Royally screwed, p.13
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       Royally Screwed, p.13
 

         Part #1 of Royally series by Emma Chase

  "She has to be nobility, even distantly. And she has to be a virgin."

  Olivia grimaces. "Jesus, that's archaic."

  "I know it is. But think about it, Olivia. My children will govern a country one day, not because they've earned it or were elected--just because they're mine. Archaic rules are the only thing that makes me who I am. I don't get to choose which ones I'll follow." I shrug. "That's life."

  "No, it's not," Olivia says quietly.

  "It's my life."

  As she stares at me, her expression hardens and her eyes turn steely, pinning me to the wall. "Why didn't you tell me? All these nights, why didn't you say anything?"

  "There was no reason to tell you...at first."

  She stands up fast, voice rising. "Honesty is a reason, Nicholas. You should have told me!"

  "I didn't know!"

  "You didn't know what?" she sneers prettily.

  "I didn't know it would feel like this!" I shout.

  The scorn fades from her face along with the anger. Replaced with rising surprise, maybe a bit of hope. "Feel like what?"

  Emotion coils inside me--so new and unfamiliar, I can barely put it into words.

  "I have just over four months. And when I walked into that coffee shop, I didn't know that I would end up wanting to spend every single day of it...with you."

  The corners of her eyes crinkle and her mouth pulls up in the tiniest of smiles.

  "You do?"

  I cup her cheek and nod. "Talking to you, laughing with you, looking at you." Then I smirk. "Preferably being buried deep in some part of you."

  She snorts and pushes at my shoulder.

  And then I sober. "But that's all I have to offer. When the summer ends, so do we."

  Olivia combs her hand through her hair, yanking a bit.

  I sit back down in the chair, adding, "And there's more."

  "Oh, Jesus, what? Is there a long-lost child out there somewhere?"

  I flinch--even though I know she's joking.

  "Logan was right about the press. It's just dumb luck that they haven't snapped your photo yet--a matter of time. And when they do, your life is going to change. They'll talk to everyone you've ever known, dig around into the financial situation of Amelia's, comb through your past--"

  "I don't have a past."

  "Then they'll make one up," I snap without meaning to.

  It's out of frustration--frustration that time is short...and the walls are closing in.

  "It not easy being my friend; it's even more difficult being my lover. Think of me as a walking exploding bomb--anything near to me will eventually become collateral damage."

  "And you seemed like such a catch," she jokes, shaking her head.

  Then she stands and turns her back to me, thinking out loud. "So, it'll be like...like Dear John, or Sandy and Zuko in Grease? A summer fling? An affair? And then...you'll just leave?"

  "That's right." I stare at her back, waiting.

  My stomach rolls with nerves. Because I can't remember wanting anything as much as I want this--as much as I want her.

  When a minute passes without a word, I offer, "If you need time to think about it, I--"

  Olivia moves quickly--spinning around, cutting off my words with the urgent press of her mouth, her sweet lips hot and demanding. My hands automatically find her hips, pulling her forward between my knees.

  Then she straightens, and runs her finger over her lips, gazing down at me. "Did you feel that?"

  The spark, the electricity. The desire that feeds on itself, relishing the relief of contact but always wanting more.

  "Yes."

  She takes my hand and places it over her breast--where her heartbeat throbs wildly in her chest. "And do you feel this?"

  My own chest pounds with the same rhythm.

  "Yes."

  "Some people go their whole lives without feeling that. We'll get to have it for four months." Her eyes dance with moonlight. "I'm in."

  A few days later, I'm scheduled to attend a dinner in Washington, DC--a benefit for the Mason Foundation--and Olivia agrees to accompany me. When she worries that she doesn't have anything to wear, I arrange a shopping trip at the Fifth Avenue Barrister's, after closing.

  Because I'm not a gentleman, I help her in the dressing room when the saleswoman is otherwise occupied--giving her a hand, and a finger, getting in and out of all that binding clothing--mostly getting out of it.

  She settles on a deep, jewel-tone plum-colored dress that clings to all the best places, and gold strappy heels. They show her a simple diamond necklace that would look fantastic with the outfit. But Olivia won't let me buy it for her. She says Marty's sister has something more suitable she can borrow.

  After we leave, it nags at me, though--the necklace. For purely selfish reasons. Because I want to see her wearing it. It--and nothing else.

  Talk about prime spank-bank material.

  But when the night of the dinner arrives, and I see Olivia for the first time at the helipad, I forget all about the necklace--because she's a vision. Her lips are dark rose and shiny, her midnight hair is swept up elegantly, her tits are high and stunning.

  I take her hand, kissing the back. "You look amazing."

  "Thank you." She beams.

  Until her eyes settle on the helicopter behind me. Then she looks ill.

  "So, we're really doing this, huh?"

  I fly whenever I have the opportunity, which isn't nearly as often as I'd like. And Olivia's never flown at all--not in a plane or a helicopter. It's exciting to be her first.

  "I told you I'll be gentle."

  I guide her toward the custom craft that the CEO of an international bank who's friendly with my family was kind--and shrewd--enough to loan me for the evening. "Unless you're in the mood for a rough ride?" I wink.

  "Slow and steady, cowboy," she warns. "Or I'll never ride with you again."

  I help her into the soft leather seat, buckle her harness, and carefully put her headset over her hair, so we can talk during the trip. Her eyes are round and terrified.

  Does the fact that that turns me on make me a sick bastard? I'm a little afraid that it does.

  With a quick kiss to her forehead, I walk around and climb in. Tommy rides in the back; Logan and James drove ahead earlier to confirm security details and will meet us when we land.

  With a thumbs-up to the ground crew, we lift off.

  Olivia freezes next to me. Like she's afraid to move or speak. Until we bank to the right. Then she screams bloody murder.

  "Oh my God! We're tipping!" She grabs my arm.

  "Olivia, we're not tipping."

  "Yes we are! Lean! Lean this way!" She shifts her weight away from window--in the opposite direction of our embankment.

  And Tommy, trying to be helpful, leans with her.

  I level us off, but her grip on my arm doesn't let up.

  "Look at the view, sweets. Look at the lights--they're like thousands of diamonds on a bed of black sand."

  Olivia's eyes are squeezed shut so tightly, they almost disappear into her face.

  "No thanks, I'm good like this."

  I pry her hand from my arm, one finger at a time. "All right, here's what we're going to do. You're going to put your hand on the stick and fly the helicopter."

  Her eyes spring open. "What?"

  "You're afraid because you feel out of control," I tell her calmly. "This will make you feel better."

  "You want me to touch your stick so I'll feel better?" she asks incredulously. "Sounds like a line."

  I laugh. "No line. But...my stick always makes everything better. You can't go wrong touching it." I take her hand and put it on the control, teasing her.

  "That's it, grip it firmly, but don't strangle it. Don't stroke, just hold it for now--I know it's big--get used to the feel of it in your hand."

  Olivia snorts. "You are a dirty, dirty man."

  But she's forgotten to be afraid, just as I was hoping. And after a few minutes, I take my hand
off of hers and she holds the control steady, all on her own, her face flushing with happiness.

  "Oh my God!" she gasps--and that turns me on, too. "I'm doing it, Nicholas! I'm flying! This is amazing!"

  We land about two hours later and drive to the Smithsonian, which has been decorated dramatically with crimson swaths between stone pillars and sweeping spotlights along the red carpet. As we pull up, I see the familiar flash of cameras.

  "Front door or back?" I ask Olivia, turning to face her in the limo. I mean the question exactly as it sounds.

  She looks at me with a hint of a dry smile. "Don't you think it's a little early to be talking about the back door?"

  I smirk. "Never too early for the back door."

  She giggles.

  But then I turn serious. Because I know just how much I'm about to turn her life upside down...and then, in less than four months, I'm going to walk away. Olivia doesn't understand yet, not really.

  "If we go in the front door, they take your picture, they find out your name and the world goes mad--but it's our decision. If we use the back door, we may buy a little more time but we won't know when or where or how the discovery will come. Just that it will." I smooth my hand over her knee. "It's up to you, love."

  She angles her head, gazing at the window, watching the throng of photographers--seeming more curious than anything else. "What will we say?"

  "Nothing. We don't give them anything. They'll write what they want and take their pictures whenever, but we never confirm or deny. And the Palace doesn't comment on the personal lives of the royal family."

  She nods slowly. "Like when Beyonce and Jay Z got married. It was all over the papers: the flower delivery, gossip from the caterers--everyone knew, but until they actually confirmed it, no one really, really knew. There was always that shred of possible doubt."

  I smile. "Exactly."

  After a few moments, Olivia takes a deep breath. And holds out her hand to me. "Sorry to disappoint you, Your Highness, but there won't be any back-door action tonight--front door all the way."

  I take her hand and kiss her--sweet and brief.

  "Let's go, then."

  Olivia does well. She waves and smiles and ignores the questions that get thrown at us--like rice at a wedding. She's concerned that she'll have "fish face" in every photograph--I'm not exactly sure what that is, but it doesn't sound good. And there are spots before her eyes for a long while--I tell her next time to look down, below the flashes, not at them--but otherwise she gets through her first experience with the American press unscathed.

  In the ballroom, with a glass of wine in my hand and my palm on the small of Olivia's back, we're greeted by our hosts, Brent and Kennedy Mason.

  Mason's several years older than I, but there's an air of youthfulness about him. He doesn't seem like the type to take himself--or anything--too seriously.

  They bow--a feat Kennedy Mason struggles with because of her large, round, heavily pregnant midsection. Then we shake hands and I introduce Olivia.

  "We're honored to have you here, Prince Nicholas," Mason says.

  He means money--he's honored to have my money, here--because that's what these things are really about. Although I like the Mason Foundation; their overhead is low and they support programs that actually help real people.

  "But we'll miss your grandmother," Kennedy remarks. "She was the life of the party last year."

  "She does handle the center of attention rather well," I reply. "I'll give her your kind regards."

  The four of us converse easily, until Kennedy puts a hand over her belly, covered by a royal-blue silk gown.

  "How far along are you?" Olivia asks.

  "Not as far as you'd think," Kennedy laments. "It's twins this time."

  "How exciting," Olivia says with ease. "Congratulations."

  "Thank you. Our daughter, Vivian, is thrilled. And I am, too--when I'm not too exhausted to feel anything."

  Mason shrugs. "That's the risk you took when you married a man with superpowerful sperm."

  Kennedy covers her eyes. "Oh my God, Brent, will you stop! You're speaking to a prince!" She turns to us. "Ever since we found out about the twins, that's all he's been talking about--his superhero sperm."

  Mason shrugs. "This is the one case where I believe, if you've got it, flaunt it." He lifts his chin to me. "He gets it."

  And we laugh.

  After the Masons move on to greet the rest of their guests, I ask Olivia to dance--because I want an excuse to put my arms around her, lean in close, and smell her sweet skin.

  "I have no idea how to dance." She eyes the large band and bustling dance floor. "Not like that."

  I take her hand. "I do. And I'm an excellent lead. Just hold on tight, and let me take you where you need to go."

  As with the helicopter, she's hesitant at first--but her adventurous nature wins out.

  "O-kay...but don't say I didn't warn you."

  I have a few drinks with dinner, so we decide to drive back to Manhattan in the limousine. Olivia nods off against my arm before we hit the halfway mark. By the time we arrive in the city, it's so late--or early, depending on your point of view--there's no point in heading to the suite, so I have Logan drive straight to Olivia's apartment.

  It's a good thing she slept on the drive home--I don't think she'll be getting back to sleep tonight. Because outside the coffee shop door, over a hundred people are waiting.

  For me--and now, her.

  From the looks of the cameras, pictures, and posters, it's a mix of fans, autograph seekers, and photographers. It's safe to say Olivia's identity--and address and occupation--are definitely out of the closet.

  "Holy shit." She blinks, looking out the car window at the crowd.

  "Welcome to my world." I wink.

  "Hey, Lo, when are those extra men coming?" James asks from the front passenger seat.

  "Tomorrow," Logan replies.

  "It's a good thing, lads," Tommy says. "'Cause like the Americans say, I think we're gonna need a bigger boat."

  HAVE YOU EVER WONDERED what overnight celebrity is like? Well, now I'm qualified to tell you. It's like when those technically dead patients on medical shows get zapped by the paddles after the hot, young doctor screams, "Clear!"

  It feels just how that looks: jarring, jolting.

  It's as if I've been knocked down a black hole into an alternate universe...knocked into someone else's life.

  And in a way I guess I have--I've been knocked into Nicholas's.

  It sweeps me up in its current, and all I can do is remember to breathe and try to enjoy the ride.

  The beginning is the hardest. Isn't it always? The first morning I took Bosco out to pee and was surrounded by people I didn't know--asking me questions, taking my picture. James and Tommy stayed with me and I saw a different side to them. The way they moved and spoke--sharp and intimidating--backing the crowd up, just daring anyone to try to get past them.

  It was hard for Nicholas to leave me that morning. His eyes were ravaged--because he wanted to stay, to be the lion who kept the hyenas at bay. But he knew his presence would just make it so much worse--turn the curious crowd into a frenzied mob.

  The next day, Nicholas has his people--the Dark Suits, he calls them--contact the NYPD, to make sure there's no loitering on the sidewalk in front of Amelia's. We institute a "must purchase to stay" policy in the coffee shop, because most of the dozens and dozens of people who visit are more stalker than customer. In spite of that, there's a definite uptick in business, which is a double-edged sword. Ellie starts to pitch in after school, taking opposite shifts with me, which is a huge help. And Marty, as always, is a calm, hilarious rock I can always count on. They both bask in the chaotic attention, posing for pictures and even signing the occasional autograph when requested--though I just think that's weird. They're both also able to keep their mouths closed when questions are asked--confirming nothing about me and Nicholas.

  On the third day after all hell broke loo
se, I come upstairs to the apartment, finished with my shift and so looking forward to a hot shower. Well, lukewarm--but I'll pretend it's hot.

  But when I pass Ellie's room, I hear cursing--Linda Blair-Exorcist-head-spinning-around kind of cursing. I push open her door and spot my sister at her little desk, yelling at her laptop.

  Even Bosco barks from the bed.

  "What's going on?" I ask. "I just came up but Marty's down there on his own--he won't last longer than ten minutes."

  "I know, I know." She waves her hand. "I'm in a flame war with a toxic bitch on Twitter. Let me just huff and puff and burn her motherfucking house down...and then I'll go sell some coffee."

  "What happened?" I ask sarcastically. "Did she insult your makeup video?"

  Ellie sighs, long and tortured. "That's Instagram, Liv--I seriously think you were born in the wrong century. And anyway, she didn't insult me--she insulted you."

  Her words pour over me like the ice-bucket challenge.

  "Me? I have like two followers on Twitter."

  Ellie finishes typing. "Boo-ya. Take that, skank-a-licious!" Then she turns slowly my way. "You haven't been online lately, have you?"

  This isn't going to end well, I know it. My stomach knows it too--it whines and grumbles.

  "Ah, no?"

  Ellie nods and stands, gesturing to her computer. "You might want to check it out. Or not--ignorance is bliss, after all. If you do decide to take a peek, you might want to have some grain alcohol nearby."

  Then she pats my shoulder and heads downstairs, her blond ponytail swaying behind her.

  I glance at the screen and my breath comes in quick, semi-panicked bursts and my blood rushes like a runaway train in my veins. I've never been in a fight, not in my whole life. The closest I came was sophomore year in high school, when Kimberly Willis told everyone she was going to kick the crap out of me. So I told my gym teacher, Coach Brewster--a giant lumberjack of a man--that I got my period unexpectedly and had to go home. He spent the rest of the school year avoiding eye contact with me. But it worked--by the next day, Kimberly found out Tara Hoffman was the one talking shit about her and kicked the crap out of her instead.

  I'm not used to people hating me. And from the looks of it, thousands--make that tens of thousands--of people have signed up to do just that.

  @arthousegirl47 says I have a fat ass. @princessbill thinks I'm a money-hungry slut. @twilightbella5 suspects my mother was an alien because my eyes are too big and weird. And @342fuckyou doesn't care what the rumors are--Nicholas is hers.

 
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