Chapter 1 - The Good And The Bad News
Raena raised her head, locking her eyes on the two guards on duty in front of her husband’s office. They were both bowing their heads down in respect, one palm pressing on the left side of their chest. It was the highest form of respect, as she had learned over the years. When greeting a superior it was only required to bow your head or kneel — if one was in front of the Emperor for example — but if they wanted to show devotion and deeper respect for the person themselves, they would place their hands over their hearts.
Raena smiled. All of them always greeted Kassian like that and as they got to know her better and saw how Kassian treated her, their attitude changed. She couldn’t blame them for not doing it before. Kassian had had a whole harem of women after all, and he had neglected most of them for a long time. It was only natural for his men to ignore them as well. Still, it brought her a weird sense of satisfaction that she had never seen his soldiers greet Lara with a hand on their hearts, even when she used to be his favorite concubine and basically ruled the harem.
“At ease,” Raena said gently, and they assumed their positions by the door. “Is he inside?”
“Yes, Your Highness. Shall I announce you?” one of them asked readily, his hand already reaching for the handle.
“There is no need. It’s not an official business,” Raena replied, and he opened the door for her. Raena slipped past them and entered the big oval room that stole most of her husband’s attention these days. With her giving up overseeing the restaurant in favor of raising their daughters and resting, she was slowly growing crazy while doing nothing and lazing around all day. But now that she had passed the first trimester, the doctor had deemed her healthy and their daughters were big enough, she was going back. She needed to go back — which was what she was going to tell him tonight.
She flinched, realizing that she had grown distracted by her thoughts and was just standing by the door without moving. Kassian was sitting behind his desk, which was overflowing with scrolls and papers lying around in complete chaos. Blaine’s desk, which was on the other side of the room by one of the walls, was the exact opposite — neat and tidy, just like its diligent owner.
“Still working?” she asked, making her way into the room as their eyes followed her. “Do you have a lot left to do?”
“We were just about to wrap things up,” Blaine replied while Kassian grimaced. “Another hour maybe, and we’ll be done for the day.”
“Hmm, that’s too bad,” Raena sighed, leaning on the edge of Kassian’s desk while her eyes remained on Blaine. The aide raised an eyebrow questionably, glancing towards Kassian as if to see if he knew what she was talking about. “In an hour, it will probably be too late.”
“What would it be too late, Your Highness?” Blaine frowned, a few worry lines forming on his forehead as he pushed his glasses up with his forefinger. “Is something amiss?”
“Oh, no, everything is fine,” Raena waved her hand. “By the way, Kara is staying the night since we ended up talking too late and I couldn’t, in good conscience, let her go home alone at this hour. We just had dinner, and she went for a short stroll in the garden before retiring for the night.” Raena tried to hold back her laughter as the look of worry on the aide’s face turned into one of excitement. For such a stiff and reserved person as Blaine, it was hilarious to see his expression light up when her friend’s name was mentioned.
“Um, well…” Blaine said, looking down at his desk as if searching for his confidence. Before he could finish that sentence, Kassian let out a sigh.
“I’m too tired to work. We should call it a night,” he said and Blaine’s head snapped towards him. “Go already.”
“Yes, Your Highness,” Blaine replied, already pulling his jacket from the back of his chair. “Please rest well, both of you. Good evening.”
He bowed his head for a second, then rushed towards the door when Kassian’s voice stopped him.
“Remember what I told you, Blaine?” he asked and his aide turned to look at him over his shoulder. “Be aggressive! Stop missing your chances!”
“What? No!” Raena exclaimed, glaring at her husband before looking back at Blaine. “Do not listen to him, Blaine! Do not be aggressive, you hear me? Force is never the answer!”
Blaine seemed to hesitate, so she jumped off the edge of the desk, preparing to go and shake him until common sense returned to his brain. A pair of hands wrapped around her from behind and Kassian pulled her into his lap before she could take a step.
“Go,” the third prince urged, and before she could do anything, Blaine was closing the door from outside. She twisted around and punched her husband’s shoulder.
“What kind of nonsense are you spouting? Be aggressive?” she snarled. “This is Kara we’re talking about! And even if it’s not her, that’s still not alright! What if someone decides to get aggressive with your daughters, huh?”
Kassian’s face stiffened, then he sighed heavily.
“It’s not what you think,” he said, tightening his hands around her when she tried to get up. “All I told him is that he should stop waiting around for Kara to give him a clear signal to proceed with their courting. I told him to make a big move and see her reaction. She’ll either reject him or allow it. Either way, they will be out of this annoying stalemate that they have been in for months.” Raena sighed, trying one more time to wiggle her way out of his grasp, but he refused to let go. “This is Blaine we’re talking about. You know him. The worst he can do is hug her and then apologize for half an hour for taking the liberty. Please don’t be mad. I am just trying to help him get a hold of his happiness just like I am.”
“So cheesy,” Raena grimaced, but despite her words, she felt her anger slowly drain away. Kassian chuckled, his hold loosening so she was able to turn around and look at him properly. Dark circles had formed under his beautiful eyes and his face seemed slimmer than she remembered. With the new continent’s delegation’s delayed arrival and his own work piling up, he had been spending most of his time cooped up in his office or going on inspections. She didn’t want to interfere with his work, so she had been desperately trying to find stuff to do around the house, but the truth was, she missed him. She couldn’t wait for this craziness to be over so they could spend some time alone before she was too pregnant for anything.
Kassian stared at her, eyebrows raised as if noticing the shift in her mood.
Raena got up from his lap only to stride his legs and wrap her arms around his neck. She almost laughed at the stiff, tortured expression that appeared on his face as her body rubbed against his. His hands remained on her waist, but he didn’t try anything, despite the hungry look on his face.
“Raena, we can’t…” he sighed, closing his eyes. “The doctor said that doing anything in the first three months might be risky for the baby.” He leaned his head on her shoulder, sighing again. She could tell how hard he was already, but his restraint for the past few months had been ironclad. Judging by his reaction, he probably didn’t know the doctor examined her today.
“My poor husband, it must be hard…” she chuckled and heard him snort, his fingers tightening on her waist.
“You’re not as funny as you think,” he mumbled, hugging her tightly.
“What? I’m hilarious!” Raena grinned, leaning down and kissing his neck. His skin bristled and his shoulders tensed as he let out a muffled groan. “Anyway, I have two pieces of news for you. One you’ll like and one you won’t. Which one do you want to hear first?”
He straightened up, giving her an apprehensive book. Raena smiled to put him at ease, then placed another kiss on his cheek.
“Start with the one I won’t like,” he said, his tone careful. Raena swallowed the lump in her throat, picking her words carefully. They had agreed long ago that he wouldn’t stop her from going back to work as long as she never left without an escort, but a lot of time had passed since then and she was afraid his overprotectiveness might cause him to break his word. She didn’t want to fight him while their relationship was in such a good place, but she didn’t want to be the only one making compromises.
“I’m going to the restaurant tomorrow and I plan to start managing it along with Kara,” she announced, holding his gaze. The fire in his eyes slowly died down and he stared at her with a serious, displeased expression. She didn’t look away, but waited for his reaction patiently. What she didn’t expect was for him to sigh, his shoulders slouching.
“I figured that’s coming. You’ve been like a hungry rat in a cage for the last few months. I am surprised you lasted this long,” he said, scratching his neck. “Our agreement stands, though. You can’t go anywhere without an escort and you must not come home too late or stay out overnight without me knowing where and with whom you are. You are not Madam Lydia anymore, you are part of the royal family. Your head alone is worth more than you can imagine, and there will be people who might want to harm you everywhere you go. Understood?”
“U-U-Understood,” she replied automatically, staring at him as if seeing him for the first time. She had expected more opposition from his side, more grimacing and grumbling, but it seemed like all her worries were for naught. She leaned down and kissed him, pressing herself against him. He returned her kiss reluctantly, but once she ran her tongue over his lips, he seemed to give up his resistance. His hands traveled down to her ass, and he squeezed it tightly before getting up with her still in his arms and placing her on his desk. She thought he’d push her down and continue what they were doing, but instead, he took a step back and grabbed her shoulders as if to stop her from moving any closer. His expression was so hilarious, that she couldn’t help but tease him some more.
“My, my. Is my husband growing a sense of restraint after all of these years, or are you already tired of this body now that it has given birth twice?” she grinned and Kassian glared at her. “It’s a no then?”
“Enough already, you evil woman!” he sighed. “I’m barely holding back as it is. Let me remain a gentle and considerate husband. I don’t want to be called a ‘feral animal in heat’ again.” He ran his hand through his hair, peeking at her while she tried to hold back her laughter. “Anyway, what are the good news?”
“Ah, it’s not important,” Raena grinned, sliding off the desk. Kassian gave her a suspicious look, catching her hand as she tried to move past him.
“Raena…” he said with a warning voice. “You know it makes me nervous when you hide things from me. What are the good news?”
“I saw the doctor today,” she said with a smile, pulling her hand away. Kassian let go, his expression tense. “He said I was in perfect health and in great physical condition. So good, in fact, I am allowed to have fun with my husband. That was until my own husband asked me not to touch him. So I’ll…”
The ground beneath her feet disappeared as Kassian pulled her back, wrapping a hand around her waist. His other hand pushed her hair away, exposing her neck. He ran his tongue over the tender skin, chuckling as she shuddered.
“This is entirely your doing,” he whispered in her ear before pulling back. He ran his hand over his desk, pushing off the piles of papers before seating her back on top of it. He wasted no time in lifting her skirts up, his fingers running on the inside of her thighs as she arched her head back, giving his busy mouth more places to kiss.
His fingers slipped under her underwear, rubbing her clit teasingly until she moaned, her fingers gripping his neck.
“You’re so wet from just one kiss?” Kassian chuckled, brushing his lips against her ear and sending a shiver down her spine. “Or did you come here intending to get into this exact position? Is this why you send Blaine away? What a lewd woman…”
Raena opened her mouth to retort when his finger slipped inside of her. She gasped, biting her lip to stop back another moan when Kassian’s lips crashed against hers, his tongue sliding into her mouth. His free hand slid behind her neck, stopping her from pulling away when he added another finger inside of her.
“Kassian…” she whimpered, sensing his lips curving in a smile against hers. Why did it feel like she had lost when she had started this whole thing? They hadn’t had s*x ever since they found out she was pregnant and she had been pent up, but why was he so patient? “Please, no more teasing…”
He broke the kiss, catching her eyes. Contrary to her expectations, they were not calm at all. Hooded with lust and that affectionate spark she loved so much, they were almost scary in their intensity.
“Well, if my wife begs so sweetly…” he muttered, letting go of her and unbuckling his pants. He pulled her to the edge of the desk, adjusting between her legs while keeping her skirts out of the way. He gave her a taunting smirk just before thrusting into her, but then his expression turned into one of a struggle. “f**k, I almost came from just this. See what you’re doing to me?”
Raena didn’t reply, but a weird sense of satisfaction filled her chest. Her self-consciousness had been nagging her for a while with all the changes her body had been through over the past few years, but the loving, lustful look in his eyes had never changed. That alone had made her love him even more than before, but lately, this anxiousness had settled down into her stomach and refused to leave. She had thought it might have been because of her insecurities again, but now when she realized those were unfounded, that feeling was still cowering down there and making her uneasy.
“Hey, pay attention here, wife, or I’ll make you regret it,” Kassian said in a voice heavy with annoyance. He pushed her on her back, raising her legs to his shoulder and wrapping an arm around her thighs. Their eyes met for a second, the smirk that appeared on his face making her heart skip a beat.
He thrust into her again, making her cry out. His movements became quicker, rougher, setting her insides on fire. A tingling sensation formed in the pit of her stomach, and she focused on it as her hands gripped the edge of the desk above her head. Kassian was close too, pulsating inside of her, almost like he was going to explode any second.
They came together a couple of minutes later, her body shuddering with pleasure as she cried out again. Panting heavily, Raena covered her face, suddenly feeling ashamed. She had come with the intention of seducing him — she had been thinking about s*x more and more often lately, and it was driving her crazy that he seemed completely fine. But now that she had done it in his office, in the place where he and Blaine worked…
She felt Kassian’s lips brush against hers and a second later his hand pushed hers away. Their eyes met and the gentle look in his made her feel even more horrible. He slid his hand under her back and helped her sit up, his heart beating hard against her palm that was resting on his chest. He hugged her tightly, nudging his face against her hair.
“Is something wrong? You suddenly looked preoccupied,” he whispered, still patting her head. She hesitated, then hugged him back.
“It’s nothing. I am just feeling anxious at odd times. Like something bad is going to happen,” she laughed awkwardly.
“And you felt that while we were making love?” he scoffed, but when she didn’t reply, he sighed. “That’s probably the pregnancy talking. Nothing bad is going to happen, I’ll make sure of it. So don’t worry so much.”
“Yeah,” Raena nodded, forcing a smile on her face as he leaned over and hugged her tightly again. She closed her eyes and inhaled his familiar scent, telling herself that he was right and she was just being swayed by her hormones again. Just a few minutes ago she was riding on high pleasure and now she was down in the slumps, worrying about nothing. If that was not proof, she didn’t know what it was. “Yeah,” she repeated, more confidently this time. “Shall we go to bed?”
Instead of answering, Kassian picked her up in his arms, heading towards the back door that was connected through a corridor to their living quarters.
“How can I say no when my wife is so impatient to get me into bed?” Kassian chuckled and Raena looked at his playful grin, smacking his shoulder.
“That’s not what I meant. And put me down, I can walk by myself.”
“I’m sorry, love,” he smiled, craning his neck towards her and stealing a kiss. “You’re not leaving my arms tonight."