Claimed for the maharaja’s baby!
Prince Jai knows a relationship with Willow, the captivating virgin he found passionate oblivion with, is impossible. Yet haunted by their powerful bond, Jai can’t resist seeking her out–only to discover his hidden heir! His honor demands one solution… Overnight, Willow goes from penniless single mother to maharaja’s convenient bride! Catapulted into the opulence of Jai’s palace, she can’t deny him the chance to know his son. But Jai doesn’t do love. As their desire rekindles, Willow must fight to keep her new secret hidden–her true feelings for Jai!
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IT WAS A dull winter day with laden grey clouds overhead. Fine for a funeral as long as the rain held off, Jai conceded grimly.
In his opinion, English rain differed from Indian rain. The monsoon season in Chandrapur brought relief from the often unbearable heat of summer, washing away the dust and the grime and regenerating the soil so that flowers sprang up everywhere. It was a cool, uplifting time of renewal and rebirth.
His bodyguards fanned out to check the immediate area before he was signalled forward to board his limousine. That further loss of time, slight though it was, irritated him because, much as he knew he needed to take security precautions, he was also uneasily aware that he would be a late arrival at the funeral. Unfortunately, it was only that morning that he had flown in from New York to find the message from Brian Allerton’s daughter awaiting him, none of his staff having appreciated that that message should have been treated as urgent.
Brian Allerton had been a Classics teacher and house master at the exclusive English boarding school that Jai had attended as a boy. For over two hundred years, Jai’s Rajput ancestors had been sending their children to England to be educated, but Jai had been horribly homesick from the moment he’d arrived in London. Brian Allerton had been kind and supportive, encouraging the young prince to play sport and focus on his studies. A friendship had been born that had crossed both age barriers and distance and had lasted even after Jai went to university and moved on to become an international businessman.
Brian’s witty letters had entertained Jai’s father, Rehan as well. A shadow crossed Jai’s lean, darkly handsome face, his ice-blue eyes, so extraordinarily noticeable against his olive skin, darkening. Because his own father had died the year before and Jai’s life had changed radically as a result, with any hope of escaping the sheer weight of his royal heritage gone.
On his father’s death he had become the Maharaja of Chandrapur, and being a hugely successful technology billionaire had had to take a back seat while he took control of one of the biggest charitable foundations in the world to continue his father’s sterling work in the same field. Jai often thought that time needed to stretch for his benefit because, even working night and day, he struggled to keep up with all his responsibilities. Suppressing that futile thought, he checked his watch and gritted his teeth because the traffic was heavy and moving slowly.
Brian’s only child, Willow, would be hit very hard by the older man’s passing, Jai reflected ruefully, for, like Jai, Willow had grown up in a single-parent family, her mother having died when she was young. Jai’s mother, however, had walked out on Jai’s father when Jai was a baby, angrily, bitterly convinced that her cross-cultural marriage and mixed-race son were adversely affecting her social standing. Jai had only seen her once after that and only for long enough to register that he was pretty much an embarrassing little secret in his mother’s life, and not one she wanted to acknowledge in public after remarrying and having another family.
It was ironic that Jai had come perilously close to repeating his father’s mistake. At twenty-one he had become engaged to an English socialite. He had been hopelessly in love with Cecilia and had lived to regret his susceptibility when she’d ditched him almost at the altar. In the eight years since then, Jai had toughened up. He was no longer naive or romantic. He didn’t do love any more. He didn’t do serious relationships. There were countless beautiful women willing to share his bed without any promise of a tomorrow and no woman ever left his bed unsatisfied. Casual, free and essentially forgettable, he had learned, met his needs best.
As the limousine drew up outside the cemetery, Jai idly wondered what Willow looked like now. Sadly, it was three years since he had last seen her father, who had turned into a recluse after his terminal illness was diagnosed. She had been away from home studying on his last visit, he recalled with an effort. He had not regretted her absence because as a teenager she had had a huge crush on him and the amount of attention she had given him had made him uncomfortable back then. She had been a tiny little thing though, with that hair of a shade that was neither blond nor red, and the languid green eyes of a cat, startling against her pale skin.