Authors: Lauren Maya; Dane Banks
“A must-read author…her [stories] are always full of emotional situations, lovable characters and kick-butt story lines.”
“Heated…romantic suspense…Intense, transfixing.”
Midwest Book Review
“Grabbed me from page one and refused to let go until I read the last word…When a book still affects me hours after reading it, I can’t help but Joyfully Recommend it!”
“An excellent read that I simply did not put down…A fantastic adventure…covers all the emotional range.”
The Road to Romance
“Searingly sexy and highly believable.”
RT Book Reviews
New York Times
“Scorching hot [and] suspenseful.”
Fallen Angel Reviews
“[It] just might fry your circuits.”
The Best Reviews
“Sexy, pulse-pounding adventure…that’ll leave you weak in the knees.”
New York Times
Berkley titles by Maya Banks
FOR HER PLEASURE
BE WITH ME
ECHOES AT DAWN
(with Shayla Black)
MEN OUT OF UNIFORM
(with Karin Tabke and Sylvia Day)
Berkley titles by Lauren Dane
THREE TO TANGO
(with Emma Holly, Megan Hart, and Bethany Kane)
HEART OF DARKNESS
HEAT | NEW YORK
THE BERKLEY PUBLISHING GROUP
Published by the Penguin Group
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This book is an original publication of The Berkley Publishing Group.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the authors’ imaginations or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.
“Exiled” by Maya Banks copyright © 2012 by Maya Banks.
“Sway” by Lauren Dane copyright © 2012 by Lauren Dane.
Cover art by Coka / Shutterstock.
Cover design by Rita Frangie.
Text design by Kristin del Rosario.
All rights reserved.
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Heat trade paperback edition / August 2012
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Cherished / Maya Banks, Lauren Dane.—Heat trade paperback ed.
I. Dane, Lauren. II. Title.
PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
Huge thank-you to Cindy Hwang
for her patience with this story and for going the extra mile
to make it much better. And for listening to my endless whining!
And thank you to Lauren Dane
for agreeing to do this anthology with me.
Prince Alexander Carrera stared at the photo of the beautiful, smiling girl and his heart was seized by panic. Time was not on his side. Not his friend. Indeed, it was his worst enemy.
Just four years earlier, he’d met Talia Montforte, or rather she’d been thrust into his life, a whirlwind from which he’d never really recovered. But she’d only been a girl of eighteen and he could not have her, no matter how much he was enchanted by her. She was too young, too innocent. His attraction was inappropriate. He couldn’t act then.
Now she was a young woman of twenty-two, and newly graduated from university in Paris. A young woman poised to start her life, a woman who had no idea how he felt about her or that he’d guided every aspect of her life for the last four years. That he’d waited patiently for the day he could claim her.
He turned when he heard his door open. Standing in the doorway were Sebastien, Garon and Nico, his closest friends. Men charged with his safety and security. The only people he trusted implicitly in a world where he could afford to trust no one.
His country was in turmoil. His future was uncertain.
But he knew one thing.
He could not lose Talia to another man. Another life. He could not stand by and watch her move away, never knowing that she held his very heart in her hands.
“It’s time,” he said in a low voice to the others.
He could see their gazes focused on the glossy photo in his hand. They knew of Talia. Knew what was to come, what his expectations of her were and what his expectations of them were.
“Send for her now,” he ordered. “I cannot wait another day.”
Garon frowned. “Now, Highness?”
Xander nodded. “Before it’s too late. I will not lose her.”
There will be a time when I call for you, Talia. I’ll expect you to come. Until then, you’re needed here. Remain with your mother until she is strong and healthy again.
Talia Montforte shivered as the long-ago said words slid through her mind. Words she’d never forgotten, though there were times she’d wondered if the prince had truly meant them. She’d gotten her answer a mere week ago when the royal summons had arrived.
Now, as she stared out the window of the private jet, the island grew bigger as they closed in. She was nearly there, and Prince Alexander “Xander” Carrera waited somewhere on that island. For her.
Anxiety clutched at her stomach. She flipped her long, dark hair back over her shoulder and thought not for the first time that she should have pinned it up. But his instructions had been explicit. What to wear. How to fashion her hair. Everything to the letter had been dictated in the summons.
And God, had it been lengthy. Her cheeks still buzzed with
heat over the details. The questions. The medical exam. Her entire world had been upended the moment the messenger bearing the royal seal had appeared at her mother’s home.
It was time, the message had said. There would be care provided for Talia’s mother, but Talia was to come at once.
The last years had been turbulent years for her country. Xander’s father had been assassinated. Talia had feared the worst for the royal family, but word had been leaked that they’d escaped safely.
The rebellion still raged and there was yet hope that the usurpers to the throne would be ousted so that the royal family could be welcomed back. The country waited. Talia had waited, never expecting that she would be summoned to him in exile.
It had been difficult to leave the life she’d resigned herself to. Only in the beginning had she had even a whisper of regret that things wouldn’t turn out the way she’d planned. She’d wanted to attend university. Travel the world. Eventually come back to her country to contribute to the growing industry and economy of the small island nation off Spain’s coast.
Instead her mother had been diagnosed with cancer and, faced with the inability to pay for the mounting costs, Talia had sworn off university and taken any odd job she was able to land. Until the day Prince Alexander—or Xander, as he insisted she address him—had arrived at her small cottage by the sea.
He’d swept in, issued orders for her mother to be transferred to a center in France that specialized in treating the form of cancer Talia’s mother suffered. He’d then insisted that Talia attend university in Paris. He’d put her up in an apartment that was close in proximity to where her mother’s care was being overseen and the school where she studied. He’d even given her a monthly allowance and made sure that all her living expenses had been paid.
She still didn’t know why.
The only thing he’d ever said to her was that one day he’d summon
her and she was to come at once. Of course she’d agreed. What person wouldn’t? When faced with her mother’s mortality and being able to ensure her mother’s health and have her dream of attending university, the promise hadn’t seemed too much to give.
Now she wasn’t certain, because now she had no idea just what she’d traded in her bargain with the prince.
She shook her head as the plane touched down. Oh, she knew. Or at least now she had a very good idea. And it was no matter, because if faced with the same situation all over again, she’d do it without reservation.
Her pride. Her body. Her very soul. None of it was too precious a thing to sacrifice for her mother.
And, if she was completely honest, she was intrigued by the request.
The missive had been short and to the point. But what had come after had opened her eyes to exactly what it was the prince was expecting of her.
Mistress. Lover. Concubine. Whore?
No matter what word she put on it, nothing changed the stark reality of her presence on this island sanctuary.
She was a toy. A thing. She was for his amusement, his entertainment. His desire. His whim.
The plane rolled to a stop and as she looked out her window, all she saw was the sparkling waters of the Caribbean.
“You may remove your seat belt and come with me, Miss Montforte.”
She unfastened herself with trembling fingers, then looked up to the staid-looking, gray-haired man who stood in the aisle waiting to assist her. She grabbed her handbag like it was a security blanket and slowly stood.
When she stepped onto the platform outside the plane, the bright wash of sunshine had her reaching for the sunglasses she’d
stuffed in the pocket of her bag. For a moment she paused, soaking up her surroundings. The water sparkled in the distance and all around her was rugged landscape, mountainous toward the center and west and flatter to the east. The sky was as brilliant as the water itself, and not a single puff of white marred the perfect sheet of blue.