Cassie found her pulse slamming against her temples as she sat in the chair on the third level, where her girls were now learning their lessons. She had started her day with a quick breakfast, then was delivered to the grooming area where three women had been hired to take care of her pampering.
She enjoyed a long, relaxing massage, followed by having her hair washed and styled, and finally a manicure and pedicure. She had her makeup applied, her legs, underarms, and other areas waxed, and finally endured a cleaning out. Hans insisted their wedding night should be memorable, and he didn’t want anything coming in the way of their fun.
The girls arrived after their introduction lessons in bondage, to have simple grooming, while she wrapped herself in the new satin robe Hans presented to her, that matched his. She followed Anson out of the room and down the corridor to the elevator, when the door opened, and Rosa stepped out.
She had graduated from crutches to a cane and still walked around with a large boot on her ankle. The pins that held her bones together would be removed the following Monday, then therapy would begin. Until then, she was released to return home and had spent the better part of the past month in her private chambers in the main castle.
“I’m glad I found you,” Rosa told Cassie with a wide smile. “Hans asked that I discuss some…female things with you before the ceremony. I’m sure you’ll understand, Anson.”
“I had orders to return her to her room to get dressed,” the man told her with a dark expression that frightened Cassie.
The man had always been very considerate and caring, and far less formal than the other guards. Lately, he had been surly and cross with everyone, especially the women. Cassie was glad his normal station was the first and second levels. She worried about the girls who were on that stage of learning but knew Liam was always there to protect them.
“I need to discuss her wedding night with her,” Rosa said, matching the man’s determination with her own.
“It’s alright,” Cassie interrupted when Anson took a step forward, his hand clenched at his side. “I already know about sex, and what to expect. I doubt there is anything I need to discuss right now. Besides, the ceremony is supposed to start at one o’clock, and there’s not much time left before the priest gets here.”
“I needed to discuss…contraception,” Rosa told her, fearing what might happen if either Anson or Cassie mentioned to Hans, that she detained the bride.
“There’s no need for that either,” Cassie assured her, taking a step closer to the elevator. “Hans has decided to use a more natural method of protection for now.”
“What natural method?”
“I believe he called it, the pull-out method.”
“That doesn’t always work,” Rosa snorted with amusement. “My own pregnancy was a result of the pull-out method.”
“Your pregnancy?” Cassie asked, stopping and turning to look at the woman. “I wasn’t aware you had a child.”
“I said a pregnancy, not a child. I’m not exactly the maternal type.”
“You aborted it?”
“Don’t look so shocked,” Rosa smiled. “There’s no room in this castle for children. It was hardly the first time an unwanted pregnancy was terminated, and I doubt it will be the last.”
“There’s no time for this,” Anson said, interrupting the two. “His Lordship is waiting.”
“I need five minutes,” Rosa said sternly. “It was Hans’s instructions that she knows her options.”
“Make it quick,” Anson said in a stern, almost rude tone of voice.
Cassie found herself being pulled into the medical unit, though she wasn’t sure how her feet were moving. She was stunned with the information Rosa told her. She understood the castle was a dark, dismal place, but no children meant…
“You have choices between pills, the IUD, an implant that goes in your arm, or patches. I still think the shot would have worked, but I don’t think Hans gave it enough time to take hold.”
“No…I…I’ll stick with Hans’s method,” Cassie commented.
“I was hoping for some time to talk with you, but I suppose it’s too late for that,” Rosa said in a soft, angry voice. “I was hoping you would be able to help me…help the girls.”
“I am helping them,” Cassie said, shaking herself back to reality. “Now, if you’ll excuse me…”
“Has he told you about your friend?” Rosa asked, stopping her from leaving the room.
“Which friend?” Cassie asked hesitantly.
“Sophia Arnold. Has he told you what happened to her after she left you that day?”
“She was returned to the training level.”
“Is that what he said?” she snorted.
“What are you suggesting, Rosa?”
“He was angry when you returned to the lessons,” the woman began as she turned and crossed her arms over her chest. “He blamed her for you leaving him. He ordered her to be beaten, then placed in the cage.”
“That’s a lie,” Cassie said firmly. “I saw her with Hans and another man the day of the auctions.
“Yes, …he did arrange for her to be sold…” Rosa said hesitantly. “But…she resisted the union…”
“What are you saying, Rosa?” Cassie asked in an angry tone, that caused Anson to open the door on them.
“Enough,” the man said, taking Cassie by the arm and pulling her firmly out of the room. “The Baron is waiting for his bride.”
“Ask him about the unmarked graves,” Rosa called after her. “Ask him who’s in them?”
Cassie followed Anson to the elevator, ignoring Rosa’s short laugh. She watched him punch in the security number and stepped inside. Her frown deepened when she saw the man’s code. Like Garran’s, it too was 1234, and she wondered if all the guards used the same code. The thought was brief and short-lived as the elevator doors closed, and she was lifted upwards to the main castle. The closer she came to being Hans’s wife, the more she began to doubt the man, and her own feelings.
She had to ask Hans about Sophia, but how? If Rosa was telling her the truth…it was a thought she didn’t want to entertain and a feeling that was as unwelcomed in her heart as children were in the castle.
Rosa’s comments stayed with her as she pulled on a long white nylon slip and thigh-high stockings. She couldn’t help wondering if her insinuations were lies or the truth. There was something about the woman that she didn’t trust, and something very sinister about her. She seemed so different than her brother, but was Cassie just thinking that to keep her from fearing her future husband?
A soft knock sounded at the door and Cassie jumped. Hans left shortly after she returned from her grooming session, and said he wasn’t going to see her until the ceremony.
“Cassie,” Anne said, poking her head around the door. “The Master thought you might need some help.”
“Thank you,” she answered with a relieved sigh. “I’m not sure if I’d be able to zip the gown on my own.”
Cassie stood up off the bed and slipped her feet into the gold satin shoes, with the rhinestones on the heel and toe, that Hans gave her for Justina’s introduction. She walked into the bathroom, followed close behind by Anne, and glanced at her reflection in the mirror. The slip was the only undergarment Hans would allow her to wear, besides the nylons, and those were only because he liked to see women in nylons and heels…and nothing else.
She went into the large closet and unzipped the vinyl bag holding the gown, Hans had ordered to be made especially for her. When they returned to their room last night, it was waiting for her as he promised, but he refused to allow her to see it. He told her he wanted it to be a surprise. He argued with her, that the man shouldn’t see the bride’s gown before the wedding. It was supposed to be bad luck. She wanted to tell him it was an old wives' tale, and nobody believed that way anymore, but this castle was stuck in medieval times. Women had no rights, no say, and were used as a means of property or money. It was no wonder he believed in superstitions. Even dumb ones.
Cassie pulled the white satin gown off the hanger, and out of the bag, and held it up to her as she looked in the mirror. She had to admit, it was beautiful. Hans took that dilemma of trying to find the right wedding gown away from her, as he seemed to have done with everything else. It was another of his high-handed acts that left her wondering, what kind of life she could expect as the Baroness of Hennhofen.
Hans mingled among the visitors with as much dignity and control as he could muster. He wore his black satin tuxedo, that hugged his muscular build, and a look of sophistication etched on his handsome face. Cassie was given an itinerary of what to expect over the next several hours, beginning with the service.
Liam would be the Baron’s witness, and Anne was Cassie’s. All the documents the priest needed were prepared and handed to the man shortly after his arrival, and the wedding license was filled out and waiting to be signed.
Hans hired the same pianist for the service as he had for Justina’s introduction to Antonio. Fortunately, the young man knew about the castle’s secret reputation, and like the priest, he was given a two-hour session with one of the girls on the highest level.
The ballroom was set up with chairs for the girls, who had been given basic gowns in colors to coordinate with their level, but no shoes. Hans didn’t want to run the chance of them trying to escape, but by now, they had conformed to the life and lessons of the castle. They were content and eager to learn what the men had to teach them.
All the guards were in attendance, except for three who patrolled the grounds. Rosa was dressed in an elegant chiffon gown of crimson red and made a point of making herself known to everyone who attended. An afternoon meal was prepared and would be served once the wedding was finished, with cocktails afterward. Hans went out of his way to make everything perfect for their day, using his staff as the chefs. There was lemon herb salmon, chicken marsala, and roast ham for the main course, with German red potatoes, rice pilaf, and red cabbage. Salad made from the castle’s garden, and fresh garlic butter asparagus, with shrimp cocktail. For dessert, there would be French crepe pillows, German apple cake, and a chocolate fountain - Cassie’s request - with fresh fruits and angel food cake for dipping.
Champagne was served before the ceremony, with three types of wine during the meal, followed by brandy with dessert. Cassie was beginning to think Hans was trying to get her drunk before their wedding night.
Several of his closest acquaintances were there, all former buyers he was closest with. Cassie was amazed to learn the guest list consisted of three ambassadors, two prime ministers, a former vice president, a secretary of state, and several princes, millionaires, and hotel moguls. They were all dressed in tuxedos and mingled with the girls before the ceremony, inquiring which ones would be at the next auction.
Once Cassie was ready, Anne slipped into a burgundy and gold gown and slippers, then left the room to inform the groom. She had given her friend a bouquet of red roses, with a gold ribbon. It was explained to her that red, gold, and green were the colors of the castle, which explained the dress she had been given for Justina’s supper.
Cassie looked at herself once more in the full-length mirror, fighting to control her nerves. As much as she would like to argue about not having a say in the arrangements, she had to admit she looked stunning. The gown was sleeveless and strapless, with a tight white satin bodice, decorated with small rhinestones. The skirt was simple and plain white with a four-foot train, and around the edges were more rhinestones. At her cleavage was a diamond broach, Hans sent in for her to wear, in the design of his family crest.
She wore three bracelets on her right wrist, one with sapphires, one with emeralds, and the other with plain diamonds. Around her neck was a necklace of small diamonds with a single teardrop in the center. She wore her hair long and loose, with a sheer veil of lace and a diamond tiara. In her ears were a pair of diamond teardrop earrings to complete the ensemble. She felt awkward in all the jewels, but she was certain Hans wanted to show her off, as well as her new status in life.
Walking through the sitting room of their private chambers was complicated, and she was forced to lift the train across her arm, so she didn’t catch it on the legs of furniture. She could hear the music playing and the voices of the guests, in a low hum, and felt her heart skip. She’d never imagined herself getting married before and wasn’t sure if she was ready now. She knew she loved Hans, despite his arrogance and lifestyle, and she wanted to be with him, as much as she wanted her girls to be safe.
Cassie quietly made her way down the hallway, glancing over the side of the railing to see the room’s decorations. There was a long white aisle runner, and eight white marble pedestals of flowers, four on either side of a large floral decorated arch. The aroma of food filtered through the room, and she felt her stomach growl with hunger.
Isabella and Bianca met her at the foot of the stairs, along with Anne. The girls hugged Cassie then took the train of her gown off her arm and straightened it out. Anne offered her a warm, maternal hug with tears in her eyes. If anyone were to tell her a few months ago, that she would have been kidnapped, beaten, assaulted, and eventually marry her captor, she’d have called them insane.
Anne stepped around the corner of the hallway, nodding to Hans. He snapped his fingers, and the music changed to a traditional wedding tune, as the guests took their seats and quieted down. Cassie’s heart began a fast jog inside her chest as she watched Anne take the lead towards the priest.
“It’s your turn,” Bianca told Cassie, smiling when she turned to see the girls carrying her train.
With a deep breath, she took the first step out of the back hallway, followed by a second, and a third. Before she knew it, she was standing beside Hans, her hand inside his, as the priest began the age-old speech that made them husband and wife.
The music played on as the guests danced with the girls, laughing and talking. The ceremony had been completed in a very short time, and the meal eaten with a light, comfortable feeling. Cassie spent the entire day by his side, or in his arms as they danced around the ballroom. As if by magic, the room had been cleaned while they ate, leaving the floor free for the guests to enjoy the last few hours before retiring.
Liam made certain the women who were to spend the evening with the men, were made ready, and the rooms had been prepared with the usual flare reserved for the auctions. There was no expense spared for the day, and Cassie was beginning to understand what it must be like to have money at your disposal.
Hans took Cassie by the hand and led her through the back hallway and up the stairs. The guests watched them walk toward their private chambers, whistling and calling out to them. He stopped a few feet away from his door and lifted Cassie in his arms. The shouts and whistles grew stronger when he kissed her, then he completed their journey by kicking the bedroom door closed behind them.
Cassie wrapped her arms around his neck. She wasn’t sure if it was the day or all the liquor, but she was excited to be in the man’s arms. There was something powerful about the man that left her heart racing, her mind in complete turmoil, and her libido…
“Do you have any idea how hard it has been to be away from you all day?” he asked, carrying her through the sitting room and down the hallway.
“You mean you haven’t been spying on me with your secret cameras?” she smiled as he pushed the door to the bedroom open, and kicked it shut behind him.
“It was tempting, but I figured I’d allow you some privacy. You may not get much for the next few days.”
“Why?” she asked, then giggled when he dropped her on the bed.
“Because tomorrow…you’re leaving the castle,” he told her with a serious look in his emerald eyes.
Cassie stared at him with disbelief. She was leaving? But why? They were just married, surely that didn’t mean…what did that mean? Was he letting the girls go? Was he turning her out of his life, after all, they’d been through together?
“Before you get your hopes too high, it’s not for long, and you won’t be alone,” he told her, pulling his tuxedo jacket off his shoulders and reading the expression on her face. “I’ll be coming with you.”
“But leaving? Where? Why?” she asked, scurrying up to kneel in front of him.
“I promised to take you to see your friend, and since she couldn’t come to the wedding…”
“Justina?” Cassie asked in a high-pitched squeal. “We’re going to Italy? Are you serious?”
“It’s not the honeymoon I wanted, but we’ll work something out later. I just thought it would be a good idea to start our marriage off on the right foot. Maybe if you see that the girls have a good life waiting for them, you’ll stop pushing me to let them go.”
“That’s never going to happen,” she told him with a broad smile as he untied the black bow tie around his neck. “Are you really taking me to see her? What about Anne? And the others? Are they going too?”
“No, they have lessons to complete, and it’s our first day as an old married couple. It’s just you and I, and only for three days. I have some business to take care of, and it’s the perfect time for a getaway. The weather in Italy is still beautiful, and warm, and my villa has a wonderful pool you can lounge at while I’m working. We’ll only have enough time to visit for a day, but it is a start, and in a few months, we can return and see how she’s getting on.”
“Hans, that sounds incredible,” she smiled, watching him unfasten his cummerbund and remove it while they were talking. “But what kind of work? Please don’t tell me you’re bringing more girls to the castle.”
“I’ll make you a deal,” he told her after unbuttoning his shirt and leaning over her on the bed. “I know we’ll never agree on the way I earn a living, and I’ll never convince you to stop arguing with me about it. So, from now on, we’re going to live in a box. I’ll keep my business on my side, and you keep your objections on yours. When we’re together, we’ll meet inside the safety zone with no reservations and no interference. We can discuss anything, and you’re free to say anything without repercussions. Outside the box, there will be two levels. One grey, the other red. If you’re in the grey zone, it means you’re pushing your luck. The red is absolute punishment.”
“Cassie, that’s enough,” he told her sternly, stopping her from arguing. “Agree, or I’ll put you over my knee and whip a surrender out of you.”
“You’d enjoy that too much,” she smiled, wondering if they could find a happy medium to start a life together.
“Damn right I would, but I guarantee, you wouldn’t. I will not discuss this any further. Either agree or be spanked.”
“Can I do both?” she asked, watching the dark emotion smolder in his eyes.
“Absolutely,” he growled, pulling her into his embrace.
As his lips met hers, he knew there would be a chance of starting a life with the woman, without the constant fighting. He hoped, when they returned from Italy, she would have a better understanding of what kind of life was waiting for her girls and forget how they came to be at his fortress of perversion.
Hans loaded their luggage into the helicopter, then looked around to see Liam coming toward him. He hadn’t had much time to talk with the man over the past few days, and he knew how the guards and Rosa felt about him marrying Cassie. The fears of her trying to change their routine were genuine, and even he had wondered how much she thought she’d be able to get away with, but he was still the Master of this castle and the Baron. His decision was final, not hers.
“I want to leave as soon as Cassie is finished putting on her makeup,” Hans said, sitting down in the seat behind the controls to check the machine’s levels.
“I sent Anne up to check on her,” Liam said, handing a folded paper to the man. “I don’t know how you feel about this, but Anne wanted to know if you’d give this to the girl.”
“What is it?” Hans asked, taking it from him and unfolding it.
“A letter with the usual emotional dribble about how happy she is for her, and how she’ll always love her, that sort of shit.”
“Maybe it’s a good thing I’ve invited Antonio and his women back for Christmas,” Hans said, closing the paper and stuffing it in his leather jacket.
“Have you told your wife she’s coming back here?”
“It’s only a visit, and Cassie will find out when I’m ready to tell her.”
“Does she know you’re going to Italy to pick up a new shipment of slaves?” Liam asked with a knowing frown.
“Let’s just say, she suspects it,” Hans said, stepping out of the cockpit. “I’ve made a deal with her that she stays out of my business, and I won’t be forced to whip her.”
“But whipping is half the fun of foreplay.”
“I’ve discovered she enjoys being spanked much more,” Hans chuckled. “The girl has a dark side she’s been hiding, and in time, I’m going to make her embrace it.”
“I’ll believe that when I see it.”
“That’s what I thought when I gave the nun to you, and now look at her. She’s addicted to orgasms.”
“Yes, but she had to be restrained and forced to embrace it. Have you tied the little bitch down yet?”
Hans drew a deep breath and put his hands in his jacket pockets, to keep from punching the man’s arrogant dark face.
“Cassie is my wife and the Baroness of Hennhofen. I suggest you start remembering that. It would be a good idea if everyone around here got used to her being by my side.”
“What happens if she decides to start barking orders,” Liam asked in a firm, bold voice.
Liam knew he had crossed the line, but he had been friends with Hans for nearly fifteen years. He knew the man as well as he knew himself, and he knew he was as concerned that his new wife would try to take control, as much as Liam did. He also knew Hans would defend Cassie until he had no other choice.
“I have given her liberties, but they are few and there will be limits to them. She has free rein of the castle, but not the lower levels, and she can make requests to the guards, but they still follow my orders. As do you.”
“Does she understand that?”
“Don’t worry about Cassie. I’ll keep her in line.”
“What happens when she learns you’re bringing another twelve girls to the lower levels?”
“She has no say in what happens below the castle. I’ll send the plane back with them this evening, and she won’t know the difference.”
“What about the testing? She’ll become suspicious when you have women showing up in your chambers to demonstrate their sexual skills for you.”
“Until further notice, you and Anson will be testing the slaves. In time, I hope to convince Cassie to take part in the testing, along beside me, but it will take time and patience to convince her of it.”
“Spangler said she did well during her introduction to group sex, but you haven’t gone any further. If she was still below, she’d have had all five lessons by now.”
“She had the ectopic the following day, and until recently, she hasn’t been able to have sex,” Hans said with a frown. “Besides, how and when I train my wife, will be my decision, not yours, or Spangler’s. Is that understood?”
“Hans, I don’t have anything against the girl personally, I’m just concerned about the control she has over you.”
“Once those girls are sold, she won’t have anything to barter with, and she’ll have no choice but to fall into line. I’ll progress forward at my leisure, and she will be taught the lessons, just like any other woman in this castle.”
“The auction is still five months away. Unless you’re planning on offering them in a private sale, she has plenty of time to persuade you to change your mind.”
“There won’t be any more private sales, and my mind won’t be changed, even for her,” Hans said, shaking his head and looking toward the back of the castle as Cassie and Anne came walking toward them. “The girl was an exception, but that was only because she wasn’t conforming as well as the others. Tony has been able to help her adjust to the outside world, easier than I could have.”
“She seemed content when she left,” Liam said with a frown.
“She was until she got to Italy and realized she was back where she started. His other women have helped her, and Mama has been a big support. Tony said she’s coming around and is starting to feel like part of the family, but it’s taken a lot of talking and patience on his part.”
“Do you think seeing the Baroness is going to set her back?”
“No, Tony will keep her in line, and I suggest you remember your place as well,” Hans said, taking a threatening step forward. “Remember who stands between you and Cassie.”
Cassie and Anne walked quietly toward the two men. The morning had been very difficult for the former nun, and Cassie felt guilty for going to Italy to see one of Anne’s girls. As much as she had used her own body to barter privileges for them, the truth was, they were Anne’s girls, not hers. In a way, it was a sad thought, but in another way, it was almost…liberating. She was beginning to feel weighed down with the responsibility of trying to keep them safe and convince Hans to let them go.
As they neared the two men, Cassie frowned, watching Hans take a step forward. He looked angry and Liam didn’t appear to be backing down. She knew she wouldn’t want to come between those two if they began fighting. Their sizes alone were intimidating, but together…it was like watching two grizzly bears standing off against the other.
Cassie’s frown grew when she saw the men turn and look at her. A strange, cold sensation ran down her spine, and she was certain that she was a part of whatever it was that made Hans angry. For a moment, she wondered if she should continue toward them, or stay where she was. At least here, she was out of the line of danger.
“Come on,” Hans called out to her, then glanced back to Liam. “We’ll be back in three days. See to it everything is ready.”
“I’ll take care of my end,” Liam said, his eyes steady with Cassie. “Just make certain you take care of yours.”
Cassie hugged Anne and took Hans’s hand when he reached out for it, then stepped up into the passenger side of the cockpit. She watched Hans strap her in, then placed the headset across her ears and turned it on. He climbed in behind the controls and fastened his own belt, then put the earphones across his head. He looked out the window to his friend once more, watching Liam and Anne step away from the blades.
“I didn’t know you were a pilot,” she said through the headset, watching him start the engine.
“There’s a lot you don’t know about me,” he told her in a cold, distant voice.
Hans glanced at her but stayed silent as he raised the machine in the air. Cassie didn’t press the issue. The feeling coming off the man seemed impersonal, and she couldn’t help but suspect it had something to do with Liam and whatever they had been talking about before she arrived.
She watched the image of the castle drift away, amazed at how large it was from the sky. From high above, it seemed less dark and dismal and quite beautiful. She could see the tennis courts, the small eight-hole golf course, the stables, even the fields where they grew all their own food. She wasn’t aware Hans had cattle until she saw them as they flew overhead. There were at least a hundred cattle grazing the fields and more than a dozen younger cows, with three men on tractors nearby.
“It’s really lovely,” she said, looking out the window.
“For a fortress of perversion,” Hans said in a less than amused voice.
Cassie, again, fell into an awkward silence. This was the side of Hans she didn’t like. The formal, dignified Master who issued orders and willingly assaulted women for pleasure. The last thing she wanted was to be his next victim.
Kranebitten airport was filled with activity, and Cassie felt suddenly nervous and afraid. It had been months since she was with people, other than those at the castle, and the crowds made her feel claustrophobic. She clung to Hans’s arm like a child as they made their way past the check-in desks, to a private area of the airport. His plane had its own hanger and had been brought out earlier that morning and made ready for their trip. Hans told her it would take five hours to get to his villa in Veneto Italy, and tomorrow they would take a private plane to visit Justina in Cantanzaro.
She held Hans’s hand as they walked into a small glass building outside the main airport. He said something in German to the young woman behind the counter, watching as she blushed. She was certain Hans didn’t say anything flattering to her, because of the tone of voice he used, but it didn’t matter. The man was handsome, and the tight tee shirt and jeans accented his firm body. What woman could refuse the daydreams he created in her mind?
Cassie watched him hand two passports to the woman, then nodded and answered her in his native tongue. Cassie was beginning to feel irritated. She had to learn German, even if it killed her.
“Tell her you’re Baroness Cassidy von Hennhofen Deutschlands,” Hans said in a light tone that did little to hide the dark expression in his eyes.
Cassie repeated his words as closely as possible, blushing when the woman smiled at her. The look was less than appreciative, or even sympathetic, considering it was her first real attempt to speak the language. She looked more disgusted - in a polite sort of way.
“Congratulations,” Hans said once they collected their passports.
He slipped them back into an inside pocket on his computer bag, then left the building with her by his side. He held her hand, but it was a cold, impersonal touch that left her feeling unwanted and angry.
“For what?” she asked with a frown as they made their way toward the large plane sitting nearby.
“You just admitted to being, the Baroness of Hennhofen.”
“I figured that much out on my own,” Cassie grumbled.
“Not happy with the title?” he asked with a frown.
“I’m not happy with the way you’ve been treating me,” she said in a soft voice in case anyone was listening, then paused on the tarmac that led to the plane and turned to confront him.
“If I didn’t know better, I’d say you were taking me with you because you didn’t have a choice. I could have stayed on the first level and had more compassion than I’ve gotten from you today. You haven’t even spoken to me since we left the castle, and you expect me to be excited over a title I never asked for?”
Hans drew a deep breath as he considered what she was saying. Liam had set him off on the wrong path, and she had a right to feel upset. But it had nothing to do with not wanting her with him. The truth was, he was worried she would try and escape him or contact someone who would bring his empire crashing down around him.
“I’m sorry, my love,” he told her, taking her hand and pulling her into his embrace. “You’re right. I have been acting like a jerk, and you have my apologies. I am very happy you’re with me, and I promise to pay more attention to you from now on. Please say you forgive me, and I’ll allow you to barter for anything your heart desires.”
“Anything?” she asked after a short pause to collect her frustrations.
“Within reason,” he told her with a single raised eyebrow.
“I’ll have to think about that,” she said with a half-grin. “But don’t worry. I’ll make it something worth agreeing to.”
“Add your beautiful body to the bargain, and you’ll have me kneeling at your feet.”
“Well, …that’s a good place to start.”
Cassie smiled at the wicked grin he offered her, then wrapped her arms around his neck and accepted his hungry kiss. Despite how their trip had begun, it looked like it might turn out to be fun after all.