Royally endowed, p.2
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       Royally Endowed, p.2

         Part #3 of Royally series by Emma Chase
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  He tilts his head to the left, looking around the rolling pin to meet my eyes with his soulful brown ones. "Nice toss."

  Logan St. James.

  Bodyguard. Totally badass. Sexiest guy I have ever seen--and that includes books, movies and TV, foreign and domestic. He's the perfect combo of boyishly could-go-to-my-school kind of handsome, mixed with dangerously hot and tantalizingly mysterious. If comic-book Superman, James Dean, Jason Bourne and some guy with the smoothest, most perfectly pitched, British-Scottish-esque, Wessconian-accented voice all melded together into one person, they would make Logan fucking St. James.

  And I just tried to clock him with a baking tool--while wearing my Rick and Morty pajama short-shorts, a Winnie-the-Pooh T-shirt I've had since I was eight and my SpongeBob SquarePants slippers.

  And no bra.

  Not that I have a whole lot going on upstairs, but still . . .

  "Christ on a saltine!" I grasp at my chest like an old woman with a pacemaker.

  Logan's brow wrinkles. "Haven't heard that one before."

  Oh fuck--did he see me dancing? Did he see me leap? God, let me die now.

  I yank on my earbuds' cord, popping them from my ears. "What the hell, dude?! Make some noise when you walk in--let a girl know she's not alone. You could've given me a heart attack. And I could've killed you with my awesome ninja skills."

  The corner of his mouth quirks. "No, you couldn't."

  He sets the rolling pin down on the counter.

  "I knocked on the kitchen door so I wouldn't frighten you, but you were busy with your . . . performance."

  Blood and heat rush to my face. And I want to melt into the floor and then all the way down to the Earth's core.

  Logan points toward the front of the coffee shop. "The door wasn't bolted. I thought Marty was going to replace the broken lock?"

  Relieved to have a reason not to look at him, I turn around and get the lock set out of the drawer--still in the packaging. "He bought it, but we got swamped the other day and he didn't have time to install it."

  Logan picks it up and turns it over in his hands. "I'll take care of it."

  "Do you need a screwdriver?"

  "No, I have tools in the car."

  I lean my elbow against the counter, looking up at him. Logan's really tall. And not just because I'm a minute five foot one. He's like, tall-tall. Long--like a sexy tree. And solid--broad across the chest in his black dress shirt. Strapping.

  "You're like a Boy Scout, huh?"

  It's my attempt at flirting--probably only slightly less effective than Dirty Dancing's "I carried a watermelon."

  He does the mouth-quirk thing again.

  "Not even close."

  There's a bad-boy edge in the way he says it--a heavy hint of the forbidden--that gets my heart pounding and my jaw eager to drop.

  To cover my reaction, I nod vigorously.

  "Right, me neither . . . Never been a--"

  Too vigorously.

  So vigorously that my elbow slips in the flour on the counter and I almost knock myself unconscious. But Logan's not only big and brawny--he's quick. Fast enough to catch me by the arm and waist to steady me before I bash the side of my head against the butcher block.

  "Are you all right, Ellie?"

  He leans down, looking at me intently--a look I'll see in my dreams tonight . . . assuming I can sleep. And, wow, Logan has great eyelashes. Thick and lengthy and midnight black. I bet they're not the only part of him that's thick and lengthy.

  My gaze darts down to his promised land, where his pants are just tight enough to confirm my suspicions--this bodyguard may have a service revolver in his pocket, but he's got a magnum in his pants.

  Yum.

  "Yeah, I'm good." I sigh. "Just . . . you know . . . tired. But I'm cool . . . totally cool."

  And I shake it off, like I actually am.

  He nods and steps away. "I'll fix the lock now. And I'll give you the key afterward. Keep it with you; don't lose it. From now on, you lock the door behind you when you leave, and you keep it locked when you're home by yourself. Understand?"

  I nod again. Livvy must've been talking to him. It's not my fault keys abandon me. I put them in a specific spot, so I'll know where they are for later--and I swear to God, they sprout legs and run away.

  Slippery, little Houdini bastards.

  After I take the last pie out of the oven and set it on the cooling rack, I fly upstairs to get dressed for school. I don't have the time or the wardrobe that some of the girls at my school have, but I make the most of what I've got: dark jeans, a sheer pale-pink short-sleeved top with a white tank underneath, black flats and a black leather jacket I found at the consignment shop last year.

  I like jewelry, I like to jingle when I walk--like a human music box. So, it's cheap rings on every finger, cheaper bangle bracelets on my wrists and a long silver dangly necklace.

  I don't contour my face or fill in my blond eyebrows with dark brown pencil like Kylie Jenner--I'd end up looking like that freaky female serial killer if I tried. But I do use under-eye concealer--practically a whole tube of it--plus a little mascara and light pink lip gloss.

  When I hop down the back steps a few minutes before six a.m., Logan is done with the lock and talking to our waiter Marty in the kitchen.

  Marty McFly Ginsberg isn't just our employee--he's my and Livvy's big brother from another mother. If our mother were black, Jewish, gay and cool as shit. Marty's the bomb-dot-com.

  "Hey, Chicklet." He hugs me. And the man doesn't scrimp on his hugs. "How are you doing? Did you hear from Liv?"

  I nod. "Did she send you the pic of her room?"

  Marty sighs. "Like she died and went to Nate Berkus heaven." He brushes a green-tipped strand of my hair away. "How were things around here last night?"

  "Fine." I yawn. "I haven't slept yet, but that's not news."

  Marty grinds the coffee beans, fills two filters and starts brewing the first of many pots of coffee. "How's your dad holding up?"

  "Fine, I guess. He didn't come home."

  It's not a frequent thing, but it's happened often enough that it's not a big deal. At least not to me.

  Logan slowly turns my way. "What do you mean?"

  I shrug. "He's still not home. He was probably upset about Liv leaving, got tanked and passed out on Mulligan's bar or one of the benches between here and there. It happens sometimes."

  The bodyguard's eyes seem to spark--like a fire's been lit inside him. "Are you telling me you spent the night in the flat upstairs, all by yourself, with an unlocked fucking door on the ground floor?"

  "Yeah. But I had Bosco with me."

  Bosco is our shih-tzu-Chihuahua mix. He's not exactly guard dog material--unless his plan is to startle intruders to death with his so-hideous-he's-cute face. And if a burglar happens to try stealing hot dogs from the fridge, he'll never make it out alive. Bosco would rip a throat out for a hot dog.

  "It's not a big deal, Logan."

  Logan looks at Marty and a secret, He-Man-Boy's-Club look passes between them. When he turns back to me, his face and voice are hard. Definitely pissed off.

  "We'll take shifts--me and the lads. We can stay down here in the diner if you're uncomfortable having us in the flat, but someone will be here with you, round the clock, from now on. You won't be alone again. Yeah?"

  I nod slowly, feeling warm fuzzies in my veins, like my blood is carbonated.

  "Okay."

  So this is what it's like to have someone to watch over me.

  Don't get me wrong--my sister would take a bullet for me and still manage to beat the shit out of the person who fired the shot. But this is totally different.

  Hotter. More Tarzan-y. More comforting. I'm this tough, handsome guy's priority. He'll care about me, protect me . . . like it's his motherfucking job.

  Because--it is.

  I know from Liv that Nicholas finds the constant protection stifling. But to me, it just feels . . . really nice.

  A t
ruck rumbles up the back alley.

  "That's the Danish delivery," Marty says. "If he tries pushing squashed-to-shit pastries on us again, I'm going to have to bust some skulls." He cracks his knuckles. "I'll be back."

  As he goes out the back door, my friend Marlow slips through it, into the kitchen.

  "Hey, bitch. You ready to go?"

  "Yeah, five minutes."

  Marlow's from a wealthy family. Her dad's a hedge-fund manager and kind of a dick. Her mom is very beautiful and very sad, and I've never seen her without a glass of Pinot Grigio. They don't send Mar to a private school, even though they can afford it, because they want her to have "grit." Street smarts.

  I don't know if it's the result of the public school system or if it just comes natural to her, but if I were to bet on the girl most likely to run the world? I'd put my money on Marlow.

  "The front door is locked--what's up with that?"

  "Logan fixed the lock," I tell her.

  Her bright red, heart-shaped mouth smiles. "Good job, Kevin Costner. You should staple the key to Ellie's forehead, though, or she'll lose it."

  She has names for the other guys too and when her favorite guard, Tommy Sullivan, walks in a few minutes later, Marlow uses his. "Hello, Delicious." She twirls her honey-colored, bouncy hair around her finger, cocking her hip and tilting her head like a vintage pinup girl.

  Tommy, the fun-loving super-flirt, winks. "Hello, pretty, underage lass." Then he nods to Logan and smiles at me. "Lo . . . Good morning, Miss Ellie."

  "Hey, Tommy."

  Marlow struts forward. "Three months, Tommy. Three months until I'm a legal adult--then I'm going to use you, abuse you and throw you away."

  The dark-haired devil grins. "That's my idea of a good date." Then he gestures toward the back door. "Now, are we ready for a fun day of learning?"

  One of the security guys has been walking me to school ever since the public and press lost their minds over Nicholas and Olivia's still-technically-unconfirmed relationship. They make sure no one messes with me and they drive me in the tinted, bulletproof SUV when it rains--it's a pretty sweet deal.

  I grab my ten-thousand-pound messenger bag from the corner.

  "I can't believe I didn't think of this before. Elle--you should have a huge banger here tonight!" says Marlow.

  Tommy and Logan couldn't have synced up better if they'd practiced:

  "No fucking way."

  Marlow holds up her hands, palms out. "Did I say banger?"

  "Huge banger," Tommy corrects.

  "No--no fucking way. I meant, we should have a few friends over to . . . hang out. Very few. Very mature. Like . . . almost a study group."

  I toy with my necklace and say, "That actually sounds like a good idea."

  Throwing a party when your parents are away is a rite-of-high-school passage. And after this summer, Liv will most likely never be away again. It's now or never.

  "It's a terrible idea." Logan scowls.

  He looks kinda scary when he scowls. But still hot. Possibly, hotter.

  Marlow steps forward, her brass balls hanging out and proud. "You can't stop her--that's not your job. It's like when the Bush twins got busted in that bar with fake IDs or Malia was snapped smoking pot at Coachella. Secret Service couldn't stop them; they just had to make sure they didn't get killed."

  Tommy slips his hands in his pockets, laid back even when he's being a hardass. "We could call her sister. Even from an ocean away, I'd bet she'd stop her."

  "No!" I jump a little. "No, don't bother Liv. I don't want her worrying."

  "We could board up the fucking doors and windows," Logan suggests.

  'Cause that's not overkill or anything.

  I move in front of the two security guards and plead my case. "I get why you're concerned, okay? But I have this thing--it's like my motto. I want to suck the lemon."

  Tommy's eyes bulge. "Suck what?"

  I laugh, shaking my head. Boys are stupid.

  "You know that saying, 'When life gives you lemons, make lemonade'?--well, I want to suck the lemon dry."

  Neither of them seems particularly impressed.

  "I want to live every bit of life, experience everything it has to offer, good and bad." I lift my jeans to show my ankle--and the little lemon I've drawn there. "See? When I'm eighteen, I'm going to get this tattooed on for real. As a reminder to live as much and as hard and as awesome as I can--to not take anything for granted. And having my friends over tonight is part of that."

  I look back and forth between them. Tommy's weakening--I can feel it. Logan's still a brick wall.

  "It'll be small. And quiet--I swear. Totally controlled. And besides, you guys will be here with me. What could go wrong?"

  Everything.

  Everything goes fucking wrong.

  By ten thirty the dining room of the coffee shop is wall-to-wall people standing shoulder-to-shoulder. And I don't know any of them. There are empty beer bottles and liquor bottles all over the tables and the kitchen smells like a weed dispensary.

  How do I get myself into these situations? Why does this happen to me? And where the hell is Marlow?

  A sailor pushes past me.

  Yes, an actual fucking sailor--like Popeye--in full dress whites. And it's not even Fleet Week!

  "Do you see him too?" I stutter to Logan, who's glowering so hard beside me, his face may actually freeze in place. And he'd still be sexy as hell.

  "I told you this was a bad idea," Logan growls.

  I stomp my foot.

  Because I am a grown-up. Almost.

  "You're not supposed to say that! You're not supposed to say, 'I told you so'--it's rude!"

  "I don't give a fuck what's rude; you need to listen to me. Do what I say from this point on, understand?"

  It's on the tip of my tongue to ask what he'll do if I don't. Spank me? Tie me up? Handcuff me to his side? If those are the consequences for disobeying Special Agent Sexy-Face, I'm about to become a very naughty girl.

  Before I can pose the question, a crash from the kitchen pulls me out of my sultry kink-laced fantasy and back to my sucky reality.

  The music is so loud, the wooden chairs are vibrating and it's only a matter of time before a neighbor calls the cops. I'm tired and--son of a bitch--they're eating the pies! I spot three--no, four--people standing, talking and shoveling tomorrow's pies into their mouths with their hands. Dickheads!

  "You're right. I'm calling it. Let's pull the plug."

  Logan's dark brown eyes roll to the ceiling. "Finally."

  I twist my hands together, working it all out in my head. "So, maybe you could do that whistling thing with your fingers to get everyone's attention? And I'll stand on a chair and say, 'Thank you all for coming. This has been great. I hope you--'"

  That's when I realize Logan's not listening. Because he's not standing next to me anymore. He's over by the sound system--cutting off the music, then cupping his hands around his mouth. "Get the fuck out!"

  Subtlety, thy name is not Logan St. James.

  "You could help, you know."

  After the party cleared out, Logan had sent Tommy home--said he would take the night shift and one of the other guys would relieve him in the morning. That he wanted to make sure everything was "set to rights."

  I get the feeling Logan isn't too good with delegating.

  "Why would I do that?" he asks, leaning against the wall, sliding his thumb across his phone screen. "I told you not to have a bloody party."

  Thank Zeus I did my homework right after school, in between filling orders in the kitchen. I have an exam fourth period tomorrow, but I can study at lunch. At the moment, I'm on my hands and knees, scraping and sweeping up the sticky, squashed pie pieces that are stuck to the floor. The recycling bins are filled to the brim with empties, the kitchen is clean and the tables are wiped down. The floor's the last thing left.

  "It would be the gentlemanly thing to do."

  "I'm not a gentleman and I don't sweep fucking floo
rs."

  "Nice."

  He quirks his head to the side like he's going to say something else, but before he can, my dad walks through the door.

  After two full days.

  He lumbers in, not quite staggering, but unsteady on his feet, looking straight ahead.

  Like Logan, my dad's tall--broad--and he's handsome in a rough, working-man kind of way. The type of guy who showers after work, not before. Or, at least, he used to be.

  Now, especially when he's coming off a bender, he tends to hunch, making him look bent and older than he is. His flannel shirt is wrinkled and dirty and his black-gray hair hangs in his eyes.

  "What's this, Ellie?" he slurs.

  And the weird thing is--I hope he yells at me. Grounds me. Takes away my phone. Like a normal parent would, a regular father . . . who actually cared.

  "I, uh, had some people over. It got a little crazy. I'll clean everything up before we open tomorrow."

  He doesn't even glance my way. Just gives a small, short nod that I notice only because I'm watching so closely.

  "I'm goin' to bed. I'll be up to help Marty when you leave for school."

  Then he clomps between the tables and through the swinging kitchen door, to the back steps that lead to our apartment upstairs.

  I bow my head and go back to cleaning the floor.

  A few minutes later without looking up, I tell Logan, "You don't have to do that, you know."

  "Don't have to do what?"

  "Worry. You're all tense, like you think he's going to hurt me or something. He can barely exert the energy to speak to me--he'd never hit me."

  Logan looks down at me with those deep, dark eyes, like he can see straight through me, read my mind.

  "It doesn't have to be his fists. There's all kinds of ways to hurt people. Isn't there?"

  Usually, it doesn't bother me. I don't let it. But the last few days haven't been usual. And big, giant aching tears well in my eyes.

  "He hates me," I say simply. But then a sob rattles in my chest, shaking my shoulders. "My dad hates me."

  Logan's brows draw close together, and after a moment, he takes a deep breath. Then, with a grace that's surprising for a guy his size, he walks over and sinks down onto the floor next to me, legs bent, forearms resting on his knees, back against the wall.

  He leans in close and whispers so gently, "I don't think that's true."

  I shake my head and swipe my cheeks. "You don't understand. I was sick. The night my mom was killed, I had a sore throat, cough. I kept complaining about it. The pharmacy down the block was closed for renovations, so she took the subway."

 
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