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Once Upon a Time (Calluvia’s Royalty #3)
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Prince Jamil of Calluvia dislikes that moniker, but he has to admit it’s not wrong. He is responsible and proper, and it’s probably accurate to say that he isn’t good at emotions. After being widowed, Jamil’s life has revolved around his duties as a crown prince and little else.
But one night it changes.
One night, Jamil meets a man at the royal stables, a man who is the opposite of proper, a man with eyes as black as sin.
Rohan di’Lehr is everything Jamil should despise.
He’s a rude, lowborn criminal.
He’s terrible for Jamil’s self-control.
He makes Jamil behave like a wanton man, not the crown prince.
They have nothing in common. They have no future together.
He still can’t stay away.
A story of forbidden attraction and love that defies all odds.
Note: This book contains explicit sexual M/M content and graphic language.
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“I want a story, Mommy!”
Shayla suppressed a sigh, looking at her daughter’s eager little face. Her five-year-old adored fairy tales and wanted a new story every night, but she absolutely detested repetition.
Shayla looked around, looking for inspiration, and her gaze stopped on the glossy magazine on her nightstand. Gossip magazines on the royals of the Inner Core planets were a bit of a guilty pleasure for her, something Shayla couldn’t really afford but couldn’t resist buying. Maybe they would finally be useful for something.
Shayla picked up the magazine and stared at the man on the cover. “Once upon a time, there was a beautiful prince,” she said wistfully. “He was so beautiful that the tales of his beauty spread even to the Fringe planets of the Union. It was said that one look at the prince stole people’s breaths away—so beautiful he was.” Shayla might have been exaggerating a little for the sake of the story, but the prince in question really was breathtakingly handsome.
Her daughter perked up. “What did he look like?”
Shayla smiled. “He was tall, strong, and graceful, with the kind of face that was impossible to look away from. He had wavy brown hair, deep green eyes, and skin that was so fair and perfect it seemed to almost glow.” Shayla decided not to mention that the prince had a sensual, red bow of a mouth that made her think very naughty and non-fairy-tale appropriate thoughts. Her daughter didn’t need to know that.
“He sounds very pretty,” Nina said.
Shayla smiled at her daughter. “He was.”
Nina looked excited now. “What happened then?”
“The prince was betrothed to another child from a noble family when he was even younger than you. They eventually got married and were very happy together. They were considered the most beautiful couple in the galaxy.” Shayla smiled wistfully, remembering the articles about the couple, how good they looked together. Although the prince-consort had been no match for the prince’s beauty—no one really was, maybe except for the prince’s younger brother—they made a gorgeous couple. They had been the Couple, the relationship lowborn nobodies like Shayla aspired to have. Shayla used to collect all the articles she could find about the Calluvian royal couple, adoring them together despite never even seeing them in person. Calluvia was a planet of the Inner Core, very far away from the rural bumfuck of a planet Shayla lived on.
“Did they live happily ever after?” Nina said.
Shayla’s smile faded. “No. Years after the royal wedding, the prince-consort was killed by the rebels—very bad people.” It was still hard to believe, even months later. Truth be told, Shayla felt a little bit heartbroken about it, as if part of her childhood had died too. She swallowed. “And it was said that the prince never smiled again after that, his heart freezing over.”
Her little daughter frowned. “It’s a sad story, Mommy! I don’t like it.”
Shayla kissed her on the forehead gently. “I know, sweetie. But not all stories have a happy ending. They’re still worth telling.”
Nina pouted. “Can’t the prince fall in love again and be happy?”
Shayla stared at her. “No, of course not,” she said faintly. The mere idea of the prince falling in love with someone else just seemed… preposterous. Wrong.
“Why not?” her daughter said.
Shayla frowned, not sure what to say. She could hardly say that she had been too invested in the relationship of two people she didn’t even know, and that was why she didn’t want the prince to fall in in love again.
Maybe it was selfish of her, but Shayla was a strong believer that people could only love once, and she was sure there was no man who could ever eclipse the prince-consort in the prince’s heart.
Shayla looked down at the glossy magazine, at the ice in the prince’s once-warm eyes.
Prince Jamil’s heart really seemed to have frozen. It would take a miracle to melt the ice again.
Jamil couldn’t sleep.
He tossed and turned in his huge, empty bed for what felt like forever, but sleep evaded him, no matter how tired he was. Of course it also didn’t help that he had a splitting headache.
Sighing, Jamil sat up. He squeezed his eyes shut and reached mentally to the remnants of his marriage bond. If he concentrated hard enough, he could almost feel Mehmer at the other end. He knew it was just a delusion. The High Adept had checked his mind and confirmed that Jamil’s bond was torn completely. He’d said that it was normal for a widower to imagine that they could feel their deceased bondmate. The phenomenon was widely known, and he urged Jamil to block off the bond.
The pain will soon fade, the mind adept had said. All you will feel is absence.
Jamil had almost laughed in his face, because it didn’t exactly sound comforting. But then again, it wasn’t like the mind adept would know. The monks of the High Hronthar were the only people on the planet who didn’t have to be bonded. They didn’t know what it felt like to share a telepathic bond with another person since early childhood. They couldn’t even imagine what it felt like to have such a cherished bond and then lose it. They had no clue. Sometimes Jamil envied them that.