Albie in my current state.
That’s what I tell myself as I lock the door to the bedroom.
That’s what I tell myself to justify the fact that I’m going to be late for a dinner with the king and soon-to-be-queen of a damn country, for goodness’ sake.
I’m not the kind of girl who lets her libido get the best of her. My ex-fiancé never left me feeling like this – not once.
No one has ever left me feeling like this.
Running my fingers up the sides of my thighs, I pull the fabric of the black dress – the very proper, very appropriate, very subdued black dress chosen by whatever stylist my mother hired to fill this closet in the room – up around my waist.
I glance at the secret panel on the wall where Albie disappeared. Just for a second, I almost wish he would reappear right now.
But I push thoughts of him out of my mind. I don’t need to think about Albie, with that smug, self-satisfied grin of his, the one I imagine drives women wild.
The throbbing between my legs is incessant, demanding, refusing to be ignored, and I tell myself that has nothing to do with thoughts of Albie. And it certainly has nothing to do with what he just did. It has nothing to do with his breath on my neck, his fingertips running softly across my skin.
My skirt ruched up around my waist, I slip my fingers between my thighs, finding my clit, and press my fingertips against it, sighing louder than I’d like at the relief that immediately floods my body.
I sink onto the bed, lying here in this room touching myself while, at this very moment, everyone in my brand-spanking-new family is on the other side of the palace in the dining room.
Deliciously sexy Albie.
Dark-haired, blue-but-more-periwinkle eyed Albie, who has a reputation for bedding every model and actress in the western hemisphere.
Albie, the epitome of a shallow, arrogant, entitled man.
He’s everything I should find repulsive.
Except, right now, as my fingertips slide over and over my clit, moving in circles until arousal courses through my body, he’s the person I picture.
I imagine him with his lips near my ear, his warm breath against my neck, asking me if I’m wet for him. Goosebumps dot my skin, a chill traveling down my spine as I think of him.
My eyes closed, my fingers dancing over my clit – over and over until my heart races in my chest, until my breath comes so short that I’m nearly breathless – I think of him. I imagine him with his head buried between my thighs, my dress pulled up around my waist, his tongue tasting me.
I think of his tongue, hot between my legs, flicking over my clit until I can’t do anything except call his name.
I imagine my fingers threaded through his hair, my legs wrapped around his shoulders.
I can almost feel him sliding his fingers inside me, fucking me until I pant his name.
I’m so far gone, brought so close to the edge by just the thought of his mouth between my legs, that I can barely keep myself from crying out when I crash over.
And Albie’s name is on my lips.
* * *
“I’m so pleased that you decided to join us, Isabella.” My mother raises her glass of wine to her lips. Her chilly tune conveys the exact opposite of her words, and the look she gives me is just as frosty as her voice.
She’s pissed off that I’m late for dinner.
I’m afraid the reason I’m late is written all over my face, that my guilt is immediately evident. Even as I slide into my seat at the table, I can’t get the thought of Albie as I imagined him – naked, throbbing, irresistible – out of my head.
That fact sends heat to my face, and I know I’m blushing.
I glance at Albie, and immediately regret it. Evidently, he finds my current state amusing.
“Yes,” Albie says, “I was afraid you’d gotten lost, that we’d have to send a search and rescue party after you.”
“I had to finish up something,” I say, trying to keep my voice composed, settled. Nonchalant.
I might be failing terribly at the nonchalant part of things.
“Well, I hope you know that I’m always willing to help with whatever needs attending to,” Albie says, looking at me meaningfully. Arousal washes over me like a wave, and I shift uncomfortably in my seat, crossing one leg over the other.
“I’m sure,” Alexandra snorts, rolling her eyes. She flicks a strand of hair over her shoulder and looks at me across the table. And winks.
I might actually die of embarrassment right now, if my mother didn’t interrupt to present me to the other guests at the table. She rattles off the names and positions of the grandmother, two aunts, an uncle, and three cousins. I nod, feigning interest in the social pleasantries but mostly just distracting myself from the incessant throbbing between my legs.
“Oh Albert, you are always such a gentleman.” Albie’s grandmother beams at Albie, adoration written all over her face. She’s regal, poised from head to toe, dressed in a cream-colored suit with a single strand of pearls, her grey hair pulled up into a loose bun.
Her words bring a fresh snort from Alexandra, and I wonder what she suspects, or if she’s just being obnoxious.
“Yes, you’re quite considerate, Albert,” my mother says before turning to put her hand on the king’s arm. King Leopold looks at her and smiles, obviously smitten with her.
“Isabella, I was told you’ve spent the last few years doing charity work.” One of the aunts, Victoria something-or-other, interrupts.
“Oh, I adore charity work,” the blonde cousin says. The cousins are triplets, two blondes and a brunette, with matching names: Lily, Rose, and Violet. “I just love all of the dinner parties and fundraising. In Paris once, we – oh, what was your cause?”
“My cause?” I ask, looking at her blankly.
“Your charity,” Lily says, staring at me. “Your cause. Hunger, shoes for poor children, whatever.”
“I wasn’t actually hosting parties and fundraising,” I say, starting to explain what I’d been doing the last two years.
“Oh,” Rose says, her brow furrowed. “What kind of fundraising were you doing?”
My mother interrupts. “Isabella means to say that she was working with a non-profit group.”
“Working?” the dark-haired triplet, Violet, asks. Her nose wrinkled, she looks at me like I’m a different species. “Working, as in a job?”
“I was working, yes,” I say. This entire conversation is beginning to sound surreal. “In Africa, actually.”
“Isabella,” my mother says, her voice unnaturally bright. “You must tell us all about it later, perhaps at a time other than when we’re celebrating.”
“I would love to hear about Africa sometime, Isabella,” the King says, his voice warm. “There’s an aid organization from Protrovia that you might have worked with. From what your mother has told me, I believe they may have been in the same region you were.”
“You were in Africa?” The King’s mother sniffs. “Isn’t that rather dangerous?”
“Actually, I –“ I start, before my mother interrupts.
“His Royal Highness tells me you’re spending the fall semester in Paris,” my mother says, directing her attention to Lily.
Lily rolls her eyes. “I guess,” she says. “Semester abroad and all that. I’m supposed to expand my horizons. It’s not like I haven’t been to Paris a million times before.”
The triplets sound bored with everything – bored with this dinner, bored with the company, bored with their wealth, bored with their lives. They’re every kid of every socialite parent I attended high school with in Manhattan.
“I’m going to New York,” Violet interrupts, leaning forward. “Back to design school.”
“I don’t know what you’re going to do with fashion design,” the king’s mother says. “In my day, women of means learned certain things. These art degrees and –“
“By your day, I assume you mean the eighteen hundr
eds.” Violet snickers into her napkin.
“Don’t get uppity,” Albie’s grandmother scolds. “New York City is no place for someone of your stature.”
“Oh, I don’t know, Lady Margaret,” my mother says, her tone frosty. “It was good enough for a future queen, so I’m sure Violet’s American education will be more than sufficient.”
The King clears his throat. “I’ve heard that you’ve also done very well in school, Rose.”
“Thank you, Your Royal Highness,” Rose sniffs, glaring at her sister.
“I don’t approve of all this traipsing about,” Lady Margaret says. “Running off to New York City. Or, worse, can you imagine? Charity work in Africa? Actually milling about with…those people?”
Irritation courses through me, as the table goes quiet, no one speaking. When I open my mouth, I speak with an edge that surprises even me. “By those people, I’m sure you must be referring to the children who don’t have adequate medical care or potable drinking water?”
“Isabella,” my mother says, her gaze penetrating. “Perhaps we’ll save this conversation for another time, since it’s not the appropriate place.”
King Leopold clears his throat. “Mother, I’m sure you’ll appreciate the fact that Isabella was working with a medical non-profit organization,” he says. “I recall you traveling around Europe to visit hospitals during the war.”
“Yeah, in World War I,” Rose snickers, and her sister covers her mouth as she giggles.
“Hush your mouth,” Lady Margaret snaps. “I’m old, not deaf. And it was the second great war, for your information.”
“This is definitely more interesting than the conversations we normally have at dinner,” Alexandra interrupts, popping a forkful of food into her mouth and raising her eyebrows.
“Seriously,” Lily says, wrinkling her nose as she looks at her sister. “If I have to hear about one more American designer…”
“You’re such a snob,” Violet says. “When you really just have no concept of design.”
“Oh, why don’t you educate me, with your portfolio of work and –“
“I trust you’re settling in, Isabella?” When the King interrupts, both cousins stop squabbling and immediately go silent, their expressions pouty, like children who’ve been scolded.
“Yes, King Leopold,” I say. “Although I’m afraid I may not be able to stay for as long as I’d like.”
“Oh,” he says, and the expression of disappointment that crosses his face is so genuine-looking that for a moment I feel badly even considering leaving. “Your mother and I were hoping you’d be staying the entire summer. I know that I’d like the opportunity to get to know you. As would Alexandra and Albert.”
“Yes,” Albie says. “I’d personally enjoy getting the opportunity to welcome you to the family.”
I can’t believe his brazenness, and I pointedly try to ignore him, focusing on my mother and the king.
“Yes, well,” Sofia says. “We’ll have to discuss the specifics of her summer plans in more detail another time. I’m sure that Isabella intends to stay for quite a while.”
“I’m considering it,” I say, irritated with my mother for speaking for me.
“Isabella mentioned she’d misplaced her passport,” Albie says. “I asked Ben to see if the household staff were able to find it.”
“Oh?” my mother asks innocently. “Well, how dreadful. We’ll have to make sure that’s remedied. And in the meantime, I’m sure we’ll be happy to show you why we all love Protrovia. Maybe Alexandra or Albert would take you on a tour of the palace and the castle grounds.”
“I know I’d be delighted to show her everything,” Albie says, raising a tumbler of amber-colored liquid to his lips.
The edges of his lips curl up, his expression a promise of the things he wants to show me.
Belle excused herself from dinner early, feigning a headache and jet lag, obviously lying her sweet little ass off and trying to avoid a personal tour of the palace by yours truly.
I’ll give credit where credit is due – she made it nearly ninety minutes in the middle of the cousins and my grandmother Margaret, who’s still mentally stuck someplace around the turn of the century.
My phone buzzes in my pocket, and I slide open the screen to reveal a message.
You can’t keep avoiding me, Albie. I gave you enough time to play around after you got back. Call me.
I’m about to text back reflexively, a message to tell Erika to go fuck herself, just like the two other times I’d told her before. Erika is an ex-girlfriend, a friend of the family and a reminder that several years ago, for a couple of months, I was stupid enough to actually try out the whole having-a-relationship bullshit. The only reason Erika was with me was because of my position, the proximity to the throne.
Instead, I hit the delete button, and block her number.
I need to get laid, but not by Erika.
And not by Belle either, not if I know what’s good for me.
Of course, when have I ever done what’s good for me?
I’m in the middle of texting a friend who’s always up for a night of partying and hitting on women, when she knocks on the door.
I know it’s her by the knock. It’s tentative and hesitating, not like Ben the valet or my sister Alex, who would already be in the middle of yelling, “Albie, you disgusting pig, open up!” before she even finished knocking.
No, it’s definitely Belle.
So that’s why I don’t bother to put on a shirt.
I pull open the door and revel in the fact that her eyes immediately focus on my chest. And I try to hide my smile as she unsuccessfully attempts to look anywhere else.
“Can I help you?” I ask.
“I – um – can come back later,” she says. “You’re obviously in the middle of getting changed.”
“I’d could make you come now,” I whisper, leaning forward conspiratorially.
“I stopped by because I wanted to tell you that I’m not interested,” she says, tucking her hair behind her ear.
“Oh?” I ask, leaning against the frame of the door. “You’re not interested in what, exactly, luv?”
“In a tour of the palace,” she says. “In case you were getting any ideas.”
“Oh, I have lots of ideas.”
“Not those kinds of ideas,” she whispers, her hushed tone making her words sound illicit.
“Don’t act all shy now,” I say, my voice low. “We both know why you were late for dinner.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she says, her jaw clenched. But her eyes are wide, and she takes in a short breath. The thought of her reaching between her legs and touching herself, being wet because of me, is enough to make my damn cock explode.
“So you weren’t late because you were busy thinking about my cock inside you?” I ask.
She laughs, but it’s forced. “Maybe that’s the only thing other women can think about when they’re around you, but not me,” she says. “Anyway, I came here because I wanted to ask about getting to the embassy to get a new passport.”
“Sure that’s the only reason you came here?” I ask. The way she’s looking at me, the way her eyes drop down to my chest, makes