His true queen, p.26
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       His True Queen, p.26

           Jodi Ellen Malpas
 

  “Well, unusually, this queen doesn’t have a husband, and children are not imminent, so, yes, it is just me.”

  “And no one will disturb us?”

  “No one enters when I’ve explicitly told them not to.”

  “How many bedrooms does this place have?”

  “Four.”

  Josh wanders in, his young, shirtless, American, muscly torso looking good surrounded by all this old British history. “Four,” he repeats, gazing to the high, decorative ceiling. “Hiding me isn’t going to be as hard as I thought.” His head drops. “This place is bigger than my condo in New York.”

  I shrug, the grandeur of the palace of no consequence to me. It’s only a reminder of who I am. “The bedrooms are through there.” I point to the double doors at the other end of the room, and he raises an eyebrow, heading there.

  Stopping on the threshold, he peeks through, but doesn’t venture inside. He’s thinking, and I’m curious to know what. Whatever it is, it’s stopping him from entering my bedroom and that in itself is a worry. What’s on his mind? Turning toward me, he regards me quietly. My curiosity goes through the roof. But he shakes his head and starts wandering around again, picking up this, then that, looking high, then low. His moves are slow and measured, his concentration deep. I go to speak more than once, but each time I draw breath, he picks up something else and examines it, stopping me. A framed photograph of my grandfather on his coronation. A small trinket pot that holds a golden nugget given to my grandfather by the Grasberg mine in Indonesia. A solid silver crucifix given to my father by the Pope. Each time, Josh sighs, placing the items down carefully and continuing with his thorough examination of my private quarters. He does this for a good ten minutes, leaving me with nothing to do but watch, part fascinated, part worried.

  He eventually circles the entire place until he makes it back to me. “What?” I ask, lowering to one of the couches, getting the feeling I might need to sit for this.

  “I don’t know.” Josh casts his eyes around the room again. “I feel weird.”

  I can’t keep my frown at bay. “Weird?” That has to be a new one. “I’m not sure I know what you mean.”

  “This?” He motions round him, to the opulent decor, I expect, and I find myself taking it in, too, despite it being very familiar. “Your home.” He looks a little lost all of a sudden, his big body swamped by the even bigger room. “I don’t know why it’s just hit me, but it has. Like a fuckin’ baseball bat. You’re the Queen of fuckin’ England.”

  Should I be worried? I don’t know, but fear is creeping through me unstoppably. “You are a bit slow,” I murmur, nothing else coming to me. “That’s old news.”

  “But today it seems like new news. The guided public tour of your palace, the detailed rundowns on every priceless piece of furniture we passed. The collection of paintings, every one of your ancestors dating back centuries. Kings, queens, princes, and princesses. This.” He throws his arms up into the air, gesturing to the space I hate. “I’m not good enough for you.”

  I pull in air so fast, I’m sure I’ve stripped every scrap of oxygen from the room. Who is this man? I don’t recognize him. This isn’t my American boy, but a man who has had his confidence knocked out of him, and I positively hate the sight and sound. “You are good enough for me,” I murmur pitifully.

  “Says who?”

  “Me.”

  “But what you say counts for nothing, remember?” He smiles. It’s not one of his usual dashing smiles. It doesn’t knock me sideways, make me dizzy. Because it is sad, and it is also laced in pity. Pity for me, because I am deluded. Pity for him, because he is not.

  “What are you telling me?” I don’t want to know. Whatever it is, I can’t fix it.

  On a massive, strained sigh, he walks to me and takes a seat beside me on the couch, then holds my hands. My fear rockets as I stare at him. “I’m saying—”

  “Are you breaking up with me?”

  His lips straighten, not helping with my current state of mind, and that sadness painting his face becomes more vivid. “No.” He shakes his head as he says it, and I fold with relief. “The British army couldn’t chase me away, Adeline. And that’s what’s even more fucked up. Although I know my relationship with you is restricted, I’m prepared to take what I can get, because you have become a vital part of me. And trying to make it through a day knowing I will never set my eyes on you again will be the end of me, so if sharing you with the world is what I need to do, then it’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make. Because my love for you is far stronger than my love for me.” He reaches for my cheek and wipes away a tear that I hadn’t realized had fallen. “You are more important and being here has made me realize that. I don’t need to share my love for you with the world. I thought I did, but I don’t. That was my ego talking. I only need you to know how much you’re loved. By me.”

  I snivel and blink, more tears breaking free and rolling. “You know if there was a way, I would take it in a heartbeat. I would give up all of this for you if it wouldn’t ruin my family.”

  “I know that now. I get it.” He grabs me and hauls me onto his lap, falling back against the couch, cuddling me close. “I was an asshole for ever suggesting you choose. Your loyalty is one of the things I admire most about you.”

  We settle, bunched together, close and warm. And that’s where we remain in a silence that is peaceful, no screaming thoughts or unspoken words. Because right now, we both accept that this is us. We are fire and passion and assertive and violent. But we are also love, with its many facets and complexities.

  And right now, that love is bringing us peace.

  Rest from the storm.

  Quiet within the chaos.

  JOSH LOOKS GOOD IN MY massive shower with solid gold fixings. He looks good in my carved, solid wood four-poster bed, the luxury sheets tangled around his legs. He looks good sprawled on the antique King Louis XIV couch in his boxers, his arms thrown so casually above his head. He looks good roaming my private quarters, his bare feet sinking into the plush carpet, his lovely hips wrapped in a small towel. Basically, Josh Jameson is the most beautiful thing in this entire palace that’s stuffed full to the rafters with beautiful things.

  And now he looks good propped up against my headboard, his legs bent, the papers I pulled from his back pocket earlier in his hand. He’s practicing his lines, his concentration intense. It’s a sight to behold, something I will store away in my mind and call upon whenever I need to picture him.

  As I stand in the doorway to my bathroom, toweling my hair dry, I take the greatest pleasure in watching him. Just admiring him. How handsome he is. How serene and comfortable he looks, which is a relief beyond measure after our heart-to-heart earlier. How much I love him, and how quickly that love is growing. Will there come a point when leaving him is too much to bear? Reluctantly, I admit I’m already there. He’s here now, with me, but he will have to leave again, and that taints our time together whenever we are lucky enough to steal it.

  Tightening the tie of my robe on a sigh, I pad over to him. His eyes don’t leave the script he’s holding, but a blind hand reaches for me and helps me onto the bed. He spreads his thighs, and I take his silent order, sitting between them and resting back on his chest, his script lifting to give me space before lowering again so we can both see it.

  His chin rests on top of my head. “What’s this?” he asks, pulling at the silk of my robe.

  “A robe.”

  “No.” He puts the paper in my hand and unravels the tie, encouraging me forward so he can pull it free from under me. “It’s something else between us,” he says matter-of-factly, though softly, tossing it aside and letting me settle again, reclaiming his lines. I bet he wishes he could rid us of everything between us so easily. Like I do.

  I keep quiet as Josh resumes his concentration, his spare hand drawing circles on my thigh. With the words of his latest project so close, it is practically impossible not to read a few. I’ve never seen a scr
eenplay before. It’s fascinating.

  And then it’s quickly sobering. Muscles tense without me telling them to, and I immediately scold myself for it. “What’s up?” Josh asks, laying a palm on my forehead and pulling back until I’m forced to look at him.

  “Nothing.” I sound as unconvincing as I must look, and Josh catches it. “Nothing,” I repeat.

  I don’t like the knowing smile slowly forming before my eyes. It means he knows exactly what’s up.

  God damn me. “Do you really have to slide your hand up her thigh?”

  He returns his attention to the script and scans the lines. “Apparently so.”

  I flinch and drop my head, avoiding his measured eyes. “Oh.” I read on, a glutton for punishment, clearly. I start mentally kicking myself. But I continue, the torture quite addictive. He touches her breast. She moans. He circles her nipple with a fingertip. What? I frantically reverse my reading, trying to find where it states she is wearing something on her top half. She being the beauty starring alongside Josh in this film. I nearly throw up when I find the part that tells me Josh removes her blouse just before he has his hand on her inside thigh.

  “I don’t like this.” It comes from nowhere, startling me, and Josh, too, judging by his little jump beneath me. I screw my face up in disgust, not only because of my abrupt words and how needy I must sound, but because I can’t stop picturing Josh with his hands all over another woman’s body.

  He brings the script closer to my face, like some kind of cruel, inhumane bastard, and my traitorous eyes feast on the horror some more. He kisses her chest. He holds her by her throat. He takes her with anger and passion. “Josh,” I yell, swiping my arm out and sending the papers scattering to the bedroom carpet. It’s all I can do not to gather them up and toss them on the fire in the sitting room. Yuck.

  A few moments later, he’s motionless beneath me, unmoving, quiet, and I’m still scowling at the strewn papers on the floor. I can’t see him, but I can sense his laughter building, rumbling in his tummy under my back. And then it bursts out of him above me. My lip curls of its own volition, my arms folding over my chest moodily. I don’t see what’s so funny. To me, everything on that page is all rather unfunny. I shudder, my stomach twisting. I have no space in my mind to consider how I’m behaving. All I can see is Josh. And her. Boobs out, Josh’s lips kissing every part of her naked torso. I grab a pillow and sink my face into it, trying to crush the images while Josh laughs on, thoroughly amused. Bastard.

  “Hey.” The pillow is snatched and flung across the room, and I’m pinned under his body a split second later, his grinning face pushed close to my sulky one. “You know, in all the time I’ve known you, you’ve never behaved like a spoiled princess. Until today.”

  Oh, the cheek. “I’m Queen, actually,” I sniff huffily, only increasing his laughter. “And I have never been spoilt. This is not being spoilt. This is being . . .” I fade off, just stopping myself in the nick of time from confessing how jealous I am. I’m really quite a joke. My behavior is screaming jealousy. It isn’t as if Josh needs my confession to confirm it.

  “What?” he pushes, clearly wanting it anyhow.

  “I’m—”

  “Jealous?”

  “God, no.” I’m the biggest fool to ever live. “I’m merely thinking that . . .” My words die once again, and Josh’s grin cracks his face. On an epic roll of my eyes, I relent to what we all know. “I’m jealous.”

  “Praise the fuckin’ Lord,” Josh sings, rolling us so I’m above him. He’s utterly thrilled by the notion. Good for him. I am not. “It’s just a job, baby. Just like yours is.”

  “I don’t have other men feeling me up.”

  “No, only wanting to marry you.”

  “Yes, and as I have explained so many times before, I won’t allow it.” I don’t like his doubtful look, so I reinforce my promise. “I”—I inch up his body a little more until my mouth is on his chin—“won’t”—my lips kiss up his cheek to his ear—“allow it,” I breathe, smiling against his skin when I feel a pulse kick in against my thigh. “Like I won’t allow you to touch another woman.”

  “Be reasonable, Adeline,” he moans, shifting beneath me. “It’s not going to be how you’re imagining it.”

  I clamp down on his ear and drag his flesh through my bite. “You kiss her. You touch her. That’s enough.”

  I’m quickly wrestled away, set on my backside halfway up the bed, a good meter between us. I would think he’s lost his patience with me, but then I catch the fire in his eyes. He gets to his knees, and I follow his lead, mirroring him. He could melt me with his stare, turning my blood to lava without so much as a touch. I wait with bated breath for his next move. What will it be?

  Slowly reaching forward, painfully slowly, he rests the tip of his finger on my hard nipple, and up in flames I go. White-hot heat tears through me ruthlessly. “It won’t be like this,” he says quietly, circling my nub slowly, each lap stripping away my breath until I’m barely breathing at all. His erection is growing rapidly, jutting proudly from his groin. “I won’t have this reaction.” He flicks his head down, eyes still on mine. “And when I do this . . .” He walks his fingers down my stomach to the apex of my thighs, coming forward on his knees as he does and forcing my backside from my heels, lifting me, giving his hand more space. I close my eyes and swallow. “I won’t find this.” His finger plunges into me, the wetness letting it pass with ease. His mouth hits my neck, and I grab his hair, holding him there, moaning. “There won’t be these gorgeous, low, desperate sounds.” Rearing back, he slowly drives forward again. My fingers claw at his scalp. “And I will hate every second of my touch being wasted on someone other than you.” His hand is gone, leaving me high and dry, and he takes himself back to the headboard. “I love you. Stop being dramatic.”

  I stare at him incredulously. Well, that told me. But despite my slight and a lack of being taken to the end, I can’t help the twerk of my lips.

  He cocks his brow. “Get that royal ass back here now before I tan it. And bring my script with you.”

  “Are you telling me what to do?”

  “Yes. Do it.”

  I’m gathering up his script far quicker than my pride should allow. “One day, I’m going to come to one of your sets and watch you work.” I hand over the screenplay and crawl back onto the bed, curling into his side so he can continue to learn his lines with no risk of me having a mini meltdown.

  “Let’s arrange that for a day when there are no naked women, yeah? I had you marked as many things, but possessive wasn’t one of them.”

  I stop myself from challenging him, since it is very much true. I have an unrelenting desire to keep him all for myself. “I might keep you locked up here for all eternity.” I roll onto my back, looking up at him. “A sex slave, as such.”

  “I’m a slave to you every day of the week, darlin’.” He goes back to his lines. “No need to lock me up. Leave the restraining to me.” His hand feels for my hair and starts playing with the strands as concentration invades his face once again. Playtime is over; he needs to work, but apparently the newfound playfulness in me isn’t ready for it to be over just yet. I roll back onto my side and reach for his thigh, drawing circles across his skin with the tip of my finger, each one moving up a fraction until I’m mere inches from his manhood. I peek up at him; his eyes are still on the script. Pouting, I walk my fingers inward and stop just shy of his groin. His dick twitches, and I secretly smile, victorious.

  Then he seizes my wrist and looks down at me disapprovingly. “You’re like a puppy vying for attention.”

  “I just want to make the most of our time.”

  “Speaking of which, when am I free to leave?”

  “Why, do you want to?” I ask, pouting.

  “No.” He stretches the word out, flattening my palm and holding it on his thick thigh. “I just wondered how you planned on getting me out.”

  “Easy,” I declare, proud of myself. “The passageway, of
course. But it’ll have to be when the palace is open to tourists again.”

  “Again?”

  “Yes, it’s gone six o’clock.” I watch in quiet amusement as he grasps what this means.

  “I’m not leaving tonight, am I?”

  I slowly shake my head. Not tomorrow either, if I have my way. And I plan to. This is perfect. Privacy, peace. Being together, relaxing, the big wide world at a safe distance beyond the palace walls. No one will dare enter my private space if I have explicitly told them not to, and I have explicitly told them not to. We’re safe, and that is a wonderful feeling to have when I’m with Josh.

  His lips pull into a straight line. “I don’t know if I should spank your ass or congratulate you.”

  “Spank me,” I retort cheekily, flipping myself over and raising my arse. It serves as a red flag, his work soon forgotten and cast aside in favor of my bottom. He growls as he kneels over me, stroking over the peak of my bum, and I sink into the pillow on a happy sigh.

  Bang!

  My head shoots up, and Josh’s stare darts to the doorway of my bedroom. “That wasn’t your palm meeting my arse, was it?” I ask, scrambling up to my feet.

  “Nope.” He’s under the covers fast, and I’m running across to the doors. I make it to them just in time to see Kim entering the sitting room. “Oh gosh,” I whisper, slamming my bedroom doors shut.

  “Your Majesty?”

  I turn and splatter my back against them, my wide eyes on Josh. His lips are pursed, a sort of you-asked-for-this look in his eyes. “No one enters when you’ve explicitly told them not to?” he says, sarcasm in his tone.

  I scowl at him. They usually don’t. Seems everyone around here is getting a little bit too relaxed. “I’ve said I don’t want to be disturbed,” I call.

  “How are you feeling?” She’s right behind the door.

  “A little better,” I reply. “More sleep will help. By morning I’ll be back to normal.”

  “But your guests have arrived, ma’am. They’re waiting.”

 
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