Royally screwed, p.8
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       Royally Screwed, p.8
 

         Part #1 of Royally series by Emma Chase

  "You're presuming they give a damn--and they don't." I raise her hand to my mouth, kissing the back. It's soft against my lips, like a rose petal. And I wonder if she's as soft all over. "When I head into the lavatory, on some level they realize I'm going to take a piss, but it's really not high on their list of things to think about."

  She doesn't seem convinced. And if tonight is going to end like I'm hoping, she'll need to get over the security team. Challenge accepted.

  I'm used to the curious stares and whispers of strangers when I go out in public--the way a lion at the zoo is used to annoying children banging on the glass enclosure, just waiting for the day it breaks. I don't notice them much anymore and, as we're led to the private room at the back of the restaurant, I don't notice them now.

  Except Olivia does. And she takes exception to it--staring the patrons down for their rudeness, until they're forced to look away. Like she's defending me. Sticking up for me. It's very cute.

  The overly friendly hostess leans closer than she should, flashing me an open invitation with her eyes. I'm used to that too.

  Olivia notices as well, but, interestingly, seems less confident about how she should respond. So I respond on her behalf--resting my hand on the small of her back, possessively, and guiding her into the plush, cushioned seat. Then, after I've taken my own seat, I drape my arm across the back of Olivia's chair, near enough to stroke her bare shoulder if I want, making it clear that the only woman I'm interested in tonight is the one beside me.

  After the sommelier pours our wine--Olivia prefers white because red "knocks her on her ass"--and the chef comes to our table to introduce himself and describe the custom menu he's created for us, we're finally left alone.

  "So, you run the coffee shop with your parents?" I ask.

  Olivia sips her wine, her little pink tongue peeking out to clean her bottom lip.

  "It's just me and my dad, actually. My mom...died nine years ago. She was mugged on the subway...it ended badly."

  There's an echo of pain in her words--one I'm familiar with.

  "I'm sorry."

  "Thank you."

  She pauses a moment, seems to be debating something, and then confesses, "I Googled you."

  "Oh?"

  "The video of your parents' funeral came up."

  I nod. "The search engines do seem to favor that one."

  Her smile is small and flutteringly self-conscious. "I didn't watch it at the time, when it was on live, but I remember it being on TV all day. On every channel." She raises those stunning, shining eyes to mine. "The day we buried my mom was the worst day of my life. It must've been awful for you, to go through the worst day of yours with all those people watching. Filming it. Taking pictures."

  Most people don't think about that part of things. They focus on the money, the castles, the fame, the privilege. Not the hard parts. The human parts.

  "It was awful," I say quietly. Then I take a breath and shake off the sadness that's seeped into the conversation. "But...in the immortal words of Kanye, that which don't kill me only makes me stronger."

  She laughs, and like everything about her, it's delightful.

  "I didn't think a guy like you listened to Kanye."

  I wink. "I'm full of surprises."

  Before our meal arrives, visitors stop by our table. I introduce Olivia and speak with them briefly about upcoming business. After they walk away, Olivia gives me an owl-eyed look.

  "That was the mayor."

  "Yes."

  "And Cardinal O'Brien, the Archbishop of New York."

  "That's right."

  "They're two of the most powerful men in the state--in the country."

  My lips slide into a grin because she's impressed. Again. At times like this, being me isn't so awful.

  "The Palace works with both men on various initiatives."

  She fidgets with the roll on her bread plate, tearing it up into tiny pieces.

  "You can ask me anything, Olivia--no need to be shy."

  Shyness has no place in my plans for this girl. I want her bold, wild, and reckless.

  She munches on a piece of bread, head slightly tilted, watching--thinking it over. And I'm struck by the charming way she chews. Christ, what a strange thing to notice.

  After she swallows and the pale, smooth skin of her throat ripples in an erotic way--well, a way I find erotic--she asks, "Why didn't you kiss his ring?"

  I take a sip of wine. "I outrank him."

  That makes her grin. "You outrank the Archbishop? What about the Pope? Have you ever met him?"

  "Not the current one, but I was introduced to the former when he came to visit Wessco when I was eight. Seemed like a decent bloke--he smelled like butterscotch. He carried sweets in the pockets of his vestments. He gave me one after he blessed me."

  "Did you kiss his ring?"

  She's more relaxed now, the questions coming easier.

  "I didn't, no."

  "Why not?"

  I lean forward, closer to her, elbows on the table--Grandmother would be appalled. But etiquette doesn't stand a snowball's chance against Olivia's sweet scent. It's roses tonight, with the slightest hint of jasmine--like a new garden on the first day of spring. I inhale deeply, trying to be discreet. Two points for me, because all I really want to do is rest my nose in the fragrant groove of her cleavage before sliding down, lifting her dress, and sinking my face between her smooth, creamy thighs. And that's where I'd stay, all fucking night.

  And now my cock strains against my pants like a prisoner in a cage.

  What was the question again?

  I take another drink and run my palm over the bulge--adjusting--trying to get some relief. And failing.

  "I'm sorry, Olivia, what was that?"

  "Why didn't you kiss the Pope's ring?"

  I've got a raging hard-on and we're talking about the Holy See.

  One-way ticket to hell? Purchased.

  "The Church teaches that the Pope has the ear of God, that he's closer to God than any other person on Earth. But kings...as least how the story goes...are descended from God. Which means the only person I bow to, the only ring I kiss, is my grandmother's--because she's the only person on Earth above me."

  Olivia's eyes rake me up and down and one dark eyebrow rises playfully. "Do you really believe that?"

  "That I'm descended from The Almighty?" I grin devilishly. "I've been told my cock is a gift from God. You should test that opinion tonight. You know...for religion."

  "Very smooth." She laughs.

  "But, no, I don't actually believe it." Olivia watches as I rub my lower lip. And give her my real answer. "I think it's a story--the kind that men have always made up to justify their power over the many."

  She thinks on that for a moment, then says, "I saw a picture of your grandmother online. She looks like such a sweet little old lady."

  I give her my real answer on that, too.

  "She's a battle-ax with a chunk of concrete where her heart should be."

  Olivia chokes on her wine.

  She dabs at her mouth with her napkin and looks at me like she's got me pegged. "So...what you're saying is...you love her."

  At my sardonic expression she adds, "When it comes to family, I think we only insult the ones we really love."

  I dip my head closer and whisper, "I agree. But don't let that get out. Her Majesty will never let me live it down."

  She taps my hand. "Your secret's safe with me."

  Our main course arrives--salmon, colorfully plated with dashes and swirls of bright orange and green sauces with an intricate structure of purple kale and lemon rind on top.

  "It's so pretty," Olivia sighs. "Maybe we shouldn't eat it."

  I smirk. "I enjoy eating pretty things."

  I bet her pussy is gorgeous.

  Throughout the meal, the conversation flows as easily as the wine. We talk about everything and nothing in particular--my studies at university, the work I do when I'm not making public appearances, the beh
ind-the-scenes details of running a coffee shop, as well as what it was like for her growing up in the city.

  "My mom used to give me three dollars in quarters every week," Olivia tells me in a faraway voice, "so I wouldn't nag her about wanting to give money to the homeless people we'd pass when we were out. I'd try to spread it around. I didn't know how little a quarter was actually worth--I thought I was helping and I wanted to help as many as I could. But, if they had a pet with them--a sad-looking dog or cat--that always hit me hardest and I'd give them two or three quarters. Even then, I think I understood that people could be such assholes--but animals are always innocent."

  When dessert is served--a frosted airy pastry in a bed of custard and caramel sauce--the topic turns to siblings.

  "...and my father put the money from my mother's life insurance policy into a trust. It can only be used for education expenses, which is good because otherwise it would've been gone a long time ago."

  Like many of her fellow New Yorkers, Olivia is an animated talker--her hands flutter and weave like two graceful, translucent doves.

  "There's just enough now for Ellie's first semester at NYU. I'll worry about the second semester when the time comes. She wants to live in the dorm--to get the 'full college experience.' But I worry about her.

  "I mean, I think she could change the world--I really do--cure cancer or invent whatever comes after the Internet. What she can't do is remember where she put her house keys or understand that a checkbook has to balance once in a while. And she's gullible. Phishing emails were invented for people like my sister."

  I lean forward, nodding. "I understand completely. My brother, Henry, has so much potential, and he's happily pissing it away. After that video you mentioned, the press christened him the boy who couldn't walk the walk. Who would never measure up. It's a prophecy he's gone out of his way to fulfill."

  Olivia raises her glass. "To little brothers and sisters--can't live with them, can't have them banished from the kingdom."

  We tap our glasses and drink.

  After dinner, I suggest we go back to my hotel suite--said the horny spider to the scrumptious fly. And she agreed.

  The ride in the lift to the top floor is silent, with James and Logan in front and Olivia beside me in the rear, giving me secret, sneaking glances. The doors open into the foyer of the penthouse and the hotel butler--David, I think his name is--is there to take our coats.

  "Thank you." Olivia smiles and David gives her a silent nod.

  As we step into the main living room, I watch her--the reactions and emotions that play over her features. How her lashes flare when she looks up, taking in the enormous crystal chandelier and the hand-painted, golden mural on the ceiling. The way the corners of her mouth rise with a bit of wonder at the furniture and marble floors--all the little signs of luxury. When she turns to the full wall of glass that offers a breathtaking view of the twinkling lighted city, Olivia gasps.

  And lust surges through me like I've been struck by lightning.

  She glides toward the window, gazing out. And damn, she makes a pretty picture--pale, bare arms, rivulets of long, black hair that fall just above the swell of a perfect, tight arse. I like the look of her here--in my rooms--amongst my things.

  I'd like the view even more if she weren't still wearing her dress.

  "Can we go outside?" Olivia asks.

  I nod, then open the door to the large stone balcony. She steps out and I follow her. The temperature was milder today and the snow has been removed, of course. Olivia's gaze dances over the full potted evergreens that bookend the beige cushioned furniture, and the glow of the burning fire pits in the corners casts the area in a warm orange light.

  "So this is like, your prison yard?" she teases.

  "That's right. They let me out for fresh air and exercise--but only if I behave."

  "Not too shabby."

  I shrug. "It'll do."

  We walk side by side along the walled edge, holding hands. And I'm reminded of my first social event--I'm all worked up and exhilarated, and at the same time mildly terrified of screwing up.

  "So what's it like," she asks softly, "having everything set, knowing exactly what you're going to do for the rest of your life?"

  "You have the coffee shop. It's not so different."

  "Yeah, but my family needed me to run it. I didn't choose that."

  I snort. "Neither did I."

  She thinks that over, then asks, "But are you excited? Like Simba, are you all, 'I just can't wait to be king'?"

  "Simba was a fool." I shake my head and push at the hair that brushes my forehead. "And considering me being king would mean my grandmother was dead--excited wouldn't be the word I'd use." I slip into interview mode. "But, I look forward to fulfilling my birthright and leading Wessco with honor, dignity and grace."

  Olivia tugs my hand to a stop. Her eyes flicker over my face, her lips curled. "I call bullshit."

  "What?"

  "Total bullshit. 'Honor, dignity and grace,'" she imitates, accent included. "Those are pretty words, but they don't mean anything. How does it really feel?"

  How does it really feel?

  I feel like a fawn trying out its legs for the first time--wobbly and strange. Because no one's ever dug past my pat answer. No one's ever asked me for more. For real and genuine.

  I don't know if anyone's ever actually cared.

  But Olivia wants those answers--I can see it in the soft curves of her face as she waits patiently. She wants to know me.

  And my chest tightens desperately--because I suddenly want the exact same thing.

  "The best way to describe it, I guess..." I lick my lips. "Imagine you're in medical school, studying to be a surgeon. You've read all the books, observed the surgeries being performed, you've prepared. And for your whole life everyone around you has said what an amazing surgeon you'll be. It's your destiny. Your calling."

  My eyes are drawn to hers. And I don't know what she sees in mine, but I find comfort in hers. Enough to go on.

  "But then that moment comes--the day when it's your turn to go it alone. And they put the scalpel in your hand and...it's all up to you. That, I imagine, is quite a 'holy fuck' moment."

  "I bet."

  "That's what the idea of becoming king feels like. A 'holy fuck' moment."

  Olivia takes a step forward but loses her balance, tripping on the pointy heel of her shoe, and I catch her. She collides with my chest, my arms around her, meeting at her lower back...and she stays just there.

  With her gloriously soft breasts against my hard chest, we freeze--staring, breaths mingling.

  "Frigging boots," she whispers, so near to my mouth.

  A smile tugs at me. "I like the frigging boots. Seeing you in them--and nothing else--would really make my day."

  And then my head is lowering and Olivia is reaching up, each of us drawing toward the other. Her silky hair slides over my fingers as I cup her cheek. My smile fades away, replaced with something more raw, more desperate.

  Heat and hunger.

  Because I'm going to kiss her now--and when the thump of her heartbeat quickens against my chest, I know she knows it.

  Wants it, just as much as I do.

  My nose brushes hers and those dark blue eyes close slowly...

  And then Logan clears his throat loudly.

  Meaningfully.

  "Ahem."

  I swallow back a curse and look up. "What?"

  "Camera flash."

  Fuck.

  "Where?"

  He lifts his chin. "Roof of the high-rise. Nine o'clock."

  I turn my back on the city, keeping Olivia tucked against my chest. "We should head inside."

  Olivia looks adorably dazed. She peeks over my shoulder at the dark sky, then lets me guide her inside. "Does that happen a lot?"

  "Unfortunately. Long-range camera lenses--as accurate as rifles."

  Back inside, Olivia's lips stretch into a long, wide yawn, and I try to stop the chain of indec
ent thoughts that follow. Damn, but her mouth is beautiful.

  If I don't get in there soon, it may actually kill me.

  "Excuse me." She covers her mouth. "I'm sorry."

  "Don't apologize." I glance at my watch--it's after midnight. She was on her feet all day and has to be up again in four hours. "I should've picked you up earlier."

  She shakes her head. "This has been wonderful. I can't remember the last time I had so much fun. Not in forever, I think."

  I want to ask her to stay. It would be so easy for her to slip out of that dress and into the magnificent bed just down the hall. But...she'd say no--I can feel it. Too soon.

  And she wouldn't get a wink of fucking sleep anyway--I'd keep her up all night.

  I gesture toward the door, like the gentleman I'm not. "Let's get you home, then."

  Olivia's head rests against my arm the whole ride back to her place. Our legs are aligned and pressing, our hands entwined on top of my thigh. I turn my head just slightly and inhale the addictive jasmine scent of her hair.

  There's a cable show, My Strange Addiction--one of the most insane things I ever saw, one episode was about a wanker who was obsessed with sniffing women's hair.

  I'm sorry I judged you, wanker. I get it now.

  "You smell fantastic."

  She angles her head up, her eyes light and mischievous. Then she presses her face against my pectoral--and inhales so deeply she practically snorts my shirt.

  "I like the way you smell too, Nicholas."

  The car pulls up to the curb and rolls to a stop.

  And I'm about to ask if I can sniff her again tomorrow, but Logan's voice comes through the speaker.

  "Stay in the car, Your Grace. There's a vagrant outside Miss Hammond's door--Tommy and I'll take care of it."

  Olivia jerks up away from me, going tense in an instant. She looks out the window, white-knuckling the armrest.

  "Oh no..."

  And her words barely register before she shoves the door open and dashes out.

  "OH NO..."

  To little girls, fathers are heroes--at least the good ones are. Tall and handsome, strong but patient, with a deep voice that speaks the wisest truths.

  My father was a good one.

  A chaser-away of monsters under the bed, a sneaker of cookies before dinner, an encourager, a protector, a teacher of what a real man is supposed to be. His hands were big and callused--working man's hands--powerful, but gentle with us. He used to hold my mother's hand like she was a precious work of art. Oh, how he loved my mother. It was in every move he made, every word he said. His love for her was the light in his eyes and the breath in his lungs.

 
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