GLASS SLIPPERS AND JEWELED MASQUES
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About the book:
Cindi Lancourte is the illegitimate daughter of a powerful businessman and a lovely woman who worked for him. Acknowledged when his wife died, she was quickly relegated to the role of servant by his new wife and step-daughters, but an invitation to a Masquerade gives this Cinderella a new shot at happiness with a handsome Prince Charming.
"You can't be serious?"
"Amerasha needs stability," King Alenzo Coranthaos reminded his only son. "Our future lies with you!"
Michel Alexandros Coranthaos, heir to the island nation of Coranthis, turned from the castle window to look intently at his father. He tried to keep his voice even and free of the irritation that was coursing through his veins like a living thing. "Father, you are in the prime of your years, hardly on the verge of dying of old age. I fail to see why you think it so necessary for me to marry and produce offspring!"
His father's shoulders stiffened at the words and Michel sighed inwardly. He schooled his expression to careful neutrality and waited for the rebuke he sensed was coming to him.
"Why do you think it so necessary to remain unmarried, Michel?"
Startled by the calm question, he took a few moments to seriously consider the question. He could be flippant about it, or he could for a change be honest. The expectancy in his father's eyes decided him and he crossed the distance between them.
"I don't think it's unnecessary, father. I simply choose to wait for a woman I can love and respect, someone I can share my life with, as you did with mother."
Alenzo looked at his son, and nodded, expression grave.
"I wish to see you happy, Michel." He held up a hand to ward off the reply Michel was about to make and smiled, albeit with sadness. "You have played the carefree prince for many years, but there is an emptiness in your life that needs to be filled. Tell me this is not truth? If you can?"
Michel stared, genuinely surprised by the turn of the conversation. He'd answered his father's summons with the expectation of another of their increasingly frequent arguments. Instead, he was being accorded a direct honesty that had once been the core of their relationship, but had often been lacking in years. He sat down and for a few moments he remained silent, then he leaned back in the comfortable chair and nodded.
"There is no sense denying what you say, father. I am not a happy man," he admitted, then laughed with real bitterness. "I don't lack for attention, but it feels very hollow."
Alenzo nodded. "It's time to bring a bride to you, my son."
Michel frowned, and waited for the trap to spring. He should have recognized the change in tactics, his father was a supreme manipulator.
Michel felt an unwanted shiver of longing wake within him as she caressed his hand. His gaze dropped to the neckline of her dress, the soft fullness of her breasts tempting him. She pressed more intimately against his growing arousal; unaware of the effect she was having on him. The rolling motion of the subtle dance was an aphrodisiac to his roused lust, and he encircled her waist with both hands as he pushed his hips against the cushion of her body. Her soft gasping moan of pleasure created a shudder that ran the length of him and his hands moved of their own volition. The firm swells of her breasts filled his palms, and he kneaded the soft flesh gently as he pulled her into more solid contact with him. Her fingers curled around his wrists, but she made no attempt to pull his hands from their sensual task.
When his lips touched the curve of her shoulder, she cried out, a soft rumble of desire that he suspected she didn’t recognize as her own voice. She was creating madness inside him. The taste of her against his tongue when he touched her neck was heavenly and she trembled in his arms, imprisoned by his passion. His name was a gasp on her lips, and finally he turned her to face him. Her eyes blazed into his, and she wrapped her arms around his waist, lifted her mouth to his kiss.
Michel groaned softly as he stared into the smoldering green of her eyes, and his mouth descended swiftly to cover hers. Her lips parted to the thrust of his tongue and he plundered the moist warmth of her mouth. She was pliant and eager in his arms, her hands moved in exploring circles over the expanse of his back as she clung to him. His hands tangled in the heavy masses of her auburn hair, the tresses silken against his skin.
The night had grown still around them and still their fevered kisses and caresses held them entwined in a tempest of emotion neither of them fully understood. Michel drew away first, held her shaking hands in his as he tried to breathe through the near pain of his lust. She was dazed, her eyes dark with need she didn’t fully comprehend. She looked up at him, expectant, her breaths hoarse and erratic.
“Miss, your carriage has arrived, and the footman asked me to fetch you."
The spell shattered and she tore her gaze from Michel's.
"I have to go," she said.
Before he could stop her, she was working her way through the crowd, and he was chasing her. He was stopped by grasping arms and voices vying for his attention.
"What's wrong, Michel?"
He tore his masque off and looked at his father. "The woman you were with, the one in green, where is she, Father?"