and are worth the equivalent of a small country, which means that they could pretty much buy Protrovia. "Get out," he repeats.
"Come on." I roll my eyes like all of this is beneath me, despite the small part of me that feels guilty being the cause of the confrontation. I shouldn't feel guilty, I tell myself. After all, if Max is going to act like a controlling brute, I should act like a spoiled brat. "I'm going back to the engagement party. Finn, won't you join me?"
I add the last question not to provoke Max even more but to give Finn a not-so-subtle hint that he should get the hell out of here before my bodyguard kicks his ass.
My concern about Finn's potential ass-kicking is more for Max's sake than for Finn's.
When I turn to reach for Finn's arm, Max's hand immediately goes to my forearm, stopping me. A surge goes through me, something akin to electricity that flows through my veins all the way down to my toes in response to his touch.
Max's gaze goes past mine to Finn. The look in his eyes is practically feral, something I've never seen from him before. "I won't warn you again," he threatens Finn. "Leave. Now."
Finn shrugs as he steps around us. "You might want to put a muzzle on your guard dog," he sneers. "It looks like he's out of control."
Max's hand lingers on my wrist. His touching me like this – grabbing me in front of Finn – is beyond inappropriate. It's much too familiar and definitely too possessive a gesture for a princess and her bodyguard. Even throwing me over his shoulder at the summer house was nothing compared to this. Yet it still sends arousal coursing through my body, the sensation better than any kind of drug. I can only imagine what it would feel like if he were to touch me anywhere else.
I should slap him across the face before storming out of here and back to the engagement party. That's what a good princess would do.
The problem is, I'm not a very good princess at all.
His eyes are brimming with heat and lust, and despite how desperately I want to melt into his touch, I force ice into my glare. "Let go of me."
But he ignores me. Yanking my clutch from my other hand, he opens it. "Wait," he calls to Finn, removing the small container from my purse. "You can take this with you."
"That's my personal property," I hiss at Max. Seriously, who does he think he is? "You're crossing a line."
Lines have already been crossed, yet I can't seem to stop thinking about the ones that haven't been crossed.
"Get another supplier, Alex," Finn spits before the door to the passageway shuts loudly behind him.
Now, I direct my venom toward Max. "That was my stash," I protest. "Stop interfering with my life."
Max steps closer to me, his eyes flashing dark with anger. My heart races, but it's arousal I feel, not fear.
"Really?" he asks, his voice gruff. "Are we going to keep playing this game, princess?"
I've backed up until I'm standing against the wall, the sharp edges of the stones pressing against my skin. Max is inches away from me, his large body so close to mine that if I listen carefully enough, I can hear his heartbeat. The smell of his aftershave fills my nose, a spicy musky mixture of scents that somehow fits him perfectly despite being something generic from a department store because Max isn't like Finn. He's not the son of billionaire parents who can afford thousand-dollar cologne.
Max is definitely not the son of billionaires, but I'd have known that even without overhearing his conversation with his mother. He's too rough around the edges to be any kind of aristocrat.
"Play what game?" I ask innocently. "This isn't a game, Max. You stole my property now, just like you've been stealing my property before."
"Confiscating your stashes, you mean."
"Theft," I correct. "And you grabbed me – assaulted me, actually."
"Assaulted you," he repeats slowly.
I can't breathe, not with the way he's looking at me now. My breath seems to catch in my throat, and I can't think about anything except how heat is saturating my body, pooling between my legs.
"That's right," I say, trying to be firm. "Assault. Stealing my property. Interfering in my life."
I rattle off his list of offenses.
"Interfering in your life?" he asks, disbelief apparent in his voice.
"Interfering," I repeat. He's interfered with my thoughts already, and he's definitely interfered with my fantasies. In fact, an image flashes into my head right now at the mere thought of one of those fantasies: me with my bare legs wrapped around Max's waist, my heels digging into his back as he thrusts into me hard against the wall. Warmth surges through my entire body, settling in my core, an automatic response to the mere suggestion of Max being inside me.
"You are accusing me of interfering," he says, incredulous.
"I'm not sure how else you'd describe what just happened thirty seconds ago."
"Well that's rich, coming from the woman who did what you did."
"What did I do?"
"Cut the bullshit. I know that you paid off my parents' house," he growls.
My face flushes warm. "Felix is such a blabbermouth," I mutter.
"Why are you interfering in my life?" he demands.
I shrug. "It's so not a big deal."
"Now that is just the kind of thing a spoiled rich girl says."
"That's not what I meant." Now, I'm getting flustered. "It is a big deal. I mean, for your parents. But not for me –"
A dark expression crosses Max's face. "You're definitely not making it any better right now."
"Well you weren't even supposed to find out," I protest.
"Still not better."
"I overheard you on the phone, okay? You're here in Protrovia – here, guarding me – because of your parents."
"We don't need your charity," he spits.
"You think it was charity?" I ask. "Like I feel sorry for you or something?"
"You tell me, princess, since you're the one giving away houses."
"It was …" My voice drifts off because I don't have an explanation for why I did what I did. "I don't know. I just did it. I didn't think about it that much, honestly."
"You didn't think about it? It must be nice to have so much money that you don't think about paying off people's mortgages. So, what, you're just in the habit of buying houses for your employees' families?"
I groan my frustration. "It was a gift, that's all. It wasn't a big deal. Maybe I wanted to do something nice for a change. Maybe I didn’t want to be the spoiled brat you seem to think I am."
"Why?" He looks at me through narrowed eyes.
"Ugh, I don't know, okay?" I blurt, waving my hand dismissively. "You're here in Protrovia because you're doing something nice for your parents. Something that makes you a good son."
"So? My family situation is none of your business."
"I'm not making it my business!" I exclaim, my voice echoing through the passageway. "I don't want to know a single thing about you. Have I asked you anything about you? No. I just think that you shouldn't be kept here because you're obligated to take care of them."
"Is this your way of getting me to quit?" he asks.
"Quit or not quit, stay or go, James." I wave dismissively and try to sound as casual and blasé as possible. "I have no preference."
"You have no preference," he echoes, studying my face.
"That's correct. Do I need to spell it out for you more clearly?"
The beginning of a smile tugs at the corner of his lips. "You're a liar, princess. And a terrible one, which is odd, because I could have sworn you said you were an excellent poker player."
"I'm a great poker player, and I have no idea what you're talking about."
"Oh yes, you do. You don't want me to leave. You want me here."
"I certainly do not."
"Yes you do. You want me to stay. That's what buying the house was about."
"That's ridiculous," I say, rolling my eyes. "I could have you fired at any moment, and really, I probably should because you're standing here like this,
alone with me in the middle of the tunnel –"
"You want me to stay," Max repeats. "You like having me around, telling you what to do."
"You're not going anywhere with Finn Asher," he declares out of the blue.
"I'll go wherever I damn well please," I protest huffily. I try to ignore my overwhelming attraction for this man.
The most irritating, possessive bodyguard in the universe. The man who bosses me around like he owns me. The brute who constantly oversteps his role. Who looks at me right now like he wants to tear my clothes off.
I should have insisted on another bodyguard, demanded that my father listen to reason and give me someone else. Someone professional. Someone who has respect for my position, for the fact that I'm a royal. Someone who doesn't think that an appropriate method of protecting me is to pick me up and throw me over his shoulder like a caveman.
"No, you don't, princess. He doesn't take you anywhere. He doesn't put his hands on you. He doesn't put his mouth on you. He doesn't fucking look at you."
"He doesn't look at me?! You're certifiable if you think you have any right to tell me who I can and can't see."
"You heard me. He doesn't fucking look at you."
"I'm insane? You're the one who bought a house for my parents."
"That was – whatever, I don't know what it was. It wasn't insane. All of your possessive glances and your fake concern about my safety and following the rules and protecting me … that's what's insane."
"Tell me how fake this feels, princess." He pulls me against him. His hardness presses against my leg and sends arousal coursing through me like a wave.
I take a deep breath and tell myself to stay in control, yet instead I hear a gasp escape my lips.
I'm not the kind of girl who goes weak-kneed over a guy. I don't get a heady rush or butterflies in my stomach at the thought of a crush. In fact, I don't do crushes. I don't do relationships or I love yous or pet names or talk about breakfast the next morning, let alone next week or forever.
And right now, I'm absolutely not thinking about how desperately I want this man's mouth on me.
"Does it feel fake to you, Alexandra?" Max asks again, his hand on the small of my back as he holds me tightly against him. His lips are inches from mine, and I don't meet his gaze because if I do, it's over. If I do, I'm crossing a line with him, and we're never coming back from it. "Because I don't think it's fake for you. I think if I reached between your legs, I'd find that you're wet."
"No," I whisper, uttering the most obvious lie that's ever been spoken. "And you should remember your position."
I inhale sharply as he pulls my hands above my head and pins them to the wall. "What do you want my position to be exactly, princess?" he asks, his mouth near my ear. His warm breath sends goose bumps scattering across my skin. "Do you want me on top of you, fucking you slowly, teasing you with my cock until you're begging for release? Or do you want me to bend you over and take you from behind? Or…"
With one hand still holding my wrists against the wall, he runs his palm down the length of my body until he reaches my hips. Then, he yanks up the side of my skirt, his palm coming to rest on the side of my thigh. I inhale sharply at his touch, but this time when I exhale, it sounds more like a moan. "Or do you want me like this, fucking you up against the wall right now?"
"I want…" My voice drifts off as he pulls my skirt up higher until it's around my thighs.
"Say what you want, princess." The words come out like a growl, feral and savage, completely animalistic. I feel like a damned beast when it comes to this girl, losing any sense of reason I possess.
It doesn't make any sense, but it's the only way I can explain any of this. Walking in on the princess in the tunnel with that pig Asher nearly made me lose my damn mind. All I could think about was getting him out of there so I could push her up against the wall and put my lips on her without any regard for her position or status.
She's right about it being insane. Eight years with the Marine Corps and a spoiled bratty princess is what makes me lose control.
"I want…" she whispers. Her voice is low and breathy, her chest rising and falling as she breathes in and out.
"If I slid my fingers between your legs right now, would you be wet?" I ask. It takes all of my strength not to do that very thing. Right now, the only thing I can think of is how her wet pussy would feel around my fingers. Hell, around my cock. The only thing I want to picture is the expression on her face as she comes on me, the way her lips would fall open and she would breathe my name.
"Tell me how much you want me. Say my name, princess." Every part of me is screaming to be inside of her. My hands on her thighs, I drop to my knees between her legs. Under her skirt, she's wearing panties – pale pink panties darkened with her wetness. Her arousal is right there, evident for me to see. I breathe her in, her scent sweet and light and perfect. "I want to taste how wet you are."
She bites her lip, her expression one of agony. "No," she whispers.
"No?" I pause, not sliding my hands further up her thighs the way I want to. I don't tear her skirt off her body with my bare hands and bury my mouth between her legs the way I'm dying to do.
I practice self-control. I don't yank up the edge of that pretty little party skirt she's wearing, the one with black fabric over layers of tulle that bounces when she walks and makes her look like a rocker version of a Barbie doll. I don't pull up that skirt and bend her over and spank that pretty little ass of hers the way I should.
The way I want to.
"Say it, princess," I growl, mustering the small bit of restraint I have left. "You know I heard you say it that night in the club."
I'm stuck on the fact that she won't call me by my actual name. She continues to call me James, as if I'm not consequential enough to be called by my own name. It's like I haven't passed some kind of test with her – or I've been tested and found wanting – and it's absolutely infuriating.
As much as I want to put my mouth on this girl, to take her completely, I'm not going to let this go.
"No names," she insists.
No names. Like we're strangers. Like I haven't chased her up and down the capital city, all over this goddamned palace, stopping her from doing stupid shit and making mistakes at every turn. Like I haven't seen her stoned and drunk, spoiled and shallow, all of the worst parts of her that she puts on full display, different from most everyone else who hides the dark sides of themselves. She puts herself out there and dares you to hate her for it.
Except I can't.
I find all of those things, those pieces of her, attractive.
Yet she acts like I haven't figured out the first thing about her.
I stand up, because like hell I'm going to do anything with her that doesn't involve her screaming my name. My hands slide up her thighs as I rise, palms running over her hips and her waist and up over her breasts. She writhes at my touch, letting out a little moan.
With any other girl, that would be it, the sign she's giving in and letting herself go. But not with Alexandra.
She looks at me with defiance in her eyes, and it only makes me