Royally endowed, p.7
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       Royally Endowed, p.7

         Part #3 of Royally series by Emma Chase
 
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  "Are you all right?" I ask.

  And there's a tortured note in my voice--anguished and sorry.

  Her spine straightens and her hand stays on the knob while she turns around. Her blue eyes shine with unshed tears.

  "You must think I'm so stupid," she whispers, making my chest squeeze painfully.

  "I don't think that. I never would."

  She blinks, and a tear slides over the mark on her face. "I make bad choices. I need to grow up. Because this is what happens . . ."

  I'm already shaking my head again. "Listen to me, Ellie. Bastards like the one who hurt you tonight--they're like poisonous snakes that hide behind the colors of harmless ones. That's how they survive. It's not your fault. You couldn't have known."

  "You would've known."

  I tilt my chin. "I generally make it a rule to dislike everyone, so you can't go by me."

  She laughs even while she's sniffling. And it tears at my fucking heart.

  Because she's not just the kind of girl who'll leap off a cliff without bothering to look--she'll take a running start and launch herself off it. Arms spread, head back. Free and alive.

  No one is going to take that away from her--I won't let them.

  "You see the good in people, Ellie. You trust. That's a good way to be, a brave way. I'll watch more closely from now on; I'll make sure this never happens again. You just be who you are. Leave the rest to me."

  She wipes her eyes dry. "So it's like a . . . you jump, I jump, Jack and Rose kind of thing?"

  "No." I take her hand in mine, brushing my thumb against her knuckles. "You jump . . . and I'll be there to catch you."

  Slowly, I lean forward and press a gentle kiss to her forehead, like it's the most natural thing in the world. My lips linger on her petal-soft skin, inhaling the scent of orange blossom and a touch of jasmine.

  Then I turn around, and walk back down the hall.

  The next security shift arrives at eleven p.m., like always, to relieve Tommy and me. We take the lift down, but rather than head out as usual, we circle around and wait in the alley by the back exit of the building. Tommy lights a cigarette and leans against the wall.

  I check my watch and count, four, three, two . . .

  The door opens--and Nicholas Pembrook appears. I cross my arms disapprovingly while Tommy plucks the smoke from his lips.

  "No."

  "Not happening, Your Highness."

  His features go smooth and still. "I don't know what you two are talking about. I was just going for a walk."

  "Yeah." Tommy laughs. "A walk all over the cunt's face who put his hands on Ellie."

  The Prince clenches his jaw and I gesture between Tommy and me. "That's why you keep us around."

  "To keep you out of trouble," Tommy adds. "No one's gonna sue us--we don't have a pot to piss in or a window to throw it out of."

  I shrug. "We all look the same in these clothes anyway--no one can tell us apart."

  Nicholas tries to argue, but I go on, "And besides, you've got bigger tasks to handle."

  "What sort of tasks?"

  The door opens at the top of the steps and a few seconds later, Lady Olivia steps outside.

  And she's carrying her bat.

  "Like making sure your Duchess stays put."

  The Prince gives his wife an exasperated look. But she's unrepentant.

  "Like you weren't thinking the exact same thing."

  "Apparently, you're all thinking the same thing."

  A voice drifts from the landing above. Ellie's voice. She comes marching down, arms crossed. She reaches towards her sister with a scowl.

  "Let's go, Negan--hand Lucille over."

  Olivia rolls her eyes and gives up the murder weapon.

  "I told you I wanted to let it go. Now I want your promise, right now, that you'll leave it alone." She looks at her sister first. "Liv?"

  She's unhappy, but she gives in. "Fine. I promise I'll leave it alone."

  Then Ellie lays eyes on her brother-in-law. A man knows when he can't win. "You have my word, Ellie."

  And she doesn't leave me or Tommy out.

  "I promise, lass," Tommy says, making the sign of the cross and kissing his knuckle up to God.

  I look Ellie straight in the face. "I'll let it go."

  "Say you promise," Ellie pushes.

  "I promise."

  Sometimes, I lie.

  Once we're sure Prince Nicholas, Lady Olivia and Ellie are safely under lock and key, Tommy falls in step beside me as we walk down the street. Both of us know exactly where we're going.

  I knock on the door, then lean back against the wall so he can't see us through the peephole. And because Tommy's watched Tommy Boy one too many times, he says in a high-pitched, squeaky voice, "Housekeeping."

  And the dumb wanker opens the door, just a crack, but it's enough. As soon as he spots me, his eyes go wide and he tries to slam it in my face. But I shove my way in and push him up against the wall by his neck. His pulse judders against my palm like the heart of a jackrabbit about to be torn apart by a wolf.

  "You picked the wrong girl to put your hands on."

  He sputters. "Wait! I didn't mean . . . You can't do this. I'll report you. They'll fire you--take your job."

  I laugh, sounding maniacal even to my own ears. "You'll . . . you'll take my job?"

  Then I stop laughing. "I'll take your cock off and shove it down your throat. Then I'll feed you, bit by bit, to the hogs, till all that's left of you is a steaming pile of pig shit in the morning."

  He almost starts to cry.

  Tommy locks the door and turns the television on, upping the volume. Not loud enough to draw complaints, but enough to muffle the groans this cunt's about to emit.

  Holding him by the throat, I toss him over to Tommy, who shoves him back to me, both of us circling, closing in. The fucker's head turns, eyes darting back and forth between us. "Come on, guys, it was a mistake. This isn't fair--it's two against one. I don't even have a chance."

  "'This isn't fair,'" Tommy whines. "You know why they picked us to guard the royal family? Two nobodies from nowhere?"

  "Why?"

  Tommy shakes his head, almost pitying. "'Cause we're not nearly as civilized as we look."

  And he might actually piss himself.

  Which would be messy, so I give him a small slice of hope. "I'll let you have the first shot."

  His pupils are huge, prey's eyes. He doesn't lift his hands, doesn't take a swing.

  And patience is not my strong suit. "The offer has an expiration point--about three seconds from now. Three . . . two . . ."

  Panicked, he throws out his fist, hitting me in the chin, barely moving my head.

  I chuckle. "Bloody hell, no wonder you like to smack little girls. You hit like a pussy." I look to Tommy. "Your sister punches harder."

  Tommy scoffs. "Yeah, but Janey is especially badass."

  I turn back to the sack of shit.

  "You're doing it all wrong. You want to turn your hips and your shoulders into the punch. Use the force of your whole body. Don't push with your knuckles."

  I demonstrate on his face. Quick. Hard. Pitiless.

  And a tooth goes bouncing across the floor.

  "Like that. See what I did there?"

  He folds over, holding his mouth with both hands, blood seeping through his fingers. But all I see in my mind is Ellie's pretty face, marred with a nasty bruise from this bastard's hand.

  "I don't think he gets it, Lo," Tommy says. "You better show him again."

  Couldn't agree more.

  Fifteen minutes later, he's nothing but a groaning pile of bloody clothes, bruises and splintered bones.

  "Fucking hell," Tommy curses, fingering a spot of blood on the front of his light gray shirt. "You got club soda?" he asks the heap.

  When there's no response, Tommy nudges him with his foot. "Hey! You got any club soda?"

  The heap moans in the negative and Tommy shakes his head, disgusted.

&nb
sp; "Useless bastard." Then he spits on him.

  "Really?" I ask Tommy.

  "What? It's my favorite shirt."

  Tommy may have a touch of sociopath in him.

  I crouch down and lift the shitbag up by his collar, my tone soft and serious, "You come near Ellie Hammond again, if she glimpses you on the street . . . I'll kill you with my bare hands."

  Then Tommy and I stroll through the door.

  Out on the pavement, heading for home, Tommy pulls his eyes from the tragedy of his stained shirt and glances at me. "You laid it on pretty thick at the end."

  "What do you mean?"

  We take the stairs down to the subway.

  "I mean, if he's stupid enough to come sniffin' around Ellie again, we'd bust him up, sure--but we'd leave him breathing, wouldn't we?"

  I take a moment to think about my answer before I respond.

  "Yeah. Sure we would. I was just making a point."

  Like I said . . . sometimes, I lie.

  LOGAN IS WATCHING ME.

  He's been doing that a lot lately. Even when I don't catch him doing it, I feel it--like the brush of a hand on my skin. It makes me warm . . . tingly. And the spot on my forehead, where he kissed me that night . . . I can still feel that too.

  I've talked with Olivia about moments that change our lives. How it's important but difficult to recognize them when they happen. Things that change us, forever. Logan was worried that Mitchell did would change who I am. It didn't.

  But, he changed who I think other people are. I can't help that. It seemed like it came out of nowhere, without any warning or sign. But maybe there were signs, and I missed them.

  Now I know to look beneath the surface, to be smarter--to question that what's on the outside, the words people say and the things they do, might be totally and completely different from what's really going on, on the inside.

  I talked to Logan about it too, a few days later. About people who lie, misrepresent for all kinds of reasons.

  He held up two fingers on his right hand and told me in that strong, steady voice: "Two guaranteed signs of lying--they fidget or freeze. They either move too much or work too hard to not move at all. You'll sense it if you pay attention; something about their look will seem unnatural . . . off. Anytime someone has to put effort into their words, you can bet what they're saying is a steaming crock of shit."

  "Fade Into You" by Mazzy Star plays from my phone as I dip my brush into the bucket of paint and drag it up the wall. It's a good song to paint to. Slow and rhythmic.

  I'm at the newest Amelia's location. Olivia and Nicholas have grown the coffee shop into a chain of "pay what you can" restaurants across the city. This'll be the third one, and the grand opening is in a few weeks, so I'm helping out. Nicholas and Livvy are in the kitchen setting things up--and making goo-goo eyes at each other like they so often do.

  Logan leans against the wall behind me, his arms folded, his eyes alert--watching me. When the wall is covered in its first coat of paint, I lay the brush on a cloth on the floor and turn around to face him.

  "What?"

  He shifts his eyes from the front window, where he wasn't looking a second ago, to me.

  "What 'what'?"

  "Do I have paint in my hair?" I twist my body and look at my butt. "Did I sit in something?"

  Logan scoffs. "No."

  "Then what's with the deep-thoughted glares? I can hear you thinking from here."

  He tilts his head and rubs his chin. "You should learn how to fight."

  "Like Ronda Rousey? If God wanted me to be an MMA fighter, don't you think he would've made me bigger?"

  "Not like Ronda Rousey." Logan shakes his head. "Like self-defense. You should know how to protect yourself."

  "I thought it was your job to protect me."

  "It is. And this is part of how I'll do that."

  Logan crosses his arms, his biceps bulging against the sleeves of his dress shirt, and waits for me to answer.

  "Okay."

  "Good." He walks up to me, close enough that I can smell him. Logan always smells so good . . . like crisp, cold air, fresh wood and fall leaves.

  He holds up his palm. "Punch my hand. Let's see what we're working with."

  I step back, brace my feet and raise my fists--bouncing like a boxer. Then I give all I've got--landing my fist as hard as I can in Logan's open palm with a smack.

  It was pretty badass, if I do say so myself.

  "That was pathetic," Logan says.

  Everyone's a critic.

  I make a face at him.

  "Have you ever gotten into it with someone before?"

  "I pulled Liv's hair when I was seven. She was going to rat me out for breaking our mom's decorative cake plate and when she tried to retaliate, I locked myself in the bathroom until our dad came home."

  "Wow." Logan lifts an eyebrow. "Okay." He claps his big hands together and rubs. Then he takes a step back, spreading his feet, and looks me in the face.

  "Eyes and balls."

  "Excuse me?"

  "The most vulnerable spots on a man are his eyeballs and his cock."

  By the power of suggestion, my eyes immediately drop to Logan's . . . latter.

  And in his perfectly snug dress pants, the latter is . . . fucking amazing. Significant. I've covertly checked it out before and though I've never seen a bull in person, I can safely say that Logan could give one an inferiority complex.

  He catches where I'm looking and a quick, deep chuckle rumbles in his chest.

  "Let's stick with eyes for now," Logan says--almost teasingly. "We'll work on the cock in a bit."

  Work on the cock . . . is it getting hot in here?

  Over the next half hour, Logan shows me how to turn my thumbs into dangerous, eye-gouging weapons. How to duck and block and use my body weight to propel me away from an attacker. How to use my legs--the strongest part of my body--to stun and escape. He demonstrates how to squeeze my fists into rocks--thumbs on the outside, people--and punch a guy's nads up into his throat.

  When we're finished, his shoulders are looser, less tense, his face is less scowly and there's the sound of pride in his voice.

  "That's good, Ellie," he says quietly, after I throw my arm up in a block meant to protect my face. "Well done."

  "Thanks." I nod.

  But then the mood shifts, as if the air becomes thicker, weighted, more . . . sultry.

  Because slowly, Logan sinks down to one knee in front of me--looking in my eyes the whole time. In this position, I could touch his shoulders, comb my fingers through his thick hair. He's the perfect height for me to bend down and kiss his mouth--the perfect height for him to kiss me back . . . in a lot of places.

  My breath hitches. And I wonder he feels it too.

  There's a sound of tearing Velcro, and Logan takes something off his ankle--a holster, with a small silver knife, about three inches long. Still on his knee, he takes the knife out and sunlight glints off the blade.

  "Keep this on you all the time," he says seriously. "Just in case. If you wear a skirt, the strap will fit around your thigh."

  And I almost laugh. Most girls get a ring from a guy on his knees. I get a murder weapon. But still, it makes me feel safe . . . watched over. Like I'm something precious that deserves to be protected.

  I take the knife from him, testing the surprisingly solid, heavy weight of it in my hand. I press my index finger to the tip.

  Logan grabs my wrist tightly. "Careful. It's sharp."

  There's a small, painless nick, a tiny bead of blood, so I put my finger in my mouth, sucking.

  And Logan's watching me again.

  Watching my mouth.

  His chest seems to rise just a little faster, and his throat ripples when he swallows. He bends his head, curves his strong back, and then I feel his hands on my ankle, securing the strap. His touch is warm and self-assured. It's the way he always moves--confident and experienced. Logan knows his body and he knows how to use it, in every way possible.
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  I almost moan. The sound is in the back of my throat, but I keep it trapped. I never knew the ankle was an erogenous zone, but it sure as hell is now. A hot pulse of pleasure streaks from Logan's fingers on my bare skin, up my thigh, between my legs.

  And I throb there, growing swollen and heavy as he keeps his hands on me.

  Can he tell? Does he know? He's so aware of everything, always so attuned, I wonder if he can sense my arousal . . . smell it in the air that clings between us.

  Logan pulls my pant leg down, pressing the hem over the knife it now hides. And when he stands, the spell is broken. The air loses its density, its depth . . . and goes back to normal.

  We go back to normal too--the loyal guard and princess's sister.

  Although it's my twentieth birthday and I'm officially-officially an adult--no more teen years for me--Livvy insists on baking me a cake. And having our dad and all the security guys who are practically family over to the penthouse to celebrate in the fancy formal dining room. She knows that no matter how old I get, I love this kind of stuff.

  Streamers and balloons and flowers, twenty candles and one extra for good luck that I have to blow out in a single breath--but only after I make a wish. And only after they all sing "Happy Birthday" to me. Tommy sings loudest, 'cause that's just how he is.

  Then, while David the butler clears away the plates, my dad wants to give me my present. But there's a catch.

  "You have to close your eyes," he says. "No peeking."

  And there's this lightness to his face, a contentment and excitement that I haven't seen in him in years. A decade. I can't imagine what his gift is--his three years of sobriety is already the most wonderful gift he could give me.

  But . . . if he wants to add to the awesome, who am I to say no?

  The whole gang comes along as he leads me out of the apartment, with his hands over my eyes because--yeah, I'm a peeker. Without looking, I know we're getting in the elevator and when we get off, the air feels cooler and sounds echo-y.

  We come to a stop and then he takes his hands away. And I open my eyes. And I'm staring at a beautiful, buttercup-yellow BMW convertible with tan interior and a giant red bow on the hood. I don't know the model or the horsepower or anything like that--I just know it's so fucking pretty.

  I scream.

  So loud it hurts my own ears. But--nope--don't care.

  I fling my arms around my dad's neck. "Thank you! Thank you so much!"

 
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