Updated: May 10
Title: The Torn Prince
Author: Zee Monodee
Series: Royal House of Saene #4
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Interracial, BMAW
Tropes: royalty, in disguise, secret baby
Release date: May 28, 2021
Prince Zediah ‘Zed’ Saene is the sensitive and solemn kind. Nothing shakes him from his solid rock persona. Until the day he crosses paths with Rio, a woman who inflames his body, scorches his heart, and burns his soul to cinders. His passionate love for her is strong enough to move mountains. Then tragedy strikes back home, and he is forced to exit her life without a goodbye.
Riona ‘Rio’ Mittal has worked hard to get over the contemplative young man who caught her very being in his web of quiet force and soulful presence then dropped her like a smelly old sock. On the verge of setting her life to rights, in walks Zed again to claim the child he’s found out she had in his absence.
Zediah wants his heir, and nothing will stop him. Except, ‘nothing’ has a name: Rio Mittal, who won’t shy away from making him face up to his innermost demons. Rio has his son, and all of Zed belongs to her … yet he is, first and foremost, part of the Royal House of Saene. Torn between duty and love, how will he reconcile the two?
“What’s up, mate?” he greeted his best friend, Nick, who lived in London.
“Check your screen,” Nick replied. At the same time, a little beep announced a file had come through.
Zediah pulled the phone away to open the picture. His breath lodged in his throat. No, he would not let his heartbeat accelerate again.
“What the fuck, man?” he bit out.
“It’s the gal you were head over heels for, innit?”
Why on Earth would his best mate rub salt on his wounds?
A realisation slid in then. Salt still made the wound sting because the damn injury was still open. It—his heart, him, whatever—hadn’t healed yet.
“Gary Dicknell’s wife—”
“Ex-wife,” he corrected.
“Yeah, but you had the hots for her when she was still married to him.”
Not something he was proud of, but it was what it was. “And your point would be?”
“You did shag her last time you were here, eh? It was her.”
“I didn’t—” They hadn’t shagged. They’d made love. Seriously. Although it’d been the one night, it hadn’t been just another fuck for him, and likely not for her, too. But this was Nick, renowned divorce barrister. One never sought to give the man a bone to devour. “Never mind. Yeah.”
“Roughly about …”
He sighed. “Eighteen months ago.”
More like seventeen months, three weeks, four days, and about eight hours, give or take.
Another ping came from the phone.
“Put me on speaker,” Nick asked.
Zediah did as told, then opened the file, and the bottom dropped from everything he’d ever known. His heart started racing again, the thickness returning to his mouth.
Deep breath in. Deep breath out.
The picture was the same as the one that had come in earlier. Except, it had been strongly zoomed in on the woman before. The complete picture showed her walking in a red coat, pushing a pram, a seated baby clearly visible in it.
A baby with darker skin than hers and a thatch of soft black curls on its head.
While no one would describe her as fair, she wasn’t exactly dark, her skin the rich golden hue of roasted peanuts.
But this kid?
“Could be your baby, right?” Nick asked.
The sound of his voice shattered the spell around Zediah, but only just. He could hardly do anything beyond staring at this child. He found himself pinching the screen to blow up the image, obliterating her from the frame, his focus only on the baby.
He couldn’t be sure, the pixels so grainy at this depth, but if someone had mixed his dark skin with her golden tone, it could come out as this deep toffee little chubby ball. And the hair … She’d always had stick-straight locks, but the curls here—could the combination with his kinky African hair have resulted in this?
He blinked upon hearing the nickname anyone in London or his close friends knew him by.
“When … when was this shot taken?” he asked.
“This morning. I spotted her on Sloane Street, near the shops.”
Zediah frowned. What would she be doing there? Window-shopping, maybe? A stroll out in the nicer neighbourhoods? Her usual destinations were all on Oxford Street, if he recalled properly. Plus, she’d mentioned she was moving back to Southall in West London, where her family lived.
He’d tried to put her out of his mind, had done his darnedest best in that regard. But this? This changed everything.
“How did I not know?” he asked softly.
“She keeps her life very private,” Nick replied. “Plus, the paps have moved on to more scandalous WAGs. After her divorce from Dicknell, she became old news.”
He shook his head. Even when she’d been a WAG—a wife and girlfriend of a famous sportsperson—she’d been more the low-profile type. It only made sense she’d retire into the shadows once the spotlight of Gary Bicknell’s numerous extra-marital affairs stopped shining on her.
“She didn’t tell me, Nick.”
Silence came from the other side. Then, “What are you going to do?”
Zediah took a deep breath and pinched the bridge of his nose. It wouldn’t do to act in a rash manner, but if this were his child … He had to find out.
In his heart, he already knew. He’d always thought men spouted utter BS when they waxed lyrical and poetic about seeing their offspring for the first time and their worlds shifting, but he’d been a total idiot. Because he, too, knew. This child—a boy? Girl? —was his. And there was no way as a father he wouldn’t have a place in its life.
“I’m coming to London,” he said.
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