Royally endowed, p.17
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       Royally Endowed, p.17

         Part #3 of Royally series by Emma Chase
 
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  Her hands reach down between us, spreading across my hips, her thumbs hooking and holding my lower pelvis. "I love it like this. You pressing into me, giving me your weight, feeling you rock against me right here."

  A jolt of passion blazes up my spine, and I kiss her deep and quick--pressing my lips too hard against hers, but too far gone to stop.

  "I can't get enough of you, Ellie . . . I'll never, ever get enough . . ."

  I WAKE TO THE FEELING of Logan kissing the back of my neck.

  He's always up before me, but one of these days I'll figure out a way to pry my eyes open first so I can enjoy the sight of his handsome face, relaxed and peaceful. I wonder if his mouth smiles while he dreams, or if it frowns in that serious way it sets when he's on duty. One day I'll know.

  His breath tickles my neck and he kisses me again, his lips so warm against my skin. I open my eyes to the living room, lit from the daylight outside the window but not blindingly bright, thanks to my trusty curtains. We never made it upstairs last night--I wore the boy out--we wore out each other. The sheet is soft and warm beneath my naked body, the mattress a perfect cushion.

  And my chest feels so full, like my heart has grown too big for it.

  I turn onto my back, looking up into the deep brown eyes that I have adored from the first moment they met mine. His hair is mussed, some strands falling into his eyes, others sticking straight up, making him look young and boyishly carefree.

  Logan's smile falters and his forehead wrinkles as he gazes down at me. His hand cups the side of my face, wiping away a tear that trickles from the corner of my eye.

  "What is it, Ellie-love?"

  I didn't even realize I was crying. Maybe it's knowing that he chose me, while understanding exactly what that meant, what he'd be giving up. Maybe it's being in this house that smells like fresh-cut timber, warm stone . . . and home. Or maybe it's waking up in his arms, to his kiss--this man who has become everything to me.

  Whom I would do anything for. I didn't understand those words before, not really, but now I know. I know what my father felt for my mother, what Liv feels for her husband.

  I want to cherish Logan. Adore him. My heart, my body, my soul--they're already his.

  The only thing left to give him is words.

  "I love you, Logan." My heart swells. "I love you. I love you. I love you . . ."

  The corners of his mouth curve up and he leans down close.

  "Ellie, I--"

  There's a crash outside the front door. A horn honking, shouts and voices arguing.

  Logan looks in that direction, cursing. "What in the fuck . . ."

  He rises from our mattress and slips into a pair of jeans and walks shirtless toward the ruckus. "Stay here."

  I don't listen. I button his shirt around me, slide into my black leggings, then catch up to him in the foyer. Through the curtainless front window, I see people--lots of them. There are also cars and vans.

  What in the fuck is right.

  Logan opens the front door and a hundred cameras click at once--like a machine gun firing. They're reporters, photographers . . . and they're in Logan's front yard.

  There's a break in the crowd, a parting of the sea, and James pushes his way into the house, slamming the door behind him. James is a good friend of Logan's and a former member of Nicholas's personal security team. He went back with him and Olivia to Wessco that first summer and guards the royal family at the palace now.

  "Morning, Lo." He nods. "Miss Ellie."

  "What the hell's going on, James?" Logan asks.

  James cocks his head apologetically. "You are." He glances between me and Logan, his blond hair falling over his forehead. "While they wait for the babies to be born and the wedding day to arrive, the press is looking to fill their pages with some kind of scandal. And you two are it."

  Logan drapes his arm around me.

  "Also," James continues, "I brought the car. The Queen wants to see you. Now."

  That doesn't sound good.

  Logan and I wait in the Queen's private drawing room--an amazing custard-yellow-and-dark-wood-accented room--wearing the wrinkled clothes we threw on from last night. Queen Lenora strides in like a pissed-off general--if the military uniform were a pink skirt and jacket, and pillbox hat.

  Logan bows and I curtsy.

  She smacks several newspapers on her desk--tabloids. All with screaming headlines about me--the bright-eyed royal relation getting down and dirty with the rough security guard from a shady family. Great.

  "I am so disappointed in you, Eleanor." She shakes her head. "Poor George. The young mayor had such promise for you. I can't imagine what he will say."

  I raise my hand. "He actually texted me this morning. He said thanks. He's had a crush on the upstairs maid forever and now he's finally got the guts to ask her out."

  The Queen lifts her nose. "You could have reached so much higher. For a man of importance, of significance."

  She turns to Logan and lowers her nose at him. "And you--you had a duty to this family to protect her--"

  I step forward, cutting her off--knowing it's improper and inappropriate but not giving a single shit.

  "He has protected me. Since the day I met him--in every way he knows how. Don't you dare question his loyalty to your family."

  "Ellie!" Logan hisses quietly. Because even now, he's trying to protect me.

  Queen Lenora shakes her head. "You could have been Madam Eleanor, Lady Eleanor, Duchess Eleanor . . . and you've chosen to throw that opportunity away."

  I stand taller, straighter. "My name isn't Eleanor. It's Ellie. And Logan St. James is a man of significance and importance, and if you can't see that, it's your loss. I don't need a title." I look at Logan. "I just need him."

  The Queen scoffs, regally, of course. "Oh, good grief."

  She turns to the painting behind her--the one of her husband, Edward--and shakes her head at it, like it's the only thing that understands her.

  Then, with a breath, she focuses her attention back on Logan.

  "Leave us."

  Logan hesitates for just a second--looking to me, checking with me--and I nod. He bows low to the Queen and leaves, closing the door behind him.

  Queen Lenora steps closer. "I was your age once. Though I'm sure my grandsons can't fathom it, it's true. You are young, and full of hope and beauty, and foolish faith. You believe love can fix everything. Cure any ill." She shakes her head, looking in my eyes. "It can't. And though I had different aspirations for you, you have made your choice. I wish you well, truly--I hope you and your guard find every happiness."

  The Queen walks stiffly back behind her desk.

  "But, Ellie, if you think things will be easy now, that the two of you will simply ride off into the sunset unaffected by the realities of your situation . . . you should prepare to be mistaken."

  I SIT IN THE ANTIQUE chair outside the Queen's office, waiting for Ellie. Across from me at his desk is Christopher, Her Majesty's personal secretary. He's solid--a big fucker--long reach. It gets me thinking.

  "Hey Christopher, you ever do any fighting? Boxing? That sort of thing."

  He adjusts his glasses. "I fence."

  Fencing. I could work with that.

  The phone on his desk rings.

  "Yes? Yes, right away." He looks to me. "Winston would like a word."

  I hook my thumb at the door. "Tell Ellie I'll see her back in her rooms when she's done here." Then, as I pass his desk, I add, "We should chat--about training. You're the Queen's secretary; you're with her all the time, her last line of defense. It'd be good for you to know how to handle yourself. I could show you a few things."

  He thinks it over . . . and then he nods.

  Down in Winston's office, I find him and a few of the lads going over the security detail for the wedding. Since I'm no longer privy to that information, they stop the discussion when I walk through the door.

  "You wanted a word?"

  Winston's flat eyes and blank expressi
on turn my way. "I wanted to inform you, I've assigned a detail to your house as well as a car and a driver for you and Miss Hammond to make use of."

  For a second, I think I've heard him wrong.

  "Why?"

  "In the short term, the guards will keep the press at bay. In the long term, they'll protect you and Miss Hammond. The car and the driver as well."

  "I don't want a bloody detail around my house."

  "I'm not concerned with what you want, St. James. It's protocol--you know that."

  I almost laugh. Because protocol is for aristocrats--not for fucking me.

  "I'll handle the press. And I can protect Ellie just fine."

  The thing that's so eerie about Winston--he has almost no inflection in his voice. No emotion. He doesn't get upset or frustrated; he doesn't argue. He's like the Terminator--no matter what you do or say, he just keeps going, moving forward, doing things his way.

  "No, you can't. That's the point."

  One of the newer guys--a bulky, big-mouthed sod--speaks up from the couch across the room. "Leave the guarding to us, St. James. You just focus on keeping your pretty little golden ticket happy."

  I narrow my eyes and take two steps towards him--and I spot Winston on my flank, positioning himself, just in case.

  "Come again?"

  Dumb-fuck shrugs. "You telling me you're not gonna put on a tuxedo and sip Champagne at Prince Henry and Lady Sarah's ball, coming up? I mean, good for you, mate--we got to take the chance to move up when we can. And you hit the jackpot. I say enjoy it, for however long it lasts."

  My first instinct is to punch him in the mouth--knock him out cold. But I see his face, and it's stupidly sincere. Congratulatory. He's not trying to be a dickhead . . . and somehow that makes it worse.

  Ellie's door is open. I close it and lock it behind me. She's standing before the open balcony, watching the rain pour down. The sky is an angry gray, and the cool wind blows the curtains and lifts the honey-toned tendrils of Ellie's hair.

  She seems unusually calm. Contemplative. And I wonder what she's thinking.

  I come up behind her, slide my arms around her waist and pull her back against my chest. I kiss her temple and smell the rain on her skin--fresh and clean.

  "What are you doing?" I ask.

  "Watching the storm. Isn't it beautiful, Logan?"

  I tilt my head, to gaze at her face. "Breathtaking."

  She smiles prettily.

  "Are you all right? After your chat with the Queen?"

  Ellie turns her eyes back to the sky. "I'm fine. But I guess Nicholas doesn't call her a battle-axe for nothing, huh?"

  "No." I chuckle. "It's a well-earned nickname."

  I kiss her neck, her ear. There are things I should say, things we should talk about, but right now I crave her. I want to hold her, feel her, beneath me and all around.

  "I'm mad for you, Ellie. Gone for you. I want you so much."

  She turns in my arms, lifting hers around my neck. And her sweet blue eyes are liquid with the same desire that flows through me.

  "You have me, Logan. I'm right here," she says softly. "I'm yours."

  I kiss her slow and deep. And I don't stop, my lips never leaving her skin as I bring her to the bed, lay her down and peel the sweater and leggings from her body.

  Ellie watches me lift my shirt over my head. Her gaze follows my hands, caressing me, as I unbutton my trousers and push them to the floor. Holding her eyes, I come to her on the bed, bare in every way.

  And with the wind and rain raging outside, Ellie and I make our own refuge, our own paradise. She moans my name when I slide in deep, and she clings to me. I hold her so close as I stroke slowly inside her, whispering tender words and sacred promises.

  It's genuine and raw--more than our bodies joining, it feels like our souls have too.

  When she told me she loved me this morning, it was the first time anyone had ever said those words to me. The only time. And it's so precious to me, she is so precious to me, I tremble with the depth of it.

  We find our pleasure together, coming at the same time. It feels exquisite, it feels like love. What I have with Ellie, what we've made in this moment, is what I've been wanting my whole life--something noble and lasting. Pure and good and true.

  THE NEXT FEW DAYS ARE crazy, difficult. I used to think I was accustomed to the press, to the bullshit stories they pull out of thin air. But this is another level of messed up. They camp outside Logan's house--on the sidewalk, waiting for one of us to show up. What used to be his private sanctuary has turned into a circus, a freak show.

  They follow us everywhere. Logan almost gets into a fight at the flea market, when a paparazzo makes a nasty comment about my boobs. It's only the security detail trailing us that stopped him from shattering the asshole's jaw.

  Logan throws himself into finishing the house, and it's turning out so beautifully. One time, I tell him he should pick construction or remodeling for his next career, only half teasing. But he didn't answer. I think he's struggling with leaving his position, that it's turned out to be harder than he thought. Whenever we're out in public, he's tense and quiet--not that he was Mr. Chatterbox before. But at night, at the palace where we've been sleeping, when we make love--then I feel him. He looks at me with the eyes I know, smiles and whispers and kisses me like the man I love.

  In those moments, when it's just him and me, and the rest of the world doesn't exist, we're perfect. And happy. And I catch a glimpse of what our future will be, if we can just make it through this gauntlet.

  A week later, the day of Henry and Sarah's celebration ball arrives. Amazingly, there hasn't been a single peep about their secret garden nuptials, and I'm glad. It still belongs just to them. They don't have to share it with the world.

  The ball will be my and Logan's first official public appearance together. I can't wait to be on his arm. I can't wait to see his face when he sees my dress--a long slinky gown the color of sea-glass in the sun, that plumps my cleavage and shows off my ass. Move over @Elliesweettits--once Twitter sees photos of me in this number, @Elliesexyarse will be trending world-wide. Not that I actually care, the only place I want to be trending is in Logan St. James's naughty fantasies.

  I spend the day with Livvy and Sarah getting beautified, a perk of living at the royal residence where the glamor squad makes palace calls. Our hair is washed and blown out, our nails are filed and painted, we're waxed and plucked within an inch of our lives. And then, at seven sharp, we meet at the grand palace staircase for pictures.

  Sarah wears a red strapless ball gown, stunning, with her hair pinned up in countless shiny curls. Henry, looking strikingly handsome in a formal tuxedo with tails, can't take his eyes off her.

  Olivia, with her big, round, beautiful belly, looks gorgeous in an emerald green, one shoulder chiffon gown paired with simple--and cushiony--nude flats. Nicholas insisted, because he didn't want her feet to hurt.

  The palace has commissioned famed photographer, Jillian Sabal, to take posed and candid shots of the royal family. Logan's late, so I try to call, but the call goes to voicemail. I send him texts but he doesn't answer. My anxiety grows as pictures are taken at the staircase without him. My disappointment is devastating. While he wouldn't have been included in the portrait shots, I thought we'd get to take one or two pictures of just me and him--and they would've been so amazing.

  Where is he?

  Then it's time for the receiving line, and the ball is starting without him.

  And I get this horrible, sick sinking feeling in my stomach. Because he's been so on edge lately, strained and unhappy. There's a tiny whisper of worry that maybe something happened to him, an accident or an injury--but deep down I know that's not true.

  I text him again. I call five more times. I don't worry about looking desperate because this is Logan--we don't play games. At least, I didn't think we did.

  I watch the ballroom entrance, hoping he'll appear, because I'm a hopeful person.

  And it's
only after an hour of dancing, when the white-gloved waiters serve the perfect, elegantly plated dinner, that my hope disintegrates and my disappointment starts to heat, boil--turn to anger.

  Because Logan isn't coming.

  When we pull up to the house, it seems deserted, quiet and dark, even though he has electricity now. There's a black SUV in the driveway that belongs to the security guards, and two guys I don't recognize sit inside the vehicle. They nod to James as he closes the car door behind me. When he moves to lead me up the path, I stop him, because I don't want an audience for this.

  I find him in the kitchen, sitting in the dark, at the table we found at a flea market two days ago. His shirt is open, unbuttoned, and a black tuxedo tie hangs loose around his neck.

  And I don't know what I feel, because it's like I feel everything at once. For the first time since I met him, my hero looks lost, my guardian angel has a broken wing. And I want to mend him, save him the way he's always saved me. I want to love him until he feels found.

  But there are other emotions too--the stab of hurt, the sting of humiliation, the sharp slap of anger.

  "What's going on, Logan?"

  He doesn't look at me, but just continues to stare hard at the half-empty bottle of liquor in front of him.

  "I'm a fool. I look like a fool."

  I move closer, close enough to smell the aroma of whiskey floating around him. "That's not true. That could never be true."

  He lifts his finger, correcting me. "I would've felt like a fool if I'd shown up to the fancy ball with you tonight."

  "Why?"

  He raises his hand toward the door. "It's in all the papers. I'm the fucking East Amboy bodyguard who's pounding the princess's sister to become a pampered royal. I have guards around my house because I'm incapable of protecting myself. Or you."

  "I don't care what they say, and neither should you. They lie. They lie all the time about Nicholas and Olivia and Henry. They've lied about me too--you know that."

  He shakes his head. "It feels different to be the person they're lying about. All I ever wanted was to be a part of something bigger than me--and I'm not a part of anything now."

 
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