want her more.
I reach up and grab a handful of her hair at the nape of her neck and pull hard. Her hair is swept up in an arrangement for the engagement party, something that probably took hours to do, and I destroy it with a single yank.
I want to undo her completely.
Her face turns up toward me, and I'm inches from her mouth. I want to possess that smart-as-hell mouth of hers. "You're going to say my name, princess," I whisper, brushing my lips against her ear. She whimpers, her response completely unintelligible. "You're going to moan my name, do you understand? Over and over. It's going to be my name on your lips. No one else's."
She opens her mouth, her lips beginning to form a response, but there's a loud noise at the entrance of the passageway, and voices echo through the tunnel. Instinctively, I immediately let go of her hair. We both move quickly and silently down the passageway in the other direction until we're exiting right into one of the hallways in the palace.
"Oh, Alexandra!" The future queen calls. "Where have you been? Your father's been wondering where you were. You've heard about the bomb scare, I presume?"
I clear my throat. "Of course," I jump in before Alexandra can answer with something inappropriate and sarcastic. "The princess was taking in some air outside, and I retrieved her. Per protocol."
"Per protocol?" Alexandra seems amused, suddenly completely composed and sure of herself, no longer the undone girl from a few moments ago.
Except for the hair. The hair is… a mess. Disheveled and in complete disarray. It looks like she's been freshly fucked.
"Of course," I reply, my tone clipped and businesslike, only a hint of irritation at myself for not ensuring she was presentable before we left the passageway. "Protocol."
The future queen squints at the princess. "Your hair," she says, wrinkling her nose. "It's… quite…"
"Oh, yes." Princess Alexandra's hand flies up to her head and she gives me a knowing look. "It's bedhead."
I choke, then cover it with a cough before feigning that I hear something through my earpiece.
"Bedhead?" the future queen asks.
"Oh, yeah, bedhead. You see, James here lied to you about my taking in air outside. I wasn't taking in air at all."
That's it. She's about to report me for groping her in the passageway, for pushing her up against the wall and nearly putting my mouth between her legs.
"I see." The future queen's expression is pained.
"Oh, I'm glad you understand," the princess says. "I'd hate to have to spell out for you exactly what James here discovered me doing outside, because it's exceedingly inappropriate."
The future queen's face pales and she clears her throat. "Yes. Well. I see. I haven't seen Isabella. Have either of you seen her?"
"I'm certain the bomb scare is all a misunderstanding," Alexandra says firmly, giving me a look.
"These things are typically false alarms," I say with authority, even though I've been at the palace only a bit more than a month.
"Yes, quite," the future queen says. "I'll look for her elsewhere."
“That would probably be best left to security," I tell her. "They'll find her."
But the future queen has flitted off to somewhere else, obviously eager to get out of a conversation about Princess Alexandra's supposed bedhead.
"The princess is accounted for," I speak into my earpiece. Then I turn toward the princess. "Bedhead?? What you were doing outside??"
She shrugs. "I'm being forced to attend my father's engagement party to a woman who will never be able to live up to my mother. Don't deny me the small measure of comfort I get out of making her uncomfortable by behaving inappropriately."
"You're inappropriate whether you're making others uncomfortable or not," I point out.
A sly smile crosses her lips. "Thank you for noticing," she says. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to my room."
"You can't ditch the engagement party when there's an active bomb threat," I tell her.
She sighs. "It's not an actual bomb," she whispers.
"Do you have some knowledge about the threat?"
She rolls her eyes. "It might have been reported by Finn, who mistook something else for a bomb."
"What does something else mean?"
She sighs. "It's not important."
"Of course it's important." I narrow my eyes. "What are you withholding?" And why the fuck does it always have something to do with that jackass, Finn? A surge of jealousy rushes through me that I can't explain. I shouldn't feel jealous of that twit, and I certainly shouldn't feel anything about the girl who just refused to call me by my fucking name back there in the passageway.
"Get Noah on the radio," she commands.
"You're not going to tell me, but you're going to tell Noah?"
I raise my eyebrows. "Really."
"Just ... send Noah by my room, okay?"
"You heard me. I said no."
"I think I heard you tell the Princess of Protrovia no."
"It's almost as if you're not sure what your job is here."
"I know exactly what my job is, princess," I tell her, my voice low. I'm standing far too close to her again, and I want far too much to cover her mouth with mine, to stop all of her smart-ass objections to everything I tell her to do. "My job is protecting you, and that means you're not leaving my side until the bomb threat is over and you're cleared to leave my side – or until you tell me what you know that makes it not a credible threat."
I shrug. "Maybe so. But you stay with me."
"I just told you there's no security threat."
"You didn't give me any credible information that suggests there's no threat."
"Because it's none of your business," she insists, her eyes wide. "And you're acting like a jackass because I wouldn't say your name, not because you're concerned about a threat to my safety. So, like I said before – if you'll excuse me, I'm going to my room."
Alexandra turns on her heel and flounces off down the hallways. Her fluffy skirt bounces as she walks, the material flying up just high enough to give me a perfect view of the bottom of her ass cheeks. I'm absolutely positive she knows the effect the skirt has on me as she walks. My cock is hard, pressing against the thin fabric of the tuxedo pants, our special uniform for the engagement party so that security doesn't stick out like sore thumbs among the other guests.
Of course, the hard-on I have in these damn pants is definitely going to stick out. It's impossible to disguise, and will be immediately obvious to anyone walking down this hall. I pause for a moment and take a deep breath, forcing myself to think of something else – anything else – that's not sexy.
Anything that has to do with something other than the princess' long legs and her ass and the absolutely feminine way she smelled back there in the passageway.
Fuck. That doesn't help in the slightest.
I take off after her.
I walk away without looking behind me, even though I know that Max is probably following. I head straight toward my room, my heart racing, my breath still short – not because of what just happened, but because of what took place earlier in the tunnel.
I didn't think he would dare do what he did in the passageway, that he really would transgress the boundary between royal and bodyguard. That man plays by the rules. It's written all over him, the military bearing that's clearly been drilled into him over the years, from the way he stands with his back ramrod-straight to the way he obeys my father without question.
Max follows rules and believes in order.
I break rules.
Except for this time. This time, he's the one transgressing boundaries and tossing the rules aside.
The way he looked at me back there, the way he touched me, left my skin on fire. The way he talked to me, telling me what he
wanted to do to me, isn't like anyone else has done before. The boys I've hooked up with (because that's all they are – boys, not men, compared to him) don't talk to me that way. They treat me gingerly, because even though I might be Princess Train Wreck, I'm still a princess.
Max doesn't tiptoe around me. I'm not sure if that scares me or makes me hot.
Rounding the corner, the corridor is completely empty of people here in the private wing of the palace. The hallway to my bedroom is just up ahead.
Max's footsteps are behind me, and then he catches me, his hand wrapped around my wrist the way he caught me earlier. It sends the same thrill through me that it did before. Pushing open the nearest door, he pulls me into the library. It's empty right now, since the palace guests are at the engagement party. "I told you to stop."
"You don't get to tell me what to do," I tell him defiantly. "When are you going to learn that?"
"You're so damn hot and cold," he says, shaking his head in exasperation.
"I'm perfectly temperate."
Max laughs under his breath. "That's the biggest lie I've ever heard."
"What's your plan, exactly?" I ask. "Keep me prisoner in the library?" I'm being petulant just to wind him up, but the prospect of being Max's prisoner sounds suddenly delicious.
It shouldn't be. It should be an appalling prospect. It should disgust me.
It does exactly the opposite.
It makes me wet.
His eyes flash. "Is that what you want, princess?" His voice is low and gravelly, just the way it was before in the passageway.
In fact, he looks like he wants to tear my clothes off right now and throw me up against the stacks of books.
I want him to tear my clothes off and fuck me against the books. I want him to pick me up and sling me over his shoulder and carry me off to my bedroom and tie me to the bed and not let me go.
That desire must be written all over my face, as clear as day, because Max's expression changes. "That's what you want, isn't it?"
"I have no idea what you're referring to."
"No?" he asks.
"Of course not. Don't be ridiculous." I'm acutely aware that I'm positioned exactly the way I should be for Max to slide his hands up underneath my legs and fuck me right here, out in the open, whoever might walk in be damned.
At my father's engagement party.
"Because I could take you right now, princess," he says, and I'm not sure if it's a warning or a promise of things that might happen. "I could take you back to your room and tie you to the bed and make you come a hundred times with my fingers and my mouth and my cock."
His lips are near my ear again, and his filthy whispers send tingles through my body that go straight to my core. Is it possible for someone to make you orgasm solely through his words? Because I think I might be close to coming right now.
I squeeze my thighs together and tell myself to focus.
"Tie me to the bed?" I ask, my voice trembling. I mean to ask the question as if it's the most absurd proposal I've ever heard, because it is. Or, it should be. Except that when it comes out of my mouth, it sounds more like I'm asking him to do exactly that.
He growls. "Don't tempt me, sweetheart."
"I'm going to my room," I tell him, but it sounds like a whine when I say it now.
I'm not a whiner. I'm not a needy mess, a girl who can't think about anything except some guy's cock. I'm strong and independent and I don't need anyone.
I remind myself of that right now, because my legs are shaking and my blood is pumping in my ears and I can't think of anything except what this man would taste like. "I'm going to my room now," I repeat firmly, more for my benefit than for his.
"I can't let you do that, princess," he warns. "It's a security risk, you know."
"There's no risk."
"You haven't told me why you're certain it's not a risk."
Annoyance floods me. It infuriates me that he's so insistent about getting an answer to this. The man is clearly way too used to military life; he thinks he can ask me anything and that I'm required to answer him. Albie is my brother, and I'm certainly not about to betray him and Belle by telling him what I saw. Or, rather, what I suspect I saw. It's already bad enough that Finn had to spread the whole "bomb scare" thing in the first place. "Stop asking me about the same thing when I'm not going to tell you."
"Then you're with me."
I laugh. "I'm going to my room. So unless you're going to cuff me to you, then I suggest you get out of my way."
Max gives me a long look that sends a shiver straight up my spine. I think he's deciding what to do with me, and I'm not sure whether or not I should be afraid of that. Then he reaches in his back pocket. "Fine."
"Fine. You're attached to my hip until the security breach is cleared."
My eyes flicker to the pair of handcuffs dangling from his fingers, and I laugh nervously. I try desperately to ignore the heat pooling between my legs at the sight of him looking at me the way he's doing right now as he holds the handcuffs. "You're not actually serious."
I hold out my hands, my wrists up. Two can play this game. I can out-stubborn him and call his bluff. "Cuff me, sir."
He growls. The man actually growls out loud. "Don't tempt me."
It's clear he's already way past just being tempted. He's hard as a rock, his tuxedo pants tented by his enormous erection. The idea of touching his cock again makes me shiver.
"Is it the 'sir' part that gets you hard?" I ask, forcing a casual tone. Yes, totally casual, that's me – not at all fazed by my sexy bodyguard and his rock-hard dick. "Is it an authority fetish? The schoolgirl outfit did it for you before, and now the 'sir'?"
He opens the cuffs. "I will cuff your ass to me," he threatens again. "I'm warning you."
I'm playing with fire, and I know it, but I can't stop. I don't want to stop.
Turning around, I pop my hips out and the flouncy skirt I'm wearing poofs up in the air. I know full and well he can see right underneath my skirt when I do it. Then, I rest my hands together right at the small of my back. "Oh, no, don't cuff me, sir."
I might be playing with fire, but I don't actually think he's going do it.
Slap handcuffs on the Crown Princess of Protrovia, in the middle of the library, where anyone could walk in?
He wouldn't dare.
That's why I jump when the cold, hard steel wraps around my wrists and clicks tightly into place. He's standing close behind me, his voice near my ear and his warm breath wafting over my neck. "I warned you."
I inhale sharply at his proximity. My heart races at the prospect of being totally under his control.
I've never been under anyone's control, not like this, not ever. I'm always in control, never submissive, never weak.