The royals of coradova, BOOK 3

Heart Promised

We were supposed to be together forever. After five years of wedded bliss, I thought our life was perfect. But I was wrong.

My name is Princess Arianna of Coradova and I’m finally ready to start a family with the love of my life, Lord Bennett. But a secret from the past has shattered our picture-perfect life.

It wasn’t supposed to end this way. We were supposed to live happily-ever-after. 

Now it will take everything Bennett and I have to keep our marriage from unraveling . . . or the promises we made to one another will forever be broken. 

CHAPTER ONE:

My life in Coradova was perfect. Absolutely perfect. As the early morning sunshine peeked in through the crack in our curtains, I turned away from the brightness and rolled over to rest my head on the broad expanse of my husband’s chest.

My husband.

Even after nearly two years of marriage, that word still caused love to expand within my heart. I may have grown up as a princess in a royal palace, but life had never been as wonderful as these last few years with Bennett.

When his hand reached up to brush along my fall of thick black hair, I sighed and melted into him. Bennett kissed my forehead and gathered me closer into his arms. “Good morning, mon amour. How did you sleep?”

“Not that well,” I sighed. “My mind kept going over check-lists for the fundraiser.”

Bennett chuckled. “Isn’t that four months away?”

I smiled at the hint of amusement in his voice. Bennett never seemed to understand exactly how much advanced prep work went into planning one of these charity events. “July will be here before we know it, and I have an endless list of tasks to complete.”

“It sounds like you could use a distraction,” Bennett murmured. His voice was warm and husky. He trailed his hand down the bare skin of my shoulder, then shifted his hold so he could look down at me. The sunlight streaming in through our window lit up his handsome face, accentuating a well-defined jaw, dark brows and his sleep-tousled black hair. A smile tugged at the corner of his mouth as his chocolate brown eyes seemed to beckon me. “I have a few ideas in mind, starting with a kiss.” He claimed my lips in a long, slow kiss that effectively wiped away my every thought.

A half-hour later, Bennett headed off to shower while I searched through my walk-in closet for an outfit. Rows of clothing ran along both walls from floor to ceiling. Racks of shoes and dresser drawers were packed into the farthest corner. Open shelving displayed my massive collection of jewelry and accessories. Two cozy white ottomans were centered in the middle of the closet beneath a sparkling crystal chandelier. It wasn’t very practical, but it gave the room a touch of the elegance that I loved.

Since birth, every aspect of my life had been filled with fancy dresses, glittering jewels and elaborate parties. Glamour wasn’t merely a luxury for a princess—it was a way of life. One that I had to admit, I truly loved. After selecting a navy pencil dress with matching blazer, I returned to our bedroom.

It was a palette of cool shades and warm textures. Ten-foot high pale gray walls and dark hardwood flooring was softened by a beautiful Aubusson area rug. On the far wall, our grand king-sized bed sat across from a white marble fireplace. Another chandelier dangled from the middle of the recessed ceiling, matching perfectly with the silver sconces that added a romantic ambience during the evenings. Pink accents and frills had once adorned my childhood bedroom, until I’d had it redecorated several years ago.

To keep my thoughts from once again wandering over various plans for the fundraiser, I set down my outfit and propped open the glass doors that led out to our balcony. The familiar scent of salty sea air greeted me and brought a smile to my face as I stepped out onto the landing. Beyond the palace walls, the sea stretched across the horizon in rippling waves of sapphire. Clear blue skies allowed for good visibility this morning. I could see all the way across the Mediterranean Sea to where Italy and France were a dark streak in the distance.

Our private suite overlooked seaside cliffs and the back corner of the palace garden. Movement down below caught my attention. Planting my hands on the cold stone banister, I leaned over for a better look, and smiled at the sight of my best friend and sister-in-law. Madison was out for her daily morning run with her personal guard, Gerard, jogging alongside her.

As they neared the edge of my vision, I saw Madison wave to a blond-haired woman herding along two small children. It was Madame Bisset, the nanny for my cousin’s children. Prince Leo and his family lived on a large estate on the southern edge of Coradova. They were staying in the palace for the summer, along with my uncle, Prince Theoren. After the scandal caused by my uncle’s recent divorce, my father had offered his younger brother refuge from the public eye. Divorce was highly frowned upon in Coradova, particularly for the Royal Family. For centuries, the common opinion was that royals married for life—no exceptions. Prince Theoren’s recent divorce was rumored to have been caused by his alleged affair. The public’s current opinion of him was very low indeed.

A soft rustling of cloth met my ears moments before I heard Bennett step out onto the balcony behind me. He slipped his arms around my waist and lowered his head to kiss the edge of my jaw. “What are you looking at?”

“Madame Bisset is out in the garden with the children.”

“Ah.” He hugged me closer to his chest. “How’s Prince Theoren doing?”

“As well as you’d imagine … under the circumstances.”

“Do you really think he had an affair?” Bennett asked, his voice tinted with censure.

“I don’t know,” I admitted.

Disquiet settled over us as we lapsed into silence. Resting my hands on the arms Bennett had wrapped around my waist, I laid my head back against his shoulder and looked out over the palace grounds. As I watched the children laugh and chase each other around the garden, I felt a stir of longing. Over the last few months, my desire for motherhood had been growing.

I was ready to have a baby.

“Bennett?” I ventured softly. “When do you think you’ll be ready to start a family?” Feeling oddly nervous, I waited breathlessly for his response.

A few seconds later, Bennett leaned down to whisper in my ear. “I’m ready now.”

Surprised, I twisted around to meet his eyes. “Really? You’re ready to have a baby?” I could barely contain my rush of excitement.

Bennett stroked a hand down the hair tumbling around my face and smiled. “Yes, mon amour. I’ve been thinking about it since Christmas and I’m ready to start a family with you.” He looked at me with an expression that caused a flutter of anticipation in my stomach. “And I’m ready right now.”

I moved closer, drawn in by the passion I could see burning in his eyes. “Do you mean, right this very minute?”

Bennett held my gaze. “Yes.”

A sultry smile curved my lips as I skimmed my hands up his bare, well-muscled chest. I loved the feel of his smooth skin beneath my hands. “Then let’s get started, Bennett. It might take us a few tries.”

His gaze heated. “Your wish is my command, ma princesse.” With a grin, Bennett scooped me up into his arms and whisked me away into our bedroom, where we lost ourselves in the excitement of starting a family.

* * *

The Deimos home was a lovely, well-maintained luxury estate. It was built around an inner courtyard with paving stones and planters for thick palm trees. A white exterior, dark tiled roof and arched doors leant perfectly to the Mediterranean-style of the home.

When the family housekeeper let us into the grand foyer, Lady Deimos’ enthusiastic greeting echoed from down the long corridor. Her heels clicked against the stone flooring moments before she appeared with a wide, welcoming smile. “Ben! Arianna!” She pulled us both into her arms for a firm hug, then eased back to inspect her son. “You look good, Ben. They must be feeding you well inside the palace.” Léa gently patted his cheek. “You look happy, son.”

“Of course I’m happy.” Bennett’s warm gaze briefly met mine. “I’m married to the most beautiful woman in Coradova.”

Léa turned her green eyes on me and quickly examined my face with motherly intuition. “You’re practically glowing, Arianna.” She raised a single, black brow. “Is there something you’d like to share with us tonight?”

Hiding a smile, I exchanged a glance with Bennett. He looked just as amused by his mother’s probing. She’d been hinting at wanting grandchildren for almost a year now. She would be thrilled to learn that we were officially trying to have a baby.

Bennett smiled and slipped an arm around his mother’s slender shoulders. “Come on, Mother. Let’s find Father and get through dinner before you start questioning us about your future grandchildren.” He steered her in the direction of the formal living room.

I fell into step behind them as Léa asked, “Does that mean I’ll have a grandchild in nine months?”

Bennett sent me a playful look over the top of her silver-streaked head and answered evasively. “Maybe.”

“Bennett, you are a wretched tease,” Léa scolded.

When we reached the formal living room, she bustled over to the open set of glass doors. “Michel,” she called out onto the patio. “Ben and Arianna are here.” Turning back, she gestured toward the collection of regal furniture in the circular-shaped room. “Please, have a seat. I’ll put together some drinks.”

Bennett placed a hand on the small of my back and led me over to the tufted sofa beneath the windows. It had a classic French look, with a hand-carved wood trim and cream-colored fabric. Polished marble flooring stretched across the room. The walls were white and touched up with intricate wood encasings that stretched up into the dome-shaped ceiling. Dark blue drapes dangled from rods at the top of the arched windows, bringing color into the neutral space and matching beautifully with the navy and white paisley-patterned throw pillows.

“The usual, Ben?” Léa questioned as she rummaged through the drink cart. At his nod, she turned to me. “And wine for you, Arianna?”

I declined, earning a knowing look from her just as Lord Deimos entered the room on a whiff of cigars. As a government politician, he was dressed in his usual business suit. A grin spread across his face at the sight of us, white teeth flashing in his dark, short-cropped beard. “Bonsoir,” Michel greeted as he crossed the room in long strides.

We rose from the sofa to meet him halfway. Bennett reached out to shake hands, but his father pulled him in for a hug instead. “Welcome home, son.” He released him and turned to me with a smile. “Arianna, you’re even lovelier than the last time we saw you.” He drew me in for a warm hug as well. I may have been a princess, but Bennett’s parents had always treated me like family.

Léa joined us and handed Bennett his icy glass of pastis. “Isn’t she glowing, Michel?” she hinted to her husband.

He examined me with dark eyes that were the same exact shade as Bennett’s. “She does have a different glow about her,” Michel conceded.

“And she turned down wine, Michel,” Léa added with a nod.

I suppressed a smile. She was like a cat with a canary.

“Well now,” Michel said. A hint of interest colored his voice. “Does that mean you two have some news to share with us?”

Bennett and I shared a look. He slid an arm around my shoulders and tucked me close against his side, then smiled at his parents. “We’re not pregnant yet, but we have started trying for a baby.” His grin widened at their matching smiles. “We hope you’ll be grandparents soon.”

His mother clapped her hands in delight and reached out to hug me. “Oh, that’s wonderful news!”

I squeezed her back, sharing in her joy. “We’re excited too.”

When she turned to hug her son, I was swept up into Michel’s fierce embrace. “We’re very happy for you two. There’s no greater joy than having children.” He stepped back with a smile and rubbed the spot over his breastbone, looking lost in thought. Then he grinned again as he clapped a hand over Bennett’s shoulder. “Congratulations, son.”

After the well-wishes were exchanged, Michel ushered us over to stand before the grand fireplace and passed out drinks for a toast. Holding up my glass of sparkling water, I smiled at their exuberant faces. If they were this excited over the news that we were trying for a baby, I could only imagine their joy when we were actually expecting.

Raising his glass, Michel spoke in a deep voice filled with emotion. “To Bennett and Arianna. You’re about to set out on one of life’s greatest journeys. Parenting is a challenge and sometimes you’ll make mistakes, but every choice will be for the benefit of your child—no matter how difficult it is to make.” His gaze paused briefly on Bennett before he continued. “Follow your hearts and remember that every moment is well worth it. Santé!

We clinked our glasses together in cheers. It was a night we would always remember.

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