A Queen for the Taking?

By: Kate Hewitt

Innocent in the king’s bed…

Spare to the throne, Alessandro Diomedi never expected to be dragged back to Maldinia and thrust beneath the crown. Upheaval has ravaged his country, but one thing has stayed the same: the woman he must now marry.

Trained from birth to be the perfect queen, it’s finally time for Liana Aterno to do her duty. But Sandro is not the man she remembers. Cynical and brooding King Sandro unexpectedly ignites a fire in her that sparks rebellion!

When their first electrifying kiss nearly proves both their undoing, Sandro is determined to unleash all the passion his mysterious queen has learned to hide so well!

“But you do want me, Liana,” Sandro said softly. “You want me very much. And even if you try to deny it, I’ll know. I’ll feel your response in your lips that open to mine, in your hands that reach for me, in your body that responds to me.”

“I know that,” she choked. “I’m not denying anything.” She turned her face with all of its naked emotion away from him.

“No,” he agreed, his voice as hard as iron now, as hard as his gunmetal gray eyes. “You’re not denying it. You’re just resisting it, with every fiber of your being. Resisting me.” She let out a shudder, and he shook his head. “Why, Liana? You agreed to this marriage, as I did. Why can’t we find this pleasurable at least?”

“Because…” Because she wasn’t strong enough. She’d open herself up to him just a little and a tidal wave of emotion would rush through her. She wouldn’t be able to hold it back and it would devastate her. She knew it instinctively, knew that giving in just a little to Sandro would crack her right open, shatter her into pieces. She’d never come together again.

How could she explain all of that?


ALESSANDRO DIOMEDI, KING of Maldinia, opened the door to the opulent reception room and gazed resolutely upon the woman intended to be his bride. Liana Aterno, the daughter of the duke of Abruzzo, stood in the centre of the room, her body elegant and straight, her gaze clear and steady and even cold. She looked remarkably composed, considering the situation.

Carefully Sandro closed the door, the final click seeming to sound the end of his freedom. But no, that was being fanciful, for his freedom had surely ended six months ago, when he’d left his life in California to return to Maldinia and accept his place as first in line to the throne. Any tattered remnant of it had gone when he’d buried his father and taken his place as king.

‘Good afternoon.’ His voice seemed to echo through the large room with its gilt walls and frescoed ceilings, the only furniture a few ornate tables of gold and marble set against the walls. Not exactly the most welcoming of spaces, and for a moment Sandro wished he’d specified to put Lady Liana into a more comfortable chamber.

Although, he acknowledged cynically, considering the nature of their imminent discussion—and probable relationship—perhaps this room was appropriate.

‘Good afternoon, Your Highness.’ She didn’t curtsey, which he was glad of, because he hated all the ostentatious trappings of royalty and obeisance, but she did bend her head in a gesture of respect so for a moment he could see the bare, vulnerable nape of her neck. It almost made him soften. Then she lifted her head and pinned him with that cold, clear-eyed gaze and he felt his heart harden once more. He didn’t want this. He never would. But she obviously did.

‘You had a pleasant journey?’

‘Yes, thank you.’

He took a step into the room, studying her. He supposed she was pretty, if you liked women who were colourless. Her hair was so blonde it appeared almost white, and she wore it pulled back in a tight chignon, a few wispy tendrils coming to curl about her small, pearl-studded ears.

She was slight, petite, and yet she carried herself with both pride and grace, and wore a modest, high-necked, long-sleeved dress of pale blue silk belted tightly at the waist, an understated strand of pearls at her throat. She had folded her hands at her waist like some pious nun and stood calmly under his obvious scrutiny, accepting his inspection with a cool and even haughty confidence. All of it made him angry.

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