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A Christmas Vow of Seduction

By:Maisey Yates


THE GIFTS HAD been on parade for the past hour. Shows of wealth from Tirimia being trotted out before King Kairos as though he were a boy and this was Christmas morning. Baskets overflowing with the finest fruits grown in the orchards from Petras’s neighboring country. Art and jewelry from the most celebrated painters and silversmiths. But certainly the ambassadors from Tirimia had saved the most spectacular gift for last.

Kairos looked down from his position on the throne at the men who were standing before him, clearly awaiting his awe, and listened as they began to introduce their final treasure, the one they were calling the jewel of their collection.

“This will please you, my king,” the man, known as Darius, was saying. “The ultimate in Tirimian beauty and grace, for your palace. For the continued health of relations between Tirimia and Petras. The representation of how far we’ve come since the revolution. It was bloody, and we cannot erase that history. We can only show we are committed to moving forward.”

Darius was speaking of the overthrow of Tirimia’s monarchy some fifteen years earlier. Kairos had not been on the throne then, but his father had made sure he’d been well educated in what was happening. At the time, the rebels in Tirimia had even posed a threat to the borders of Petras. Earning back trust between the two nations had been slow. Which was why they had requested an audience with Kairos today. He was the newly installed king, and they were clearly keen to make the most of the clean slate they felt he might offer.

Too bad for them he wasn’t easily impressed with baubles. However, they had quite a few natural resources he was interested in, and war was never in the best interest of the nation. Which was why he had granted them the audience. And watched with decreasing patience as they brought forth their offerings.

“As a token of goodwill between our nations,” Darius said, a film of oil coating each word, “we present to you Princess Zara.”

The doors to the throne room swung open and there, standing in the center of the doorway, flanked by two large men, was a woman. Her hands were clasped in front of her body, bright gold cuffs gleaming from her wrists.

For a moment Kairos wondered if she was bound. Then she began to walk, her hands falling to her sides, and that momentary fear was alleviated. Her hair was long and dark, caught back in a braid that swung with her every step. Her face was decorated with gold paint, dots above her eyebrows, and a few down below her eyes. She possessed a dark, exotic beauty that stoked no fire in him. She was so unlike his cool, blonde wife, Tabitha. The only woman he wanted. The woman who had chosen to skip this very important procession.

He wished, very much, that Tabitha were here to see this. To see him gifted with a woman. He wondered if her blue eyes would burn with jealousy. If they were capable of burning with anything at all.

Very likely, she would simply sit there, passive and unmoved. She might even suggest he take the girl as his own. So little was her esteem for him these days.

He ignored the kick of regret in his stomach.

“There must be some mistake,” Kairos said. “I cannot imagine you intend to give me a human being.”

Darius spread his hands wide. “We have no need of a princess in Tirimia. Not now.”

“So you seek to give her to me?”

“To do with as you please. Preferably, you would take her as a wife. Her dishonor is not our wish. Though, however you intend to use her...it would be an honor in its way.”

Another wife. He could think of nothing worse. “I regret to inform you that I already have a wife,” Kairos said, regretting nothing of the kind.

“If you do not believe in taking more than one woman in matrimony in this country, we would find it acceptable if you took her as a concubine.”

“I have no positions available for a concubine either,” he said, hardening his tone.

“We demand security,” Darius said. “If we are to open up our borders to Petras, then we demand blood ties. This is the tried-and-true method of obtaining this level of security.”

“And here I thought you were a nation moving into the modern era,” Kairos said, looking down at the woman whose eyes burned with anger, who radiated energy, but kept silent, her dark head bowed low. “It seems to me that this stands in contradiction to that.”

“Our system of government is young, while our country is old. The marriage between tradition and modern reality is, at best, a clumsy one. We must keep our people happy while moving into the future. Surely you can appreciate some of the issues inherent in that.”

Kairos felt a smile curve his lips, an idea forming.

Andres. This would be the perfect occupation for him. A perfect bit of revenge that would satisfy the small, mean part of Kairos that had never fully let go of his brother’s betrayal. It would also accomplish great things for the country. Vengeance that furthered his cause as ruler was a rare and glorious thing.

“As I said,” Kairos spoke, surveying the room, “I already have a wife. My brother, however, is most certainly in need of one. She will be just perfect for him.”


RETURNING TO THE palace in Petras was never Andres’s favorite thing. He preferred his various penthouses scattered throughout the world. London, Paris, New York. And a beautiful woman to go in each one. He was a cliché, but he was comfortable with it. If only because it was so much fun.

Petras was never half as much fun. It was where his brother, Kairos, used an iron fist, not for the people of Petras, but for Andres himself. As though he were still a boy needing to be taken in hand, and not a man in his thirties.

Invariably, his stays in the palace followed a staid and steady routine. Visits to hospitals and other approved public appearances where his every word was carefully scripted. Stilted dinners with his older brother and his wife, which were as boring as they were uncomfortable; and long nights spent in his vast royal bedchamber alone, because Kairos didn’t approve of Andres bringing lovers to stay in the hallowed halls of the Demetriou family. Though Andres thought that had less to do with propriety and more to do with the fact that Kairos was out to punish him for his past misdeeds in a million small ways, every day, until he died.

Which made his discovery, upon entering his bedroom, all the more remarkable.

He walked in tearing at his tie—too tight and constricting, like everything here—slamming the door behind him. Then he froze. There, in the center of his bed, knees curled up against her chest, long dark hair cascading loose over her shoulders like spilled ink, was a woman. They both regarded each other for a moment. Then she scrambled to her feet, stumbling backward on the mattress until her back was pressed against the large ornate headboard that had never been any use to him, as he’d never had a woman in this bed.

Until now.

Though she had not been invited, neither did she look very excited to be there. Both of those things were a bit of an anomaly.

“Who are you?” he asked. “What are you doing here?”

She tilted her head upward, her expression defiant. “I am Princess Zara Stoica of Tirimia.”

Andres knew very well that Tirimia was no longer a monarchy. In fact, the royal family had been driven from the throne during a bloody revolution back when Andres was a teenager. He hadn’t been aware there were any survivors, much less a princess who looked slightly more like a bedraggled creature than a woman.

Her bronzed skin was painted with gold, framing her dark eyes and eyebrows. Her lips were a deep shade of red designed to entice, but he had a feeling that allowing himself to be enticed could be a mistake. She looked much more likely to bite him than kiss him. Her hair hung down well past her backside, disheveled as though she’d been in a fight, or thoroughly pleased by a lover.

Because of the bed, it was tempting to imagine the latter. But judging by the expression on her face, it was most certainly the former.

“You seem to have the wrong palace, Princess.”

“I do not,” she said, her tone stiff. “I am a prisoner in my own country, and I was brought here as a gift to King Kairos.”

Andres’s eyebrows shot upward. His older brother wouldn’t know what to do with a woman as a gift, even if he weren’t bound by marriage vows. “In which case you’re in the wrong room.”

Her expression turned stormy. “He did not wish to keep me. He, in turn, gave me to his brother.”

Andres could not process the absurdity of the statement. This woman, was a gift for him? “Are you telling me that you’ve been regifted?”

She frowned. “I suppose.”

Clearly, she didn’t see the humor in this. But then, if he were the one being passed around like an unwanted present at a white elephant party, he might be humorless too.

“Would you possibly mind waiting here for a moment?” he asked.

Her expression turned stormier still. “I would not have been here at all if I had any other options. I have nothing to do but wait.”

“Excellent.” He turned on his heel and walked back out of the room, stalking down the hall, down the curved staircase that led to Kairos’s office. He would no doubt find his brother bent over important paperwork, looking grave and serious and not at all like a man who had just given his younger brother a woman as a gift.

Andres pushed open the door to the office without knocking, and as he had guessed, Kairos was indeed sitting there laboring over work.