His true queen, p.20
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       His True Queen, p.20

           Jodi Ellen Malpas
 

  LA. Once again we will be a world apart. “A new film?”

  “Yeah.”

  “How long are you there?”

  “Indefinitely.”

  My heart sinks, though I cannot possibly be surprised. It’s where he lives, after all. “One thinks that you should only accept roles for projects in the UK.”

  He chuckles lightly, craning his neck awkwardly to look at me. “Would I be able to see you more if I were in London?” he asks, and I scowl. “There. Whether I’m thousands of miles away, or just one mile away, the distance is the same. We’re still a world apart.” Settling back on his pillow, he goes quiet, thinking, and I hate that his thoughts are likely as depressing as mine.

  “So when will I see you?” I ask, rather unfairly, though I’m finding it difficult to see past my need for something to cling to. It’ll be the only thing to get me through his absence.

  “You tell me, Adeline. I already told you, I’m at your mercy.”

  Is he punishing me? Making a point? And has he forgotten I am at the mercy of so much more? Regardless, I don’t want to spend our last moments together arguing. So I relax and savor the feel of our skin touching in all the places it could touch. “I love you,” I tell him quietly, the words coming instinctively. “Please remember that. Always remember that.”

  There’s a short silence before he whispers, “I love you, too,” though there is pain in his words. Is it because he really doesn’t want to love me? Because that would be the easiest thing here. To not love. To not need. To have the ability to walk away without feeling like a part of you has been ripped from your body. There are moments like this when it is all so very hopeless. And then moments like last night when hopelessness is forgotten. But our time together will always have an end point. There will always be a storm after the sun has shone.

  The mood now flat, I find strength to turn it around. “Tell me about your new role.”

  He juts his bum up again and starts to turn over. I lift to allow him the space, giving him sorry eyes when he hisses as he comes to rest on his back. Settling, he smiles when I wedge my elbows into his pecs and rest my chin on my hands, attentive and ready to listen.

  “I’m a psychopathic professor of psychology.”

  My head retreats on my neck. “Sounds ideal. Was last night research?” I ask, thinking that Josh looked very much like a psychopath while we argued.

  “Being psychotic isn’t about being angry. It’s a personality disorder.”

  I raise my eyebrows cheekily. “Oh?” The way Josh can go from calm to lunatic in the blink of an eye surely qualifies him. He rolls his eyes, catching my line of thought, though he refrains from scolding me.

  “I have an affair with another member of the faculty and become the subject of her studies. It’s being pitched as Basic Instinct meets A Beautiful Mind.” His palms land on my bottom and stroke wide circles.

  I withdraw a little. Basic Instinct? I don’t claim to be a film buff, but I’m sure I have heard it’s a bit raunchy. And Josh said her. He becomes the subject of her studies. “Basic Instinct?” I parrot, trying my very hardest to sound interested rather than disturbed. He nods, a slow smile forming, though he doesn’t say a word, but rather lets my mind spiral further. He knows what I’m thinking, and now I know I heard right. It is raunchy. There will be sex scenes. “Who’s playing her?”

  “Tia Piper.”

  I balk at him. “Tia Piper?”

  “You got trouble hearing this morning?” He’s taking the greatest pleasure out of my uneasiness. Where Josh Jameson was voted Hollywood’s hottest man, Tia Piper was voted alongside him as Hollywood’s sexiest woman. Tall, leggy, Amazonian-like looks. And, worst of all, she’s recently left her rock-star husband. I remember reading about it with Matilda over champagne.

  I flatten my forearms on his chest and lay my head on them, hiding my discomfort from Josh. “She’s pretty.” What a stupid thing to say. She is more than pretty. She’s a goddess. And Josh is going to be getting naked with her. I grimace.

  “Is the Queen feeling threatened?”

  “I have no idea what you are talking about,” I retort, my indignation bringing the utter snob out in me, making Josh laugh. I scowl, an unreasonable thought coming to me. I hope she sees the state of his back and wonders who inflicted the injuries.

  “Hey.” Josh shifts, and I roll off him to my back. His smiling face is soon hovering over my twisted one. “If it was deemed appropriate for the Queen to feature on The World’s Sexiest Women List, you would have left the competition standing.”

  “Does that mean you are more attracted to me than her?” Where has this needy, jealous streak come from? I don’t like it in the least.

  “Adeline, to me you are beyond the scale of beauty.” He drops a pacifying kiss on my lips. “By a million miles.”

  He’s sweet, but he hasn’t denied my fears. “She’ll see you naked. You’ll have to kiss her, and she’ll have to touch you in places only I should touch.”

  “It’s my job. At least no one is trying to force me to marry her.”

  “No one will force me t—” I’m silenced by his mouth before we fall into the realms of a potential argument once again. I’m grateful to be distracted, realigning my focus on the now.

  “In my world, there is only you, woman,” he mumbles across my lips between the strokes of his tongue. “She’s not my type. Not at all. You are my type. Only you.”

  “You mean a Queen?”

  “No, I mean my Adeline.”

  I could burst with appreciation. “Will you call me every day?”

  “I won’t get through a day without that, so yes.” He works his lips onto my cheek. “I quite like this jealous streak.”

  “Oh, behave.” I laugh as he mauls me. He may do, but I most certainly do not. It’s only just occurred to me that I’ll be helpless to stop the women throwing themselves at his feet. There will be nothing I can do while I’m locked in my palace being Queen.

  “You trust me, don’t you?” he asks, as if reading my mind. “And your answer dictates whether I slap that ass of yours stupid.”

  I smile. “I trust you.” But I’m wondering whether I should say I don’t, if it means his palm on my skin.

  “Good. What’s the time?” Josh blindly reaches for his mobile on the nightstand as I look across to the drawn curtains.

  Reluctantly, I say what I’ve been dreading all night. “We’d better get you out before everyone wakes up.”

  Josh huffs his displeasure and glances at his phone. “Fuck.”

  “What?”

  “It’s 7:45.”

  “Oh, stop it.” I roll my eyes and relax back. “It can’t be. Olive would have been in here ages ago to—”

  The door swings open, and both our eyes dart toward it.

  There’s not a moment to consider the fact that we are both as naked as can be, not a chance to hide our dignity with the sheets. Olive is standing in the doorway, her hand on the knob, her mouth hanging open. She’s a statue, as are we, us staring at Olive, Olive staring at us. For bloody ages. My brain has completely malfunctioned on me.

  I see the second she comes back to life, because she physically shakes herself to do it. Backing out of the room, she bows her head. “Pardon me, ma’am.” The door closes, though Josh and I don’t stop staring at it, not for a very long time.

  “Bloody hell,” I finally breathe, bringing my hands to my face and covering it. “Bloody, bloody hell.”

  “Yeah,” Josh confirms simply, pushing himself up to his knees. “What now?”

  “God damn it, where in heaven’s name is Damon?” I ask myself, shuffling to the edge of the bed. I scurry across the bedroom and wrap myself in my robe. “Wait here.”

  “What are you doin’?”

  “I need to talk to her,” I say as I head for the door.

  “Will she say anything?”

  “Olive? God, no. She’s a sweetheart, but she tends to get herself in a fluster.” I open the door
and find Olive on the other side, looking no less startled than when she fled my room. Her body is static, frozen in shock. I offer her a small smile as I pull the door closed behind me.

  “I’m so sorry,” she whispers, looking on the verge of breaking down. “I didn’t realize you had company, Your Majesty.” She’s ripping herself to shreds, and it saddens me that she clearly thinks I am about to rip her apart, too.

  “Olive.” I reach for her shaky arms and hold her in place, stemming her trembles. “You weren’t to know.” For goodness sake, what is Damon playing at? “Where’s Damon?”

  Her limp arm lifts and points across the room, and on a heavy frown, I move forward a few paces until the couch comes into view. Damon is sprawled across one end, catching flies, and Bates across the other end, snoring. A large empty bottle of Scotch is set on the table before them, playing cards scattered across the wood. I shake my head in dismay and turn back toward Olive. “Have you seen Sir Don this morning?”

  “I haven’t, ma’am.”

  “Kim?”

  “She’s waiting in the dining room for you, ma’am. I didn’t wake you earlier because it was a late night. I thought you would like a lay-in. But then Kim arrived and reminded me that you had a breakfast meeting and I thought I would get into trouble because I should have woken you earlier and now I wish I hadn’t because I believe I shouldn’t have seen what I just saw and it’s all gone horribly wrong.” She reaches for her pumping chest, and I fear she may fall into a full-blown panic attack.

  “Calm down.” I go to her and take her hands. “Now, I need you to do something for me.”

  “Anything, ma’am.”

  “Can you keep Kim in the dining room? And if Sir Don comes to my room, tell him I will be ready soon. Don’t let him in.” She starts to nod obediently, and I smile fondly at her. “You do that, and I’ll take care of the rest.” I turn her by her shoulders and send her on her way. “And Olive?” I call quietly.

  She looks over her shoulder as she hurries away to fulfill her brief. “Don’t worry, Your Majesty.” She gives me an over-the-top wink, her mouth opening as she does. “Your secret is safe with me.”

  I can’t help but laugh a little as she goes, not in the least bit doubtful that it is. “Thank you, Olive.” She disappears, and I return my attention to my wayward bodyguard. “Now, then,” I say to myself, marching over. As I bend to poke him, I get a waft of stale Scotch. I wrinkle my nose in disgust and stab at his shoulder with my rigid finger. “Damon,” I whisper, getting nothing. “Damon, wake up.” My finger pokes turn into light smacks of his cheek when I get no response. “Hey, you drunken fool.” I inject a little more power into my hand and slap his head.

  “Hey!” He scrambles up into a straight sitting position and darts wide, foggy eyes around the room. “What’s going on?”

  “You drank yourself unconscious,” I inform him as Bates starts to stir at the other end.

  Damon takes a few moments, blinking and gathering his bearings before finding me. He looks me up and down, frowning. “What are you doing up?”

  “It’s nearly eight.” I wait as the penny slowly drops. And when it’s landed and settled, he shoots up from the couch.

  And immediately wobbles, forcing me to catch his arms before he topples. “Fucking hell.” He rocks back on his heels, his face screwing up. “I had a drink.”

  “You don’t say,” I tease, only releasing him when I’m sure he’s steady. My gesture is silly. If he were to fall, my little female frame would never stop him.

  Coughing his throat clear, he straightens out his disheveled form. “Well, you did say I could.”

  I can’t argue with that. I did, but it looks and smells like Damon and Bates had more than a drink. The rather large empty bottle confirms it. So does his lack of a wake-up call.

  “Where’s Jameson?” Bates croaks, wedging his palm into the arm of the couch and pushing himself up. He also staggers, his body half bent for a few seconds before he deems it safe to straighten to his full height.

  “He is still in my bed.” I fold my arms over my chest, trying to look all disapproving when actually I’m rather amused. “And now I will leave you two the challenge of getting him out without every member of my staff seeing.”

  “Got any rope?” Damon asks Bates.

  “Nah. We could tie some sheets together and lower him down.”

  Damon chuckles, as does Bates, while I watch on, certain they must still be drunk. “Or we could just grab a maid and stuff him in her washing cart,” I suggest on an exasperated eye-roll.

  They both stop laughing and look at each other.

  “Do not even think about it,” I warn, seeing their intentions. “Kim’s in the dining room. One of you will have to make sure everyone else is busy and out of the way while the other gets Josh out of my suite.” I head back to the bedroom, hearing the two men laughing together like a pair of kids. “I hope you are calling for someone else to drive,” I say to Bates. There’s no question he’ll be over the limit. I look back as I take the door handle, waiting for his confirmation.

  He snaps himself out of his giggling fit and straightens. “Of course, Your Majesty.”

  “Very good.” I enter the bedroom and find Josh dressed. “Our security men have hangovers.”

  Josh seems delighted by this, his smile huge. “You’re shittin’ me?”

  “No, I am not shittin’ you.” I put myself in his chest, my arms linked around his waist, and look at him. “I have a meeting with Kim in a few minutes. You’ll have to sneak out.”

  “Story of our lives, huh?”

  “It seems to be,” I sigh. “I’ll keep Kim busy, Damon and Bates will do the rest.” Our lips touch, and the goodbye kiss is here. Naturally, my arms lock around him tighter, forcing him to reach back and pry them away. I’d protest, but I know Josh is doing what I should be doing. Not prolonging the inevitable. Making it as easy as possible. “Don’t go,” I plead unreasonably.

  But he just smiles and breaks away, landing one more chaste kiss on my lips. “I’ll call you.” He ushers me away from him, and I take backward steps so I get to see him for as long as possible before I reach the door. He looks lonely all by himself in the middle of the room. His lips quirk at the corners as I force my body to turn. “Adeline?” he calls, stalling me.

  “Yes?”

  “Don’t marry anyone while I’m gone, ’kay?”

  My nose wrinkles and I leave, hoping that isn’t a true worry for him. Because it shouldn’t be.

  I MAKE IT TO THE dining room table at eight on the dot, though my promptness isn’t noted. My undressed, un-showered form, however, is. It is far from being the good start I hoped for. As gracefully as my sore body allows, I lower to the chair and smile my thanks when a coffee is poured for me. After spending a purposely extended amount of time studying my unpresentable form, Kim goes back to her phone, making sporadic notes.

  “Oversleep?” she asks without looking at me. Her attitude isn’t really acceptable, but I refrain from pulling her up on it.

  “Apparently so.” Reaching for a pastry, I pick at it while I wait for Kim to finish whatever it is she is doing. I’ve nearly eaten the whole thing by the time she kindly gives me her attention. “Come on, then,” I say, speeding things along.

  Without a word, she starts pulling sheets of paper from a file on the table, sliding each one toward me leisurely. I stare at the pictures, all of Josh and me on various parts of the dance floor at the White House.

  “It’s speculation.” I push them all away and take another pastry. I’m giving her nothing. “Besides, I’m sure my supposedly imminent engagement to Haydon Sampson is diverting any media attention from those pictures.” I eye her as I take a nibble of my new pastry and sit back in my chair. “Did you know about it?”

  “Of course not.” Kim seems highly offended, and I believe her offence to be genuine. “And with all due respect, ma’am, I don’t think even the end of the world would detract the attention from these
pictures.”

  “Anyone would think it is the end of the world,” I grumble. “I danced with Josh Jameson. What of it?”

  “What of it?” Kim leans forward in her chair. “Adeline, can you see the looks on both of your faces?” She pushes one of the photographs toward me, and my eyes drop. “If you try to tell me that there isn’t something going on between the two people in this picture, then I’ll eat my hat.”

  She’s one hundred percent right. You can see the chemistry coming off the page. I breathe out, a little stumped. I’ll look like a total fool if I deny it. “I danced with Josh Jameson,” I repeat, shoving the picture away and returning to my pastry. “If others choose to make more of it, that is their problem, not mine.” I’m a fool.

  Kim falls back in her chair in total exasperation, clearly concluding the same. “I know . . .” She drifts off and leans forward over the table, dropping her voice to a mere whisper. “I know what happened that night at Kellington.”

  “No, you made assumptions.” I never confirmed a damn thing.

  “And were my assumptions wrong?”

  “Yes,” I sniff. “There has not been, and never will be, anything between Josh Jameson and me.” Picking up my coffee, I look to Kim as I take a sip, my front never wavering. That is, until I catch sight of something behind her. I cough on a swallow, battling to keep my eyes from widening.

  “Adeline, this is me. I’ve known you for years,” Kim goes on, and I nod, absentminded as I watch Damon tiptoe across the other side of the room, Josh close behind. I get a small wave from Damon and a forced worried expression from Josh. I drop my coffee cup to the saucer a little heavy-handed, turning my startled stare onto Kim. “I’m sorry, what?”

  She frowns. “I said, this is me. I’ve known you for years, so I know you’re not being truthful.”

  She basically just called the Queen a liar, and she would be right. But one thing I have learned in my journey to today is that the Monarchy hasn’t survived on truths. “I’ve known you for years also, Kim, and I’m sorry to say you seem to have a stick shoved up your arse since your change in role.”

 
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