The Queen's New Year Secret

By: Maisey Yates

CHAPTER ONE

KAIROS LOOKED ACROSS the bar at the redheaded woman sitting there, her delicate fingertips stroking the stem of her glass, her eyes fixed on him. Her crimson lips were turned up into a smile, the invitation, silent but clear, ringing in the space between them.

She was beautiful. All lush curves and heat. She exuded desire, sexuality. It shimmered over her skin. There was nothing subtle or refined about her. Nothing coy or demure.

He could have her if he wanted. This was the most exclusive and private New Year’s Eve party in Petras, and all of the guests would have been vetted carefully. There was no press in attendance. No secret gold diggers looking for a payout. He could have her, with no consequences.

She wouldn’t care about the wedding ring on his finger.

He wasn’t entirely certain why he cared about it anymore. He had no real relationship with his wife. She hadn’t even touched him in weeks. Had barely spoken to him in months. Since Christmas she had been particularly cold. It was partly his fault, as she had overheard him saying unflattering things about the state of their union   to his younger brother. But it hadn’t been anything that wasn’t true. Hadn’t been anything she didn’t already know.

Life would be simpler if he could have the redhead for a night, and just forget about reality. But he didn’t want her. The simple, stark truth was as clear as it was inconvenient.

His body wanted nothing to do with voluptuous redheads sitting in bars. It wanted nothing but the cool, blond beauty of his wife, Tabitha. She was the only thing that stoked his fantasies, the one who ignited his imagination.

Too bad the feeling wasn’t mutual.

The redhead stood, abandoning her drink, crossing the room and sauntering over to where he sat. The corner of her mouth quirked upward. “You’re alone tonight, King Kairos?”

Every night. “The queen wasn’t in the mood to go out.”

Those lips pursed into a pout. “Is that right?”

“Yes.” A lie. He hadn’t told Tabitha where he was going tonight. In part, he supposed, to needle her. There was a time when they would have been sure to put in a public appearance during every holiday. When they would have put on a show for the press, and possibly for each other.

Tonight, he hadn’t bothered to pretend.

The redhead leaned in, the cloud of perfume breaking through his thoughts and drawing him back to the moment, her lips brushing against his ear, his shirt collar. “I happen to know that our host has a room reserved for guests who would like a bit more...privacy.”

There was no ambiguity in that statement.

“You are very bold,” he said. “You know I’m married.”

“True. But there are rumors about that. As I’m sure you know.”

Her words stuck deep into his gut. If the cracks were evident to the public now...

“I have better things to do than read tabloid reports about my life.” He lived his tragic marriage. He didn’t want to read about it.

She laughed, a husky sound. “I don’t. If you want a break from reality, I’m available for a few hours. We can bring in the New Year right.”

A break from reality. He was tempted. Not physically. But in a strange, dark way that made his stomach twist, made him feel sick. It was down deep in the part of him that wanted to shake Tabitha’s foundation. To make her see him differently. Not as a fixture in her life she could ignore if she wished. But as a man. A man who did not always behave. Who did not always keep his promises. Who would, perhaps, not always be there.

To see if she would react at all. If she cared.

Or if their relationship had well and truly died.

But he did nothing. Nothing but stand, moving away from the woman, and the temptation she represented. “Not tonight, I’m afraid.”

She lifted her shoulder. “It could’ve been fun.”

Fun. He wasn’t sure he had any idea what that was. There was certainly nothing fun about his line of thinking. “I don’t have fun. I have duty.”

It wasn’t even midnight, and he was ready to leave. Normally, his brother, Andres, would be here, more than willing to swoop in and collect the dejected woman, or any other women who might be hanging around eagerly searching for a royally good time.

But now, Andres was married. More than that, Andres was in love. Something Kairos had never thought he’d see. His younger brother completely and totally bound to one woman.

Kairos’s stomach burned as though there was acid resting in it. He walked out of the club, down the stairs and onto the street where his car was waiting. He got inside and ordered the driver to take him back to the palace. The car wound through the narrow streets, heading out of the city and back toward his home.

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