Prince's Son of ScandalBy: Dani Collins
Six months ago…
WHEN THE GREETER at the ballroom entrance asked Trella Sauveterre for her name, she nearly gave an arrogant “you know who I am.”
She bit it back. Her sister was never acerbic. Not with strangers, and definitely not with underlings. Her twin was perfectly capable of terse words and might even hurl some blue ones at Trella when she learned what she was doing right now, but Angelique’s personality was one of sensitivity and empathy. Gentleness and kindness.
Trella? Not so much.
“Angelique Sauveterre,” Trella lied, wearing her sister’s polite yet reserved smile. She ought to feel more guilty. She ought to feel like an overused cliché from a children’s movie, but she didn’t.
She felt alive.
And apprehensive. Terror could overcome her if she let herself dig deep enough. This was like swimming toward the middle of a lake, where the bottom was too deep to imagine. Who knew what dangers lurked in those dark watery depths? Monsters. They existed. She had met them. Had nearly been consumed by them.
But she wouldn’t think about that.
Nothing in her outward appearance revealed the way her heart bounced and jostled in her chest, fighting internal battles. She moved gracefully, even though her muscles felt stiff and petrified, twitching to run.
Because, along with the trickles of fear, a tumbling waterfall of joy rang through her. It was all she could do to keep tears from her eyes or laughter from escaping her throat.
I’m doing it! she wanted to call her family and cry. Look. I’m in public. By myself. I’m not shriveling like a vampire in the sun.
But they didn’t know where she was and it was best to keep it that way. This was the sort of sneaking out a window she should have done years ago, when she’d been an adolescent. Instead, she’d been a grieving survivor with an eating disorder and more baggage than a passenger jet.
Still was, if these people only knew.
She quashed the negative self-talk and moved like a normal person through the crowd. Gazes lingered, noting Angelique Sauveterre had arrived. Her bodyguard kept anyone from approaching, though. Maybe that wasn’t normal for everyone, but it was for the Sauveterre twins, even the eldest set of brothers.
With her sister’s aloof nod, she returned a few greetings to people she imagined she was supposed to know.
In a few weeks, she would come out as Trella and have nothing left to hide behind. No more walls, literal or technical. No broad-shouldered brothers. No playing her sister to avoid being herself. She had determined, had sworn on the blood she had shed when she nicked her ear cutting her own hair before Christmas, that this was the year she would free herself from the prison she had created.
For now, she was still hiding behind Angelique. She had impersonated her sister a few times recently, with her sister’s permission, escorted by their brother Henri to watch his twin, Ramon, race. They’d also taken in a fellow designer’s latest collection during fashion week. It had been spectator stuff where they didn’t interact with anyone and kept to places her sister had been seen with their brothers before.
Trella had never walked out in public alone. In her entire life, she had rarely done anything alone. As a child, Angelique—Gili to her family—had been the needy one and Trella, the protector. She had held Gili’s hand so her sister wouldn’t tremble and cry at the attention they had received. Their brothers had barely given them breathing space even before Trella’s kidnapping at age nine, always ready to catch a tumble from a swing or to keep them from wandering too far from the group.
Then she’d been stolen and had wished that her captors had left her alone.
She swallowed and veered her mind away from those memories. They were guaranteed to bring on an attack and she was doing far too well. It was coming up to two years without one.
The attacks had manifested years after her rescue, when she should have been finding her feet and moving on with her life. Instead, she had become a horrible burden. Her siblings would never say so, but they had to be sick of being on call for her. She was certainly tired of being the weakest link. She had to change.
Tonight was another step toward that. The press would go mad when she finally came out of seclusion at a friend’s wedding in a few weeks. She had to be ready, but she had to know she was ready.
So she was testing herself, if somewhat impulsively, because this charity dinner hadn’t been on her agenda at all when she had arrived in Paris.
She had been beside herself with pride when she’d landed, high on travelling from the family home in Spain—by private jet with trusted guards, always—but without her mother or siblings. It had taken her newfound independence to the next level.