Chapter 2

Dungeons and Dragons

In the wee hours…

"No one will believe I'm happy to be here."

He said nothing. Just bunched his shoulders, stiffened his spine, and stared out the window. Dawn wrapped her arms around her middle, watching him and wondering how or why she ever loved him.


"I heard you," he said without turning around. "The opinion of others has never mattered to me."

"I know," she replied. "You're a prince. Of course, you expect everyone, including your wife, to kowtow to you."

"You are my wife. You are to respect me."

"I did respect you--"

"You ran away!" He whipped around. Splotches of crimson colored his olive-tone cheeks. He strode across the bedroom and stood just inches from her. "You ran off with your lover like a common whore."

There was a time when his words would have hurt. She would have cried and begged him to stop. But that time had long since passed. She did not fear him or his wrath. All she wanted was for his tirade to end and for him to finally let go.

"I may be a lot of things, but I'm not common and I'm no one's whore."

He snorted. "Oh, please forgive me for being in error. Morgan loves you and you return his affection."

She didn't respond. Talking to him when he was like this was futile. He wouldn't listen. She turned her head, looking away from the wild light in his brown eyes.

Seconds later, his fingers grazed her cheeks. The touch was deceptively tender. Then, his entire hand cupped her face and turned her head to face him. "Once upon a time you returned my affection. Does he know that your love is fleeting?"

His other hand snaked around her waist and settled at the small of her back. He drew her to him until her breasts pressed against his hard chest. The first contact was painful. Her breasts were full and ached to be released of milk. Sadness filled her. Her sweet little baby Faith. Jason would take care of their daughter. He'd feed her, change her diapers and play with her. What would he do when Faith realized her mother was gone? What would Dawn do without her true family?

"No one knows I'm here," she said in hoarse whisper. "Please. Just let me go back."

He bent forward. His stubble-roughened cheek brushed against hers. "No."

The word was so final and cold. She resisted the urge to sob. Only her strength would save her. Her tears would only anger him further. "You said that if I left, you wouldn't come after me…"

His other hand closed around her. He rested his head on her shoulder. "I changed my mind."

"But you don't love me," she said. "You're being vindictive and that's not like you."

"I've changed. I am vindictive and manipulative, too. Do you see how abandonment affects a person?"

"I didn't abandon you," she argued. "You're twisting the past to suit your actions. Nothing justifies what you're doing. Stefan won't be pleased about this. Do you think he'll allow you to keep me here? Like I'm some trophy?"

"Stefan left," Nikolas said, moving so that their eyes locked. "I have full use of my princely powers."

"So now what?" she asked. "I'm here. You tore me away from Jason and our baby. For what purpose? To have her hate me the way you hated Laura? It won't happen, Nikolas. Jason won't just sit back and let you do this!"

Nikolas laughed. "He is of no consequence to me."

"You'd be surprised."

"He should be thankful," Nikolas countered. "I allowed him to keep the child."

"She's my child, too and she has a name!"

In a sudden move, he pushed away from her. Dawn stumbled and landed on the bed. He towered over her and this time, she did fear him.

Time stood still as they stared at each other. His chest rose and fell rapidly as he took in deep breaths. Dawn couldn't even breathe. He'd never hurt her physically, but like he said, he'd changed. She couldn't be sure what to expect from him now.

"I will not force myself on you," he said finally, taking a step back. He seemed to wait for her response, but Dawn's voice and brain refused to cooperate. After a few moments of silence, he added, "You will give me an heir. Son or daughter doesn't matter to me."

"Then you'll let me go?" she asked, not wanting to believe the words were coming from her mouth. She didn't want to admit to herself that she was actually considering his terms.

Nikolas strode to the door and opened it. He didn't turn around as he said, "Then, I'll think about it."

The door closed. A lock clicked into place. Dawn rolled onto her side, curled into a ball, and wept like a baby.

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