’d declared—because of some ridiculous blog report.
He barely recognized the woman named in the report and—of all the false
engagement stories over the years—why this
A flash bulb went off to his right.
Another to his left. Sound rushed back in as a reporter yelled out a question
and then another. Their interest in him waned swiftly at the arrival of the
second car.
“Sir, we should move inside.” Vidal
leaned in and said the words in a soft undertone no one else would hear.
Sebastian nodded once and resumed walking, while he squeezed the phone in his
fist. He’d walked red carpets so regularly beneath singular scrutiny so often,
he was able to manufacture a smile and a nod as easily as he drew oxygen in and
out. Both seemed rather impossible under the circumstances, yet he managed.
At the top of the stairs, Sebastian
spared a glance toward his elder brother’s arrival. Armand and his new wife
made the perfect picture. The crowd gathered outside of…wherever the hell they
were greeted them with loud cheers and applause.
“Vidal?” He glanced at his
bodyguard. His nearly constant companion since before the death of Sebastian’s
father, Vidal had earned his trust over and over.
“Where are we again?” Inside the
event center, his detail closed around him in a phalanx.
“Los Angeles, sir.”
“Good to know.” The City of
Angels—an appropriate graveyard to host the tomb of his relationship with
Meredith. Vidal nodded and retreated a step. Sebastian drifted forward, soon
immersed in the shaking of hands and innocuous small talk which accompanied
attending such a social function.
Instead of relinquishing the
private phone to Vidal’s keeping, however, he slid it into his pocket in the
vain, if somewhat desperate, hope that Meredith might cool long enough to call
him back. The next three hours passed in a blur of speeches, toasts, and the
requisite unimportant chatter over expensive plates of poorly presented chicken.
When the dancing began, Sebastian made
a point to partner with all three of the unattached women he’d shared a dining
table with—all perfectly pleasant and perfunctory. The moment he’d completed his
duty, he detoured toward the bar and ordered a drink.
“Not the best idea.” The quiet reprimand
from Richard Prentiss, Armand’s best friend and legal counsel, was an unwelcome
intrusion to Sebastian’s dour evening.
“Neither is it the worst.”
Sebastian nodded to the bartender before draining the glass in one long
swallow. The burn of the alcohol did little to alleviate the frozen tundra in
his soul. His control may not have been a match for his elder brother’s, but
Sebastian knew exactly what was expected of him. If he were to get utterly
trashed over the next hour and make a spectacle of himself, most would only
sigh and shake their heads.
What else did a second son do? His
life, of course, was abysmally simple and utterly without complication or
challenge. Fisting the thought, he motioned to the bartender. Richard leaned
against the bar next to Sebastian, apparently not intending to leave him to
drinking alone. Between his presence and the bodyguards, Sebastian enjoyed one
of the quietest few moments of the evening—a perfect time to check his phone
for new messages.
Richard’s continued attention,
however, interfered with the idea. After the bartender delivered his refill,
Sebastian finally turned to study the attorney. “I’m surprised your fiancée
isn’t with you.”
“No, you’re not.” The attorney’s
fast smile was easy and sincere. “She’s working tonight and this is not her
favorite activity.”
Sebastian nodded. Kate Braddock
worked personal security. Since her engagement to Richard, she only took
certain types of clients—women in particular at a shelter Prentiss favored. She
also avoided the limelight and, with the number of press present for the
charitable function, she would definitely be in the spotlight.
“Well, please extend my regards to
Ms. Braddock.” He’d grown rather fond of the woman during Richard and Kate’s
sojourn on the yacht earlier in the year. She’d been recovering from wounds
sustained protecting Richard and, while their presence required canceling his
own plans, Sebastian couldn’t begrudge either for the needed downtime on the
open seas.
“I will be happy—” He broke off as Giles
Corbin, a hedge fund manager, paused three steps away from them, his attention
flicking between Richard and Sebastian. Richard’s joining him at the bar was
not happenstance.
While he was only the second son,
protocol did prevent the majority from simply butting into a conversation. They
waited to be acknowledged—well, at least those who wanted to be included in future
conversations did. Clearly, Corbin wanted to speak to either Richard or
Sebastian turned and motioned to
the bartender. The second drink succeeded far more than the first. A third was
definitely in order. “Do you want to talk to Corbin?”
“Not particularly, but it’s better
if he pitches to me.” And by that, Richard meant it was better for the hedge
fund manager to interrupt his evening rather than Armand and Anna’s.
“You two look like you need to be
rescued.” Humor wreathed the familiar feminine voice and Sebastian turned to
greet his cousin. Alyxandretta Dagmar Voldakov rarely stood on protocol and
Sebastian’s grin was the first unforced one of the evening.
“Your Highness.” Richard inclined
his head.
“You know better.” She gave him a
scowl, but Richard merely chuckled and excused himself. He headed out of the
circle of security, one made slightly wider by Alyx’s approach.
Catching Alyx’s hand in his,
Sebastian gave her a polite bow and then kissed her cheek. She accepted the
affection graciously, squeezing his fingers once before moving to take
Richard’s place against the bar. Despite having taken the time to get to know
her ‘new’ family over the last eighteen months, Alyx did not embrace public
affection easily—save from her husband, Daniel.

of whom…
It was unusual for him to be far from his bride. If anything,
Sebastian admired how attentive the man was with Alyx.
“Don’t worry. Daniel is talking
business and I saw you over here looking forlorn, so I thought I would come
keep you company.” Alyx’s quiet voice wouldn’t carry and, even it did, no one
was close enough to interrupt them. Not even the bartender, whom she waved off
after he’d refilled Sebastian’s drink.
“Are you sure you don’t want some
wine?” He considered slamming back the third drink as quickly as he had the
first two, but restrained the impulse considering the concern on his cousin’s
face. Alyx was a couple of years younger than him and occasionally even more
guarded than he or his siblings.
“No, thank you.” She paused when
the music changed and glanced at the dance floor. “I love this song.”
Sebastian could not ignore the hint
of longing in her voice, no matter how dark his mood. Pushing his drink away,
he withdrew a step and extended his hand. Perhaps he couldn’t make things right
with Meredith immediately, but he could brighten Alyx’s evening. “Would you do
me the honor of this dance?”
A hint of a blush turned her cheeks
pink, but her smile filled with delight. “Are you sure? What about…?” She mimed
a small twirl of her finger to include their circle of security.
“We let them do their jobs,” he
told her gently, escorting her out to the floor. As expected, the men and women
on duty widened their circle automatically, but Sebastian also knew better than
to draw Alyx to the center, choosing instead an emptier part of the floor.
“I’m still not terribly used to
having them shadow my steps—and before you start,” she wrinkled her nose,
exasperation lighting up the words. “I know why
I have to have them. Daniel and Armand are thick as thieves on the subject.”
He didn’t smile, though her eyes
twinkled with the invitation for him to join in her laughter. “You will get
used to it.” Years of living under the harsh lens of observation hadn’t dulled
him to its effects—or costs.
“I accept the concept, if only
because I think I’ve finally gotten used to the idea people want take my picture, even if I cannot
truly fathom why they think I am so interesting.”
“It’s not you—” When her jaw fell,
Sebastian felt another reluctant smile tugging at the corners of his mouth. He
genuinely liked his cousin. She didn’t play any of the familiar games. “Truthfully,
you are charming and a delight—but their fascination is with the idea of you
and the crown. Some believe if they can touch a part of your charmed life, the charm
will rub off on them.”
“That is the most ridiculous thing.”
She halted mid-step and he paused obediently. “I have hardly led a charmed
“Again…” His smile faded as he
coaxed her into moving once more. “It’s not about you. It’s about the position.
An unfortunate by-product of our DNA in a world populated by social media and
interaction is the public desire for wish fulfillment on their terms.” Meredith
never longed for either. She’d respected his position, but guarded against
their exposure. While he’d delighted in their privacy, he’d taken great pains
to keep her protected.
The first waltz segued into a
second and, when Sebastian would have guided her off the floor, Alyx looked at
him imploringly. “One more? Please?”
Consenting, he drew her back into
his arms. “It would be my honor.”
Three steps into their second dance,
all of Alyx’s playfulness fled and he felt the full weight of her regard. The
corner of his mouth turned up. He should have seen the ambush coming, but his
lovely cousin was far more cunning than his brothers.
“Why are you so very sad,
Though her question beckoned an
answer, he could not indulge her curiosity. “It could quite possibly be the
chicken. You did notice it was green, didn’t you?”
The glib non-answer didn’t satisfy
his cousin. Her lips barely twitched. “You smile with your mouth and you say
the words with just the right inflections, but your eyes are unhappy.”
Far too practiced to allow her keen
observation to rattle him, Sebastian smiled and let his affection for her show.
“You have no need to be concerned, but your worry is sweet and I thank you for
“All right, if that’s how you want
to play it.” Her candor never failed to entertain him. “But we are family and I would like to be your
Whether it was the frustration
underscoring her words or his own bleakness over Meredith, Sebastian couldn’t
say, but he wanted to put Alyx’s mind at ease. Directing her to the edge of the
dance floor, he halted and took her hands in his. “I would very much like to
believe we are already friends.”
His response elicited the most
unexpected result. Tears filled Alyx’s eyes and he went still. Awareness of
their surroundings and the level of observation had Sebastian turning her away
from the tables and clear of the other dancers.
With care, he slid his hand into
the inside pocket of his tuxedo jacket and pulled out a clean, pressed
handkerchief. Alyx accepted the cloth with a watery laugh and carefully dabbed
at her eyes. “Victor would be horrified if my mascara started running.”
“You look beautiful,” Sebastian
assured her.
Thankfully, her husband chose the moment
to intercept them. With a cordial, if quick, nod at Sebastian, Daniel Voldakov
slipped an arm around his wife. He kissed her temple gently. “Are you all
“I’m fine, but Sebastian was very
sweet and I think I horrified us both by bursting into tears.” Another damp
laugh and her smile grew in brilliance. “I didn’t expect to be so hormonal.”
Not quite wincing at the word,
Sebastian made a point of looking elsewhere. This seemed a very private
discussion to have in such a public place. Then her words registered, and he
took a really good look at his cousin.
Alyx flushed under his gaze and,
after a quick peek at Daniel, she gave Sebastian a secretive smile. “We’re not
confirming or denying anything yet.”
Message received. “Please, let me
know when I may respond to any confirmations or denials.”
“I will,” she promised and leaned
her head on her husband’s shoulder. “Do you think it would be poor protocol to
slip away now?”
“Absolutely not. The dinner is done,
as are all the tedious speeches. You have danced and smiled and been perfectly
gracious.” Catching her hand again, Sebastian bowed once more and pressed a
kiss to her knuckles.
“He’s right,” Daniel agreed and
nuzzled her forehead. “I’ve already asked for the car to be brought around. It
was good to see you, Sebastian.”
“And you, Daniel.” Family did not
have to stand on ceremony.
“Are you staying in Los Angeles for
longer than a day this time?” Alyx asked. “We would love to have you over—dinner
one evening, perhaps?”
Sebastian hesitated. He’d intended
to leave the next day, but he hadn’t alerted anyone to his plans, save for his
security detail and pilot. “I am not terribly certain of my schedule.” Not a
lie. “I actually asked Vidal earlier what city I was in.” Also, not a lie. “But
I will call, and we’ll make arrangements.”
“Perfect.” Alyx surprised him for a
third time when she brushed his cheek with a kiss and paused to whisper, “I
meant what I said earlier. I want to be your friend. I’ve seen the look in your
eyes before on other people. If I can help—at all—please, let me.” She squeezed
his forearm once then allowed Daniel and their security team to escort her away.
He watched their exit silently and
ran through his options. Switching gears, he glanced at Vidal. “I’m ready to
go. Can you have security bring the car?”
“Of course, Your Highness.
“The tower.” For the time being,
he’d return to his suite at the Petersburg Tower. It would have been readied
for him, since his appearance at the event was on his schedule. “One last circuit
and we leave.”
“Absolutely, sir.” Vidal and the
others fell into step as Sebastian glad-handed his way around the room. A
prince had a duty to be seen. He must be remembered as engaged and available, at
least while on public display. He’d perfected the part. It took nearly an hour,
but he finally made it out and pulled his tie free as soon as the car doors
Leaning his head back against the
seat, he retrieved his cell phone from his pocket. The screen was dark, though
when he unlocked it, no messages waited for him. It was after eleven in
California, which meant after two in the morning on the east coast. She taught
an early class and the last thing she needed was to be woken in the middle of
the night, but he wanted to hear her voice.
If he took an early flight, he
could be there by afternoon—or he could head to the airport immediately and be
outside her class when she finished teaching. The car shifted abruptly and
Sebastian glanced up at his driver.
“Apologies, sir. We have a couple
of tagalongs.” The driver explained and Sebastian sighed.

He couldn’t go to the airport.
Saying nothing, he slid the phone back into his pocket. Tomorrow he would call
Meredith and make everything right again.
She was upset by their lack of time
together. He understood her position and owed her an apology, but it would be
better to let her calm before he confronted her. Anger sparked her declaration that
they were through. His chest tightened. With her rejection, she’d thrown a
gauntlet down, one he would gladly pick up.
They were not over. He’d protected
her—cherished her—for too long to accept any other outcome.
But still, the ache in his heart
wasn’t assuaged. She’d never hung up on him before.

Unsurprisingly, by nine-fifteen,
Meredith Blake’s eight a.m. class on the elementary theory of numbers struggled
to focus on the whiteboard where she’d scrawled several equations. Other
professors made do with only punching in their time in these basic courses, but
Meredith liked to challenge her students. If any of them could solve the
equation by the end of the lecture period, she gave an automatic grade bump to
the assignment of their choice.
Application, after all, was the
goal of number theory. Pacing to the front of her lectern, she studied the
glassy eyed students arrayed around the room. Normally, she’d go for a joke or
a lighthearted story, but she felt like she was dragging worse than they were.
Gravity remained unaltered by
physical events, yet depression and disappointment seemingly increased her
mass. How else to explain the weight bearing down upon her? Maybe everyone
deserved a bit of a break. “Let’s put it this way.” She spoke in a clear tone
and knew her voice carried all the way to the back row. With seventy plus
students in these classes, projection was everything.
“Numbers are the basic building
blocks of every single thing we do. We use numbers to predict the weather, to
predict crime, to predict investments—even to predict winners. If you
understand numbers and their applications, you have the most essential tools to
success.” Pausing, she let them absorb the information. Then pointed to the
equation on the board. “Has anyone solved this?”
Not a single hand rose. She forced
a conciliatory smile, but instead of letting them off the hook, she said, “How
many of you tried to solve it?”
Only two hands raised.
Well, two out of seventy-three
weren’t the worst statistics. “How many of you would have tried if I told you
this formula will very accurately predict your chances of winning the lottery?”
Alertness sparked in her audience.
Throw down a gauntlet, most people picked it up. Throw down the promise of
money and those numbers increased. “I’ll give you to the end of the week to
solve the equation and send me your answer.” But because she couldn’t resist
trying to make them smile, she said, “Of course, if you win the lottery with
it—I’m sure my free grade bump won’t be nearly as valuable, no matter how fun.”
Laughter erupted and she nodded,
satisfied. “See you all next week.” Thumps of books, digital tablet covers
snapping closed and the thud of feet on the stairs accompanied the students as
they took advantage of their early release to rush out. All save Wes Keating
and Rebecca Walsh—they headed straight for her. Holding up a hand, she stopped
their questions before they could start.
“No, I didn’t offer any other
assignments for extra credit. No, I won’t extend the deadline next week if you
haven’t solved it. And unless blood and bone are showing, you better have your
assignments turned in.” She raised her brows at their crestfallen expressions.
“Any other questions?”
“No,” Wes resettled his backpack
“Thank you.”
Rebecca sighed. “I was kind of hoping…maybe
we could talk you into a second formula? You know, if we can’t figure out the
Folding her arms, Meredith eyed the
students. Every class always possessed at least one student who thought she’d
change the rules just for them. “Sure, I can totally give you a second problem,
however, you’d have to solve both for it to count.”
The color drained from Rebecca’s
face. “I think we can stick to the first one.” Tugging on Wes’ arm, she led him
from the lecture hall.
“That’s what I thought. Have a nice
day.” She turned away because even what brief amount of amusement she gained
from the interlude proved fleeting and she blinked back a fresh wave of tears.
Gathering her notes together, Meredith glanced at the schedule on her cell
phone. She held office hours in the afternoon and her schedule included two meetings
with doctoral candidates to go over their theses.
Retrieving her purse, she felt the
vibration of a second phone and sighed. She’d meant to leave it home when she
came in for the early class, but some habits were impossible to break.

I need to break them.
Carrying the private phone, to which only Sebastian knew
the number, was one such habit. Her heart twisted and her lungs felt like
they’d seized. The hiccup in time couldn’t have lasted more than a bare few
seconds and yet she wanted to curl into a ball and cry all over again.
Her fingers itched to unzip the
inner pocket and pull the phone out. Any other day, she would have rushed to do
so and asked him to hold on while she jogged across campus to her office. Once
inside, she’d have locked the door, settled down behind her desk and—Stop it.

Slinging the purse over her shoulder and stuffing the last of her
things into her backpack, she refused to answer the phone. It wasn’t any other
day. Last night, after blogs broke the news of his ‘secret’ engagement, all the
while another news channel featured his arrival at a posh event in Los Angeles,
Meredith found she couldn’t do it anymore.
Five years of passionate interludes
when he could steal away from his life, of being at his beck and call and never
knowing when his security would show up to smuggle her away, it was too much.
Under her arm, the phone kept
vibrating. It would pause for a few seconds and then resume. A brisk wind cut
through her thin sweater and she cursed herself for forgetting a jacket. This
late into autumn, winter a promise delivered at sundown, though today it felt
colder than when she’d walked to her class. She was frozen by the time she
reached the building housing her office.
Bypassing the elevator, she jogged
up the three flights of stairs in a vain attempt to alleviate her shivers. The
news forecasted a cold front moving into the area later in the day, but
Meredith suspected it already arrived. Exiting the stairwell on the third
floor, she spotted Terry O’Connor leaning against the wall outside her office.
The retired soldier straightened the moment he caught sight of her and a look,
akin to relief, rippled across his face.
“I missed you at your class and you
took a different route to the office today.” Meeting her halfway down the hall,
he tugged the backpack from her nerveless fingers and held out his hand for her
“I didn’t realize.” Not really. She
varied her routes depending on which lecture hall she needed to use, but they
were all predetermined so Terry could track her as needed. Trailing him to her
office door, Meredith shivered with an unexpected dread. The last time he’d
shown up unannounced was after someone plunged a knife into Sebastian… “Did
something happen?”
She’d made herself turn off the
television the night before. A clean break was better all the way around, but
what if something happened afterward? The attempts on Sebastian’s family continued
to increase and worsened in recent months and, while he didn’t share the
specifics, she was perfectly capable of reading in between the lines of news
stories to speculate at what they didn’t say.
Terry unlocked her door and glanced
inside her office before allowing her to enter. “Nothing’s happened, though I
was instructed to pick up your detail today.”

Meredith deposited her purse on the desk. The crowded room boasted a variety of
texts, some stacked ten and twelve deep on the floor next to her desk along
with multiple white boards covered in equations. To the untrained eye, it
probably looked like a lot of gibberish—a fact Terry pointed out on more than
one occasion. Of course, he’d been to her office so many times at this point,
the boards didn’t earn more than a brief glance. “By whom?”
Instead of answering, he secured
her door and prowled around to the window overlooking the quad below. With two
quick twists, he closed the blinds before turning to face her. “By our mutual
friend. Did you misplace your cell phone?”
 Relief swamped her. Their mutual friend. Sebastian sent Terry to check on her—most likely
because she wasn’t answering her phone. If he’d called Terry, Sebastian was all
right, at least physically. On the heels of her relief came resentment and its cousin,
“No, I didn’t misplace my phone.” After
circling her desk, she sat down then pulled her laptop out of the backpack. “I’m
sorry he bothered you, but I am not planning on traveling anywhere. You don’t
really need to be here.”
“I don’t mind hanging out. You’re
good company and, if we’re not traveling, I can catch up on my reading.” He
settled in one of her empty office chairs. “But you should check your phone.”
Booting up her laptop, Meredith
mulled Terry’s advice, but didn’t respond to it. Oddly, his presence and the
crinkling of the newspaper he flipped open offered the most peculiar kind of
comfort. Bringing up the college webmail, she skimmed the contents of her inbox
without reading it. After several minutes of pretending to work and trying to
ignore the insistent vibration in her purse, she retrieved the phone.
Forty-one missed calls and a fresh
round of vibration.
She sighed. Bastian wouldn’t stop.
“Terry, do you mind?”
“Not at all.” Her bodyguard—despite
the years of acquaintance, it still struck her as odd that she had or needed a
bodyguard—rose and folded his paper. “I’m going to the coffee cart on the first
floor. Do you want anything?”
“A cappuccino would be lovely.”
With about three fingers of butterscotch schnapps in it, but she wouldn’t ask no
matter how good it sounded.
“You got it. Lock the door behind
me. Don’t leave till I come back.” It was a familiar routine, but she nodded
obediently and trailed him to the door. The vibration ended and quickly
resumed. After locking up, she answered the call.
She couldn’t say anything.
“Meredith?” Pure masculine
sweetness poured over honeyed rocks flavored his European accent. Her pulse
raced and her hands began to shake. “Meredith? Are you there?”
Falling into old patterns helped no
one, least of all her. Be strong. Don’t
tumble down this familiar path
, no
matter how passionate his response
. The man never failed to melt her past
reason. A band around her chest squeezed all the air out of her. “I’m here,”
she managed to push out past the lump in her throat, then swallowed with
difficulty. “What part of ‘we’re over’ are you not understanding?”
Silence and then a whoosh of breath
from his end. “All of it.” His words grew more clipped in rebuttal. “I am
sending the plane for you. O’Connor will escort you to the airport and travel—”
“No.” She didn’t dare let him
finish, since his words already weakened her. Her pulse picked up at the
mention of his plane and heat flooded through her body. She couldn’t see him. Maybe
it was the coward’s way out, but God knew he was a fantastic lover and when
they were together—yes, he focused one hundred and ten percent of his attention
on her. No woman could withstand the sheer force of his personality and
But when they were apart? They were
always apart. The time they did have together shortened repeatedly while the
time in between visits elongated…
“Darling, listen to me. I promise,
we will talk all of it out. I need to
see you.” Music to her ears, but how many times had he said the same thing before?
Yet how many nights had she gone to bed alone, thousands of miles separating
them and no one, not even her family, knew about the most precious relationship
in her world?
“I said no, Bastian.” Gripping the
phone tighter, she tried to calm her respiration. Anger, resentment, misery,
and joy tangled together in her stomach. An icy cold sweat broke out on her
“Meredith, I am not engaged. I understand the false story
distressed you, but this is no different than all the others the last few
years. Baseless speculation on the part of the press, their attempt to feed—”
“Actually…” She interrupted him
before he went down the road of belittling her upset. He wouldn’t mean to—he never meant to—but he would because he appeared
to know better. He lived in a different world, one she wasn’t even allowed to
visit. “It is quite different. This time I don’t want to understand. I don’t want to pretend it’s all right you
spend half your life gallivanting around the world, dancing, kissing, and in general
allowing all those women to be with you…”
His voice sounded tight when he
snapped, “They are not important.”
Impatience fractured his normally calm and playful reserve, a first in their
“Can’t you understand?” She almost
felt sorry for him, because he didn’t seem to see it. Maybe he couldn’t—maybe
his upbringing precluded understanding the role of ‘mistress.’ “They may not be important, but they have
easy access to you. You’re not ashamed to be seen in public with them, and you
certainly didn’t seem to be fending off their affections. I teach math for a
living, Sebastian. Maybe I don’t understand protocol and politics, but I
understand one plus one. Please respect my wishes, and leave me alone.”
She hung up because if she didn’t,
he might keep talking and her traitorous heart would have listened. As she
swiped away the tears on her cheeks, the phone began to vibrate again. She
depressed the power button and held it down until the phone silenced.

It was over.
The sooner they both accepted it,
the better off they’d be.

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