His true queen, p.18
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       His True Queen, p.18

           Jodi Ellen Malpas

  Sad once again, I swallow when he moves in and circles his arms around my shoulders, squeezing his face to mine. “If I could have anything in the world right now,” he murmurs, “I would have you in bed with me. You’d be naked. I’d be naked. We’d cuddle and talk about nothing and everything. I’d make you breakfast in bed, and we’d shower together. I’d make love to you whenever I damn well please, and I’d savor every second.”

  I refuse to let how amazing that sounds tear me up inside. I mustn’t dwell on the fact that his idea is a luxury we may never have. Instead, in a moment of spontaneity, I decide we can have that. “Let’s do it.” I wriggle free from his grip and whirl around to face him.

  The uncertainty on his face is really quite adorable. “In the words of the woman I love,” he says, holding the tops of my arms and hunkering down a bit to get us at eye level, “how do you suppose we do that?”

  My upper body sags under his hold. He wouldn’t usually let the trivial issue of dozens of royal staff and security stand in his way. He laughs in the face of challenges. It’s one of the many reasons I adore him. “And where is the man I love?”

  With only a second to consider my question, he looks to the doors hiding us from the rest of the hotel. “I’m right here, baby.” Sliding one of his hands down my arm, he threads our fingers and starts pulling me toward the exit. “How many people are in your suite?”

  “Damon and his men do shifts throughout the night.”

  “And the rest of your army?”

  “They have their own rooms on the same floor.”

  “And what time are you woken up?”

  “I have a breakfast meeting with Kim at eight, so I expect Olive will be whipping my curtains open at around six thirty.”

  He opens the door a tiny bit and peeks outside, whistling to get Damon’s attention. Within a few seconds, Damon is with us in the room. His eyes jump from me to Josh, and I come over all self-conscious, reaching up to my untamed mane and patting it down.

  “Don’t waste your time on your hair, ma’am,” he says wryly. “But maybe wipe the smears of red lipstick off your cheeks.” Turning his attention to Josh, Damon nods his head sharply while I rub my palm across my hot face. “You, too.”

  I look at Josh with a clear mind for the first time since he bent me over the bar stool. His face is a mess of red smudges. “Oopsy-daisy.” I press my lips together to suppress my chuckle.

  “Can you get us to Adeline’s suite?” Josh asks, as he swipes his bristly cheek with the back of his hand.

  “No.” Damon’s answer is short and final as he turns to leave again.

  “Please, Damon,” I beg. “I promise no one will find out.”

  He stops and turns. “How? You’ve got everyone sleeping in nearby rooms and your ladies-in-waiting will be up at the crack of dawn to get you up at the crack of dawn.”

  “We’ll get Josh out before,” I assure him. “Everyone will be none the wiser.”

  “Except me.”

  I pout and flutter my lashes. “I won’t ask you to stick your neck out for me ever again.” It’s a fib, and Damon knows it.

  “Yes, you will,” he sighs, looking to Josh. “Six o’clock, you’re out. I’ll be waiting to escort you before Her Majesty’s ladies arrive to wake her.”

  Josh salutes. “Yes, boss.”

  “Fuck’s sake,” Damon grumbles, taking himself to the door. He checks outside and calls us forward. “We go separately. Josh in the elevator, Her Majesty and I will take the stairs.”

  “Anything you say,” I agree without hesitation. “Wait, where’s your security?” I look at Josh for my answer. He’ll be ambushed if he’s seen. Not to mention the fuel it will add to the fire already burning its way through the online media platforms. First, they dance. Then it’s discovered that they’re in the same hotel a few hours later?

  “Bates,” Damon calls softly across the lobby, and two seconds later, there are four of us.

  “Oh, how prompt.” I smile brightly at Josh’s bodyguard. “How are you, Bates?”

  “Very good, ma’am.” He doesn’t look all too pleased to see me, but I don’t take it to heart. Josh and I must be the biggest headaches Damon and Bates have ever had.

  “The Presidential Suite,” Damon tells his old friend. “Stay in the elevator until we make it up the stairs.”

  “Right,” he sighs, and then jerks his head to Josh for him to get a move on, returning his attention to Damon. “Blackjack and a whisky?”

  “Blackjack, yes. Whisky, no.”

  “Oh you must, Damon,” I jump in, adamant. “I insist.” It’ll make me feel a whole lot better about making him endure yet another stakeout.

  Damon doesn’t acknowledge my demand and instead watches as Bates leads Josh away. Only once they’re in the elevator does he quickly run another check of all corners before ushering me toward the stairs. “Nice and quick.”

  “I’m going as fast as I can,” I assure him, every muscle I have now awake again and beginning to ache. As soon as we’re in the stairwell, I groan at the first set of stairs. Coming down is one thing. Going up is another. “I’m going to be too exhausted to even talk once I’ve climbed all these,” I moan, lifting my dress and starting my ascent. “And how come Josh got to take the elevator? That doesn’t seem at all fair. Can we not wa . . . oh!” There’s suddenly no ground beneath my feet, my body draped over Damon’s shoulder. “Damon! What in heaven’s name are you doing?”

  “I believe I am carrying the Queen of England up the stairs so she can conserve her energy for her secret American lover, ma’am.”

  Whatever do I say to that? “A piggyback would have sufficed,” I tell him as I brush endless locks out of my face. “This is a little outrageous, don’t you think?”

  “I think more outrageous things may have happened in the hotel bar, Adeline,” he quips tiredly, and I burst into embarrassed flames.

  “I have no idea what you are talking about,” I retort indignantly, cringing like I have never cringed before. “We drank champagne and talked.”

  “Of course you did, ma’am. All rather civilized, I expect.”

  “Indeed,” I reply, shutting down the awfully awkward conversation. Goodness me, it’s times like this I’m not so fond of the fact that Damon knows me so well. No other knows how to get my cheeks tinged with embarrassment like he does.

  Considering Damon is no spring chicken, he carries me up the stairs like I’m just another layer of his clothing. We leave the stairwell as Josh and Bates appear out of the elevator, both looking at me bobbing up and down on Damon’s shoulder as we pace down the corridor quietly.

  “Was she gonna hightail it?” Josh asks quietly as he trails us.

  I look up and grin at him. “My feet are aching. It’s been a long day, what with endless men twirling me around a dance floor.”

  Josh rolls his eyes dramatically. “I don’t know how I feel about another man carrying you over his shoulder.”

  “Damon doesn’t count.”

  “Will you two shut up?” Damon hisses, and I quickly snap my mouth shut, drawing an imaginary zip across, making Josh grin and Bates chuckle. “The men are in the lounge area.” He puts me on my feet. “I’ll move them into the dining room to clear the way and once you’re in your room I’ll clear them out.” He looks to Bates. “So it’ll be just you and me tonight.”

  “Good with me.”

  “Wait here.” Damon disappears into the room and only a minute later, he’s back. “Go.”

  I’m about to break into a sprint when, once again, the ground disappears from under my feet. “Josh,” I yelp, earning a filthy glare from Damon. I slap my hand over my mouth as Josh runs through the suite with me over his shoulder bobbing up and down erratically.

  The door closes, and finally it is us again. “Dress off,” he demands, dropping me to my feet and pulling at his tie. “Everything off.” His body is stripped of clothes so fast, I haven’t even found the zip of my dress by the time he’s naked.
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  “That was impressive,” I say in utter amazement, distracted from finding my illusive zip when my eyes dance across his flesh. “And so is that.”

  “Why are you still dressed?”

  “I can’t find the stupid zip.” I wriggle and worm around with my arms up my back. “Olive is usually available to help me.”

  “You’ll have to make do with me.” I’m turned away from him.

  “Such a hardship.” My words are but a sigh as Josh finds the zipper with ease and virtually yanks it down, yanking me back a few paces in the process. “Easy, tiger,” I quip. “Oh.” I’m grabbed around the waist from behind and hauled up his body. “Josh!”

  My shock is ignored, and I’m carried to the bed, more or less tossed on the mattress, and then he’s making quick work with those talented fingers, getting my bra and knickers off. And then I’m naked. His eyes burn holes all over me as they jump across my flesh.

  “Oh, today is a good day.” His face falls between my boobs, and he inhales deeply. I can only laugh as he mauls me, feeling, sucking, and licking his way from one boob to another on constant hums of happiness. My hands find his hair, my fingers threading through the dark waves, and I relax into the soft bedding, so utterly content. “Don’t you fall asleep on me,” he warns, walking on his fists up the bed either side of my body until his face is hovering over mine. “Did I tire you out?”

  “No, I’m just very relaxed.” So happy and at peace.

  His smile is gorgeous. Simple and gorgeous. “Me, too.” He lowers slowly, his gaze flitting from my lips to my eyes constantly. And just when I breathe in and prepare for our kiss, he lifts a little, resuming his painstaking studying of my face. I’m a little slighted, but watching him watching me with so much concentration is truly pleasurable, too. No one has ever looked at me the way Josh looks at me. Not with this much fire in their eyes. No one has taken so much time to really see me. Not like they want to devour me and box me up all at the same time. And no one has ever gone to such great lengths and taken such risks just to be with me.

  As Josh’s mouth lowers, I put pressure on the back of his head, in case he thinks to retreat again, but this time, he does not, and I’m quickly absorbed by the power of his kiss. Deep but soft. Intense but quiet. My arms encase his shoulders and hug him to me, and we roll on the bed, putting Josh under me, the angle of our mouths changing. And we roll again, back to the center of the bed. This simple thing of being in a bed, being able to kiss and be naked, and simply be . . . together. It’s everything to me and more. Doesn’t every couple in love deserve the right to have this? By law of human nature, you should be able to express your love for someone. Not hide it.

  For ages, we just kiss and feel. My hands wander, his hands wander, but most of all we simply kiss. My lips are swollen and sore, but nothing will stop me from having this time. To not have to rush and worry. It’s been such a wonderful evening, and I’m not ready for it to end just yet. As soon as I fall asleep, it will be morning before I know it. And Josh will go his way, and I will go mine.

  It’s Josh who decides to end our marathon make-out session, breaking away from me and giving me a small smile before rolling to his back and tugging me into his side. I settle, my leg tossed over his thigh, and sigh a really contented sigh. I watch my finger draw lines across his chest as he plays with my hair. “Does your father know you are here?” I ask quietly.

  “What do you think?”

  “I don’t know,” I admit. “The way he looked at me this evening, I couldn’t tell if it was disapproval, sympathy, or both.”

  “Both.” His answer is so assertive, and it gets my mind spinning with what Josh has told his father about us. He must sense my curiosity because he goes on before I have the chance to ask. “He knows we had a thing.”

  “A thing?” I don’t know why that bothers me. “Is that what this is? A thing?”

  He nudges me, and it is definitely in warning. “It was a thing when Dad saw us at the royal stables that time.”

  With Josh’s reminder of that lovely day, I lose all indignation. I think that may have been the day when I truly grasped the gravity of the trouble I was in. Not trouble in the sense of anyone finding out, but trouble in the sense I was already falling for the scandalously sexy American. “And now?”

  “Now you are my thing.” I hear the smile in his voice.

  “I am, am I?” I quite like being Josh’s thing.

  “You know it.”

  I peek at him on a satisfied smile and get a tap on the end of my nose, making it wrinkle. “And what does your dad think we are now?”

  “A dangerous combination.”

  I pout, injured, and even though I know it to be true, I still ask, “How so?” I want Senator Jameson’s perspective.

  “My father knows of the repercussions. He’s worried about me, and what lengths your people will go to in order to keep me away. In his words, it’ll portray you in the best light possible, and me in the worst.”

  Biting my lip, I resettle my cheek on Josh’s chest and resume my absentminded tracing of his skin. “Didn’t I already tell you that?” I mumble, my mood taking an unwelcome nosedive. “It is one of the endless reasons why no one can know about you. And that is why your stunt at the White House this evening was so reckless. Why did you do that?”

  I feel him stiffen beneath me, and I know if I were to look up into his eyes, there would be the angry flashes of amber. “I did it because I wanted to dance with the woman I love.”

  “Nevertheless, you have piqued media interest when we should be doing everything to avoid any attention at all.”

  “So fuckin’ kill me,” he sighs, and my finger halts in its delicate trailing. “And there is nothing your people can do to keep me away.” He’s fighting to keep his temper in check. I decide it wise not to correct him on that. There is plenty they can and will do.

  “I don’t want to argue,” I whisper as I look up at him, feeling my emotions getting the better of me. “Especially since you will leave tomorrow, and I don’t know when I might see you again.”

  “Fuck,” Josh breathes, his hand going to his hair and raking through. He closes his eyes for a moment, calming, and then starts moving, sitting himself against the headboard. He negotiates my limbs until I’m straddling him, his knees bent behind me so I can lean back. He gives me imploring eyes, his hands holding mine. “I’m a jerk. It’s just so fuckin’ frustrating, Adeline.”

  “I know.” It’s all I can say. But he knew this. When he cornered me at the White House, he knew all of this. “Do you still want to be here?” My question isn’t a trick one. I wouldn’t blame him if he didn’t, if he suddenly comprehended the impossibilities, but what could I do? Nothing is the answer. Absolutely nothing, which makes me even more powerless in this misconceived powerful role.

  His face is plain disgusted. “Did you really ask me that? Yes, Adeline. I do. I’m staying and hoping we can find a solution. There has to be a solution.”

  I hope and pray for that solution, too. “You know I can’t make any promises, Josh. I’m at the mercy of my family’s history. Of the lies.”

  “No promises, no, but tell me we can at least discuss it. Don’t write off our future just yet.” Taking his hand to my nape, he pulls me forward until there’s no space between the end of our noses. “After we argued in my hotel last week, I thought really hard about us. Whether I can be the world’s biggest secret. Whether I could be happy having you without being able to share my love with the world. And bottom line, I can. I can do that, because my life without you in it isn’t really a life anymore. It’s a sentence. But, believe me when I say, Adeline, if there is a way for us to be together, I will find it.”

  If. Such a little word with such a big meaning. After a week of feeling so horrible, believing he’d given up, knowing he’s so determined to pursue us brings some peace to my weary and battered soul. I can work with if. “I believe you,” I tell him, because that is what he needs to hear. “And I wil
l never stop searching for a solution, too.” I drop into his chest and take comfort from both his resolve and strong arms holding me.

  We could talk in circles forever and things will never be any different. Goodness knows, I’ve talked myself in circles for weeks. Not only desperately searching for answers to my exhausting problems, but also constantly questioning my integrity. I’m asking Josh to be happy being my secret. I’m asking him to accept what are really quite unreasonable terms to a relationship. If there is no solution to our plight, can I let Josh exist in the shadows of my life? Can I keep him for my own selfish reasons, even if I know it will slowly kill him? I swallow, not wanting to answer my silent questions. And I grip him tighter. I question if I should let him go, because keeping him really is selfish. But I can’t help myself.

  “Hey, what’s up?” he asks, feeling my constricting hold.

  I shake my head into him, willing the tears of despair not to come. “I love you so much.”

  He sighs, kicking his legs off the side of the bed. He finds his feet and stands with me curled around him, obviously concluding I’m not ready to let him go. “How about that shower?” he suggests, and I’m grateful. Distraction.

  Carrying me to the bathroom, I’m encouraged to my feet, the shower is flipped on, and the room swathed in steam a minute later. As Josh approaches me, slowly with heavy eyes, I hold my breath and brace myself. “Right now,” he says roughly, bringing me back around, “I’m going to make love to you in the shower.”

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