His Two Royal Secrets

By: Caitlin Crews

From heiress in the shadows


...to his pregnant princess!

For one passionate night, in a stranger’s arms, Pia had felt beautiful and free...free of being the lonely, overlooked heiress to her family’s millions. Then Pia learns she’s carrying the Crown Prince of Atilia’s twins! Ruthless Ares is determined to claim his secret heirs, but he won’t—can’t—promise Pia more. And Pia’s true royal secret? She’s falling inescapably in love with her dark-hearted prince...

Discover this seductive royal romance—with a pregnancy twist!









CHAPTER ONE


“THE ONLY THING that matters is the line,” Crown Prince Ares’s dark and intimidating father told him when he was little more than five.

At that age, Ares had no idea what his father meant. He didn’t know what line his father was referring to or what bearing it could possibly have on him anyway. At five, Ares had been primarily concerned with how many hours a day he could spend roaring about the palace grounds, out of sight of his nanny, who was forever trying to make him “act like a gentleman.”

But he had learned, already and painfully, never to question his father.

The king was always right. If the king was wrong, you were mistaken.

By the time he was ten, Prince Ares knew exactly what line his father was referring to, and was already sick to death of hearing about his own blood.

It was only blood. No one cared if he skinned his knee, but it was clearly very important that he listen to lectures about the purpose of that blood. Its dignity. Its import.

When it was still the same blood that welled up in any scrape Ares might get while doing things he shouldn’t around the palace. Things his old nanny liked to tell him were responsible for her gray hair.

“You do not matter,” his father would rant during Ares’s scheduled appointments with him. “You are merely a link in a noble chain, nothing more!”

The king was forever flinging brandy and various decanters this way and that in his private compartments as he worked his temper into a lather. Ares did not enjoy these appointments, not that anyone had asked him.

And Ares had been schooled repeatedly not to move when his father raged. To sit straight, keep his eyes averted, and refrain from any fidgeting or reacting. At ten, he found this to be a kind of torture.

“He likes a moving target, child,” his mother would tell him, her voice cracking as she sat with him, her hands cool against his face and her eyes kind. “You must work on keeping your posture perfect, and never betray your emotions by so much as a flick of an eyelash.”

“What would happen if I threw something at the wall?”

The queen’s smile was always so sad. “Don’t do that, Ares. Please.”

Ares came to think of it as something of a game. He pretended to be a statue, like the ones that would be made of him someday to grace the King’s Gallery that had stood in the Grand Hall of the Northern Palace since—or so the story went—the islands that made up the kingdom of Atilia rose up from the sea. Marble and gold, with a fancy plaque listing his accomplishments.

“Our line has held the crown of Atilia for centuries,” his father would thunder, while Ares would think, I am stone. “And now it rests entirely in your hands. You, a weakling, who I can hardly credit sprung from my own loins.”

Stone straight through, Ares would tell himself, his eyes on the windows and the sea outside.

By the time Ares was a teenager, he had perfected the art of sitting deathly still in his father’s presence. Perfected it and also complicated it, because he was an adolescent and more certain by the day that he had not one drop of the old king’s blood in him—because he hated him too much to be related to him.

“You must never, ever say such things out loud,” his mother told him, her voice as exhausted as her gaze was serious. “You must never give anyone in your father’s court leave to doubt your parentage, Ares. Promise me.”

He had promised, of course. Ares would have promised his mother anything.

Still, sometimes the crown prince was not in a mood to play statues. Sometimes he preferred to stare back at his father with as much insolence as he could muster, wordlessly daring the increasingly old and stooped king to throw something at him. Instead of at the stone walls of the palace, as he usually did.

“You are nothing but a disappointment to me,” the king thundered at every appointment—which, thankfully, occurred only a handful of times a year now that Ares was dispatched to boarding schools all over Europe. “Why should I be cursed with such a weak and insolent heir?”

Which, naturally, only encouraged Ares to live down to the worst expectations his father had of him.

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