Laszlo returned home to an early wildfire season that flared unexpectedly. Thankfully, no one was injured, but homes were lost and people displaced. His detractors went wild. #wherewasFabin. #Galavanting. #ValliaVacation.
His supposed affair with the woman who had accompanied him began making headlines, which infuriated him for the hurt it would cause Sofia.
God, he missed her. He had put out his invitation for her to come to his hotel after the gala without thinking it through, compelled to see her privately in the same way he’d been unable to stop himself from going to the gala in the first place. When she’d sent the car, he had only wanted to get past the platitudes and learn how she was really coping in her new role.
Her confession of fearing she carried some of her father’s worst characteristics had shocked him. It explained the way she’d always left his room as though dropping an ax on their time together. He’d adopted it himself after a while and, until Madrid, had allowed himself to believe there was nothing emotional between them—only intense desire.
It all made more sense now, especially why she had pushed him away the morning she had learned about her brother’s scandal. She had to choose the crown. Yes, it was hers by birthright, but it was a matter of principle. She couldn’t let her own needs take precedence over those of her nation, otherwise she really would be no better than her father.
She was as frustratingly noble as her twin.
And it only made Laszlo love her more.
He loved her. He absorbed the realization with shock and a snort of laughter at his own blindness. Of course he loved her. She was independent, dedicated and willing to do the work to make the changes the world needed. She was beautiful enough to start wars but brought people together rather than dividing them.
He had left his heart with her that night and was walking around with an empty chest, so hopelessly in love he could hardly eat.
I really do want you to be happy.
How? He would never be happy with anyone else, not if it meant scorning his solntse. There was no woman like her. The entire weight of Vallia sat on her determined but slender shoulders, and all Laszlo could think was how nice it must be for her brother to abdicate his responsibilities and do whatever he liked. If only.
Wait a damned minute.
Laszlo’s heart lurched and his mind scrambled to catch up. He almost reached for his phone to text Sofia.
He knew what she would say, though. She would tell him not to give up his aspirations on her account, but that’s what he had presumed she would do. He had seen her new title as an obstacle that blocked any chance that she could be his. Did that make him any less hers?
Laszlo still had goals and ambitions for Presovia, of course he did, but he had already accomplished the most important one. He had removed the corrupt party from power.
More importantly, what he had learned about politics was that it had the same slow-turning wheels of process that had frustrated him as a lawyer. He had thought he would get his degree and bring his father’s killer to justice. That hadn’t happened. Then he had thought he would become president and have the power to extradite the killer. He didn’t.
Being a queen’s consort wouldn’t give him any more power to make such things happen, but he wouldn’t have any less. He would still have the ability to influence politics behind the scenes, where the real work happened anyway.
The truth was, along with his occasional rendezvous with Sofia, the most interesting and satisfying work he’d done in the last few years had been at the UN conferences.
He started making calls.
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