Hearts & Wishes
contemporary fantasy romance
At twenty-five years old, Holly should be on top of the world. Rich, pampered and adored, everything she could ever ask for is hers, any wish she makes, granted.
Except for freedom—what she wants the most. Daughter of one of the most famous men in all existence—both real and imagined—she lives in near isolation, stifled by her overprotective father, slowly going out of her mind.
The bright spot in her existence is training with her father’s right-hand man, Rhys, although she doubts he’s aware of her crush.
When he’s sent off to deal with a rising threat in the world outside their protected land, Holly’s claustrophobic need for freedom rages out of control. After a heart-breaking betrayal and desperate for a chance at a life, she flees.
Unbeknownst to Holly and nearly everybody else, that rising threat has been waiting for just this moment. If Rhys doesn’t find her soon, her wish to have a life of her own may very we ll be the death of her.
This book was been previously published. It has been edited, but no new material was added.
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“Go ahead and cry if you want to, precious. Being lonely hurts. The tears might help a little.”
The humiliation was now complete, Holly decided as she leaned against Rhys’ side and sniffed, trying to blink away the tears before any more fell. He was wrong. Crying didn’t help. All it did was give her a headache and make her feel like a weak, whiny moron. This, though—leaning against his long, hard body, breathing in the dark, seductive scent of his skin—helped.
The past four years, she’d been secretly drooling over Rhys.
Drooling and dreaming.
Maybe this is a dream, she thought as he slid his hand soothingly up and down her back. Made more sense than anything else. Especially when the strokes on her back started to drift—an occasional brush of his fingers across her nape, then down lower on her back, brushing the skin left bare between her sweater and her jeans.
Very nice. It got even nicer when he started to fiddle with her hair, tugging out the band holding her braid, combing through the long locks in a lazy, almost absent manner. His voice, when he spoke, was rough and low.
“You’ve got such lovely hair, Holly.”
Blood rushed to her cheeks. Keeping her eyes fastened on his chest, she didn’t respond. Holly was almost afraid to speak. This was the most contact she’d had from anybody, well, other than her parents, in years—ever. She saw people touching all the time—casual touches, friendly touches, intimate ones like the way a man would stroke a hand down his woman’s back, a possessive, loving gesture, a quick kiss shared before they parted ways, or sometimes, something a little hotter, a little more intense.
Once, she’d gone to take her break a little early and had ended up walking in on a couple of coworkers. They’d pulled apart as though the Claus himself had interrupted them, moving with blurring speed to readjust clothing and then ducking out with muttered excuses.
It all filled her with a sense of jealousy and a sense of curiosity. She wanted to be touched like that. She wanted somebody to touch her, somebody who didn’t care about anything other than her—just her. Somebody who could make her forget about anything but the pleasure, everything but the need.
But she hadn’t gambled on it being possible. Rhys, once more, had proved her wrong. Under the slow, gentle movements of his hand, she forgot about everything but him. Everything but the way he smelled, the way he felt, the way it felt when he combed his fingers through her hair.
Rhys’ own hair was a dark gold, shot through with strands of deep brown, black and red. It was long, every bit as long as her own. More often than not, he kept it pulled back in a braided queue but today it hung free around his shoulders. Unable to stop, she reached out and slid her fingers through the silky, straight strands. Rhys didn’t move but something changed—she felt the tension in the air spike. Nervous, embarrassed, she tried to tug away but the arm around her shoulder tightened.
“Look at me, precious.”
She didn’t want to. But that low, compelling voice didn’t give her much of a choice. Swallowing, she eased back, looked up to meet Rhys’ eyes. They were a vivid, brilliant green rimmed by a band of gold. Usually those eyes were as unreadable as a closed book but today they all but glowed with some unnamed emotion. The green of his eyes darkened and his pupils expanded as he stared down at her. Without speaking, he straightened up on the couch and rearranged her body so that she was no longer sitting tucked against him, but on him. His gaze lowered, fastened on her mouth and abruptly Holly realized something.
Rhys was going to kiss her.
Rhys was going to kiss her. Her. Oh shit. Her heartbeat picked up, slamming away inside her chest as he slid his hands up over her arms, her shoulders, one sliding through her hair to curve around the base of her skull, the other stroking down until he could cup her hip.
This is a bad fucking idea, Rhys’ common sense shouted.
But Rhys rarely listened to anybody’s advice—including his own. Instead of letting her go, taking her home and leaving her be, he pulled her closer, staring into her eyes as he covered her mouth with his.
She was sweet. Sweet, hot…and untouched. He felt the hungry pleasure as it blasted through her body and he could sense the stunned, surprised reaction as she arched and squirmed against him, trying to get closer.
Innocence was something he had little use for. Innocence too often came with a cost he wasn’t willing to pay. And with Holly…there were would be an even bigger cost.
No woman had ever had a hold on his heart and he preferred it that way.
Nice, easy, casual—that was how Rhys liked it. But as Holly’s mouth moved against his, he knew that he was about to take a serious departure from his standard operating procedure. Because he wasn’t going to pull away. He wasn’t going to send her off to her lonely bed and retreat to his own.