Royal Chase(4)

By: Sariah Wilson

Dante stood too close to me. I resisted the urge to shut my eyes as I ordered my nerve endings to behave.

“There you are, Limone.” His voice was silky and laced with humor and an undeniable charm. He only called me limone, Italian for lemon, when we were alone, which made it unbearably intimate and personal. So whenever he said “Limone,” it weakened all my defenses and gave me the shivers.

And I was pretty sure he knew exactly the effect it had on me.

“No kiss hello for your dear friend?” he teased.

“You wish,” I retorted.

“You’re right, I do wish,” he practically purred, like some giant predatory cat, and my heart thumped painfully in response. Goose bumps broke out on my arms, and I accidentally swayed toward him.

Desperate to retain control, I ran through my list of reasons I could never be with him. That usually helped to calm my racing pulse. He was unserious, lazy, unambitious, flaky, a womanizing flirt, and would, without a doubt, cheat on me if I was ever stupid enough to hook up with him.

Unfortunately, every time I reminded myself why Dante and I could never work out, another annoying voice popped up to point out everything I liked about him. His sense of humor. His intelligence and wit. His loyalty and affection for his family. How he would sacrifice for the people he loved—he was only on this show for Nico’s sake. Then my brain happily skipped to the things we had in common, like how we both loved to ski. How he had always been a good friend to me; how even after the incident at the New Year’s Eve costume ball in Monterra he continued to text me funny and sweet things on a daily basis.

I told the voice to shut up. None of that mattered. Kat had told me once that she wouldn’t research Nico online because she didn’t want someone else’s opinion to change how she saw him.

Not me. After Kat’s accident, as I sat next to her hospital bed, I looked up every single thing I could about the royals. Especially Nico and Dante. I devoured every story, every article, looked at hundreds of pictures. I wanted to be informed. And it was then and there that I knew nothing could ever happen between Dante and me, given his propensity to flit from one supermodel to the next.

I knew what life would be like with him. So many of my mother’s friends looked the other way while their husbands ran around with women half their age. Everyone felt sorry for the wives, but they wouldn’t leave—either because of the money or the children or the public embarrassment. If I was with Dante, my humiliation would be on an international scale. I’d be a worldwide laughingstock. I couldn’t deal.

He’d already proven himself to be a player the night after the accident. I saw him in the hallway flirting with one of Kat’s nurses. I was worried about my best friend staying alive, and he was trying to get some. I was wildly attracted to him, but I was always wildly attracted to men who seemed intent on ruining my life, and did. Every man I had ever dated had cheated on me. As part of my resolution to treat myself better, I decided to keep him at arm’s length.

And I had to remember that flirting was as natural to him as breathing. He couldn’t help himself. But he was so well practiced that he often seemed sincere, and I had to constantly remind myself that it was all an act.

An act that would be easier to ignore if he didn’t look like a movie star.

When I had showed my sorority sisters pictures from my Christmas vacation in Monterra, most of them had begged for the cell numbers of Dante and his identical twin, Rafe. One of my sisters had dubbed the twins “the faces that launched a thousand sighs.” I couldn’t argue with her over that one. They probably would have begged for Nico’s number too, but I told them all that he was with Kat and I was determined that nothing would change that.

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