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Desired by the Dark Prince: Chapter Two

Tirus plowed through the stream of data that scrolled before his eyes, but his thoughts kept drifting back to the tiny woman in the chamber upstairs.

“Freeze stream.”

There was no point in proceeding.

He had dedicated years to this quest. But if he couldn’t focus on the information his agents had harvested, it would be just as likely that he would let some important clue slip.

Something that would bring Druval down.

And still, his mind wandered back to the firm set of Matilde’s chin, the gleam in her eyes as she evaluated her situation.

Despite everything he had given up to exile himself on this backwater rock, for the first time he could not focus on his mission.

“That’s not true either,” he reminded himself as almost without thought his hand dropped into his pocket, fingers rubbing over a worn scrap of cloth.

“Not true at all.”

Just being in the room while she healed, had stirred something in his blood.

Something strange, almost forgotten before he’d scented her, months ago in the foul caverns of the Haleru.

Now it called to him, demanding he go closer to her bedside.

To touch her. Taste her.

He’d refused. Staying instead at the edge of the room, compromising between his need to ensure her safety, and what she would rightfully demand as her privacy.

He could taste her in the air, hours later, far removed from her chamber.

This was ridiculous. He was a master of strategy, had played the long, intricate games of the court for years, and survived.

And he might have thrown it all away to save one woman.

He’d had no time to come up with a plan, a reasonable story to explain his actions.

All that mattered was to save her. And once she was in his arms, he simply could not let her go, any more than he could have handed an enemy his own right hand.

That clever, curious glare filled his vision again. He’d need to come up with a better answer than that, and quickly.

But for now, his secret hopes for Matilde would come to nothing if he could not get his mind back on his work.

He snapped open the screens again, diving through the web of transactions, looking for anything out of place, any thread he could pull to bring an empire down.

Checked on the new drive simulations. Not only a good reason to be here, but he’d never had a problem focusing on an engineering problem before.

Apparently now was different.

The soft footsteps behind him were easily ignored.

The awkward shuffling was something else entirely.

“What is it, Lorrik?” he snapped, pulling himself away from the figures with a mix of reluctance and relief.

“The female. That you brought here.”

Tirus studied his second-in-command with narrowed eyes.

Lorrik had been at his side for more years than he cared to count.

Certainly long enough not to question his orders.

“There’s nothing about her that anyone needs to know. She is to be left alone. Well cared for. No one is to disturb her. No one is to touch her.”

“That is perhaps the problem,” Lorrik said with a slight deferential nod towards the monitors that Tirus had turned off.

“What do you mean?” Tirus demanded as he waved them back on.

Images began cycling, nothing out of order, then one froze.

“She has fallen. And no one will touch her. At your orders.”

There she was.

Outside of her room.

Alone and despite the defiance on her face, Tirus could read the pain she masked.

In a rush, he pushed back from the desk, knocking the chair over as he stood.

“What level?” he asked Lorrik as he began to run up the stairs

“Forty-six.”

So far away,

The thought of her in pain ripped through him.

He had caused this.

“No!” He had brought her here to be safe.

If she was hurt while she was here, while she was under his protection, he had failed her already.

He knew where the next nearest lift was, but still it seemed too far, too out of reach.

He had to get to her, needed to be at her side now.

The strangeness in his blood stirred, tempting him, reminding him there was an answer, if he wished to take the chance.

He paused, remembering the stricken look on Matilde’s face.

“I’ll meet you there.”

He ran to the low railing that walled the corridor from the central shaft and without allowing himself to think any further he jumped, hanging for a moment in mid-air before he fell.

And just as he hoped he might, he changed.

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