Surrender - 4
This is dedicated to my grandma Janet. Your memory will be with me forever, and I will cherish the time I had with you.
I lost you way too soon, but you will remain in my heart forever!
Note from the Author
Thank you to all of you who have stuck with me through this series and my other series, as well. What a joy it is to hear from you and to see your response to my books. What started out as a pastime for me has turned into a great and unstoppable passion.
I love writing. I love coming up with characters and putting them in seemingly unimaginable situations. This is the greatest job on earth. Thank you to all my fans for your words of encouragement and for your loyalty.
Thank you to all my new friends in the author community. It’s a close group, since we share a lot of the same experiences, both highs and lows. I love being able to spend time with you, and to share ideas. After my fantastic weekend in South Carolina with the fabulous Ruth Cardello, Kathleen Brooks, and Cali MacKay, I couldn’t wait to get home and start writing again. There’s something about hanging around amazingly talented women that kick-starts the creative process.
Thank you to my amazing team — Jeff and Patsy Winchester, Ray White, and Kathiey Dame — who do so much behind the scenes to allow me to sit down comfortably and write to my heart’s desire.
I owe a huge thank-you, as always, to my family, whom I love more than life itself. My daughter left for college at the end of September, and my heart broke a little bit, but it also expanded because she’s having so much fun and is really thriving there. It’s hard to let go, but she will always be my baby girl. I have my son at home for only another two years before he’s off into the world. Family is what life is all about.
I hope you all have a wonderful holiday season this year.
“This tradition of not seeing the bride before the wedding is ridiculous. I think it would be so much wiser if we just met up for one hour to help…ease our…nerves,” Rafe said with a seductive purr.
“Mmm, sounds good to me. Now if I could just get away from my mother for two seconds, I would think about taking you up on that offer, Mr. Palazzo,” Ari replied with a giggle.
“I can pull the fire alarm,” Rafe suggested.
His tone implied that he was 100 percent serious about doing just that. The strange part was that Ari was actually considering it.
“I think our parents would disown us,” she said.
“I can live with that.”
“I love you, Rafe,” she told him, overcome with emotion as she cradled the phone to her ear, wanting so badly to touch him, feel him there next to her. She’d only been apart from him for one night, but today was her wedding day — the day she would become his wife.
She wanted to throw out all tradition and simply be in his arms. Their years apart now seemed like such a waste, though she knew that the time had helped them grow and mature.
“You are the center of my world, Ari,” he replied.
It meant more to her to hear him say that than a simple I love you. To be the center of a person like Rafe’s world was indeed a compliment.
“After the wedding is over, I have a very special surprise for you,” she whispered as she glanced over at the bathroom door to make sure it was still tightly shut.
The breath rushed audibly from his mouth. “What is that?”
Oh, the excitement she felt at so easily arousing her fiancé.
“For starters, what I’m wearing beneath this wedding dress wouldn’t even cover a Barbie doll,” she replied.
“You’re going to give me a heart attack before I’m able to say my vows,” he whispered, strain in his voice.
“I wouldn’t want to do that. I couldn’t do a striptease for you then, and… Oh, I shouldn’t give it all away,” she taunted him.
“That’s it! The alarm is getting pulled right now.”
Ari didn’t want to argue. She wouldn’t mind getting rid of her pre-wedding jitters by spending an hour in his arms. Heck, she’d take fifteen minutes.
Sandra knocked. “Ari, I can hear you on the phone,” she said through the door. “That’s cheating, young lady,” her mother added with a smile in her voice.
“We’ve been busted, Rafe. I guess you will just have to wait until tonight to see my bright red negligée.”
“We’ll see about waiting that long. I may not be able to stand it — just like I can’t wait to say my vows with you.”
“Becoming Mrs. Palazzo can’t come soon enough for me.”
They hung up and Ari reluctantly left the bathroom so the huge team who had been hired to make her perfect could continue to prep her. Soon, she would be Mrs. Rafe Palazzo. The minutes would creep by, but at least the end was in sight.
Damned makeup. Damned mirror. Damned nausea.
Up until this point she hadn’t felt even the slightest indisposition, but here it was, the day of her brother’s wedding, and she was suddenly overcome with morning sickness. In the middle of the freaking afternoon. She dropped the mascara, reached down to feel her stomach, and groaned heavily.
“Please, just let me get through the ceremony. Then we can tell the family all about you. We don’t need to make your presence known by my throwing up all over your uncle Rafe’s polished new shoes,” Rachel said aloud.
She had to smile. She hadn’t wanted be a mother yet, but that didn’t change the fact that it was going to happen. It seemed that she’d gotten past most of the fear and was now moving on to acceptance. Amazingly enough, she was beginning to love this little creation she’d made by accident.
It hadn’t taken her as long as she’d thought. Only three and a half months. Now, she couldn’t picture her life without this child.
“I promise to buy you a pony if you just allow me to get through the wedding with no problems,” she offered with a chuckle.
Didn’t all children want their very own pony? Well, she’d find out very soon whether the bribe worked.
“Maybe our child wants his presence to be known to the world. After all, he is the future king of Corythia and shouldn’t be hidden, even while still in the womb.”
Rachel froze as she peered into the mirror and discovered Ian, or King Adriane, standing just inside the door to her room.
Of course. The day was just getting better and better.
It was more than obvious that this man wasn’t going to simply disappear. Why make it easy for her and her unborn child? She should have known he wouldn’t have the patience to wait for a better time to seek her out.
It was all about his schedule and what was convenient to him. This was one of the reasons she had refused to answer his calls — he was too damn impatient. She didn’t know what she wanted to do yet; she didn’t have any answers for him, so there was no point in them talking just yet.
“You weren’t invited here, Ian,” she said in her haughtiest tone. She quickly regained her composure after the initial shock of seeing him.
“I didn’t ask for your permission, Rachel. You’ve been avoiding me for too long now. Don’t you realize how rude that is?” he asked with irritation as he prowled about the room, coming closer to where she was sitting.
“I would say that you’re the one being rude. I didn’t invite you to any wedding, much less my brother’s. And I certainly didn’t allow you into the room I’m dressing in.”
“You’ve apparently been coddled too long, because your manners are appalling.”
Rachel gasped at his audacity and lack of self-awareness. If her stomach hadn’t been rolling, she’d have shot to her feet to confront him more forcefully. The man needed to be taught a lesson on how to treat a lady. He was no knight in shining armor, and certainly no Prince Charming — or King Charming in his case.
“Yes, you are right, Ian Graziani, or I guess I should say Adriane, since even your name was a lie. I have been very well taken care of my entire life because I have parents who adore me as I adore them. This is my brother and my best friend’s wedding, and I don’t have time to fight with you today. Leave now, and I will talk to you next week.”
Rachel’s choice of words and abrupt dismissal lit a fire inside him that went shooting through his eyes. Well, tough, she thought. They were having a child together, one she was carrying, and as long as he continued treating her like a servant, he’d have to get used to her attitude. She didn’t submit well — not well at all.
“I’ve been trying to be reasonable with you, Rachel, but you insist on acting like a spoiled brat. I tire of this game you are playing.” He stood directly behind her, lifted his hand and placed it on her shoulder as if he had a right to do so.
Now it was Rachel’s eyes that were blazing. How dare he! Twisting around, she threw his hand off her shoulder.
“Look, Ian. I really don’t want to say something that can’t be taken back. It’s more than apparent that you don’t have the same consideration toward me. Before this goes any further, I suggest you do as I’ve requested and make yourself scarce,” she said between clenched teeth.
“I was invited here, Rachel — by your brother,” he told her smugly.
“Why in the world would he invite you?”
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