Authors: Heather Long
Some Like It Secret
Some Like It Secret
By: Heather Long
Edited by: Virginia Nelson
Published by Heather Long
© 2014 Heather Long
Cover Art by Scott Carpenter
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All characters in this book are fiction and figments of the author’s imagination.
Some Like It Secret
His life is an open book.
The second Andraste son, Sebastian, has always been the “spare.” His secret affair began as a lucky accident yet lasted over five years. After his older brother’s marriage, the press speculates wildly about which Dagmar will be next. The paparazzi dogs his every step, making it harder and harder to spend time with Meredith. When she abruptly ends the relationship, his world seems to turn upside down.
She’s his dirty little secret.
The last place Meredith Blake expected to find herself was in the bed of a prince, but her tempestuous affair with Sebastian Dagmar feeds her need for passion. He's put off revealing their relationship and, understanding his need for privacy, she’s contented herself with being the object of his very real affection whenever they were together. Those times draw farther and farther apart and his royal life stampedes their romance. She wonders if she's just not good enough for him. Deciding enough is enough, Meredith ends their affair, tired of being his dirty little secret.
Enough is enough…
Sebastian wanted to protect Meredith from the media and security circus that came with the royal package, but he refuses to lose the love of his life. He'd do anything to keep her—even kidnap her to a private isle. Can he overcome her reluctance, evade the press, and protect her from assassins determined to end the Dagmar family once and for all?
Some Like it Royal
Some Like it Scandalous
Some Like it Deadly
For Mallory and Virginia because they never stopped believing.
This series began as a dream of telling a fairytale in modern times, it grew from there. Two of the books were written as presents to one of my best friends, and they are all beautiful journeys that swept me away until I wasn’t writing a book so much as experiencing the story as it translated onto the page. Thank you to everyone who has helped, encouraged, asked or begged me to keep going. As always, a special thank you to my Mini, who always believes in me.
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
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?”
A hint of a blush turned her cheeks pink, but her smile filled with delight. “Are you sure? What about…?” She mimed a small twirl of her finger to include their circle of security.
“We let them do their jobs,” he told her gently, escorting her out to the floor. As expected, the men and women on duty widened their circle automatically, but Sebastian also knew better than to draw Alyx to the center, choosing instead an emptier part of the floor.
“I’m still not terribly used to having them shadow my steps—and before you start,” she wrinkled her nose, exasperation lighting up the words. “I know
I have to have them. Daniel and Armand are thick as thieves on the subject.”
He didn’t smile, though her eyes twinkled with the invitation for him to join in her laughter. “You will get used to it.” Years of living under the harsh lens of observation hadn’t dulled him to its effects—or costs.
“I accept the concept, if only because I think I’ve finally gotten used to the idea people
take my picture, even if I cannot truly fathom why they think I am so interesting.”
“It’s not you—” When her jaw fell, Sebastian felt another reluctant smile tugging at the corners of his mouth. He genuinely liked his cousin. She didn’t play any of the familiar games. “Truthfully, you are charming and a delight—but their fascination is with the idea of you and the crown. Some believe if they can touch a part of your charmed life, the charm will rub off on them.”
“That is the most ridiculous thing.” She halted mid-step and he paused obediently. “I have hardly led a charmed life.”
“Again…” His smile faded as he coaxed her into moving once more. “It’s not about you. It’s about the position. An unfortunate by-product of our DNA in a world populated by social media and interaction is the public desire for wish fulfillment on their terms.” Meredith never longed for either. She’d respected his position, but guarded against their exposure. While he’d delighted in their privacy, he’d taken great pains to keep her protected.
The first waltz segued into a second and, when Sebastian would have guided her off the floor, Alyx looked at him imploringly. “One more? Please?”
Consenting, he drew her back into his arms. “It would be my honor.”
Three steps into their second dance, all of Alyx’s playfulness fled and he felt the full weight of her regard. The corner of his mouth turned up. He should have seen the ambush coming, but his lovely cousin was far more cunning than his brothers.
“Why are you so very sad, Sebastian?”
Though her question beckoned an answer, he could not indulge her curiosity. “It could quite possibly be the chicken. You did notice it was green, didn’t you?”
The glib non-answer didn’t satisfy his cousin. Her lips barely twitched. “You smile with your mouth and you say the words with just the right inflections, but your eyes are unhappy.”
Far too practiced to allow her keen observation to rattle him, Sebastian smiled and let his affection for her show. “You have no need to be concerned, but your worry is sweet and I thank you for it.”
“All right, if that’s how you want to play it.” Her candor never failed to entertain him. “But we are
and I would like to be your friend.”
Whether it was the frustration underscoring her words or his own bleakness over Meredith, Sebastian couldn’t say, but he wanted to put Alyx’s mind at ease. Directing her to the edge of the dance floor, he halted and took her hands in his. “I would very much like to believe we are already friends.”
His response elicited the most unexpected result. Tears filled Alyx’s eyes and he went still. Awareness of their surroundings and the level of observation had Sebastian turning her away from the tables and clear of the other dancers.
With care, he slid his hand into the inside pocket of his tuxedo jacket and pulled out a clean, pressed handkerchief. Alyx accepted the cloth with a watery laugh and carefully dabbed at her eyes. “Victor would be horrified if my mascara started running.”
“You look beautiful,” Sebastian assured her.
Thankfully, her husband chose the moment to intercept them. With a cordial, if quick, nod at Sebastian, Daniel Voldakov slipped an arm around his wife. He kissed her temple gently. “Are you all right?”
“I’m fine, but Sebastian was very sweet and I think I horrified us both by bursting into tears.” Another damp laugh and her smile grew in brilliance. “I didn’t expect to be so hormonal.”
Not quite wincing at the word, Sebastian made a point of looking elsewhere. This seemed a very private discussion to have in such a public place. Then her words registered, and he took a really good look at his cousin.
Alyx flushed under his gaze and, after a quick peek at Daniel, she gave Sebastian a secretive smile. “We’re not confirming or denying anything yet.”
Message received. “Please, let me know when I may respond to any confirmations or denials.”
“I will,” she promised and leaned her head on her husband’s shoulder. “Do you think it would be poor protocol to slip away now?”
“Absolutely not. The dinner is done, as are all the tedious speeches. You have danced and smiled and been perfectly gracious.” Catching her hand again, Sebastian bowed once more and pressed a kiss to her knuckles.
“He’s right,” Daniel agreed and nuzzled her forehead. “I’ve already asked for the car to be brought around. It was good to see you, Sebastian.”
“And you, Daniel.” Family did not have to stand on ceremony.
“Are you staying in Los Angeles for longer than a day this time?” Alyx asked. “We would love to have you over—dinner one evening, perhaps?”
Sebastian hesitated. He’d intended to leave the next day, but he hadn’t alerted anyone to his plans, save for his security detail and pilot. “I am not terribly certain of my schedule.” Not a lie. “I actually asked Vidal earlier what city I was in.” Also, not a lie. “But I will call, and we’ll make arrangements.”