Some Like it Secret releases Friday, December 26th just in time for you to relax over the holiday weekend!
Want a sneak peek at the first couple of pages?
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 one?
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 himself.
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.
Speaking 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?”