Seduced by the Spare Heir

By: Andrea Laurence

One

This party was lame. And it was his party. How could his own party be lame?

Normally parties were Gabriel Montoro’s thing. Much to the chagrin of his family, he’d earned quite the reputation as “Good Time Gabriel.” Music, alcohol, dim lighting, superficial conversation... He was the king of the party domain. But now that Gabriel had been tapped as the new king of Alma, everything had changed.

Gabriel gripped his flute of champagne and looked around the ballroom at his family’s Coral Gables estate. Their tropical retreat seemed incredibly stuffy tonight. There wasn’t a single flip-flop in the room, much less one of the feral parrots that lived on their property and flew in the occasional open door. His family had always had money, but they hadn’t been pretentious.

But things had changed for the Montoro family since the tiny European island nation of Alma decided to restore their monarchy. Suddenly he was Prince Gabriel, third in line to the throne. And before he could adjust to the idea of that, his father and his older brother were taken out of the running. His parents had divorced without an annulment, making his father ineligible. Then, his ever-responsible brother abdicated and ran off with a bartender. Suddenly he was on the verge of being King Gabriel, and everyone expected him to change with the title.

This suffocating soiree was just the beginning and he knew it. Next, he’d have to trade in his South Beach penthouse for a foreign palace and his one-night stands for a queen with a pedigree. Everything from his clothes to his speech would be up for public critique by “his people.” People he’d never seen, living on an island he’d only visited once. But his coronation was only a month or two away. He left for Alma in a week.

That was why they were having this party, if you could even call it that. The music was classical, the drinks were elegant and the women were wearing far too much clothing. He got a sinking feeling in his stomach when he realized this was how it was going to be from now on. Boring parties with boring people he didn’t even know kissing his ass.

There were two hundred people in the room, but there were more strangers than anything else. He found that terribly ironic. People had come out of the woodwork since his brother, Rafe, abdicated and Gabriel was thrust into the spotlight. Suddenly he wasn’t just the vice president of South American Operations, cast into the Southern Hemisphere where he couldn’t embarrass the family; he was the hot ticket in town.

Him! Gabriel—the middle child whom no one paid any attention to, the one dismissed by his family’s society friends as the bad boy, the spare heir and nothing more. Now that he was about to be king, he had strangers at every turn fighting to be his new best friends.

He hated to break it to them, but Gabriel didn’t have friends. Not real ones. That required a level of trust in other people that he just didn’t have. He’d learned far too young that you can’t trust anyone. Even family could let you down when you need them the most.

Speak of the devil.

From across the room, his cousin Juan Carlos spied him and started in his direction. He was frowning. Nothing new there. Ever serious, Juan Carlos never seemed to have any fun. He was always having business discussions, working, being responsible. He was the kind of man who should be the king of Alma—not Gabriel. After hundreds of years, why hadn’t people figured out that bloodlines were not the best indicator of leadership potential?

“You’re not talking to anyone,” Juan Carlos noted with a disapproving scowl as he loomed over his cousin. At several inches over six feet, he had a bad habit of hovering over people. Gabriel was never quite sure if his cousin deliberately tried to intimidate with his size or if he was unaware how much it bothered people when he did that.

Gabriel wasn’t about to let his cousin’s posture or his frown get to him. He tended not to worry too much about what his cousin thought, or what anyone thought, really. When it came down to it, Juan Carlos was serious enough for them both. “No one is talking to me,” he corrected.

“That’s because you’re hiding in the corner sulking.”

Gabriel scoffed at his blunt observation. “I am not sulking.”

His cousin sighed and crossed his arms over his chest. “Then what would you call it?”

“Surveying my domain. That sounds kingly, right?”

Juan Carlos groaned and rolled his eyes. “Quit it. Don’t even pretend you care about any of this, because I know you don’t. You and I both know you’d much rather be in South Beach tonight chasing tail. Pretending otherwise is insulting to your family and insulting to your country.”

Gabriel would be lying if he said the neon lights weren’t beckoning him. There was nothing like the surge of alcohol through his veins and the thumping bass of music as he pressed against a woman on the dance floor. It was the only thing that could help him forget what a mess he was in, but after the drama with Rafe, he’d been on a short leash. The family couldn’t take another scandal.

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