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Their Second Chance (The Thalanian Dynasty #3.5)
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When Noemi Huxley was forced to choose between love and duty…she chose duty. Three years later, the last thing she expects when she accepts the invite to attend the Thalanian royal wedding is to come face to face with her ex—or to find out he’s assigned as her security detail for the event.
Isaac Kozlov let the love of his life get away once before, and he’ll be damned before he does it a second time. He’s got three days to bring Noemi around to his way of thinking, and Isaac’s pulling out all the stops to make it happen. He’ll play dirty to convince Noemi that happily ever after doesn’t just belong in fairy tales.
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Noemi Huxley walked into her suite in the Thalanian palace and took a deep breath. It was her first time being back here in nearly two years, first time being back since she took over as Head of Family, and the first time being back since her father had been tried and convicted of treason. This weekend mattered so much, it made her a little sick to her stomach. Every eye would be on her during this event, the King’s younger brother’s wedding, and she couldn’t afford to make a misstep.
She walked a slow circuit around the room, but the motion did nothing to quell her rising restlessness. She wasn’t part of the wedding party, and she wouldn’t be attending the private events leading up to the wedding itself. The only reason she was here a full three days early lay in the fact that the prince’s fiancée was a Huxley, albeit a distant cousin. The bride’s father had passed away years ago and, as it was her right, she’d requested the Head of the Family to walk her down the aisle.
Noemi would walk her down the aisle.
She stopped short and ran her hand down her silk sheath dress. There had never been a Lady Huxley. Since the beginning of the family line, the title had always passed to a male heir.
A knock on the door brought her back to the present. She couldn’t afford to be distracted now, not with the eyes of every noble in Thalania on her. The King and his Consorts had taken a risk overriding centuries of tradition and backing her claim to the Huxley Family, and she’d be damned before she did something to endanger the position. Mooning about would only result in missteps.
She hurried to the door and opened it, only to stop short as a shadow fell across her entire body. She knew that shadow, knew it intimately down to her very soul. Noemi looked up, up, up to the familiar brutal face of the one man she’d hoped to avoid during her visit to the palace. She should have known she’d never be so lucky. “Isaac.”
The cut stung, just as she imagined it was meant to. A reminder. A reminder of the intimacy they no longer shared, of the choice she’d been forced to make two years ago, and of all that she’d sacrificed, even if she’d gained the things she’d thought she always wanted.
She drew herself up, a laughable thing to do. Even though she was nearly six feet tall, Isaac Kozlov towered over her in both height and breadth. He filled the doorway and then some, and in any other place he would have to duck to walk through.
Wait, why would he be walking through at all? He wasn’t here for her, no matter that he stood at her door. She’d burned that bridge two years ago when she’d chosen duty over something that might have been love.
No, Noemi. You can lie to him if you need to, but you must never lie to yourself. It was love.
Was being the operative word.
She lifted her chin, all too aware that she gave herself away with that one movement but unable to help herself. “Can I help you, Mr. Kozlov?”
Now it was his turn to hesitate. “We need to go over the plan for your protective detail.”
She blinked. “The palace has enough security that the nobles don’t need individual protective details. That’s the whole point of being in the palace.”
“I have my orders.” His rough features took on the stubborn set she knew so well. There would be no moving him.
She could stand here and argue until they were both blue in the face and ready to throw things, or she could let him in and deal with this behind closed doors—and away from curious ears. Her irritation rose in time with the beat of her heart, but he had her cornered and they both knew she’d rather die than make a scene.
She stepped back, letting belligerence snap from every movement. “Come in, then.” She didn’t wait for him, choosing instead to march into the main living area and pour herself a strong drink. It might not be quite noon yet, but if she was going to have to deal with her ex less than an hour after she arrived, she was more than entitled to the brandy. All the brandy.
Isaac walked into the room and gave it a cursory look. Nothing had changed since the last time he was here, when he’d bent her over… No, she couldn’t take that walk down memory lane. It simply hurt too much.
Noemi perched on the single chair, ceding the couch to him. Let him dwell on what they’d done the last time he’d occupied that exact seat. Not that she’d get a reaction from Isaac. He’d always had a superior poker face, and today was no exception. He sank onto the couch, his massive body taking up two-thirds of it, and met her gaze directly. Those blue eyes held absolutely nothing. No tenderness, no desire, certainly no love. It was just business, and hell if that didn’t hurt just as much as she deserved.