Prince Caspian Romanov
She stares at me, a mixture of fear and desire on her face.
I take a step closer. I can feel her heartbeat, hammering away in her chest.
A smirk plays across my face as the California sun beats down.
The girl in bed next to me rolls over and I wake with a start to find myself in my cold, hospitable guest bedroom.
Damn, it was just a dream. But not any dream: that dream.
A frown up at the canopy of my luxurious bed.
She isn’t real, I tell myself for the hundredth time.
My trusted assistant, François, is holding up my robe as I slip out of the rumpled bed. Long legs, tangled, and hands with perfectly manicured nails are sticking out from under the sheet.
“Wake her up and get Beckett to drive her home,” I tell him as I shrug my robe on, my mind still on the dream I’d just awoken from. It was the most vivid one yet.
“Your Highness… Where do you think you’re going?” says a velvety seductive voice from the bed.
A second later, a sleepy face with disarrayed ringlets of brown hair emerges from underneath the blanket.
“I’m going to bed. You need to get home,” I say curtly, ready to leave.
“But, Prince Caspian, we are in bed. I mean you were…”
She slinks out of bed in nothing at all and attaches herself to my back. Her hands start to roam my chest and my lower region.
François doesn’t bat an eyelid. He has seen it all before.
“Come back to bed and I’ll make Your Highness very, very happy.” Her hands grow bolder.
I pry her fingers off me and re-tie my robe. I don’t usually need to tell people twice what to do.
“Why can’t we spend the whole night together?” I can sense her pouting behind me. She’s getting clingy. I don’t do clingy. “Why can’t I sleep in your bed?”
Nope, she’s going nowhere near my private quarters.
“Last night was magnifique, my prince.”
Of course, she would think so. I’ve been with her twice, and I’m already bored. She’s beautiful, most of the lycan women are, but this is the last time she’s setting foot in here.
“What time is it, François?” I ask my assistant as I slip on my slippers before I exit the room.
“It’s almost four in the morning, Your Highness,” he answers after flicking his eyes at his pocket watch.
“Prince Caspian! Please…” I hear her whiny voice behind us.
“Make sure she’s dressed. Then escort her out,” I tell him, even though I know he needs no such instruction.
“I’ll make sure she’s out before anybody sees her or the queen hears about her,” he replies.
I nod my head even though I couldn’t care less if Mother sees my latest conquest. Actually, it’s better if she does. I stop walking. “François?”
“Yes, Your Highness?”
“Make sure to escort her out through the main entrance,” I tell him. My smile is widening. Mother will hear about this.
“You’re an idiot, you know that?” says my cousin, Constantine. He has no doubt heard the tail end of my instructions to François.
“Oh, he knows,” mutters Lazarus.
My shoulders relax, and my mood improves drastically as I find myself among my trusted friends. I’ve reached the east wing of the palace where I can be myself. Where my pack members are. My family.
As the crown prince, I learned very early on, and the hard way, that not everybody can be trusted. Everyone wants something from me. Those trusted few friends that I have, I keep.
Lazarus is my guardian as well as my head of security. He also happens to be Constantine’s cousin from his mother’s side.
We’ve been together for centuries. We are all the same height, around six feet five, but Lazarus, being one of our best warriors, is bulkier.
“What are you two doing out of bed at this hour? Don’t you have mates to please?” I say.
Both of them found their mates or rather, erasthai for us lycans. Lucky bastards. Their mates are also now part of our small pack. Lazarus found Serena, his erasthai over sixty years ago.
Constantine claimed Genesis three years ago. Both Serena and Genesis are like sisters to me.
“Genesis is accompanying Penny to the airport as we speak,” answers Constantine.
“What? Now?” I ask him. “My Beany didn’t even wait to say goodbye? She didn’t say anything about leaving last night.”
Penny, or Beany as I call her, is Genesis’s best friend. We’ve discovered that she’s the erasthai of Commander Darius Rykov, one of our close friends.
We’ve come to accept her as one of us, even though he hasn’t claimed her yet, much to our frustration.
She’s trustworthy, loyal, and strong…although very short tempered. I enjoy riling her up.
“Something must’ve happened last night to cause her to leave. She wouldn’t say what it was, but she looked pretty upset,” explains Constantine.
“Darius did mention he wanted to mark someone else,” retorts Lazarus.
“Then he’s a fool!” I growl. I can’t believe he could even think of marking someone else when he’s found his erasthai.
“Don’t get involved,” warns Lazarus. I’m making no such promises.
“Yeah, you’re in a lot of trouble yourself, Caspian,” agrees Constantine.
“There’s going to be hell to pay when the queen hears about your latest indiscretion. Leaving through the main entrance no less.”
He shakes his head at my newest stunt. “Hell’s going to explode.”
Oh, I’m counting on it.
I grin and pull the door open as we reach my bedchamber. I give them a quick salute before I disappear inside. I’m waiting for hell to explode.
There’s always tension between Mother and me. As the crown prince, I have a responsibility to mate and take over the throne from my father.
My mother, Queen Sophia, has made her choice clear in the form of Lady Celeste, the daughter of one of her closest friends.
Forget the idea of finding my erasthai. Mark Lady Celeste and be crowned king.
As a lycan, we are born to recognize the one. Our erasthai. Our life force.
The one who calls for our soul. The one who would mold to fit us even more so physically, mentally, and spiritually once we mark and claim her as ours.
I may be a player, but when you’ve lived for hundreds of years, searching, loneliness creeps in.
I know that no amount of meaningless hookups can make me feel whole.
All the women I hook up with know the score. They’re mostly sophisticated socialites. Definitely no blushing virgins. They know what they’re in for. Just some fun.
Still, some grow clingy. Most of them hope to be the next queen.
I refuse to mark just anyone. Marking anyone else will never satisfy my soul. Definitely not Lady Celeste. I will find my erasthai one day. I need to find her.
As expected, hell did explode. My mother and I had a huge argument that very morning.
The argument had me destroy some parts of the palace, including my own bedchamber.
The fight also had the expected result: my father, King Alexandros, encouraged me to take a break. That meant I was free to stay away from Banehallow Palace and Russia for a few years. I have a plan.
“Come on, Red, throw the dart already,” I urge Genesis after my last dart lands somewhere in the middle of Lake Huron.
Yeah, that’s right. My grand plan is throwing a dart on the map to figure out where we’re going to spend the next few years.
“This is stupid, Caspian. Throwing the dart? Really? Why can’t we just pick a good college that offers a good program that we like, apply to like normal people do, and just go?”
“That’s a stupid way to do it. Besides, this is more fun,” I say. “Look, the last time I did it, you ended up meeting Constantine. You still think it’s stupid?”
At least I plan on going to college instead of a high school like the last time. These people should be thankful. Where’s the gratitude?
“Fine!!!! Give me that thing!” she exclaims in annoyance.
I swear by the look in her eyes that she would rather stick that dart on my forehead instead. Oh, Red.
I know it annoys her when I call her Red, but with her distinctive red hair and craziness, it fits.
“Did you tell everyone else that this is how you decide they’re spending the next few years of their lives? By throwing a dart at the map?”
She closes her eyes and prepares to aim.
“Nope! You’re the only one I let in on the secret. You should feel honored, Red.”
The dart whizzes through the air and lands right on the edge of the USA. Near the ocean.
“Where’s that?” asks Red, peering at the dart. It lands right on the border between two states.
“I think it’s Oregon,” says Constantine, who just walked in.
Genesis peers at the dart. “No, it looks more like California to me.”
Constantine gets up in a huff and comes over, pointing at the dart.
“That’s clearly Oregon. You’re very blind for a wolf.”
They both turn to me to break the tie. The dart looks like it’s in Oregon to me.
I open my mouth to say as much, but then think better of it. For some reason, the idea of going to California is growing on me.
I can’t put my finger on it, but it feels like that’s where I’m supposed to be.
“The dart has spoken. Pack your bags. We’re going to California.”
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