Royally screwed, p.9
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       Royally Screwed, p.9
 

         Part #1 of Royally series by Emma Chase

  I look like him--his black hair, the shape of his eyes, his long limbs. It used to make me proud to resemble him because, like all little girls, I thought my father was unconquerable. Invincible. The wall that could never crumble.

  But I was wrong.

  One terrible day...one horrible moment on a subway platform...and all that strength just dissolved. The way a pillar candle melts down into a heap of wax. Into something unrecognizable.

  "Daddy?" I kneel down.

  Behind me, Nicholas's approaching footsteps stutter to a stop.

  And the mortification nips at my heels as I imagine how this must look to him.

  But I don't have time for that now.

  "Daddy, what happened?"

  His eyes struggle to find mine, to stay open, and whiskey fumes burn my nostrils.

  "Livvy...hey, sweetie. Couldn't...somethin's wrong with the lock...couldn't get my key in."

  He tried using the walk-up door to our apartment. He could have just gone through the coffee shop--but he doesn't know about the broken lock that I still haven't gotten around to fixing.

  His keys slip out of his grasp. "Damn."

  I scoop them off the cold sidewalk. "It's okay, Dad. I'll help you."

  With a spine-straightening breath, I stand up, turn around, and face Nicholas. And my voice goes straight to autopilot.

  "You should go. I have to take care of this."

  His gaze darts to my father on the ground, then back to me. "Go? I can't just leave you to--"

  "It's fine," I grit out, teeth crunching and embarrassment creeping up my neck.

  "He's three times your size. How do you plan to get him upstairs?"

  "I've done it before."

  In a nanosecond he goes from pitying to pissed. And he uses that voice again--the one that bent Bosco to his will, the one that says it's his way or his way.

  "You're not doing it now."

  I know what he's trying to do--and I hate it. He wants to be noble, helpful. Trying to be the hero. Isn't that what princes do? But it just makes me feel shittier.

  I've been my own hero for a long time--I know how it's done.

  "This is none of your business. This is my business. I told you yesterday--"

  "If you fall down those steps you'll snap your fucking neck," Nicholas says harshly, leaning down. "I won't risk that because you've got more pride than sense. I'm helping you, Olivia. Deal with it."

  Then he walks right past me. And crouches down.

  His voice grows gentler. "Mr. Hammond?"

  And my father slurs, "Who're you?"

  "Nicholas. My name is Nicholas. I'm a friend of Olivia's. It looks like you're having a bit of trouble, so I'm going to help get you upstairs. All right?"

  "Yeah...damn keys aren't working."

  Nicholas nods, then motions Logan forward. They heave my father up, one on either side, his arms flung over their shoulders.

  "Olivia, get the door," he tells me.

  We go through the coffee shop because there's more room that way. And as I watch them carry my father through the kitchen and up the stairs--his head dangling forward on his neck like a newborn, his legs useless--I realize that this is a really, really bad night. The best I would have been able to do was drag him inside, get a pillow and blanket, and spend the rest of the night on the floor with him.

  But even knowing that, it doesn't stop the humiliation that's burning under my skin.

  And it only flames hotter when they move through our threadbare living room, messy with strewn shoes and papers because I didn't have time to straighten up. If things had gone the way I'd wanted, I would have made it look pretty--quaint--with fresh flowers and plumped throw pillows. Not like this.

  In his bedroom, they put my father on the bed. I squeeze past Nicholas and get the dark blue blanket off the chair in the corner. I lay it over my father, tucking him in. His eyes are closed and his lips open, but he doesn't snore. There's more gray than black now in the thick stubble on his chin. Slowly, I lean over and kiss his forehead, because even though he's not my hero anymore, he's still my dad.

  Silently, the three of us file back downstairs. My arms wrap around my middle, stiff and tight, and my skin feels prickly--too sensitive. In my head, I can already hear the words Nicholas will say:

  I'll call you.

  This was...nice.

  Thanks, but no thanks.

  He must be relieved to dodge the bullet--probably wondering what the hell he was thinking in the first place. The only baggage a guy like him is used to a woman having is Louis Vuitton.

  "I'll, ah...I'll be at the car, Sir," Logan says when we reach the coffee shop's dining area. He nods my way, then heads out the door.

  The silence is awkward. Uncomfortable. I can feel his eyes on me, but I focus on the floor. And I cringe when he finally splits the quiet, in that smooth, perfect voice.

  "Olivia."

  But I'm determined to rip the Band-Aid off first. Beat him to the blow-off punch. I'm a New Yorker and that's how we roll--if someone's getting kicked to the curb, you can bet your ass we're going to be the motherfucking kicker.

  "You should go." I nod, lifting my face but still not meeting his eyes. "I want you to go."

  His warm hand touches my bare arm. "Don't be angry."

  "I'm not angry," I deny with quick, jerking shakes of my head. "I just want you to leave." My throat clogs, salty and wet. Because I like him so much. My eyes squeeze closed--a last-ditch effort to contain the giant, ugly tears hovering on my lashes. "Please just leave."

  Nicholas's hand drops from my arm. And I wait--I listen--for the sound of him walking out the door. Out of my life. Where he was never really supposed to be in the first place.

  But about thirty seconds later, what I actually hear is something entirely different.

  "My grandmother talks to paintings."

  My eyes spring open.

  "What?"

  "When I was younger I thought it was funny, in a freakish kind of way, but now I just think it's sad."

  There's a prodding desperation in his eyes. Earnest, but...vulnerable. Like this is all new to him. Like he's taking a risk--going out on a limb--but he has to push himself to get there. Because he's not sure if the limb will hold or snap.

  "She's almost eighty years old and the only person she's ever been able to talk to is my grandfather. He's been gone a decade and he's still the only person she can talk to."

  He pauses for a moment, his brow growing weighted. When he speaks again, his voice is lower, hushed--like these are words he hasn't let himself think, let alone say aloud.

  "My brother has been away on military service for the last two years. He was discharged three months ago and he hasn't come anywhere close to home. But even before that, he stopped taking my calls. I haven't spoken to Henry in six months and I have no idea why."

  I think of the video--of the way Nicholas pulled his little brother into his arms, held him close and tight. Protected him, tried so hard to make him smile. And I know immediately how much this silence must hurt him. I can almost feel it in my own heart--the breaking of his.

  "My cousins hate me," he goes on, in a lighter tone. "Like, 'I think they would literally try to poison me when they come to visit if they thought they could get away with it' kind of hate."

  His mouth quirks up in an almost-smile and a snort that bubbles from mine.

  "They hated my father, too...and all because his mother was born before theirs."

  "Why are you telling me this?"

  "Because if you think your family is the only one with dysfunction in it, you're wrong." His hand runs through my hair like he can't help himself, sliding the strands behind my ear. "Mine has that particular market cornered."

  He's quiet after that. Waiting for me to take my turn--he doesn't say it, but I know. He wants me to crawl out on that shaky limb with him.

  And if it breaks...at least we'll fall together.

  "My father's an alcoholic."

  The words fe
el awkward, strange. It's the first time I've said them.

  "Not in a mean or violent way...He drinks when he's sad. And he's been sad every day since my mother died." I look around the coffee shop, my voice quivering. "This place was her dream--she was Amelia. If it goes under, if he loses this last piece of her...I don't know what he'll do."

  Nicholas nods.

  "He barely talks to Ellie. Some days he can't even look at her...because she reminds him so much of our mom. She pretends like it doesn't bother her, but...but I know it guts her."

  Quiet tears trickle from the corners of my eyes, and Nicholas brushes them away with his thumb.

  "And she's gonna leave. She's gonna go and she'll never come back--and I want that for her, I do. But I'll still be here...all alone." I gesture to the door. "I think that's why I haven't gotten the lock fixed. Sometimes, I dream that I can't get out. I pull and pull on the door but I'm stuck. Trapped."

  "Sometimes I dream I'm walking through the palace and there are no doors or windows," Nicholas says, roughly. "I keep walking and walking, but I don't go anywhere."

  I move closer, resting my hands on his chest, feeling hard, solid muscle and the strong, steady thrum of his heart beneath my palm.

  "Tell me something you've never told anyone," he asks. "Something no one else knows about you."

  It takes only two heartbeats for me to answer.

  "I hate pies."

  Nicholas starts to laugh--but when I go on, it dies on his lips. "I used to love helping, watching my mom make them, but now I hate it. The way they feel in my hands, the way they smell--it makes me sick to my stomach." I look up into his face. "Now you. Tell me something you've never told anyone."

  "I hate the bowing. Last month I met a World War II veteran who saved three of his mates in battle--he was wounded, lost his eye. And he bowed to me. What the fuck have I ever done that a man like that should bow to me?"

  He shakes his head, lost in the thought.

  The soft touch of my fingers along his jaw finds him again. And in that moment, something shifts...changes. My chest rises faster, my breaths come quicker, and the heart beneath my hand pounds just a little more fiercely.

  Nicholas stares at my mouth. "If you could go anywhere, do anything, what would it be?"

  This answer takes longer, because there isn't one.

  "I don't know. It's been so long since doing anything else was even an option...I stopped imagining."

  I lean in closer, inhaling his scent--spice and ocean and something decadently, uniquely him--a scent I would happily drown in.

  "What about you?" I ask, the words rushing. "If you could do anything, right now, what would you do?"

  His thumb slides across my bottom lip, stroking it slowly, gently...intently.

  "I would kiss you."

  The air leaves the room. All of it. Or maybe I just forget to breathe. I might pass out and I don't care, as long as Nicholas kisses me before the world goes black.

  "Please," I manage, breathlessly.

  He doesn't rush it. He takes his time. Savoring.

  One arm wraps around my waist, pulling me sharply up against him. I feel him everywhere--the hard touch of his thighs, the flat planes of his stomach, the hot press of his thick, firm cock. My inner muscles clench around emptiness, needy. Seeking.

  Nicholas's other hand slides up my spine, burying itself in my hair, and he cradles my head in his palm. And his eyes--the whole time, those simmering green eyes drag over my skin, consuming every inch they touch.

  Slowly, he leans down. I taste his breath--cinnamon and clove--before I taste him.

  And then Nicholas presses his mouth against mine.

  Possessively. Boldly. Like he owns me. And in this moment he does. I follow his lead, moving my lips in time with his, relishing the feel, the sensation. He tilts my head, positioning me right where he wants me. And then I feel the warm, wet stroke of his tongue.

  Holy fuck, does he know how to kiss.

  I think I have an orgasm of the mouth.

  A mouth-gasm. And it's amazing.

  I moan deep and totally loud--not even a little ashamed. My arms curl around Nicholas's neck and his hands skim down to my ass, clamping and kneading. Then he's the one moaning--and it, too, is amazing.

  "I knew it," he murmurs against my lips. "So fucking sweet."

  Then our mouths fuse again, our tongues sliding and tasting. Nicholas pushes his knee between my legs, squeezes my ass and drags me up his leg. And the friction--the glorious fucking friction--would have me gasping yes if my mouth weren't wonderfully otherwise occupied.

  But then a sound comes from above us--a thump that rattles the ceiling. We both hear it, looking up, lips retreating.

  "I have to go--my dad might've fallen out of bed."

  His hands tighten on my ass, almost reflexively--the way a child would grasp a favorite toy if it was threatened to be taken away. "Let me come up with you."

  I look into his eyes, not embarrassed anymore. "No, it's better if you don't." My fingers comb his thick, soft hair before settling against his jaw. "I'll be fine, I swear."

  Nicholas is still breathing hard and looks like he wants to argue, but after a moment of searching my face, he gives the smallest nod and slides me off his thigh.

  "When can I see you again?" he asks. "Say tomorrow."

  I laugh. "God, you're bossy. Okay, tomorrow."

  "Earlier this time. We'll stay in at my hotel--I'll make you dinner."

  "You can cook?"

  He shrugs, and the adorable dimples make an appearance.

  "I know how to make sushi, so technically, I can cut. But my cutting is top-notch."

  I giggle again--feeling silly and light-headed. Possibly delusional.

  "All right. Your place, tomorrow."

  Then he's kissing me again. Sucking at my lips in a way that I'll feel in my dreams tonight.

  "This is crazy," I whisper against him. "It's crazy, right? It's not just me?"

  Nicholas shakes his head. "Bloody insane." His hands are on my ass again--a final quick grab. "And fucking fantastic."

  I'M GOING TO HAVE SEX TONIGHT. Lots of it.

  I'm going to lay Olivia out on my bed and screw her sweetly, I'm going to hold her up against the wall and fuck her madly. No room or surface will be left undefiled.

  Moves and configurations worthy of an Olympic gymnast--fantasies--play out in my head all damn day long. Leaving me hard and aching.

  They make the interviews and charity luncheon I suffer through--awkward.

  And it's all because of her. Olivia.

  What a sexy, delectable little surprise she turned out to be.

  Last night was...intense. I didn't mean to say all those things--they just spilled out. And, Christ, she didn't even sign an NDA--it's not like me to forget such a thing.

  But it felt cathartic talking to her. Like we were in our own bubble, on a personal remote island--where no one else in the world could see us, touch us or hear us. Before I left for New York I'd planned to make the most of the freedom I have left--do things I never would've considered. And Miss Olivia Hammond certainly fits that bill.

  I gave the butler a list of items I'd need for dinner and told him to make sure the suite was stocked with condoms--every room. Cover your knobber before you bob her--that's what my father used to say. Words every royal lives by.

  Words I learned to never forget.

  My leg jostles impatiently as the car pulls up in front of Amelia's just before sunset. I should've worked out, burned off some of this energy--or even better--I should've jerked off. I'm liable to jump her the second I see her. My balls feel like lead weights in my trousers.

  Not very comfortable--in case you weren't sure.

  I spot the CLOSED sign hanging in the window and smile. Closed means privacy. And just maybe I'll get the chance to act out the fantasy from last night--Olivia lying back on one of those dining tables, legs on my shoulders while I pump smoothly into her.

  But those lusciou
s thoughts are scattered to the wind when I walk inside. Olivia's not there to greet me--her little firecracker of a sister is.

  Ellie Hammond is a tiny thing--pretty, with the same shade eyes as her sister, but rounder, less exotic looking. She's wearing a simple black T-shirt, snug across her chest, and jeans that look like they were chopped off at the knees with a hacksaw. Black square glasses perch over a pert nose and a streak of hot pink in her blond hair gives her a youthful, idealistic look--like a girl who'd be holding a sign at a college campus protest.

  Ellie stands in front of me, then lowers gracefully into a perfect full curtsy.

  "It's an honor to meet you, Prince Nicholas." She smiles.

  "Have you been practicing that move?" I ask. "You do it very well."

  She shrugs. "Maybe."

  The tall, dark-skinned waiter approaches from the back. "We haven't been officially introduced. I'm Martin."

  Then he curtsies too.

  When he stands, I hold out my hand and he shakes it. "Good to meet you, Martin."

  He pumps my arm enthusiastically. "I just want to thank you for all the hours of pleasure you've given me--you've been center stage in my fantasies for years."

  And his gaze drags over me--not offensively, but like he's committing every particle to memory. For...later.

  "Ah...you're welcome?"

  He gestures to a nearby chair. "I'm just going to sit over here. And look at you." With a wink, Marty sinks into a chair, staring like he's trying very hard not to blink.

  I wonder how long he can keep that up.

  Ellie's hands fold together in front of her. "We should talk. Get to know each other--Prid Cocoa, Clarice."

  I chuckle--cuteness runs in the Hammond family.

  "Do you mean quid pro quo? It's Latin, meaning 'something for something.'"

  She shakes her head with disappointment. "That was a pretentiousness test. You failed."

  "Damn."

  "Who speaks Latin anymore, anyway?"

  "I do. As well as French, Spanish and Italian."

  Her fair eyebrows rise. "Impressive."

  "My language tutor would be happy you think so. He was a crusty sod who admired the beauty of language but detested actually speaking with people. And I made him miserable--I was an uncooperative pupil."

  Ellie takes a seat at a table. "A bad boy, huh?"

 
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