Princess Maia has it all—including a horrible fiancé chosen for her by the king, and a family bullying her into doing the right thing—but all she wants is her independence. When she falls into the hands of rebel leader, Mihail, she tastes real freedom for the first time. Mihail is a lone wolf, Public Enemy Number One, and heir to a fierce tradition. A dangerous reputation, a castle full of guilty secrets and now rescuing Maia are all woven into his master plan. He can’t lose.
Until his unexpected hostage turns out to be the house guest from hell...
His weary condescension made Maia forget about wishing for a knife, and wonder about clubbing him with her bag instead. “What’s that got to do with you? Or with anything, for that matter?”
“Oh, nothing…nothing. It’s just that when I was young and stupid, I wasted an awful lot of time telling people you were more than a pretty face. You Gregoryanaks, that is,” he added, looking away fast and gesturing toward steps cut into the cliff face. “We’re going up there.”
“My brothers won’t like you calling them pretty,” Maia regarded the worn staircase with suspicion, but reluctantly allowed her captor to usher her along a well-camouflaged path over the shoulder of the rocky outcrop. Reaching the top, Maia slumped on a large boulder, worn smooth by generations of exhausted Kharovans.
“Don’t stop. We’re nearly there,” he said.
“I’m not going another yard until I’ve got these splinters out.” She extracted her phone, address book, notepad, enough stationery to stock a small shop, and finally her makeup bag, from the tote. “You wouldn’t care if I died of blood poisoning, so I’ll do it myself.” She started another extensive search for eyebrow tweezers.
“Don’t worry, Miss Gregoryanak. You might think I’m a monster, but I’ve got your best interests at heart. Nothing bad is going to happen to you.”
She stopped inspecting her foot, and smiled up at him. “Thank you, Dukagjini. For a minute there, you sounded almost kind.”
“You’re a valuable commodity,” he growled. “Nothing more. I’ll keep you in Castle Dukagjini until the king pays your ransom. That’s all there is to it.”
Maia gritted her teeth and applied the tweezers to a sliver of wood embedded in her heel. “Castle Dukagjini? It’s nothing but a ruin.”
“You’re right. But it’s my home.”
“There haven’t been any Dukagjini in that castle for years! If Athan thought you were using it, he’d have the army here in the time it took them to drive out from Gregoryanville.”
“That’s the beauty of my plan. It’s called hiding in plain sight.”
Maia winced, pretending it was the action of pulling out a splinter. It had more to do with the fact this man clearly wasn’t stupid. Putting her strappy sandal back on, she repacked the bag then gingerly stood up and tried out her feet.
“Perfect. No thanks to you,” she announced, but Mihail didn’t reply. He was looking into the woods. Maia followed his gaze. Completely hidden from the main road, a castle stood on a wide terrace cut into the valley.
“Wow! It’s like something out of a fairytale!”
“You think?” His smile was mirthless, and his eyes were shadowed. “Then you’re in for one almighty shock. Welcome to my nightmare.”
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