Prince albert, p.25
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       Prince Albert, p.25
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         Part #4 of A Step Brother Romance series by Sabrina Paige

  And that’s what he does. He fucks me slowly and leisurely, like he has nowhere else to go and as if there’s no one else in the world but us. He fucks me tenderly, his mouth on mine, his tongue exploring me like it’s the first time he’s kissed me.

  And when I’m close to the edge, just about to crash over, I think this is what it’s like to be comfortable with someone.

  This is what it means to be at ease, to be able to let go.

  This is happiness.

  Afterward, I breathe in Albie’s scent, trying to etch it on my brain. Because, I know, without a doubt, that this is too comfortable.

  I’m too happy, holed up in my own little world with Albie, sneaking around underneath everyone’s noses. And happiness like that, the kind I have right now, is fleeting. It doesn’t last.

  What’s happening with Albie can’t last. Our parents will be married by the Fall. And by the Fall, Albie and I have to be over.

  I’ve known it all along. Except now, it suddenly makes me sad.

  CHAPTER THIRTY-FIVE

  Albie

  “Where’s Belle?” Alex walks toward me in her blue cocktail dress with a champagne glass in her hand, seemingly oblivious to the glare of Max, who stands beside Noah a few yards away on the other side of the room.

  “I haven’t seen her in a while,” I lie.

  A while.

  I left her room not more than fifteen minutes ago, after sufficiently disheveling her. She was way too irresistible to keep my hands off, wearing a black cocktail dress with a flirty skirt, almost ready to come down for the event.

  Tonight is a cocktail party, informal compared to most of the parties that are hosted at the palace. We’re supposed to be minimizing public events, but this was Belle’s idea. She wanted to raise funds for an organization affiliated with the local children’s hospital where she’s been volunteering, one that grants wishes to kids with terminal cancer.

  I almost feel badly about debauching her right before the party. Almost, but not quite.

  I can still taste her on my lips.

  “I’m sure,” Alex snorts. “The two of you have been pretty cozy lately.”

  I raise my eyebrows at my nosy sister. “Is Finn here tonight?” I ask pointedly.

  Alex rolls her eyes. “I made sure he was left off the list,” she says. “He’s been on my nerves.”

  “Good. He’s a bad influence.”

  “Save your lectures, big brother,” Alex says, huffing. But she doesn’t walk off. She stands there beside me, surveying the room with her champagne in hand.

  “Max didn’t like him either,” I note.

  She looks beyond me toward where Max stood across the room. “Max should mind his own business.”

  “I think you are his business, Alex.”

  She gives me a ‘fuck you’ look, but then Belle comes into view and my attention is immediately diverted away from Alex. Belle walks across the room with long strides, pausing only once to smile and nod at a guest who interrupts her. She wears the same dress she wore earlier, the one I pushed up to her waist before bending her over the bed.

  Her forehead is wrinkled.

  I know that look. She’s upset about something.

  When she reaches us, she puts a hand on each of our forearms, furtively glancing behind her before she speaks. “You guys,” she hisses. “Did you know about this?”

  “Know about what?” I whisper.

  “Did you know he was going to be here?” she asks. “Or that he was in Protrovia? Did my mother tell you?”

  “I literally have no idea who you’re talking about, Belle,” Alex says, looking behind Belle and across the room. “I don’t see anyone. Who’s he?”

  “Derek,” Belle hisses.

  “What?” I ask. Irritation surges through me at the mere mention of the name of the asshole ex-fiancé who cheated on Belle.

  “Who’s Derek?” Alex asks. Her voice is just a little too loud, and I “hush” her.

  “My – just an assho – my fiancé,” she says. “Ex-fiancé.”

  “Oh no,” Alex says, wrinkling her forehead.

  “What should I do?” Belle’s face is ashen. “I don’t want to cause a scene in the middle of a charity event.”

  I have an idea of what I’d like to do to her cheater ex-fiancé. It involves my fists and would definitely cause a scene.

  “I’m just going to sneak out of the room that way and hope no one notices,” Belle whispers. “Right?”

  “I’ll go with you,” I start, but Alex glares at me.

  “No,” Alex says. “I’ll go with her. You don’t want to draw any extra attention to you.”

  “Belle!” A group of people part and Sofia walks toward us, her hand outstretched toward Belle. Belle’s eyes widen as she looks at me before slowly turning around to face her mother.

  “Did you do this?” Belle asks. Her hands are clenched into fists by her sides. I can’t see her face, but I can tell by her tone that she’s no longer anxious as much as she is angry.

  Sofia draws Belle in to hug her, standing with her hands on Belle’s arms, smiling broadly. “Derek is here because he wants to apologize, darling,” she says, her voice soft but still audible. “He and that friend of yours are no longer together. He contacted me because he wanted to make it right. He flew all the way in from the States to surprise you and to support you publicly at this event. He still wants to get married. Isn’t that fantastic?”

  “Oh, fuck that,” Alex says beside me, her voice too loud.

  I elbow her hard. “Be quiet, Alex.”

  “What?” Alex whispers. “That’s a load of bull. She’s going to take him back?”

  Sofia clears her throat and glares at Alex. “Well, Isabella, I’m sure the two of you have some things to talk about. Perhaps in another more private room, Isabella?” She asks the question without waiting for a response before putting her hand on Belle’s back and turning her around to casually direct her through the crowd.

  I stand there watching Belle walk away, like this whole thing is a damn train wreck, because that’s what it is.

  Alex elbows me. “You saw that, right?”

  “I saw it,” I say, my voice the epitome of calm. But that’s only on the outside.

  “So Belle just walked off to meet her cheating ex-fiancé who wants to get back together with her,” Alex says. She sets her empty champagne glass down as a caterer passes with a tray and turns back to me. “And you’re standing in here.”

  “Where else would I be?”

  How about someplace like punching Derek in the fucking face?

  Alex raises her eyebrows. “I don’t know, maybe stopping her from getting back together with him?”

  “Why would I do that, Alex?” I whisper.

  Alex cocks her head to the side as she looks at me. “I don’t know,” she says. “Maybe because you like her.”

  “I never said I liked her.”

  “Yeah, right,” Alex says. “You guys have been obsessed with each other since she got here.”

  “Says the girl who’s pointedly ignoring the bodyguard she clearly has a thing for?”

  Alex crosses her arms over her chest. “It’s not the same thing.”

  “Uh-huh.”

  “So you’re just going to let her run off with her crappy ex,” Alex whispers.

  “I’m not letting her do anything,” I say, my tone low. “Belle is capable of making her own decisions.”

  “You’re so stubborn.”

  “Go talk to Max.”

  “Fuck off, big brother.”

  “Love you, little sister.”

  I walk away as Alex flips me off while pretending to scratch the side of her face. Outside of the ballroom, I walk down the hallway, fully intending to go straight to my room.

  I should just let it go. I know I should.

  That would be the appropriate thing to do.

  It would be the royal thing to do. We’re taught, from the very beginning, to do what’s appropriate,
to maintain bearing above all.

  Our name is all we have. That’s what my father would say.

  I can think of few things that are worse ways of ruining my family’s name, or my father’s legacy, than falling for my stepsister.

  Belle is her own person. She should make her own decision. And if that decision happens to involve getting back together with the jackass who was stupid enough to cheat on her, then so be it.

  The rational part of me knows that letting it go would be the mature thing to do.

  I stand in the middle of the hallway for a long minute.

  Maybe I’m not that mature after all.

  CHAPTER THIRTY-SIX

  Belle

  “I know I screwed up, Isabella.” Derek stands in front of me with his hands in his pockets. And he shrugs.

  He fucking shrugs.

  Nonchalantly, like it’s no big deal.

  “You screwed up,” I say. “I’m pretty sure that fucking my maid of honor – not once, but repeatedly – doesn’t count as screwing up. Screwing up is forgetting my birthday, or –“

  He interrupts. “It was an accident, Isabella,” he says. “I didn’t mean to –“

  “Ohhhhh,” I say, my tone exaggerated. “Well, you see, I didn’t realize it was an accident. In that case, since you only accidentally put your penis in Adriana over and over and over for two years, obviously I’d have to forgive you.”

  “I knew you’d see reason,” Derek says.

  “That was sarcasm, you idiot,” I say, my voice coming out louder than I intend.

  We’re inside one of the drawing rooms, a civilized place surrounded by priceless antiques. And I have to clasp my hands in front of me to keep from picking up one of the porcelain pieces of art on a nearby table and throwing it at Derek’s stupid head.

  Because that would be inappropriate. And soon-to-be princesses are never inappropriate.

  “You were gone for two years, Isabella,” he says. “How was I supposed to last for two years? Besides, it was just sex. It meant nothing to me. She meant nothing to me.”

  “You could have just said you wanted to break up,” I hiss, my hands on my hips. I’m dangerously close to reaching for the porcelain figurine nearby. It’s a horse, rearing back with its legs in the air. I wonder how much it’s worth.

  I wonder what it would look like bouncing off of Derek’s forehead.

  “But I didn’t want to break up,” Derek says. “And, you know, being European royalty will be a real asset when you’re part of my campaign someday. Think of it. You could be the wife of a Governor. President, even.”

  I stare at him in disbelief, mentally congratulating myself on having not slugged him yet. He looks at me with the kind of earnest self-righteousness that can only come from being both stupid and spoiled.

  “You mean that I could still be your wife?” I ask, my voice rising an octave. “You’ll have me, even after all of this?”

  “We could be a team,” he says. “You and I. With your beauty and my brains, we’d be unstoppable.”

  I stare at him, his words echoing in my head. Was he always this much of a tool, or did he actually get dumber in the past two years?

  “You’re a moron.”

  “Don’t make this mistake, Isabella,” he says. “Do you really want to give up all of this?”

  “All of what? You?” I ask. “Don’t make me retch.”

  Derek’s face changes, his expression no longer contrite. Now he just looks at me sneering. “You always did think you were too good for me,” he says. “With all of your saving the world crap.”

  “I am too good for you, Derek.”

  “You stupid cunt,” he says, his face screwed up, inner ugliness transforming his appearance. He brushes past me, knocking into my shoulder as he walks by.

  “What the hell did you just call her?”

  I hear Albie’s voice behind me, and whirl around. “Albie, don’t –“

  “I called her a cunt,” Derek says. “Because that’s what she is.”

  “Albie, it’s not worth it –“ I start.

  Too late.

  Albie punches Derek in the face, and he stumbles back, his hand over his nose, crashing into the end table and sending that porcelain figurine to the ground, where it shatters into pieces.

  “You stupid fuck,” Derek says, lunging at him.

  “Stop, Derek!” I scream, but he ignores me, rushing straight for Albie and driving his head into his stomach. They fall to the ground in a tangle of limbs, and Derek’s fist connects with Albie’s face before Albie manages to roll on top of him and hit him again.

  I’m yelling at both of them to stop, and everything is chaos as our bodyguards run into the room and pull Albie off Derek. Noah stands in front of Albie, blocking him from trying to land another punch, and Albie pushes him back. “Get out of my way, Noah,” he says. “I will beat his ass. I don’t care who’s here to watch it.”

  Derek struggles, shouting obscenities at Albie, even as Simon and Max restrain him. “This is none of your business, you prick,” he says, his mouth a bloody mess.

  “Please! Just stop!” I yell, running toward Albie. His eye is already bruised underneath, a cut over his eyebrow where Derek punched him. “Are you okay?”

  “You’re fucking him!” Derek shouts, his rage apparent. “I knew it! You’re pissed off because I was screwing Adriana, and you’re over here fucking that spoiled prick!”

  “Get him the hell out of here before I hit him again,” Albie says.

  I can hear people outside the room. I know the commotion is attracting attention. But all I can focus on is Derek’s accusation.

  You’re fucking him.

  “Shut up,” I say. “Everyone shut up.”

  I hear Derek laugh as the bodyguards drag him out of the room. “I knew it. Your own stepbrother. You stupid bitch.”

  I know that they’re taking Derek out of the room, and I think Noah says something to me. I can hear Albie’s voice, calling my name.

  But all I can hear in my head is Derek’s accusation.

  You’re fucking him.

  Your own stepbrother.

  And then my mother is there, and the King. I can hear them talking, but it’s like I’m underwater, their voices are distorted and muted. I’m here and they’re far away.

  Far, far away.

  Then everything goes dark.

  CHAPTER THIRTY-SEVEN

 
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